20131113-060625.jpgLast night, Sound Transit had the first of six open houses asking residents of the district: What do you want to see from Sound Transit next?

Sound Transit staff and Mayor McGinn both spoke about how this process works, and the mayor pointed out that getting a Sound Transit expansion package will also require legislative work – advocacy from us in Olympia. I wish there had been more people – between ST staff and the mayor, the presentation was the most complete explanation of how Sound Transit operates that I’ve heard yet.

The rest of the event was time for Sound Transit and consultant staff to talk to attendees about what they wanted, collect comments, and generally answer questions, much like most public meetings. They did some cool stuff, taking video of people answering questions, and working on a time-lapse of a big map on which attendees can put colored dots where they want transit.

There were a lot of good meeting materials – an overview from top to bottom of why Sound Transit exists, what it does, and how it plans. I haven’t found PDFs of the boards Sound Transit had up, but they have a very clear web page about the process.

Turnout last night was low. I think it’s difficult for people – even transit advocates – to really understand the steps an agency has to go through before funding and building a project, and so going to a “long range plan open house” doesn’t seem that exciting to many. The people who did show up were a cross-section of the most experienced and involved advocates in Seattle, there just weren’t many new faces. I hope to see that improve at the other events!

I think we’ve written about Sound Transit’s overall process before, but I’ve heard some specific misconceptions recently, so rather than a big explanation of how we get to ST3 and ST4, I just want to make a few points:

– The Long Range Plan is the big list of all the projects Sound Transit wants to build. It doesn’t mean they’re funded or even voter approved projects, it’s just the library from which they pull projects when sending them to the voters. They have to be in the LRP *before* they can be part of a ballot measure.

– The biggest projects that could be in Sound Transit 3 are already part of the Long Range Plan. Transit to Redmond, Issaquah, Everett, Tacoma, Ballard, Renton – most were part of the Long Range Plan in 2005. Planning work for them was in ST2, so that they might be funded in ST3.

– West Seattle isn’t in the Long Range Plan right now, as far as I can tell, but it’s in study. It’s worth noting that the ST board has some leeway here to study things outside the LRP, but if we want rail to West Seattle in ST3, this should be a clear reminder that we will need to advocate *heavily* for it, as it is much farther down the list for ST than Ballard. WSTC, you folks picked the right time to organize!

So what should really be in the Long Range Plan that isn’t? Here’s my opinion (in addition to West Seattle):

– A UW-Kirkland crossing at Sand Point, rather than trying to use 520. Sound Transit should at least study it, but they won’t without it in the LRP.

– An SR-99 or Greenwood corridor for rail north from downtown, paired with rail southbound to Georgetown, South Park, and beyond.

– Extension of the Ballard line north, then across the city to Northgate, Lake City, Kenmore, and beyond.

– Sounder to Olympia. Just as ST Express runs outside the ST district, Sounder could too, but we need to know the costs and benefits before creating the partnerships to fund it.

We should also absolutely advocate during this process for what should be in ST3 – it’s an opportunity to engage the ST board. Just remember as well that what we want in ST4 will need planning funding in ST3 – which means it needs to be in the Long Range Plan now.

126 Replies to “Sound Transit Long Range Plan Open House”

    1. I don’t know – interesting question. Are none of the open houses near you? Do you live in the district? ;)

      1. That does bring up an interesting question though… holding some of these things as online sessions might be more accessible to your average person who can’t leave work early.

        Event streaming a live recording of the speeches would do a lot to improve the ability of folks not there to at least know what is going on.

      2. Exactly, I just attended an online session with the CTO of New York City’s transit department. There was audio output for the presenter and subject.

        And we could chat and ask questions while that was happening.

        Even if I was next door to this, there is no reason for me to have to physically be there!

        And maybe someone would want to attend one of these based on the best time — not the nearest place!

        Also, this makes it all transparent and accessible to all.

  1. Ben, thanks for the report. These events are frustrating for me because I’m rarely able to leave work in time to make it to them.

    So what should really be in the Long Range Plan that isn’t?

    I filled out the survey, and these are the opinions I expressed there:

    – LRT Downtown/West Seattle/Burien (via Alaska Jct – High Point – White Center route)
    – LRT Downtown/SLU/Fremont/Greenwood/Aurora/Lynnwood

    Those two are by far the most important, in my opinion. After that:

    – LRT Ballard/Northgate/Lake City
    – Express bus that serves Seattle/Kent (in practice this would be the 578 reroute)
    – Express bus link to Kent East Hill, the largest population center in the ST area completely absent from the current LRP
    – Better regional service to downtown Everett

      1. Typically I work until 8 or 9. The hours after business hours are the only time I can get actual work done rather than being in calls or meetings.

      2. Yow. I had no idea. Maybe you’ll be able to make the noon one in downtown if you plan for a few hours off?

  2. I do think the Long Range Plan should include Sounder to Olympia (not Lacey),… it’ll be expensive because tracks have to be rebuilt, but it’s worthwhile if only to get the state legislature to wake up and realize that trains are transportation too.

    1. The state is well aware of that. BNSF, not so much unless you want to ‘Pay to Play’. Crosscut has a good read on all the oil and coal trains headed west. They’re players and do pay.

      1. That’s the nice thing about Sounder to Oly – it might not require any BNSF involvement at all. Sound Transit owns the track from Tacoma to Nisqually, and the right of way from there on could be some WSDOT and some rail-banked.

      2. Ben,

        WSDOT doesn’t own the bridge over the Nisqually River, which is a humdinger. It can’t have a third track added; there would have to be an addtional structure built alongside.

        And….it would be a huge mess crossing over the two main tracks; it would need a flyover north or south of the river.

      3. Also, it’s about two miles from the Nisqually Bridge to St. Clair. A new track alongside would have to be built there and at least part of the distance is on a significant fill.

        All in all, not a low cost environment for rail building.

        Especially since the proven passenger load is only about ten busloads per day in the peak direction.

      4. Ben and I agree on identifying alternative ROW for future regional and HSR. The next logical segment would be the railbanked ROW heading south out out the Oly CBD Stn tunnel, then connecting to Centralia, via little used tracks along I-5.
        The state is foolish to not pursue alternatives before they are all gone,

      5. Mic,

        The right of way south of 66th Avenue disappears and has some pretty nice developments right alongside. I doubt the happy new homeowners would want 125 mph trains whizzing by sixty feet behind the back door.

        And it’s important to remember that the Oly-Gate line (old NP) is NOT the Chehalis Western (nee Milwaukee Road) line alongside the freeway north of Centralia. The closest they come is about four miles separation and there is some vertical displacement as well.

        Now there is a fairly wide utility right of way that the old NP line crosses just south of 110th that heads southeast then south and then southeast again which the old Milwaukee tracks intersects just southwest of the Maytown Rest Area. If one set of towers could be replaced with doubled-voltage towers and one then one removed and the two “zigs” smoothed, that might work.

        While I agree that having HSR stop two blocks from the State Capitol grounds would be a fantastic development, it seems a pretty low priority. That said, the right of way should be preserved between 66th where the current trackage stops and the utility right of way. That certainly shouldn’t cost too much.

      6. Yeah, it’s about 5 miles from s.end of Black Lk to Maytown through open fields (elevated) but hardly a deal breaker to build new ROW to ‘connect the dots’. As for the really nice housing, it’s about 10 average houses on the backs of cul-de-sacs.
        Finding good ROW from BC to PDX is not for the faint of heart.

      7. Triple-tracking the three miles in Nisqually is certainly viable. It’s worth noting that the former rail route has been turned into the “Woodland Trail” and I don’t know whether it’s railbanked.

        It would probably be easier and faster — and perhaps a better route — to build a line along the I-5 ROW from Pacific Ave. SE to where the Lakewood/Tacoma line joins, however. I’d put it on the north side of the ROW from Plum St. SE to Martin Way SE and in the median east of there…

        I’m not saying any of this would be cheap, but neither was I-5.

        Agree on ROW preservation south of Olympia.

      8. I’m not sure the I-5 ROW would make a suitable rail corridor from the Point Defiance Bypass to Olympia. There is a fairly stiff grade down into and out of the valley where the Nisqually River flows. Plus the degree of curvature acceptable for highways isn’t always very good for trains, especially if you want the trains to be able to move fast.

