Sound Transit

The Sound Transit Board of Directors met this Thursday afternoon and took action on several big items. Video is available here. Supporting materials are available here.

Northgate Tunneling Contract

The highlight of the meeting was the approval of a $440 million contract for the tunneling from University of Washington Station to Northgate Station.

Before the meeting, there was some doubt that the Board would act on the contract, due to a protest from losing bidder Traylor/Frontier-Kemper.  That all ended when ST CEO Joni Earl announced that she had received a letter from TFK the previous day that they would not pursue a rebid.

Despite TFK clearing the path, there was still protest from a couple truckers who had some harsh things to say about ST’s record on minority subcontracting.  Elton Mason, owner of Washington State Trucking, complained that the winning bidder, JCM Northlink LLC, had used questionable and decertified subcontractors in its bid.  Elton said he sent a letter to ST a week ago with his concerns, and has now filed a complaint with the Federal Transit Administration.

Eli Mason, Vice President of the Minority Contractors Association, echoed the concerns about decertified contractors.

Though it wasn’t mentioned by name, Grady Excavating, a prodigious recipient of contracts under the state’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program, was kicked out of the minority-contracting program over a year ago.

When the item for the contract approval came up, staff went through how the subcontracting process was working for Northgate Link.  In particular, no actual minority percentage goals have been set on the overall project, as agency rules required that the disparity study from University Link be completed first.  That study is due to the Board in a few months.  Minority contracting goals are then set for each contract, but can vary from contract to contract.  Federal regulations call for an overall minority subcontracting goal for the project.

More after the jump.

CEO Joni Earl chimed in that ST sets up events for contractors to meet prospective subcontractors.

Staff listed remedial steps ST has taken on contractor minority hiring since a dispute with U-Link contractor Traylor/Frontier-Kemper over treatment of African-American employees.  Now, all bidders must disclose their past performance in minority employment.  ST now has an on-site compliance officer for each contractor.  The contractor must disclose all hirings, firings, and grievances, including ethnic classification.

The motion to authorize the CEO to execute a contract with JCM Northlink LLC passed without dissent.

East Link Update & Turnback Track

Staff gave a slide presentation on East Link. Several public-private partnerships are in the works, including one with Microsoft to build a pedestrian bridge over SR520 at Overlake Transit Center Station.

Issaquah City Council President Fred Butler was the first to jump in with a question on the proposed turnback track for East Link at International District / Chinatown Station.  Staff showed a slide with the turnback track being in the middle of ID/CS, making it impossible to coexist with a center platform.

Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin asked about future stations that might have train-to-train transfers.  Staff listed South Bellevue Station as the transfer point when light rail goes to Issaquah, and Bellevue Hospital Station as the transfer point when light rail goes to Kirkland.  He assured Councilmember Conlin that both stations would be built with a center platform.

The Board voted to authorize a pair of contracts for design of the ID/CS turnback, without dissent.

Olympia to Seattle on route 592 

The Board approved an agreement with Intercity Transit that will result in route 592 providing six daily weekday round trips from Olympia to Seattle for two years, with new stops at the Olympia Transit Center, the Capitol, and Hawks Prairie Park & Ride.  The new service is expected to generate 144 new daily boardings on the line.  CEO Joni Earl quipped “We have seating capacity available on route 592.”  Several board members chimed in with dreams of getting Thurston County and Skagit County to join Sound Transit.

Selling parking spots

Among the several other items approved without dissent by the Board was a pilot program for paying a nominal quarterly fee for a guaranteed parking space at one of four parking sites.

67 Replies to “ST Board Approves Northgate Link Tunneling Contract & Other Items”

  1. Dammit. I’m having trouble loading the video, but can someone tell me whether the inside-the-station design for the IDS crossover is immutable?

    1. The contracts were for design only. The proposed track is not a done deal until the construction contract is approved. Even then, there is precedent for track being torn out and replaced if ST realizes a big blunder was made.

      1. I honestly don’t think going up and over is going to have much impact on transfers to the airport.

      2. @Ben:

        me neither, but then again I don’t think the station position at the airport is that big a deal either. It’s the old death of a thousand cuts thing. In any case, isn’t the bus going to be faster for any plausible Eastside journey anyway?

