There are probably solid practical reasons to favor a “regional approach,” and I’m inclined to view his campaign with an open mind, but Mayoral candidate Ed Murray’ s statement to PubliCola doesn’t make any sense to me:

Here’s Murray on Mayor McGinn’s push to build light rail from Ballard to West Seattle.

We can’t afford [light rail from Ballard to West Seattle] by ourselves. There are probably things we could do as a city … that would feed in and make the light rail system work.The city is all gridlocked. More light rail is great, but that’s got to be built on the regional level.

As Sen. Murray is no doubt well aware, Sound Transit’s subarea equity mean that in any financing plan — “regional” or otherwise —  funds for any Ballard-to-West Seattle segment come from Seattle, Shoreline, and Lake Forest Park. The contribution of the two suburbs matters (on the order of 10% of the total) but the money all comes from the same place, save for any federal contribution. I doubt that Sen. Murray is making a fine-grained judgment that Shoreline and Lake Forest Park cause the subarea to cross the threshold into affordability.

Seattle may not have adequate current revenue authorization to open the whole line, but then neither does Sound Transit in the first half of this century. The right answer, in my view, is whatever it takes; with the region if they’re willing to come along, as they have been in the past, or seeking its own plans if not.

The Murray campaign did not reply to my request for clarification.

136 Replies to “Ed Murray on Light Rail Expansion”

  1. Indeed, his statement makes no sense at all.

    And I point out, yet again, that we pay for highway ROW to the Snohomish border, we pay for an I-90 station we don’t particularly need, we pay for wide-stopped express trains tailored for suburban convenience.

    It would make far too much sense to allow us to pay for something we might actually be able to use.

    1. Yeah, and it seems we’ll pay for the I-90 light rail until some point in Lake Washington.

    2. I don’t think its so easy to say “we pay for freeways we don’t use, so everyone should pay for an expensive subway system even if they don’t use it”. Maybe not directly, but the food that we are eating, the clothing that we are wearing, the electronics we all use had to come from somewhere and get to our stores/doorsteps, and the “last mile” of the journey’s those goods take are on public roads, probably in a truck. Paying for highly utilized suburban express routes keeps those roads clearer during rush hours so our goods get to the store quicker and at a lower cost. Freight can’t be put on mass transit.

      1. I was actually referring to the Link alignment along the highway to the Snohomish border.

        In our sub-area, paid for by us, with zero potential utility for Seattle residents.

      2. Thanks to induced demand, suburban transit doesn’t usually reduce congestion in the long term – it just allows (convinces?) more people to move further away which builds traffic back up again.

        I’ve often heard the argument that our food and goods need to travel on roads, so even the carless should pay for them. I’d argue:

        1. I’d much prefer investing in rail to move freight long distances. It’s more efficient, for one. I would love to have a system where trucking is only used for the last mile.

        2. I wonder about the benefit of moving people around in a city on the rest of the state, just as there’s a benefit of moving food and products around. The software you use is a little bit better because a programmer was able to get to work faster. Your lawyer’s a little cheaper because his secratary doesn’t have to circle for parking. Oh, and the tax money you get for your welfare has increased because the city’s become more productive.

      3. Exactly, on your last point. Which is why 48 states think some direct state funding for urban transit operations is a valuable investment.

        Guess which state is one of the two that doesn’t?

        Anyway, I recognize the value of giving commuters from our existing sprawl an means to bypass the most intractable bottlenecks. That’s why I support East Link and Lynnwood Link, despite their painfully limited usefulness beyond providing commuters such a bypass option.

        But for crying out loud, don’t pretend urbanites are getting any particularly impressive bang for our buck when we contribute to those projects!

      4. Ok I see your point, but at the same time, how is an eastsider/northsider/southsider getting any bang for the buck of a “seattle subway” or whatever its called now.

        I guess my point here is that when Ed Murray says that the city alone cant afford any sort of HCT along the green line corridor gives him more credibility than a mayoral candidate that promises something outrageous that will either not happen/and or will throw money away and take from other programs. Especially when the city reduced its HCT planning funding by 700k for 2012.

      5. @goodluck: It’s more likely for someone living in the suburbs to go to Seattle (for work, shopping, social purposes, entertainment, etc.) than vice-versa. And much more likely that they use transit for the trip. This particularly applies to downtown Seattle and inner neighborhoods.

      6. @Al

        Would like to see your statistics on it, several thousand parking spaces downtown beg to differ (granted they arent always full, but if they were free i would imagine they would be). If one has a family 4, the cost of transit exceeds parking on the weekends.

      7. “Guess which state is one of the two that doesn’t?”

        But that’s because the Republicans were in charge. Oh, no, wait.

      8. I’m saying more people from the suburbs use transit to go to Seattle than people from Seattle use transit to visit the suburbs. This is pretty clear from ridership numbers but I phrased it poorly.

      9. Yep, Brent. Most anti-urban Democratic super-majority ever. Lame.

        Goodluck, this thread has begun to conflate the specific matter of subarea-equity-based infrastructure construction and the general matter of state support for keeping economic motors humming.

        In the ST-specific case, nobody has asked you to pay for our shit. We’ve simply asked to be allowed to pay for our own shit, without also being asked to pay for your shit (in the form of projects within our borders that benefit you more than us).

        In the more general matter of what makes good policy, it is in the state’s best interest to support things that keep people moving and keep the economy humming, wherever they’re needed. As Matt points out, Seattle and the inner Seattle area remains the primary economic driver for Washington as a whole, so starving Seattle amounts to Olympia cutting off its nose to spite its face.

        There is no inherent reason why the state should dish out agricultural subsidies in Pasco and expand highways in Spokane, yet deny transit support to Seattle as a matter of principle. It’s all about spending money where it can do good.

      10. “It’s more likely for someone living in the suburbs to go to Seattle (for work, shopping, social purposes, entertainment, etc.) than vice-versa.”

        That was true before Microsoft. :) And there are those swanky things called Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square and the Bravern. And for a while most of the other tech jobs were around NE 20th Street, although now Seattle is getting more of them. Entertainment and tourism is where it’s still mostly Seattle, what with the sports teams and the symphony and Bumbershoot and Pike Place and those hipster bars etc. But the point is, if you look at I-90 at rush hour, there’s a lot of traffic going both directions. And those one-way express lanes, from when we thought most people would be going westbound in the morning and eastbound in the afternoon, are now hopelessly out of date. As a result, the 550 breezes through the express lanes in the traditional commute but gets stuck in traffic in the reverse commute.

        History note: up until 1990 when the Hadley bridge opened and the Murrow bridge was redone, there were two fixed lanes and two reversible lanes, meaning three lanes for the traditional commute and one lane for the reverse commute. It’s hilarious to think about how much it would gridlock if it were still like that. Especially if somebody had an accident in that one lane.

      11. Nobody said East Link wasn’t needed, or didn’t have a certain (commute-centric) value.

        But I’m sorry, Mike, it’s not more valuable to Seattle than it is to the Eastside. Nor is it any more valuable to us than the Seattle segments are to them.

        And making us pay for it as if it were, at the expense of being able to use our money to build things of greater value to us, is bullshit.

      12. WSDOT actually does studies about when the I-90 and I-5 reversible express lanes should switch over. As much as WSDOT sucks at a lot of things, I think it’s reasonable to trust their analysis on this point, and it shows that Seattle certainly isn’t a reverse-commute town (like some Microsoft folk claim). And that’s for cars — in terms of transit it’s even less so. If you’re going to take transit from your home to some place, that place has to be a real public amenity. As regards Link, a park-and-ride along a freeway is very limited as a public amenity — primarily useful only to people that live in the area — and the planned suburban Link stops tend toward park-and-rides.

