Jennifer Langston, Sightline Daily:

Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives—a body that has shut down the government over health care reform, taken a hatchet to food stamps, opposed regulating greenhouse gases, and held immigration legislation hostage—still managed to support a federal transportation bill that devoted roughly 20 percent of its funding to transit + bikes + walking and 80 percent to roads.

How much worse could the road-heavy transportation package being floated by the Republican-led Senate Majority Coalition Caucus in a state like Washington possibly be? The $12.3 billion package that surfaced this week would spend less than 2 percent of that on transit and improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.

Transit advocates have been so beaten down by the political environment in Olympia that it’s easy to forget just how messed up the transportation budget is.  In a sane world, Olympia would be spending billions on transit.  Up north, the provincial government of British Columbia is committing $4.75B to transit funding by 2020.  Currently, though, transit funding in the state is either paid for by the localities themselves or comes running our way in tennis shoes from the other Washington.

Instead of just begging for the right to tax ourselves, any transportation bill ought to include, say, $2-3B for transit.  As David Goldstien recently argued, we have more leverage here than we might think.  So what projects? I’m familiar with the perennial pet project list of the roads lobby – the CRC, the Cross Base Highway, SR-167, what have you – but what would $2B in transit funding at the state level look like?  What are our priorities? What are the capital needs of Ben Franklin Transit in the Tri-Cities? How about Okanogan or Grays Harbor?

In the comments, tell me what you’d build with $2-3B in state funds to improve transit mobility statewide.  And you can’t blow it all on high-speed rail between Seattle and Portland. Too easy, and doesn’t spread the wealth enough.  We need a thousand projects that span dozens of districts so they’re harder  to kill. Both capital and operating revenue is fine.  Source material might include the Seattle Transit Master Plan (total cost for all priority corridors: $1B), the House 2013-2015 Transportation Budget & Funding Proposals, the State Rail Plan, or the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.  Or suggest a framework like Transportation for Washington’s. Or if a list already exists, send it my way!

It’s our money, what do we want to spend it on?

114 Replies to “If We had a Billion Dollars”

  1. I would refill all the reserve and rainy day funds that transit has raided to ‘ease the pain’ rather than ‘face the music’. Most are near zero, and that’s no way to run a railroad.

    1. What else was Metro supposed to do? Cut service 17% years ago to preserve rainy day funds? Using the reserve as a bridge to keep buses on the road during a recession until revenue goes back up is exactly what rainy day funds are supposed to be for.

      1. The time to replenish the reserve fund is after revenue has bounced back enough to maintain current levels of service while doing it. You don’t screw people over by cutting service just to maintain a reserve fund. You do it when there is absolutely no other choice besides go bankrupt immediately.

      2. +1 asdf. The last thing I want to see if these rescues go through is cutting service to replenish the rainy day fund. The rainy day fund exists to avoid cutting service, and if it can’t do that, what good is it?

      3. I would argue that the rainy day fund exists for *exceptionally* high expenses or low revenues, not for *structurally* higher expenses or revenue shortfalls.

        For example, let’s say that a bus base burned down to the ground. It would be a great use of the rainy day fund to pay to expedite the construction of its replacement.

        Or let’s say that the state legislature passed a one-year tax cut, which resulted in a revenue shortfall for that year. It would be a great use of the rainy day fund to cover the shortfall in that year.

        In other words, I see the rainy day fund as self-insurance against all the unfortunate circumstances that no insurance company would write a policy for. Things could go horribly wrong in many ways at any time, and we don’t want those unfortunate events to result in a major disruption to service.

        I strongly disagree that it’s appropriate to use the rainy day fund to cover the losses from a revenue shortfall that is expected to be permanent. In that situation (which is the one that we’re in), I would prefer to see service reductions sooner than later, since smaller service reductions now would potentially take the place of larger service reductions elsewhere.

        Of course, when this all started many years ago, I don’t think anyone realized that the shortfall would last so long. And so I think it’s entirely reasonable that we didn’t cut service then. But if the 17% cuts become the new normal, then I do think that Metro should start replenishing the emergency fund. If we aren’t able to raise enough money to stop the 17% cuts, then IMHO, there is absolutely no reason to believe that revenues will ever start “bouncing back”. If anything, it will be the opposite; the sales tax base continues to decline as a percentage of our state GDP, and there seems to be no political willingness to fix the problem.

      4. Nothing is permanent. Whatever this legislature does, the next legislature can change. We have no idea whether revenues will be higher or lower in three years. It depends on what deals get made next year, and who wins or loses elections.

      5. Actually Aleks, what you’re describing sounds to me more like an emergency repair fund than a rainy day fund. Metro reserves some hours in every service change to deal with unexpected overcrowding, and that’s separate from the rainy day fund. I assume it does the same for emergency repairs, or if not it should. Rainy day funds are for economic downturns; that’s the “rainy day”.

      6. Are you sure that Metro has a “rainy day” fund of the kind you’re describing? For example, take a look at this quote from <a href=""Metro's website:

        Reduced operating reserves: Metro reduced by half the funds it holds to address emergency situations.

        Reduced fleet replacement reserves: Consistent with the 2009 performance audit, Metro pulled $100 million from its fleet replacement fund to support bus service during the following four years.

        The wording “emergency reserves” strongly suggests that Metro is keeping this money for emergencies, not for economic downturns. I don’t see any evidence that Metro has ever specifically set aside any money for economic downturns.

    2. You’ve heard the one about the tourist and the five-year-old kid. The tourist asks, “Does it ever stop raining in Seattle?”

      The kid responds, “How would I know? I’m only five.”

      This, in a nutshell, is why rainy day funds don’t work here in the northwest.

