Regional voters overwhelming favor system expansion.  So why might legislators not allow it? (Scientific Phone Survey, Spring 2014, from Sound Transit LRP Update Brief to PSRC Executive Board)
Regional voters overwhelming favor system expansion.  So why might legislators not allow it? (Scientific Phone Survey, Spring 2014, from Sound Transit LRP Update Brief to PSRC Executive Board)

Last week, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Executive Board turned their attention to Sound Transit’s decennial update to the Long Range Plan (LRP). The board expressed surprising unanimity for getting a Sound Transit 3 funding package on the ballot in 2016, but was aware of the significant obstacles to such a commonsense effort.

presentation by ST staff opened the conversation with scientific surveys outlining overwhelming public eagerness for additional bus and rail system expansion within the ST district. Staff then informed the PSRC (and the Sound Transit Board later in the day) of additional study corridors following the LRP comment period. These options included new HCT study corridors in Pierce County, a commitment to examine a Sand Point Crossing in North King subarea, a rail extension from Issaquah to Issaquah Highlands, and some additional bus corridors throughout the region.

Because increased authority for new Sound Transit projects requires legislative approval, our rapidly growing region may find itself politically blocked in Olympia.  For various reasons, unity of city and county leaders in the region is essential to getting ST3 on the ballot in 2016, but might not be sufficient. To vote on and grow our system beyond the 50 miles of Link already funded, it may take private citizens from both dense and less dense parts of the region to make this a reality.

Unanimity & Leadership

After the presentation, nearly every board member expressed great enthusiasm for ST3, led by King County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine.  Noting the legislature’s other challenges such as education and mental health funding, Constantine noted, “This is yet another one of those issues where we are turning to the legislature and saying that ‘we know that you have problems, but simply give us the tools so that we can keep our region moving forward, and the prosperity that we are able to create here will help you solve your statewide problems.’  If we want to get to a ballot in 2016, as many of the board members do, we need to start moving right now.

Other members echoed this sentiment, from Tacoma to Everett to Issaquah.  Snohomish County leaders such as Commissioner Dave Somers and Port of Everett Commissioner Troy McClelland leaned heavily on the need to connect Paine Field along a future Lynnwood to Everett Link line, noting 300 advanced manufacturers were demanding as much.  “It’s very important … as it relates to business retention growth and the health of Snohomish County.”

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said Tacoma was perhaps most emphatic:  “We have to get something out of them that will give us the authority to ask our residents to pay for ST3.  [Tacoma and Pierce County] really really need this probably more than any other urban area in the entire region.”

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy noted that the Sound Transit board has been after this for quite a while (after some prodding by groups like Seattle Subway and discussion on STB). “A few years ago when we had a board retreat we basically said ‘put the pedal to the metal.’  We need to do this and we need to move fast and we need to set the stage for a 2016 election cycle.  It’s an aggressive plan, and we are really going to need all hands on deck.”

Getting to a Yes in 2016

2016 will be a huge transit year! U-Link will open at the beginning of the year (early and under budget), followed by 1.6 miles of track south to Angle Lake later in the year. Over 20,000 new riders will be able to get between downtown and the UW in 6-7 minutes.  The speed and reliability will make everyone ask “Why don’t we have more of this?”

But now, there are legislative challenges. Mill Creek City Councilmember Mike Todd wisely stated “When we each are talking to our legislators…we must be in lockstep.  When they ask us ‘why do you want authorization for ST3?’ we need to all have the same answer.  We all need to be buddy buddy enough to say the same words.”

That alone is essential, but still might not be enough.  We also need to build constituent pressure on our representatives and senators from lower density areas, to show them that keeping our transit alternatives across the metro region affects them, too.  If there are STB readers from the Federal Way, Tacoma, Kirkland, Redmond, and Everett areas that want to make a difference on this issue and make it matter to all our county delegations, please write us at  ST3 needs to happen in 2016.  Our municipal leaders are united, but mobilizing the grassroots may be what it takes to help the Puget Sound—and the state—be ready for the future.

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick summed up the PSRC meeting by noting, “When I get out and around the Paine Field area, the community has asked me there more than a few times ‘Will we see light rail in Paine Field area in our lifetime.’ Of course the question then is ‘How long are you going to live?’”

It was a laugh line in the meeting, but it is not the answer if we get a vote in 2016.  Letting the people speak and say “yes” in 2016 will mean rail to Everett in the upcoming two decades.

The Timeline Ahead

  • Ongoing: ST Staff is engaging the legislature on ST3 authorization.
  • October 30, 2014: The ST board reviews proposed changes to the Long Range plan at an October 30th workshop (1:30 pm, Union Station).
  • November 2014:  Staff finalizes documents in November for final board approval
  • December 2014:  ST Board finalizes LRP and decides whether to proceed with the system planning effort, which would outline what would go forward on the ballot.
  • January – February 2015:  Legislative Long Session.  First opportunity for ST3 authorizing package to be passed for 2016
  • January 2016:  Legislative Short Session. Last opportunity for ST3 authorizing package to be passed for 2016 (assuming no special session called by the governor for a transportation package)
  • June 2016:  System Plan Complete if authorized by Board in December 2014
  • November 2016:  Vote Yes on ST3 (if legislative authority granted and ST board places on ballot)

170 Replies to “PSRC: Unified in Pursuit of 2016 ST3 Vote”

  1. Where does “regional” Mayor Murray stand? Or more important, how much persuasion or arm twisting is he willing to do?

    1. The Mayor’s office supports ST3 and a regional approach. It appears the entire–or almost the entire–ST board is interested in passing ST3.

      How much arm twisting is he willing to do? That is yet to be seen.

  2. As the guy who’s done some writing and will continue writing about Paine Field’s transit problems – thank you. Stay tuned, if an interviewee gets back to me by Friday evening – expect something from me Saturday night.

    We really, truly need transit improvements for Paine Field now and in the future. ST3 is only one piece.

    1. I’ll have to say I’m not enthusiastic about serving Paine Field with the Lynnwood/Everett line, I’d rather see a SR99 alignment.

      I don’t think Paine Field really has the ridership to justify rail.

      However I would support SWIFT style BRT service with transfers at SR99 and one of the I-5 P&R lots.

      1. Chris;

        I share some of that concern. The current transit network for Paine Field frankly leaves a lot to be desired – key tenants such as the Future of Flight & Flying Heritage Collection go without a stop.

      2. Future of Flight is kind of in an awkward spot for transit service. However there is enough activity along Casino Road and Airport road that I could see BRT there.

    2. It’s interesting that “300 advanced manufacturers” are demanding the Payne Field alternative. What do they think it will do for them and the area? Are their visions realistic? Is it “transit to improve transporation” or “transit as a development catalyst”? For instance, probably one, zero, or at most two of these manufacturers will be within walking distance of the station. So who will ride it? Their employees? Their customers? Aviation geeks? People going down to King County? The only part of their workforce who will find Link relevant for commuting are those coming from Lynnwood or further south, downtown Everett, or maybe Ash Way. Is that where most of them live, and not around Lake Stevens or Mukilteo? What kind of neighborhood do the manufacturers envision? I fear it’s full of parking lots and highways, not conducive to the maximum use of a Link station and feeders.

      And a different question. What is different about south Everett that makes it so keen on Link, unlike the Boeing Seatte, Boeing Renton, and Boeing Kent manufacturing areas who didn’t even try to get Link routed in their direction? Is it just a case of “farther out likes it more” (e.g., Issaquah)? Or is it something else?

      1. Mike;
        The idea is a high-capacity trunk line to Paine Field from homes where the jobs & aviation geek tourist opportunities are. I ‘get it’ about the skepticism towards light rail when arguably another SWIFT-esque service might be best.
        But if light rail is going to parallel I-5, then expect northern support for light rail to… dry up.

      2. You definitely can’t justify Link to Paine field on the basis of Boeing-related commute traffic alone, but I’m all for it if and only if Paine becomes a significant commercial reliever airport to SeaTac. Not just a couple piddling Allegiant flights either, but at a minimum multiple daily Alaska/Delta/Southwest flights to places like Portland, Victoria, Vancouver, Redmond/Bend, Spokane, Boise, Salt Lake City, San Francisco etc. The problem is that all adjacent cities except Everett have adopted formal policies opposing commercial service, even though IIRC the FAA has given the environmental buyoff.