        For what it’s worth, the suburbs and inner city of Seattle are more balanced than many US cities in terms of work commutes, and reverse commutes are much more plausible on transit than in most.

      13. What’s been evident for years is that on the roads the evening “commute” into Seattle is the worst of all worlds. I put commute in quotes because it’s obviously the added pressure of not just commuters but people going into Seattle for other reasons; entertainment, sports events, symphony, nightlife, etc. It’s pretty easy to see if you sit in the bus tunnel that the vast majority of commuters are trying to flee Seattle after work. The bridges appear balanced only because I-90 doubles the available escape lanes provided by 520. That said, it’s certainly an entirely different scenario than what existed 30 years ago and the shift toward equal use in both directions continues.

      14. I’m saying more people from the suburbs use transit to go to Seattle than people from Seattle use transit to visit the suburbs.

        That’s true but it’s nowhere near a one way street. Yet Seattle, or to be specific, the North sub-area pays zero, zilch, nadda toward all of the ST Express service. And the DT Seattle Bus Tunnel was built with County funding not City of Seattle. As far as I’m aware the unwritten agreement is that sub-areas pay up to the point of the last station in their boarder. That seems as fair as any arbitrary line in the sand can be. The whining about Link is pretty pathetic given that King County suburbs bailed out Seattle transit by forming KC Metro and continue to keep the funding of Seattle transit viable.

      15. I bus across 520 in the so-called “reverse” direction every day – Seattle to Microsoft in the morning, Microsoft to Seattle in the evening. Many times, especially, in the afternoon, I see more traffic (often a lot more) in my so-called reverse direction than in the so-called peak direction going the other way. I also frequently observed the eastbound 545 at 10:00 on a weekday morning being completely packed.

        Even outside my normal commuting hours, I still have a need service between Seattle and the eastside. I appreciate the option to stay at work late and still have a bus to get back home. And on weekends, there are a lot of great hikes in the Issaquah area that I sometimes reach via the 554.

        Even the suburban park-and-ride lots are somewhat useful for me, as they make great carpooling locations to meet up with eastsiders to reach Snoqualmie Pass or other areas where transit does not go and will never go. I’ve had several occasions where the 554 bus saved me from needing to rent a car just to get to a place where I can carpool into the mountains.

        And, thanks to Car2Go, I will likely do some hiking trips that turn the traditional notion of park-and-ride on it’s head – namely, drive downtown in order to catch a bus (e.g. 554) to the suburbs to go hiking.

      16. The last numbers I saw (pre-toll), 520 was primarily a reverse-commute bridge, while 90 was primarily a traditional-commute bridge. However, the reversible lanes on 90 vastly overcompensate for the commute imbalance. We inherited that design on 90 and 5 from a time when the commute patterns were much less balanced.

      17. Variable tolling. That’s the way to deal with this “demand”. The great thing about tolling is that it really lets us see what the demand really is. For example, there is essentially zero demand for the Deep Debt Tunnel as evidenced by the studies showing any toll, even less than a dollar which is approximately the breakeven point for collection would result in such significant diversion that it’s not a valid solution.

      18. As far as I’m aware the unwritten agreement is that sub-areas pay up to the point of the last station in their boarder. That seems as fair as any arbitrary line in the sand can be.

        Okay, sure, whatever.

        BTW, Bernie, I just ordered a delicious large pizza for delivery. The delivery route happened to pass by your house, so I charged 20% of it to you.

        Sure, you didn’t actually want or need this particular pizza, and you’ll be lucky even to get some crust crumbs sprinkled on the very outskirts of your property, but you know… you were on the way. I hope you don’t mind!

      19. “The last numbers I saw (pre-toll), 520 was primarily a reverse-commute bridge, while 90 was primarily a traditional-commute bridge. However, the reversible lanes on 90 vastly overcompensate for the commute imbalance.”

        It seems to me that the presence of the express lanes would encourage the imbalance of the numbers on I-90. People going in the so-called peak direction who have a choice of bridges are more likely to choose I-90 because they think it will be less congested. That’s even in the absence of information about congestion if their experience is that it’s less congested. Variable message signs and radio traffic reports can give some idea of the current state of the congestion. Adding tolling to the mix confounds things a bit, because of diversion of traffic from 520 making it less congested.

        It will be interesting to see the numbers when I-90 is tolled and R8A takes away the express lanes.

      20. @AW, the R8A project doesnt take away any lanes per se, it merely relocates the direction carpool, formerly “express”, lanes to the outer roadway and providing 24hr HOV lanes in both directions. The total lanes on the facility is equivalent. The Mercer Islanders may or maynot have SOV access to those HOV lanes.

      21. If pizza is your best shot at an analogy then it pretty much confirms that pay up to the last station is the most equitable arrangement. The Rainier Station may not be Seattle’s highest priority but it sure as hell isn’t something the eastside would be asking for.

      22. goodluck,

        If the only vehicles on the public highways of the Puget Sound region were freight delivery vehicles, taxicabs, non-commuter local trips, emergency vehicles and vacationers, traffic would flow freely at all hours of the day or night, with the possible exception of holiday weekends.

        Unfortunately, there’s this enormous bulge in traffic demand during the “rush hours” that transit is perfect to serve. Unfortunately, the jealousy of the “bloated” wages that public employees receive in the fevered imaginations of righty-tighties prevents our society from using transit as is done throughout the rest of the developed world.

        No, transit can’t serve every home-to-work-to-home commute efficiently. But it could serve many more than it does given the social commitment to make it work.

      23. goodluck, the point is that after the R8A project is finished and the center roadway is given over to ST for East Link, there will be the same number of lanes going east and west at all times. There will not be an unbalanced flow.

        IMHO, there is no reason why Mercer Islanders should be a priviledged class with respect to the HOV lanes. With the express lanes, it made a tiny bit of sense, because it was impossible to fill up the express lanes with HOVs using just the single entry from the east and MI HOVs.

      24. “there is essentially zero demand for the Deep Debt Tunnel”

        Maybe we can put a museum or something down there someday.

      25. it sure as hell isn’t something the eastside would be asking for.

        Nobody is asking for it! Or for the Haller Lake and Jackson Park Golf Course stations.

        But ST has to maintain the illusion that Link is somehow “stitching the region together”, so stops of low priority and little purpose have to appear randomly along the way.

        Per your arbitrary “last station in the sub-area” rule, it might have behooved Seattle voters to demand deletion of the I-90 stop and of all stops between Northgate and Snohomish. Heck, First Hill, Graham, and North Capitol Hill got deleted, even though we expressly wanted and needed those! (“Speediness to Lynnwood and Federal Way” remains one of the cited justifications for Seattle’s systematic screwing.)

        Then we could all have abandoned the pretense of Link as an urban mass transit system and admitted that North and East Link are nothing but glorified commuter rails… and Snohomish and the Eastside could have actually paid for the trackage that benefits them far more than us. At least that would have been honest!

        Sure, I’d feel bad that Shoreline gets no service for their contribution. But Shoreline station is so terribly located that nobody’s going to use it anyway.

        As for the pizza analogy — it’s 100% apt. We’re forced to pay for slices, but as far as usefulness is concerned, we get crumbs. Lynnwood and Bellevue get the pizza they actually desired, partly on our credit card.

      26. The 130th station would actually be a big help to the usability of the entire North Seattle transit network, assuming sensible bus changes to accompany it, by providing people with a way to escape the Northgate mess. Unlike the stations at 145th (?!) or 185th, there is also a fair amount of medium-density housing within walking distance of it, to the southeast.

        It would be at least as useful as the original concept of the North Capitol Hill station, which is under an area where pretty much everyone is too rich to use transit.