      1. They work OK in certain cities, but only in certain cities.

        Those cities have certain characteristics, including a strong consensus form of government and strong support for civic infrastructure.

        Any time a city is riven by sharp and bitter political divisions, each side will raid the rainy day fund to preserve *their* projects rather than leaving it for the *other* guy to raid for *his* projects.

      2. But they did work. They provided countercyclical stimulus to help smooth out the differences between flush times and lean times. The fact that they’re not large enough to completely bridge the gap until the next recovery is mostly due to decisions by politicians to delay the recovery. The federal government refused to give states money to cope with the downturn and accelerate the recovery, and the state is arbitrarily starving the transit agencies. The fact that rainy day funds aren’t enough to bridge an artificial gap doesn’t mean they’re useless.

      3. I was actually pretty impressed by the performance of our various rainy day funds in the face of this downturn.

  2. Thanks for asking!

    Not in any useful order:
    1) Replace Metro’s aging trolley fleet with low-floor three-door trollies.
    2) On-street stops to replace the old-school inside-the-parking-lot stops at all the transit centers.
    3) Complete streets: Look at Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan, Pedestrian Master Plan, Transit Master Plan, and the eventual Freight Master Plan. Ed Murray is right that they should be coherently joined with each other, but the coordination should not be an excuse to declare most of the non-conflicting elements “not shovel-ready”.
    4) This may blow the $2-3 billion, but accelerate Link to Tacoma, Redmond, and Everett. You want district representatives behind the transit component? There you go. You want Co-Chair Tracey Eide (D-Federal Way) on board? This ought to do it.
    5) RTA signs at every bus stop throughout downtown Seattle and at all bus stops adjoining train stations.
    6) Mitigation money for bus service on US Highway 99, I-5, I-90, and SR 520 to help with transit operations for the remaining duration of each construction project.
    7) Accelerate all HCT corridor studies for Sound Transit.
    8) Build Sounder to the Capitol Complex.
    9) Create a state transit agency and bus network to connect communities all around the state. Buy a fleet of buses and bases at which to store and maintain them, or contract for space and maintenance at existing public bus bases.
    10) A guaranteed ongoing revenue stream to subsidize operations for all the transit agencies.
    11) Earmarked funds to incentivize transit agencies to keep fares low for low-income riders. (But please don’t require that cash and electronic fares be equal.)

    The ongoing operational subsidy would be a larger deal than the one-time capital expenses, but it would make the deal a lot sweeter.

    Point 11 would help get human service lobbies behind the plan, even if they don’t care about the transit itself.

    1. I had often thought myself that if we were getting state funds that it ought to be used on the regional spine. Its just plain silly to have individual counties be soley responsible for what is obviously basic inter-county structure.

      Unfortunately up until this point the state as a whole has been very anti tax and anti transit. They do seem to be able to spen tremendous amounts of money on roads though…. what do we need to do to shift the culture of the state at large to help folks in every county realize how important transit is and demand it from their representitives?

      1. Yeah, this is what I’m getting at. To the extent that 99 and I-5 are State-managed roads, the state should be building transit capacity on those roads, especially in urbanized areas.

    2. One more for your list, Brent:

      12) A well-designed integrated system of reserved lanes and signal pre-emption for all arterial transit, whatever the covering on the wheels.

      The conflict over buses versus streetcar could be resolved by doing what was originally intended for the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel:

      1. Build right of way usable by both modes.

      2. Use buses first, then buses jointly with railcars, then rail only.

      Need for transition comes about due to the fact that buses can’t be coupled, necessitating huge linear space per “platoon.”

      So when the time finally comes that load outstrips bus capacity, then take the line to rail.

      And for good luck, 13): Get as many rules and policies out of the way of vehicles in motion. In particular, get revenue collection and inter-agency accounting out from under our wheels.

      It wouldn’t take too big a chunk of a billion dollars to put card readers at every door of every vehicles, as San Francisco MUNI does- successfully.


      1. “It wouldn’t take too big a chunk of a billion dollars to put card readers at every door of every vehicles, as San Francisco MUNI does- successfully.”

        Muni may have succeeded at installing readers at all doors, but have they actually succeeded at getting the fare system out of the way of the buses?

      2. I’m in SF now and took a bus on one of Muni’s busiest lines (38) during rush hour yesterday. Being able to board a crowded bus at any door (out of three) certainly made things less painful.

      3. The funny thing is that, for all the hemming and hawing about BRT, Seattle actually has one of the most successful examples of BRT in the country. It’s called the DSTT. It provides subway-quality amenities (grade separation, indoor stations with level boarding) along the part of the route that needs it, and then takes advantage of preexisting road infrastructure where there’s already spare capacity.

        IMHO, that is what BRT is all about: building the infrastructure that will have the most bang for the buck. It’s a shame that our examples of BRT seem to have done the exact opposite, providing reserved lanes only on the corridors that already flow freely.

  3. 1) all weekend service on Community Transit, Pierce Transit and Kitsap transit.
    2) help agencies create alternative fuels infrastructure eg bio-diesel, CCG-fuel cell, hydrogen fuel cell fleets
    3) build “purple line” Ballard to udistrict rail
    4) all day DMU service KSS to auburn.

  4. You invite 3 million guests to a party and then discover you don’t have enough chairs or tableware.

    That is the situation in Washington today.

    It is overcrowded, expensive and a two class system of entrenched longtimers, living the high life at minimal cost, and harassed newcomers, being taxed and leased to death for a minimal lifestyle.

    Is it no wonder that a workingman’s union would want to flee this money pit?

    The reason for the mess? Greedy leaders, corrupt politicians and inane planners forgot to build enough market value housing for all, and instead, chose to squander billions of dollars on a vain plan to enrich themselves through density, density, density.