  3. Thanks, Ben, I really appreciate the information. I have a few questions that I hope you (or someone else) can answer. First, what is the difference between BRT and HCT? Can BRT include major infrastructure changes? If so, could that be part of ST3?

    1. HCT is a more generic term for transit that carries a large number of people primarily in its own right-of-way. Both BRT and light rail fall under the definition of HCT, so any corridor designated as an HCT corridor could theoretically have either: the technology has not officially been chosen.

      As for whether BRT can include major infrastructure changes, depends on what you’re talking about. I wouldn’t consider a BRT-only lane to be major infrastructure, for example, since it’s not a feature that’s unique to BRT. It’s not unprecedented to create infrastructure for buses like tunnels, however – the downtown transit tunnel carried buses only for most of its life, and it was only relatively recently that rail was added to the mix.

      If we do get BRT with ST3, say, the 405 corridor, I’d imagine that it would need a dedicated lane, bare minimum, which could require some hefty infrastructure work.

      1. Thanks Mark, that’s what I figured. Yes, when I talk about infrastructure changes, I mean ramps, tunnels, etc. I would definitely consider those part of BRT, but I wasn’t sure if Sound Transit considers them part of BRT when it comes to their process. In other words, since BRT for highway 99 is part of the long range plans, could we add in a few hundred million for extra ramps, tunnels, etc. (as I sketched out below)? I would guess yes (if people want it).

      2. For I-405 BRT, ST has already built a bit of infrastructure that would be useful, e.g., the HOV interchange at NE 128th and the NE 6th ramps. There are other areas where there would need to be a buch of work to accomodate real BRT, e.g. center stations at Newcastle/Coal Creek, Houghton P&R, Brickyard P&R, Canyon Park. Then there would be whatever was needed in Lynwood and Renton to reasonably accomodate the TCs and P&Rs.

        I don’t know that it would need to be exclusive lanes. Instead of HOT lanes, make them HOV 3+. If still crowded, make them HOV 4+. Repeat as needed.

        Personally I’d prefer to see rail on the ESRC, but somehow it was determined that the Eastside wants BRT. I don’t remember being asked.

      3. Personally I’d prefer to see rail on the ESRC, but somehow it was determined that the Eastside wants BRT. I don’t remember being asked.

        You weren’t, well not specifically the ESRC.

      4. BRT is a vague term that can scale up to quasi-subways in Latin America, or down to RapidRide. What we’re targeting is something in between, and it needs to be defined because there’s no precedent in the northwest. WSDOT has done some preliminary work sketching out BRT on 405, so that’s the ballpark of ST’s notion: something that is some kind of “frequent” in the daytime, has some kind of “stations”, and transit lanes and signal priority. Various examples exist or are being studied in Los Angeles (freeway, Santa Monica Blvd), Cleveland, Chicago (Ashland Ave, ring line), San Francisco (Van Ness, Geary) — which may or may not be the right scale for our conditions.

        We need to ask for “HCT” for everywhere we might want light rail in the next three decades, and “BRT” only for those where we don’t ever expect rail in that timeframe even if density rises there, VMT declines, and people become more willing to pay for rail. So we should stick to “HCT” for everything in the Seattle Subway vision except possibly the Tacoma and Everett tails, and “BRT” for things like 405, Madison Street, and Kent to East Hill.

      5. The next question will be, how small of a positive vote from the Eastside sub-area will Sound Transit be able to get away with, and still have ST3 pass.

  4. The first thing ST needs to do is to show that they can finish current projects on time and on budget. This will build confidence in the agency and prove they can handle large projects. No, the UW link extension isn’t an example. So far it is about 7 years behind schedule and $2B over budget.

    So I wrote in their survey.

    1. … and has been quietly lowering ridership estimates with each successive SIP’s that come out (ref 2014 DRAFT, U link 2019 projections). Good luck reaching 300,000 daily boardings by 2030.

      1. I don’t see why they’d have a problem doing that. Look at the big ridership projections post Matt did – Link is trending upward much faster than they expected. Even if Link were at *zero* today, if it keeps its trend, it would beat that expectation.

      1. He’s just arguing that Link overall is $2B over, but there’s no way to compare 2013 dollars with 1995 dollars like that anyway.

      2. ST1 originally underestimated the resources required for Link from SeaTac to 45th. That led to an agency reorganization, and the second administration is conservative in its estimates. So the current projections are realistic and tend to come in on time and on budget, but if you trace the result of SeaTac to 45th based on the 1995 estimates, it looks late and pricey. The issue revolves around whether it’s still fair to use those estimates, in spite of the reorganization and election in between. The election arguably confirmed the current administration and plans, and that’s what matters.

    2. That’s a completely misplaced priority. Compared to WSDOT, Sound Transit is a golden child. Seriously, go pick on WSDOT and all their ridership/budget projections first.

      1. WSDOT and Sound Transit work from the same PSRC model and pop/employment projections. They also work closely together on the modeling for projects like East Link and Lynnwood.

        I find the Sightline articles on this topic very disappointing. I don’t think they really have a good handle on how traffic modeling is done and their ignorance results in some poor quality writing on the topic.

    3. I do not understand how light rail can go over budget when the Canada, Evergreen lines are under or on budget when they finish construction and complete early or on time to finish the construction.

      1. Different country, different regulatory environment, more political freedom to do transit right, and perhaps better estimates.

    4. Considering how long it takes a large project to get built, it we wait for EastLink to finish before we even start planning for ST3, by the time ST3 finally finishes, we’ll all be dead. We need to start planning for it now.

  5. Ben, pardon my ignorance/curiosity, but why have the Seattle-Kirkland line cross at Sand Point? Is it to serve the hospitals/Magnusson Park? Isn’t Sand Point mostly single family homes that would fight any attempts at density? How would you cross the water to Kirkland?

      1. That makes sense. It begs the question, though, east of Children’s Hospital, but west of Kirkland, where would you put a stop? The easy answer is nowhere. It is hard for me to get excited about anything over there. From a connection standpoint, it would help a little to have an (express) bus from Lake City Way connect there, as opposed to at Children’s Hospital. That might save a bit of time, but I don’t know bad traffic gets along that section. Likewise with connecting to Burke Gilman.

        I looked at the only density map I know of (http://buildthecity.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/seattle_2010_density.jpg) — side note: if someone has something better, please let me know — and I was a bit surprised. Just south of Magnuson Park there appears to be decent density. It is crap compared to most of the line (from Ballard to the UW) but not as crappy as much of the area northeast of Children’s Hospital (Windermere, etc.).

        I haven’t followed the fight over Magnuson Park, but if rail is added, it might be a good time to look into adding a bunch of apartments there. The neighbors, and some park advocates might whine, but the neighbors might be assuaged by adding (or retaining) a handful of park and ride spots. Meanwhile, most park advocates (including me) know that there is plenty of space for both. Much of the park really isn’t that interesting. The popular spots for walking are mainly close to the water and maybe the frog pond. The ball players don’t want to lose their fields, but there is plenty of largely unused open space (empty fields and lots of concrete) that could easily be converted to apartments .

      2. Why not have a stop at Magnuson Park? Not every stop has to have ridiculously high ridership. And yeah, there’s plenty of space for *everything* there.

        The point of the Sand Point crossing is that it’s much, much shorter to get from UW to Kirkland in a direct line than going south from 45th – especially when 45th is already south of Kirkland. Sand Point Way is a wide arterial that goes the right direction. We should at least study it rather than assume using the 520 bridge.

      3. I am not a huge fan of Magnuson park myself because its really difficult to access with anything that isn’t a car and then get around on foot (many of the trails actually prohibit bicycles). There is that nice cycle track down from Burke Gilman, but after that you’re in confusing parking lot land at the park entrance.

        Improving access to the park in general would be a good thing in my estimation. Maybe we could take out part of a parking lot for a nice station with copious amounts of bicycle racks. Suddenly your park access goes way up and you have more people in what seems to me like a fairly empty and park at the moment.

      4. I agree, Ben; I’m OK with a stop at the park (why not, it is going there anyway). Except the problem is, we only have so much money. Would you rather have a stop there, or a stop at 130th NE? How about a bridge over I-5, next to Northgate. Hopefully we would have all of that, but if push comes to shove, a Magnuson Park station gets shoved out (unless, of course, they manage to add a bunch of apartments there).

