Where to next? Photo via: Dennis Hamilton

Yesterday the Sound Transit (ST) Board met to review the Long Range Plan (LRP) update, including discussion of the existing LRP text and corridors. As a reminder, the LRP represents the fiscally unconstrained vision of the Sound Transit system, selections from which will be used to develop a Sound Transit 3 (ST3) ballot measure. This workshop (materials available here) was a check-in on the LRP process that began nearly a year and a half ago when the board decided to accelerate ST3 planning for a potential 2016 ballot measure. Over the next two months, the ST Board will finalize the updated LRP, which will then be used to develop ST3 investment scenarios which would emphasize investment priorities such as completing the “spine” or maximizing system integration.

Staff began the meeting by presenting a “Chair’s Mark-ups” of the 2005 LRP text. Staff updated the text to begin the discussion and reflect some of the changes that have occurred since the plan was adopted in 2005. These changes included adding recent board policy decisions concerning station access and transit-oriented development. It also included updated definitions of bus rapid transit (BRT), including grade-separated busways and bus-only lanes. Staff also attempted to “tighten” the goal language to reduce repetition.  Finally, staff presented a high-level overview of the light rail, high capacity transit, bus rapid transit, express bus and commuter rail projects identified by the public as part of the plan update.

Councilmember Roberts asked that text around system integration be added to reflect the integration work currently underway between Sound Transit and Metro. Secretary Peterson said that WSDOT should play a larger role, that there need to be better integration of long-term land use planning with LRP corridors and that Sound Transit’s projects need to support local land use decisions. Another member wanted to add citizens’ health to the goals, but was unsure how to measure it.

Corridor Changes

The workshop maps show the new rail and HCT corridors that came out of the public process. There aren’t many of them because the existing LRP is already extensive. The biggest addition is West Seattle-Downtown light rail, formerly a monorail corridor. The map below shows the existing long-range corridors in gray, and the new corridors in bright colors and numbers. In some cases rail and BRT corridors overlap; e.g., Renton-Kent-Puyallup has both an LRT corridor (#7) and a BRT corridor (#33). Only one would be built, but the plan has both options. The BRT corridor continues to downtown Seattle, basically a variation of the 578. But BRT implies more than ST Express: it means frequent service and transit lanes.

lrp_mapDiscussion related to the LRP corridors was unstructured with most board members voicing support for priority projects in the areas they represented. Executive Constantine started this discussion by identifying the Downtown Seattle to West Seattle corridor, the former Monorail corridor, for addition into the LRP.

One member asked if existing corridors could be deleted, especially those that are unlikely to ever be built in the next 70 years. Staff answered that they should review all existing corridors for relevance. But there is reluctance to delete corridors that might be needed even if they’re never built, because their presence in the LRP sends a message to the cities to think about transit needs in those areas, and to make appropriate land-use decisions so they’ll be ready for future regional transit.

The Pierce County delegation had the most to say about specific corridors. Mayor of Tacoma Marilyn Strickland said Tacoma’s #1 priority of the new corridors is #15 (Tacoma Link to Tacoma Community College). That would complement the first Tacoma Link extension on MLK Avenue and also serve University Place, which is asking to be upgraded to an Urban Center. On the other hand, she did not see the need for #38 (BRT from University Place to Titlow Beach). The east Pierce members mentioned several corridors between Lakewood, Parkland, Puyallup, and Orting that would help with JBLM congestion, #27 (BRT Puyallup Meridian Avenue), and #32 (BRT Tacoma – Bellevue). They see #32 as getting especially high ridership.

The Snohomish County delegation was much more modest. They stressed that “North Everett” should be seen not as a new corridor but as intended in the original corridor (“to Everett”). They weren’t sure about #24 or 26 (HCT downtown-Ballard-Edmonds and HCT Edmonds-Lynnwood) and would like more information on them. They questioned #12 (LRT Mill Creek – Eastside Rail Corridor); it may be too low-ridership to be appropriate for ST, perhaps a project for Community Transit instead.

The Eastside delegation recommended #31 (ST Express/BRT Issaquah Highlands – Sammamish – Redmond – Overlake). They also said #14 (LRT UW – Sand Point – Kirkland – Redmond) may be better than LRT on highway 520 because the latter’s connections on the Seattle side are bad.

From Seattle there was mention of #8 (LRT Madison), #30 (BRT Madison), and #9 (LRT Duwamish bypass). The board was unsure whether the Madison corridors should be deleted since SDOT is already working on BRT there. And there’s one corridor I’m not sure whether it was mentioned or not, and it’s the oddest corridor: #25 (HCT West Seattle – Central District – Queen Anne – Ballard).

Perhaps the best comment during this discussion came from WSDOT Secretary Peterson, who asked which performance measures will be used to identify the most promising corridors, such as density. She wanted a list of how each long-range corridor performs against these metrics, why the corridor is included or proposed, and whether it’s still relevant.

Mike Orr contributed to this report.

118 Replies to “Sound Transit Updates Long Range Plan”

  1. Wait a second, West Seattle to the CD to Ballard? I love the idea of HCT in the Central District (I will, right now, promise to eat an all natural, locally sourced, free range keyboard if a streetcar or better comes to not-the-part-that-touches-Cap-Hill CD in the next 10 years) but connecting it via West Seattle? I can see trying to make the 8 or the 3 into an HCT route but going all the way across the bridge seems unrealistic.

    1. A branch of the First Hill line extending east on Jackson to 23rd or MLK doesn’t seem that farfetched to me. (The Seattle Streetcar page actually depicts such a thing, east to 23rd.) I’d tack on a bit more to it too while I’m at it — east to Jackson, north on MLK (23rd has other problems to solve) to Cherry, or perhaps even Union street.

    2. That U-shaped corridor as a whole sounds crazy, especially after the Ballard-downtown-West Seattle line is running. But part of it is the much-needed Denny Way line, and turning south to Garfield HS is similar to Metro’s latest thinking on the 8. So those segments could be part of some other line. Or maybe it could just be a central Seattle shuttle.