    This $12 billion dollar plan restores my faith in the sanity of the Washington legislature. Maybe someone woke up, and like one of those meme cards that people pass around on Facebook, a picture of Giorgio A. Tsoukalos is saying “So We’ll Build More Suburban Housing and connect it with highways and trains”.

      1. That’s what we effectively did 20 years ago.

        Despite doubling population, and nearly all of it in the suburbs, no new highway route has been added (yes, some have been widened, but also lanes taken away for HOV).

        The result is that people are using neighborhood streets and town roads as highways with the corresponding congestion and accidents.

        This is a sick situation brought on by corruption and incompetence at the highest of levels.

      2. How many houses could have been be built on the land we have dedicated to freeways through Seattle and the eastside suburbs? There are major cities in the world that don’t have any freeways running through them and they seem to work very well.

      3. That begs the question: Which is a larger hindrance toward buidling a livable city: a freeway, or using up that same land space to build a few hundred more high-end single family houses?

      4. also lanes taken away for HOV.

        There’s so much wrong in your comments, but I’ll pick on this one. To state the blindingly obvious, those lanes weren’t taken away. WSDOT’s policy on HOV lanes is they have to move as many or more people than the SOV lanes.

      5. John,

        If you’d get off your personal vehicle high horse, you’d understand that HOV doesn’t “take away” anything. It increases the capacity of roads. Everyone in the general traffic lanes is getting the benefit of fewer vehicles overall on the roads.

        Now of course the HOV drivers/riders ARE getting most of the benefit, but the others get some too.

      6. Despite doubling population, and nearly all of it in the suburbs, no new highway route has been added

        Why would we need any new highway routes? Washington has been densely crisscrossed with state highways for about half a century now. And as you are well aware, overall vehicle miles traveled are on a downward trend, even with the recovering economy.

        (yes, some have been widened, but also lanes taken away for HOV).

        I can’t think of a single HOV project that’s “taken away” general purpose lanes on a state highway. Every HOV lane I can think of was built alongside existing GP lanes (usually by widening a shoulder), not by restriping existing lanes. And by every measure, HOV lanes have improved throughput – WSDOT reports that HOV lanes move way more people at rush hour than GP lanes

        Fifty-seven percent of the people traveling southbound toward the University of Washington and downtown Seattle are carried by four GP lanes; and the single southbound HOV lane carries the remaining 43 percent of all travelers in 20 percent of the vehicles that are comprised of carpools, vanpools, and buses

        . I’m surprised by your opposition to HOV lanes; carpooling/vanpooling strikes me as the mode that would best mesh with your personal philosophy here. Honestly, your argument pretty much sounds like this.

        The result is that people are using neighborhood streets and town roads as highways with the corresponding congestion and accidents.

        The congestion is a symptoms of sprawl, not a symptom of underinvestment in freeways. And the accidents are a symptom of poor traffic law enforcement, and road design that put throughput above safety.

    1. This $12 billion dollar plan restores my faith in the sanity of the Washington legislature.

      Yeah, sure. $12 billion for new/expanded expanded highways, while statewide VMT is on the decline, and while we have no funding or plan to maintain the existing highways we already have. That really restores your faith in the legislature?

      A $12 billion maintenance plan would restore my faith in the legislature. This is just more short term thinking, more kicking the long-term obligations down the road.

  5. Push more gas tax revenue to local jurisdictions who can use it for paving their streets. Local jurisdictions could then use sales, property, and real estate excise taxes currently used for road work for other priorities – Schools, sidewalks, street cars, BRT, BAT Lanes, cycle tracks, wider roads… Whatever the local jurisdiction wants/needs.

    To backfill the lost gas tax, toll everything above – lightly, to pay for maintenance, if not congested, heaviliy, if congested, to encourage HOV use and bring in revenue for needed HOV improvements. No need to ban new roads, just make sure people have an incentive to use their transportation wisely that also pays for upkeep and improvements. I’d also prioritize HOV 3+/HOT lanes throughout the system to keep carpools, vanpools, buses, and other high capacity transportation moving.

    All of that will take tremendous pressure off us transit agencies that will have buses that move faster and more reliably, which means an automatic boost in service levels.

    1. Remove “above” above. You could probably add a VMT in there with some sort of peak charge. Either way, the idea is to shift the cost of driving onto drivers and allow local jurisdictions to use more of their tax base for other priorities.

      1. I love many of the ideas on here but I agree that even if there was a windfall in state transportation funding for transit, we need to develop congestion pricing to help solve long term structural deficit issues and stop making it so easy to choose to drive over other modes by defraying the actual costs associated with an automobile trip.

  6. For rural areas, I would focus this on operational subsidies to keep buses on the road, since that is what they need more than anything. For more urban areas, I would focus on Link extensions and captiol improvements to make freeways easier to use by transit and cross by bikes and pedestrians. Examples of transit-related freeway improvements I would like to see include:

    – Reconfiguration of the I-5 express lanes to support two-way bus operation.
    – Improved freeway station at SR-520 and NE 40th St. (move to the median, provide a pedestrian bridge south of 40th St.)
    – New freeway stations along SR-520 at NE 36th St. and NE 108th Ave.
    – Convert I-405 HOV lane from 2+ to 3+.
    – Bus-only lane at the exit from Westbound SR-520 to Montlake Blvd.
    – Freeway Station along I-5 at Southcenter
    – Slight relocation of South Renton P&R and turn it into a freeway station
    – Finish the bus-only ramp at I-5/164th Ave. to allow buses headed between Ash Way an Lynnwood to use it
    – Pedestrian bridge over I-5 from Ash Way P&R to the interurban trail
    – Pedestrian bridge over I-90 in Issaquah, between exit 15 and exit 17, connecting two shopping centers on opposite sides
    – I-5/Olive Way Freeway Station
    – New pedestrian crossing over I-5 between Capitol Hill and South Lake Union (yes, it would probably have to be a tall staircase, but a whole lot better than nothing).
    – Bus stop on Aurora at NE 34th St. (including a safe place to wait and elevator access)
    – Wider sidewalks on the Aurora and Ballard bridges
    – Wider sidewalks on the 142nd Bridge over I-90 at Eastgate Freeway Station to allow north/south local buses to stop right there.

