As the Puget Sound region continues to grow, excellent transit connections between Eastside communities will be crucial.  The quality of transit options available to those communities will shape the safety, convenience and environmental quality possible for their residents and workers. Our vision for rail service to Issaquah would create new connections from Issaquah through Bellevue to Kirkland, would improve trips bound for Downtown Seattle, and would dramatically improve access between the I-90 corridor and North Seattle.

Issaquah Rail Map

Better Connections

As discussed in earlier posts, the crucial connection missing from Sound Transit’s study is one across the Mercer Slough along I-90 to East Link. Such a connection is crucial for the viability of rail service to the I-90 corridor, as it is the only way to provide direct trips from Issaquah to Downtown Bellevue and Downtown Seattle. Option “C4” provides a direct rail connection through Downtown Bellevue to Kirkland, as well as preserves the ability to run trains directly from Issaquah into Downtown Seattle in the future when an additional operating line is warranted. This will be critical for providing a time-competitive rail option for I-90 commuters.

Improved Coverage

Sound Transit’s studies for the corridor are also conspicuously short on stations. Over 16.6 miles, The rail options in Sound Transit’s study for Kirkland-Bellevue-Issaquah rail include just 6 stops. For perspective, Central Link is 15.6 miles long and stops 13 times. While there are fewer population centers on the Eastside than Seattle, those that do exist are largely left out of Sound Transit’s alternatives, leaving only a handful of destinations along the corridor within walking distance of a station. Neglected destinations include Factoria, Bellevue College, Lakemont Boulevard, and Historic Issaquah. One advantage to fewer stops is slightly faster travel times along the length of the corridor, but pitting ridership against coverage is a losing proposition: a viable system needs both and should be designed accordingly.

The success of any regional ballot measure will require a strong Eastside turnout, as was the case in 2001 and 2008. This means Sound Transit will need to offer Eastside communities tangible benefits that substantially improve mobility options to, from and around the Eastside. To do this, it is critical that Sound Transit consider an option that provides high quality connections across the lake as well as between Eastside population centers, serves all important destinations, and keeps travel times low.

What to say to ST in your comments:

1. I want rail to Issaquah! Study “C4” to Issaquah with a connection to East Link at I-90.

2. Direct and fast connections to Downtown Bellevue and Downtown Seattle are crucial for this corridor as destinations along I-90 continue to grow in regional significance.

3. More stations please! LRP studies should include stations at Factoria, Bellevue College, Eastgate, Lakemont Boulevard and Historic Issaquah.

This post was written with contributions from Peyton Stever and the Seattle Subway Communications Team.

184 Replies to “Better Eastside Rail”

  1. I am completely confused by these recent seattle subway posts…you are willing to support a short rail line, some might say stunted, to west seattle and then you turn around a support one for the eastside which is completely out of proportion…I’m starting to loose faith in your ability to move your vision forward…

    1. Though I’d like to see this option studied, and while I think it’s a better operational plan than Issaquah service via an East Link branch (which may not even be operationally possible), I’m inclined to agree with Doug. Sure, I get the argument that uniform taxation through subarea equity requires gold-plated projects in rich subareas like East King and North King, but I can’t with a straight face endorse light rail between Issaquah and Ballard before fighting for Tukwila, Burien, White Center, Westwood, and the Junction. Just yesterday you were arguing for a shorter, higher-quality alignment with good bus transfers as being sufficient for the whole of West and SW Seattle. Why can the same not be true for Issaquah?

      What I’d really like to see is a realistic projection of an ST3 budget by subarea that puts ballpark numbers to these speculations. If Seattle wants to get Ballard-Downtown, Ballard-UW, a new downtown tunnel, and Downtown-West Seattle, how much revenue would be required and what would that buy in East King, South King, Snohomish, and Pierce? Only then can we decide if a project like Issaquah-Kirkland-Sand Point-Ballard would be feasible and desirable.

      1. Bellinghammer: Ask and you shall receive, here is the money subareas will likely have to play with:

        Keep in mind the North King numbers don’t count the federal money that will be available for those projects which will be at least $1B in additional funding.

        As for costs of the different options, that is EXACTLY what Seattle Subway is asking for by getting ST to separate out the different costs and present legible options (like we asked for in the West Seattle piece). The common theme for Seattle Subway’s posts is ‘do it right and let us see the numbers.’

      2. Wow, somebody actually read that wall of text I posted.

        I assumed no federal funding because I had no idea of how to ballpark the numbers and because Sound Transit has opted not to apply for federal funding for either North Link or East Link..

        That said Lynnwood-Everett, UW-Ballard, Downtown-Ballard, a second downtown tunnel, Seattle Subway’s option C4 for West Seattle, and Burien-Renton could all qualify for federal grants.

        A second factor is there seem to be a number of people advocating for the Lynnwood-Everett line to serve Paine Field. While I think a 99 alignment is best for rail with BRT to serve Paine Field this doesn’t seem to be what some in Snohomish County are asking for. On the plus side this means more money for the other sub-areas due to this being the most expensive option. On the minus side it means the Lynnwood-Everett line will have fewer riders and is less likely to qualify for federal grants (which could be considered a plus for North King).

      3. @Keith — That last paragraph is key. I really want to see the numbers for various proposals, and that includes parts of proposals. If West Seattle rail to Burien (including a new downtown tunnel) costs 7 billion dollars, I know I don’t want it. But if a starter line, the so called A6 ( which serves the two most important parts of Southwest Seattle can be built for a billion dollars, then I’m a convert. My guess is that it costs a lot more, but I sure want to know how much.

        Likewise with bus improvements. How much would it cost to build ramps to the SoDo station so that buses can go from West Seattle to SoDo in their own lane? How about other improvements to the SoDo station which would turn it into more of a transit center (like Northgate) instead of just another stop? What about other surface improvements in West Seattle, such as extending the HOV lanes — are they necessary, and if so, how much would they cost? The more information the better. I realize studies like these are expensive, but they are cheap compared to the actual work. I think it is better to measure twice and cut once.

        Furthermore, up to this point, much of the line has been fairly obvious if you accept the basic premise of Sound Transit. They wanted to build a line that serves regional interests. They do that really well with the buses, and fairly well with the light rail. If you want to leave the city, then it makes sense to send a line south to the airport, and north to at least Northgate. Serving Rainier Valley on your way south is obvious, just as serving Capitol Hill and the UW is going north. Obviously we could have gone west (to 99) after that, or east (to Lake City) but those are really small potato discussions compared to whether we build a light rail line to West Seattle (or additional lines on the east side). There is no consensus here, nor anywhere, on those questions. On the other hand, just about everyone felt that a light rail line should go at least to the UW, if not Northgate.

      4. @RossB: all of Seattle Subway’s recent content is related to commenting on the Sound Transit Draft Supplemental LRP, and we’re trying to get them out during the comment period. Our last post for the comment period will be very soon and will summarize everything as best we can.

        Please STAY TUNED for ideas we’re working on bringing you AFTER the LRP comment period is over.

      5. @Bellinghammer – Thanks for stating my case so much more clearly. That’s exactly what I meant.

    2. Doug, Sound Transit has something called Subarea Equity. It means that money raised in a Subarea has to be spent for the primary benefit of the people of that subarea. In the studies for ST3, some very productive lines were found in the North King subarea. A lot of very productive lines. West Seattle was the least productive, so we put together a smaller, cheaper, more productive alternative that we think could fit into the budget of an ST3 package.

      On the other hand, the East King subarea which will have significant money, doesn’t really have that many good projects on hand. We’re trying to help show a project that we think will be the best bang for buck so that East King has something to excite their voters.

      We’re looking at the big picture here. Different projects in different contexts. For our full vision see:

      1. You should consider updating that map or make a new one so it matches what you’ve been advocating for on STB. It feels a little stale and might confuse some people as it differs enough with all these posts.

      2. Except for showing the sub-segments Seattle Subway has advocated for ST3 I believe their map accurately reflects their long-range vision along with which corridors Sound Transit currently has under study.

      3. @Mike — How so? It looks exactly like what Keith and Seattle Subway have proposed recently. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with every route, but it sure looks like what they have been advocating of late.

      4. @Mike: In general, our vision lines are displayed accurately in that jpg. BUT we know we have a some things to add next year. We’re listening to lots of suggestions and definitely intend to add a lot of them.

      5. I understand the subarea requirements, no need to be pedantic. I am just arguing that I wish your vision for West Seattle rail was as visionary…it really not. I am a supporter of Seattle Subway…I just disagree with you on this particular subject.

      6. @Doug,

        I believe Seattle Subway’s ‘A6’ proposal is simply in the context of ST3. Longer term I’m pretty sure they want the full map built out. There simply isn’t going to be enough money in ST3 to build rail between Downtown, West Seattle, and White Center and build Downtown-Ballard and UW-Ballard.

        Connections further South are unlikely in this round as the budget for South King is likely to be consumed by extending Link to the Pierce County Line and buying additional Sounder service. There may be enough to do some portion of the Burien-Renton line but not enough to build rail between Burien and White Center.

    3. Doug, SeattleSubway is doing its best at predicting what will pass in a ballot measure to move forward. Voters want the line to cost taxpayers very little and want riders to pay to maintain the line once in operation – So the line’s cost per mile and ridership are the more important. The more people that use the line, the cheaper it is to maintain it and that’s what voters want to hear.

      West Seattle’s line would be underground.

      1. Cost per mile is a meaningless metric. Cost per station, on the other hand, is very important. As is the number of people who use each station. The latter is harder to measure, but not that hard to get a rough idea.

      2. So really what we are talking about is cost per rider.

        After all U-Link and North Link are quite expensive per-mile but I think few would argue with the need.

        North Link was expensive enough per rider that Sound Transit opted not to apply for Federal funds for that segment. Still it is likely to be the star of ST2 as far as ridership goes.

  2. Yes — this alignment is great, it’s exactly what I would want for the Eastside.

    The only caveat I have is I feel like the sand point crossing will just randomize the whole thing… The expense of a whole new bridge almost certainly exceeds the other costs by many factors.

    But this proposal could work fine without the lake crossing, riders can transfer to get to Seattle at S Bellevue (I think it has a center platform). Although Issaquah / Kirkland riders would lose a 1-seat bus ride, I think a 2-seat rail only ride with a trivial transfer (eg walking about 10 feet) would be perfectly fine.

    1. We don’t have any reason to believe a Sand Point crossing would be significantly more expensive than what they studied for 520. Keep in mind the best bridge options for 520 essentially called for a new rail bridge alongside the current bridge and things like an additional Montlake bridge.

      We could be wrong – lets have ST study the crossing so we don’t have to guess.

      1. I’m with Stephen.

        It is irrelevant whether a new crossing is more or less expensive than 520, because either is so embarrassingly cost-ineffective as to negate any other argument you could make for any segment on either side of it!

        Add to that the absurdity of building rapid transit across Windermere and Sand Point, and the fact that Seattle Children’s is a minor and remote node not warranting high-capacity transit (especially in a city that can’t seem to get First Hill right), and you have once again found yourself beating the drum for massive expenditures in two subareas that fail to accomplish anything.

        Otherwise, I would consider this the least-worst proposal I’ve seen for a cross-Eastside rail project. Even if it offers nothing past Eastgate that HOV-lane buses don’t already do better, it seems presentable enough to make a go of it at the ballot box.*

        But shackle it to a multi-billion dollar floating thing that, honestly, thoroughly lacks a point, and you’ll kill any credibility that a strong Kirkland-Eastgate routing might otherwise buy you.