      1. Right. After Garfield you start getting diminishing returns. I’ll comment on the particulars on your other comment.

    3. Another question is: What kind of transit does the Central District most need? I’ve heard talk of “Central District light rail”, but where would it go? Somebody with two initials complained that Central Link doesn’t serve the Central District, but there’s no way a north-south line downtown could also run north-south a mile east of it, or even east-west, without dropping off Capitol Hill. So the CD needs some other east-west or north-south or L or U shaped solution.

      1. Why not a north-south line that doesn’t go downtown? It could connect with East Link at Rainier station for a downtown connection and with Central Link somewhere (CHS? MBS?) for another path to downtown.

      2. One of the only things I don’t like about the 23rd Ave redo is that it doesn’t look like there will ever be room for bus lanes. (There’s already no parking allowed on 23rd so they wouldn’t wind up being BAT lanes.) I’d like to see a dedicated-lane version of the newly-proposed 8 (not the current 8, the new one that’s slated to turn around by Ezell’s), either as streetcar or rubber-tire, whichever can get built. That touches all of the currently-and-will-be-dense areas of the CD, would keep CD denizens having a one-seat ride to an adjacent neighborhood*, and lets it primarily use MLK and E Cherry, both of which are wide enough to add dedicated lanes.

        * Normally I’m fine with transfers but I feel like directly-adjacent neighborhoods should be served by one-seat trips when they make logical pairs.

      3. I think one of the missing points of data is about trip pattern interlining. For example, I suspect that there are more direct trips between Ballard and First Hill/CD (with large medical facilities) than there is between Ballard and West Seattle. It may be that a Ballard to CD line and a separate West Seattle to CD line would be more productive than a Ballard to West Seattle line with a short CD to Downtown line.

      4. In my mind, a streetcar seems most appropriate, though that is true only because of the way that a Central District branch will be able to hook in to the existing network on Jackson Street or Yesler Way. The big questions I have are: how far east to go (23rd or MLK) and then which direction to turn (north or south, or just terminate).

        I see worth in two alignments, both starting east to 23rd on Jackson: north on 23rd to Cherry, east on Cherry terminating at MLK; and, east on Jackson to MLK, south on MLK to Mt. Baker TC.

      5. One-seat rides are justified if the alternative is terminating just short of a significant neighorbood center station, or to avoid transferring twice within a two-mile space, or a route not going to any centers.

        #1 would be if the 7 terminated at Broadway, forcing people to transfer to get to International District station.

        #2 is why the First Hill streetcar can’t replace any Broadway bus routes. It would be ludicrous to force people to take the 60 fo Jackson, transfer to the streetcar, and then transfer again to the 49 at Roy. There should either be a bus going all the way through, or one bus going north from Broadway and another going south so people can transfer once in the business district (which is also a major destination and a convenient waiting area).

        #3 would be like a north-south route in the CD that didn’t go to UW or Broadway or any destination like that. It would force people to transfer to get anywhere, because nobody’s destination would be on that route. That’s also the weakness of a NW 65th – NE 65th route or a 145th Street route: they go near significant destinations but not close enough to them. Grid networks like San Francisco and Vancouver only work because commercial centers are distributed all along the grid lines so it’s always somebody’s destination. But a grid route running solely through a low-density residental area with nothing bigger than the Ravenna district on it is rather weak. That’s also why there isn’t a 15th Ave NE route from UW to Mountlake Terrace because it bypasses all the centers along its way (Northgate, Lake City).

      6. A subway which replaces the Metro 8 would be one the best performing lines, station for station, as anything else we build (or have built). Every station between Denny and Mercer is an outstanding station, similar to every downtown station. The line would obviously connect to both the Ballard light rail line as well as the Capitol Hill station.

        For Link riders, the transfer would be easy. Those coming from the south, east or north (Central Link, East Link, U-Link or North Link) would transfer at Capitol Hill station. Those coming from a Ballard-Downtown line would transfer at Uptown. If light rail is built from West Seattle, it will certainly connect to the Ballard line, so the transfer would take place at Uptown.

        The alternative to such a line is a series of spur lines heading north. For the vast majority of Link riders, there is essentially no transfer penalty versus a new north/south line. You simply transfer at Capitol Hill station (or Uptown) instead of Westlake. For those coming from the south and east, that is the next station, so not much of a penalty. Those coming from the north would transfer sooner. The only possible transfer penalty is for folks who arrive to downtown from the south, and then ride a bus that travels through downtown or for those that are already downtown. That transfer penalty is more than made up for by the added number of stations which are possible along an east-west, rather than north-south, route through here. Given the population and employment density, as well as the topographic challenges there, it makes sense to have several stations.

        It makes sense to continue that line through the Central Area. Unlike the east-west section, it isn’t obvious where the route should go. The good news is that just about anything will work. This is one of the most populous areas of Seattle. It also has plenty of businesses and attractions. If you stay west, you encounter First Hill and the possibility of picking up Yesler Terrace. A little further east and you run into Seattle U, which is nestled in a high employment and high residential area of the city. Going further east and you encounter plenty of people, even as far east as MLK Way. It isn’t until you get pretty far east that the numbers start diminishing — it essentially becomes like the rest of greater Seattle (similar to Federal Way or Lynnwood). I wouldn’t go as far east as MLK for that reason, but anything else is likely to be a winner. Since Seattle isn’t likely to have numerous lines through here (even though they would be justified) you would want to consider walking patterns and bus routes, which means you want to consider both the hills as well as surface traffic.

        To the south of Garfield you get diminishing returns. But it would be nice to connect this line to the I-90 (Judkins Park) station. This would speed up an East Side-Central Area transfer (e. g. Garfield High School to Bellevue). It would also make sense to continue the line to the Mount Baker station. This would make for a very logical, very popular connection from Franklin to Garfield and on to Broadway — thus building an underground route Sir Mix a Lot made famous in his hit “Posse On Broadway”.

        Beyond Franklin — sorry Mount Baker — you get even more diminishing returns. The only decent stop in the whole area (that hasn’t been served already) is the V. A. But it is about a mile from Mount Baker to the V. A. You would have to tunnel, and it is hard to justify that much tunneling, especially if the other parts of the line (such as from Judkins Park to Mount Baker) are elevated.