        Frankly, I think this is one of those times where we should propose the stop, but tell people it comes with more apartments. My guess is that people in the area would love to have a station there. We don’t want to make the same mistake we did with Roosevelt, and talk about the zoning changes after we moved the station closer to the neighborhood (on their behest).

    1. I hardly presume to speak for Ben, but…

      Leave It To Beaver-level-of-earnestness reasons to consider a Sand Point crossing for UW-Kirkland:
      – Shorter distance and more direct relative to 520 (short/fast/direct enough that Kirkland-downtown commuters would jump at the chance to transfer in the U District to go downtown rather than sit in traffic on the Portage Bay Bridge, in theory)
      – Avoids Montlake Bridge (any option that’s not terribly slow there might be just as expensive/politically difficult/physically complex as another floating bridge)
      – The whole “east-west lines going east-west” thing (this line is always talked about as a continuation of UW-Ballard), providing relatively direct transfer opportunities from all over the north end.
      – Might encourage more walkability in the U Village-Children’s corridor, which couldn’t hurt.
      – Every existing road approach to Kirkland is slow, new ROW almost has to be faster

      Cynical/political reasons to consider a Sand Point crossing for UW-Kirkland:
      – Set a favorable point of comparison for speed, reliability, cost (that is: even if a 520-based alternative is chosen, the presence of a faster, more expensive alternative in the comparison will tend to make people more seriously consider faster, more expensive versions of a 520-based alternative)
      – Keeps trains on the table, rail bias is real
      – Support from Children’s Hospital might help

      Evil reasons to consider a Sand Point crossing for UW-Kirkland
      – Spite for South Kirkland P&R, as if it was a person, a person with a face, a person with a face that enjoys wasting your time (this sort of wraps around into earnestness because going to South Kirkland after 520 compounds 520’s speed/directness disadvantage, but I’m mostly just trying to be funny)
      – Angering homeowners in both Sand Point and Kirkland is a can’t-miss two-for-one opportunity.

      1. I also think that the marginal benefit of a Sand Point crossing for riders from the north East Side (e.g. Kirkland, maybe north/downtown Redmond) is much greater than the marginal benefit of 520 rail, compared to the next best alternative. That is, Overlake is already pretty well served by the 545, and it’s easy to imagine some simple improvements (like moving Overlake TC to the median) that would make it even better. But a rail connection to Sand Point would be a game-changer for Kirkland.

      2. And political reasons – trading Medina for Laurelhurst is a wash in terms of opposition, and you eliminate a fight from UW and WSDOT.

      3. I agree with all your points, Al. If we run an extra rail line to the east side via 520, then I don’t think we end up with anything east of the Roosevelt station in the UW. This would be a shame since I could see adding two very popular stations — one a little ways east of the Roosevelt station, and one by Children’s Hospital.

        I also agree with your point Aleks. I think if it turns out that a Sand Point to Kirkland line is too expensive, then it is quite possible that nothing makes sense. In other words, using 520 might be cheaper, but still plenty expensive, and with a lot less benefit.

      4. I’m very skeptical that a second lake crossing anywhere would be appropriate from a cost-benefit perspective. I also think the Seattle subarea in particular has so many higher priorities (both Ballard lines, West Seattle, 99 North) that the approach to a second lake crossing will find itself way down in the queue.

        That said, there are a whole lot of reasons why Sand Point to Kirkland (and continuing east to Overlake) seems more cost-effective than 520. No reason not to put it on the LRP and study it.

      5. That said, there are a whole lot of reasons why Sand Point to Kirkland (and continuing east to Overlake) seems more cost-effective than 520. No reason not to put it on the LRP and study it.

        If such a line does continue east, I would hope that it would head straight to downtown Redmond, rather than detouring to Overlake. During the peak commute, Overlake will already be well-served by tons of bus service on 520. At other times, East Link is a perfectly reasonable way to get there. I don’t think Overlake has enough non-commute demand to warrant two different rail routes to Seattle.

        Also, FWIW, note that the East Link segment from OTC to Redmond isn’t funded. So the argument here is that Redmond would only have one train station, and it would go to UW via Kirkland/Sand Point, not that Redmond would have double service when Overlake does not.

      6. And also, I completely agree with you that this isn’t the highest priority, and it shouldn’t be. The 255 may be a bit awkward, but Kirkland still has a much faster route to downtown (on a miles-per-hour basis) than Ballard or Fremont or Greenwood.

      7. That begs the question, David, who pays for the actual crossing?

        From a cost benefit standpoint, I like every part of the Seattle section that goes from Ballard to Kirkland (with the possible exception of Sand Point itself, as I mentioned above). Ideally, we would have several stops before Sand Point, and not the once every mile or two thing we do now. Much of that area of the city is dense and full of worthy destinations. If we get a lot of stations along that corridor, then I would be willing to pony up a bit of money for a crossing (if it isn’t too expensive). But it seems like we shouldn’t have to pay for half, because I think Kirkland benefits way more by a crossing than we do. As I said, we can build that line and stop at the water’s edge (OK, a half mile before there) and it would be more popular than everything south of downtown. But a Kirkland connection to Redmond (or whatever) seems like a weak addition for the east side compared to connecting Kirkland more directly to Seattle.

        Ideally, we study this and look at the numbers, which should include expected ridership. The Seattle part (with the exception of the Sand Point station) should be impressive. So much so, that even if we fail to go across the lake, we build it anyway. I really think extending the Ballard to UW line a couple stops to the east (one at Chldren’s hospital and one about half way between there and Roosevelt) makes a lot of sense.

      8. Sending a Kirkland line to Overlake would be too close to East Link for everywhere starting at 120th. It might as well just share the East Link track if it’s going to do that.

      9. @David Even if cost and usage are thrown out the window, I’m still wondering how the trains would cross the lake. The two options are tunnel or bridge.

        Considering the lake is 170’+ deep between Sand Point and Kirkland, you would need a bare minimum tunnel length of 8500 ft (170′ @ max 4% slope both sides). And if you wanted to clear Magnuson Park, you’re looking at 13,000 ft+.

        For a bridge, to go suspension, you would need a span of about 7000 ft (the lake gets deep very quickly) to not have super deep caissons; you’d also need to be probably 140′ high. Or you could do a floating bridge…

      10. The Eastside should pay for the lake crossing. If they want it enough, great. If not, Seattle has other priorities.

      11. Commenting on a comment above, which appears to be too deeply nested to allow me to reply: “My guess is that people in the area would love to have a station there”? You must not know Windermere and View Ridge. The folks in public housing at the west end of the park and in UW housing at the south end would like a station. The others? I highly doubt it.

      12. Aleks: I think there is a lot more potential ridership Kirkland-Overlake than there is Kirkland-Redmond. Relative ridership on the 245 and 248 supports this theory. It could also be OK if the two lines ended up connecting (or even interlining) at Redmond, but I think Kirkland residents would be kind of frustrated if their shiny new train went to Redmond but they were still on the 245 to Overlake. Either way, I would try to locate a stop near Lake Washington HS.

        RossB: I think there is no question the East subarea would pay for the crossing, but I expect it would rebel at being asked to pay for the approach (which would mostly benefit Seattle residents). I agree that U-Village and Children’s stops would be very good eastern nodes on a UW-Ballard line (assuming it is not a spur of U-Link). I think there would also be some room to densify south Sand Point in exchange for a stop there.

        RapidRider: This seems to me like a case that’s crying out for the world’s first operational submerged floating tunnel. A floating bridge would be the second-best option. A deep tunnel would be enormously long and present problems for locating a Kirkland stop reasonably, and a suspension bridge would be an object of hate from the day it was proposed. Of course, all of these options are expensive — likely out of line with potential ridership in the foreseeable future.

    2. It’s not just the narrowness of the lake, but the fact that Kirkland is the largest city on the Eastside that’s not on ST2 Link, and it was the pioneer in building a walkable downtown (“transit ready”). So it makes more sense to go directly to downtown Kirkland rather than indirectly via 520 and 108th/BNSF/405, which has nothing dense around it.

      If it goes from Ballard it would open up a significant new corridor between north Seattle and the north Eastside which has never existed, and which could be a singificant mobility benefit.

