puget sound optimism

EMC Research conducted a poll in December on Sound Transit and the region’s appetite for more mass transit. The results are overwhelmingly positive for transit supporters. Some highlights:

  • Overall optimism in Puget Sound is higher than it’s been in years
  • Sound Transit has a 66% approval rating, higher than the legislature or [glossary]WSDOT[/glossary]
  • Traffic and mass transit are the #1 and #2 concerns on voters’ minds, displacing the economy (the environment jumped from 2% to 9%) as the employment picture improves
  • 82% support expanding light rail
  • 68% want new taxing authority and that number goes up to 70% when voters hear the $15B price tag and the cost to them

Put another way:

Hopefully these numbers will boost efforts to secure funding authority this transportation session.  PubliCola has more coverage from the ST board meeting.

87 Replies to “Everyone Loves Sound Transit”

  1. If anything I suspect these numbers might hurt ST III in Olympia. I suspect there are Republicans whose willingness to trade this particular chit decreases if they believe ST III is likely to pass.

    1. Republicans will look at two numbers 29% and 31% and come to the conclusion that an increasing number of people think ST is heading in the wrong direction. Everything else will be ignored.

  2. That is the most bizarre scale on the horizontal axis that I think I have ever seen. If we pulled something like that at my work we’d be sent packing…..

    But the data still looks good. We just have to convince the R’s in Oly that we should be given new taxing authority,l and that (I fear) will be a hard sell….

    1. The scale is probably just the dates they did surveys. Would it look less weird if they plotted those discrete time points on a linear time scale?

      1. Yes. When the data points are plotted relative to their actual time difference, the changes over time become immediately visible rather than deducible after the fact if you bother to scrutinize the x-axis.

      2. In particular, there’s a four-year gap between two adjacent data points (2010 and 2014). The rate of change between these two data points looks very steep plotted as it is, but if you put four years’ worth of space between them we would probably see that the trend line between these two surveys is not much more or less steep than between any of the previous surveys.

      3. Well, did you plot your own graph?

        (I am confessing nothing… )

        The trendline in the more recent past is still generally steeper, except for the Dec ’00 – Nov ’02 time frame.

        It would be interesting to see the different milestones (good and bad) plotted on this graph to see what makes people’s opinions change.

      4. My fix would be to eliminate the lines. The lines are what people focus on to see trends, but they aren’t actually data driven. They are just connecting discreet data points.
        Just let people see that ST has been consistently more popular than unpopular, and never more so then now.

  3. Looks great, but I wonder how many Republicans will see this data and think, “It’s our responsibility to save the voters from themselves.”

  4. if ST3 isnt put on the ballot in 2016, does this embolden a go it alone/Seattle subway ballot measure for a Ballard spur

    1. This just confirms what we already knew. These numbers for just Seattle would actually be even higher. There MUST be a major transit infrastructure vote in 2016 in Seattle. ST3 being possible (or not) will determine what that might be.

    2. I’d like to know the same thing. Could a ballot measure access taxing authority without approval from the legislature? Because if the legislature doesn’t authorize a vote on STIII, I’d love to start collecting signatures on a ballot initiative for light rail to Ballard.

      1. Nope. The taxes can’t be levied without the legislature granting us the authority.

        We could put an advisory measure on the ballot, but it would be only advisory — no taxes could actually be assessed.

        But at some point even the R’s in Oly will begin to come around. Out of statewide gridlock could come an opportunity for Seattle.

      2. We could use the monorail taxing authority, as long as we build an independent system that’s not “light rail” (whatever that means).

      3. But at some point even the R’s in Oly will begin to come around.

        Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence. (They really don’t like Seattle. Screwing us over is one of their favorite parts of the job.)

      4. With some useful exceptions, no: the only taxing authority we have are those the Legislature might give us. That said, it’s worth looking at the exceptions.

        1) The law authorizing the Monorail Authority is still on the books. With a majority vote, Seattle could establish one, which would then have substantial taxing powers.

        2) Article VII Section 2 subsection b of the constitution allows a great deal of money to be raised using property taxes to pay off general obligation bonds for capital improvements. With a sixty percent vote the amount of money available here is limited only by the 5% limit on city debt.

        3) Section a of the same constitutional section allows exceeding the 1% property levy cap with a 60% vote, with no real restrictions on the use of the money. It’s not clear from a quick browse how often this would have to be renewed, so it may or may not be a useful source of funds for operations.

      5. Good ideas Aiken. I would imagine a property tax levy to pay for light rail could easily get over 60% in the Seattle area. A property tax is arguably the fairest tax available. Given the huge increase in property wealth (all those big buildings going up) it would also cost the average home owner a lot less than it would have twenty years ago.

  5. Just for reference: SoundTransit and its unelected, unaccountable board stand at 66% approval rating.

    Elected, accountable Washington state legislature: 41% approval rating.

    1. Such is the nature of regional representation. Everyone likes their own representative, but thinks the bozo in the other district is terrible.

      1. We see the same ugly dynamic play out in Sound Transit subarea debates where a few folks with silly names snipe at another subarea getting its/our fair share……………………..

      2. @Joe — What are you talking about? I’ve never seen that — care to link to the comment in question.