      27. Bellevue wouldn’t exist without Seattle. At most it would be a rural town like Arlington. The smaller cities without major employers and swanky malls are even more dependent on Seattle, even if much of their population rarely goes to Seattle. That’s why the suburbs pay for Link after the last North King station, and why they pay for most ST Express routes and unidirectional peak-express buses. Because even if a lot of Seattlites go to those burbs, the fact remains that intercity transit is essential to the suburbs but not so much for Seattlites. Aside from some jobs located mostly in the burbs, Seattlites don’t have to go to any particular suburban quadrant if intercity transit isn’t there; they can find something equivalent in the city, or if not there then in another suburb quadrant.

        Of course, that doesn’t account for extended families living in multiple quadrants, who are most acutely affected if intercity transit isn’t there.

      28. David,

        Fine. I’m willing to pay as far as 130th. The rest is for them, and does literally nothing for us.

        The original North Capitol Hill alignment was along the 49’s route. It would have been no slouch as intermediate-station ridership goes.

      29. First Hill station: deleted due to engineering complications.

        Graham station: deferred.

        Capitol Hill station: like it or not, there was a genuine disagreement on whether the Roy station was excessive, and that side won. Then Link got into engineering complications and budget problems and truncated to south-only. Later the Montlake routing emerged as viable, and nobody asked whether we should reopen the station issue until it was too late.

        All of these could have been addressed by increasing the total budget, but this was before any of the line was operational. There was a fear that raising the total price would lead to a defeat of ST and ST2. You can thank the anti-tax activists for causing this fear.

      30. Nobody is asking for [Rainier Station]!

        As I understand it the Ranier Station will replace the current I-90 freeway station. Ride the 550 sometime and I think you’ll see that there are a whole lot of people who would be displaced if that option was deleted from Link. It would be interesting to compare the number of boardings there to Othello and Columbia City. My money would be on the Freeway stop exceeding both of those RV stations.

      31. First Hill station: bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Political calculus does not an engineering impossibility make.

        Graham station: deferred, with no alignment preparations made to easily retrofit it in. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

        North Capitol Hill: like it or not, you can’t try to redefine “walkshed” without diluting your outcome. We have a 6-square-mile area of central city with a population of 40,000 that will be served by a single subway stop for ever and ever. Dumb, dumber, dumbest.

        And yes, people constantly cite “long-distance travel times” as a reason why this outcome is okay. They get the pizza, we get the bill. Fuck ’em.

      32. First Hill station: Political calculus does not an engineering impossibility make.

        I like a good conspiracy theory a much as anyone; especially when it involves the Sound Transit := But if you take the agency on it’s word the route was changed because of soil conditions. Given the problems with Beacon Hill I tend to believe their risk assesment.

        Graham station: no alignment preparations made to easily retrofit it

        Mmmm, maybe penny wise and pound foolish. Hard to say without a crystal ball. Putting in rail in the bus tunnel and then having to pay to rip it up and do it over was dumb. You’d have to know the cost of engineering and construction and then do a time value analysis of money to know if alignment modifications were justified. None of the RV stations has very high usage and Ranier Beach is the worst of the bunch.

        North Capitol Hill:

        Just where along the alignment would you put another station? ST burned through all of the money they had so increasing the length of the tunnel isn’t really an option and even with the roller coaster ride Capitol Hill is a deep station. That makes it expensive and as many like to point out more difficult for people to access.

        we get the bill. Fuck ‘em.

        Actually your rich Uncle Sam picked up 50% of the tab for your family size Supreme with extra toppings. You’re welcome :=

      33. No “soil problem” is insurmountable.

        Sound Transit basically freaked out, and even their public statements at the time suggested the freak-out had more to do with the fear of losing federal money because the First Hill station would largely serve present-day transit riders. (No matter that the present-day transit they use is awful, and will continue to be awful forever.)

        It has been suggested to me, off the record, that the process of winning federal money can be so onerous and so expensive in the long run (time wasted jumping hoops, ongoing employment costs, debt service prolonged), that your ballooned price tag can wind up swallowing the federal contribution. Not to mention that you get your subway running years later. And on an inferior route.

        The City Council was right to push for ST to make this 100-year decision correctly. ST was wrong to run screaming from a challenge.

        Oh, and no part of Link has a federal contribution near 50%.

        Graham: Your DSTT botched-trackage comparison is not apt. When you’re actually building the system you will use, you know your dimensions and electical needs. Graham being a surface station, all they really needed to do was leave space. And they didn’t do it.

        Provisions have been made to allow two underground stations to be added to the Canada Line without even interrupting service. But we couldn’t even leave room for a platform.

        North Capitol Hill: Again, the original alignment was beneath Broadway and 10th E. Relatively flat, as the Hill goes, with the Ship Canal crossing quite a bit further north than the Montlake Cut. You could have even built the straight north-south segment shallow, allowing for multiple stops along Broadway. You know, like a real urban subway!

        I think the original plan was Pine, Mercer, and Boston. It’s not what I would do. It’s what we were actually supposed to do.

      34. OK, $830 million for a $1.9 billion project is only 44%. I don’t know why you think crossing the ship canal farther west would make any difference with respect to the depth of the station(s) on Capitol Hill. It still has to go up from the DSTT as a corkscrew and then plunge back down to below sea level. At best you’d be trading a station on Capitol Hill for the station at Montlake which I think ridership will show to be the better choice. The Seattle obsession for social justice that routed the line through the RV is the big reason there wasn’t money for more stations serving denser parts of the city. And what’s with the nashing of teeth over Graham. I have a relative that lives next to the Viet Wah and that area is not high density and shows no sign it’s ever going to be.

      35. So is it the way the tunnel has been created doesn’t allow for any infill stations? Or is it just the tunnel alignment that’s the problem?

        If it’s just alignment that’s the problem, it seems like there’s enough high-density-ness to support a station on Pike between the Interstate and Broadway, right where the tunnel currently runs. That’s an area not adequately served by the Westlake stop, Capitol Hill stop, nor the Streetcar. But if it’s a deeper engineering problem preventing it, then yeah, that seems shortsighted.

        Or am I missing something?

      36. No, the way the tunnel is bored and tubed does a pretty good job of preventing infill stations on the subway portions.

        Once you design your line wrong, you’re largely stuck with your mistakes.

        All you’re missing, MK, is an agency that just doesn’t “get” urban stop spacing and maximizing walkshed to create the kind of mass-transit coverage denser parts of a city need. Or that doesn’t care.

        Bernie, crossing the channel a full half-mile further north would make a huge difference in grade and relative depth at key points. A station at the southwest corner of UW would still have amply served the medical complex. You seem to suggest transfers from 520 would have been worse, but since they’re going to be unusably awful as-is, that point is moot.

      37. So is it the way the tunnel has been created doesn’t allow for any infill stations? Or is it just the tunnel alignment that’s the problem?

        Yes and yes. It’s curved, banked and at a steep grade in order to minimize the depth. ST refuses to even consider stations on a curve so there is no way to squeeze in another. Even if you could the high cost wouldn’t be worth it. Really folks, it’s only three miles between Westlake and Montlake. Capitol Hill Station is only 1500 feet north of Pine and the same distance from the center of I-5. The bottom line is that a subway doesn’t provide much geographical coverage per dollar. And Central Link blew through about a billion of those dollars in order to put a station on Beacon Hill.

      38. Capitol Hill station is a FULL MILE from Westlake. At possibly the single densest point in the city. The walkshed is willfully minimized where it should be maximized.

        Three miles in the middle of the city is OBSCENE.

        Bernie, you don’t get it. Sound Transit doesn’t get it. MK gets it. Walkable stop spacing is how urban mass transit WORKS, and now it’s permanently messed up!

