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This summer Sound Transit kicked off it’s Long Range Plan (LRP) update, and asked for your opinion. As part of the process many people reached out to Sound Transit and asked that a Sand Point Crossing be included. In fact respondents asked for a Sand Point Crossing more than all other new corridors combined. According to section 5.3.2 of the LRP:

The majority of comments related to a new corridor urged Sound Transit to study a new crossing of Lake Washington between Sand Point and Kirkland. In many cases, specific station locations and routes were suggested. In addition, commenters felt that Sound Transit should analyze a floating rail bridge, floating tunnel, and suspension bridge from Sand Point to Kirkland to supplement the analysis in the UW to Kirkland to Redmond portion of the Central and East HCT Corridor Study.

First off, thanks to everyone that took the effort to tell ST what you thought. Secondly, thanks to Mayor Murray and CM O’Brien for listening and submitting the Sand Point Crossing (Corridor 14 – UW to Sand Point to Kirkland to Redmond) for inclusion in the Long Range Plan.

That said, late yesterday afternoon Seattle Subway learned that at this Thursday’s Executive Committee meeting, there will be a move to remove Corridor 14 from the LRP. Unfortunately, after all the work people put in to get Sand Point into the Long Range Plan, it could be removed with no guarantees that it will be studied in the future. In fact Sound Transit’s own Draft EIS explicitly excluded it from further study as part of S.R. 520 corridor studies. The fact that it is the single most asked for corridor and being targeted for removal does not bode well for it’s inclusion in future studies. Thursday isn’t the last chance to save the Sand Point Crossing study, there will a full board meeting on the 18th. However as they will be voting on an already prepared plan at that time, Thursday is our best chance. [Edit] Clarification:  On Thursday 12/4 the Executive Committee will consider amendments to the LRP.  On 12/18 the Board will vote on the amendments.

It is Seattle Subway’s stance that not only does a Sand Point Crossing deserve study, but that people will understandably call into question the entire Long Range Plan outreach process if the most asked for new corridor is removed for political reasons. What is the point of people participating in the process if the board is going to throw out the most asked for consideration?

Please reach out to the Sound Transit Board and tell them (again!) that you want the Sand Point Crossing to stay in the Long Range Plan! Click here to email the board.

222 Replies to “ACTION ALERT: Sand Point Crossing”

  1. I’m relatively agnostic as to the eventual merits of a Sand Point crossing, and most North King-East King LRT generally, but removing Sand Point from further study, or really from the ability to be studied at some point, is unjustifiable. 1. The studied SR 520 rail options and Union Bay approaches are all pretty terrible. 2. Under subarea equity North King and East King are the two richest subareas and could potentially afford something like this in ST4. 3. The integrity of the public process demands that the most requested corridor be included, otherwise why go through the process at all? If advocacy groups successfully organized for this outcome, and that fact is explicitly recognized by ST, only to have it removed on a whim, that totally undermines confidence in the system.

    1. Exactly, it deserves a fair study and comparison if any lake crossing is built. I’m lukewarm about any lake crossing because of the cost/benefit ratio, but this corridor is better than the others. It would be a game changer in east-west mobility between north Seattle and the northern Eastside. It would be faster than driving. Cars have to drive down to 520 and back via Montlake or I-5, and all of those are congested and out-of-the way. A 520 light rail crossing would have the same problems, plus it would go through the Points area which is low density, low ridership, and probably wnats trains less than Surrey Downs does. The Sand Point routing is more of a straight shot and goes directly to population centers.

      1. How can they “remove” the corridor if it is already published in the EIS? Sand Point looks to get exactly the same treatment as every other corridor. The nature of the beast, as an environmental document, means that Seattle Subway would have had to request that the 520 corridor be *removed* if they wanted to produce better numbers at this point in the process for Sand Point, but even the travel model extrapolates from existing travel patterns that wouldn’t have much Kirkland-Seattle-Ballard ridership at this time. ST has the screenline data, which adds about 10K riders for Sand Point on top of a 520 crossing, along with some of the *worst* wetland impacts of any of the corridors studied. If ST ever builds a 2nd cross-lake corridor, then they can do a cost/benefit for where it should be located. They are not required to put it on 520. In the meantime there are plenty of lines on the map and projects to keep ST busy. Now, Pierce County *adding* corridors to the map that have questionable value for transit? Crickets from everyone here…

      2. Ok I actually read a little more. It is hard to navigate one chapter to the others, so I found the page for the full document. At first I just searched in the executive summary and found:

        Corridor 14—Light rail from UW to Sand Point to
        Kirkland to Redmond:
        Corridor 14 would contribute
        to the relatively high daily transit ridership increases
        at Across Lake Washington (screenline 8) and at
        West of 148th Avenue NE (screenline 9) and Bellevue
        (screenline 21). Estimated transit ridership increases
        at these locations would be relatively high—10,000
        at screenline 8 and 5,000 at screenlines 9 and
        21, respectively.

        This is saying (I checked chapter 3 and 4 for more details) that this corridor *contributes* to more ridership across those three places. So the combined effect of adding express bus on 520 and a new, third lake crossing is a total of 10K new riders across the lake relative to the existing long-range plan? I just don’t understand why it should be a priority.

        There are also summary charts with the impacts (since after all, this is an EIS) that of course look ugly because you’re crossing a lake with a new bridge and building portals, even if you’re burying the bridge. That would be controversial for the limited benefits (trying to get even a concession stand in Magnuson Park would probably be controversial!), and it seems like folly to arbitrarily create a new corridor without a clear constituency for it. It’s not in Seattle’s transit master plan and Kirkland is hellbent on Totem Lake as their regional growth center, and I think that’s a couple miles further north.

    2. It’s not a whim. Funds are tight and studies cost lots of money. Just because a few dozen loud mouthed activists clamor for it doesn’t mean the board should abandon it’s fiduciary responsibility to spend the taxpayers money wisely. You don’t have to spend several million dollars to see that this is a turkey.

      1. In principle I might agree with you. I would love it if our agencies had in-house expertise and executive decision making abilities to more centrally decide technologies, alignments, and corridors with less process and shorter timelines, but our process works exactly so that you actually do have to spend money to declare turkeys. Given the (IMO) objective terribleness of the proposed 520 options and their unavoidable omission of Kirkland in favor of Hunts Point and Medina, then we might be talking turkeys all around; and subarea equity to some extent guarantees that turkeys get built, especially in sprawling but rich areas such as East King. Even if they’re both turkeys, If a second crossing is within the ST3/4 timeframe at all, then it’s an absolutely valid question whether Sand Point or 520 Rail to Nowhere is the bigger one.

      2. IMO the $50-200 thousand dollars it would cost to study is well worth it. In fact, I actually think ST has a fiduciary responsibility to study it. It’s like buying a house. It would be shortsighted try to save a few hundred dollars and not get it fully inspected…

    3. I agree with all you guys.

      I believe that the crux of the problem is this: We need a more creative assessment of where travel markets are before we add or delete any corridors. Using citizen ideas as a popularity contest on corridors is really amateurish and potentially a mistake that could cost billions. We need to step back and do strategic transit system planning and less transit system preliminary design for now, especially since we know it’s a very expensive investment and will affect the region for decades. We need to call in respected transit planning strategists that are independent from major engineering firms.

      We now have some recent ballpark pricing already given the range of subway, elevated, bridge crossing and surface components to the recently completed studies. Let’s quit spending millions designing more corridors and instead do some independent, creative testing of service and alignment alternatives. Then, if we need to hone in on cost questions of some of the segments, we can.

      We can’t exclude a second crossing unless we look through many alignments: A Sand Lake crossing + east/west North Seattle line? A 520 crossing with U-Link connectivity near UW + east/west North Seattle line? A 520 crossing with U-Link connectivity at Capitol Hill Station (maybe with an upper Central District subway segment that feeds the crossing) + South Lake Union + Fremont + Ballard line? A “around the top of the lake” alignment that services Lake City, Bothell and then swings south to connect with East Link? There are many ways to look at this and all have system implications.

      1. I agree with the bulk of what you said, but this part has me wondering:

        We now have some recent ballpark pricing already given the range of subway, elevated, bridge crossing and surface components to the recently completed studies.

        Really, we do? I was assuming that we didn’t. So, about how much would it cost to build this? Four billion? Six billion?

        To me, that is what we need. Just a ballpark figure. I don’t need to know where exactly to put a station, or how many people will ride this, I just want to have a rough idea of how much this would cost, because we haven’t really built anything like this. I can ballpark the east and west side but I have no idea how much a mile and a half crossing would cost. This isn’t like the ship canal. The water here is much deeper — maybe you go under or maybe not. Either way it is a lot more expensive.

      2. “Using citizen ideas as a popularity contest on corridors is really amateurish and potentially a mistake that could cost billions.”

        It was citizens and neighborhood groups that pushed a very reluctant Metro to create the now super busy route 8 bus line not all that long ago.

      3. Ross, that was meant to be a general comment on alignments and not on the Sand Point crossing specifically. I’d agree that we would need to have a ballpark cost on that. I would note that we are in the middle of creating a new 520 bloating bridge so some sort of linear foot comparison along with the fixed costs of bridge approaches might do it.

        Poncho, citizen comments are indeed useful! It’s just that they shouldn’t be the only reason to add or subtract a corridor, particularly when the aggregate number of comments only number in the hundreds. It should be a contributing reason, with cost and demand being more major considerations. The fact that ST would let comments significantly influence their strategic planning suggests even more that they don’t seem to want to do any.

      4. @Al — Yeah, I agree. It really shouldn’t be that difficult to ballpark a lot of costs, consider a lot of options, and then remove the ones that don’t make sense from current study. For example, in this case, if the ballpark number is six billion (which is my guess, give or take a billion) then it gets removed from current consideration (for that reason). Folks can complain a lot about the decision, but at least it is an open and reasonable one. It really is a screwed up process if we are considering some routes, but not others, because, as you say, a handful of people write in and think it would be great. Most of those folks would support just about anything transit related. They aren’t being asked the hard questions.

        Not that soliciting public support is a bad thing. What is bad is that it seems like Sound Transit doesn’t consider a route until the public suggests it (e. g. Corridor D). That is a really bad sign, and we’ve seen that repeated over and over again. For example, a station at NE 125th/130th wasn’t considered as part of North Link, even though a lot of people consider it obvious (for connecting Lake City to Link). The good news is that this isn’t dead and can be added later. A worse example is Montlake. Part of the reason that people are even suggesting a new rail line close to 520 is because (as of this writing) the connection will be bad. The answer is very simple — just add a station where 520 and the rail line connect. But that won’t happen because Sound Transit never thought of it (oops). Too late now, because the rail line is not level there.

        It would also be bad if Sound Transit chooses an expensive route and lets other, more important routes get short changed because we spent all of our money on a very expensive service that isn’t worth it. (To this point, I don’t think they will, but it is possible). But I have no qualms with Sound Transit spending extra money doing a secondary study based on public opinion. Maybe they discounted the popularity of an area, then lots of people wrote in and said they would like that route. A secondary study isn’t that expensive, so I have no qualms in that case.

        Nor do I have any problem with minor modifications based on public input. Maybe Sound Transit made the wrong assumption. For example, some of the routes from downtown to Ballard include a station in lower Queen Anne, and some include a station in upper Queen Anne. But in most of the cases, the lower Queen Anne station is inside the Seattle Center. This is a bad idea in general (the monorail can take someone to the Seattle Center) but it is especially bad if upper Queen Anne is ignored. In that case, it is essential that the lower Queen Anne station integrate well with buses, especially those coming from north Queen Anne. Again, I would hope that the experts at Sound Transit already know this, but if not, this is exactly the type of modification that would cost nothing, but improve service dramatically.

  2. I’m sure ST is just following the data on this one. The so called Sand Point Crossing never made good transit sense given the costs and buildability issues. And any sort of E-W line tying into U-Link would potentially create directional capacity issues on the UW to DT Seattle segment. So I say good riddance.

    We have a lot of higher priorities in this region for our limited tax dollars. I’d much rather we build something like the Green Line first.

    1. What data?

      The one study ST claimed to reference in terms of a Sand Point Crossing being unfeasible in fact said the opposite, that a transit line SHOULD be studied.

      All the 520 options are horrible. Why NOT at least study Sand Point?

      1. Just go down to Sand Point and observe how few people are crossing Lake Washington in that location. Those data drive a conclusion to not study this corridor any further.

      2. @RDPence As a kid I got a landscaping job on the east side. Some days I biked around, but other days I launched my inflatable kayak from Mathews beach and landed at Holmes point.

    2. There is no data; that’s why it needs to be studied. ST pointed to a WSDOT study that said an automobile bridge there made little sense but a transit bridge there might be successful and is worth further study. The Long-Range Plan is not the place to make these decisions. It’s the place to list transit needs and potential corridors, then these can be chosen later for feasibility studies. Excluding Sand Point-Kirkland now is arbitrary, and would not help our Seattle priorities.

    3. Who said it would tie into the North Link line other than a non-revenue connection? Everything I’ve heard has it as a separate line crossing North Link perpendicular.

  3. On something this urgent, where people are being urgently asked to come testify on a matter this important, I think that all of our testimony will be more effective if we knew exactly what those “political reasons” are, and who exactly is using them to do this much damage to this project.

    And also, while I don’t speak for the whole readership or commenters of the Seattle Transit Blog, some friendly advice in the same vein. An old Scots proverb says: “Trust no one who will not readily give you his name!” Also meaning “hers.” And also “all of yours!”

    I generally tear up any anonymous statement or appeal. As I do with anything official written in the passive voice: “It will be done” means it probably won’t. Leading directly to the passive-evasive voice that is Seattle’s trade-mark: “Mistakes were made…”

    I have a personal reason for calling attention to this point. In 1983, as the Downtown Seattle Transit Project was just getting started, several board members came to a special meeting of our union local.

    I asked Seattle City Councilman Jim Street: “Exactly who is the leader of this project?” His answer? “We don’t really have a leader at this point. The board are all working on this together.”

    A statement that , perfectly, to this day 31 years later, defines everything that is worst the matter with our regional transit effort. So if Seattle Subways doesn’t have one yet, it might be advisable to pick one before Thursday. Even if you have to replace them later.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Mark – I’m not 100% on what your post is intimating, I’m the president of Seattle Subway and we collaborate on these posts. Click on the about us to see that info.