        Almost all the criticism levies about suburban projects have been levied against the nature of the project, not whether an area should get its “fair share”. Does it really make sense for, say, Everett to get a light rail line barely touching the city, while the county itself doesn’t even have Sunday bus service?

        Even the arguments I’ve read that suggest that we spend a disproportionate amount of money on the city have said that it was not only for the greater good (which is an easy argument to make) but also benefits the suburban rider more. There are two reasons why someone from, say, Everett decides to drive into Seattle. First, that the buses aren’t fast enough (which can be fixed for very little money). The second is that they need the car once they reach Seattle. That is huge. Spending billions on a light rail line into Everett is overkill for the first problem, and does nothing to solve the second one.

        But the same sort of arguments are routinely applied to the Seattle projects as well. Spending four billion dollars on West Seattle light rail that won’t even cover half the places of West Seattle is crazy when there is already a freeway to the area. We could do far better by improving the bus system. There are numerous examples of similar criticisms levied against Seattle projects (supported or managed by Seattle officials). Take the streetcar — please.

        No, I think there is a plenty of ignorance everywhere within the area, both in the city and outside it. I’m sorry if you feel like the city folks are picking on suburban projects, but from where I sit, I see very little of that. For example, Swift is extremely popular. Just about everyone on here will tell you we should double (or triple) down on it. Spend lots more money on Swift, and then tell the folks in King County how you did it.

  6. I certainly love that they’re spending tens of millions of dollars on free parking in Puyallup and Sumner.

    1. Assuming this is sarcastic, I share your contempt for this sort of thing, while recognizing that many ST choices I find unfortunate are probably part of what allows them to retain broad popularity across the region.

    2. This is driven by Equity (both politically and subarea), and need (they were far too conservative on rider and parking estimates in the late 90s). As a resident of Puyallup I don’t dispute these factors and think its only fair to the residents of the area that such projects get built (because that’s where the need is). However as an informed person I also think that ST should be charging a nominal fee to use these facility’s, to help cover M&O and Security costs associated with them.

      1. It was aw who explained at some length in a previous thread how we aren’t spending $100K for a parking spot.

        https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/01/15/parking-down-south/#comment-584959

        But you’re missing a more fundamental point. It’s not parking vs. transit. Running a train to Puyallup or Sumner requires parking. Because there is no last mile solution that doesn’t involve having commuters parking at the station. The historic land use doesn’t support anything else.

        When we decided we wanted Sounder South, we signed up to provide parking to match the seats on trains. (whether we realized it or not).

        Maybe that’s an argument for not running Sounder. You can crunch the math.

        But there is no choice between parking and transit in Puyallup and Sumner. Most riders can only access the trains by driving to them. That’s why the “let’s just charge for parking” argument is so facile. What Sound Transit is trying to avert is an outcome where the Sounder ridership kills off the commercial life around the stations because there isn’t enough parking to go around.

      2. Thanks Dan Ryan for looking up my previous comment. I’ll admit I was too lazy to do that this morning.

        And to close your bolding, use (let’s see if this works…) </b>.

      3. @aw. Like too much else in life, I understand close bolding in theory. It’s just that I’ve screwed up the execution twice in two weeks. (d.p. just managed to get three of them right in a single comment. I’m a little jealous).

        I bookmarked your comment when I first saw it because I figured we’d be discussing this again. I fully anticipate that somebody will be bringing this up in the middle of the campaign next year (“Taxpayers shouldn’t be giving Sound Transit any more of their hard-earned money because they’ll throw it away on $100K gold-plated parking spots in Sumner”). Sound Transit does need to get smarter about communicating what we are getting with these investments.

      4. Commenting while on a bus, and fighting the iPhone’s myriad attempts to autocorrect your markup, will force you to type more carefully.

      5. Aw s math is wrong. He doesn’t subtract the lost spaces to site the garage. In either case 75k for free parking is nonsense. If anything, sounder should be fare free and parking costs money.

  7. I think there are a few reasons why Sound Transit is very popular:

    1) They have very effective buses. To be fair, unlike Metro, they can cherry pick their routes. But they didn’t try and label their buses “BRT” (because they aren’t). They are simply express buses, and they are extremely popular because they are comfortable and fast.

    2) They haven’t had any major construction problems. Part of this is due to being very cautious (too cautious in my mind). That was by design. Rather then building the most important lines first, or building important stations, they took the safe way out and built light rail to somewhere that people recognize (the airport). So even if not that many people ride it (and relatively speaking, not that many people do) they are happy with the idea, and can’t wait until it gets closer to where they live or work.

    3) Support for transit in general is very high. Traffic is a mess and folks realize that you can’t simply build more freeways to solve the problem. We expanded I-90 not too long ago, and it is slower than molasses most mornings.

    All of this is good news, although I think Sound Transit has made some horrendous mistakes, and have little faith in the organization. How do you run a light rail line from Capitol Hill to Husky Stadium and forget to put in a station connecting it to 520? Why do you need citizen input to even consider a station at 125th, when just about everyone believes it would perform better than almost all the stations north of there? Why is the main destination in the area (North Seattle College) left begging for a bridge to the nearby station? These are all things that should have been considered when light rail was extended northward. Unlike some of the other failures (e. g. the lack of a First Hill station) this was not a political decision, but ones made simply out of ignorance.

