The Long-Range Plan studies are done, providing the Sound Transit Board with a menu of projects with which they can compose the next ballot measure. That assumes that the legislature, one day soon, gives them the authority to do so. But now that they have the price list for various projects, how much money would there be to spend?

In principle, the legislature can do whatever it wants in granting revenue authority, although what regional lobbyists request will shape the legislation. To provide some form to this exercise, I’ll make two assumptions:

Subarea Equity. Under current law, Sound Transit must use money collected in each subarea in that subarea. In principle, new legislation could change this rule, and no less than the Mayor of Seattle is in favor of doing so. A transfer from high-revenue, low-demand East King to low-revenue, high-demand South King has its merits. However, regardless of the law, a substantial transfer of funds from one area to another is likely electoral suicide. ST sent me the most recent revenue projections for 2009-2023 (below), which state that tax revenue from Snohomish, North King, South King, East King, and Pierce will arrive in the ratio 1 : 2.4 : 1.2 : 2.0 : 1.4, respectively. Of course, different taxes will generate money in different ratios, and the ST3 revenue period will be different than this one, but using this is much better than a wild guess.


(Before you take these actual numbers and start buying stuff, note that these are year of expenditure dollars, while the ST Long Range Plan figures are 2014 dollars. In other words, the LRP projects cost more if you’re using these figures.)

Paced by Everett. The principal objective of the Snohomish County delegation is to complete Link to Everett, and although variants of that differ greatly in cost, there aren’t really any competing projects. As Snohomish County also generates the least tax revenue, it’s hard to imagine regional leaders asking for less than necessary.

In the Everett-Lynnwood study, there were five different options. From cheapest to most expensive, in 2014 dollars:

  • D: BRT via I-5, $200-270m
  • E: BRT via SR99, $540-740m
  • B: Link via I-5, $1.7-2.2 billion
  • C Link via SR99, $2.3-3.2 billion
  • A: Link via SR99 and a detour to Paine Field, $2.5-3.4 billion

All the routes have the option of extending to Everett Community College for $10m (buses) or $200-300m (rail).

When I wrote about this study, I argued that Link via SR99 was the best option, as Paine Field added more cost for no more ridership. If Paine Field became a proper airport, that calculus might change. In any case, pleasing Boeing is a huge winner in Snohomish County and will likely trump the verdict of Seattle-based bloggers.

No one knows what tax level is truly plausible, but for a basic sense of scaling, Sound Transit collected the following tax revenues in 2013 from each subarea: $81m for Snohomish, $195m for North King, $101m for South King, $163m for East King, and $118m for Pierce. Making the simplifying assumption that construction inflation equals revenue growth, by doubling the current ST tax rate Snohomish could collect $1.2 billion over 15 years or $2.4 billion over 30 years, measured in the same 2014 dollars that the long range plan uses. Another way of looking at it is that the ST2 set of projects costed about $10 billion in 2008 dollars, or about $11 billion in 2014 dollars.

So here’s the table of budgets, in millions of 2014 dollars, using high-end cost estimates to include a reserve and account for the general tendency of megaproject costs to escalate:

Snohomish Option Snohomish North King South King East King  Pierce
Link SR-99/Paine 3400 8160 4080 6800 4760
Link SR-99 3200 7680 3840 6400 4480
Link I-5 2200 5280 2640 4400 3080
BRT SR99 740 1776 888 1480 1036
BRT I-5 270 648 324 540 378

The other wild card is federal grants. FTA formulas currently look fondly on high-ridership projects, and some of these (in particular some North King candidates) might get substantial augmentation from Congress.

STB reported on West Seattle/Burien/Renton, which traverses three subareas; Ballard/Downtown; Ballard/UW; the Eastside Rail Corridor; 520 crossings; Kirkland/Bellevue/Issaquah; and Federal Way to Tacoma. There is also the unfinished business from ST2 of getting to Downtown Redmond and Federal Way.

Anyhow, with these numbers and the LRP results, you too can assemble an ST3 package. Feel free to do so in the comments. Better yet, put together a proposal and share it on Page 2.

98 Replies to “A Budget for ST3”

  1. If the Feds like high ridership projects, then it seems like that they could balance out the revenue disparities. Once Downtown has finished eating up funds for the tunnels, the same amount could be used for heavy and light rail and BRT in South King.

    Ideally there would be some conviction about the utility of transit that unifies the provinces; however, obviously Prop 1 was not the right mix. Does South King having quick access to Bellevue via transit benefit Bellevue? Does an Issaquahian want to take his bike on light rail to the Interurban Trail to travel to work as an admin at Blue Origin? Part of the answer is that if we build a regional network, we should pepper our whole region with valued destinations.

  2. OK, I’ll take a first stab at this

    Assuming 99 to Everett via Paine Field, (I think Boeing will push hard for this)
    (using high numbers for all plans)

    North King (Budget=8.16B)
    —(assume an additional 0.5B FTA funding for all projects)
    Ballard to UW via A3 2.0B
    —(Stations added)
    Ballard to DT via D 3.5B
    —(modified, heads north from Fremont, and shares a station with Ballard-UW at Woodland Park.)
    DT-West Seattle-Burien-Renton Route A3 5.5B
    —(Some of this is charged against South King and East King Assume 1.5B)
    —(Second DSTT may be double counted 1.0B)

    South King + Pierce (Budget=8.8B)
    —(for south king, Some budget is used in South Seattle for West seattle-Burien-Renton)
    Extension of link to Tacoma, all routes appear to be well within budget.
    Expand Sounder

    East King (Budget=6.8B)
    Kirkland-Bellevue-Issaquah C3 (Modified) 3.0B
    —(Interline with East Link in DT Bellevue from Hospital station to South Bellevue Station)
    Bellevue to Renton Via LRT on 405 or ESRC ??B
    MSFT to Redmond via 520 ??B
    Kirkland to Bothell via Woodinville on ESRC&522 ??B
    —(future terminus of future LCW expansion)

    Upon completion link will run from Everett to Tacoma
    A second line in Seattle will run from North of Woodland Park to TIBS via South Seattle and a second DSTT
    Ballard will connect to the UW with a mid point Transfer opportunity to DT
    East link will reach Redmond
    East side will also have link from Bothell to Issaquah and Renton/TIBS

    1. Boeing doesn’t care at all about transit as a viable option for its employees to get work – a big reason why today, there is not a single bus, even peak-only, which connects Boeing to Seattle without a very unreliable transfer (heading north on I-5 to wait for a bus that has been stuck in traffic for who-knows-how long on I-405 is nuts). Boeing also randomly shuffles employees around between Everett and Renton with little notice, so it is physically impossible to choose a home that is guaranteed to stay reasonably close to work. They also have an unwalkable campus, once you get there, and don’t even provide shuttle service. It is an order of magnitude different than Microsoft.

      Given all this, Boeing can lobby all they want, but I don’t see why us taxpayers should give them anything. And, even if we did, Boeing could and would undermine the investment at any time by closing up shop, and moving the plant to another state willing to offer the company a sweeter deal.

