A ST 535 waits to re-enter I-405 (WhenEliseSings/Flickr)

What would Sound Transit do in East King County if it were trying to maximize the effectiveness of the ST3 package? How many transit riders could be served within the constraints of a likely ST3 package?

I’ve borrowed Martin Duke’s calculation of a $2.6 billion “budget” for East King. Martin estimates this from the $15 billion request to the Legislature, converted to $10 billion in 2014 dollars (to align with the corridor study cost methodology). With $800 million committed to completing East Link to Redmond, that leaves $1.8 billion for other projects.

The approach is to calculate cost per rider (using the mid-range of estimates from the corridor studies). The options are ranked and the best are selected, unless they duplicate an already selected option. Many of the options are close substitutes, so it makes sense to select only one. For instance, 405 BRT occupies three of the top six slots, but only the highest ranked of these is selected. I ignore other options which were not reviewed in the corridor studies (such as the bridge to Sand Point).

Cost per rider is a somewhat problematic metric, in that it fails to acknowledge existing ridership. The studies don’t break out incremental ridership estimates. But it won’t affect our ordering of projects unless one project has much more incremental ridership than another. (More ambitious projects may have greater incremental ridership because they represent a larger change versus the status quo, so a total ridership approach does bias the analysis toward smaller projects somewhat).

I’ve also broken out the incremental costs and ridership of 405 “full” options against “phased” options. Viewed separately, the incremental investments for the full build-out do not perform well (highlighted in green in the table).

Within those constraints, it’s possible to get quite a lot of service on the Eastside. About 50,000 riders would be served on four BRT routes (in bold red in table). Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton and the 405 corridor would all see local benefits.

The winners are:

  • BRT University District to Redmond via 520. At only $55 million, it’s by far the cheapest option on the table. On the other hand, with so little investment, it’s only modestly superior to today’s express bus service between Redmond and downtown Seattle.
  • BRT University District to Kirkland via 520 and the Eastside Rail Corridor. At only 8,000 riders, it’s still a relative bargain because it costs only $210 million.
  • BRT 405 Phased Build-out with trunk and branch service. The phased build-out is much more cost-effective, and realistic, than the full build-out which assumes a large unfunded investment by WSDOT. The trunk-and-branch service enjoys 20% better ridership than the single-route service with no additional capital costs. However, there are about $20 million per year in increased operating costs to consider, so the single-route phased build-out remains in play.
  • BRT Kirkland to Issaquah via the Eastside Rail Corridor, Bellevue Way, I-90 and via mixed traffic from central Issaquah to the Highlands. This is lower in the rank ordering, but makes the cut because we’re not selecting duplicate services on the same corridors. Service to the Highlands is in mixed traffic. But that is relatively inexpensive for 2,000 additional riders, so it improves the overall cost-effectiveness of this service.

That adds up to $1.95 billion, slightly over the “budget”. I’ve assumed no double-counting of costs between the two selected alignments that use the Eastside Rail Corridor. If there is overlap, then total costs are reduced.

Snohomish County should contribute something towards the $800 million cost of 405 BRT, which serves a lot of commuters from Snohomish cities into Bellevue. A contribution proportionate to ridership could be up to $200 million. Snohomish would surely resist such a large contribution as they seek to conserve funds for a Link extension to Everett, but the trunk-and-branch service reaches all the way into Lynnwood and Everett.

Cost per rider isn’t the only consideration, of course. But this looks like a coherent package of transportation improvements tying together all of the Eastside communities. The development potential and environmental impacts wouldn’t appear to warrant a major revision to the list. LRT systems might be more “future-proofed”, but the studied options run $2.2 to $2.9 billion each. In other words, none of them are affordable, although a truncated version of the Kirkland-Issaquah line would fit. The four BRT routes suggested by this analysis are collectively less expensive than any one rail project on the Eastside.

The best options leverage existing or planned investments. These include HOT lanes on 405, new transit infrastructure on SR 520, and the purchase of a portion of the rail corridor by the City of Kirkland. Adding BRT infrastructure on the rail corridor would improve Metro service in the area also.

The exercise also suggests we are near the limits of further investment on the Eastside unless there is a willingness to make much larger investments in rail that are not supported by Sound Transit’s ridership estimates. These four options have an average cost per daily rider of $39,000. These buy service in every corridor studied except the Bellevue-Renton segment of the Eastside Rail Corridor which is better served via I-405. Rail options in East King start at $111,000 per daily rider, so additional future funding may be better invested in smoothing out the compromises inherent in some of the BRT options.

A few additional caveats and notes follow the table.

Description

Cost (millions)

Ridership (thousands)

$/Rider (thousands)

BRT U-District to Redmond via SR 520 $55 12 $5
BRT U-District-Kirkland via ERC, SR 520 $210 8 $26
BRT 405 Phased Build-out Trunk & Branch $800 19 $43
BRT U-District-Kirkland via I-405, SR 520 $400 8 $50
BRT 405 Phased Build-out Single Route $800 16 $52
BRT 405 Full Build-out Trunk & Branch $1,475 23 $66
BRT Kirkland-Issaquah Highlands via ERC, Bellevue Way, I-90, mixed traffic to Highlands $885 12 $74
BRT 405 Full Build-out Single Route $1,475 19 $78
BRT Kirkland-Issaquah via I-90, Bellevue Way, and ERC $850 10 $85
BRT Kirkland-Issaquah via I-90, Bellevue Way, and I-405 $625 7 $89
BRT Totem Lake-Issaquah via I-405, I-90 $625 7 $96
LRT U-District-Redmond via 520 and East Link $2,210 20 $111
BRT Eastside Rail Corridor,  Renton-Woodinville $1,255 10 $126
BRT 405 Incremental Trunk & Branch (Full-Phased) $675 4 $169
BRT Kirkland-Issaquah via I-90, Richards Rd, and ERC $1,370 8 $183
BRT 405 Incremental Single Route (Full-Phased) $675 4 $193
LRT U-District-Redmond via 520 with transfer to East Link $2,270 10 $227
LRT Kirkland-Issaquah via I-90, I-405, and ERC $2,280 10 $228
LRT Eastside Rail Corridor,  Renton-Woodinville $2,310 10 $231
LRT Issaquah-Totem Lake via I-90, Richards Rd, and ERC $2,315 10 $232
LRT Kirkland-Issaquah with Tunnel to Issaquah Highlands $2,845 12 $237
LRT U-District-Kirkland via ERC, SR 520 $2,485 8 $311
CR Eastside Rail Corridor,  Renton-Woodinville $1,385 4 $326

A few notes to accompany the data:

* All ridership and cost numbers are mid-points between high and low estimates. Using high or low wouldn’t have changed the rank ordering in any important way, but the highest cost estimates for the four suggested projects would be $280 million more than the mid-point. At that level, we’d need to carefully consider pruning this list.

* All costs are from the corridor studies. In the case of 405 BRT, the full buildout costs excludes infrastructure to be built by WSDOT even though WSDOT has not prioritized some of those elements. In the case of the Eastside rail corridor, it includes costs for a trail beside the rail/bus ROW even though Sound Transit has not agreed to shoulder those expenses.

* Only the representative options studied by Sound Transit are included. Other commenters have speculated that truncating Issaquah service at Eastgate might make that corridor more cost-effective. We don’t have data to verify that. The much shorter distance to Eastgate might be offset by the complexity of the nearby interchange.

* 405 BRT spans the East subarea and a portion of Snohomish County. About 28% of projected ridership is on the segment north of Totem Lake, so I’ve inferred this might translate to a 25% Snohomish share of ridership.

* I borrowed Chris Stefan’s idea of ranking options by cost per rider, although I prefer to use mid-point estimates.

98 Replies to “Cost-Effective ST3 Options on the Eastside”

  1. Excellent post. This sounds quite reasonable. I’m curious as to what “BRT” actually entails, especially for the areas in red. Will this mean substantial new infrastructure? If so, what?

    Also, as a side note, I hope they allocate a lot of money for the “little stuff”. It seems like many of the decisions made in the past were made because money was tight. It is frustrating to see us spend billions on a light rail line, only to put stations in a poor location to save a few bucks.

    Similarly, I hope they allocate a lot of money for express bus service. ST bus has been a huge success. I have no idea if the buses are getting really crowded, but the numbers of riders keep going up, at a fairly impressive clip (http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2014Q3-WeekayboardingsMvgAvg.jpg). I’m guessing that this bus service is very popular, and adding more service hours would be as well. These last two issues aren’t east side specific, but effect them a lot.

    1. I’m in agreement here, that besides extending EastLink to Redmond, simply adding more ST express buses is the most cost-effective thing that could be done for East King.

      There’s a natural tendency to worry about ongoing operating costs, but when you do the math, it’s still cheaper. For instance, $20 million in operations costs per year translates to $1 billion over 50 years. There is absolutely no way that rail connecting Redmond to Kirkland to the U-district could be built for anywhere near $1 billion, and once it’s built, trains cost money to operate too.

      For the most part, the existing bus service between the U-district and Redmond is pretty good already, and it’s going to get even better when the new 520 bridge is completed and HOV lanes extend through across the bridge. The biggest problem today is getting the buses off the freeway and through the U-district, but that is a problem that $55 million in capital funding could probably address. If nothing else, just adding a bus lane down the Montlake exit ramp would go along way, even if the buses still have to merge into the regular traffic lanes to cross the Montlake bridge itself.

      Another capital improvement that I think should be considered would be to convert the bus stop at 520 and NE 40th St. (next to Microsoft) into a median stop, similar to the new Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point freeway stations. This would get buses out of the congestion causes by MS employees driving to work, eliminate the need for the 545 deviation into OTC, and avoid the need for buses to wait 2+ minutes at the stoplight to cross 40th St on every trip.