    1. Do you think it would’ve been worth it to build another station .3 miles from Husky Stadium to make 520 bus connections easier?

      1. Yes, absolutely! It would have been closer to a half mile, and would have saved a lot of extra walking. Keep in mind that both the tunnel and the freeway are below the surface street. So someone coming from Kirkland has to get off the bus, walk the stairs up to the surface street, cross the bridge, then walk down the stairs to the station. A station next to 520 (if engineered correctly) would have been a short walk down. The drawback it that the train would have made an extra stop. Big deal. Because it is so close to the next station, the difference is pretty much only the dwell time. This is different than putting in a station half way between Rainier Beach and the Tukwila station. Such a stop means that the train would have to slow down from full speed, then speed back up to full speed. In the case of a 520 station, it is already going really slow, so it costs the train almost nothing in terms of speed.

      2. Ross, did you happen to have a chance to read what I wrote here?

        We all need to knock it off with the word “station”. Overusing that word is one of our myriad worst-practice approaches around here. The word implies something huge and rarified and nodal and a bit intimidating and quite anathema to pervasive corridor access across a contiguous urban environment.

        No one would build two “railway stations” less than half a mile apart. But “subway stops” at that spacing? Where needed, that’s no biggie — we’ve already got that downtown.

      3. Hmmm, I don’t know d. p. The last thing I want to do is get into a semantics argument. Let’s see, folks here have argued over whether a particular system is “real BRT” or not. Whether we should call it a streetcar or a trolley. Whether our light rail line is trying to serve as commuter rail (OK, I started that argument) or what exactly is light rail anyway (how light does it have to be?).

        When I type in “Subway Stations in” on Google, it auto completes with every city you can imagine (Paris, New York, London, etc.). Likewise, Wikipedia lists a bunch of systems under the heading “Metro Station”. There is no entry in Wikipedia for “Metro Stop” but “Subway Stop” redirects to “Metro Station”. That being said, a few particular”stations” are called “stops”. In general it looks to me the word “station” is fairly common, if not more common than “stop”. These are all systems with “right sized” stops/stations. They don’t have the grandiose, over the top, expensive as all get out, yet still not very functional stations like we do. I think the term “station” or “stop” are pretty much synonymous, like the words “mount”, “mountain” and “peak” (and yes, folks have tried to figure out whether there is a pattern with them).

        But all terminology aside, I agree, and should have mentioned downtown as well. Funny thing about downtown. It is the heart and soul of our system, the one part that just about everyone agrees is designed right. The stops are pretty close together and all perform extremely well. It was also built years and years before Sound Transit ever existed. All they ever did was lay rail through it. And close one of the stops (convention place station).

      4. Interestingly, there’s a piece over on Citylab this evening saying that what BRT needs is fewer ordinary “stops” and more “stations”. A “station” is what it takes to distinguish the service from a regular old bus. They’re fairly convinced that stations are much more appealing than mere stops.

        Lots of pictures to browse. To me, it looks like they think the essential elements of transit are ramps and stairs and long hallways, but yymv.

        http://www.citylab.com/design/2015/01/7-design-lessons-from-the-worlds-most-gorgeous-brt-stations/384773/

      5. I don’t know, Ross. Your comment below (2:11) come across as so much more effective to me than the ones in which you discuss whether “South Lake Union gets a station” or the order in which “Capitol Hill Station” was prioritized. Those semantics accept ST’s nodality, which is the very crux of our poor results.

        As I said in the other comment, the daily users of established subway systems don’t talk like this. They say things like, “switch to the Red Line at Park Street, and take it all the way to Davis Square”. or “you can transfer to the DLR at Bank.”

        I won’t argue too much about Wikipedia — we all know the transit-related editors over there love to taxonomize, and love to concoct elaborate defenses of their formal choices — but I would point to the semantic difference between station de métro and gare in the French language as indicative of the distinction here. The way everyone from Sound Transit to the Seattle Times to you write about transit here is far closer to the latter.

        I think the BRT article’s heart is in the right place. In countries where bus stops are rarely more than a pole in the ground, high-quality facilities in BRT projects would show an unprecedented seriousness about the rider experience (in terms of both speed and comfort). But most of the BRT platforms in their examples offer nothing that isn’t found at the least used of the CTA’s 145 El stops. We’re not talking about Tukwila overbuilds here, much less gare-esque follies.

        As we are so often reminded, the goalposts (and thus the semantics) may be different when the vehicle in question is a bus.

        (Also, Dan, what Citylab is really pushing is pre-payment and level all-door boarding, as well as visibility, a recognizable brand, and weather protection where such protection might be advantageous. None of this is bad, though the comments suggest the author roundly and unwisely ignored some placement/access problems at many of the cited locations.)

      6. Regular users don’t use the word “station” in casual speech, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a station. Also, when you have an extensive century-old network with a hundred stations running everywhere all the time, the infrastructure fades into the background like the street network, and people may slip into bus terminology because it’s more universally ingrained in everybody’s mind.

        Interestingly, I had a friend from New Jersey tell be about how he went to an oi gig in Manhattan and took “five trains”. From where he lived it must have been New Jersey Transit and NYC subways and possibly PATH and I was trying to guess which lines and networks and he said, “I don’t know; they’re all trains”, as if what’s the difference between one train and another.