        Hell I’d even take a Wright-Amendment style NIMBY mollifier that only allows service to adjacent states/provinces in order to get it going.

      3. Every attempt to make a “reliever” airport commercially viable, in a city whose main airport is not demonstrably overextended, has proven a failure. The economies of scale are not there, and so the fares end up significantly steeper than at the established airport. Then no one buys tickets, and airlines withdraw one by one. Somehow, taxpayers always end up holding the bag.

        Commercial Paine is not going to happen.

      4. Part of Snoho’s enthusiasm for Central Link is getting to SeaTac faster. Lynnwoodites are not phased about the hour-long travel time; they’re eager for it. I wouldn’t make an extension contingent on expanding Payne Field. I’m not sure expanding Payne Field is worthwhile, especially with Link improving access to SeaTac. Having flights split between two airports means (1) people transferring have to go from one airport to the other, and get there in time for security screening, and (2) the secondary airport will have fewer and less frequent flights, so many northerners will be going to SeaTac anyway.

      5. How close to capacity is SEA-TAC these days? Because unless we reach that point, it’s hard for me to see a commercial Paine Field succeeding for the reasons already mentioned.

      6. The only reason Alaska and other airlines are interested in Paine Field is because Allegiant is threatening to start service from there.

        This is similar to what happened when Southwest was threatening to move to Boeing Field.

        I doubt Allegiant will start service from Paine Field as the landlord is extremely hostile to commercial air service. There are plenty of other airports more than willing to roll out a red carpet for them,

        If they serve Seattle, they will do so from Seatac.

  3. [Tacoma and Pierce County] really really need this probably more than any other urban area in the entire region.”


    This is why I hate regional politics. One of the fastest growing cities in the country is straining at the gills for lack of intracity transit (that is, people want to go from point A within the city to point B within the same city), and the mayor of some backwater forty miles south claims that they’re the ones who need real transit.

    And nobody can call him out on the absurdity because that means jeopardizing the political will for getting transit investment where it’s needed most.

    1. My, perhaps overly-optimistic, take on that statement was for intra-Tacoma/Pierce County. It seems that the expansion of Tacoma Link would be great for them, and light rail from Tacoma to Seattle is never going to be time-competitive. Intra-Pierce trips are what’s going to work for them.

      Granted, I agree that these trips are certainly not the most pressing mobility problems faced in the region, but the fact that Pierce County is on board for expansion is a positive thing.

      1. What “intra-Pierce trips” are you talking about? Link south of Federal Way (if it ever gets that far) would probably run down the middle of SR99 with a couple of stops in Fife. Wowie-zowie! That’ll serve ’em!

      2. I think he is referring to the current “Tacoma Link” aka streetcar. Which could serve some useful intra-Pierce trips.

    2. It may not have the biggest impact on the most people, but it could really be a shot in the arm for the dying transit system in Pierce County.

    3. If I were interested in getting more rail transit in Seattle — and I am — I would be pretty encouraged that outlying areas that don’t have a great historical relationship with transit feel this is urgent enough to vote soon and deliver the votes we need very badly.

      1. If I were concerned about Sound Transit’s regionalist myopia—and I am—I would be damned frightened that Steven Bradford’s comment from below will come true and we will have light rail to Duvall before West Seattle.

      2. @Kyle,

        It’s why we have subarea equity. As long as that remains part of ST3 (and it should be if they want my vote), then Seattle aka North King won’t be funding any rail in Duvall. Effectively BFE wherever will only get rail if they can afford rail within their own subarea.

        The concept of subarea equity was originally forced on ST by the suburbanites and the R’s because they were scared that “their” tax dollars would be diverted to the city of Seattle to pay for expensive in-city rail. Now they are discovering that they shot themselves in the foot because North King is where a lot of the money is, and now they don’t have access to it.

        Now if we could just get a Seattle only subarea overlay we would really be able to accelerate rail in Seattle.

      3. @lazarus,

        The North King Subarea is essentially the city of Seattle + Shoreline. I don’t think cutting out Shoreline would make much of a difference.

      4. @barman,

        I wouldn’t be as dismissive of the importance of Shoreline as you seem to be. Shoreline is an important part of the North King subarea, and should continue to be. Their dress-up of Hwy 99 as some sort of urban renewal project might seem a bit silly to those of us from the big city, but that is their choice.

        That said, when proposing new overlay subareas it wouldn’t necessarily be required to follow the boundaries of the existing subareas, although it might be expedient. The big arguments about overlays would undoubtedly be about limits to taxing authority and ties to passage of a greater ST-wide package.

      5. The dress-up of Aurora outperforms what Seattle has done and is an important regional example. It has full-time BAT lanes, a renovated and prominent trail, a linear park that is better “open space” than most suburban projects, and lighted street signs. Unfortunately City Hall and the existing parcels are not the level of density and pedestrianism we should expect, but at least Shoreline is giving token support for them, and it will look somewhat better when the neighborhoods around the RapidRide stations are built up. Compare that to Seattle, which has a few mostly peak-only BAT segments, and is unsure whether it wants to upzone Aurora and so far has done nothing.

      6. What Shoreline has done is mainly an urban desert. Nobody uses the linear park for anything at all, and in some places urban uses are pushed so far back from 99 that it is amazing that they exist at all. And even at that they are low density/low intensity uses.

        It’s not exactly urban design that anyone should copy, let alone a major city like Seattle.

      7. You’re looking at the glass half empty. I’m looking at it half full. Is Shoreline Aurora better than Seattle Aurora and improving? Yes. Is it as good as Summit or Wallingford? Of course not.

    4. “[Tacoma and Pierce County] really really need this probably more than any other urban area in the entire region”

      There are two ways this can be at least vaguely justified. For the first, we have to view Tacoma Link separately from Central Link. Tacoma possibly has less transit relative to its size and density than other cities. Pierce Transit is sized basically “for the poor and elderly and kids”. Most areas have half-hourly or hourly service. Even the famous Routes 1, 2, and 3 are 15-minutes only for very limited parts of the week. So would-be choice riders don’t have much incentive to use it.

      Tacoma “Link” is really streetcars in spite of the name, so they’re much less expensive to deploy than Central Link. Just as Seattle could build five streetcar lines for chump change compared to a subway, Tacoma could build five streetcar lines the same way. (And for less because land is cheaper there and more public right-of-ways are readily available.)

      As for extending Central Link to Tacoma, I tried to think of a way Pierce really needs it more than other places, but I’m afraid I can’t.

      The other potential justification is Pierce Transit’s environment problems. The outer parts of Pierce County are heavily transit-hostile, and that has hindered PT’s ability to increase Tacoma’s service. ST may be Tacoma’s only viable choice for transit expansion.

      1. If we want ST3 authority to happen in the legislature, we WANT Tacoma/Pierce County and Everett/Snohomish County THIS excited about rail expansion to their areas. So we don’t need to dog them. They are making a political case to THEIR constituents to pay attention to this issue, and hopefully swaying other politicians as well. In Tacoma, they feel they need to unite to get SR 167. Similarly, they feel they need to unite their delegation to get ST3. If they actually do, then the ST3 authority has a chance to pass, given the mixed party nature of the Pierce County delegation. Link IS important to Tacoma for Tacoma, and them being fired up about ST3 is important to the region.

        I expect someone will raise concerns of Link being JUST a BART type system. But it won’t be totally the case as long as there is subarea equity. Building in Pierce and SnoCo also means building multiple lines in Seattle. So we end up less like BART and more like DC’s Metro (BART-like to some suburbs, but much more of an urban network within the city).

        We need all of our regional politicians fired up about the impacts of Link in their own region. That helps move the issue.

      2. If Tacoma Link is extended to become a comprehensive streetcar network through urban Tacoma, and it’s connected to reliable, more-frequent Sounder service, then you’ve got something. (Central Link to Tacoma is being proposed because Sounder is slow and expensive by comparison, but better Sounder would do most of the same job.)

  4. And meanwhile Seattle will patiently wait 50 year to get desperately needed in grade separated transit. There will be Link to Duvall before we get a line to West Seattle.

    1. Why isn’t anyone working on a citizen’s initiative to allow ST subareas to directly vote for their own infrastructure? Let ST work out the LRP, and let the voters of each subarea decide when they are ready to pick projects from it.

      1. Sound Transit packages work however we want them to work. Right now they get voted in by the entire district. We can change that law.