        And as someone who is standing on a 12 bus at this very moment, fuck ST for the missing First Hill stop.

      39. First Hill deep bore station: too risky! costs too much!

        Several years later…

        Let’s build the world’s largest diameter deep-bore highway tunnel under downtown!

      40. “Just where along the alignment would you put another station?”

        DP has suggested stations at 15th and 23rd. That’s not a bad idea seeing Link’s grade-separated speed, but it would have cost millions of dollars and nobody brought it up at the time. I should add to what I said above. The reason University Link is the way it is is that it became viable at a funny time between ST1 and ST2, when the initial segment came in under budget. ST’s reaction was probably, “Let’s get University Link done quickly before something else bad happens, because it’s the most vital part of Link.” Reopening the station issue would have delayed University Link, and adding underground stations would definitely have added millions of dollars, which may have been too much for the remaining ST1 funds. ST2 was months away. So we should have delayed starting University Link until ST2 passed? In any case, at worst the line solves 90% of Capitol Hill’s rapid transit needs. The outcome was due to unanticipated factors in the line’s evolution, and as such it’s not replicable or a trend for future Seattle lines.

        “the freak-out had more to do with the fear of losing federal money because the First Hill station would largely serve present-day transit riders”

        If that’s true, good for ST for not losing the Link opportunity. I wish ST had not chosen the technology based mainly on what would get the most federal grants, but now that they’ve done so it’s good that it’s off-the-shelf technology that will be easy to extend and swap in parts later.

        “The Seattle obsession for social justice that routed the line through the RV is the big reason there wasn’t money for more stations serving denser parts of the city”

        The RV stations are one of the main reasons we got the grant.

        “I think the original plan was Pine, Mercer, and Boston.”

        I don’t remember ever hearing of a station between Roy and Brooklyn on the 10th alignment.

      41. I don’t see what the problem is about space for Graham. Where is space missing? And so what if they have to tear up the block a bit more than they would have to install the station. It happens all the time.

      42. Link was never going to have half-mile stop spacing like Northeast subways. It was not in any of the proposals, and no significant percentage of the public asked for it. Many people think that would have been too expensive to get Link approved in the first place, and even now there are still people complaining that it cost $200m instead of $30m per mile. So there’s no way from here to there: no way Central Link with half-mile stop spacing would have been approved. It’s either this Link or nothing. Seattle is smaller than those northeastern cities, it’s more spread out, and people are more dependent on the suburbs because the distribution of things here is more decentralized than in Chicago or New York. That’s why people are more tolerant of wide stop spacing and want a fast trip to/from the burbs. I wish we had large urban villages like Chicago and row-house districts, then maybe we could have a half-mile subway and ignore the burbs completely, but it doesn’t and that’s not going to change for decades if ever. If we didn’t have to fight the anti-tax people and the anti-urbanists and the NIMBYs and the status-quo stagnators to get anything done, maybe we could have accomplished more, but reality is what it is.

      43. Well, I’ll hold out hope that all is not lost. Maybe in a decade or two, the shift toward higher density in the city will make more waves and add more funding. Who knows, maybe someday we in fact will (awkwardly and expensively) add a Pike/Belmont stop. Naysayers aside, it’d absolutely be worthwhile; for all the high density residents there (including plenty of UW students/employees), it’s a 7-block uphill hike to the Cal Anderson station, and an 11-block walk across the freeway to Westlake.

        While I’m dreaming, they could add a 1/4 mile pedestrian tunnel with a moving sidewalk from the station to Virginia Mason. Maybe the hospital would help pay for it. I’d also wish for a station serving 15th street, but that would require a 1/4 mile escalator down to 12th/Aloha intersection, where the tunnel lives. Either that or have a sparsely used station right at Volunteer Park. Since the tunnel doesn’t go near 23rd, I think those’d be the only options for infill stations, if they magically were possible using the current alignment.

      44. [ST] is an agency that just doesn’t “get” urban stop spacing and maximizing walkshed to create the kind of mass-transit coverage denser parts of a city need. Or that doesn’t care.

        Probably both. But your “quick fix” is neither quick (i.e. cheap) or a plausible fix. There is no way to take the fundamental paradigm the funding and therefore construction of Link is based on and produce a London type result. Seattle is too small with nothing that really represents the all day every day demand that calls for a subterranean railway.

        crossing the channel a full half-mile further north

        It’s a 1/4 mi north and the diagonal to Montlake, 3/4 of a mile to the east is the same distance. Broadway is only 1500 feet north of the Capitol Hill Station and north of that is nothing spectacular with respect to density.

        A station at the southwest corner of UW would still have amply served the medical complex.

        That’s just absurd. An underground Recycled Cycles Station. That would be a flagrant waste of money even by ST standards! The west end of the “medical complex” is mostly classrooms. I graduated from UW. You have no concept of the scale involved walking the campus.

        You seem to suggest transfers from 520 would have been worse, but since they’re going to be unusably awful as-is, that point is moot.

        I didn’t suggest that but as long as you bring it up… transfers from 520 would be impossible with your Recycled Cycles Station. Again, I went to the UW and lived on the eastside. Hiked it many a time from Montlake up to class. Yes it sort of sucks to make a 1/2 mile walk from 520 to Sundodger Station. Maybe Metro will make it easy to transfer to a bus though I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. Peak hours they plan to exit and dump you off at the stadium instead of continuing to DT Seattle. Far from ideal but merging onto I-5 and then trying to immediately exit for DT Seattle also sucks and will only get worse.

        ST wasn’t staffed by NW native engineers and failed to comprehend that our temporary sinking bridges have to be replace on a regular basis. That’s to be understood since most places build signature bridges to last centuries rather than decades. But, instead of coordinating with the rebuild on 520 and creating an optimal route they engineered themselves into a corner and are stuck with crossing a sinking bridge that will be ~20 years from needing to be replaced. Could’a would’a should’a…

      45. even now there are still people complaining that it cost $200m instead of $30m per mile.

        Yep, the public is finally waking up to the reality. Talk to most voters and they have no idea of what they voted for. To this day I routinely come across people that don’t realize East Link is crossing I-90 and not 520. And that comes up at our community club meetings where you’d expect a neighborhood, at least those that care enough to show up for meetings to have a clue. The ideal of the ST commercial where you soar above traffic, evidently in coaches driven by teams of flying unicorns powered with hydrogenated fairy dust, is all too common.

        there’s no way from here to there: no way Central Link with half-mile stop spacing would have been approved. It’s either this Link or nothing.

        That’s the nature of democracy. You get the government you deserve. And as a region we’re a block of gullible dupes. FWIW, Boston with all it’s Harvard educated dupes is still infamous for the Big Dig.

      46. “Maybe in a decade or two, the shift toward higher density in the city will make more waves and add more funding.”

        It’s likely to. All demographic trends point to greater support for walkability/transit/density. Eventually people will demand a more Canadian/Australian approach to transit and land use. I think the reason it hasn’t happened yet is that so many people have never experienced good urban spaces. It has never occurred to them, or they believe it’s impossible in their part of the US. But there are increasing seeds of urbanism and light rail and heavy rail all over the US. As more people see it functioning on the ground, they’ll see its potential, and want it where they live.

        “maybe someday we in fact will (awkwardly and expensively) add a Pike/Belmont stop.”

        If somebody can find a way to get Bellevue, 15th, and 23rd stations approved and built, I won’t object. A Bellevue station would actually benefit me because I live halfway between Westlake and Capitol Hill stations. As DP said, “Capitol Hill station is a FULL MILE from Westlake.” Yep, I’m right in the middle, and deliberating whether I’ll walk/bus to Westlake or walk up the back streets to Capitol Hill stn or move to another station.

