Dan’s report on the Senate Transportation agreement illuminated poorly understood numbers associated with potential Sound Transit 3 taxes and project budgets. In spite of his noble efforts to explain it, there is evidently quite a bit of confusion remaining.

There are two separate planning processes that both have a $15 billion figure in them, and both are expressed in Year of Expenditure (YOE) dollars, but they aren’t directly related.

The first is a tax plan. Sound Transit asked for enough authority to levy as much as $15 billion over 15 years from sales tax, property tax, and Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET). Although it’s conceivable they can use the full amount in a 2016 ballot measure, it’s scaled for flexibility both in the overall package size and in the mix of taxes, so that the Board can optimize chances of a successful vote.

The second is a 15-year project list and budget. The Board used a $15 billion capital program as an example, chosen somewhat arbitrarily from the size of Sound Transit 2. Because any program would include lots of bonds, a given 15-year tax package size funds a larger capital program. ST spokesman Geoff Patrick gave the example that $9 billion of taxes funds $15 billion of projects.

To match these billions to project scope, I’ve broken out tax revenues into subareas and listed some likely project priorities for each area. Both the revenue breakdowns and the project costs are guesses piled on assumptions, drawn from estimates, based on historical data which may not predict the future. (See all those assumptions here). But these figures make the best of the publicly available data.

The results are in the table below. All figures are in billions of 2014 dollars and include leftover capacity from ST1 and 2. I’ve also listed some likely subarea priorities with price tags from long-range plan studies. These estimates are very rough, and nowhere near official, so I wouldn’t get hung up on $100m here and there. Consider also that some projects will likely win significant federal grants, not included here. North King projects have historically done well in that process, and I’ve heard rumors that Snohomish County Link will also score well under federal formulas.

Subarea ST2- Sized Full Senate Authority Full House Authority Key Projects
Snohomish $1.6 $1.9 $2.5 LRT Lynnwood to Everett via I-5: $2.2
via Paine Field: $3.4
South King $1.6 $1.9 $2.6 S.200th to FWTC via SR-99: $1.8
Pierce $2.1 $2.5 $3.3 FWTC to Tacoma Dome via I-5: $1.9
via SR99: $2.9
Tacoma Link to TCC: $0.6
East King $2.6 $3.2 $4.3 Link to DT Redmond: $0.8
Link, Totem Lake-Issaquah: $2.7
BRT, I-405: $1.7
BRT, UW-Kirkland: $0.5
North King $3.1 $3.8 $5.1 Ballard/UW: $1.7
Ballard/DT via Interbay: $2.8
Ballard/Fremont/QA/DT: $3.5
2nd Downtown tunnel: $1.1?
Alaska Junction/Stadium: $2.0-2.5?

So what does the Senate proposal mean for all this? First, it eliminates some of the more aggressive construction plans. Second, but cutting property tax and MVET authority, it almost inevitability switches the burden onto sales tax.

For more discussion on the alternatives in the right column, see the original post on the subject.

125 Replies to “Sound Transit 3 Package Sizes”

  1. Martin, do your by-sub area numbers include the effect of bonds or not?

    In other words if a sub-area has $3 billion in revenue under one of the packages do you list that as $3 billion or $5 billion?

  2. How much federal support does Sound Transit expect, and does the size of the package matter to secure grants and TIFIA loans?

    Also, what percentage should be set – aside for operations, biking & walking access, and affordable housing?

    1. U-Link got about 2/5 federal support.

      I’m not entirely sure of the federal criteria, but UW-Ballard and a second DSTT are thought to be good candidates as are any BRT projects. Lynnwood-Everett, Federal-Way-Tacoma, Downtown-Ballard, and Downtown-West Seattle might be able to qualify as well. An additional factor in federal grants is the total pool of money available and what projects in other regions we are competing against.

      For Sound Move, Sound Transit applied for federal grants for Central Link and U-Link. For ST2 I believe Lynnwood Link is the only light rail project where Sound Transit is applying for grants.

      1. With a Republican Congress, I wouldn’t count on anything getting federal support. As far as the GOP is concerned, any dollar spent on anything transit-related may as well be flushed down the toilet. I grew up in the district of a Republican congressman who pulled strings to prevent the federal government from funding light rail in his own district.

      2. @asdf2

        You aren’t looking far enough ahead. What is true for Congress today may not necessarily be the case in the future. 16 years is a long time, more than enough for some ideological shifts as well as a change or two in party control. I wouldn’t count out Federal grants just yet.

      3. Ballard-UW would not be a competitive candidate for federal funding. It costs too much and carries too few riders. ST’s 2014 corridor studies point to Lynnwood-Everett, West Seattle-Downtown, and Ballard downtown as the corridors most likely to have enough demand to justify a federal investment.

      4. @Railcan — that is ridiculous. Ballard to the UW is by far the most cost effective light rail line under consideration. Another transit tunnel is also a great value. Lynnwood to Everett would only be marginally better (and in many cases worse) than bus service (which could simply be improved by delivering what was originally promised — that is, by delivering speeds of over 45 MPH on the HOV lanes). Likewise, light rail to West Seattle would force a transfer for the vast majority of people on the peninsula, and thus be very slow and very infrequent (and building light rail to West Seattle is extremely expensive). BRT to West Seattle would not only be cheaper, but be substantially faster for the vast majority of riders.

      5. The two projects Chris lists first are the only ones with remotely the ROI — riders/$, speed improvements/rider — to garner federal aid.

        Even the further urban segments he lists don’t stand a chance in heck.

        Stop confusing “longer” for “better”, [namecalling].

      6. d.p.

        I think some of the BRT projects studied would stand a good chance of getting federal grants. But I agree a second DSTT and Ballard/UW have the best chance of any possible ST3 rail projects. (Though a second DSTT is really a BRT project if no rail lines connect to it in ST3)

      7. Yeah, I agree with d. p. and Chris. DSTT (for buses), Ballard/UW as well as a lot of cheaper BRT projects (Swift type projects) stand a chance. As d. p. put it, it really is about ROI (cost/rider + speed improvements/rider).

      8. Ballard – UW is DOA. it doesn’t directly satisfy the main demand, has lower ridership as a result, and creates too many operational issues for U-Link.

        Additionally it doesn’t fit into any rational vision of the eventual buildout and effectively would become an orphan line.

      9. Yeah. Connecting stuff is stupid! Facts are stupid! Studies demonstrating that the weakest east-west proposal has higher ridership than all but the costliest north-south proposal are stupid! Marysville or bust!

        Care to tell us again how the as-yet-unbuilt North Link is already “running at capacity”?

      10. As Railcan states, the data clearly indicates that UW-Ballard isn’t worth the investment. And Railcan appears to “know”

      11. Really? “The data”?

        Do you mean the preliminary studies that found only the diamond-encrusted north-south line would garner more riders than an east-west line (even one with too few s stations), and for only 2.5 times the cost?

        Or are you somehow referring to your perpetual harebrained suggestion that we should intentionally make our system less useful, lest anyone have to suffer the indignity of not having a seat on a transit network that dared to be a success?

        There is no “data” to back up your stupid ideas about transit. Travel the world, grow a brain.

      12. I’m with d.p. and Ross here. I have no idea what data you are looking Railcan and Lazarus. In terms of cost per boarding and riders per mile UW-Ballard performs better than any corridor studied for ST3. It offers the most travel time savings as well.

        While some Ballard-Downtown alignments offer more travel time savings on Ballard-Downtown trips the difference isn’t huge and they have a much higher cost per boarding,

        Only the I-5 alignment for Lynnwood-Everett has a lower cost per boarding while offering minimal travel time savings, low TOD potential and a heavily peak biased ridership pattern. Due to the distance involved the ridership per mile is much less than Ballard-UW.

        The numbers for West Seattle are so ridiculous as to not even be worthy of discussion.

        Note that the 44 while having a reputation of being only marginally better than walking is one of the most heavily ridden bus routes in the city.

      13. Thank you, Chris.

        You are one of the indisputable MVPs around here, which is why it never bothers me that we don’t see eye-to-eye on all matters.

      14. d.p.

        Well even I have limits to the foolishness and untruths I’ll let pass silently. That goes double when it is something where I’ve done my own research and run the numbers myself.

      15. “16 years is a long time, ”

        FWIW, my estimates are:
        — solar power will provide 100% of US electricity in roughly 2033 (based on current trends)
        — electric cars will be the majority of cars on the road by roughly 2035 (10 years to be the majority of sales, 10 more to get the old cars off the road)
        — hemp & marijuana will be fully legalized nationwide before 2032 (trend projection for popular support, aiming at about 2/3 support before winning)
        — demographics (younger people being able to vote, older voters dying off, a more ‘non-white’ population) will make the Republican Party totally unelectable nationally by about 2032 (I wonder what will replace it?)
        — shale oil & shale gas in the US pretty much runs out about 2032
        — the major oil companies will have declared bankruptcy

        So yeah, 16 years is a long time. There are a number of trends which are coincidentally converging on roughly the same date. Best to be prepared.

      16. Spirited debate. Yay.

        To get high performance in the UW-Ballard segment requires grade seperation, which is expensive. Looks like about $2 billion for 25,000 riders and 9-minute travel time. U-Dist-Westlake travel on Link is 9 minutes. Add a 5-minute transfer penalty, and you get 23-minute travel time from Ballard to downtown, for $2 billion. This cost doesn’t assume any kind of inter-line with the main Central Link alignment.

        Thats some of the data I’m looking at. I’m also looking at the ST study on Ballard-downtown. Assuming lower-cost grade seperation (elevated), you could expect to see about 30,000 riders for $2.5 billion, with 13-minute travel time. Seems like a better investment right there. But there’s more to the story.

        The early ST study work in that corridor suggested almost three quarters of the demand for transit in the Ballard market is between there and downtown, with less than a quarter between there and UW. Which means most of the riders shown in the UW analysis mentioned above are trying to get downtown.