      3. Up & over tranfers happen all over the globe. (not to mention down & under transfers) And they happen right here in Seattle, at an even greater walking distance: thousands of riders transfer from Sounder to tunnel trians & buses everyday to complete trips into downtown from points south. If you don’t believe it, then come sit at the Starbucks on the IDS plaza during the morning commute and watch.

      1. I can’t make out any of the words. Do you have access to a more legible image?

        Please and thanks.

      2. Oh, whoops, I see now that the Twitter image superimposes a blue line through the middle of the station that does not appear on the PDF.

        Yes, that would appear to permanently obstruct a center platform.

      3. I am waiting to hear back from Sound Transit for a “real” version of that slide. just wanted to share what was in the looooong streaming video.

        Yes … the blue line in the center of the IDS is the turnback track … the red lines show the new connection from Central Link to East Link.

      4. So if a center platform is definitively off the table, the next question is what else can ST do to mitigate transfer inconvenience. It’s hard to see what ST could install that would improve on the existing escalators and elevators. However, one minor thing would be to install “down” escalators.

      5. I admit to being confused as to why this suddenly became such a priority. Just how often are movements between East Link and the SoDo base actually expected to occur? More importantly, how often are they really expected to occur during regular service hours?

        Will it really be so often that it’s worth harming (even slightly) the connective functionality of a nascent system with such a lousy track record of connective functionality?

        Nathanael might actually be right on this one: a turnback in the empty middle of Pioneer Square station might be just fine for this presumably rare occurrence.

      6. @d.p. One theory I’ve heard bandied about is that this means that ST have decided that fighting Bellevue on the Eastside depot. At that point long term operational convenience and cost suggests that they’ll need a way to get from the Eastside to the SODO depot efficiently.

      7. Lynnwood, Lynnwood, Lynnwood! :) If ST is just going to defer to Bellevue who doesn’t want the depot, what’s it going to say to Lynnwood who also doesn’t want a depot? Will Bellevue get priority because it’s richer? Will Lynnwoodites scream, “Inequity!” Tune in next time when you’ll hear Jimmy ST Rider say, “If they don’t build a depot in Bellevue and they don’t build a depot in Lynnwood, will they have to cancel the extensions?”

  2. It wasn’t clear from the article whether the slide showing a turn back mid station was presented as evidence that a center platform was impossible, or simply that staff hadn’t considered it.

    1. The slide showed that the proposed turn-back track would make the addition of a center platform impossible.

      1. I understand that it shows that if you put the turnback track where the platform would need to be you can’t have a center platform. That’s obvious. What I want to know is whether this is the only possible location for the turnback track or whether it’s just the first thing that came into staffs head.

      2. It is just the first thing that came into staff’s head. There are other obvious locations for a turnback track, starting with Pioneer Square station.

        I’m not sure why the staff is hellbent on doing things the dumb way… anyway…

      3. Nathanael (and others), putting a turnback track in PSS would mean that you couldn’t use the turnback track for trains longer than two cars. PSS itself is barely as long as a four-car train. I’m sure ST wants the flexibility to turn back four-car trains, even if they won’t initially be used on East Link.

      4. I just checked. There’s barely (but definitely) enough distance between the tube portals and the southern end of the platform to install a junction.

        It would require slow movements, but again, we’re talking about an exceedingly rare movement action… right?

      5. There’s additional buffer space at the northern end of the station box, too. Might as well use those overbuilt areas beneath the vacuous mezzanines for something.

  3. “….future stations that might have train-to-train transfers. Staff listed South Bellevue Station as the transfer point when light rail goes to Issaquah, and Bellevue Hospital Station as the transfer point when light rail goes to Kirkland”
    I hope everyone understands the significance of this statement. The 3 legged spine connecting Everett-Tacoma-Redmond to Seattle will remain intact, while future lines will be short segments that require a train to train transfer. such as Issaquah, Kirkland, Ballard, West Seattle, Burien and Green River. The likelihood of those additional lines being built is directly diminished by the necessity of a forced transfer. I hope Seattle is content with their 3 legged stool.

    1. OR. You could have a line from Ballard – UW – Sandpoint Bridge – Kirkland – Redmond. And another, Ballard to UW – Sandpoint Bridge – Kirkland – Bellevue Issaquah. Run each at 15-20 minutes (but properly interlined). That would give you transfers at S. Bellevue and Hospital but no spurs.

      1. None of that is going to happen in our lifetimes. ST has clearly drunk its own Kool-Aid to even suggest in public that it will.