        DP may be right about the optimal stations for long-term growth. But you can’t pull things out of order and expect them to fall into line. The time for arguing for those stations was when the line was first being designed. If you’d built a movement for half-mile spacing then, it might have changed some people’s minds and tipped the balance in favor of it. But you can only get so far ahead of the people. You have to plant seeds and examples, bits of transit and density on a small scale, and let people see them and interact with them over time. You have to wait until they gradually do change their minds, and then you can implement transit and density on a larger scale. That will require expensive retrofitting of stations and lines, but it’s the only way from here to there, because there’s just not enough public support yet. You can’t just jump up and down and wave your hands in the middle of the process and expect it to happen overnight.

      47. BUT the opportunity is wide open to get DP-approved lines for Ballard-south and Ballard-east. Now is the right time to start pushing for those, and for first-rate Madison-BRT. Or at least it will be time when the Alternatives Analyses open.

      48. I’m definitely in agreement there.

        The way things are headed, I sense Seattle is going to end up more like San Francisco than other big cities – fairly dense in many places, but hemmed in by geography and difficult to traverse by car easily. That’ll happen whether people like it or not.

        And when it does, we’ll wish we had connected our up-and-coming dense neighborhoods (Ballard) and difficult-to-reach neighborhoods (Ballard) with our already dense parts (Belltown, Lower Queen Anne, U-District, Downtown, Capitol Hill) and the rest of the non-road transportation system. Or we’ll be glad we did.

        It’s all a question of how forward-thinking we are now.

      49. Scattered responses:

        Bernie, while many transit-oriented Bostonians wish that given the price tag the Big Dig wound up accruing, they had just added an extra billion and shored up a whole bunch of the city’s transit loose ends, the fact remains that the Big Dig was necessary. It is not analogous to the 99 DBT, and I roll my eyes every time I hear that it is. I-93 is the only highway through downtown Boston, it was FUBAR almost 24/7, and the elevated version was a scar on the city.

        The only possible Seattle analogue to the Big Dig would have been a total tear-down of the 99 Viaduct, an expansion and lidding (with reattached surface grid) of I-5 with downtown exits reduced for smoother flow. Plus an underground cloverleaf junction with I-90 (which even the staunchest anti-highway activist can’t help but find pretty impressive).

        The Big Dig had its issues, politically, engineering-wise, and with absent transit components. But the DBT it is not. One simply had to happen; the other does not.

        Mike, in congratulating ST for chasing federal “new (white suburbanite) rider” dollars, you overlooked the part where the hoop-jumping and delay-inducing federal application process can actually cost as much as you end up receiving from the feds. There may be circumstances when going without federal input can yield a better project quicker, and for the same cost to local taxpayers!

        Bernie, the 520 flyover stop to Husky station is not a valid network transfer. You may do it, but reasonable people won’t. The transfer for buses that actually cross the Montlake Bridge is hardly better. From a pedestrian standpoint, you’d probably be better off giving a bus-priority turn onto Pacific and building transfer-optimized entrances to your 15th/Pacific subway stop, which is where the original stop was in fact supposed to be. That stop would be closer a large swath of central campus, have better pedestrian access to the Health Sciences buildings. The only losers would be football fans, who would still have a closer/easier walk than at, say, CenturyLink.

        Lastly, you’re wrong to claim that there’s “nothing” north of Mercer on Capitol Hill. This central swath of Seattle possesses the sort of continuous built city that is all-too-rare even within our municipal borders. Continuous built cities are best served by continuous built transit, as each new station within the continuum increases the permutations of trips able to be taken. Put 15,000 people (the northern portions of Capitol Hill) out of reach of the line, and those people won’t use the line for anything! Back into their cars!

        Outer Brooklyn is full of places with population density lower than that on upper 10th Ave East, and high-capacity transit with stations every 1/2 mile. It works because they can get anywhere else they need to go, so they use it every fucking time.

        If you don’t get this, then you don’t understand urban transit at all. Sorry.

      50. “Talk to most voters and they have no idea of what they voted for. To this day I routinely come across people that don’t realize East Link is crossing I-90 and not 520”

        That’s their problem. Every transit measure has people getting the wildest ideas about what it would do, ideas that weren’t even close to being mentioned in the official materials or newspaper articles. A lot of people thought the $20 fee would prevent any changes at all to routes, or that the 71/72/73 was in danger of being cut eliminated. UW-downtown service is not going to be eliminated unless Metro goes completely out of business. The $20 fee was not going to prevent reorganizations; it merely ensured that freed-up service hours would be reinvested rather than just disappear. I gave up explaining that to people the third time I heard this fallacy, because it was clear it was too complicated for them to understand anyway, and they were still mad they were losing their routes in spite of the $20 fee. So these are cases you just really can’t win, because there will always be people that get the wildest ideas about what a transit measure means.

      51. Yes, d.p. and MK get it. Wow, finally someone that’s speaking my mind. I’m assuming they are natives of Seattle. It seems that ST staffers are transplants that have no idea about our geography and neighborhoods. No Frist Hill station, please, what were you thinking. I don’t want to hear about the cost and engineering involved, excuse. You go from the Capitol Hill Station all the way to the UW with no stop. Just insane. The Montlake Station should have been on the SW side of the UW health sciences building @Pacific. I heard that the UW screamed and ST buckled to what we have now. And what about the Rainer Beach Station that’s never used; it should have been designed to route to Rainer/Henderson, then back to MLK. There are a few other missteps, but some of you get it; obviously a lot don’t.

      52. Definitely not a native. I don’t know about MK.

        From my experience, it’s the native Seattleites (and the transplants who’ve never lived in a city before this one) who tend to be the most clueless and worst-traveled, who think Seattle is a special snowflake that can defy all logic and precedent and buck the experience of hundreds of other experienced transit cities around the world without ending up with mediocre-to-useless transit.

        Apologies if one of those two categories describes you, EJ. You are clearly the exception to the blind-led-blind parade.

      53. With the possible exception of an infill station in what is currently the Pine St. stub tunnel next to Convention Place Station there simply isn’t likely to be one anywhere else between Stadium and Northgate. South of University District Station the ROW is generally curved, on a slope and rather deep which makes infill rather expensive to the point you are probably better off doing something else. North of there any infill stations would be in the middle of SF neighborhoods and likely not worth the expense.

        At this point the ship has sailed on stop locations for North Link and no amount of whining is going to change anything. At this point the only things one can do are:
        1. Argue for decent station locations North of Northgate (130th and 155th rather than 145th)
        2. Ensure East-Link and NCT to Lynnwood actually get built rather than indefinitely delayed by the anti-transit and NIMBY forces.
        3. Argue for funding authority to actually build decent transit in the City of Seattle beyond the current Link line. IOW Link to Ballard, real BRT on Madison, etc.

      54. Yeah, no infill between Cap Hill and Husky Stadium, check out the depth of the bore from Capitol Hill to the UDistrict. I think the shallow section about 3/4 of way to Husky Stadium is under Interlaken Park, not a good spot for a stop.

      55. Zach and Chris, intermediate stations definitely made more sense back when the train was supposed to follow the 49’s path.

        Even on the current route, the train passes close enough to the center of Montlake that an smaller-footprint, inexpensive coverage-oriented station could have been justified.

        I know that both of those ships have sailed. But I disagree that it is wise to put on our fake smiles and pretend that what we’re getting is the best-possible outcome. Learn nothing from our mistakes, and we’re bound to repeat them.

        With the Seattle sub-area getting charged for suburban ROW, with Ben trying to handcuff a vital cross-Seattle line to a fucking Sammamish Express, with “streetcar city” taking the place of real transit plans (because people are allowed to think multi-mile stop spacing is how subways work), we’ve clearly learned nothing so far.

