Paul Roberts

There are a lot of opinions about what Sound Transit should do in Snohomish County, and (in our comment threads) precious few of those opinions come from there. To rectify that, I chatted with Sound Transit Boardmember, and Everett Councilmember, Paul Roberts for his perspective of what is desirable and feasible in that subarea. This is Part 2 of 2. (Part I)

Mr. Roberts is a self-described “recovering planner” who has served in numerous transportation and environmental advisory positions, and almost two decades as Director of Everett’s Department of Planning and Community Development, before “failing at retirement” by doing some consulting and serving in elected office.

It’s well-understood that only dense land use can fully utilize the capacity of rail. As a City Councilmember, what are you prepared to do to make it happen in Everett?

We’ve already done a lot of Transit Oriented Development along the Swift line. That’s the same thing we’d have to do for Link. It’s critical, and I’ve long been a supporter.

Our analysis suggests that the proposed $15 billion ST3 package won’t really be enough to get to Everett via I-5, much less via Paine Field. What compromises do you support to resolve this dilemma?

First, it’s too early yet to know what those pieces look like. But we still have to do system- and project-level studies. We don’t yet know what those costs will be.

Second, we have to think as a region. We have significant manufacturing capacity that drives the State of Washington. The real priority we have to look at is completing the spine to Tacoma, Everett, and Redmond. We have other providers — CT, ET, KCM — that have to be part of the integrated system.

Third, we also need to look at how to right-size the system to bias building more miles of track as opposed to larger stations or some of the other infrastructure pieces that can more easily be added later. The stations don’t have to be overbuilt to have impact. But they do have to function properly! There’s a difference between spending huge amounts of money on the station and spending the right amount of money to make that station work in terms of access. And those are relatively low-tech urban design solutions! Sound Transit shouldn’t dictate that design, but I do think we should work with the communities. Communities have to take the lead and frankly, the responsibility. In other words, Sound Transit can’t be funding a lot of that, but we should be supportive of it.

I’m on the record as advocating different funding mechanisms. Tax-increment financing (TIF) is used in almost every other state and captures some of the value created by the line. It’s a concept that’s overdue [Washington law does not allow TIF].

Your second point sounds like a swipe at subarea equity. If the emphasis is building out the spine, there’s taxing capacity in North and East King that is presumably going to very high-ridership but non-spine lines. Are you suggesting that those projects should be subordinated to completing the spine?

I don’t know the answer to that yet. The important question is, what are the key elements that the region needs? It’s what the region needs and what we’re all trying to do, not what my subarea needs. We have to look at a broader picture, and I don’t think that discussion is yet ripe. But it’s a fair question.

One of the big expenditures at stations is Park-and-Rides. Do you see a lot, a little, or no agency-funded parking at all at stations as we move up the spine?

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all model. I also think it opens up the opportunity for other funding mechanisms. At the ends of the system, there are clearly people who aren’t in the taxing district coming in to use that capacity. I’ve asked for us to look at other funding mechanisms like Local Improvement Districts that allow us to bridge outside the taxing district to allow us to build that capacity. We have to get creative; there’s just no question about it, and we haven’t begun. It’s time to begin that conversation.

Do you favor Paine Field as a commercial airport, and does that affect the case for light rail to serve it?

I’ve been a strong proponent of it, but let me put it in context. People have strong feelings about this, but the proposal is a 2-gate commercial terminal roughly the size of East Wenatchee. This is a tempest in a teapot: the maximum throughput capacity of those gates is less than 5% of the aviation capacity at Paine Field, which today runs at 40% capacity. I don’t think there’s a market beyond that, and multiple studies agree.

The proposal on the table, now in federal court, is a small portal into the nation’s air system. It’s very important from an economic development point of view, but not an air operations point of view. This is not about a Sound Transit 3 connection to Paine Field for commercial service.

Lastly, many people criticize North Sounder as being relatively unproductive, unreliable, and possibly unsafe due to mudslide risk. As a defender of Sounder North, how do you respond?

It’s part of what we felt was important to build our connections up here in ST 1 and 2. But I like to think of myself as a realistic defender: we know there are problems and challenges with that system. I’m not going to sugarcoat that. We’re asking ourselves “how can we do a better job of providing more reliable service,” including prospectively cancelling service because we can see weather patterns.