        Beyond the V. A. it gets even harder to justify a station. Hardly anyone lives west of there (between I-5 and the Duwamish) south of SoDo. Nor are there that many jobs (modern manufacturing is very labor efficient). The next possible stop is West Seattle, and if we ever build a line to West Seattle, it makes sense to connect it to downtown directly. Two West Seattle light lines is not justified — it is kind of silly to even think about it.

      7. Anther route that would be highly productive is Madison between the waterfront and MLK.

        Connecting Madison with Denny/Olive/John would make for a nice line but unfortunately skips the CD.

      8. Well, somebody suggested an east Seattle line from Renton to Rainier Station. If it continues north it would be this line, and then it could turn west to Uptown. That would complement the other lines. But the residential areas it passes through would have shocks of horror about “Thompson II” ruining their neighborhood.

      9. Somebody with two initials complained that Central Link doesn’t serve the Central District

        I said that the deletion of the Madison/Broadway stop completely dicked over the Central District for non-laborious system access, to the point where it will improve most people’s daily existence not one iota.

        Link is anti-urban. C.D. outcomes are yet more proof.

      10. Did ST want to delete First Hill Station? That’s completely implausable and illogical, since the station would have benefited ST immensely. The station was deleted because it was too sharp an angle betwee Westlake and Capitol Hill, and there may have been soil issues, and ST was afraid of cost overruns.

      11. Also ST would have likely not have qualified for a Federal grant if the First Hill station had stayed in. That loss of money would have meant waiting at least another 5 years for U-Link.

      12. Nope. Sorry. Deleting one of the city’s most crucial destinations from the subway network — perhaps forever — without making a case for it in the federal application was an act of cowardice, not an act of prudence.

        Rejection was in no way a certainty.

        I might also note that ST has no problem charging ahead on projects like, say, every inch of East Link, that are too mathematically lousy to qualify for federal aid despite a broad local consensus that the project is needed.

    4. Corridor #25 is an oddball, for sure. But I think the point is just to have *some* line that crosses into the CD, and, more importantly, South Lake Union. They can decide later what parts of the corridor actually make sense.

      1. Right. In that regard it reminds me of a “Ballard to Kirkland” line. The section from Ballard to the UW makes a lot of sense (as does connecting Kirkland to 520 BRT and East Link) but another line across Lake Washington seems silly.

  2. corridors that might be needed even if they’re never built, because their presence in the LRP sends a message to the cities to think about transit needs in those areas


    1. Remember that this is the zoomed out view DP. Its saying to those communities “if you start thinking about and prioritizing transit, you could be a part of this system. You could have a piece of the pie. Maybe its worth it to you, maybe not, but think about it”

      1. This has nothing whatsoever to do with encouraging localities to think about land use policy.

        This is about politicians being so completely gutless and leadership-averse that they’d rather reinforce their own reputation as purveyors of nonsense than take the editing pen to Mill Creek and freaking Orting.

      2. I know you view transportation from the point of view of a technician or engineer, and thats a good thing. But what you call nonsense is actually called “politics”. You may hate that decisions get made that way, and that those issues have to be considered, but they do. You can’t build a system here, or anywhere, without all the politics.

      3. For every internet fantasist whose delusional loyalty you retain by keeping nonsense lines to Frederickson on the map — Frederickson! — you will lose a thousand voters who have long suspected that ST is unconcerned with a useful transport network and a terrible steward of public moneys.

      4. Well you lose all 5 people in Fredrickson too.

        Fortunately the vast majority of voters never look at the LRP map.

        Unless and until such a line makes it into a plan before the voters I don’t think having something in the LRP really makes all that much difference.

      5. I’ve lived here my whole life (50+ years). I have relatives who live in Tacoma and I’ve spent plenty of time there, as well as plenty of time in nearby communities. Even I had to look up Frederickson, WA. Yeah, that’s nuts.

        I agree with d.p. on this one. I think it really is a case of a politician holding out hope that their little community will someday get shiny new light rail, instead of sitting them down and giving them the tough news. If anything, it is backwards from the stated goal. If you live in such a community, then it is best that you push for transportation solutions that are realistic. Fight for better bus service, instead of hoping that someday the light rail genie will grant your wish.

    2. One thing that I think is somewhat lacking is coordination and integration of the proposals with the existing service. It makes little sense to even seriously consider a light rail line on Puyallup’s South Hill that connects to little on either end. If sounder were all-day and bi-directional, and the light rail line continued to Tacoma for example, I could see a use for it. In its current configuration and with existing conditions it has little use. A BRT or even simple express bus for example would be far more useful on this corridor, augmenting the severely lacking PT bus service. However, there are large areas of Pierce County that no longer reside inside the Pierce Transit PTBA, and as a result do not get (or have) any transit service outside of Sound Transit. I am not surprised there that there are not more “proposals” to replace lost PT service with ST service in Bonney Lake, and the already mentioned South Hill/Midland/Spanaway areas.

    3. Frederickson and Orting at least have active railroads to them. Orting’s line stops slightly north of town now, but it is at least there. This is the type of thing that could have some concrete platforms slapped down, an improved signal system added, and a couple of “diesel light rail cars” operate a decent service. Think Stadler GTW or the like, which have been approved for use in mixed traffic on this type of lightly traveled freight line at Denton County, Texas.

      In the case of TriMet’s WES, the entire line including completely new track through downtown Beaverton, cost $166 million. With the type of money being talked about for just one Link line, this type of money is peanuts and could ultimately serve as a positive path to change in areas that haven’t been fully paved over just yet.

      You can find a number of rural branch lines operating this way in Europe. However, in the Puget Sound case it is going to have to be a long term project because of the severe amount of sprawl. These areas can not support such a line very well with existing land use patterns, but they will probably never develop the required land use patterns unless such a service is offered.

      The Gresham MAX line was built 28 years ago, and even now land use patterns along the line continue to change.

      The sprawl has already reached Frederickson, and in fact patches of it really reach all the way to Elbe. In 28 years what will this be like? Will that change significantly if a passenger service of some sort diesel light rail were offered over the line?

