At yesterday’s ST board meeting the most interesting presentation was a staff discussion of an imminent conceptual study that will help inform board decisions in an ST3 package. It’s the first document that scopes projects based on overall package sizes.

The stated purpose is not to create a project list, but instead to evaluate certain package sizes as required by statute. There are four levels of spending, from an almost negligible amount of rail, to using the whole $15 billion revenue request (which amounts to about $25 billion of projects in year of expenditure dollars). The higher spending plans allow variable amounts of emphasis on completing the light rail “spine” (Everett/Redmond/Tacoma) vs. additional corridors in Seattle and on the Eastside.

Staff will evaluate the representative packages for each funding level and spine emphasis according to the following criteria:

  • Completing the Link Light Rail Spine
  • Ridership
  • Connecting the Region’s Designated Centers with HCT
  • Socio-Economic Equity
  • Integration with other transit operators/transportation systems
  • Multi-modal access
  • Promoting transit-supportive land use and TOD
  • Advancing “logical next steps” projects beyond the spine; within financial capacity

Both the slides themselves and the ST press release are emphatic that this is focused on high-level tradeoffs, and “the scenarios are not draft system plans and do not encompass all of the projects that will be considered for a ballot measure.” And that’s a good thing, because there are possibly fatal problems with all of them:

Concept 4: Maximum Revenue
Concept 4: Maximum Revenue

  1. They explicitly ignore questions of subarea accounting and cost everything out of a single revenue pool. The Board hasn’t resolved any issues related to subarea accounting, so it seems shortsighted to not consider those effects at all. Spokesman Geoff Patrick says “the financing conversation will come after we’ve developed conceptual cost estimates for each of the candidate projects.” In essence, a decision to focus strongly on the spine is a decision for taxes in North King and East King County to mostly pay for projects elsewhere.
  2. Not one of the nine alternatives involves a grade-separated solution for Ballard, perhaps the neighborhood in the region most in need of one. Some of the alternatives involve “rapid streetcar” and others Option C, an MLK-like treatment. An important distinction is that Option C would interface with a second downtown tunnel going onward to West Seattle, making key aspects pretty flexible. There is a world of difference between a tunnel portal in Interbay (not a big deal) and one near Westlake (catastrophic). The presentation may not have enough resolution to work out these issues, but note that Option C got support from all of 2% of public comments (see p. 69 here).
  3. Sound Transit has never confirmed the correctness of my subarea math, but it’s questionable that reaching Everett via Paine Field is possible given the size of South Snohomish County’s economy. Most of the alternatives clearly involve a large transfer out of the East King Subarea, and part of the reason the most expensive options run at-grade through dense parts of Seattle is that funds are going north. Regionalism is a fine virtue, but it’s not clear that voters have the regionwide ethic to tax themselves heavily to benefit people far away. At least, no one seemed to think so when the spine projects were in Seattle and other subareas didn’t chip in. More importantly, transferring funds from places where bus statistics indicate strong transit demand, to places where such demand is at best unproven, is a not a good way to maximize the benefits of this investment.
  4. No alternative contains the Ballard/UW corridor, the lowest cost per rider of any Seattle project ST studied. Cost per rider isn’t everything — ridership in absolute terms, and passenger-miles, also matter — but the omission is striking.
Concept 3a: High Revenue, Moderate Spine Investment
Concept 3a: High Revenue, Moderate Spine Investment
Concept 3b: High Revenue, Minimum Spine
Concept 3b: High Revenue, Minimum Spine

I imagine most STB readers will be deeply disappointed with the shape of these concepts. So as the headline asks, should you be worried? The explanatory text is emphatic that this is not a rejection of some higher-quality concept. On the other hand, the fact that staff shaped a study with these boundaries is an interesting statement about where they want to go, or the board is pressuring them to go, or where they think the board wants to go.

Worrying isn’t a very useful response. The best action is to tell whomever represents you on the Sound Transit board what you expect to see out of a Sound Transit 3 package, and that you’re willing to pay the taxes to get there. On May 7th the Executive Committee will discuss the process for a draft project priority list. At the May 28th meeting, the full board will review the results of this study and formulate that draft list. There will be more public outreach in June and July to add yet more projects, and the final project list comes out in August. Throughout the Fall, the Board will work to shape a package for a 2016 ballot measure.

The low quality of proposals for the Ballard corridor is the biggest weakness of the straw-man concepts presented yesterday. Ultimately it’s the responsibility of board members supposed to be looking out for Ballard — particularly Larry Phillips, Mayor Murray, and Mike O’Brien — to make sure that we get a better plan. If not, it’ll fall to Seattle voters — who traditionally provide the supermajorities that ensure ST’s success — to hold out for a better deal.


In another suddenly less-interesting development, the Board approved the preferred alternative for Lynnwood Link as the final alignment. The only concession to advocates for stations at N. 130th St. and SW 220th St. was to make sure that the line will be constructed so that adding the stations at a later date would have minimal fiscal and operational impact.

529 Replies to “Sound Transit’s Conceptual Study: Should You be Worried?”

  1. There are a lot of too horrible to comprehend options here and even the best option is one Seattle Subway would urge a “no” vote on.

    Highlights: Ballard gets at grade LR, a streetcar, or nothing. No mention of the best rail line (Ballard to UW.) A DT tunnel in some cases but no mention of the WSTT.

    Some options siphon all of the money from north and east king in service of “the spine.”

    Releasing these options gives us insight into what ST is thinking. And what they are thinking ignores all public input, their own planning, and draws a bunch of politically influenced lines.

    Did they expect this reaction? If not, exactly how out of touch are they?

    We look forward to working with ST and the public to turn this around. Seattle needs something worth voting for.

    1. I agree. This is shocking, really, in how poorly it treats Seattle. Some of the other areas have reasonable proposals (adding buses or rail along logical corridors) but the ideas for Seattle are terrible. Streetcar to Ballard? A light rail line from West Seattle to SoDo? That would cost billions and make little difference in the lives of most transit riders. There are two big projects in Seattle worth supporting:

      1) LRT from Ballard to the UW.
      2) Another transit tunnel, along with BRT from West Seattle, Ballard and Aurora.

      Everything else is secondary. Choose between one of the two if you are short on money, but talk of slow streetcars and West Seattle light rail is so laughably bad that I can’t believe they let it slip in. Even the monorail authority — the stupid monorail authority — knew high speed transit to Ballard was more important than to West Seattle. This is just nonsense. We have our work cut out for us in explaining basic transit concepts to a board that obviously doesn’t understand them.

      1. As to building the Dowtown/Ballard segment first before the much desired Ballard/UW line. Thinking about it from a civil engineering perspective a tunnel straight through downtown that connects above ground to the busway light rail line in SODO is probably a simpler engineering challenge than a complex underground “interchange” to move trains between the lines that would be required if you built UW to Ballard first. Depending on the significance of the engineering issues that could be a compelling argument for going from downtown to Ballard first instead of Ballard/UW, though it certainly doesn’t explain West Seattle. :-) Has anyone talked to SoundTransit about that particular challenge?

        I could *live* with option 4 and would vote for it if you modified it by dropping BRT on I405 and spent the extra cash on better structure for the in city LRT line. 405 BRT is ridiculous and is DOA with me, it won’t get anyone out of their car, it will just get them driving to a Park & Ride lot on the already horribly congested surface streets.

      2. I thought I had run out of capacity to shocked by ST’s anti-urban bias and outright antipathy toward quality transportation outcomes.

        I am still shocked by this.

        If there’s any silver lining here at all, it’s that the “we need to have faith in the agency charged with our high-capacity lines” and the “we’ll fix the mistakes in ST8” factions can now be permanently silenced.

        This is an agency that will demand $15 billion in levy authority while claiming to be too broke to build anything of high enough quality to be useful. ST is not to be trusted, and it will eventually collapse under the weight of its waste and failures. Its errors and gaps are never to be rectified if allowed to proceed on it’s present and clearly predetermined path.

        Deference to “regional consensus” sausage-making has proven a recipe for disaster, and we can now safely abandon that canard if we want to have any hope of moving about this town with speed and ease at any point in the foreseeable future.

      3. d.p., I agree completely. I still have vague hope that they might someday propose something useful, but that’s now in their ballpark to convince me.

        The next question is, where do we go from here? I suggest that Seattle Subway or a similar group put out a package for a reasonable Seattle-only initiative using the monorail authority. There are reasonable arguments that authority’s worse than ST’s, due to higher interest rates, which is why I don’t suggest actually filing it yet: at the moment, there’s still time to pressure ST into adopting that package. But if they don’t, I would file that and make sure something good is on the ballot in 2016.

      4. @William C.

        I think it’s well premature to go to the ‘nuclear option’. We’ll see what the ST staff propose to the board May 7th, which isn’t just ‘conceptual’ but concrete. In the mean time, call Mike O’Brien’s office, call your KC rep, call Dow Constantine and tell them that you’re dismayed on ST’s proposal and that you do not support any of the conceptual options the staff proposed.

      5. @Kyle S.

        You don’t necessarily need a junction between the ‘spine’ and a Ballard to UW line. There is space in Ballard for an O&M base. It also lets you build something like the Canada Line instead or at least a fully automated line.

        @William C.

        I agree. Even if we get something worth voting for in ST3 I’d argue for using the monorail tax authority to build additional HCT in Seattle beyond what ST3 will fund. To me it doesn’t matter if the project is the WSTT, Ballard/UW, or something for West Seattle (though I think the first two are more likely to get citywide votes).

      6. @Zach and Seattle Subway, I agree it’s premature to actually file the “nuclear option” initiative. That’s why I suggested planning for it, drawing a map, and letting ST know that it’s a possibility if they don’t make things better.

      7. @Chris Stefan
        I’m curious where in Ballard would you put an OM base? It’s pretty constrained there now except for out west by the Marina’s and a few industrial properties closer to the bridge. Not like it was 10 years ago.

      8. A Ballard base would have to have a connection to the “outside world” for delivery of the vehicles on the line. That means it would have to be along the Ballard Terminal which would have to be spiffed up a bit to ensure decent delivery.

        It might be possible to modify an old flat car with a Link coupler at one end and deliver cars needing heavy service to the Link base via diesel switcher, but that would be a long-term expense I don’t think the City would want unless it was confident that Ballard-Downtown would be built someday. Also, the connection to the Ballard Terminal has points to the north, so rail cars would have to be pushed through Ballard to head to the main MF.

      9. @kyle S.

        It does sort of depend on how big the base would need to be but there are some lots still available. Worst case buy out a block of SF residential bordering on the industrial/commercial zone.