        Another important piece of data I’m looking at is the system performance at 2030 without ST3. 4-minute headways and four-car trains, with peak loads exceeding the 2.0 load factor in the DSTT. Which means what? It means there is no room to interline a Ballard train at UW. Hence a transfer penalty. But that is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is full trains; with load factors at or near 2.0 in 2030, there simply isn’t any room on the north-south trains to handle a load coming from Ballard in which most of the riders want to continue downtown.

        That 23-minute travel time I mentioned? That’s what Ballard-UW riders would experience with a Ballard-downtown line. They would transfer at Westlake to nice roomy trains for the trip to UW via Capitol Hill. Not as fast as the direct east-west line, but more efficient for the system overall and more importantly a vast imporvement over the 44 today. Sometimes the best way to get from point A to point B isn’t necessarily a straight line.

      17. Pretty much every one of your numbers is distorted to the point of fiction.

        Westlake-Husky is advertised as 5 minutes. Westlake-Brooklyn is 7. The range given for UW-Brooklyn goes as low as 6.

        There’s literally no way for “in then out” to have the same travel times as “east then south”, as you claim, because the “in
        then out trip” would be 2.5 miles farther and has more stops in any possible scenario.

        Finally, only the very most expensive north-south plans had the reach or time savings to garner 30,000. That’s $3.5 billion minimum, not counting the extra $1 billion needed to cross downtown. So actually $4.5 billion. For a few more riders.

        Re: “the trains from Lynnwood are full.” Nice try with the “made-up load factors”, but that’s bullshit. Anyone who has ever been on a subway in a real city before can tell you that’s bullshit. That’s a non-starter argument.

        What you and the “radial supremacists” can’t seem to figure out is why the north-south and east-west numbers are so similar in every study, despite the admitted downtown-centricity of transit usage in this town. The answer is catchment area, especially in the built-up-yet-cut-off areas above the Ship Canal.

        North of the Canal, a radial line gets you this, and almost nothing else. It is exceptionally hard to catch the train from anywhere east or northeast of here, so no one will. They’ll just stay on their same old buses.

        So to reach that single Ballard node — a vital and prominent and growing node, and also my node, but just one node nonetheless — you have build full-on rail all the way across downtown, under Lower Queen Anne, and either through the bulk of Queen Anne Hill or around through the emptiness of Interbay. (Those are places too, but they’re already places with short, quick bus trips, all of which would benefit from a WSTT more than from one radial rail.)

        Now, for contrast, here’s the north-of-Canal catchment that the east-west line gets you. Slight difference, no?

        And that’s why the numbers are so good. It fixes a whole lot of trips for a whole lot of people, which your low-reach radial line simply cannot!

      18. Incidentally, we’ve crunched the super-optimistic total Lynnwood line estimates before, and found that the only way they’re making the trains “full” is if 95% of Northgate-and-further traffic is happening at rush hour.

        Are you willing to go to bat for the idea that we’re building all-day high-frequency rail to places that no one will ride except at rush hour? No? Then you can’t claim the trains are full at rush hour, because that would require totally empty trains at all other times.

        You can’t have this argument both ways.

    2. Brock,

      Who in his or her right mind would expect any Federal Support for a project to be started after 2025? The current Congress has already stated that transit is going to be zeroed out of transportation funding, and I believe them. Why don’t you?

      1. I don’t believe the Tea Party will have a permanent majority. I’m willing to bet money we will see a change in party control no later than 2024.

      2. Yeah, I agree. The nationwide trend is towards more urbanization, not less. But the most important election could be the statewide elections in 2018, as they will determine who handles the redistricting in 2020. There are exceptions of course (states that use a bipartisan commission or states that elect their governor during presidential election years) but either way, those districts could easily determine whether we get any grant money. Even within the current districts, the tide could easily change. The more radical the Republicans become (and they are plenty radical) the more likely there is to be a big switch back to the left.

      3. The Tea Party is barely on life support. It’s main effect now appears to be nothing more than to give the GOP fits and render it incapable of leading with anything approaching a clear voice or vision.

        And it would be foolish to assume a midterm bump is anything more than a temporary and short lived advantage. Demographics and voter turnout in a presidential election year will favor the Dems in all chambers.

        And the fed government still hands out a lot of cash when the GOP is in charge, although maybe not as wisely.

      4. It’s not just who is in charge, but who is controlling the “impartial” formulas that govern the grants. For example, are the grants going to be based on:

        the estimated reduction in overall operating costs?

        the ultimate cost per passenger mile? If so, that strongly favors the express buses over new rail lines, as SoundTransit express bus cost per passenger mile is down there with MAX. The cost per boarding isn’t so great with the express buses due to the distances involved though…

        the average cost per boarding?

        the total number of riders served by the new line?

        These formulas do change from time to time based on who is running the show at the federal level.

      5. Gentlemen,

        I don’t believe in committing the State of Washington and the SoundTransit district to a political change of fortunes which may not happen, and right now looks increasingly less likely by the day. It is far better to plan to paddle our own canoe while welcoming any Federal funds which may be forthcoming as an opportunity to accelerate construction and reduce the eventual bonded indebtedness of the region.

        I agree almost completely with Seattle Subway that North King’s best use of its portion of ST3 is Ballard-UW (with at least one and ideally two more stations) and the new rail convertible bus tunnel, again with two more stations in the downtown core.

        As I’ve said before, it’s foolish to try to replicate the “palaces” of the DSTT; center platform stations with left-hand-running buses and trains are allow for narrower and cheaper stations. I also think they can be considerably shorter than the DSTT stations; sized as SkyTrain rather than Link. Any rail lines that such a tunnel would conceivably serve given its westward oriented geometry will necessarily be much shorter than the Link “spine”. Shorter trains running more frequently are a better solution for the shorter trips they’ll serve, and the necessity of bus transfers in the built-up but not super-dense areas they’ll serve. There won’t be any park-n-rides; people not immediately adjacent to the rail stations will have to ride buses to a train station and transfer.

        So frequent operation will be a must-have to minimize the transfer penalty.

        Frequent operation can best be achieved by automation as is done on SkyTrain. That’s the reason that alignments must be 100% grade-separated.

        Since Seattle originally paid for the DSTT, then gave it to Metro which in turn has deeded it to SoundTransit, it seems that Seattle has a “chit” redeemable in a new transit tunnel built explicitly to meet its needs for urban service, while letting the “big tunnel” handle the long-distance commuters. Such a separation makes it reasonable for Seattle to use its Monorail Authority to build the rail lines which will slowly replace buses in the new tunnel. They obviously will have to be driver-operated during the transition blended operations phase. But they should be built to be fully automated eventually.

    3. ST3 should not depend on federal grants, or if it does there should be an official fallback that leaves the most-needed parts of the network intact. For North King that’s something to Ballard. For East King it’s downtown Redmond. For Snohomish it’s Ash Way, although Lynnwood-Evertt BRT may be an acceptable alternative. For South King and Pierce it’s less clear what should be prioritized.

      (Two notes: Martin put S 200th-320th in ST3, but Sound Transit is building 200th-240th in ST2. Only 240th-272nd was deferred. Also, I think ST should consider a 101/169/KDM BRT on Rainier Beach – MLK – Renton – Kent East Hill – Kent Station – KDM Road (semi-express) – Kent-Des Moines Station. Either one through line or two lines overlapping in East Hill. That has at least as much merit as other South King projects.)

      It’s impossible to predict the positions of next year’s congress, future congresses, or future presidents. Even if the congressional makeup remains the same and members don’t change their mind, policies can change due to last-minute deals or events in the news. From an urbanist perspective, either more federal grants or less federal interference and pro-highway bias may be acceptable futures. More grants is a “liberal” policy that could be quickly implemented in the existing structures. Less interference is a “libertarian” policy that would have more bipartisan support, allow more pro-transit autonomy, and stop subsidizing red states.

  3. Thanks Martin, excellent report. It is very sketchy right now, isn’t it? It is tough enough not knowing how much money will be available, but it is especially tough to not see a more detailed cost breakdown of various projects. WSDOT does this, and while they sometimes underestimate, or run into problems, it makes is much easier to judge various projects. I know planning is expensive, but I would rather over plan, then limit ourselves. We are talking billions here, which means that a bit of extra planning is a very small amount of money.

    1. Well no matter what the legislature does, Sound Transit will proceed with System Planning in 2015 anyway. So prior to any vote we will have detailed cost estimates on a project level.

      1. I’m not convinced we will, if history is any guide. What I’ve seen in the past is “corridor studies”. Entire routes, with very few stops, and a total price tag estimate for the route. We are left guessing what certain sections (like a new transit tunnel) would cost. For example, let’s assume that they study the following:

        The cost of a new tunnel connecting the SoDo busway to a stop north of Elliot Ave. Let’s also assume that includes a stop on lower Queen Anne, as well as a few stops downtown (ID, Westlake and Madison).

        How much would it cost to push the Madison station up the hill, so that it serves First Hill? How much to build ramps so that the West Seattle freeway is connected to the SoDo busway (and thus avoids any cross streets from West Seattle to Elliot)? How much for other improvements on the West Seattle freeway (additional HOV lanes and ramps)? How much for other West Seattle street improvements (additional HOV lanes on the surface streets of West Seattle)?

        All of these are pretty obvious, but Sound Transit ignored all these in previous studies. Their “BRT” plans had basically no road improvements, and would involve buses traveling through downtown on surface streets. Meanwhile, the light rail would build a tunnel. So, essentially the choice would be between a ridiculously inappropriate and overpriced light rail line, or a horribly cheap, practically meaningless set of bus changes calling itself “BRT”.