      1. Actually Boeing does provide a set of shuttles operating around the Everett site. Otherwise I agree completely.

        With the 777X building construction in Everett, parking has become even more of a total nightmare than it always was.

      2. AFAIK Boeing is not pushing for Lynnwood/Everett to serve Paine Field. This is a dream of certain Snohomish County politicians. Personally I think the best choice is SR99 LRT with BRT (CT or ST) serving the Paine Field area.

    2. I doubt Sound Transit will want to take on the challenge of building a deep transfer station in North Fremont. Best guess is if Ballard-Downtown gets built it either continues on as Ballard-UW or there is a transfer station in Ballard near 15th.

  3. What does the Snohomish County delegation think of winding down Sounder North and shifting the investment to Link and replacement buses?

    1. I would have to guess that that will not be an option before link reaches Everett.

      After that point, I’m guessing that that will be available for discussion.

    2. Personally I think they should sell the slots (and maybe some of the train sets) to Amtrak Cascades as soon as they have LRT to Everett.

    3. The politics aren’t good for ending Sounder North. It’s not just Sno Co, but Kitsap and Island county ferry riders that want to keep it.

      More technical minded people would accept shifting resources, but first might want to try fixing some of the route problems. 2 that can’t be fixed are: the liquid nature of half of the walkshed at stations and the fact that getting to the train, especially in Muk, requires out-of-direction travel. Things that could be fixed include the short length of the route with limited access and destinations and the lack of bi-directional service. That suggests adding a station on the north side of Downtown and a second somewhere between golden gardens -interbay. Through-running some trains to and from the South Sounder route could help utility and might use equipment more efficiently. I don’t know how much those would help, but it’s probably worth studying cost/benefit.

      If Sounder North went away then ST would need to replace it with regional bus routes to the ferries. Possibly crossing I-5/Link corridor and feeding into I-405 BRT. Does anyone know if ST could sell their 4RT to Cascades ? WSDOT could expand intercity rail and only pay for the track usage north (or east) of Everett.

      I’m not certain doubling the ST tax will pass, but…
      Here are a few other things that SnoCo might want in addition to Everett Link:
      -NB direct access ramps at Ash Way
      -HOV connection from I-405 to I-5
      -BAT lanes in several corridors (196th, 164th, 128th, SR527)
      -Infill Link Station at 220th
      -Freeway station on SR525@164th
      -Freeway station for bus/rail interface at Mariner P&R 128th (unless I-5 option is chosen for Link)
      -Annexation and extension of ST express bus to Smokey Point, Lake Stevens, Monroe.

      1. Those items you have listed for Snohomish County make a lot of sense. I wonder how much they would cost? As I said below, I think the cheap projects (BRT) leave Seattle with too little money, while the more expensive ones (light rail) mean spending too much in all the areas. But maybe BRT plus those projects would bump things up into the “good bang for the buck” category.

      2. ST Express to Smokey Point would be a godsend. Smokey Point TC is already the hub for North County CT service, so it makes total sense to extend it there once the area is annexed into the Snohomish subarea.

      3. The district ends at Everett. Marysville and Arlington would need to be annexed into the district for ST Express to reach Smokey Point, preferably around the time Lynnwood Link is finished.

  4. Wouldn’t make too many definite declarations about suicide by subarea. In the time it’s likely to take to get the legislature to do anything, financial or otherwise, many things could change. This is why Nature created term limits via death.

    Suppose residents of two subareas or more notice that their employment locations and lifestyle require daily inter-zipcode travel. These trends are already well in motion, and vector is likely to get stronger with passage of time- especially with plate tectonic speed of transit development in Washington.

    Mark Dublin

  5. There are two aspects to the subarea situation we are in right now:

    1) Each area pays for their own project.
    2) Each area spends the same amount, proportionately. If one area spends a lot, the other area has to spend a lot.

    I don’t like either idea, but I think the first idea is a lot more politically popular than the second. The first idea is supposed to be fair and a lot of people see it that way (I don’t, but that is a different matter). The second idea is meant to encourage everyone to build out their system at the same time. There is an argument to be made for this. It encourages the systems to work together. Otherwise, it is possible that one area will build something elaborate, while the other area builds nothing. Personally, I don’t think anyone is really worried about this, especially since we have built the major region crossing lines already. I know I’ll be able to get to the airport and the east side by rail, so what do I care if I have to get to Everett by bus (I wouldn’t mind).

    More to the point, this post shows how messed up the current system is. If I’m a Snohomish County taxpayer, I would probably vote for BRT. It’s not ideal, but pretty cheap for what it delivers. But Seattle residents, on the other hand, can’t get much if Everett gets BRT. They could probably improve a handful of bus improvements (to places like West Seattle) or maybe some very short lines (to South Lake Union, or Belltown and Uptown) but it is very hard to serve Ballard with a decent system for that much money.

    On the other hand, even if Snohomish County wants to pay a lot of money for light rail, that puts Seattle in basically the opposite bind. Do we really want to spend 5 to 8 billion this round? What exactly does that entail? Does that include South Lake Union or the Central Area? If not, when exactly are we going to build that, if we spend 5 to 8 billion on only Ballard and West Seattle? Things get worse for the east side. Light rail from Kirkland to Bellevue makes a lot of sense, but spending four to seven billion dollars means you spend a lot of money on lines that really aren’t that valuable. There is a sweet spot for projects and project spending, and this misses it by a mile. The cheap plan is way too cheap for Seattle, and the expensive one is way too expensive for everyone.

    1. I agree with you – this is a really stupid way to decide what to build – except that I think Seattle could easily fine ways to spend $5-8 billion on lines from Ballard, a new tunnel downtown, West Seattle, etc… It’s really too bad the Sound Transit district wasn’t drawn a little smaller. You’d have a higher proportion of progressive urban voters and more support from building out from the center. Then the transit we need in the city wouldn’t be depend on building unneeded rail to Everett.

      On the other hand, I’m skeptical that a plan costing $25-30 billion stands a much different chance of passing than one costing $12-15 billion. At some point, billions are just billions, and voters will just know it’s expensive. If the ST3 offers something people enough people like, and the vote happens in a high-turnout presidential year, it should pass. If we offer substandard routes between places not enough people want to go, it won’t pass. I think it’s really that simple.

      The biggest challenge might be finding ways to spend the East King money: will Kirkland-Issaquah, Redmond-Microsoft, 405 BRT, and part of a Renton-Burien route be enough?

      1. I wouldn’t call Lynnwood-Everett “unneeded”. The ridership is reasonably solid for a suburban rail line. The travel times are competitive with both current bus service and driving (depending on congestion). In terms of $ per rider it looks better than anything for ST3 other than Ballard-UW.

      2. Funny how you take Sound Transit’s (or SDOT’s) ridership estimates as gospel when they support your agenda but claim they are pulling numbers out of their ass when they don’t.

        All the numbers come from the same place. The models are ones accepted by the FTA with future population estimates from the PSRC.