      1. The biggest problem right now is that WSDOT reduced the HOV lane scope of work on 520, and left those lanes on the inside until after I90.
        The buses are stuck in both the exiting and merging 405 traffic, and are no more reliable than before construction started.

        The delays getting across the montlake cut are relatively minor relative to the 520 backups.

      2. The 520 backups that buses still experience exist only westbound and only during the afternoon peak, not all day. Even, then, much of the delay is avoidable with a little bit of driver education. During periods of heavy traffic, instead of immediately getting in the left lane after 405 (which usually starts backing up first), buses should move over to the right lane and take the 108th Ave. exit. When the light turns green, instead of turning, simply go straight and get right back on the freeway using the newly-constructed direct-access ramps to the HOV lane. Since the entrance ramp is HOV 3+, this pathway is not clogged up with other drivers doing the same thing.

        When using the on-and-off trick, the total delay, relative to free-flowing conditions is about 2 minutes. By contrast, when drivers don’t realize that they can do this, it can take as much as 10-15 minutes longer to get through.

        Currently, only about 20% of the bus drivers seem to know about the trick. I’ve been tempted to suggest this to the driver on occasion, but never have because I don’t want to be showing the driver up. In any case, this is a problem of communication, not infrastructure, and is something that management should be able to solve on their own, with or without ST 3.

      3. @asdf
        I was talking about the inside only HOV lanes all the way from 148th to Bellevue way, although I agree with you that it is considerably faster for buses to exit I520, wait through a stoplight, and get back on the new HOV lane than it is to sit in the general purpose lanes.

        I wonder if WSDOT plans to hold ST hostage for a few hundred million in I520 lane widening, instead of just doing the paint restriping they were previously committed to.

      4. I think it has more to do with the impact that such a restriping would have for drivers switching over from 520 west to 405 south. Converting the left lane to HOV across 405 would leave just two lanes for not only general-purpose traffic going straight on 520, but also all traffic going from 520 west to 405 south. WSDOT probably decided that the impact on drivers switching over to 405 south, who aren’t even crossing the 520 bridge, would be too much, so they changed their mind.

        On most days, the backup along 520 approaching 405 is actually 405 traffic, not Seattle traffic. Typically, the left lane is moving, the right lane is a parking lot, and the center lane is in between (it mostly moves, but occasionally comes to a halt when a driver headed to 405 south wants to cut in front of everyone else to the front of the line).

        After 405, a new lane opens up on the right, which ends after about 1/2 mile, except for those taking the 108th Ave. exit. This lane may be slow, but it does move, even when the other lanes are completely stopped.

        That said, there is one opportunity where WSDOT could improve things for buses with a cheap paint job without impacting traffic headed to 405 at all. Instead of starting the HOV lane at 108th, they could stripe in a lane shift immediately after 405 so that, instead of a new temporary lane opening up to the right, the two general-purpose lanes would just shift right to fill that space. The vacated space on the left would allow the left-hand HOV lane to begin almost immediately after 405, avoiding the need for the off-and-on-again trick. It would create delays of a few minutes for drivers taking the 108th Ave. exit during peak travel times, but the number of drivers that take this exit is way smaller than the number of people that benefit from the HOV lane (542, 545, and Connector riders), so I would consider it worth it. Especially since I can’t say for sure that the off-and-on trick will still work 30 years from now, when overall traffic volumes are likely to be quite a bit higher than today.

      5. On WB 520, there really is no HOV lane between about a half mile east of 405 to whereever it starts again west of the 405 merge (around 108th ave?). WSDOT should just repaint it to the center lanes from SR-202 to 108th. That would avoid all the messiness around Microsoft traffic in the NE 51st/NE 40th collector-distributor and the truck lane there, the 148th exit and the 405 weave.

        For EB 520, it’s really less of a problem, but there’s really no reasonfor the HOV lane to shift from the left to the right.

      6. If the goal is to avoid the need for buses to weave from the left to the right and getting stuck in traffic at the 40th St. exit ramp with all the car drivers, simply repainting the HOV is not enough – you would have to actually rebuild the 40th St. freeway station to be a median station, similar to the new stations at Yarrow Point and Evergreen Point. I think it should be done, due to the delays the buses encounter and the huge number of riders who board and deboard the 542 and 545 at that stop. However, such a move could appear politically like a handout to Microsoft unless Microsoft itself offers to contribute a sizable chunk of money to help pay for it.

        As to the approach to 405, I am simply accepting the fact that converting a general-purpose lane to HOV through that segment would impose too much delay on the SOV traffic for WSDOT to deem acceptable. I don’t necessarily agree with them on this assessment, but the fact remains, it’s their decision, not ours. Unfortunately, there is simply no room to add an HOV lane across 405 without a truly monstrous expense. You would have to either completely rebuild the 405/520 interchange, moving the support pillars around, or route the HOV lane underneath the interchange in the form of a tunnel. Such a move would save around 5 minutes during the afternoon peak and nothing at all the rest of the time. Paying such a huge cost for so little benefit is not cost-effective.

    2. @ asdf: I spoke to an operator about that maneuver once. I was told that it’s technically off-route and that newer operators could get sacked for making it. If that’s true, I hope someone here with connections to ST can help institute a policy change.

      And while I’m at it, someone should fix the PA robot lady so she pronouces Yarrow properly (“YARE-o”, not “YAW-row”). This from someone with family who grew up on that point.

  2. I’m curious about the $/Rider cost column and what the period of time capitol cost are calculated over? I think tunnels and elevated track for rail get a bad rap when considering capital cost inclusion. In creating a new transportation corridor of any type the corridor will last a long time and the return on the investment will continue to increase for 100’s of years. “The first underground line of the New York City Subway opened on October 27, 1904,” With each new station the entire system has added value. For Issaquah to have a LR spur added creates not just a few new connections but several including those as far away as the airport. Each new LR station will have a greater return then the last due to the number of segments created as compared to its predecessor. The cost of building 405 won’t be included in ridership cost for BRT since 405 has already been capitalized and BRT ridership cost can be seen as cheaper. Roads have a 100+ year headstart. For this reason and MANY OTHERS it bothers me that some folk think we can bus our way out of congestion and think LR is too expensive for ALL corridors and a bad investment. Maybe for some but not all.

    1. I agree, and I think Dan does as well. I prefer to see the two columns presented separately (as he has done) instead of simply assuming that cost per rider is a good measure of cost effectiveness. It is a consideration, but not a very good metric. As I said in the comments (https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/10/29/cost-effectiveness-of-potential-st3-rail-alignments/#comment-555174), you could simply take many of the existing buses, paint them red, and then proclaim these new “red buses” as very cost effective.

      All that being said, for a region such as the east side (where light rail is already headed to the population and employment centers, and the area in general is fairly spread out) the most cost effective solution is likely to include buses, along with improvements in bus infrastructure. But those improvements can not be measured simply based on cost per rider, otherwise it would suggest that doing very little (such as adding one more express bus per day) is more cost effective than something substantial (like making an improvement to a road so that each bus can avoid ten minutes of traffic).

      1. I believe Dan is doing the simple calculation of simply dividing the capital cost by average daily ridership.

        As was pointed out in comments to my earlier post the metric used for project evaluation by the FTA captures both operating and capital costs over a period of time in a cost per boarding number.

        This is not the same as simply dividing the capital cost by ridership. For example of the 3 LRT alignments for Ballard-Downtown option B has the best ROI by the method Dan and I use while option D gives the best numbers using the FTA methodology.

    2. I certainly agree that the unquantified benefits to rail give it a boost. However, we’re looking at 5 times as expensive per rider – I don’t think the boost is that big. We have the chance to give most of the east side really good service – arguably better service than is on the table for Seattle, despite Seattle’s much higher density. With rail, we would provide incrementally better service to a vastly smaller part of the population.

      But that is a short-to-medium-term case, and I realize you’re making a long term case. I think BRT does just fine in the long term, too. The plan establishes grade-separated routes connecting all of the eastside population centers, which 1) supports the dense growth that rail demands, 2) reserves the ROW now when it is cheap, leaving much more money to invest in quality rail when the density is there, and 3) establishes the expectation of grade separation (in addition to many of the facilities), which saves us from problems like we’ve got on the Rainier Valley segment.

      With a package like this, the Eastside would get more useful transit out of ST3 than any other subarea. In Seattle, we have to choose between good transit between Ballard and Downtown and Ballard and the UW, making one journey a pain in the ass if you live in Ballard. But if you live in Redmond, you’ll have direct transit to Bellevue and the U-District, and with a transfer, pretty rapid service to Issaquah and Kirkland, too.

      It will be a challenge, politically, but I think this looks like a really, really good system for the eastside.

      1. Edit: Not all grade separated or exclusive ROW, but with luck that amount will grow.

        Also, I admit that I have rail bias, but I have even more bias for serving my neighborhood – I think eastside voters feel the same way.

      2. I agree with your comment, except for this part:

        In Seattle, we have to choose between good transit between Ballard and Downtown and Ballard and the UW, making one journey a pain in the ass if you live in Ballard.

        Ballard to the UW light rail is a great way to get downtown. Even with a transfer, it would be significantly faster than any other way to get downtown. Plus, the transfer could be timed to minimize wait time (since there is grade separation on the most important segments). It would significantly improve just about every trip from the area north of the ship canal and west of I-5. The exception are trips to Queen Anne, Belltown or South Lake Union (and not all three would be improved with a single route from Ballard to downtown). https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/06/30/ballard-uw-should-be-the-next-light-rail-line-in-seattle/

        But I think your larger point is a good one (if I understand it right). Many of the problems in Seattle simply can’t be solved by making improvements in bus infrastructure (West Seattle being an exception). The three areas I mentioned (Queen Anne, Belltown and South Lake Union) are a great example, as is the Central Area. The east side is lucky in that regard, as many of them can.