      1. Are you intimating that I’m intimating something, Keith? Danger is we’ll set off a chain of irreversible cross-reflective counterintimation, landing us both in Morits Escher House for rehab. So, ok:

        1. When someone has to fight political forces, they’re most effective when they know the enemy’s identity.

        2. Considering New World Disorder of communications, have to be sure message isn’t from a hostile political force who’s identity-thefted your logo. Leading to blizzard of Viagra adds- which will then also “wrap” every subway car, too.

        3. I’m very serious about the honest answer I received several decades ago from someone I respected- and the ongoing disaster that resulted from its truth.

        4. Having both lived in Ballard and driven the 44, I really like corridor you’re proposing. But because of second thing, a lot of this affection is because if it’s built in this millenium it can’t be automated.

        All I’m really saying, Keith, your whole organization can be proud of putting their names on it. And you and your group should be proud for you to have and list your title as well.

        Especially because we all thought it was Ben Schiendelman. And truly, thank you for posting this. But remember:


      2. Your comments are increasingly baroque and impenetrable, Mark. For the life of me I have no idea what most of this comment is suggesting, outside the conclusion, is trying to say.

      3. I complained about this a few Seattle Subway posts ago, Mark. At least they now identify their communications team, which they somehow weren’t even bothering with until recently.

  4. Who is behind this move to remove the Sandpoint corridor without study? What reasons are they giving?

    1. Our understanding is that there is pressure to have Seattle remove corridors because suburban subareas are. Since this is on its way to essentially being killed in committee – we are lucky to even have that information.

      1. Wow, that would be nuts. Seattle is being pressured to remove corridors because suburban areas are removing corridors. How does that make sense?

        Besides, it that really is the motivation, why remove a line that benefits the suburbs as much, if not more than it benefits the city. If you look at the census maps, look at the destinations and look at the possible stations, you realize that the additional stations to the east of the UW (in Seattle) aren’t that good. There not terrible, but they aren’t great.

        On the other hand, this would be fantastic for Kirkland. Not only would they be connected to the UW (and the rest of Seattle via an easy transfer) but they would be connected quite well to Redmond. Even though it is a round about route, getting to downtown Bellevue (or most of the other stops) would be very good. If this was cheap, I think it would make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, I think this won’t be cheap.

      2. I agree, Charles, studying light rail on 520 doesn’t make much sense at all to me. They should study possible improvements to 520 to make it easier for the buses to get to the Husky Stadium station instead. All of that is wrapped up with 520 bridge work, so unlike a lot of these things, time is of the essence (and it may be too late as it is).

      3. “Seattle is being pressured to remove corridors because suburban areas are removing corridors. How does that make sense?”


      4. In other words, the idea that city resources have to be proportional to suburban resources, regardless of the marked difference in urbanism, ridership, and need between them.

      5. @Mike — You mean this:

        I still don’t get it. This is planning, not construction. If Seattle just happens to have lots and lots of possible routes that need studying, so be it. The same is true for the east side and other regions. Now, if they just want to get rid of the “silly ideas”, then they should do so regardless of geography. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are more silly ideas in the suburbs than the city, just because the city is, compared to the suburbs, a lot more dense. Unless you start talking about a subway to Discovery Park, it is hard to come with a really silly proposal in the city. Light rail to West Seattle, for example, is very expensive, has much cheaper alternatives and would serve one of the least populous places in Seattle, and even I (an opponent) wouldn’t call it silly. But light rail to the middle of Mill Creek would be silly (and it wouldn’t surprise me if someone suggested that).

      6. Also, I stand by second paragraph (although I meant to say “if that really is the motivation”). If this really is being killed because someone in some suburb thinks that Seattle is “studying too much”, then killing this is idiotic. Most of Seattle could care less about this. We want light rail from Ballard to the UW, or Ballard to Downtown, or South Lake Union, or the Central District, or Lake City, or West Seattle before we want this.

        Really, there just aren’t that many people in the area and the station placement is very problematic (to put it mildly). There is a big cemetery and acres and acres of parkland in the area. The hospital is a decent spot, but it isn’t like we are trying to serve every hospital with light rail (otherwise we would have served the V. A.). You would get some bus improvements, but most everyone will just take a bus that goes on 65th and gets to the Roosevelt station (which would mean one less transfer). Oh and the only pocket of sizable density north of there is Lake City and those folks want a new station at 125th/130th.

        No, unless this is being lead by a really misguided anti-urbanist, this is weird. I think it is far more likely that this is being lead by someone who wants a different route from Seattle to Kirkland. For example, kill this and hope that you have 522 based light rail all the way around the lake. That serves Kirkland, although not nearly as well. But if I was devious, and from, say, Bothell, I might try and kill the second crossing just so that a light rail line on 522 could get more attention.

      7. Sound Transit board members don’t seem to differentiate between strategic planning and preliminary engineering design.

    2. I’m not part of Seattle Subway, but I also had access to their source, which I consider extremely reliable. We don’t have good enough information on who’s behind it to point fingers in a post.

      1. You guys should really go back to school on the planning process. This guest post is rather hysterical considering the facts on the ground. The Sand Point crossing is covered in the LRP EIS. That makes it a candidate for study in ST3 regardless of whether it’s on the LRP map, or not. In fact, any project-level study of a second lake crossing would have to look at multiple routes and alignments, including a new bridge or tunnel, and probably a 522 route as well. The real question is WHEN would a second east-west route be needed? The 2040 ridership screening results suggest not prior to then, which casts doubt on the utility of a Sand Point crossing in the ST3 timeframe, given other competing needs. If it makes people feel better to see a line on a map, fine. But that doesn’t make it a wise place to focus scarce resources.

      2. If this is true railcan, in the Draft EIS, why didn’t ST just say that Sand Point was excluded for addition because it was already in the LRP?

        Why did they instead make up the excuse that it was excluded because it had already been “previously considered” in the TransLake Washington Study? (see section 2.6.2)

        And it was a made up excuse. If ST had actually read the study, they would have known that it only dismissed a new highway across Sand Point. The study in fact listed a Sand Point transit connection in it’s “concepts to be further evaluated” with the notes: “With service to two urban centers this would clearly have good ridership potential.”

        If you would like to shed some light on the subject, please point out the relevant section of the current LRP that includes Sand Point.

      3. Yes, please try again, I just clicked on your link and ran a search and the only two references to Sand Point in that document is in reference to potential corridors to be added to the Long Range Plan. HOWEVER, see the OP, the board is currently looking at removing them, meaning they wouldn’t be in the LRP.

      4. Railcan – To be clear, nobody thinks this is going in ST3. There has not even been a preliminary study. There is an amendment to the LRP that adds the corridor. There is no evidence that Sand Point (even a study of Sand Point) will still be anywhere on the table if that amendment fails.

    3. That’s because you’re too young to remember MC Escher, djw. Follow the link. Escher’s brilliant etchings did amazing things with perspective, causing two dimensional pics to do complicate themselves into perspectives that could never happen in the real world.

      In the ’60’s and ’70’s, college kids just loved these things because not everybody could afford LSD. But if Escher were still alive, transit studies and other documents could definitely be more comprehensible, and their dealer price would definitely pay for items like Lake Washington crossings at Sand Point.

      I was teasing Kyle over being accused of “intimating” things, meaning perniciously not coming out and saying them, warning him of the danger of a retaliatory war of intimations that would suck worse than the “Sulabon” episodes of Star Trek.

      But seriously, I really need getting a “You’re Getting Weird” warning. Too much Escher at a formative age. Martin, STB really needs [YGW] and [TDL]- Too Damn Long! warnings. I need them too.


  5. Must be Kemper Freeman on steroids this time. There’s got to be some eastside billionaire who runs his boat to Husky games that is funding him. Time to go to the courts, I think citizens should create a suit against ST if they dump the study.

    1. If it was being removed after a study said it wasn’t worth it, I’d agree. But it’s being removed before even being studied. I would be surprised if a study said it’s worth building it – but it’s useful enough that it should be studied.

      1. There’s no need to spend a bunch of money studying this, it’s an obvious turkey. I’ve sent my message to the board saying so.

      2. Light rail on 520 is a turkey. Buses on 520 are not. The key is to solve the “last mile” problem between the buses and Link. The cheapest solution is to let people walk (it is actually a half mile, not a full mile). But buses could also cross the existing bridge and the Husky Stadium parking lot could be used as a turnaround spot. More expensive solutions involve a new bridge over the canal (since we are already building a new bridge across the lake). There are a lot of options, and just about all of them are a better use of money than another light rail lake crossing.

    2. It may be that we end up building a turkey. As such we should at least find out the relative merits so we end up with the better of two turkeys.

      1. How could any city/region with a transportation situation as fucked up as ours possibly find it acceptable to spend two or three billion dollars on any kind of turkey?

        Much less a turkey that sinks those billions into a place with literally no ridership (i.e. a mile of water)?

      2. You’re a bright guy d.p., you know that mile of water is a chokepoint and chokepoints are good for transit demand.

        According the Jarrett Walker this comes in two ways. 1. Bringing Parallel lines together for easy transfers and 2. Creating a travel time advantage over cars.

        So you have a chokepoint that constricts all transit between the Eastside north of Bellevue and Seattle North of the ship canal. Those are large areas where viable trip pairs will be created almost out of nothing and the train would blow even traffic free driving away for Kirkland to the U District or Kirkland to Ballard travel.

        If we end up building a turkey it will be a political decision. Furthermore there is a limit to how bad of an investment we can make on transportation infrastructure. The worst case scenario is we build an expensive tunnel between two build out areas and radically improve thousands of people’s lives.

        Long story short it would be acceptable because there is a constituency. Which is why we should at least study it so we can explain that it is too expensive to them, despite the value of their saved time.

      3. Interestingly, Jarrett Walker has not been a fan of a 520 rail crossing, and I think he’s somewhat skeptical about I-90 rail too.

        Extrapolating from his views about 520, I doubt he’d support this effort. His concern wasn’t about the bridge (where you do get the advantages of choke points) as much as the disparate geography on either end. Too many destinations in different directions make for poor rail corridors.

      4. Moving the crossing north to force the destinations into more of a line seems to be just what the doctor ordered. U District-Kirkland-Bellevue with a transfer to Overlake. Of course I can’t speak for Mr. Walker.

        I would agree that the 520 crossing is a mess thanks to defuse destinations, which was apparent in the U District-Kirkland-Redmond study and the multitude of line options they had. I assume they would have to build more than one branch to make everybody happy on the Eastside.

      5. Sorry, but the Turkeyness of this one is almost too ridiculously obvious to be outraged by its demise, no matter the issues one might reasonably take with the process that led to that demise.

        The primary cross-lake chokepoint is being handled by East Link, and East Link is duly expected to underperform. You can claim “separate corridors” all you want, but any secondary crossing will perform even worse than the primary one, and anything you build from scratch will have a ROI orders of magnitude worse than the retrofitted center lanes of I-90.

        Add in the inconvenient fact that the “major” Eastside anchor is a modest suburban downtown with a growth quarantine that will keep it permanently modest, and the equally inconvenient fact that the crossing’s western landing involves nearly three miles of this — Sand Point to Brooklyn is as far as Ballard to Brooklyn!! — and we can all safely stick a gigantic one of these in this idea.

      6. That’s a fair point about the Sand Point side. Of course enlisting Children’s hospital against the NIMBYs would be pretty great and is that part of Seattle’s best hope for density and change.

        I wouldn’t claim “separate corridors”. Just the opposite, I think their would be increased ridership on the system as a whole due to network effects. Each bridge might serve less people but together they would serve many more and make the whole system more useful for everybody. For instance a second crossing would make it easier to deal with maintenance or failure of one crossing and adding a third is batter still. Adding redundancy is always a wise move in infrastructure.

      7. To Peyton’s point, “creating trip pairs practically out of nothing” does not seem like the best use of everyone’s time and billions of dollars, when we have hundreds of thousands of existing trip pairs that could be served by projects already being seriously considered.

      8. Out of nothing was a bit of rhetorical exaggeration. The 540 exists, the 255 exists, you can transfer to get to Ballard. Right now Ballard to Kirkland takes an unreasonably long amount of time to do by any mode of transportation, mostly thanks to the lake, and we have a chance to fix that and capture people who didn’t know they wanted to takes these trips because they were so unreasonable in the past.

        We should take full advantage of opportunities to build transit that can do what cars can’t. It’s not the number one priority but nether is it fair to say we have thousands of trip pairs that need to be served first.

        (As an aside in my head I figured number of destinations = x and trip pairs = x-1. Is that correct?)

      9. There are no “network effects” from lines that would be miles apart, that in no way connect walkable destinations with the slightest bit of symbiosis, and that individually have objectively shit ridership.

        If Federal Way Link can only attract 10,000 trips, and Issaquah is even worse, then the 0.00001% who would possibly bother connecting through = exactly 1 person.

        You don’t build $15 billion in trains for 1 person.

        Network effects exist at urban scale, or where commuter transport intersects with urban transport. Nobody takes BART from Richmond to fucking Pleasanton. Nobody connects from Islip to Poughkeepsie.

        You need to step away from the Google Map Maker and familiarize yourself a bit with the real world. In the real world, people don’t take absurdly elaborate transit trips just because they can.

      10. “Nobody takes BART from Richmond to fucking Pleasanton. Nobody connects from Islip to Poughkeepsie. “

        and NOBODY takes Amtrak all the way from Portland to Vancouver, BC.

        Based on that logic,…

        Seattle Subway should push really hard for the comparative study.

        (something that was never done for the I-405 corridor directly comparing Commuter Rail on the ERC, and BRT, (either on the ERC, or Freeway based), by the way)

      11. As usual, Jim, you’ve resorted to stringing nonsense words together and then blurting out RAIL STUDY! like you have [ad hom]

        [ad hom].

      12. When I saw your “Nobody takes ..” comments, I was given to reminisce about your analytical abilities concerning the Amtrak Cascades service from Portland to Vancouver BC. a while back.

        Based on that, I implore the folks at Seattle Subway to pursue getting the data in hand that will help with a definitive answer.

        You do believe in working with the actual data to make a correct determination, don’t you?

        Their issue parallels the I-405 Corridor Program/WSDOT I-405 Freeway Bus/Sound Transit I-405 BRT/Sound Transit Commuter Rail in the ERC study.