        West Seattle is not unique when it comes to boneheaded planning. Consider the Ballard to UW route (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/CentralEast_KBIBUDUKR_Lev2_060514_Final_Exec.13.png). The stop spacing is ridiculous. Anyone with any sense would realize that what makes the most sense is 15th, 8th, Greenwood/Aurora, and Wallingford. Instead they mix up the obvious routes (underground) with ridiculously slow “BRT” plans. I keep putting BRT in quotes, because this would fail just about every test for BRT that is made by ITDP, and thus be given the grade “Not BRT”.

        I can’t help but think that at its heart, Sound Transit is a political organization. They aren’t made up of planners and engineers. The politicians lay out some ideas, but the ideas are so ridiculously specific, that the engineering follows, and is limited to very specific proposals. For example, someone says “build light rail to West Seattle” as opposed to “how can we provide the best transit for the money for West Seattle”. The first leads to a few grandiose plans, along with scaled down “BRT” versions. The second would lead to a lot of analysis, with a lot of breakdowns of various pieces and their costs (e. g. building a ramp to SoDo would cost X dollars, extending the HOV lanes of the freeway would cost Y dollars).

        Remember, this is the same organization that forget to put in a station connecting SR 520 with Link, and had to be talked into even considering a station at NE 130th. I really don’t think they “get it”. I don’t think that they realize that for a city this size, light rail needs to compliment bus service to even reasonably successful. I don’t think they realize that simply building a station in a neighborhood (e. g. Capitol Hill) is sufficient to improve the lives of everyone in the bigger area (the Central Area).

        Since this is, at its heart, a political organization, it is up to us to do arm chair planning, and push the organization into doing the engineering research. What I suggested in that third paragraph is a great example. It is up to us to come up with that suggestion and push Sound Transit to consider it (just as we asked for Corridor D). We should also ask for specific costs for specific pieces, which I’ve never seen in any of their studies.

      2. “I can’t help but think that at its heart, Sound Transit is a political organization. They aren’t made up of planners and engineers.”

        It is a political organization, and the board is not made up of planners and engineers. However, the staff is made up of planners and engineers as far as I know.

        “The politicians lay out some ideas, but the ideas are so ridiculously specific, that the engineering follows, and is limited to very specific proposals.”

        It’s not as limited as that. The board identifies certain must-serve neighborhoods, and the staff design alternatives that do that and sometimes also meet other planning goals (e.g., other neighborhoods). The Lynnwood Extension considered several alignments including Aurora, I-5, 15th NE, and Lake City Way. That’s quite a wide area, with each alignment serving different neighborhoods, but all adhering to “Northgate” and “Lynnwood” and “something in between”. The final selection was made by the board, so that’s a political decision (and specfically made by mayors and county councilmebers). But I don’t think the staff suffer micromanagement from the board or set up alternatives for failure, except when they (the planners) believe an alternative is non-viable.

        The lack of superior alternatives (ones we come up with that ST doesn’t consider) is a more complex issue. It coes out of the whole context of ST and its role in the region and the prevailing public expectations. (As opposed to an idealized ŭber-agency that puts transit best practices first and only, and has unrestricted authority to implement them and tax for them. Canada and Germany have those; we don’t.)

        “the same organization that forget to put in a station connecting SR 520 with Link, and had to be talked into even considering a station at NE 130th.”

        Fair enough. That’s better than when you called ST “incompetent” for not putting them in the first place. ST could probably be better with a more urban-minded, more technical, more foreceful board. But that gets into the political context ST is in, and its limited authority. (For “limited authority”, see the UW Station location.)

      3. Ross is right, Mike.

        The overarching story of ST is one of politicians presenting manifest destiny plans, replete with specifics that amply reveal their ludicrous lack of transit experience, and planners then following through on those specifics with as few changes as possible.

        In fact, planning-stage changes only ever seem to be made for budgetary/further political reasons (i.e. worsened). Never once have plans been allowed to improve once the detail-level work has been wrested from the hands of the political types.

        Every bad outcome present and future is attributable to this demented process.

      4. Not exactly. There have been some late in the game improvements in some corridors. Most notably the Brooklyn/45th station is in a better location than the original 15th/45th station as is the 67th/12th station vs the original I5/65th station. The refinements for downtown Redmond also have resulted in improvements.

        Maybe not enough to balance out the fail, but certainly not a case where everything has gotten worse in later stages.

        That said like for Option D and 130th we need to keep whacking the board on the nose. Hopefully some of that makes it into a final project plan rather than being a footnote in a study that never gets built.

      5. But even the Roosevelt adjustment was about politics, and not about a neutral assessment of transit utility and cost-benefit.

        There’s no question that a true subway station at 12th “looks” more like a transit best practice, but when you dig into the details — much greater expense, further from the center of gravity in the resultant upzone, significantly worse walking access to the fast-growing Green Lake urban village — the “positiveness” of the outcome gets much less obvious.

        Anyway, that one was so political that it can’t be attributed to planners’ autonomy one way or the other.

      6. I probably didn’t make my point very well (all those words and I still can’t nail it). It is a subtle one, so I’ll try again. As Mike said, an “idealized ŭber-agency that puts transit best practices first and only” would of course, be ideal, even if they didn’t have taxing authority or legislative power. I would love to have an organization simply tasked with finding the best solutions for the area and presenting them.

        But we don’t have that. I accept that this is a politically driven organization. But as with all politically driven organizations, it should have more transparency. I see no reason why we, as citizens, shouldn’t have more information when it comes to this discussion. The biggest failing, by far, is that they don’t break down the costs and options. Pick a project, and unless it is an obvious one, the costs are all thrown together like buying a package from the cable company. This greatly limits the ability of people like us to lobby our representatives. The work must have been done, but we can’t see it. I’m not talking about riders studies, which would be really tricky to do piece meal, but engineering studies. How much for that tunnel? How much for the shorter tunnel? How much for the bridge?

        I’m not convinced our politicians know what they are doing (witness the obsession with West Seattle and Everett light rail) but it would help immensely if we had some idea of the cost of various pieces and various alternatives. Then we could propose smaller packages that make sense. We are left guessing the costs of various projects and then pushing for them (which is really whacky).

      7. Not to pile on, Mike, but I think your example is exactly what I’m talking about. The board basically asked “What is the best way to get rail (or BRT) to Lynnwood?”. The question they should have asked is “What is the best way to help improve transit for Lynnwood (and the surrounding areas)?”. Those are really very different things. You could easily wonder why Lynnwood gets such special treatment (as you may ask with West Seattle) but even if you accept that premise, it doesn’t necessarily lead you to build what we built. You start looking at the entire region, and realize that very few people will ever walk to a Link station (no matter where you put it). Nor are are the problems centered around traveling I-5. Maybe terminating Link at Mountlake Terrace is the best value. Now improve the bus service, so that every neighborhood gets really fast, frequent bus service. It might annoy some people that the bus spends an extra minute or two on the freeway (which is the fault of WSDOT, for making the HOV lanes 3+) but that small penalty is more than made up for by buses that aren’t stuck simply getting to the station (or arrive so infrequently that the only people who like the new system are those heading downtown).

        I don’t think we had that discussion because we never asked that question. I believe the legal term is “leading the witness”. I’ve looked over the West Seattle documents, and I’ve seen nothing that talks about improving the bus service in West Seattle. In other words, there is nothing that mentions how folks from various areas are supposed to get to the station. This would not be a problem if the rail managed to hit all the really populous areas of West Seattle, but it can’t. Not only is the population spread out, but the shape is not conducive to that. You definitely leave out Alki, for example. So where is the report that mentions improvements in bus service to Alki — one of the more popular and populous areas of West Seattle?

        I sometimes wonder if the representatives are thinking of light rail like it is an attraction in itself. It is as if they are basically building huge monuments or amusement parks. Every neighborhood wants one (of course). So, West Seattle gets one next (yeah, definitely, they were supposed to get one with the monorail). Let’s see, how about we put one here and over here. The UW gets two (aren’t you lucky). Oh, and the Central Area gets one (on Capitol Hill) — don’t be greedy. What about South Lake Union? Wait, they already have one — I know, I know — it isn’t the best one, but hey, you got one, right?

        There just doesn’t seem to be a network philosophy with the planners. I have no trouble with the horse trading. I can accept that West Seattle jumps in line. What I can’t accept is this idea that a handful of extremely expensive light rail stations is supposed to magically make everyone’s transit experience wonderful in the area. That just won’t be the case, if it is built.

        I sometimes wonder if the best thing we could do is just send representatives on a scavenger hunt throughout Vancouver BC. Set them down in various places, and ask them to get to other places using transit. But have a savvy rider guide them (and do the research ahead of time). You can bet your ass that they will ride buses, and get to their destination very quickly. That is the way their system works. It is really striking to me. They are third in North America in terms of per capita transit usage, yet their rail system is nowhere near as complete as cities like Chicago or Montreal. But the buses compliment the rail lines and loads and loads of people use them. Meanwhile, we have to fight tooth and nail just to get a station at 130th. Holy smoke, a station on an existing line, that is the obvious connecting point for buses along the Lake City/Bothell corridor (including Lake City, the most populous area north of the U-District) as well as Bitterlake (an area as populous as any in Snohomish County) and we can’t afford a simple stop! Holy smoke, that is insane. That is Sound Transit.

      8. d.p.

        But the politics are exactly what caused the Roosevelt station to move. The original station next to I-5 would have the same problems with walk circle and TOD as the Northgate, 130th (if it is built), 145th, 185th, Montlake Terrace, and Lynnwood TC stations.

        I’d have to go look at the EIS to see if there was any change in ridership. However stations in the middle of a neighborhood business district are almost always better in terms of TOD and walkability than ones next to a highway.

      9. Ross,

        The annoying thing is even at the full EIS level bus integration even with Sound Transit express service is barely mentioned.