      1. There’s no sprawl in Orting and Fredrickson.
        There are almost no people in Orting and Frederickson.

        For better or for worse, Denton County has both lots of people, and lots of sprawl.

        I can’t believe we are even having this conversation.

      2. There are many better uses for Pierce County money than rail to Fredrickson and Orting.

        Examples include: Extending Sounder to DuPont. Extending Central Link to Tacoma Dome, Tacoma Link expansion, DMU between DuPont and Tacoma Dome, lots of BRT and express bus service, etc.

      3. Okay, I guess there’s sprawl in Frederickson. Most of the cul-de-sacs and subdivisions will pull up Puyallup or Spanaway addresses in Google Maps, but I guess many of these are technically over the line.

        Hooray. Cheap and likely not-long-on-demand exurban Tacoma supersprawl. Trains along historic corridors with little relation to present desire paths have such a glorious history of fixing such problems.

      4. d.p., we’re having this conversation because it’s about what people are willing to vote for. Since y’all like revising my home county (BTW, those Stadler trains are awesome; I keep meaning to do up a Page Two post about riding them), I’ll point out that the only reason places like Highland Village voted for the Denton County Transportation Authority to even exist was because of rail. Addison, a founding member of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, has waited for 30 years for rail. DART comes along and says “hey, it might take us another 30 to actually get it built, but we can do very good quality BRT along the rail right-of-way right now using dedicated ROW and no traffic and lit stations and everything.” Addison is now considering removing itself from DART because, no, they want actual, honest-to-god, steel wheels on steel rails.

        If Orting and Fredrickson residents can vote on a ST3, having at least an idea of “maybe we can get rail to there someday” is a political selling point to tell those residents that they’re being considered. Is it a valid point? Is it a good idea financially? We can deal with that after the votes are in.

      5. On the plus side presumably the draw for rail to either Fredrickson or Orting would be wider than just those towns and include areas to the East and South.

        That said the projected ridership is abysmal even by the standards of commuter rail.

        I don’t think dangling commuter rail in front of the voters of SE Pierce county is going to change many votes. Better to focus on parts of the county with some people in them and higher ridership potential.

      6. Contrary to the ravings of [ah] Nathanael, if one looks at a list of underwhelming recent rail projects — especially fringe-purpose commuter rails kibboshed after short, unspectacular lives — one will basically find a compendium of shit constructed just because the ROW was there, and someone assumed that trains = magic ridership.

        It’s simply a ridiculous non-logic for choosing corridors. In 99% of post-automobile-era cases, transit demand follows land usage and existing movement patterns, and not the other way around.

        The only thing more ridiculous than building Orting-Tacoma rail “because it’s there” would be building Lakewood-Frederickson-Puyallup rail “because it’s there”. Neither of them would see more than fifteen regular riders.



        I can’t say I know much about Addison, Texas, but Google Maps suggests it is a mix of industrial sprawl and residential sprawl, an outer-ring suburb but not the outermost ring, and still well within the defined orbit of the sprawling megacity that is Dallas. Wikipedia says it has a population of 13,000 over a relatively compact area. Small, but not Orting-small or Orting-remote. Rail to Addison would see fairly low commute usage even by DART Light Rail’s totally-mixed-bag standards, and it would no doubt be empty the rest of the day.

        Texas residents, in general, are famous not for their love of rail, but for their unabashedly racist and classist loathing for buses. It sounds like Addison fits squarely into the precedent set by Arlington — the much larger traffic-choked Hell on Earth to the west, which would rather have zero public transportation whatsoever than deign to consider using (or allowing anyone to use) a bus.

        I’m sure Addison sees the rail line snaking all the way to Denton, and is jealous. Well, guess what? The Denton line — intermittent and slow, taking twice as long as driving even under the best conditions — might be charming and sort of nice to have, but it’s also pretty much empty. It carries around 1,000 daily round-trips (that’s sub-SLUT!), an overwhelming percentage of whom reportedly belong to one of Denton’s two universities. That’s in spite of the admirable work that has been done to make Denton-Green Line function as a usable (though again, not fast) combined interurban. That’s also in spite of Denton being a real city (population ~Bellevue) with a small-but-functional downtown in addition to the the two colleges and all the hypothetical parking-and-riding.

        If Addison feels shortchanged for being a part of the metropolitan transportation district while not sensibly qualifying for its own underwhelming rail spur, then maybe it shouldn’t be in the district (too bad for its commuters, though). Same goes for any fringe of Pierce or King or Snohomish that falsely believes it should be in line for an $100,000-per-resident rail project, especially while urban residents are functionally double-taxed for transportation that continues to suck considerable balls, in part thanks to delusional thinking influenced by the “long range” map above.

        Seven paragraphs later, I still can’t believe we’re actually talking about passenger trains through here. This whole thread is insane.

      7. If ST ever gets around to studying these, I think it would be commuter rail (heavy or DMU) rather than light rail because of heavy pressure to use low-cost existing tracks rather than building a new gudeway or catenary. That’s exactly why Sounder exists, and it would make these corridors directly parallel to the Eastside Rail Corridor. The ERC just had a study that concluded rail there would have exceptionally low ridership, and the plan is all but rejected. It’s impossible that an Orting or Puyallup study would find more ridership than that. So DP can rest assured it’s inevitably on its way to a slow rejection. The only way it wouldn’t be is if Pierce has a lot of extra money and the east Pierce representatives and a high percentage of power in the subarea. But I doubt any of them would put it before “the Spine” or Tacoma Link or Puyallup circulation, and it’s not clear that even all those will be funded in ST3/4/5.

        So inevitaly Orting and Fredrickson will end up getting whatever kind of express bus is appropriate, and most attention will be on the more critical needs of connecting west Lakewood to east Lakewood. Which combined with Puyallup suggests an L-shaped route from Lakewood TC to east Lakewood and Puyallup Meridian Ave. Which would just happen to go through Parkland, another priority mentioned by the same delegation. So maybe that will be what ends up from all this.

      8. This is the long range plan.

        Decades ago, the state of Washington built several huge new ferries and people thought it was nuts since few had the forsight to look at the long range need.

        50 years ago, 10 lanes of width on I-5 would have been considered nuts. Some sections are there and still crowded.