        When Dan Ryan made the one comment in his guest post about Building Transit on THE 405 these two paragraphs interested me:

        Interestingly, I did learn today that Kirkland will be asking ST to remove commuter rail on the corridor from the LRP. (Is there any precedent for removing anything from the LRP?).

        Given the commuter rail ridership numbers from the ERC corridor study, it seems redundant. But they’re partly motivated by concerns about interoperability and station access, so I read it as a positive that they’re paying attention. They are also being careful to let it be understood they are in favor of transit on the corridor generally. They just don’t want anything that looks like Sounder.

        Why would Sound Transit be leaving it in the Long Range Plan?
        Why would Kirkland want it removed from the Long Range Plan?

        If, as Dan says – “Given the commuter rail ridership numbers from the ERC corridor study…”
        wouldn’t the data back up either one of those two stakeholder’s claims?

        A good side to side comparison of BRT and commuter rail with the associated cost/benefit analysis is what’s needed.
        I have yet to see one.

        I hope Seattle Subway gets to see the results of their request.

      13. Yes, I knew what you were referencing.

        Well, guess what? Matt Johnson got station-pair statistics from Amtrak, and indeed, PDX-VAC through-ridership ranges from the low to moderate double digits — both directions combined.

        That’s an insignificant, edge-case number of riders in the grand scheme of daily Cascades usage. It was also wholly predictable, because, as I said at the time, there is no such thing as network effects on ground-transit trips of significant distances.

        But you know what else? Planning around that tiny number of through-riders still managed to make hundreds of SEA-BEL and SEA-VAC riders more than an hour late the last time I took the train up to Canada. All of whom would have been much more pleased with their choice of mode if Cascades were designed to ensure on-time arrival among the major demand pairs, rather than through-routing 8-hour trips for the edge-case railfans.

        But as your insertion into the Sand Point debate reminds us, you’ll always privilege hypothetical transit users over real ones! Isn’t that right, Jim?

      14. Has Mr. Johnson published his findings anywhere on this blog?
        Maybe I missed the post.
        Could you point me to it?

        Will it corroborate your analysis?

        Or will it show the boardings for trains #513 and #516 at roughly 200,000 per year having just under 10% (20,000) do take that full trip from Portland to Vancouver, B.C.
        That translates into 30% of those boarding and detraining in Vancouver, B.C. coming from the greater Portland metropolitan area.

        Yep, that’s the fringe element for sure.

        Matt needs to give you a piece of advice if the STB wants to retain any credibility.

        I look forward his presentation of the data.

      15. It was an exchange outside of STB, but I do not believe the numbers were considered private.

        It was 21 people coming, and 21 people going, per day, on average.

        You might thing 10% (!!!) is impressive, until you remember that’s 10% of only one of the two Vancouver trains — and it’s the less busy Vancouver train, thanks to its very late northbound arrival and very early southbound departure.

        So really, it’s less than 4% of ridership on the route that travels north of Seattle.

        And the northerly route, as you might have noticed, is far weaker than the southern route, since it’s comparatively slow and unreliable — which never seems to concern foamers, but which depresses interest from normal people. That’s why cumulative north-segment ridership is barely 1/4 of south-segment ridership.

        In fact, with total Cascades usage averaging 2,335/day over the course of a year, 40 total PDX-VAC or VAC-PDX passengers is a pretty easy calculation. It’s 1.7%

        What a fucking service priority, Jim! What incredible “network effects”!

        I don’t have the SEA-VAC trip-pair number in front of me, but suffice to say that it is at least half of north-segment usage. There’s no way you could get a result of “30% of VAC passengers boarded in PDX” from the data unless you are a complete and total moron.

        Oh… Wait…….

      16. “There’s no way you could get a result of “30% of VAC passengers boarded in PDX” from the data unless you are a complete and total moron.”

        You seem to have trouble understanding my post. Was it because it was in two consecutive sentences?
        Let me rephrase it for you – 30% of the passengers on trains #513 AND #516 that board or detrain in Vancouver B.C. come from the greater Portland metropolitan area.

        Have Matt publish the results.

      17. You’re just wrong!

        The SEA-VAC pair was well into the triple digits. I’m pretty sure even Everett-Vancouver killed your 8-hour long-haul fringe-foamer statistic.

        There’s no way you could get 30% of VAC entries, even if you limited your data to just one of the two trains. And there’s no valid reason to limit data to just one train, because while that train carries 100% of the 8-hour foamer demographic, it carries less than half of demand between any notable city pairs.

        You’re such a reality-warper that you’d probably try to argue the Coast Starlight is “more popular” than the Lexington Ave subway, based upon a per-trip averaged load.

        Per-trip is bullshit. Aggregate demand is vital.

        When will you get it through your head that the world doesn’t enjoy really long rides on trains just because you happen to?

      18. …And (to return the thread from your hijacking back to relevance) that no one wants to chain-train 40 miles suburb-to-suburb across the New York metro area, across Chicagoland, or across the Puget Sound.

        Anti-urban distance rail does not have “network effects”.

  6. Incidentally, I like this alternative. However, I imagine that Seattle Subways already understands that if this line does any street or median running anywhere along the route, like on Sand Point Way, it will be impossible to automate these trains.

    If left on the surface, as on MLK, opening day will be a whole lot sooner than for an automated subway.Also, as a former operator, subway-surface light rail from Ballard to Kirkland would be really great to drive.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Opening day would be a lot sooner? Based on what evidence? Don’t forget that Vancouver churns out automated lines in 4 years from beginning of construction to opening and does so with 2 different train technologies. Automation does not require special trains or stations, just grade separation at this point, and a different signaling system and some sensors. Cost may be 10% more tops and it more than pays for itself in a couple of years. This whole opposition to automation in the US is just completely ridiculous on the borders of Republican-vs-Democrat-government-shutdown ridiculous. Vancouver has been doing fully-automated trains since 1985! It’s a luddite argument to argue in any form against automation.

      1. And well, you aren’t arguing against it per se, but it often is controversial and it shouldn’t be in the least.

      2. Anton, the reason I think automation would require more construction time is that for safety’s sake, it requires a completely reserved right of way- either underground or elevated, completely fortified on the surface.

        The construction of an automated line between Ballard and Sand Point would definitely require elevated out of Ballard, subway under 45th all the way through the U-District, and probably elevated to Sand Point.

        From my observations, Vancouver seems to have a lot of existing railroad railroad right of way for transit use at all levels. Including an existing railroad tunnel from the Waterfront under the CBD, into which they could put in tubes like a barrels on an over-under shotgun.

        With manually operated trains, transit could run street reservation like MLK from downtown Ballard, and same from U-Village to Sand Point. If done right, when it came time to automate, tunnel would already be in place, and track outside could be elevated.

        One reason I lean toward starting out manual is that it lends itself to building a line in stages- meaning we don’t have to put up with decades of being stuck in traffic until the whole line is ready. Like, for instance, I-5 Northgate to CPS at pm rush. What’s it been, 50 years? And we’re not to Northgate yet.

        I’ve personally these problems with blanket automation on transit. One is experience showing me that a computer is exactly as smart as the dumbest thing some human just told it. And spread a mistake systemwide at the speed of light- or is it shorter now- before anyone can prevent it.

        And when computers go down, they don’t drag, screech or smell bad. Though the results unfortunately do. Computers also crash at same speed they operate.

        Computers also really hate heat, water, dirt, shock, or mishandling- the essence of ground transportation. A mechanic on the Boston “T” told me that the Boeing Vertol light rail car we were sitting in would work fine if it cruised at 30,000 feet. And got “taken down” for maintenance after every working day.

        So I wouldn’t mind an automated system when ridership justifies. I’d just like to have a human preferably ready to grab the controls and override- or at least an operations trained customer service workers aboard, like they do in Vancouver.

        And sorry, but sending a US manual lathe to a cheaper worker in China is not a job lost to automation. Whivh means one less living-wage job. Which means one less person whose kids can’t go to the college needed for them to get any job. Except- well, watch Law and Order. Detroit to Ferguson- 40 years of de-industrialization have their own costs.

        I’ve read that the real Luddites didn’t so much hate machines as the resulting use of unskilled workers to let companies make huge profits from sheer volume of crappy products.

        Weaving or operating a train- the machinery still needs a skilled human to design it. And to take it over in conditions that kill a computer, but which a million years taught humans to cope. Read a book called “The Chunnel”, by Drew Featherston. First thing the Channel tunnel crew did with a new machine was trade the computerized controls for hydraulic ones. Get sprayed with salt water, don’t cher know…” And Irishmen with chisel point air jackhammers cut the cross passages.


      3. Good luck on getting the Burke Gilman for LRT. It would be easier to get road ROW in NE 45th and Sand Point Way.

      4. Mark, I forgot about this discussion, so sorry for the slow reply.

        All your arguments fall short when you look at Vancouver.

        In 29 years of operation, weather has never been a problem for the train control system – in fact, the very opposite, they can run trains all night to avoid ice on the rails – without people sitting in them.

        In 29 years of operations, they have far fewer accidents (in fact no major accidents) than any manual operated light rail system in the US.

        In 29 years of operation, their on-time performance is better than any light rail system too.

        In other words, you just have a list of fears, that sound reasonable, but statistically are all false.

  7. Is there any way they can do a tentative (rough) study. Leave out the ridership numbers and possible stations and just get a rough idea of the cost of this. I would prefer, if possible, cost per segment. For example, if this simply ended in Kirkland, would it be much cheaper?

    1. Gosh, it’s rare that I agree with d.p.’s pessimism on projects but this is one of those cases. I would have to imagine that any costing study worth more than the back of a napkin would cost a lot more than ridership modeling. I doubt any person will come up with a serious proposal to build something for less than billions. You already have buses running on 520, and a third lake crossing is competing with that. Do I remember right that the Trans Lake study said a submersible tunnel was the most feasible option? And you would take that to just a station in downtown Kirkland, where the city council does not want to upzone? Do we even know that Kirkland wants this project, or are people just excitedly drawing more spaghetti on the map that will never be built?

      1. I’ve talked to some Kirklanders about this. Generally their eyes light up.

        They aren’t fighting for this because it is so far out of the ordinary for them that they have no idea that it is even a possibility. Indeed Representative Goodman (D Kirkland 45th) seemed interested when I showed it to him this summer.

      2. Kirkland Views, a popular local blog in Kirkland, had a short piece on this discussion this afternoon. I posted a comment over there asking people for their reactions. It might be interesting over the next day or two to see the views of a more typical cross-section of the folks who would live at one end of this bridge.

        To keep it fair, I tried to be neutral. But if anybody thinks I was unfair, feel free to comment over there, or just let me know (I can revise my own summary to reflect your position if you think I’ve mis-stated).

      3. That looks pretty interesting. I’d still prefer a poll, because who knows what kind of ways the commenters could potentially be biased. Also you did a poor job of selling the tangible benefits of a potential crossing like much faster access to Ballard and the U District and the ability to take a train straight to Bellevue in .

        People don’t understand what transformative means, but they do understand DT Kirkland to the Ave in 11 minutes or DT Bellevue in 10 minutes (my estimates of point to point with a Sand Point crossing and the Better Eastside Rail alignment) with no traffic ever. It becomes vivid to them when you describe it that way.

      4. Was Representative Goodman the one who wanted a 6-mile gondola from downtown Kirkland to Bellevue?


      5. d.p., I think Rep. Goodman was not involved here. The idea has been kicked about by City staff.

        The gondola would actually go all the way to Totem Lake (which makes you feel better, right?)

      6. >> I would have to imagine that any costing study worth more than the back of a napkin would cost a lot more than ridership modeling.

        Is it really that hard to make a rough engineering estimate? I’m asking that seriously, because I’m not a civil engineer. It just seems like if you paid an engineering firm a few hundred dollars (one person to take a day) they might be able to come up with a number within a billion dollars either way. The problem I have with this discussion (and it has repeated itself over and over) is as soon as we say things like “it will cost too much”, someone says “show me a study”, and all I can do is throw a number up in the air, like “six billion”. I don’t think the argument changes much if that number is “four billion”, or even “three billion”, but it would be nice if someone with more expertise could take a stab at this.

  8. I personally think they should study it, but I think there is a extremely good chance that it will be killed once they study it. The weird part is, a lot of folks who want this will get even more upset if they study it, then kill it. Look at West Seattle. As expected, West Seattle light rail came in at an extremely high cost, while station placement is very problematic. Service for most of the folks in West Seattle could be improved much more and much more cheaply by improving the freeway (especially the ramps). None of this is surprising, but it didn’t change anyone’s mind. Those that wanted rail, still want rail. Those that think there are better, cheaper alternatives want those alternatives. Given the cost/benefit ratio of light rail to West Seattle, it will probably be killed, or at least abandoned for a while. I think this will upset the folks in West Seattle more than if they never studied it. In other words, studies like this may give people false hope. Studies like this may be like the “Monorail Expansion”, a pie in the sky idea that no board would support once they actually looked at the numbers.

    For this study, I see a similar problem. Using napkin math, I would estimate this line at 6 billion dollars. As a line, I think it is decent, but not great. I can think of lots of places where I would rather spend six billion dollars. So, looking at the big picture, I would oppose it on those grounds.

    But I live in Seattle, and I would have no qualms if Kirkland (or the rest of the east side) wants to build this. I do think it adds value to Seattle, just not a lot. So, I would suggest Seattle chip in a billion. I’m a bit reluctant to chip in that much, but I want to be neighborly. That leaves five billion for the east side. I just don’t see that happening. To begin with, a lot of folks over there will whine and complain that “Seattle should pay its fair share”. But mainly, five billion is a lot for that area. Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond combined is less than 300,000 people and a lot of them wouldn’t gain anything personally from this.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the board has already done this sort of “napkin math” and napkin negotiation.

      1. Napkin math:

        * 2 billion from the UW to Sandpoint. This is roughly the same distance as UW to Ballard so I’m saying roughly the same cost.
        * 2 billion from the UW to Sandpoint. This is roughly the same distance as well.
        * 2 billion for the crossing. This could be way over or way under. But I doubt you could build this for less than a billion. It is a mile and a half across, and it is a lake.

        Let’s assume that this number is wildly off. Let’s assume that we can magically build this for four billion dollars. OK, great. Now you are telling me that Kirkland and the rest of the east side want to spend 3 billion on this? That’s more than the entire East Link project cost. I just don’t see it.