      7. I think you are reading too much into the use of the word “station”, d. p. If I’ve implied that there is a difference between “station” and “stop”, then I’m sorry for the confusion. You can simply swap out one word for the other in all my comments and all of my posts. I think the same is true for everyone. I don’t think there is anyone here who feels like we should build grandiose, train (style) stations for our subway versus subway stations. Again, it isn’t just Wikipedia — there are dozens and dozens of examples of websites, including official ones that use the word station (e. g. http://web.mta.info/nyct/service/fline.htm uses the word “station” three times, and their only use of the word “stop” on this page is as a noun, not a verb).

        I don’t think the problem with Sound Transit is that they feel like they need to build grandiose, train style stations because they used the word station, and thus have a mandate to overbuild. I think they don’t know what they are doing. Again, the best part of our subway was built long before they even existed. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sound Transit would have done it differently. Rather than five stations in the tunnel, they would have built three (as I said, they already got rid of one). They were called stations when they were bus stops, too (for example, Convention Place Station). I agree that calling them stops might help things, but it really isn’t the problem. They could easily muck up that term, the same way they mucked up “BRT”.

        Furthermore, I think if they really thought of the stations as hugely important fixtures for the area, they have blown it in that regard. That is the part of this that frustrates me the most. I really don’t mind if the spend a little extra building elaborate stations. That is really a relatively small amount of money. What I hate is that they have completely ignored the functionality. Go ahead, build a giant gold plated statue next to the station as long as I can get there easily. They have failed repeatedly in this task. When you also consider that for much of the city the success of the subway depends on bus to subway interaction, we have certainly gotten very little out of our elaborate stations.

        But I get your larger point. The more we build “stations” which are few and far between and the more we consider an area “done” when it includes one, the more we screw up our system, and it is really the wrong way of thinking about things. People assume that once a station is built to their area (or worse yet) their city, that things will be all hunky dory. In a couple years the UW will get a station, but for the vast majority of the folks that travel to that area (including me) it will provide nothing. Even when we build a station close to 45th, it means a big slog for the thousands of students in those high rise dorms they are building, many of whom gather around Campus Parkway every day waiting for their bus. I’m afraid the bigger problem is the way people think of areas. West Seattle is considered an area the way that Roosevelt is considered an area, but the former is huge compared to the latter. To a lot of people, when they think of West Seattle, they think of Alki — and there is simply no way that Alki will ever get light rail. I really don’t have an easy answer for combating that mind set. I really don’t have an easy way to tell people that adding stations, or stops, in West Seattle won’t make much difference, because the area you are talking about (West Seattle) is as big (geographically) as lots of cities. The cost to do an adequate job of covering West Seattle with light rail the way that Roosevelt is covered with light rail would be enormous. As it is the cost of simply covering a small slice of West Seattle is huge, especially when there is an obvious, much cheaper, much more effective alternative (improving the freeway for buses).

        Speaking of stations (or stops) did you happen to see this: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cs/groups/pan/@pan/documents/web_informational/p2205694.pdf
        The Urbanist mentioned it as part of a larger discussion of the U-District (http://www.theurbanist.org/2015/01/14/feis-for-university-district-urban-design-framework-released-further-action-ahead/ — see the section labeled “Next Up: Green Streets Plan”).

        This isn’t Sound Transit, by the way, this is the city. But it shows that they are nuts when it comes to this sort of thing. A “kiss and ride” area, with a couple parking spots on Brooklyn?!! Oh, and the entire thing would close down every week so that you can have a farmers market. This would make bus travel impossible on Brooklyn. Meanwhile, 43rd, where the bulk of people will walk, will have narrow sidewalks (and turning buses if they can’t travel on Brooklyn). I go into detail more on the urbanist website, but this is exactly the type of thing that I’m talking about. This is not a suburban train station! This is a subway station. This is a subway station in the second most urban area in Washington State (and the best subway station we have in that area).

      8. I think you might be right, Ross, that it’s less the semantic properties of the word “station” bothering me than it is the syntax into which the word tends to be dropped around here — as a single, panacea portal that checks its eponymous portion of the city “off the list”. No matter the size of that named area, nor whether the facility remotely provides the meaningful mobility that the syntax tends to promise.

      9. Commenting while on a bus, and fighting the iPhone’s myriad attempts to autocorrect your markup, will force you to type more carefully.

      10. Greg H. I think the better question is, why is a Husky Stadium Station being built? Obviously the University is a high ridership generator, but the station is placed on the very edge of campus, with no walkshed east of the station. The station will also have terrible connections with the numerous existing bus routes in the general area. What should have been built, I’d argue, is a 520 station, with a station either on campus, say just south east of the fountain, or at Campus Parkway and The Ave. Either station, but especially the former, would have had better connections to existing bus routes, and better walksheds, and presumably much higher ridership as a result. If your already spending billions of dollars for miles of tunnel it makes sense to add the stations necessary such that the subway is useful for both people living near the station as well as part of a broader network.

        However, because the 520 station is not being built, most east side riders will have substantial delays and/or reliability issues baked into their trips because a transfer requires crossing the congested, and sometimes open, Montlake bridge.