It is an expensive system, and we need to continue conversations between the cities of Everett, Mukilteo, and Edmonds about how to make that system work. Those are future conversations; they’re not ripe today, but it’s part of the conversation for ST3.

Thanks for your time. This was an interesting talk and I learned a lot.

Thank you for taking the time. I appreciate your interest in it!

54 Replies to “Paul Roberts Interview, Part II”

  1. Alright, before anyone else chimes in:
    Yesterday there was a lot of stuff about what wouldn’t work in Snohomish County and trying to serve Paine Field.
    I get that there are a lot of places there that wouldn’t be good to serve with a high capacity light rail line. It’s a huge sprawling area that really defies good transit service right now. There’s lots of stuff to not like about any route.
    However, for those that insist on telling us how bad all of our ideas are, could you also please tell us what you WOULD do to make things better in this particular area?

    1. Personally I still think the alignment up to Everett along 99 is still the best option. There are already a number of apartment buildings here, as well as TOD going in around the swift line.

      Unlike an I-5 alignment or a Pain Field alignment, there is existing sidewalk and retail along this corridor that would support use. Also, the Swift line provides an excellent shadow service to bring people to the more express running Link service.

      1. Agreed. Get over to 99, go as far North as the ST3 money will get you. It’s not a great investment, and I’m open to other arguments, but as long as we can’t have differential taxation by subarea, it’s probably the best bet.

    2. However, for those that insist on telling us how bad all of our ideas are, could you also please tell us what you WOULD do to make things better in this particular area?

      I’m all for extending service to Everett, and SR 99, and Paine Field, and building out enough Swift or ST Express services to connect them all to other places. But Link needs to end in Lynnwood for now. Paul Roberts wants to do too much with a rail line, and I think it’s a recipe for doing many things poorly. Too slow to be the best commuter service to Seattle. Not extensive enough to join up destinations in Snohomish to each other.

      And it’s a budget-buster. Do this one thing, and they’ll never get the tax authority to do anything else.

      I raised the question yesterday of what we should do if Link to Everett is non-negotiable. It was a playoff between bad options and arguably better but thoroughly unaffordable ones.

      That said, I agree with Joe and others who said yesterday that the politics of this are pointing to the biggest rail line they can afford, and it’s only a matter of length and alignments.

      1. I agree completely. By the way, you forgot to close the italics but you did a great job on the bold. That is key here: Service. Service does not necessarily mean rail. It does mean good bus to rail interaction. It means buses that move quickly and frequently. Fortunately for a lot of Everett users, light rail, even to Lynnwood, will be great for them. Change the HOV 2 to HOV 3 and you have a very fast, very smooth ride to several Seattle destinations. It is not different than someone from Issaquah. It is actually better. In the case of an Issaquah rider, the transfer occurs in Mercer Island, and then there is a ride that includes a stop at Judkins Park. Very few will get off there. On the other hand, the light rail from Lynnwood stops at Northgate, UW and Capitol Hill before it gets to downtown. Each one of those is a very popular spot.

        But back to the original question, I would focus on all the bus bottlenecks. Swift 2 identified one of them — at 128th. This is a very important intersection for transit. The same is true for other intersections (164th as well as major Aurora cross streets). I would focus on those, and figure out how to get fast frequent buses serving the entire area.

    3. Before you do light rail, please do the following.

      Extend the HOV lanes from North everett to Smokey Point.
      Put in dedicated HOV lanes on Hwy 2 from everett to SR9.
      Swift 2 from Bothel to Boeing Everett with full hov lanes.
      Add frequent express commuting hours bus service on these routes.
      Build 12 or more park and rides to serve these routes.
      Engage Boeing to work together to make bus service cost and time effective.
      Note that boeing already has a shuttle system to get people around its campus’.

      Do all of this then start talking about light rail.

      1. I agree. That is exactly the type of thing that makes sense for that area. That would make a bigger positive difference to the lives of more people than additional light rail.