    In addition, another area where the state could make a big difference in rural transportation is by building more bike trails. Imagine if the Centennial Trail, rather than petering out halfway between Arlington and Mt. Vernon, kept going a connected all the way to Bellingham and Whidbey Island? Or if, on the south end, if there existed an STP route that could be reasonably construed as safe without the numbers effect of thousands of bikers traversing it at once?

    1. This is great stuff and totally within the State’s wheelhouse. If we’re going to spend money on highway improvements, it should benefit all highway users, including bus riders.

    2. Re:
      – Pedestrian bridge over I-90 in Issaquah, between exit 15 and exit 17, connecting two shopping centers on opposite sides

      There is a new road and trail under the freeway next to the post office. It’s connected at one end to Gilman Village; I don’t know if you can easily get to Pickering Place from there.

    3. Great list of highway improvements. It is easy to lose sight of what an awesome resource for transit our highways can be (and how dependent highways are on transit to alleviate congestion). These are the types of projects that should be no brainers for folks on both sides of the aisle in Olympia.

    1. Yes. Inter-city rail travel should be a major focus for the state DOT. This, plus improvements for hourly 125mph service in the I-5 corridor.

    2. Contact your legislator, make sure it stays on their radar.

      The media hardly touches on rail issues, unless it’s negative, but ‘traffic congestion’ is always the ‘problem to be solved’.

      Contact them, and whenever you hear of anyone, relatives or acquaintances tell them to contact their legislators, too.

      Unlike us transportation wonks, transit/transportation is not the only thing they think about.

  7. King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties have about half the population of the state, so we should get about half the billion dollars. Ideas include:

    * Freeway stations. Freeways are traditional state-funded projects, to say the least, so they might as well be made more useful! Bellevue Way, Olive Way, Southcenter, 36th St., 45th St at express lanes… there’re more, I know it.
    * Link building. Ballard, Fremont, Lake City, Redmond, Kirkland, Federal Way…
    * Tacoma streetcar extensions
    * All-day service on South Sounder. And extend it to Olympia.
    * While we’re at it, fill the Metro 17% gap!

    For the half of the money going outside the Puget Sound, I don’t know what would be the best places.

    1. Normally I’d say light rail first, but in this context I’d say help the cities implement their transit master plans and ped/bike plans. That would provide a strong incremental boost. Then the state should build a pair of passenger rail tracks on the mainline from Seattle to Olympia for Sounder, Cascades, Amtrak, and future HSR. Then extend it to the state border.

      Outside Pugetopolis there are at least two things they need: intercity transit and walkable areas. Boost the tri-county connector to every 1-3 hours seven days a week, and implement something similar in other parts of the state. Then. build at least some places where people can walk in. Restore traditional town centers, influence shopping center construction to be more walkable, and reclaim dying shopping centers into community centers/libraries/small retail/workshops or whatever the community needs. So that people can drive to one place and walk to different destinations rather than driving from one to the other.

  8. Design competition for subway/tube on the bottom of Puget Sound (with windows for viewing sea life) connecting Alaska Junction with waterfront at Aquarium plus funicular or escalator to carry passengers the Central Link. It could be the St Louis Arch of Seattle.

    Seriously, bump up priority of separated grade transit West Seattle to Downtown and Central Link to handle the population of the new units being built now. Or will those units stay empty because who wants to live on the peninsula if there are no jobs on it and you can’t get in and out of it?

    – Kathy from (guess where?)

      1. Mall developers.


        malls are Transit Oriented, or more precisely, – Pedestrian Oriented Development.

        Malls provide the comfortable ‘out of the weather’ atmosphere that entices the otherwise hardy PNW souls to shop, and walk.
        Probably a lot farther than they would to a train station.

      2. Kathy,
        Who took the TO out of TOD? Probably the same person who put the Bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp. :)

    1. To further expound on what Kathy said as a fellow resident from (guess where?), I’d like to see separated grade link from West Seattle that connects into the broader system of link so that one from WS can use it to travel as far as North Seattle, Snohomish County or the Eastside. Unfortunately, the Seattle/King County political establishment seems to believe that West Seattlites simply want to use public transportation to go downtown for work as if that was one of the few cultural pastimes they care to leave the peninsula for.

      1. When you have something like link, transfers downtown make a lot more sense… especially if the lines are linked by underground pedestrian tunnels…

      2. We also need to get to work and recreation destinations south of downtown, like Georgetown, Tukwila, Renton, Kent and SeaTac Airport – so link us up to the Link no further north than SODO station. Or get us a line down the peninsula to the airport.main terminal, please (not a quarter mile away). Thank you.

    2. I went to California Avenue recently to see how it’s doing, and was impressed. The part north of Alaska Junction has grown into quite a substantial pedestrian neighborhood, with a variety of shops that I would want to go to. It actually feels like University Way did in the 1980s, which is one of the highest honors I could give to a Seattle neighborhood. I’d been thinking of moving to Columbia City or Mt Baker to find something more affordable, but unexpectedly I was drawn to central West Seattle as a pleasant place to be. It’s still probably too isolated for me: I do a lot of things on the east side of the city and the Eastside, and I worry about transit from West Seattle getting slower post-tunnel. But it looks like West Seattle is going in a good direction.