        *(I still think it will fail, and that uniform pan-ST-district taxation rates will need to be abandoned. But at least it might have a fighting chance.)

      2. I see your point, d. p,, but as Keith has said over and over, he wants a study. I do, too. I want to see that number. Otherwise, you might lose votes that way. If someone in Kirkland says “Hey, why didn’t they propose another rail line across Lake Washington?”, it is nice to say “They did, it was going to cost X billions dollars, which is more than light rail from here to there”. That is a much better response than “I don’t know, but it was probably too expensive”.

      3. We had a chance to get rid of 520 and failed to do so. Wht on earth do we want to pollute the lake even more with a 4th bridge?

        As others have said, lets get real and get higher capacity and higher speed rail first to the densest areas that need it immediately: Rainier Beach to Mt Baker to UW Station via MLK or 23rd to Ravenna/Lake City and perhaps beyond to the NE.

      4. I should add that I also agree with you with regards to extending the Ballard to UW line beyond the UW. As a Seattle voter, I want no part of that. It just isn’t worth it. I didn’t always feel that way. I like it when trains serve hospitals (which is why the Husky Stadium station will perform really well even though it is on the edge of campus). There are also a few very high density spots to the east of Brooklyn. However, when you start looking in detail, the locations just don’t work. The high density spots are really close to the station on 45th, and they abut the campus to the south, and end abruptly with a steep hill on the east. The best you could do is a station at around 50th and 17th. But that is so close to the other station to limit its value, especially since it is a fairly flat walk, and a lot of your potential riders are fairly fit college students who probably walk to campus and to their classes (which is a lot further than walking to the station at Brooklyn). Slide that station further east and you make it worse, because very few people will walk up that hill to the station (and there aren’t as many people down that side). Speaking of which, east of there things get much worse in a hurry. You have a mall surrounded by wide streets, a cemetery, and again, the UW campus (grass fields) limiting your southern catchment area. The hospital is a good stop, but it isn’t surrounded by especially dense neighborhoods. There are a handful of apartment buildings around there, but if memory serves, the area just fought against upzoning, and won. Further east is even worse — no hospital. We are talking west Magnolia style density.

        I have no qualms with building the line from Ballard to the UW so that it could eventually be extended further east. But until those neighborhoods change (e. g. the mall could reinvent itself as a housing center with big apartment buildings, or the area next to the hospital could see substantial growth) I just don’t see it as being worth it, even if the eastside folks took up the entire cost of a bridge crossing (I don’t think it would be worth it for the eastside voters, either, but I’m not an eastside voter).

      5. I guess I don’t object on principle to costing it out, but I’m not sure I see the point.

        Imagine trying to estimate the cost building 520 totally from scratch 2014, including the access ROW on both ends. How would you even begin to do that, without delving into the nitty-gritties of individual acquisitions and environmental impacts and process costs, all in addition to the actual floating stuff? The study alone would be time- and resource-consuming and probably costs some large multiple of millions of dollars, and you’d still end up with a very rough estimate that mostly confirms what we already know: billions of dollars would accomplish not much.

        I also harbor some concern, of course, about ST’s proclivity toward manifest destiny narrative-shaping, by which whatever starts to get bandied about as “inevitable” between their planners and bureaucrats winds up the only option on the eventual table, no matter how clueless or ineffectual. Thus the lack of provisions for Graham or future-proofing at Brooklyn. Thus the world’s most useless tunnel skirting downtown Bellevue. Thus the seemingly ubiquitous expectation of urban-level overservice across 28 miles of sprawl to a minor and dying industrial-era edge city.

        Fortunately, in this case, the obviously nonexistent cost-effectiveness of more trans-lake rail will presumably prevent it from finding its way into that narrative. At the same time, there seems to be a faction at the agency that wholeheartedly believes its destiny involves $50 billion worth of rail-to-everywhere (more extensive than BART, costlier than the L.A. Metro, twice as grand as London Crossrail), so one must remain vigilant against even the worst absurdities morphing into political presumptions.

      6. p.s. David L has made a pretty compelling case for a stop at 25th NE and the northwest corner of the U-Village footprint: less than a mile beyond Brooklyn; mixed-use and developing rapidly; good connection to perpendicular transit that serves Ravenna and Lake City; and exceedingly hard to reach by any mode that uses the 45th Street flyover.

        I’m not entirely sold on it. I still think it detracts from the phenomenal bang-for-buck that exists at every stop between Brooklyn and Ballard, and I still think we should be pursuing proof that a track connection and through-service from Ballard to Capitol Hill and downtown is both feasible and advantageous! But it’s certainly a whole lot better than the idea of following 45th to merely serve the mall itself (autocentric and intends to remain so) or the hospital (minor in the scheme of things, could be easily served with a frequent bus on a revised post-Link grid).

      7. Good point about at stop at 25th NE and 50th. It would be a decent stop because of what is really close to it. But it wouldn’t be a great stop, because of what isn’t that far away. No one will walk to the station from 26th Ave NE and NE 45th, because no one lives on the IMA field. No one will walk from 31st Ave NE and 51st because dead people don’t walk. Then you have a very steep hill that no one will walk down (they will simply walk twice as far the other direction) and a (very nice park). So, basically, the greater catchment area is terrible. Draw a circle with a half mile radius around that spot and well over 50% of the area is useless from a (walk-up) ridership standpoint. I would be OK with such an approach if this little spot being served was stupendous — but Belltown this ain’t. Nor do I think this would be a great spot for bus transfers (like 8th NW and Market is) but I could probably be convinced otherwise on that point.

        In general, that’s the problem with the area east of the U-District. There are really big swaths taken by green fields, with only a handful of urban areas, and those areas aren’t that urban. For example, 65th and 35th would be a decent stop, but is not very urban. Like Children’s, it wouldn’t make it on anyone’s top ten list. A stop there would only make sense if you then continued on towards Lake City — unfortunately, there is just too much mediocre land between those two stops. Maybe a cut and cover along 35th would make sense, but my guess is that it branching off from Northgate would be a better value (if we wanted to serve Lake City with rail).

      8. DP: Your 520 numbers are a bit of an overstatement. The best performing 520 crossing (which we think a Sand Poing Crossing would kill, ridership wise) has a $/rider that isnt outlandish. About $2B for about 20k riders despite some really crazy design flaws based on using the 520 corridor. This beats a few other projects that are probably going to be built.

        That said, we just want ST to LOOK at the Sand Point crossing. Even if it doesnt make sense until ST5 we’d like some proffesional estimation on whether it pencils or not. This has never been done and the excuse not to do it was spurrious per our post.

      9. I’m sorry, Keith, but I think we may be getting to the point where we need to reassess competing definitions of “best-performing”, or of “outlandish”. ;-)

        East Link is a $2.8 billion project. End-to-end. Overlake mega-garage to the I.D. flyover. And thanks to lousy land use, and to the inherent logic gap of treating a bi-directional cross-sprawl commuter project as if it had broader mobility implications, East Link is estimated to net a mere 47,000 weekday boardings. Which has earned it zero chance of federal aid, and somewhat-justified general regional skepticism.

        And now a duplicate from-scratch lake crossing, costing 2/3 as much as all of East Link to net fewer than half as many boardings, and with some of those boardings likely to be cannibalized from the original line’s limited cross-lake purpose, is somehow commendable!?

        $6-7 billion in projects per sub-area, times five sub-areas, across a region of only a few million residents, is an absolutely whopping direct-funding ask — perhaps unprecedented in the annals of referendum-based infrastructure assessments. I think it is insane to expect that will come to pass, and infinitely more insane to be advocating spending that kind of money on objective mediocrity!!

      10. You guys – I agree that the eastside alignment is worthwhile as a standalone investment – it allows every pedestrian-oriented location on the eastside to be served by rail with a single transfer, which I think ought to be the network goal.

        But crossing the lake (if its feasible and not extravagantly expensive) would also have benefits. When transit is the *only* way to make certain key connections, it has an obvious advantage over driving. It also gives the eastside and seattle subareas something they can work on in common, which is important to getting acceptance. And it’s by far the least worst crossing solution because it’s roughy half the crossing distance as 520 and doesn’t need to worry about disrupting existing traffic.

      11. Make it a ped/bike, rail and fishing bridge. Make it not ugly. Just don’t put cars on it and it can be a lot less massive and intrusive.

      12. I think we are veering from the point again here DP. We agree that 520 is bad. We want a study of Sand Point but aren’t married to it for a particular timeline. Since we are already looking at the deep future — pushing off into the deeper future probably involves even more people on this corridor.

        I certainly don’t think our ask is outlandish at all — if you are going to study these corridors for rail — study the best corridors possible. Maybe it won’t be the thing for now, but its a good input into the long range plan — which is what all this is all about.

    2. If the only rail link across Lake Washington is via I-90 you’re going to get very few riders from Kirkland heading downtown via Link. Most likely you’d have to keep the 255, 271, 540, 542, 555, 556, and 520 peak commuter routes.

      With a second Lake Washington crossing extending north from Downtown Kirkland should be studied as well. I believe there is significant potential ridership between Downtown Redmond and Downtown Bothell/UW-Bothell with a fast and direct connection to Seattle.

    1. Why not? Surface stations in freeway alignments are fairly cheap. Otherwise there is a rather long gap with no stations between Newport and Eastgate. Also I expect this would include a P&R so it isn’t a station that would depend on the riders being within walking distance.

    2. I don’t know there was a Lakemont Boulevard, or what’s there. Houses I think.

      1. I used to live in an apartment complex over there and there are some nice trails within walking distance, and more trails within a short drive (e.g. Cougar Mountain). That said, I moved out within a couple weeks because a 30-minute drive to get to either Seattle, Bellevue, or Redmond, was more than I was willing to do, even in a company-provided rental car.

  3. For someone who lives in South Seattle (chose to live there due to light rail) and works in Eastgate, I LOVE this alignment. Heck, it would be fantastic for my wife, too, who works out at Microsoft. Im all for it. Would love to be able to get to Kirkland, Issaquah, and Redmond by rail.

    As for crossing lake Washington, though (and I would hate to see another ugly crossing), why not go north around the lake and add Bothell into the loop? I know a ton of people who live there and commute into the city. In fact, having worked on the eastside for 16 years now, I would say the majority of people I know who are raising families and commuting to work to all areas live in Bothell. It would be spectacular if the train could stop at UW Bothell as well as well as Evergreen Medical Center. You’d have three major hospitals — UW, Overlake, and Evergreen hooked together.

    Anyway…my two cents. I love the alignment but don’t want to see another ugly lake crossing mar the beauty of Lake Washington.

    1. I agree. I know Bothell, Lake City, and Kenmore are part of the larger vision, but why not include them in st3 and worry about another lake crossing later? Riders would still have a single transfer to get to sewttle from the eastside, and we’d be able to include the whole north part of the lake in that voting pool. In addition to the hospitals we could also reach another uw campus.

      1. The biggest problem with going up and around Bothell is that it is a much longer trip. At least an extra half hour from Kirkland to Northgate and longer still to the U District.

        The route as presented is a huge win for Kirkland, which otherwise has to fight for Sound Transit to serve the center of their Downtown and is time competitive from Bellevue to the U District.