        While I’m aware there are issues with PSRC’s population model those are issues of seriously underestimating future population. Revising the population estimates to better reflect reality is likely to result in more ridership not less.

        BTW the PSRC population projections aren’t just important for transit planning but impact zoning, road construction, sewers, water, electrical service, fire protection, police protection, schools, hospitals, and parks.

      3. So Everett not only reviving, but nearly doubling, should now be deemed an underestimation?

        A million new people over the next 30-40 years, spread across the Puget Sound but largely concentrated towards its logical center, is not unreasonable.

        But as I’ve pointed out so many times before, housing is not a fungible resource. Location matters immensely. Successful places tend to build on proximate successes. Remote outposts do not, historically, revive (or spring from nothingness) merely because someone puts in a long and winding (and still comparative slow) train. Any number of other economic stars — and a whole bunch of luck — need to perfectly align.

        The PSRC’s numbers are bad because they underestimate the appeal of places like the C.D. and grossly lowball the growth of Ballard, and because they presume that writing the words “Federal Way” and “Totem Lake” on a checklist will miraculously give those places identity and value.

        Everett isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Issaquoffice Park. No matter how many shiny rails you build. Sorry to let reality intrude upon the magical thinking that passes for “professional acumen” around here.

    2. A sensible change to sub-area equity that would preserve your point 1 would be to allow differing tax rates in each sub-area. That way, an area that had high needs and the willingness to pay for it could tax themselves at a higher rate to cover the budget. An area with lesser needs could tax itself at a lower rate and have a smaller project list.

      I’m not sure if the politics of such a scheme would make a tax measure easier or harder to pass.

      1. I think that the same-across-the-region tax rate is there because Seattle wanted it. It does not want shoppers to buy big ticket items in South King to its detriment.

    3. I really don’t have much to add to this battle of transportation lameness anymore.

      One of two things will happen:

      A) The whopping, unsupportable, megalopolis-scaled ST3 envisioned by the debate shapers will fail at the ballot. The city and region will be forced back to the drawing board. Perhaps the uniform tax level will meet its overdue end. Perhaps the truly necessary projects will be killed by a thousand compromises and scalebacks (and, oh god, streetcars). Either way, the revised process will entail years of delay and Seattle will continue to suck at behaving like a city.


      B) The whopping, unsupportable, megalopolis-scaled ST3 envisioned by the debate shapers will succeed at the ballot. Tens of billions of dollars and years or decades later, the region will have over a hundred miles of shiny new rail at which to gawk. Back-patting will be rampant. Then people will start to realize that they still can’t get anywhere they actually need to go in a time-competitive and non-laborious manner. The access penalties remain too steep. The coverage of built-up areas remains too scant. The sprawl lines connect no one to nowhere. The Bailo dream has been rendered in concrete and steel, yet the overwhelming majority of regional trips, commute or otherwise, continue to happen in cars. And as Ross said above, with decades of double-strength debt service still to be retired, nothing more can or will be infilled. Ever!

      I’m done concerning myself with the gleefully doomed-to-fail. Enjoy your political spinelessness and your menu of pathetic outcomes.

      I’ll be sure to check back in a few years, from some less endemically stupid part of the world, with an inevitable “told you so” barrage.


      1. Sound Transit didn’t use all of its bonding capacity for ST2. Even at the current tax rates I believe there is money left over after 2023 once debt service, reserves, maintenance, and operations are paid for. Furthermore the bonds issued for Sound Move and ST2 will be retiring over the period covered by ST3.

        There is no reason to believe Sound Transit will do things any differently for ST3.

        This means, yes Virginia, there will be capacity for additional projects after ST3 without the need for additional tax increases.

        It also means that without additional tax authority either your scenario A is likely with lots of “value engineering” and surface rail or we’ll see the “Ballard-UW and fuck you” option you seem to advocate.

        The political reality is ST3 is the best chance in the near term to get additional tax authority for building transit in the near term. The legislature is extremely unlikely to Grant Seattle billions of dollars of new tax authority to build transit on its own. Even if that were to happen the resulting lines probably wouldn’t look too different from the North King portion of your scenario B.

        The chances of getting taxpayers outside of Seattle to ever pay for urban rail are unlikely in the extreme. Perhaps when the Mellinials and younger generations outnumber the Boomers and Gen Xers but not before then.

      2. Making me break my silence to remind you that “Ballard-UW and fuck you” is not something I’ve ever said. Funny how not “towing the line and advocating billions in waste with poor outcomes” is confused for animosity around here. In most places, that’s known as “thinking before acting”.

        And on what basis do you believe that ST has the right to continue collecting taxes in perpetuity once the specific voter-approved bond allotment has been retired?

      3. ST2 gave Sound Transit the right to collect the full amount of its tax authority forever.

        Politically they are unlikely to extend taxes beyond what is needed to support operations, maintenance, depreciation, and reserves without a public vote.

        Still asking voters to extend an existing tax is much easier than convincing them to impose a new one.

      4. You’re correct those are the two outcomes, but I have no idea why you’re spinning #2 so negatively. The numbers show that rail to Everett means Ballard-UW AND Ballard-Downtown and possibly the junction too. It’s close to everything you’ve advocated for and then some. But instead you’re obsessed with other people voting to use their tax money to build projects they like but you deem unworthy.

        That said, you’ve made it clear you hate all the neighborhoods with good transit access in this city, and refuse to get a car, so you probably would be happier in some other city with different institutions.

      5. If you are truly okay with spending however many billions of dollars, and arriving at results so ineffective and so poorly integrated that transit will remain the worst way to get pretty much anywhere near or far — including some of the busiest parts of the city, thanks to a disdain for network coherence and the opportunity oversights Ross mentions — then there honestly is no chance of arriving at philosophical common ground.

      6. I agree that if you’re more concerned with denying other people what you think is wasteful than getting what you want, then there is no common ground here.

      7. There’s wasteful, and then there’s just plain useless. This 30-billion is the latter.

      8. Please hold the hyperbole. Tens of thousands of people will use the suburban lines. A poor cost-benefit? Perhaps. But clearly not “useless”.

        Nor do any of the scenarios I suggested above total $30 billion. And here I thought you’d look at the BRT SR99 scenario, and get excited about something just big enough to build Ballard/UW while not having to dish out much rail to the undeserving outsiders.

        But even if you truly think that Snohomish County is simply collecting dollar bills and lighting them on fire, that still bothers you more than you like getting everything you desire for your neighborhood. I frankly find that incredible.

      9. d.p.
        I haven’t seen a single local rail transit study you’ve liked other than Ballard/UW. You’ve used the same dismissive hyperbole toward them and the communities served as you used for Federal Way/Tacoma and Fife and Milton. I’ve also seen you claim for dense in-city neighborhoods that they already have “plenty of bus service” and therefore don’t need/deserve rail (note an argument that can be used against your precious Ballard/UW).

        In short I’ve seen you use just about every rhetorical tool in the anti-rail and anti-transit toolbox other than the ones claiming transit attracts crime, advocating spending taxes on roads rather than transit, or the “social engineering” canard.