      3. As a side note there are two reasons ST3 need not be an either/or between Ballard-Downtown and Ballard-UW:

        1. Federal capital grants for transit are likely to return well before any major ST3 projects star construction. Both lines are likely to qualify for federal funding.
        2. The unused monorail tax authority can be used to build additional rail in Seattle.

      4. Other considerations not mentioned above include LR requires 1/2 the subsidy requirements of buses once operational (buses are a b#^%$ with maintenance cost), higher ridership numbers and hence more drivers off the road, no cause to road congestion if lines are dedicated, easier to expand for ridership demands without adding guideways (add coaches, increase frequency, enhance track for speed improvements and ect.)

  3. Great analysis. I think that anyone that knows the travel patterns on the Eastside would expect these results and I think it would make sense to the average Eastside voter. I’ll be writing about a few ideas I have which are very relative to your findings.

    1. The problem I have with this is that I don’t understand what is meant by BRT here. Is it just more buses and off-board fare payment? Obviously with BRT on the ERC, there would be some grading, pavement and stations too. If you’re going to do that, why not lay down some rails?

      1. I agree that ST didn’t do a good job of defining what their BRT options look like and I plan on addressing that. I think the DSTT has been a good model for how you concentrate early infrastructure investments on high-cost, but hight return grade separation in downtowns and then use lower cost HOV or busways to feed it.

        Dan wrote up a good post of why rail in Kirkland doesn’t work well for the major travel patterns. https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/10/07/showcasing-brt-on-the-eastside/

      2. I think that post involves a lot of hand-waving. Basically his argument is : “…But that is a LOT of rail; far more than is reasonable for a relatively small city with an underwhelming commitment to progressive land use policies.” Completely ignoring network effects + the fact that light rail via 520 would support a large number of ride pairs like Redmond + Udist, Bellevue + Ballard (if the spur is build) etc… etc…

        I really agree with aw’s statement here. We already have frequent bus service with some real time arrival boards, HOV lanes etc… is BRT just off-board payment? If the options are: off board payment, or, a concrete light rail investment, then voters will choose light rail.

      3. I’d summarize the argument in my previous piece a little differently. Here’s the TL;DR.

        Kirkland has one corridor for transit with exclusive ROW (the Eastside Rail Corridor). It has two important trip pairs, to Bellevue and to Seattle. If you assume that rail will not go over 520, then do you really want to do rail to Bellevue either? Because it’s forcing additional connections for Seattle riders, or requiring Seattle traffic stay in mixed-use streets.

        Now, if you’re willing to assume rail on the bridge, my argument falls apart. But that’s a big expensive assumption.

      4. Is “network effects” becoming the new STB euphemism for “I’m a geometry denier but I really, really like trains!”?

      5. Perhaps :)

        If “network effects” means anything, it must relate to the size of the network. The simplistic Metcalfe’s Law version of network effects is that the value of the network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users. In a transportation network, that has to mean some weighted measure of the number of transit nodes. More nodes, much more value.

        The “network effect” argument for more rail (vs BRT) is an implicit claim that only the rail network matters. Or, at least, the quality difference is so important that we want to trade off a lot of bus nodes for a few rail nodes in the total network.

        With a particular set of densities and land use patterns, I’d agree. I’ll happily trade off a lot of Duvall-nodes for one Ballard-node. I just don’t see it on the Eastside. There are a lot of places we’d like to serve, but none individually so great that we want to blow through the budget. Everything I see argues the way to go in the medium term is a more extensive network over a single big project.

      6. >> Now, if you’re willing to assume rail on the bridge, my argument falls apart. But that’s a big expensive assumption.

        I’m not sure your argument falls apart, but it does take a big hit. Let’s assume that light rail across the bridge was free. Now what? How often does the train run? If it runs quite often, then I would say that light rail makes sense. But what if it doesn’t? What if it runs every ten minutes. Now someone in, say, Juanita, has to take a bus, then a train, then a different train to get downtown. On the other hand, a busway can be used by various buses throughout the neighborhood. Keep in mind that while Kirkland is charming, and there are some jobs there, the biggest pockets of density in the area are to the north, in Juanita. The area is just too diffuse for light rail to make a lot of sense. BRT (or something resembling it) on the other hand, could be quite effective. As luck would have it, effective BRT along this corridor can be built for a lot less money than light rail. This is in contrast, for example, with building light rail from Ballard to the UW, where effective BRT would be just about as expensive (since it would require tunneling either way to get substantial amounts of grade separation) and there are lots more people concentrated along this corridor.

      7. Thank you for so ably explaining everything that my snark implied, Dan.

        The ever-louder hinter-rail chorus that has taken up “network effects” as its latest mantra makes both errors: limiting the “network” to a single mode; and failing to assess the relative weight of nodes in any way.

        Contiguous built areas can have network effects. Totem Lake and Issaquah and most of the other crap to which the term is lately and flippantly affixed by the mindless railmongers really do not.

      8. d.p.

        The sane answer of course is “network effects” include the entire public transportation network. That means all modes including all forms of bus and rail. If you are being really smart you figure out how to integrate walking, biking, and even SOVs. For bonus points your planning should take into account future land use and encourage dense uses around future stations.

        The right question to be asking both for ST3 and for the ST LRP is “what is the best way to improve public transit mobility?”

        Answer that question properly and you will naturally land on solutions that best fit the geometry and density of an area. Furthermore you will build transit that naturally encourages density and walkable areas around nodes of transit concentration.

        In ST3 we have a pretty good idea what the answer is for North King and the primary task is to keep Sound Transit from screwing it up.

        With Snohomish and South King they are hell bent on certain projects that will take most of the available money. I doubt either sub-area is willing to consider an alternate project list.

        For Pierce their “must build” project while of dubious utility doesn’t take all of the available money so there is some opportunity to use the remainder on projects of some real value.

        With East King the “must build” project is one that most agree is a logical next step and it only needs a small portion of the available capital. This leaves a fair chunk of change to spend on real mobility improvements.

      9. Ross,

        Your point about Juanita is very well taken. Unfortunately, there are no projects in anybody’s plan book to serve Juanita with BRT or anything else.

        Bad choice of example, but only for that reason. Maybe this is a good reason to question I-405 BRT, since it doesn’t serve either downtown Kirkland OR Juanita. Maybe?

      10. Ross,

        I admit I’m feeling a bit contrary, but I really do not believe you know that “BRT” means. The express buses that use SR520 are not not not not not not NOT! “BRT”. Bus Rapid Transit happens in cities, not suburbs. What you’re advocating — and it’s absolutely the right technology for the suburbs — is “Blue Streak” local collectors with a freeway run to the CBD or another trip attractor.

        We invented it here in Seattle — or at least, were the first to implement it with a specific name — but it’s NOT “Bus Rapid Transit”.

      11. I think Kirkland->Seattle traffic is well-served by the 255 bus. Just run the bus more frequently for more hours of the day. We don’t need a train to Kirkland to satisfy the demand there.

      12. @Anadakos — I think you will find that I know more about BRT than you assume I know.

        The term “BRT” is rather ambiguous, so to avoid confusion, I often avoid using it. But to say “this is BRT” and this isn’t, is a judgement call. The only rating system I know about for BRT is done by ITDP, and they judge these things on a number of criteria. I think it is too early to tell how any bus route, or set of bus routes along this corridor would rank on their scorecard (https://www.itdp.org/library/standards-and-guides/the-bus-rapid-transit-standard/the-scorecard/). By my estimation, it could do quite well, actually, even though it would serve the suburbs (and that includes downtown Bellevue, which is not very suburban anymore).

        Keep in mind that corridors are sometimes considered BRT, even though many of the buses serving them are not. For example, the bus tunnel shows up on the ITDP BRT map, even though it serves (or served) some very suburban bus routes. That is precisely what I have in mind here. That is why I said, in a different comment (https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/12/06/cost-effective-st3-eastside/#comment-567172) that the key here is build a corridor that can be used by buses, whether some of them have BRT characteristics (e. g. off board payment, level boarding) or not. As I said in that comment, I think it would be stupid for Sound Transit to use the term BRT — not for the reason you mentioned — but because the term does not have a positive connotation in this area (and is not as important as simply removing bottlenecks for buses). On the other hand, using the term “light rail” has a positive connotation, even though parts of it could be called a “streetcar” and other parts of it could be called “commuter rail”.

        As for this not serving Juanita, why not? I would assume that this busway would have various entrances. If not, I think it would be pretty simple to build them. For example, you could easily add an entrance at 120th NE, where the road crosses the old railway (http://goo.gl/maps/011F7). Such an entrance would be a bit too close to the freeway (meaning it might encounter traffic) but would otherwise be pretty good, from what I can gather. NE 112th might work as well. That street is very quiet (from what I can tell), which is both good and bad (not much traffic, but ridership along that street would be very low). I really don’t have a feel for traffic bottlenecks in the greater Kirkland area, so I don’t know how best to deal with them. But I agree with this post (and the earlier one) — I think the best thing to do with the ERC is convert it to a busway.

      13. “Blue Streak” was the original “express bus” service from northeast Seattle using the express lanes of I-5. I believe it actually was started by Seattle Transit as a Federal demonstration project.

        It still exists as the 41 (which was the “namesake” route; it was called “41-Blue Streak”), 77, 73X, 72X, and 71X and 355X. Same routes essentially, except for 77 which has got to be one of the best bus services in the nation. They were called “5 Blue Streak “71 Blue Streak” etc.