        Kirkland-Totem Lake-Bothell-Kenmore-Lake City-Northgate needs to be served. But it would be a mistake in my view to build that in Sound Transit 3. When the places people really want to go and currently struggle to by bus are the U District and Ballard. (Ballard to Kirkland especially is a surprisingly bad route for buses.)

      2. downtown kirkland could be served on a trunk line between downtown redmond and kirkland. then there could be a north/south line along the old railroad right of way that it crosses. kirklanders could switch there and get to downtown either across I90 or along north of the lake. there could then be a line at the northern terminus of the railroad right of way at ballard and a line split off that through kenmore, lake city, northgate.

        just ideas…but unless its a tunnel, id hate another lake crossing. ugly. ugly. ugly…

      3. “Bothell, Lake City, and Kenmore are part of the larger vision, but why not include them in st3”

        The ST3 study areas were chosen a year or two ago. ST isn’t going to suddenly change its mind and throw away its work and anger people to study another corridor not among those. In the case of a Sand Point – Kirkland crossing, you can argue that it’s still addressing the UW – Kirkland – Redmond corridor. But going to Bothell is totally separate, especially if it doesn’t make it all the way back down to Kirkland which is the main goal of this corridor. (Kirkland: the second-largest city in the Eastside, with the second-largest/densest downtown, and far from East Link.) UW – Bothell – Kirkland would probably have horrible travel time for Kirkland-UW trips and Kirkland-downton trips even if it were grade separated.

      1. Ben Schiendelman is no longer on the Board or volunteering with Seattle Subway, but his seemingly endless energy to work on transit issues is missed at Seattle Subway.

    1. I think Ben is focusing on Olympia and the Legislature right now. Things he thinks need to be be done to get the Legislature to allow a large-enough ST3 and the larger transit vision. We’ll probably hear about it in six months or a year or so, whenever a concrete campaign is active.

  4. In the map key, “East Link (Opens 2023)” It shows the line going all the way to downtown Redmond. I thought it was only going as far as OTC in 2023.

    1. @Sam,

      It is probably an error. On the other hand the OTC to Downtown Redmond segment is nearly shovel ready and is simply waiting for funding. It is almost certain to be part of ST3 and may be able to be built with leftover East King funds (meaning the board may be able to authorize starting construction prior to a ST3 vote).

  5. I would have East Link eventually going north up Avondale road in Redmond, rather than have it turn west into downtown Redmond. I would also want the line going to Kirkland to eventually go further north, one day going up the Bothell-Everett Highway, rather than planning for some third crossing across Lake Washington.

    1. Let me correct what I said. The part I don’t like in Redmond is how the line almost double backs from SE Redmond (Is that near Whole Foods?) to Downtown Redmond. I’d like to see the line hit DT Redmond, then, eventually, go further up Avondale.

      1. Avondale? A better way to go north would be to use the Woodinville sub. Redmond spur and go up Willows Road. You wouldn’t have to miss downtown Redmond and could serve businesses north of Redmond.

      2. I think the idea with the Redmond dog-leg is to intercept all of the drivers coming from Sammamish with a giant park and ride in SE Redmond before they get to 520.

  6. What’s a “transit supportive land use”? One particular mapped object in Bellevue on this map is a Chevron gas station that also sells liquor at a particular intersection where surrounding uses are a park, substation and low density single family houses.

    If that kind of information is informing route selection then pencils need to be sharpened…

    1. This is based on how the local area is zoned. Right now the land may have the gas station and single family housing. But that isn’t permanent.

      If you mean the Chevron near the intersection of Bellevue Way and 112th Ave SE. The Gas Station is zoned commercial and nearby plots are zoned multi-family.

      1. There is a reason nobody is proposing a station there.

        However those two tiny patches are zoned commercial and office respectively and that is the kind of zoning supports transit. Usually in larger chunks than the one you pointed out. For instance I would totally support a station at Crossroads Mall if it was on a viable line and that area would be a half mile out from a station on 156th which seems about right in terms of it being in a station vicinity.

    2. We need to start talking about pedestrian-oriented land use. Transit thrives where pedestrians roam free, and is best thought of as a way to extend the range of pedestrians. Transportation should serve living patterns, not the opposite.

  7. I like the idea that we’re taking the transit to where the people are. ST has been in a hurry to go for the easy engineering solution over the people-focused options.

    I can’t get behind the Sandpoint line; I just think it’ll be too techno-utopian for voters, and too easy for transit opponents to caricature. If we stick with the principles of the West Seattle proposal (a high quality alignment at reasonable cost that doesn’t sacrifice future options), you wouldn’t want a lake crossing here in ST3.

    Puzzled by the Houghton station. The part of Houghton that is develop-able to denser uses is the part right by Google. Four blocks south of Google puts you firmly in single-family land all the way to the 520. Maybe by Houghton, you mean Carillon Point which is the nearest thing to density in central Houghton, but still really small and not likely to grow much more.

    And yeah, the Google station is mislabeled. It’s 6th Street. Or NE 68th St. But definitely not 86th.

    The political forces are converging somewhat around a 405 BRT solution. Kirkland City Council is inclined to get behind a 405 alignment that’ll serve nobody well but Totem Lake. They have really low expectations for ST3, based I think on an overly pessimistic reading of the north-south corridor studies. I couldn’t find any evidence that they’d even heard of the Kirkland-Issaquah study (not a single mention in a 200+ page briefing). And they weren’t thinking through how hobbled the estimate ridership numbers were by the crummy alignments studied.

    So, let’s talk about Totem Lake. The key thing to know about Kirkland is that there are two population centers. One is downtown/Houghton; the other is Totem Lake. The former is where everybody wants to move to, but the latter is where the city really wants to focus development. Some of that is nimbyishness around downtown. Some is the reality that Totem Lake has vast amounts of easily developable land. Totem Lake is a designated regional growth center; downtown isn’t. The area is zoned for dense development, but developer interest has been slow. No matter the political will, it’s hard to build a successful neighborhood that’s criss-crossed by a freeway and a bunch of six-lane arterials. And few developers are interested in being the pioneer in Totem Lake when there are so many more opportunities in Overlake and the Spring District.

    So can we get Link to Totem Lake and make a Spring District out of it?

    1. This proposal is constrained by the Sand Point crossing. If that doesn’t turn out to be viable going to Totem Lake is the obvious alternative.

      The goal is first to serve density where it exists, in this case downtown Kirkland. The crummy alignment studied skips downtown Kirkland almost entirely to serve Totem Lake really well.

      The station at NE 68th St would likely extend north from its eponymous street to serve the density north of the Station better.

      The other Houghton station is indeed near Carillon Point on purpose but also has Northwest University in it’s greater walkshed and provides the best access to the parks and the Houghton waterfront of any of the stations on this map. Parks aren’t the most appealing thing to serve, but this would be the only lakefront served by rail on the Eastside and that would make it a unique and worthwhile destination while also serving the Medium Density Residential and Office zoning in the walkshed.

    2. I mention Totem Lake as an example of an area that would benefit greatly by a scaled down version of this proposal. Essentially, my proposal is to take the Kirkland part, remove the lake crossing, but add a station at south Kirkland, right on 520 (west of 405). This would be a transit center station, serving buses. A Totem Lake rider couldn’t get to the U-District any faster, but could get to Bellevue or Redmond much faster and/or more frequently. See the last two paragraphs of

      For an area criss-crossed by freeways, BRT (or express buses) makes sense. It can leverage those freeways to provide very fast service to the rest of the system. I think the vast majority of the riders would have a faster ride with buses to a 520 station than they would with direct light rail service (since the rider would skip over the stations in Kirkland). Those that do want to go to Kirkland would have to backtrack, but that would be pretty fast as well (much faster than right now).

  8. I love this plan…this is nearly exactly what I was asking for in the form of an “Eastside Sounder”.

    I would propose that it be heavy, rather than light rail.

    1. Define your perception of the difference.

      If by heavy rail you mean Sounder as it currently exists, keep in mind that it is awfully expensive to operate.

      The light rail car manufacturer that made the Link cars also made a version that has 70 mph gearing. Stadler GTW can be ordered to operate at speeds of 87 mph, and those are used in operations in the USA that are closer to light rail than “heavy rail” type operations.

      Therefore, I don’t really see the advantage of using Sounder type equipment for any of this. It is what the BNSF requires right now for its main line service, but as time goes on light rail type cars operating on main line railroads will probably start to become more common in the USA. There are a number of reasons for this which would be off topic here, but the fact is there are huge advantages to using light rail type cars, and no real disadvantages in this type of service.

      1. So you see the Sounder running on the same BNSF tracks, but using a completely different train?

        Something more LINK like?

    2. Oh, also, the weight of the Sounder locomotive would be exceptionally expensive to accommodate on the bridge over Lake Washington. They are 265,000 lbs.

    3. I’d propose that it be SkyTrain. It is fantastically successful in Vancouver. Automated rail can run at high frequencies all day, not just during peaks, and if they’re designed well they can cover their operating and maintenance costs – a good goal of high cost capital investments. We should be open to learning from success of our neighbor cities.

      1. SkyTrain is successful because it follows urban paths to urban place,s with oodles of urban demand from urban people making urban trips.

        It’s basically the opposite of any Seattle rail proposal, past or present.

        It doesn’t matter how often the trais run if they don’t go anywhere useful.

      2. Remember that many of the Skytrain stations, especially on the Expo line were greenfield and brownfield sites. Now those controlling land use in Greater Vancouver encouraged dense development near stations but don’t think for a second every station had a ‘there’ there to serve when it opened.

        So ‘build it and they will come’ works if you are willing to couple land use with transit (and real-estate development is indeed how private for-profit transit in Asia makes money).

        That said the sort of political will and regional vision seen in Vancouver is lacking in most US cities including Seattle. That said they do have their issues including the debate over how best to serve UBC.

        While what we are building may not be as good as Vancouver we’ve managed to avoid many mistakes other US regions have made with their light rail systems. Though for the amount of grade separation we’re paying for it would be nice if we were using a technology with higher passenger capacity and the possibility for automation.

      3. I agree that Vancouver has worked hard to achieve these hand-in-hand goals.

        But don’t forget that the five immediately-adjacent cities stitched together by Skytrain (Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, and Surrey) fit in a rectangle no larger than Shoreline to White Center and Ballard to Medina). The furthest two points in the entire Skytrain system are 12.6 miles from one another.

        There’s a lot more to the urban actualization of the system than just a willingness to build a few skyscraper forests.

        Higher passenger capacity and automation-enabled frequencies start to get a lot less important when your trains journey to infinity and fail to serve any actual people or places along the way.

  9. I apologize if this point has already been made:

    Considering that the East Link I-90 bridge portion isn’t going to be anywhere near capacity for a LONG time, and crossing at I-90 will provide a quicker link downtown for almost all people served by this line, why are we talking about another bridge/tunnel?

    I’m all for expanding rail on the East Side, and I understand there will be money to spend. Why not spend it smartly, taking advantage of the existing link to Seattle? Every line doesn’t need a direct connection downtown, especially when doing so means additional bridges or tunnels. Look at the BART map. They didn’t decide that there needed to be a separate crossing of the Bay to get to Richmond.

    There are some people who will need to get to UW. But the majority of people will need to get downtown. Even for kirkland residents, traveling downtown via the East Link bridge would be as fast as traveling via a new crossing at Sandpoint. The people you’re serving here, the ones who need to go to UW or Ballard without first hitting downtown, there just aren’t enough of them to require a new bridge/tunnel, just to save them 10 or 15 minutes.