    4. I’ll take a gander at this. I would first infill the 220th street station and extend Link north a mile or so to Allderwood Mall being sure to build the station east of the mall (around 33rd ave and 188th st) to maximize the walkshed. In doing this I would work with community leaders to ensure that a strong commitment is made to add housing and density in this surface lot filled area.

      Then I would beef up bus service and spend capital on enhancing that:
      -Build swift 2 and extend it to Bothell.
      -Extend the 510/512 North to Everett CC or even Marysville via Broadway and bump frequencies to match with Link (and terminate it at Lynwood obviously).
      -Provide the funds to split Swift I into two parts such that the “northern” swift can serve the northern terminus of Link via SR-525 (and be extended north to Everett CC) and the “southern” Swift can go between Airport Road and Link in Shoreline.
      -Build a swift 3 between downtown Edmonds and 220th street station.
      -Complete the other half of the Ash Way P&R HOV on ramp and add a busway station at 128th st.
      -Build other bottleneck bypassing infrastructure.
      -Extend I-5 HOV lanes.

      Overall there is far more low hanging fruit in enhancing the bus network than there is extending a rail network that won’t readily serve enough dense areas to generate the all day demand needed to warrant the investment. And with I-5 already built, it is much easier to serve all of Everett with a bus than with rail, especially given any rail alignment north of the Amtrak will almost certainly lack funding.

  2. Nice punt on the CR question Paul.
    It’s only been bleeding cash for over 10 years now, and saying the topic is not ‘ripe’ yet suggests it must get smelly and rotten before it’s taken seriously.

  3. This part concerns me: “The important question is, what are the key elements that the region needs? It’s what the region needs and what we’re all trying to do, not what my subarea needs. We have to look at a broader picture, and I don’t think that discussion is yet ripe.”

    When is it ripe then? ST’s schedule calls for a system plan in late 2015, and the staff have already started working on it. Doesn’t the staff need the board’s direction on what “key elements” it should contain, in order to make a plan that complies with those elements? Is the board going to wait for the initial proposals before deciding what kind of system it wants?

    1. I think if you asked people in the area, then very few would say that what we need is to complete the spine. Even people in Tacoma or Everett. If you ask someone, the day after Link gets to Lynnwood, why they still drive from Everett to Seattle, their answer will most likely be “I don’t work downtown”. Not, “It is just too inconvenient to take a bus and then transfer to a train”. Likewise for a Tacoma rider, In fact the Tacoma rider might say “get the cars out of the HOV lanes — that’s what I need. I certainly don’t need another way to get from Tacoma to Seattle in over an hour — I want to get there in a half hour!”.

      That’s why his spine talk, and greater regional need talk are completely at odds. Snohomish County could use a lot of improvements (such as the ones mentioned above). For commuters trying to get from Snohomish County to Seattle, they need fast bus service and fast transit once they get to Seattle.

    2. Paul is right, and so are you, Mike. The conversation will ripen between now and July 2016. I read this is Paul leaving himslef room to work on a deal with other ST board members.

    1. Glass Half Full crowd: Thanks Paul for deferring Link to Everett until after Ballard gets built.
      Half Empty Crowd: Thanks Seattle for deferring anymore lines until the Great Spine Line is completed.

      1. I think the half empty crowd is right. I tell you what though – there’s no way I’m voting for a light rail package to complete the spine unless it also includes a proportionate share of useful routes in dense areas. And I bet depressed pro-transit turnout in Seattle from people like me would kill such a poorly designed package.

      2. ST knows that many Seattle voters will not look much at the north and south ends, they’ll just want to know how much it fills the needs in the west half of the city.

  4. Also, regarding “right-sizing of stations”… stations cost a hell of a lot less if you don’t built multimillion-dollar free-parking Meccas next to them. But if ST didn’t do that, then nobody would show up to ride the train from the hinterlands of Snohomish County.

    So which do you want? Cheaper stations or barely-adequate ridership justifications?

    1. Free parking meccas are less expensive in Snohomish County than King County, especially as you go further north. ST hasn’t even announced how many new P&Rs there might be. Maybe zero. All the north side P&Rs in ST2 were existing P&Rs before Link, so the land was already public. In the Everett extension, 164th would be the primary P&R, and it’s already there and recently enhanced. Then what? Everett Station and maybe one in between. How many more than that do you need?