        But as I said above, I wouldn’t mind a small study to get a rough idea of the cost. These studies tend to be really extensive (and expensive). They waste time, in my opinion. I could tell you right off the bat that West Seattle light rail won’t get huge numbers of people because there aren’t huge numbers of people there. I guessed that it was going to cost around four billion dollars, and sure enough I was right. But having someone like me say “that’s crazy expensive — it will probably cost $4 billion (or $6 billion in this case)” is not that helpful. Guys like you will question my math. That is why it makes sense for an official to come up with a rough estimate, even though anyone who has seen these sorts of things can pretty much guess the number.

      2. RossB, you counted UW to Sandpoint twice. Much of that would also likely be on the surface, so it wouldn’t have the same cost per unit length as Ballard to UW. $2B might be a reasonable guessimate for the bridge, but just for comparison, how much does the new 520 bridge cost?

        In the context of this corridor, I wouldn’t worry about Kirkland to Redmond. That could be constructed in a later phase and it might be a better plan to connect to the ERC and tie into East Link trackage around the OMSF.

      3. >> RossB, you counted UW to Sandpoint twice.

        Oops, sorry, copy and paste error. I would correct it, but I can’t; so here I go again:

        * 2 billion from the UW to Sandpoint. This is roughly the same distance as UW to Ballard so I’m saying roughly the same cost.
        * 2 billion from the Kirkland to Redmond. This is roughly the same distance as well.
        * 2 billion for the crossing.

        To answer your other question, it is hard to say. From what I can tell, the new bridge from Montlake to Kirkland is 2.9 billion. But it is all a bit lumped together (from what I can gather). There is an estimate for about 4 billion to go from Redmond to Seattle, but I don’t know if that includes everything all the way to I-5. Someone else might want to break it down better than me ( Anyway, given that number, I think a couple billion sounds about right. Somehow you have to get from the tunnel to the surface (on both sides).

        Oh, and what part is likely to be on the surface?

      4. Yeah I also disagree with your napkin math. Using Google Earth pseudo-engineering and per/mile costs of $500 million, $150 million, and $50 million for tunnel, elevated and at grade respectively, by my estimate the costs would break down as follows.

        (tunnel distance : elevated distance : at grade distance)
        Brooklyn to 65th/Sand Point $605 million (.9 .6 1.3)
        Sand Point to Lake $90 million (0 .6 0)
        Lake Washington Crossing $2 billion
        Lake to Downtown Kirkland $200 million (.4 0 0)

        That adds up to just under $2.9 Billion. More generally, the overall cost can be seen as about $1 billion plus the cost of the crossing. Assuming that the eastside is building some rail that total cost could come out to be somewhat reasonable given the alternatives. Additionally, the crossing would presumably include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, which would further enhance the utility of the project, especially given its proximity to the Burke Gilman trial.

      5. I assumed that between 25th and 35th would be elevated and that east of Children’s would be at grade. Rail could be built on the northside of sandpoint way with minimal crossings and still enough space for two lanes plus a suicide lane.

      6. Yeah, OK. That is not what is being proposed, though (which is why our numbers are so different). Your line would stop at Kirkland, while Keith’s proposal is to go to Redmond:

        For what you are suggesting, that sounds in the ballpark. But there are several concerns:

        1) Where exactly is this tunnel supposed to reach the surface (on the east side of it)? There is a hill there (which is good) so it can pop out of the hill (as the Beacon Hill and Maple Leaf tunnels do) but just about any portal would meet with major opposition.

        2) Then what? How exactly do you go elevated? Through the mall? Over the Burke Gilman? Any place like that rile the neighbors. Keep in mind that this is an area that opposed expansion of a hospital. For children. Seriously. How hard would it be for them to rile up the same neighbors, but this time in opposition to a 3 billion dollar plan to connect them to Kirkland (and a connect them a little bit faster to the U-District). Also keep in mind that combination elevated and tunnel routes from Ballard to the UW were rejected, even though that area is way more transit friendly. They looked at it, realized that it would be too easy to throw wrenches into the works, and rejected it. The same would happen here.

        3) So now instead of a super-fast, fully automated rail line from Kirkland, we have something similar to Central Link. Fair enough. I applaud your creativity when it comes to pinching pennies. But this means the same limitations. This means that there is no way this train can go every 3 minutes, or even every five minutes (just as Central Link can’t). But Ballard to the UW rail can, and should. If Ballard to the UW rail does not interline with North Link, then it should be timed to match North Link, and that should be quite often (3 minutes eventually). So, this means you have to add a new turnback station close to Ravenna (good luck with that) or severely limit one of the most important lines in the entire region so that Kirkland has a convenient ride to the U-District.

        Even with all that, this is a huge loser. 3 billion for this line is still a lot of money. As I said before, the most Seattle would pay for this is 1 billion (and that is being generous). The stations from a Seattle standpoint are really poor. So you think the east side is going to build a light rail line for 2 billion dollars so that Kirkland can connect with the UW? What about connecting Kirkland with Bellevue? Or Redmond?

      7. Anton – thanks for that breakout and the comment about bike and pedestrian connections. Its a huge potential amenity that we havent talked about at all. Walking or biking across a rail bridge would be an awefu lot nicer than walking or biking across a highway bridge.

        Ross – we only displayed the line to Redmond because we knew we were about to do the Eastside rail post. Connections south are obviously more important.

        Generally – Connecting Kirkland to DT Bellevue in ST3 could set up quite a lot of upside to this crossing in terms of ROI in ST4. Still have to see a study for comparison with the right data points.

    1. I don’t think the West Seattle studies raised unreasonable hopes. The “Rail or Bust” people are still rail or bust, and the “No Rail is Justified” people are still no rail is justified. The only people who are affected by these studies are the reasonable people in the middle who compare the cost/benefit ratio against whatever else we might do instead. At the margins there may have been a few people who were surprised at the numbers and may have questioned their previous position or moved to a different camp, but on the whole the upset people would have been upset no matter what the study said or if there had been no study.

      1. One thing I learned is serving Delridge and White Center is a lot more cost effective than tring to serve the junction.

        The numbers still aren’t great because most of the presumed ridership was coming from the Burien-Renton segment.

        That said any of the rail options for West Seattle are still a better idea than any of the options on the Eastside (with the exception of finishing East Link to downtown Redmond).

  9. Honestly, I don’t like the Sand Point crossing at all really. I think SR 520 is actually pretty good for rail. There could be 2 lines on 520, both of which are based on high-ridership, high-frequency bus routes today, e.g. the 271 and the 255/540.

    The 271 line goes UDist -> Bellevue -> Eastgate -> Issaquah, and the 255/540 line goes UDist -> Houghton -> Kirkland -> Juanita -> Totem lake

    A Sand point crossing doesn’t really help either of these corridors. In fact, it actually hurts the 271 corridor because it has to jog too far North before it crosses the lake.

    The only thing that you miss out on with this routing is a direct connection from the eastside to Children’s. Honestly though, I don’t see that as enough of a ridership generator to justify the routing penalty.

    For SR520 I would like to see a study that doesn’t involve widening 520 + adding new pontoons. The bridge roadway is actually wide enough to fit 4 lanes with a minimal shoulder (e.g. Light Rail + HOV + 2 GP lanes). Or, you could do LR + HOV + 1 GP + Managed shoulder for when speeds are below 45 MPH.

    That being said, I don’t see the harm in studying Sand point. I’m pretty sure that the cost/benefit won’t pan out compared to SR 520, but it’s certainly worth a look.

    1. if 520 is feasible and they run the Ballard line past the UW down to Uville and Children’s then would probably achieve comparable travel times, ie, about 5 stations from Kirkland to UW Medical Center.

  10. Whoa up there, cowboys (and cowgirls)! I thought your name was “Seattle Subway”. Wha’ choo messin’ roun’ wit de burbs for?

    Focus on proposing and figuring out how to fund state of the art automated transit for a couple of completely urban lines in Seattle that the regional folks simply won’t countenance. That would be LQA-SLU-CapHill-FirstHill-Lower CD (14/Jackson)-Jimi Hendrix-Mount Baker and Ballard-UW with a shared maintenance facility for them in Interbay, possibly using Link’s tracks if Ballard-Downtown goes via Interbay.

    Let SouburbandTransit® design for the regional stuff lines that extend beyond the city limits.

      1. Oh, I am “aware of what ST3 is for”: it’s for “completing the spine”. If ST actually proposes the $15 billion package that Martin expects, all Seattle gets will be Ballard-UW and Ballard-Edge of Downtown and maybe a Graham Street appetizer. Now those are very useful lines and will help focus development in the Northwest quadrant of the city very nicely, but they should be a strong elixir against sprawling lines. The city needs close in lines to support the density that will accelerate it away from the rest of the state.

        That’s what “Seattle” Subway should focus on, not pandering to the BART del Norte crowd.

      2. P.S.

        I’m not as totally opposed to BART del Norte as say d.p. and RossB, but there are plenty of powerful voices singing that song. Seattle needs people who are willing to say, “We’re different from you. We have a somewhat different culture and aspirations and so we need different infrastructure and social systems. While we certainly want to get along with you so that we all prosper together where possible, there are a large number of you who think what we need is foolish or somehow “un-American”.

        As long as you persist in attempting to deny us having them, we will have to chart our own course.”

      3. Anakondos: We are focused on both things. Working within the framework set out while pushing to accellerate Seattle faster than the current framework is capable of.

        We are focused on the ST LRP right now as its nearing its deadline.

      4. I have no idea how much BART cost, but the parts of our system that are similar have been relatively cheap. I think it is nuts to go all the way to Everett, but this at least won’t cost that much money. That is why, for example, I have no problem with Link going to Lynnwood. Northgate is very problematic for south bound buses, whereas Lynnwood isn’t. Extending that far didn’t cost that much. I would have stopped at the Mountlake Terrace transit center, but extending to Lynnwood wasn’t a budget breaker.

        But this would be. This won’t follow the freeway right of way and has serious engineering challenges. Even BART has only one water crossing, and that’s to connect East Bay with San Francisco (areas much, much bigger than us). In other words, even the BART folks wouldn’t build this.

    1. Seattle Subway has always thought regionally and rightly so. Seattle is the heart of the region and includes amenities that you wouldn’t want elsewhere in the Metropolitan area.

      The Seattle lines are the obvious focus, but if we don’t grade separate and otherwise fight for the best possible system everywhere those lines will be affected by the bad parts.

      Which is why Seattle Subway’s vision map has always been regional and why we (Seattle Subway and I) had an Eastside editorial during long range plan comments.

      1. Since Sound Transit seems like they rarely have adults people with an ounce of transit experience non-political actors in the planning meetings, a strong advocacy organization needs to be willing and able to counter the tunnel vision and doublespeak that lets $1,000,000,000-for-every-couple-thousand-riders projects get perversely described as “pretty good” investments.

        Sorry. If you can barely even get a handful of peak commuters to ride, then your sprawling, geometry-denying project is not making a dent in regional mobility, and certainly not one commensurate with heavy investment and permanent opportunity costs. You won’t have any “network effects” to speak of, either.

        Instead of calling spades spades, Seattle Subway has gotten on the “build all the things” train. And so delusion and groupthink and poor planning persist. The adults haven’t shown up. Poor outcomes are guaranteed.

      2. If you have such a problem with Seattle Subway why don’t you found your own transit advocacy group such that you can do your own polls, prove that the Eastside will never vote for things like this or an Issaquah line and rub it in our faces.

        Or failing that do a little volunteering with us and then try to get involved with our leadership and help us present better alternatives.

        Do you have any evidence that their won’t be network effects when that is generally the effect that well integrated transit projects have? I’d be fascinated to see what ever evidence you have. Especially if you can come up with something better then the god awful study Sound Transit put out for Kirkland-Bellevue-Issaquah. I have criticized that one extensively for doing everything wrong (Like building a parallel light rail station next to Hospital Station.)

      3. d.p., if this gets anywhere beyond a study of “just how crazy an idea would a second lake crossing be?”, I’ll be out there protesting with you. I’d have even more of a cause than you, because I live in the East Subarea so it’d be my tax dollars being wasted.

        But this is the LRP we’re talking about. Here, it almost is “draw everything on the map.” The 520 corridor is already going in there; we might as well dream about this line too.

      4. It seems fortunate then that this post isn’t about long lines that never have any transfer opportunities. Even the Sound Transit study had opportunities to transfer to Eastlink and the Seattle Subway alternative had an extensive interline.

        I won’t claim the spine, or Eastgate to Issaquah, has network effects. From Kirkland to Eastgate is another matter entirely and this crossing would improve that by providing transfer opportunities from that line into Seattle creating faster trips from Bellevue and Kirkland.

        The map you posted of the El has about the same north-south length as the distance from DT Kirkland to I-90 (or U District Station to I-90 in the city proper).

      5. It also has about 2 million people, and countless permutations of non-hypothetical destinations.

        Your example has about half a dozen wetlands.

        Meanwhile, there already exists a “network effects” connection to Seattle between Kirkland and Bellevue. They’re called the 520 buses, they come as often as every 8 minutes, and it won’t cost $3 billion to give them connective access no different than what you seem to be describing.

      6. d.p., Linking to aerial photos dominated by green space, that even I’m not proposing Sound Transit serve, is a misrepresentation of my position.,-87.6284703,3453m/data=!3m1!1e3

        Taking a look at an area in the southside map you posted earlier as having network effects makes it clear that the differences are more about scale than kind. The southside is every bit a suburban as the developed parts of Kirkland and Bellevue proposed to get a line. It even reminds me a little of Sammamish with the endless detached housing. (The stations south of 47th have even more single family housing around them.)

        I suppose the other difference is how much greener the northwest is, which is due in part to having better amenities than an area that was redlined for decades and otherwise to the general climate in the Seattle area as compared to Chicago. So I’m glad the Eastside is more green, as such showing aerial photos isn’t an argument that is going to convince me. I know what the Eastside looks likes.

      7. Point, game, set, and match to d.p. with the aerial of the Kirkland-Redmond golf courses and parklands “urban vista”.

      8. Apple.


        And that apple orchard is multiplied over dozens of square miles of contiguous urbanity, while that orange grove is divided by lakes and sloughs and who knows how many thousands of acres of strip malls and parking lots.

        [ad hom], Peyton. Until then you’re just fantasy-spewing. I don’t know how to say it more gently than that.