    1. Right now Sound Transit’s options to Seattle are a transfer to East Link at Hospital Station or over 520. This line is a huge step forward in taking advantage of East Link compared to what Sound Transit studied.

      For this proposal, the transfer would be at South Bellevue which is a much faster connection to Downtown Seattle. While preserving the option of a direct connection via further use of the East Link right of way.

      For Kirkland Residents the Sandpoint crossing would likely be faster to downtown Seattle than the 520 crossing and a great deal faster than heading over I-90, perhaps 30 mins of saved time for the latter.

      Also 520 or Sandpoint would be the crossing used by people in Redmond to get to the U District with significant time savings over using East Link.

      We won’t know any of this for sure without a study though.

      1. Sound Transit’s prior “options” showed multiple billions of dollars for about 9,000 daily boardings.

        i.e. “not gonna happen”.

        Seattle Subway is not offering an alternative to an existing justifiable lake crossing plan. They are trying to salvage an unjustifiable crossing by offering a new crossing, but the new crossing is equally cost-ineffective and unjustifiable, for the variety of reasons that Colin correctly describes above.

      2. You could easily accomplish much the same thing, at far less cost, by running this new line from Kirkland to a transit center on 520 (west of 405) then continuing the new line until it meets up with the one we are about to build. I won’t copy the comment, but read the last couple of paragraphs from This would mean, of course, a bus transfer. That is a small price to pay, especially since a huge percentage of the riders will be arriving by bus anyway. We simply can’t cover the entire east side with rail. There will be areas that will be left out. Those folks will ride a bus which will either connect to an east side station or a west side one. For those riders, you may as well continue to Montlake, especially since bus service along this corridor is about to be better than ever.

    2. Sound Transit study has terrible ridership because it is a bad alignment. It uses hospital station to serve Downtown Bellevue, doesn’t deviate from the ERC to serve Downtown Kirkland and stops at Issaquah TC and fails to serve historic Issaquah.

      When you miss the dense parts of all three cities you are trying to serve and don’t include any other stops (They serve Totem Lake, South Kirkland P&R and Bellevue College which serves some trip pairs but leaves huge parts of the line with no stations). You are going to get poor ridership.

      This would fix most of that and deserves to be studied. The East Subarea has the money to do it and not many other good options.

      As for the BART crossing to Richmond; my guess is that the lack of a proposed crossing has more to do with Marin County not being part of the BART district than anything else.

      1. Sound Transit’s cross-lake ridership was also low because the heavy lifting (Bellevue-Seattle) will have already been accomplished by East Link.

        And as I’ve mentioned countless times vefore, Eastside land use is poor enough that no matter how well you place the stations, only a small fraction of trips are going to be served without a bus transfer, if at all. That’s why even the first cross-lake rail has a ridership estimate that equates to a depressingly small mode share, and why it earned $0.00 in federal support.

        Another crossing can only cost more, and can only perform worse.

        The logic here is pretty elemental.

      2. What you and Ross seem to not grasp is that Subarea Equity requires that money, LOTS of money be spent in the East King Subarea. See the breakdown here:

        That is the political reality Seattle Subway is trying to work in. With that in mind, what do you propose spending 6 billion dollars on? Keep in mind that the more money that is spent in the outer areas of the Sound Transit Benefits District, the more money there is to spend in Seattle.

      3. I still don’t think this will pass, because most Eastsiders honestly don’t care about express rail to Issaquah, or are willing to call out the diminishing returns of the post-East Link proposals for the solutions-in-search-of-problems that they tend to be.

        The aftermath of the ST3 vote will almost certainly require that uniform taxation rates across sub-areas be dismantled.

        Anyway, I will continue to expose flaws and illogic in proposals anywhere that could adversely impact Seattle’s transportation situation, by diverting funds toward peripheral connections and reinforcing stupid notions about how urban rail forms are only appropriate for 65-mile journeys that fail to stop anywhere useful along the way.

      4. @Seattlelite — What exactly are the ratios for subarea equities? I honestly don’t know. But let me assume that it is one to one, North King (Seattle) and East King. Alright, then:

        Ballard to UW – A3 with stations — 2.0 billion (I add a bit for the stations).
        Ballard to Downtown — Not this time (0).
        West Seattle to Downtown – Transit improvements — 0.5 billion

        East Side
        Kirkland to Bellevue Rail (with station on 520) — 2.0 billion
        Transit improvements on the I-90 corridor, east of 405 — 0.5 billion

        The numbers a bit squishy and rough, but that is basically my idea. It isn’t clear to me how much light rail connecting East Link to Kirkland would cost, or even what it would look like. Are we talking elevated through Kirkland, or a tunnel? If it is a tunnel, then even this number is way too low. It is about the same distance from 520 to downtown Kirkland, as it is from Ballard to the UW. So this line doesn’t count the piece from 520 to Overlake. That would be elevated, but have to cross both freeways (adding a bit to the cost).

        If push came to shove, I’m not sure what I would do about Ballard to downtown service. None of the options seem even remotely close to the value you get by going via the UW. A modified Option C ( looks like the best value, and could probably be done for around 1.5 billion (I’m adding 0.5 billion for the cut and cover tunnel). At worst you could build Corridor C (1 billion) and then hope to bury the thing downtown at a later date. Or maybe you continue with the silly streetcar, going on Westlake (Corridor E). A dedicated lane from Ballard to Fremont is something, along with a nice ride to South Lake Union (at which point the streetcar would slog through traffic). Much of the cost is for a bridge, which could be repurposed, if we decided to bury the important parts (which wouldn’t necessarily be that expensive — there are stretches, like much of Westlake, that could go fairly fast without being buried).

        Anyway, as you can see, we really don’t have to dream up big pie in the sky plans for the east side just to justify spending on the west side. We should spend our money wisely on both sides of the lake.

      5. i thought it used bellevue transit station to serve downtown bellevue. not hospital station.

      6. Scott, that would be nice but the Sound Transit studies that feature Light Rail connect with Hospital Station or not at all.

      7. ‘Completing the Spine’ is the highest priority of Sound Transit. Doing that in ST3 means significant amounts of money for East King.

        What a certifiably retarded way to plan anything.

      8. What a certifiably retarded way to plan anything.

        You’re criticizing the whole concept of suburban equity, then.

        (And I agree with you, by the way.)

      9. … by which I meant to say “subarea equity.” Though you might as well call it “suburban equity,” with how it’s being implemented.

      10. Seriously. So far it has brought nothing but harm to Seattle’s ability to spend money influencing its own mobility fate.

        Hell, Lynnwood Link is two construction projects away, and it’s already pretty much guaranteed to omit the sole station that could make the 5.3 miles of it for which we’re on the hook remotely useful to our urban mobility needs!

        Again, I think an overambitious region-wide ST3 is going to fail, and I think the current system of even taxation across the Sound Transit district will die, bringing the fiction that “subarea equity” has been value-neutral down with it.

        This can’t possibly happen soon enough.

      11. @Seattleite — Yeah, I read that post, but I’m still too lazy to do the math. OK, OK, fine:

        East King 84% of North King

        Is that right? If so, then you can just squish the numbers down a bit for East King. Or maybe squish the numbers up a bit for North King. I think my assessment is basically correct, though.

        Do you want me to put in numbers for Snohomish — I think that is a silly exercise, but OK:

        Snohomish 41% of North King. So, if we spend 2.5 billion on West Seattle and Ballard, we will spend a billion on Snohomish county. That ought to be enough to extend the rail a bit, or pay for really nice BRT.

        If South King is smart, they spend their money on a really good transit center in Kent, along with plenty of bus lane improvements in the area so that people can actually get to the train station. If they are stupid, they continue it further south, avoiding the only pocket of high density in the area (to the east) and wonder why, twenty years later, not that many people ride the train there (hint: it is contained within that first sentence).

        Pierce county can improve its bus service (which is badly in need of improvement) or add some more charming rail (which might help the area a bit).

        As much as I hate subarea equity, I would vote for something like that in a New York minute. Kirkland gets some rail (the east side area most deserving of it). Other eastside residents get really good transfers to non-downtown Seattle locations (Bellevue/Kirkland/Redmond/Totem Lake are all tied together really well). Meanwhile, Seattle solves it biggest long distance problem (Ballard) and people in West Seattle get faster, more reliable bus service (solving the last mile problem via a station at SoDo).

      12. Snohomish county really wants rail between Lynnwood and Everett Station, preferably serving Paine Field, which is the most expensive option. Barring a large amount of reserves in the Snohomish County sub-area account and significant Federal grants this means North King will have somewhere north of $7 billion plus federal grants (estimated to be at least $1 billion) to play with. This means East King needs roughly $6 billion+ worth of projects in ST3.

        Now the legislature may not grant ST the tax authority needed for such a grandiose scheme and even if it does the voters may reject the proposal. But you can bet the first attempt at ST3 will include a Tacoma to Everett rail spine.

      13. If Snohomish County was thinking strategically, they’d want a transit system that supports destinations in Everett and Lynnwood, not just park and ride collectors for Seattle commuters. This is even more true for Pierce County, which is bound and determined to see light rail get to the Tacoma Dome (massive Seattle-oriented P&R) rather than actually serve downtown Tacoma. Why not focus on building a network in Seattle and the Eastside, and light rail services that focus on serving Everett and Tacoma? That’s what really in each of the subareas’ interests. We have a board that’s scared to death the whole enterprise will fall apart if they question any of the political agreements made 20 years ago by people now long dead.

    3. “Considering that the East Link I-90 bridge portion isn’t going to be anywhere near capacity for a LONG time, and crossing at I-90 will provide a quicker link downtown for almost all people served by this line, why are we talking about another bridge/tunnel? ”

      Because of the travel time going from Kirkland to East Link by bus and transferring to downtown or UW. East Link is just not serving Kirkland in any practical way.

  10. I would like to see the numbers on the various pieces, and I would like to see what else could be done to make the ride faster. For example, how long does it take to get from Bellevue College to the freeway (and onto the HOV lane)? That being said, here is my guess as to what makes sense:

    Factoria — Bellevue College – Eastgate — These are all good stations. They are all really close to the freeway. I would like to see a cost comparison between serving these via rail, and serving these via transit improvements. If the proposed rail is elevated, then I think it would be possible to do the same with bus ramps. So, on one end of the bus improvement spectrum, you would have full grade separation (if you count I-90 HOV lanes). I would also like to explore options that are cheaper, but get similar savings (you might be able to spend 50% of that to get 90%). My guess is that when you run the numbers, some set of bus improvements are just a better value.

    East of Eastgate (Issaquah) — Sorry, this makes no sense to me. Most of Issaquah is really well served with HOV based buses. There is hardly anything in between there, and not that much when you get there (there just aren’t that many people in Issaquah). If it takes a while for the buses to get on the freeway, then address that issue. You certainly don’t have a volume issue — again, there just aren’t that many people there.

    Sandpoint Bridge — I think this is silly (as I said It is probably really expensive, and would make Seattle voters pay for stations that are a horrible value. Why should I have to pay for a station in Windermere, when we don’t have grade separation to South Lake Union?

    Kirkland — Kirkland is a challenging proposition. It is not your typical suburb. There are fairly dense areas of housing and businesses. The development corridor is not built especially close to the freeway. This is the one area on the east side, more than any other, where light rail makes sense.