        While Sound Transit can claim local bus service is the responsibility of other agencies there should be more effort to build a comprehensive transit network and at least offer suggestions to local agencies for bus/rail integration. Furthermore the bus access plans for most stations are complete fails. Assuming the Mercer Island city council doesn’t screw things up it appears this station might prove to be the rare exception. Lord knows TIBS, Seatac, Mt. Baker, UW, and Northgate are far from ideal bordering on complete failures,

        I will say Translink appears to be rather unique in both US and Canadian experience in their planning seems to take into account not just overall transit network planning but land use as well. While they do have their failures as well (just look at the goofy Surrey LRT in the current proposal) they seem to get more right than most transit and planning agencies in either the US or Canada.

      10. But I think you might have actively missed every one of my above points, Chris.

        Yes, the moved Roosevelt station was 100% a political outcome. Which means that nothing about it can be ascribed to the network-envisioning acumen of ST’s planning departments. Good or bad, it is yet another outcome that exists in parallel to the notion of quality, rather than in service of quality.

        Don’t get me wrong: As far as the intangibles of transit infrastructure and “urbanism” go, it’s hard not to like the subway more: It is certainly aesthetically preferable, and an infinitely more pleasant place to enter and to wait for your train, or to emerge from your journey.

        But you are 100% incorrect on the effect the move has on the bean-counter metrics of station access:

        1. The I-5 station had all of the Green Lake urban village and all of Roosevelt within its 8-minute “walk circle”. The subway station emphatically does not! (And crossing the highway here, while hardly lovely, isn’t in the same league of problems as at Northgate.)

        2. The “compromise” upzone puts nearly 75% of future growth right up night to the buzzing maw of the highway, i.e. right where the station used to be. The subway station will now be noticeably removed from the center of residential activity and future commercial growth.

        This is the true failure of urbanism: next to the highway is an awful place to rent an apartment. One of the subway’s entrances will, meanwhile, eternally open to a sea of bungalows.

      11. So to summarize:

        Better aesthetics.

        But significantly poorer access outcomes.

        And hundreds of millions of dollars more.

        Politics and quality are never synonymous.

      12. Oh, and let’s not forget the politics of the zoning were completely blown. As Conlin explained in a post a long time ago (and I’m too lazy to find it) the process went something like this:

        1) ST wanted the station by the freeway.
        2) Roosevelt said “No, over here”.
        3) ST said “Sure, why not”
        4) Seattle said “OK, let’s rezone”
        5) Roosevelt said “Wait, no way! We love our old houses. Besides, we don’t help the slumlord”.
        6) Seattle said “Uh, OK, let’s compromise.”
        7) Then Conlin said “Man oh man, the mayor isn’t too bright. You don’t spring a rezone on a community after you agree to the move. You make the move contingent on the rezone.”
        8) Conlin makes more enemies, than assumes he will cruise to reelection.
        9) Seattle elects a Socialist.

      13. @Chris — Good point about Vancouver. I really think it would be great if someone did a story on Vancouver and their transit system. I would love it if the Seattle Times did this. They have the right team. They have folks that can do multi-day in-depth stories (they have done them before) and I think it would it would be quite popular. Transportation is a huge issue in the city, and it would be nice to read about a city that simply does things better than us. The issues you mentioned would be interesting and welcome as well (even the best folks sometimes make stupid mistakes). The obvious similarities to Seattle is what makes the whole situation so frustrating.

        I think the mix of land use and transit that Vancouver does is great, and would certainly be a huge issue for Seattle (since we are still growing) but even without that, I think Vancouver is just better than us. The Lake City to 125th example keeps cropping up because it is such an obvious fail. Even if Seattle doesn’t grow at all, we need to accommodate that (and it is growing — right along that very corridor!).

        But beyond that, as you mentioned, just about everyone who takes a look at Seattle knows that we aren’t that big, or that rich, and our little populous areas are not that populous. The only way a big, expensive light rail line will ever be worth it is if we can combine it with complimentary, frequent bus service. I said as much in my long, rambling essay about UW to Ballard light rail (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/06/30/ballard-uw-should-be-the-next-light-rail-line-in-seattle/). As I said in the fourth paragraph, “Therefore any proposed light rail lines should provide good connections to the bus network.”

        Like you said, we really have failed in that regard, and I hope we stop failing.

      14. @RossB

        That is about how I remember things going down in Roosevelt. The important thing here is the re-zone came after the station was moved.

        The one bright spot is it will be possible to revisit the zoning again in a few years. Hopefully development pressures will eventually move the density center closer to the station.

        FWIW Roosevelt is a classic example of “be on the way” it isn’t a location you set out to serve with HCT but it happens to be fortunate enough to be between the U-District and Northgate.

        As for Conlin losing the election there were many factors, I don’t recall the re zone really being on the radar during the campaign. As such things go hitching his star to the DBT seems like it was more of a factor.

      15. @RossB

        I’d love to see a good in depth article on transit and land use in Vancouver. Particularly the planning that leads to the outcomes they get.

      16. One thing a non-sensationalist write-up is likely to reveal — which can also be readily observed as a visitor simply by wandering beyond the beaten path — is that Vancouver’s success has much less to do with high-rise mega-upzone “nodes” than either the defenders of Seattle’s Urban Village Quarantine strategy or the STB high-rise node fetishists would like to believe.

        There’s no doubt that by North American standards, Vancouver boasts plenty of high-rise living, accounting for a non-negligible portion of residences (though a drop in the bucket compared to Toronto). But this still pales in comparison to the continuity of (fairly) dense urbanity that the city possesses — both new and old, taking many forms and at many scales.

        This includes the surprisingly extensive historic urbanity of the Downtown Eastside (unfamiliar to those who avoided the area when it was at peak sketch; it is now gradually beginning to bounce back), as well as the never-sketchy and quite packed-in “single family” cottage-lands (plus occasional apartments) of historic neighboring Strathcona.

        Then there is the variety of late-20th-century dense mid-rise forms that stretches for hundreds of square blocks across Fairview and Kitsilano, and is recently expanding into the new-hotness areas near Main Street in Mt. Pleasant, and along other well-transited corridors.

        Even among high-rise devotees, the “node” effect has been way overblown. The numbers residing in ugly towers-in-parks around Expo Line stations, and even vertical-dwelling totals in the growing and much-ballyhooed “supplementary downtowns” of New Westminster, Richmond, and Surrey, simply pale in comparison to the high-rise populations on the downtown peninsula (West End, Coal Harbor, Yaletown, etc.). And again, this has everything to do with urban continuity: downtown has two full square miles built up in this way; it exists in three dimensions. This has much more of a scalable effect than the handful of towers that define the various other nodes.

        And those other nodes — many of which offer, crucially, far cheaper living than downtown or downtown-adjacent areas — are certainly populated and vibrant and important to the success of the region’s transit scheme. But most of the life of those places is not happening in the high-rises on the urban-planners’ tour, and it is crucial to recognize and remember that.

        (If you’ve struggled to explain why the Canada Line, sans high-rises, is as successful as the Expo/Millenium, this is why. What matters on both lines is the everywhere density and built-environment continuity, and, as Ross emphasizes, the bus connections that enable everywhere-to-everywhere travel within that continuity.)

        In the UBC Skytrain extension debates, much has been made of the sprawling character and NIMBY tendencies of the intermediate land that must be crossed. But in the grand scheme of the city — and even in the grand scheme of its historically-wealthier western half — the sprawly swath between Arbutus and the Endowment Lands represents a tiny (albeit influential) portion of the population. And this is, crucially, the only part of Vancouver proper that remotely resembles the residential uniformity of the 85% of Seattle locked into that form.

      17. d.p. +1 from a Vancouverite that lives in a three story walk-up. As I have repeated here before, a big chunk of the skytrain traffic gets to the station on a bus. While the nodal development does provide some rapid transit ridership, most of the ridership is driven by the transit itself. It is rapid and it is frequent.

      18. How much would it cost to push the Madison Station uphill to serve First Hill?”

        Quick answer: at least three-quarters of a billion dollars!

        Remember you’re starting at 10 feet above sea level at IDS and the presumable Madison Station would be somewhere around Terry or Boren where the elevation is about 350 feet above MSL and then the tunnel would have to underrun I-5 and sizable building foundations along Fifth and Fourth between Seneca and Union and then underrun the DSTT, the station would have to be at least 200 feet deep. You’re looking at a half-billion dollar station and a lot more complicated tunnelling.

        Not to mention a whole lot of pissed off Ballard and West Seattle riders headed for the financial and governmental core who’re going to have to transfer at IDS or Westlake so that a tiny fraction of the folks on the bus can ride to Terry and Madison directly.

        It’s a dumb idea.

    2. This set of issues should be viewed in the context of the state’s action to set up regional transit authorities in the first place. The legislature passed a law in the early 1990s (RCW 81.104) to give contiguous counties the right to form an RTA to provide high capacity transit. The law also authorized any RTA to plan systems and propose taxes to its voters to fund them. Puget Sound is the only part of the state to do this, thus ST was born.

      The original law provides broad taxing authority (.9 sales, .8 mvet, and other smaller sources) while specifically delegating to RTAs the task of planning — and most noteworthy, deciding — the investments to be made. That amount of taxing authority well in advance of anyone knowing what the projects would be, and huge fights erupted in the region about whether and where to build rail. Ultimately it has become clear that the original amounts authorized — even though cut back by Tim Eyman — were enough to build not just one, but two system plans.

      The ST request in 2015 follows in the same spirit: provide enough capacity to accommodate the regional planning process and enough flexibility to scale a third system plan to regional needs. And then, it follows, to let the region go through its usual technical process (also prescribed in statute) to decide the content of the plan to be presented to voters.

  4. It’s seems like this package size is reasonable for all subareas except North King. All the other projects are basically what I would want (although I am totally against BRT on 405 — our region has categorically demonstrated that it is incapable of creating true BRT), but North King is in serious trouble.

