This Tuesday March 31st, Metro will launch its first long range planning effort in a very long time with an exciting two-part event at the Downtown Seattle Central Library. The event, which starts at 6:00 pm, will begin with six facilitated break-out sessions that will dive into key topics.  Each break-out sessions will be lead by subject area experts from a variety of organizations and include:

  • Equity and Access (facilitated by Shefali Ranganathan of TCC)
  • Educators and Institutions (Ray White of Bellevue College)
  • Business and Economy (Jessica Szelag of Commute Seattle)
  • Innovation and Technology (Me of STB)
  • Service Integration (David Beal and Craig Davidson of ST)
  • Future Funding and Policies (Amy Gore of Futurewise)

The discussion from each break-out sessions will then be used to identify common themes and the overall vision of where participants want Metro to be in 25 years. If you care about the big picture vision of transit in King County this event is a must. 

Once break-out sessions have wrapped up the event will transition directly into the panel discussion guided by the themes and vision generated in the break-out sessions. Panelist include Jarrett Walker (transit planner extraordinaire), Rebecca Saldaña (Executive Director of Puget Sound Sage) and Mark Hallenbeck (UW transportation researcher and BIG picture thinker). This discussion will be moderated by Rita Brogan of the Washington State Transportation Commission. 

This promises to be a unique, blue-sky type of event that only happens a few times a year and I would strongly encourage those who are interested to attend. More details are available here.

24 Replies to “What’s Your Vision for Metro’s Future?”

  1. Sigh – I wish the meeting wasn’t in a building that makes me nauseous every time I go into it.

    1. Matter of personal style, maybe, but in regard to a certain library building, my own favorite 19th century municipal figures would have had more use for a spittoon than a perfumed handkerchief and smelling salts.

      Oscar Wilde, however, would actually have been able to start a bar fight with a sigh and a handkerchief.

      Next Tuesday’s venue can leave us with this much, J: detail by detail, a list of mental notes adding up to a blood oath that in spirit, vision, conception, and execution, our lives’ every public endeavor will personify the exact opposite of the Downtown Seattle Central Library.

      And be grateful that the Beacon Hill branch is ten minutes away by LINK, and that we’ll soon be able to get to the Ballard one by streetcar. Perfect example of the value of grade separated transit in an extreme emergency.

      Wouldn’t miss this one for the world, Oran, and thank you for your service for just being there. But if meantime, let’s J. and I formulate iron-clad Roberts Rules of Order statements relating the architecture we hate to the transit we want.

      Mark Dublin

  2. “What’s the future of public transportation in King County?” Not good, if citizens and special interests attending public transit meetings can influence transit planning. The very fact they are asking us to help them tells me we’re in trouble.

    1. It’s not good to think that your government can or should know everything it needs to know about planning for the future without first consulting the citizens it represents. The fact is, it doesn’t, and it won’t without soliciting input. Also, federal regulations require Metro to provide opportunities for the public to meaningfully participate in planning processes and decision-making. It will be Metro’s responsibility, via the county council, to ensure no single group’s interests dominate the plan and that decisions are based in science and data.

      1. Transit is more science than art, and that’s how I want it planned. I know they have to hold these kinds of meeting, but the further away the planners get from what the data tells them to do, the less gooder a system we get.

      2. So in other words, if Metro holds these pro forma meetings and compiles the feedback into a report, and then totally ignores it for decision-making, that would be the best outcome?

      3. I think to answer your question, Mike, I would say yes. Or at least, that is probably the best outcome. As I said, sometimes Metro makes some mistakes. Sometimes any agency needs to consider something that the experts didn’t consider. So ideally you make little tweaks based on public input, but the main decisions should be made by the experts. I have no doubt, for example, that our light rail line would be much better now (and into the future) if our line had been designed by experts (with no public input) instead of being driven by politicians and ignorant “I want a pony” public input.

        For another example, I want to see alternative one, but with a minor tweak to the Pinehurst related routes. I think I made a decent case for that ( But if Metro has to choose between alternative one plus that change or alternative two, I would much rather go with alternative one. In other words, their original alternative one is better, much better, than the current system. But if enough folks complain about losing their one seat ride to downtown, or having to walk a few blocks, we are going to be stuck with a crappy system for another five years or so (if not longer).