      1. Coming back from the San Juan Islands on the bus once, I managed to get stuck in a traffic jam that extended north at least to Bellingham. There is an awful lot of farmland north of Marysville that looks to be converting to sprawl, such as the mess around Sedro-Wooly.

        So my guess (as an ignorant doofus from south of the state line) is that there is going to be significant P&R demand at some point generated by that whole mess outside the ST boundary. Just how much demand all that is going to generate depends on what gets built, how it is planned (from what I have seen, not much planning seems to be happening there) and where that population winds up seeking employment and other activities.

      2. I doubt it. I mean there is sprawl out there, to be sure, but not that many people. My guess is most of them don’t head into Seattle on a regular basis. Those that do won’t change their habits much because of a shiny light rail line. Either they drive because they don’t mind driving, or they find a bus somewhere and park. The ones that don’t go into Seattle on a regular basis might decide to take light rail. For example, if you live in Mount Vernon and have a doctor appointment in Northgate, you might drive to a park in ride in Snohomish County and then take the train. But even then, you need a way to get to the last mile, and if that is too much of a hassle, just drive (especially if you appointment is in the middle of the day, so as to avoid rush hour). Speaking of which, I would imagine that light rail will change the scheduling habits of some folks. If you work downtown, suddenly a morning or evening appointment at Northgate is no big deal. Don’t bother driving, just take the train. I think the main thing is that life will change the lives of a lot more for folks that live or work in the city than it will for folks in the hinterlands. This is why, for example, the outer edges of BART has such horrible ridership, despite plenty of park and ride space, a population many times bigger than ours (in the city and out in the suburbs) and in some cases, bus to train mixing that we can hardly imagine (

      3. “My guess is most of them don’t head into Seattle on a regular basis.”

        That’s what we need to understand about suburbs and exurbs. In 1965 most of them commuted to downtown Seattle but that era is long gone. The ones that commute to downtown now are enough to fill a few buses or trains, and the largest single trip-pairs and most suited to transit, but they’re only a small fraction of suburban residents. Most suburbanites don’t work in Seattle, and some of them don’t ever go to there if they can avoid it. Some things are uniquely in the central city: the courthouse, Seattle Center, Amtrak, the stadiums, UW, medical specialties, the Bainbridge ferry, tourist destinations, etc. So they want to/have to go to them, but they don’t go to Seattle otherwise.

        The area between Bellingham and Smokey Point is restricted from development by the urban growth boundary. I don’t know where exactly it goes, or whether Mt Vernon has an urban island or is a rural town, but it protects the existing state at least somewhat.

      4. So how about transit that means a damn for intra-county mobility, Mike?

        Because BARTLink, no matter how many airports you send it through, simply isn’t that.

    2. Paul Roberts has a point about right-sizing costs.

      Sound Transit is building the Angle Lake Extension currently, $383M for 1.6 miles of elevated track and one new station. This is $240M/mile. A more typical price range for elevated rail is $150M/mile. The BART heavy rail extension under construction now is $165/mile, which includes a tunneled section. In Spain (and Vancouver BC!) they can build subway tunnels for $240M/mile.

      I understand being conservative on cost estimates in the early stages, but ST really needs to get a handle on costs to maximize the investment in ST3.

      1. Chad, outside of San Francisco, and especially across the Bay, the land consists of rolling hills just this side of desert. With a lot of empty land along the whole route. Spain very likely the same.

        In Vancouver BC, Skytrain inherited miles of existing railroad right of way wide enough for freight tracks already in place and elevated transit pillars. Amtrak passes some pillars on the way in.

        For subways, geologic and soil conditions can vary expense enormously on the same line. Spain is known to be dry, very much like California- part of reason Spaniards colonized it so long.

        The 1.3 mile long DSTT started its dig under Jackson Street, in ground that is basically a salt-water inlet with a little dirt in it- and had to have cement called “grout” pumped into it for months before boring could start.

        In front of Century Square between Pike and Pine, the cutter encountered an underground running river. Reason Spring Street is called that. Engineers “dewatered” the area so not a day of construction was lost- but fair amount of money probably was.