    I think all 3 corridors (Dt > Ballard, Ballard > UW, West seattle > DT) have a lot of value. I would hope that either Seattle could fund the delta with a slightly increased tax for themselves, or, that’s where we focus any grant money. Also, I would not invest 1 cent in a new tunnel yet. Simply truncate the Ballard line at Westlake (requiring a transfer) and interline the West Seattle line with the main line. The challenge with interlining has generally been to still provide enough capacity to Lynwood (not points south), so a west Seattle interline would be fine.

    1. I suspect West Seattle is going to be more expensive than Martin’s estimates. Mostly because I believe Link will need to be in a tunnel through the Junction. Call it $3.4 billion for the high estimate.

      Staring at the numbers a bit, we can do one of the following scenarios using the money in the Senate bill:

      1. 2nd DSTT + Balllard/Fremont/QA/DT + Ballard/UW (assumes Federal grants)
      2. Alaska Junction-Stadium + Ballard/DT via Interbay.

      I think scenario #1 gives better bang for the buck.

      There is also the possibility of supplementing with the Monorail tax authority. At a rough estimate this lets you build all the things. (Ballard/UW, Ballard/Fremont/QA/DT, 2nd DSTT, White Center/Alaska Junction/Downtown)

      1. Well the two scenarios I see from the corridor studies are:

        B4: $5.5 Billion for White Center/Downtown via Alaska Junction tunnel
        C5: $4.5 Billion for White Center/Downtown via Alaska Junction elevated

        So take off $1.1 B for the downtown tunnel and another $1 billion for deleting the section between White Center and Alaska Junction.

        This yields $2.4 Billion for an elevated Alaska Junction station and $3.4 for an underground Alaska Junction station.

        Politically I don’t think an elevated alignment will go over well in the Alaska Junction area so underground will be the only acceptable option.

      2. My numbers for the above scenarios are off as I assumed Martin wasn’t including the bond revenue in the budget for North King.

        Hopefully we can push back up to the house numbers by the time the final bill is passed.

        Still even under a reduced scenario there is enough to do something interesting especially if the monorail funding authority can be used as well.

      3. 1. 2nd DSTT + Balllard/Fremont/QA/DT + Ballard/UW (assumes Federal grants)
        2. Alaska Junction-Stadium + Ballard/DT via Interbay.

        I’m not sure if I like either of those combinations. I would say Ballard/UW is the most important line. With it you have fast Ballard to downtown travel, as well as really fast Ballard to UW travel and great (some would say complete) coverage for Seattle north of the ship canal. Ballard/Fremont/QA/DT is a lot more expensive, and while it gets you Fremont and Queen Anne, the trip to the UW is much, much slower. From Ballard, going to downtown via the UW is a minor penalty, but going to the UW via downtown is a huge penalty, and Ballard/Fremont/QA/DT doesn’t make it much better (the slowdown is not from Ballard to Fremont, but from Fremont to the UW).

        So, if Ballard/UW is built, what compliments it? I would say Ballard/DT via Interbay over Ballard/Fremont/QA/DT. Obviously that is a tough call, but a few things to keep in mind. Ballard/Interbay/DT is significantly cheaper, and has extra stations. Specifically it includes a station at NW 65th. I would throw away the surface nonsense after that, which means that for the same money (along with the difference in cost) I think you could extend the Ballard/UW line to 24th NW. Unlike Ballard to the UW, I don’t think you gain much from a connection standpoint. I’m sure there are folks headed from Fremont to upper Queen Anne, but not enough to sway things much (in my opinion).

        So, basically, it would be a tradeoff between:

        Ballard/Fremont/QA/DT : Upper Queen Anne, Fremont.
        Ballard/Interbay/DT: Elliot, Dravus, 65th and 24th (on the east west line).

        I think the tradeoff favors the Ballard/Interbay/DT line, mainly because there are more stops and more coverage. I think there is also a difference between the stops. The Elliot stop is poor, so I don’t think it helps my argument much at all. Upper Queen Anne, Fremont, 65th and 24th can all be served by buses — so adding those stations helps add ridership, but if the other line is built, ridership will go up anyway. Upper Queen Anne to lower Queen Anne is not terrible on a bus, nor is lower Fremont to Upper Fremont. Both could be helped with a little road work (re-striping). But Interbay is a different stop. The other route does nothing for folks in the area, or buses that would funnel people. A bus coming from 15th would have to go up Mercer, which is usually very slow.

        Then you have other factors, which also favor Ballard/Interbay/DT. This route would get people to Downtown a couple minutes faster and be a lot more fun to ride. A 70 foot bridge over the ship canal that far west will get you an absolutely spectacular view, which is worth a lot (ask any ferry commuter). All in all, I think that route simply compliments the other route better.

      4. Ross,

        My numbers were off so we aren’t going to be able to buy all of that on the Senate bill budget.

        As you can probably tell, I’m an option D fan. I think it is very important to serve central Fremont. Indeed I believe it is the 4th most important neighborhood we can serve in ST3 after Belltown, Lower Queen Anne, and Ballard.

        At the end of the day I’m not too picky as long as the final choices made for Ballard-UW and Ballard-Downtown aren’t entirely stupid. I will point out in the public surveys option D was by far the most popular by a rather overwhelming amount.

      5. If we are alreaday building Ballard/UW does it really make sense to have option D go to Ballard? In that case, it seems like it would be a better bang for the buck to have a second North/South Line follow the aurora corridor, although that greatly depends on how a ship canal crossing would be dealt with in that scenario. In other words, the Dowtown-QA/SLU and northward line doesn’t have to go to Ballard if an E/W line is already doing so.

      6. That might make sense. Really both lines would have to be studied together with a crossing of the lines in Ballard compared to a crossing in upper Fremont.

        Really right now it is more about making sure the money for a fair bit of flexibility is there. The ultimate alignments will be decided later.

      7. >> As you can probably tell, I’m an option D fan. I think it is very important to serve central Fremont. Indeed I believe it is the 4th most important neighborhood we can serve in ST3 after Belltown, Lower Queen Anne, and Ballard.

        I have nothing against Fremont. In fact, I visit there more than any other neighborhood. But it is all about the network. With very few exceptions, there are no “hot spots”. For our system to be successful, it has to do what Vancouver’s does, which is to both serve the really heavily populated areas directly, and provide everyone else with fast, frequent transfers. Vancouver has the third largest transit per capita usage in North America (behind New York and Toronto) but it really doesn’t have that much rail compared to lots of other cities (Chicago, Montreal, etc.).

        Seattle has only a handful of really heavily populated areas, and Fremont isn’t one of them. I know employment is decent in the area, and their are entertainment opportunities, which increase the value of a light rail stop in the area, but it isn’t the UW, Belltown or Capitol Hill. It isn’t the rest of the Central Area, nor is it even (surprisingly enough) Lake City. I’m basing all this on the census maps (here is an example, but you have to zoom in: http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?useExisting=1&layers=302d4e6025ef41fa8d3525b7fc31963a).

        From a network perspective, the UW-Ballard line is way better than Corridor D. How exactly, is someone from the UW, Roosevelt or anywhere to the north supposed to get to Fremont? I suppose you can ride Link all the way to downtown and then backtrack all the way, but that is just marginally better than riding the bus (about twenty minutes give or take a couple). So, compared to the UW-Ballard line, Corridor D only helps if you are going to Queen Anne. Queen Anne is not the destination that the UW is, let alone everyone that lives north of there (and that includes Lake City). If Fremont is really that important, then connect it with the UW-Ballard line. Just swing south a bit to pick up Fremont.

        Like I said, though, I’m not sure it is. Fremont, like Lake City and Upper Queen Anne, may simply be out of luck. None of them are huge destinations, where rail, by itself would be justified. But they should be part of a fast network. You should be able to get off the train in upper Fremont, then quickly transfer to a bus to lower Fremont. That’s about a mile (at most). With a little striping, a bus should be able to do that in about five minutes. The 5 should run a lot more often, and not go downtown. It should start in Fremont (serving a few stops perhaps) then head up the hill on Fremont Avenue, then serve Phinney Ridge. Again, this is what a network is supposed to do. That reconfigured 5 (which again, doesn’t slog through downtown) connects Fremont to Phinney Ridge and both to Link (headed to the UW and downtown, the #1 and #2 destinations in the state). A bus like that should run very, very often. You could even add a layover stop on Fremont, so that the bus is ready when folks get off the train. But I don’t think would be necessary, if the bus runs often enough.

      8. Ross,

        Upper Queen Anne to lower Queen Anne is not terrible on a bus

        No, but it is terrifying.

    2. I think it is pretty easy:

      1) Ballard to UW light rail (with appropriate stop spacing).
      2) Second transit tunnel. This would start (in the north) at Elliot, north of Mercer, include a stop in lower Queen Anne, and connect to the SoDo busway.
      3) Additional ramps to connect SoDo to the West Seattle freeway.
      4) Additional work on the West Seattle freeway so that buses have HOV (at a minimum eastbound) the whole way until they get on the freeway until they get to SoDo.
      5) Other West Seattle related (surface) improvements.
      6) Dravus street station (for BRT).
      7) Extend the bus lane in Ballard further north.

      I have a feeling that would use up the money for the Senate version (assuming no federal grant money). If money was left over, then I would extend the Ballard to UW line west, to add a station at 24th NW.

      From a Ballard to downtown line perspective, this is not ideal, because it means the BRT to Ballard gets stuck crossing the bridge. If you can build a bridge that could eventually be converted to rail, then I would go ahead and do so (assuming you have the budget for it). A line from Ballard to the UW will take a lot of the pressure off of a Ballard to downtown line, but eventually two rail lines for Ballard makes sense. But in the short run, BRT to Ballard could be really nice. The cross streets along 15th are minor, and you could easily grant signal priority for the entire section. This means that a bus wouldn’t stop at a traffic light from Market until it was somewhere in West Seattle. Likewise, it would be in its own lane from somewhere around Dravus until West Seattle.

