Federal Way Extension Page 1

Yesterday Sound Transit announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded it a $1.3 billion below-market-rate “TIFIA” (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan:

This is the largest single TIFIA loan to a transit agency in the country and the second largest TIFIA loan overall, and at the lowest rate – 2.38 percent – in the 25-year history of the program.

The low-interest loan, which offers more favorable terms than traditional bonds, will increase Sound Transit’s financial capacity by an estimated $200 – $300 million. Over the coming years the capacity will enable the Sound Transit Board of Directors to potentially restore some voter-approved Sound Transit 2 projects that were suspended as a result of the recession and help reduce risks of scope reductions or delays.

By knocking over 3 points off the interest rate ST would usually pay, the loan both allows ST to bring projects forward and also afford more project in absolute terms. The loan size is based on the overall East Link project budget, but spokeswoman Kimberly Reason says “our impetus for applying for the loan was to address the recession’s significant impact on the 29% loss in projected revenues for ST2.”

Given the intended purpose of the application and the miserable optics of making up new stuff while voter-approved projects are unfunded, restoring ST2 losses seems inevitable. Within those constraints, the Sound Transit Board will decide what to do with the staff’s harvest.  It is not bound by subarea equity, although the funds to repay the loan will presumably come from whomever benefits. The press release helpfully lists some candidate projects:

Bringing forward new bus hours, as opposed to capital projects, actually increases program cost instead of merely shifting it. However, 50,000 bus hours amounts to only about $7m per year, small in terms of the absolute savings due to lower interest rates.

112 Replies to “Feds Award Loan, Restore ST2 Possibilities”

  1. Is there a good reason North King projects appear to be absent from the list of possibilities, save new bus service? 130th and Graham St seem like a smart use of some of this money.

    1. Yes. Since the motivation behind the loan is to help makeup some of the funding deficit that occurred due to the Great Recession, it only makes sense that it gets spent where that deficit is greatest..

      South King got absolutely hammered by the recession, North and East King not so much. So if you use it to backfill where projects got delayed, then you would spend a lot of it in South King.

      That said, $300m doesn’t buy a lot of LR, but it will surely help and it would definitely bring it forward.

      1. That makes some sense, but is that position motivated by a sense of fairness, or by the relevant laws and rules that govern ST?

    2. @Lazurus — I disagree. The money should be spent where it can do the most good. Projects like 130th, Graham Street and the bridge at Northgate (over I-5) would provide much more benefit for the money than most of the other projects.

      As far as the “this is what voter’s asked for” argument, may I remind you that voters initially voted for light rail from SeaTac to the UW. That was a long time ago, and they still haven’t completed the most important part. I’m sure if you asked the people who voted yes to that proposal, the vast majority would say that the most important part is the UW to downtown. Of course it is. Anyone looking at the issue objectively would say that. But that has been delayed for many years, while those in the South Sound got all the service. Furthermore, when people voted for that project (remember — this is ST1 we are talking about) they had a reasonable expectation that there would be decent stations along the way. That includes Graham, but it also includes First Hill. But First Hill got scuttled because of — you guessed it — financial worries. So if a First Hill station (a station that would outperform every station south of downtown) was eliminated because of financial concerns, I don’t think it is too much to ask to put some of the money into serving an area like Graham, or for that matter 130th or Northgate. Again, with a line to Northgate (which voters approved) it is a reasonable voter expectation that a little bit of extra money be spent connecting a station at Northgate with the biggest destination in the area — the college. Likewise, whether it was spelled out or not, a station at 130th, connecting the most populous neighborhood north of the UW and south of the Canadian border (Lake City) to Link just makes sense.

      We can play the “Oh, whoa is me, the recession hurt our chances for really good light rail” all we want, but the truth is that the south end has received a hugely disproportionate amount of the funding for light rail. This can’t be reversed. We will never have a First Hill station. Light rail to SeaTac has existed for years and years before light rail to the UW or Capitol Hill. Even the light rail to the UW that will open in a year doesn’t connect to the most important parts of the UW, which means that buses (like the 71, 72 and 73) will still have to spend half their time shuttling people from the UW to downtown. The South Sound benefited greatly from having its projects built first — focusing new projects on that area would hardly be fair.

      The money should be spent where it can do the most good. If that happens to be in the south end (e. g. lots of express buses) than so be it. But if we want to spend money in the area that deserves it more, then the money should be spent in Seattle.

      1. I would be really reticient about spending borrowed money, no matter how cheap the interest rate, on non-capital expenses. The entire point of borrowing money is for projects with long-term benefits, and operational costs don’t fall in that category. Constructing transit improvements for buses (HOV lanes, signal priority, etc.) to make the operating costs cheaper makes sense, though.

      2. Arguing over who “deserves” anything is quite subjective.

        Since neighborhoods next to the oft-suggested Graham St Station voted marginally against KC Prop 1 last year, I’d be careful about the “deserves” argument. Nor is there much there there around Graham St and MLK. Ballard has done more “deserving” that Rainier Valley has, in terms of allowing taller TOD than anything that has been built around the MLK light rail segment.

        But I still support Graham St Station being built some day (probably after major upzones are approved).

        Still, the TIFIA money doesn’t begin to cover the cost of light rail to Ballard, from either downtown or UW, and letting the money sit in an account waiting to be spent on a later project impacts how much profit interest ST can reap from the loan.

      3. I fail to see what the big deal is about Graham St. I pass ride by it each time I ride the train to or from the airport, and there really isn’t all that much there – mostly, just a few stores surrounded by a large parking lot.

        While a 130th St. station would at least be good for bus connections from Lake City, I don’t see how the bus network could be improved by rerouting buses to Graham St.

      4. Because real urban transit corridors are built with pervasive access, and not from disparate nodes that can serve only a tiny fraction of a people’s mobility needs.

        It’s amazing just how entirely people fail to understand that around here.

        p.s. Hillman City, 0.5 miles east of the current access gap, is already showing signs of becoming the south end’s next gentrification hotness.

      5. Is the non-European population in Rainer Valley actually shrinking? If not, I must protest your loosely throwing around the term “gentrification”. It is a term of deception used by people who want the valley to not have any more renters.

      6. Since neighborhoods next to the oft-suggested Graham St Station voted marginally against KC Prop 1 last year, I’d be careful about the “deserves” argument.

        I don’t understand this argument at all. It might signal, weakly, a lack of interest in public transit, which might indicate the station’s ridership may not justify the cost. But to take a vote on an entirely different transit issue for a different agency as evidence of ‘desert’ is ridiculous.

      7. Members of the aspiring “gentry” are beginning to bypass Columbia City in pursuit of better prices per square foot, longer-term gains in property value, and a sense of untapped potential in Hillman City.

        That is early-stage “gentrification”, by the very definition of the word.

      8. So, gentrification is a good thing, so long as there is enough housing to not push out the current residents who want to stay.

      9. Semantically, there is nothing inherently negative about it.

        Transit-wise, it should suggest the value of a broad “access-shed”, so that discussions don’t become reduced to binaries of opposed populations “competing” for access to “nodes” of intentional scarcity. As will happen when you put 2-3 miles between every station on your major urban corridors.

        Returning to ASDF’s bafflement (and setting aside class issues), I’ve noticed an increase in social-media rumblings from the Capitol Hill/C.D., as the subway nears completion and people start to understand just how terrible a job it will do at alleviating mobility problems for that vast majority of trips to, from, and between most areas.

        The most transit-starved places in Seattle are finally waking up to the whopping fallacy of “node-rail”, but it may be far too late.

      10. I have to note once again that First Hill was scuttled by *geological* worries. Lots of people have come up with conspiracy theories regarding this, but every reputable official release says geological risk.

        Given what’s going on with Bertha and geological risk, this was probably the right decision.