        In Portland, work under Mt. Washington Tunnel, under the zoo, early on had to stop for about a year because someone misjudged the soil in front of the cutter- necessitating a rescue albeit cheaper than Bertha’s.

        Skytrain’s chief cost-saver was a freight tunnel under Vancouver from sixty years back, with a roof raised to vent steam locomotives, running exactly where the line needed to go. All the project needed to do was put subway tubes in like an over-under shot gun.

        And Skytrain was also initiated by a very large subsidy from the national government as part of a trade exposition in 1986 or so.

        Seattle is unique in the amount of existing right of way we didn’t inherit. In terrain where ghastly-expensive view-property owes its value to the very land-forms that require a lot of digging and elevating. Justifying highest possible view property tax.

        Every transit construction jobs includes specific places where a few feet variance any direction can cost or save thousands- or more. And every choice both loses and costs money. Underground- in Bertha-size spades.

        So any question is a fair one. But it’s often said that in order to ask a question, you already need to know most of the answer. This topic- in spades!


      2. Well, the MAX tunnel story is a little more complicated than that, but a bit off topic here. They did a huge number of test drill cores, but ran into an unexpected blob of very hard rock ( I think it was Columbia River Bassalt) that didn’t show up. No one had ever used a tunneling machine in that stuff before. The tunnel contractor wanted to try it but TriMet didn’t want to. So, they didn’t really stop, but they did switch to drill and blast. Then there was a lawsuit filed by a nearby cemetery because they apparently thought the explosion vibrations would wake their dead or some such.

        I do understand the comments about overbuilt stations though. The airport station and TIBS are really more like full blown metro stations. North of about Lynnwood (if they go that far) it seems like something without escalators and mezzanines would work.

      3. Wow, Mark. You’re really not the least bit interested in amending your inaccurate impressions (e.g. “Vancouver could be cheap inherited ROW exactly where it needed it and everywhere Skytrain goes”), even after you have been repeatedly debunked.

        You’re about a half a step shy of the GOP flacks who answer every question with “slash corporate taxes and watch it trickle down”. Do you really want that to be your legacy?

      4. “Chad, outside of San Francisco, and especially across the Bay, the land consists of rolling hills just this side of desert. With a lot of empty land along the whole route.”

        Mark – what are you talking about? The Bay Area is far more dense and built out than the Puget Sound region. It’s not even close. I have no idea what you are referring to when you say “empty land”.

      5. DP: How would you change the Skytrain alignment if you could wave a wand and create the ROW? What’s wrong with it? The only thing I see is the silly loop where it crosses itself at Broadway Station.

      6. Mark’s most blatant lie is that SkyTrain “inherited a downtown tunnel exactly where it needed to go.” In fact, the Dunsmuir meathook is quite strange, and only the combination of some very creative service planning and a willingness to practice extreme frequency on with core buses as well as trains has made downtown work. An ideal east-west downtown alignment would have simply followed Robson, the city’s main pedestrian axis, and extended far enough west to give the West End easier access to the rest of the city and vice versa.

        As for the rest of the Millenium and Expo lines, effective but far from flawless, yvrlutyens outlines their many routing compromises over here, while refuting Mark’s out-the-window-of-a-very-slow-Amtrak misapprehension that it solely follows existing mainlines. Again, it’s the bus connections and the service choices that make the early system effective, not any inherent properties of the ROW.

        Furthermore, Mark will never accept that the Canada Line, built entirely from scratch and mostly submerged, is cheaper and more effective and even manages to be profitable, because the Canada Line doesn’t fit his narrative of a charm- and nostalgia- and quantity-over-quality-rail-based urban future.

        I’m sympathetic to Mark’s vantage point, and to his unusually harsh encounters with recent growth and change in the Seattle area, but his refusal to wax informed, even in the face of repeated and itemized refutations of his misstatements, is getting old.