      1. The direction West Seattle is going is UP with thousands of new units being built. If we don’t get a transit solution and better bicycle infrastructure (we are still waiting for SDOT to build one bike corral in the Alaska Junction), who is going to want to occupy those units?

      2. People who work in West Seattle? Or people who work downtown. It’s people who work beyond downtown that have trouble living in West Seattle.

      3. A while ago, someone put out a map which showed all the different trips that people take within Seattle, both with and without transit. There was a pretty clear cluster in West Seattle — there were way more trips that didn’t cross the Duwamish than trips that did. So it appears that even for work trips, people prefer not to leave.

      4. Re work trips more people not crossing the Duwamish than are. So all those cars queued up on the WS bridge going to I-5 and all these people crammed on to Express buses and Rapid Ride, are they in the minority? Are they ghosts? I can’t imagine many opportunities within the peninsula to stay for. There aren’t any Employee heavy job opportunities in West Seattle unless one considers Target or QFC to be a major employer.

  9. I would spend the billion dollars on an investment fund in Washington State private sector & public sector stocks & bonds to help pay the operating costs of transit in all 39 counties. We constantly have to fight these fights just to keep some service against the road bullies so that’s what I’d do.

    As far as capital investment, I would invest in double tall buses for the Tri-County Connectors, Island Transit’s Route 1 and throughout Metro & Sound Transit. I would also insist the double talls be designed so that the engines can be replaced when necessary instead of having to pay for a completely new bus.

  10. We need something really big in Rodney Tom’s and Curtis King’s districts.

    The possibility of money to expedite East Link (and maybe even build an actual station *under* downtown Bellevue) ought to get Microsoft to lean hard on Tom. All his constituents wanting traffic relief on SR 520 ought to be pressuring him, too.

    A state-run transit agency for public transit connecting Yakima with Ellensburg, Tri-Cities, and other locales should mean something to King’s constituents. Also, who could say No to across-the-board state paratransit funding for all counties?

    1. A Central Washington rapid bus with one bus going each way in a circulatory route every half hour.

    2. Microsoft actually lobbied against terminating East Link at Overlake. They don’t want people parking in their tens of thousands of spots.

      1. Makes sense. 520 is already clogged between Overlake and Bear Creek every rush hour; I’d say that justifies Link in its own right, not to mention the last thing we need is thousands more cars coming there to park and ride.

      2. Securing East Link’s final leg into downtown Redmond definitely gets my upvote. It’s a natural fit. The E2 routing is absurd, but at least the downtown station is in the right place.

        Absolutely accelerate Link extensions. Redmond, Everett, Tacoma. We need to connect as many of the dots by rail as possible.

      1. I’m sure some of King’s constituents unwittingly cross the line into the 15th District every day.

  11. I think we all know on what money should be spent in the Puget Sound region. Here’s my wishlist for the rest of the state:

    1) A frequent, easy-to-use bus network in Spokane.
    2) A light rail spine between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
    3) Real Amtrak service between Spokane-Seattle and Spokane-Portland — basically make the Empire Builder a useful service for the state.
    4) Somehow get TriMet to put the MAX into Vancouver.

    1. Yes! Eastern Washington Amtrak schedules are terrible when they are on time. Most delays are due to stuff in the Midwest, so on time performance would be drastically better with an in state only service. Perhaps return service to Ellensburg/ Yakima on weekends while were at it.
      In addition we would have many more constituents who would be interested in a north sounder line that was not at the mercy of mud slides.
      I’m from the eastside so I’ll leave the sound regions wish list to more informed people than me.

      1. One idea might be to just stop the Empire Builder in Spokane and have completely separate lines to do the Spokane-Seattle and Spokane-Portland route.

        Honestly, though, that would be expensive. BoltBus between Spokane and Seattle would probably fill that need quite nicely: fast, reliable service that is not Greyhound-sketchy.

      2. Like this?

        Check the schedule. Note the times, and all the station stops that existed back then.

        That’s what the gas tax is for, after all. Makes the drive that much easier… not that we’re SUBSIDIZING their travel. Unless you add up what they pay in gas [tax] burned on HWY 2.

    2. I’m curious what qualms you have with the Spokane bus service. My friends who live there, and use it primarily to commute to school, love it. Comes every 15 minutes and takes under an hour to get to EWU from South Hill.

  12. Well I think your near-term objective is to pass a transportation package that isn’t openly hostile to transit (as opposed to a long-term objective of institutional change). “Blue-sky” ideas would be great for institutional change, but in terms of building support for something to pass in a matter of weeks, it should be a laundry list of small projects…the frustration point in your neighborhood that everyone already knows about…your own personal “Mercer Mix”. In my corner of the world, that might include restoring robust service to Snohomish Community Transit, such as the 412 to downtown Seattle and back. Currently it only runs during rush hour, which means it’s easy to get stranded downtown for much of the day (it’s almost impossible to get back north after 9:00). For that matter, local service could use some repair: I once wanted to get from downtown Everett to McCollum Park at mid-day, and would have had to take two or three bus routes to get there…It’s only a handful of miles…shouldn’t be that difficult, but funding has been cut back so much.

    As a coincidence, before I hit the “Post” button on this comment, I did a quick search of the news and found an article in the Everett Herald with this gem:

    “Community Transit got a pleasant surprise when it learned the Senate plan mirrors the House by clearing the way for the district to seek voter approval of a sales tax hike.
    “It is good news that this proposal contains a local option that would allow Snohomish County residents to decide if they would like to fund additional transit service in our community,” said transit district spokesman Martin Munguia. “Our neighbors value transit, and the local option leaves open the possibility of adding significant new transit service.”

