Rep. Ed Orcutt

Yesterday HB1180 — granting Sound Transit taxing authority to fund an ST3 measure — passed the House Transportation Committee by a 13-12 vote, advancing it to the House floor (video here, starting at 47:20 and again at 51:00). You can see the list of committee members here.

In a remarkable display of anti-tax ideological purity trumping any notions of local control, all 11 Republicans voted against the bill, including all 5 that represent part of the Sound Transit District. Rep. Linda Kochmar (R-Federal Way) said it was

not clear to me how much the average property owner would pay. I’m not sure when the bonds are going to be repaid from ST2 [while ST3 MVET would be in addition to that.] But the bigger problem, though we do have people and businesses that want Sound Transit in my district, is that I don’t have any guarantee. My subarea pays $13m per year for nothing. The money basically went to the Eastside to extend light rail to Bellevue and Redmond. I need a guarantee that subregion money will benefit that subregion, and I need to know how much this is going to cost.

Setting aside that “nothing” includes a significant amount of express bus service and a Link line coming ever closer to Federal Way, it is simply not true* that South King dollars have gone to fund East Link. The deferral of the only ST2 station in Federal Way is a result of collapsing South King revenues; if anything, a loan backed by East Link performance may help to restore some of the Federal Way funding. On the other hand, if Rep. Kochmar’s concerns are sincere, a little education and some assurances from ST board members that Federal Way is a core priority of ST3 would probably win some important votes.

Ranking Republican Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) made an equally interesting statement:

I’m always a little nervous about giving out new taxing authority. I do believe that transit should be more of a local decision, but I do have to look at the bigger picture, because people get so focused on what they want that they don’t always look to see if there’s a better option… This bill hasn’t quite gotten over that hurdle for me yet. I’m not a hard no. I do hope it’s re-referred to finance [to look at the financing implications]. There are some folks that are an absolute no, [because] it’s going to be a huge amount of money. And will Seattle still be willing to pony up when some of us in more rural areas, when it’s our turn to get some money for road projects?

The committee considered three amendments:

MUNN 512 (Jake Fey, D-Tacoma) removed a erroneous, duplicative reference to the property tax authority, limited to 25 cents per $1,000 of value and passed by unanimous voice vote.

MUNN 518 (Mark Hargrove, R-Kent/Auburn) would have required one nonpartisan Sound Transit board member from each county elected in presidential years. Rep. Hargrove said “the system could be improved to help [people at ST]. My constituents feel frustrated that they don’t have direct input to Sound Transit. It would make their process better because there would be three folks dedicated specifically to this job.”

I’ve written before about why governance reform (i.e. a directly elected ST board) would be a bad idea. Luckily, this amendment lost a voice vote.

Finally, MUNN 517 (Orcutt) specifically restricts the new authority to Sound Transit, cutting out other counties. For Orcutt, it was in order to “make this bill truly at ST3 bill, which is the way it was billed to us.” Jeff Morris (D-Whatcom) spoke against the amendment:

No big projects ever happen without small tools. In Whatcom County, there are roughly 2.5 million people that live in the lower Fraser Valley. The Bellingham airport is the fastest-growing airport in the United States. You’ve heard examples of some of the border issues on the Whatcom County border. Constant border problems. The need for some sort of mass transit to get people from the lower mainland (pre-clearance). All those solutions can only occur with small tools at local governments’ fingertips.

The amendment passed on a voice vote. Committee Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), who audibly voted for it, said that authority for other counties “could be a drag on a bill that could go forward this year.” and that removing it “makes the bill cleaner.”

The amendment did cost the vote of Rep. Jim Moeller (D-Vancouver) on the final bill, the sole Democratic vote against, because like Rep. Morris he was interested in “another tool in the toolbox for our future in Southwest Washington.”

* ST confirms that it’s not true, and cites pages A12 and A13 of the ST2 plan as documentation.

185 Replies to “ST3 Bill Passes House Committee”

  1. Regarding MUNN 518, each county already has a directly-elected board member: the county executive.

    1. Not exactly. The county executives have to appoint themselves to the Sound Transit board. They do not serve automatically on the ST board by virtue of being elected county executive.

      1. Has any county executive who gets to make appointments to the board ever not appointed her/himself?

      2. I bet you we’ll have light rail open to Everett, Olde Redmond, Tacoma, and Ballard before that happens.

  2. Regarding Orcutt’s statement: If the rest of the state won’t pay for our transit, why should we pay for their roads? I’m a supporter of spreading costs across all taxpayers, whether it be for transportation, schools, social services, etc… I just see his comment as hypocritical.

    1. Yeah, seems a strange compromise. You pay for our roads, and we’ll graciously allow you to pay for your transit.

      It’s opinions like those that occasionally make me want to push a ‘sub area equity for counties’ proposition. It would be destructive and stupid. But some days I’d love to see the reaction in all the net recipient counties to a halt in tax transfers after a successful “Let those mooching Seattleites pay for themselves” campaign.

      1. This would work just as well at the national level…some counties/states are Germany, some are Greece. The problem is the ones that are Greece don’t know it!

        It would be nice to be able to awaken them to their own reality…I’ve lived in both, and currently they don’t get it and it’s brought us to the point where their representatives, like Rep. Orcutt, know better but refuse to enlighten their constituencies and we all lose.

        The worst thing for our system is that it just divides us more–at some point there will be a backlash when people in urban areas realize they’re not getting what they need to determine their own future. Good luck getting those road packages then. It’s incredibly destructive to the political system.

        (proudly pro-Cascadian)

      2. Speaking of sub-area equity, oh the HORROR if we forced some of these school districts to merge into sizes equal to Sedro-Woolley’s (which is quite large by landmass) or another bedroom community’s….

        Or oh the HORROR if we looked at how many CEOs (saying Chiefs is kinda racist in the 2010s, don’t you think?) were getting Eastern WA transportation money to manage way fewer people than Seattle’s Department of Transportation?

    2. Roads through rural counties are used by travelers going to and from more urban counties and goods going to and from more urban counties. Making rural residents foot the entire bill for these roads would be about as fair as making residents of the Central District foot the entire bill for the part of I-90 running through there.

      Another factor is that so much of the profit from what we think of as rural industries are captured by big companies and funneled into cities. If we’re going to invest our surplus in infrastructure (often a good idea), well, cities are where that surplus is. This even justifies the state paying for infrastructure with more localized benefit in rural areas. Or it justifies the state paying for transit service there where it doesn’t in richer areas…

      The thing is… Seattle voters aren’t so selfish we’ll vote against necessary infrastructure spending because we already “got” ours. Many of us would vote against funding urban freeway expansion (here I’m using “urban” widely instead of “suburban”, because freeways in “the city” and “the suburbs” alike are built largely for the benefit of long-distance car commuters, and we’re currently spending a lot of money on freeways in Seattle) because we believe in growing our city in a different way. That, plus some anti-tax fervor, is why all the Republicans representing more car-oriented ST areas voted against it. They want to make Seattle fund their growth their way, plus remake Seattle in a more car-friendly way. That’s the real enemy — if ST was tied to a true rural infrastructure package (and not a “convert rural towns into exurbs” package) that would be fairly reasonable and probably broadly popular.

      1. What new “rural” roads are being proposed? I-90 and I-5 will always be maintained, as they benefit all state residents and bring food to the cities. The roads to Omak and Mead and Asotin County will be maintained as basic lifeline service. The controversies are over exurban and suburban freeways, which subsidize sprawl and McMansions, and do not significantly support farming or other rural activities.

      2. Mike nailed it. The amount we spend on roads in Eastern Washington, where ROW is vanishingly cheap is negligible. We need to help the Easterners understand that we don’t dislike — I fact we appreciate — their lifestyle. It feeds us and creates lots of beautiful “bucolic” countryside (meant in a good way).

        What I personally don’t like is the conversion of otherwise healthy habitat into sterile McMansions with back yards that are denied to other species through their ecological barrenness and used by the owners thirty hours per year for parties to impress the boss or the neighbors.

        I really don’t like the sort of people who do that, and there are way too many otherwise “progressive” “Northwesterners” who do. Coastal Californians basically live on the patio most of the year, bot that lifestyle just doesn’t work here because of the cold and rain. We should tax yards as if they had buildings on them.

    3. Because to the Republican party in this state, Seattle is either a big scary boogeyman or an ATM depending on what they’re trying to accomplish at the moment.

      1. In fairness to people East of the mountains, Seattle is richer than the rest of the state, and poor people perceiving rich ones as both a boogeyman and an ATM is a nearly universal phenomenon.

      2. If you believe in progressive taxation, wealthier segments of the population paying more to purchase goods and services for poorer segments of the population should not be that controversial.

        FWIW, yes, Rep. Orcutt – you help get this through, and I’m happy to keep paying the same taxes we’ve always paid, knowing that a disproportionate share will end up in your district.

    4. I have no problem helping Republistan east of the Mountains … but they shouldn’t be able to stifle our growth / decision making just because they don’t like the fact that we voted for gay marriage, pot legalization, gun-show loophole closure, etc …

      1. The only reason why I don’t support telling Eastern Washington to KISS OFF and form their own state is every single conservative and moderate like me would be totally screwed. I am pissed yesterday a senior WPC official decided to spin a vote for ST3 as a misconstruable vote for raising taxes.

        I “get it” WPC is funded by people who don’t want light rail. But WPC can’t be advocating for local control on so many issues but not transportation…

    5. I read Orcutt’s statement regarding Seattle, as the state representatives from Seattle. Meaning, if I give you a vote to allow you to build the transportation that you want, can I count on your vote when we have transportation (road) needs. But maybe I’m just being overly optimistic.

    6. Shorter Orcutt:

      “But we’re poooooooor here in Cowlitz County. We can’t pay for our own schools and roads. We have to have the slacker libruls pay for them.”

      1. Fortunately for them all real liberals (except those using the British definition) believe that basic public goods like education and transportation ought to come from ability, to need.

        The time may come when liberalism has degraded entirely into an elite fashion, the way so many of the surface elements of urbanism have, but for the time being, the liberals may not fight very hard for fairness in taxation but we will at least try to keep public education afloat.

  3. All these shenanigans makes me wonder why doesn’t WSDOT, or the state in general, pay for light rail? They’re clearly in the business of connecting cities together on the same scale as Sound Transit (e.g., 520, 405 tolls), so why shouldn’t they be required to foot the bill? Is it really that the politics has gotten so skewed that such a proposition is unimaginable?

    1. Good god I would not like WSDOT anywhere NEAR light rail. Looking at the last few mega projects by that agency, they seem like a very inept and wasteful group

      1. Compare Bertha with Brenda. Bertha hasn’t moved for a year and won’t for awhile longer/Brenda is ahead of schedule and had to be slowed down because it was in danger of completing its journey early.

        And ST actually has the harder job — longer dual tunnels with hand dug cross passages.

        Ya, keep WSDOT away from LR! Please!

      2. WSDOT didn’t choose to bore a freeway tunnel under downtown. The legislature did.

        That’s part of why I’m glad ST, and not the legislature, is designing the capital improvement project list for ST3. But it should be common knowledge that Link to Federal Way and Tacoma, to Redmond, and to Everett, are centerpieces in that CIP list. I’m surprised Rep. Kochmar doesn’t realize that.

      3. lazarus … did they really slow down Brenda? seems silly since the hardest part of their tunneling is mining all of the cross-passages … one’d think that the sooner the TBMs were done the better.

      4. Yes, they had to slow down Brenda because Roosevelt Station wasn’t ready to receive her.

        They need to pour the invert and prep the north wall for her arrival. As heavy as she is, they can’t just run her through the wall and leave her sitting on soft soil.

        I’m not sure how slowing Brenda down effects the cross passage mining schedule. Theoretically at least Brenda should be close to the station box, and I’m not sure if cross passage mining is critical path. I wouldn’t think so, but you never know.

      5. This slowdown is news, and good to hear that they got ahead of schedule. In the November Link Progress Report, page 23, they were concerned about tunneling operations being behind schedule, and at that time they had eaten up 30 days of float.

      6. @Pete L,

        Na, the 30 days was a projection based on rate and a late start and not an actual realized number. And it was based on TBM 2 and not on Brenda.

        A plan was being developed to increase rate on TBM 2 to recover, but I’m not sure what the status is currently.

    2. If WSDOT was in charge of light rail, expect the voice of Rep. Orcutt to be amplified. Greatly.

      Uh no, if folks don’t like Sound Transit they can vote NO on ST3.

    3. Eh? I’m asking about funding, not competency of a particular agency (that’s why I wrote “the state in general”). Let me ask again: Why does the state not pay for regional transportation unless it’s a road???

      1. Exactly.

        TriMet builds light rail lines. However, the state of Oregon, city governments, county governments urban improvement districts, and occasionally private developers (see Airport MAX) have all helped pay for light rail. Just because a particular agency is part of the share of funding sources doesn’t mean they are in charge of it.

      2. The state pays for state highways across the state and to all cities and towns. Seattle has 99, Lake City Way, Montlake Boulevard, 145th, a short stub around the I-90 4th Avenue entrance, etc. It used to have more that were decomissioned and given to the city; e.g., Rainier Avenue (167) and MLK (900). If an analagous statewide rail network existed, the state would presumably fund for it. But the mainline railroads have always been private, and the interurban streetcars vanished decades ago. The ferries are defined as state highways so they get funding. The state funds Amtrak Cascades and some rural intercounty bus lines, and has some small grants for bus-route coverage. But it doesn’t see metropolitan transit as its problem. At the same time it recognizes that the individual counties can’t solve metropolitan transit on their own, so it created Sound Transit, but it doesn’t want to fund it. Essentially Sound Transit exists so that the state can avoid getting directly involved in Puget Sound transit.