        So the errors of U-Link need not to be buried. They should be shouted to the starts.

      56. You need to stop lying d.p. This has been explained to you multiple times but b/c you personally don’t like Ben you mischaracterize his and Seattle Subways stance.

        Whether you like it or not the political reality in our region is that High Capacity Transit is built by Sound Transit. If you want to change that talk to your legislators at Transportation Advocacy Day about changing the law. (Oh wait, nevermind, you can’t be bothered to actually WORK to improve transit, you can only snipe at those who are doing the work for you.) With that in mind if Seattle wants more lines we need to get Sound Transit behind us. The Sound Transit board is dominated by suburban interests something that you might not like but is true, meaning unless you want a repeat of the Monorail any group needs to work with these suburban interests. At this moment we can’t go it alone. Ignoring the regional picture is good way to do a lot of nothing.

        Now no one except you is saying that we need to build to Sammamish to build a crosstown Ballard route. Just like we didn’t have to build from Federal Way to Tacoma in order to build Central Link. But we do need to keep the regional picture in mind when discussing expansion within Seattle if we actually want to build something. That is all Seattle Subways regional map is. Putting our plans for Seattle Expansion into a regional context.

        Feel free to ignore this post and reality and continue to smear Ben and Seattle Subway though. You are nothing if not consistent.

      57. multi-mile stop spacing is [not] how subways work

        I wonder how our stop spacing per potential rider compares to systems like London and NYC. That is create a string of beads centered around each station and count the number of residents + jobs in each station bead. How do our numbers compare to what existed when the other systems were built?

      58. Bernie, you’re still in “every node viewed in isolation” mode, and that’s precisely the problem.

        It’s not about viewing stations individually. It’s about the cumulative and trip-permutational effect of maximized coverage across the contiguous urban area.

        We don’t even need to look back to New York and London. Washington, D.C. covered its urban area well, at urban stop spacing, and “utterly transformed” the capital as a result.

        BART (and most other recent U.S. rail efforts) ignored the principles of urban service, and achieved nothing of the sort!

      59. Matthew, you really need to avoid inserting your author-boxed comments achronologically. It’s confusing and it comes across as an abuse of moderative authority. Don’t let your occasional guest posting go to your head.

        And for the last time: His words, not mine: a
        “major contract for corridor study… Ballard to UW, Kirkland and Redmond combined with options for connecting Issaquah.

        If you’re too stupid to understand what “amalgamated corridor” implies politically for what can get built and when, than I can’t help you.

      60. But then the moment you start talking actual timelines and results, he reveals what he’s actually picturing.

        As usual, anything that seems a stepping stone to Ben’s Grand Vision = good.
        Any caveats, worries, smaller ideas that will solve real problems sooner = bad.

        Handing a single study to a single contractor to treat a single corridor as a single line is asking for parts of that line to be viewed only in relation to the others.

        Ben refused to admit as much, but he clearly believes it. Or he wouldn’t be talking about “new Lake Washington bridges” already.

        So I restate my main objection to Ben’s duplicitous approach to argument: his ludicrous belief in a bottomless pot of gold for Greater Puget Sound transit construction is the biggest reason I treat him as a dangerous actor!

      61. Wow. You’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole of your own paranoia that I really don’t know how to respond.

        So you honestly believe that Seattle Subway is all some plot of Ben’s to get a new bridge across Lake Washington? Or like every other crazed conspiracy theorist are you just grasping at any straw that comes your way?

        Look, we get that you support the Ballard Spur (not that you are willing to do anything to make it happen mind you, but you at least type a lot about it) and are going to attack anything that isn’t exactly what you want. We all understood that months and months ago. But seriously man, take a step back and look at the tortured logic you are trying to force through here.

        It’s kinda sad. :(

      62. Ben’s vision is “build all the things!”
        Ben’s psychosis is not understanding anything about money.
        Ben’s danger is that he mistakes Seattle for a megalopolis and layers of shiny tracks for functional transit.

        But it is, in fact, kind of sad that Seattle Transit Blog now has two naïve authors with little real-world experience with transit teaming up to make sure we shoot ourselves in the foot, and wind up with the crappy status quo forevermore.

      63. And one more thing: If you think I am the enemy, then I cringe to think what will happen when you come up against the surprisingly regressive, anti-development, transit-hesitant, tax-phobic voting public.


      64. From Wikipedia:

        Metro construction required billions of federal dollars… paid with 90% federal money and 10% local money… additional funding of $1.7 billion to .. required 25% to be paid from local funds…. an additional $1.3 billion in federal funds for construction of the remaining 13.5 miles (21.7 km) of the 103-mile (166 km) system, completed … with a 63% federal/37% local matching.

        Sweet deal and Seattle could be linked with a string of underground cathedrals if it only had to come up with 10 cents on the dollar. But Central Link and U Link are getting a little less than 50% free money. It’s doubtful East Link will even get the inverse of what D.C. received to complete their system. It’s easy to hurl insults at Ben for cheerleading an unfunded “track of dreams” but I’ve yet to hear a plan for how Seattle could blanket the town with stations like freshly fallen snowflakes.

      65. We can’t “blanket the town”, because the billions and billions of dollars don’t exist. What we can afford to do is to build strategic segments, build them well, get them right, and then redesign the cross-transit to take advantage of the networked possibilities.

        Massive gaps, poorly placed stations, drive-in-freaking-circles transit centers, shitty streetcar connections, and dreams of building out 350 miles of track in time for 2050 won’t do that.

        The problem with the overreaching long game is that it will miss the chance to redevelop Seattle correctly. Because as long as the transit sucks, people will drive.

        Do you want to keep building this city for cars until 2050?

      66. d.p.

        And one more thing: If you think I am the enemy, then I cringe to think what will happen when you come up against the surprisingly regressive, anti-development, transit-hesitant, tax-phobic voting public.

        I don’t know what you do offline, but you spend nearly 100% of your time here trashing any and all ideas for getting rail to Ballard. I don’t see how Tim Eyman himself could have a higher batting average.

      67. Unfortunately, Martin, only two “ideas” for getting rail are ever proposed here.

        One is “spend $3 billion on a second downtown tunnel, then affix it to $20 billion of ‘regional lines’ for questionable political reasons.”

        The other is “streetcar network”, which is uselessly sub-par and almost guaranteed to KILL real in-city rail should it become the presumed standard.

        Dare to discuss any solutions that would both actually work and actually get paid for in our lifetimes, and Seattle’s self-appointed Savior of Rail will scream to holy high heaven to shut you up.

        This is not a recipe for success, Martin. I’m sorry you can’t see what a dangerous path we’re on.

    1. I agree; he lost mine because he sounds like he has no idea what he’s talking about.
      How would one feed into existing light rail that would make the Ballard to DT trip work?
      And of course Seattle could afford it if the legislature would allow us to tax ourselves.

    2. I was really hopeful for this guy stepping into the Mayoral race. Then he has to go and say something like this right out of the gate.

      More light rail is great, but that’s got to be built on the regional level.

      I guess he missed that the whole point of doing this at the city level this is that we’re sick of waiting for shit to get done on the regional level, and sick of seeing it get screwed up when it does get done with a suburban regional slant do it.

      Whelp, so much for that candidate.