        For the umpteenth time, East Link’s ROI, despite I-90 center lanes ready to go, was too horrible to bother applying for a dime of federal aid.

        The ROI of a new bridge, redundant with East Link for the crucial peak traffic, would only slightly best Sarah Palin’s famous Ketchikan folly.

        Not going to happen.

      2. I wouldn’t call a hypothetical new bridge redundant with East Link unless you expect people in Kirkland to be willing to detour all the way to I-90 to get to the UW. Redundant with buses on SR-520, perhaps, but not redundant with EastLink.

        Nevertheless, I do agree that the shear cost of building another lake crossing makes it very unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.

      3. Redundant in the sense that connecting Bellevue (in general) and Overlake (in specific) with Seattle (in general) is the only thing that makes East Link remotely justifiable. To the extent that a second rail line would cannibalize the aforementioned function in the slightest, it kills even the rationale for the first line.

        Yes, of course, those headed from Kirkland to UW will forever be better off taking more northerly transit than the East Link alignment. But the demand for that particular trip pair wouldn’t be able justify rail even if the ROW dropped from the sky.

        Anyway, it appears that ST is not insane enough to thump the Magic New Bridge idea. They are instead thumping Kirkland and Issaquah spurs, which would be an order of magnitude cheaper but still don’t actually make much sense. Outside of their cute, tiny downtowns, those are places lost in precisely the kind of disconnected sprawl for which rail inevitably fails (thanks to access penalties and a paucity of destination pairs for which the line would ever be worthwhile).

        I’m not anti-Eastside connectivity. But to watch ST flog these fantasy rail-fails, while simultaneously giving serious thought to at-grade terribleness through Belltown (to the permanent detriment of intra-Seattle mobility), and while so much of our actual traffic-choked city suffers barely-faster-than-walking buses, is just galling.

        (See Ross @ https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/07/27/st-board-approves-northgate-link-tunneling-contract-other-items/#comment-352397 too.)

      4. (Not an endorsement of all of Ross’s conclusions. Just noting that he addresses the cost-benefit from a slightly different angle in his reply to Mike.)

    2. Matthew’s lines describe what I’ve long been thinking makes the most sense, although I envision the Issaquah line going north to Bothell rather than west to Ballard. But it could do either one. Most of ST’s train and bus lines are long, so I doubt it will suddenly change its mind now, especially since it’s charter is “regional transit”.

      1. I’d imagine that we’ll do UW-Sandpoint-Kirkland-Redmond before anything else, and not do Kirkland-Bellevue for a while.

      2. So, just out of curiosity, how exactly are you supposed to get from Sandpoint to Kirkland? Bridge, tunnel, or flying train? Seriously, though, I don’t think we will ever see a line from Sandpoint to Kirkland. It would be too expensive, and there isn’t enough there to justify it. There are dozens of examples of ST being cheap, and not doing the sensible thing when it comes to building our system. Maybe it will change its ways, and start spending the money wisely (the grade separated stops at the UW and Capitol Hill are good). But there is a difference between spending the money wisely, and going whole hog extravagant. Kirkland is too small a spot to justify that kind of expense. I think if we put our heads together, we could probably come up with dozens of suggestions for improvements to the existing system that would be cheaper and better than that.

        A train that circles around the north part of Lake Washington makes some sense. It might not be that expensive to build, for one thing, especially if it is elevated.

        I also think express buses from the train station at NE 8th (or something similar) to the UW also makes sense. Basically, this would be a shortcut for those traveling from the east side to the UW (or places north or west of the UW). Since East Link will be fairly slow through South Bellevue, I think and express bus would save a considerable amount of time.

      3. My understanding was that the expected travel time from DT Bellevue Station to the U-district Station was something on the order of 30 minutes. During the periods when the 271 is running half-hourly (evenings, weekends), this is a small enough time differential that, when push comes to shove, most will choose link over learning an planning around a half-hourly 271 schedule.

        On weekdays, when the 271 is running every 10-15 minutes, its relative attractiveness increases, but, then again, traffic congestion also increases, negating much of the time advantage. In particular, all it takes is a driver being a little slow getting out of the gate, followed by an opening of the Montlake bridge, and the time advantage of the 271 over Link becomes completely gone.