        50 years ago the concept of a light rail line to Lynnwood would age had people asking “Where?”

        What’s Orting or Frederickson going to look like in another 50 or 100 years, and what can be done to prevent it from becoming another traffic hell? That’s what these long range plans are about.

        They are not about what these places look like today.

      9. That’s funny, because Orting has barely changed in the last hundred years. There are a handful of ugly supplementary subdivisions, but that’s about it.

        In a hundred years, it will probably still be impossible to get across Seattle on transit in less than an hour, and this kind of bullshit reality-warping distraction will be a big part of the reason.

  3. I have to wonder if the LRP should replace “light rail” with just “rail”. I could see some potential for other rail technologies (say heavy rail for Ballard to Downtown or DMU for Federal Way to Tacoma to points further south). Cable-pulled systems may be applicable in some short-distance strategies. Technology is moving quickly on the driverless front, so it may be more cost-effective to eliminate drivers on our current light rail lines in favor of driverless, separated tracks.

  4. A question for Mike Orr, or anybody else who may have been in the meeting.

    The headline on the Seattle Times story last night was “Sound Transit floats $15B plan to expand mostly rail service”. Mike Lindblom seemed to put a lot of weight on comments by Brian McCartan that the agency could bring rail to many of the “marquee destinations”.

    I don’t see either this story or the online docs indicating any more of a rail-bias than we’ve previously seen. In other words, I read the documentation as being around corridors rather than technology, and no particular preview being offered as to whether it will be rail or BRT other than the really obvious rail corridors. Any perspective?

    1. Things haven’t changed much since last summer or earlier. ST3 is mostly light rail because the commuter rail and express bus networks are already built out for the most part. Some of the new corridors are marked light rail, others BRT, and others HCT (which could be either). But all of these would have to go through an EIS that fairly considers any feasable bus alternatives. The largest consensus is for “the Spine” and Ballard, and those are all light rail. West Seattle is a wildcard, and “going maxiumum” could also pull in Ballard-Renton, Kirkland-Issaquah, and the second lake crossing, and those are all at least possibly light rail. (Although I think the second lake crossing would be too much to fit in.) Anything beyond that would probably be just a couple bus routes, so overall it would be mostly light rail. But that’s not really a change in ST’s thinking: it’s just a consequence of which projects fall into the ST3 timeframe (as opposed to earlier or later).

      1. Thanks, Mike. That was my sense too before I read Lindblom.

        Thinking about the $15 billion budget (which will probably be the ceiling for whatever comes out of the Legislature), there are going to be a lot of interesting choices ahead. It’s more constrained than the ambitious options outlined we talked about last August. Some of those will come down to the one-big-project vs multiple smaller steps. It doesn’t get Link to Everett on SR99, for instance. Probably not even on I-5 unless Snohomish wants to give up on everything else in their area. Rail to Issaquah would take a very large bite, maybe too much, out of the East King budget, and yet it doesn’t make any sense to go halfway to Issaquah.

      2. Lindblom specifically notes that Dow Constantine, who lives amidst West Seattle’s vast nothing-remotely-resembling-urbanity, is the one pushing to go all-in on its inclusion in any plan, “undeterred by the conceptual cost of $4 billion for a Duwamish River rail bridge and subway”.

        How beneficent of him.

        Maybe when more than 5,000 people live or work within walking distance of any such line, we can revisit such whopping expenditures. Maybe when his neighbors stop throwing shitfits because a tiny loft building without parking is proposed 100 feet from the Junction, we can ask if their built environment is ready for mass transit.

        (Seriously, is there any place on earth more delusional and entitled than West Seattle?)

      3. Meh. Staten Island is what it is, and has a mostly accurate view of itself and its hermeticisms.

        Staten Island is, BTW, is 5x more populous than West Seattle, with lots and lots and lots of multi-family housing (mostly in the form of duplexes and triplexes).

        If there’s a place more hypocritically populated by anti-urbanites demanding priority treatment for urban services than West Seattle, I haven’t seen it.

      4. (Actually, Staten Island is 6x-7x more populous. I forgot for a second that the claim of “nearly 100,000 on the West Seattle peninsula” is a bullshit boundary-fudging fiction.)

      5. Many years ago, when the scoping was going on for the library bond issue, I wanted to attend one and the only one that fit my schedule was held in West Seattle. So I drove to West Seattle and attended what was a public meeting of a public body open to anyone in the city. When I spoke at the meeting and mentioned I lived in Wallingford, the reaction was “what are you doing here, this is a WEST Seattle meeting.”

        The only equivalent to West Seattle I can think of is South Boston in the 70s

      6. You know something is wrong when even the relatively parochial and insular natives of other parts of the region comment on just how parochial and insular people in West Seattle are.

      7. maybe if they don’t get it they’ll threaten to secede again just like with the west seattle bridge 35 years ago

    1. That’s nice. Please show me the major body of water that required a $4 billion crossing on the way to Tenleytown. Or show me the Bethesda/Bellevue-like major-employment edge city that can only be reached by passing directly through West Seattle sprawl.

      1. DP, You either vote for more rail, or you dont. You either advocate for more rail, or you dont. You may have well supported opinions about what areas should be served first, but nuanced arguments dont play out in electoral politics.

      2. Have you seen the comments on Lindblom’s article? I am aware that the Times comments lean reactionary/retrograde/psychotic, but pretty much every reaction to the “undeterred” line is a legitimately bug-eyed WTF?

        The math is quickly done: that’s $50,000 per West Seattle man, woman, and child… the vast majority of whom wouldn’t be anywhere with the slightest access to the results!

        Yeah, it’s politics. These are voters, and not too far from average ones. Forget Orting. $4 billion for a West Seattle shuttle is a fantastic way to convince average voters to circle wagons around their wallets.

      3. Why on Earth is it $4b anyway? That’s more than the whole new 520 project, including the unfunded I-5 to Montlake parts…

      4. To be slightly fair $1 billion of that is for the downtown tunnel that Downtown-Ballard needs as well.

        The cost of the Delridge alignment doesn’t look too bad and it gets past the choke point of the bridge and Spokane Street. The problem is West Seattle seems to want direct service to at least the Alaska Junction which is expansive and has little ridership.