        I’m not too worried, space can be found even if it means tearing down something fairly new. Acquiring it is just a matter of money.

      10. @Anandakos,

        Deliveries can be made by truck, rail vehicles can be moved to another location for heavy maintenance by truck. Plenty of other systems do both.

        Before we set a tight list of parameters for an O&M base a lot of other factors need to be decided. The cost of various options would need to be looked at, including where to do heavy maintenance.

      11. You can also build a connection to the other line, even if it is only used for maintenance. Lots of systems do that (Toronto does that if I’m not mistaken). Frankly, I think Kyle S has it backwards — from an engineering standpoint UW to Ballard is simpler. Assuming both are all underground, you avoid another ship canal crossing, and have fewer miles of tunneling.

        It is also a lot less controversial. There is simply no consensus with a downtown to Ballard line. A lot of people want the most expensive route (which is fine) but it is the most expensive. I want a Ferrari, but not if I have to pay for it. Going west saves some money, and is faster, but many see that as a bad trade-off. There are communities that benefit greatly with one choice, and are left with no improvement whatsoever with the other. Tough choices, to be sure.

        Meanwhile, the only decision with Ballard to UW is whether to slide south to pick up Fremont, or stay north, to better interact with Phinney Ridge/Aurora. Both are great, really, and both benefit both areas (just one more than the other) so I don’t think you’ll piss off too many people once you make the choice. In other words, as I type this in Fremont, I know that my commute home would be much, much better if it would start with a short ride up the hill to a station at 45th (or a pretty fast ride over to 8th NW).

        But if anything, that argues for the WSTT. That is a clear win for everyone, and there aren’t any tough decisions (except maybe to swerve a bit to serve First Hill). But even that is just a money/risk thing, as opposed to picking one area versus another.

      12. It’s definitely far too early for the nuclear option. We still have time to work things out with ST. I hope that the response they are getting to this is giving them an impression of what they can expect from a plan that short changes Seattle.
        Regarding Plan B options, we have ideas and we are ready if it has to come to that.

      13. Um..guys?

        Discussing the details of where to put the Ballard – UW O&M right now is a bit like asking about the colors of the lettering on the cake frosting when we’ve been handed a giant purple sardine and beer milkshake.

        But, my own opinion is:

        1. Light rail cars are really expensive to move around by truck because they are too long to be a standard load. This isn’t a 45 foot subway car we are talking about. When TriMet received its first batch of low floor cars, they decided it was cheaper to wait for the tunnel under the west hills to be finished, and put put with a year or so of extra operations with the troublesome line-side wheelchair lifts, than try to deliver the low floor cars to the eastside Ruby Junction Shops by truck (the freight railroad branch line over which the first batch was delivered had been turned into a bike path in 1990).

        2. Underground junctions aren’t rare.

        3. Rarely used junctions can be very useful. For example, here in Portland certain yellow line trains start out as blue line trains from Gresham towards Portland, then turn into yellow line trains going north on a segment of a junction that was originally envisioned as being only for out-of-service trains. If a junction were built at the UW, you could have similar operational flexibility there. For example, currently on Sunday evenings Link operates every 15 minutes. North of the UW, that may be sufficient capacity, but UW to downtown it is probably not enough. A junction would allow the option of Ballard-UW trains to supplement UW-downtown service to once every 7.5 minutes when desirable. Yes, I know that the current plan is for the eastside trains to continue north to Lynnwood, but I just don’t see enough demand north of UW to really justify extreme train frequency at all times.

        However, the details need to be worked out when it actually gets to the state where it is on an actual ST plan.

      14. Glenn,

        And excellent, thoughtful post with which I agree strongly in all particulars except your rather cavalier brush off of the difficulty of adding an unplanned underground junction.

        Absolutely, there are hundreds of underground junctions in subways throughout the world and depending on the frequency of service they can be complex flying junctions or “level crossings”. Given the relative infrequency of use of such a junction between the Ballard-UW line that primarily operates as an independent shuttle line, a level crossing is adequate.

        The problem is that SoundTransit seems to believe strongly in flying junctions. They’ll be closing the eastside bus ramp for about two years before East Link opens to rebuild it into a flying junction for Link. They even made connection from the Maintenance Facility to the northbound main track a flying junction, and that is almost unused during the heaviest trafficed parts of the day.

        So if such a junction is built for Ballard-UW, ST will probably demand that it be a “flying junction”, and that is hard to engineer and dig if it hasn’t been planned for when the original tunnels are dug. The universal method by which the change in elevation is made less severe is to share it between the “main line” tracks and the diverging track on the “away” side of the junction. That is, the main line rises or falls by roughly one half the vertical separation of the two levels of track at the crossing and the diverging “away” track does the opposite.

        So, for instance, at the Market/Duboce junction on Muni the westbound tracks rise up above the eastbound tracks after leaving Van Ness while the eastbound tracks hold pretty much the same elevation. Market Street rises west of Van Ness. The merging eastbound track from Duboce dives swiftly after leaving the Church Street station, passes under the westbound Market Street track, and merges with the eastbound trackway at its deeper level.

        Since the tubes are being drilled as we speak, and there has been no evidence in public documents or public utterances that ST plans to “future proof” for an 80th Street Station or a junction to a Ballard-UW line, one side of the junction or the other — depending on the configuration of the connection — would be a diving curving tunnel at least partially mined, not bored. TBM’s can certainly curve, but they have a very large minimum radius.

        Not easy and not cheap.

      15. They’ll be closing the eastside bus ramp for about two years before East Link opens to rebuild it into a flying junction

        They whatnow? That is already a flying junction. Today, and as long as Link has existed, if not longer.

        But ST does have a level crossover for non-revenue movements at the SoDo revenue service tracks on their way to the southbound ramp. In fact, rather than crossing on a constant curve radius as in any normal level junction, the tracks merge and then unmerge, spending an unnecessary amount of time and distance in the path of the opposite-headed vehicles.

        Anyway, who can being to parse ST’s peccadillos? This is an agency that will insist on the ability to run 4-minute headways to the absolute middle of nowhere, but which is apparently okay with its I.D. portal and the long descent from 9th into Westlake perpetually running slower than an injured snail fording a molasses lake.

      16. “at least partially mined, not bored”

        Isn’t mining and boring the same thing?

      17. It is correct, politically, to come up with your own initiative, draw the maps, etc., and then offer it to Sound Transit. With the warning that if their proposal looks nothing at all like yours, you’ll be offering yours up to the voters separately… but the carrot that if they adopt the key ideas, you’ll back them.

      18. “Isn’t mining and boring the same thing?”

        Mining usually means drill and blast, sometimes pickaxes.

        Boring usually means TBMs or roadheaders.

      19. Actually the NYC Subway has at least one level junction in regular use, at Myrtle Ave station between the Myrtle Ave Line and the Jamaica line. The M travels on this junction and onto tracks it shares with the Z at all times except late night (when it uses the junction to go onto a separate track). In the midday these trains both travel at 10 minute headways. So it’s certainly possible to use a level junction in regular urban service. Whether or not modern regulations will allow such use is another question.

      20. “Definitely not an FTA thing.”

        I’m sorry, do you mean definitely would not be permitted by the FTA, or definitely not under the purview of the FTA?

        Of course, the junction in question long precedes both the FTA and the NYC Subway itself.

      21. I mean that plenty of level junctions have been built on recent urban American light rail. Heck, some of the lesser systems have been built with significant amounts of single trackage.

        Incomplete separation of potentially-conflicting movements is clearly not forbidden, and as far as I know there are no artificial bureaucratic limits placed on frequency as a result of them (beyond any genuine operation limits, which Boston and Brussels and many other places confirm to be a non-issue).

      22. The FTA is super into forbidding conflicts with mainline rail, but that is obviously irrelevant to this question.

      23. Incidentally the NYC Subway has both a single tracked line (Franklin Ave Shuttle) and (two!) connections to mainline rail, though they aren’t used very often. So clearly they’re not a barrier to safe or practical operation.

      24. One problem with Sound Transit, is that while they are slowly evolving from a capital project delivery agency to an operations agency, its a slow and painful process and no where near complete. So many rookie mistakes (inconsistent facility design, inconsistent fleet management) made early on, that have driven the organization for years. It does not help they got (and continue) to screwed by the BNSF with Sounder. While I cant speak for Seattle’s wants (and personally, I doubt everything wanted that is mentioned here is doable with ST funds) the suburbs are getting totally screwed, especially Pierce County. Does not appear to be any major expansion of sounder to a grown up rail system (which i’m sure would be pricy) instead they are focusing on the “spine” to whatever effect. Also personally I’m a bit Leary about voting yes on a major capital projects plan that will stretch improvements out until 2050 or whatever they are planning. they need to fast track these projects and get them built within the next decade.

      25. The FTA is super into forbidding conflicts with mainline rail, but that is obviously irrelevant to this question.

        Not necessarily. I’ve been told that Dallas light rail has several level crossing with freight railroads. Jump through hoops to get the signal system approved? Sure.

        Cheaper than dealing with an unnecessary bridge? That was their goal.

      26. I would also point out that Chicago, which does in fact operate cars that are small enough to reasonably transport by truck, and which has shop facilities on many of its lines, maintains links between all of its lines so that cars and in fact entire trains may be shifted from one line to another as needed.

        Chicago also provides a really nice look at how operational flexibility is allowed by junctions. At one time the blue line had a branched service, with some trains on one line to the southwest and a few trains on another line to the southwest. Today, the junction between the blue line and the pink line means the pink line trains serve that line instead as that works out better today. Junctions at the north and south end on the red line allow red line trains to serve the elevated stations on the loop when necessary. One of the junctions is primarily used for moving out of service trains between lines, but if I remember right is still used on baseball days for special trains to the baseball stadium (green line trains to the red line or something like that).

        So, if Chicago with its myriad of shop facilities and large volume of cars feels it is desirable to have a few junctions and have the ability to move trains from line to line when desirable, or even alter service patterns when desirable (pink line now serving a former blue line segment), it may be useful for Seattle to consider avoiding any isolated track when possible.

        My own opinion is that you want the junction there because some day, you may very well wind up making a service change the way Chicago did with the pink and blue lines. That is: downtown – UW – Ballard may very well wind up being the main line service and UW – Lynnwood become the lesser served branch. Many parts of the CTA lines are 100+ years old now. What does Ballard and Fremont look like 100 years after a line gets built to serve them?