      11. Alex,

        It is a bit of a long story.

        The original alignment for U-Link crossed the Ship Canal at Portage Bay. The U District stations would have been 15th/Pacific and 15th/45th. They would have been deep-bore with elevator access similar to Beacon Hill.

        Bids for that alignment came in far higher than expected and there was a large amount of technical risk.

        Sound Transit studied additional corridors in an effort to reduce costs and risks. A Montlake crossing of the Ship Canal was selected. Originally Sound Transit wanted to locate the station under Rainier Vista between Stevens Way and the Triangle. The UW objected to both the station location and the proposed tunnel alignment. They then suggested the Husky Stadium parking lot with an alternate tunnel alignment.

        The good news is the upper U District station ended up with somewhat better placement. The bad news is the lower one, not so much.

      12. Why does Husky Stadium even need a station? That facility is used like 8 times a year and the one time autocentric suburbanites are willing to take transit and walk is going to a sporting event. A station serving 520/Montlake would have still very much serve Husky Stadium just it would be more conveniently located for 520.

      13. The point of UW station is not to necessarily serve Husky Stadium but to serve the Southeast half of campus and the hospital.

        Ridership estimates are 13k average weekday boardings a number that wouldn’t be achieved with just football stadium ridership.

        Note this is only a hair lower than ridership for a station located on Rainer Vista. If the station was located at 520 the gain from Eastside riders likely wouldn’t offset the loss in ridership from the hospital and campus.

      14. You could serve the UW medical center and the southwestern part of campus by locating the station to the west of it at Pacific, where there is also a ton of student housing in the walkshed. Then a 520 station would take care of the southeastern part of campus and the stadium.

        Regarding North Link, did they ever consider a station at Green Lake? Located between Roosevelt and Northgate stations and having the tunnel swing westward a bit to hit Green Lake commercial area before going north.

      15. Poncho,

        A 15th and Pacific station was part of the old Portage Bay alignment. When the alignment moved to Montlake Sound Transit wanted the station on Rainier Vista. Unfortunately the UW said “no” and suggested the current station placement and tunnel alignment.

        As far as I know a Greenlake station was never on the table. The original proposal for Roosevelt was to have the station at 65th & 8th which would have been a bit closer to Greenlake.

    2. i think we are reaching a point where aside from some key projects, the core of the network is now built or being built and STs money would be better spent in adding service service and more service. All day sounder, filling out gaps in the ST express network, and providing service equity to areas paying taxes but not receiving any direct service (there are several areas in PC that pay ST taxes but are miles from any ST service, and are areas that so generate ridership for Sounder)

      1. Um… no. The network is not built so long as only a couple nodes in several corners of Seattle have service. When real corridors – not just individual stops – in Ballard, Fremont, Greenwood, Capitol Hill, and the Central District are connected, then we can talk about the core being finished. If you want to say those should be Seattle’s responsibility, not Sound Transit’s, that’s valid – but they remain necessary parts of the regional network, and Sound Transit remains the agency most likely to get it done in the current political environment.

      2. @MrZ,

        No can do. Under ST’s subarea equity policy revenues that are raised in the urban core can only be spent in the urban core. Effectively this means that North King tax revenues must be spent in North King. This is good because the need in North King is so great.

        Ditto for East King.

        The same applies to Pierce County tax revenues of course. Projects in Pierce County must be funded with revenue from Pierce County. This is why the project list in Pierce County is so much smaller, because the tax base in Pierce County is so much smaller.

        The best way for you to support more spending in Pierce County is to support a higher taxation rate and higher revenues. Thus you really should support ST3 at the higher revenue/tax rates.

      3. Yeah, what William said. It is really crazy that some folks think otherwise and just shows how many people — even smart people — really misunderstand what a mass transit system is good at. To be fair, I understand where people are coming from. I remember the days of Forward Thrust or the first Sound Transit proposal. Light rail to Bellevue (or was it Issaquah), Tacoma and Everett sounds great. What more could you want? But at best that is commuter rail. It isn’t very good commuter rail, since good commuter rail assumes a network at the other end (Seattle) with lots of suburban riders, and very fast service. A light rail “spine” can’t deliver that.

        Light rail from Ballard to the UW would be a far more effective line for everyone, including someone from the suburbs. Now if you catch a bus from Federal Way, you can actually get to Ballard, or Fremont, or anywhere else in the north end. Likewise with a light rail line that follows the Metro 8 (serving South Lake Union and the Central Area). These are the spots that need grade separated light rail a lot — more so than some of the areas where we are actually building it (e. g. Angle Lake).

        Even for the suburbs there are better things to do than build more light rail. I don’t think someone will happily trade their fast bus to downtown Seattle for a ride through the south end. There just isn’t enough along the way (which is sure sign that light rail doesn’t make sense there). But once they get to Seattle, the bus gets stuck downtown. That is where a second tunnel makes sense — use it for south end buses and north end trains. You might even just use it for north end buses if you build the UW to Ballard line (since that would serve the vast majority of Ballard to downtown riders just fine).

        There is a disconnect there, though, which is why there is a lot of truth to your statement. We are very near the “completion point” for light rail in the suburbs. Going further north than Lynnwood or as far south as Federal Way is just not a great way to spend suburban money. You can do far better things with that (like improve the bus system or the aforementioned bus tunnel so the buses can go through downtown).