      5. DP, you’re normally really good with your sources, so using the ST comment section surprised me. That place is…. not representative… to put it nicely. The polling that has been done has shown huge support for a package like this all over the Sound Transit area.

        I for one am happy that ST is floating a huge number. They can walk it back if need be, and look like goodguys if they manage to find savings, or get federal grants. If they float some “exactly what we need” number, the legislature will give them funding authority for 80% of it, and the projects wont get done or will go over budget.

      6. Jon,

        I made a point to filter out the anti-transit crazies from the “neutrals” who were genuinely shocked by the price tag for a train to West Seattle, and how massively disproportionate the cost would be considering the layout of the peninsula and the comparative low-scaleness of the place that anyone who has ever visited has noticed.

        The comment that two West Seattle-based politicians who drive their Priuses everywhere* were “undeterred” by the whopping cost of such a poor line should be of intense concern to even the most pro-transit voter.

        West Seattle proper is 1/7 of Seattle’s population, and is far more sprawled than the C.D., than upper Greenwood, even than Upper Queen Anne. Yet it is “undeterred” in demanding 50%-60% of the next 40 years of urban rapid transit funding, which would do little for most of its sprawl and provide a gigantic “fuck you” to many of the bus riders in its poorest corridors? Anyone with a sense of fiduciary or long-term planning wisdom should fear such a credulous-bordering-on-graft electoral approach.

        *(even from the King County Admin Building to South Lake Union — yes, I’ve seen this with my own eyes)

      7. So where are the West Seattle residents who support lower-cost BRT or the Delridge corridor instead of the “shocking” price tag. There must be someone because not everybody there drives a Prius. If, for instance, that approach got some recognition and sympathy on the West Seattle Blog (not necessarily an endorsement), it would make that approach more viable, meaning ST could consider it without risking the voters overturning ST3.

      8. At least a couple of the $4billionWTF!!?s were appended with Why don’t they just fix the 1-lane ramp to 99? That’s where most of the problem is!

        So yes. Even West Seattleites can intuitively understand the bus would be really fast if the bottlenecks were addressed. No $4b tunnels required.

  5. As far as rail goes I hope they focus on the below or some variations of. Go for ridership and keep under 10 billion. Do an ST4 in 6 or so years and reassess. No need scaring off voters and politicians.

    #15 Tacoma Link to Tacoma Community College
    #4 and #13 Everett
    #14,#1 and #2 Seattle

      1. i have a 100,000 rule. if there is 100,000 residents available on a spur then ST can’t go wrong with LR ridership and hence low ridership subsidies. And seeing how Pierce and Snohomish will get a cut regardless then can’t go wrong with them either way. Other areas can go with BRT until ST4. Starting in 2016 ST will be bringing on about 3 stations/yr. As long as they maintain this momentum the region will be doing good and won’t be taking on too ridiculously of an amount of debt.

    1. Don’t forget the corridors already in the LRP. Some of these have way more bang for buck than the new corridors.

  6. There are still some fairly far fetched ideas in the plan (Light Rail – Puyallup/Fredrickson/Spanaway???), however its starting to shape up into feasible proposals, In pierce county I think the Tacoma Link extension, and bus expansions are probably the most possible, followed by Sounder to Fredrickson and Orting (the corridor survives, however new track would have to be built, and I’m not sure the adjacent homeowners would appreciate it). Personally, I think ST 3 should focus on expanding existing service to a large degree. We already know many ST Express routes are running near or at capacity, and there are also other demands that this plan addresses that could be implemented as well.

      1. Oh, come on. An edge case to end all edge cases. A vestigial line, in a region where essentially all activity is clustered in a handful of towns and villages that dot a handful of well-defined linear corridors, where infrastructure and centuries of development patterns offer connective reach to 100% of populated places of any note, where the government has ensured that the 100,000 priorities in line ahead of this one have all been accomplished, and where the whopping subsidy that this line clearly requires makes it more equivalent to WashDOT’s lifeline rural buses or USDOT’s Essential Air Service than any kind of self-justifying rail connection.

        Oh, and also where even the tiniest of the towns being linked together has a population twice that of an outpost like Orting, and density that bests much of Seattle.

        Generally, if the URL contains the word “foaming” (even as a self-conscious wink), there’s not much chance the content contained there is of prescriptive worth.

        Should I link to Ketchikan to prove that all towns of 8,000 can justify their own intentional airports?

      2. Glenn, there are rural areas in the East and Midwest which have similar demographics to that German farmland: people clustered in villages who want to ride trains. So you might be able to pull off decent rail service like that in Vermont.

        Rural Washington State is much sprawlier and much less interested in rail service than that.

      3. Hey, remember when Governor Dean tried a Burlington Commuter Rail and it was a fucking disaster?


      4. Also, [ad hom]

        Not “people who want to get places”. Not “people who want an alternative to auto-dependence”. Not “people looking to increase their mobility freedom”. Not even “people who currently harbor rail bias”.

        Just “people who want to ride trains”.

        In some internet commenters’ world, everyone is a foamer. Such people are out of touch with reality and should not influence policy thinking in the slightest.

      5. “DP, you’re normally really good with your sources, so …”

        Keep believing that…

      6. ST has already done the studies for the ST3 candidates. Orting was not among them. We have to remember that there are two parallel tracks going on: the ST3 corridors and the long-term corridors. I don’t think the boardmembers were confused that the burst of support for east Pierce has no chance in ST3. The Tacoma mayor said, “:Build the spine first.” The only other potential ST3 study I see is Sand Point-Kirkland, but it’s already getting late for that. They’d have to start it right now and do it quick to get the results by next fall’s project selection.

      7. Tell us again about all the success you have “espounding[sic] the benefits of rail to people you meet every day”, Jim.

        Meanwhile, I’ll note that every time I go into any detail about a project you distrust for not being rail, recent residents of those very corridors invariably note that I’ve nailed it.

      8. Keep believing that…

        My advice to those who come here (STB) for information, go out into the real world, talk to people.

        Especially people of opposite opinions. You’d be surprised.