  2. Yes, we should be worried.

    Sound Transit can say 20 times that this was just conceptual, but the concepts didn’t come from throwing darts at a project list pinned to the wall. This was clearly an indication of where planning staff sees a package going, which is frightening. Even their ‘best case’ option 4 is DOA in terms of ability to win a regional vote. As you say, you need strong majorities in Seattle to carry the rest of the region. I don’t think this package can even win in Seattle. And taking Eastside money, putting them in buses stuck on 405 so that you can build out to the hinterlands? Good luck winning on that.

    1. I agree. This concept is DOA and needs to be redone with focus on transit demand not political pleasing that just might redeploy service hours in the wrong places.

    2. Most if not all of the transit packages that failed in the past twenty years have been because transit fans were divided on them. The ones that transit fans were overwhelmingly united for passed (Seattle Prop 1, ST1 & 2), and overwhelmingly against failed (Monorail 2). The Roads & Transit before ST1 failed; transit fans were divided on it. A Seattle proposition a couple years ago failed because some transit fans wouldn’t vote for the large percentage on streetcars (instead of low-hanging fruit). I don’t remember exactly about King County Prop 1; it failed because the suburbs voted no, but I think some transit fans were against it too for some reason I can’t remember. ST3 has a strong chance of passage if transit fans are united for it, but not if half of us defect.

      1. I agree Mike. If you look at the numbers in the past, even the initiatives that passed did only because of overwhelming support in the city. Take away even a bit of that (with guys like me) and it is bound to fail.

        Besides, the arguments are really against it. The more look into the situation, the more you study it, the more you realize how ridiculous this set of proposals are. West Seattle light rail sounds good at first, until you realize it won’t provide an improvement for very many people and it will cost a bunch of money. Meanwhile, UW to Ballard is the opposite. At first glance, someone from Ballard thinks this won’t help in getting to downtown — then you run the numbers and realize it is way better then today, and you get to connect quickly to the UW as a bonus. Then you look at the other connection points (e. g. Northgate to Ballard) or the effect on bus service (being able to get from anywhere to anywhere very quickly via a combination of buses and train) and it sounds like a really, really good idea. Add in the fact that it is cheaper and you are bound to get widespread support. Build something else — something that will obviously provide a lot less functionality, and a lot higher cost, and you are bound to lose a lot of people.

        I just don’t see how they pass this thing with any of these proposals.

  3. Usually a ‘conceptual’ phase is when you dream big, not small. Usually presented concepts would include those things the overwhelming majority of public comments asked for. But these concepts, oh man…why is their first volley something so obviously and fundamentally neglectful of its richest, most transit supportive, most transit desperate subarea?

    At its most charitable reading, this just represents staff being tone deaf about optics while fully grade separated options are indeed still on the table. And I’m willing to wait until June to (once again) hammer home in public comment that grade separation is what we want and need.

    At its least charitable reading, this betrays ST’s existence not as a public agency but as an intergovernmental body whose selection of projects must satisfy jurisdictional rather than public constituencies, and is willing to soak Seattle to pay for spine projects. The entire binary framing of projects as ‘spine’ and ‘non-spine’ inherently privileges the former and diminishes the latter, and gives away a lot about their criteria for future scoring of projects in the System Plan.

    1. I agree in full. Come June we need to force a result that will address genuine needs and not political fantasies.

      That means a lot of on message comments sticking up for the right amount of service for the underserved.

    2. Exactly, if something isn’t even in the conceptual stage of planning then it’s going to be very difficult to get it considered down the line. I would think if something big is missing now is the time to make a lot of noise about it.

    3. It’s worse than that. If they are short on money, then propose the cheaper stuff. UW to Ballard light rail or another transit tunnel. But West Seattle light rail and no UW to Ballard light rail? That is nuts.

      1. “But West Seattle light rail and no UW to Ballard light rail? That is nuts.”

        It is called Seattle politics.

      2. There’s a precedent for light rail between Ballard and UW. In Stuttgart, Germany, they have LRV’s with a toothed wheel to engage a cog-track for climbing hills.

        Wallingford business community might decide that a moving light rail line will suit its economy better than a linear parking lot of stuck cars.

        And also, Stuttgart runs flatcars ahead of the lead car with bike racks. Still, main delay will be the blocks between I-5 and University Ave.

        Subway or not, wouldn’t fight against this. But when we finally get money for the subway, should be enough left over for this, both as project mitigation, and excellent surface transit above the subway forever.

        Mark Dublin

    4. You can do a lot with frequent express buses from Lynnwood and Des Moines. The two biggest problems with ST Express are infrequency and lack of transit lanes, so fix those.

      1. Olympia northward too. Whole stretch through Seattle to Everett is now blocked to a standstill and increasing number of days, for lengthening time.

        Since this is all part of the Interstate highway system, and therefore a national defense corridor- doesn’t military stuff get some Federal help just for that?

        Seem to recall that the 590 series came in with fresh transit lanes- what, 25 years ago?

        First good start would to be getting two direction all-day bus lanes between CPS and Northgate. Same amount of time overdue as duration of DSTT operations.

        Mark Dublin

  4. ST should figure out what ST3 and ST4 should look like (with public input) and plan ST3 to use the new taxes and extend the existing taxes until its done – even if that takes 30 years. Its how other systems are built and it would win a vote by a mile. Just draw the lines and let us loose.

    It would get us out of this peicemeal argument and let ST build quality.

    1. I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s what’s been missing all along. If we had started in 1990 with an integrated regional+local transit plan focused on pedestrian centers (urban villages) and a real grid and strong hubs and spokes, and then built it in phases, we’d be better off than this piecemeal approach where each project is decided without regard to later projects or local routes.

      The primary problem is the structure of ST’s long-range plan. Not the map itself but what it’s for and how it’s used. Instead of being “We have decided these lines”, it’s more of “These are the lines we’ll decide on later” — which is what leads to piecemeal decisions later. So you want a Spine (or preferably, a Seattle Subway). Then do the corridor analyses and alternatives analyses now for the whole region, and have the local transit agencies do complementary analyses for the surrounding areas, and put them together on the map. Then decide if that’s what you want to do, and make a phasing schedule and start the first phase. You’ll have to update the map every ten years as the environment changes, but that’s what all long-range plans already do.

      That’s what we should have done in 1990 when ST was created. Now we have to do some semblance of it in the current situation with lines on the ground and subareas full of existing expectations.

      But… there were two major impediments to doing this in 1990. The public’s and governments’ attitudes are significantly more urbanist now than they were then. So we might have gotten a very bad comprehensive plan with majority support. It took the failures and successes since then — and the rising population, rising ridership, and skyrocketing housing prices — to make some anti-urban folks come around at least partially.

      The second problem was the lack of city transit master plans and agency long-term plans. If they were ready, they could have simply plugged into ST’s plan and the differences reconciled (and they would have shaped ST’s plan). But they didn’t, so the entities would have had to write them from scratch and get their constituents to approve them. Now in 2015, Seattle and Bellevue have admirable transit master plans; as does Community Transit; and Metro has started working on one; and Lynnwood has a good downtown+highway 99 plan that implies transit routes. But they didn’t have these when ST was making its first long-term plan. And ST didn’t set up a structure for it, and the entities didn’t step up to do it. So we ended up with piecemeal ST projects and the status quo in local transit.

    2. I agree. Build the most important corridors first, then hope to build the next. Here is the order in which I would build it:

      1) UW to Ballard Light Rail
      2) West Side Transit Tunnel along with surface improvements.
      3) “Metro 8” Light Rail (Central Area, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Waterfront).
      4) Downtown to Ballard Light Rail.
      5) West Seattle Light Rail.

      The first two could be swapped, but it is ridiculous to suggest that the fifth should be built first, or that a streetcar gets us anything.

    3. Absolutely agreed. How can we plant this notion in the minds of the ST board and Staff?

      More importantly how do we turn the ship around in time to have an ST3 plan ready to go?

      1. Good question. We’ll have to figure that out soon or we probably won’t build anything of value for a long time.

      2. There is still time. They have studied most of what they need to. The only full do-over are the eastside studies.

        We might write something about this idea. Lets stop playing so much small ball and give people a long term plan to vote for.

        Though I don’t think there was a vote – this is what the DC I grew up in was like. I knew where they were going decades before they did. Certainly helps planning quite a bit.

  5. This makes the “Let’s all fuck Seattle” disposition of the region crystal clear. The staff wouldn’t have produced these useless proposals if the management hadn’t discreetly polled the ST Board and gotten a clear message: “We’re not paying for subways in Seattle.”

    So, vote “No” on ST3 and put full time bus lanes on 15th West/Elliott, Aurora to 145th, Lake City Way to 145th, the West Seattle Bridge from Fourth to Avalon Way. Apply the Rainier road diet all the way to the City limits. In other words, favor Seattle residents when allocating the use of street capacity rather than commuters from elsewhere.

    1. That is too spiteful for me.

      I think we all need to calm down and come to a win-win compromise.

      1. Sure, Joe, but what is the “win-win compromise”? What projects does it build? Does it look anything like either of the maps given?

      2. Win-win is we get Community Transit to serve Paine Field, subway for Ballard and more express buses?

      3. Sure, I’ll agree with that. I’d throw in a few other things (like the WSTT) too. But none of that has any relation to what the ST board is planning.

      4. I don’t think it is spiteful as those are all good ideas no matter what happens with Sound Transit. I say we should be doing that anyway even if it isn’t intended to spite the suburbs.

    2. I completely agree. If this plan passes, I will consider Sound Transit actively hostile to all hopes of good transit in this region, and vigorously campaign against ST3.

      1. I agree. Building Ballard to UW light rail or WSTT along with some suburban express buses and/or extending the spine is just fine (as Joe said). But none of that (for Seattle) is even on the sketch. That is just mind blowing.

    3. After having looked at the various Option 3 versions closely it is very clear that these proposals are 100% political. Link to Delridge/White Center but only Rapid Streetcar to Ballard?!?!?!?! A mile and a half of high, ultra-expensive overhead structure to serve as I recall from the designs a year ago three stations with a train that doesn’t even go into the CBD?

      Who, except a board headed by someone from West Seattle would come up with that option? And that conclusion is strengthened by the fact that the only non-spine improvement discussed in the “low income” option is Link to West Seattle Junction.

      Why is it West Seattle Junction in three of the options that include HCT to West Seattle but Delridge/White Center in the fourth?

      And how (and why) did Link to Tacoma Mall suddenly appear in an option that gives Seattle only a Rapid Streetcar to Ballard it could pay for itself?