    2. Chris,

      They already screwed up North King by rejecting Aurora, then compounded the felony by putting the only station between Northgate and nearly the county line at grossly anti-transit 145th instead of better located 130th.

      1. Oh, and added assault and battery to the indictment by NOT HAVING AN ENTRANCE ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF 145th!!!!! I’m sorry, but how stupid is that?

      2. Anandkos,

        Well I was thinking about the relative lack of stations between Westlake and Northgate. The biggest sin was missing First Hill or Pike/Pine, but the huge gap between Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium stands out like a sore thumb as does the gap between Roosevelt and Northgate.

        At least there is still time to try to get the 130th station back before construction starts and the possibility of getting it as a future infill if that doesn’t happen.

      3. 130th station is in, it just needs funding because there wasn’t enough money in ST2. Having stations only at 130th and 185th would cause severely uneven station spacing and a 2.75 mile gap.

        The biggest oversight was not having 130th in the original ST2 map. That’s the fault of both ST and activists. Nobody considered it important or a connection for Lake City (which was just considered lost for Link). It originated as an extra station in the Aurora alternative during the Alternatives Analysis after the ST2 vote. When the I-5 alignment was chosen some people said “Bring the station to the I-5 alignment, because if it’s feasable in one alignment it should be feasable in the other”. As people started thinking about it and realizing it could bring Lake City into the Link network with a short feeder, there emerged a solid cry for it and it landed on the ST map, when funding allows.

      4. Ross,

        If it “fans out into the neighborhood” it loses the reliability that makes it “BRT”. Now there’s no doubt that people love them some “Blue Streaks”. I have a pair of friends who live in Maple Leaf and both work downtown, arriving at different times so they can’t carpool.

        But they’re at the penultimate stop for the 77, and both work right next to DSTT stations. Their buses stop for them, usually make one more stop at 85th then turn right into the express lanes voom-voom-voom to Pine Street and into the tunnel.

        WHAT A DEAL for $2.75 a ride!!!!!

        If all you want to do is attract commuters, then “Open BRT” as we practice it here in Seattle (which really isn’t “BRT” at all) is a very nice thing. But the costs are pretty high for platform service, because you’re dragging a useless trailer through ‘burban neighborhoods with lots of turns and stop signs. It’s not a place for an artic. And of course, running around on surface streets impacts the reliability of the base service on the BRT spine.

        Finally, there’s the constant problem that the frayed ends of the cord are never the same length, so either headways on the spine are irregular or the shorter threads have longer than normal layovers to align with the schedules of the longer threads.

        It’s not as easy-peasey as it looks.

      5. Mike,

        The 2 and 3/4 mile gap is definitely a problem, but ST had a proposal that the stations be a 130th and 155th. There would have been stations at Northgate, 130th 155th, 185th and Mountlake Terrace, a very even spacing with access using relatively minor arterials.

        That would have moved the bus interfaces completely off of unfriendly 145th, but Shoreline for some reason rejected it. I guess the folks on 155th were worried that all those buses to Lake Forest Park and Bothell would be coming down their street (hint: they wouldn’t have because there’s no connection to the east of 15th NE). But yes, the buses from SCC and northwest of there would have come their way.

      6. Re: BRT areas. Right, if it fans out in the neighborhoods, it could lose some reliability, but that is always a trade-off. The devil is in the details. By the way, I expressed the same concerns with Madison BRT: http://www.theurbanist.org/2014/11/26/madison-brt-the-stakeholder-sessions/

        The Madison busway will be shared with both a “BRT” bus and regular buses. There is a chance that the regular buses could slow down the BRT bus, and thus take away some of it’s BRT-ness. But as long as people can get on and off the bus quickly, I’m not worried about it. Bus bunching could happen (and does happen even with pretty good BRT systems) but I don’t think it is a huge worry, any more than it is in the bus tunnel. Imagine the bus tunnel if it had off board payment (in the tunnel itself) with level boarding, and nothing but the old set of buses going through there. You might get three buses in a row, followed by a gap of a couple minutes, then another three. So what? You had to wait two minutes — boo hoo. Yes, ideally the buses are perfectly synchronized so that they arrive every 45 seconds, but I’ll live with a little bunching, just as everyone who ever rode a bus through the tunnel did (and that was without off-board payment and level boarding). If you are trying (or were trying) to get from the south end of downtown to the north end, then the tunnel was the way to go.

        It only became a problem as the bus went out to the neighborhoods (or left the busway). For those that wanted to go to Wedgewood, the buses were inconsistent. Sometimes the 71 would come every half hour, sometimes it would be late — very late. But this was inevitable, and was the result of trying to service an area of relatively low demand. On the other hand, the biggest solvable problem was getting to the UW. This was a hugely popular trip pair, and it made sense to just get in the tunnel and take the first 7X bus (71, 72, etc.). But since these buses were inconsistent and didn’t come that often, bunching was a big problem. You might have a 71 right next to a 72 two minutes later, then followed by a 73 fifteen minutes later. This became less and less of a problem as demand for service increased, and more and more buses were added.

        In this case, there are two main destinations — downtown Bellevue and the UW. I believe the demand for UW service (which would mean connecting to Link) is big enough that enough buses can travel through to supply steady, if inconsistent service. Someone standing next to an ERC stop might wait a couple minutes, of five minutes. Again, less than ideal, but still frequent enough to work. The same could be true for service to downtown Bellevue. If not, then buses that only travel along the busway could compliment them.

        I think your analogy with the 77 is not quite right for what I have in mind (and I believe what the author has in mind). The 77 is a weird bus. It is an express that skips the U-District, and skips over much of downtown. It is a great bus if you are headed to the other end of downtown, but not so good if you are trying to get to Westlake. I think a better analogy is the 7X buses (71, 72, 73, etc.). If you want to get to the U-District, and you are going with rush hour traffic, you just grab the first one, and have a pretty smooth ride. At the same time, you can get to Maple Leaf (by using the 73). Now obviously the trip pair between the UW and downtown (which is probably the biggest trip pair in the state) is way bigger than UW to Kirkland. But if we are even contemplating Kirkland for light rail, then we are saying it is big, and we should make a big bus investment — meaning running lots of these buses. The last thing we want to do is declare victory by building a little busway and running a bright red bus through there every twenty minutes. The model that served Seattle fairly well for a long time (frequent bus service between the UW and downtown) makes a lot more sense. In this case, it could actually be better, since the buses could have level boarding and off board payment (in places). I would run the equivalent of the 73 (and their companions) quite often. Some might say excessively, given the demand. I would do the same with Kirkland to Bellevue buses, or (to save service hours) just run a bus in the busway from Bellevue to Kirkland. This would compliment the other service quite well, allowing for pretty nice trip pairs for the money (and only one transfer).

        There might be a bit of bus bunching, but I can live with that.

      7. “If it “fans out into the neighborhood” it loses the reliability that makes it “BRT”.”

        That depends entirely on what bottlenecks are in the neighborhoods. Residential areas generally do not have bottlenecks. For the 71/72/73 the bottlenecks are the clog of students in the lower Ave, the University Bridge, the Stewart/Denny intersection, and sometimes down Stewart. For the 31/32 the bottlenecks are the UW campus and the Fremont Bridge. For the 8 it’s Denny Way. For the 106 it’s the DSTT and downtown Renton. Some people were concerned that switching the MLK-Rainier Beach segment between the 8, 48, and 106 would adversely affect reliability, but there’s no unreliability on MLK or Renton Ave, it’s all elsewhere.

        [The 77’s nonstop segment from 85th to downtown]
        “WHAT A DEAL for $2.75 a ride!!!!! If all you want to do is attract commuters, then “Open BRT” as we practice it here in Seattle (which really isn’t “BRT” at all) is a very nice thing.”

        It’s not just for commuters! If it runs semi-frequently all day it’s an overall improvement for the transit network, because one person is going to Southcenter at noon, another person is visiting their relatives in West Seattle at 2pm, and a band is playing a gig in Belltown at 8pm. Of course it doesn’t run all day, but that itself is the problem, not the commuters using it peak hours. Why should people in north Seattle have to sit crawling through stops south of the Ship Canal or south of 45th? The beauty of Link is it gives express-level service and makes several stops for intermediate riders and destinations. Buses can’t do that in that congested area, but that doesn’t make the need for mobility disappear.

      8. “There is a chance that the regular buses could slow down the BRT bus, and thus take away some of it’s BRT-ness.”

        Most of the slowness is the roadway, so BRT should take care of that. Other issues are onboard payment and wheelchair lifts. But if the BRT route is the most frequent route (as it should be), then most passengers will be on it so they won’t be slowing it down. The remainder (on the 2 or 12 or Madison Park route) will mostly be going from downtown to beyond the BRT’s end, so they won’t be getting on and off in the middle, except at major stops like Broadway. But those who are just going up the steep hill will mostly be on the BRT if it’s done right.

      9. I wouldn’t call the 71/72/73 or the 41/76/77 BRT because the ROW and stations aren’t enhanced enough, and are notoriously unreliable. But the DSTT and busway between Convention Place and Spokane Street does function like BRT (dedicated ROW, full-time frequent) and could have been called that, although it wasn’t. Of course, the capacity delays in the DSTT now make it less BRT-ish (sometimes a bus is stuck for 20 minutes), but that’s more of a temporary problem than a non-BRT corridor.

      10. Ross,

        The 77 used to be a goes-to-the-south-end-then-comes-north-on-Third-Avenue” in the morning bus (and reverse in the afternoon, the “hallmark” of “Blue Streak” service), but now it’s a tunnel bus.

        Mike,

        Well, that’s easy isn’t it? Just define everything that doesn’t have slow-downs as “BRT”. Voila, Seattle suddenly has lots of it!