  4. Longer Orcutt: “I believe in local control so much that I won’t vote to pass a bill out of committee to let a full house vote on it to push a senate committee to pass it to let a full Senate vote on it to allow an agency to develop a plan in a transparent 18-month process to let the people vote.”

    1. Becoming increasingly hard to be the token R of STB…

      That said, it’s been known for some time Orcutt is the stereotypical “road bully”. AKA: Demands roads first, especially if he can bully King County, Skagit County and a few other grantor counties into paying for them.

      1. If you could kick road bullies and similar bullies out of your party, some of us might vote for it.

      2. Nathanael, after what I’ve heard out of Republicans just this week and considering how vital transit is to me – I’m thinking of going full independent…………………….

        I expect more obscene comments today when Community Transit’s local option bill is placed online.

  5. Martin, I know you don’t write for applause, but very nicely done. I think you told-it-like-it-is.

  6. Thrie has an excellent question- except I think answer is wrong. Along with a couple of thoughts above generally in the right direction.

    Maybe the worst thing about forty years of an economy where the average citizen’s wages are so bad that a decent life can only be borrowed-is that every political discussion is about how to divide a fixed or draining pot of money.


    Mark Dublin

    1. Getting past the overreaching comparisons to terrorist organizations and military conflict that have no relationship whatsoever to the task of getting ST3 authority…

      Mark, do you have any data to back up these stereotypes about the age demographics of the different parts of the state? I still see Seattle politics dominated by voters over the age of 60.

      1. Brent,

        If over sixties do still dominate the politics of Washington, it’s only because the young folks understand that they won’t be listened to unless they break some windows, and they just aren’t that mad. Yet.

  7. Can someone explain to me why 2016 is so important? With the amount of ST construction due in the next 10 years, I suspect that there is a sense that ST already has enough construction money for awhile. I’d think that the excitement and motivation of more rail expansion and its cost-effectiveness won’t generate more excitement until after 2024. After 2020, the rapid population growth in the City of Seattle will also result in some reapportionment away from Eastern Washington. There is little motivation to leverage Federal funding because these resources are fairly limited and the Feds are already funding the region heavily so other areas around the US so FTA is going to not look favorable to more going to the Seattle region. Finally, more time would give more time for a better local discussion and consensus on the best expansion strategy. It just feels very untimely.

    1. People want more and better transit options, and they want them sooner rather than later.

      The biggest complaint I hear about LR is a variation of “LR is too small/we are building it to slow”.. To solve that problem and give the citizens what they want (more and better transit and sooner), the solution is simple — more funding up front. That is what ST3 does.

      And 2016 is important because it is a presidential election year — more people will vote.

      1. Good point and one that was visible in (of all places) the local media last week. KOMO did a brief story comparing Bertha and U Link that pointed out not only Bertha’s ongoing foibles but the fact that U Link is considerably ahead of schedule and budget. They actually did some person-on-the-street interviews asking people what they thought about being able to get from Cap Hill to the UW and downtown in a handful of minutes next year. Everybody they showed was excited about it and some indicated that they wanted even more.

        Perhaps this is one of those “Cronkite on Vietnam” moments when the tide has turned: a non-bash piece on rail and what it will do for people by mainstream media.

      2. I don’t…it was on Friday IIRC. KOMO’s website is horrible and I can’t find it; the other stations don’t seem to be much better.

        I watched it whilst visiting my Mom; she usually is watching KOMO so I think that’s what was on. It was part of a story about Bertha. (Mom loved the idea of being able to get off a plane and soon enough thereafter be able to walk across the street and get a Dick’s burger! She’s a local who often craved a cheeseburger returning home after her travels….)

        Unfortunately she’ll never be able to ride the train, but she’s always been a proponent and is happy we have one (and wants more).

    2. Because this shit takes a long time to build, traffic is getting worse, more people are moving here, and we’d all like to see useful mass transit in the region before we’re dead.

      1. Exactly.

        My father didn’t and my mother wont. They both voted yes in 1968 and 1972 and again for ST. Hell, my great-grandfather probably voted yes in 1910.

        I’d like to see it myself before I die.

      2. Well said, Scott! I lived in Seattle during Forward Thrust and loved the idea, buy the autoistas couldn’t see the value. It was sad. What a difference it would be if we already had subway to Capital Hill and the CD. To Ballard and West Seattle. The “Seattle Boxes” would be clustered around the stations and would probably be taller. People would feel much more positive about “density”. A missed opportunity.

      3. Actually, even in 1970, proponents recognized that West Seattle was better set up for BRT, in conjunction with the new high-level road bridge that was still unfunded at the time.

      4. d.p.

        I think you’re reaching a bit there. “BRT” was not even conceived at that time. “Buses” meant tiny 100’s on the 5 and 30 (today’s 44) at rush hour, lumbering 200’s out in Magnolia, 500’s on most base routes and a few hotsie new 700’s on the Blue Streaks.

        I worked for Metro slightly after the Forward Thrust votes (from 1976 to 1979) and I can say with some degree of certainty that West Seattle was never considered for Blue Streak service, which was that day’s version of “express bus”. But, the “big “X” voted on in 1970 and 1972 did include a “possible future extension” to the Alaska Junction. It wasn’t going to be a bus line.

      5. Continuing,

        That map you linked was to be the “Initial System” adopted while the HRT system was being built. The map legend has no line type which is any kind of rail service. Look instead at this link for a map of the “Big X” as it was proposed, with future extensions.

        All of the red lines were to be rail routes.

      6. Have you looked yet? Such grand detail on 1970’s 2-stage proposal.

        Aside from the missing Rainier Valley bit, the 1970 maps are in every way smarter than the 1967 rough sketch to which you linked.

      7. d.p.

        Yes, it does show “Bus Rapid Transit” from a station about the existing Busway and Spokane to Alaska and Fauntleroy (?). But then there’s that diagonal dashed line “Reserved Right of Way for Rapid Transit” to the southeast from there. There’s no way they could “reserve” above ground right of way for buses on that diagonal even in 1972; it was already filled in by then with housing. That had to be a tunnel; so though they may have been advocating Bus Rapid Transit for the Second stage, they were looking to a future when it would be replace by rail.

        Interestingly enough, it’s essentially rail on an alignment remarkably similar (though with fewer wiggles to be sure) to that proposed by David a few months ago.

        VERY presciently it had a station in the Denny Triangle. I wonder if Jeff Bezos has that time machine.

        But, OK, I’ll agree that I was mis-remembering from that time and shouldn’t have included “West Seattle” in my list of places which would have rail. Your victory is complete. Congratulations.

      8. The internet is not a competition.

        Okay, it totally is a competition sometimes. But this time, my victory lap take second billing to the recognition that even our Grand Missed Opportunity Scheme of the late ’60s/early ’70s recognized geometric truths that our current leadership faction has refused to comprehend.

        You cannot presume the plan envisioned a (later) rail conversion in West Seattle; there is zero evidence of that. Remember that the current West Seattle Freeway was just a pie-in-the-sky idea in 1970. Getting that built, and making it double as an unimpeded transit conduit, would have been the plan’s great coup for the southwesterly portions of the city.

        If anything, this reinforces my contention that West Seattleites don’t realize how good they already have it, and that they are acting a bit spoilt to demand additional from-scratch infrastructure to their isolated quadrant.

        I don’t quite understand what the 1970 plan expected the BRT to do between SoDo and downtown, but I’m not convinced it required a transfer. Did the busway exist before the DSTT was added?

        But clearly the idea was a BRT that matched the speed and straightforwardness of the rail lines elsewhere, by leveraging dedicated existing lanes in some places and taking ROW in others… except that, being a bus, it could share the brand-new Duwamish crossing with other modes, adding a ton of value in the process.

    3. Sound Transit finally learned the lesson that their money measures will reliably be approved by voters only in presidential elections. They want a run at 2016, and if that fails, either because the Legislature won’t allow it or the voters say No, they can make another run at 2020 — still prior to completion of ST2 rail projects. A 2020 Yes vote still allows continuity of rail build-out.

      1. Maybe I’m creating the perception I’m a troll but somehow, the more I think about it I’d prefer 2020.

        Maybe we can get Snohomish County’s leaders unstuck from light rail for Paine Field and stuck on Swift + bus stops + a fast feeder line – bus or light rail or otherwise – to a more cost-effective light rail corridor. We need to remember up here in the North there are subarea equity issues and we need Seattle to get at least one west-east subway line – preferably two.

        Just a thought. Just a thought.

      2. I think the other reason that I want this vote sooner rather than later is because if it fails, I want to build something for Seattle as soon as possible. Depending on what is proposed for Snohomish County, I don’t blame anyone there for voting against it. If I was a resident there, and only voting for what would personally benefit me, I wouldn’t vote for extending the spine, even if I lived north of Lynnwood. I would vote for lots more bus service, and I would try and mount a campaign for changing the HOV 2 to HOV 3 lanes. That would be a lot cheaper, and a lot more effective (a lot faster for the typical rider).

        But Everett really wants to “complete the spine”. This means that either they will spend way too much on rail (and way too little on connecting buses) or Everett officials will be pissed, and oppose the thing.

        There are similar dynamics in Seattle (for folks that want West Seattle light rail) but I doubt that it would kill light rail plans.

      3. Joe, thank you. Snohomish County can’t continue to be as successful as it is if the region’s core comes to a grinding halt.

      4. I just want to see a win-win solution. I also have deep misgivings the more I know about light rail to Paine Field. I mean a big slice of the transit users are shift workers. So we’ll build and buy a bunch of capacity that pulses through at around 2-5 PM, and then what for the evening? Or around noon on a normal workday when most people are… working?

      5. In reply to your comment about Paine, I would say “Exactly”. I don’t want to speak for d.p. and Ross, but I’d guess they’d agree. It’s the nature of the place that it will always be a destination, never a source, for transit riders, and they’ll always mostly be going to work. Since a good part of that work is related to the construction and maintenance of airliners, it stands to reason that it will be shift oriented.

        Yes, you’re right that there are a few “all day” attractions in the area and they should be served. But except at the shift changes the road system in the area is largely empty; buses can be reasonably quick and reliable.

        If there is ever a terminal with significant air service built at the airfield then it makes sense to re-open the conversation about some sort of rail service. But by definition that won’t be for a good long while.

        I’m concerned about the cost of an elevated right of way all the way from Airport Road to downtown Everett, but given all the cross arterials, LRT on the surface seems unlikely to get official or voter approval. But if LRT is ever to go to all the way to Everett, and that has to be an open question because of the cost, it should get then on SR 99. It’s where the people and potential for more of them are.

    4. As lazarus said, 2016 is an election year, so it makes sense to hold a vote then. As far as whether there is a pressing need, it all depends on your perspective. Seattle sees a pressing need, but the suburbs don’t. Consider what the typical reaction will be for various voters be, if ST3 fails:

      Lynnwood voter — “Hey, no big deal, I wasn’t planning on taking light rail to Everett anyway”

      Everett voter — “Shucks, oh well, as it turns out a bus will be just about as fast. Maybe we can get the state to change HOV 2 to HOV 3, then I would be able to get to Seattle faster than Link ever could”

      Eastside voter — “Darn, I was looking for that little extension into Redmond. I’ll miss all of those extra buses, too”

      Southend voter — “Oh well, the bus would have faster anyway. We need to change those lanes from HOV 2 to HOV 3. I hope this doesn’t mess up our express bus service.”.

      Seattle voter or worker north of the ship canal, but west of I-5 — “Damn. The train would have been awesome, but the buses are terrible and stuck in traffic.”.

      Queen Anne and West Seattle voter — “Damn, that transit tunnel ( would have been awesome. The buses are always stuck in traffic”.

      First Hill voter or worker — “Wow, just when it looks like we were going to finally have a station (or at least consider it as part of the transit tunnel) it gets shot down. Nuts”.

      1. RossB,

        I think this comment illustrates very well the empathy gap you seem to have with the rest of the region:

        Everett voter — “Shucks, oh well, as it turns out a bus will be just about as fast. Maybe we can get the state to change HOV 2 to HOV 3, then I would be able to get to Seattle faster than Link ever could”

        Southend voter — “Oh well, the bus would have faster anyway. We need to change those lanes from HOV 2 to HOV 3. I hope this doesn’t mess up our express bus service.”.

        Seattle voter or worker north of the ship canal, but west of I-5 — “Damn. The train would have been awesome, but the buses are terrible and stuck in traffic.”

        Everyone is saying the “buses are terrible and stuck in traffic.” Traffic is terrible everywhere, and the obstacles to granting more ROW to buses are the same everywhere. As soon as you understand that, you’ll stop sniping at other people’s desires and join the coalition for better transit.

      2. The obstacle to switching a “2” to a “3” on an HOV sign is slightly different from the obstacle to truly fast surface transit on a 2-lane road with cross streets ever 200 feet.

        And you know it.

      3. WSDOT has a traffic map for the Interstates within the Seattle Sound region. During PM peak, you can watch the green (freeflow) turn to yellow, then red, then black (gridlock).

        The black extends far beyond the Seattle City Limits.

        This is why I groan every time someone suggests light rail serves no purpose beyond Lynnwood, Overlake, or Des Moines.