      Martin’s observation, “n essence, a decision to focus strongly on the spine is a decision for taxes in North King and East King County to mostly pay for projects elsewhere”, tells me that the staff knows that Republicans in the Washington Senate are set to blow up Subarea Equity now that they’ve made North King County pay for the core of a system that in greate part benefits people outside the city.

      Sure, if Metro takes maximum advantage of the opportunities for bus intercept, Metro will save a bundle of money by not running buses into downtown Seattle from north of the Ship Canal. But who says that the Metro Council won’t just reallocate those hours to suburban service; how doe you know Ross, that your excellent ideas for Frequent Service throughout North Seattle will actually come to pass. After all, suburban representatives dominate the King County Council just as they dominate the SoundTransit Board.

      I can hear the arguments now. “We’ve been subsidizing bus service inside the City of Seattle for five decades. Now that they have that super-fast train to downtown, let’s take those service hours and give the poor people in Enumclaw all day service. [sotto voce] They won’t use it, but it’ll make us look good at vote time.”

      1. And how (and why) did Link to Tacoma Mall suddenly appear in an option that gives Seattle only a Rapid Streetcar to Ballard it could pay for itself?

        Don’t forget North Everett in that scenario, leading to an unprecedented ~71 mile line.

      2. “In essence”
        “in greater part”
        “how do”

        Can we vote on an Edit function in STB3?

      3. Zach,

        Ah, yes. Let us not overlook North Everett, a bustling destination with 40′ bus service every 20 minutes. There is clearly a sterling opportunity here for High Capacity Transit to prove itself worthy!

      4. They’re aiming at the Tulalip Outlet Mall. ST has a giant map with all the malls that are or ever were on it, and a big Sharpie to draw lines connecting them. Voila! Rapid transit!

        (/snark, only about the Tulalip Mall. Maybe. I think.)

      5. I agree. The maps are just crazy. It is as if they have absolutely no idea what they are doing. They are looking at a bizarre map that doesn’t include population or employment data (or list the freeways or geology or just about anything). How you can possibly suggest a West Seattle Light Rail line before a UW to Ballard line?! Wait, they don’t even propose a UW to Ballard line! Just insane. They seem to have no idea what Seattle is or how much it costs to build things, or how you add value to a transit system. They are acting like six year olds and drawing lines on a map without any understanding of what they would mean.

      6. Scott,

        Don’t be so quick to reject Tulalip Mall. I can see a revenue opportunity for “cruise trains” from Sea-Tac direct to the casino. Add a third ultra-long platform and run six car non-stop trains for marks from Asia.

        Sounds like a plan.

      7. Continuing.

        The casino could own the trains so they could be posh and clean, with fancy seat coverings and none of those ugly bars for standees. Everyone gets a seat on the Tulalip Trolley!

      8. Anandakos–you’re right! Hadn’t considered that. You’ve got to hit Vancouver, Edmonton and Fort McMurray, though, based on the license plates on the cars at the mall. (The Tulalip Trolley could be made three-class and serve Dubai-on-the-Skagit on the way.)

      9. The ST district ends at Everett. I have not heard of any push to bring north Snohomish in. Certainly nothing like the calls to Thurston County and extend Sounder to Olympia.

      10. “how (and why) did Link to Tacoma Mall suddenly appear in an option that gives Seattle only a Rapid Streetcar to Ballard it could pay for itself?”

        ST declared Tacoma Mall the southern end of the Spine in December’s long-range plan update. So this alternative goes all the way to it. Other contenders of course were Tacoma Dome, Lakewood, downtown Tacoma, or west Tacoma.

      11. @Mike Orr
        PSRC presents Sound Transit’s intermall line.

        A line connecting all of the vaguely similar shopping malls of the region with publically funded 500 car parking garages.

      12. I have sometimes thought Link could be called “The Train to the Five Malls”. Alderwood, Northgate, Bellevue, Southcenter, FW Commons. But adding Tacoma Mall and Everett Mall makes seven. “Seven Malls for the Seven Seas”? And Downtown Seattle is a quasi-mall because it has a lot of the same stores, so that makes eight. Eight is Great.

      13. @Mike Orr
        For the record, Westlake center is basically a mall, as is Pacific Place. They just both happen to be 3-4 story, small footprint malls that you can often find onsode large cities.

  6. Martin even I am growing cold feet at supporting light rail to Paine Field. What is needed instead of throwmoremoneyatit is for Community Transit to do a full assessment of Paine Field transit needs and with the new funding buy service hours as appropriate.

    That would make a lot more sense and reward big Community Transit donors than losing ST3. I get it Ballard needs ST3 and I ask for the same courtesy from all of you.

    1. I would agree, but I would probably defer to those areas as far as my vote is concerned. In other words, while I think money is best spent on bus service in Snohomish County (now that Link will reach Lynnwood) I don’t see extending light rail north as being a deal breaker. Most of those plans are not crazy.

      On the other hand, most of the proposals for Seattle are terrible. They are simply a waste of money. The only proposal that is half way decent is the one that has West Seattle light rail along with Ballard light rail (that skips the UW). That is not only ridiculously expensive, but really bad. A handful of people in West Seattle get a faster ride, but most don’t. Most wish they could take a fast bus downtown, instead of having to take a bus the wrong direction, then wait for the infrequent train. Meanwhile, only a few people in Ballard benefit as well. If you are trying to get to the UW, you might as well keep taking the 44. Speaking of buses, the bus routes that would benefit from these changes are minor. Forget a grid — or if you have a grid, it will be terrible. For example, Lake City to Ballard:

      Bus from Lake City to Northgate — Ten minutes
      Train from Northgate to downtown — Fifteen minutes
      Train from downtown to Ballard — Fifteen minutes

      That’s forty minutes before you count transfers. Crazy. Better drive. Now consider the (cheaper) alternative:

      Bus from Lake City to 130th — Five minutes
      Train from Northgate to UW — Ten minutes
      Train from Ballard to UW — Ten minutes

      That is competitive with driving. How can Sound Transit just ignore the basic mobility rules for some very important areas. I’m talking about the most densely populate area between the UW and the Canadian border (Lake City) and Ballard. How can you spend billions “serving Ballard” while ignoring the much better, and (CHEAPER) alternative that provides much better mobility.

      But its not just Lake City. How about Bitter Lake to Ballard? Well, you could take the bus along Aurora (that part is actually really good, or it could be) but then what. Then you are up in Wallingford, next to Aurora, waiting for the 44. Again, you better drive.

      But build the UW to Ballard line, and that trip is fast and easy. Again, competitive with driving (the Aurora buses travel in an HOV lane). You play this game all day long. Pick various spots in the city, and then figure out how you get from one to the other. Pretty soon, things like the UW to Ballard light rail line, or the WSTT start sounding really good. That is before you realize they are CHEAPER! Holy smoke, it is like Sound Transit wants to buy a fifty dollar Big Mac instead of a ten dollar order of good Pad Thai. Just insane.

  7. The ST board has a supermajority of members whose primary determination is that Seattle stop getting what they think is the lion’s share of transit investment. I don’t see a win-win compromise emerging, and if it did it would be well outside of ST’s traditional MO.

    A different approach – and one that’s never been taken – is to demand that ST examine the ridership impacts of these different system options. They have never done network analyses to determine whether an extensive spine (into what in other regions would be inter-city service) is more effective than a rail network in the urbanized area (Seattle and the eastside primarily). I know how it would turn out on every technical measure and for every desired environmental or community outcome – and so does ST, which is why that analysis will never be published. If we can’t have a win-win solution, can we at least have a real planning document? This is just a toolbox for examining entirely political options within an entirely political set of constraints.

    1. …With a data-quality clause to ensure that ridership/impacts are measured on the basis of best-available information and real-world trends, and independent of PSRC puffery.

    2. They need our votes for this to get passes at the Ballot. If they screw Seattle as bad as it looks like they are going to, there will not be a ST3.

      Time for plan B

    3. I agree with all of the comments. But I would also say that the study needs to include the impact on bus service. Sound Transit is just stupid. I have sadly come to that conclusion. They don’t seem to understand how to build a good transit network. Hint: it involves a lot of buses.

      1. I was thinking about Jarrett Walker. I wonder how much it would cost to get his group to do a summary study of the area? A lot of the work has been done, and you wouldn’t have to get too detailed to come to the same conclusions we did. Basically, you would come up with the Ballard to UW light rail line, or the WSTT. Everything else will be way below that in terms of transit improvement for the money.

        Maybe we can fund a kickstarter campaign to get an independent transit group to study the Seattle area and make recommendation. That sounds weird, but I think we could do it.

  8. I wonder if ST’s lack of enthusiasm for Ballard->UW subway has to do with extensibility. Once it’s built, its done. All the other lines let the imagination run amuck extending them off to the ends of the earth in ST-n.

      1. That’s exactly what the corridor study originally was: Ballard to Redmond via UW. We raised a big fuss that the corridor must be split so that the Ballard-UW part isn’t dependent on the UW-Redmond part, and because the Ballard-UW part would need higher frequency and is more urgent. So ST split the corridor formally although it was still one study for both parts.

        The original assumption was that the line would go east on 520, but we later got ST to consider a Sand Point – Kirkland alternative too.

      2. Here’s why 520 is a terrible rail alignment: there is a transit desert between the UW and Overlake – no transit passengers along the entire stretch. Once you get to Overlake you meet the rail line we’re already building. Redmond to UW on 520 is a just fine bus corridor.

        The better crossing is at Sand Point to Kirkland. It would be half the crossing length. On the Westside it would connect to University Village (that desperately needs a good transit connection), Children’s Hospital and Magnuson Park. On the Eastside it would be set up to serve Kirkland, Bellevue, Eastgate and Issaquah. Together with the I-90/Bellevue/Redmond line this new line would connect just about every eastside pedestrian destination with a single transfer in Bellevue.

      3. Quasimodal, correct me if I’m wrong – yes, we’re going for a comment record here – but uh you want ANOTHER crossing of Lake Washington?

        How much is THAT going to cost?

      4. I think it would cost less to make a new crossing than to modify the SR 520 bridge and approaches. The second crossing would be long-term at best, but if we;re someday lined up on either side, making the crossing would add very competitive mobility for trips connecting north Seattle and the eastside compared to driving or buses. I’m just saying if you’re thinking about 520, don’t, there are better approaches to connecting the eastside and north Seattle.

      5. Yet again, this is a (floating)-dead-in-the-water idea.

        Sand Point-UW is literally as far as Ballard-UW, with 1/50th as many destinations, connections, or all-day trips. Plus NIMBYs. Lots and lots of NIMBYs.