        I would expect loan funding to go to:
        (1) The permanent Edmonds station. They’ve been strung along for a very long time and it’s not a huge project. (And yes, it’s useful even without North Sounder: ferry – Amtrak.)
        (2) Tacoma trestle. There’s some nasty deadlines with this work, since it’s gotten tangled up with the overly-delayed Point Defiance Bypass, where the money has to be spent by 2017… and the station design just got more expensive and now depends on the trestle being done first. Having a funding shortfall on this would jepoardize a huge amount of additional money. This needs to be done ASAP.

        That should still leave a lot of money for other projects.

      11. “the truth is that the south end has received a hugely disproportionate amount of the funding for light rail”

        Not with subarea equity. South King has a large amount and variety services: Link, Sounder, ST Express. but it paid for it with its own money. South King has a large population — larger than Seattle, which most people don’t seem to notice — so it’s not surprising it has a lot of service.

      12. “an increase in social-media rumblings from the Capitol Hill/C.D., as the subway nears completion and people start to understand just how terrible a job it will do at alleviating mobility problems for that vast majority of trips to, from, and between most areas.”

        Are they just now realizing how long a walk it is to Broadway & John? Didn’t they know that all along? Don’t they go past Broadway or John every day?

      13. I don’t think the question of a Graham Street LINK stop has anything to do with either demographics or funding.

        The first consideration is operating speed. The street crossings and other chances for blockage by events that have nothing to do with transit already makes MLK to slow and risky for Airport operations.

        The number and location of present stops is probably best compromise that LINK and the neighborhood can agree on.

        As I think was mentioned, every stop on LINK but Graham has direct bus connections crossing the line. Coupled with regular bus service along MLK, I don’t think there’s a case for a station there.

        Or anywhere else on Central LINK.

        Mark Dublin

      14. @ Nathanael

        “(1) The permanent Edmonds station. “

        Are you referring to the Edmonds Crossing project?

      15. Actually, now that I’ve re-read the press release, I wonder what they would be talking about at Edmonds, because if it has to do with the Edmonds Crossing project, a whole lot more would have to fall into place with all the other stakeholders; Edmonds, WSF, WSDOT, & BNSF.

        The Train Trench…?

      16. >> I have to note once again that First Hill was scuttled by *geological* worries.

        Right, and my point is that geological worries equals financial worries. They were afraid (rightly so, in my opinion) that a Bertha like problem would sully the whole thing. I get it. I know the history. I know it all the way back to Forward Thrust. I won’t second guess the decision to abandon First Hill.

        But I really don’t care. I really don’t care *why* we failed to produce cost effective, good light rail for the area. I just know that compromises were made. Not only did we throw away First Hill (too risky) but we delayed, for many years, the most important piece of the entire puzzle. I keep saying it over and over again, but it is absolutely bizarre that this city built light rail from downtown to the freakin’ airport before it built light rail to the UW. Yes, of course, geology had a lot to do with it, But more than anything it was political cowardice. I get that. I understand that we didn’t want to have a failure that would discourage swing voters from voting for the next project. I get that. But the main thing is, we didn’t, and haven’t, built the most cost effective system for the area to date. Not even close. Nor will we when “U-Link” opens, because (Hello!) it won’t include the most important part of the UW, which is upper campus.

        Now folks are telling me that we should build more light rail to the boonies (yes, Federal Way is the boonies — I was just there) before we build a few simple, cheap, additions to the system we already built? That is nuts.

        Anyone looking objectively at the area would say that subarea equity is crap. The best bang for the buck in the area is to start with UW to Downtown (along with stops at 520, Capitol Hill and First Hill). Then add a spur line to Ballard. Then extend a bit north to Northgate, and a bit north from there so that you can hook into all the buses coming from Snohomish county. Meanwhile, by all means go out to the east side (as we will be doing). After all that, go down Rainier Valley and do the same sort of thing (hook into the buses coming from Pierce County). Oh, and of course you want to have a line that includes the Central Area as well as South Lake Union.

        But we aren’t doing that because of subarea equity. Fine. Subarea equity it is. Got it. Rules our rules, and all that.

        But now, when an area fails the subarea equity test, we are supposed to bail it out. WTF! Seriously, how can you say, with a straight face, that light rail to Federal Way is the best value for the area. You can’t. But somehow we should now throw away the entire subarea equity concept because, well, it didn’t benefit a suburban area as much as we thought it would. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the reason that this suburban area didn’t raise enough money (with rules designed to benefit suburban areas) is because folks have abandoned the suburban dream! People will squeeze themselves into tiny little “apodments” before they will live in Tukwila. To each their own, I guess. But the great suburban migration is dead. Seattle zoning codes (through ignorance or malfeasance) are doing their best to keep it alive, but still, the people keep coming. They would rather live next to a highway, or in ugly-ass Northgate rather than live in the suburbs.

        Again, this money should go for the most cost effective project. If you can tell me that this project is in the south end, then I’m fine with that. But to the best of my knowledge, the most cost effective projects are 130th, Graham, and a bridge across the freeway at Northgate.

      17. >> “the truth is that the south end has received a hugely disproportionate amount of the funding for light rail”

        >> Not with subarea equity. South King has a large amount and variety services: Link, Sounder, ST Express. but it paid for it with its own money. South King has a large population — larger than Seattle, which most people don’t seem to notice — so it’s not surprising it has a lot of service.

        Sigh. Really? Really, Mike? I never said they paid less for what they got, I only said they got more than everyone else.

        First of all, ST 1 included light rail from the UW to the airport. Where the Fu** is the light rail to the UW! Seriously? Where is it? How long until it gets to upper campus? Excuse my impatience, but I can tell you that Seattle voters wanted this a long, long, time ago. If you asked Seattle voters what their top priority is, they would say light rail from the UW to downtown. Upper campus? Of course (UW, means the U-District — duh!). First Hill and Capitol Hill? Of course.

        Second, Seattle voters want more and they are willing to pay for it. The only reason South Sound residents got their light rail is because Sound Transit decided *not* to start with the most important part of the entire system (UW to downtown) but instead decided to start with the safest. Fine. I get it. Build a little shack before you build a building. But the South End got a lot more infrastructure not because they wanted it more, but because the Sound Transit leadership didn’t want to take any chances. So yes, the south end paid for everything they got. That isn’t the point. Seattle voters voted for, and wanted to pay for a lot more, but they have been held up by Sound Transit. They have been prevented from paying for the best, most vital section of light rail in the entire Northwestern United States. Meanwhile, we have a nice little choo-choo to the airport.

        Third, the money from this loan is not tied to subarea equity. Subarea equity has already played itself out. There is enough money from folks in the various parts of the area to pay for the various projects. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that subarea equity is an ideal system, then turn around and complain when it fails an area that shouldn’t have that much light rail to begin with. That is nuts.

      18. “I understand that we didn’t want to have a failure that would discourage swing voters from voting for the next project.”

        This is the primary thing that answers all your questions. The airport came first because of the geological risk of the first ship canal crossing. You can say that’s a bad decision, you can shout it several times, but what more do you want? If you want to outline what specifically people should have done, step by step, then do so. But then you should also include all the consequences of that alternative and how to handle those.