      2. @Kyle.

        I sincerely doubt we can change how the subarea system works inside of ST. It would probably require changes at the State level, and if we are going to get anything out of the State I can think of a lot more important things to try for than the Balkanization of ST.

        And besides, if the 3-county area speaks with one voice we have a much better chance at the State level. If it was just Seattle we would get totally scr*wed. It would be a disaster for the city.

      3. Indeed for all of the ‘bad’ of sub-area equity we don’t face the problem many other regions do when they look to expand their system. In other areas the suburbs outvote the central city so once enough of the core is built to serve the suburbs the pressure is for further suburban expansion rather than additional in-city transit.

    2. The Sound Transit service area ends at Redmond (“RTA District map” link). Even if Duvall were in the area, the larger cities would object to it before Issaquah is connected to Bellevue, Bellevue to Renton, and Kirkland to Bellevue and Bothell. The only way it could be justified is as a short, inexpensive extension from Redmond.

      Either Ballard-south or Ballard-east or both will certainly be in ST3 if there is an ST3. West Seattle light rail is more iffy. But if West Seattle doesn’t get in in ST3, it will in ST4, and that’s the earliest Duvall Bothell could hope to get Link. (I was going to add Bellevue-Renton, but I have a feeling that would be precluded if 405 BRT goes ahead. And “Bothell” Link in that case would not be going south to Kirkland, but southwest to Lake City.)

      1. If Snohomish gets the Paine Field alignment for Lynnwood/Everett there will be more than enough money to do Ballard/UW, Ballard/Downtown with a Queen Anne station, Central Fremont service on one of the two lines, Downtown tunnel, and West Seattle all the way to Westwood/White Center.

      2. I personally think ST3 should be about the size of ST2 (maybe a bit bigger) but also renew ST1 and ST2 in perpetuity until an entire vision is built (Seattle Subway, or something like it.) Growing up in DC we didn’t re-vote every few years. There was a long range map which was on every subway car and they updated lines as they completed projects. It was a great idea — lets follow suit on that.

      3. And our ultimate transit network would be much better if we had started with a long-range vision as well. Although there are a lot of routing and stop choices we wouldn’t have even considered back then.

  5. The Snohomish County planning commission is nearing the end of a year’s worth of work on the 2015 Comprehensive Plan Update. Public hearings will be Oct 7, 8 & 9th if needed. Voting will be the following week. One of the big decisions is whether to go with Alternative 1, 2 or 3 for growth targets over the next 20 years. The main difference is that Alt 1, which comes from the PSRC and Vision 2040, targets Everett and Lynnwood for an additional 20k of population. Alt 3 pushes those 20k into the Southwest UGA. Alt 1 would be more in keeping with ST3 and rail from Lynnwood to Everett.

    You can comment via email, letter or in person between now and the 7th. You can use this link:

  6. Everyone carping about projects in Everett or Tacoma, just stop. You’re not living in the real world, and we need to.

    ST3 in 2016, with a mix of projects that will convince all of the subareas to vote for it, is the only real-world way that we are going to get any of the grade-separated projects that Seattle so badly needs anytime in the next 15 years. Seattle can’t afford to go it alone on these types of projects, and even if it could, the state won’t let it — Seattle is far less likely than ST to get new taxing authority from the legislature. It’s not like the state is going to step up directly, either. And waiting until after 2016 for ST gets you a more transit-hostile electorate at every election until 2020.

    If you want rail to Ballard or West Seattle, ST3 in 2016 is the only way to do it that has a realistic chance of success. And projects outside of Seattle are necessary to get ST3 passed. Everything else (including talk about restructuring ST or going it alone) is blog-comment pie in the sky.

    1. Absolutely! And we need to stop this us vs. them mentality. If Tacoma wants a beefier rail system when we do, that’s freakin’ fantastic. If Everett wants more grade-separated transit when we do, that’s also fantastic. The more people we get on board (pun intended) with transit, the more their suburban legislators (local and national) will understand the importance of good transit.

      1. People aren’t concerned with rail *in* Tacoma or *in* Everett. They’re concerned about rail *to* those places, which will have low ROI in terms of ridership for the money we as a region would have to spend.

        That being said, if that’s what it costs to get in city rail in Seattle, so be it. I guess.

      2. “If Tacoma wants a beefier rail system when we do”

        Tacoma is not asking for a beefier rail system. “Tacoma Link” is like streetcars, so imagine the SLUT with more exclusive lanes. It doesn’t really matter if Tacoma has more of those than Seattle does. The other thing Tacoma is asking for is a Central Link extension to Tacoma Dome. That’s not “more” than Seattle has; it’s “the same” as Seattle has.

      3. “People aren’t concerned with rail *in* Tacoma or *in* Everett. They’re concerned about rail *to* those places”

        Some people are concerned about rail in Tacoma. That’s why the Tacoma Link lines are being added to in the long range plan. As for streetcars in Everett or Lynnwood, they have been considered by some officials, but not to the level Tacoma has.

      4. Right Mike. I totally concur it’s about high capacity transit up here in Northwest Washington to job creators such as Paine Field and the like.

        I know ever since light rail’s been proposed folks say why not bus rapid transit? The problem is bus rapid transit is not grade-separated and even for Community Transit’s SWIFT not much if any signal priority. Grade separation long-term is what’ll start providing that congestion relief.

    2. Right on. Right on.

      As much as I’d like ST to be elected, as much as I like the idea of letting subareas vote on their own packages – and perhaps trade Sounder North for something better; we have to take what we get.

      Frankly I blame certain progressives who didn’t like packages that could possibly survive a legislative vote the past two years for the fact we still don’t have a transportation package this decade. Let’s get real here: The Seattle-centric megalopolis can’t just secede from the rest of Washington State and the Seattle-centric megalopolis arguably from Tacoma’s southern suburbs to Everett’s northern suburbs needs a strong transit network.

      There you go.

      1. As much as I’d like ST to be elected

        At the risk of starting a flamewar… ST is already composed of elected members of local government. Why do you think a separately elected board would be superior?

      2. Simple. Laser-like focus on Sound Transit.

        The alternative is we elect politicians who have to do this, this, this and that, that, that.

        I’m no Sound Transit basher. But I do support more democracy & accountability.

      3. An advantage of the current system is the city/county executives see the whole picture of their city/county, and how transit fits into it. Most of them are more pro-transit than they’re given credit for, or than their referendum voters are. It’s not always the best kind of transit (too many P&Rs, not enough walkability), but overall they see more transit as vital to their city’s/county’s economic vibrance, and as time goes on they’re getting more convinced of that, not less.

      4. With a directly elected Sound Transit board I’d be concerned about anti-transit types hijacking the elections. Alternately I’d be worried about a too-cosy relationship with the vendors and unions, much like what happens at the Port of Seattle.

      5. To that, I’d say it happens anyway – just more disguised. Better to have the anti-transit folks have to face inconvenient truths & special interests have to face a spotlight.

      6. Does Everett have “northern suburbs”? The built-out area of the Seattle megalopolis ends pretty abruptly at the Snohomish River at the north end of Everett. Marysville may be pretty close to Everett, but it feels much more like a small town, and I don’t think it’s in the ST area (and light rail there would be kind of ridiculous).

      7. …as ridiculous as light rail for a city as tiny and anemic as Everett in the first place.

      8. It’s true…there’s really no precedent for a 70-mile, linear rapid transit line anywhere in the country. The closest analogue I can think (in terms of operational characteristics) is the 90-mile South Shore Line connecting Chicago to South Bend. Part streetcar, part rapid transit, part commuter rail. It’s a really odd service pattern to lump into one 70-mile line. We’d basically be rebuilding the Interurban, albeit at 7-minute headways.

      9. The precedent is BART, plain and simple. That’s what our genius planners are chasing.

        And aside from the core urban quasi-continuum of SF-Oakland-Berkeley, BART doesn’t work!! (The “regional” design has kept it from working more than minimally well even around and between those cities.)

        The most galling BART revelation? It has long been reported that the outermost extensions of BART lines see per-boarding subsidies as high as $32/trip. But recently, BART p.r. has been loudly touting that the network — as a whole — has an unusually high rate of farebox recovery, at around 70%.

        Conclusion: inner-ring fare-payers are getting absolutely hosed!