      Sand Point is a secondary issue. It’s not worth builidng a separate line to, but if a line is going through there anyway it should have a stop there, because that would significantly improve mobility to/from Sand Point, which is really bad in spite of the moderate amount of multifamily housing and low-income housing. The line would also allow U Village and Children’s hospital stations, which would be more heavily used.

      1. I agree with all of your points. A line like that is great for everyone in the area. I’m just not sure if it is too expensive or not. If it is too expensive, then I think a second line to the east side (via 520) will also be too expensive. It might be cheaper than the other line, but we would get a lot less for it.

      2. By the time we build Ballard-UW, we’ll need to connect Kirkland to *something*. That’s the beauty of subarea equity – Ballard + West Seattle probably more than matches Redmond + Issaquah, and then there are at least two more major needs in Seattle that make that lake crossing likely.

        Plus, by 2023, the legislature will no longer be able to avoid helping with funding. If they can put together $12 billion for mostly highways, they can put together a couple billion for real mass transit.

      3. I promise you, Ben: If ever in the 21st century there is a second rail crossing of Lake Washington, I will let you pick from a selection of highly fashionable hats of the day, I will purchase said hat, I will cook it, and I will eat it.

      4. Alright, d.p., I get you despise all possible projects except Ballard-UW, but what in your opinion is the vote-maximizing, worthwhile project in East King for ST3 that lets you actually build what you want?

      5. It is absolutely depressing how easily the legislature can put together $12 for highways, yet nothing for transit. Our tax dollars that could be paying for ST3 are instead going toward wider highways around Puyallup.

      6. asdf, don’t let Ben bamboozle you. He showed you $7B of Program I Improverments, and even those contain a couple of multimodal projects, like #25 “SR 520 Regional Trail Grade Separation” and #49 “Ridgefield Rail Overpass”. That’s by far the bulk of the capital projects, but it does not add up to a $12B highway bill. The whole capital program is $8.7B as can be seen here.

        Keep in mind also that this is the majority coalition caucus’s proposal. It needs to be approved by the entire Legislaure to be enacted.

      7. “I’m just not sure if it is too expensive or not.”

        That’s why we need ST to study it and give us a cost estimate. Then we can argue about whether and when to build it.

      8. As always, Martin, my primary point is that the high-capacity projects that will prove financially and politically sustainable in the long run are the ones that, when completed, provide a significant number of people with a significant improvement in mobility, to places that they actually want and need to go, and that actually make sense for people to reach by high-capacity transit.

        The above concept is so incredibly basic that my mind continues to boggle at being deemed “counterproductive” or “whiny” for repeating it. It forms the foundation for any non-politicized cost/benefit analysis.

        If a common-sense project allocation requires differential taxes between sub-areas, so be it. If it means separate referendums between places with different needs, so be it. If it means additional transit-benefit overlay districts where capital needs are greater, so be it. Because building questionable projects just to build them will buy you nothing but empty trains and a pissed-off populace that will eventually stop funding the things you genuinely need.

        Just above, Ben claims Link-as-currently-planned will have no problems “beating” 300,000 boardings, on the basis of the slow-but-steady increase to about 30,000 on Central Link. This growth on our starter rail line is perfectly commendable, and is to be expected as Seattle becomes familiar with it and the situations for which it is most helpful. But that doesn’t absolve ST of having to explain the discrepancy between 30,000 and the 45,000 predicted before opening. It doesn’t mean that bypassing existing demand, designing terrible stations and locating them poorly, failing to understand walkshed and coverage, and relying excessively on fashionable Magic TOD chatter haven’t impacted the relative success of the line. It doesn’t give ST license to make the same mistakes over and over again, and to act surprised each time the usage of its mediocre system tracks low.

        I might remind you that BART — still the primary model for what ST is trying to do — is 40 years old, contains five branches, operates in a significantly more populous metropolitan area than ours, provides at its core a connection between two dense pre-auto cities totaling 1.2 million in population, and packs its very large trains to capacity at rush hour (even while they run mostly empty the rest of the time, as Link is expected to). BART is at barely over 300,000 boardings.

        But 300,000 for Link is apparently “guaranteed”. ST’s riders will apparently appear out of thin air. And I’m painted as crazy?

        A second Lake Washington crossing is not going to happen, because the central achievement of East Link — providing a traffic-immune lake crossing and connection between Seattle, Bellevue, and Overlake — will have covered all of the “high-value” bases. And East Link will still only be getting 50,000 boardings, thanks to the Eastside suburbs’ inherent land-use flaws. The marginal value of a second lake crossing is damned-near nonexistent, and ST thinking it might create awesome symmetry on a map in a voter guide cannot overcome thepaucity of its benefit in relation to its cost.

        But don’t ask me. Ask the Feds, who failed to even find the first East Link worthy of support.

        So what might offer genuine value to East King in ST3? Any project that accepts the constraints of reality and looks to achieve mobility aims within the context of reality. That probably means continuing East Link into downtown Redmond (if only because downtown Redmond is a real place, of moderate size, on the same vector and not much further than the interim Overlake terminus, and with an obvious ROW). It means concocting a high-quality BRT solution for intra-405 travel (including some not-insignificant capital expenditures for ramps, stations, and partial ROW to enhance speed or bring the project closer to destinations or connecting transit). It means a project to attach Eastgate and Issaquah transit to Link, without bottlenecks and without the awful South Bellevue transfer currently proposed (but also without ten miles of 100% ROW, which cannot be justified).

        So there you have three obvious, non-negligible investments in Eastside mobility, which could see success in spite of the challenges of the suburban form. Three investments that might be cumulatively similar in cost to the next major urban subway challenge. But if the price tags are different, all you have to do is vary the tax rates! Building Moar Failure Sprawl Spur Rail as a make-work project is not only stupid, but an excellent way to engender distrust and eventual rejection from the public.

      9. Thanks for the response.

        I’m highly skeptical that the mild BRT projects you suggest would even match up with the price of the Ballard Spur. I’m honestly not sure if all the revenue structures you suggest are even legal. But what I do feel sure of is that what you suggest isn’t going to be a vote-winner on the Eastside. People won’t say, “look how much lower our tax increase is.” They’ll say, “my taxes are going up and Seattle gets all the goodies.”

        But does you hatred of somewhat overbuilt rail outweigh your hunger for desperately needed subways?

      10. Do you find it politically sustainable or morally acceptable that rural Washington politicians are allowed to beat up on “government-teat-sucking Seattle”, despite the truth of tax-dollar redistribution being the precise opposite? Or that all taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for highway expansions, while the state refuses to spend one red cent on urban transit? Your defense of the “common wisdom” on soliciting Eastside votes strikes me as disturbingly similar.

        It’s not that I have a “hatred of overbuilt rail”. In a world of unlimited resources, I’d happily see empty trains run every which way. Many old-world countries run rail lines that wouldn’t be remotely worth building from scratch today, but as they already exist, they offer just enough benefit to continue.

        What I hate is Sound Transit’s total disregard of the opportunity costs inherent in the decisions it makes, especially those decisions that most strongly reflect a suburbs, ho! approach to network building. Rainier Valley rail follow the wrong corridor. First Hill got screwed. U-Link ignores every global best practice for urban transit service. And Seattle is getting stuck with the bill for I-90 ROW and for up to five parking lots next to I-5.

        All of the above are disasters born of a desire to placate and to quickly speed service to the suburbs. All represent a misallocation of (highly regressive) Seattle tax collections. All are damaging to ridership and the usability of the system. All are irreversible.


        Lastly, I dispute your subarea math. Most of my “Ballard spur” advocacy on these pages has come down to the ability to build this line, with uncompromised grade separation, for roughly $2 billion (based upon the precedent of U-Link). This dollar figure is similar to estimates given for the longer-distance, more challenging downtown-Ballard Link proposals, even after severe routing compromises have been applied.

        Extending East Link three miles to Redmond, a rail project I endorsed above, is likely to cost many hundreds of millions itself. The I-405 BRT, and other high-quality bus projects, would no doubt require capital improvements worth hundreds of millions as well. So we’re already in a similar ballpark, even at the same level of taxation.

