It’s been a while since STB has had multiple posts like this and I wanted to quickly add a few ideas to this blue-sky discussion, particularly with relation to projects that I think could fall through the cracks or are more programmatic in nature rather than lines on a map. While I think Sound Transit’s survey is good, as Ben previously mentioned, it sticks fairly closely to the adopted 2005 LRP. Below is a very quick list of some projects or programs that came to mind over my lunch break. I’m not even sure if Sound Transit can do some of these things but I left everything in. Please add to and critique these ideas and send any comments you have to Sound Transit. This is a rare chance to influence the future of regional transit service.

I’d like to see the following ideas or programs addressed in the LRP update:

  1. HCT corridor from Ballard to Northgate.
  2. HCT corridor on BNSF corridor from I-90 to Totem Lake.
  3. HCT corridor between Elliot Bay and 23rd north of downtown.
  4. Third fully-elevated HCT N/S corridor which takes over travel to/from the airport. Extend Central Link to Southcenter/Renton area.
  5. A bus-rail integration program that funds small to major capital projects that improve transfers and bus speed and reliability around Link stations.
  6. Funding to establish a region-wide public development corporation to assist in finance and construction of affordable housing, mixed-use development, and necessary public infrastructure to catalyze private investments along HCT corridors.
  7. A BRT partnering program to fund the capital components of BRT projects with Metro/CT/PT to a ITDP standard of Bronze for 2nd tier HCT corridors.
  8. Regionally competitive grants for small to medium sized transit speed and reliability projects along major transit corridors.
  9. Matching funds for feeder bus service between Link and regional centers not served by HCT with a requirement of very frequent service all day.
  10. Program to fully implement the Growing Transit Communities partnership.
  11. Funds for infill stations where appropriate.

28 Replies to “Sound Transit LRP: Additional Ideas”

  1. As far as #1 on your list, would U-Link/45th Link combined with swapping the terminals of RR-D and the 40 not suffice?

    1. That comment is really mode independent. Currently the LRP doesn’t call for any HCT (BRT or LRT) between Ballard and Northgate.

  2. Its great that so many of us are generating so many ideas for the Long Range Plans, and they are not all the same! This will give Sound Transit lots to consider when sifting through all the comments received and updating the plan.

    I’ve posted my comment e-mail to Sound Transit on my (mostly dormant) blog [click my name above to read]. I focused on only 3 ideas: light rail to West Seattle, light rail connecting Ballard to Lake City, and a future mainline rail line (Sounder/Cascades) from Seattle to Tacoma via I-5 and Sea-Tac Airport. Its a long-range plan, so it is the time and place to dream.

    1. I never thought about a Cascades line via SeaTac. Ideally, that would sounds great. Similar lines are found at BWI, Burbank, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Newark airports. However, if I don’t believe it would work here because there’s no room to construct a heavy rail line through SeaTac (and subsequent places southward) without bulldozing dozens of neighborhoods. Plus, in other cities, those Amtrak stations are located 10 to 15 minutes away from the airport, forcing passengers to connect via shuttle only.

  3. To an extent, this mirrors the “if you want to build it they will fund” in the current transportation package before the legislature.

    I’d like to put some time and effort into fixing some of the bottlenecks and weird detours in the current system. Imagine, for instance, if we could improve bus access to the Northgate Transit Center and Mt. Baker Station by five minutes a ride. I suspect that would be a greater improvement in the rider experience than a lot of projects that extend service to new areas.

  4. There were only 5 things that I sent to Sound Transit that I would personally like to see happen.

    Sounder service on the weekends, even if it is 4 trains a day. Yes, there are game trains but that only follows the schedule of said games, nothing earlier to take advantage of getting other stuff done.

    Replace the Sounder North with DMU’s to reduce overall costs on purchasing new coaches as service increases.

    Extend to Dupont with 2-4 trains. This is relatively a very low cost project, just would need to build the platform as the P&R is right next to the right-of-way.

    Build a new station where the new proposed apartments, homes, and outdoorsy Kent Station like mall will be at the bottom of Lakeland Hills/Lake Tapps Parkway. Would likely reduce crowding at Auburn and Sumner stations.

    And lastly? Not to build out Link beyond Federal Way/South 348th. The ridership will not justify the cost of the extension beyond this point. Increase the PT bus service to supplement this but there is no solid justification to do this at this point or within the next 30 years. It would be more cost effective if the system turned at 348th and went towards NE Tacoma, Twin Lakes, Browns Point areas. (Disclaimer: I don’t live anywhere near those areas)

    1. Link extension from Federal Way to Tacoma certainly will not be the most cost effective segment but good luck convincing the south sound that they shouldn’t extend Link. Those on the ST Board that represent that south sound were very vocal against any suggestion of a focusing effort away from “the spine”. I would also just point out that commuter rail is almost always the least cost effective PT mode.

      1. The Tacoma Tomorrow article in the last News Roundup seemed pretty clear on this. In a Tacoma ST LRP open house:

        “Most attendees did not really connect with staff highlights touting all of the light rail expansion happening in King and Snohomish counties when the same staff didn’t have very good answers to their most important question: “When is regional light rail going to get to Tacoma?” The question came up over and over again in various forms.”

        As I said, this is probably going to be the biggest collision in the ST3 debate. Pierce really wants its Central Link extension, and anti-sprawlites don’t want to extend Link past Federal Way (or even 200th). My own position is it can go either way, whatever Pierce wants and is willing to pay for. Frequent express buses from the terminus could be an alternative. But Pierce has been saving up for its extension, and doesn’t seem interested in alternatives. Hopefully they understand clearly that Link would be 10-15 minutes slower than the 594.