      9. You can also take a more data driven approach, which will inevitably lead you to the same conclusion. Just look at the census maps. Now, to be fair, census data is often inaccurate. It tends to over count those of means while undercutting the needy, especially those of color. It has also been a while since the last census count, so some of the new apartment buildings won’t be counted. But in this case it is probably pretty darn accurate The corridor is fairly wealthy and fairly stable. It isn’t South Lake Union, it isn’t the Central Area, nor is it Renton.

        My favorite map for looking at census data is this one:

        Check out Chicago. It has oodles and oodles of very dark blocks (which means that lots of lots of people live there). Now expand a bit to include the big commuter rail lines. Suddenly it is hard to find even a moderately dark block. This means that the people there are much, much more spread out.

        Now take another look at Seattle. We don’t have many of those really dark blocks (over 100,000 people per square mile). One, from what I can tell, in Belltown. But we do have a fair number of blocks in the 25,000 to 100,000 range. There are a couple in Uptown, one in Lake City, one in Kent and a couple in Bellevue, but almost all of these are close to downtown or the U-District. There are none (of course) on this entire nine mile path (from the UW to Redmond).

        But that’s not everything, of course. If we only served the really high density areas, we would be pretty much be done now. We should also consider the moderately dense areas, such as those in the 10,000 to 25,000 range. Seattle has a lot of these and there are plenty on the east side. It is great if these are continuous, as this is more likely to make up for statistical anomalies (i. e. unusual borders) and it is more likely to help feed bus lines.

        Here’s the thing, though. By this measure this is a total failure. There just aren’t that many people there. In Seattle, the closest groups of people are close to 65th, and it just makes a lot more sense for those people to ride buses that travel on 65th. It is surprisingly vacant in Kirkland, too. I’ve been to Kirkland, and it has its charms, because it is relatively old (for the east side). But it doesn’t have that many people. Even if a huge number congregate around the station, I don’t think it can make up for the crossing. Nor are there obvious ways to get people to the station. A good chunk of the surrounding population sits on the other side of the freeway. At that point, those folks would be better off just getting on that freeway.

        No, there is only one good thing about this idea: It would be a shortcut. A transit rider would actually have a faster ride than a car driver. But that in no way makes up for the lack of people on every part of the route or the presumably high cost of the route.

      10. d.p.

        To be fair there are portions of the METRA network that should be run much like the L or even integrated into the overall system.

        Those areas are fairly high density, especially by Seattle standards. Heck even some of the outlying tails on MERTA have what would be considered moderately high density in the City of Seattle much less compared to anything in the larger metro area.

      11. aw,
        In the context of Kirkland a ‘tall building’ is anything over two stories. True the buildings in Kirkland are somewhat taller than that but it isn’t exactly downtown Bellevue.

        Kirkland is tiny with a small pocket of density right around the historic downtown. Kirkland ha said it really doesn’t want further density in the core and would rather any new density cluster around Totem Lake.

      12. AW,

        I know downtown Kirkland. I like downtown Kirkland. Downtown Kirkland is a friend of mine.

        The vast majority of the Eastside that a second crossing would feebly attempt to serve is no downtown Kirkland.

        And downtown Kirkland itself is small — smaller and less contiguously populated than even Upper Queen Anne — and forever frozen that way by its growth quarantine.

        BTW, it was Peyton who brought up his hometown of Sammamish, and ludicrously compared it to parts of contiguous Chicago proper just because both have some proportion of detached housing. (Chicago’s proportion is low, and tightly packed. Sammamish’s is 99%, minimum-lotted and cul-de-sacced.)


        Metra’s various connections with the urban network absolutely provides network effects.

        Des Plaines to Aurora does not.

      13. I don’t recall I-5 having any pre-existing right of way when it was built.

        It’s been shown that rail naturally increases density. Even in Chicago, this is being done as the large percentage of mid-rise developments (6-15 stories) are occurring near train lines.

        Also, it should also be noted that a good percentage of Chicago’s suburban villages have significant percentages of housing near the Commuter station and a walkable village core. In a number of cases, its actually faster to take the train than driving to/from downtown Chicago. (of course where you want to go downtown would affect that equation).

      14. And how much would it cost to build I-5 or 520 absolutely from scratch, with no pre-existing right of way today?

        Because that is more or less what these new lake crossing proposals miles from any dedicated ROW of any sort equate to.

        Anyway, you lost any shred of a grasp on reality at “rail naturally increases density”.

        That’s bullshit, and the foaming contingent here needs to get it through their heads.

        Real places, where real people desire to be, amenably zoned for real non-automotive existence, with the real bones of pedestrian appeal and transit effectiveness… that “naturally increases density”. Rail is just one possible correlated transit mode or symbiotic enabler of those paramount properties.

    2. This whole thread seems to smack of “the hinterlands don’t deserve trains” even though large numbers of people live there, go there and come from there.

      Seattle is not Chicago and will never be at the scale of Chicago. As a former long time Chicagolander, I know from experience what is good and not so good about that system. System synergies and transfers are not particularly good. But, their network of suburban heavy rail commuter trains is effective in getting people to Chicago downtown, but completely ineffective in getting people between various suburbs. Their suburban bus system PACE is rather useless unless you want to spend half a day trying to get somewhere. Seattle has an opportunity to do better than Chicago by designing practical all day rail service in a network effect among several residential, commercial, and job centers.

      The I-405 corridor which I now commute on is significantly saturated and must be alleviated. A Sandpoint crossing would benefit me in my current commute from Shoreline to Bellevue and allow me to forego driving. If it allows that for several other thousands of people that commute to Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland from Snohomish County and North King County, thereby taking cars off the road and reducing the use of fossil fuels and generation of GHG’s, and also provide significant incentives to densify our collar communities then its a good investment.

      1. It’s not about “the hinterlands don’t deserve trains”. It’s about “the hinterlands can’t fucking support trains that don’t already exist, much less urban-style ones with floating lake crossings built from scratch.”

        Chicago sprawl grew up from existing rail lines. Our sprawl grew up from highways. And so HOV lanes, most of which already exist, are our equivalent to legacy Metra. You would never be able to justify the cost of what you propose in Chicagoland either, despite the order-of-magnitude-higher population!

        It sounds like your commute from north to east would be equally improved by the already-costed-out 520 rail. Well, the ridership on that was already found to be trash, so your claim of massive sprawl-to-sprawl demand is invalid!

        You’re right that these places are too far from one another on today’s transit. But North Link is coming, and 520 bus solutions must be found for myriad reasons. The answer to your problem is not more billions of dollars in rail bridges.

      2. Charles,

        There are really 3 reasons for building rail transit:

        1. You need the capacity of rail
        2. You want to use an existing rail ROW
        3. You are extending an existing rail line.

        Every other supposed advantage of rail is not technical. Sure it is easier to get exclusive right of way for rail than buses. Sure at a certain level of grade separation you might as well lay rail because the cost difference really isn’t much and you get extra capacity but those aren’t things inherent to rail.

        The sad truth is there are few suburban corridors in this area that require the capacity of rail. Money would be much better spent figuring out how to make buses fast in those corridors.

        This is especially true for hugely expensive corridors like a second Lake Washington crossing. The costs are high, the ridership will be low, there are many other places, even on the Eastside, where the same money would bring far more in the way of mobility benefits.

  11. The latest amendment list was emailed out this afternoon.

    M9 (“Amend the Long-Range Plan map to add Corridor No. 14 from the University of Washington to Sand Point to Kirkland to Redmond as a Light Rail corridor”) remains on the list. This means the amendment will be offered. So there is presumably no consensus to remove this option. Many of the other amendments on the previous version of the list have been removed and will not be offered.

    1. Woowee, love that M4. “Downtown Tacoma to Tacoma Mall as a Light Rail corridor and the terminus of the light rail spine”. That seems to suggest Central Link would loop north from Tacoma Dome to downtown and then back south to Tacoma Mall. Maybe this is Tacoma Link (ST should get rid of the ambiguity), but what else can “spine” mean but Central Link?

      Oh, and the Duwamish Bypass is dead. M6 is withdrawn. I guess Federal Way and Tacoma don’t think it’s important for speeding up south Link. And Tacoma is so eager for a slow Link, interesting.

      DP, Frederickson is gone too. M14, M22, M23. Still on the lookout for Orting. There it is, still there, M13, HCT.

      Kent and Renton buses gone, M21 (Puyallup – Seattle BRT), M24 (Renton-Seattle STEX)

      145th gone, M26 (I-5 to 522). I wonder what that means for the 522.

      1. I interpreted M4 as being an extension of Tacoma Link, not an expansion of the spine. Maybe boardmember McCarthy meant it to exend the spine, but if so, why would it refer to the spine terminus without redefining it?

        In lieu of M6 why not an infill station at Boeing Access Road for both Link and Sounder?

        At least M13 is no longer a LR corridor, but that brings up another point. Shouldn’t all corridors in the plan be mode-neutral and referred to as HCT? There are probably some exceptions like explicit extensions of or connections with existing/planned LR corridors. Another might be promotion of some bus routes to BRT where substantial infrastructure already exists like I-405 or I-90 from Mercer Island to Issaquah (it hurts in my rail bias to say this).

      2. Possibly it means “The Spine” is not just Central Link, but Central Link and Tacoma Link. It’s an odd definition though. Even odder is why the terminus would be Tacoma Mall. If you’re going into south Tacoma, why not go all the way to Lakewood?

        This could suggest Tacoma Link becoming a mini MAX, with 15-minute service on three branches, overlapping for 5-minute service downtown. That at least could be an alternative to bringing Central Link to downtown on 705.

      3. OK, I went back to the original modifications (workshop materials link, Chair’s Mark Up PDF, page 5).

        M4 amends corridor 6 (LRT DuPont-Lakewood-Tacoma Mall-downtown) by truncating it at Tacoma Mall. However, it could still be interpreted either way, as Tacoma Link or Central Link. ST needs to stop calling both of these “light rail” undifferentiated. Central Link cannot fit into Tacoma Link’s track and stations, and it would be slower than the Central Link brand. There’s a magnitude difference in cost between extending Tacoma Link and building a elevated guideway and 4-car stations for Central Link, so we need to know which it is.

        M7 (Madison) adds corridors 8 (LRT Madison Street) and 30 (BRT Madison Street) as HCT. I guess that means consolidating them into one. I don’t see the other Central District corridor anywhere (25, HCT West Seattle – CD – Queen Anne – Ballard), so I guess it didn’t even make it to amendment status. That means it can’t be used as a starting point for a Denny Way line. But I think the Madison corridor could be, since it’s close enough to be an “alternative” in the Alternatives Analysis. The main problem would be if Madison Street partisans insist on putting it on Madison Street. But I suspect they’ll be satisfied with their Madison BRT.

      4. It seems that South King wants its train just because if it’s willing to forego the bypass forever. Unless the political leaders in Kent, Des Moines, Federal Way and Sea-Tac are willing to allow a corridor of multiple-use density along it, South Link without the bypass will be an embarrassing failure. Very few people are going to ride between Federal Way TC and University Street every day for work with fifteen intermediate stations and four and a half miles of 35 mph dawdling.

        There’s no doubt that the SR99 corridor has the potential to become a corridor of multiple-use density like Bellevue is creating in Overlake. But it will take political will and significant investments by the cities there to accomplish it. They don’t have the resources that Bellevue does.

        So, without the possibility of a future bypass, Link should go no farther than Midway, which would radically change the ST3 map. Especially if Kent is serious about plans for a major urban node between SR99 and I-5, this could be a great place from which to develop a BRT system fanning out through Kent to the Highlands and Covington, Auburn to Sumner, Federal Way to Puyallup and Tacoma (basically RR-A extended), and downtown Des Moines via 509. Improved Sounder service would continue to handle the commuters from farther east and southeast.

        Perhaps the South and Pierce subareas should consider participating in double-tracking the UP from Black River Junction to Tacoma for freight diversion in order to create space on BNSF for more Sounder service. But extending slowboat Link to Tacoma just became far more tenuous than it already was.

      5. A question for people here. Is Seattle allowed to build its own inner city connector line if it’s not on the regional Long Range Plan? In other words, may Seattle use the Monorail tax authority to build from LQA through SLU, Capitol Hill the east edge of First Hill/west edge of the CD and down to Mount Baker on its own dime? Ignoring for now of course the problem of where do you put the MF.

        Because if you look at the way the region is growing such a line would carry FAR more passengers daily than ANY of the possible extensions proposed for Link. But the rudiments of such a plan were just swept off the table, presumably by the suburban majority on the council.

      6. Correction to post immediately above: “than ANY of the possible extensions proposed for Link other than Ballard-UW and perhaps Ballard-Downtown

      7. “Very few people are going to ride between Federal Way TC and University Street every day for work with fifteen intermediate stations and four and a half miles of 35 mph dawdling.”

        It depends on what happens to the express buses. The “Rainier Valley overhead” is 10 minutes. If all the buses are truncated, the only alternative is driving. You’ll lose a few riders because of the extra few minutes, but the problems of I-5 traffic and Seattle parking costs remain so that will keep many people on the train. Plus the train will be more frequent all day, not overcrowded, and reliable, so that will attract more riders over time like is happening in Rainier Valley now. The main fight will be on truncating the express buses. Will they remain as-is, go to peak only, or be converted to feeders? If the buses remain they’ll divert riders from Link. There may be an argument for keeping them peak hours because of Link’s travel time, but if ST puts its foot down it won’t happen. Of course we don’t see ST putting its foot down very often, but it might because of the ongoing cost of running the buses.

        “may Seattle use the Monorail tax authority to build from LQA through SLU…”

        As long as it’s not “light rail”, so it would have to be some other technology. The legislation excludes light rail for political reasons (pro-Monorail, anti-Link reasons), but it doesn’t define the term “light rail”. Some say you could fanagle Link-compatible technology into it now, but that’s questionable.

      8. Mike,

        It would certainly have to be “heavy rail” of some sort or another. It’s easy to say that something which uses third rail is not “light rail”, and if it’s an inner city line which is all grade separated, the tunnels can be smaller without the catenary. It’s better, and there are more reliable vehicles available.

        So far as Link versus the express buses, it’s not just the Rainier Valley diversion. it’s all the other stops the train makes plus having to stand at least through the RV on roughly half the southbound trips for a South King passenger. That’s based on the expectation that at least half of the ridership would eventually come from South King/Pierce. But ST can’t afford to run enough trains to give everyone a seat all the way, even if the capacity on MLK were available.