        Here’s a start. In 1985 you elect DP, aka the “Super McGinn” as mayor. He commissions David Lawson and Aleksandra Culver to design a high-capacity transit network for Seattle, with six grade-separated lines of whatever mode. This was when Seattle reached its lowest population (411,000), so let’s say they all had a supernatural prophetic vision of future Microsoft expansion, Amazon, UW, container shipping, urbanism, etc. They convince Seattle’s citizens of this, and Seattle Subway forms two decades early as a major advocate, and the otherwise-monorail supporters join it. The network includes appropriate suburban extensions in a third phase, which I propose as SeaTac, Southcenter-Kent, Renton, Bellevue, and Shoreline. The advocates convince King County to support it. Sound Transit and the DSTT don’t exist yet so we aren’t bound by them. Pierce and Snohomish Counties aren’t involved. Pierce/Auburn is still a separate job market, and Snohomish is focused on rerouting its commuter expresses to the Shoreline terminus. With map in hand, Seattle and King County go to Olympia and ask for tax authority. Anti-tax sentiment is not a major issue, federal grants are larger (although maybe not for transit), so it gets tax authority. The public votes for it. Two other things you might add. One, the state is convinced to give direct funding to urban transit. Two, the politicians also decided to embrace density in Seattle’s largest neighborhoods, over rectangular areas (not just along a highway), and to allow ADUs (backyard cottages) citywide. In other words, we grow like Vancouver did.

      19. “Has it ever occurred to anyone that the reason that this suburban area didn’t raise enough money (with rules designed to benefit suburban areas) is because folks have abandoned the suburban dream! People will squeeze themselves into tiny little “apodments” before they will live in Tukwila.”

        That’s not what happened. Every American metropolis has a favored quarter where where the rich people live and the biggest postwar companies were founded, and an unfavored quarter where the poor people live. Usually the unfavored quarter is on the industrial side of downtown and the favored quarter is in the opposite direction, but in Seattle the indusutry was south and Boeing paid well, so middle-class communities formed in Beacon Hill, Renton, and Burien. But then the Eastside became the favored quarter. The richest moved over there along with people who cared most about good schools. The business owners settle in an edge city and build an office further out, so that they can reverse-commute to it and avoid traffic. Seattle followed form: Bill Gates settled in Medina, started Microsoft at Bellevue Way & 520, and then moved it to a larger campus Redmond. Other tech companies settled around it. The workers wanted to live near their jobs and in suburbia, so they settled in the Eastside too. Retail stores followed them, so working-class jobs began to concentrate there too. So a lot of people had to either live in the Eastside or commute to the Eastside.

        After 1990, Seattle began to regain some of its market share, both in jobs and in urban-minded residents. Meanwhile, Kent created a niche of postwar industrial jobs. But other than that, there hasn’t been much new jobs in south King County except low-paid retail, the expansion of SeaTac airport, and the ebbs and flows of Boeing. So the Eastside became a major job center, and Seattle later regained it, but south King County remained mostly a bedroom community and industrial sector.

        When the 2008 crash hit, the Eastside and Seattle had resiliance in high-paid jobs (i.e., sales tax revenue) and the growing tech sector, while south King County didn’t have any of those. Few jobs, low-paid jobs, poorer people, and longer commutes to the good jobs means low sales-tax revenue. That’s why South King was hammered so hard and had to defer the most in ST2.

        Both the Eastside and south King County are suburban. So it’s not an urban vs suburban split, but a rich-and-high-paying-jobs vs poor-and-low-paying-jobs split. Apodments can only succeed in the most desirable urban areas. People don’t live in apodments because they can’t find anything else; they live in them because they must live within a 5-minute walk of Broadway or Market Street or UW and their various subway stations and bars. But only a tiny fraction of people are so eager to live in those precise locations that they’re willing to live in an apodment. Most people want neither an apodment nor Tukwila but something in between.

      20. Are they just now realizing how long a walk it is to Broadway & John? Didn’t they know that all along?


        You’re living in a city where the agency charged with spending $50 billion to build us a rapid transit system doesn’t understand the first thing about urban service geometry and access.

        You frequent a blog filling with rail-philiacs who blather endlessly about the benefits of moar trains, but who also fail to understand the first thing about urban service geometry and access (see Mark above).

        And you’re surprised that the city’s lay-people don’t realize until it’s far too late how poor the urban service geometry and access will be, and how little time or energy it will save them on most trips?

        This is why we’re supposed to plan with experts. Instead we planned with flacks and fart-smellers.

      21. The first consideration is operating speed… The number and location of present stops is probably best compromise that LINK and the neighborhood can agree on.

        No, the first consideration is making your line actually useful! For someone who crows endlessly about his delightfully mass-transit-enabled European jaunts, you don’t seem to have learned much about why rapid transit is so easy to access and get around on in those places.

        If 2- or 3-mile gaps between stops in contiguously populated urban areas starts to seem like a reasonable “compromise” for the sake of travel speed, you’re probably building something way too long and ultimately pointless as a rapid-transit project, and you should return to the drawing board.

      22. The people in central Seattle who voted for Link should have noticed that the map didn’t go to the CD in any way, shape, or form, and there were no stations in eastern Capitol Hill. That wasn’t an issue when it was approved; only a very few people if any raised it. Link was about bringing the region to Capitol Hill, meaning Broadway between Pine and John, and bringing Capitol Hill to the region, and people would either walk or take a bus to the station. If people didn’t realize that was what it was going to do, they should have paid more attention in ST1 and ST2. And the fact that they didn’t pay attention means they have little standing to complain it should have been a different kind of line now. And would they have convinced all three counties to vote for what they want?

        Graham Station would add only 30 seconds to the travel time. That’s not significant. It’s not a problem to add one or two stations; the problem is if you add five or ten stations. The station would put more lower-cost housing within easy walking distance of Link. The McDonald’s is shockingly low density, but I don’t expect it to remain there forever.

      23. One possibility, given demographic trends and an influx of the highly-paid, better-traveled, and frequently-transplanted to Capitol Hill, is that today’s population actually has the experience to envision the (depressingly poor) outcomes of the line.

        Whereas the former population were a bunch of Seattle- and rural-Midwestern-born slackjaws who simply accepted that “trains will solve everything and make us a real city” by the transitive property of their inherent awesomeness.

        Here’s what I just don’t get about the lovers of Seattle Process and the defenders of its mediocre outcomes: Sound Transit is poised to spend $50 billion and, when all is said and done, it will remain easier to go pretty much everywhere by car. Including in Seattle proper. Including Capitol Hill.

        Why the fuck is that acceptable to anyone!?

      24. And it’s not as if Sound Transit seems remotely interested in learning from its mistakes.

        This is the agency that offered a “preferred” Ballard-UW option with 1.5-mile stop spacing. On a line of only 3 miles! Across a contiguously urbanized area with myriad perpendicular corridors!

        What more evidence of not getting it do you need?

      25. Really, I think you miss the entire point of this little history lesson. Again, as I’ve said numerous times, I blame no one for making the cowardly political decision they made. If I was on the board I would have done the same thing. But the main thing is, we haven’t built what we said we were going to build. Let me repeat that: We haven’t built what we said we were going to build. The parts we haven’t built are the most important parts. We still haven’t built light rail from downtown to Capitol Hill. We are years away from building light rail to the heart of the UW. We will never have a station on First Hill. My point is that you can’t then turn around and say “Hey everybody, we have a little extra money, so let’s spend it down south, because, well, we promised them a bunch of stuff”. That is crazy. Again, if that is the most cost effective way to spend the money, go for it. But don’t spend it down there right now because “that is what they voted for”. After all, lots of voted for lots of things that still aren’t here, and some of those never will be.

        Especially since there was no executive decision to build elsewhere. They simply ran out of money. Which is my other point. You can’t say that subarea equity is essential — that we need to follow those rules — then turnaround and say “oops, we didn’t realize your area lacked the vitality of the other areas, so even though it is not an efficient use of the money, we will spend it down there anyway”.