    Go Markos!

    1. You mean the 412 once ran all day? That’s crazy – how few riders did it have for such an expensive route? But if you mean restoring all-day service to such areas of Snohomish County, connecting reliably to the 512, that makes sense.

      1. It’s loaded to the gills at rush hour, regardless of which time I’ve used to take it, so I would suspect it would enjoy a strong level of usage during mid-day. But that’s anecdotal; if you’re point is to do a feasibility study, well then I certainly don’t disagree.

      2. I remember when the 412 ran all day. This was before Sound Transit existed, so the 412 was the only all-day express from Seattle to Snohomish County. Buses typically ran about half full.

      3. After looking at the CT website, I realise that today’s 412 isn’t the all-day 412 from the 1990s. That bus was pretty much a catch-all run that hit every Park & Ride from the Snohomish County line to downtown Everett, more like today’s ST 512.

    2. So maybe the point got lost in my message above, but according to the Herald’s story of this morning, both the House and Senate bills empower local districts to raise taxes (I don’t know what the constraints are). If that’s accurate, then I would think that’s big news.

    3. Maybe what is needed is a freeway station at Mariner so the 512 can stop there. That should take one bus out of the three bus trip to McCollum Park. Funny that going to Silver Firs is only a two bus trip.

  13. Just wondering, why is BC’s provincial government so much more supportive of transit than Washington’s state government? Both states have slightly more than half of their population in a single large metro area (Vancouver/Seattle) and BC’s government is controlled by the Liberal Party (which is actually a center-right party, not “liberal” in the American sense of the word). Yet, there seems to be wide support for transit in the government there, even in areas outside of Metro Vancouver, unlike Washington state where areas outside of Seattle (and even some of its suburbs) are strongly anti-transit. Also, it’s amazing that BC is planning to improve transit ridership to 400 million TRIPS (not boardings!) per annum by 2020, when Washington will be struggling to hit 200 million if the state doesn’t invest heavily in transit beyond ST2.

    Anyways, assuming that ST3 would cover new rapid transit lines in Metro Seattle ($2-3 billion isn’t very much for rapid transit!), perhaps the statewide priorities to spend the money would be:
    -Avoiding cuts to King County Metro. By far the most important transit need in the state.
    -Bring back (more) weekend and evening service to Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties as well as the Tri-Cities, Yakima, Wenatchee, Bellingham, etc.
    -Expand and rationalize intercity bus service. With the TravelWashington lines as well as various county-operated buses, there is quite a lot of intercity buses in terms of coverage, but they tend to be infrequent, uncoordinated, and confusing. Washington state should provide funding for county transit agencies to expand their intercity offerings, and fill in certain gaps (such as Walla Walla to Clarkston, Lewiston-Pullman-Spokane, Longview-Centralia-Olympia).
    -While there probably won’t be enough money for all of this, the intercity rail system should also be improved–continuing on the Amtrak Cascades plan, as well as improvements to Seattle-Spokane and a new line Seattle-Ellensburg-Yakima-TriCities-Walla Walla.
    -Improve frequencies and amenities (shelters, exclusive lanes where possible, bus bulbs, signal priority, etc.) on important urban transit lines statewide.

    1. Should intercity bus between Longview, Centralia and Olympia really be a priority? They’re well covered by Cascades now (Kelso, Centralia and Yelm anyway).

    2. Beyond even transit funding, BC does a much better job working together on just about everything. Tacoma still thinks it has a chance at competing with Seattle and everyone in Seattle seems to hate Spokane, even if they’ve never been there. Metro Vancouver as a regional government is also much more powerful and more center-city oriented than the PSRC.

    3. The present government isn’t nearly so supportive. The transit plan that was linked can pretty much be thrown out now at the provincial level. The province is forcing a referendum on future transit funding the Metro Vancouver in the next year, and the government is making the case for more highways (referendum free) rather than for transit.

  14. We’ve got to limit King Pierce and Snohomish Counties to a maximum combined total of $511 M. That’s based on their population compared to the state. $511 million would do a lot to help keep people moving.

    1. If we are divvying up money like this, perhaps allocating it based on tax revenue generated would be more equitable.

  15. I would be happy with state funding for paratransit, even if they did nothing else. It would free up a lot of local money for regular bus routes. We also need a decoupling between required levels of service for paratransit and actual levels of service for regular transit. Paratransit requirements should be based solely on an area having a population density above a certain threshold – it should have nothing to do with what hours a day money is found to run regular transit through there.

    1. Problem is the federal government dictates a minimum level of paratransit service based on what hours regularly scheduled routes are in operation. Of course, we can provide service in EXCESS of that standard, which in my opinion would be the right thing to do,as it helps make sure the most vulnerable get service.

      1. Rules like this were written about people who didn’t know anything about or ever ride transit and need to change. The current rules is a big reason why the 17% cut scenario guts night service so much – you end fixed-route service earlier, you get to end paratransit earlier, thereby providing more bang for the buck in terms of cost savings.

        They also create absurd situations in which a small town that wants to start a transit system, but doesn’t have enough money to do both fixed-route and paratransit is forced to go with a system consisting only of paratransit, even though it would serve far fewer riders, because a system of only paratransit is legal, whereas a system of only fixed-route buses is not. I believe there are areas in east Pierce County that follow this example – and have paratransit be the only transit in existence, because of silly rules like this.

        But, even if federal rules like this do not change, a state subsidy of paratransit can still free up operations money on the local level for fixed-route services.