      4. d.p. is correct again. Link station spacing in the U District should have been similar to that in downtown Seattle. The U District is the second highest transit market in the region. The station placement is leading to Mt Baker style transfer walks. With assistance from the UW, they did not place a station under the HUB on Stevens Way.

      5. Amazing how my comments get misconstrued. Of course I’m aware of subarea equity requirements. I have only been following Sound Transit since the days of the RTA. Somehow I still prefer the CPSRTA logo better. Anyways, what I was referring to, was that with the Light Rail projects currently being built, I think that Sound Transit needs to focus their energy on providing more service instead of capital heavy projects. This most specifically relates to where I live, in Pierce County where there is a lot of areas paying taxes, however outside of I-5, Sounder, and the 578 bus there is hardly any service provided by this agency. There is demand though, and I see this all over the region where there are unmet demands. All I am saying is that instead of another capital heavy plan, lets focus on operations, lets get sounder running outside of the peak hours, lets get more bus service on the road.

      6. In Pierce County, maybe that’s the case. My point was that it isn’t the case in North King, where more infrastructure is urgently needed.

      7. Oh yeah, Mr. Z, I completely agree. There really is no need for huge capital projects in Pierce county. But there is a lot of work to be done with regards to “the little stuff”. Personally, this is what I would do for the area:

        1) One more station for Link. I would put it by the freeway, and put a fancy bus station there. Allow buses (in their own lane) to quickly get on and off this station. This would connect the south end of Link with express buses heading to Seattle. This would serve a transit center, as well as help riders heading to SeaTac.

        2) Build a second bus tunnel so that south end buses could quickly make their way through downtown Seattle.

        3) Build a bus only ramp from I-5 to the SoDo busway.

        4) Change the lanes from HOV 2 to HOV 3.

        Those are the big projects (and the last is tiny). Once you do that, it means that buses can leave Tacoma and arrive in Seattle in about a half hour (and that includes stopping at the Kent station mentioned in 1).

        The next step (or maybe the first) is to spend a lot on bus improvements. I’m sure we could ask a lot of Pierce County riders what their biggest bottlenecks are. I’m sure there are a bunch, and with a substantial, but not a huge amount of money, we could improve things quite a bit in that area. Just as an example, how are people in the most populous part of Kent (which is east of the freeway) supposed to connect into Link? Rather than spend a huge amount of money extending the line to Federal Way (where there are far fewer people per acre) we should spend money making sure that folks in Kent can ride a bus to Link, or even better, to downtown Seattle with a stop at Link.

      8. for ST 3, I think in Pierce County Tacoma Link’s extension is a must. I also think that all day sounder service is a must-have as well. Although I’m not sure if this made it into the vision or not. The other is expansion of ST Express, and Sounder feeder service. Outside the I-5 corridor, Sounder, and the 578 bus, the rest of the county sees little ST service and to build support this may be important.

        HOV lane capacity is controlled by the state, and it would be nice to add more HOV flyer stations and ramps, a ramp in Lakewood near Lakewood station(if HOV ever gets out there), at TDS. and add in-lane stations at 48th in Tacoma (build a joint-use garage with the Tacoma Mall), Fife (work out a joint use agreement for the EQC parking structure), 272nd, K-D Road, and one either at South center Blvd or Boeing Access Rd (this could be shared with sounder and link).

        Another project that could prove worthy, is turn the 594 into a freeway based BRT line. However this could really only happen with the above mentioned improvements.

        Pierce County also has an interesting situation, the original ST boundaries were laid out in parallel to much of the original Pierce Transit PTBA boundary. In 2011, that boundary was reduced by the PTIC. This leaves ST in the position of being the ONLY transit agency for several cities, and a good chunk of unincorporated Pierce County. I’m actually surprised that some of these cities have not come knocking on ST’s door and demanding service to replace what was lost from Pierce Transit. An addition, the cities in east PC that did remain in the PTBA want more service equity, something Pierce Transit has been trying out (to not much success). One goal of ST 3 may be to “pre-empt” some of these discussions by adding service to these cities (if only building a P&R and implementing a sounder feeder route), to not only get their support but to keep chatter down of them leaving the RTA if it’s even possible. the equity problem exists today, a quick look at the map shows virtually every other city mentioned by ST

      9. *Virtually every other city mentioned by ST in PC lacks ST service, and the map looks fairly lopsided compared to the rest of the service area.

      10. I agree, MrZ. People seem to forget that more people ride Sound Transit buses than ride light rail. They are also very popular (with the folks that I know). When you consider that Metro and Pierce County Transit have had cuts, it stands to reason that investing in these sort of buses (and bus improvements) could be immensely popular

      11. I don’t care to play off light rail and ST Express against each other, but it is just a matter of when, not if, light rail ridership will blow past ST Express ridership.

        It is very hard to lobby for ST3 authority when some are busy pronouncing the capital projects ST3 would pay for as not worth the cost. Say what you want about Federal Way, Tacoma, Redmond, and Everett as not being deserving of light rail, but we aren’t going to get authority to go to the voters if these extensions aren’t part of the plan. That’s the simple math of Olympia.