      10. Thank you D.P. for a once-in-a-while intelligent comment. Good to hear BART is a good service and the ideal.

      11. No d.p. I was not. I’m happy you can once in a while get out of the gutter and post an intelligent comment.

      12. You know, in most of the world, “let’s spend $30 billion on total nonsense because our population is proudly stupid” isn’t considered a default budgetary strategy.

        Sadly, much of the United States — and this fart-smelling coast in particular — cares not for thinking before doing.

      13. Re-read the comment, Joe. BART DOESN’T WORK. It is overpriced crap. And its core ridership pays dearly to subsidize the commutes of its Everett-equivalents.

      14. South Shore Line works.

        I suppose its advantage over BART is that it’s properly “anchored” at the far end, becuase it’s an interurban. Except for the airport line, BART tails off into nowhere at the ends of its long suburban routes; South Shore Line serves as an actual intercity interurban line and proceeds to stop at South Bend. Thougjh most service terminates one city back at Michigan City.

        The lesson from this is that extending Central Link to Tacoma would probably work OK; extending it to Everett might be tolerable; but extending it merely to Angle Lake is pretty dumb. Also, another lesson from comparing SSL to BART: it’s worth having gate-controlled grade crossings rather then spending a fortune building an all-elevated route.

      15. Oy. In fact, oy squared.

        Do you even buy some of your bullshit sometimes?

        The South Shore Line’s primary function is as a commuter rail, just like comparable service that Metra offers. “Most of the service” terminates at Gary, which is well within the defined Chicago metropolitan area

        The line’s remaining interurban functions may be adorable, but they represent only the tiniest fraction of the ridership, which is why trains run only every few hours to Michigan City and only a few times daily to South Bend, and why they must be heavily subsidized by the state of Indiana.

        Meanwhile, there is no “proper anchor” of any sort, as the South Bend terminus has long been at an airport parking lot rather than anywhere near South Bend itself.

        For an entirely different vantage point on your wrongness, one should note that Fremont, California is a city of 220,000 — with its terribly used BART — is more than 2x the population of South Bend or Gary and nearly 7x the population of Michigan City, reminding us that transit utility has far more to do with weighing distance and land-usage and pre-existing movement patterns and right-scaling transit applications properly than it has to do with coming up with absurd and willfully misrepresented examples from the underused (for different reasons) legacy rail of yesteryear.

      16. “…reminding us that transit utility has far more to do with weighing distance and land-usage and pre-existing movement patterns”

        What defined those movement patterns?

      17. Economic interactions of then, economic interactions of now. Land-use patterns of then, land-use patterns of now.

        But never, ever, “I’m going to take this train 65 miles for no fucking reason just because it’s there.”

      18. But never, ever, “I’m going to take this train 65 miles for no fucking reason just because it’s there.”

        Hey, I’d do it!

        Maybe once every year or so.

        Get several dozen more public transit fans like me, and we’d even fill up one car!

      19. “Economic interactions of then, economic interactions of now. Land-use patterns of then, land-use patterns of now.

        But never, ever, “I’m going to take this train 65 miles for no fucking reason just because it’s there.”

        Who cares if you want to take a train? My question was “What defined those movement patterns?”

        Land use patterns are defined by people setting up businesses, or homesteads based on whatever criteria they have determined (Ballard, for instance was a logging town with access to Puget Sound via Salmon and Shilshole Bays).

        Along with Ballard, Bothell and Kirkland and others all had water based economic interactions. Can’t make money unless you can get product to market. Can’t live too far away from the employment center unless there’s a way to get back and forth.

        So, arguably, water routes are the most obvious, organic movement pattern.

        What transportation infrastructure defines the current movement patterns?

      20. Ummm…. Not the freaking South Shore Line.

        Not recently, not now, and never again. No matter how you attempted to “improve” it. No matter what bullshit Nathanael spews about it “working” (despite hardly anyfuckingbody riding it).

      21. And not — lest we forget what we’re actually talking about — some stupid 65-mile high-frequency Everett-Tacoma interurban, either. Such trains will define nothing, serve nowhere, aid no one, be embarrassingly underutilized and terrible.

        Sorry if that breaks your little incoherent heart.

      22. I know what dumbassery you’re getting at. “Cars define the current movement patterns. If only we had trains, of all sorts, everywhere, the world would see the light and our movement patterns would be entirely defined by trains! Even if the geography and the geometry render that absolutely beyond sense! Because choo! choo!

        That’s what you’re implying, right.

        Such absurdity doesn’t demand a serious response.

      23. [cough, cough]

        “In fact I espound[sic] the benefits of rail travel to people I meet almost every day !! I even tell them to contact their legislator so they can argue for more trains, and help them understand how to do that!”

        Your “position” is well understood, Jim. You believe trains solve all problems, at any scale, in any place, at any time, just by existing. You see them as the end, never as the means. You don’t seem to have two brain cells to rub together to even attempt to complicate your “arguments” beyond that.

        Your opinion of my STB moniker could not possibly be of less interest to me.

    3. The people may want it, but will the state legislature allow a vote? This is why I want to know if our Mayor, who has state legislative roots, will use whatever ties/relationships he has to get this vote on the 2016 ballot.

      1. It’s a good question, but I can say with confidence that the state legislature is a whole lot more likely to allow another ST vote than to grant Seattle or King County new taxing authority for rail projects outside of ST.

        I have confidence in the mayor to push ST3 hard in the legislature. He hasn’t been wishy-washy about ST for many years. When he wobbles, it tends to be about city-level projects.

      2. I’ve come to terms with suburban rail projects, though I’d prefer Tacoma get better Sounder service and its own urban rail network than get LRT from Federal Way-Tacoma. But I haven’t come to terms with ST3 coming about as part of a gargantuan Roads and Transit 3 style package. Is there any way to push legislators for a standalone authorization? I wouldn’t want my vote for urban and interurban rail to also be a vote for tearing up Puyallup farmland for SR 167 interchanges.

      3. Zach,
        The legislature pulling another roads+transit stunt is my biggest fear. While I do support spending money on maintenance I don’t support one thin dime for new highways or highway expansion projects.

        If voting for ST3 means voting for the 167 extension and cross-base highway I may have to say ‘no’.

      4. Absolutely a standalone authorization is best, but I would vote for it even if it’s another nose-holding deal with the highway lobby. Inadequate transit infrastructure in Seattle is very arguably the biggest choke on economic growth the state currently faces, and it’s also the biggest barrier to continued urbanization of the state. Both of those are important enough issues that I would overpay quite a lot to fix both of them.

        I’d much rather live in a world where we have the 167 extension (especially if it comes with 509, which isn’t actually a horrible project) and a real west-side rail line in Seattle than a world where we have neither.

      5. I can hold my nose for 509, which as you say isn’t awful, but 167 is the worst of the worst. We should try every demand reduction strategy in the book to leverage, you know, the 10 lanes of freeway we’ve already built, including a fully grade-separated connection to SR 167 at SR 18. Get SOVs off I-5 and do what you need to do for truck access, whether that means any of all of building Link to Tacoma, tolling I-5, all-day Sounder, designating a freight lane or Transit/Freight only lane, just be creative.

      6. David,

        If “inadequate transit infrastructure in Seattle” is the “biggest choke on economic growth the state currently faces”, then Seattle should grow up and start using its power effectively. Curtain toll every ramp to the I-90, I-5, the SoDo stub, the First and Sixteenth Avenue South bridges, Airport Way, Rainier, MLK, Lake City Way and Aurora when they enter the city.

        Put a per-person “head tax” on employment within the city and give businesses a “revenue neutral” break on their property taxes for employees who are Seattle residents. Levy a per-slot tax on commercial parking spaces.

        Use all of the revenues gained to build and run transit within the city.

        Let the legislature know these things are going to happen until Seattle is granted greatly expanded “Home Rule” powers that will allow it to serve its own infrastructure needs.

    4. It’s completely valid for people to complain about process. There’s no reason we should be required to vote for highway median rail to Everett in order for Seattle to tax itself for inner-city rail. Is there a single example of a successful interstate median LRT line? Why do we want to repeat that mistake and why should we have to?

      1. . There’s no reason we should be required to vote for highway median rail to Everett in order for Seattle to tax itself for inner-city rail

        Logrolling is how the legislative process has worked since the beginning of democracy. Focus on what your subarea will spend its money on, not what other counties are planning to do with theirs.