      1. I like incorporating the SODO busway into DSTT2. As I’ve been using tunnel buses more for Costco runs, I’ve seen that the buwasy forms an “extended DSTT” to Spokane Street, with reasonably fast and mostly-frequent service, and immune to game-day traffic bottlenecks. I always thought the DSTT should continue north for the Ballard/Auror/Fremont buses, so this would finally do it. I assume it would have a midway exit for the E, and a downtown exit for potential south end routes.

        I also like the idea of curving it east to provide a Madison First Hill station. I don’t know how practical that is, and it would preclude a Madison library station which I also think is important. But the idea is worth pursuing and seeing if it can be made to work. But how far east would it have to go to serve First Hill? Broadway is probably too far out of the way. So 9th maybe, but is that too far west for all of First Hill? And would it have to turn too sharply west to get back to the Westlake/Pine area, which I think is must-serve.

        I’m looking forward to you or somebody writing an article that we could recommend to ST.

      2. Thanks, Mike. As far as a stop on First Hill is concerned, I would put one on Madison and Boren. That puts it up the hill far enough to be a flat walk all the way to Seattle U (and a much closer walk than Capitol Hill as well). It also puts it next to Virginia Mason and Swedish. It does put you above Harborview, which argues for something a little closer to downtown. But to me the greatness of a stop like that is that it would enable a great bus run, along Boren to South Lake Union, Yesler Terrace and Mount Baker station (http://goo.gl/maps/GauGH).

        But anyway, a stop like that (on Madison and somewhere on First Hill) is basically icing on the cake. The rest of it is what is really essential, and I think folks will rally around it pretty soon.

      3. The issue I see with serving First Hill is under crossing I-5 twice. This is likely going to be complex and expensive. I’m not sure how Far East a station could practically go while still serving IDS and Westlake. A quick glance at a map says 9th may be in reach.

        The other question is what is the ridership trade off between a stop at 4th & Madison and a stop further east.

      4. Ross,

        You are proposing to build the entire tunneled portion of the Balllard/Downtown via Interbay routing. Of the $2.8 billion estimate the tunnel and underground stations are likely a substantial portion of the entire project cost. At a certain point building the whole Ballard/Downtown LRT line makes more sense (with a portal SLU and Aurora bus and rail can use).

      5. The Ballard-downtown study stopped at Westlake. The downtown tunnel is not part of that project’s cost, it’s in addition to it.

      6. A First Hill DSTT2 shouldn’t cross under I-5 twice. It should cross once and be designed to connect with the East Link tracks near the 12th ave bridge. While that wouldn’t help W. Seattle BRT in the ST3 time frame it would free up DSTT capacity for an eventual W. Seattle line as well as providing service to First Hill, which is valuable in its own right. Overall it makes much better sense for the long term vision of the network.

        I also think adding a First Hill station would have substantially higher ridership than 5th and Madison. It is relatively easy to get to 5th and Madison from Westlake [7 min walk, or numorous buses], whereas accessing First Hill from our current transportation system is much harder. The First Hill station also has a much larger walkshed and creates a useful transfer for central link.

      7. @Chris — Agreed. But one doesn’t preclude the other. In fact, it can lead to the other (as our old transit tunnel has). That was built for buses and in a few years it will handle only trains. A second transit tunnel should be designed for both. As I said earlier, in the section titled Speed Now, Capacity Later (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/10/24/lets-build-another-transit-tunnel/). It should be designed to handle buses and trains the day it opens.

        I really have no idea about the numbers. That is the source of my frustration, and there is a big thread about that above. Basically, Sound Transit is a political organization. They don’t have an independent board that figures out the best way to improve transit and then makes recommendations to the politicians (for them to fight over). It is the other way around. The politicians have to come up with the ideas, then the engineers tell them how much they cost. Fair enough. I can play that game (we all can). But to play that game, we (the folks who rule the politicians) must know more about the costs. We don’t. We have complete lines, but no breakdown of costs.

        So, basically, the Corridor B costs a bunch (2.4 to 2.8 billion) and this would (as you said) include all the rail. But Corridor B also includes lots of elevated rail, and a new bridge. By the way, this estimate ballooned since the original sketch (1.5 to 2.0 billion for Corridor 3). To be fair, the Corridor B goes to Queen Anne, but it also has a shorter bridge. Anyway, it is quite possible that the added cost is actually due to the elevated section. For example, a rail line has to get under the Garfield Street Bridge (AKA Magnolia bridge) as well as a couple other bridges. Maybe that is a bit more expensive than originally estimated.

        But by my estimate, the amount of tunneling is almost the exact same as the Ballard to the UW line. That would put it at around 2 billion. Those two combined are over the allowed Senate limits, which is unfortunate, but still enough for Seattle itself to chip in the difference (or if the bus tunnel is used by South King/Tacoma, they could chip in in the difference). Of course, that means all the changes I mentioned would not be part of ST 3.

        But the road changes are road changes, and could, arguably be built by the state. Why is the state building a tunnel that Seattle voters rejected (coming in third out of three) but we are being asked to pay for another tunnel that we all want? Why are we paying billions and billions for stupid projects like 167 and 509 extension, but we can’t pay a little for West Seattle bridge expansion? I really think it is time for Seattle reps to show a little backbone, and start fighting for what we want. The only reason Seattle is getting a tunnel, or a new 520 bridge is because the old roads are sinking (into the ground or the lake, respectively). But everything else is expansion. 520 and 99 is maintenance. If we are going to have a set of mega-road expansion projects, then Seattle should get its share. At a minimum it includes the road improvements to the West Seattle Freeway I mentioned (and that includes connecting it to the SoDo busway) but it also includes this tunnel. But if we can’t get the tunnel, we should at least get the freeway improvements.

      8. @RossB

        The lack of a cost breakdown does make it harder to mix and match for potential projects.

        I’ve heard the IDS to Westlake tunnel quoted at $1 billion or so. Figure Westlake to Denny would be another billion and Denny to Elliot is another billion. This brings the cost of a second DSTT to $3 billion which is a lot of money especially when Ballard to Westlake can be had for around the same amount.

        From a transit wonk perspective this is likely the best use of $3 billion in the region (especially if it can serve buses/rail using Aurora, Dexter, and Westlake) but politicians and the general public are likely to not see things that way. Ballard/Westlake and Ballard/UW are much more sexy and let you check off additional neighborhoods on the “done” list.

      9. My edumacated hunch is that you get a lot more distance for your buck north of Westlake, thanks to no conflicts with pre-existing bored tunnels, more solid (rather than man-sluiced) base soils, and fewer mega-building foundations. Especially since the expectation would be to follow the grid across the middle Belltown mile, whether cut/covered or bored below the utilities.

        I’m not saying it wouldn’t still be a very expensive project, but it won’t be the $3 billion you got from multiplying the downtown section by the total distance.

  5. Has anybody got any idea of what time-frame we’re looking at? Five years? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty? Because it seems to me that time is very strongly on our side vis a vis the legislators, and constituencies, that are presently blocking us.

    Am I right that a lot of our legislative opposition, and their voters, are fairly old people- from a dying part of the State?

    I still advocate aggressive help to the people of opposing districts, especially to use our wealth to give our enemies’ districts the kind of younger blood and energy that can swing their politics our way.

    But meantime, I think our strongest tactic is to turn hate to envy. With our own resources, what can we do fastest that will give us results that are both robust and visible?

    Mark Dublin

      1. Yes. But note Sound Transit has not said that this will be a 15-year program.

        They could go for a larger (and longer) program with the same taxing authority.

        It wouldn’t be quite proportionate. A 30-year program isn’t quite twice as large as a 15-year program because there are practical limits to how far out you can push the bond payments.

        But there is a political discussion to be had about how much stuff you want to build quickly in one program vs how much you want to push to a future program/ballot measure. 15 years seems to fit the construction timetables, so they’ll likely stay in that general neighborhood.

      2. ST is assuming a 15-year program for planning purposes. That would put the last segment opening 2032 if it’s approved in late 2016 and we assume a 6-month margin of error. However, ST has not committed to 15 years or restricted itself. The system plan could be longer or shorter, more or less extensive.

    1. Mark,

      Get ready of a tsunami of people moving here from Arizona and Southern California as epic droughts ravage those areas. Do you think that those people will magically become progressive Northwesterners when they move here? That maybe the rain will wash away their sins?

      I live in Clark County which in the past twenty-five years has turned from a pro-Union, reliably Blue county into a kennel of howling attack dogs. The people who will be moving away from California are not the wealthy coastal progressives; they’ll be mostly right-wing folks from the Central Valley and “Inland Empire” regions where it’s going to be xeroscaping or no-scaping very soon. Washington is rather purple today. In a decade it will be quite Red. In two it will be crimson.

      I’m glad I’ll be dead by then.

      1. Just because Clark County has shifted conservative doesn’t mean that is the trend statewide. If anything the trend for the state as a whole has been to shift more blue. It is true the state is becoming more polarized with fewer and fewer truly swing areas, but that has been the trend nationally as well.

        Washington will continue to grow in population, but the net effect politically will both depend on where the new people are from and where they choose to settle.

      2. On the other hand, Anandakos, desperation could force a lot of these people to stop in Eastern Oregon, which has exactly as much drinking water as Eastern Washington.

        Granted, with a vulture population who don’t fill out surveys, but probably think pretty much far right.

        While people from San Francisco- whose wealth and tech-oriented skills and already believe in Global Warning, are even now programming their three hundred foot long hydrofoils to head north.