    Unfortunately, the design seems completely dependent on the new bridge. I don’t think that makes sense. I think an alternative is in order. Without a bridge crossing, a Kirkland rider headed to the UW would have to go south, past 520, and then ride a bus that makes it’s way back to 520. Or the rider could just ride a train all the way around. Either way, the rider would probably be better off just taking a bus that goes through the neighborhood and onto 520. I think, at a minimum, the Kirkland route needs to serve a station on 520 (where buses could shuttle them to the UW). Connecting to the existing light rail is also a requirement, and might not be that expensive (once you’ve made it to the freeway).

    Connecting light rail better to 520 (west of 405) has other benefits. If I’m at the Bellevue transit center and want to get to the UW, it would provide me with an alternative route. I could ride the train all the way around (of course) but it might be quicker to just ride it north a couple stops and then transfer to a bus. A south Kirkland transit center right by 520 would make a lot of sense and could serve a bunch of riders. It could, potentially, free up a bunch of bus service. There would be no need, for example, for a Totem Lake bus that went downtown as well as one that went to Redmond or Bellevue. You would only have the bus that goes to downtown, and along the way it would stop at a station which would provide rail service either direction (to Redmond or Bellevue). The combination of a station serving buses traveling on 520 (west of 405) as well as light rail to Kirkland sounds like the best value by far for eastside rail.

    1. Bellevue College and Issaquah are demanding rail. When I was a student a Bellevue College people’s eyes would light up. They have people in place that would organize students around a light rail that maximises capacity to the school. Bellevue College plans to grow into a full size 4 year school and perhaps even a university at some point and Light Rail capacity is something they will fight for. Especially the trips to Downtown Bellevue, Kirkland and the U District. Which are all not well served from BC by existing busses.

      Issaquah is planning on getting much more dense in a hurry over the next several years. Just look at the Central Issaquah Commercial Subarea Plan which focuses on mid-rise buildings and multi-use development. You would also likely truncate I-90 buses that go east of Issaquah at a Light Rail Station and gain ridership from people coming from places like Sammamish and North Bend.

      I won’t get too much into the Sandpoint crossing, really we won’t know what is what until the study is done. But I would hope that the East Subarea can pay for several of the Stations in NE Seattle which would only be built with the crossing. I absolutely agree that the North Subarea has better things to pay for.

      I think you have misunderstood where the stations near 520 are. This line connects to S. Kirkland P&R which serves 520 busses with a short transfer. The Sound Transit proposal does the same thing in this case.

      1. Bellevue College is the college that can’t be bothered to improve its roadways enough to allow buses to spend fewer than five minutes crawling through it on detour, nor to improve its pedestrian walkways enough to encourage arriving from the high-frequency transit center 1/4 of a mile away (i.e. 2x closer than many of its own parking lots).

        Bellevue College is not serious about transit for its students or employees today. Why would it magically get serious about transit for its students or employees tomorrow?

        And the Issaquah development plan, well-intentioned as it might be, is basically for the existing office parks to grow into more elaborate office parks. Even if it proceeds as scripted — which is hardly a guarantee — its amenability to urban-scaled rail service will be fatally hobbled by both its form and its distance from anywhere else.

        Living in Issaquah, meanwhile, will continue to be mostly an exercise in car-necessitating exurbanity, though with slight improvements in the chance of being able to run basic errands on foot.

      2. d.p. When was the last time you talked to a group of Bellevue College students?

        I surprising number walk out to the middle of I-90 to catch busses to Seattle or Issaquah.

        Having contacts at Bellevue College I can assure you that they are both proud of the recent progress they have made in discouraging car use for both students and employees and enthusiastically supportive of improvements that would further that goal.

        Connecting Issaquah to Eastgate is the type of marginal improvement that adds ridership at relatively little cost. We aren’t talking about any tunnels in that area with this proposal.

      3. William C., Snoqualmie River Road isn’t open because the people at BC are hard headed about buses serving the bus station they built into their main parking garage. Aside from they they have all kinds of initiatives to get people out of their cars and proud that they have seen some improvements over the last several years.

        With a new mode you don’t have the problem of BC trying to support old infrastructure.

      4. Has there been a shred of progress toward this:

        $4.4 million and frequent, direct, thorough access via existing infrastructure could be a reality six months from now.

        I’m glad that the next generation of students has a post-car-dependent optimistm and that administrative attitudes are gradually evolving. But there’s simply too much low-hanging fruit around that isn’t being grabbed to start opining that billions of dollars in high-capacity investments stretching in all directions are warranted by reasonable present projections.

        As I’ve said both above and below, I’m not averse to a rail plan that fixes the Kirkland+520+Bellevue+Factoria/Eastgate-area access and traffic problems. But opining that eight additional miles of rail (expensive even in a highway median) become a “marginal” value-added proposition, when they literally don’t do anything better than the buses in HOV lanes do today, is more than mildly absurd.

        This region is building a transit system for the first time. We’re still new at it. It would be wise to learn a thing or two about which kinds of transit are actually good at which kinds of tasks, over what kinds of distances, and at what levels of demand. We have been shockingly averse to being honest with ourselves about such things so far.

      5. Well, William got to the first point of my post before I did.

        But your response confirms my suspicion that stubbornness and irrationality are having an outsized influence over what you are interpreting as “need”.

        Sorry. Functional societies do not spend billions of dollars on rail to the boonies because a few administrators have become attached to the precise arrangement of the combo garage+bus shelter.

        That doesn’t sound like an especially forward-thinking institution to me.

      6. Then, it’s time for these people in place to organize these lit-up students to demand a bus system that maximizes capacity to the school through, among other things, the opening of Snoqualmie River Road. Once that happens, we’ll know they’re serious about transit. Otherwise, I see the same death of a thousand cuts to station access which has already taken place in the Husky Stadium parking lot… while the local buses which might otherwise quickly feed people to the train are instead winding empty around Bellevue College.

      7. I think this is a two way street d.p., you are intentionally misinterpreting my posts in ways that, unsurprisingly confirm what you suspected all along. Don’t take my word for their friendliness to transit, ask them yourself instead of calling them irrational without much more evidence than infrastructure that handcuffs them to certain bus route through campus.

        Bellevue College is a growing regional institution, last time I was there I found they had started construction on yet two more new building where a parking lots used to be and I only graduated from there a year ago.

        They will have more students in the future, give out more degrees and drive more demand. They need rail and they need rail to places the urban places where most of the student want to live (and a select lucky few do) and where they hang out regardless of living there.

      8. All that rhetoric sounds great, Peyton. But on the ground, what we see – as we sit on a long, winding 245 or 221 or 271 – is that, despite everything they might say or think themselves to be, Bellevue College administration is continually handicapping all bus service from northward points to Eastgate. Among many other consequences, this will shortchange access to any Eastgate rail station. Can they demonstrate their commitment to transit by fixing this? Amid all this new construction, can they fit in a new bus depot in a better location?

      9. Again, what William said.

        You seem to confuse your desires with regional “needs.”

        Unfortunately, Bellevue College has some pretty awful fundamentals — both in location and in form — that counteract some of its potential strengths (size and impressive growth rate) when it comes to mass transportation amenability.

        There’s no question that the school’s students and faculty would be aided by better transit access across both the immediate vicinity and across the wider Eastside. But it remains hard to see the place as serious about its future access when there has been essentially zero concerted push toward improving the lot of those who attempt to access the campus today.

        You can’t fix awful fundamentals through will and hope. But you can overcome them through gradual progress. An interest in this progress has not been demonstrated, as far as I can tell. Rail will not fall from the sky just because the greenhorns think it might be nice to have, and it wouldn’t fix all of your access problems even if it did.

      10. William, I’ll be sure to bring Martin’s post up with them again next time I talk to them. They are in the middle of their yearly Student Transportation Director shuffle but this is something which the students ought to fight for and have the ability to accomplish.

        d.p., every study of rail that goes remotely close to the I-90 corridor will make an effort to serve Bellevue College. Sound Transit is serious about rail to Issaquah and serving Bellevue College is served at least partly by any reasonable options.

        This is no longer a matter of if, but how this corridor gets served when Sound Transit 3 is put on the ballot and the type of freeway running “BRT” that isn’t grade separated shouldn’t be acceptable anywhere in our transit system.

        Your plan would be absolutely ideal if you were the dictator of regional transit. But you have to convince Eastside voters to go for this, and I haven’t seen anything to convince me that they wouldn’t prefer a train, so long as their taxes don’t go up any higher. Subarea equity means your option just leaves money on the table.

      11. I think we are glossing over the bigger point. Look, I’m happy that Bellevue College students really want light rail. Great. I live in Pinehurst and I really want light rail. But despite the fact that Pinehurst has density exceeding every single census block along the I-90 corridor (really — look it up) we won’t have light rail. Why? Because it is Pinehurst! Jeesh. Just not enough density here to justify light rail. Not even close.

        Now, to be fair, Bellevue College is a school, and a decent destination in its own right. But take a quick look at some of the schools, and how they are “served” by light rail:

        Seattle U — Nothing, despite the fact that it is in the middle of one of the densest parts of the county. In other words, replace the school with dirt and a station there would be more popular than anything along the I-90 corridor.

        S. P. U. — Not as big as Seattle U, nor surrounded by as dense an area, but still pretty big and still pretty dense. Nothing planned (even the most expensive option to Ballard skips it by a long ways).

        North Seattle — We had to fight hard, and are still fighting hard to provide a bridge to the school, despite the fact that it costs peanuts compared to a light rail line.

        Seattle Central — Sits in the middle of a very dense neighborhood and was lucky enough to get service.

        South Seattle College — None of the West Seattle plans, even the 8 billion dollar ones, include the college.

        As I said, with a little bit of work (measured in millions, not billions) Bellevue College could have service that is similar in speed and frequency with rail. I can understand why these students want light rail: bus service sucks (from the sound of it). That is a common refrain. But let’s fix the bus service. In some cases (like Ballard) we’ve done all we can do. We have to dig a tunnel to get better. For Bellevue College, this is obviously not the case.

      12. Any additional round of projects involves “taxes going up higher”. By definition.

        That’s why overblown plans that yield lousy ridership and make no sense on their face are not going to pass the next round of voting! Not unless agency planners and the County Council and the Elders of Issaquah get really serious about rethinking their priorities and right-sizing their proposals such that each billion bucks spent starts earning about an order of magnitude more bang.

        Again, mark my words.

        Also, all of the stuff Ross said.

      13. Ross, you don’t seem to understand how large Bellevue College actually is.

        Last year BC had 18,919 students enrolled, which is bigger then any two colleges on that list combined. It is by far the largest CTC school in the state and bigger than every other public or private nonprofit institution of higher education in the state aside from UW and WSU.

        BC is also an Open enrollment school, which means it’s enrollment varies with the economy. At the peak of the recession it enrolled more undergrads then the University of Washington and more students of all kinds then Washington State University. Admittedly some of these are online only students, but part of that is because the classroom classes tend to fill up.

        Bellevue College 18,919
        Seattle U. 7,751
        Seattle Pacific U. 4,095
        Seattle Central 9,436
        Seattle North 8,639
        Seattle South 7,261


        If any of those schools had the enrollment to justify more service, they would get it. Seattle Central already has and North Seattle CC is being served via the pedestrian bridge as you noted. If SSCC had 2.5 times it’s current enrollment it would be much harder not to serve it.

        d.p., We will just have to see. If ST3 fails with this project included you can be contented by me eating crow. But before that happens lets see what happens at the ballot box.