        Furthermore, I don’t see why Sound Transit shouldn’t have a role in building a better Eastside enhanced-bus system, one that takes advantage of the mostly-intact Eastside arterial grid to offer the kind of fast-and-frequent spines (see: the LA Rapid network) that would provide the whole subarea with valid “choice” transit, while simultaneously connecting everyone with East Link. Metro is still burdened by an entrenched bias toward social-service milk runs, but Sound Transit is not. An educated populace would see this as far more valuable than a bunch of overbuilt rail spurs that politicians can gloat about but which the citizenry can never actually use (see: Denver RTD).

      11. Moral? No. Politically sustainable? Sure, until Seattle decides to add a lot more housing units. “Screw the rich people who pay for our stuff” is a time-honored political tradition.

        Perhaps your BRT investments would be big enough to balance out. The fact is, though, that the region wants high quality light rail. Voters do and leaders do. They’re rightly suspicious of those who peddle BRT as an alternative, even if they’re as serious about quality buses as you.

        I honestly don’t think a message of “Link for the core, buses for the rest” is a viable message in a political structure that requires healthy suburban majorities to make progress.

        I share your assessment that the need to get to the border has to some extent compromised our system. But the spine is funded! And ironically enough, the Lake crossing you so disparage is the one likely to provide more impetus to a crosstown line. Ballard-dowtown has the practical virtue of pointing at West Seattle, and probably winning more votes there.

      12. “What I hate is Sound Transit’s total disregard of the opportunity costs”

        Seattle is one fifth of Pugetopolis’ population, and has about the same representation on the ST board. The die was cast decades ago when the suburbs built up their populations, and in a low-density manner. That should have been channeled into closer-in, streetcar suburbs. But it wasn’t, and the political power is in the suburbs, and this is what you get.

        “Do you find it politically sustainable or morally acceptable that rural Washington politicians are allowed to beat up on “government-teat-sucking Seattle”

        It’s interesting that your beef with the suburbs has some parallels with Pugetopolis’ problems with the rural counties. But at least Pugetopolis’ situation is not as bad, and is actually making progress in terms of densifying suburban centers and orientation toward trunk transit routes.

      13. And ironically enough, the Lake crossing you so disparage is the one likely to provide more impetus to a crosstown line.

        This is precisely the kind of false presumption that so deeply terrifies me, Martin.

        No new Lake Washington rail project is going to get funded. Even glued to the edges of the new 520, you’re still looking at a billion dollars of purpose-built floating infrastructure, far more costly than the equivalent I-90 crossing. The Feds are not going to fund that. The State is not going to fund that. And I honestly don’t believe Eastside taxpayers will fund that, when they refuse even to properly fund the first East Link (or to fund it by their own damned selves as required).

        Meanwhile, an east-west intra-city line serving multiple high-demand destinations along a permanently traffic-choked corridor is justified on its own merits. Just like the literally hundreds of intra-city subway lines worldwide, which fill up with people every day because they provide better mobility than the alternatives and connect well into the larger transit network. There is no inherent problem with a line that is only three miles, if it does its job well. There is no shame in a line that doesn’t cross municipal boundaries or traverse major bodies of water. Those “concerns” are wholly artificial.

        But if you insist on shackling a useful project to a lake crossing that will never get funded, then you will only sink the useful project as well!

        As for West Seattle: I can’t begin to predict what will “win votes” in a neighborhood notorious for trying to cut in line on infrastructure projects, while simultaneously refusing to participate in being part of the city (Ctrl-F “parking”) in any way, shape or form. I fully expect post-Charter Amendment 19 West Seattle to be less mindful of wider civic needs than ever before, or than any other district. I don’t think “pointing” in their general direction will win anything.

        All of this is why Sound Transit and the City of Seattle needs to stop bending over backwards to pander, and start pursuing transit prospects that are mathematically sound, and salable on that basis to the relatively transit-friendly majority. Pursuing votes from hostile forces in exchange for “goodies” that won’t get built (or won’t succeed if they do) is a strategy that can only backfire eventually.

        (And Mike: That’s nice. That doesn’t change transit geometry. BART is still bad at nearly everything. Only fools chase failed precedents and expect miraculous success.)

      14. These aren’t “hostile forces”; they’re groups that want trains!

        What you call “pandering” I call putting together a plan that might actually be popular.

        To be clear, I’m not “shackling” anything. But should the Eastside decide Sand Point or 520 is worthwhile, don’t you think that adds momentum for Ballard-UW?

        And likewise, if you’re a West Seattle voter that just wants Link, aren’t you more excited by something that ends around the stadiums than something that runs perpendicular to West Seattle?

        I guess your reply would be that those places don’t “deserve” rail. That is certainly true for some value of “deserve.” But it strikes me as bad electioneering to think that Ballard and Wallingford are going to carry us to a majority.

      15. I don’t think it adds momentum, because even if the will/funds/justification for another rail crossing of the lake miraculously appeared, there’s no way it could be budgeted and begun for another couple of decades. Whereas the in-city east-west problem needed to be fixed yesterday, and could be built more rapidly as a properly-scoped, self-contained project.

        There is no situation in which the cross-lake “supplement” could do anything but slow the needed in-city work down, or scuttle it by association.

        Neighborhoods and exurban areas aren’t “deserving” or not because I desire to pass value judgments on a blog. They simply are or aren’t places whose fundamental land-use geometry will or won’t lend itself to certain tools.

        “Yay, trains!” makes for a nice bumper sticker. But “Yay, trains! And also preserve my street parking! And also we need more open space! And I’m scared of change in general!” is just a recipe for empty trains and a revolting future populace.

        I presume you are aware that every proposed downtown-Ballard alternative, with or without grade separation, ends at Westlake. Due to the whopping and as-yet-unsupportable expense of a new cross-downtown tunnel. So those plans can hardly “excite” West Seattle as imminently presented anyway.

        If West Seattle does manage to get in the front of the line for a train, there’s a pretty good chance it will be connecting in SoDo, even if that requires a transfer (like the Ballard proposals do) or a radical reimagining of Link’s service patterns. In that case, the Ballard alignment would be quite irrelevant to West Seattleites.


        Really, this a why the State of Washington should have taken a role in direct-funding Link construction. The whole point of sending taxes into a larger-sized coffer at the remote-government level is that — at least in theory — higher-level politicians can prioritize expenditures so as to have the greatest societal impact, while avoiding the kind of peanut-buttering of money that leads to mediocre projects at the local level. Thus the pan-ideological frustration with “pork” (siphoning of money back to less-justified local projects for political gain).

        Where regional-level and relatively un-corrupt governments take an interest in transit, highly effective projects tend to get chosen, and actual urban and regional mobility tends to improve dramatically. But where local authorities listen more to cries of “yay, trains!” than to reason and math, and proceed to overpromise and overbuild… http://www.thewinch.net/?p=3465

      16. I agree that a framework where transit plans didn’t have to go to the voters would produce a different system, and a better one.

    3. The map clearly shows the UW-Eastside line as being south of the Ship Canal through Montlake. There’s no line through Magnuson Park on the map that I can see.

      1. No.t yet ST is studying the UW-Redmond corridor along with five or six other corridors. I don’t remember if that will produce full alternative analyses for each corridor, or just preliminary estimates to decide which corridors to do an AA on (in the ST3 round). Is the Ballard – downtown study being called an Alternatives Analysis?

  6. Definitely more sparsely attended than I was expecting, but it was nice to go and meet some of you there. We have many different places where we need better transit, so I hope I was able to effectively make the case for the 522 corridor.

    By the way, the bus I was riding to get to the event (route 4) hit a car on the way in. Looks like the driver of the car made an illegal left turn in front of us at 6th & James. Just another poignant reminder that as we get more people to choose transit over driving, the less frequent such incidents will become.

    1. On the way back home I blew out a tire on my bike (broken beer bottles in the bike lanes again — it was dark so I didn’t see them in time). It seems a number of us had eventful trips home.

    2. I was planning to attend but I got the date wrong. :( :( :( I’ll have to try to get to Federal Way tonight, which will be difficult to do from north Seattle by 5:30pm. (If ST2 Link were running it would take an hour, but with three buses it will probably take two hours.)

      1. Hey Mike you’re also in North Seattle? We should really have a meet up for this site again sometime. People being able to carpool to the more distant events might be a good thing.

      2. The trip planner says it will indeed take just over two hours, including the 197 peak express and a 30 minute transfer to it. Coming back will take about an hour, to downtown, on the 903 and 578.