        And the 77 does not run “semi-frequently all day”. The last run departs North City at 8:12 AM, arriving at Westlake at 8:56 AM. The first northbound run leaves IDS at 3:40 PM, arriving in North City at 4:25. There is no “contra-flow” operation, except perhaps the first three runs are able to deadhead back to 175th and do another turn. You and I may not ride. IOW, it’s a typical Metro “Express”.

        And heaven knows I’m not saying “don’t build Link to 130th” or even (grudgingly) “to Lynnwood”. Why do you think that? All I’m saying in all this bloviation is “Don’t call Express Buses on I-405 “BRT”, because they’re not!”

        That doesn’t mean they aren’t the right technology for the need at hand, but especially if you’re going to the “Open” version, it will not meet the standards of reliability and comprehensibility that proper Bus Rapid Transit requires for greatest effect.

        Yes, there’s value in not making people transfer, and I’m not saying absolutely don’t have an open system. But think very hard about dragging those trailers around on low-density, relatively low-ridership collector lines. Do you really need special branches for the five miles between Kenmore and Woodinville? Maybe at the rush hour, sure; that’s what express buses are good at. But seriously, how many people are going to want to travel between Woodinville and Bel-Square at 11 AM?

      11. Mike,

        Nor would I call the 41 or any of the 7? expresses either. That’s my point. ST is calling express buses along I-405 “BRT on I-405” and it’s not. It’s at best, frequent Express Bus. There’s nothing wrong with providing that service, but it’s not BRT.

        Now if we can pry one of those HOT lanes away from WSDOT’s greedy clutches, THEN it might rightly be called “BRT”.

      12. Whoops. “expresses “BRT” either”. The dumb way I typed it makes it sound EXACTLY backward from what I meant to say. That’s an achievement!

  4. Honestly, I think including BRT on the Eastside in ST3 would be a big mistake.

    I know it’s not logical, but there are a large number of people on the Eastside that don’t ride the bus just because “it’s the bus”, but would ride rail. People have inherent notions of quality, safety, reliability, speed, etc… that fundamentally put Busses and Rail in two completely different categories. Nor has this region demonstrated an ability to actually deliver quality BRT.

    Don’t get me wrong — I ride the bus every day, but if we want to convince the voters of the Eastside that Sound Transit is going to make a serious investment into infrastructure on the Eastside, then I think the best way to convince them is with Rail.

    The highest ridership areas on the Eastside already have frequent bus service. Much of the bus service on the Eastside already runs in HOV lanes, and some of the bust stops even have real-time-arrival boards. Frankly, the existing SR520 bus corridor probably is more “BRT-like” than RapidRideB (frequent, wide stop spacing, dedicated stations with real time arrival etc…). Really the only thing that’s missing in off-board payment. BRT on the Eastside simply can’t be much better than what’s already there. A marked improvement, yes, but not a change in people’s lifestyles.

    I would be totally supportive of a 2-part plan:
    1. In 2016 reorganize trunk Bus service on the Eastside into a smaller number number of more frequent, routes (e.g. consolidate 540 + 255, the 532+535+311, the 212+554+21x, the 542+545, the 555+556+271 etc…) and connect them to light rail in U district where possible. Look for small, tactical improvements, like improving the highest ridership stops with real-time arrival information. See if you can identify the intersections with longest wait times and add TSP

    This alone will realize much of the value of the BRT plan but a a fraction of the cost. But don’t try to make this into a whole ST3 investment. Maybe the money can come from ST3, but explain it as it is: targeted investments to improve the service on the ground.

    Also, the key is to do these investments FAST — don’t wait for years, ideally, coordinate them with the opening of Link. Better bus service will help to build some trust in the system, but it won’t ever be a sea-change, and we have to accept that.

    2. Identify the best Light rail corridor and invest in that for longer term. Personally, I think an Issaquah – Eastgate – Factoria -> interline with East link -> Houghton – Kirkland – Totem lake line would do well. As I think has been discussed elsewhere, in their current cost estimates ST has made some very strange routing decisions, between a) not interlining with East link, and b) missing the core population centers in Kirkland

    Will cost per rider be much higher than BRT in the same corridor — of course! But the whole point is the quality of the ridership experience will ALSO be much higher. And to really build a future-proof network, we have to invest in the better experience.

    1. Rail bias is a real thing, especially in suburban areas like the Eastside. With that said I think people also need to be able to see themselves benefiting (or at least taking it once or twice). In specific areas I’m sure people will see benefits of LRT to Bellevue but from my daily experience on the Eastside, most infrequent choice riders use transit to go into Seattle, not Bellevue, and that’s something that a BRT network could do better. I think any BRT should be design to be rail convertible, but the geometry of travel patterns current IMO just doesn’t favor rail yet.

      1. The problem with rail-convertible BRT is that it will need to be shut down to be converted. That could be a real problem if it be a very successful route. Consider the Orange Line in LA. It has ridership high enough to warrant rail conversion, but what would they do during the conversion?

      2. @aw. Agreed. I think this is the best argument around for going with rail when the near-term economics favor BRT. Because you have to consider the disruption to the BRT network just at the future point in time when ridership is large enough to suggest rail.

        It’s really a case-by-case analysis of how well we think the disruption can be managed, and how far away that time is. Arguably, we want to start spending today on something we’ll need in 2035, but not on something that we won’t need until 2075.

      3. IMO that’s a good problem to have and something that would be a pain to deal with, but also something that could be dealt with.

      4. Rail bias is real, although, in I strongly suspect that it will prove, in practice, more useful for getting votes than actual riders. That said, ST 3 does need a majority vote to pass, and if squandering a lot of money on Eastside rail is the only way to get the votes to allow more important projects in other areas to get built, then that’s just the way it is.

      5. “[B]ut from my daily experience on the Eastside, most infrequent choice riders use transit to go into Seattle, not Bellevue, and that’s something that a BRT network could do better.”

        Unfortunately that train has left the station, or, will have left the station in 2023. For people headed to downtown Seattle from anywhere south of 520 there will be NO “BRT all the way to Seattle” (really, “Express Bus all the way to Seattle”). The buses from the I-90 corridor all the way north to SR520 and all the way south to the Renton Highlands will be transferring to Link either at South Bellevue or Mercer Island.

        So the only people who could benefit from expansion of the “Express Bus to Seattle system” we have now are folks from 520 north. That’s only three or four lines so heck yeah, double the frequency and call it good. WSDOT and ST already built a Bus Palace® an Evergreen Point so why not?

    2. Interesting comment. There are so many points that I find it hard to respond, but I’ll give it a shot:

      1) Rail bias is real, but suburban voters like ST buses. We saw this in the first two ST votes. The one that passed had less light rail, and more express bus service; To quote the article (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19961106&slug=2358535) “”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”.
      2) Suburban voters, or those on the fence, tend to be more concerned with cost. For example, an editorial in a conservative paper (even a moderately conservative one like the Seattle Times) is more likely to reject a proposal if it seems loaded down with expensive light rail lines of dubious value. On the other hand, Seattle voters will vote for anything that includes rail.
      3) Light rail to Eastgate is a reasonable proposal worth studying, as you have three decent stops, all close to the freeway (which makes rail cheap) and all pretty close to the rest of the line. One of the big issues with it is the slough, though.
      4) Beyond there, rail just doesn’t make sense. Keep in mind, there is no way rail from this area will go downtown. So basically all it would get you is service to Bellevue. Also keep in mind that you would have miles and miles of rail, and the vast majority of the riders live no where near a line. This means a three seat ride to downtown Seattle. Why would someone take a bus, then take a train, then transfer to a different train when taking a bus, then transferring to a train (in Mercer Island) is just as fast? The only advantage would be for folks that are headed to Bellevue (or Redmond). But these folks could just transfer at Mercer Island. Spending billions so that these riders have a shortcut seems pretty silly.

      Your suggestion for targeted improvement is a very good one. I don’t think we should focus too much on “BRT”, especially since the “BRT” name is not especially good around here. On the other hand “express bus improvements” is a much more popular idea. I could see how this (which includes this proposal by the way) along with light rail to Redmond could be very popular. Express buses are fairly fast (as you say) but there are problem areas. Fixing those, or at least alleviating those could be very popular. Fixing and improving the ERC so that it can handle buses is huge. Calling it “BRT” is not. The latter might mean one bus line, with off board payment. The former means buses from, say, Juanita, would head south, pick up the ERC busway, then zoom off (on a new ramp) to downtown Seattle. If the Juanita rider wanted to go to Bellevue, she could just get off anywhere along the busway, wait a couple minutes, and then pick up a different bus (that started from, say, Woodinville). In other words, if ST draws a “BRT Map”, and it only includes the ERC and lines going to Bellevue and Seattle (via 520) it could be a big loser. But if it has a thick “trunk” that includes those lines, plus “limbs” heading every which way, then it would be a lot more popular.

      But I could also see including item #3 on my list, if the problems with the slough can be overcome. That would be a reasonably good value, and hold out the promise (however ridiculous) of light rail getting to Issaquah.

      1. 3) Light rail to Eastgate is a reasonable proposal worth studying, as you have three decent stops, all close to the freeway (which makes rail cheap) and all pretty close to the rest of the line. One of the big issues with it is the slough, though.

        Not sure you have three stops. Various commenters here have sketched out a South Bellevue – Factoria – Eastgate Transit Center – Bellevue College alignment.

        However, what Sound Transit has studied only has one representative stop in the area (at the Eastgate TC). Corridor studies aren’t the last word in station placement, so arguably there could be one at the college too, although it’s fairly close. After that the alignments continue into Bellevue either along 405 or Richards Rd, and cross East Link at Hospital Station.