        Grant that the train is more reliable, which would make it more attractive in the morning.

        Maybe what will happen is that Link would be more popular in the morning when reliability matters and the express buses in the afternoon when having a seat all the way matters more.

        I seriously doubt that South King politicians would agree to cancellation of the expresses. There are express buses from Kent and Auburn during the peak hours when Sounder runs. Grant that they are cheaper to operate than the trains and there are no more slots available during the peak hours so it may not be a good “test case”.

      9. And, Mike, I know about the Monorail tax authority. I mean, is there some legal restriction on the city doing non-street transportation improvements which are not approved by the PSRC? That might doom a city-only inner distributor system.

        But can you imagine how valuable a distributor a subway line from the west end of LQA through SLU, south Capitol Hill, Broadway, Jackson CD and on to Mount Baker would be. It would connect to every radial Link line (this assumes a station at “Jimi Hendrix” of course), would serve the proposed Rainier urban zone, propel development along Broadway and at Jackson/14th. It and Ballard-UW would be game changers for in-city circulation.

        A real city with a real subway system!

      10. “it’s not just the Rainier Valley diversion. it’s all the other stops the train makes”

        Those don’t make the train slower. Link’s estimates for Westlake-Lynnwood and Westlake-Everett are within the range of the 512 and 510. ST and CT are already planning to truncate all routes that make fewer stops in Snohomish County and also the I-90 Eastside routes. The issue with Federal Way and Tacoma is the Rainier Valley overhead.

        “There are express buses from Kent and Auburn during the peak hours when Sounder runs.”

        Those are outside the scope of this. I’m considering only the 577, 578, 574, the Metro expresses to Federal Way, and for Tacoma the 59x. The Kent expresses and even the 578 are borderline cases like the 522, 150, and 101. It can be argued that their primary segments are too far east of Link’s corridor to make truncation reasonable. That’s different from the 577, 550, 512, 510, and 594 that go directly between Link stations and close by.

        “plus having to stand at least through the RV on roughly half the southbound trips for a South King passenger.”

        That’s not an issue elsewhere on Link so South King shouldn’t get a special exception. It’s assumed that people may be standing from downtown to Northgate, downtown to Bellevue, and downtown to SeaTac, because people already are on the one that’s built and that hasn’t caused the 194 to be resurrected.

      11. Also, at least 7 minutes is due to buses in the DSTT. Going southbound in the daytime my stopwatch says 10 minutes from departing Westlake to departing Intl Dist. Going northbound at 9pm it says 2 minutes. So it should be possible to shave down the daytime runs from 10 minutes to 3 or 4 minutes when the buses are kicked out. That should compensate for half of the Rainier Valley overhead.

      12. If Central link comes to Tacoma it should stop at the Tacoma Dome. Running Central Link to Downtown Tacoma or Tacoma Mall doesn’t really make sense.

        I do think Sound Transit should study DMU between Lakewood or DuPont and Freighthouse Square. This could be all-day service since Sound Transit owns the tracks.

  12. This is a marvelous idea that merits Sound Transit’s consideration…by not considering it, they just reinforce the notion that their decisions are already made and that public comment is merely an academic exercise. They’ve already bolstered that case with their examination of every so-called alternative in regards to the Lynnwood Link, when they only looked at freeway BRT and an assortment of light rail configurations, completely ignoring the study of a busway as cities such as Pittsburgh use.

    A Ballard to Redmond/Overlake spur would add a tremendous amount of connectivity throughout the region, as would Tukwila to Bellevue which, unfortunately, never merits consideration for light rail despite the awful traffic therein.

    1. Children’s vs Windermere NIMBYs would be a fight for the ages (and of the ages). I think that it is clear that power in the city is moving. Windermere would have never elected a Socialist to the city council and yet here we are.

      1. Been there done that. To a first order approximation Children’s lost. This is hardly ancient history.

      2. Is that why Children’s expansion looks like a tower in the park? I assumed Children’s wanted it that way (unwalkable and anti-urban).

  13. Nope. This highly dubious proposal distraction from completing the core of a system to serve the whole city. The funds this would drain would make it impossible to build light rail to West Seattle. I’ll me contacting Sound Transit to NOT build a Sandpoint crossing.

    1. This is a corridor that we are requesting be studied as an alternative to the 520 crossings in the long range plan. It is unlikely to go head to head with West Seattle on any front.

  14. In these comments and in a lot of the coverage of this idea outside of STB our central point is continually lost – so I’ll re-state it:

    If you are going to study an additional lake crossing – you should study the Sand Point Crossing because 520 is far from ideal for rail. Discussions about whether there should be another crossing of the lake are entirely beside the point. The context matters a lot.

    We are also talking about something that is very long term – this is in response to the Long Range Plan. Possibly ST4. I am personally of the mind that ST should plan well beyond the next few projects or ballot measures and put together a long range vision map that goes beyond corridors. This is what DC did. Our vision map is an attempt at that.

    1. Seattle Subway seems to have inherited Schiendelman’s distaste for disagreement and discourse it doesn’t control.

      1. I wouldn’t go that far.

        But at the same time, I can’t for the life of me understand why the same people who would push a bunch of useless crap for ST3 seem so sure there’s going to be an ST4.

      2. Because we are going to fight for it. The point of Seattle Subway isn’t just to get ST3 years early. It’s to continuously advocate for better transit into the future, because ST3 won’t be enough. Not for the city proper and not for the more suburban bits of Sound Transit’s district.

      3. And so your strategy is to fast-track a whole bunch of obvious failures?

        How does that demonstrate a need for further expansion?

      4. Connecting a Ballard-UW line that will be a huge success to a Kirkland to Eastgate line that you said would be acceptable, via a better crossing then the proposed 520 options seems like something worth studying.

        I don’t see the obvious failures here.

        The further expansion is most needed in Seattle, as you well know. The trick is how get the necessary political forces together for new lines both funding and voter approval.

      5. The obvious failure is doubling the distance and cost in-city for the approximately zero riders who be coming from Sand Point and Windermere.

        The obvious failure is attaching billions of dollars in floating concrete to a cross-Eastside proposal that is only reasonable itself if relatively cheap, in order to “directly connect” places that don’t need direct rail connections.

        The obvious failure is insisting that any second fixed-rail lake crossing will happen, when no such thing will ever be necessary.

        And lastly, the obvious failure is devaluing the words “ACTION ALERT!!” by expending then on delusion-driven bullshit like this.

        Maybe you should take a hint from the fifteen people with whom I rarely see eye to eye who are denouncing this obsession with even more vitriol than I am. This is the kind of profoundly stupid idea that can only gain an ounce of traction in a city where geometric dunderheadedness and an aversion to outcomes are consider valid life choices.

      6. Of ST’s 520 studies the only rail route that had any ridership to speak of was the one going to Overlake,

        I expect if Sound Transit does a study of this corridor they will find very low ridership for the cost.

        At the end of the day I don’t really care if this is in the LRP or not. It is unlikely to ever be built.

        I also have to say I don’t think it really helps Seattle Subway’s credibility to advocate for corridors with clear cost/benefit problems like this.

      7. At the end of the day I don’t really care if this is in the LRP or not. It is unlikely to ever be built.

        I also have to say I don’t think it really helps Seattle Subway’s credibility to advocate for corridors with clear cost/benefit problems like this.

        I agree with both of those sentences. As far as Seattle Subway goes, I hate to see them waste a lot of political capital on this. This is an “ACTION ALERT”, coming on the heels of another “ACTION ALERT”, and one that we won. The push for monorail ORCA support happened mainly because of this blog, but also in large part because of Seattle Subway. They contacted their membership, and lots of people emailed the city council. Maybe the blog post would have been adequate, but I think they contributed in a huge way to this succeeding. Having an email list at your ready is powerful stuff.

        But people will eventually ignore the email list if they think the idea is silly. I think this idea is silly, and I’m a huge supporter of Seattle Subway. I always have been. I think many of their plans are grandiose, and unlikely to happen, but for the most part, they have their priorities in order. This map is a fine map ( and would be better than what we are building (light rail to Everett? Tacoma? really?). But this map and its relationship with Seattle Subway begs a question? Are all of these corridors on the long range plan? Which ones are and which ones aren’t? Does it matter?

        Also, shouldn’t that map be redone to represent current thinking. If you are going to have light rail to Georgetown, shouldn’t you have a line that replaces the Metro 8? Are there other lines that we should be considering, from a long range standpoint? It is easy to say it doesn’t matter, but public perception is a very powerful thing. If you keep seeing maps that show lines look like commuter rail (stretching out to Tacoma and beyond) but don’t actually have the cost savings of commuter rail, a lot of people will assume that this is what a light rail line should be.

    2. Sure, but why not try to get something that will actually help Kirkland et al before forty years into the future? If we build BRT, we could help build the density that would eventually justify rail, and get a jump start on the ROW acquisition and grade separation that the rail will eventually need. (sure, the alignments are different, but there will be sections of overlap).

      1. And here is a BRT proposal that I believe is the best value (by far) for the region:

        You would also need to improve the Montlake connection (between 520 and Link). But even with that, I think it would be built fairly quickly, and fairly cheaply. This is, in my opinion, what they should study, and what they should build unless there are big unforeseen problems.

        Unlike C4,

        With a UW-Kirkland BRT line passing the South Kirkland Park and Ride, a BRT line to Bellevue is already half-built. It could continue down the ERC until it runs out of corridor near the OMSF facility at NE 12th St. …

        So, basically, this would mean BRT (or mostly BRT) from Kirkland to Bellevue. I have no problem with that because it would be just as grade separated as light rail.

        I do think a spur line from South Bellevue to Eastgate has merit and should be studied. One of the big issues with the area is the slough, and that could send costs up really high (which is why a study is in order). But those three stops are good ones, and could probably be built very cheaply. The train would be headed towards downtown Bellevue, which means that it wouldn’t tax the East Line much at all (since the bottleneck is the bridge). Issaquah buses could make one freeway stop on the way to Mercer Island, thus allowing for faster service to these three new stations.

        But I think a BRT line along here would probably still be a better value (just because the corridor is next to a freeway). Even improved express bus service along here should be considered. I’m not sure a commuter from Issaquah wants to stop at Eastgate, Bellevue College and Factoria, before transferring to a the train (heading to Seattle) at Mercer Island. But one stop with express bus service would be really nice. I could easily see a combination — BRT style service along this corridor, with stops at downtown Bellevue, Factoria, Bellevue College, and Eastgate, along with express bus service from various areas to the east (downtown Issaquah, the highlands, Lake Sammamish, etc.).

    3. Re: Long-range visions. Those tend to extrapolate the current m.o. for good or bad which in this case means it’s a grandiose vision. Unfortunately, it is likely to remain in the political DNA of the region and to be filled with concrete and dollars somewhere down the road. What is lacking is a real strategy, best practices and the willingness to learn and adjust. DC got what it got because for some reason (luck? geography? maybe rationality?) it knew what a subway was and built it accordingly. Putting projects first instead of outcomes is a recipe for disaster.

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      2. Mobilitor – You are attributing luck to something that isnt an accident. Knowing where a subway will be, eventually, is highly valuble to planning.

        If DP was having this conversation in the seventies in DC he would be part of a large contingent claiming the whole thing was useless. Particularly the parts that reach into the suburbs.

        We care about outcomes – we push for better design and long range thinking.

      3. You need to have a good start. Once the first projects are done it seems to be difficult to steer the planning mentality into a different direction. If it starts well it ends well. Otherwise, it’s pain in a cul-de-sac. So what caused DC to come up with the original plan/vision? Was it a lightning strike at the right time? Or was it hard to get wrong?

      4. Oh, bullplop, Keith.

        The original multi-stage plan laid out for the Washington Metro — which looks a great deal like the system that exists today — was quite clearly a competent exercise in pervasive urban coverage and access within the inner ring of developed suburbs, as well an acknowledgment of commuting needs in a sprawl-prone era. It skillfully balanced the service of places already fully formed and places primed for remaking as Edge Cities. It was in no way predicated on delusion or overreach.

        Even today’s long-term expansion visions mostly involve capacity improvements in the District and/or circumferential connections well within the Beltway. There is no whiff of anything even a fraction as long-haul, low-demand crazy as Everett or Issaquah or most of Seattle Subway’s “vision”, and not a soul who denies that the functional system core within the five-mile radius of the Capitol Building drives the region’s transit success.

      5. …And Mobilitor’s point is that you aren’t paying proper attention to “long range thinking”, because you’re so entirely distracting yourself with multi-line Everett visions and “calls for action” over bridges that will never make a lick of sense in a million years that you’re failing to offer a coherent impression of a system that could do real good for real people in our lifetimes or the lifetimes of our next of kin.

    4. It does have implications for ST3, but not in the sense most people are thinking. The 520 study is done and it’s an active candidate for ST3. Without this study, ST could put 520 into the system plan in late 2014 or early 2015. If that’s approved in ST3, there will have to be an Alternatives Analysis for the EIS, and the Sand Point corridor could come back as one of the alternatives, but it would be at a disadvantage because it’s not the one in the voter-approved map (compare Lynnwood Link’s 130th station and Aurora alternative). Having Sand Point in the LRP at that point would make it easier to argue for including it as an alternative. (Which is why we should put it in the LRP now.) If the 520 routing wins the Alternatives Analysis round (with or without a Sand Point study), it would kill the Sand Point corridor forever because we can’t possibly have three lake crossings, not unless the entire Bay Area’s population moved to Pugetopolis.

    5. Keith,

      The point is not that a crossing at Sandpoint is not better than one at 520; it probably is. The point is that NO additional lake crossing makes sense. There simply isn’t enough undeveloped land between Lakes Washington and Sammamish not in the Overlake corridor to make it worthwhile to spend another three or four billion dollars to cross Lake Washington. Only a very small portion of the housing on the Eastside is ripe for demolition and replacement with something more dense, so East Link solves the problem.

      What the Eastside needs is better north-south transit. I-405 is a zoo, and connecting Redmond and Kirkland directly to UW and Ballard isn’t going to help it one little bit.

      1. So are you saying that because no lake crossing makes sense, we should let 520 be the default, even if that leads to 520 getting built with no consideration of better alternatives?

      2. It’s not getting built.

        The last “leader” to frothingly anticipate rail on 520 was Mayor McGinn, and we all know which reality-challenged crowd he ran with.