      3. @Mike Orr Is that two hours to first hill from North Seattle? I was there in about an hour by bicycle…

  7. As a followup to my previous questions about BRT, I will assume the best about BRT funding. Just to back up a bit, from everything I’ve read, BRT has been quite successful in many places. It can never match the volume that rail can deliver (just as light rail can’t match heavy rail) but it can be a very cost effective way to move people. To do so, I think it needs to work more like a subway, and less like a streetcar. For example:

    1) Fares should be collected at the station, not on the bus.
    2) The bus should have lots of doors that all open at station level.
    3) As much as possible, it should be grade separated.

    This third one is the most expensive, but very important (just like it is with rail). From what I’ve read, if you build a BRT system from scratch, you might as well build a rail system. Essentially, you would be building a freeway, and building a freeway is expensive. This leads me to my last point. From an economic standpoint, it should:

    4) Leverage existing infrastructure as much as possible.

    This is why BRT along the freeways makes sense. Carpool/transit lanes are pretty close to being grade separated. In many cases, all that needs to be added are some dedicated ramps and stations. In many cases, the freeway is very close to a good destination, so a dedicated ramp would be fairly short, and provide for a good stop. In other cases, the freeway runs through empty, industrial land. Picking the right station(s) is essential. There is a tendency to build what can be built cheaply, even when it doesn’t make that much sense, given the number of people who live or work near there (or can connect to other transit).

    For Highway 99, I think there is great potential, but many things have to be done:

    1) Add a station for Fremont (as discusses here: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2013/04/04/connecting-fremont-to-rapidride-e/).
    2) Provide elevators to get people from Fremont to that station. Elevators for the Queen Anne stops might make sense as well.
    3) Add ramps from 99 to downtown, so that the bus can avoid surface streets. This is obviously expensive. I’m not sure what it would take. Maybe tunneling, maybe overhead ramps, but a bus that travels along 3rd avenue should never be called “Rapid”.
    4) Connect it to the transit tunnel. I’m not saying the bus should go through the transit tunnel (we are done with that) but we should build something so that a rider can easily go from this bus to a train. Given the cost, it probably makes sense to combine these last two items. For example, an underground exit/entrance ramp at Pike might make sense.
    5) Extend this route to West Seattle. This part seems pretty cheap. Given a route that goes through the 99 tunnel, it makes sense to turn around in West Seattle, versus turning around somewhere in south Seattle.

    Doing it right, BRT would not be cheap. But light rail isn’t cheap. However, the type of system I’ve outlined would provide many of the benefits of light rail while doing so at a fraction of the cost (I hope). Building light rail along the 99 corridor would be really expensive. Building a few ramps is much cheaper. To throw out some numbers and an opinion, I would say it would be 2/3 as good, but 1/3 as expensive. Current BRT (as I’ve seen it implemented) is not much better than regular buses, and more expensive than them.

    1. I’m all for BRT, though I really would like to see dedicated bus lanes. The HOV lanes get congested during rush hour, and often times, do not flow much faster than the general use lanes.

    2. I think freeway-running BRT has tremendous potential in suburbs that grew up, or have regrown around freeways. 405 would be a great place for something like the Metro Express Lanes project:


      Basically, stripe an extra HOT lane and use demand tolling to maintain 45 mph on the tolled lanes. Use the toll money for transit improvements.

      Aurora is a doable place for BRT, but it’s not a freeway, except for the bit by Queen Anne, so there you’d be doing arterial BRT, which looks rather different.

      1. I like the idea of a 99-BRT for at least short to mid term transit expansion. If we streamlined the Aurora Rapid Ride and possibly joined it with the Swift service up in Snohomish (and maybe Pierce?) county, you would have a fairly useful secondary transit corridor on the cheap. Another option could be to keep the existing services and overlay an express (skipping stops) run by Sound Transit here.

        It could be used to grow transit usage along the corridor and be a bit of a pressure release on congestion so we have less pressure to build more freeways.

        The tightest spot here though is getting dedicated lanes in downtown Seattle. I don’t think running this through the tunnel is a good idea for a number of reasons. We would either want to run it through the bus priority streets downtown or possibly down Alaskan Way when that is done? I am open to better ideas here…

      2. I agree Bruce, and should have said as much (I almost did). A lot of the suburbs grew up around the freeway, so it makes sense to add BRT there.

        For 99, you are right. Part of it will be be arterial BRT, which is different. I think you could make a case for a BRT line from West Seattle to Green Lake and a different line that serves the area north of Green Lake. The first would be fast — it would not encounter any stop lights except for maybe turning around on each end. In other words, it is a freeway the entire way (from West Seattle to Greenlake). The second line would not be so lucky. My guess is that it makes sense to combine the two, though, just as we have with light rail. Not ideal, but fortunately, most of it is grade separated.

      3. For the greater 99 north corridor, I think we really need to be studying rail, even though we also have the parallel UW/I-5 line. There are so many high-density, high-demand, core destinations along the corridor that restricting our study of the corridor to BRT only could be a harmful decision in the long run.

      4. Decent BRT on Aurora and good east-west connections to Link could meet the speed, reliability and capacity needs on Aurora for a very, very long time, at a price much less than rail. Other corridors are much more important.

      5. @David — Yeah, sure, the 99 corridor makes a lot of sense for rail, but unlike a lot of other areas, there is the possibility of it getting a half-ass version of it in the interim. There is always the risk that once you build the half-ass system, people won’t want the superior one. But in general, I’m not so sure. The suburbs have really good bus systems to downtown, but that hasn’t stopped them from wanting light rail that does much of the same thing.

        But I’m all for studying both. I would love to see a price comparison between what I sketched out (assuming it is actually feasible) and rail. What I don’t want is a really half-ass BRT. I don’t want a system that spends half its time fighting downtown traffic, or skips over Fremont. But if a system can be built that travels through downtown (with at least one downtown stop) in its own grade separated lane, and there is a stop at Fremont, and it connects to West Seattle, I would love to know how much it would cost. If is substantially cheaper than light rail, I would support it. Eventually this could be replaced by rail, but in interim, I can think of other rail lines we might want, such as:

        A line that goes from Uptown, heads east through South Lake Union, connects to the Capitol Hill station, then curves south, through the Central Area with stops at the Rainier and Mount Baker station. You could add stops every half or quarter mile or so along that corridor and pick up a huge number of people. Unlike some spots in this city, much of that is terrible from a walking, driving or bus perspective.

      6. @RossB +1

        I like the idea of getting something half assed up and running now while we wait for funds for the 99 corridor rail to become available. Its going to take some time for those kinds of funds to free up even if you are pretty optimistic with the voters.

        We are going to need a solid East-West line and the Ballard-West Seattle line before we have the luxury of talking about rail down 99 again.

      7. Bruce, I don’t understand how you build BRT along Aurora that is meaningfully better than RR E, which will be almost as slow and overloaded as the 358, without very substantial capital investments.

        Aurora BRT also doesn’t meaningfully serve SLU, and won’t serve Fremont without yet more capital investments for an elaborate elevated structure. A light-rail line could do both.

        Finally, I’m not sure what Seattle corridors could be more important, in terms of potential ridership, that are not already either under construction or on the LRP. The 358 and 5, if counted together, would be Seattle’s highest-ridership bus route.

      8. “Bruce, I don’t understand how you build BRT along Aurora that is meaningfully better than RR E, which will be almost as slow and overloaded as the 358, without very substantial capital investments.”

        By not half-assing it. You keep a local bus service and overlay a new rapid bus with full off-board payment and ~1 mile stop spacing. Basically like SWIFT, but higher frequencies. In fact, one could imagine extending and rebranding SWIFT. As I have pointed out in the past, the SF Muni moves 50k people per day on Geary with articulated coaches.

        “A light-rail line could do both.”

        I’m pretty sure a bus can go almost anywhere a train can go. It’s just a question of buying the right of way. ROW to get from Aurora to Fremont will be expensive. Serving SLU without making the service painfully slow will require separation. I think what we are actually discussing how much money this corridor is worth. I think others are worth more.

        “The 358 and 5, if counted together, would be Seattle’s highest-ridership bus route.”