        Where the bypass becomes much more important is for Redmond->U-district, where the 542 is expected to save a full 30 minutes over Link most of the time.

      4. “how exactly are you supposed to get from Sandpoint to Kirkland?”

        That’s precisely what the Ballard – Redmond study will answer. What kinds of crossings are physically feasable and how much would they cost? Then it will up to the Eastside to decide how much it wants it. If not, we’ll just build the Ballard – Children’s part.

        Kirkland is the Eastside’s second-largest city. It was the pioneer in downtown residential density in the early 90s, and will probably become the Eastside’s second-largest urban village. It has been completely left out of Link. So the next Eastside line (if any) will have to go from Kirkland to Bellevue, Kirkland to north Seattle, or both. Issaquah may have been more vocal about wanting Link, but Kirkland’s size and centrality argue that it must be next.

      5. Good point, asdf. The line swings a bit too east too early to make a Bellevue “short cut” make much sense. On the other hand, it depends on how easy it is to get the bus to the car pool lane, etc. It might work, it might not, but I would guess that in general you are right — an express from a Redmond stop (which would be closer to 520 anyway) would make more sense and be the real time saver.

        Mike: OK, I’m fine with that approach. Study it, and then let the east side folks know that they are picking up the tab for crossing the lake. Personally, I just can’t imagine they will want to spend all that money on (what I imagine to be) a really expensive crossing. As you said, the key here is that we get a nice Ballard to to Children’s system. Every stop along there is justified (locally and regionally).

        Kirkland is big, but it isn’t huge. If it was a neighborhood in Seattle (and we drew our neighborhoods that big) then it probably wouldn’t be anything that special (it is roughly the population of West Seattle). I think it makes sense for it to be served by a rail system, I just don’t see it being served by a really expensive lake crossing. The tunnel to the UW/Capitol Hill is justified because both areas are huge. I think you could make a strong argument for saving a few bucks and going elevated after the U-District, but the Roosevelt/Greenlake area seems to be growing really fast. In other words, while the line north of downtown might be just a little too expensive for what we get, it is a very good value. I just can’t imagine that being the case for a crossing of the lake.

        But I’ve been wrong before and I welcome the study.

      6. It isn’t even West Seattle. Prior to Kirkland’s 2011 annexation of the vast, gridless sprawl surrounding its former municipal boundaries, it had a population of only 17,000. And there was plenty of sprawl in those former boundaries too.

        Of course, West Seattle isn’t urban in form or attitude either. But at least there’s a connective grid.

      7. Given that Sandpoint and Kirkland are both largely bedroom communities, I don’t think there are enough people traveling between those two neighborhoods to worry two much about that particular trip – especially when a more direct route would cost billions and doesn’t even meet the cut for a highway, which has much larger pots of money to draw from than transit.

        Ballard->Children’s. Great, we should absolutely build this much. Kirkland? I don’t think we need anything that can’t be done way more cheaply with buses. Just replace 255 with an all-day-every-10-minutes-540 (increase to every 5 minutes during the peak, transfer to Link to go downtown), along with an hourly milk-run shuttle for the tail end of the 255 north of Kirkland TC. Finally, add a half-hourly express route that goes nonstop between downtown Kirkland and downtown Bellevue (via the I-405 HOV lane), and you have all the service that Kirkland will ever need for the next 50 years.

      8. Oh, and fix South Kirkland P&R so that buses can stay on street, rather than meandering in and out of traffic and getting stuck behind buses traveling in the opposite direction.

      9. It takes the 249 10 minutes in the PM peak to make the S. Kirk P&R loop vs just staying on Northup ( I timed it last week). It’s a 2 min. walk from the P&R down to Northup; go figure.

      10. Er, forgot to note that that was on the outbound BTC to Overlake direction. Not nearly as bad the other direction as it’s only one left turn across traffic vs four.

      11. “Just replace 255 with an all-day-every-10-minutes-540 (increase to every 5 minutes during the peak, transfer to Link to go downtown)”

        If the issue of congestion on 520 and in Montlake is resolved. The 520 rebuild is supposed to have HOV lanes but I’ll believe it when I see it. And the western approach still is not funded, so hello dropping to 15 mph and stalling.