        Leaving an enormous Lacey Morrow bridge of floating buildings all the way up to someplace where the polar bears have just started turning brown. With rents too high for any of the groups you fear to afford.

        Also, the whole population of South America, who’ve got a lot more experience with hot climates, Brazilian trolleybuses and Mexico City subways, will probably edge out the fleeing California conservatives.

        And, too bad for you, Anandakos, these are exactly the people who will take pity on you and save your life, because “Do Not Resuscitate” is against their faith.

        Hasta la Vista, Compadre!


      3. Most people move to where the highest-paying jobs are, either because they already have a job offer, or they want to make the most money, or they like the (liberal) cultural environment where those jobs are. Large manufacturing companies like Boeing are a partial exception, as their workforce is more conservative on average and they locate in more peripheral areas. However, it’s unlikely in the foreseeable future that another Boeing will appear, or that the most jobs will go to red or reddish-purple areas. Often those reddish-area jobs are minimum wage, so only marginally better than nothing. (Although if $15/hour is enacted statewide, then minimum wage would start to mean something again, as it has in the past.)

        So that suggests Pugetopolis will grow the most. Either Vancouver or Spokane may grow secondmost. Spokane would doubtless turn slightly more liberal as it grows. In Vancouver it may be a tossup, since the much-more-liberal Oregon side with the big city is adjacent. But in general everywhere, cities and metropolitan areas get more liberal and progressive as they grow, in contrast to the surrounding rural and exurban areas. And currently in the US, metropolitan areas are growing in population and rural areas are shrinking.

      4. I don’t think you can make any rational judgements about what will happen in Pugetopolis or about how Seattleites will think by looking at Clark County. As you mention and apparently we’ll know, things aren’t exactly sane or even cognizant down there of late.

        And if the castoffs of the interior SW somehow find there way to WA State they are highly unlikely to have the financial resources to move into core urban areas and change the overall voting patterns.

      5. Clark County suffers from a sorting effect: all the sane, civic-minded people move to the Oregon side of the border.

        While all the anti-social scammers move to Clark County, so that they can pay no income taxes (in WA) and no sales taxes (in OR).

        There aren’t very many places with that dynamic going on, though see DC & Maryland vs. Virginia or the New Jersey and Connecticut suburbs of New York City for historic examples.

      6. …by the way, passing a Washington state income tax would eliminate the attraction of Clark County to right-wing anti-social scamming-minded people.

  6. Of course, if ST could move away from uniform taxation, even the smaller revenue authority might prove sufficient. If some of East King’s tax authority could be redirected to North King, we could get a lot more useful projects done that Link from Totem Lake to Issaquah.

    1. Careful, that same logic has been used in other subareas to suggest Seattle funds should be spent on the spine instead of on in-city projects.

      1. In other areas without sub-area equity later project phases often go for suburban expansion rather than serving the regional core.

        In other words we need to guard against the temptation to tap North King funds for spine completion.

    2. You seem to be confusing different subarea tax rates and cross-subarea subsidization. Different subarea tax rates would be easier to implement and prevent Seattle austerity and exuburban lushness. On the other hand, having the exurbs subsidize North King makes sense (North King can use the money more efficiently), but is so politically toxic that we may be better off just sticking to subarea equity to prevent the opposite. BART shows what happens without subarea equity, as many exurban extensions have been made without any expansion in San Francisco. It’s esseitially the premise of “one county, one vote”, or “cities and counties that don’t have BART should get it first”, which always puts the San Francisco’s pedestrian neighborhoods last. (Although the next round is finally starting to back off from that neglect.)

      1. BART has an unofficial “subarea equity” issue because the board members are elected from districts. There are nine districts.

        The local funding process in California is generally executed at the county level. Almost all of the extra local money that is funding current BART expansion are funded not by BART but by countywide transportation funding agencies the fund both highway and transit projects. That’s true for Warm Springs and now Livermore (Almeida County Transportation Commission), E-BART (Contra Costa Transportation Authority) and BART to San Jose (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority). That’s different than we have in Seattle, where each operator generates their own funding strategy and plan.

        Part of the reason that BART can’t expand in San Francisco is because the system was not designed for expansion with things like tail tracks. Sound Transit is making some of these mistakes in the lines they are designing today. For example, Sound Transit is not designing a tail track for a possible Ballard branch from Link around UW; it has to be a separate line.

  7. … $9 billion supports $15B in projects?? This is not the right way to look at bonds. If you build $15B in projects, you will need to spend at least $30B overall in taxes. By bonding, you more than double the price of everything you build, even in these low-finance-cost times.

    The only way you can make those numbers look right is if you look at revenues and expenses only within the ten year timeframe you’re promising to build everything within – which I agree is the way the board is looking at this, but it’s not the way everyone else should. The taxes are pledged to pay for bonds for more like 30 years — which is why every time ST wants to do something new they need an additional tax hike. If you look at the 2013 ST financial plan and add up the capital expenditures (past and projected) for taxes already levied, they add to about $17.5B. If you look at debt service out to 2040 (as far as the financial plan projects) they add to a little over $13B – but 2040 is not the likely end year for bond payments (because bonds are still being issued today) so if you extend to the end of the period payments will be due that number will be higher.

    I’m not saying ST is doing anything different from others – the state is doing the same thing. Both are building megaprojects promised within 10 years and paid for over 30, so new infusions through higher taxes are needed to continue progress in the next decade. Bond financing has filled the gap federal funding used to fill in the interstate/urban transit era. I personally don’t think bond-funded megaprojects are a sustainable approach to transportation in the long run, but finding a better model seems elusive. In the meantime I think it’s dangerous to think about bonds as a ten year commitment, but that’s the way it seems virtually everyone seems to discuss it.

    1. The tax rates yield a given revenue over a fixed time period. So the same tax rate that let’s you build $9 billion in projects over 15 years lets you build $15 billion in projects over the same 15 years if you use bond financing. Yes you do continue to pay to service the bonds after the 15 year project timeline and the total cost is more than if you paid for everything out of cash flow. However issuing bonds is a common way to pay for capital expenditures both for government and for the private sector. This was true even in the days of greater federal funding for various local transportation projects.

      1. He’s right, though. It is both dangerous and disingenuous — as well as fairly unprecedented — to start publicly lowballing tax authorizations by stating project amounts pre-borrowing rather than as intended project-cost totals.

        Especially when the (more traditionally unstated-for-convenience) post-debt-serviced project costs will now be 3x the lowballed figure.

      2. d.p.

        Transit opponents are especially fond of throwing around the post debt service project costs. I don’t think it is a good idea to give them more fuel by only using those numbers.

        You rarely see this done for other government funded infrastructure and anyone who does so for road projects gets labeled as some kind of war on cars hippie.

        So unless we start doing this for every single thing governments finance with debt let’s keep the basis for cost comparisons the same.

      3. Post debt service costs are fairly standard, but really unhelpful. Nobody has any intuitive sense for what xx billion dollars including debt service through the 2040’s actually means.

        To the (very limited) degree that voters understand these large numbers, they understand current dollars.

        On the other hand, they understand current taxes very well.

      4. I agree, Chris, but this new-math “not counting borrowing” cost would be unprecedented for any kind of infrastructure. A $5 billion highway widening is a $5 billion highway widening is a $5 billion highway widening. That’s the project expenditure, in total, in today’s dollars.

        None of this “actually means only $3 billion in taxes because borrowing is magic”, which is suddenly happening in this ST discussion.

      5. “Transit opponents are especially fond of throwing around the post debt service project costs.”

        That’s what killed the monorail. The 2nd Avenue opponents started publicizing the post-debt cost and the public freaked out. But it’s only fair if all projects use the same measurement. If rail projects use post-debt while highways and bus and most other projects use pre-debt, it’s an unfair comparison.

      6. To plan the projects, the cost of the last similar project is used to Budget.

        To assuage the politicians fear of cost overruns, projects are run through the CEVP.
        Something WSDOT has already been doing.

      7. I would say both need to be more transparent. This isn’t a highway vs. transit debate, it’s a how we make spending decisions debate. Right now the state uses almost 3/4 of the gas tax revenues they receive to pay for debt service, up from less than 1/4 a decade ago. Do you think that should not be a fair topic of conversation? When we bond, we give $1B to the financial community for every $1B we spend on transportation – do you think that has nothing to do with the state of income inequality in the US?

        I think all governments need to be more open about their habitual use of debt. It affects the burden placed on the next generation, and the tradeoff between expensive capital projects and ongoing service needs. Subarea policies and lack of trust among board members mean that bonding needs to be used for things that could be paid for directly if taxes from the entire ST district could be spent on one area at a time until the complete system is built. But in any case, nobody should ever tell someone with a straight face that you can get $15B of investment for only $9B in taxes, as if the bond people are giving away the balance for free. That’s just not honest.

      8. It’s always been transparent, planning meetings are always open to the public.

        The general media doesn’t think it’s interesting, so it doesn’t get reported as news, unless it is presented in an overly dramatic way, which gets viewers/readers to watch the ads.

        Follow the AD Money.
        Dovetails nicely with our tax system.

      9. do you think that has nothing to do with the state of income inequality in the US?

        Not to mention the state of infrastructure itself.

        And Mike, Quasimodal’s last sentence rephrases the point I was trying to make.

        There’s long been an imbalance in discussions of “before debt service” and “after debt service” on various types of projects. But this notion of throwing around “subtract the borrowed part entirely” numbers as if that were any valid measure of the project’s public burden is brand new, and dangerous.

      10. “When we bond, we give $1B to the financial community for every $1B we spend on transportation”

        State infrastructure bank. Recycle the profits to other in-state infrastructure projects (and their employees’ salaries).

      11. @MO,

        What killed the monorail was incompetence and the inability to admit that they had no idea what they were doing.