        So, yes, the best solutions is something in between (still mainly driven by experts, but with ideas from average citizens considered). But the second best solution (by far) is simply accepting what the experts designed. The worst outcome is usually a system driven by folks who don’t really know what they are talking about (e. g. “complete the spine” and “West Seattle light rail is essential”).

    2. I think you have a point, Sam. Then again, even the best organization makes little mistakes, and input from the public is important for that.

      But unfortunately, with Sound Transit, there have been numerous really big mistakes that probably could have been fixed if there had been enough public involvement. It is frustrating, to be sure. You don’t expect to have to fight for things like a Montlake station serving people on 520, or a NE 130th street station serving northeast Seattle, but that’s the way Sound Transit runs things, I guess. Metro is a little different. I think there are folks there that want to change things for the better, but a lot of people want things the way they are now, and without political pressure to make real improvements (improvements most experts would say are long overdue) I don’t think it will happen.

      1. Are you saying the train should have had two station stops within a few hundred feet of each other?

      2. Also, if that is what is required to create a functional network connection in a bottleneck-prone location, then absolutely. Hardly unprecedented.

      3. asdf2, have you been to any cities with a functional subway system? You can often see from the end of one platform to the beginning of the next.

      4. >> Are you saying the train should have had two station stops within a few hundred feet of each other?

        Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. First of all, stations clustered close to each other are a good thing, as far as speed goes. So if you are concerned about how long it takes to get to Lynnwood, this is much better than say, the station at 185th (that slows down a train after it has hit top speed going either direction). Not that I’m arguing against that station, but a station at Montlake would have a lot more riders, and would slow down a train a miniscule amount.

        As for a few hundred feet, consider where these stations are, and what the alternatives are. The 520 highway travels below Montlake Boulevard. The subway travels below the surface. So someone who has to go from one to the other has to up, cross a bridge, cross a congested street, then down. Oh, and the bridge opens. This isn’t a short trip, which is why Metro is not simply going to dump people off at the station. Even if they did, this puts pedestrian pressure on the bridge — so much so that folks have talked about building another bridge, or expanding the existing bridge.

        So, basically, walking is problematic and potentially really expensive. The buses can simply turn off the road and go to the UW. Except that the bridge sometimes goes up and even when it doesn’t, buses are often caught in traffic. In other words, the solutions are either really expensive (another bridge or a small bus tunnel) or will potentially cost each and every rider as well as Metro significant time. So much time that lots of riders would prefer their old ride downtown, as bad as it was. Basically, we spent billions on a light rail line, but get everyone who travels on 520 a marginally improved trip (if that) because we didn’t want to spend a few million on a station.

        This is why Sam is right. Ask the average person (no offense) and they will say the same thing (“Why put two stations so close together?). Ask an expert, and they ask “Why didn’t you build a station in Montlake?”. Seriously, go that meeting and show all of the out of town experts this little comment, and you will get every one of them to agree with me. None of them will say “Wait, aren’t those a little close together?”

      5. Let’s see what the effect is of the new Montlake exit ramp before we jump to conclusions. It is scheduled to open this summer and should result in a lot less delay for buses getting off the freeway than the current ramp.

      6. Let the ‘experts’ be public transit users, at the very least, and also have them visit the physical locations where they want transfer points to be.

    3. “What’s the future of public transportation in King County?” Not good, if citizens and special interests attending public transit meetings can influence transit planning. The very fact they are asking us to help them tells me we’re in trouble.”

      Got to give you credit for that one Sam, this early in the morning. No matter what a cat just ate, resulting fur-ball would be a snap to unravel and analyze by comparison.

      Like occasional lap dog special interests are hard to keep out of public meetings, though owners can be cautioned to make sure they behave and don’t leave anything for cleaning staff.

      Citizens, on the other hand, are a real problem, because a very large number still carry this delusion that it’s their duty to attend meetings and bring experience and judgement to bear on decisions.

      And no amount of standardized testing seems able to wipe out this misconception.

      However, every morning’s international news should assure you you’re not alone in your sympathy over official desperation in the face of being forced to ask citizens for help in running their own government.

      “How can you blame me for barrel bombs? These people keep insisting that I ask them for help planning our transit system! My enemies will see me as weak!” – Hafez al Assad

      “To permanently reassure our believers of our confidence in our cause, we will cut the heads off anybody who suggests we need their help designing a transit system!” ISIS recruiting center, St. Paul, Minnesota.