      12. Even today’s congestion at the Montlake exit ramp is no worse than the congestion at the Stewart St. exit ramp. The interim Seattle approach plan, which is funded, calls for the existing Montlake exit to be widened to two lanes. The current is for both lanes to be general purpose, but if we were serious about truncating 520 buses at Montlake, we would have a stronger case with WSDOT to restrict one of the lanes to bus only, or at least 3+ HOV. Once you get past the Montlake exit ramp, the worst of the congestion is usually past. Montlake Blvd. may crawl up to the station at 15 mph, but, unless there’s a bridge opening, it still moves.

  4. That’s not what it said at all. In fact, if one were building those extensions as short spurs rather than through lines, a center platform design would be about the last thing you wanted. The point is that center platforms facilitate orbital journeys between, say, Kirkland and Issaquah.

    1. Perhaps you would run the Issaquah line to Kirkland, using both S.Bellevue and Hospital for the trunk transfer, but the majority of riders are not going from Issaquah to Kirkland. That barely warrants a bus route, and would never justify a rail line. The net effect is the same as having a bunch of short segments feeding the spine, which means they likely will never be built unless ST just needs a place to dump some cash for sub area equity.

    2. By the same token, the majority of riders on Central Link are not going from Northgate to SeaTac or Roosevelt to Rainier Valley, and the majority of riders on the 358 are not going from 46th to 105th. But by having a corridor line rather than several disjunct segments, it can serve those riders just as easily as those going between more popular station pairs.

      Also, ST has not even studied Issaquah yet, so it’s years away from deciding where any lines would terminate. It still hasn’t decided on stations for the Lynnwood Extension, which is much further along.

      Center platforms are always better, because they faciltate transfers in every direction.

    3. An even better example is the 2, which has downtown in the middle of the route. That would be analagous to an Issaquah – Kirkland line, where most people are going to Bellevue or transferring in Bellevue, but there are still some people who will go through Bellevue to the other side.

  5. 1.) I fail to see what is wrong with simply using the existing turnback just past Westlake station, where south link currently turns. Furthermore, by making East Link turnback at IDS, passengers wishing to travel further north must walk the rest of the way, or transfer to another link line or bus route. If they run East Link to Westlake, implement a center platform throughout the DSTT, and have each westbound train immediately go back east once they pass Westlake, isn’t that the best solution?

    2.) For goodness’ sake, I hope they plan on running the new 592 to Olympia in BOTH directions at the same time. Like a previous commenter said, 257 service miles for 125 miles of revenue service? If you work in Olympia, you should be offended. Maybe Sound Transit is using secret bus teleportation technology that only works if the bus is not in service.

    1. (1) There is nothing wrong with turning at Westlake other than extra running time
      (2) A turnback at Pioneer Square would be fine if they really care about the extra running time THAT much

      1. You mean, Sound Transit is seriously planning on NOT running East Link thru the Downtown Tunnel? What kind of lunatic would plan that? Who would think that’s a good idea? Don’t forget all the people that would go from the Eastside that would need to go to different places in downtown Seattle. Just having a few stops linking East with North/South Link is important for various transfers–why just have one transfer point? People on this blog have complained about Sounder having only one stop for downtown Seattle, and we accept Sound Transit to allow East Link to have only one stop, too?

      2. slow down there fellers. The crossovers are to switch in Sodo MF cars to the ELink line without going past IDS. We’re arguing about killing off the possible center platform at that location, Which has more utility to the system?

      3. You mean, Sound Transit is seriously planning on NOT running East Link thru the Downtown Tunnel?

        No, that’s not at all how I read it.

        Sound transit wants to build this strictly for the purposes of getting equipment from the Sodo yard onto East Link without going back and forth through the tunnel. Revenue service isn’t planned to use the turnback.

      4. LT,

        Has ST confirmed to you that no East Link trains will be in revenue service westbound to ID/CS, then offload all passengers, then turn back to the Central O&MF?

      5. What is the concern about extra running time? If we’re kicking r buses out of the tunnel for East Link anyway, how much extra time does it take to run a train from IDS to Westlake and back in non-revenue service?

    2. Running the 592 in both directions sounds good, until you look at the schedule and think about how it is likely implemented.

      For illustrative purposes, I will describe the morning commute here. The afternoon commute is similar.

      Today, the 592 is scheduled to run every 15 minutes, with the first bus leaving DuPont at 4 AM, and the last bus leaving DuPont at 7:45 AM. Each trip takes roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes by the schedule. Drive time from Olympia to DuPont is about 20 minutes with no traffic, so with the Olympia extension in place, one-way end-to-end travel time, Olympia->downtown Seattle, would be nearly 2 hours.