    3. I find it rather funny that what at the beginning of his term seemed to be universal hatred of McGinn turning to love. I thought the guy was a quack with zero chance of being elected and true to form my grasp of politics was proven to be non-existent. After being elected I was further surprised to find myself a supporter of Seattle’s Don Quixote mayor on all of his most unpopular decisions. Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows. I’d likely be less supportive if my tax money was being spent on green paint for bike boxes. The take home message; Bellevue’s system of electing a mayor from a weak city council sucks. Bellevue desperately needs a mayoral race to catch up with the times. Can you imagine NYC electing council members at large for four year terms and then letting them decide who’s “mayor”? Essentially Bellevue is left with a “mayor” that’s nothing more than a “host” for the City Council reality show.

      1. Re McGinn: It seems that around here there are always very strong feelings about whoever is mayor. The things I’ve heard in the Times comment threads about McGinn rival only what I used to hear about Nickels. There’s no other job around here I can think of that can create so much hatred, and I think you have to be a little crazy to even want the job.

        In a way these strong emotions create interesting and dynamic elections, debates, and politics. But they also lead to some insane results like a mayor being kicked out because a minor snow failure* after bringing a major transit system to the city.

        * I’d even debate this point. The intent was a helthier Sound for our fish, and it really wasn’t the end of the world to play in the snow for a few days.

      2. Matt, Times comments are not representative of anything except the fever swamps. (There are plenty of smart, reasonable conservatives in the Seattle area, but you wouldn’t know it from Times comments.)

        I think McGinn has grown into the job better than I expected. He had a hugely rocky start but it has gotten better. I don’t agree with everything he’s done by a long shot, but I know I would vote for him in a race with Steinbrueck, and if Ed Murray keeps saying things like this I’d vote for McGinn against him too.

      3. All these election systems give inferior results. If you want a council, elect it using party-proportional representation. If you want a mayor, use approval voting.

  2. What the hell are they doing in Olympia? If our state senators don’t understand these things, that explains some of our problems. Note: he’s been the chair of the ways & means committee (they decide what to fund and how) and has headed the house’s transportation committee (!).

    I sure hope there’s a rational explaination for his opinion, or I’ve lost even more faith in our state government.

    1. Very true. Especially ironic considering Olympia is so cautious of giving the PSRC the power it needs. How else are we supposed to govern regionally if our regional government is hobbled by the state?!

    2. I will note that has chair of the House Transportation Committee he shepherded through revenue for ST2. He’s definitely pro-transit. He’s just not really pro-Seattle.

  3. Other funding sources for light rail? Maybe he was referring to federal funding? Or private donors?


    Have there been any instances of megamillionaires making immense donations of funding for infrastructure like this? You know, solely for philanthropic reasons? How would that work, anyhow? I presume it’d be tax deductible? And might it actually be beneficial for our government to fundraise (like nonprofits do) for projects they might not be able to fund otherwise, but are for the public good?

    1. My neighborhood library was built by the Rockefellers, and I’d consider that infrastructure. But I see philinthropic funding like this as a failure of government. Developers built the streetcars that formed my neighborhoods. But it would take some pretty amazing development to pay back a subway system.

      I’m not holding my breath for the Gates Subway, and any politician that is should not be elected to anything.

      1. I think you meant to say the Carnegie’s built your neighborhood library.

        You make an interesting point though. The early streetcars were built because, in turning stump farms into residential areas, sufficient infrastructure had to be built and at that time the government didn’t do infrastructure. How much of an upzone would Ballard have to accept so that the land owners would feel compelled to fund a ST expansion and secondly, how would we convince the developers that the City or ST wouldn’t just step in and build their infrastructure for them at someone else’s cost?

      2. I agree, and we shouldn’t pretend a deus ex machina by a gracious billionaire is going to magically make a great light rail system happen for us.


        Universities, libraries, hospitals, and other publicly funded institutions often make heavy use of private donations and endowments. These donations often go toward “big new projects” (like buildings) that aren’t easily funded by the regular operating budget.

        But those donations don’t just come in naturally. Fundraising is a science, and development offices & alumni associations will say that you don’t receive what you don’t ask for. I wonder if local government would have success if they actively pursued private donations to develop light rail (or other public projects, for that matter; I’m sure the city could find enough worthwhile projects to start a municipal version of a kickstarter site). It would take money to fund a new office of fundraising, but if it were successful, it’d pay for itself.

        Of course, I’m on board with paying higher taxes to build these projects too, but there’s no reason why we can’t do both simultaneously. Then we’d have twice as many nice things.

      3. I sometimes dream about getting $20 billion like Paul Allen and donating it to Sound Transit. But, surprise, even that wouldn’t be enough to build all the subway lines. That’s why it can only happen if 600,000 people put some money into it.

  4. LID financing could work to pay for a Ballard expansion. Sound Transit has LID powers, and by definition that revenue source has nothing to do with subarea equity (which only applies to region-wide general tax revenue). Let the benefited property owners pay for the Downtown-Redmond line.

    1. It would pay for maybe 5% of a subway expansion. If the station areas were zoned unlimited, it might be able to pay for the whole thing. But the reason that real estate interests were able to build streetcars in the past was that they were able to build in greenfield situations. Now we have development, and we still have competing roads, so it’ll take a lot more.

      1. The failure of a single financing mechanism to pay for a project isn’t a reason not to use it. However, I would need to be sold on whether a LID around a station is a good policy tool. It strikes me that it might make development around a station more expensive.

      2. Hmmm,
        Sounds like some good old horse-tradin’ with the suburban rail folks might be in order if Sound Transit (a regional body) will be involved with the Seattle Subway, don’t you think, Ben?

      3. Brent, it is actually a good reason not to use it. If you say to someone “we want to use this funding source AND this other funding source”, they say “wow, that sounds like twice as much!” even when one is 95% and one is 5%. False equivalency is real and dangerous to projects.

      4. The South Park Bridge was funded by a collection of funding sources from multiple governments. Indeed, our most successful transportation projects locally seem to involve a grant from the feds, with other local money thrown in.

    2. LID financing would be more appropriate for amenities in the immediate area. And looking ahead, neighborhoods will need LID capacity to make walkability improvements, and hire trash collectors and ambassadors, bike lanes, things like that. We don’t want to squeeze out those things with a large LID dedicated to general Link construction… but we could ask neighborhoods to contrbute to their own station’s cost via a LID.

  5. [ad hom]. Exactly low long before STB outright endorses McGinn? (Who already had my vote to begin with, considering the terrible other options available)

    1. I really don’t know what the rest of the board is thinking, but we’ll visit this in July, most likely. At this point, I like McGinn but I’m keeping an open mind.

  6. This is an incredibly awkward statement and really disconcerting considering he’s in the Senate…I’ve always like Ed, but this really scares me.

  7. Sounds like classic politico speak to me. Translation, “I obviously don’t want to come right out and say I’m against anyone’s pet project but light rail from Ballard to West Seattle will happen only if money for it falls from the sky.”

  8. Maybe part of the reason we “can’t afford it” is because Ed Murray fought tooth and nail to ensure we blew our wad and squandered our bonding capacity on a craptastic tunnel along the same corridor.

    [ad hominem]

    1. Yes. I expect nothing good or sensible whatsoever on transit from any politician who actively fought for the tunnel. Nothing he could say about light rail could be half as stupid and detrimental as what he’s already done.

      1. I’ve been a bit befuddled by the seemingly reasonable actions of Council Member Conlin with regards to Sound Transit and TOD as he sits on that board but he was also the ring leader in ramming through the Tunnel and for that I was heaping damnation on the thought of his name.

        All that to say is that politicians take stands for a variety of reasons that are inscrutable to us but perfectly rational to them. Just like CM Conlin can both act reasonably and concurrently get my hackles up, I’m not going to say that Sen. Murray has foreclosed on any chance for my vote but he is going to have to work really hard to wrest my vote from the incumbent Mayor.