        Effectively that is “Ballard/UW and fuck you” or at least is likely to be seen as such by the public at large if that is the only new rail line proposed for the next 20 years.

        I agree there are a number of neighborhoods including SLU and the CD that need better transit service. However your track record here is not great. I’ll point to the rather dismissive tone you’ve taken toward the Ballard/Downtown corridors since the Ballard/UW study was released or the extremely negative hyperbole you’ve directed toward the First Avenue Streetcar. I suspect that if there was a study on the table serving the CD with an actual corridor, ridership and cost estimates you’d find a way to be equally dismissive.

      10. Well, Chris if you’re trying to paint me as anti-transit, you’re too wrong to bother responding to.

        Meanwhile, Martin, underlying your escalating character-assassination attempts appears to be a genuine misapprehension: You truly seem to believe that this $25-$30 billion in urban/suburban horsetrading will bring about as successful an urban/suburban hybrid as that which you’ve witnessed in D.C.

        Sadly, you are wrong. The cumulative plan is ineffective at all levels.

        The glorified commuter rail spindles may even be the least of the offense, because at a minimum those will succeed in their limited commuter-focused purpose.

        Unlike D.C. Metro, however, Sound Transit can’t design one single functional urban segment to save its life (or ours). MLK zips along just out of reach of the majority of area residents — for the first urban rapid transit connection in Seattle history, its “paradigm shift” remains pathetically negligible, with parallel buses still the core carriers in the area by any non-fanciful analysis. Meanwhile, it doesn’t matter how much I do or don’t “hate” Capitol Hill, because most of the zero-character breadbox/monolith apartments I could live in will be so fucking far from the single subway stop as to render the train useless for 95% of trips. Who the hell would walk 15 minutes to only save 10?

        And don’t forget that Keith’s recommended Ballard-UW variation isn’t part of any official proposal. ST still thinks it wise to expend $2 billion on a 3-mile subway across that complex and multiplicitous corridor… and then to stick it with 1.5-mile spacing!

        If 20 years and billions of dollars from now, people still need to take the Worst Trolleybus In The Western World to access the Greenwood or Fremont or Aurora corridors — while a zillion-dollar subway zips along beneath, not bothering to connect to anything — then I hope citizens will be calling for ST heads on pikes.

        Let me be crystal clear: ST’s vision is holistically bad. It’s bad everywhere, from the overserved outer spindles to urban lines custom-designed for maximum access penalty. It is nothing whatsoever like D.C. There is no reason to horse-trade it into existence as currently plotted. Insist on toeing that line, and you will forever doom transit in this town.

        That’s really all there is to say on the subject, and I’m exhausted from repeating it. Retain your rosy glasses at all of our peril.

      11. I most emphatically do not think the end result will be as great as the DC Metro. There are a host of structural reasons for that.

        But Link is a huge improvement over the existing situation and totally worth building. You are now apparently ready to give up on ST projects now at 0% designed, which means you’re opposed to any remotely plausible rail project. You may or may not consider yourself “anti-transit” but it’s clear you’ll be of no use in the battles ahead. That’s your prerogative.

        You could work with Seattle Subway – which totally shares your vision for what you most care about – but then you’d have to sully yourself with a coalition-building vision for 100 years from now that you don’t like. Far better to do nothing and complain about the result.

      12. You are welcome to your opinion of me, even if the effect is to cast aspersions against a rationalist, worldly adult who has never owned and hopes to never own an automobile.

        But the fact is that, like any person aging out of infinite patience, I am slowly-but-surely giving up on Seattle transit. Roughly 2/3 of my daily trips involve some amount of car2go usage — far more than I might have imagined when I first signed up. My remaining trips are usually regrettable. Metro has zero interest in operating a transit system with the efficiency to earn the prefix “mass”. Sound Transit has no interest in nudging the “is transit worth my time?” algorithm beyond a handful of arbitrary nodal long-hops.

        Since I happen to personally like the individuals involved in today’s Seattle Subway, I too wish I were less cynical and more hopeful about the process-as-presented. But when I inspect those future maps, and I seem to be the only one who notices that 99% of trips, near and far, will be unimproved in any way by their buildout, I cannot refrain from speaking up on that point.

        Do it right, or don’t do it at all. Ineffective transit honestly makes no difference to reality.

      13. I agree that west Ballard is a terrible place to live if you want to mostly rely on transit, unless your range is a small one. In the past I’ve suggested you get a car.

        I just don’t see your attitude as improving things over any length of time.

      14. I don’t live in “West Ballard”. I live in “Ballard”, at the intersection of Bustling All-Purpose Urbanity Avenue and Zero Long-Term Parking Whatsoever Street and 400% Growth Target (With Predictable Bottleneck Consequences) Boulevard. Owning a car here would not only be exceedingly difficult; it would make me a contributor to the problem.

        But for the purpose of this conversation, it’s not the personal consequences that concern me. It’s the fact that this place (far more than 15th Ave, or, say, Dexter), represents exactly the kind of successful urbanity building upon successful urbanity that Seattle Transit Blog endorses from all angles.

        But apparently, when it comes to endorsing the kind of transit that makes this place — and entire cities worth of these places — feasible, Seattle Transit Blog prefers to throw its weight behind lots of exceedingly expensive “good enoughs”. Even when the outcomes — objectively, on the basis of the totality of observed human behavior and immutable spatial math — aren’t remotely good enough!

        This isn’t about 2014. We all knew well in advance that RapidRide would be lackluster — though I continue to find it galling how little Metro cares that its flagship service is unworthy of a ½-mile walkshed. I find it infinitely more worrisome that Sound Transit might implement one of two “permanent solutions”, with termini a reasonable ⅓ mile from where I sit, yet designed and spaced and integrated so poorly that they fail to solve any holistic mobility problem at all.

        Then multiply that x10, spread the results across the region, and fix no problems at great expense.

        There is a irreconcilable disconnect between the evidence-based principles you endorse, and the outcomes sought by the agency in which you’ve placed your faith and this city’s future. This is not about me. This is about tacitly accepting Lesser Seattle forever.

    4. What was the original reason for a common tax rate across the subareas? Did somebody specifically promote it and say they wouldn’t support ST without it? What did they hope to accomplish with it, and does that still matter? Or was it an accidental feature of the legislation. Most people don’t know don’t know the rule exists. or they greatly misunderstand what it does. So maybe the legislators who wrote it and the mayors who lobbied for it were confused too. Did they think it was necessary for equal representation when it really wasn’t (the spend-in-your-own-subarea provision alone is sufficient)?

      Telling one subarea they have to have the same tax rate as another subarea, when all its money is going to the first subarea’s projects anyway, is almost as silly as a statewide transportation bill that allows King County to vote on a tax for Metro — but only if the statewide bill that directly funds highways passes. Why not allow counties and cities and subareas to raise their own money for their own projects without these external restrictions?