        You are absolutely right that the southern area is not as robust as the rest of the area, and that is because it is simply less desirable. This is part of a greater trend. When I was growing up, almost all the poor people were in the city. People didn’t want to live in the Central Area (including much of what is now called Capitol Hill). Now they do. They have simply abandoned the suburbs for the city. This despite the fact that most of the city is extremely expensive. I don’t think you understand my point about apodments. People don’t move into apodments because they “have to live in Capitol Hill” (or the UW) it is because they can’t afford the alternative. They look for an apartment on Capitol Hill, but it is too expensive. They look at Ballard, still too expensive. UW — too expensive. Hell, even West Seattle is too expensive. So then they look at Renton — OK, not too bad, but too far out there. Then they either get an Apodment on Capitol Hill (a bit cramped, but the location is nice) or settle on a slightly more expensive apartment in Rainier Valley (or Lake City). That is my point. Seattle has artificially restricted the housing supply, yet it is still growing like crazy. People will pay ridiculously high prices because it is simply more desirable. This trend isn’t going away. Sooner or later the city will ease the housing restrictions, and you will see even more people moving to the area. Meanwhile, there is no reason to assume that the south sound, which is heavily dependent on military spending, will see any sort of big boom. That is why it is crazy to make a big investment down there that won’t pay off.

      26. >> The people in central Seattle who voted for Link should have noticed that the map didn’t go to the CD in any way, shape, or form, and there were no stations in eastern Capitol Hill.

        So what were they supposed to do, vote against it? I ask because there is a real possibility that Sound Transit will once again propose a bunch of inappropriate projects. Should voters in those areas — should voters who simply think this is a misuse of funds — vote against it?

      27. d.p.

        The recent studies by Sound Transit aren’t intended to be at the level of detail of preliminary engineering or even an EIS document. The studies are simply intended to give a ballpark for ridership, travel time, and cost.

        No preferred alternative has been selected. The presence or lack of stations should not be taken as the final word on any particular alignment or corridor.

      28. “They have simply abandoned the suburbs for the city. This despite the fact that most of the city is extremely expensive.”

        The city is expensive because suburbanites moved back, and they have more money than the erstwhile city dwellers so they’ll pay higher rent, and the influx of affluent jobs.

        In 2003 I had a 1 BR in Ballard for $650. In 2004 I had a studio on First Hill for $450. In 2005 I had a studio in Summit for $450, which was $700 when I moved out in 2010. I moved into a newish and much nicer 1 BR for $1175, which is now $1500. So the explosion in rents is very recent, just four years old.

        “People don’t move into apodments because they “have to live in Capitol Hill” (or the UW) it is because they can’t afford the alternative.”

        There aren’t enough apodments for it to be a fallback. The apodments are all full with an occasional vacancy here or there.You have to really want to live there, and either get lucky or wait till there’s an opening. For $200 over an apodment you can get a studio, although that may be shrinking, or for the same price you can get a spacious 1 BR on MLK in Renton, in Tukwila, or in Kent.

        The thing with not having high-capacity transit in south King County is you’re basically saying the rich can have transit and the poor can eat cake. That means the poor either have to get a car (expensive) or spend two hours commuting to jobs on ST Express and Metro, when they would live near their job if they could afford to.

      29. “The recent studies by Sound Transit aren’t intended to be at the level of detail of preliminary engineering or even an EIS document.”

        The studies, yes, they’re just ideas. What we have to watch for is the system plan that becomes the ST3 map (and the same for ST1 and ST2). It will have a certain number of stations in certain general areas. These stations are important for two reasons. One, they’re the basis for calculating the budget, which is how much ST asks the legislature for. If you want a high number of stations, you have to make sure the budget has enough of them. This also applies to other features like tunnels. That’s why in the Ballard-downtown study people asked for an underground alternative with an upper Queen Anne station — to make sure the tax ceiling would allow for it. That doesn’t mean we have to go all the way on that later: some people weren’t 100% sure that fully underground with a QA station was strictly necessary, but the option gives room to go up to that or down to something less expensive. The second reason why the stations in the ST1/2/3 map matter is they’re a guarantee that those stations will be the starting point: they’re what people explicitly voted for. That doesn’t mean ST can’t add or subtract stations later (as it added 130th), but it will have to write a justification for why it’s diverging from the voter-approved map. That’s not a major hurdle, but first you have to convince the ST board to do it, and then the content has to be strong enough that the justification is plausable to a reasonable reader.

        In some cases the map stations are neighborhood centers or key facilities, such as Broadway, Seattle Center, or the South Bellevue P&R. In other cases they seem more “distrance from the origin” as in 145th. The ST2 map had 145th & I-5, but it was understood that several alternative alignments would be considered; i.e., Aurora, I-5, 15th NE, and Lake City Way. But 145th featured in all of them. Those weren’t all the same place because they were completely different walksheds! But it followed the principle of “such a distance from Northgate”, or “on the highway that divides Seattle and Shoreline”. Even the latitude wasn’t sacrosanct, because there was room to push it north to 155th or south to 120th. But the point is that by being on the ST2 map, 145th was the starting point and presumption, and two stations between Northgate and Mountlake Terrace was also the starting point and presumption.

      30. “as it added 130th”

        Correction: it added a deferred station at 130th. That shows both the justification principle (it had to justify it) and the budget principle (the ST2 budget couldn’t fit it).

      31. Chris,

        That would be a far more reassuring if Sound Transit didn’t have a proven history of:

        a) treating napkin-level draft ideas as manifest destiny, and pursuing them as default and unimpeachable priorities, in defiance of all further data or adherence to best practices;

        b) never adding, only deleting, stations in later rounds of planning and budget allocations;

        c) not having the slightest clue how urban rapid transit corridors work, and showing zero interest in learning.


        Meanwhile, Mike’s “certain number of stations in certain areas” line reminds me how terrible a role semantics may be playing in our outcomes.

        They’re not “stations”. They’re rapid transit “stops”.

        And yes, that’s a big difference.

        Thanks to the agency’s insistence on placing a capitol-“s” “Station” inside the name of every stop, the advocacy community has unfortunately internalized the word, and all of the absurdity it represents: overbuilt edifices over access, formal neighborhood gateways rather than cohesive urban stitching, and “nodes”. Always “nodes.”

        Even Ross, who generally understands the distinction between good and bad rapid transit more than most, falls victim to the word “station”, waxing about South Lake Union “not getting a station” or how the “Capitol Hill gets its station years too late”.

        Placing that word ubiquitously in every name and plastering it across every sign mirrors main line railways of the 19th century. Which happens to be the context in which “node-rail” actually makes sense, since those lines served distinct, relatively distant city and town centers, often with a great deal of agricultural or undeveloped space between.

        But in contiguous cities, where thinking in corridors is infinitely more useful than thinking in nodes, “station” has become a horrible distraction.

        Again, subways stop. Frequently. They do so to receive as many passengers as the areas through which they pass can provide, and to deliver as many people as possible to places lateral and in easy reach of the corridors served. And at their best, they do so with minimal fanfare, little above-ground presence, and no need to overthink one’s manner of access.


        Zach did an interesting analysis in which he broke apart ST’s Seattle segments by the newly formed City Council districts — equivalent in population by definition, though hardly equivalent in urban or rapit-transit-amenable form. Suburban-4eva District 5 is slated to see three Link stops. Contiguously-urbanized District 3 will get one. Probably for all eternity.

        And Sound Transit will pat itself on the back, because it gave “Capitol Hill” a “station”.

      32. d.p.

        Well Sound Transit certainly bears watching as the corridors morph into a plan before the voters. That map has a history of becoming manifest destiny.

        We’ve never really seen Sound Transit go through this before as the previous corridor planning at this level occurred under the RTD in pre-internet days.

      33. It’s not supposed to be a fucking “rail line”. It’s supposed to be a rapid transit system. There’s your problem right there!

        Prior to living here, I had literally never heard the word “station” applied ubiquitously to stops on a rapid transit network.

        “Take the E to Lex, and then switch to an uptown 6. Get off at 96th Street.”

        “Switch to the Red Line at Park Street, and take it all the way to Davis Square.”

        “Punjabi Market is a pretty easy walk from the 49th Street stop on the Canada Line.”