        At least one ST board member has insinuated that additional lines in Seattle would be “too large a Chrismas list”, when added to “completing the spine” So, the devaluing is mutual.

      4. I do know that. I also know that 15th Ave is not a 2-lane road. In fact, reallocating road space and adding signal timing on 15th is easier because the relevant agencies are more pro-transit.

      5. Shame that we weren’t talking about 15th Ave, then, isn’t it?

        Also a shame that so many of the “Ballard-to-West Seattle” rail proposals make identical mistakes to those made by RapidRide, enshrining prior planning errors in permanence. I suppose in that way they’re similar to ST’s highway BARTs.

        And Brent, the existence of gridlock does not prove the efficacy of some random rail line in providing any reasonable alternative to such gridlock. The further out you go, the more true this gets. Don’t fall for foamer fallacies so easily.

      6. >> and the obstacles to granting more ROW to buses are the same everywhere.

        No, no they are not.

        As I have said over and over, by simply changing a “2” to a “3”, you completely free up buses on freeways. In the case of West Seattle, you would have to build extra HOV roadway (as I proposed).

        You don’t have that option in Ballard, Queen Anne or downtown Seattle. There are no freeways they can leverage. !5th NW is close, which is why I support leveraging it ( That is why I support West Seattle bus service, not light rail. It is not a lack of empathy (I know traffic sucks on the freeways) but a proposal for a different solution.

        If you are an Everett rider, do you really want to stop half a dozen times before you get to Lynnwood? Of course you would prefer that if the HOV lanes are moving slowly, but otherwise it is simply costing you time. By the way, there is a very good chance that the state will, eventually change those lanes so that they can maintain a 45 MPH speed (whether by political pressure from pissed off commuters, or because of legal pressure from the feds — So, how much faster will this train be, if it makes several stops along the way, coming from Everett, versus a bus traveling nonstop at 45 MPH (at its slowest)? My guess is that a bus would be faster nine times out of ten.

        Meanwhile, even if it takes a while for the state to act, the Everett to downtown commute will be significantly better in a few years. The distance that is traveled along this congested freeway will be cut in half.

        I wasn’t sniping at other people’s desires, but simply pointing out that a lot of voters have little interest in “completing the spine” and are more interested in saving money or building better bus service. When you consider that better bus service would be much faster for the vast majority of trips, I don’t blame them.

        >> As soon as you understand that, you’ll stop sniping at other people’s desires and join the coalition for better transit

        I’m part of that coalition. Oh, wait, you are saying that your definition of “better transit” is better than my definition. OK, got it.

      7. Shame that we weren’t talking about 15th Ave, then, isn’t it?

        The only reason to prioritize Ballard-UW over Ballard-Downtown is the lower cost of the rail implementation. Downtown is clearly the dominant transit hub and trip generator. With buses, the reverse is true; the cheapest way to connect Ballard into a high-quality transit system is buses running in their own ROW down 15th, with spot improvements to chokepoints like the Ballard Bridge.

        And I’m a supporter of rail to Ballard! I think the higher quality of rail is worth the added cost. But I also think that for many other neighborhoods, and have no patience for theoretical bus design exercises that rely on road space allocation decisions with zero elite or public support.

      8. Oh, and let’s keep things in perspective as far as traffic and travel speeds are concerned. According to Google, right now, I can drive my car from Seattle to Everett in 32 minutes. This is just a shade less than 60 MPH. I’m sure things are much slower during rush hour. I’m sure even the HOV lanes (being HOV 2) are pretty slow. So how slow are they? 40 MPH, 30, 20?

        A bus traveling from Ballard to the UW averages 8 MPH right now. That’s right, eight. It is much worse during rush hour (a lot of people simply get off and walk). The difference between a grade separated rail line and a bus along that corridor is huge. It would be faster than driving, even in the middle of the day. The stops along the way make for common trip pairs as well (e. g. Ballard to Fremont). The volume of passengers is also very large. In short, it would make a huge difference.

        I have no doubt that a train that would probably average around 40 MPH from Everett to Lynnwood (when you factor in all the stops) is probably faster than the existing HOV lanes, but how much faster? Meanwhile, buses will be much faster in the middle of the day (because they make fewer stops) and buses would be much faster if the state simply lived up to their original agreement (to move traffic at 45 MPH or better). In other words, completing the spine might make a difference, but the difference is tiny compared to the difference that a Ballard to the UW line would make. They both are very expensive, but one simply delivers much greater value.

        Again, this is why I have trouble seeing why someone from Snohomish county should be excited to “complete the spine”. I just don’t see why they would want to spend all that money (and it is a lot of money) for only marginally better service (and only for folks north of Lynnwood). I think they would much rather save their money, or build something else. There are plenty of other things they can build (hell, they don’t even have Sunday bus service). Sound Transit express buses are extremely popular, so adding more of those would be popular. But there are a number of valuable construction projects as well that would make way more of a difference to the average commuter. I don’t have a list, but I know someone on here compiled a bunch.

      9. RossB,

        The political forces preventing 15th from full optimization for buses are doing the same on the West Seattle Bridge and on our HOV lanes. You’re asking other people to wait for a movement to start from zero to fix their congestion problem rather than seize the approach that has elite near-consensus and strong popular support, while not being willing to wait yourself.

        I agree that the potential of BRT on parts of the spine is strong, and would hardly fight to death to have light rail there instead. But I will also not criticize anyone who wants trains, and will spend zero time worrying about people in other counties spending their own money to have transit that’s just a little nicer than necessary.

      10. >> The only reason to prioritize Ballard-UW over Ballard-Downtown is the lower cost of the rail implementation.

        Nonsense! The biggest reason is that it makes for much faster service for lots more trip pairs. Ballard to the UW to downtown is only marginally slower than Ballard to downtown via a west side route. Depending on the route alignment, it is roughly the same. But the reverse isn’t true. Going from Ballard to downtown and then back to the UW is not that fast. Depending on the route alignment, areas in between are much slower (for example, if the train goes from Ballard to Interbay to downtown, then there is nothing for Fremont). This means that someone coming from Everett or Lynnwood would get almost nothing out of a Ballard to Downtown rail line, if they work in Fremont.

        >> Downtown is clearly the dominant transit hub and trip generator.

        Right, and the UW is second. Second in the state (and growing).

        >> With buses, the reverse is true; the cheapest way to connect Ballard into a high-quality transit system is buses running in their own ROW down 15th, with spot improvements to chokepoints like the Ballard Bridge.

        I agree. That is why I said as much. Ballard to the UW light rail, along with a new transit tunnel. The new transit tunnel would serve buses coming along 15th to downtown, and would make those buses fast (since once you hit Denny, the “freeway” ends). At that point, you are back to typical urban driving, where buses travel at speeds in the single digits (and sometimes the low singled digits).

        But that wasn’t my original post now, was it. I was simply pointing out that the dynamics in the suburbs are different. Seattle will probably vote for damn near anything. I might argue loudly that UW to Ballard light rail along with a bus transit tunnel is a much better value than Ballard to downtown light rail (for the reasons mentioned above) but if they build the latter, of course I’ll vote for it. So will just about everyone in the city. Ballard to downtown light rail is still worth it, in my opinion, even if it isn’t what we should build next. But I don’t feel that way about rail from Lynnwood to Everett, and I have a feeling the folks who will actually pay the bills might feel that way, too.

      11. have no patience for theoretical bus design exercises that rely on road space allocation decisions with zero elite or public support.

        Well, then the people get what they deserve. Mediocre decisions by a polity behind the curve turn into a mediocre reality. The outcome is a region of which everybody comes to accept that it’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.
        Ridiculous subarea projects that are paid for by those subareas wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t engender more ridiculous operating, maintenance, and opportunity costs. Those pull everybody else down with a lesser transit environment. But the spine shall be completed! That magnetic pull seems to be a force of nature that won’t be stopped. Like someone who just has to urinate on a line in the sand. It can’t be helped.

      12. The spine was ruled out in 1968 (read the study that led to the Forward Thrust vote) for reasons that still apply today. So did freeway running; even in 1968 the pitfalls of BART were evident and were specifically called out as such by the consulting engineers.

        I understand the politics that got us where we are today. That doesn’t mean that we get to call a sow’s ear a silk purse. It’s still porcine.

      13. First, I think the arguing between Ballard-Downtown and Ballard-UW is kind of pointless. They are both good projects. Assuming passage of ST3, a Seattle-only transit measure using the monorail tax authority, and Federal grants it is entirely possible to do both with a new DSTT as well.

        Second, the rhetoric used to oppose light rail to West Seattle is less than helpful. We need to focus on both getting the political will to implement proper BRT for West Seattle and convincing people (particularly the elites) it is a superior solution for the geography of the area.

        Third, along with Martin I don’t worry too much about what is on the project list for other sub-areas. I care somewhat about the East project list mainly because the rail proposals other than downtown Redmond are so poor. However the projects for the remaining sub-areas aren’t that bad and the politics are such that it is easier to work with their supporters rather than insist no sub-area other than Seattle should see rail in ST3.

      14. The political forces preventing 15th from full optimization for buses are doing the same on the West Seattle Bridge and on our HOV lanes. You’re asking other people to wait for a movement to start from zero to fix their congestion problem rather than seize the approach that has elite near-consensus and strong popular support, while not being willing to wait yourself.

        I think you misunderstand the problem with 15th W. The problem with 15th is not 15th. Buses move just fine within their own bus lanes. The problem is the bridge as well as downtown. In other words, there is no political fight to be had, there is no “cheap fix” — solving the problem will take big money. You need another bridge (which is expensive) and you nee a tunnel from around Denny all the way through downtown. That is why this proposal here:
        makes a lot of sense. But that wouldn’t be cheap, nor would it be easy (cut and cover is very disruptive). It would simply be cheaper than anything else that would actually work.

        The same thing is true for West Seattle. The HOV (2) lanes work great. The problem is that they don’t go far enough. They don’t include the entire bridge, and the bridge isn’t connected to the SoDo busway, and once you get downtown, you are stuck going nowhere fast (again). Solving these problems won’t be cheap, but doing so would be a lot cheaper than light rail to West Seattle, and serve a lot more West Seattle riders (since light rail to West Seattle can’t possibly serve all of the bus riders).

        None of this is remotely like solving the problems on I-5. All you need there is political will and a bit of paint. Change a “3” to a “2”. That isn’t costly. But right now, the representatives are clueless when it comes to dealing with the problem. Like I said, eventually they will solve it, because of political pressure (there are way more people being hurt by HOV 2 than benefit from it) or from the feds demanding they keep up the 45 MPH standard. It wouldn’t surprise me if they solve it before 2023 (when Link gets to Lynnwood).

        But as I have said before, this misses the point. Even if the HOV 3 lanes never change to HOV 2, completing the spine is simply not a good value. There are dozens of projects that together would make a much bigger difference in the lives of commuters than completing the spine.

        Oh, and “elite near-consensus and strong popular support” — you can’t be talking about the spine. There is no consensus for the spine, nor do any elites support it. Seriously, find me the transit experts that want to complete the spine. I don’t see any. I see politicians pushing for something they simply don’t understand. You can see this by the way they talk about it. I’m no expert, but give me a little time and I can go over the advantages and disadvantages of various approaches. This is what experts do. Then they can make the case for completing the spine (or not). But no one, no supporter is actually doing this. They are simply saying “it would be grand” without actually saying what it would mean, or what the alternatives would be. How fast will I be able to get from Tacoma to downtown Seattle? My guess is around an hour. What are some alternatives? Well, for the cost of some paint and a new ramp I could get you to SoDo in half an hour. That is the discussion that an “elite” would discuss, but as has been mentioned many, many time before, Sound Transit isn’t exactly an elite organization — they are a political one. Seriously, how in heaven’s name can a competent — let alone an elite — organization build a light rail line that crosses 520 without considering how buses on 520 are supposed to interact with it? That is just one of many examples of gross incompetence, not elitism.

      15. If you’re conceding that the West Seattle and Ballard bus problems have some similarities, I agree with you. But I think the struggle for full bus ROW in *Seattle* is fraught enough that assuming that the statewide debate will simply fall into place is pretty negligent.

        And yes I am talking about elite consensus for the spine. At least 40% of the Senate and House, the Governor, all three county execs, and close to 100% (if not 100%) of the ST board are committed to the spine. I’m pretty confident that a strong majority of self-identified Democratic municipal politicians support completing the rail spine as well. We’ll see about the electorate, but what opposition there is is more of the “don’t tax me at all” variety rather than sincere value engineering from rail to buses. That’s an astonishing coalition that has taken us pretty close to a win; the coalition for wholesale transfer of car ROW to buses amounts to the STB commentariat and Dongho Chang. I love you guys and love Dongho, but that ain’t a winner.

        And if you’re not talking about wholesale transfer of ROW, you’re not really separating transit from whatever disaster is happening on I-5.

      16. @Chris — Very good point. I agree with your assessment, up to a point. The problem with simply letting politicians keep building the spine is that I worry that voters will think it is stupid. I can easily sympathize with someone from Snohomish or Pierce county saying “I don’t want that, I want better bus service” or even “I don’t want that — I would rather save my money”. If I thought support for more suburban rail was overwhelming, I wouldn’t care as much (I still don’t want people to build stupid things — I care about the folks in Pierce and Snohomish county) but it is their money, so let someone there fight for it. But I’m afraid that the fight won’t go down that way. I’m afraid that the Sound Transit board will focus on the spine, and folks will ignore the alternatives until close to election day. Then opponents will focus on the spine, and the high price tag, and point out everything we’ve pointed out (i. e. there are better ways to spend the money). Next thing you know ST3 is a big flop, and we are left trying to figure out what to do next.