        Life exists beyond this blog.

      9. …says the person who values the mode of conveyance over the destination.

        The world is an interesting place, and it’s more interesting to be there than to obsess over the way you get there.

      10. The irony of you, of course, is that you would waste so much money and energy building toys for foaming hobbyists to ride around on weekends — while utterly failing to provide any genuine mobility (in the cities or anywhere else) — that you would keep people driving for all eternity, and demanding all of that pavement and parking and generally ruining the physical environment because you care more about your fucking foaming than you do about the validity of actual places.

      11. Why do you think an hourly DMU is more expensive than an hourly bus? Even in the USA (RiverLINE, etc, etc, etc) these cars operate with a single operator. If it were a bus, it would be stuck at traffic lights and other road traffic. On a railroad, it is separated from all that and only needs to stop at stations.

        The cost of providing the service drops quite a bit as the number of hours required drops.

        Germany tends to be pretty cold hearted when it comes to these decisions. If it were actually cheaper to operate this type of service with a bus, a bus would be there.

      12. Indeed. Germany would never have spent the significant capital to build or rehab that line for passenger service, if it hadn’t long existed in roughly its present state.

        Much less if the towns were smaller, overwhelmingly unwalkable, and there was nothing resembling an anchor at the ends, as you suggest should be our (total lack of) minimum standard for rail investment.

        And good on them for deciding to expend the money for ongoing maintenance. But don’t pretend that doesn’t cost extra too — it’s not like the parallel roads are just going to disappear because you decided to maintain a rail line instead.

        There is no traffic to compete with in the Hinterland. A bus would not be slower, unless it were less direct, and even then only marginally.

        This is an edge case of the highest order. You can safely stop trying to seek analogues in the American Expansionist Territories, because they don’t exist.

        (Also, you’re really going to cite the River Line as an example of a non-boondoggle? Really?)

      13. Meanwhile, the first half of my last defense against Jim’s incoherent aspersions has been [ad hom]ed, but it was important enough that I’ll repeat it as emotionlessly as possible:

        I am not “pro-pavement”.

        Not advocating rail to anywhere and nowhere, all the time, for no better reason than ♥♥rail!♥♥, does not make anyone “pro-pavement”.

        The mode is not the destination.

        The mode is not the destination.

        The mode is not the destination.

        But wasteful, ineffective, useless transit will probably render both the trip and the destination worse.


        I wrote many of the above comments while crawling across the city on our god-awful bus system.

        While most rational people would drive.

        And while Jim wants to build rail to Orting.

      1. Sounder as it currently exists is extremely expensive per rider, and Link is pretty expensive to build.

        Tacoma – DuPont really should be something along the lines of “diesel light rail” of the type discussed/ridiculed above. That way, it should be cheap enough to operate that it can replace the existing buses rather than be a peak period only supplement service.

      2. There are many situations in which legalized DMUs could be cheaper to operate than traditional heavy commuter rail, and where such conversions should be actively sought.

        These situations just don’t happen to include fringe lines with near-zero demand.

      3. Glenn, since Tacoma – DuPont would be running on tracks shared with Amtrak, Sounder and occaisional freight trains, it would probably need FRA compliant DMUs with two-man crews.

  7. Light Rail line 10 and 11 would be amazing to have. Everyday when I do my reverse commute into Woodinville, WA-522 is always packed and its an hour drive to Downtown in the mornings. Who do I have to bribe to get that going?

    1. When you think of “light rail” your mind should picture all-day demand and people making non-work trips or at least shift workers. If all you see is 9-5 commuting, then another mode is more appropriate.

      (In case DB objects that Federal Way and Lynnwood will see only 9-5 commuting and empty trains at other times, I reply that (1) they have potential to slowly build all-day ridership, and (2) they’re “on the way” of the region’s main trunk travel pattern.)

      I do support a Lake City – Bothell line which could be extended to Woodinville, and it has long been in ST’s long range plan. I expect it will be a high priority in ST4, if all of Ballard-UW, Ballard-downtown, and West Seattle get into ST3.

      1. Lake City Way is another place less sprawled than — and with a ROI a whole hell of a lot better than — West Seattle.

        So why the fuck should West Seattle be presumed to tie up all our funding capacity for half a century?

        I don’t care what pseudo-strategic nonsense “Undeterred Dow” spews. This assumption of West Seattle priority needs to end.

      2. Seems to me that rail to West Seattle is already off the table, Dow’s preferences notwithstanding.

        With a ST3 budget of $15 billion, North King is looking at $4.5 billion (+ whatever they can extract in federal grants). Taking rail to West Seattle within the framework of the corridor studies would mean doing absolutely nothing else in North King. The pared down options would just about fit. Yet everybody agrees that Ballard is the top priority. So how does West Seattle LRT fit?

      3. (p.p.s. Oops, meant Federal Way there, etc, etc. Lynnwood is basically acceptable as a not-insanely-remote commuter terminus with minimal additional potential, etc, etc.)

      4. With enough corner cutting it might be just possible to fit a Junction to Ballard line into ST3.

        Another possibility might be the Delridge alignment to White Center.

        In either case it means forgoing Ballard to UW which has very good ROI and the best chance of getting Federal grants.

      5. I’m guessing Lake City gets nothing in ST3 either.

        While it is dense and growing. There still aren’t all that many people there. Ridership is unlikely to be more than BRT could reasonably handle. Put some transit lanes between Lake City and a Link station, run with reasonable frequency, and this solves the problem.

        To that end we should work to ensure the following:
        1. Engineering for Lynnwood Link Qatar least allows for the easy addition of a station at 130th.
        2. Include funding for the 130th Link station in ST3 if other funding sources haven’t been identified.

        The same thing goes for the ped bridge over I-5 at Northgate.

      6. Sadly, there are people on STB who just your “Qatar Link” typo and thought that was a fantastic idea.

      7. “So why the fuck should West Seattle be presumed to tie up all our funding capacity for half a century?”

        Because Lake City is one or two easy miles from a station, depending on whether it’s 130th or 145th. West Seattle is further from a station, with bridge bottlenecks in between, and it’s a while fifth of the city.

      8. “I’m guessing Lake City gets nothing in ST3 either.”