      1. Excellent question, Mike. I’m curious about the history as well. Like I said, I can think of a decent argument for it, but at this point, I think everyone, from every subarea, doesn’t like it. With light rail already extending well into the suburbs and extending very close to the freeway, the best value for the suburbs is to add some really good bus service. This isn’t that expensive. It can still costs hundreds of millions, but not billions.

        For example, as Josh said about BRT for Everett ( why not add a bunch of stations on the freeway, and call it a day. The only advantage of rail at that point is that it can handle more volume. But if it can’t, then it is actually worse than light rail. You can’t expect light rail to run every couple minutes if the demand isn’t there. So build out the freeway stations (similar to Mountlake Terrace) connect it in Lynnwood, and you have a very fast system. Add in the changes Eric suggested ( and you add a lot of value for the money.

        I wish making Ballard to downtown or Ballard to the UW service was that easy. Everyone does. But it isn’t. There is no Ballard to the UW freeway. There are a couple of fast ways from Ballard to downtown, but that only works for the middle of the route, not the endpoints. Once you get close to downtown, you are bound to be slow (e. g. the Rapid Ride kicks ass from Ballard to about a mile before downtown, then it slows to a crawl, meaning that it still takes almost a half hour to get to Westlake).

        Meanwhile, South Lake Union and the Central Area can’t be reached by surface streets in a quick manner either. Serving those very important, very dense areas will require tunnels, and that costs a bunch of money. Simply put, it is a matter of building the appropriate project for each area, and so far, much of the discussion has been about building everything that everyone could possibly want, even though we ignore more important areas (based on the overly optimistic idea that people will eventually pay for everything everywhere).

      2. The only other advantage to rail is that you can operate it faster than you would really want to with buses. Witness the 70 mph maximum speed available on Houston’s light rail cars:
        However, SoundTransit currently doesn’t order such equipment for its light rail lines.

        Once using transit becomes competitive with driving in terms of speed, then you have a whole new ballgame in terms of attracting development to stations and creating development patterns because using transit becomes a more attractive option for far more trips.

      3. Sub-area equity was put in place because Rob McKenna and other East King County politicians were worried about subsidizing projects in Seattle.

        IIRC sub-area equity was something cooked up between the first and the second Sound Move vote.

      4. For city to city transit (say, Seattle to Portland) you are absolutely correct, Glenn. In that case, that is the primary, if not only advantage of rail (over a bus). But for regional transit (which is what we are talking about) the speed difference is minimal and practically meaningless. It is like saying you want to drive a Ferrari to the grocery store.

        The main advantage of light rail over a bus is that it can handle a much greater volume of passengers. This leads to a lower cost of operation (along with some other things). This is why I would never advocate BRT for a high volume line, or a line where an existing roadway doesn’t exist. By the time you spend the money for the BRT line, you might as well add rail.

        For Lynnwood to Everett, on the other hand, that isn’t the case. There just aren’t that many people traveling along that corridor. Furthermore, while 99 is a better route, I-5 isn’t that bad from a ridership standpoint. In other words, unlike Ballard to the UW, or South Lake Union to Capitol Hill, or the Central Area to downtown, or Queen Anne to Belltown, a route that follows a freeway is a logical choice, even if you are building all new roadway. But here is the kicker with BRT along here: You don’t need to build new roadway. Much of that is already HOV lanes. Just add the stations, Mountlake Terrace style, to the freeway, and you are done. Use the left over money (and there would be a lot of it) to do the dozens of other similar projects that will make a huge difference for folks (like connecting the HOV lanes from 405 to I-5). If you come up with enough projects, my guess is that you would have higher overall ridership and save a bunch of money.

      5. @Chris — But there are two parts to subarea equity (as I said). The first part makes sense if one area is worried about subsidizing another, but the second part makes sense only if you want to force one area to build just as much as you want to build. Again, I can make that type of argument for a lot of things (education, for example) but not for transit. Some areas just want to spend more money on transit than other areas (look at the recent ballot results). As luck would have it, those areas that want to spend more, also have more expensive, trickier projects. BRT from Lynnwood to Everett, especially if it involves freeway stations, is a reasonable project. BRT from Ballard to the U-District, or from South Lake Union to downtown, or from the Central Area to downtown, or from Queen Anne to Belltown to downtown is not. There would be little added, and the big problem (congestion that forces buses to travel in the single digits (MPH)) would not be addressed adequately.

      6. The thing is I’m pretty sure Snohomish County wants LINK from Lynnwood/Everett They may even be willing to pay for it.

        Based on Sound Transit’s studies it looks to be one of the best suburban rail corridors studied for ST3.

        Sure you can say “BRT only outside Seattle” but that limits the amount of money available for projects in Seattle.

      7. @Ross

        I think the uniform tax rate is an artifact of how Sound Move came about. First there was RTD/Sound Move with a uniform tax rate and no sub-area equity. Later sub-area equity was tacked on to appease Rob McKenna, Jennifer Dunn and other suburban politicians.

        I’d have to double check but I think the uniform tax rate may be part of the legislation that created Sound Transit while the requirement to spend money collected in a sub-area to benefit that sub-area might be only part of what was passed by voters. The good news is that means ST3 could change it. The bad news is I don’t think suburban voters are going to be too keen on paying for projects in Seattle.

  6. Martin,

    It looks to me like you answered your question in your own post. You posit that doubling ST’s current tax rate — a stretch by any rational measure — gives Snohomish $2.4 billion doll>ars of additional revenue. That’s barely enough to do Link via I-5, so it looks to me like Link on SR-99, direct or Paine Field is off the table.

    Some thing that your table omitted but should be included is the total price for all five sub-areas, and it’s a doozie. The SR-99/Paine Field option totals $27.2 billion dollars or just of $900 million per year. Given that there are about 4.5 million people, that means $200 per person per year, just for Sound Transit construction. For 30 years.

    Some winger will do the math and people will say “No way!”.

    Stop Link at Lynnwood and Midway, let Redmond pay for its extension and Seattle build Ballard-UW and have ST run it for easy network transfers. If the East Side wants Kirkland to Eastgate using the exisisting Link routing through Bellevue, it can certainly pay for it.

    The thing is that the South subarea is way too spread out to get value from Link as it’s currently being built. It might get some value from at-grade LRT with more frequent stations and branches to more destinations, but BART del Norte is not going to work for them.

    1. These suggestions make a lot of sense. I have to think Snohomish County policymakers are looking at the rough estimates and coming down with a case of sticker shock. If they and South King settle on true BRT rather than “extending the spine” with rail from Everett to Tacoma, I think that would be a win for the region as a whole. Whatever they decide, I think North King should be allowed to vote on a measure that raises only enough tax to fund a Ballard-UW District subway (preferably interlined with Central Link, if possible) and some major BRT improvements throughout the subarea that leverage our investments in ST 2. As an example, frequent, all-day service in a bus-only lane along a truncated 8 line between Capitol Hill and Lower Queen Anne. If that route were electrified, we could finally put the diesels trying to climb Denny Way out of their misery. Think of the return on investment: frequent service running that would connect Capitol Hill, SLU, Denny Triangle, Belltown, Lower QA, and Link (at the Capitol Hill station) in a remarkably efficient manner, and the line could do this while avoiding downtown bottlenecks.