      2. Barman,
        The exact alignment between Lynnwood and Everett has not been decided. Leadership in Snohomish county seems to want the Paine Field option rather than running rail along the I-5 median.

        Similarly while the exact alignment from Angle Lake to Tacoma has not been decided I suspect SR99 will be chosen for the entire corridor.

        This isn’t to say there won’t be a lot of bad or marginal suburban projects in ST3. There will, especially in the East King sub-area. But at the end of the day if those projects are what is needed to get ST3 passed, so be it. I’d still rather see light rail to Issaquah or across 520 than see further widening of 405′ or the cross-base highway.

      3. Link will cross Swift twice in the Payne Field alternative, and there’s a possibility for more SR 99 stations beyond that.

      4. There’s no reason we should be required to vote for highway median rail to Everett in order for Seattle to tax itself for inner-city rail.

        Compromise with people who have other priorities isn’t just “a” reason, it’s how democratic politics works. I wish there was a solid pro-transit, anti-highway legislative majority such that compromises of this sort wouldn’t be potentially necessary. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

      5. What you really want is to convince people in Tacoma and Pierce County that 167 and the CBH aren’t in their own best interests. Unless this is a case of Deep Bore Tunnel South.

    5. While the electorate in 2018 is more transit-hostile than it would be in 2016 or 2020 I don’t think it is as bad as it would be for odd-numbered years or special elections.

      That said I see a possible 2018 vote as a ‘plan B’ if the legislature fails to act in time for a 2016 vote, not a delay tactic for chasing the unicorn of Seattle-only authority.

    6. Yes, but..

      I agree Snohomish and Pierce County want a large ST3 package (at least their elites do). They each have a single headline project in mind, and it’s expensive, but easy for voters to understand and get behind.

      East King is where a large ST3 package will face real headwinds. An ‘equitable’ package there may outrun the voters willingness to pay. With East-Link mostly funded already, there’s no single compelling project to get behind. If the money’s spread around a lot of projects, it means BRT rather than rail except for the rail link to Redmond.

      (Frankly, there are cost-effectiveness and engineering reasons to favor BRT too).

      But then you run out of projects before you run out of taxing authority. And then where do you go? How do you get East King to vote for this thing?

      1. Maybe the Sandpoint bridge connection? Redmond/Kirkland to UW would seem to me to be a pretty popular connection for folks on the east side…

        It might not be the most cost effective solution, but it still might be popular enough for folks to get behind it.

      2. @ Robert. I think rail to Issaquah will get Issaquah on board, and not much more. Issaquah isn’t a sexy destination for anybody else. On the merits, if ST3 has ‘too much’ money to spend in East King, this is the best place to put it. It just seems a limited strategy electorally.

        @Charles B. I don’t see another rail crossing of the lake in this package. ST has already tipped their hand that they aren’t taking rail across 520 this time. The Sandpoint-Kirkland crossing is intriguing, but it’s too late in the day to put a brand new corridor in the 2016 package. It needs more study and design than we have time for.

        Not clear to me that the Kirkland bridge is even an electoral winner. A LOT of Kirkland voters will take their waterfront vistas over transit. The local NIMBY types want development pushed out of downtown to Totem Lake. This would do exactly the opposite.

        On the merits, I think BRT on the ERC is the winning solution for Kirkland. It’s very cheap and it serves more trip pairs more flexibly than rail will for the foreseeable future. It also gives Sound Transit a fabulous opportunity to show the region what real BRT can do.

      3. The Sandpint/Kirkland bridge is too big of a project. Start with something less ambitious, like Kirkland or Totem Lake to the wye at the OMSF via the ERC. Trains could alternate between going to Redmond or Seattle.

      4. If the package is ‘big’ then the East sub-area is going to have a rather large pile of money to spend. At least enough for downtown Redmond, Kirkland/Issaquah, the Renton portion of Burien/Renton, plus another billion or so to spend on other projects.

      5. The challenge is going for the ‘big package’ in East King is that the political leaders have not done the spade work to sell it. Everybody who reads a newspaper in Snohomish (Pierce) has been hearing about Link to Everett (Tacoma) for years. They understand the benefits.

        But there is little awareness in East King that this stuff is even a possibility. There’s some awareness in Issaquah and more in Redmond. But nobody in Bellevue has paid attention to new Link routes through their city – they are still preoccupied with the challenges of getting the already funded project built.

        Kirkland’s been telling everybody that their rail segment isn’t happening. When the City Council wrote comments for the ST draft SEIS, they got precisely one public comment (yay, me). And I don’t think anybody who doesn’t read this blog has ever heard of a Renton-Burien segment.

        Steve Jobs could sell products that nobody knew they wanted. But I’m not so sure about the Eastside’s political class.

      6. I’m not convinced there would be a big package. Keep in mind that planning has advanced somewhat more for the three major extensions in Seattle, downtown-Ballard, Ballard-U-District and downtown-West Seattle. Other LR projects in other subareas would need further study before they were ready for PE and EIS work.

        A more modest package of projects for ST3 might be.

        North King: PE+EIS+construction on downtown-Ballard, PE+EIS on other corridors.
        East King: construction on Overlake-Redmond, PE+EIS+(maybe some construction) on Kirkland-Issaquah, ST Express improvements on Renton-Bellevue.
        South King: South Link extension to Federal Way, South Sounder frequency improvements.
        Pierce: PE+EIS South Link extension to Tacoma, Tacoma Link extensions, South Sounder frequency+extension to DuPont.
        Snohomish: PE+EIS+construction North Link toward Everett and (I can already feel the heat) North Sounder frequency improvements or extensions to Marysville/Monroe.

      7. South King is a hurdle, too. Renton, Kent and Auburn will be quite unimpressed with Link to Federal Way, to put it mildly. Burien and Des Moines also feel pretty left out, though Des Moines is already a long way from anywhere so Link might not be a terrible service for them.

      8. Renton is in East King.

        ST could solve the Kent and Auburn problem at ridiculously low cost with the 578/594 swap (and even give extra frequency to the 594 with ST3 funds).

      9. South King has the lowest tax base and a large transit gap, so the more low-cost solutions the better.

        The ST district ends at Everett and Woodinville. No Marysville or Monroe.

      10. Yes, I’m aware that Marysville and Monroe are outside the district. If such extensions were considered, either the district would need to be expanded, or some cost-sharing arrangement would need to be made. Maybe a TBD to fund it?

  7. I’d like to know what questions were asked to get the survey results. In particular, was there any mention that building more transit will entail significant new taxes? The problem with politics here is that everyone wants a frigging pony, but everyone wants daddy to pay for it.

  8. I have been hearing some folks saying that Kitsap is trying to get on the ST bandwagon, has anyone heard anything about this?

    An ST Express bus connecting Silverdale, Bremerton and Port Orchard to Tacoma would really help that region out a lot.

    1. I’m of two minds when it comes to expanding the ST district. On the one hand “the more the merrier’ on the other hand expanding the district risks adding additional transit and tax hostile voters.

      I suspect the most likely at this point would be for Thurston County to join so they can get additional ST Express service and Sounder.

      1. True, there is also the thought of adding places within the counties but just outside the district. Gig Harbor in Pierce comes to mind.

        Supposedly the 2nd narrows bridge was built to handle a 2nd deck for buses or light rail.

      2. Areas outside the district can partner with ST for specific services, if they cover 100% of the out-of-area costs. That would be preferable to expanding ST, at least in the medium term. Every farther-out area will be more hostile to the large cities’ transit needs and taxes than the existing subareas are. It’s the same way that Seattle’s annexation to 145th is a double-edged sword, and annexing Shoreline or Mercer Island (as had been considered in the past) would have been even more so. Because the “denser area” (Columbia City to 85th) would be an even smaller part of the city with less influence.

      3. The reason for areas outside of the current ST district to annex to the district is so the additional tax authority can be used for ST services.

        Thurston would need that in order to extend Sounder to Olympia.

      4. So how can we let them have that taxing authority without the risk they’ll scuttle everything else ST is planning?

      5. Let separate subareas tax themselves at different rates.

        Which, from what I hear, would be anathema to Olympia. Which is in Thurston County itself.

      6. It might be exactly what it takes to get Andy Hill on board. Which would be somewhat helpful in getting this to a 2016 vote.

      7. Does anyone including the legislators remember why a common tax rate was considered important? Is anyone championing it now? It seems like it was either a bad idea to begin with, or a has-been.