        “Just take MAX three stops over to the Lloyd District. It’s slow, but it’s easy.”

        Seriously, Mike, I struggle to think of any rapid transit system in the world that so pervasively misapplies this word and concept in the way Link does!

        “Welcome to Seattle. I really want to take you to this amazing new restaurant on Melrose tonight. It’s just a little ways up Capitol Hill. But don’t bother heading to ‘Capitol Hill Station’, because you’ll be a fucking mile in the wrong direction.”

        Such an incredibly useful approach to planning and thinking!

      34. Seattle may have a First Hill Station, but it will be on a crosstown “arc” connector from West Elliott through LQA, SLU, lower Capitol Hill, First Hill and down to Jimi Hendrix and Mt. Baker. Ought to be Seattle built, funded, and running SkyTrains so the suburbanites can’t block it. And a Maintenance Facility just north of the Magnolia Bridge.

      35. Should voters in those areas — should voters who simply think this is a misuse of funds — vote against it?

        Of course. What else makes sense?

    3. Has Graham Street been universally accepted as a good project? I say screw anything that makes rapid transit less rapid. Each station must add at least 2 minutes to central links runtime.

      1. Mike, it can be longer than 20 to 30 seconds, depending on whether the request is answered quickly. If another train is coming just cleared the intersection in the opposite direction, it won’t clear for a little while to let the traffic free up.

  2. Is there a reason that these have to be dedicated to ST2 projects? It wasn’t clear from the release whether that was what the board wanted to do with the money, or whether it was USDOT that was imposing that restriction. $3.3 billion would cover any of the Ballard-downtown light rail projects, for instance, and would seem to be much better value for the money.

      1. No. If the board doesn’t follow through on its ST2 commitments, why would the voters approve ST3? Also, as Lazarus says below, the board would be going rogue if it apllied this money to projects that were not approved by the voters. The FTA would probably ask for the money back, and then it wouldn’t be available for anything.

      2. @aw — That wasn’t the question. The question was whether there were projects that are a better value than projects the board had committed to do as part of ST2. Of course there are. That doesn’t mean it makes sense to build those, though. That is a separate argument.

        Also keep in mind that the board never followed through on their commitment for ST1. There will be no First Hill station.

      3. There will be several First Hill Stations. ST paid for construction of the First Hill Streetcar.

      4. There will be no useful First Hill station, defined as one that won’t take 22 extra minutes to reach.

        And you know it.

      5. I doubt the FTA cares whether projects were approved by voters. In most places people don’t directly vote on as much stuff as we do.

        A direct election across the whole ST area is… not very representative of transit users, or even potential transit users, of course. About the only bodies that could represent transit users any worse are the ST board and the state legislature, which decide which projects go into the packages people vote on, and whether ST can even put together a package, respectively.

        So if ST planners looked at impact and efficiency and proposed a solution based on that, I think FTA would be pleasantly surprised. But that would never happen. This is the northwest and we have to play by the northwestern stagnation rulebook, but those rules are imposed by northwesterners ourselves, not the feds.

    1. Let’s see, you are suggesting that ST just go rogue and take Federal money and spend it on projects that haven’t been approved by the voters, haven’t been fully studied yet, and for which there isn’t even a firm plan yet?

      Na, not going to happen. ST will use this funding to help deliver projects that the voters have already approved but have been delayed by the current funding situation. ST will not go rogue, and that is what responsible government should do.

      1. I bet if the city were to put out a ballot measure right now for constructing Ballard-downtown light rail, it would pass. Unfortunately, you’re right, Sound Transit is unlikely to be able to pull that off.

        Reading the actual USDOT press release[1], it becomes more clear what’s going on. The loan is for construction of East Link, and Sound Transit will use the interest savings from not having to bond as much of East Link to support other subareas. I would hope that the lack of support for North King now means that the other subareas will be more supportive of spending in North King in the future, but that’s probably way too optimistic.

        [1] http://www.dot.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-133-billion-loan-sound-transit%E2%80%99s-link-light

      2. I wonder if ST will now let North King off the hook for those two miles of median I-90 trackage we neither want nor need.

        [Haha. Of course it won’t.]

      3. @Skylar,

        It doesn’t matter what the voters “might” do at some future date, this money is being loaned to ST now and the savings will only be used for projects that are voter approved as of now.

        And the city of Seattle does not have the legal authority to raise any significant amount of transit funding anyhow. That authority can only be granted by the legislature, and they are not exactly fans of transit right now.

      4. @Lazaras,

        Yep, I get that, it’s just frustrating seeing a big chunk of money come in and the biggest transit market in the state once again having to wait for its share. At some point I fear that the other subareas will have their transit needs met and Seattle won’t have anything left to bargain with for its projects. It’s a cynical fear, but that’s basically how the subarea equity formula seems to work.

      5. “Reading the actual USDOT press release[1], it becomes more clear what’s going on. The loan is for construction of East Link, and Sound Transit will use the interest savings from not having to bond as much of East Link to support other subareas.”

        OK, that makes sense. However, right now, East Link is delayed due to the delays to the I-90 two-way HOV lane projects (yeeargh). So what’s gonna fund those?

        Anyway, some of the interest savings will probably have to go immediately to finish the Tacoma Trestle project, which now has a deadline. And the Edmonds project, where they’ve been put off really a very long time. If ST is saving, say, 2% interest on 1.1 billion, that’s only $22 million and isn’t really going to cover much else.

      6. @Nathanael,

        The 2-3% savings is in comparison to bonding that portion of the project. Bonds for capital construction tend to have a maturity of 30 years, so you need to compound that savings over 30 years, and then adjust for expected inflation. That’s where ST got the $200-300 million figure.

      7. Nathanael. according to the ST press release, the amount of the loan was computed on the basis of 1/3rd of the cost of R8A phase 3 plus East Link, so this money is funding the I-90 work.

      8. aw and others, thanks very much for clarifying the information for me. Good news that R8A is being progressed.

    2. $3.3 billion would cover any of the Ballard-downtown light rail projects, for instance, and would seem to be much better value for the money.

      This is a non-starter, though, because the release clearly states this increases ST’s ST2 spending capacity by 200-300 million, not 3.3 billion. Unless I’m misreading it or misunderstanding you.

      1. I misread the loan amount as $3 billion, not $1.3 billion (either pre-coffee reading problems, or an odd line break). In any event, the USDOT release indicates that the loan is for East Link, so it indeed can’t be repurposed for anything else, although the interest savings evidently can be.

    3. Is there a reason that these have to be dedicated to ST2 projects?

      Yes, the Board has no legal authority to spend on projects that weren’t voter-approved. I’m sure there’s some wiggle-room in the ST2 language descriptions of the voter-approved projects, but they can’t simply spend it on something that wasn’t on the list.

  3. “Bringing forward new bus hours, as opposed to capital projects, actually increases program cost instead of merely shifting it.”

    Whatever the amounts in this particular case, isn’t it true that we could get more transit out of every operating hour if so much of our service wasn’t stuck?

    And another bleed of revenue is that as long as late operations are considered normal, there’s a lot of pressure taken off people who need it the most. If management and supervision can use lack of capital as an excuse, they don’t see any need to exert themselves to the extent they can and should do.

    Reason I bother people about the DSTT so much. A gold mine of daily examples of last sentence above.

    Mark Dublin

  4. This is exciting – Free money! ! It’s pretty shocking how much you can save just by getting a better interest rate than the bond markets. All of a sudden I understand why people get excited about the idea of starting an infrastructure bank. I had never heard of TIFIA before, but mow I’m a huge fan. And since the Fed will pay for it by issuing T-Bonds at an even lower rate, this actually makes money for federal taxpayers. What a great idea!