      Other BRT connections I think are worth studying are a Ballard-Fremont line (assuming the Ballard-UW line stays north of downtown Fremont), a Northgate-Lake City Way line, the city’s Madison BRT proposal, and improvements to RR C. I’m sure there are other possibilities worthy of study. The point is, whichever lines are chosen, we could get a lot more value and make Central Link more useful with some relatively inexpensive (compared to new rail) BRT-level improvements spread throughout the subregion. There’s no way we’ll be able to build new light rail to improve transit time in every corridor.

    2. Last I checked elected officials in Snohomish County were really big on having Lynnwood-Everett light rail. I think anything less than an extension to at least Ash Way isn’t going to fly. I’d be very curious what portion of the projected ridership is from stations North of Ash Way. Furthermore there is a decent chance an extension to Ash Way (or even the entire Everett-Lynnwood alignment if the SR99 option is chosen) could qualify for Federal grants.

      I know Federal Way politicians really wanted LINK to extend as far as FWTC, I’m not sure if there is much support beyond that for further extensions in South King. I happen to agree that extending any further than Midway is a huge waste of money.

      Do remember for ST3 there are 4 factors that can reduce the tax increase needed to fund even a “gold plated” version:
      1. Funds from current taxes not needed for operations, debt service, and reserves.
      2. Bond retirements (see also #1).
      3. Federal grants (North King projects plus Everett-Lynnwood and Burien-Renton).
      4. The length of time ST3 covers. It makes a difference if we’re talking about 15 (ST2), 20 (Sound Move), 25, or even 30 years.

      1. Chris,

        There are going to be no more “Federal Grants”. People have to understand this; the Federal Fuel Tax fund is exhausted and the Republicans have a lock on the House of Representatives through 2022 at least. Regardless what the Obama Administration would like to do for increasing urban rail service, it isn’t going to be able to do it,

        The same thing is true for Washington, although it’s at least conceivable that in 2016 the State Senate might be captured by Democrats for two years. Maybe at that time some sort of variable tax rate for SoundTransit might squeeze through the legislature. But don’t count on it.

        If Seattle wants to build urban rail it is going to have to pay for it itself with property or employment taxes.

  7. What about developing new east-west routes for north king county? Trying to get from Shoreline or Kenmore down to Bellevue during non-peak is an awful trip to do by bus.

    Also, perhaps we should consider building from Roosevelt to Bothell? Traffic along 522 is getting worse and it seems to take forever to build out a rail line in the Seattle area.

    1. ST’s long-term plan includes a line from Northgate to Bothell, and I think from Lynnwood to Bellevue. But the corridors Martin linked to above are the ones ST chose to study for ST3, and it’s not likely to consider anything outside those in ST3, at least for large projects. Inexpensive add-on things like an infill station here or a Swift contribution there are another matter, if the subarea has a little space in its budget.

  8. Maybe Everett could do something like Tacoma did and do an initial stubbed section confined to the core urban area only, say Everett Community College to Paine. Then with a later measure, say ST4, they could do a Lynnwood connection something like Tacoma pushing to Federal Way; this would cut the initial section in half and the cost down considerably. It would also be nice if Sounder could add a stop at Paine or the LR could extend to the Sounder line.

  9. I like the idea of spending 30B on a full build-out. We could get a true metro system that actually would be useful to people (e.g. most of the key urban areas in the 3 counties would be reached).

    Here is the full breakdown:

    In essence, by using the more expensive North Link project as the benchmark you could build:
    Light Rail from Crown Hill to Ballard, to Interbay, to Queen Anne to Belltown to West Seattle to White center
    Light Rail from Ballard, to Fremont, to Wallingford to UDist, to Overlake to Redmond
    Light Rail to South park to Burien to SeaTac to South Center to Renton
    Light Rail from Totem Lake to Kirkland to Bellevue to Factoria to Eastgate to Issaquah
    Light Rail from Lynnwood to Everett via Boeing
    Light Rail from Angle Lake to Federal Way to Tacoma
    Also — there’s almost 3B left over for just Pierce county. I assume that could be invested in extending light rail further into Tacoma. There were several different options for the Tacoma Link extension that had much wider reach, we could build 2 or more of those now.

    1. Why is it that in all of these proposals linking Tacoma to Seattle on Link is backburnered in favor of Everett? Tacoma has more population and a lot of trips of the 594 leave Tacoma Dome Station full.

      1. For light rail to work well at what it does, it needs intermediate stations. The 594 riders are probably not going to want something like Link, unless express trains are available. In the old days interurban lines had express trains, but most lines built today in North America don’t do this.

      2. In the context of this post, the point is that if Link gets to Everett South King + Pierce will easily afford getting to Tacoma.

        Personally, I think Burien/Renton is a much better use of South King resources. But I’m not under any illusions that that conclusion will previal.

      3. It’s a longer distance and less integrated job markets. Everett is the distance of Federal Way, with populous cities and malls and Boeing plants in between. Federal Way to Tacoma is several additional miles with few people in between (mostly industry and the casino). South Snohomish County has a decades-long job-and-school relationship with north Seattle, while Tacoma and Puyallup were really a separate area until the 1990s and still has fewer ties to Seattle.

      4. The potential ridership south of Midway is very low compared (11k) to Everett-Lynnwood (50k). Really Burien-Renton is a better project but “completing the spine” is likely to get priority.

        Perhaps there will be enough money in the budget for South King to do both, but I’m not holding my breath.

      5. That Lynnwood-Everett 50K estimate presumes an unprecedented renaissance in Everett, including (no joke) a near-doubling of that city’s urban population. It also seems to involve a total misunderstanding of where Boeing employees live and how they get to work, and a willful ignorance about the problems inherent in inter-sprawl rail access and usage.

        It is, in a word, bullcrap.

        I have no idea how and when Snohomish officials gained such an outsized influence over every facet of ST planning discourse: a border-straddling station that puts North King on the hook for extra miles of track, deleting useful 130th for speed and “spacing”, exceptionalist claims that interlining is “impossible”, and, of course, the “inevitability” of overbuild interurban rapid transit as the scale-setter.

        But these are facts: Everett is a tiny city (much less populous than Bellevue). Current Snohomish-King transit commuting doesn’t even crack five digits. In-Snohomish transit usage is unimpressive in raw figures, and essentially negligible as modeshare. Hell, the county functions with zero transit on Sundays.

        50K and full trains speeding across the concrete tundra is a pipe dream among pipe dreams.

      6. I also wonder who would take Link to Boeing Everett for work. Most of the workers probably live east or near-southeast of the plant. Those living east travel crosswise to Link. Those living southeast would not drive to Link just to take it one or two stations — except maybe for a parking advantage. The people who would most likely take Link to Boeing Everett are coming from King County or from Mountlake Terrace or Lynnwood. Are they really a large percentage of the workforce or a large number of people?