        There’s lots of skepticism around here that these were the only possible alignments, but they are the only ones that survived Sound Transit’s level 1 screening. Nothing that served Factoria was ever considered. The rejected A1 alignment would have taken the ERC from I-90 into Bellevue, which would still have put it on the wrong side of the slough to get to the South Bellevue P&R.

      2. Well, if there is only one stop, then I think the idea is pretty silly. How exactly does that help someone in Factoria (which has some big office buildings)? At best this one station becomes a “transit center”, with local service to nearby destinations. I would assume it is a freeway station (similar to Mercer Island). But keep in mind, you can’t directly get from this station to downtown Seattle. You can get to downtown Bellevue (or similar locations). That basically splits the bus service, or forces a Factoria bus to go out its way. Once Link opens, it makes sense for buses to go along Factoria boulevard, get on the freeway and go to Mercer Island. Whether you are coming from Seattle or Bellevue (or Issaquah), you would transfer there (via East Link in the case of Seattle or Bellevue and via a bus in the case of Issaquah). But now what? The bus is supposed to go to Eastgate? That is marginally better for someone headed to downtown Bellevue, and much better for someone headed to Eastgate, but worse for someone heading to downtown Seattle. The same is true for everyone to the east.

        This is in sharp contrast, for example, with extending light rail further north, on I-5. While that might not be worth the money, at least each mile of light rail along the freeway means two fewer miles for a bus coming from the north. That isn’t the case here — again, because these trains can’tgo to downtown Seattle.

        That being said, I can see Eastgate and Bellevue College being combined. That might end up being a hefty walk for a student or an office worker, but people will do that for a train. The combination of Eastgate and Bellevue College is decent, but it isn’t enormous. It makes sense for light rail if you are going that way anyway (e. g. Roosevelt) but it is hardly worth building a two mile spur line just for that.

      3. Yeah, I think the idea of just truncating one of the mapped Issaquah alignments doesn’t fly. The point of those alignments is to get to Issaquah, and they’re not even very good at that because Hospital Station is such an odd way to get from Issaquah to Seattle. Serving the close-in neighborhoods was a secondary consideration.

        There’s an alignment that provides great service here. Bellevue College to Eastgate to Factoria to South Bellevue with interlined service into Bellevue. It didn’t get studied, and some have attributed either bad intentions or incompetence to that decision. I’m more inclined to believe ST was right.

        It’s well under two miles of new rail, but in that time it:
        * crosses a sensitive wetland.
        * crosses three freeways (once across 405, twice across 90).
        * potentially disrupts Eastlink service (ST hasn’t done a great job of explaining why interlining here is unacceptably disruptive, but why not trust in the good intentions of staff).
        * puts another structure in front of Surrey Downs.
        * takes advantage of precisely no ROW through Factoria (read, lots of expensive condemnations).

        None of this makes it impossible, and a more creative engineering mind than mine might figure some of this out in a way that’s not crazy-expensive. But this looks like a really hard problem.

      4. Dan,

        “takes advantage of precisely no ROW through Factoria (read, lots of expensive condemnations)”

        You are wrong about this. I will certainly stipulate that this is a very rare instance of you being wrong; you’re usually spot on. But there is a great potential right of way through Factoria. Grant, it can’t be at-grade; it has to be elevated or subway, but it exists.

        Assume that a level crossing is acceptable just south of South Bellevue station. With 9 minute headways on the Lake, it shouldn’t be a problem, especially since an Eastgate-bound train can simply wait twenty or thirty seconds longer for a Redmond-bound run to clear to crossing. The trackway at South Bellevue is elevated, so an Eastgate spur would be high enough to overcross the freeway without excessive grades. Yes, those would be some fairly high supports, but they’d be pikers compared to the ones above the I-5/I-405 interchange at Tukwila. It also gives the line the opportunity to make a graceful curve to an eastbound heading.

        After it overcrosses I-90 the trackway could descend to the same level as the freeway just south of it to present a smaller visual intrusion on the wetland park. Let’s be real honest here; adding two lanes of rail with a train every three or four minutes is way less “intrusion” than the ten lane freeway with cars 24/7/365.

        So, that’ little sensitivity should be easily dealt with.

        Now we have the ERC right of way right in front of us. Do we want permanently to remove the possibility of using it for Sprinter service between Woodinville (and maybe Monroe) and Renton or even Kent? We’d need to decide because the ideal alignment for an Eastgate line would cross it essentially at grade while curving behind the apartments and houses between Lake Washington Boulevard and I-405 which simply won’t do for an active rail line. If it is to be preserved the LRT line would have to reach great heights while crossing LWB, looming over the housing in the southeast quadrant of the freeway interchange. So in all honesty, I’d say, “It’s time to let the south end of the ERC go.” if LRT to Eastgate is selected.

        Continuing east of the ERC the LRT route would curve into the power transmission ROW (a great place for a substation…) and either dive if a subway through Factoria is selected or rise if elevated is chosen. It would then curve across the freeway to beautifully diagonal SE 38th Street to a station just east of Factoria Boulevard . They would then continue east another long block along SE 38th and then along the edge of the parkland just south of the large buildings there to the Sunset Ravine and north across the freeway.

        Yes, this would be a bit intrusive to the apartments just east of 132nd SE, but they would likely be replaced by an office tower if a station were two blocks away. The remains of the old Eastgate Park’N’Ride are right across the freeway to accommodate the curve to parallel Eastgate Way.

        Because I agree with everyone that Issaquah, despite its very estimable efforts to become a real city, is at this time too far to serve efficiently with LRT, for the time being I’d just have a stub-end station at Eastgate and provide the kids at BCC with a covered walkway. How expensive can it be to build a 1/3 mile long covered walkway?

      5. Dan,

        “takes advantage of precisely no ROW through Factoria (read, lots of expensive condemnations)”

        You are wrong about this.

        As it happens, I work in Factoria, so this is awkward. :)

        I think you’re on to something better than what I was imagining. I figured the alignment would run up the north side of the T-Mobile buildings by the freeway. Yours is better.

        Having walked up SE 38th twice today, the grade seems to be an issue. And you’d want to do some cutting, I think, in the hill behind T-Mobile, with local property impacts. So, still not cheap, but less bad because I think you might be able to avoid impacting the highest value current uses in the area.

        I don’t think we’d want to let the ERC go. But for trail purposes, there should be an alternate path over there that would exit the legacy railbed. For LRT purposes, your analysis holds. We all seem to have given up on rail to Renton, so it seems safe not to worry too much about that.

        The height of the elevated structure on its first pass over I-90 is a political football as much as a real issue. Expect to see it used whether or not there’s a real impact.

    3. 2) Suburban voters, or those on the fence, tend to be more concerned with cost. For example, an editorial in a conservative paper (even a moderately conservative one like the Seattle Times) is more likely to reject a proposal if it seems loaded down with expensive light rail lines of dubious value. On the other hand, Seattle voters will vote for anything that includes rail.

      This may or may not be the case (I think it would be rather difficult to apply a consistent logic to the Times endorsement patterns. Prop 1 in November but not April? Really?) but I’m not sure we should care. The political science world has looked pretty hard for evidence of the impact of newspaper endorsements, and with some rare exceptions (extremely local, low-information elections) has come up empty. The odds are pretty good it just doesn’t matter. I’m willing to endorse objectively worse proposals for votes if necessary, but only the votes of actual voters, not Blethen’s hand-picked reactionaries.

      1. Ross

        As you know, I think BRT doesnt vote. The big issue here is that the Eastside will pay a couple of billion dollars in capital regardless of what they get – cost savings for a single subarea is not on the table. I contend that, without a shiny rail component to excite voters – ST3 will fail on the Eastside.

        Dan: The consensus around here seems to be that this corridor study needs a complete do-over. Apart from pushing for ST3 in the legislature and working on Seattle local alternatives making that re-study happen will likely be Seattle Subway priority 1. Not because we think its the most important rail corridor on earth – but because we want ST3 to win.

        That said, it really might not matter. A close loss in EKC could be made up for by a slaughter in NKC and clos votes in the other subareas – which there will almost certainly be if we get the right projects on the ballot.

      2. First, everything that RossB said.

        I don’t buy that BRT doesn’t vote. For the most part, it doesn’t have a brand at all. Among those of us who follow transit closely, there are lots of strong feelings, but most Eastside voters couldn’t tell you what BRT is.

        So we’ll have to explain a proposal on its merits. The first step to selling a proposal on its merits is to have the most meritorious package possible. I’m open to an argument that there’s a better rail alignment, but we don’t have numbers to support that right now.

        Most voters in the middle of this debate will look for a few things. They’ll want to see it’s not a boondoggle. The big pricetag is a challenge, so you’re already vulnerable to a claim that this is poor value. Don’t give the detractors ammunition by making it an objectively poor value.

        Voters do look to authority figures on complicated subjects. Not just newspaper editorials, but elected officials. Can you get some moderate Republicans on the Eastside to endorse ST3? The very first thing they’ll want to be reassured is that this isn’t a big tax increase for something few will use. What kind of package enables you to say straight-faced that it isn’t? That discussion starts with ridership.

        The second question voters will want to know is whether there is something for their community. There’s a very powerful argument that “We are on our third Sound Transit packages, and it still isn’t doing anything for [my town]”. Rail won’t help you much in this discussion because a rail package has to be geographically smaller than a bus package.

      3. @djw — Yeah, the Seattle Times editorial staff is a crap shoot, but I think it is easier to build a conservative movement against a proposal if it is a big one. Whether or not they get a few papers on board may not make a difference. But while this isn’t extremely local, it is local. At the same time, a lot of people are hoping that the low information voter will embrace this proposal. I have read many times on this blog how “bus improvements make a lot more financial sense, but voters won’t vote for that — they want light rail!”. Sorry, but that just sounds like a losing political stand. Why not come up with the best solution for the money and then try and sell that?