        That depends on whether the 522 is changed. If it becomes a more frequent shuttle to 130th or Roosevelt, that would be an improvement.

      9. Mike, the issue is should West Seattle be built at the expense of any service to Ballard?

      10. D.p.

        Damn autocorrect.

        Sadly you are likely right. Though most would say we should extend Link to Vancouver BC, Spokane, Portland, and Forks first.

      11. No it’s not. Essentially Absolutely everybody thinks Ballard is higher priority than West Seattle. The only question is whether Ballard-south or Ballard-east is first, and whether West Seattle is second or third. If we can only build one or two lines, then third or second place will be postponed, but first place will definitely be Ballard something.

      12. d.p.,

        I’m pleased to see that you have evolved (or rephrased?) your appreciation of Lynnwood to what I think is a more realistic and less hyperbolic assessment.

        As someone who once had a Bothell mailing address, I’m also sad that Lake City Way hasn’t gotten more consideration in the ST3 plan for grade-separated transit. Interestingly, it was part of the Forward Thrust proposal, but in the intervening decades the development center of gravity moved north along I-5.

      13. ” I’m also sad that Lake City Way hasn’t gotten more consideration in the ST3 plan for grade-separated transit. Interestingly, it was part of the Forward Thrust proposal, but in the intervening decades the development center of gravity moved north along I-5.”

        Because that’s the where things grow organically.

        I even vanpooled with a WSDOT horticulturist.

      14. There were some pretty great things in Forward Thrust, chief among them a line that served South Lake Union, Pike & Broadway, Union & 23rd, the Madison Valley, the U-District, Roosevelt, Northgate, and Lake City all in one fell swoop.

        That’s urban-scaled rapid transit, and even in the Lesser Seattle of the ’70s no one can deny the demand value of that list of stations. That would go triple today.

        The Renton-Duwamish line on the Forward Thrust map seems to willfully slight the (still redlined at the time) Rainier Valley, but the 3-stop Renton tail makes more sense than the dubious Renton-Burien approach proposed today (in violation of all surveyed desire paths).

        But the direct center-of-Bellevue approach makes sense. The branch to Eastgate (and no further) makes sense. A stop in actual Ballard makes sense. Continuously-built Lake City Way makes sense.

        And guess which self-isolating 1/7 of Seattle was deemed better suited to BRT than rail by Forward Thrust planners? I didn’t even know “bus rapid transit” was a term back when that map was made!


        For the record, Martin, I’ve fairly certain I’ve never written (even as hyperbole) that Lynnwood shouldn’t happen. I’ve seen and sat in the traffic. I know that commuter purposes must be taken into account. And I have zero objection to suburban access to a highest-quality public transit option that gives people the choice to avoid the very worst choke-points.

        Sprawl rail is mostly an exercise in diminishing returns, but I do not think Lynnwood is past that tipping point.

        I have written, however, that Lynnwood should never have been slated to arrive decades before equally pressing urban needs. Nor should the bias toward a fast-track to the distant north have come at the repeated expense of getting the urban part of the same line right. Nor should we allow Lynnwood’s wholly fictional “bi-directional” potential and “crush-level” demand to go unchallenged, leading to absurd and destructive corollary decisions at the core of the network.


        (I’m pretty sure nothing about I-5-fed ubersprawl is “organic”, but thanks for diluting the conversation with more nonsense, Mr. Cusack.)

  8. It’s still hard to imagine seeing light rain in DuPont. This must be that 70-year thing that one member was talking about. I just don’t see DuPont being a big enough transit destination until Pierce Transit starts running regular service there and gets the locals conditioned to general, all-day transit. But I don’t see Pierce Transit embracing DuPont (or, more importantly, DuPont embracing Pierce Transit) for a long, long time.

    1. I’m thinking that DuPont extension is probably Sounder. While DuPont has a few people now most of the ridership would likely come from Thurston County.

      1. Oh, never mind that is light rail in the LRP. OK maybe, but onle because the incremental cost of running a DMU on existing track from Lakewood wouldn’t be all that much.

    2. I suppose if Thurston County is willing to pony up some money one day in the distant to extend Sounder to Olympia, the marginal cost of having it stop in DuPont to load a couple of passengers wouldn’t be that much. Otherwise, forget it. People who work in Seattle should not be living all the way in DuPont and expecting taxpayers to fund their transportation for them. It’s just too far.

      1. As I said Sounder to DuPont wouldn’t cost much or add much operating cost. I think the ridership is there. Note that many who board Sounder or ST express in Lakewood and DuPont live in Thurston County.

        I also think it is worth looking at FRA compliant DMU between DuPont and Tacoma as well. Since Sound Transit owns the tracks it is possible for them to run trips all day unlike the BNSF tracks.

  9. Of all the multiplicity of routings on this map I really don’t understand how they propose to go between Lakewood and “Parkland” via commuter rail. There is no track available unless they’re really headed two miles east of the Parkland Shopping Center along 512 where the Port of Tacoma crosses the freeway. That seems like a really strange thing to do since not only is the freeway undercrossing the ultimate nowhere, but it would require going eight or ten miles south along the old NP right of way to Roy then hanging a sharp left onto the Port of Tacoma and going about twenty miles back to the freeway underpass. Or building a brand new “commuter rail line” for passengers only. Surely this must be a mistake.

  10. What would the cost/benefit ratio and feasibility be of removing the exurban/rural parts of Pierce County from the Sound Transit district? It seems clear from the somewhat ridiculous proposals in the long-range plan that trying to pander to those voters doesn’t make sense, especially when they’ll overwhelmingly vote against the plan anyways. I can’t imagine it would take that huge of a bite out of sales tax revenues, but I could be wrong…

    1. I’m not to worried about anything too goofy in the LRP the cost per rider will kill just about anything other than bus service to the more sparsely populated parts of the region.

      I think the ST district corresponds to the urban growth boundary in each of the 3 counties. Unfortunately Pierce County included a huge chunk of relatively rural land in the SE and E county in their UBG.

      1. The ST district boundary corresponds to the contiguous urban growth area, at least in King County. There are islands of urban growth outside the district.

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