      Now, reverse-direction service is cheap when peak-direction service is implemented by having the same bus serve multiple trips. Since this bus would already be deadheading in the reverse direction anyway, the marginal cost of putting these deadhead miles into service is small.

      However, when the first and last trip of the morning are only 4 hours apart, there is simply not enough time for the first bus of the morning, after arriving in Seattle, to get all the way back to Olympia in time to reliably be able to provide the last trip of the morning. (Note that, even though today, route 592 does actually provide 2 reverse-direction trips to DuPont each morning, these trips would never fit in the schedule with the Olympia extension. They don’t even fit in the afternoon, where greater traffic congestion makes travel times longer and more erratic. )

      The end result is that the only possible way to implement this schedule is to purchase a separate bus and hire a separate driver for every 592 trip, which would deadhead from base to Olympia, carry passengers to Seattle, and then deadhead back to base again. (Yes, this is an extremely expensive way to provide service, but when it’s all concentrated in such a short period of time, there is really no other way to do it).

      Now let’s suppose 592 trips are, in fact, implemented this way, and you wanted to add reverse-direction service. While you could do it, the miles would no longer be free, as there is no longer a deadhead bus traveling from Seattle to Olympia anyway. The cheapest way to implement reverse-direction service would probably be to have some 592 buses go base->Olympia->Seattle->Olympia->base, rather than base->Olympia->Seattle->base. If the base is located in Olympia, the marginal cost of this would still be cheap, but since Intercity Transit isn’t part of Sound Transit, this seems highly unlikely. Even if the base is located somewhere near Tacoma (assuming Pierce Transit operates the 592 service), the marginal cost of reverse-direction service to Olympia would entail a substantial amount of new service hours, of which the money to pay for would have to come from somewhere.

      Which brings us to the next point. The 592 extension to Olympia is presumably happening because Intercity Transit is willing to cough up the money to fund the marginal cost of operating this service over the existing 592 which ends at DuPont. They are willing to do this because the riders it would serve are people living in Thurston County, who fund Intercity Transit with their tax dollars. By contrast, reverse-direction service would benefit people working in Thurston County, but it wouldn’t benefit people living there. Since Intercity Transit is funded by people living in Thurston County, not people working there, Intercity Transit has no real interest in paying one penny towards the cost of reverse-direction service. Hence, the entire cost of such service would have to come from Sound Transit funds, money which is currently not budgeted for such service.

      1. The state is paying for the marginal service cost, through a grant to Intercity Transit. See the previous post linked in the article.

      2. Pierce Transit operates the 59x routes, and they are based in Lakewood. Running some trips in both directions would probably add about 70 platform minutes per trip. That’s not pocket change. At all.

      3. I looked at the 592’s schedule, and northbound it’s unidirectional but southbound there are two early morning trips, at 5:40am and 5:58am. So if you get up very early you could go down to Olympia in the morning, but you’d have to come back on the existing 2-seat ride. That may be reasonable since you’d have to get up early in any scenario, and your morning appointment is more can’t-be-late than getting home. Or maybe ST will make more runs bidirectional. In any case it’s about going to Olympia for the day, not for a couple hours, since the 592 is a peak-only route.

      4. The two reverse-directional runs are only possible because the route ends in DuPont. Even the 5:40 run would not have enough time to get to Olympia, layover, and get back to DuPont in time for the 7:45 trip out of DuPont.

    1. The only problem, Jonathan, is ST doesn’t actually operate anything themselves. They contract out everything. So I don’t think it would make a lot of sense to merge transit agencies who know how to operate transit agencies into one that doesn’t.

    2. ST is a regional transit agency. Perhaps local agencies could merge into it someday to create a unified agency (like Germany does), but first you’d see Metro and CT going in before IT. What would have to happen for Thurston County is, Thurstonians would have to be willing to pay ST’s taxes, then the state might have to give permission to expand ST.

      Thurstonians would demand to know what service they’d initially be getting for their taxes, and it would probably be about ST taking over all Thurston-Pierce service. That would relieve IT and PT of the burden. Perhaps then the 592 could evolve into an all-day service. The issue of extending Sounder to DuPont would also be resolved, since Thurston would be in the district. Extending Sounder to Olympia may be harder because the station is far from downtown, but maybe it could be a massive park n ride and shuttle bus.