    Does anyone know how much light rail this would actually buy in South King? Is it enough for just one more stop past Angle Lake, or two? I know track is cheaper in the suburbs, but I’m worried its only one enough for one more station, which isn’t a huge impact.

    I tend to think it would have the biggest impact if applied toward preliminary engineering for projects likely to be funded in ST3, so that we can knock years off the completion date of many different stations. That way we’re bringing up completion of 5-6 stations, instead of one. But I could be convinced otherwise, depending on the ridership projections of a new South King station.

    1. “All of a sudden I understand why people get excited about the idea of starting an infrastructure bank.”

      Let’s call it a government.

      Seriously, though, the concept of a state bank, that would reap the interest profit for the governed, rather than for private entities, has been done successfully in some states, and is being pushed by a few here. But our State Treasurer is quite opposed to the concept. I’ve voted against him every chance I’ve gotten, to no avail.

      One side benefit of a state bank is that it could make sure its credit and debit cards work with transit, and hold passes in the card’s memory. If the state bank does not bar people from opening an account, that might solve the problem of access to transit cards for the “unbanked”

    2. An infrastructure bank is a fund, not a full-service bank with debit cards. Its purpose is to fund infrastructure projects, charge low interest, with all proceeds going back to the fund and thus available for other infrastructure projects. The citizens benefit from the infrastructure, lower taxes compared to bonds (Republicans, are you listening?), and possibly the chance to buy shares in the fund.

      A state bank is a state-chartered bank where the state does its own business. It could be extended to include an infrastructure bank, credit and debit cards for citizens (which means checking/savings accounts too?), but those don’t automatically come with it. If that is proposed, expect the commercial banks to oppose the state competition. Although a limited program for the unbanked might have less opposition, since the commercial banks don’t want these unprofitible customers.

      1. The standard model of a state bank (the Bank of North Dakota) has three primary functions:

        (1) It lends money to the state when the state needs it, underwrites bonds, etc
        (2) The state & state agencies deposit their working cash in it.
        (3) The state collects any profits.

        One result is that the state bank can borrow from the Federal Reserve at advantageous interest rates, which it can pass on with very little markup to the state when the state needs to borrow money. (There’s a markup for administrative costs, but any further markup becomes profit for the bank.. which goes back to the state, which owns it.) When borrowing from commercial banks, the state loses a fair amount in the profits taken by the stockholders of the commerical banks, and indeed in salaries collected by overpaid executives of said banks. This loss is eliminated if the state owns its own bank.

        Another result is that any underwriting fees, deposit fees, etc., go back to the state as profits of the bank, rather than to private stockholders.

        The state and state agencies are very good credit risks and very reliable depositors, so it makes for a very stable bank. Extending more services to the general public might be a good idea. Particularly, allowing citizens to deposit money in savings accounts at the state bank would be an unalloyed good for the bank and the state.

        Allowing checking accounts or lending to the general public would be more problematic; it would be useful but it also might make the state bank more financially unstable. The US used to have a “post office bank” which took deposits from the general public, and it worked all right, but it was mostly savings accounts, I believe.

    1. The Station to Nowhere? If you want to build infill stations on Central Link, you build it at Graham Street or at 133rd Street.

      1. Oh, I think you actually are referring to the same station I am. I thought you were talking about building the station above the train tracks at Boeing Access Road.

        At least there’s an office park, good opportunity for bus connections, and a straight segment at S 133rd Street. It’s nowhere near ideal, but since we’ve already built the system it’s not entirely unreasonable to consider building the station there.

    2. There was no such station. There was a deferred station at the Boeing Access Road, but the case for building it is very weak to non-existent.

    3. When Sounder runs all day every 30 minutes and the Ranier valley builds up considerably from what is there now, then it might make sense to build a Link transfer station there. Until then, forget about it.

  5. Hooray! Awesome! ST finance department rocks!

    It would be interesting to come up with the true marginal cost of each 545 and 550 peak run added. I bet the subsidy-per-rider, while low, is the result of not being full during some of the off-peak. I’d bet that ST would actually make a small profit off of each new peak run on these two routes, so long as the bus is filled up. So far, demand seems to be insatiable. Keep adding until demand is met, I say!

    And maybe go one step further, and create a peak Seattle-BellevueTC Express.

    But as far as off-peak goes, there is still more to gain from connectivity/frequency-improving restructuring than from throwing money at operations.

    Keep the money going to capital investments, and get Federal Way Station back on track. But think long and hard about the placement of Federal Way Station. I suppose one end of the station has to serve that parking garage. The park&ride bubble, with no walkshed, should go away though, and find a way to keep buses moving east-west and north-south without taking 10 minutes to detour to that no-walkshed bubble. In particular, the 181 ought to be able to access the other end of the station from 320th St, and not have the station ruin the commute for FederalWay-Auburn bus riders. Likewise, the future version of the A Line ought to be able to stay on Highway 99, and have passengers access the station from there. A diagonal station between Highway 99 and 320th, with a side-elevated-walkway connection to the parking garage, could save gobs of bus service hours in perpetuity, and make the bus a lot more tolerable for choice riders who would take a much faster bus to the station rather than drive to the parking garage..

    1. I know I am disagreeing with just about everyone else on this blog, but Federal Way is a real city, with three high schools, lots of apartments (car-oriented, alas) along arterials, and people wanting to get to jobs outside of Federal Way. It “deserves” a station at its most important crossroads — 320th and Pacific Highway.

      Where I will disagree with ST is that the citizens of Federal Way deserve much better than having the station cater almost entirely to those using the parking garage. There really are riders on the A Line and the 181, having to suffer daily through a 10-minute detour into a station with only one exit, and no there there around that exit.

      The transit center was designed around the concept that bus riders are a nuisance, to be walled off and muzaked at, This concept must change. The Sound Transit Board is clothed in immense power and wealth, The mobility of an entire city is at stake. ST has the power to create transit mobility for Federal Way now! Now! Now!

      1. Federal Way Link isn’t irrelevant because I have some vendetta against the people of Federal Way.

        Federal Way Link is irrelevant because the burg is ridiculously far away, and because it contains literally nothing in its “city center” that isn’t separated by half a mile of asphalt from the next thing over!

        Federal Way is physically unservable by the type of transit that is bring proposed to serve it.

      2. I mean, do you realize that “downtown Federal Way” would make the Bellevue of the 1950s seem like Manhattan by comparison?

        The place would be unsalvageable as a high-capacity origin point or destination, even if it weren’t so freaking far!

      3. Not only does Federal Way not have any great destinations (I think the biggest destination for me is I-5 to get to/from Tacoma occassionally) but it’s losing the destinations it has. Weyerhauser is the third largest employer in the city, and it’s just announced it’s moving to Pioneer Square, where there’s been light rail for the past five years.

        I really hate to slight cities, but I just don’t see why we should throw lots of money at Federal Way when other places actually have greater (and growing) needs right now.

      4. I have seen the asphalt carpet bombing that is central Federal Way many times. I have also seen the asphalt carpet bombing, with nearby neighborhoods hellbent on maintaining the majority of surface area in Seattle as single-family homes, at Northgate, too. Which will be easier to raze and turn into a TOD mixed-use commercial/office/living zone?

      5. No, sorry, the census data doesn’t lie. There just aren’t that many people in Federal Way, and they are too spread out. It really doesn’t make sense for light rail.

        I don’t think people get this. When I say things like this, they think I am insulting their burg (or ‘burb). I’m not. There was a time, not too long ago, when none of Seattle made sense for light rail. So, instead we built a bus tunnel. It was the best thing we ever did (for transit). It has saved millions of riders millions of hours. It was extremely cost effective. Yet it only served buses. Imagine that.