        Downtown Kirkland, meanwhile, is lovely but very, very, very small. And permanently limited in its size by the politics of that town and its fraudulent claim that Totem Lake is ever going to be a “place”.

        You’re talking about billions of dollars for a literal trickle of riders. Even ST isn’t dumb enough to go for that.

      6. @d.p. @Quasimodal

        Any 2nd crossing of the lake is so far down the road that its entirely too early to worry about it. There would need to be a tremendous amount of growth and a cultural shift in other parts of the city to really allow it, and I don’t see that happening in a time frame where we really need to worry about it.

        If we can at least kill off an immediate 520 crossing manifest destiny that would waste billions to take a train to nowhere (and duplicate I-90) we can spend those dollars elsewhere where they might actually be useful.

        Let’s worry about a 2nd crossing of the lake when the demand exists for it.

        I would focus more on a potential U Village extension before I would worry about how we may or may not cross the lake again. Even that is much lower priority compared to upgrading the current core of the 44 route.

        Let’s focus on the important bits first and we can worry about extending later.

      7. Charles, totally agree. I just don’t want to hear any more about 520 rail. That should be dead dead dead.

      8. I do think there should be discussion on the eastside of a Kirkland to Issaquah line though. And if it’s considered, it would be worth considering what the long-term system implications might be.

    1. Well, you could turn it hard north at 25th/U Village and run it up to Lake City (Kenmore, UW Bothell); they’d like that because after the severe pain of having to serve a neighborhood in the city that could use it, they’d be free to pull their typical move and extend the line to Woodinville! Monroe! Index! Plain! (Hey, we’ll just extend the ST boundaries, no worries. There’s got to be a parking lot in the hinterlands somewhere without a proposed train station….)

      1. Maybe in ST5 we can tunnel through the Cascades and build light rail to Ellensburg. By then we should be able to extend our ‘Ballard Rapid Streetcar’ to West Seattle. Maybe not deep into West Seattle… just the Junction. Nothing further.

      2. Or they could just build it, in its superlatively useful core 3-mile form, on the merits.

        Like any transit agency in the world with an ounce of responsibility to deliver mobility outcomes for its billions and billions in regressive-tax suck would do.

      3. Yep. The spur itself is sufficient.

        That corridor already had transit ridership worthy of HCT 25 years ago per Metro’s own numbers.

    2. You are partly correct, but there are also capacity issues, transfer issues, and of course the bulk of the demand is still for Ballard-DT.

      But, ya, Ballard-UW isn’t likely to be extended anywhere of significance. It’s an orphan line.

      1. Oh, poor orphan line that would actually do something useful for people going places!

        Shouldn’t do anything to which you can’t attach 73 miles of empty, useless crap at one or both ends, amirite?

      2. Capacity and transfer issues, you have got to be kidding. We can worry about capacity issues when we’re at even a small a fraction of maximum system capacity. Anyway, Central Link shouldn’t put theoretical future capacity for Everett before capacity that is needed TODAY.

        And transfer issues, are you kidding me?

      3. While the primary demand may be Ballard to Downtown the second biggest line of demand to/from Ballard is toward the UW. Also given the travel times while the trip is out of direction it is faster than any bus or streetcar scenario.

        As a bonus it interconnects everything between Ballard and the University District to each other and to Downtown.

        A further benefit is such a line can intercept the 40, RR D, 28, 5, RR E, 16, and 26 providing fast access between much of Seattle North of the ship canal and the rest of the link network.

      4. lazarus, have you ever ridden the 42nd Street Shuttle in New York?

        It’s less than a mile long.

        It has two stations.

        It is a critical component of the MTA’s crosstown service.

      5. Yes, Chris has it. Just imagine some trips:

        Lake City to Ballard — Around fifteen minutes faster with Ballard to UW light rail (and around twenty minutes faster when you add the station at NE 130th).

        Bitter Lake to Ballard — Around fifteen minutes faster with Ballard to UW light rail

        Lynnwood to Ballard — Around fifteen minutes faster with Ballard to UW light rail

        UW to Ballard — — Around fifteen minutes faster with Ballard to UW light rail

        Those are all trips to Ballard the place you just spent billions serving. Those are all from very populous areas (as densely populated, if not more densely populated than anything between the Seattle and Canadian border). To say nothing about the dozens of other possibilities along the way.

      6. Ross,

        If you look at the pairs beyond Ballard, it gets even better. Start doing trip pairs from Loyal Heights, Phinney/Greenwood, Wallingford, Tangletown, Fremont, North Queen Anne/SPU, Interbay, and Magnolia.

      7. @Chris — Yep. That’s really what jumped out at me when I started looking at it. Buses run really fast along the north/south corridors (15th Ave NW, Greenwood, Aurora) and really slow east-west along 45th. Then you just have the basic geography — from Ballard to downtown via the UW is a minor detail, but Ballard to the UW via downtown will always take a long time. All of that adds up to much improved transit mobility from various trip pairs throughout the north end. Ballard to the UW is not about Ballard, or about the UW, it is about the entire north end of Seattle.

        I said as much in my post (

      8. Didn’t Martin’s post on capacity issues a few weeks ago shoot down your claim of capacity problems?

      9. Lazarus – the things you say are so often false its kind of mind blowing.

        How about expanding south to DT Seattle? Or East to the Eastside (Sand Point or no)? Or (gasp!) Interline – since there is clearly capacity.

        Your numbers for overcapacity simply don’t foot. Ballard/UW has a 24k/day estimate and 3 minute spine service would mean 18k/hour capacity.

        Expanding Ballard UW south to DT Seattle removes nearly all of the transfer stress (if any.)

        If there is a genuine reason to not do Ballard/DT other than your reasons which are all a variation of “ST Doesnt want to” please… We’re all ears.

      10. That’s the advantage of a cross line. It generates more ridership than two parallel lines would because it facilitates twice as many trip combinations.

    3. No, they are just stupid. Consider that this would start at 15th NE and to the UW. This means that it could be extended to:

      1) 24th NW — This would be a very good stop — better than just any outside King County (and better than many of the ones inside).
      2) 32nd NW — Not worth doing unless much of western Ballard rezones. That could happen well before ST3 though.
      3) U-Village — The area would have to be rebuilt (with a lot more housing) but that is not impossible. I doubt there would be any objection to building really high (unlike much of Seattle) and the market for such housing is certainly there.
      4) Children’s Hospital — A bit of a stretch, but employment is significant, and with a bit of zoning changes, housing would be as well.
      5) Kirkland — A crazy idea in my opinion, but not as crazy as West Seattle to SoDo light rail. At least this would give some people (a handful, really) much faster mobility. It would probably be really expensive (and thus not worth it) but again, that puts it into the category of West Seattle light rail (which Sound Transit thinks is a higher priority than Ballard light rail).

    4. You could easily loop a Ballard-UW line up 15th or 24th, up Holman (or down 85th to serve Greenwood, Greenlake, etc.) and then meet back up with the Northgate Station. Or when it hits Aurora, crank it up that to serve the useful parts of Shoreline and beyond.

      1. I’d vote d.p. for mayor of Seattle just for the automatic appointment to the ST board. I’d love to see someone explain to Pat McCarthy the basics of building a ridership-appropriate transit system. How about it, d.p.?

      2. I have suggested DP for mayor a few times before. I hadn’t thought about that putting him on the ST board, hmm. :)?

  9. People have been joking about how much of a toy the current “spine” is with grade based travel through SODO. It’s slower than express buses to the airport except during parts of rush hour. ST thinks that building more rail like that to complete a spine that takes hours to get from one end to another is going to help make their existence and LR as a whole succeed here? Man they really are out of touch. I really hope they understand that if you rush things to please the politicians today, you run the risk of creating a completely overpriced under utilized system. I’m getting the feeling that we are heading that direction with everything they release. They strongly discourage any grade separation, they go after freeway alignments, and they attempt to use shortcuts at every turn. Clearly the priority is not building a lasting system, it’s unfortunate but it seems that’s what you get with the way ST is structured with subareas.

    1. Not only that, a surface routing on highway 99 in the fringes would be much more effective than a surface routing in the center because the ROW is wide and 40-45 mph and not very congested. So if they really want a surface line to Ballard, they should make the periphery proposals surface too.

    2. Yes, I think that is the basic problem. They are trying really hard to make a commuter rail line, but with light rail. That is ridiculously expensive, and ineffective. It is no good for anyone, really.

    3. The lack of evaluating existing Central Link station and track issues is reflective of the missing parts that should be studied in a systems plan. Unfortunately, to study them requires more time than just a few months. I think ST3 is doomed unless they look at this missing element.

  10. Link from Totem Lake to Issaquah via Eastside Rail Corridor; ‘Rapid Streetcar’ to Ballard

    HAHAHAHAHAAHaahahahaha… ugh…

    1. Quite obviously Ballard needs a mall if it wants to get a station on the Malls Are Awesome Super Train System.

      Get with it, Ballard. Don’t let yourselves turn into some sort of non-mall having urban hellhole!

  11. Step 1:
    Force Seattle to pay for all work on the spine in its subarea using subarea equity

    Step 2:
    Get rid of subarea equity just in time to force Seattle to pay for everyone else’s light rail too.

    Step 3:
    Allow Seattle to build itself a shitty little streetcar to Ballard with only marginal capacity and speed improvements.

    Step 4:
    Never be trusted by Seattlites ever again.

    This isn’t regionalism, its a scam. If we were being regional, all subareas would have put their money “all in” on the spine in the first place.

    1. Step 5 – Move to Kent, or Redmond or Lynnwood and EDIT steps 1-4.
      Hummm, you got a different answer, didn’t you.
      ST1 and 2 gave all the FTA New Starts money and a ton of bonding to Seattle for ‘their tunnels’ because it scored very well and Patty M.was… well… keeping the score in DC.
      Now that it’s time for the burbs to get some lovin’, you want to ditch sub area equity and start a new game plan, called screw the burbs again, Oh wait, that’s the same old game plan Metro played for years, resulting in 40-40-20.
      So much for the history lesson on who screws who around here.

      1. Except that not a dollar of suburban funding went to construct tunnels in Seattle, thanks to strict subarea equity up till now. Meanwhile, the tunnels geographically inside Seattle and paid for by Seattle dollars were yanked around, serving Seattle worse, for suburban interests. Where is the First Hill station? Where are the other Capitol Hill stations? Where is the Maple Leaf station, the 130th St Station, the Graham St Station? All lost for suburban interests, even while Seattle dollars were going to construct the line.