  9. This is all great news. If we’re going to reduce CO2 emissions and spur more regional density, we need to build rail within Seattle as well as to the suburbs. This idea I see above, that somehow suburban rail is a dirty thing that we may or may not have to accept to get urban rail, has it entirely wrong. It’s both/and, not either/or. We should aim for a regional rail system that makes it possible to get around without driving and that brings rail to more voters and legislative districts in the region. ST3 is a big step in that direction. Let’s make it happen.

    1. You do understand that empty trains neither solve environmental problems nor remake their surroundings, right? They’re just empty trains.

      1. Who cares? The interstates were empty when they were first built in the suburbs. The point is to provide the infrastructure necessary to stimulate higher levels of transit ridership. We’ve tried simply waiting for that demand to emerge on its own, without rails, and it hasn’t happened. If we want more people to ride trains, we have to provide them the opportunity to do so.

        I doubt those trains would actually be empty. But it doesn’t matter whether they are or not. The goal has to be to build a regional network so we can get people off of using automobiles for travel. It’s not going to happen overnight.

      2. Given infinite funding, I’d agree. But given our sadly limited funding, we should first serve the places where people are actually riding transit and eager to stop using automobiles for travel: the dense urbanized areas of Seattle, and to a lesser extent Tacoma, Shoreline, and Bellevue. (Of course, political requirements about subarea equity can limit this.) Yes, we should also lobby for more funding. But in the meantime, we need to work with and make the best use of what we’ve got.

      3. You can “doubt” whatever you want, Robert. But I’ve been on BARTs to Fremont at 2pm. That ghost train is an environmental disaster.

        Geometry doesn’t bend to your unicorn fantasies.

      4. Anyone want to address the whopping contradiction in the “regional density” mantra?

        The stated desire is to reorient dozens of downtowns or new chia-towns, spread broadly across the region, into relatively self-sufficient economic entities, with lots of residents and walking access to shops, services, food, and jobs.

        So far, so good.

        But then, despite protestations of self-containment, proponents argue that the people in these places will need to hop high-frequency, high-capacity, urban-modeled rapid transit and travel 30 miles to other places… on a regular basis! Perhaps multiple times per day!

        It’s a vision that makes literally no sense.

      5. New York has self-contained neighborhoods and many people spend most of their week there. But still people go to other neighborhoods a lot, enough to require lots of subways and buses.

        Ideally I’d like to take all these “suburban downtowns” and put them between Columbia City and 85th Street and add some continuous density between them. But that has no chance of passing the city or county councils in the current era. Maybe in twenty or thirty years as people’s attitudes change. In the meantime, dense suburban downtowns are better than no dense suburban downtowns.

      6. And guess what? There’s no 15-minute, fully-subway-ized, aggressively-fare-discounted all-hours rapid transit to New Brunswick, White Plains, Hicksville, or any other defined “satellite city” in the New York area.

        And no one who thinks such a thing would be necessary. Not even Bailo.

        Every example above is far more populous and multi-faceted than Lynnwood or Issaquah, and is a hell of a lot closer to Lower Manhattan than either Everett or Tacoma.

        And I’m not convinced that trying to stick people in quasi-density 30 miles from anywhere — where they’ll absolutely need cars and will drive them 95% of the time they go further than 10 blocks, because the “subway” will be of no fucking use to their journey — is actually “better” than just letting the suburbs dry out and wither. Remote Oligarchical New Urbanism hasn’t done any good elsewhere, and it won’t do any good here.

      7. @dp: Actually there is such a service: PATH to Newark and Jersey City. And those are pretty damn urbanized places. There is definitely further potential for service and upzoning of other satellite cities of New York, with the places you mentioned in particular being good candidates (and I’d add Stamford to that as the big omission).

        I’d make another point: employment in NYC-metro is no longer dominantly in midtown or downtown. Just looking at the financial industry for example, LIC in Queens has become a major back office zone, and Stamford, CT even hosts a few headquarters, such that reverse commuters form a major portion of ridership at those stations (but Stamford itself is hideous when it comes to walkability, so much so that some firms are considering moving back to Manhattan thanks to their large population of workers living in the city now). Employment in Seattle is similarly regional, and has been so for a longer time: Boeing in Everett, Costco in Kirkland, Google in Kirkland and Fremont (not downtown), Microsoft in Redmond, Bellevue, *and* Seattle (I would consider SLU downtown). Plenty of other examples to be had.

        One other point worth mentioning: In my experience (and I should say that I have spent vastly vastly more time in the NYC area than in the Seattle area), NYC suburbs are ironically some of the least walkable/transit-friendly suburbs in the country. Bellevue and Redmond are both quite a bit more walkable and urban (in my admittedly limited experience) than, say, Stamford or Hicksville. It’s weird, but NYC seems to have a very strong urban/suburban divide in terms of walkability (the exception being the cities in NJ immediately West of Manhattan, but for all intents and purposes those should be considered part of the city)

      8. DP: I was talking about Brooklyn, not those three cities I’ve never seen. My point is that even if a neighborhood is self-contained (all neighborhood should have the basics without requiring driving), people don’t just stay there, they go other places. And the larger the density nodes are, the more likely that their destinations are in or next to one of the other nodes, not someplace else.

        Farro: How are Stamford and Hicksville (is that a real place?) different? The farthest out I’ve been is Harlem, southeast Brooklyn, Newark, and a town in mid Jersey (Red Bank).

        Question for New Yorkers: I once went with a friend to his family’s house somewhere in southeast Brooklyn. I’ve never been able to find the neighborhood again on a map. Something two words and natureish like morningtown or garden or such. It was beyond the subways so we transferred to a non-MTA bus and went 15-20 minutes futther. (I asked if I could use my Metrocard; they said yes.) The area was single-family detached houses but very small. (The 2 BR house he grew up in was as small as my 1 BR apartment.) Does anyone recognize this?

      9. Mike: Stamford and Hicksville (yes that is its real name; it’s named after a person) are suburban edge cities in CT and Long Island respectively. Although Stamford is a pretty big reverse-commuting center, it is extremely unwalkable, especially outside the core (even within the core crossing the one street from the train station to where my job interview was took ~ 10 minutes!). Harlem and Brooklyn are still part of the city, while the area of Jersey immediately to the West isn’t, but for various reasons is heavily urbanized anyway.

        As for where you went, that doesn’t sound like Brooklyn at all (for one thing because I don’t think any non-MTA routes provide transit service in Brooklyn at all, save one quasi-governmental route that definitely isn’t the one you’re talking about). Sounds more like you were riding NICE Bus (formerly MTA Long Island bus, hence the Metro Card), and sounds like either Southeastern Queens (Springfield Gardens?) or the very edge of Nassau County outside the city (Floral Park? Valley Stream?). Do you remember what subway service you took?

      10. The point here is distance. Newark is as close to Manhattan as Northgate is to Seattle. Of course there will be much back-and-forth for myriad reasons at all hours, warranting the sort of transit service which enables that.

        Federal Way and Everett and Tacoma and Hicksville and White Plains and Stamford are dozens of miles away. They’re significantly past the threshold for all-day spontaneous back-and-forth hops.

        “Transit geometry” is a real, calculable thing, and you don’t get to deny it just because you think doing so might be nice. BART is the only system built upon the notion that all-hour 35-mile sprawl subways would be used. They’re not used.

        All of the edge cities places we’ve mentioned would be way past the peripheries of the RER, or of the outer (and relatively infrequent) branches of the London tube. Remote locations are served by scheduled, less-frequent regional transit for a reason.

      11. Quick backhanded Google maps calculations says RER C line’s terminus Saint-Martin d’Etamps is ~33 miles to downtown Paris (calculated along the most direct route I could force Gmaps to use). Service there is every half hour. Hicksville and White Plains are within that distance, as are Everrett and Tacoma, and Stamford and White Plains only slightly beyond. Malesherbes on line D is even further out.

        Yes, these are all back of the hand calculations, and yes, this is only half-hourly service we’re looking at *but* they are definitely *not* “way past the peripheries of the RER”

      12. For the record, I don’t think 15-minute all day service to Everrett/Tacoma is in and of itself a good idea. But I also don’t think the concept of “regional density” is oxymoronic either.