    1. He is coming from state government. Afterall, Democrats have an “urban-nectomy” when they get elected to Olympia

    2. So it will be interesting to see when, and how much, Murray decides to “adjust his message” to address average Seattlites’ concerns.

    3. The DBT is the stupidest project in the US which has actually been voted for in a referendum. Of course, the referendum was set up to confuse and mislead; if it had been done using approval voting, with *all* the options set out, there is no chance in hell the DBT would have won the vote.

  9. But the Seattle Gay News has endorsed him! Surely they vetted his transportation policies?

    1. The more important question is whether The Stranger will endorse him. After he endorsed Mark Sidran for Mayor, I’m thinking that is unlikely.

  10. Sen. Murray played a key roll in killing the monorail. His disdain for high-capacity transit in northwest and southwest Seattle is actually long-standing, unfortunately.

  11. There are two issues.

    1. Can Seattle afford light rail? Martin is totally correct in this regard.

    2. Should Seattle go it alone? That is a different question that I think time will only tell. At this point most politicians, including McGinn, are saying Seattle doesn’t want to go it alone. Seattle politicians don’t want to scare ST because Seattle is STs core support and if Seattle goes it alone future ST packages might not pass.

    1. Actually, I think ST *is* being scared into doing a 2016 ballot proposal. I don’t think this is happening by accident. And I’m glad it is happening.

      But I sure wish the primary funding tool could be something other than sales tax.

      1. I would agree as well. At this stage ST is accelerating because they realize if they don’t Seattle will do its own thing.

      2. And indeed that is the case. If they don’t keep their pipeline full, we will fill it for them.

    2. Yes, 1 is self evident. We have done it, we are doing it, and we will continue to do it.

      2 is a bit more complicated.

      I like Sound Transit as an organization. No they are not perfect but as these things go I am pretty happy with them. Since Joni Earl took over they have on time and under budget again and again. We would be foolish to try and build anything outside of ST without a good reason. Why reinvent the wheel?

      I also want the region as a whole to do well, whether we like it not 1955-2005 happened. We are region, not just a city. As such we all do better when we all do better, so while protecting our farms and forests we need to build strong resilant economies and infastructure in our inner suburbs. Personally, my wife and I used to live in Bellevue and even now our social circle is Eastside centric.

      As such I really do think Seattle should try and work with ST to get a regional package. Even if this means that Seattle ends up paying a bit more than we should (I90/Rainier Freeway, etc) or even have to wait a year or two to build the support necessary.

      Sound Transit is making the right moves with the Ballard Partnership and Jump Start, and I hope for a 2016 measure. I will do what I can to raise support in the suburbs (I’ve steered 7 friends to Move Bellevue Forward – not that they seem to be doing anything right now) and will all I can to help them and any other transit activist group. The more support we build, both in the city and in our suburbs the faster we get the transit infastructure we so desperately need both in our city and in our region.

      However, that said, I am not willing to squander a decade waiting. Were something to happen and it became clear that the rest of the region either could not or would not join us, I am fully prepared to support a Seattle Only Initiative/Package.

      1. An extremely good post. I agree with pretty much everything in it, and I continue to be impressed with ST’s ability (since Joni took over) to execute on complicated and pioneering capital projects.

        Let’s find a way for them to build us a tunnel to Ballard. From downtown or the U-District — either one would change transportation in the city.

  12. Maybe this is a naive question, but hasn’t Portland been able to fund their own rail?

    It sounds like Olympia is the problem for us and Murray is decidedly not the solution.

  13. The route for West Seattle is flawed. The north and west of the peninsula is left unserved. A station at Chelan and Spokane St.s is required at the very minimun.

    1. There is no route for West Seattle. It’s undergoing corridor study. Seattle Subway’s vision is just a “We need a system like this”, not a specific proposal. It’s up to the professionals and a lot of public input to figure out where stations go.

      1. Public comment is largly ignored especialy when the professionals and public oficials get involved!!

  14. I did some further research comparing taxing in Texas versus Washington.

    First of all, a map of the states, coded by property tax rank and rate:

    Washington State pays about half the property tax rate of what Texas pays…another state with no income tax that yet does not seem to have trouble meeting its budget and also has a lower sales tax (6.25%)

    King County:

    Tax Paid as % of Median Home Value 0.95 +/- 0.01%
    County Rank (nationally) 454 out of 806 counties

    Dallas County (Dallas/Ft. Worth):

    Tax Paid as % of Median Home Value 2.12 +/- 0.06%
    County Rank (nationally) 53 out of 806 counties

    Using one year data, 2010 from:

    1. Keep in mind that the Texas budget would not work in Washington. They have some of the stingiest health programs and social services in the country. The state provides very little aid to municipalities. While the state higher education system is large in absolute terms, it’s small and underfunded relative to the state’s population (which has the perverse effect, as we’re also seeing here, of making UT spectacularly competitive). Our politics won’t allow for underfunding our state government quite as badly as Texas does.

      That said, I’d trade a 2% lower sales tax for a 33% property tax hike any day of the week.

      1. An interesting question.

        There is no question that income taxes are progressive and far more just than blunt sales taxes.

        But, having lived in both income-tax and no-income-tax states, I also see the advantages of having no state income tax. State income taxes can’t help but become an enormous administrative mess, even more than federal ones. There are so many forms of income; so many ways to allocate residency between states; and so many state and federal rules working at cross-purposes. Both property and sales taxes are far easier administratively.

        A sales/property swap would also be an easier political sell.

      2. Property taxes have nasty distortionary effects which tend to be anti-urban, however. They’re one of the things which drives industry to head towards the suburbs.

        Income tax does end up as an administratively complex endeavor, but nobody has yet found a reasonable substitute.

      3. I just don’t buy the fact that property taxes are really that much more progressive than sales taxes. Sales taxes exempt food, housing, and most transportation-related expenses (except for the purchase of a car), so I would not call it that regressive. Most utility bills are not subject to sales tax either.

        The amount of money I spend every month that is subject to sales tax is rather small compared to the amount of money I spend that isn’t.

        Property taxes, though, affect everyone. Even if you rent your home, rather than own it, higher property taxes imposed on the owner will simply get passed down to you in the form of higher rent. When you think of it this way, property taxes affect everyone and you can’t really avoid it by controlling discretionary spending, while sales tax is assessed on items that are more discretionary.

      4. Property tax also creates strange incentives, like leaving a surface parking lot in place forever, rather than trying to develop it into a building, because redeveloping the surface parking lot would increase the value of the property, thereby raising your annual tax bill. Or locating a business in the suburbs where the land is cheaper and the property tax bill less. Sales tax does not create such incentives. Income tax doesn’t either, but it’s administratively more expensive to collect both a sales tax and an income tax than just a sales tax.

      5. However under Bush (and Perry) Texas set up many Free Health Clinics for the truly poor. Just because they did not buy into the high tax, high cost method of health care does not mean they don’t have services!

  15. Putting in rail in the bus tunnel and then having to pay to rip it up and do it over was dumb.

    Just for historical accuracy, everyone does know that the original rails that were put in the DSTT were just for show, right?

    A very economical decision by an astute project manager for the original tunnel construction. Probably the one person who accurately read the politics of this region, and acted quite properly.

  16. the native Seattleites… think Seattle is a special snowflake

    Time for Lesser Seattle to stand up and promote “Seattle is a Snowflake” to the status of official slogan. The Some Times reports that We’re Metronatural no more.

    Backers hoped it would paint a picture of a city where hip young tech-startup founders hop out of their sea kayaks and catch a streetcar to the symphony. Detractors said it made us sound like one big urban nudist camp.

    Seattle is a Snowflake should definitely help overcome the big urban nudist camp image and explain why the mascot for the UW is the Husky :=

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