  5. “right-size the system to bias building more miles of track”

    I’d feel a lot less skeptical if this read, “right-size the system to bias maximum ridership per mile of track.” If track miles are what matter, then circuitous alignments are inherently superior, building in the least dense areas with the lowest property values is inherently desirable, etc. I’d highly prefer it if our pols saw that Link’s value is highest for moving high capacity through dense areas at medium speeds (25-30mph average speed) that far exceed the capability of surface buses, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. I’m willing to swallow a completed spine (would be the longest light-rail line in the country, I think) for Ballard, UW, and a 2nd DSTT, but biasing the system for track miles seems fundamentally anti-urban to me. Distance is no virtue on its own.

  6. What an odd grab-bag of salient points (stations need not be exorbitant to be useful, etc.) and toe-the-line tautological groupthink (completing the line is paramount… because it’s paramount).

    I’m inclined to think that Mr. Roberts represents the danger of keeping any one elected (non-expert) board member in the same seat for too long: what once were understood to be biases and peccadilloes eventually metastasize into reality-shirking pursuits of manifest destiny.

    1. He represents Snohomish County, so it’s no surprise his priority is to complete the line to Everett. I watched a mayoral debate in Tacoma a few years ago and getting Link to Tacoma was a top priority for them too. Half the ST board doesn’t care at all about Link to Ballard or West Seattle and would gladly take money from the city if it meant more lines to such important regional centers as Black Diamond or Orting.

      If we were honestly thinking regionally we’d be doing everything we can to make getting around Seattle possible without a car. If Tacoma wants a line to the Tacoma Mall, a depressing place where no one will travel after Link already reaches 7 to 10 other malls, they can pay for it themselves.

      1. Yeah, I don’t fault Mr Roberts for arguing his corner either. And he is making the best of a weak hand. But, on the merits, there’s no conceivable regional benefit to taking transit dollars out of North King and putting them in Everett. These are all Snohomish priorities, not broader regional priorities.

        I’m probably not the only one here who is more pessimistic about ST3 passing than I was on Monday. Expectations have been created in Snohomish that aren’t going to be met.

      2. I understand that. But at the same time, that he seems to think “the spine must come first” is a self-supporting proposition suggests he’s been too long awash in “ST Board logic”.

        And he clearly takes a personal interest in diverting to Paine at any cost. In that he may not even speak for the rest of the Snohomish delegation, much less the voting public, in his determinations of spending priority or service viability.

        I wish Martin had pressed him further when he suggested a willingness to dismantle subarea equity as soon as ST3 money is secured*. Has such a mutiny been openly discussed? Why should Seattle voters remotely trust an agency that is not only hostile to best transit practices and the fundamentals of geometry, but also to the needs and priorities and wallets of its most reliable source of votes.

        I’m with Dan. The “regional truisms” behind ST’s (and much of the STB authorship’s) political calculus seem more hollow with each passing day.

        *(Not that it would be the first time. Do not forget the East Link trackage costs shifted to North King after Bellevue demanded a tunnel, and North King’s responsibility for useless-to-us express trackage to Snohomish.)

  7. I said yesterday while wondering how they would pay for their preferred alignment:

    “So, I don’t know how they square this. I assume they’ll shave every nickel they can by skipping stations and grade-separation where they can to land on the low end of the cost estimates. And they’ll beg the other areas to help (good luck with that).”

    Obviously, Mr. Roberts is more eloquent than I am. And I don’t disagree with the nickel-shaving. They could stand to have fewer than 11 stations north of Lynnwood. I don’t know how many dollars this adds up to, however. My guess, not close to enough.

    Expecting a subsidy from the other subareas (excuse me, ‘think as a region’) must be a non-starter, right? We just saw the debate over the second downtown tunnel, which really is a facility with substantial benefits across subareas, and the non-Seattle members of the Board barfed all over it.

    1. I’m not so sure. Just because 8 members voted against paying into North King doesn’t mean those same 8 would be against taking money from North King.

      1. doesn’t mean those same 8 would be against taking [emphasis added] money from North King”

        Now, THAT is a slam-dunk winning bet.

    2. Wouldn’t -mouth regions too bad, Dan. Regions are the unit of territory which earns the world’s developed economy most of its living. Including ours. And regionally is the way most of us live our working, school, and residential lives.

      Re-localizing this situation would take many times the social engineering Dori Monson is always screaming about transit doing. And bringing an arsenal of lawfully-purchased background-checked firepower up out of basements.