      2. This.

        Perhaps the most egregious talk in which ST has been openly engaging lately has been the idea of winning Federal money for the next in-city projects* and then explicitly shuffling the exact same $ amount of Seattle’s money back toward the outer spine, which the Feds would never in a million years find worthy of massive subsidy.

        That is tantamount to stealing the Federal grant outright, and if it isn’t illegal, it should be.

        *(not that the Feds will necessarily fund the useless-shit versions of the Seattle projects now on display)

      3. Mic,

        I don’t know where your suburban resentment is coming from, but that is not the way it works, either in this region or nationally,

        If anything ST has managed to go one better than the usual scenario by making Seattle pay for all of the the core part of the system before saying “no more rail for you!” The irony is without sub-area equity Northgate might have happened faster and the First Hill station might not have been deleted.

        But look at pretty much any postwar rail system built by a regional agency. Almost always they have the core of the system get from the center to the city limits as cheaply as possible. Once that is done almost all additional expansion is on suburban lines. We see this pattern in Portland, Sacramento, The Bay Area (though Muni keeps it from being as bad as it could be), San Diego, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas, Twin Cities, etc. The few exceptions are LA (though they are building the ridiculous gold line to Azusa and beyond), DC, and those systems that never managed to build much beyond a “starter” line.

      4. d.p.

        I am strongly opposed to any efforts to transfer funds from North King to the other sub-areas. I’m even opposed sub-area transfers out of East King unless it is something the leadership and voters in East King clearly want.

        I might support a small loan to Snohomish from other sub-areas if the link extensions north from Lynnwood have especially good performance when analyzed on a system wide basis.

        That said I really don’t care how funds are shuffled between Pierce and South King to build whatever combination of Link/Sounder/bus they can afford.

      5. I don’t see how anything in Snohomish County will have system wide benefits that exceed decent projects in Seattle. Spend the money wisely in both areas, and Seattle just comes out ahead as far as system wide benefit goes. There are several reasons for this:

        1) Seattle is the core of the area. More population density, more jobs, more education, more attractions.
        2) Snohomish County, like most suburbs, built up around the freeway. This means that freeway improvements can be very cost effective. There is no “Ballard to UW Expressway”. There are no HOV lanes that average 30 MPH during rush hour, which could be easily changed to go 60 MPH (and which do go 60 MPH most of the day). There is only a slow set of streets that averages in the single digits throughout the day.
        3) Snohomish County will soon have a very good interface to the rest of the system in Lynnwood. A bus from Everett can get there quite fast, and then folks can transfer. Call Lynnwood a hub, if you want. The few people that will go from say, Martha Lake to South Everett will have to take a local, or make the transfer in Lynnwood. Either way you are talking about only a few dozen (if that) a day. A day!

        As I said above, Sound Transit seems to be trying to build a commuter rail line with a light rail system. That is ridiculously bad value. Most commuter rail lines are pretty cheap to build, because they leverage existing rail lines. Those that aren’t turn out to be terrible values, even when the are constructed in areas with four times as many people as us (BART). The folks that don’t have a good rail line leverage the roads and have good express bus service. That is simply a much better value for that area.

      6. As Ross points out, the lack of a “Ballard to UW Expressway”—or any other expedient way to connect the two points and those in between—means Sound Transit has the opportunity to make one of the few remaining connections that would be completely game-changing for mobility, not just for traveling inside Seattle, but accessing the corridor regionally.

        Seeing as improving mobility in the region is Sound Transit’s stated mission (“Sound Transit plans, builds, and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.”), you’d think this line would be at the top of their “things-to-do.”


      7. Precisely.

        Why do any of the things that your lauded mode could do exceptionally well, when instead you can just check off some endpoints from a political wishlist, accomplishing very little for the upwards of $50 billion we’ll have spent when our debts are repaid?

      8. “Seattle is the core of the area. More population density, more jobs, more education, more attractions.”

        That’s not how it looks in the suburbs. They would say that’s irrelevant because 4/5 of the population and voters live in the suburbs, so the majority have already said low density is better, and it’s the American Way anyway. Their biggest concern is freeway congestion; that’s what hinders them the most, and they see rail as a way to bypass it. And there’s an undercurrent of one city, one vote — the suburbs have more cities. So the view from the suburbs is practically the opposite of the view from the city, and that’s why we’re in this dilemma.

      9. “But look at pretty much any postwar rail system built by a regional agency. Almost always they have the core of the system get from the center to the city limits as cheaply as possible. Once that is done almost all additional expansion is on suburban lines. We see this pattern in Portland, Sacramento, The Bay Area (though Muni keeps it from being as bad as it could be), San Diego, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas, Twin Cities, etc. The few exceptions are LA (though they are building the ridiculous gold line to Azusa and beyond), DC, and those systems that never managed to build much beyond a “starter” line.

        Well, Portland also has the weird Portland Streetcar construction and Sacramento keeps trying to head for empty “redevelopment” areas. Not better.

        As for Salt Lake, Denver, Dallas, and Phoenix, they are super-sprawlsvilles so the central urban demand is understandably dominated by the suburban demand.

        Twin Cities is having big, well-informed fights right now about urban vs. suburban corridors.

        However, I have some local knowledge of San Diego and I their choices of lines are genuinely good, though they weren’t built in the perfect order. They’re hitting the dense spots, particularly with the Blue Line, both downtown routes (yes, there are two), and the planned La Jolla line, but also with the SDSU route.

    2. @mic

      Kent got Sounder, Redmond and Lynnwood are getting link… last I checked sub area equity worked out quite well for the suburbs in ST2.

      No one here in Seattle is suggesting that ditching subarea equity is a good idea, on the contrary, when we see signs of this going on and sound transit wanting to send Seattle and Bellevue money off to build rail into the hinterlands without building much of anything for us, we get quite angry.

      What in the world made you think we were talking about taking away suburban sub area funds?

      1. perhaps your step 2, for starts. The firewalls for sub area spending were a minimum safeguard for keeping Seattle’s sticky fingers in their own pockets. The burbs have a long history of being told to do the right thing, and you’ll get yours later on… until Seattle wants to change the rules again.
        Wrap your head around this. Seattle should pay the suburban cities for all the workers they import to fill their office towers daily. We’ll call it the Guest Worker Tax. (OK, I’m just f#%^ing with you now, but it really is a matter of perspective) and TRUST.
        Frankly, I wish Seattle started their own Light Rail System, and if it penciled out to extend beyond the city limits, let those areas build their own rail extensions. We would be having a totally different discussion 20 years after Sound Move passed.

      2. Could you give examples of that history? I see a long history of Seattle being told to do the right thing, think regionally, fund the burbs, and get their own later if ever.

      3. For decades, all routes entering Seattle were paid for by taxes from outside Seattle, including all the ones that had reverse commute riders. That changed in the late 90’s I think, but it took lots of arm twisting and threats to the County Council to get that done. How many ST express buses are paid for by Seattle, and how many residents of Seattle use those services? Why does S.King pay for Link in proportion of mileage rather that ridership? Where’s the funding for 509 while billions are being poured into the DBT. Ask any of the suburban city Traffic Engineers who the big dogs at the trough are when MV taxes are apportioned through the PSRC. It’s better now, but memories are long around here.

      4. Even if the ST board believe the suburbs have all the leverage, the reality is anything they want to happen still has to pass at the ballot box, and if history is a guide, nothing is going to pass at the ballot box without a significant majority of the Seattle vote.

        If you think of it this way, we actually do have plenty of leverage. It’s time we started using it.

  12. Anyone else notice how badly out of scale the “conceptual” maps are? Its almost like they want to make us think that Lynnwood to Everett is actually a shorter distance than Ballard to West Seattle.

    1. I remain amazed that no one ever calls ST out on the Rainier Valley jog in their maps. TIBS is further west than Columbia City is, and Rainier Beach is barely further west. It’s as if ST is saying “aren’t we politically correct by jogging into the Rainier Valley” yet it’s not really out of direction. The actual stations are pretty much in a north-south axis all the way from Mt. Baker to Angle Lake to eventually the Federal Way Transit Center.

      Graphics have a purpose, but certainly they often have subliminal messages. You’re right to note that.

  13. This is exactly the level and kind of study you would expect at this stage of the game. This is normal and no reason to panic or mass outside the ST offices with pitch forks and torches.

    That said, the key to making ST3 work for Seattle is to retain sub-area equity. Have that and everything will work out. And remember, the burbs are more scared of Seattle taking their money than Seattle is of the opposite. Take away sub-area equity and ST3 is in trouble across most of it’s voting region.

    Ballard-DT-WS is where the Seattle focus will be. Ballard-UW isn’t included in any of these materials because it doesn’t make sense.

    1. “Ballard-UW isn’t included in any of these materials because it doesn’t make sense.” On what planet do you spend most of your time? Ballard-UW makes infinitely more sense than Link from Lynwood to Everett via Paine Field.

      1. This is coming from the same person who thinks that 130th station makes no sense. I don’t know where Lazarus comes from, but I strongly suspect its not Seattle.

      2. WTF? Ballard-UW doesn’t make sense. But somehow Alaska Junction to SODO does? Shit, might as well build light rail to Mt. Vernon then.

      3. Ballard/UW compared to Everett? According to ST Studies:

        Bal-UW ridership: 20-24K daily
        Everett-Lynnwood: 39-51K daily

        But pitting these against each other is the wrong fight. The real fight is having plan that serves both Ballard and Everett effectively. The idea of a longer time horizon for generating the necessary revenue makes a lot of sense, as opposed to picking an arbitrary horizon and piecemealing it all the time.

      4. So Lynnwood-Everett is ~2,800-3,600 riders per mile, and Ballard-UW is 5,000-6,000 per mile? Usually distance-based performance metrics privilege long-haul service, but it’s telling that the shortest line around beats it on even that metric.

      5. I try to give ridership studies the benefit of the doubt.

        But as a reminder, it’s ambitious to expect 39-51K riders in Everett/Lynnwood, when the combined population of those two sprawling cities is only 142K.

      6. Dan,

        PSRC 2030 population projections are what the ridership is based on. I believe Ballard already has more people than the 2030 target.

        That said the ridership numbers for expresses and commuter routes to/from Snohomish county are pretty good. Certainly more than I would expect based on population.

      7. A good chunk of the peak-hour riders from Everett may come from people driving to the train from beyond Everett – people who don’t even live in the ST district and aren’t paying ST taxes – people whom ST should not be accountable to.