      2. Actually, something went wrong with the paratransit mandate after it was originally written in the ADA.

        It was originally intended as a cudgel to get cities to buy low-floor, wheelchair-accessible buses, build wheelchair-accessible bus stops, put in wheelchair-accessible sidewalks, add tactile strips at crosswalks, put audible annoucements on buses, etc. Once the regular fixed-route bus system was “fully accessible”, paratransit was supposed to go away on its own.

        The problem is that there seems to be a significant class of people who can claim to be too disabled to ride the regular bus system, ever, no matter how accessible we make it. This wasn’t supposed to happen; there were supposed to be few or no such people. Most people on paratransit were supposed to be there because of TEMPORARY problems — albeit ones which might last a few decades — like not having bought low-floor buses yet, or not having built sidewalks yet, etc.

        Something seems to have gone wrong in the eligibility specifications.

      3. This is something I’ve followed closely. Systems which do not bother to make their fixed-route systems wheelchair-accessible, and cities which do not bother to build sidewalks or make them wheelchair-accessible, are a pet peeve of mine.

        On the other hand, where these have both been done (and the similar accomodations made for the blind, the deaf, etc.), there just shouldn’t be much need for paratransit.

      4. Sidewalk wheelchair accessibility should really be a no-brainer. Not only is it relatively cheap when thought about from the get-go when a new street is built, but far more people benefit from accessible sidewalks than just the disabled. After all, if a sidewalk is navigable by someone in a wheelchair, it is also navigable by someone on a bike, pushing a stroller or hand cart, pulling a suitcase, etc. In short, wheelchair accessible sidewalks is not about spending everyone’s money to benefit a tiny portion of the population – it’s about spending everyone’s money to benefit pretty much everyone.

        The tricky thing about accessible sidewalks, though, is that, even if a sidewalk is built accessible, it doesn’t stay that way without regular attention. Vegetation needs to be trimmed, potholes need to be filled, tree roots bulging through need to be cut, debris blocking the sidewalk needs to be moved out of the way, etc. Even something as mundane as a parked car in somebody’s driveway sticking out over the sidewalk is enough to make that block of sidewalk no longer accessible.

        Granted, as cities go, Seattle is, by and large, pretty good about maintaining a basic awareness about keeping sidewalks in good condition. But even here, there are countless areas where we can be better.

        Of course, going back to transit, accessibility for the disabled is really a lot more than just wheelchair accommodations. There are quite a few elderly people that have difficulty walking, but are no so immobile to require a wheelchair. In other words, walking a few feet within the house and to a car parked right outside is no problem, but walking 1/4 mile to a bus stop is a problem. My general opinion about these type of people is that is that transit does not have to be a solution to every single human being on this planet in order to make an impact, and there is nothing wrong with disabled people simply owning cars and driving everywhere, as long they are capable of operating in a car in a way that does not compromise the safety of everyone else.

        If the goal of transit is reduce traffic, pollution, support walkable neighborhoods, etc., we have far bigger fish to fry than worrying about trying to attract people who have physical conditions that make it difficult to walk. It is hard enough to get able-bodied people to use the service who are simply lazy.

      5. All the work on wheelchair accessibility helps riders whose only disability involves having to get around in a wheelchair. There are many other disability classifications that generate a big chunk of paratransit clientele. This includes deaf/blind individuals, people with mobility devices larger than standard wheelchairs (and are unable to get around in smaller wheelchairs), and people with mental disabilities of many different types.

        Metro has invested a lot in meeting ADA requirements for deaf/blind passengers. There are still some blind spots (no pun intended), such as the sounds ORCA readers make that do not differentiate among tapping on, tapping off, and cancelling a ride. There is also the lack of real-time voice announcements that ought to accompany the real-time arrival signs. I realize blind individuals can ask anyone else standing there to read the board, but the issue is independence and what happens if the person is the only one around.

        There is still much work for Metro left to do on the wheelchair accessibility front. The big ticket item is replacement of all the high-floor buses, of course.

        ST and Metro are unique in the country, as far as I have found, in accepting paratransit monthly passes as good for full fare on all fixed routes. They deserve some sort of clever-thinking innovation award for that, to help the rest of the nation copycat this policy.

      6. I should mention that ST is planning to buy some high-floor Greyhound-style buses for some of their express routes, where people refuse to stand, or their local electeds scream about not having enough seats for everyone to sit. (Or maybe this only happened in Federal Way, after ST and Sen. Eide outmaneuvered the anti-Sound-Transit faction, and now the leader of that faction, Mayor Priest, has been resoundingly sent to his corner by the voters. He’ll be back, pretending his meltdown never happened.)

        These buses have a lift at the middle of the bus (lengthwise). I’ve never actually witnessed such a lift being operated. I also don’t know where a second wheelchair would fit.

      7. On days when I get off work a bit earlier than normal, as I wait for the 522 at 4th and University, I’ve seen the same wheelchair-using passenger depart from the same 577 trip operated by a MCI coach several times. It’s a very time-consuming process, much worse than the high-floor front-door lifts in older Metro coaches.

      8. @Brent

        As you mentioned, Metro has quite a way to go for blind services. I will point out that RapidRide (at least the A-line) does have audible RTA announcements at stops with the RTA signs. There’s a button on the tech pylon to press for the audible announcement.

        The MCI coaches (Greyhound-style) which ST uses have space for two wheelchairs: one next to the lift, one across the aisle. The huge problem with these coaches is that loading a single wheelchair takes about five minutes. I’d wish ST/PT would agree on buying artics for those routes (as comfy as the MCIs are!).

      9. complementary paratransit service has to be provided within 3/4 of a mile of any fixed route bus route/stop, express/commuter service is exempt from this policy however. there also cannot be any “doughnut holes” where an area is surrounded by para transit service on 3 or more sides I think it is and does not have service. And as others have pointed out, the service is needed by some, abused by others and can consume up to 50% of your operations budget quite easily.