  6. Maybe they will extend 592 to Portland next… And run it only 1 direction at a time. Actually, 6 round trips to Olympia is a bit like 2 round trips to Portland. Oh, and only 1 direction at a time. Did I mention the one direction at a time bit?

    1. If ST, Metro, or PT really wanted a one-seat ride for workers in Olympia living in Pierce or King County, they could have sought a state grant like IT did. They did not, so none was granted. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

  7. So, eventually, the South Bellevue station will be serviced by two trains. It will basically be the mass transit center for the East Side. Maybe someone from the area can tell me if I’m wrong, but as far as I can tell, there is nothing there. There is a nice park and some houses on big lots that basically make Wallingford look like Manhattan. As far as I can tell, it is also not easy to get there from other neighborhoods. There are bottlenecks all over the place (because of the park and the freeways). This suggests that it will have limited value as a transit center (I could be wrong in this assessment and would love to here otherwise).

    So, is the plan to change the zoning for this area so that it resembles something more like Factoria, or maybe Ballard? By that I mean, how soon can we can expect to see 10 story office buildings (Factoria) or dozens of six story apartment buildings (Ballard) in this important neighborhood?

    If not, can someone explain to me why the train didn’t simply follow the grade separated route to Factoria and then go north from there? It seems like that alignment would be faster, allow for automation*, serve more people and have more potential for growth for only a small amount of extra money (if any). Was it money? Neighborhood opposition? I’m sorry if I’m rehashing old issues, I just don’t understand why it was done this way. I know there are trade-offs with every decision, but I just don’t see the advantage of the South Bellevue station over a station in Factoria. Maybe I’m missing something.

    * Assuming the rest of the line was also grade separated.

    1. Did anyone ever suggest Factoria to ST when the East Link corridor alternatives were chosen to study? Did Factoria even have enough office buildings at that point to pass the laugh test? Bellevue was just starting to get its act together in identifying urban villages, and Factoria was in unincorporated land. In any case, that ship sailed long ago, before even the “Vision Line”.

      Perhaps it shows that the county should have pushed harder to get rid of the unincorporated patches sooner. Then they would be some city’s responsibility, and that city would have to confront the issue of, “Well, what are we going to do with this commercial district? Make it the next Crossroads?”

      1. As far as I can tell, outside of downtown Bellevue,.Factoria has the tallest buildings on the east side. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are several big ones there (ten and eleven story fat buildings). Those have been there a while. Some were owned by Attachmate, which was once the biggest private company in Washington (it may still be, but they moved to Seattle once they merged with WRQ). Now those buildings are owned by T-Mobile. Since those buildings are there, I would imagine it is OK (from a zoning perspective) to build other big buildings right next to them.

        If I’m not mistaken, the initial plan for east link planned on going to Factoria, since it was closer to the freeway. But again, I am curious as to the process. If this wasn’t the case, and folks just ignored the area with the big buildings so they could run a train on a surface street and serve a neighborhood with big lot houses and put a key station right next to a huge park, than I find that interesting.

  8. Wait, I just looked at the old documents. It turns out the original plan was supposed to go close to Factoria, but skip it, and not provide a station there. I guess the original plan was simply to go as fast and as cheap as you could do downtown Bellevue. That is about as crazy (in my book) as what they decided to do (visit South Bellevue, where very few people live and work).

    1. RossB, you’re correct. There is nothing near the South Bellevue Park & Ride. The swamp covers the east, the highway covers the south, Bellevue Way has a long stretch or nothing north. There’s the edge of a neighborhood on the west. Even though the swamp has had an interstate highway running through it and office buildings on stilts built in it for half a century, environmental concerns will prevent any real development of the area.

      The problem is that East Link was designed by a bunch of people who know nothing about the East side except for their annual Christmas shopping trips to Bellevue Square. It was then debated by people–like those on this blog, Kemper Freeman, Kevin Wallace, and myself–who are too blinded by personal interests to care about the whole picture.

      East Link is a joke. But so was the Tukwila Link, before it hit the airport. And so was the Bus Tunnel, before we pulled out unused train tracks so we could install usable train tracks. And so was….sigh, the list goes on. We’ll get it right eventually, don’t worry. This is Seattle.

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