      3. Anakondos. No. Sorry. This has absolutely nothing to do with that frame. ST has studied 520 options. They are lacking.

        Our point: Sand Point may be better – you should study it as part of long range planning.

  15. I have to agree with Dan Ryan and Jarrett Walker:

    The eastside north of I-90 is a great candidate for an open ended BRT corridor that can fan out into the neighborhoods once it crosses the lake. For a fraction of the cost we could provide much better service, that picks people up in their neighborhoods and gives a one seat ride across the lake. If we wanted to spend, say, the cost of light rail just to sand point, and ignore the bridge part, we could build serious grade separation for our buses out on the east side (I’m assuming here that we slap some road paint down and get two bus only lanes on 520) that would be a dream (and convertible to rail, should demand warrant it)

    More importantly, Martin’s recent “what can 15 billion buy” article shows us just how much we can’t buy. Because of the immense cost of building a bridge (and the low density, and the geography of that density), the list of more cost effective projects is enormous. I often shrug off cost effectiveness, but we really shouldn’t – given that we have limited funds, cost-effective projects are the way to our goal of maximizing transit. They not only get us more transit, but also improve transit’s reputation, compete less with other important things we tax ourselves for (education), and build density that supports more transit. Yay!

    So sure, it’s just a study, but I think Sound Transit is wise to try to nip it in the bud, lest it capture the public’s imagination. (It can be popular, and still a bad idea.)

    Let’s make a list of more worthwhile projects.

    -Ballard to Downtown
    -Ballard to UW
    -Extension North of Ballard
    -Lake City stub
    -Central District Rail
    -Route 8 Replacement
    -Madison BRT
    -405 BRT
    -520 BRT
    -Aurora BRT
    -Putting the Rainier Valley segment underground
    -Putting the at-grade east link segments under or above ground
    -Moving Lynwood extension off of I-5, to help develop neighborhoods
    -Same for South king extensions
    -Building Link to Everett
    -Building Link to Tacoma
    -Building extra-nice versions of the above.
    -West Seattle BRT
    (Building light rail to West Seattle is a lot like light rail to the northern Eastside. The crossing to get there is terribly expensive, and then the destinations aren’t in a line and the density just isn’t there. For both projects, if you build them, you end up, from capital or operations costs, seriously hampering the utility of the thing, with not enough grade separation, not enough stations, or not enough frequency – you just can’t make it magically cheap, or get rid of our need to fund other transportation projects and all the other things that government does.

    BUT, BRT to West Seattle, like light rail, allows fanning out into neighborhoods, leaves plenty of money for purchasing ROW and building grade separation where it’s needed, and most of all, encourages the density that could one day support rail. The best argument for West Seattle rail is that West Seattle is such a low-density backwater because of the limits of the West Seattle Bridge. In travel time, it’s a far away from most of Seattle as Shoreline, so it has the same kind of density as shoreline. Thus rail is a chicken-and-egg thing. The best argument against West Seattle Rail is BRT. And the piles of other places where we don’t have a chicken and egg problem – more a pile of hungry chicks, and one mother with not nearly enough worms to go around. That was a strained analogy)

    Anyway, the Sand Point Crossing, while it does something to alleviate the geometry problems of the East Side, is, like West Seattle rail, an attempt to make the tool we love (rail) fix a problem that it just isn’t the right tool for. Don’t get out the hammer when you’ve got a box full of screws; don’t build rail to Kirkland or West Seattle.

    1. Your list of more worthwhile projects is an assertion without any data. In any case, this corridor would just be one of many for potential study and possible construction in the future.

      1. Not to mention it is completely ignorant of the political reality we as transit supporters exist in.

        More worthwhile projects in other subareas are a total strawman. All that matters is projects within the given subarea.

        A transit wonk can shout at people till they are blue in the face that BRT IS JUST AS GOOD! But that isn’t going to make the person vote for BRT. For Seattle transit advocates the utility of one East King choice over another is relatively irrelevant. All that matters is which project is more likely to get the votes.

        Seattle Subway operates in the real world, not some fantasy land where engineers decide what is best for everyone, snap their fingers, and it gets built. As such we recognize that there is a lack of good VOTE WINNING projects on the East Side, especially once some of the more obvious stuff is taken care of in ST3. Sand Point is about having something better than 520 (which we can all agree sucks) that has a chance of getting support and votes for the next ballot measure.

      2. I’m not a fan of the Sand Point crossing on the merits. For all the reasons others have mentioned, it seems like an expensive way to serve very few people badly. Even on the Eastside, there is a long list of better projects. I do agree we should study it before building rail on 520, but that’s hardly urgent.

        I’m baffled by the politics. If people who are not transit nerds have heard of Seattle Subway, it’s because you’re “the guys who want to build a bridge from Kirkland to Sand Point”. Why, of all the many things you could champion, do you think this is something otherwise disinterested East side voters would get behind?

        Who looks across Lake Washington and says “what this lake really needs is another bridge”? Or a floating tunnel?

        Who in Kirkland says “what this town really needs is a train to Ballard”?

        For that matter, who in Issaquah says “what this town really needs is a train from Kirkland to Ballard”?

        Not to mention that this is either a floating tunnel (which will set off every alarm bell about high-risk budget busting projects), or a bridge between two communities that really like their unspoiled waterfront (cue every NIMBY within miles at either end). A dozen years ago, there was a project to install lights on sports fields at Magnuson Park that drove intense neighborhood opposition around Magnuson AND Kirkland. This will be a little bigger.

        Megaproject rail lines to Everett or Tacoma and Issaquah have a certain plausibility as economic development tools (I think they’ll be disappointed by the reality, but mayors do believe these things). But you haven’t gotten the mayors at either end of this bridge to buy that story either.

        Ballard-Kirkland is about 90 minutes on Metro. And approximately nobody has ever been bothered by this. Has anybody even asked Metro to put a few buses out there? Because if we’ve never thought that a low cost solution was appropriate, why is several billions appropriate?

        For EASTSIDE transit advocates, the utility of one East King choice over another is VERY RELEVANT. Actual benefits to voters (or at a pinch, their neighbors) is the only thing that will give ST3 a shot at passage.

      3. The people in this Reddit thread seem to be bothered.

        Mostly they seem defeated by it. If people found out they could actually do commutes between Ballard and the Eastside in a reasonable amount of time they would be all for it.

        They aren’t organized and they don’t communicate with each other but they do exist and my guess is they are a significant part of the population. Though it would take a poll to confirm.

        Again this isn’t for ST3, it’s not far enough along, but it could be a big deal beyond ST3.

      4. How about striking both? Just because there is a subarea it doesn’t mean something big and expensive HAS to be built. But that’s the political reality that has been cultivated: ‘regionality’ combined with provincial subarea gigantism. Maybe it is (politically) unfair to concentrate the region’s resources on central high-value corridors – to have people out there pay for a subway in here. However, the current ‘political reality’ is producing a sub-standard actual transit reality. For that to be prevented it is time to let a political development take its course that is not so bad: go it alone. If Seattle needs subways why not pay for it alone and cut out the wasteful middleman. Do you remember that bus measure? It’s far from impossible and would obviate the need for ever more $15 billion STx packages. Otherwise this will more and more resemble the Bay Area where a BART system, that doesn’t know whether it wants to be a subway or commuter rail or S-Bahn, will be steadily built out at enormous cost ‘just because’ it needs to be ‘completed’ while serving less and less people per mile. All the while the real transit needs go unmet.

      5. It is my understanding that it is illegal for Seattle to build high capacity transit alone so long as Sound Transit exists. Excepting the monorail authority with ST’s permission.

        RCW 81.112.100 if I recall correctly.

        If you want to organize to reform Sound Transit and State law I wish you the best of luck. In the mean time I’m going to focus on building stuff asap.

      6. What you’re going to do is lose an election. Badly.

        You won’t be the first “movement” to crumble under the weight of its own echo chamber.

      7. Sure, my list is basically my armchair transit engineer’s wet dream, not the produce of millions in studies, but I think that if we assume some uniform cost-per-mile for tunneling, which bridge building (or really deep under Lake Washington tunneling) is guaranteed to exceed, and just say “population served divided by miles built = very rough proxy for cost-effectiveness”, then pretty much every above project makes more sense.

        As for the critique that the armchair transit engineer’s wet dream isn’t in touch with political reality, sure, that’s fair. But it’s also frustrating: I don’t think the Sand Point Crossing is any more grounded in reality, either of geography and dollars, or ultimately, politics.

        It seems to me like transit fantasy, just of another sort. Fantasy about cost, fantasy about ridership. And politics: people don’t believe in government because they don’t think it’s effective enough to be worthwhile. A huge part of the problem is things that are done for politics, but aren’t actually a good idea. Let’s not give them that ammunition.

        Given that getting a Sand Point crossing built would already be an enormous political battle, why don’t we aim those efforts on things with better results? If we want to build Seattle Subway’s dream map, we’d better show citizens that we can build transit that droves of people want to ride, and we’d better do so without incurring so much debt that we can’t ask for more, for the next projects.

        If we really want to think long term, we need focus our energies on things that we can hold up and say, “see how awesome good transit is? See what we can do?”

        We could fight for variable-taxation subarea equity, and get transit that the ‘burbs are jealous of, or we could fight for 520 BRT, and get people hooked on fast, frequent service that comes to their neighborhood but doesn’t get stuck in traffic across the bridge. We could fight to change the narrative, so we won’t have to fight so hard in the next battle.

        Or we could fight for megaprojects that won’t come close enough to most people’s homes and workplaces to get them out of their cars, but will cost enough that we’ll have to spend our money on debt rather than the frequency and bus network that might make the project actually work.

      8. If you want to lead the fight to mess with Sound Transit’s tax structure I’d be happy to help out, and enthusiastic once ST3 is voted upon (pass or fail).

        Correct me if I’m wrong but your post implies that the problem is last mile transportation. You repeatedly mention the bridge not coming to people’s neighborhoods while a bus would.

        I don’t have any idea what you propose by “fast, frequent service that comes to their neighborhood”.

        I do know what a potential rail line looks like and that people would value the ability to get from downtown Bellevue to Ballard in 30 minutes or Kirkland to the U District in 11 minutes. Those are tangible improvements that won’t exist with neighborhood buses.

      9. It isn’t illegal. RCW 81.112.100:

        … such powers shall not thereafter be exercised by such agencies without the consent of the authority.

        If ST assents, it can be done which may not be smooth sailing but it is possible.
        In fact, didn’t Ben Schiendelman advocate for using ST as the reference agency to build out the quite Seattle-centric map of Seattle Subway?

      10. To put it shortly: absent a process that produces good projects, this region needs transit building devolution.

      11. “If people who are not transit nerds have heard of Seattle Subway, it’s because you’re “the guys who want to build a bridge from Kirkland to Sand Point””

        If they have heard of Seattle Subway, it’s “the guys who want to build a subway to Ballard”. They may also have a vague idea of whether it’s to UW or downtown or both. Seattle Subway has been emphasizing that for years and has had several booths at farmers’ markets and neighborhood festivals, all about the vision as a whole and several Seattle lines and most importantly Ballard. Sand Point is the smallest detail and has only been emphasized in this one action which is already finished (because it succeeded). Later there may be an overall action about the entire suite of amendments, but Sand Point won’t be the highest priority then.

        “Given that getting a Sand Point crossing built would already be an enormous political battle, why don’t we aim those efforts on things with better results?”

        This is not about “We must build a Sand Point-Kirkland line!” It’s about “We think Sand Point-Kirkland is better than 520 for the lake crossing corridor, if the corridor is considered.”

      12. @Mike, I may just have an Eastside perspective here, but Seattle Subway has been getting news coverage in Kirkland for the bridge proposal. We haven’t heard much of the local outreach efforts you mention, partly because it’s all across the lake, maybe partly because rail to Ballard is so much less controversial.

        I won’t say it’s been the biggest news story around. It’s consistently reported, but doesn’t light up the comment section much. Some find it cool. Those who were inclined to be dubious about Sound Transit anyway find it bemusing. My sense is the middle ground will shift rapidly to the latter position once the conversation turns to money. People won’t care much one way or the other as long as it’s only an LRP discussion. There are still a lot of people who think rail should have gone across 520 rather than 90, but a much smaller audience for the proposition that we should do both.

      13. Mobilitor,

        Very well said. There is a need for a regional spine to focus growth in the suburbs and support walkable neighborhoods there, though ST is screwing up the north leg horribly by following I-5. That battle is lost, but there is no need for further sprawl antics.


        Just to be very clear bus service which “comes into their [eastsiders’] neighborhoods” and “crosses 520” is not “BRT”, if by “BRT” you mean “bus rapid transit”. It is Express Bus. Please don’t confuse the two; they don’t operate at all the same way, and the relative costs are morbidly different.

        On the larger political topic, you’re right. Sadly, there’s no way to “win” on the east side now, except maybe — and that’s only “maybe” — in Redmond.

      14. I think the idea that east voters, or any suburban voters will automatically reject a bus centric vote is completely misguided and confuses Metro with Sound Transit. Remember, the first time we voted on a big light rail plan (with a huge spine) it was shot down. OK, that wasn’t the first time, but that was the first time in recent memory (1995). Then they came back with a scaled down versions that (and I’m quoting from the article —

        The plan combines commuter rail, electric light rail and express bus routes with more suburb-to-suburb connections.

        Here are some interesting quotes:

        This version, noted White, “is smaller, has a shorter time frame, and is more balanced, so that’s what did it.”

        “It was just absolutely critical,” said Fimia. “We couldn’t have gotten the rail segment any smaller, and if there was no rail, we would have lost thousands of voters in Seattle. I don’t know what we would have done.”

        See? The suburban voters rejected big, expansive light rail, and voted for a combination of a little light rail and buses. Lots and lots of buses.

        Have they got their money’s worth? Hell yes. Sound Transit service still carries substantially more people than light rail. Even though rail service is still going up, and gets everybody excited, bus service seems to match it.