      10. I don’t know what portion of the operations budget in King County is consumed by paratransit. But I can say that whatever percentage it is will probably go up after the 17% cuts go into effect. Same coverage with less frequency on fixed-route buses means same level of mandatory paratransit coverage. In other words, the law forces us to gut regular service to preserve paratransit, when if it weren’t for rules from the feds, we could preserve service for far more people by gutting paratransit service to save regular fixed-route service.

  16. This may sound odd, but I’d start with a statewide system of sidewalk & walkway funding, with a Complete Streets policy for any rural road with a high speed limit and moderate traffic levels. Accompany this with a “traffic calming” policy of low speed limits, road narrowing, and curve installation for rural side roads with truly low traffic levels.

    There are entire rural areas where it’s simply not safe to walk down the road from one house to the next. This really does change people’s perspective. Make it possible to walk down the road without risking your life and you may find more rural people losing the “windshield perspective”.

    1. It’s worth understanding the history here: rural roads were originally primarily for pedestrians. Horses went at roughly the same speed.

      Cars, as the speed of cars went up in the 1920s, managed to take over the roads and push the pedestrians off. Where it’s viable, it would make sense to go back to the original model; where it isn’t viable because there are too many fast-moving cars, it’s time to make an actual pedestrian roadway system for the people to walk on, rather than trapping people in their houses.

    2. It doesn’t sound odd to me at all. It makes perfect sense. So much of our suburbs and rural areas are built such that you might have sidewalks to the end of your culdesac, but beyond that you’re walking in the shoulder or ditch. This (coupled with single-use zoning and low densities) are what make people assume that any trip out of the house must involve a car.

      1. In the local suburban city I used to live, I discovered that the mindset of a lot of people in the neighborhoods was that if a sidewalk was available (outside of the school zones), then it meant that the area was losing it’s ‘rural’ feel.

        A small town/neighborhood didn’t need sidewalks because, well… it was small town.

        It was the old ‘boiled frog’ problem. As more and more developments appeared in the area, traffic increased but it seemed as if the sidewalk was a permanent acknowledgement of the ‘citification’ of the town.

        To which I asked the question “How many cars need to go by on that same street before you feel the same way”.

        I actually petitioned my local city council to take a dirt path, that was on the other side of a drainage ditch near the higher-trafficked roadway, and pave it with asphalt (the cheaper version), just to make it easier for pedestrians to access the small businesses at the other end of the block (about 1/2 mile).

        The council members, including the mayor, said that those type of upgrades would happen anyway with road improvements.

        I then postulated that some of the traffic was merely due to would-be pedestrians driving, fearing the roadside danger (slipping on a muddy pathway, or alongside the not-wide-enough and busy roadway… into the drainage ditch).

        I would like to think that it was my testimony alone that promped them, but later that year, a concrete (lasts 3 times as long as asphalt) sidewalk appeared where the dirt path was, and no road improvements were necessary just to have this part done.

        For you suburban types visiting this blog, it is well worth your while to hang out at your local council meetings, and understand how and why they get to the decisions they do.

      2. Sounds like Seattle north of 85th.

        Sidewalks throughout this area (and the remaining areas of the city that do not still have them) would be of great benefit.

  17. – Frequent East-West service between Shoreline College and Lake City along 145th that would serve both the I-5 freeway stops and ST 522.

  18. HOV lanes to 3+ on those not already so in the Central Puget Sound,

    A set of transit only ramps directly accessing the HOV lanes of I-5 south of Spokane street both northbound and southbound feeding to/from the E-3 busway,

    Create a bus/Central Link transfer facility at SODO station.

  19. Is the money Capital or Operations or a mix of?
    If it was Capital; I would:
    Extend Sounder to Olympia and purchase more rolling stock.
    Extend Rapid Ride “A” To Tacoma
    Rebuild key P&Rs/Transit Centers/Sounder Stations with parking structures (at least 1200-2400 spots that are paid parking and have rider amenities)
    Rebuild other transit centers where it is feasible to be on-street/in neighborhood with amenities and security
    Add HOV in-lane stops for Star Lake P&R and K-D Road P&R, also adding a stop (Sounder, HOV in Lane, LINK) at Boeing access road, also maybe one at EQC in Fife to turn their Parking garage into a potential public-private P&R lot
    Build direct HOV ramps for TDS

    If the money is operations:
    Expand “Key” routes to run 10-15 all day, every day.
    Add 24 hr service on routes (especially ST routes like the 594)
    Expand other routes that have been cutback, where its feasible and will generate ridership by restoring service
    Expand the “Olympia Express”
    Create Commuter bus service to JBLM
    Implement more Sounder Feeder bus service and associated parking

  20. Another project idea is to fix gaps in the biking infrastructure, places where trails, bike lanes, or safe streets for cyclists end, leaving cyclists at dangerous intersections with no good route to complete their trip. One example is in Redmond where the 520 off ramp to West Lake Sammamish becomes Leary Way. There is a bike lane alongside 520 and a bike lane one block away from Old Redmond Road/NE 70th Street. The bike trail along the Sammamish River is a half block from this intersection and the relatively bike-friendly downtown of Redmond begins another 2 to 3 blocks away. But this intersection is a cyclist’s nightmare, where bikes must share sidewalks with pedestrians (less safe for both), deal with bus stops/shelters, and high speed traffic. And because there is so much cycling infrastructure nearby, it puts a LOT of bikes in this area with no clear path to get through. It will take a lot of thought and good planning to fix, but auto speeds need to be reduced and some sort of additional signage and possibly a bike lane on W. Lake Sammamish would help.

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