      8. Oh, you mean like the 50% of the riders that get off the Edmond’s Ferry and climb aboard a nearly freebie $30 commuter train ride to Seattle? I wonder how much of their hard earned money is paying for the privileged of living across the Sound and bagging big Seattle bucks for the trip home.

      9. I, like you, would like Sounder North replaced by something more cost-effective.

    2. Please explain why we should expect a conceptual study that, if built, would give the suburbs everything and Seattle next to nothing. Shouldn’t any fair conceptual study be fair to all sides?

    3. “Ballard-UW isn’t included in any of these materials because it doesn’t make sense.”
      I’m with Zach on this one, where’s the logic in your statement? It’s obviously not based on ridership estimates and the need to minimize subsidies, and it’s not based on project cost.
      If you said politically Downtown/West Seattle over UW then you might make some sense.
      However, there is one scenario I would favor Ballard-West Seattle over UW which is the inclusion of a T junction of some sort at Woodland Zoo (or there abouts) which later could be used to connect to UW.

    4. Ballard and UW isn’t including in any of the materials because they drew up the plans years ago, before anyone was thinking about Ballard and UW, and never bothered to revisit them.

      It’s the same reason the 130th St. station isn’t being considered. At the time they were doing the planning, they weren’t thinking about it, and they don’t want to risk delaying construction to start thinking about it now.

    5. >> Ballard-UW isn’t included in any of these materials because it doesn’t make sense.

      and you just lost Seattle. You were going pretty good there, too. I’m not saying you are an official spokesperson for Sound Transit, but you seem to have a pretty good ear to the way they think. For example, you figured they would ignore the obvious advantages to a station at NE 130th, and sure enough, they are not going to build it (or at least, not now). So if Sound Transit is stupid enough to not even consider UW to Ballard, while at the same time considering West Seattle to downtown light rail, then I think ST 3 is toast. I just can’t see folks in Seattle supporting it. Ultimately, you have to either spend time figuring out the situation yourself, or trust the experts. The experts (and there are a lot of them here) all say the same thing — that is nuts. Why then, would a voter in Seattle vote for a system that is nuts?

      Keep in mind, up until now, nothing was nuts. There were mistakes (like leaving out First Hill and a 520 station) but UW to the downtown? Great. Northgate to the UW? Fine. Bellevue? Certainly. Downtown to the airport? A bit of a stretch, not the first (or second or third) thing I would build, but reasonably good. At worst it is just a bone thrown to an area that could use a couple (you’re welcome, Tukwila and Rainier Valley).

      But building light rail from West Seattle to downtown before building light rail from Ballard to the UW — that is nuts, and it is nuts for the entire city. Even the folks I know who live in West Seattle think it is nuts — it wouldn’t take much for them to vote against it. These are folks that are well aware of the fact that at 10:00 AM, riding a bus would be much faster (both directions) for the entire rest of the day. They understand that would it would no more serve West Seattle than U-Link serves the Central Area. It would make for a faster ride for a handful of people (again, in that brief morning window) while the rest of West Seattle receives no benefit from it.

      ST3 will simply go down in flames unless they build what should obviously be built (Ballard to UW light rail or the second transit tunnel). Everything else would simply be stupid, and folks would quickly realize it is stupid, and vote against. If Seattle voters don’t like it, don’t expect the rest of the area to carry it (that has never happened).

      1. ST3 will simply go down in flames unless they build what should obviously be built (Ballard to UW light rail or the second transit tunnel). Everything else would simply be stupid, and folks would quickly realize it is stupid, and vote against. If Seattle voters don’t like it, don’t expect the rest of the area to carry it (that has never happened).

        Exactly, because most anti-tax people don’t like density of any kind…

        I “get it” it’s up to Seattle to carry ST3 through to victory. Furthermore, Seattle voters are a bit… beta and won’t vote in every election. But do Sound Transit leaders?

        Are some of you willing to quit your sniping and back a positive alternative to the Paine Field dogleg that gives everybody (Urbanists, Future of Flight, IAM 751, other underserved Paine Field tenants) something a positive net gain for less money? SounderBruce, ASDF2, I’m taking to you two (for starters).

        Are we in the STB comments going to create our own ST3 package so since the State Legislature is going to authorize some funding – as I pep-talked you about in November? Or are we doomed to waiting until 2019 to seeing a genuine package we all can support for 2020 elections?

    6. ST has never said that Ballard – UW doesn’t make sense, and they’ve basically conceded that 130th is a good idea. It’s just that they’re prioritizing them behind other things they want to do first. That way if ST3 passes and ST4 doesn’t, they’ll have those other things. ST itself wants a Lake City/Bothell line, but that’s another thing they’ve left for later. Whereas we rate Ballard – UW as #2 or maybe #1.

      Which raises the interesting possibilty that if Ballard-downtown-West Seattle is in ST3 and it passes, does that mean Ballard – UW would be next in ST4? Or would it have to compete with and possibly be bumped again by Lake City/Bothell?

      (Then there’s the Denny Way line, which isn’t even in ST’s long-term plan…)

      1. Perhaps the city funding Ballard-UW directly via the monorail,tax authority would be a way to go?

      2. ST is not sufficient consolation. If and when it ever happens, by the time such projects are actually built and open for service, most the people on this blog will be either retired or dead.

        We need Ballard->UW in ST 3, not ST 4.

      3. Yes we need it in ST3, but we need to understand the nature of the opposition, and not accuse them of things they aren’t doing.

      4. If Ballard-downtown-West Seattle is in ST3 (and the only Seattle project) then it will fail. Just look at the comments. You have guys like me who would vote against it. Keep in mind I’ve voted for every transit project out there (including the one that came before ST1, as well as “roads and transit”). There would be plenty of organized opposition in Seattle. If the argument is “It is better than nothing, we will hopefully, someday, maybe build the better pieces later”, then it fail miserably. We’ve never had a transit proposal that failed in Seattle, but was carried by the suburbs.

        As it is, selling this to the suburbs is very difficult. Given the “complete the spine” attitude of Snake Transit, I just don’t see how they do it. You are getting diminishing returns there, because there is no network effect. You don’t have thousands of people going from Martha Lake to South Everett who would suddenly find their travel time substantially improved by the added rail. You have the vast majority of people who simply want to get into Seattle (or back). You have a commuter rail pattern, but with light rail costs. For the vast majority of transit users, extending light rail does nothing. You can start your day by taking a bus to the train in Lynnwood, or taking a bus to the train in Everett. The first would probably be faster. Meanwhile, much of the population in the county would simply never ride the train north of Lynnwood. So good luck selling that to the folks in Snohomish County.

        Likewise with light rail to Tacoma (or close to it). Someone will look at the numbers and say “Wait a second, it will take more than an hour to get to Seattle? Screw that — the bus is faster”. Even the ride to the airport isn’t much better than a bus. I just don’t see anything in the plans that would gather much support other than much better bus service, which they seem to be ignoring.

        From a regional perspective, the obvious light rail lines are just about done (after extending East Link into Redmond). The only area where extending light rail makes sense is in the city. That is the only place where it offers a clear advantage over any alternative and where the cost would be reasonable for the benefit. But even there, you don’t have dozens of different rail lines that would make sense. You only have a handful, and the best one that is even being considered is UW to Ballard. Put that on the back burner and build something else — something much more expensive — and too many people will reject it. We have to assume that every thing we build will be the last thing we build (that is the way it works). Plan for the future (allow it to be extended) but don’t build stuff out of order and expect people to support it. They won’t.

  14. I also love how Lake City/LFP/Bothell are non-entities on the conceptual maps. Let’s see: Urban Village connecting to a growing UW campus. Ah well, maybe we should affix West to all of the names, that gets the attention of pols

    (Reporting from West Lake City, grad of West UW West Bothell, Class of West )

    1. Besides slightly slowing things up for Lynnwood commuters this is why I thought a station at 130th was not a big deal in the larger scheme of things. If a line ever materialized that ran from UW – U-Vill and upto Bothel there could be 3-4 stations put in the LakeCity stretch. Add these to the Northgate and 145 stations and LC would be well served. However, this short-changes Bitter Lake area and is not much comfort for this generation. But maybe the millenium’s kid’s kids will have something to look forward to :)

      1. If a line ever materialized that ran from UW – U-Village and up to Bothell there could be 3-4 stations put in the Lake City stretch.”[edited slightly for clarity]

        That, sir, is a mighty big “If”.

      2. @les,

        You are correct about the 130th St decision not being a big deal if other service comes on line to serve Lake City. But something like the Seattle Subway’s Green Line makes a lot more technical sense than the Ballard spur. And the Seattle Subways line would retain expandability without creating chock points.

        Of course the Seattle Subways line has Ballard-DT-WS at its core.

      3. I never thought the 130th station was a big deal either. They could trunkate the 41 to Northgate and serve everyone up 5th to Roosevelt and down into LC. That whole area west of I-5 is not pedestrian friendly. I know I live there. There’s no sidewalks on any of the side streets. Once the 145th St. station is built feeders can run down 130th up 5th to there or down to Northgate.

        Why does everyone on this board act like there’s no subarea equity? It’s so much less expensive to run elevated rail out to SnoCo and Pierce than it is to tunnel/mile. East Link gets you to Redmond for $3.7 billion when the U District gets a tunnel from downtown for what? $2 Billion? That’s a huge difference/mile.

        I see this whole study for what it is, a conceptual pot of projects that the board can choose from or add to. As long as it was studied in the FEIS and there’s budget they can do anything they want within the confines of SAE.

      4. Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about fixing the car — I’m going to get a magic pony soon.

        Look, there probably will never be a light rail line out highway 522. I personally would love it if there were, but it won’t happen. Like a lot of these things, it just doesn’t pan out, when you look at the population numbers (which dwindle to West Magnolia value after the city line) and alternatives (an existing bus lane). If it ever got built, it would be be at least forty years (after we built dozens of other projects).

        Meanwhile, I’m sorry you never thought the 130th station was a big deal either. It is. Good public transportation systems involve a grid. Without 130th, you hamper the grid dramatically. Not only do you add several minutes to the trip that someone might take from Lake City (or any of the buses that travel through there) but you blow a hole into the grid on this page:
        Suddenly trips that made sense by a series of buses no longer make sense. You are back to Seattle as it exists right now, where almost everyone drives, unless they work downtown or at the UW. Successful cities don’t do that. Vancouver doesn’t do that. They manage to have three times the ridership per capita that we do, despite the fact that they don’t have much rail. What they have is a really good transportation network, where the buses and trains work together well.

      5. “You are back to Seattle as it exists right now, where almost everyone drives, unless they work downtown or at the UW.”