      4. As you know, I think BRT doesnt vote.

        Maybe not, but express buses do. Over and over they do. The record of express buses is much better than light rail.

        The big issue here is that the Eastside will pay a couple of billion dollars in capital regardless of what they get – cost savings for a single subarea is not on the table.

        Nothing is on the table right now. You assume that the legislature will continue with proportionality as well as subarea equity. I think we should do as much as we can to split the two.

        I contend that, without a shiny rail component to excite voters – ST3 will fail on the Eastside.

        It will have Redmond rail, although I’m sure a lot of folks will say “Wait, I thought we already had that”. I also think added express bus hours, along with corridor improvements (removing bottlenecks) could be very popular. I’m still impressed with the very high ridership of ST buses, even though they don’t run that many routes (26 if I counted correctly) and some of them are obvious dogs (e. g. Bonney Lake to Sumner). One advantage of new express service is that it can be implemented really quickly. I personally think this is a huge selling point. I’m sure a lot of suburban voters aren’t interested in what can be built ten years from now, but how you can improve their commute in a couple years. Glancing at the ST buses, I can see that even the more popular buses (like Kirkland to the UW) don’t run that often. Every twenty minutes or so during rush hour, with a huge empty gap in the middle of day. Light rail to Husky Stadium will be done by the time the vote occurs, while we wait for the rest of the system. I could easily see a Kirkland voter saying “Wait, you want to build a fancy, mulit-billion dollar light rail line — why not just run the 540 more often? Wouldn’t that be a lot cheaper, a lot more effective and available a lot sooner?”

        Our response would be, essentially “Why yes, but we thought you wanted something shiny. Besides, we had to blow the money on something.”

      5. I think you guys are assuming that basically, a ton of people read this blog and/or are interested in being truly informed about transit in the Puget Sound. I think that is a pretty big assumption. I would assume that a really well run campaign can get a voter to know MAYBE 4 or 5 sentences of information. And thats if they are on the “caring” side.

        I also dont think it’s wise to assume that subarea equity and other such structures go away. In Oly, I expect inaction rather than lots of action.

  5. This is a great post, but two things must be accomplished to make it palatable to East side voters.

    The first and most important is that the buses in the “BRT” fleet must be dedicated to the network, operate exclusively on the East side routes and be pledged for replacement every six or eight years. The folks on the East side are going to be disappointed that more rail is not coming their way, and they’ll rebel if they think there is any chance they’ll be riding beaters; they have money and will demand a pleasant ride. ST needs to budget for frequent bus replacement.

    The second is that the program of I-405 “open BRT” must be acknowledged as a “Blue Streak” type of service. That’s because, it’s not “Bus Rapid Transit”, it’s Express Bus in mixed traffic in the “collector” sections and on HOT lanes with other traffic on the freeways. It gets exclusive transit lanes nowhere except for a few blocks in downtown Bellevue.

    How many folks who post here have been complaining that the HOV lanes in the Puget Sound region should have been “promoted” to “3-plus”? Most, I’d say. Well, these Express buses will be subject to the same unwillingness to provide quality service that WSDOT gives in the HOV lanes now. The only possible amelioration is that people won’t pay to drive in the toll lanes if they’re not saving considerable time.

    I agree that buses are the answer for the spread out East side. I just object to putting lipstick on a pig and entering it in a beauty contest. High Capacity Transit deserves its own lanes to achieve reliability and speed advantages. This is not High Capacity Transit, regardless of what SouburbandTransit calls it.

    1. I given WSDOT a hard time about HOV2/3 lanes, but with that said I’m hopeful that the I-405 Express Toll lanes, which will have 2-lanes in each direction between Bellevue and SR-522 and will be managed better than the current HOV lanes, could provide a long-term solution to the issues of slow HOV lanes. These lanes are opening in about a year.

      http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I405/NE6thtoI5/

    2. Ross,

      I admit I’m feeling a bit contrary, but I really do not believe you know that “BRT” means. The express buses that use SR520 are not not not not not not NOT! “BRT”. Bus Rapid Transit happens in cities, not suburbs. What you’re advocating — and I will be happy to stupulat that it is absolutely the right technology for the suburbs — is “Blue Streak” local collectors with a freeway run to the CBD or another trip attractor (e.g. UW).

      We invented it here in Seattle — or at least, were the first to implement it with a specific name — but it’s NOT “Bus Rapid Transit”.

    3. Anakondos: I agree these things are important. I disagree that voters care about them or distinguish on them. At all.

  6. Lead-off question needs answer before any discussion of “Bus Rapid Transit.” Only honest definition is: every single structural and operational element of rail rapid transit, except with different vehicles. Anything less, is B&S. Think “trout” and “Fahslabend”. And also BAT lanes and Rapid Ride.

    Also: Any vehicle not air-cushioned needs either track or pavement. Which needs constant maintenance. Somebody who knows, please “weigh in” to compare maintenance costs between concrete pavement and steel track. Remember, we’re talking heavy machines at short headway.

    And next, compare right of way width between the two machines. My own guess is that without guidance on steering, because buses can deviate sideways, a busway has to allow for this happening. Reason that in Europe, pedestrian plaza transit is generally streetcars is that steel-track transit takes less horizontal space.

    As for “HOT” lanes (High/Occupancy/Toll, same logic as Business Access/Transit): any readers here have enough experience with 167 to confirm or refute my conviction that the situation there amounts to an ideological mandate creating an operations disaster? And one which makes our fare system look comprehensible and functional by comparison?

    To me, the only stretch of actual bus rapid transit is in this region is the 1.3 miles of between Convention Place and IDS. Designed as a fully reserved transitway graded and curved for trains, but capable of bus operations as the rail system is being built. This approach would have both seriously improved bus operations on I-90 for past three decades and put EastLINK years ahead.

    East side or anywhere else, real BRT has to be capable of above operation and conversion. But major condition: the facility has to be not exactly “run like a business” but completely run like a railroad. Training, coordination, communications and all. Everything that would have made DSTT a positive example to follow, rather than an object lesson of what to avoid.

    Mark Dublin

    1. So if we are actually invest in real BRT why not just do Rail? I’m pretty sure that you can find about 20 posts on STB about why a significant investment is BRT just doesn’t make sense compared to Rail.

      1. A couple reasons:

        1) BRT is often a lot cheaper, especially if the road is already there. This is why a city like Chicago, which has way more people than we ever will is building BRT.

        2) A busway which incorporates many aspects of BRT (grade separation, level boarding, off board payment, etc.) can also fan out to serve the neighborhood, reducing the number of transfers.

        Obviously, in many cases, the capacity advantages of rail overwhelm these. But we are a long way from there right now, for this corridor.

      2. Chicago’s BRT is a complement to its El network. If it didn’t have the El it would be in a world of hurt.

      3. Ross,

        If it “fans out into the neighborhood” it loses the reliability that makes it “BRT”. Now there’s no doubt that people love them some “Blue Streaks”. I have a pair of friends who live in Maple Leaf and both work downtown, arriving at different times so they can’t carpool.

        But they’re at the penultimate stop for the 77, and both work right next to DSTT stations. Their buses stop for them, usually make one more stop at 85th then turn right into the express lanes voom-voom-voom to Pine Street and into the tunnel.

        WHAT A DEAL for $2.75 a ride!!!!!

        If all you want to do is attract commuters, then “Open BRT” as we practice it here in Seattle (which really isn’t “BRT” at all) is a very nice thing. But the costs are pretty high for platform service, because you’re dragging a useless trailer through ‘burban neighborhoods with lots of turns and stop signs. It’s not a place for an artic. And of course, running around on surface streets impacts the reliability of the base service on the BRT spine.

        Finally, there’s the constant problem that the frayed ends of the cord are never the same length, so either headways on the spine are irregular or the shorter threads have longer than normal layovers to align with the schedules of the longer threads.

        It’s not as easy-peasey as it looks.

    2. “the only stretch of actual bus rapid transit is in this region is the 1.3 miles of between Convention Place and IDS”

      … and down the busway to Spokane Street. It actually works quite well as a unit, and sometimes makes me wish it continued north to Lake Union.

      1. As usual, Mike, I’m being a stickler, and a stinker, about terminology. In this case, really have had it with buses that have to slow behind cars turning into business driveways being called “Rapid.”

        But I think we already agree that whatever it’s termed, most important operating consideration is keeping the transitway, road, rail, or both, from ever being blocked. Traffic, non-transit intrusion, accidents, “police activity”, weather- chief goal is physically keeping the right of way completely clear.

        My point was that in comparison with what’s billed as Bus Rapid Transit, the DSTT is best local example of a trackway capable of being protected from non-transit blockage. Same with trains in DSTT and Beacon Hill Tunnel as opposed to MLK.

        But present rough and slow performance of both DSTT vehicle modes results from hardest blockage on Earth to counter. Management willing to add two minutes to every Tunnel schedule due to fare collection is beyond combined power of Dobermans, razor wire, and high voltage fencing to guard against.

        MD

  7. I’m not convinced that ST3 studies have fully linked the issues to the projects. The studies have all be costing out and evaluating projects but not really examining where and how Eastside residents (and voters) would want transit choices.

    Are there regional destinations that they would want served in some form (like a people mover to Factoria and Eastgate/ Bellevue College; or a Downtown Redmond rail extension; or a direct service to Seatac airport)?

    As UW is also a marjor desired destination, is there a lightweight technology that is lighter than LRT but is more appealing than mere BRT that could make a 520 crossing more viable?