        Remember the spine has failed many times. Not only back in the day (forward thrust) but with the first Sound Transit vote. The first successful vote passed only when it promised a lot of express bus service for the suburbs. I believe the quote from the winning campaign was something like “I think we found the right balance. Any more rail and we would have lost the suburban voters. Any less rail and we would have lost the Seattle voters.”. I think the dynamic might have changed a bit since then, but not as substantially as folks think (and not when we’ve already built the most important suburban pieces).

        But again, that is a fight that those folks need to fight. I just hope that people in those areas are aware of what the alternatives are, before they assume that completing more of the spine is the best way to spend their money. Because you can bet your ass that opponents will do so before election day.

      17. Does anything anywhere define what the spine is to be?

        If ridership north of Lynnwood is so sparse why not build that part of the line as single track with passing sections rather than a full double track line? It means sacrificing some schedule flexibility, but if that is what they are committed to doing then maybe building a cheaper and capacity more appropriate to the demand line is the solution?

      18. Glenn, I agree – we need something cost-effective. Ballard needs light rail either via subway or elevated too. We also need light rail quick, safe and cost-effective.

      19. In the section of MAX that opened in 1986 east of Ruby Junction Shops, the line was designed to operate at 7.5 minute headways on a single track. “Rail transit only works in dense cities like Chicago, let alone Portland, and certainly Gresham will never need more than a double track line.”

        Today it’s double track. Not that Gresham is that much bigger, but the naysayers were finally shown to be so wrong that funding alowed for its double tracking, and they really needed it due to unreliability due to the Steel Bridge being a draw span.

        Link has no draw spans, and certainly not anything north of Lynnwood for the relevant future. If MAX could work reasonably well as a single track line for the first 10 years or so, then Link should be all the more able to do so.

      20. What’s this Forward Thrust report, and what evidence is there that people voted against Forward Thrust because it was too suburban-centric and highway-running? What I see is that people voted repeatedly for highways/cars and against high-capacity transit, starting in 1910 and ending with ST1. If they thought Forward Thrust was too BART-like, why didn’t they follow it up immediately with city rail? Instead they just neglected transit completely. Metro in the 80s was pathetic, with half-hourly routes in Seattle and immensely long hourly milk runs in the suburbs. And they didn’t do anything to improve it, until the DSTT in the late 80s and ST1 in the 90s. People were too busy parking their cars and believing non-drivers didn’t exist.

      21. @ Mike,

        The rail vote gained a majority in 1968 by 5% or so…except due to the funding mechanism they used a supermajority was needed and so it didn’t “pass.” It failed in 1972 primarily because the region was in the worst localized depression it has faced since the 1930’s and nobody was voting to fund anything. The report was a lengthy and interesting read put together by consulting engineers DeLeuw, Cather and Co out of Chicago (long since subsumed into Parsons). It laid out and described what they wanted to build, where and why (and why not) in a manner I’ve never seen from ST or any of its consultants. The Seattle Public Library probably has a copy, or Metro may.

        The 1910 Bogue plan included a great many things aside from a very extensive rapid transit plan, primarily moving the business center from Pioneer Square north into what would become Belltown after the regrade. It was part and parcel of the “City Beautiful” Beaux Arts movement with wide boulevards and grand public buildings, including a new railroad station near Lake Union. It lost because business interests in what was then the city’s business center of Pioneer Square fought it tooth, nail and lots of dollars. The reason was not rapid transit but land ownership.

        The automobile was not the proximate cause of either one of these failures; at most you could say it helped prevent the 1968 plan from getting 60% of the vote–but that plan still received a clear majority. The auto wasn’t even a concern in the 1910 vote. It took a world war and ten more years before the auto even became a threat at any level to transit. Neither of those elections had a “rail vs road” dichotomy; in fact, I believe the 1910 plan also had a lot of money in it for street and road improvement.

        Again, Forward Thrust (1968 and 1972 elections) was NOT suburban centric OR highway running. You misread what was said. The report I mentioned above specifically warned AGAINST freeway running wherever possible for the same reason many of us do–less developable land, smaller walksheds and the like. It also specifically stated that BART had proven to that time to be a failure in the suburbs where lines ran near freeways because despite building parking structures at the stations, if traffic “wasn’t too bad” people driving to the stations would then just get on the freeway instead. I personally feel that the plan promulgated for Forward Thrust was–with the addition of a cross-town “Ballard Spur”–substantially better than what we have now or will have in the foreseeable future.

      22. Scott + facts for the win.

        Denny Triangle, Pike&Pine, the C.D., Madison Valley, southwest UW campus, Roosevelt, Lake City proper, and a P&R terminus for 522 commuters, all on a single line.

        A fast, direct, and sensible BRT to West Seattle and White Center, in conjunction with the otherwise-unfunded high-level West Seattle Bridge.

        A “real Ballard” stop at the corner of 20th & 56th (in 2015, there is still a parking lot there). Direct service to the actual center of Bellevue. An Eastgate spur, but no crazy highway wastefulness to Issaquah.

        The real flaw of the plan is in SE Seattle, but at least downtown Renton would have seen non-excruciating transit service decades ago. Today’s ST would detour everyone to freaking Burien.

        (Other flaw: the infrastructure would probably have looked like MARTA, which honestly might be the ugliest fixed transit infrastructure in the universe. Wouldn’t have been so bad in Seattle proper, where the proposal was mostly tunneled, but it would have been pretty regrettable on Lake City Way.)

        But as Scott says, there are no million-mile highway lines in violation of everything we know about how transit works and why. Unlike today, willful blindness and intentionally poor outcomes were not on the table.

      23. “The rail vote gained a majority in 1968 by 5% or so…except due to the funding mechanism they used a supermajority was needed”

        I remembered that last night. So maybe 20% No voters combined with 20% lack of turnout pushed it below the supermajority — even though the majority wanted it. The danger of supermajority requirements.

        But Link doesn’t “just” run on the freeway. There are five stations in southeast Seattle neighborhoods, one in Capitol Hill, and four between UW and Northgate. That may not be half-mile ideal but it’s nothing to sneeze at. AND they aren’t along any nasty freeways. AND ST2 Link goes through the entire long dimension of the city, while BART covers only one corner of ST. AND the U-District is like Berkeley and the Mission District combined because of its closeness and density, and Capitol Hill is like the Mission District all over again. So Link is not just a freeway-running thing. I agree in principle that freeway alignments are bad, and Northgate – Lynnwood should have been on 99, but when people imply that’s all Link is they’re completely wrong.

      24. You keep repeating these falsehoods in a vain attempt to “prove” we aren’t making BART’s same errors. Your statements are no less counterfactual this time that any prior time.

        BART plows through the population-weighted dead center of SF, not “one corner”. It is technically more central than Link. It also stops more frequently in the Mission, in Oakland, and in Berkeley, giving lie to your protestation that Link’s “urban” services are somehow more urban than it offers.

        But BART still fails for urban connectivity. Because it is designed for 30-mile freeway-mirroring commutes, and so everything else has long played second fiddle.

        Exactly as Forward Thrust’s study warned would be ineffective and counterproductive. And exactly how Sound Transit continues to perceive its mission.

        You’re wrong. We’re precisely BART, except with 40 years of cost inflation and in an era that should fucking know better.

      25. Since BART has come up pretty strongly in this discussion, and I have ragged on it pretty strongly in the past, I want to stipulate that from North Berkeley and Coliseum to Balboa Park BART is a great transit system. It’s the egregious extensions through the mountains to the east and south of Coliseum to Outer Slobbovia (it’s even going to be extended to “San Jose” and not serve the transit center there, at least not for a couple of decades) that are no good.

        There’s no better way any time of day or night — well, yes, except from 1 to 5 AM but that could change at any time — to get from downtown San Francisco to downtown Berkeley. None.

        There’s no better way to get from 24th and Market to downtown either.

    5. Presidential elections have higher turnout, and a greater percentage of urban, pro-transit voters. Non-presidential elections have low turnout and skew toward conservative activists (the ones who turn out), which favors anti-tax, pro-roads, who-cares-about-transit positions. That’s the biggest reason why the county’s Prop 1 failed (It was not only a non-presidential election, but a third-level special election, where the effect is even stronger). That’s also why all of Seattle’s “social spending” measures try to hit presidential ballots or at least November ballots, and why the city has to prioritize them to avoid too many spending measures on the same ballot.

      Also, Ballard is screaming for better transit, and is the largest urban village not served by Link. The western half of the city has more people than Seattle-sized chunks of the other subareas, and it needs grade-separated transit now, or actually 20 years ago. Even if ST3 is approved in 2016, it will be the late 2020s before it opens, and that’s already a long time to wait. You want to add another ten years to it to wait until 2026? If a person turned 18 in 2000, they’d be 38 in the late 2020s, and 58 in the late 2040s. They would have spent most of their career years with nothing better than Metro’s buses, and hundreds of hours of wasted time and/or car expenses. That’s why people want more rail lines now. Finish the job and get it done, so that we can finally have better circulation around the city and region.

      1. Mike;

        Three thoughts:

        1) I agree, Ballard needs grade separated transit pronto.

        2) I turned 18 in 2000 and will be 38 in 2020.

        3) Why is there not a team looking at getting light rail faster? Are we just going to have to agree we need to cut out some process and fast-track permitting of transportation projects to get progress – even if that means roads are lopped in too with the fast-tracking? Are there ways we can build light rail faster – such as premanfactured track & light rail above-ground platforms?

      2. @MIke — I agree

        @Joe — As to your third point, I agree. A lot of is it planning, but a lot of it is tunneling. Above ground is pretty fast. For example, it will be six years before we get light rail to Northgate, even though they have already started. But two after that, we will have rail to Lynnwood. Generally speaking, above ground rail can be built much faster.

      3. RossB, while tunneling takes time it can be done faster. All it takes is money. Look at projects elsewhere similar in scope and complexity to U-Link and North Link. Many move much faster between groundbreaking and opening day.

        From what I understand a good part of why things take so long has to do with how Sound Transit manages cash flow.

      4. @Chris — Wow. I had no idea. So, what is the argument for managing it in such a way as to deliver service so slowly?

        I had assumed that tunnel work took a long time because you couldn’t work on the whole thing simultaneously. First you dig the tunnel (you could make it faster by digging more tunnels, but that adds cost). After the tunnel is built (which takes a while) you start laying rail, but everything has to come in from either end. This is different than elevated (or ground level) because you can attack if from various locations. But again,that was just a guess.

      5. RossB, the reason for doling out the money slowly is so they don’t have to bond as much. It keeps the finance cost down.

      6. The tunnels will be completed years before the segment opens, just as they have been on U Link. The stations take much longer to complete, in no small part because due to staging requirements during the construction of the tunnels (removal of earth, access to the boring machines, turning/removal of the machines, etc.) station construction can’t really begin until the tunnel structures are substantially complete.

        More interesting is the huge amount of time they have set aside for systems installation and testing, which looks to be around 18 months on North Link, including the entire year of 2020 by which everything else is supposed to be complete. Some of that is float and will hopefully not be needed, but I wonder how much time is needed for testing in other systems (installation is installation and takes whatever it takes)?

        Further time savings could be had on the front end: Specifically plan the next stages desired for construction, then begin the engineering and preliminary design process and get to a “shovel-ready” point. This should be an ongoing process for the rest of time…when funding comes, you jump on the next project on the list. Unless there is a huge lag time of decades between planning and funding, this should be doable. Of course, this would require thinking of the region’s high-capacity transit as a system, not a bunch of lines thrown on a map. It would require thinking holistically so that potential transfer points aren’t bollixed up, actual headways and capacities are known in order to prioritize projects, etc., and this all would need to be explained clearly to the public so that we know what we’re getting and we know precisely what comes next. This has not really been done to date; doing it might lead to that region-wide call of “MOAR!” that most of us would love to hear.

      7. @Ross,

        In general the more you are willing to spend the quicker you can get a construction project done. There are limits based on project complexity and construction method. But working 24/7 for example gives you 21 shifts a week rather than 5.

        The desire to keep bonding to roughly 50% of the overall project cost means Sound Transit doesn’t have all of the money needed for project completion in hand prior to granting the initial project contracts.


        I believe modern life safety systems require a lot more integration and testing work than was true in the past. More stringent regulations are responsible for this as is the increased systems complexity necessary to meet them,

        See the new Berlin airport terminal for a case where this all goes horribly wrong.

      8. It’s not just money though. Cut and cover tunnels can be done quickly as there is no single tunneling face. However, the disruption caused by a 6 mile trench from UW to Ballard would be horrific, even if it were only there for a couple of months.

      9. Hi Chris–you’re right, at least to a point–my experience is with buildings not civil engineering projects, and while life safety issues in the stations are likely very similar to what I deal with aboveground, I can’t begin to speak for what is required for train operations. Life safety for people in a structure is similar enough whether you’re underground or on the 40th floor of a building–you can’t just walk out of either and vertical methods are required to get you out. These are well-known and put into place every day. Rail operations is a different story again; maybe Brian Bundridge would come back and discuss that aspect? He had some great posts here.

        That said, it would be interesting to compare these times to that of other systems constructing underground lines. Did the Canada line take so long in the testing phase? I have no idea.