        You want light rail to Ballard? You’ll probably have to vote for light rail to Tacoma to get it. I think both are highly meritorious, given the alternative of pouring more money into roads in these corridors. So what if the development isn’t already there to make the projects deserving. If we applied the same standards in Seattle (a.k.a. Mayberry with highrises), light rail would have never broken ground.

      12. I’m sorry, Brent. I like you, but the “shut up and get on board” attitude is exactly how we end up wasting a whole bunch of money on underperforming projects, while simultaneously misdesigning or skimping on the good projects such that they underperform as well.

        There are too many involved in Puget-area transit who simply don’t understand the first thing about what makes transit work. That is neither an acceptable nor a sustainable situation. Carping about (and correcting) repeatedly-expressed black holes of logic is one way to gradually move the Overton window. As one of the individuals directly creditable for the new ORCA-based low-income fare, you should understand the role of criticism and needling in effecting change.

        I’m glad the regional public is boffo on more and better transit. I question the odd assertion that the public gets more enthused when they hear the package is huge, and I continue to doubt that will translate into votes when the collection of individually weak-yet-costly segments is ultimately revealed. I still predict a district-wide squeaker, with likely losses in 3 or 4 subareas. When it comes down to it, the details contained therein — and their ultimate effect on mobility — just kind of suck.

        And for the upteenth time, light rail to Everett and Tacoma is pointless on account of the inherent distance and the total lack of continuity of demand anywhere along the way. That isn’t going to change next decade or next century. Comparing the (gradual, in the grand scheme of things) evolution of the city proper to the greenfields of Martha Lake or the brownfields of Fife is just kind of stupid.

      13. I’ll put this question to you all for the umpteenth time:

        If we continue along the path we are on, then when all is said and done, we will have spent $40-$50 billion, including debt service.

        And, when all is said and done, it will remain faster and easier to go pretty much everywhere in a personal car than on any kind of transit. Including within the actual city!

        So I ask you again: Why is this acceptable to you? Why is this acceptable to our political “leaders”? Why is this acceptable to anyone!?

      14. I’ve learned over the years that all I get from fighting this or that transit project is more roads. And what I get from fighting roads is more transit. As imperfect as the ST3 package may be, it beats the crap out of the imperfect road package that is waiting in the wings as Plan B.

      15. I’m really not trying to be a jerk here, but that is not an answer to my question.

        When $50 billion have been spent on transit, and the transit really doesn’t work… what then?

        It doesn’t matter how congested the roads get, if the misfocused transit paradigm is fundamentally incapable of offering a reasonable alternative. That’s what $50 billion down the don’t-know-what-we’re-doing rabbit hole will get you.

        And then it will be too late.

      16. d.p. is right. If after ST5, and the region still uses automobiles to provide for the vast majority of trips taken, and transit is still stuck in the muck at around 5%, then what choice was the much touted ‘transit is an alternative to congestion’. If it’s not being used, there must be a good reason for it, therefore, useless by 95% of the population.
        The $50B cost of all this, and overhanging debt could cause so much voter burn-out on transit projects in the future that Olympia is reluctant to let the voters have unlimited self-taxing authority, for fear they feel the burn-out in all other areas of government asks in the future.
        Right now, transit and HCT in particular is viewed by most to be our salvation out of congestion and are willing to pay for it. Once the party is over, and it’s time to sober up, there better be a shitload of citizens that use it. Building Bart II is not the answer.

      17. We are already on the way to spending ~$30 Billion to ensure that transit is not a viable option, regardless of mode.

      18. d.p. You are quite good at criticizing every transit line in existence and every transit project on the drawing board. I’d love to see the map and schedules of your Perfect Transit System.

      19. Really, mic. I don’t think anyone here is proclaiming that Transit will bring on the Rapture.

        But the road lobby certainly hasn’t delivered the unfettered mobility it promised, even for those who do own cars.

      20. d.p., I’d love to see that map as well, if you think you can draw one.

        I remember you saying once that you’d start construction in any promising direction, building a minimalist subway with strict half-mile stop spacing, until money ran out. Is that a fair description, or am I exaggerating the “any promising direction”? Does your philosophy admit a semi-ideal network map, or would the network continue growing as money allows without any obvious inflection point where you could draw an ideal map?

      21. I do have an answer for that, but it’s a bit too long-winded to write at this precise moment, and it may disappoint Brent’s request for an explicit map and service plan.

        But suffice to say that you’re on the right track, William: It’s about being willing to conceive (and plan, and future-proof for) a cohesive and complementary future network, while also being willing to build incrementally and where the needs are strongest.

        And it’s not so much “my philosophy” as it is about adopting well-established worldwide best practices for designing and implementing broadly useful/accessible transportation, and then tailoring those paradigms to the particulars of our geography and less-than-stellar land use.

        I’m sure Jim is waiting with baited breath for my follow-up.

      22. Because this is the best network that has a political chance of being built in the present era. It’s either this or nothing. You say this is nothing but that’s manifestly not true: it’s the biggest transit improvement our region has ever had, a quantum leap over what we had before. Maybe a small leap, but still a leap. I can count several times a week that ST2 Link would help me with non-work trips, and even the worst 45th line is better than not having it.