        Now I’m not saying bus service is the answer to everything, but I’m saying that Sound Transit buses are used a lot. I think it stands to reason, then, that suburban voters are especially fond of these Sound Transit buses, and want to see them improved. Anecdotally, I hear good things. Basically, there is a new phrase added to the “common wisdom” said about buses in this town. The old phrase was something like this:

        “Unless you are going downtown or to the U-District, Metro sucks”

        Now it goes something like this:

        “Your commute is great if you ride Sound Transit (buses), but it sucks if you ride Metro”

        Now, I know this isn’t fair to Metro. They can’t cherry pick their routes the way that Sound Transit can. But I also think it is ridiculous to assume that suburban voters need to be “lured” into voting for projects that experts and novices alike think are too expensive and wasteful. It is quite the opposite. Show them light rail — any light rail — from Kirkland to the U-District and they will ask the same questions we do (Wait, won’t that be way too expensive?; Couldn’t you just leverage 520 and put express buses there? What they really need to do is fix the last little bit of congestion we experience every morning on [fill in the blank]; etc.). The suburban voters have a history of voting down light rail, especially big, grandiose light rail, but they have a history of voting for express bus service.

        The last vote shooting down Metro was all about Metro. It wasn’t about Sound Transit buses — and it certainly wasn’t about improving Sound Transit bus service. If it was, then I think it would have done just fine, just like it has in the past.

      15. Peyton S.

        Given the infrastructure Sound Transit has in place it would be silly to go it alone in building HCT in Seattle. In fact except for the monorail crowd I haven’t heard anyone seriously suggest such a thing.

        The idea has always been to have Sound Transit build and operate any HCT paid for by Seattle. Indeed I believe this is what Keith Kyle is talking about when he mentions ‘plan A’ or ‘plan B’ for ST 3.

        If Seattle gives ST a big pile of money and says ‘build X’ I really doubt Sound Transit is going to object much.

        As for those trying to get from Ballard to Bellevue the biggest thing we can do to help them is build Ballard-Downtown and/or Ballard-UW. Good BRT on 520 and on the Eastside would help as well.

      16. Just to be very clear bus service which “comes into their [eastsiders’] neighborhoods” and “crosses 520″ is not “BRT”, if by “BRT” you mean “bus rapid transit”. It is Express Bus. Please don’t confuse the two; they don’t operate at all the same way, and the relative costs are morbidly different.

        Right, but then most of light rail shouldn’t be called light rail, but commuter rail. After all, the light rail plans have pretty much the same shortcomings. My guess is that by calling it BRT, he means grade separated with off-board payment, as opposed to having high quality, commonly used intermediate station placement. North of Northgate, our light rail line is basically commuter rail (very few people will take the train from the Mountlake Terrace station to the Lynnwood station) but south of there it is certainly light rail.

        I do wish Sound Transit wouldn’t keep using the terms “BRT” when in fact, they aren’t going to build anything close to BRT. I wish they would simply state “bus corridor improvements”. For example, what is needed in West Seattle, more than anything, is not more “BRT”, but improved corridors. Remove the bottlenecks and no one cares what you call it. No one would care if the bus started by following a slow, lonely street as long as it moves quickly through the congestion. A few of the lines could be “real BRT” (off board payment, etc.) but those would be shared with the regular buses, and that would be huge for the area.

      17. RossB,

        The question is not “what can get 50.1% on the Eastside” but “what is vote-maximizing on the Eastside”. Both are debatable issues, undoubtedly. ST1 is a nice data point for buses although there was a clear indication it was building up to East Link as well.

        There is a plausible argument that a BRT network, due to its span, is a superior transit investment for the Eastside to a smaller amount of light rail. But the audience you really have to convince is people on the Eastside. I think maligning Eastside communities as unworthy of rail is correctly read as labeling them unworthy of high-quality transit. I think “we’ll take your money but get souped-up ST Express forever” is a loser.

        I also don’t think the differential tax rates pitch — “a tax for mild status quo improvements, but only a little tax” — is a really good one either.

    2. Congrats EHS, you have listed a grand total of two projects on the Eastside. Like Matthew said; good luck getting votes over there.

      Of course if you want to take on and lead the herculean task of reforming Sound Transit, such that Seattle projects are prioritized I wish you the best of luck. (Not sarcastic, the Seattle projects are obvious cost benefit wins.)

      1. Yeah, I know. The geography of the eastside makes for a real lack of good transit projects, as we all know. I prefer the Herculean task, because I don’t think we win the eastside’s support with expensive projects that don’t actually come close enough to people’s homes to change their transportation habits.

        I think East Link will be a big success, and 520 BRT could be, and these could build the density and support needed to take the next steps.

        (also, to be clear: BRT just isn’t that sexy, so it will probably have to be slipped into a larger package with big headliner projects that people pay attention to. Nobody’s really going to care about the comparatively cheaper bus thingy, at least until it gets built and turns out to work really well)

      2. There are plenty of east side projects, starting with this:

        That naturally leads into lots of important side projects, many of which are “last mile” in nature. The biggest of which is probably connecting 520 with Link. But you also could make the ERC connect into downtown Bellevue better than having it run on surface streets.

        Then you have have Eastgate, Bellevue College and Factoria. This is probably the one area where a spur rail line should be considered. These are three decent stops all fairly close to the freeway and the existing rail line. The only issue may be the slough. That is why it should be studied. But BRT, or improved express bus service along this corridor should also be studied. It is quite possible that it makes more sense for this corridor as well. But unlike, say, everything north of Lynnwood, there would be a fair amount of work to be done to improve access to these stops. There are no HOV ramps or freeway stations along here, although they might make a lot of sense. This isn’t cheap stuff, but it is a lot cheaper than light rail.

    3. EHS,
      I’d add Totem Lake-Issaquah BRT and Burien-Renton LRT to your list as well. Undoubtedly there are a number of smaller projects (direct access ramps and the like) that would greatly help in speeding up bus service as well.

      As for West Seattle, the Delridge LRT alignment makes some sense, mostly because it avoids the big expensive bridge across the Duwamish and the expensive tunnel to the Junction.

      I agree though that if the biggest choke points for West Seattle bus service can be fixed then BRT is the way to go. Unfortunately the BRT alternatives in ST’s corridor studies weren’t very promising. There didn’t seem to be much improvement from RR C.

      1. Unfortunately the BRT alternatives in ST’s corridor studies weren’t very promising. There didn’t seem to be much improvement from RR C.

        I agree, which is why I think Sound Transit doesn’t understand BRT. With light rail,they seem to assume grade separation, but with BRT, they don’t. They even acknowledge that there would be major congestion in some areas, but provide no alternative. These are what more detailed studies should entail, but they don’t seem to be interested.

  16. The comments here reflect a complete lack of reality. The costs of that bridge are enormous. And there is an utter lack of density on either side of the proposed bridge, which is highly unlikely to change at any point in the future. No density = low ridership = cost just don’t justify looking at this. it would be our transit bridge to nowhere.

    STB loses credibility when advocating for projects like this.

    1. Sure 2Tall – if you ignore all the other places this bridge would connect on either side of the lake your analysis is valid.

      Unless you think Medina > Kirkland, you’ll agree with us that the currently imagined 520 crossings studied by ST are lacking.

      Our point is that this alternative should be included in the LRP and studied. Beyond that, we’ll see.

      1. What places with density to support rail would this connect?

        I understand the SR 520 crossings have issues, but to replace it with a guaranteed not to pencil out project isn’t the way to address it.

      2. That’s why we want to study this as an alternative, because people aren’t convince that this wouldn’t pencil out and want cost and ridership comparisons.

        If 520 truly is better than it will show in the studies.

      3. Regarding: How to solve the issues: We’re all ears. Madison line that connects to 520? Could work… We long thought Sand Point had advantages, saw the 520 studies which were uniformly bad, then wrote an article explaining why we Sand Point should be studied: Regarding Eastside connections – we think some part of this should be built in ST3:

      4. Regarding: How to solve the issues: We’re all ears. Madison line that connects to 520? Could work

        I don’t think that would ever fly. Nice idea, but I think you would get way too much objection from Madison Park residents.

        A bus-only ramp along with a second bus/pedestrian-only bridge over the ship canal is not without its problems, but probably makes a lot more sense. Locals might object as well, but I think it would stand a much better chance. For the most part, they are used to it (the price you pay for living in Montlake). I don’t think it would mean taking any private property. From there, buses could use the UW parking lot as a transit center. The UW might object, but they could be bought out, or strong armed to do what makes sense. Either way it would be much, much cheaper than light rail.

        The best solution would be to add a station at Montlake. Unfortunately, this would mean shutting down the system while we rebuild the tunnel (to create a flat spot there). That would be expensive as well (but still not as bad as light rail along 520).

        How about a BRT tunnel, under the ship canal, right next to the train tunnel? This would be expensive (and maybe not even possible because of the soil issues there) but not nearly as disruptive as another bridge, and provide fast, convenient service to Link.

        Or maybe the buses simply go to the Husky Stadium parking lot. The city (and the UW) would have to add a traffic light coming out of the stadium parking lot. There are other problems as well, but the new bridge will, presumably, have HOV only exits, so this might not be too bad, especially if the city gets aggressive, and carves out lanes for buses.

        These are all things we should study. We should assume that buses will do the bulk of the work along this corridor, and that we need a way for the buses to integrate well with Link.

  17. Whether it’s 520 or Sandpoint a Link to Kirkland will be a successful. Portland’s busiest spur is Gresham which does about 35,000 boardings a day (there-abouts, been awhile since I checked) and has a population of just over 110,000. Portland subsidizes their bus system at $2.00/ride vs Portland’s.

    Every metric implies do it. Not many other extensions can match these numbers. Ballard-UW and a few others but not many.

    1. odd…post didn’t complete. less than symbol must have screwed it up.
      Portland’s LR subsidy is less than $1.00/ride.
      Gresham over twice distance from Portland as Kirkland to Seattle.
      Kirkland/Redmond 110,000 pop both with high growth rates.
      Population of Seattle gt Portland.

      1. I don’t even know where to begin.

        Fallacy the 1stt: Portland’s massively overrated and in many ways painfully ineffective MAX system only begins to blip on anyone’s “value” chart because it was built on a relative shoestring, and mostly on a now-withered federal dime. If the much more expensive Central Link segment were to become permanently stuck at the Gresham line’s 35,000 riders, that would (and should) be considered a scandal for the money spent. And you’re applying that line as a comparison for a multi-billion from-scratch lake crossing?

        Fallacy the 2nd: Gresham isn’t even providing those riders. As far as I can discern, the 35,000-boarding statistic applies to the entirety of Eastside MAX (the original line, from the Steel Bridge crossing all the way to Gresham), and therefore includes every hide-and-rider from any part of Portland’s inner and outer East quadrants, as well as lots of trips to and from the Hollywood district (the only remotely walkable neighborhood served by the original line). The statistic possibly counts some or all of the short-hops between downtown the Lloyd in that number too, being along the original segment — an embarrassing percentage of MAX’s “ridership” involves “opportunity trips” in the part where it might be easier than walking, but isn’t especially faster.

        Fallacy the 3rd: Even if a gigantic glacial lake suddenly appeared between Gresham and 205, MAX still wouldn’t be a worthwhile comparison to the Kirkland proposal, because your comparison ignores East Link entirely. You know… that other $2 billion project that connects real, undeniable cities, yet is still ineffective enough to be estimated at fewer than 50,000 boardings even in the long term! That thing that hasn’t even been laid, but is already revealing the incredible redundancy and insanity of the discussion we’re being forced to have over a pointless secondary crossing to nowhere!

        I’m running out of steam to even rail against this, it is so profoundly asinine.

      2. “odd…post didn’t complete. less than symbol must have screwed it up”

        Welcome to the Seattle Transit Blog.

      3. Commute Transit Mode Share
        Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro: 6.1%
        Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue: 8.6%
        Margin of Error: 0.2%

        People really need to get over this “OMG MAX Portland transit is teh awesomez” fallacy.

  18. LAND USE LAND USE LAND USE! Good god people. Look at a map of King County designated urban centers. Do you see Kirkland and environs on it? Do you see NE Seattle on it?

    If we make massive infrastructure expenditures we need to have the political will to up zone the corridors they run in.

    Seattle Subway’s map is insane. It is like you are little children playing with a hot wheels set. Well, I do like the Ballard to Husky station line.

    1. “LAND USE LAND USE LAND USE! Good god people. Look at a map of King County designated urban centers. Do you see Kirkland and environs on it? Do you see NE Seattle on it?”

      I do see Kirkland on that map. Its Totem Lake though, so your mileage may vary.

      On the other hand Downtown Kirkland is has supportive land use that is already densely built and walkable right now.

      Aside from that what about the map is insane? I’m sure Seattle Subway would like to know your detailed complaints.

      1. You’ve had the insanity of your Regional Transit Overreach explained to you more times than I can count, Peyton.

        If you obstinately refuse to understand why your efforts read as the basement fantasies of deluded children — not just to me, but to most neutral observers, especially those intimately familiar with parts of the world with genuinely mass-transit-conducive land usage — then you risk consigning yourself to the same exile of irrelevance as Schiendelman.

        I’ll repeat the basic crux as straightforwardly and briefly as possible:

        East Link is the primary fixed-mode lake crossing. It’s costs are somewhat moderated by the pre-existing bridge lanes, and yet it’s ridership is still destined to disappoint. It applied for no federal grants, because it was not good enough for them.

        A second crossing — any second crossing — would be far more expensive, for far less return. Perhaps as low as 10,000-15,000 passengers. If you don’t understand that isn’t worth billions of dollars, then you really are insane.

        It doesn’t matter how you contrast and compare 2nd crossings. No 2nd crossing will ever pass muster.

      2. Ok, my comment was somewhat trolly, sorry.

        I do not know the history of the Seattle Subway group and their website is pretty sparse. Are they a straphangers type group that leans towards a single technology (if so, why?) or are they agnostic about what tool to use based on land use plans/patterns, infrastructure costs and transportation demand? Get people organized and promote transit, yes. Always reach for the same expensive technology? No. Transportation demand management/road pricing can work to give more mobility to people too – free up space for transit. Lots of options on how to improve mobility.

        Totem Lake — options — cable car / BRT dedicated lanes / incremental transit bypass lanes to Overlake LRT station, or extend rail eventually to Totem lake. More buses for downtown and Google Offices, etc.

        Kirkland’s current plan shows they want 3000 more housing units and 19,000 more jobs in Totem Lake by 2031.. If they follow through with zoning changes to achieve that then increase transit to the area in a balanced manner.

        An ugly costly and vulnerable floating bridge across Lake Washington is a terrible solution for the region. A optimized downtown kirkland bus route to Overlake transit center, and something similar or more capable from Totem lake is much saner.

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