      14. I didn’t realize Bellevue College was that big. But I disagree with your assessment. Seattle Central was not served by light rail because it was a college, it was served because it happened to be in the middle of one of the densest areas in the state. Like I said, NSCC wasn’t served, even though it would have only cost 50 million. 50 million, and they had a station across the street, and they didn’t bother to fund it! They didn’t even consider it. For a little more they could have popped out of the tunnel right next to it (and build a bridge over to Northgate) but again, that wasn’t considered. Maybe it would have been if the college was twice as big (as Bellevue College) but I doubt it.

        I think we are basically arguing without knowing what the costs are. If it turns out that serving Bellevue College with light rail only costs 100 million (or twice as much as serving North Seattle College for twice as many students) I’m all for it. If it turns out that spending 100 million on bus improvements wouldn’t make a dent, then I’m all for considering more expensive light rail. But I think we will find out that serving just these three stops (Factoria, Eastgate and Bellevue College) is extremely expensive, and that we can get way more value out of bus improvements in the area (by leveraging existing infrastructure — AKA HOV lanes). I would definitely argue that a Bellevue College is essential if I thought it made sense to create a light rail line to Issaquah — but I don’t (as I mentioned earlier, that part of the proposal is ridiculous).

      15. That’s fair. I think we would all like to see further study.

        That said in regards to the exact station placement on Capitol Hill I would be shocked if Seattle Central’s location was not a factor.

      16. That last sentence was a bit mangled, so let me try again. If we decide to build light rail to Issaquah, then I definitely agree that a station at Bellevue College is essential. However, I don’t believe we should build light rail to Issaquah.

      17. DP: Yes, we think that Eastgate to Kirkland could be a very nice ST3 option – one that would not happen in the current ST planning context.

        The base point we are making is to do a better study for this entire corridor. We think the study that was completed missed key destinations and made some odd corridor choices. Keep in mind our comments are all framed by the ST process and our perception of potential outcomes of their process. We want better study work so it will lead to better outcomes. We are not married to any particular scale and scope – only a particular level of quality.

      18. I’m with RossB and d.p. on this one. When I still wrote for STB two years ago, I editorialized a brief argument against far-flung alignments like this. I wrote that as an Eastsider who had lived in Bellevue for nearly twenty years and was using Eastgate P&R almost daily.

        I think it was in 2010 or so that ST cut back headways on the 554 from 15 minutes to 20 minutes midday because there just wasn’t the demand for frequent service. And that was with 40-foot Gilligs, not (3? 4?) 95-foot LRVs. Even before I moved, I remember some of the midday loads on the 20-minute 554 to be very sparse.

        I don’t think anyone’s disputing BC as a major destination. But I wouldn’t conflate student opinions and desires for tangible regional transit policy. I’m well aware of what the college students want. I served on Metro’s Bel-Red Sounding Board and worked on the Bellevue TMP, and I can remember the college needs sucking up a lot of our time.

        But I’m also a realist to the fact that politically, rail is a much shinier plaything than buses, despite the fact that both modes are pretty competitive in a corridor as sparse as Eastgate-Issaquah. There are many truths that need to be considered here:

        One, is that Issaquah remains, functionally, a bedroom community (I know many people who live in Issaquah, and not one of them live car-free there). Two, is that only a sliver of Bellevue College’s commuting base lives east of the campus. Students are still, by and large, commuting from the south and via the 405 corridor. And three, is that Lakemont will never ever deserve a rail station. Ever. A study is not needed to prove this fact.

        There is such a great distance between Eastgate and the next population center that the productivity numbers will make this line look really really bad, and rail less and less politically palatable as a whole to voters region-wide.

    2. Yup. This thoroughly nails it.

      I’ve been known to use the 545 as an example of why highway buses usually ≠ BRT. Though the bus passes just a mile from downtown Bellevue, it doesn’t stop anywhere with a reasonable access point or cross-connection to it. So as far as Bellevue is concerned, the route doesn’t exist. It remains useless except as a 3-node shuttle.

      But build a serious, permanent, high-quality, comfortable, and highly frequent transfer point at Bellevue Way, and the 545 becomes a major piece of multi-directional mobility-enabling infrastructure. Even more so if the landside connection is to a justifiable rail segment (i.e. rail that goes to places where stuff is and where people actually want and need to be, and that does it well).

      A Kirkland-Eastgate rail line with really good connections at 520 and Bellevue would be the first cross-Eastside rail option that I would wholeheartedly support.

      1. Subarea Equity means it doesn’t matter if you support an East King project or not, your money won’t be spent on it. All that matters is that you support the projects in your subarea and that the people in other subareas support their projects. Seattle Subway is trying the best options possible so that East King voters will be more likely to vote for this.

        Seems like a smart plan to me.

      2. Even that is false. Seattle Subway is now advocating a multi-billion-dollar crossing that would require an additional billion dollars of Seattle money to snake around Laurelhurst and through Windermere.

        I’ve already paid for anti-urban spacing in Rainier and under Capitol Hill, and for miles of track along I-90 and I-5 that is worthless for getting around my city.

        The notion of sub-area equity as an impenetrable wall that protects taxpayers and system users in one place from poor decision-making in another has long been a lie.

      3. I agree, d. p. Plus, we don’t vote on these pieces individually. We don’t hold a vote in Seattle, and say, “OK, now it is up to the east-siders to spend X amount of money — go for it”. We all vote for a big plan. If that plan sucks on the eastside, then it sucks. I don’t want to vote for a plan that is great for Seattle, but sucks for Bellevue, even though I don’t live there. I want good, high quality, high value transit everywhere.

      4. RossB, while it possible to ignore the reality of Subarea Equity and say that the money could be better spent elsewhere, I don’t think you can make the claim that the proposal above ‘sucks’. It looks better to me than anything ST has put out for the area.

      5. sorry — replace “sucks” with “is a horrible value that might burden Seattle with paying for poorly performing stations while far more sensible area sit waiting indefinitely for service”.

        Oh, and I’m not ignoring subarea equity — see my previous comment.

    3. Ross,

      Eastgate and Bellevue College may be just acceptable if they’re alongside the freeway, but the Factoria station should be about a quarter of a mile south of the south service road to be reasonable. It’s the same thing as Kent-Des Moines Road versus South 240th in Kent: put the station where it has a full walkshed and serves the density.

      The station should be under SE 38th right at Factoria Boulevard. Thirty-eighth diagonals northwest west of Factoria Blvd so it offers a sweet transition under I-405 to the south side of I-90. To the east there is undeveloped (and probably publicly owned) land north of the elementary school that leads to the edge of the ravine by which the freeway ROW can be reached. Overcrosss the freeway and run down Eastgate Way to the TC using the current engineering.

      There’s a more detailed post about this possibility here:

      I agree with the desirability of adding more stations between Eastgate and Issaquah if the train goes that far. The area will fill up with some of those million people expected by 2040.

      1. That location sounds about right to me. I used to work there, back when the buildings were mostly owned by Attachmate. 38th and Factoria is within a minute of the freeway, which is why I think it simply makes sense for all three of these areas to be served by buses. Add some HOV ramps, some light priority and be done with it. For a lot less money, the area could be served really, really well.

        The obvious route for all of them is to simply get on the freeway, and go to Mercer Island. This means that the only thing you lose is the connection between them. It wouldn’t be that hard to back track, though, since Mercer Island is not that far away (it takes four minutes to get from that Factoria spot to the middle of the island). As someone who commuted from the north end to Factoria, I would have loved that commute (take the bus downtown, then a frequent train to Mercer Island, then a frequent bus to Factoria). Even a transfer from the South Bellevue Park and Ride would be OK.

      2. >> The area will fill up with some of those million people expected by 2040.

        Not necessarily. Suburban growth has slowed. Partly this is because we have (legally) slowed down, or stopped green field development. This means that the suburban areas have to grow the way the cities do: up. Building higher is expensive, and thus tends to happen on more expensive, more desirable land. The land in the city is simply more desirable right now. It wouldn’t surprise me if the suburbs continue to grow more slowly than the city.

        This doesn’t mean that this area won’t grow — just that light rail won’t make sense for this area for the foreseeable future (especially since bus service has the potential to be really good through here). Grade separated light rail has two big advantages: it is grade separated, and it can handle higher volumes. Bus routes through here can achieve similar levels of grade separation as Central Link, while I doubt we will need to worry about handling the volume for a long time (if ever).

      3. Ross,

        If the only reason that transit is built through here is to link each node individually with the CBD’s of Bellevue and Seattle, then I’d say you’re right. But if the idea is to create livable, walkable centers with both employment and residences, then buses getting on and off the freeway are frankly terrible. There isn’t much traffic anywhere out there except right around freeway exits and the occasional arterial into a recently developed area which hasn’t yet been widened. Why try to jam transit through repeated ramp jams? If there were decent alternate arterials silver BRT would probably do the job. But there aren’t such alternate arterials.

        Whether or not extending to Issaquah makes sense seems worthy of skepticism, but nearly 40% of a Kirkland to Eastgate line would use already planned and paid for infrastructure. A good portion of the added Kirkland leg and the first 2/3 of a mile south and east of South Bellevue could be at grade.

        The best thing about the line is that it’s a “two-fer”. While freeway express buses can certainly serve I-90 corridor to Seattle CBD and Bellevue CBD and the Kirkland to Overlake/Redmond trips, the same vehicles can’t serve any two or three. If the trunk system is Link, co-ordinated cross-platform transfers at Hospital and South Bellevue all three primary trip pairs can be served by vehicles running on separated right of way, insulated from freeway ramp jam ups and the irritation of stop lights.

        It will attract more riders, and it very well might be the only thing that will entice East sub-area voters to pony up for ST3.

        They’re the swing constituency. Seattle will support it heartily; Snohomish and Pierce will be lukewarm at best, and South King dramatically against. The plan will need at least 45% from the East SA and a bunch of express buses running in the congestion on I-405 is not gonna be sufficient to get them to extend the tax window.

      4. Sounds like an argument for divorcing subarea-specific projects from a region-wide ballot measure, doesn’t it?

        And for the record, TOD (where some prior relationship to the urban sphere existed) is a thing. Magic TOD in the middle of freaking nowhere (because you happened to drop a train station there) is not.

      5. d.p.

        Yes, it’s an excellent argument for allowing different sub-areas to tax themselves differently. I quite agree.

        However, the reality is that it’s not Seattle voters or King County voters or even the voters of t he Sound Transit District that will make a decision to allow that. It’s the “Majority Coalition” in Olympia which will make it, and it has shown itself capable of and willing to screw the City of Seattle in every way of which it can think daily and extra time on Sunday for the Lord.

        So, how exactly do you propose to build any grade separated transit infrastructure within the City of Seattle without some sort of sop to the East Side to get their buy-in? Even just adding the relatively cheap Ballard-UW subway and nothing else in ST3 would require some sort of guideway work on the East Side. Maybe the extension to Redmond for the East Side, pushing down to Midway to the south, and extending to Alderwood Mall and maybe the I-405 interchange in SnoHoCo could pencil out reasonably closely, with any imbalance covered with bus improvements. Anything more in the North King sub-area will require some sort of new line on the East Side.

        So is that your suggestion for ST3? If so, say so instead of knocking down every other idea that’s investigated. Personally I expect that it’s too thin a stew; nobody would vote for it in the boonies.