        Tacoma would probably be better served by an expansion of Tacoma Link + half-hourly Sounder through most of the day but not overnight (chances of that happening without the state/ST purchasing the tracks: slim)

      13. It pays to ignore the fact that all the stations between NYC and White Plains, NY are great examples of TOD.

        That’s why apartments and condos in those towns are so cheap, right?

      14. I don’t remember the line or station. Could it have been around Flatbush? It might have been Flatbush Ave/Brooklyn College station. Why do the subways go everywhere else in Brooklyn but there they just stop and leave a whole corner unserved?

      15. Mike: It was never intended to be that way. Flatbush Ave/Brooklyn College is the only terminal station in the entire system with a side-platform layout, because it was never intended to be the end of the line.

      16. Mike: As weird as it may seem, I really doubt that it was Brooklyn. The only non-MTA bus to operate in Brooklyn at all is the B110, which connects the heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods of South Williamsburg (in NW Brooklyn) with Boro Park (in SW Brooklyn). Sounds more like you boarded NICE bus from Queens to a destination on Long Island, or possibly in Queens.

      17. Mike:

        Though this surface-running, partially-private-ROW rapid transit service was run as an extension of today’s L train, it is not far from the 2/5 terminus that you lament. I mention it to remind you that, even in New York, a poorly thought-through rail service that fails to serve a significant purpose will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Even if it has its own partial ROW. Even if it was initially heavy rail. Rails ≠ permanence.


        As usual, your obtuseness is so entirely without bounds that no one can even understand what you’re talking about.

        Suffice to say that, as a megacity encompassing a massive area with thousands of complex settlement and economic histories running in parallel yet interwoven, the New York area contains endless permutations of neighborhoods, Colonial villages, former weekend escape towns, bedroom communities, edge cities, ex-industrial river towns, organically-evolved places, developer-instated places, low-slung density, vertical density, managed sprawl, unmanaged sprawl, etc., etc., etc. I promise you, there exist affordable areas and ultra-gentrified areas and divided areas and blue-blood-only areas and total abject ghetto areas where rapid transit exists, where lower frequency regional transit exists, where bus-only transit exists, and where no transit exists whatsoever. If you desire to make a hare-brained point about rail being the only distinction between “winner” and “loser”-villes, the New York Metropolitan Area is about the last place you’re going to be able to cite in pulling theories from your ass.


        Your Étampes example is interesting, and definitely an RER outlier of which I wasn’t aware. I’ve used the RER a fair number of times in my life, and suffice to say that the crux of its purpose is for mid-distance, middle-ground (less spontaneous than in-city, more spontaneous than region-traversing) trips of between 5 and 20 miles.

        I would definitely call 30 minutes a “scheduled” service, but it’s certainly quite frequent for one. I’d be curious whether Étampes for some political reason — it appears to be compact, like many Old World towns, but it’s small and far and doesn’t appear likely to grow or change much in the future. It’s hard to imagine many people on those trains.

        Moreover, the SNCF has recently instated a new branding (Transilien: P, H, K, J, L, U, N, and R) specifically for “regional” trips with more regular service schedules than their long-distance network. It’s basically Metro-North/LIRR but run better, and for the most part, distances like Étampes-Paris or Tacoma-Seattle are served with services like these. Frankly, a 30-mile RER ride sounds like quite a chore, since RER trains run at Link/PATH speeds, rather than at true commuter rail speeds.

        In the New York analogue, by the way, it turns out that even a project as straightforward as expending PATH to Newark International fails to pencil out. Full-frequency rapid transit to New Brunswick will never make any sense.

        I stand by my harsh words about “regional density”. Yes, of course, the Old World (and to a lesser extent, Boston/Philly/Westchester-County-and-far-flung-Jersey-Townships) model of fairly compact and well-contained towns along railroad main lines is preferable to the endless suburban sprawl that afflicts and congests Long Island, much of Jersey, and every city in the American south, middle, and west. But that doesn’t make it a good plan to try to push people to live really far away from where the jobs and culture are, with the competing expectations that they can meet their needs by walking, while also “needing” to hop on a train and go 35 miles (or more) multiple times a day, and at the drop of a hat.

        That is the oxymoronic expectation driving both the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Sound Transit board. Fortunately, neither entity can make people live in New Urbanist boondocks, and the demonstrated exponential appeal of thriving Ballard over plodding Everett and nonexistent Downtown Lynnwood will hopefully wake people up to the absurdity of their oxymoronic strategy.

        And that brings us to the crucial difference between the Paris/London/New York analogues and hypotheticals, and the destructive “regionalist” obsession here in the Puget Sound: Paris, London, and New York already have dense and functioning middles, supported by oodles of urban transit that really, really works. Seattle has none of this. Our “density” is middling and mediocre, still too beholden to the aesthetics and mathematics of auto-supremacy, and our transit is too fucking terrible to support even the proportionally-feeble demand that exists.

        And so, by definition, “regionalism” comes at the expense of getting things right in the one place where geometry gives us a fighting chance of getting things right: the city. That any “planning” professionals endorse such a mistake — that any advocates see billion-dollar lines with no possible hope of more than 10,000 passengers as a “winning” strategy for dealing with hundreds of thousands of incoming residents — strikes me as criminally harebrained thinking.

        I could probably continue ad infinitum, but you get the point. I could also go back and edit, but I won’t. Hopefully the typos aren’t severe enough to muddle the meaning.

      18. “neither entity can make people live in New Urbanist boondocks”

        What you’re missing is the people living in suburban areas who want a walkable/transit-rich alternative without moving to Seattle. Downtown Bellevue’s densification is good for both those who live in it and those who live in less-dense parts of Bellevue. Over a million people live in suburban King County; Seattle’s population is a minority both in the county and in Pugetopolis. There are several reasons why many of these people want an urban-village/transit-rich city center but are not willing to move to Seattle. (1) Their parents live in the suburb, (2) their job is hard to commute from Seattle, (3) housing prices, (4) they just don’t like Seattle or consider it unsafe (many of these are single women with an above-average threshold for what’s “safe”). You can’t just tell a million people and the majority of the county and the poorer parts of the county that they should just stuff it and sit in their house and drive or suffer 2-hour trips on 30/60-minute buses.

        My support for suburban density nodes is not primarily for people working downtown or going to Seattle several times a week. It’s mainly for people with rapid transit is not mainly about people working downtown or going to Seattle frequently. It’s about people living in those suburban regions who would like a denser/walkable alternative without moving to Seattle.

      19. 1) And what you’re missing is that downtown Bellevue is not a fraction as remote as Federal Way or Everett is. That — along with the concentration of economic selling points — is a big part of the reason that one has been successful and the latter two will forever sit on a fantasists’ easel.

        2) The rest of your comment just doubles down on the oxymoronic nature of the transit plan: “People want a denser (i.e. more multi-faceted and self-sufficient) alternative. But they will also need to travel by the tens of thousands, spontaneously and on a regular basis, for extremely long distances. Address the fundamental contradiction here, or stop repeating your illogic!

      20. Also feel free to address the fact that — as with most self-contained New Urbanist experiments to date — car ownership will remain ubiquitous and the vast majority of trips will still require them.

        If your foundational principles encourage violating workable transit geometry, then you are fundamentally opposed to a transit-enabled future. That’s called reality.

      21. In non-US places, where they don’t make these effing *weird* distinctions between “commuter rail” and “intercity rail” and “light rail” and “subways” and “streetcars”, you can have hourly service to an outlying area which combines with 15-minute service to a more inner suburb and becomes turn-up-and-go service in the downtown tunnel.

        They tried this in Philly with the Center City Commuter Tunnel; to my knowledge nowhere else has managed to remember how to do this (though the US did it in the 19th century, and the South Shore Line is sort of a remnant).

        There’s *lots* of examples abroad, though the Metropolitan Line in London is the one which came to mind immediately.

        Link to Tacoma? Sure. It should become at-grade with crossing gates and run less frequently than Link to the airport. Tacoma wants it a lot, mostly because it’s too difficult to get more frequent Sounder service. (Never, ever bother to send a line to such a city if they don’t want it!)

        It is very important to build more downtown urban lines, of course — though the Metropolitan Railway in 19th century London didn’t, and instead banked on “Metro-land” suburban sprawl and let someone else build more urban lines.