      7. 130th was not “deleted”. It was a late proposal, and was not on the ST2 ballot map. Specifically, it was originally on one of the Highway 99 alternatives as an extra station, and when 99 was canned activists successfully argued to add it to the I-5 alternative (since if it was affordable/useful in one it would be affordable/useful in the other).

        The main reason Shoreline is getting Link at all is it’s on the way to Lynnwood. I doubt it would get an extension otherwise. Unfortunately there’s a hole between 130th and 175th where there’s no good place to put a station — no obvious population concentration. So they defaulted to 145th, mainly because the existing P&R was there and it “serves” two municipal entities. I think the P&R argument was more persuasive in the 90s and 00s than it would be now, especially after the Northgate community said it did NOT want a larger P&R (the first community to do so). But in any case, it’s a throwaway station. The issue is not whether there are one or two least-used stations in the middle, but whether there’s a stronger transit market beyond it (i.e., Lynnwood).

      8. And this is why I’m done. Volumes of spiral-justification virtual ink spilled, and all my eyeballs see is “blah blah blah”.

        130th is the sole connectively-indispensable station north of Northgate. But lo, here comes ST’s map, with every useless nowheresville highway station on it, but not that one.

        That kind of retardation is found in every inch of Sound Transit’s built and imagined network.

      9. I agree that 130th is vital and that many, many parts of the network design are stupid, d.p. But I think what Mike was trying to say is that it was never deleted because ST never officially included it in the first place. Let’s blame them for what they really did.

      10. >> It’s a longer distance and less integrated job markets.

        Huh? Seattle to Everett — 33 miles. Seattle to Tacoma — 36 miles.

        Integrated job markets? I’m not sure about that. If anything, I think you could make a more reasonable case for Tacoma because the airport is half way in between. In other words, my guess is more people travel from Tacoma to SeaTac than Everett to Lynnwood.

        But in general it is a silly comparison. Neither one needs light rail. Neither city will get the humongous growth that Sound Transit suggests. Neither one will ever be as big, per block, as the Central Area. But meanwhile, we propose nothing for those folks, while we dream of building a much more expensive line to cities that frankly, just aren’t that big. Oh, and as long as we are talking about future growth, how about dealing the growth that is happening right under our nose. In case no one has noticed, South Lake Union is booming. It is huge, and deserves a light rail line way more than either Everett or Tacoma. If only it was further away, and thus more difficult and expensive to service. If only it was in a different city, or county …

      11. Right, William, but that’s a distinction w/o difference.

        It was in the studies. Its merits are well-understand. But because ST is all about following manifest destiny to the next time zone, while giving no shits about the kind of intra-urban cross-connectivity that might yield them some honest-to-god riders someday, the station is missing from the final draft and might never happen.

        Whoops. Now your train’s empty.

        My point is that the constant “STspaining” on this blog is just an endless series of these semantic back bends, trying and failing to mask the inevitable failure of the policies and shoddy “political wisdoms” we’re treating as sacrosanct.

      12. The 130th station is far from off the table at this point. The simple fact that Seattle is pushing hard for it will make sure it receives proper consideration from the ST board.

    2. The attached chart shows capital expenditures, sans interest and operating costs, of around $30 billion for a gain of 282,000 riders. But the ridership numbers are really boardings, so the number of people benefiting from this is around 141,000. By the time this is built out, metro Seattle will have a population of more than 4,500,000 meaning that this will serve around 3% of the population on a daily basis. Yes, this isn’t the same 3% everyday, and yes the mobile population is less than the total population, and yes those ridership numbers might be too low for a high gas cost future, but even with those caveats, how can this make sense?

  10. This is all nice to talk about, but there’s a big detail that everyone seems to be forgetting: Without approval from the Washington state legislature, there can be no ST 3, as ST has already maxed out on its legal taxing limits.

    Why everyone expects a legislature, who has so thoroughly dragged its feet on finding a funding solution for Metro, to suddenly change its mind and grant Sound Transit the legal authority to double its tax rate, is beyond me.

    1. Well said. The R’s are going to keep the Senate soooooooo no new ST debt capacity.

      Big government, ain’t it grand?

    2. Well it’s right there in the first paragraph of the post. The first step is for the region to figure out how much authority it wants.

    3. It would take only a few legislators to change the situation, and that could possibly happen in the next few elections.

    4. While I agree the chances are slim at the moment, they are still better than they were for Metro. The prospect of ST3 might be just enough to tempt a few in the legislature to vote for the tax authority. An additional factor might be the desire to try to tie ST3 to a giant road package (shades of round 1 of ST2).

      The bright spot is every 2 years there is a chance to change the makeup of the State House and Senate. This means if we get off our butts and work on legislative campaigns we might be able to get a much more favorable legislature in 2016. Too late for a 2016 ST3 vote, but perhaps in time to allow a 2018 or 2020 vote.

      1. I’m of the believe that we shouldn’t attempt a region-wide vote in a non-presidential election. At least if we want to win. So for me, it’s 2016 or 2020.

      2. While Presidential years are the best I don’t think non-Presidential even numbered years are as bad as odd-numbered years. Especially if there is a Senate election like there will be in 2018. Senate campaigns run large GOTV operations and get the attention of voters.

        By far the worst are special elections like what was attempted for the first Sound Move vote or Prop. 1

    5. The legislature itself created Sound Transit because it recognized a need for regional transit in Pugetopolis, and it (the legislature) didn’t want to get into the details itself so it delegated it. That sentiment hasn’t totally vanished; it just has more competition from the tax-cutters and roads-first people than it used to. Again, it’s a few votes that make the difference; you don’t have to convince all the legislators from scratch. Plus, legislators are more interested in it than in Metro or CT because to them it has more of a statewide significance (like a state highway).

      1. The glacial timetable of this whole thing just makes me cringe. 2016, we elect a couple of new democrats to the legislature. 2019, they pass a grand transportation package that allows residents of the Sound Transit district to tax themselves for transit projects, with a public vote, in exchange for massive statewide tax increases for new highways, which, of course, would not be subject to a public vote. Meanwhile, we just miss getting the proposal ready for the 2020 ballot, and so have to wait to 2024 (because it won’t pass without a presidential election). Which means we start construction around 2028 and maybe a Link line to Ballard is finally open for service around 2035, by which point, half the people on this blog will be pretty old, if not dead. The whole process is extremely depressing.

      2. I don’t think a Sound Transit proposal would necessarily need a presidential election year to pass, just an even numbered year (preferably with a Senate election). Depending on the mood of the electorate at the time even that might not be needed.

        Hell for that matter something you can do TODAY is get involved with the legislative campaigns. There are some close races out there and donating money or time could help make all the difference to what the Legislature looks like in 2015. I know a lot of people have already given up, but the margin in the State Senate is only a couple of seats.