      2. I agree because this issue has already come up. Some environmentalist attacked the Link extension in Road and Transit as “sprawl” inducing transit. It’s kind of a weird concept although I would say the Sounder is probably more “sprawl” inducing because it’s commuter oriented and allows people to live in the exurbs and commute 40+ miles to work.

      3. Perhaps the Pierce subarea folks should push for extending Tacoma Link toward Federal Way, in a way that would be compatible with or convertible to the other Link rolling stock.

      4. @Adam: what’s weird about it? Anything that reduces transit times is going to make commuting from further away is going to result in sprawl. The entire history of late 19th and early 20th century London suburbia is intertwined with the fortunes of the commuter railways that served it. [In fact, to first order approximation, the only really profitable activities that the railways in Britain ever managed were carrying coal and suburban property speculation.] I suspect a similar mutual dependence applies for the Northshore suburbs in Chicago, for Westchester and Nassau counties in New York, and for many parts of Northern New Jersey. What differs between their experience and that of London is that Britain took a strong and deliberate stand against deep suburban sprawl with Green Belt legislation after after WW2. [Although the protections are beginning to fray a bit, and theres been a steady rise in long distance commuting from places beyond the Green Belt like Cambridge, Peterborough, Milton Keynes, Brighton and Oxford]

      5. Britian also didn’t do enough to accomodate London growth when it decreed the Greenbelt, causing London housing prices to go through the stratosphere, which is why ordinary people leapfrogged it and are commuting from surrounding cities. But the greenery is no doubt pretty. And at least London has full-time commuter rail for these people, unlike most of the US.

      6. It’s important to note that railroads create a different development pattern from cars, because the development *clusters around the stations*. Therefore, you can run a rail line straight through an area and get no development at all if the train doesn’t stop.

        It actually makes sense to run service from Seattle to Tacoma, which encourages people to live in Seattle or Tacoma, rather than filling all the land in between with houses. What should be treated very skeptically is the addition of greenfield *stations*.

      7. @Mike: I didn’t mean to imply taht I thought that the Greenbelt legislation was a good idea [or that it wasn’t], only that it’s pretty much all that prevented exurban development in places like Knockholt and Elstree. As you point out, it’s led to astronomical property prices, and abominably long leap frog commutes — although particularly for the University towns and Brighton there are often lifestyle and two body components to the decision.

      8. Link between FWTC and Tacoma would take more than an hour to for Pierce County residents to reach downtown. From a commuter’s perspective, Central Link would be an awful option to reach downtown. The 590’s would be a much faster option. From a connecting-the-region perspective, Link is a great idea and would meet the ridership needs of people who travel between S. King County and Tacoma (mostly regular, non commuting bus riders).

        This is where Mike’s “third line” idea would come in handy. Tacoma riders would go through the infill stops like FWTC, Kent Des Moines, 200th, etc. But when they reach the airport, they could enjoy an express ride to downtown.

  5. I agree with the sentiment of #6, but I don’t think it should be a funding responsibility of ST. In other states a TOD fund has been established by a one time appropriation of funds from state and local governments.

    1. ST has changed from being TOD neutral (to avoid getting caught up in local politics) to being TOD advocates (because a walkable station area is important for rapid-transit success). So this is basically what it needs to do on a larger scale: not fund housing but advocate for it.

  6. Are there laws that prohibit ST from using value capture as a means of funding new lines (or recouping their investment on existing ones)? If not, should we be asking ST to strongly consider doing this?

    1. Yeah! Do what Japan Rail does and build shopping centers and/or apartments on top of stations. This wouldn’t be super popular in the Rainier Valley, but imagine what could be built over the Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill stations.

    2. The state constitution prohibits the lending of public credit, which in effect prohibits tax-increment financing that could allow the kind of joint development suggested above. There have been efforts to nibble around the edges with value-capture legislation, but without amending the consitution they havent amounted to much in terms of real financial capacity.

  7. I am glad people like you are asking! Thanks!

    It is hard to know what needs focus without good data. I wish there was a good district-to-district representation of where people want to go, and a comparison of that to how long it takes to get there on transit (and for comparison how long it takes to drive). I don’t think it’s very practical to discuss other corridors too much without this information.

    I believe that every existing station and transit center deserves a focused study on access. #5 begins to get there but there are plenty of other modes that need study. A good example discussed on this blog is Mt. Baker Station, which is a three-dimensional mess. This is particularly needed for the 23 year old DSTT stations.

    Finally, I think there needs to be an operations approach to this planning. Are there places where branching is a good idea? Will the demand to Tacoma fill every train, or should every other train follow a branch to Kent, or to Renton because the demand isn’t there all the way to Tacoma? Isn’t it reasonable to design branching stubs to some of the existing corridors so that more branches can be added in the future? Using your #4 example, Central Link could more easily have a Renton/South Center branch had switching or turnback tracks been installed to allow that! With one line on North Link stopping at Northgate, wouldn’t it be a great opportunity from an operational efficiency standpoint to add a branch towards the west or east?

    1. The problem with branches is that each branch makes reliable frequent operation of the central core more difficult. They can also make the system less able to meet demand increases on one of the branches, since allocating capacity on the shared section soon becomes a zero sum game.

      1. Timed transfer shuttle service is one way to use existing rail alignments to branch without increasing the headway of the core segment… although it isn’t always the most elegant solution and requires very high reliability to work well for riders.

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