        (Berlin and Doha both, although Doha finally opened. They had a LOT more money to throw at the problem!)

      10. “maybe Brian Bundridge would come back and discuss that aspect? He had some great posts here.”

        That foamer?

      11. Nope. That guy who takes a personal and professional interest in being knowledgeable and accurate and advocating appropriate uses of tools and methods of their implementation as is relevant to his chosen area of expertise.

        Nice attempted deflection, though!

    6. This is similar to a question a Republican committee member asked during the hearing. Even on this blog, not everyone realizes just how much lead time planning a light rail line takes before the first shovel is turned.

      Central Link took almost 13 years from approval to ribbon-cutting. U-Link will be 19 years, with groundbreaking in 2009 IIRC.

      And there was decades of planning going on before ST1 was approved.

    7. I think that it’s a weak argument to the swing voter to pitch “traffic is bad” as a primary reason to “build more light rail”. First of all, traffic has been terrible in many corridors for years, and unless someone is driving in a corridor that is getting notably worse AND there is a viable rail transit alternative in the measure, they won’t feel that motivated; they may just feel that another freeway lane will solve the problem. Second, the plethora of ST corridors is so broad that a swing voter won’t believe that their individual transit or driving commute will be eased by voting yes; ST needs to have a better visioning and consensus-building process that first completes what was promised in ST1 and ST2, then provides a transit systems solution in concert with all the other regional transit operators. Right now, ST is suggesting rail projects in many corridors knowing that it is not financially possible and not operationally fundable even if half of those are built, and the entire effort appears to ignore the other transit operators who themselves have operations funding issues and a rather low referendum success rate to pay for those.

      The ST3 proponents need to view this through the lens of a swing voter. Sure, transit advocates see its theoretical benefit, but I don’t see this evolving plan to be very persuasive to those swing voters.

      1. Maybe not, but it worked in ST2.

        Are you suggesting that we wait until ST2 is complete in 2023 to vote on more?

      2. ST2 promoted rail service to major areas that didn’t have them with North Link, East Link and South Link. It got lots of people excited. Unfortunately, there aren’t specific corridors left for ST3 that will link large areas without service to major attractions that they want to reach. The most productive ones like something to Ballard is not going to get many residents excited who don’t live in the corridor, and the surface extensions in the suburbs aren’t closing connections or turning to serve new corridors (except for maybe the line to Tacoma).

        I do think that it would be more prudent to vote in 2020 or 2024, and to work on presenting a blended regional transit vision that includes all operators, rather than one just for ST. The public has been asked almost annually to support something to fund different transit operators and transit “funding referendum fatigue” is also a factor.

      3. I doubt that your analysis is correct, but even if it is I think confirming through ST3 ballot failure is an important step to moving to a different approach. That leaves plenty of time for something new to emerge in 2024.

      4. I agree. I think we need to look at things that will benefit folks outside their area. UW to Ballard rail benefits folks who work along that corridor (Fremont) especially if they live in Snohomish County. A second transit tunnel that includes First Hill would benefit people who work on Pill Hill or work or go to school at Seattle U. I think you pick up swing support that way.

        But I think folks need to look at alternatives. I really don’t know how I would spend a few billion in Snohomish County, but I know some of the folks that have commented on this blog do. There is Swift 2, and the work to make it successful. 128th is a mess (apparently) so fixing it requires some cash. I’m sure there are lots of other things as well.

        But I I could easily see a compromise that splits the difference — extend the spine a bit, but focus on bus to rail interaction. Run light rail to 128th and that probably still leaves plenty of money for lots of non-rail service, while keeping the dream of Everett light rail alive. It also benefits Everett, although not as much as they may want.

      5. I think Al is correct. The major corridor work that is left is inside Seattle.

        Here is the way that I look at it. A lot of the demand for transit in Snohomish County happens to focus along the I-5 corridor. But stations along the I-5 corridor aren’t that popular. Not that many people want to get from say, 164th SW to the freeway station at Mountlake Terrace. But lots of people want to get from various places in Snohomish County to Seattle, and they tend to flow into I-5 before going there.

        Before ST 2, all of those buses had to decide whether to end at Northgate, or keep going to downtown. That is a tough choice. Northgate is a terrible stop coming from the north, especially around rush hour. Lynnwood is much better (just Mountlake Terrace would be a huge improvement). So lots of transit riders in Snohomish County will benefit from ST 2 rail. After that, though, you get diminishing returns. There are fewer and fewer people who will benefit (if your final goal is Seattle) and the amount of benefit becomes smaller and smaller.

        You do have the station to station benefit, but as I said in the second paragraph, there isn’t that much demand for that. This makes it different than most of the line. For example, East Link will have plenty of people who take it to Bellevue. There will be people who take it to Redmond or Overlake Hospital. I just don’t see that with Link in Snohomish County. Even Everett, which is probably the biggest destination by far doesn’t have that much demand from the south. There really is no reverse commute on the freeways, so people will continue to drive, and the buses can, and should, do a much better job of a “reverse commute” run when Link gets to Lynnwood.

        All in all, it simply means that ST2 passed in Snohomish County because it gave a substantial benefit to the vast majority of riders who could benefit from a light rail line along I-5. But if it goes further north, you get diminishing returns. You have more and more people who wonder if it is worth it (because it does nothing for them).

        Meanwhile, Swift is delivering people to the station, as well as to other places that light rail can’t (or won’t), like Bothell or Canyon Park. But it hits a wall before it gets to Bothell, because it runs across the county line. But this is what Sound Transit is designed to do. It was designed to make good, solid cross county service. Extending Swift 2 to Bothell would be great, and compliment what is being built. If done right (and RapidRide isn’t done right) it isn’t cheap but it is worth it. More service of that type (and that includes simply more express buses) will benefit more people, by my estimation, than extending light rail.

  8. Precisely none of the legislative process described above, from the subarea griping to voter position, appears to have anything to do with creating a transit system that, $50 billion later, will be useful for getting human beings around.

    Completely galling how little interest there seems to be in that.

    The Sound Transit uniform levy and governance structure: kill it with fire!

    1. That’s funny, because I find the segments that already exist to be incredibly useful for getting around.

      The institutional teardown you describe would set back further light rail expansion for a generation, but frankly that’s more of a problem for you than for me; I have little interest in going to Ballard.

      1. What an odd attempt at invoking the “I’ve got mine” mentality.

        And yet, $50 billion later, the vast majority of trips beginning or ending in Columbia City will still be taken by car or bus, because Sound Transit will have failed to build transit for real trips and real people.

        Go to Federal Way much?

      2. I take it d.p. is implying that Federal Way won’t produce much ridership, not that the people in Federal Way don’t exist.

        Given Federal Way’s population, and how the commute for a large chunk of them (travelling on 320th) brings them within a quarter mile of the proposed station, I believe it will add a noticeable chunk of ridership (albeit not necessarily going to downtown Seattle). And I’m not terribly interested in debating that point at length, unless you have some scientifically-based studies to bring forth.

      3. Well if I don’t go there then clearly the project is worthless!

        I have no idea what “real trips” and “real people” are, but apparently the ~300 people on my train this morning aren’t.

      4. [ot]

        BTW, 300 people on light rail – now those are real trips from real people. So pathetic how Republicans misrepresent this.

      5. People exist in Federal Way. They just exist nofuckingwhere near the proposed line, and with inconvenient enough access to it by any method (including parking on the miles of asphalt surrounding the transit center) to justify the mediocrity of Link for any trips not precisely to downtown or precisely at the height of rush hour.

        ST’s own numbers on the Angle Lake-Federal Way segment involve something like 12,000 boardings (6,000 human beings), maximum. This is very much in keeping with the BART experience, where massive cities (Fremont, CA population: 220,000) produce absolutely piddling ridership (Fremont BART: 8,000 passengers). And Federal Way doesn’t even hold a candle to that.

        Are you seriously trying to argue that land use is irrelevant to transit demand, Brent?

        At any given time, STB always seems to have one resident “expensive mediocrity to everywhere is more important than good transit where transit could do good” guy, who argues in denial of fundamental geometric realities and best transit practices. When did you decide to become this year’s version of that guy?

      6. People in cities go places other than downtown, Martin. In this town, they just can’t do so on transit, if they remotely care about their time and sanity.

        Sound Transit is doing its darndest to have as ineffective a role as possible in fixing that problem.

        All Ross and I want is for the post-$50 billion consensus not to be “whoops”… while most people remain resigned to congestion.

      7. At any given time, STB always seems to have one resident “expensive mediocrity to everywhere is more important than good transit where transit could do good” guy

        No one who is arguing with you has ever said that. The people who disagree you in this forum nearly universally agree that suburban rail is complementary with rail to Ballard, not in competition with it. The idea that the resources going to Federal Way could simply divert to Denny Way or something is totally divorced from political and fiscal facts on the ground.

      8. People in cities go places other than downtown, Martin.

        Thank you Captain Obvious. Downtown also happens to be the regional transit hub, so a fast a reliable connection there is the key to getting almost everywhere else.

        It would be great if there were more fast, reliable transit to connect to when downtown, which is what ST3 is all about. But people in cities also go places besides Ballard and Wallingford, which is why I support more rail than you do.

      9. The idea that the resources going to Federal Way could simply divert to Denny Way or something is totally divorced from political and fiscal facts on the ground.

        As I understand it, d.p. is saying that consensus urgently needs to change, and the Federal Way resources must be diverted to Denny Way, or else the Puget Sound will have objectively poor transit outcomes.

        And he actually has some cogent arguments for that.

      10. I agree that that particular resource transfer would result in a better transit system. I also think that building Federal Way and then getting the feds to build Denny Way would be even better, and in fact politically more likely.

        Anyone who wants Seattle to build lots and lots of subways without any outside consent should be spending their time advocating for remorseless population growth in Seattle. That will create the political and economic clout to start doing something in about 20 years, and we’ll probably see new light rail in about 2050 — if everything goes according to plan. And it’s worth fighting for anyway!

        Or, we could get useful new light rail around 2030 by making compromises with a high probability of success. You decide!

      11. Fantastic. I’ll be sure to thank ST for that the next time I have a burning need to visit two square miles of uninterrupted asphalt “downtown” Federal Way.

        Better yet, I’ll think about your position when I need to go to the Central District in 2050, and I find myself crawling out of downtown at 2 mph on the unaltered #2 bus.

      12. The Federal Way segment is not being built for you, nor are you paying for it. Whether you have any desire to go there is irrelevant.

        The CD situation is atrocious, but arresting ST’s progress moves us farther from a solution, not closer.

      13. Exactly and We in the North need local transit funding options – which just got stripped from this………..

      14. (And thank you, William. Reconsidered priorities and need-appropriate variable funding mechanisms > “diverted” resources, though.)

      15. Address my C.D. example, Martin. It’s about time that some ST defender did.

        I’m not on that #2 bus in 2050 for my health. I’m on that bus because it’s still the only viable way out of downtown to the populous eastern swath of the city, barely over a mile away.

        Because just a mile to the north, ST made decisions with objectively poor outcomes for intra-urban mobility. Decisions that it continues making, because the advocacy community won’t call them out on it.

        In 2050, the cumulative results of those poor decisions, leave everyone — city and region alike — better off driving for nearly all trips, to nearly all places, nearly all of the time.

        Where, exactly, is the “high probability of success”?

      16. Again, I agree the CD situation is terrible. I support reforming the 2, Madison BRT, and would like to see light rail there. Kneecapping ST3 does not help any of those objectives.

        We’ve been active in discussing optimal station locations in North Seattle, Shoreline, Bellevue, and others. We’ve written a lot about where stations should be on a Ballard/UW line, West Seattle Line, and advocated for a specific Ballard/Downtown corridor. Although you don’t want a West Seattle line I don’t think you have a problem with the qualitative arguments of any of those. So when you say we don’t care about route design I have no idea what you’re talking about.

        Now we haven’t spent a ton of time harping on decisions made in 2000 on lines now nearing completion, because our time is more valuable than that.

      17. >> The Federal Way segment is not being built for you, nor are you paying for it.

        No, but a Federal Way voter might kill a nice Seattle line. Also, someone from Federal Way will benefit a lot more from good Seattle transit than the other way around. Lots of people work in the UW, and plenty work in various places around town (First Hill, Fremont, South Lake Union, etc.). But there simply isn’t much in the way of a reverse dynamic. Even if there was, there is no way that a light rail line could possibly serve it. That is the thing about the approach that Sound Transit seems to be following. They seem to have a “checkoff” mentality when it comes to various areas “Tukwila, check, Kent, check” which does no one any good. Work at Southcenter? Sorry, Link is useless, How about the Kent Correction Center? Sorry. What if you want to visit your friend in Lynnwood? You can take the train, but good luck finding a bus that take you anywhere near his house (oh, and you can’t get there on Sunday).

        Some of this can be blamed on Link, but some of it is simply geography. There is no way you can have light rail everywhere. You can’t cover all of Federal Way, or all of Kent, or all of Lynnwood. That would simply be crazy, and even the biggest fan of suburban rail knows this, which is why they aren’t pushing for it. But you can cover all (or most) of Seattle. You can cover the areas that have lots of people, and lots of jobs, which will mean lots of riders. That would be better for everyone. The rest of the areas (like Magnolia) can be served quite well with complimentary bus service.

        I can argue against subarea equity — I think it is a stupid approach — but I won’t right now. We are stuck with it, and I think we can pass one more thing. I do believe that different areas have different needs, which is why it will get tougher and tougher over time for folks to support light rail. But in the meantime we need projects that make sense.