      With every Chamber of Commerce west of the Cascades adding a lot of business suits to the inter-horizon line of inadvisably visible camo.

      Both regional living and the private automobiles that made it possible arose from ordinary people’s post-WWII demand for a life less crowded -which meant less local- than what they had before. In the Depression.

      But now that a car-choked region is less free than the old cities doesn’t mean life can be re-localized. It means that transit corridors increasingly have to take the place of highways. Though not necessarily follow them. Exactly same order of change as created current setup. For same reasons.

      Also: second subway through Downtown Seattle could be easier said than done. From filled swamp under Jackson north, in addition to existing transit tunnel and very many underground utilities, we have to account for the BN tunnel too. Big Bertha+Pioneer Square could equal Smaller Doubled Bertha+Downtown Seattle.

      And attorney for the defense also asks: where did the City Council get lunch that day?


      1. They’re managing to thread the Crossrail tunnel through 150 years worth of subway tunnels and utilities in London. Downtown Seattle may not be a green field, but building another tunnel is not an unsolvable issue.

        There’s also a good BBC series on Crossrail that’s available on YouTube. Search for “The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway” if you’re curious.

  8. I have come to a sort of peace on building the spine. It won’t be good all-day transit, but it will help with the peak congestion issues that not only create long commutes for suburbanites but also clog Seattle streets and cause our bus system to be so slow during peak. Do I think a well thought out BRT system or commuter rail system would be a better solution than LINK to Everett? Yes. Oh well.

    My frustration has moved beyond the spine and to the financial limitations under which we must work, e.g. sub-area equity, limited tax options, no state or federal infrastructure bank, no tax increment financing. If these tools were improved, we could actually build the lines we need in the city in my lifetime as well as build the spine.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a “build everything now” transit booster – we should only build infrastructure that will be cost-effective. I think the spine will do okay ridership-wise and will be much more cost-effective than Sounder North as well as more cost-effective than an armada of peak hour buses. I just think the opportunity to build more city lines is right now. The appetite is there, taxpayer support there, economy (for now) is there. Build what makes sense, don’t over-build it, but get going.

  9. What about, instead of an expensive deviation to the currently low-ridership Boeing area, we instead build the system that would support a Spur — eventually connecting all of the way down to the Ferry. This would be nice because it’d be one step in killing Sounder North, and the frequency on the spur could match the actual ridership, rather than penalizing all of the people on the “spine”

    Something like:

    1. Wow that just makes too much sense. I think the ST board would rather we build the ‘spine’ as a coil so it circles around and around connecting everything with a one seat ride, taking 5 hours to ride end to end.

    2. If you do extend Link all the way to the ferry terminal, can I semi-seriously propose rerouting Amtrak Cascades from Vancouver BC over the Link tracks? :-)

      A loop at Royal Brougham Way would probably cost less than trying to fix every single collapsing hillside from Everett to Interbay. Buy a dual-mode locomotive which runs on electricity, and tuck it in behind a Link train, with no stops. I don’t know if clearances would allow for that. But there’s a serious problem with the entire Everett-Interbay train route, and it’s going to have to be solved for Amtrak Cascades

  10. “Your second point sounds like a swipe at subarea equity. If the emphasis is building out the spine, there’s taxing capacity in North and East King that is presumably going to very high-ridership but non-spine lines. Are you suggesting that those projects should be subordinated to completing the spine?”

    Whether it’s Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, or any of the hundreds of future enterprises that will supplement or replace these three, good boundary question is: “What are the geographic limits of the benefits of an industry?” Followed by: “How close to a workplace is any worker forced to live?”

    “Cars=Freedom” understates the case. The Model T finished off the company store- and company housing- that exempted states-full of working people from the Bill of Rights. As long as transit passengers have to even see dividing lines that car drivers don’t, transit will be stuck in car traffic, and SOV lanes and huge parking lots will still get huge public support.

    Since 1945, ongoing outcome of the War on Transit (time somebody said that!) stems from the fact that the automobile industry already recognized that most of us will increasingly live and work in regions. Pointing direction for overdue counter-attack.