      12. The common way of talking about infrastructure projects is in terms of Year of Expenditure. If there are taxes attached the topic is usually the increase to the various tax rates or the yearly average cost. Rarely does the debt service get dragged in even though that has a huge impact on the amount that can be built for a given tax rate.

        Using debt lets you build more now at the cost of paying more over the long term.

        I don’t think anyone was claiming using debt let you buy $15 billion in capital projects for only $9 billion. What they are saying is tax rates that collect $9 billion over 15 years will let you spend $15 billion over 15 years if you sell bonds. Obviously service on those bonds will last much longer than 15 years and the total expenditure will be much more than $15 billion due to the cost of debt service.

      13. Chris, that approach is well suited for a publicist and advocate, but misleads anyone who wants to understand what they’re investing in and what their financial position is. Hopefully there are some here who think good government and public policy is also important. Yes, the message from Martin was that $15B in projects can be had for $9B in taxes, and yes that’s the way ST describes the funding scenario. I don’t mean to argue it further, we can agree to disagree.

    2. It seems to me the best way to express the cost of bonds is the way they do this for property taxes: $0.03 per $1,000 value for 20 years” (for property taxes) or some such. This gives the public an actual idea of what they are paying, and leaves the total bonding cost figure out of the picture.

  8. How does the ST expansion pencil out in operating expenses? Adding several lines outside of North King may not yield the ridership that even Central Link enjoys today. ST3 proposals will take riders off of local bus transit systems, reducing their own ridership.

    1. Operating costs are around 1/10 of capital costs. Suburban extensions will have lower ridership than Seattle segments and be more peak-and-game-day oriented, but ST already has ridership estimates for them.

      They won’t affect local bus service much because there aren’t local buses in those corridors. In the north are several 4xx routes which Community Transit is all ready to truncate to give a big boost in local service. The 201/202 overlap with the 512 between Everett and Lynnwood, and one wonders why CT persists in it. In the south, if Link goes on 99 it will be a welcome complement to the A and 500, and if it goes on I-5 there are no local routes there. In the east, the only other route is the B, and again it would complement it. (As for those who might switch from the B to Link between Redmond and Overlake TC, they may have already switched to the 545.)

      1. For Overlake-Redmond, both RR-B and the 545 cover that segment today. Without going into what changes to those routes might happen when East Link phase 1 goes into service, they will be somewhat duplicative when phase 2 is done. Perhaps 545 would be truncated to Overlake TC in phase 2 and serve another area on the Seattle end. Or go away entirely.

        Likewise, RR-B might be rerouted to serve other areas than it does today.

        What happens with Bear Creek P&R and the East Redmond station? Maybe Metro will move the route terminals to the East Redmond station. Maybe ST will connect Mercer Island, Issaquah, Sammamish and Redmond using the 554.

      2. aw, what I’ve always assumed and heard from other people interested in transit in the area is that when East Link opens the 545 will be replaced by more service on the 542.

        As far as service to Issaquah via Sammamish, the long range plan has a ST Express version of the 269 which could use some of the freed service hours. The current 554 special to 185th Ave NE is mostly a monetized deadhead to return buses to East Base and provide toke service to myopic Sammamish taxpayers.

        The B less duplicative with the ST routes then you might imagine. The B avoids 520 throughout Overlake and only will cross East Link in DT Bellevue, at Overlake TC and (eventually) in DT Redmond. All of which amounts to giving East Link riders fast access to Crossroads (and vice versa).

        I don’t know what the future holds for Bear Creek P&R. Perhaps the 542 and B should be extended to there, along with the ST Express 269. All together those could provide fast and frequent service to DT Redmond station and Link. I don’t see the B going to SE Redmond Station like the other two almost certainly will.

  9. The current bus service is pretty slow due to the amount of time buses spend stopped. Moving the core local service over to a grade separated railroad line, which already exists and is already being improved to allow passenger trains in 2017, might make by the time this extension comes up.


    “In 2015 Sound Transit will begin shaping a Sound Transit 3 ballot measure. … The final plan will include a specific set of regional transit projects to be implemented once current projects are completed in 2023”

    See the SoundTransit 3 tab on the web page

    So, even the start of work on the projects shown on the map won’t begin until about 8 years in the future. What’s DuPont look like in 2030 or so, when work on something to DuPont might get started?

    By that time the Point Defiance Bypass will have been operating for about 12 years, and some significant efforts at improving the line would have happened at state level to support the Cascades service. The cost to actually add the service to this line might be minimal at that point.

    1. I think implemented means finished, not started. I don’t think it’s saying ST will do nothing for seven years if ST3 is approved in 2016. It’s just a high-level overview of when the public can expect things to open. There are are four things that can slow projects down. Staff time, money to hire more staff and contracts, ST2 projects they depend on (you can’t connect an extension to a tail track until the tail track exists), and negotiations with the cities as we’ve seen in Bellevue. The ST2 projects will finish one by one over 2016-2023, and each one will free up staff time to work on another project. ST will start new projects right away as time and money are available. ST’s overall assumption is 5 years for planning and 10 years for construction, but that’s for ST3 as a whole, not for each project. Some projects will be ready earlier, as in ST2.

  10. Has there ever been discussion about asking new development to pay for some of these lines? For example, if we add 100,000 homes along with non-residential building in North King (assuming that the value of the two has the combined financial effect of 200,000 homes) and each is required to provide $10,000, that could produce $2B. That would pay for some pretty large expansion.

    Just like there is a long history of asking new development to pay their fair share of traffic impacts created by it, their impacts on transit systems is a reasonable thing to examine and implement.

    1. Cities here have done this for local infrastructure or low-income housing, but regional transit hasn’t. I doubt you want to do it over such a broad area as the ST district, or that it would be legal without legislative authorization.

      But it’s also worth stepping back to look at the impact of development fees. Taxing new development implies new development is undesirable and benefits only its residents. But the housing crunch is a citywide and regionwide problem. It fundamentally comes down to too little development for the rising population, caused by aribitrary zoning restrictions. We can’t stop the population growth except by causing a recession and high unemployment, so we don’t want to do that. It’s not just newcomers who need new housing. Existing residents move and have children, and the children grow up and need a place to live. Because new development benefits everyone, everyone should pay for the infrastructure.

      The badness in new development is not new units per se, but the specific building designs and locations, and the lack of comprehensive transit (which makes people demand more parking spaces). This again can be fixed by zoning reform. The problem is more the “broad” restrictions than the “tall” restrictions. Allow DADUs/row houses/lowrise in single-family areas — the vast majority of Seattle’s residential land — and you’ll see more smaller, less obtrusive, less expensive developments. These are not being built now because everything is squeezed into the urban villages which isn’t enough, so developers have to build 7-story expensive breadboxes to meet demand (or to put it another way, because they can fill those units with high rents.) But if a larger number of units is allowed over a much wider area, it’s diluting the demand, so the impact on any single neighborhood is less.

      Also, development in Seattle essentially means multifamily in existing neighborhoods, because there is no empty land for new single family neighborhoods. That’s different from a suburban greenfield development that extends infrastructure to a new area and is usually low density. That’s the kind of development that imposes an extraordinary infrasturucture cost on existing neighborhoods. But again the solution is not developer-impact fees, but infill development in the existing city.

      The “broad” restrictions are worse than the “tall” restrictions. If we allowed DADUs/

      1. New development is already paying a surcharge for sewer system expansion in Seattle. Transit system expansion is no different. I’ve been told that the new tap-on fees set by Seattle City Light are also pretty steep, and that additional money is not going back to City Light.

        I have no issues with using development fees to recover a portion of the cost of expansion although I realize that existing taxpayers should be on the hook for the bulk of the cost.. Some portion of the capital program should be recovered by development though.

    2. Cities and towns do ask for infrastructure improvements from developers.

      However, they are in the form of local road improvements, such as improving the streetscape with gutters and sidewalks adjacent to the developmen or funding part of fixing a problematic intersection..
      That’s local and obvious for both parties.
      That permits them to claim they didn’t raise taxes, and
      they can point to a road/intersection improvement as ‘something getting done’.

      Transit infrastructure relies on a network to operate efficiently.

      Convince your local goverment that transit funding is a better use of those funds if you want change.

    3. “I doubt you want to do it over such a broad area as the ST district”

      To elaborate, most development-impact fees are assessed by city-sized units, who have more understanding of the neighborhoods this tax would apply to, and thus whether it’s a good idea. But to do it across the entire Sound Transit district would apply it to a ton of vastly disparate land and needs, which should all probably have different tax rates and different policies. What’s right for SLU is probably not anywhere near what’s right for Tukwila or those housing developments on Orillia Road, or the industrial land east of them.

  11. I know that I’m in the minority here, but I think that this would be a good ST package, if it’s the final outcome. The sky won’t fall with it, as is the common thread here. The obvious choices to this reader – and rider – are:

    * Snohomish: light rail via I-5 to 128th SW, where folks can connect to Boeing and Paine Field on the Swift 2 BRT line. it makes no sense to sidetrack those going from Everett to points south of 128th via an excursion to Paine Field, particularly on weekends. Meanwhile, CT and ET provide ample bus service from Everett Station to ECC.
    * North King: Ballard/UW has been a congested, heavily used corridor for decades, and this offers a short connection to the main trunk light rail line. Meanwhile, Rapid Ride covers the 15th Avenue direction. My other choice is Alaska Junction/Stadium, for inclement weather makes the West Seattle Bridge tricky.
    * East King: on the list, downtown Redmond LRT, BRT on I-405 (particularly the ignored and most-congested portion, the segment from Bellevue to Renton), and BRT from Kirkland to UW, though I’d like to see the start of light rail on the eastside, such as Tukwila to Bellevue or Bothell to Lynnwood.
    * South King, Pierce: obvious and within estimate, FWTC to Tacoma Dome and Tacoma Dome to TCC.

  12. Pingback: Curtis King on ST3

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