      “Ooooooooooo I’m getting so upset about mean people saying I need help envisioning the Pyongyang regional multimodal benefit district I’m going to make my head blow up!” North Korea’s top film fan.

      Go see the movie, Sam. You’ve got company.



    4. They do take into consideration that effect. But they also need ideas from the citizens, which maybe they thought of or didn’t. It sounds like they don’t have a concrete plan yet regarding this effort, but it clearly shows they are interested.

    5. Sam;

      Your first assumption is that experts have a significant role to play in some of these decisions. Sadly, this isn’t necessarily the case.

      Experts are hired to give professional opinions on areas of specific expertise, and don’t necessarily have overall operational experience as one of those.

      As you may know, there is a light rail tunnel linking the Beaverton area with downtown Portland.

      Experts were not asked about which would be better: a surface line or a tunnel under the hill. Instead, the experts were asked what a tunnel would cost and what a surface route would cost, and the surface route was decided as the preferred route as that would be cheaper.

      Now, highway 26 going west of Portland climbs several miles of 7.5 percent grade. A surface line would have had to climb that. MAX cars can do it, but not very fast. It would be expensive to operate, and slower than a tunnel. The zoo station would have wound up quite some distance away from the zoo in a miserable location.

      However, the surface route would be problematic because highway 26 is so wide that the good right of way is taken. MAX would have wound up on landslide prone areas. It would also have been exceedingly ugly.

      So, experts were brought in to provide cost estimates for dealing with all that.

      Experts were never brought in to provide any sort of real testimony about the vision of how this line would connect the region together and how “only a few minutes of travel time” would impact the transit network. The vision thing wasn’t the experts call.

      It took years of citizen advisory board meetings, a number of which I attended, for the citizens to convince the powers that be that a tunnel under the west hills would be vastly prefered to the surface route.

      So, experts may not necessarily have as much influence on these matters as you might expect or hope.

      1. Glenn, depending on the project, there are varying degrees to which the public should have input. Building a new local park? Sure, ask the community what kind of park they want. Building a high voltage transmission line? Not so much.

  3. I think it’s a little weird that they didn’t include one of the most important modes in their infographic…walking! If I remember correctly, it’s one of the fasting growing commute types and currently has a small, but respectable percentage piece of the pie chart.

    1. For me, I use link, and i take the bus. And like shotsix said, I walk home a lot too (no bike or motor transportation period). There are places that sidewalks are inadequate, and there are other places where it’s great.

  4. Adam, I’ll do everything I can to be there, mainly because you’re going to be there, and I’ve been in Norway and Sweden since last we spoke, and have some things to discuss with you.

    I also think that your posting deserved some better comments than some of us offered. But over years of events like this one, I really am starting to get a chill sense of entitlement by title, position, and credentials coming off of these events.

    It could be a real difference in the sense of how ideas are actually created. To many people, an idea starts to lose grace and beauty with its first contact with anything material, especially human. “In an ideal world” is always preface to an excuse for something being lame.

    But another approach sees an idea as something born alive, and gaining strength and energy from the forces acting upon it. Can’t help it, but this one’s too perfect: The SAM Sculpture Garden would’ve been better ART if the streetcar barn had been designed into it. Which unfortunately leads, like the great artist Don Martin, to Sam.

    Sam puts so much effort into being wrong that the exertion is edifying to watch, but one point needs some serious address:

    A hundred fifty years ago when steam locomotives the size of buildings had their parts drawn with pen and ink, it was more or less expected that an engineer be able to create an accurate drawing of what he needed.

    On the Brooklyn Bridge, orders were often issued in the form of detailed drawings showing the crew- many of whom couldn’t read- doing exactly what they were supposed to do.

    But most important of all: On the Downtown Seattle Transit Project, one of the world’s top rail engineers told me this:

    “An engineer is always comfortable telling a client what courses of action are possible, what each will cost, and what the likely results will be for each choice. But the one thing he will NEVER tell you is what you, the decision-maker SHOULD do.”

    I guess an attorney will also advise as to risks. But anything built to carry human beings with a choice about getting aboard….you need an artist, Sam.

  5. I wish I could make it. Do you think there is any chance the panel discussion portion will be recorded? I’d love to hear both Jarrett Walker and Mark Hallenbeck talk about these issues.

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