    Of course a healthy region, like a healthy body, requires both healthy arteries and capillaries. “Spine” needlessly limits main flows. System needs more than one. But best approach to “equity” might be “corridors”: regional and local transit closely integrated. Also best measure to prevent gangrene.

    Mark Dublin

  11. I’m just going to say this regarding Sounder North since on Page 2 I’ve fleshed out my views. I’m hopeful Sound Transit understands the moral, human and PR disaster a slide hitting a Sounder North train would cause. Not to mention the fiscal impact issues around Sounder North which necessitate one considering making the train seasonal, if running at all.

    Gotta run, work to do.

  12. I rode Metro’s yellow line for awhile and found traveling through too many stations and a long distance every day nauseating (10+). With this fact in combination with driving to a p-n-r, I was encouraged to switch to a bus line which was quicker and more convenient. Unless there is intermediate demand between the individual stations a spine is a waste. That said, I would still be interested to know what ST projections are from Lynnwood to areas north. Also would be nice if they could take some of the ST3 money (legally I doubt this doable), and work with WSDOT, BNSF and Amtrak Cascades to shore up Sounder north. If they could jack the Sounder speeds up, make it safe and add a line or two then maybe ridership will make meaningful jumps. With what exist now and Amtrak adding another run in 2017 their is too much vested passenger rail interest in this line to neglect it.

  13. We’re asking ourselves “how can we do a better job of providing more reliable service,” including prospectively cancelling service because we can see weather patterns.

    If only there was some technology capable of getting people from Everett to Seattle in an hour that could function in the meteorological conditions of the Pacific Northwest, at a fraction of the cost of Sounder North. Perhaps some sort of contraption with rubber wheels….

  14. If the focus really should be on regional connectivity, then the best bet for ST3 would be to end the light rail line at Lynnwood for now, and use some money in a partnership with BNSF to shore up the mainline. In exchange for funding those improvements, BNSF allows an increase in Sounder North frequency and added reverse Seattle commuter runs to provide more robust, two-way rail service between Snohomish urban centers and Seattle. This will also provide better regional connections with Island and Kitsap counties via the Mukilteo-Clinton and Kingston-Edmons ferries.

    Also, if Olympia really cares about manufacturing jobs as much as their tax break agreements make clear, then they can certainly provide additional funding to connect to Payne Field to the regional rail network.

  15. I’m a bit annoyed by the fact Mr. Roberts side-stepped the Park & Ride issue. In May, the Herald Business Journal published an article related to the recent mid-rise apartment buildings popping up between Alderwood Mall Parkway and I-5 along 164th Street SW (a Snohomish County Roadway designated as at Ultimate Capacity). The existing parking ride is often filled with cars parking in fire lanes. This is just one example of many overcapacity P&Rs along I-5 with expeditious CT service to Downtown Seattle, UW or Bellevue.

    Am I asking for CT or ST to build P&Rs like those of WMATA’s 5,000 car Franconia Station? No. But the P&R should better fit the demand and service. I will admit, I do like user fees. You pay for what you use. While spendy, the Franconia-Springfield P&R costs $4.85 / day. WMATA even provides a number of multi-day spots. Why can’t ST/CT/KCM consider this for the new Angle Lake P&R to prevent folks from abusing the new P&R for Airport usage? Why can’t this concept be implemented for an expansion of Ash Way P&R in addition to a new transit only I-5 SB off-ramp and I-5 NB on-ramp?

    1. All of those are excellent questions and suggestions. I really don’t get the “we can’t charge for Park’N’Ride usage. Of course it would be a problem if ST made it $6, because when you add a round trip from Snohomish County to Seattle to $6 you’re over $10. A person can park on the edge of Seattle for that.

      But it ought to be something to help amortize the bonds.

    2. So how about Snohomish County and the cities help ST out by expanding the park & rides themselves, to save ST the dilemma of choosing between miles and stations on the one hand, and P&Rs on the other.

    3. ST has already said there’s no legal impediment to charging at P&Rs, and it has agreed in principle to someday do it at the fullest lots. The monthly reserved parking at some lots is an attempt at that, but billing monthly rather than onsite daily collection. The spaces are reserved until some hour of the morning and then opened up if they’re still empty.

Comments are closed.