      6. “Sounds like an argument for divorcing subarea-specific projects from a region-wide ballot measure, doesn’t it?”

        Yes, that would be great ideally. But we mustn’t make rapid transit dependent on waiting for a change in the law which may not happen and which would certainly take several years to get passed.

      7. Really, Mike?

        Rather than lifting a finger to fix a profoundly broken funding mechanism at its political source, we should agitate to spend literally tens of billions of dollars on crap?


        That’s your position?


        Well, since that isn’t going to fucking happen in a million years, I guess we’ll just have to achieve nothing whatsoever. Because your plan sits at a ludicrous distance from any semblance of reality.


        As I’ve said elsewhere in the comment stew, Anandakos, there’s a reasonable case to be made for a portion of this line, from Kirkland to about Eastgate. No Issaquah. No Sand Point floating whatevers. Just a reasonable cross-Eastside core corridor between every close-in major destinations and relevant connecting high-use bus corridors.

        But shackling any one project’s funding to any other project’s funding is, in the relatively near future, destined to become a political approach with diminishing returns. We are well past the time to start planning for a post-peanut-butter future.

      8. d.p.

        So again we agree exactly. I stated that I was skeptical of anything east of Eastgate. And I agree that sub-area equity is a stinking mess, clearly designed to favor suburbs since they have a veto over urban projects.

        But, and I don’t mean this disrespectfully, you are smoking a very fine example of Washington’s newest product category if you think that the legislature is going to unlock the cuff-links.

        That’s a tragedy. Or maybe a Falstaffian comedy of idiots, I’m not sure which. But it is what it is. And the “Majority Coalition”, burning with envy of and hatred for Seattle and Seattle citizens, is not going to change the law.

      9. Needless to say, not “cuff-links”. “hand-cuffs”. Oy vey!

        That was some tasty crow.

      10. I notice that you were also emphatic about “no Sand Point floating whatevers”. I can’t claim to have much of an opinion on that so I guess we don’t agree exactly. But I definitely lean toward having that be the last stage of the line, and only if it’s needed because of climate change refugees turning Puget Sound into San Francisco,

        They might and then, just like San Francisco, we’ll need a second Bay crossing……

        But it’s totally speculative, for sure.

    4. Ross, Issaquah jus going to be served by buses that will dead end at Mercer Island with a transfer to Seattle. Wouldn’t it be better all around to bring passengers to the Eastside’s biggest destination to make that transfer? That provides better intra-eastside service and connections, and avoids making full buses transfer their passengers midway to their destination without any benefit to riders.

      If this was Portland, we’d also be thinking about getting ahead of the development already permitted up and down the Cascade foothills down into the Kent Valley. The westside line in Portland took this approach rather than to build a freeway. The areas south of Issaquah along the foothills are where the most rampant development has been occurring, with minimal local roadways to support it. Rail in a place like that might play a more transformative role in development than in existing built-out cities. Just a thought for phase 4… I know nobody’s going to go for this, but it’s an interesting thought.

      1. The Eastside’s biggest destination is Downtown Belllevue witch is rather out-of-direction for anyone trying to get to downtown Seattle from Issaquah.

        While I can see your point a lot of these areas are seeing exurban development patterns which transit has trouble serving well. If you built such a greenfield line there is no guarantee developers would build walkable neighborhoods around the stations. Furthermore given the politics of transit in the region you’d risk a lot of ire and erode support for projects with better near-term ridership prospects by building a ‘train to nowhere’.

      2. The detour to South Bellevue adds only a minute or two at grade-separated speeds. That has to be weighed against the advantages of leveraging the existing East Link track investment, and serving both Issaquah-Seattle and Issaquah-Bellevue trips simultaneously.

  11. I love everything about this. Especially that given the way this is angled, the Kirkland-Bellevue route can be extended to the north and to the south with ease. Ultimately we’ll want a Lynnwood-Bothell-Kirkland-Bellevue-Renton line and this seeds that nicely.

    1. Robert loves everything about this.

      Do we need any more proof that this proposal is overblown and ineffective?

    2. As an Eastsider, I love it too. I can easily get to downtown Kirkland from my house by bus, and then the entire Eastside would be a quick train ride away. That’s just my gut reaction as a resident with no transit-planning expertise, but this would revolutionize the Eastside and make a lot of lives easier. Let’s get a study ASAP!

      1. Thanks Emile – very much our point. The long range vision and options east siders can get behind. Something we found to be lacking in the ST studies.

    1. This would help folks from Totem Lake, but so too would a scaled down version, connecting Kirkland to Bellevue. Add a station right on 520, in South Kirkland. Now a bus from Totem Lake, headed towards Montlake would stop at that station, thus allowing riders to transfer to Bellevue and Redmond. It would become the regional transit center, along with Mercer Island, which means that you could easily transfer to other buses in the area. Since there would be little need for a Totem Lake bus to serve Bellevue or Redmond directly, the bus that quickly goes to the Kirkland 520 station would be very frequent.

  12. I’d like to see funding tied to the willingness of municipalities to build density that actually supports Light Rail as a mode. If you burn in the ROW you can always build future infill stations once these areas have wised up to the benefits of density. Right now I worry that the older generation who carries most of the vote on the Eastside will demand too much parking.

    Buses on I-90 are actually very fast, and they have flexibility for express service as well as tails like Issaquah Highlands which are not on this map. Being that this line will take years to design and build, I think we should focus efforts on a transfer facility at MI or S. Bellevue.

    1. +1 about the speed and tails. Fortunately, ST and Mercer Island are trying to design a really good transfer center now, including staging areas where departing buses can hold for the train.

      1. I think the Mercer Island station has tremendous potential in this regard — I think ridership for that station will be really high. I would like to see the South Kirkland park and ride serve the same purpose for 520. That is why I like the idea of the scaled down version — Kirkland to Bellevue. If it takes a while to get from 520 to the South Kirkland Park and Ride, then I would move the station to right next to the freeway (as it is on Mercer Island).

      2. The fact that King County just rebuilt South Kirkland P&R and got a bunch of apartments built there in what’s otherwise a pretty crummy location doesn’t make the idea of moving it to the side of 520 any worse, but it makes it less likely.

      3. Otherwise I think Ross (and d.p. above) basically has it here. Build significantly better Bellevue-Kirkland transit, build an efficient transfer between it and 520-based express routes, build a freeway station along 520 in the Bel-Red area.

      4. @Ross, Al,

        If you build Kirkland to Bellevue you will immediately face demands for run-through trains from Kirkland to downtown Seattle. Now maybe East Link will have low enough demand from Spring District east that every other or every third train (though every third would make for 27 minute headways in Kirland, not exactly LRT standard). Eighteen minutes is stretching it.

        Mark my words; if those Kirkland originated trains don’t have somewhere to go besides Bellevue Station, they’ll be hijacked. People aren’t going to want to transfer from a train to bus when there are train tracks on which the train from which they’re transferring will run which go where the bus goes.

        Just stop and think about it.

  13. A final note about subarea equity. We are operating under the assumption that it exists and will continue to exist. Further, we doubt that regional taxes that focus on Seattle only transit will happen any time soon.

    That said – with the potential for very desirable projects in each subarea for ST3 we think a large regional plan would pass relatively easily here due to the scale of our general mobility woes.

    Our comments are supportive of moving Sound Transit to present the best possible package to voters – which requires a lot of work in the context of their long range plan.

    1. It’s not clear that a large plan is the best plan for ST3. It’s fine to let the imagination run wild for the LRP, but it makes sense to prioritize the projects that get into any funding measure to include the most critical pieces for future growth of the system. If those pieces have a clear way forward for expansion to other important, but less critical areas, it could encourage the voters to approve future expansion phases.

      For ST3 in East King, maybe OTC -> Redmond and Kirkland to Bellevue are enough to bite off for this expansion. A corresponding project in North King might be a second downtown tunnel, or Westlake to Ballard. For Snohomish, maybe just an extension north from Lynnwood as far as the money hold out. For South King, maybe an extension to Federal Way, more Sounder service and more ST express. For Pierce, perhaps Sounder to Du Pont, added Sounder service and Tacoma Link expansion.

      Obviously, all these off-the-cuff suggestions would need to be balanced for funds available in the funding measure and adjusted according to revenue forecasts.

      1. The desire to complete the Tacoma to Everett spine is what is going to drive the size of the ask for ST3, at least initially.

        Now in a world where sub-area equity isn’t a factor I’d say Lynnwood-Everett (on 99 without the Paine Field diversion), UW-Ballard, Downtown-Ballard, a second DSTT, and the extension from OTC to Downtown Redmond all have merit have merit as LINK projects.

        Serving Downtown-West Seattle Junction and Burien-Renton with Link may have merit but I’d like to compare both to a serious attempt to eliminate delays for bus service in the same corridors. For the West Seattle case the BRT proposals need a bit more infrastructure and lane exclusivity. For the Burien-Renton case some of the gold plating needs to be stripped off of the most expensive BRT option while retaining the elements necessary to reduce delays and route around congestion.

        I suspect extending Sounder to DuPont and funding additional trips might be worthwhile but again I’d need to see the studies first.

        There may be corridors in Tacoma worth serving with new rail projects but I’m skeptical.

        Everywhere else I’d say provide express bus and BRT service. This would include making the necessary investments to reduce sources of delay (HOV lanes, exclusive lanes, new ROW, grade separation, direct access ramps, flyovers, signal priority, etc.).

      2. I’ve been tallying the math in these Seattle Subway guest posts.

        What we’re seeing is a straight-faced presumption of $6-$7 billion per sub-area, just as the “next round”, with additional extensions and add-ons to come later.

        These are subareas of around 700,000 persons each, and most of the anticipated funding would be collected as direct sales taxes paid on end-user consumer goods.

        That equates to an average of $10,000 from every man, woman, and child in every sub-area. That’s before accounting for debt service. And the proposals treat this as “just the next round”.

        For dollar figures like that, the proposals had better be absolutely fucking stellar! But instead, we get broad defenses of them as “decent” at best, or inflated well beyond any reasonable demand for the sake of artificially increasing sub-area costs at worst.

        I have no qualms about calling that out as totally fucking insane.

      3. d.p. I think you are intentionally mischaracterizing what is being explained to you. For the fifth time in this thread alone, here is the likely budget range per subarea for ST3:

        Also, Seattle Subway is talking about preparing for ST3 AND for ST4 and ST5.

        Also, UW-Ballard and Ballard-DT will likely perform VERY high for New Starts grant funding so not all the money will be raised here.

        All this has been explained multiple times to you and yet you keep repeating it. I think it’s part of your ‘It’s not the Ballard Spur so I will do everything I can to stop it, even lying’ pathology.

      4. Except that d.p.’s math is absolutely right. Spending $6 billion on the Eastside comes out to roughly $10,000/person. So, that’s how much I and my neighbors would be expected to pay for a package that gets Link to Everett. That’s not an objection; it’s a fact.

        Variable tax rates, or ending subarea equity, are looking all more attractive.

      5. What William said.

        You may not appreciate my tact (or lack thereof), but I’m devoted to accuracy.

        The presumption that money will fall from the sky or from voters losing their minds, only to be wasted on the useless and terrible, is the lie.

      6. And Seattleite, for the umpteenth time, mark my words: Link is not going to Everett. That ish ain’t passing at the ballot box.