  11. BNSF is currently offering incentives for the developers on top of the hill above the land slide area to correct their drainage problems. To my mind they are being far to gentile to those that build a large number of heavy houses on top of an unstable hillside, dump their water over the edge, and then cut down the trees that hold the hillside together in order to have a view of something. Since those houses will wind up on the BNSF main line eventually if something isn’t done, it seems to me that those who helped create the mess should be helping to pay for its resolution.

    Portland’s west hills are filled with these types of landslides. Sure, from time to time houses still come crashing down the hill, but in many, many other places stabilization efforts have worked, so long as those that helped create the mess are willing to participate in dealing with the issue as the issue has a lot to do with water that originates from the new roof, driveway, and street surfaces at the top of the hills.

    Or, if they are unwilling to help solve the problem, be willing to have BNSF tunnel under the whole mess and let the homeowners deal with what eventually happens on their own.

    If you take a look at the mess on Interstate 5 in the afternoon, it seems to me that there is quite a lot of transit demand going both directions. I have taken Island Transit in the afternoon out of Oak Harbor and arrived on the ferry at Mukilteo, only to find that getting from there to Seattle by bus is a long, bizarre 2 1/2 hour project that involves sitting in traffic on Interstate 5. I’ve also been on buses stuck in southbound traffic jams as far north as the Arlington area. Therefore, it seems to me that expanding this corridor to be of regional importance, and extending it north to Bellingham and operating it at a reasonably frequency that allows people to use it.

    1. Apologies. That was intended to be part of the Sounder North discussion above. However, I received an error message when posting, and reloading the comment dumped it at the bottom of the section rather than where i had originally intended it to go.

    2. The problem getting to Mukilteo isn’t so much I-5 traffic, but the community transit bus after you get off of I-5. For starters, the 113’s schedule is completely uncoordinated with the 512. On Saturdays, 113 buses leave Ash Way P&R every hour about 2 minutes before the northbound 512 arrives, so you have to arrive a full half-hour early to catch your bus. On top of that, the 113 doesn’t even stay on the main road, but takes a winding route through the neighborhood. And there’s still a 15-20 minute wait for the ferry, once you finally get there.

      Sounder is a nice gold-plated solution for serving Mukilteo that works ok during rush hour (but is next to useless to anyone headed north of downtown), but there are plenty of better cheaper ways to achieve that connection without the awfulness of the current scheme. For instance, a non-stop bus between the Mukilteo Ferry and Lynnwood transit center, timed with the ferry schedule, would be more than sufficient, and would cost a fraction of what Sounder costs. Fast forward 8 years and connect to Link at Lynnwood, rather than the 512, it only gets better.

  12. Where do operating costs fit in to all of this? From the studies all I got was capital costs and even that was vague. Really the better way to evaluate the costs part of the options it so calculate total costs with cap costs plus operating costs less fare revenue.

    1. ST3 measures include operating costs, which are a tiny fraction of the capital costs. If we build nothing more, most of the existing taxes will be rolled back when the construction bonds are paid off, and the remainder would fund operations. The costs are vague because these are preliminary studies. Essentially they’re upper bounds to include potential contigencies, which would be discovered when further engineering is done. But you need a commitment to a corridor to justify the further engineering costs.

      1. After passage of ST2 Sound Transit is under no obligation to roll back taxes as the bonds retire. I’m not even sure they would be required to go to the voters to build additional projects using current revenues.

        However politically I believe Sound Transit is likely to roll back the MVET when the bonds tied to It are retired. I also think they are unlikely to authorize much expansion beyond what was in ST2 without a new vote.

      2. They may not be required to but it’s ST’s tradition to put all large projects to a vote. And the ST board members are mayors and councilmembers who are concerned about their reelection. And ST has pretty much promised it would roll back the taxes if no further projects are voter-approved. It’s hard to see a future board going against that precedent, or even a few minority councilmembers going against it. Only if there’s a fundamental shift in the public, a “We want comprehensive transit now so just do it!” It will take a while for that sentiment to overcome the Eymanites who want to vote on everything and think no project is legitimate without a specific vote.

    2. I looked this up and unless I am in a total muddle, the cost estimates do not include operating costs. Page 6-14 of the Lynnwood to Everett High Capacity Transit Corridor Study:

      “Cost: Options D and E, the BRT options, received the highest performance ratings because they had the lowest costs. Option D had a capital cost estimate of $190 to $260 million and approximately $17 million in annual operation and maintenance (O&M) costs, and Option E had a capital cost of $480 to $650 million and approximately $14 million in annual O&M costs. Option B received a slightly lower performance rating for having a higher capital cost estimate, ranging from $1,690 to $2,290, but similar O&M costs as the two BRT options at a little over approximately $14.5 million per year. Options A and C, both light rail options, received the lowest ratings with capital cost estimates ranging from $2,360 to $3,420 million. These two options also had the highest estimated O&M costs of approximately $17 to $19 million per year.”

      These costs are quite modest compared to the revenue gains that would come with increased ridership. Maybe ST assumes that fares will cover the marginal cost. (Sound Transit’s 2013 Financial Plan assumes that, for the currently planned system, operating costs will exceed fare revenue even well into the future. For 2040 ST projects $187m in fares and $658m in op costs. This is covered in the current financial plan. For future plan costing, the assumption that ST must be using to make this work is that the marginal increase in op costs will be low.)

  13. I really do not get the “BRT 99” option. Highway 99 already has BRT (Swift). If there is sufficient demand for a Lynnwood to Everett BRT line via SR99 why not “branch” Swift so that from the branch point north schedules can be co-ordinated by a single agency to provide the most frequent service?

    Why have two agencies operating essentially identical service in the same corridor, presumably with different fares and rules?

  14. If Link is extended north, it should use SR-99 or I-5. Boeing workers use the transit they have available to them now very little, part because of their being scattered all over the region and regularly moved from plant to plant. Who’s going to be interested in the “tour of Boeing” on weekends and Boeing holidays? Perhaps an ideal system long ago might have been to connect all of the Boeing plants together (e.g., Kent, Renton, Marginal Way, Factoria, Boeing) so that their workers could park at the nearest plant to them, then take the train to where they’re working that day. But, the system isn’t being created for Boeing! I agree with asdf!

    I also agree with Eric Goodman’s ideas. I think he meant to say that there would be a freeway interface at 128th if the I-5 routing was chosen for Link vs. the opposite.
    The 145th station was selected due to an intense lobbying effort by the city of Shoreline that included many false statements, probably to appease the NIMBY folks around 155th. A sampling of their statements: (1) To dispel it as a choice, they said that 175th has too much traffic, yet 145th has about one-third more traffic and incomplete sidewalks; (2) To dispel it as a choice, they said that 155th – which would have been a better pairing with 130th than 145th is – was a quiet neighborhodd street, yet 185th, which they were advocating, has the identical cross-section and more of a canopy; (3) They said that people from Woodinville and Bothell would drive to this station, avoiding the fact that Lynnwood is about half as close and would have triple the parking spaces; (4) They said that voters expected the station to be at 145th, as the map with their voter’s pamphlet showed it there, conveniently forgetting that Central Link ended up being quite different than what was voted on.

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