        The same is true for Federal Way. Federal Way is not tiny, but it is too far away, and too small for light rail. The best thing for Federal Way is very good bus service. There are really two big destinations for Federal Way (and just about everyone in the South Sound area): Seattle and SeaTac. That is really it. Do you dream of a light rail line so you can get to the Rainier Beach station? Or Angle Lake? Of course not. That is the difference between Northgate (which is every bit as ugly as Federal Way) and Federal Way. People do dream about a three minute ride to the UW, or a five minute ride to Capitol Hill. Seriously, those are huge destinations (top ten for Washington state). That is what light rail brings to Northgate.

        I have no idea what all of the bus improvements would cost for Federal Way, but I know they would be a lot cheaper than light rail. They would also be a lot more effective. Again, there just aren’t the destinations in Federal Way. Put it this way, the folks at Northgate wanted to kill the park and ride, and replace it with a bridge (over I-5). Do you really think you can build a station in Federal Way that doesn’t have a park and ride? Keep in mind, once you commit to a park and ride, you are simply admitting that it won’t be a cost effective station (because way more people can arrive at your station by foot, and way more by bus, then arrive by car).

        From a light rail perspective, there really isn’t that much left for the south end, in my opinion. I would get the light rail line over to the freeway, then add a HOV ramp, so that buses can stop at the station and get back on the freeway without delay (Mountlake Terrace style). Add that station in Kent and call it a day (by the way, Kent has higher density pockets than Federal Way, and they aren’t close to the light rail — just saying). Anyway, all buses headed to Seattle should stop along the way. This means that the Tacoma express can make one stop, and then keep going. Everyone headed to SeaTac can get off the bus and ride the light rail to SeaTac. Everyone else can stay on the bus and get to Seattle a lot faster (and even faster if they simply change the lanes from HOV 2 to HOV 3). Since all buses would stop there, this station would be a major transit hub. Now the handful of folks that are trying to get from Federal Way to Kent can actually do so in a fast, efficient manner. Likewise for people trying to get to Tacoma.

        It might not be as pretty as light rail to Federal Way, but it would be a lot more cost effective. With the extra money you could actually provide fast, frequent bus service to the area. As much as folks say otherwise, I really don’t think you can have both. This isn’t the 1970s. The suburbs aren’t where the wealth is. I just don’t think you can have top notch bus service and light rail. So if you spend too much on light rail, you are going to get stuck with really crappy bus service, and that is a terrible thing for everyone. The opposite is possible, and really not that hard. Put the money into bus service and let the folks that live in the congested, populated areas pay for light rail.

      6. In 1978 they crashed an airplane into the intersection of E Burnside and 157th in east Portland. 10 people were killed, even though this was a fairly large United Airlines jet. There just wasn’t anything to hit in east Portland in 1978.

        In 1986 this place that had so little in it that you couldn’t even crash a large airplane into anything there had a light rail line built through it.

        Around 1989 TriMet published a report showing that somewhere over $1 billion in real estate development had happened along the line, and that was back when $1 billion was a lot of money.

        So, areas can change and become more transit friendly.

        However, one afternoon I spent several years going through Federal Way on RapidRide. Since money has already been spent trying to put that through there, it seems to me that money would be better spent making that into something that performs better rather than knocking the whole thing down and trying to repeat the exercise with light rail.

      7. There’s still not all that much at 157th and Burnside.

        But what is there, though ugly and motel-y and plenty parking oriented, is at the very least impacted in form and space and function by being within Portland proper.

        This is what “downtown” Federal Way looks like. It would take 100 years of intensive targeted infill growth to turn even a fraction of that into a high-capacity-transit-serviceable place.

        Targeted infill growth that won’t happen, because Federal Way is FARRRRRRRRRRR. It isn’t remotely where anyone seeking urbanity wants to be.

        We’ve long since reached Peak Wishful Thinking in this region. It’s time to confront reality.

      8. This might be considered an a.h. directed at the entire city of Federal Way, but I thought it was just too funny not to share.

        In your google view, there’s an unpromising looking parking lot named Town Square Park, surrounded mostly by other parking lots. I couldn’t help wonder how this thing was classified as a park. Here’s the first link I found. We’re clearly underestimating the scale of Federal Way’s ambitions:


        Upon taking exit 143 from Interstate 5, drivers need only head west to find themselves smack dab in the middle of a busy commercial district with plenty of restaurants, retail outlets and shops to choose from.

        But as of July 12, residents and visitors alike will be able to escape the bustle in busy downtown Federal Way with a trip to Town Square Park.

        For those who’ve been to New York, think a Federal Way-sized version of Bryant Park.

        “Bryant Park is really sort of a, what I’ve been referring to as, an urban public oasis,” said Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell

      9. I was half-way through writing a comment re Federal Way, when an email popped up that d.p. had posted the same Google Maps image that I was going to use. (yeah, great minds and all that).


        This is the definition of ‘unfixable”. I think the answer for anybody trying to make a real city is that you can’t get there from here.

        The one shot that places like this have is spillover development when more successful nearby cities get too expensive. The worst auto-slums on the Eastside have a vast advantage over this place. Totem Lake is 8 miles from Bellevue and 5 miles from Redmond. One day, when enough people and businesses are priced out of Bellevue, that might add up to something. Federal Way is as far from Kent, and further from Tacoma.

        This is what “something exciting for the suburbs” buys us.

      10. That particular topical short-circuit, I’m sad to say, is hardly limited to Federal Way. For reasons I struggle to understand, the entire Seattle region likes to toss its brains in a blender, and then use the remains to start a compost pile, at the slightest mention of “parks” or “open space”.

        There are still many, many Seattleites who bemoan the failure of Seattle Commons — which would, of course, have torched the only good mixed-use, mixed-age, mixed-size street north of downtown.

        “It would have been just like our Central Park,” they say, “without all of those pesky nearby buildings or people!”

  6. That’s an impressive feat by ST!

    I’m sure that many ideas of how to spend the money will come forth. I would also add that ST is doing major construction now will be doing more major construction soon, so this might be a good time to set up a calendar of how and when different pots get spent.

    Some projects with environmental clearance should probably be considered first.

    After that, I would hope to see station access projects be important. These projects can potentially increase ridership so that ST can pay back some of the loan using fares from added riders. These include:

    – A solution to the IDS transfer problem (up escalator and down stairs to transfer) that will occur when East Link opens. .
    – Down escalators in the DSTT
    – The pedestrian bridge at Northgate

    I know it is tempting to dream of projects that are appealing, but if ST can show some fiscal accountability using this and choose projects that potentially improve the experience of users and potentially increase ridership, it will send quite a signal to the legislature and the voters that ST wants to run transit and not merely build transit.

    1. I would anticipate that the initial interest savings would go directly to the projects which have had long delays *and* design creep… particularly the ones where funding deadlines are appropraching. After all the projects which have partial ARRA funding are done, in 2017, you can take a breather and look around at other projects.

      1. Nope.

        ST will keep ever inch of that “design creep” in place, then build more useless trains to nowhere to complement their underperforming trains to actual places.

    2. Funding deadlines… like the Northgate pedestrian bridge. Part of a station approved in ST2.

    3. I like your thinking. Down escalators. That is a really cost effective project. All the other projects you mentioned are good as well, but sometimes people miss the cheap, easy stuff that is really important and right in front of their nose.

      1. Thanks Ross. I can’t believe that there isn’t a bigger push for down escalators at IDS. That’s the transfer point for East Link residents bound to the airport. Do they really expect everyone to use elevators? We’re spending billions and no one seems to care about installing something that costs a very modest amount — and creating a major headache for thousands of riders.

      2. I would really love to see a list of projects like this. I wish Sound Transit made this a priority. I would love it if folks could make a list of all the (relatively) cheap stuff that we could build. The two stations and the bridge aren’t that expensive, and the escalators sound even cheaper. All of them will be very cost effective improvements. Far more cost effective than one more station a little bit further into the south end of town.