        Light rail makes sense where there are lots of people or jobs clustered together. Ballard, First Hill, Central Area, South Lake Union all make sense (most of these have no plans on the table, by the way). Other areas can connect much better with light rail, and have no alternative otherwise (like areas along the UW to Ballard corridor, or upper Queen Anne). We need a network, so that everyone doesn’t go downtown. Why do you think so many people drive on these roads every day, since damn near every bus is faster for getting to downtown? It is because they aren’t going downtown. They are going to all of the other places, and transferring downtown is a pain (and slow). These are the places where light rail makes sense.

        There are also plenty of areas where buses make more sense. Buses make sense where people are more spread out, or where the existing roads can (with a little bit of effort) make travel much, much faster. That is why I’m a big proponent of improved bus service to West Seattle — spend half of what you would to deliver only one station on West Seattle and you could make all the buses on West Seattle cruise like a midday 550 (from Bellevue to Seattle).

        I know a guy who commuted from Everett to Fremont every day. He said it was terrible, but the bus combination was much worse. Once Link gets to Lynnwood, which part of his trip will be made substantially better — light rail from Fremont to UW, or light rail from Everett to Lynnwood? It is obviously the former.

        It is very easy for me to say “whatever, build what you want, I’m not paying for it”, but I object to that attitude for two reasons. First, I think it could easily kill the proposal at the ballot box. Someone from the suburbs might see what I, d. p., and plenty of other people see, that all that rail extending the spine isn’t worth it. If that voter is asked to focus on their own subarea, they might be unimpressed. But mainly I oppose it because I think it is a waste of money. I oppose it for the same reason I oppose West Seattle rail — it simply won’t be very good for folks from West Seattle, let alone the vast majority of people in the region.

      18. There’s a lot here, and some of it I agree with. But there are two points I have to take issue with:

        “Let them take buses” is great if there was any political consensus whatever to truly separate those buses from traffic. But there isn’t, so telling people to take buses is telling them to remain in traffic. Meanwhile, there isn’t any urban rail system built in North America after WWII that doesn’t have lots of stations in low-density areas with giant park-and-rides. I humbly suggest your platonic ideal of density thresholds for rail isn’t feasible.

        We’ll see what happens at the ballot box. I remain convinced that “vote for just a little tax increase for an incremental transit improvement” is a worse proposition than a bigger tax for something that’ll get people excited. If you can convince a critical mass of people in Everett and West Seattle that the bus will be better than a train, which does NOT start and end with explaining that it’s cheaper, then I have no doubt that buses will be in the package. But I’m not holding my breath.

        If you want a Seattle-only measure, I can think of no more crucial step than a regional package going to defeat. Only that will break down the opposition of suburban politicians to that course of action.

      19. Martin,

        “Getting the Feds to build it [e.g. an urban connector through SLU and First Hill]” is not an option. Certainly not until 2022 and probably not after that either.

      20. >> If you can convince a critical mass of people in Everett and West Seattle that the bus will be better than a train, which does NOT start and end with explaining that it’s cheaper, then I have no doubt that buses will be in the package. But I’m not holding my breath.

        That is one of my goals, but I’m not that good at this writing thing. Seriously, it takes me forever to formulate my arguments into something that is even somewhat presentable. I can make shortcuts here, because folks here have thought about the issue a lot. But laying out arguments for West Seattle, for example, usually take a while. Let me try a quick summary.

        1) A second transit tunnel, plus other improvements on the West Seattle freeway (additional ramps, more HOV lanes) can deliver essentially grade separated service for every bus once it gets on the West Seattle freeway until it goes through downtown.

        2) West Seattle light rail can’t possibly cover all of the peninsula. Alki, for example, will never have light rail. Furthermore, tough choices have to be made between different routes, which further limit the number of possible stations.

        3) West Seattle buses come from all over the place.

        4) For most of those buses, it is much quicker to get onto the freeway and get downtown, than it is to get to the station, transfer to a bus, then go downtown.

        5) Light rail won’t run that often (and that is by Sound Transit’s own estimate).

        6) Buses through the neighborhoods are inconsistent. This means they must allow extra time for a transfer.

        7) Buses that travel through a second transit tunnel, therefore, can deliver riders to downtown faster, and more often, than a combination of bus and rail service.

        8) The vast majority of people in West Seattle don’t live close to any proposed set of stations. The population is too spread out (and like I said, every rail proposal skips popular areas). Way more people would start their trip by bus, as opposed to walking to a train station.

        9) Therefore, the vast majority of transit riders would benefit from improved bus service, as opposed to light rail.

        Of course, I could probably draw a map, and say the same thing (and it would be more obvious). I would draw a map of various areas in West Seattle, with buses that go to downtown, and put the areas where buses travel unimpeded in blue. Then I would make the same map, but with light rail, and color that in with red. Then I would list travel times for various destinations. Given everything I said above, the vast majority of riders would see much faster travel times with bus improvements.

        Everett is a lot more complicated, because there is a much wider set of projects. Even with a map it gets tricky. But I would still draw it, and simply put two columns by the bus times, one for if WSDOT does nothing, and the second if they “fulfill their agreed upon obligation to provide 45 MPH service”. Suddenly the light rail ride from Everett, even if it follows the freeway, is not substantially faster (it may even be slower — I don’t know if Link can maintain an average of 45 MPH, even with the wide stop spacing). But even without that, other areas in between look a lot better.

        I think the key is coming up with a substantial set of projects, and comparing the times, but assuming the same amount of money. In the case of West Seattle, you probably run out of bus related projects before the buses start looking a lot better than rail. With Snohomish County it takes longer, and Everett may never like it. But that is the way life is — you can’t have it all. If you want fast service from Everett to Seattle, for example, you can’t go through Paine Field. Doing the greatest good for the greatest number often means that some people aren’t happy. You can’t please everyone.

      21. Martin et al,

        I had to step away for a variety of reasons, but it seems a great deal of further debate has continued.

        I appreciate you’re acknowledging the C.D. as a prime example of permanently degraded outcomes as the result of anti-urban, anti-holistic thinking.

        I too wish we could retire the 10-year-old debate on such alignments, but unfortunately, neither Sound Transit nor the politicians who supply their soundbytes seem to have learned much from past errors. See: Ballard-UW proposal with multi-mile spacing and poor connectivity; see: 130th/Lake City; see: default discourse of “reaching” destinations, rather than service any particular needs along the way.

        It is also, frankly, upsetting that you continue to claim the planning of other subareas doesn’t affect us, that we don’t suffer significant opportunity costs from deferring to the “regionalism”-obsessed. In addition to the examples above, I remind you that we are paying hundreds of millions for the Bellevue tunnel [a length of I-90 track not originally considered a North King responsibility, and conveniently of precisely equivalent costs to the Bellevue tunnel]. That’s on top of generally poor system design, a direct consequence of “balancing speed and distance” for the benefit of others who will use what we paid for free of charge.


        Fundamentally, I tend to disagree with your political calculus, which mirrors the political calculus of those who are essentially agnostic as to the quality of outcomes. You can take all of the pro-big-ask push polls you want, but when voters arrive at the ballot box, there’s a whole lot of money on the line for not a whole lot of obvious benefit (to themselves or their neighbors or anyone else).

        Furthermore, I disagree that we should be satisfied with beating the drum for a plan that would, $50 billion on, fundamentally leave the region with ineffective transit at any distance. Which is to say, poorer and worse for wear and not much to show for it — automobile ownership still required for a reasonable quality of life; most trips still preferable in said cars (ownership being the greatest predictor of frequency of use); infrastructure still built and civic policies still determined with all that ownership in mind.

        And lastly, I disagree that the passage of a broadly mediocre ST3 sets us up for smarter urban infill later. Bonding capacity will be tapped out for decades, voters will get levy fatigue, the mediocrity will be coming on line and showing its (very expensive) deficiencies.


        You are aware that BART — whose footsteps we are precisely shadowing three decades behind — is finally admitting its glaring urban-access deficiencies, and floating proposals to fix them? None look likely to come to fruition. If you don’t get each segment right the first time — incremental expansion to uncompromised holistic ends, as Scott describes above — then you’ll probably never have a chance to fix it.

        For years you’ve treated allegiance to “Puget wisdom” as our only chance to improve our transit lot at all. I remember when I was the only one here to actively challenge that logic. I got quite sick of being told that subways are “inherently regional” and that urbanity “runs on streetcars”, followed by a spirited defense of waiting for three separate mediocre-frequency vehicles to go 2.5 miles in a straight line.

        That in my absence this afternoon, half a dozen people a hatchet to such “Puget wisdom” — on this blog that you manage and whose civic influence you proudly proclaim — should show you that our Overton window is shifting. We’re become a city of worldly transplants, and the “planning” of know-nothings/exceptionalists already holds less sway than it once did.

        Maybe it’s time to push for more than ineffectiveness.

    2. I think those who want to see sub-area equity go away thinking it means more money for projects in Seattle are sorely deluded.

      Just look at the reality of other post WWII rail transit systems with large districts. Once the system core was built most of the additional expansion has been in the suburbs. Even worse often that system core was severely compromised in order to reach those suburbs as quickly and cheaply as possible. See Dallas or Denver.

  9. I honestly cannot believe that pointing out the pitfalls of a process driven by people who see “transit outcomes” as a low priority is so controversial around here.

    1. d.p., I doubt many would disagree with you that regional funding of strictly urban Seattle lines, with 1/2 mile stop spacing and full grade separation, would be far superior to what we’re getting from the regional sausage making of ST. And I think Martin could easily write a post about “The Way Things Should Be” if this were Seattle Fantasy Transit Maps Blog. But there’s an enormous chasm between your often spot-on (if tiresomely bombastic) criticisms of the way things should be and how an urbanist engaged in the current political system should respond to the facts on the ground as they are. That’s not an is-ought fallacy, and nor it’s not to forgive the present of its shortcomings. But most of us have swallowed hard and found that blowing up our only reasonable chance to get rail to Ballard and/or UW because we can’t abide the suburbs wanting mediocre trains just isn’t worth it. Let them spend their own money how they see fit. Those suburban extensions, however slow for long trips, will be gold-plated and highly reliable, so they won’t affect reliability in the core of the spine where it really matters. And any new line within North King will likely be entirely urban scale, and we should fight hard for such urban stop spacing where it matters (say, two stops minimum in Ballard, etc), and let ST do it’s mile-plus spacing in others (say, from Upper Queen Anne to Fremont). And of course, when Seattle hits 800-900k and ST’s buildout has proven to be highly productive but flawed, then Metro and/or Seattle can grow up and become a bigger and better Muni and we can build those lines in the CD and elsewhere.

      1. Bellinghammer, I would like to sign on with your plan. It seems possible… but I don’t think we can rely on it.

        First, I do not agree that “any new line within North King will likely be entirely urban scale.” Have you seen ST’s plans for West Seattle and Ballard lines? They’re entirely suburban-scale. I see no reason to believe the lines will fall into half-mile stop spacing, and every reason (i.e. every plan they’ve even vaguely alluded to anywhere) to believe ST will fight to the death for multi-mile spacing.

        Second, I’m not sure Seattle will be able to build other lines in any appreciable timescale. Look at how difficult San Francisco’s Muni buildout is. Look at the mountains of ST debt service that we’ll be having to pay off. Consider how long the buildout will take, and add on whatever timeframe you think it’ll be until it’s seen as flawed. Maybe things will fall into line eventually – but how long will it take? And without such transit built now, will Seattle ever reach 900k?

      2. “I see no reason to believe the lines will fall into half-mile stop spacing, and every reason (i.e. every plan they’ve even vaguely alluded to anywhere) to believe ST will fight to the death for multi-mile spacing.”

        Then maybe you should support elevated alignments. The two factors against half-mile stop spacing on “the Spine” is (A) the Seattle-to-suburb travel time, and (B) the cost of the stations. On secondary lines, only the station cost matters. That’s where the cost of underground stations being significantly higher than elevated stations or surface stations becomes an issue. If we had added those three Capitol Hill stations DP complains about, it would cost at least six million dollars more. That would have had to fit into ST’s budget and taxation cap, and may have dragged down the yes vote, if you assume that each added million makes a yes vote less likely, which ST apparently assumed.

        Now that people have seen light rail on the ground, they’re more likely to vote yes for a better/more expensive alternative (except people like DP and mic), but that assurance wasn’t available when ST1 and ST2 came up for vote. That’s why closer stop spacing has a better chance on these later lines. And ST’s initial studies are just initial studies, not limitations on the number of stations. The thing to watch for is whether the ST3 budget includes enough money for the number of stations you want. And if you want more stations on one line, perhaps you’ll have to postpone another line or make it BRT.

      3. I’m shocked that underground stations cost that much. Is that in line with other cities (e.g. Vancouver)? Or is it only applicable to lines as deeply bored as U-Link?

        But… yes, I would support elevated lines, except where would we put them? The West Seattle post pointed out that topography required a long tunnel, and the UW-Ballard post was almost universally negative on getting any space for elevated lines. At some other point, I suggested putting the downtown connection on an elevated track like the monorail; it was pointed out the downtown businesses would be almost universally against it.

        If you have any great ideas for elevated lines, please share – but even assuming they exist, why hasn’t ST proposed them with their closer stop spacing?