    Are there choke points (like 405 between Factoria and Renton) that should be the focus of a major project to give Eastside travelers more options?

    Are there limitations expected in the current Eastlink plan that could use enhancements (like an enclosed walkway system or a driverless shuttle connecting Downtown Bellevue station better to Bellevue Square)?

    I’m not saying that these are better projects; I’m just thinking ahead to 2016. I think ST is going to need something more alluring than a generic BRT proposal to inspire voters to vote yes on the Eastside.

  8. Excellent questions, Steven. Because they deal with the questions not only of how we build a transit system with a very long future- but also how we “stage” one.

    Most and time-sensitive-element was right of way. For the DSTT, time was hair-raising short. With a building boom in progress, it was a hundred percent certain that if we didn’t start digging fast, someone would put a skyscraper that would make our subway impossible to build. Ever.

    The reason we knew that we’d eventually need trains was the worst real limit of a busway: since standard buses can’t be coupled, every group of buses lengthens with speed. At sixty mph, six 60′ buses occupy a third of a mile of lane. And faster means longer. So key busway limit is not speed, but capacity.

    In quarrying, the Seattle CBD would be called a “bench”: a beach, a cliff, about six blocks of flat ground, a freeway like a canyon, and another cliff. Probably the narrowest and most constricted downtown outside the hill towns of Portugal. But lengh wise, with blocks so short that with surface running, every station would leave ends of trains blocking traffic.

    And on top of it all, we knew none of the key suburbs would be willing to pay for the Tunnel if they had to wait until the whole system, or large parts of it, was built before their taxpayers got any benefits. Truth was, nobody had any idea that it would be nineteen years between Opening Day and Train 1.

    To me, the regional system- especially EastLINK, would be 30 years ahead of schedule if center lanes had been treated just like the Tunnel: rail right of way and stations in 1990’s, rail and trains added now.

    Likewise, I think Metro missed some opportunities to make better use of the Tunnel during trolley-bus operations- a ramp from I-90 to Rainier and Dearborn would have put the very Route 7 underground ’til conversion. The Route 43 could also have been looped at International District.

    But thirty years ago if we’d waited to start building the system until rail was complete- or started on every leg, we’d be a lot more than thirty years behind schedule now. See long-term goal. And build workable segments until completion. Where you know you’ll need trains eventually…build busways that are easy to convert.

    Mark

  9. Perhaps we should start with the problems. After East Link is running, what are the biggest transit gaps we want to address? I don’t live in the Eastside any more, but my instinct says Kirkland-Bellevue-Eastgate is the primary axis not covered by East Link or RR B, and the primary problem is frequency. My own current trips not covered by Link or the B are UW-Bellevue, Bellevue-Kirkland, and downtown-Houghton. Being the railfan I am, I’ll probably take Link partway as much as I can (to Bellevue for Bellevue, and to UW for Kirkland), and not rush to the 271. Traffic slowdowns are endemic; they’re fine for my occasional needs but could become intolerable for somebody using it 5 days a week. In other words, I’d be satisfied with BRT. But the biggest problem is lack of frequency: 10-15 minutes full time would be a marked improvement. Instead it’s 15-60 minutes.

    On the Seattle-Redmond and Seattle-Kirkland corrirdors: I agree with asdf on the 542/545, they’re doing pretty well now, they don’t need major surgery. The 540 seems to be caught by Kirkland’s weak ridership, and that extends to the 255 evenings. I asked earlier why the 540 is dragging, and the answer I got was that the bulk of students and transit-using people are toward Redmond/Overlake rather than Kirkland, because of Kirkland’s low density and high housing cost: they can’t afford to live in Kirkland. And going hand-in-hand with that, Kirkland itself is not jumping for Link, unlike Bellevue and Issaquah and Redmond.

    1. Right. That is why I think improvements in the express bus system would be very popular. I keep going back to this image right here: http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2014Q3-WeekayboardingsMvgAvg.jpg. We keep looking at that green line, but that blue one (on the top) is doing quite well. There are really only a couple ways to deal with that kind of success: build light rail to eliminate the need for buses or add more buses. For the most part, we are doing the former, and doing more in that regard would be really expensive. But the latter is relatively cheap, and would, in my estimation, be very popular. Keep in mind, I think there should be a mix — light rail to Redmond is essential. I also think some physical changes to improve and reduce the bottlenecks are a good idea. But throw in a bunch of improved ST express service and I think you will have a winner on the east side.

      1. Temporarily cheap. If there is sufficient ridership between two nodes to fill a four car train every ten minutes, you’d be running a bus roughly every minute and a half. That adds up in labor costs and fuel costs.

        This is not an argument for “rail everywhere”, but please don’t ignore ongoing costs, which really are higher with buses on heavy routes,

      2. By the way, Anandakos, your assumption that every body else is not as smart or knowledgeable as you is starting to get annoying. Why on earth did you assume that I ignored ongoing cost, when I explicitly stated “build light rail to eliminate the need for buses”? Of course that reduces ongoing costs — duh! Why else would you do that? Holy smoke, man, between this and your repeated comments …

    2. Before we look at multi-billion dollar solutions to get people from Kirkland to Bellevue, let’s not ignore the much cheaper option of restructuring the bus routes we already have. Specifically, modifying the 234/235 to connect downtown Kirkland to downtown Bellevue in a straight line would go a long way.

      1. I assume you mean Bellevue Way or 100th instead of 116th? How much time would that actually save? The schedule says 234/5 takes 20-24 minutes SB, 15-20 NB, between KTC to BTC. Given that they’ll remain locals, it’s hard to see how that routing change would save much time. It still seems worth doing, just because those corridors would serve more destinations, but that would eat into any time time savings from straighter routing pretty quickly.

      2. I mean the 234/235 should take Bellevue Way all the way, like this:

        https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=3rd+St&daddr=47.6634279,-122.2047382+to:47.615509,+-122.195724&hl=en&ll=47.648969,-122.176895&spn=0.059441,0.132093&sll=47.632082,-122.180243&sspn=0.05946,0.132093&geocode=FVd91wIdplK3-A%3BFUNJ1wIdvk23-CnTeFcgKBOQVDEoLxG6LmSzng%3BFRWO1gId9HC3-A&mra=ltm&t=m&z=14&via=1

        While this would be a local route with regular bus stops, in practice, I would expect the bus to blow by most of the stops along Bellevue Way, south of 520, due to the low-density nature of the area. As to how much time this would actually save, the printed schedule today estimates 8 minutes on the 249 (the direct route) vs. 13 minutes on the 234 (the indirect route) from Lake Washington Blvd. to Bellevue Transit Center, a difference of 5 minutes. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but 25% of the total running running time between Bellevue and Kirkland is still far from trivial.

        I am also somewhat skeptical that the real overhead of the deviation is only 5 minutes, in practice, regardless of what it says on paper. Just waiting for the left-turn arrows to get from Lake Washington Blvd. to South Kirkland P&R is already 5 minutes. The only way the 5-minute overhead becomes remotely plausable is if the stops that the deviation is supposed to serve have minimal ridership, which is all the more reason for getting rid of it.

        Even today, without East Link, I don’t see that much value in the connections provided by the 234/235 going into South Kirkland P&R. The connection to the 255 already exists at Kirkland Transit Center, and the whole stretch along Lake Washington Blvd. between the transit center and the P&R is never more than about 3/4 miles from a 255 stop. That leaves the mobilty-impaired from one small area, who are probably all driving to the P&R anyway.

  10. Why BRT? I-405 is complete traffic gridlock – buses will be going no where. For an effective way to connect Eastside communities that parallel I-405, the BRT would need it’s very own lane physically fences off to other vehicles… if we’re gonna do that, we might as well lay some track so it can travel twice as fast and carry far more people.

    An electrified, double-track-wide, heavy rail corridor from Woodinville to Tukwila is essential with local stations (i.e. park&rides and suburban stations) and larger express rail stations (i.e. Kirkland, Totem Lake/Evergreen Hospital, and downtown Bellevue) so that local trains stop more frequently and often let the express rail train pass while stopped beside a station. This type of heavy rail will be what Sounder CR will become once it gets its own dedicated double-track on the North and South lines.

    Anything less than this is insufficient.

    1. Something like this did get studied. It’s the $1.4 billion for 4,000 riders option at the very bottom of the table. So, at first glance, you’d have to come up with something other than a cost-effectiveness metric to justify this.

      The studied option was a single track CR, and the consequently low frequency did a number on the ridership. You may do better with a pair of tracks, but if you want frequency, why do Sounder?

      On the south leg (Bellevue to Renton), there just isn’t a compelling reason to get off the freeway between those cities. ST assumes a HOT lane from Bellevue to Renton, so you have a lot of existing infrastructure to use. Using stuff we already have inevitably wins on an efficiency metric. WSDOT thinks it can maintain the speeds on the HOT lanes to make BRT work well. We’ll see. Even if it doesn’t measure up to fully grade-separated transit, it should beat the GP lanes handily.

      Now, if you were to weigh down the I-405 cost numbers with all the money that WSDOT is assumed to be spending, then the cost-benefit wouldn’t be so skewed against rail. The Bellevue-Renton HOT lane is $1 billion. Then, I suspect the conclusion might be that ST shouldn’t do anything at all on that route.

      On the north end, it’s more complicated. The rail corridor doesn’t go to where most of the 405 ridership is. And vice versa. So there’s a really strong argument for building on both corridors.

      We wouldn’t want to go to Woodinville. That was 500-1000 riders. (Including a 1,000 car P&R for as few as 500 riders was one of the more questionable assumptions in the corridor study).

      [EDIT: Woodinville had 500-1000 riders on the BRT and LRT options. On lower frequency CR, it was estimated at 100-200 riders].

Comments are closed.