        Nor should it: Put a massive transit center at Ash Way (just past the last conquerable bottleneck), and be done with it.

        I’m not a betting person, but I’d wager real money that this is the furthest Link will ever stretch.

        So your overflowing region-wide tax trough will not materialize.

      7. $10,000 per person over 20 years is $500/year or roughly $42/month. I’m not sure what that translates to in terms of sales taxes. Likely something on the order of an additional .9% which I agree could be a tough sell given our already high sales tax rates.

        I’d like to see more of the tax burden shifted to vehicles, businesses, and property but other than a flat vehicle license fee (which has proved wildly unpopular with voters) I don’t see the legislature likely to authorize anything other than additional sales taxes.

        Using other revenue sources also throws off the ratios between the sub-areas as those are based largely on sales taxes with a small MVET.

        An open question is how much money does Sound Transit have over 20 years with existing revenue sources once operating costs and paying back bonds is taken care of. Taking this number, assuming 50% bond financing for new capital projects + FTA grants might present a somewhat more realistic budget for ST3. Especially if the legislature continues to say “fuck you” to the more urbanized parts of the state.

      8. I’m pretty sure we have next-to-nothing in additional capacity available with existing revenue sources.

        Also, be sure to count the extra billions in debt service (over 20 years or more) inherent in any new asks.

        There’s a reason that Los Angeles’s Measure R, spread over 30 years and over a much larger populous than in our regional district, expects to build less rail ($ for $) than Seattle Subway now proposes.

      9. There will be capacity in thirty years when the bonds are paid off, but that doesn’t help us now. We can’t wait another generation for high-capacity transit.

      10. You know what else doesn’t help us?

        Costly projects that don’t actually help us.

      11. DP. We are under the impression that ST intends to make it to Everett in the next measure. We built our assumptions accordingly. I happen to disagree with your repeated insistence that a large package would never pass. If there are projects in each subarea that people can get behind, it will pass by a mile. People get that we need to do something and they tend to like rail projects.

        As I have said many times before – and will again — a subway is an investment, not an expense. What we are doing now is far more expensive and our mobility problems will worsen unless we start fixing them. Its not totally clear to me why you are so over the moon over the large capital costs for the suburbs. If they want the projects (and it seems like they do) they will vote for them and pay for them.

        You call out $10k over 30 years like its insane (even though I question the basis of your numbers) in a town where it costs an average of $12k/year to own a car. We have to stop this kind of thinking — I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay attention to costs — but we have to bite the bullet on the fact we are decades behind where we should be on this front.

        The only subarea that we thought had a dearth of exciting projects was the Eastside — so we focused on two possibilities there.

        Are there other things we could have written about? Sure. Are there other corridors to consider? Sure. But we’re only human and this was a lot of work. We have to make some assumptions and choices.

      12. Keith,

        If it costs $12K to own a car in Seattle, the owners of cars — especially the owners of multiple cars — are not going to want to pay another $10K for transit improvements. They just aren’t and to think they will is possible evidence of certifiability.

      13. @anandakos,
        Remember the money for transit will be spread over a number of years rather than all at once.

        20 years we’re talking $500/yr or about $42/month
        30 years we’re talking $333/yr or about $28/month

      14. So let me get this straight: When a $4 billion boondoggle like the Alaska Way tunnel is rhetorically minimized by spreading its costs over decades and over the broadest possible tax base (the general state coffers), that’s misleading and unacceptable and feet must be brought to the fire.

        But when you propose $35 billion worth of rail projects — most of which are just as useless and wasteful as the 99 tunnel, and all of which would have to be paid ultra-locally and using the most regressive of taxing mechanisms — suddenly that’s “only a few dozen bucks a month!”

        (…for every man, woman, and child…)
        (…for decades…)
        (…in addition to the ST2 projects on which we’re still collecting…)
        (…and on top of a desire for similarly whopping and simultaneously-taxed ST4s and ST5s.)

        You can’t have it both ways. Sorry. A boondoggle is a boondoggle is a boondoggle.


        We are under the impression that ST intends to make it to Everett in the next measure.

        Okay, well then we’ll know exactly who to blame when the referendum fails spectacularly in at least 3 of 5 sub-areas.

        Do Snohomish’s board members even know their own county? Everett is a tiny city, and really far away, and not in particularly robust health. It’s cute and hardscrabble and I’d love for it to get a second wind, but it is not about to grow by 74%. That is just fucking stupid.

        Community Transit buses carry a mere 3,600 commuters into downtown Seattle today, and an even smaller number of UW kids. Really. And the 512 carries about 2,100 round trips after its “whopping success story” reorganization.

        Seriously. That’s the sum-total of the demand “justification” for this ridiculous extension.

        And hey, don’t forget that Snohomish today has precisely no full-time frequent transit corridors from anywhere to anywhere, and that outside of a couple of basic Everett urban coverage routes, it has no fucking transit whatsoever on Sundays.

        Really seems like a place that’s chomping at the bit for the world’s longest and sprawling-est full-time rapid transit line, doesn’t it?

        And while Snohomish politicians seem to spend their entire lives tripping over themselves to give Boeing billions of taxpayer dollars (while the company proceeds to dick over its local employees and flagrantly plot its exit from the state at every turn), nothing about its location or about the Mill Creek (etc.) sprawl favored by its employees lends itself to access by mass transit. The Boeing area has endless parking and relatively little traffic. No one will ever commute there by train.


        No matter how cynically the suburban ST board members may be counting on transit-starved Seattle voters to carry the day for boondoggles that will likely lose in their own subareas, they are wrong! $35 billion of insane beyond-BART functionally craptacular rail is not going to pass anywhere in our comparatively small and lightly-populated taxing district.

        This is a recipe for a return to the drawing board. Hope everyone’s got their pens ready.

      15. The DBT tunnel is destructive. Suburban Link is not. “not the highest payoff project” is not the same as “useless.”

      16. Your hyperbole is a bit over the wall here DP.

        We think the Aurora option to Everett is the most likely which puts your estimate for projects off by a factor >2. That puts ST3 right in the same wheelhouse, cost wise, as ST2 — which won by 16 points in a regional vote — and that was before the biggest apartment development boom ever hit Seattle. If you think that Seattle voters wont come out and crush at the ballot box for the three corridors we’ve discussed, you are just confused.

      17. Oh, really?

        Because I think $32/boarding subsidies in perpetuity to the ever-expanding sprawl from hell are pretty darned destructive!

        Oh, and that’s with trains running only 3 times an hour, often with only one or two riders per car. But the Mukilteo Speedway Access Ramp needs 6 trains per hour because reasons.

        We really are screwed if no one in the advocacy community can see that these proposals themselves are what is “over the wall”.

    2. Sounder to DuPont is of value only to 1/20 (optimistically) of Pierce SA voters. It’s a big (free) win for Thurston County commuters because it gets them by the Fort Lewis cluster*&!#, but it’s of very limited value to the average Tacoman, or even a Lakewooder. Forget the Puyallupers (“Puyallupists?” “Puyalluponians?”).

    3. d.p.

      I’m not a betting person, but I’d wager real money that this is the furthest Link will ever stretch.”
      For once we agree completely on something. I’d point to my post of last night “Two HCT lines to Everett is two too many.” [emphasis added]

    4. Way to miss the point Anakandos. This will enable more people to go car free.

      Also: I’ll engage those numbers a bit. If we are talking sales tax, a worth-mentioning percentage of those tax receipts will come from people who don’t live here. The $/person is significantly lower than that 30 year projection. So… Essentially less than half of just tue insurance on a car. Spread out over 50 years (which is appropriate) the captial cost is pennies a rider. So… Like I said. Investment / not expense. What we are doing now is insane/more expensive.

      1. Sprawl rail (and rumblings about mediocre TOD) has never, ever, ever allowed a single human being to go car-free, especially where it has heartily fucked over connectivity in existing built urban environments as a consequence of its misplaced priorities.

        The next century will see Americans needing to think hard and act aggressively in pursuit of “sprawl repair”, and transit will play a vital role in that. Some places will evolve and others will reorient. But these infinite-length, infinite-cost fantasy networks will play zero role in that. As in the Bay Area, you actually stand to make matters worse with your rail-to-infinity baseline.

        I am infinitely sad to see that awful geometric misapprehensions and bottomless rail-as-savior naiveté continues to drive Seattle Subway in the post-Ben era.

        Oh, and the percentage of sales taxes collected from non-locals really is minimal enough to be irrelevant for the point of this discussion. This method of taxation wouldn’t be so notoriously regressive if it were substantially about tourist shopping in any way.

      2. Your ability to pit urban segments against suburban lines is reaching absolutely hallucinogenic levels. Trashing these lines generates ZERO dollars for your pet projects.

      3. I’m actually kind of stunned by how over the top you are being DP. You keep misrepresenting what we are saying, which is your right, but really — what is it that you want us to do?

        We arent here to scream into the wind about rail to Everett and Tacoma and those projects just arent as horrible as you are representing them to be. You seem to be willfully forgetting that these lines all go two ways in your analysis of value and you keep throwing out the economic and environmental impact completely. No one ever said that building rail will solve all our problems — but it certainly will help more people get to more places without driving and enable the kind of resilient transformation the region needs. Whether or not the region takes the next step from there is beyond the scope of this discussion.

      4. I’m kind of stunned that no one is willing to riddle me the “more rail, with more frequency, at a higher cost than Los Angeles” question.

        If you’re going to advocate $5-7 billion in expenditures per subarea, x5 subareas, all with infinitesimal tax bases compared to the SoCal behemoth, that seems a pretty reasonable comparison to address.

        How do you expect to justify that to the voters when you can’t bother to address it with me?

      5. You know, the saddest and most bewildering part of all of this is that, if I were wrong, and if an unprecedented megacity-scaled number of $billions were forthcoming, and if you built all the political pet projects you’ve itemized, and if you made them fully automated and ran them every 90 seconds 24/7…

        it would still be arduous and inconvenient (if not impossible) to get pretty much anywhere in this city or this region without a car!

        These projects, in isolation or in aggregate, are really that fundamentally ill-placed and ill-integrated and incongruous with the reality on the ground, or with the realities of human mode choice as it relates to physical space, network cohesion, and access penalties.

        The reason I’m opposed to so many Seattle-area projects is that so many Seattle-area projects are just plain bad. Shame to spend tens of billions of dollars just to find out you’ve achieved nothing!

  14. OK, lets reel in some of that math. Here is an estimation assuming Snohomish chooses the Aurora corridor to Everett starting with Chris Stefan’s estimate.

    Snohomish: $2B
    North King: $5B (4.6 current + .4 urban growth trend +1.5B from fed for estimation) = 6.5B
    South King: $2.3B
    East King: $4B
    Pierce: $2.8B
    Total: $16.1B in local funding on $17.6B of projects. About the same size as ST2.

    We’ll call 10% of the tax base as coming from tourism/business travel- so that’s 14.5B in local funding. 5M people in Seattle area (30 years of 1% growth off 3.7M) =$2900/person on a 30 year payback period. We’ll call inflation and bond costs a wash to get 2014 dollars. Just over $8/Month/Person and a write off on federal taxes to boot. Hardly an insane burden. A lot of projects that would greatly improve mobility around here.

    I think there are projects ST and Seattle Subway have identified that would be very much worth this cost. I also think (based on past performance and a whole lot of public outreach) that the public will pass such a package by a landslide.

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