        On another matter, it is true that the outlying suburbs of NYC are *horrendously* unwalkable. Some of the least walkable places in the US are in New Jersey (once you get west of Newark) and Long Island (east of roughly Mineola/Hempstead). There’s ridiculous stuff, Acela stations where the sidewalks extend about four blocks and then just end. There’s actually anti-sidewalk political lobbies, though they seem to finally be fading away.

      22. Oh, yikes. Another comment premised with delicious nuggets from the bullshit fountain.

        Nathanael, we just had an entire conversation about the meticulous distinctions made in Europe. Paris Métro ≠ RER ≠ Transilien ≠ SNCF intercity services.

        It is the geometry-ignorant and cluelessly rail-fervored U.S. cities that make gargantuan taxonomic errors, leaving us with the overbuilt one-dimensional commuter thing that is BART and the quasi-urban-light-rails-to-nowhere in Sacramento, San Jose, or Denver.

        Because no one thinks about what would best serve a given place’s mobility needs, but only about “where can we rail to the rail of rail sort because rail”. It’s basically yours and Jim’s fault.

      23. “It’s basically yours and Jim’s fault.”

        Now that’s rich!
        Made my day…

        In fact I espound the benefits of rail travel to people I meet almost every day !!
        I even tell them to contact their legislator so they can argue for more trains, and help them understand how to do that!

      24. But you, like Nathanael, live in permanent denial of the basics of transit geometry.

        Which is why you argue into a void, and endorse every permutation of idiocy detailed above.

        So, yeah, your fault.

      25. When is it going to get through to you that “Jim Cusick really loves trains” is not a policy argument?

      26. Personally I think Link to Everett will work (by the standards of US rail projects) as long as the right alignment is chosen (99 not I-5).

        Anything South of the Airport isn’t going to have great ridership and likely won’t ever have great ridership. Link between the Airport and Tacoma will make the VTA look good by comparison.

        In any case if link extensions to Everett and Tacoma are what is needed to make ST3 happen so be it. At this point I’m focused on making sure the mistakes of SoundMove and ST2 aren’t repeated in the North King portion of ST3.

      27. I know we disagree a lot, Chris, but at least you tend to have articulable, thought-through justifications for your positions.

        I still tend to believe that any plodding Snohomish segment would see piddling ridership outside of peak (and only moderate ridership at peak), but more importantly, I continue to think that placing Snohomish at the center of the electoral strategy is a doomed approach. Once the price tags (and the long-term collections implications thereof) have been affixed to these projects, the vague phone-poll support of transit as a general concept is likely to evaporate.

        The current strategy seems to aim at Snohomish as the rate-setter, and to claim the slimmest of majorities there, while simultaneously counting on a North King supermajority (regardless of the quality of the proposal) to outweigh losses in South King, Pierce, and a likely-conflicted East King (pander-based votes in Redmond and Issaquah, rejection everywhere else). I just don’t think it will work. No matter how hard Snohomish politicos thump this thing, its limited utility will simply be obvious to the electorate.

        I guess we shall see.

      28. D.p.

        I appreciate the lack of hyperbole about ridership projections, and think they’re basically right.

        Note that Snohomish-pacing is not any sort of policy, but my inevitable conclusion from stated leadership goals and subarea ability to pay.

        I agree that we’ll see, and think passing will depend more on external factors more than either of us are comfortable with.

      29. As I said Northgate to Everett will be a successful line by the standard of.modern US rail transit projects. As you well know this is a very low bar. Still the peak and all-day demand is much better than much of the region outside Seattle.

        As for ST3 being ‘Snohomish centric’ this I’d driven by a couple of things:
        1. The Snohomish sub-area has the lowest revenue of any sub-area so their project list necessarily drives the size of the overall package.
        2. Political and business leadership in Snohomish county has been discussing their desire for light rail between Lynnwood and Everett with service to Paine Field extensively.

        The simple fact is the largest wellspring of support outside Seattle for ST3 is In Snohomish county.

        This support means Snohomis county is furthest along in both getting support in Olympia and support of the voters.

  10. I just hope that we can show a united front. If we get State authorization, I believe ST3 will pass. That “if” needs to become a “when”, and that will only happen if we appear unanimous.

    1. +1

      Which means making guys like me who are somewhat skeptical and want something in return happy.

      HINT: Support more transit for Paine Field.

    2. Blah. There’s an ocean’s-width gulf between “60% strongly support more transit” and “a majority will agree to spend $30 billion and tap out bonding capacity for the the rest of their lifetimes to build a few trains that both studies and logic reveal will be almost completely useless to them”.

      I stand by my prediction that the proposed “big bang” ST3 is going down at the polls in at least 3/5 of sub-areas.

      1. I agree d.p. The poll seems like a self-congratulatory affirmation for ST managers and board members. A more strategic poll would be to ask questions about what the preferred funding strategy is, what level of taxes are acceptable, and what strategies would make someone more or less likely to support a measure. Unless some of these items were asked, I feel like this poll is quite amateurish and useless.

      2. Indeed. I know I jumped down your throat the other day for massively misunderstanding the comparative urgency and mobility value of various center-city projects (and mostly the throat-jumping was about your wanting to steal from the vital one to add further redundancy to the boondoggle), but here we are 100% agreed.

        There is something utterly absurd about the “tactical truism” that has developed here, in which we are all expected to accept as a valid political rationale that $20 billion in useless-on-arrival projects must be promised in order to get access to anything resembling useless ones. Puget voters may have a reputation as impetuous and under-informed, but when push comes to shove, there’s no way they’re going to agree to that kind of money for obvious ineffectiveness.

        And seriously, when in history has wasteful grand-bargaining ever actually achieved the effective version of the the most needed bargaining chips? Inevitably, all that is good or complete or holistic about the worthwhile projects will bargained away, and only the middling, underwhelming, and incomplete-bordering-on-inconsequential (see: ST’s urban segments thus far) will be left.

        Forget going along and getting along. This “tactical truism” is a path to failure. CALL IT OUT.

      3. What public hearings? We’re talking about the tacit acceptance of closed-door “consensus”-building that would shut out any and all rational input from non-Fantasyland transit experts.

        Do you even think you know what you’re talking about when you attempt your non-sequiturial retorts?

      4. “non-Fantasyland transit experts”,

        such as yourself?

        So, … How will I recognize you outside of this blog?

        Mark Dublin is a known quantity.

      5. …And thus was much flowery language and many mathematically-inaccurate comparisons to Gothenburg entered into the permanent record, and all of Puget transitdom was saved*.

        *Except not the last part. That still sucks, and somehow $30 billion to fail to fix any of it is seen as water under hypothetical Sand Point bridges.

      6. “And seriously, when in history has wasteful grand-bargaining ever actually achieved the effective version of the the most needed bargaining chips?”

        Oh, it works occasionally. Look up the deals made to get the “Dual Contracts” built in NYC.

  11. A “scientific survey” that asks about what people would like without asking how much they will pay for isn’t very useful. We have lots of experience in this state on that kind of politics. Heck, we get to vote on one of these this November which will totally hose the state budget for transit and everything else if it gets passed.

    1. Which measure is that? Neither the Metro measure nor the monorail measure are large enough to affect the state budget. If you mean like the Seattle Met article alludes to, that the state will never again approve King County transit taxes if Seattle’s local-supplement passes, you have to ask “How much has the state been giving us?” No cash, and only grudgingly small bits of tax authority after long delays, usually tied to large highway projects. There’s little difference between 0.1% and 0%. Foregoing helping ourselves because the state might cut us off is like submitting to blackmail. And even if we vote no, the state might still give us nothing or very little.

      As to how much ST3 voters will pay, everyone who has lived here since 2008 has been through at least one ST tax cycle, and can assume the size will be about the same and the burden the same. So the sales tax I pay might have gone up half a cent or a cent for ST, big deal. I’m not paying state income tax, so there’s a big chunk of money to pay it with.

      1. Initiative 1351 the “class size reduction” initiative which doesn’t provide any funding. If it passes the state have to come up with another billion or two.

      2. I’m also worried about the court-ordered education funding and psychiatric beds. Is transit going to be pushed further down? It also bothers me that the city leaders give so much priority police and preschools but transit isn’t even in their top five. If they’d only make transit a priority like that and do something big, it would alleviate this problem significantly. How about building the transit master plan now? (And replace two or three streetcars with trolleybuses if necessary to get the budget down.)

  12. “Support” and “paying for it” are two different things. The devil will be in the details.

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