        True, but not everyone on Greenwood will abandon the 5 to walk a potentially-significant distance to rapid transit on Aurora, so you don’t get to count the whole lot. The cumulative downtown oriented load over the West Seattle Bridge (120, D, 21, 125) probably exceeds what you can get from Aurora. A single line to West Seattle could intercept all of of that downtown-oriented demand. If we’re going to add gigabucks to the LRP, I think that’s more important.

      9. @Bruce

        Agreed on one point at least, most riders of the 5 don’t want to walk to Aurora, at least not the aurora of today. To say the pedestrian access is inadequate in many places is to be generous.. its outright dangerous in others.

        Also, Aurora still has a strong reputation as a dangerous street for reasons other than traffic. You might get people like me to go down there, but I think you will have a lot of trouble getting the majority of families to trek down there unless more is done to clean up the image of Aurora.

        As far as distance, I could see folks who actually live on Greenwood ave walking as far as Aurora for something of link quality, but for those who live further west from there it might be a bit too far to walk (and so something like the 5 route would still be necessary for those folks).

        Another point though… large sections of Greenwood/Phinney ridge are actually extremely walk-able. Much more so than most of Aurora. Part of what makes Ben’s option 9 for Ballard so attractive was the idea of a streetcar up the old right of way on Phinney/Greenwood. This would be especially true if it had good connections to whatever East-West line ST puts through north Seattle.

        Unlike aurora, this corridor could easily hook into SLU using the Fremont bridge with no expensive new tunnels or elevators.

      10. +1 to what Bruce said. The key is to not half-ass the thing. See how much money it will cost. It will probably cost plenty to do it right. But even at that cost, I think it would be a fraction compared to digging a tunnel the whole way. Again, I would like to see the comparison. If the numbers are close, then rail makes way more sense. But I think we can get a lot of bang for the buck out of highway 99 (which is grade separated through the core of Seattle) and the West Seattle freeway.

        As far as which “Seattle corridors could be more important, in terms of potential ridership, that are not already either under construction or on the LRP”, I mentioned one above. If the bus ridership numbers on the 8 (which is probably the closest thing to what I have in mind) pale in comparison it is because the roads are so bad through there. As I said, so is walking and driving. It has to be one of the most congested, densely packed, under served (from a transit standpoint) area in the city. Digging a hole and serving that area with rail makes way more sense to me than running a line close to 99, or even serving West Seattle.

      11. “True, but not everyone on Greenwood will abandon the 5 to walk a potentially-significant distance to rapid transit on Aurora”

        Distance and significant elevation change. They don’t call it “Phinney Ridge” for nothing.

    3. If you’re going through the 99 tunnel you basically skip most of downtown Seattle. How is this useful as transit? You’d be better off skipping the tunnel and either taking Alaskan way or running down the transit priority streets in downtown before getting back over to the bridge going to West Seattle.

      1. Sorry I missed the part where you wanted to add ramps to the 99 tunnel. The bigger question then is the effect this will have on its structural soundness.

        The stated purpose of the 99 tunnel is to help people skip Seattle, so adding ramps defeats this purpose (even if they are transit only). I say let the trucks that want to pass through keep the tunnel and put the transit in more people/pedestrian friendly places.

      2. I think the stated purpose of the 99 tunnel is to keep 99 as a grade separated thoroughfare. The lack of downtown exits is simply a loss. We couldn’t add them to either a rebuilt viaduct or a tunnel without spending a lot of money (the old ramps were too sharp given today’s code). But I’m not suggesting a ramp that exits onto a surface street. Basically I’m suggesting a pull off lane, along with a pedestrian tunnel connecting that to the surface (and to the existing transit tunnel). Again, this won’t be cheap, but it would provide an enormous benefit. At any price, though, it might not be practical. The bus would have to merge back into traffic. To be up to code, this might push the price of this “pull off lane” up quite a bit — I’m not sure what is required, but it has to be substantial (anyone know what the minimum on/off ramp distance is?).

        Another alternative would be simply having the lane be bus only. Not bus and carpool, but bus only. If you did that, you might not even need a separate exit. Every bus stops at that stop. In other words, every vehicle that drives in that lane (the bus lane) stops at an underground spot. Then all you need is a set of pedestrian tunnels (which are a lot cheaper).

        It might be possible to have a bus/carpool lane, but do something similar. It might be too dangerous, though. At a minimum, you would have to have lights alerting drivers (in the carpool lane) that a bus is blocking the lane up ahead. This might get the carpool driver to change lanes at the last second, which is not good. So this would lead to basically preventing vehicles from changing lanes once in the tunnel, which would lead to unhappy carpool users. Take your pick, carpool user — the regular lane might be stop and go, but the other lane could be as well, but only once.

    4. I think BRT on freeways makes a lot of sense (which is why ST is doing it). It’s tough to get it into the urban center, so I’d love to see that addressed. Most of my old Seattle-Redmond commute was spent on I-5 and downtown surface streets, not on 520.

  8. ben asks:
    “So what should really be in the Long Range Plan that isn’t? ”

    well, I’ve never understood why more hasn’t been made of the obvious corridor opportunity East/West at about the King-Snohomish County line — or more to the point, aligned with state route 104 and then on out state route 522.

    —geographically sensible as the first possible eastbound opportunity without Lake Washington in the way…..

    —logistically sensible for both the inter-modal connections it would provide: WA state ferry & ‘heavy rail’ (sounder, amtrak) into the LINK and Rapid-ride systems (aurora village transit center)…..

    Its a ridership & destination-rich corridor:

    lots of urban hubs along this route: edmonds, westgate, aurora village, ballinger, mountlake terrace, lfp, kenmore, and on to bothell with the growing UW campus there……

    connecting to the ferry system up north could open up lots of ridership possibilities for folks on the peninsula (quick: describe how someone currently gets from Kingston to UW main campus by transit… answer: they don’t)

    connecting link to ‘heavy’ rail (Sounder, Amtrak) up north opens up ridership for people wanting transit to/from the “far” north into north seattle/uw/capitol hill — but don’t want to ride all the way to King St Station to make a transfer and backtrack.

    …. think about it and you’ll surely add to your wishlist a Edmonds–>Bothell route.

    (and p.s. lots for the Snohomish county sub-area to like! )

    1. There is already a bus line that covers most of this ground (Metro 331). It attracts a few riders per trip, maximum.

      1. yep, and I am sometimes one of those riders.


        though it does run a bit of the middle section of the SR104-SR522 corridor, it does not get to either of the ends I propose: Bothell UW campus; and Edmonds with the connections to Rail and Ferry there — so the 331 is of limited usefulness and requires multi connections to get much of anywhere.

        a full EdmondsBothell route becomes all the more valuable when Lynnwood LINK gets running, and while that’s a ways off, this is supposed to be long-range planning, eh?

    2. No, Metro 331 only covers a small bit of this corridor. It only stretches from Kenmore to Aurora Village, nowhere near Bothell or Edmonds. So, even apart from the current lack of any transfers to the I-5 corridor, we can’t use that to fairly sample corridor demand.

      However, this corridor isn’t worth it. I used to agree with you it was a sensible east-west line, but once I considered actual traffic patterns, I changed my mind. The vast majority of Bothell or Kenmore demand is going to downtown Seattle or the UW, or maybe Northgate, not Snohomish County. So, they’ll want a line following SR 522 at least to Lake City, not backtracking north toward Edmonds. In addition, the 522 line would bring in the urban village of Lake City in exchange for giving up some SF neighborhood of Lake Forest Park.

      We can still build an Edmonds-Mountlake Terrace or (perhaps better) Edmonds-Lynnwood shuttle if we want, but considering the poor performance of existing bus routes that do duplicate that corridor and the sparseness of Edmonds outside the small old village center, I don’t think it’d be worth it.

  9. For Tacoma and Everett, now is the time to give ST some creative ideas. The assumption has been Link extensions, which those areas want the way that First Hill wanted the streetcar. I.e., they had a vague idea that this would be good, but they probably didn’t pencil out the actual benefits and other alternatives. Everett has a better case for Link because it’s a shorter distance, the travel time will be comparable to the 512 and Sounder, and there’s more ridership at intermediate stations.