      4. And without such transit built now, will Seattle ever reach 900k?

        We’ll hit 900k in 2020 with 5% annual growth, in 2024 with 3% annual growth, and in 2045 with 1% annual growth. I’m aware that given our development limits, that our population growth will likelier follow a logistic growth curve with eventual diminishing returns, but I don’t know where the ceiling is. The Seattle 2035 Development Capacity Report listed an average of 2.11 people per housing unit, with 652k people in 308k housing units. With their listed goal of adding 70,000 units by 2035, that’d be a city of 800k with similar household sizes. With the ‘full capacity’, or if all buildings maxed out their current zoning, we’d have a city of 1.1m in 2035.

      5. Hell, even with San Francisco’s oft-criticized level of density (17,800/sq mi), Seattle would be a city of 1.5m. San Francisco may be held back by its Victorians, but doubly so for our Craftsmans with yards.

      6. >> six million dollars more

        Do you have that number right? If so, are you really arguing that projects that cost well over a billion (or a thousand million) would been dragged down because less than 6/1000 of it is on stations that might connect people to First Hill or the 520 corridor. Really? There are a lot of arguments for elevated rail (I’m a huge fan) but cheaper stations is one of the weakest.

        I can understand the “don’t slow it down” argument, but I don’t buy it. No one from Lynnwood works on Pill Hill? No one from Lynnwood can spare thirty seconds (or whatever our dwell time is these days) so that folks from Kirkland can have a fast connection to the system? And those impatient folks from the north end will suddenly change their mind, whereas people in Kirkland will simply ignore the added value of a stop? I don’t buy that. Link would have been a success — more of a success — at the ballot box if it had more stops.

        I pity the guy who works on First Hill, but lives in Lynnwood. Billions of dollars spent delivering extremely fast light rail right to your doorstep, but you would have much been better off with buses to Mountlake Terrace, followed by a transit line with urban stop spacing (which would have meant a stop right by your work). It would have been cheaper, too.

        [Oh, by the way, I know that isn’t why we didn’t build the light rail line to include First Hill. It was fear — fear that a hiccup in drilling would doom support for more light rail. I wish WSDOT had that same fear for a project of far less value.]

      7. I could see Seattle growing really fast if it changed its DADU and ADU laws. The same with Apodments and other apartment restrictions. We could easily grow very quickly, while rent goes down (or at least levels off). Right now it is being artificially restricted (it is far more restricted than Vancouver, BC) yet still growing like crazy. If growth is happening with sky high rents, imagine what growth would be like if they legalized inexpensive housing (

      8. “No one from Lynnwood works on Pill Hill?”

        I was not talking about First Hill Station. That was dropped for other-than-travel-time reasons. ST was all ready to build it untl it got nervous about the soils and sharp angles. I was talking about the Summit, 15th, 23rd, Montlake, and 85th stations that DP has proposed, and the general principle of half-mile station spacing. Underground stations cost a lot, and more than elevated or surface stations.

  10. The whole comment about needing to support rural roads, etc. annoys me to no end, and not because they are holding up (or possibly holding) ST3. What annoys me is that we, the Puget Sound area, don’t spend more time talking about how we subsidize ALL rural counties in the state. Every eastern county ( receives more money than they put into the state coffers. This should be stated constantly until it sticks in the entire states’ heads.

    1. Doug, if we do that, I can tell you it will only end in Eastern Washington and possibly a bit more leaving the state. Which will strand moderates & centrists as the political extremes will each get their own state.

      I am also of the view that if Republicans are to remain a viable party, we need to be the voice of & for local control. That means stepping aside when ST3 comes on the ballot… or sliding in an attachment to have ST governed by elected people (that will end up being as noticed & accountable as the Port boards & fire districts).

      1. I can tell you it will only end in Eastern Washington and possibly a bit more leaving the state.

        This is one of the sillier things you’ve ever posted, Joe. At most, we might see some empty threat foot-stomping about leaving the state that, like all such efforts in the post-civil war era, ends up going absolutely nowhere, because of a little thing you seem to have forgotten called article IV, section III, clause I:

        New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

        There are lots of nutty movements to create new states. They’re going absolutely nowhere because they have no chance of meeting either of the conditions outlined above. The US Senate, in particular, has long had a strong bipartisan norm of opposing new states on the grounds that they want nothing to do with any new members. Dozens of attempts have failed since the last successful use of this clause–West Virginia, 1863.

        Of course, no serious effort to activate clause 4 will result merely from more combative rhetoric; the current governance structure of Washington State gives the takers a powerful weapon against the makers–there are more of them, and the state is governed democratically, rather than by wealth. A change in the rhetoric may annoy elites in Eastern Washington, but they’re not actually so stupid as to know that rhetoric won’t change anything, and they can continue to extort and loot the wealth of the Puget Sound while denouncing our socialism for political gain. They’ve got a good thing going; I seriously doubt they’d dream of messing with it, even if that were a live constitutional option.

      2. Joe,

        Congress is not going to allow states to split. Because this would be a transparent way to get two guaranteed Republican Senate seats — and extreme Republican ones to boot, look at Hastings — the Blue State Senators would filibuster it. They may be weak right now, but the Nation is still eleven votes from catastrophe.

      3. Sorry Anandakos for being late. I see letting E WA split in return for DC becoming a state – the latter of which only right.

      4. Wild and crazy idea: Don’t split the state, but rewrite the Washington constitution to establish two separate legislatures and departments of transportation. Since states can organize themselves however they want (subject to the limitations of equal-population legislative districts), there shouldn’t be any federal prohibition on that. And it could hardly be more difficult to get past the voters than actually splitting the state.

      5. William C;

        Listen this is gonna be crazy. I see a State Constitutional Convention as barely possible as-is and turning a state of the Union into a version of the UK with an England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland with their own devolved powers teetering on separation as something requiring serious political moxie to sell to the hoi polloi/the masses.

        Even Rob McKenna – my fav state politician – in my book doesn’t have enough moxie to even start it. Much less Inslee, Rossi, or any other statewide politician able to contend for Governor.

        Rather, I’d like to see the state legislature get out of the taxation authority business in return for ALL taxes (sales/property/gas/business) going to voter approval. We already vote on school levies for around 25% or more of school districts’ budgets, we will vote on transit taxes (and should on road taxes – last such vote was imposed from an effort QB’d from KVI in 2005) and the Eyman Era prop tax limits have stayed. So perhaps we transit advocates would come out ahead in the Shadow/Footprints of Eyman Era…

      6. Joe, I agree it’s hardly possible at all. (As well as making things worse for us westerners on some issues; I’m like you in that I’m closer to the Republicans than Democrats.)

        What I was saying is that splitting the state would be even more difficult. As Anandakos said, it’d require Congressional approval, which would almost certainly not be coming. But devolution, we can do at home. Or, just move most of the tax powers from Olympia to the counties, like you say – that in itself would improve things a lot.

      7. “rewrite the Washington constitution to establish two separate legislatures and departments of transportation”

        I started thinking about how that would work,, but everything related to the federal government would have to have a single point of contact, because the feds won’t stop treating each state as singular. That includes federal grants and regulations, which gets into issues like medicaid justics and transportation and national guard and many things. By the time you’ve left all those in the central state government. you either keep it all there, or you end up splitting agencies which may be inefficient (since the parent agency would have to work with the two daughter agencies). Of course, the eastern half would not accept any federal federal grants because they’re a socialist redistribution of wealth, so that would limit its interaction there, but they would still interact re regulations.

  11. Re: [OT] above. OK, Martin. I think my record indicates that not only have I never questioned a single edit, but have considered every one of them as helpful as sharpening a razor- which always involves removing material.
    But let’s put this one to readers.

    1. Cooperation between legislators will be permanently deadlocked as long as the income discrepancy between ST service area and the rest of Washington persists.

    2. Out-state legislators’ current constituents will never let their representatives until their own local economies improve for them personally- meaning that to a very large degree, our transit really does depend on major changes of voters’ outlook far beyond our present service area.

    3. An improvement in out-state economies by encouraging solid new industries, especially modern small manufacturing, will have the mutual benefit of alleviating out-state stress about money, but also encouraging younger people to stay or move back.

    4. Both of which will change the outlook, as well as the demographic, of these remade constituencies so that their reps will either change their votes in a direction favorable to our own transit needs or get thrown out of office.

    5. For the benefit of our own transit and much else diving the state, I think the best, and likely the only way to get this process started is for our own industries and governments in our relatively wealthy part of the state to is to get active creating a new economic climate in the other part.

    6. I disagree with my former State representative’s hesitancy about using positive economic, if not openly political initiative to change the climate in our opponent’s districts. We can gain their constituents’ cooperation without harming legislators that go along.

    7. In other words, considering this posting’s amount of thoroughly justified outrage over years of intractable opposition to our reasonable efforts even to build our transit systems with our own money- it seems very much on-topic to discuss means to make our opponents more tractable.

    Now: what’s vote on [TOPICALITY]?


  12. It’s all about political leverage. If Repubs allow Puget Sound to tax and implement ST3 themselves then how can Repubs force Puget Sound to help finance their out of the area projects. They want to keep transportation in one nice neat package they can have control over.

    1. Ya, and if you have all transpo funding in one pot then it is easier to move that funding around to other parts of the state. But if you allow local taxing in support of local projects, then that money doesn’t go in the big pot and can’t be diverted to other parts of the state.

      Local funding for local projects scares the R’s because it cuts them off from the Western Wa revenue stream. They know Western Wa will support local taxes for projects that make us function better, and they know Eastern Wa voters will vote “No” on most local tax increases for E. Wa..So the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

      The way for the R’s to avoid this is to support a statewide tax increase that is fair for all parties, but they can’t do that for ideological reasons. So the whole state suffers.

  13. “creating a transit system that, $50 billion later, will be useful for getting human beings around.”

    Or, how do we build a transit system that the majority of people will use, and will downsize their number of cars. Or even just raising the transit mode share from 5% to 25%.

    That’s my primary underlying desire. But it would require a network far more extensive than ST1/2/3 is proposing, and 3-4 times more money. If you want New York levels of transit use, you’ve got to have New York levels of transit.

    But how do you get from here to there? You’d have to convince the legislature and local leaders to accept it, and voters to approve the taxes. But they are far from ready to approve this kind of project. Even without a big-ticket project, just asking them to put transit and pedestrians unequivocally before cars/highways/parking, in small transit investments and land-use decisions like other countries do, they’re unwilling to do. They made McGinn a one-term mayor because he opposed the deep-bore tunnel and wanted to prioritize transit, and voted in Murray who supported the tunnel. That’s why a $50 billion minor improvement is the best we can achieve right now. But it’s better than nothing, and you keep ignoring the trips that would benefit from it. A network that’s more comprehensive than 90% of the American cities that also don’t have a surviving pre-WWII network to build upon is better than nothing.

    1. That quite simply is not what you propose.

      What you propose (spread and sprawl and spindle and underperform) would be lucky to make a dent in modeshare for commuters, much less any other trips.

      Everyone who wants a reasonable quality of life (and who isn’t as stubborn as you or me) still needs a car after your plan is done. And car ownership is the greatest predictor of car usage. Once you own one, it is really hard to argue that it isn’t easier to use it for the vast majority of trips.

      (This phenomenon happens to extend to a number of STB authors you wouldn’t expect. That should tell you something.)

      The aim cannot merely be “slightly more palatable than today.” It must be actually be good enough to be easier, preferable, default!, for various purposes at most times of day, over as significant an area in which that may be possible. And that, by definition, means the city.

      Anything less means 5% modeshare forever. And infrastructure (civic and private) designed around cars.

      Claim otherwise all you want, but you’ll still be wrong.

      1. And $50 billion, for the record, is not “minor”.

        $50 billion for virtually no mobility improvement is criminal!

      2. (By which I mean “no pervasive improvement anywhere within the service area”. I know it will attract many CBD commuters, and provide marginal improvement for existing transit trips off-peak. B.F.D. That’s really below the minimum that should be expected for that kind of money.)

      3. d.p., I really don’t see any rail design, even an optimal one, that will be objectively superior to driving in areas with an emphasis on free parking and DOTs committed to “reducing congestion.” So I think that’s too high of a bar. You will never achieve a pro-transit default while setting up a regulatory framework that demands free parking.

        Yes, most STB authors’ families own at least one car, and would agree that many aspects of our transit system are inadequate. But your dismissal of Link as simply irrelevant utterly conflicts with my lived experience in the Rainier Valley. Link concentrates potential transit users in particular corridors, and prosperous families going down to one car is commonplace. Link is absolutely transformative to a number of different trips. And that’s in spite of a lot of Metro’s supporting bus lines being incredibly inconvenient.

        I think that’s a transformation worth investing in.

      4. I’ve been waiting for a moment when I could write a long-winded reply to this, and since that has not happened, I just want to say that…

        – Your reply is mostly fair.

        – I do not fault STB authors, or anyone else, for needing or owning cars in Seattle. Though it would be suspicious if someone claimed that ownership did not significantly expand the criteria under which trips are taken in a car by default. I certainly know that is the case when I have a borrowed car for any length of time, and that seems to go double for anyone not living as I do in a commercial center and a block from a major transit node.

        – I would never claim that Link hasn’t been a game-changer for SE Seattle. The whole quadrant of the city is now connected, whereas it had previously been excruciating to reach. But this speaks to my precise point: the city is where such sea changes are possible, even when poor implementation renders them less thorough than they might be. Just imagine if priority were paid to fashioning every link in the comprehensive intermodal-mobility chain correctly! And yet, while commutes from Tukwila and Lynnwood and maybe Redmond can be improved, such a “transformative” effect is simply impossible. And that goes triple for the intercity journeys of the “spine”: forget diminishing returns; at that distance the returns simply don’t exist! That anything resembling “consensus” exists around them is evidence of a deeply troubled process, and should be deeply troubling to anyone who cares about getting effective returns on our investments.