    4. I would add some sort of solution for a better transfer for the buses on 520. I’m still not convinced that a new station is the only or best solution but there really should be something better than hand waving at the problem. There’s already far too many “you can’t get there from here” situations around Seattle. There shouldn’t be another.

      Also, this might add a whole new set of possibilities. Once the buses are able to transfer people to Link, maybe instead of the downtown core they could head west to SLU and Seattle Center rather than downtown? That would add a whole new set of places crossed by various local routes that would be able to feed the express bus routes, as well as local activity areas.

      1. I agree, this really should be a priority for the region. The solution is not obvious, but that is why it makes sense to study the problem. It makes sense to look at this sooner rather than later, since 520 is still being built.

  7. As the loan is to support an East King project that is being constructed with assistance from North King, I’m puzzled why ST would even consider putting the savings back into the pot for any of the other three subareas.

    Maybe if Federal Way was the absolutely most amazing thing we could possibly do with all of this money, but really?

    Anybody else have the suspicion that this is a slush fund to dangle in front of South King legislators on ST3 authorization? Mark Miloscia? Pam Roach?

    1. Hah! I never thought of that. That is why I never went into politics. Too slimy (folks would eat me alive and I would never see it coming).

      Speaking of politics, I think it would be nice if Mr. Mayor stopped looking at the stupid tunnel for a minute and figured out how to play this game right. All the action anybody cares about (well, with the exception of 520 and 99) is happening with Sound Transit. He needs to play his cards right, and get the best projects for Seattle he can (which, as it turns out, are also the most cost effective projects, and arguably the best projects for everyone). That is part of the reason we elected him (because he supposedly had friends in all the right places).

    2. Maybe it’s time to Occupy Rainier Overpass In The Middle Of Nowhere Station, until ST uses some of this windfall to give back the money it stole from us to fund the pointless Downtown Bellevue Where’s The Fucking Station? tunnel.

      1. You might not see any value in Rainier Station, but perhaps the people who live nearby or who use it daily to transfer to I-90 buses will have a differing opinion. The station is in North King subarea. The track coming from the west is in North King subarea. Nobody stole North King’s money.

      2. @aw — Of course they will use it, but it shows what a joke subarea equity is. There is no way the area would pick that station over any other station in the region. No way. You can practically throw a dart in the entire area and come up with a better station. Let’s see, OK, Garfield High School — Not bad, A center of the community, intersects with Cherry, that will work. OK, next toss — Seattle U. Oh yeah, lots of people and a major university. What’s next, Madison! Excellent, a top notch area — very densely populated, with lots of shops and clubs to boot. Oh, and yes, it is also a major street. Really, unless you throw your dart very far east, or along the I-90 corridor, you can’t go wrong. In this case, they throw it along the I-90 corridor (wrong).

        That isn’t such a bad thing. Lots of light rail lines have bad stations. But they don’t rely on the stupid subarea notion. Either you build an entire system that benefits everyone (which means light rail to the east side as well as light rail to Ballard, South Lake Union and the Central Area) and ask everyone to pinch in, or you basically say “pay what benefits you”. But this station benefits Seattle in a very, very small way. It would not crack Seattle’s top ten. Not their top twenty. Really.

      3. The chronology of this one is crystal clear, AW.

        1. North King was not originally on the hook for “the track coming from the west” from the DSTT toward East Link. Because that track really isn’t for us, as anyone honest will admit!

        2. Bellevue demanded a tunnel, for which East Link’s budget did not quite allow.

        3. Miraculously, the Board decided at that point to put North King on the hook for some of East Link’s trackage! What an incredibly convenient outcome for Bellevue!

        4. Bellevue royally fucked up the tunnel, rendering it entirely pointless yet nearly as expensive. North King’s “contributions” to East Link remain.

        5. The feds offer to save Sound Transit hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bonding capacity and long-term interest, which the agency decides to explicitly apply toward reducing the effective price tag of East Link.

        6. Bellevue’s tunnel is now effectively paid for from the original allotted amount.

        7. North King should get its money back!

        This one couldn’t possibly be more cut-and-dried.

      4. Okay, d.p. I’m a Bellevue resident, and I agree with you completely. Where should we direct our petition?

      5. If you really want to see bias in action, do a down escalator count for East Link stations as currently planned. I can’t swear to this, but my assessment of the vague diagrams in the reports show that Rainier/90 doesn’t get down escalators even though there are more stairs, while Mercer Island and South Bellevue do.

      6. There are really two issues here:
        1) Is it fair to charge the North King sub-area for the track of EastLink between downtown and Ranier?

        2) Assuming that EastLink is going to be built along its chosen alignment anyway (the Seattle alignment is really the only reasonable option that doesn’t involve building a whole new lake crossing), is it an appropriate investment of North King sub-area funds to build a station at I-90/Ranier, or would it be better to simply allow EastLink pass by Ranier without stopping, in order to save the marginal cost of building the station for some other project in the north-King sub-area?

        The answer to 1) depends on how many people in Seattle will use it. But, the way I see it, cost of the track between downtown and Ranier is tiny compared to the cost of the rest of the line. Meanwhile, the number of Seattle residents that will use the line to commute to Bellevue or Microsoft is not tiny. If Seattle ends up paying 5% of the cost for 10% of the benefit, I would hardly call that extortion.

        The answer to 2) depends on what the station will cost, but my guess that the marginal benefit is enough to justify it. While there’s not much housing right there, there are a fair number of people who would likely find it faster to take the 7, 8, or the 48 to Ranier Station to go to Bellevue than to detour all the way to downtown. And, people are willing to walk more than the customary 1/4-mile if service is good enough, especially if a good chunk of walk is through a park, rather than along a noisy street filled with cars.

        That said, it would definitely consider it unfair if north King isn’t allowed to get any of the money from this new windfall. If nothing else, a relatively small percentage of it could pay for the Northgate ped bridge.

      7. I hope all of the “Seattle will use East Link too” equivocators are ready to start boarding future trains from the north, south, and east at the subarea border with collection buckets in had.

        North King’s segments will provide infinitely more use to their populations than their segments will to ours. Eastside reverse-commuters exist, but remain a drop in the bucket compared to passengers invading the segments we paid every last dime of.

        Never mind that our segments were built “to regional specifications, with regionalism in mind”. On our dime.

        Sorry, asdf. There is zero logic for us financially supporting others’ priorities when they’ve done so little to support ours. Not before this Federal windfall. Certainly not after.

      8. And William, I’ll be writing every one of North King’s representatives to demand that they show some spine on this, as they so entirely failed to do the last time the Bellevue City Council came to North King with outstretched hand.

        I will also remind them that Seattle voters are not yet sold on the questionable contents of ST3, and that ST should perhaps stop taking a Seattle supermajority (to offset the three subareas that won’t pass ST3 in a million years) for granted.

      9. I would not be so sanguine about the ‘pleasant walk through the park’ theory. There is no wayfinding on the lid now whatsoever, there is zero lighting between 23rd & Rainier, there are poor-quality pedestrian connections all over the place, and ST and the City have yet to agree on how bus transfers will work on both Rainier and 23rd. The station will provide some value for the neighborhood, I agree, but I also have to agree with DP’s general critique: the station does not seem to have been planned with access for pedestrians or cyclists in mind. This, on a station that is literally next door to the Mountains to Sound Greenway. It’s going to take a lot to make it truly inviting for all users.

  8. The projects may be too far along to make much of a difference at this point, but I’d be interested in seeing ST2 interest savings used to shorten the timelines of the North Link and East Link ST2 projects. In addition to benefiting riders, it could also save on operating costs since the Link cost per boarding has dropped below the ST Express cost per boarding.

    1. I agree – I think speeding up the construction of North and East Link would do much more to improve transit than many other things on the table.

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