    Tacoma needs to understand that Link would be slower than the 594 and Sounder, because it’s already taking 35 minutes to SeaTac. (Likewise for Federal Way, Link will be slower than the 577.) So maybe Tacoma would rather have more streetcars instead? Or extending RapidRide A to Tacoma? Or more Sounder? Or other things I haven’t thought of? We need to make sure ST offers Piercians the whole range of alternatives, in away that they can really understand and evaluate the tradeoffs.

    1. There’s one thing I want to point out here: Federal Way to Tacoma is a little shorter than Lynnwood to Everett (depending on how much of Federal Way gets funded before ST3) – and Pierce County has a larger tax base to fund it.

      I also don’t think anybody expects to go to Seattle from Tacoma on Link. They’d be Federal Way residents going to Tacoma, or Tacoma residents going to Sea-Tac Airport.

      1. As a commuting option? No.

        I would certainly ride it to Tacoma though on the weekends. Beats having to park a car somewhere.

        Also, sounder does not run on the weekends.

        If there was a weekend sounder express service? Well then, I might just skip link then if I were going to Tacoma, but there would be a lot of uses for a link line down to Tacoma.

      2. I agree. This is why it probably makes the most sense for Tacoma to push for “more (and faster) Sounder”. If I lived in Tacoma, that is exactly what I would push for (along with better rail inside Seattle). Part of the problem is that there really aren’t many great destinations along the way from the south end to downtown. The exception is the airport. On the other hand, the north end line will go to the UW before it gets downtown, making a direct ride from Everett quite desirable. Even a secondary stop like Northgate (which is next to the community college, some hospitals, etc.) is probably more of a destination than everything south of downtown, with the exception of the airport (so far as I know — correct me if I’m wrong on this).

      3. The writer of Tacoma Tomorrow has been first and foremost pushing for extensions of Tacoma Link into old Tacoma, in order to rebuilt Tacoma’s streetcar network. Which actually makes sense, as long as it has exclusive lanes and the routing isn’t totally nuts.

  10. I think all-day bi-directional Sounder service is a must have for ST III. maybe even some electrification taking advantage of our cheap hydro-power. and reducing emissions and the like. Most freights can be moved over to a double tracked UP line in between Tacoma and Seattle.

    Also something needs to be done about P&R capacity, and not just adding more spaces. Metro has a glut of empty surface lots in the federal way area, Sound Transit Is short on Sounder and Regional Express Parking capacity everywhere, I think the day has come where some P&Rs should no longer be free, especially parking structures with full time security. I think a mix of charging modest fees for parking, implementing parking shuttles in some areas (think Kent P&R to Kent station, etc.) and modifying routes to serve some of these additional lots where feasible.

    1. How many people would be willing to ride a shuttle from their parking lot to the train? I suspect fewer than would make it worthwhile…

      If you include the car, you are asking the rider to make two transfers. Maybe the first transit trip from the parking lot is short, but they still have to wait for the shuttle on either side (on the way out and on the way home). If you add any transfers after they get off the sounder downtown (not everyone works near King Street Station) you no longer have a viable commute.

      We’d be better off having transit that connects the user as close to their end destination as possible. I could see a argument for having better transfer points between sounder and link though… for example if a Ballard to UW line had a stop near the BNSF lines (Golden Gardens?) you could add a sounder stop there and a transfer station to make the North Sounder more useful to folks in Snohomish County…

      1. Overall, I think a park and shuttle approach, can make sense under the right conditions. However, the shuttle must have a schedule that is carefully coordinated with the trains. It must wait for late trains in the afternoon before departing. And, it should only be used at stations and times where parking predictably fills up. In the case of a 1/2 mile shuttle from parking lot to Sounder Station, there is no point in running a shuttle to connect to 6 AM trains because until the direct parking lot fills up, no one will use them. Starting the shuttles around 7:30-8:00 in the morning (plus connecting to all the afternoon trains) is probably the best use.

  11. Went to the Federal Way open house. It wasn’t wonderful like the Seattle one, just a minimal presentation, and no Federal Way mayor or anything. It was rather a waste for me because I’d already submitted written comments, but what I did learn was…

    ST has not looked at whether U-District station is expandable to a transfer station, and seems to consider it premature until a mode and alignment (underground/elevated) is chosen for the Ballard – UW line. To me this seems extremely shortsighted as it would be the second- or third-most important transfe in the system. Would Moscow not plan for transfers at Arbatskaya station or London at Earl’s Court? They do acknowledge there are some worrying concerns such as limited space (between two buildings) and one of them a UW property (which ST has to defer to). I said, if you don’t plan for it now, you could end up with a station a block away and people having to come up to the surface and cross a street to transfer, and that would be very bad. So I hope that doesn’t happen.

    In good news, ST already has the vehicles for all-day Sounder South service; it just needs money for trackage leases and operations. The vehicles were bought in a big multi-agency discount order, and some of them are leased to other agencies until we’re ready for them. ST2 will fund three more Sounder runs in the next few years, two probably peak hours and one maybe 1pm-ish. They’re being held back partly until ridership reaches a certain level.

    Tacoma has been offered a range of possibilities, including a Link extension and/or streetcars. ST2 is covering part of the first streetcar line, although construction isn’t fully funded yet. So that’s Tacoma’s priority right now but it doesn’t want to give up on a Central Link extension. I asked how Tacoma was weighing the relative value of more Link vs more streetcars vs more Sounder, whether they were pretty equal or one was far more desired, but I couldn’t get an answer on that; it’ll remain to be seen what this round of feedback is.

    As for my own experience in Federal Way, I arrived at FWTC an hour before the meeting, so I decided to walk rather than wait for the 903. Five blocks to Pac Hwy, four blocks to a strip-mall street (with signs pointing the way), another few blocks to BPA Trail (nice) and Celebration Park (big like Marymoor), all around the park (should have gone through it), and then the Community Center on top of a mound, with a roundabout and City Hall somewhere on the other side. Nice large community center, pity it’s so far out it has only a van to get to it. On the way back I took a trail through the park, which put me in a better mood. I went up to 316th & Pac Hwy where there’s a RapidRide A stop. That stop actually looks closer to the Commons than the TC is. So I took RR A + Link back.

    1. Also, ST is studying a separate passenger rail track on the mainline between Seattle and Tacoma, which would allow Sounder and Cascades to go whenever they want without leasing capacity from BNSF. But there’s no price tag yet.

    2. The four trains that are currently squandered on north Sounder would also make a good addition to south Sounder.

  12. I violently agree with David Lawson’s proposal to serve West Seattle’s 120,000 population. Even with the “C” route, congestion over the West Seattle bridge rivals the I-5 parkway. The proposed route cancellations on the peninsula will cause many more residents to risk losing their on-street parking to fetch groceries or take the kids to soccer practice just because there’s no bus to walk to. The primary route will become the RapidRide C with fewer intermediate stops from the 22, 128 south of Alaska, 50 that actually runs crosstown, and other routes.
    Here’s a question to the experts and transit fans on the list: what is the grade limitation for steel wheel on steel rail and is that limitation reflected in the current Sound Transit LRT routes? Certainly any technology limitations must be acknowledged when discussing alternative routes for expansion, especially for east-west needs, and placed on an attribute checklist for those alternatives.

    1. You lost me at “risk losing their on-street parking”.

      West Seattle’s obsession with parking retention — to the point of going insane over an uncommonly attractive and modestly-scaled infill loft development a block from the Junction, because it would be built without a garage — is why it remains fundamentally inhospitable to rail transit. You simply don’t have the critical density of people and multi-use destinations anywhere, much less in the half-dozen places it would need to exist in order to justify a very expensive Duwamish rail crossing!

      As I’ve pointed out before (perhaps to you), you can only claim “120,000 residents” by applying a ridiculously broad definition of “West Seattle” (including 100% of Delridge, White Center, and Highline). Half of those people aren’t going anywhere near the West Seattle Bridge, given their easy access to 509. Meanwhile, the bridge has the only all-day bi-directional bus lanes in Seattle, so the buses are virtually never subjected to congestion until they reach 99.

      Fix the bus pathway from Spokane Street through downtown, and you’ve fixed West Seattle’s transit problem… without a zillion-dollar train that 95% of West Seattle’s population wouldn’t be able to use anyway!

      (For the record, I’m not claiming that West Seattle’s buses are fast or frequent or good enough in their current state. A non-negligible capital investment would certainly be needed to fix the problem alluded to in my last paragraph.)

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