      5. d.p., I’m glad to see we agree on a number of points. I also agree that ST project’s sequencing is far from ideal, and that certain other implementation decisions could be better, and that in some respects BRT might provide better value for money, although less in terms of absolute value.

        I also can’t help but notice that those criticisms could have equally applied to the Rainier Valley in 1995. It’s not that dense, it’s hard to serve the entire area with a single line, there are decent highway options, and so on. And yet I have no doubt that the situation would be objectively much, much worse if we’d listened to the value engineers who wanted to do it with BRT. I think it’s fine to criticize ST for not doing the optimal thing — it’s how projects get better — but dismissing sub-optimal projects as worthless wastes of money is unfair hyperbole and counterproductive.

      6. Seattle has one of the highest transit mode shares of any metro area in the US. Only New York, DC, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Philidelphia have a higher transit mode share.

        Sound Move and ST2 projects will push the mode share higher, perhaps not as much as could have been done with other design priorities, but it will still have an affect.

        For ST3 the “complete the spine’ projects aren’t as good as some possiible projects in the city of Seattle but they aren’t horrible in terms of US light rail projects. Even the projects in the hinterlands will have an affect on land use and transit mode share.

        Do I wish the money was being spent in Seattle instead? Yes, but that isn’t going to happen in the context of ST3. Do I wish South King would spend money on Burien-Renton rather than extending Link to Federal Way? Sure but the politics are such that the spine has priority.

        What am I willing to fight for?
        First and formost getting ST3 funding through the legislature.
        Second using the Monorail tax authority as a ‘plan B’ if ST3 fails in the legislature or with the voters. Alternately using it as a ‘plan A’ to enable more rail funding in Seattle if ST3 passes all hurdles.
        Third ensuring West Seattle doesn’t suck all of the North King money out of the room and leave Ballard waiting for the next round of rail funding (or worse a streetcar as a consolation prize).
        Fourth ensuring projects like the Northgate pedestrian bridge, 130th station, and Graham Street Station get funding in a timely fashion.
        Lastly I’m willing to fight stupidly expensive and unproductive rail projects in East King. This is a case where I feel the projects are so bad they endanger passage of ST3 and the political downsides outweigh any potential political upsides. That said it still is pretty far down my list of priorities for ST3.

      7. Just by being close-in and contiguously populated, adjacent to other populated places, and (somewhat) on the way to destinations further afield — though poorly connected by prior thoroughfares and transit — the Rainier Valley held service advantages not seen in any ex-urban proposal. Nor in the often mistakenly-equated West Seattle (which also enjoys a nearly-functional direct 8-minute freeway that SE Seattle never had).

        That’s why the Rainier portion of Link has been more successful than its raw density numbers might have suggested. Just think how well it would be doing if it had been sent down the real population-weighted center of the area!

        And Chris, I wish you weren’t still letting your boosterism carry you away. As has been discussed many, many times, Seattle’s vaunted modeshare applies mostly to downtown-bound peak commuters. It really, really doesn’t apply off-peak. Whether that changes substantively in the city proper will entirely depend on how good a job we do of remaking the pan-city network going forward. Again, that is precisely my point above.

        You will likely see only mild changes in commute patterns as a result of any exurban projects, and you will see virtually zero shift outside of peak. Your comparisons to “impressive” transit cities will remain fallacies — mark my words.

        Suggesting “Burien-Renton” as an alternate approach, though less absurdly far from the regional center of gravity, implies some great demand to move laterally between those places, by people with non-laborious access to destination pairs along the line. Such people really don’t exist, which is why every Renton-specific survey on the subject has returned a volley of “WTF!? We want an easier trip northward, idiots!” The fallacy of ex-urban rail magic isn’t rectified by putting circumferential-rather-than-radial lines, if concentrated demand remains all but nonexistent.

        I presume you’re both aware that, as I write this, a total weather/maintenance meltdown is happening in Boston, and a financial meltdown in DC is threatening to make their Metro useless. All of this stuff you build is stuff you have to pay to maintain forever. And to run in perpetuity — at least at some potentially-slashable service level. Everett or Burien-Renton is bound to present a terrible conundrum down the road: too weak demand to justify running at high frequencies; even more pointless when cut back.

        It is absolutely naive to claim that a political fiction like “subarea separation” will avoid the terrible opportunity costs of spending tends of billions of dollars on fallacious service philosophies and weak outcomes. Opportunity costs will be massive. And debilitating. And forever.

      8. d.p.

        Mode share is mode share. Most cities below Philadelphia’s mode share are very biased toward either peak or lifeline type services.

        The simple fact is Seattle is doing better for mode share than Los Angeles, Baltamore, Portland, San Diego, etc.

        I’ll agree we should aspire to match Philladelphia, Chicago, or even Boston in terms of mode share, especially for non-commute trips.

        As to Burien-Renton I was simply saying it is a better project than extending Link to FWTC. It would serve the stops in the corridor with frequent reliable transit. It would put those sops a rail to rail transfer or two away from every other part of the Link system. Would that offer travel time savings over driving, probably not, especially off peak, unless there was an incident causing a traffic meltdown. It may offer travel time savings over existing bus service, especially off-peak and reverse peak. Of course this is an indictment of how bad non-peak direction service currently is rather than speaking to any improvement Burien-Renton might offer over well-designed bus service.

        Given the funding structure of Sound Transit I’m not too worried about running into problems with paying for operations & maintenance In my lifetime. Even the worst case for Link still won’t cost per boarding what Sounder North does.

      9. Mode share is mode share.

        Clearly not. Because there’s no way in hell that we have a higher modeshare than Los Angeles unless you privilege “CBD peak”. That is seriously the only category in which we do so competitively.

        If you read something saying we were kicking ass over Los Angeles, it was referring to some peak-commute definition, and only to or within some arbitrary boundary of the agency service area. Period.

        I was simply saying it is a better project than…

        And I’m saying that it likely still feels to meet any lowest-bar rational basis scrutiny. Bad rail-to-rail isn’t any better than bus direct buses.

        I’m not too worried about running into problems with paying for operations & maintenance

        Neither was any other transportation entity that currently finds itself choosing between actually-needed expansion projects and not seeing its existing infrastructure spectacularly collapse.

      10. I’ve only seen two sets of numbers. The ones from the ACS for commute mode share and ones derived from population and FTA statistics to yield a transit trips per capita number. In both cases Seattle keeps the same ranking among large metro areas. In other words behind NYC, SF, DC, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia, but ahead of Portland, LA, Baltimore, etc.

        You can spin the numbers any way you please, but these are the only numbers I’ve seen.

        I haven’t seen a summary by metro area for transit’s share of per-passenger VMT but I’d expect Seattle to maintain a roughly similar ranking.

        The thing about LA is it is freaking huge, both in terms of population and area. You can have huge ridership and packed buses and trains but still have lower per-person transit use than Seattle or Portland.

      11. d.p.

        In any case we’re both likely washing our breath as if ST3 happens South King is going to build Link to Federal Way come Hell or high water.

        As for maintenance & operations I’m just not that worried both because of the amount ST sets aside in its financial plan for O&M and because there are turkeys like Sounder North to cut first.

        Maybe it will be an issue in 30 years, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it today.

      12. I remember seeing the “unlinked transit trips per capita” chart, but I wasn’t able to find it again just now.

        Seattle proper has something along the lines of an 8% transit modeshare at all times averaged, which is hardly impressive but hardly nothing either. But if you take a similar measurement throughout the Metro service area, it drops to 1% and change.

        How we will appear in a per capita ranking will entirely depend on where the population boundaries are drawn. One could make a case that the apples-to-apples for Los Angeles County would be the entirety of King, or the city of Seattle:some defined-urban subset of the LA Metro service area.

        Just from witnessing mid-day service levels & boarding volumes versus general traffic in both places, I would be very, very surprised if an accurate reading of urban Los Angeles had a lower modeshare than ours.

      13. Well methodology is key. The numbers I used came from fivethirtyeight. It appears they divided unlinked transit trips per MSA by MSA population.

        While this does not give urban core transit use it is a somewhat useful yardstick when comparing metro areas as a whole.

        I’m curios where you are getting your mode share numbers because I can’t seem to find anything showing what you claim.

        Again, LA is huge, even just the city proper, more so if you look at the entire county or MSA. The more outlying parts have not so great transit service with not so great ridership even though the population density is relatively high.

      14. It’s true that L.A. city proper, and any definition you might arrive at for the “contiguous urbanized area”, are pretty darn huge.

        But the 12.8-million MSA is simply gargantuan — and very large portions of it aren’t even within the primary mass transit agency’s service area. (They are marginally served by commuter rail and/or by skeletal municipal agencies with zero interest in non-social-service ridership, if they are served at all.)

        I really think that for any comparison of genuine informational value, you would have to define an urban or urban-ish boundary and then compare it with Seattle proper or similar. This is one of those instances in which MSAs — theirs and ours alike — are simply too broad to tell us much of use.

      15. At some point you have to stop moving the goalposts. The vast majority of the LA MSA population lives in the contiguous urban area around LA proper. A fair chunk of this is in areas without very good transit service, but with densities that look pretty good by Seattle standards (and I mean city proper, not suburbs).

        The area with good transit and relatively high utilization is large compared to Seattle but is only a fraction of the vast metro area.

        Anecdotal to be sure but the demographic in the Seattle area that makes up choice riders mostly seems to drive in LA.

        In any case we’ve spent far too much time arguing LA vs. Seattle which wasn’t really my point but more how Seattle is doing a better job than Portland, San Diego, Minneapolis, Baltimore, etc.

      16. However, in the case of Portland and Minneapolis, I would argue that this has more to do with the broadly poor(er even than Seattle) land use, rather than with a comparative deficiency among the planners at the comparable transit agencies.*

        TriMet, in particular, has created a network that would be well-primed to offer robust mass-mobility… if only Portland possessed the remotely the density to justify running that network at genuinely spontaneous frequencies. (Unfortunately, this will never happen.)

        I think this is my problem with patting Seattle on the back prematurely for its “modeshare”, when that modeshare is in fact so fatally skewed to a single purpose: we have somewhat better land-use inputs, and all the resultant compounding traffic and parking troubles that come with that land use; but we have a system that refuses to work spontaneously and multi-directionally, and we have advocates who refuse to acknowledge that our all-purpose modeshare is still quite pathetic. And so the problems persist.

        *(Baltimore, older and denser, suffers more from a lack of money, and legitimate fear of violent crime, and seemingly some unimaginable level of bureaucratic incompetence.)

  14. I think the fact Martin and some other media outlets called Rep Orcutt out on his statements kept him reined in today, re: Comm Transit Local Option. Keep doing it people – I’m to the point of creating a spreadsheet of these over-the-top GOP statements on transit.

    Now I don’t want to name names and betray a personal confidence, but I know damn good & well a House Republican staffer is a transit user. I know damn good & well Republicans want a better life for disabled people. I know damn good and well Republicans represent a Skagit Transit & Island Transit screwed by WSDOT’s transit grant process – which is now on my radar screen. Now’s the time for them to stand up and fight.

  15. Sound Transit ST3 is just the latest example of their monumental incompetence. They desperately need the money because their Prop 1 expansions not only require a huge unfunded capital cost to create. Their operation will require ST to pay $285M annually to cover the short fall between operating costs and fare box revenue. Their 2040 proposal will do little to increase fare box revenue but will skyrocket operating costs

  16. Frankly, and I know it’s heresy to question anything that transit wants or does here, but there has been different numbers bandied about regarding how much the taxes would cost. For instance, the Seattle Times’ Mike Lindbloom has reported two differing sets of numbers for the troika of potential taxes (sales, MVET, property), starting at $500, while the total was $78 at last week’s Sound Transit Board meeting. Voters should have a fair idea of the annual cost, for how long, and the cumulative cost.

    I am also concerned about the lack of checks and balances on Sound Transit. As I understand it, the County Executives appoint their county’s representatives. If so, the likelihood is to appoint people who agree with them. Further, at legislative hearings, while their speakers were smart enough to only talk about their successes, which are the most-recent projects, there’s nothing that I see that stops them from continuing to pour money down the drain – in terms of cost per rider – on, most particularly, Sounder/North. Since the Sound Transit Board obviously doesn’t have the political willpower to admit that it’s a lost cause and that they’ll wisely redirect those monies where the dollars can benefit considerably more riders, and since their Citizens Oversight Panel, who I question the independence of (since Sound Transit funds their meetings and chooses their representatives), hasn’t successfully gotten traction on this, legislation is needed to assure us that taxpayers aren’t being taken for granted.
    I’d also like to see the costs spread out to more taxpayers. For instance, Marysville residents will enjoy riding Link from Everett, especially since they’ll largely be shielded from being taxed to pay for it, as they’re out of the taxing district and would have to vote themselves into it to be taxed…like who would do that? Expanding the service district to a point, say, 10 miles from the nearest Sound Transit service, should be easier than it is now.

    1. TransitRider,

      I too ride transit and I too hold the minority opinion transit boards should be elected. Nothing short of great arguments have been made in opposition but at the end of the day, if we transit advocates were on those boards I think we’d be paying more attention than the current occupants of those board seats.

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