        You and Mic talk about people who expect a larger city network at less cost, but if that were most people then we’d have it now, or at least be building it. But in fact a lot of voters and politicians and the legislature have different values, and that’s why Link is the way it is. The problem with urban transit in Seattle is the same as the problem with urban transit in America, and the problems with urban transit in America is the people: what they want, what they’re deluded about, and whom they vote for. We can only fix that incrementally.

  8. Could STIII include things like signal priority off board payment and transit only lanes in Seattle?

    Metro has not done much to modernize and improve its efficiency. Can ST spend money to improve metro service in Seattle?

    The case could be made for a dozen or so real BRT projects prior to looking at additional grade separated rail.

    1. ST can do just about anything that’s regional transit and benefits the subarea, where “regional transit” is defined by ST and “benefits the subarea” is defined by the subarea. (In this Case North King, meaning Seattle, Shoreline, and Lake Forest Park). . So there’s nothing prohibiting capital infrastructure for Metro if it’s to connect a regionally-important area to the network (which would surely mean Ballard, Fremont, Lake City, West Seattle). However, ultimately we’re better off with ST focusing on high-capacity transit (Ballard-downtown, Ballard-UW, West Seattle, and Lake City Link/BRT lines). which is the level of service we don’t have and is more centrally ST’s focus, so that doesn’t leave money for smaller improvements until at least ST 5 or 6.

    2. Ultimately, doing those things would be the decision of the Seattle City Council and Mayor. ST could fund it, but so could the next Bridging the Gap measure. (Why Prop 1 barred the use of its revenue from capital expenditures is beyond me. Prop 1 practically requires bus service to stay slow.)

      As part of BtG, I would hope the uses of the Prop 1 money could also be amended to common-sensibly include capital projects that improve pedestrian access, bike access, and bus speed. If someone is going to oppose such language, then they are clearly no friend of transit, or non-drivers of any mode, and should be duly ignored this time. We have the votes without putting stupid restrictions in the language. Indeed, more people might vote for BtG who weren’t interested in streetcars if it frees up the Prop 1 revenue already being collected to improve bus speed, and build pedestrian and bike ROW.

      1. “Why Prop 1 barred the use of its revenue from capital expenditures is beyond me.”

        To prevent it from being spent on streetcar extensions. People want MORE BUSES, MORE BUSES, MORE BUSES! That’s the immediate need, when people are being left behind at bus stops, or even major trunk routes are half-hourly or hourly in the evening.

      2. …and BUS LANES!!!!!!! Protected Separated Bus Lanes preferably with moats and alligators to keep the cars out. Do I need to pull up the often reference photo depiction of street space occupied by people on a bus, and in cars?

  9. I think that even if there was 50% support for Sound Transit, it is a foregone conclusion that the politicians on their Board would go for more taxes, for the economic downturn didn’t impact their financial status, and they believe what’s in the newspapers; everything’s hunky-dory again. The agency has done a remarkable job of keeping the bad news of Sound Transit out of the media while keeping the good news in front. I know that most folks here don’t have such an objective viewpoint, either. The obvious example would be to spend money responsibly, such as a call for Sounder-North to be terminated – or at least scaled back – with those millions saved being redirected (if that’s possible) to completing the northbound Ash Way direct access ramp and putting a new two-way direct access ramp at 128th, the combination of which would serve far more riders between Sound, Community, and Metro Transit than Sounder-North does, and no doubt for years before any light rail gets past Lynnwood. The other analysis would be comparing projected ridership vs. actual as opposed to only showing ridership trends.

    That being said, I’ve predicted all along that U-Link will be phenomenally popular, for the 70 lines are always crowded, anecdotally. My only “too bad” on that is that it’s too bad that the line didn’t go to the 43rd station in this part of the project, as that station will be even more popular year-round. That’s part of why I also think that N-Link will be wildly popular, for the 41s and 66/67 have high ridership.

    North of that, who knows, for the board caved to the politicians and selected 145th and 185th instead of 130th, 155th, and 185th, which would have been a well-spaced combination and the first two were better choices than the jam-packed 145th that has little infrastructure. many owners, and limited right-of-way. For 155th, it was said to be “a quiet neighborhood street,” yet 185th has the identical cross-section and more of a canopy, while 175th was said to have “too much traffic,” yet 145th has 1/3 more, among the clever disguises that was propagated to ensure passage. In eight years, when L-Link is open, we’ll find out that people from Woodinville will, as proponents kept saying, drive 20 miles to go to this station and its 500-stall parking garage, and we’ll see whether sufficient improvements have been made to accessing this station; I don’t believe there is enough time for that when Aurora’s three miles in Shoreline is going on 19 years to completion (145th is 5 miles). But, I’m sure few if anybody who comment on this blog will believe this, but the questions should be asked.

    Sound Transit deserves credit for U-Link in being ahead of time and under budget, but that doesn’t mean they should avoid scrutiny on the rest of their spending of public dollars. On the ST 3 ballot measure, I’ve wondered why the cost per keeps changing: it started out as $500 and at the last board meeting was $78. What happened? I also wonder why the board made it so difficult to expand the ST taxing district. One can’t tell me with a straight face that residents of Marysville, out of the taxing district, won’t drive down to Everett to take Link when it goes there.

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