        That reminds me of the guy from Chicago [1] who said he lived there for two decades without a car, then he moved to Greenwood and tried to do the same but ended up getting a car because “you can’t get around Seattle without one”.

        Of course, Greenwood is not that isolated: the 5, 48, E, and 40 are all frequent by Metro’s standard and go in all four grid directions. The problem is going to evening activities, or to random parts of the city, or to suburbs with bad transit connections from Greenwood (Eastside), or certain kinds of shopping. You have to either skip those activities, plan an extrordinarily long time to get there, or get a car. (Or car2go/Uber/etc). We can argue about how good transit from Greenwood is, but the point is that regular people who are trying to be carless in “streetcar suburb” neighborhoods are giving up, and that should be a concern.

        [1] He was either on Weekday (a former local talk show) or was quoted in the paper, I forget which.

      6. @Ross That wasn’t a condescending answer at all…

        None of your top 5 projects up thread address SAE at all. They are almost exclusively benefiting Seattle. Just getting from Ballard to West Seattle would probably eat up a third or more of the $15 billion ask to the voters. If I was going to prioritize that would be my big Seattle project. But, communities north and south need more from this round of projects.

        Getting from Northgate to anywhere around 130th can be done efficiently if SDOT makes transit improvements to 5th. Similarly, there’s nothing between 145th to allow the same improvements so Metro could run down to Roosevelt and east to LC. The mayor got his ask for a future station anyway on 130th just not in the ST3 package.

      7. @subrookie — I’m sorry if my answer sounded condescending. It wasn’t meant to be.

        I’m really trying to make a few points:

        Not building what makes sense to build today in hopes that we can build something in the future only makes sense if the first project is really expensive, and the second project is likely to happen. But that isn’t the case. A station is dirt cheap compared to the overall cost of the system.

        Meanwhile, I really doubt that a 522 light rail line will happen. Like a lot of projects (e. g. West Seattle to downtown light rail) it doesn’t add much benefit for the cost. Again, look at the census data. There just aren’t enough people along the 522 corridor to justify a billion dollar rail line. Bothell is a good spot (as you mentioned) because of the university, but that is a long ways away. That means miles and miles of track, with very low performing spots in between. Meanwhile, the alternative is pretty good — there are bus lanes practically (if not entirely) the whole way. It is only the section from 125th to 145th where rail is probably justified, and I just don’t see it happening (Seattle has higher priorities). Even if it did, it would be a long way into the future (after we build miles and miles of other track). I don’t think it makes sense to abandon an important station in hopes that fifty years from now they build something that is of dubious value.

        Second, you never addressed the crux of my argument. I don’t blame you — folks ignore this all the time. They focus too much on the idea that Northgate or 145th is worse than 130th. It is, but that’s not the key point. We need stations at all three points to make a decent grid. As it is, the Northgate station is bad. It isn’t on Northgate Way, but tucked in the corner, right next to the freeway. SDOT has made improvements (they spent a lot of money on them) but it is still slow, because it is a natural bottleneck. There aren’t that many cross streets (you can’t get from Roosevelt Way to 5th without going to Northgate Way or 80th). Even if the traffic problems magically went away, it is about twice as far. So getting to Northgate Way from Lake City will always be substantially slower than getting from Lake City to NE 130th.

        But again, that is not my point. My point is that without a NE 130th station, you destroy the grid. It isn’t (just) about the folks getting from Lake City to Link, but the folks getting from Bitter Lake to downtown, or Bitter Lake to Lake City. That is just a summary. There are dozens of different combinations that are made better with a grid that includes NE 130th. Of course Metro could run a bus there anyway, but they won’t. The only way you get something like this ( is with a station at NE 130th. Just about every bus route on that map connects to Link, but is also part of a grid. Without a station at NE 130th, you either carve a huge hole in the grid (forcing folks to go down to Northgate, then back up when they just want to go east or west) or you ask Metro to run a line that doesn’t connect with Link (good luck with that).

        Then there are the service hour savings. Getting to Northgate, no matter how they improve the streets, will always take longer than getting to NE 130th. So the less buses go to Northgate (and the more they go to NE 130th) the more money Metro saves. This alone would probably pay for the station.

        The five projects I listed up above were all Seattle projects. I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear. I wasn’t trying to list all of the projects that you I would build throughout the region. If asked, though, I don’t see a lot of great rail projects in other areas (other than the ones that have been built). Commuter rail, certainly (I would expand Sounder) but not light rail. Spokane is as big as Tacoma (and way bigger than Everett), and they aren’t planning a huge investment in light rail (it just doesn’t make sense). But I could be wrong — maybe there are some light rail projects inside Tacoma that would make sense. For the most part, I support express buses and BRT in most of the suburbs, because most of the suburbs have been developed along the roads and thus you get the best bang for your buck that way. Swift is a smashing success, and Metro needs to take notice (and adopt the same policies). I see no reason why Sound Transit couldn’t do the same. The 522 corridor makes a lot of sense as a BRT route, especially if it is connected to NE 130th (and goes on to Bitter Lake, if not Greenwood). Even the regular express buses are extremely popular and do a great job of connecting various area. I would probably invest in that.

        You are correct, the five projects I listed would probably cost a huge amount. It is probably very difficult to get projects costing a proportional amount in other areas. That basically means that some projects (like light rail from West Seattle to downtown, or even Ballard to downtown) might not get built until they allow the subareas (specifically Seattle) to have a higher taxing rate than the other areas. This means they might never get built. All the more reason to build the most cost effective things now, which means the first or second proposal (UW to Ballard light rail and the WSTT).

    2. “Of course the Seattle Subways line has Ballard-DT-WS at its core.”

      Of course the Seattle Subway is mostly scribblings on a napkin. Wake me when there is an actual vote…

      1. [AH]

        15th-Holman-105th-Northgate-Lake City Way would be an awful lot of miles of rail, through areas of extreme pedestrian hostility and missing any real destinations along the way. It wouldn’t be worth the cost even if you leveraged those pedestrian-hostile roads MLK-style, much less if you think we’re going to go to town on fully-tunneled-and-automated-to-infinity trains like a (mercifully shrinking) faction at Seattle Subway still does.

        And Lazarus doesn’t seem to care that it would require as much as 4x-distance backtracking or out-of-direction travel for the majority of crosstown users, but the rest of us should.

        No, Holman Link is not in the cards. And if rail ever heads up Lake City Way — which it was supposed to in the 1960s, and which should be offered again before the 2160s — it will do so as a branch or transfer off of the main line, not as a needlessly long and elaborate zig-zag.

      2. Holman Road is a minor issue, and low priority behind other things, so don’t get your knickers in a knot over it. By the time we get to it we can decide whether we really need it anyway, and many people in north Seattle have said maybe not.

      3. I would be a non-point of discussion, were it not for that early Seattle Subway $60 billion fantasy napkin still haunting us.

        This is not the first time someone has attempted to use the “extendability” of a radial line up Holman to Northgate and Lake City, or the fallacy of longer=better, or (god help us) a suggestion that Ballard-to-UW-via-Northgate is anyone’s reasonable travel path, as an argument against an urban crosstown line.

        I would like to think that no one in a position of actual influence would glom on to such a fallacious notion. But ST are the reigning kings of glomming-to-stupid.

      4. It would be a non-point of discussion, were it not for that early Seattle Subway $60 billion fantasy-napkin still haunting us.

        This is not the first time someone has attempted to use the “extendability” of a radial line up Holman to Northgate and Lake City, or the fallacy of longer=better, or (god help us) a suggestion that Ballard-to-UW-via-Northgate is anyone’s reasonable travel path, as an argument against an urban crosstown line.

        I would like to think that no one in a position of actual influence would glom on to such a fallacious notion. But ST are the reigning kings of glomming-to-stupid.

  15. I watched the presentation on line. What horrifies me is that they are not sincerely looking at a system plan intended to maximize productivity and public investment. The whole thing was drawing lines on maps, and there was not sincere discussion of how to get some important metrics from a systems plan — appropriate network design to maximize loads, optimum line interconnecting to reduce multiple transfers, system operating deficiencies that occur when one adds multiple lines into an existing system, supporting bus network concepts to feed lines, evaluation of lower-cost rail technologies (DMU, EMU) for outlying areas, and on and on.

    Once this work is done, I’m really hard-pressed to find out what additional information it would provide beyond what we already know. It was as if staff knows that they are missing something, but don’t know what that is. It appears to be a mere political document, and not a sincere systems planning study.

    1. To put is another way, the criteria is designed to be a PR piece on how wonderful ST is, and not how to actually operate a rail transit system. That maybe a way to sell a railroad, but it’s no way to run a railroad.

    2. If this is surprising, you have not been watching Sound Transit for long. This is not about transit, and arguments about transit effectiveness or outcomes are not going to be convincing to the board. In my opinion this is about (1) spreading capital spending around, (2) evening the perceived gap between Seattle and suburban transit investment, (3) real estate interests, and (4) following through on perceived promises to finish the spine that far-flung suburban electeds feel were a premise of their support for the initial investments in Seattle (which, by the way, they didn’t pay for under subarea equity rules). It’s a political board trying to make the politics work out. But they do know that once they’re done they’ll need Seattle voters to pass it – so that’s probably the most important argument from the board perspective.

      The hard part is knowing that it will be generations before we have an actual urban transit network under the current political arrangement — but that arrangement is working very well for the local public officials looking for a money machine to pour capital investments and development dollars into their communities.

      1. Spot on. In addition, they know that once they get their train, their voters are simply not going to support any more funding for anything in Seattle. You’ll see numbers on the order of 30% in Pierce and Snohomish instead of more or less 50%.

        Seattle voters need to say NO if this is what eventually goes before the electorate as ST3. And, as we’ve seen on numerous occasions, ST consistently shows a complete and total intransigence when it comes to altering anything that comes out of a committee meeting.

        I’m becoming more and more of the opinion that Seattle needs to sit down and have a long, hard look at their continued participation in ST. Perhaps going it alone (or with like-minded adjacent areas) won’t be feasible for any number of reasons. If it is, though, secession should be seriously considered. It ain’t gonna get any better for Seattle down the road.

        (Seattle could still contract with ST to manage construction–that’s something they seem to do well.)

      2. “(Seattle could still contract with ST to manage construction–that’s something they seem to do well.)”

        If you only knew…but that’s another story.

      3. UnimpressedInsider: ST does better than most transit agencies at construction. (Hella better than NY with massive cost overruns, Chicago with shoddy work, Boston with multiyear delays…) This may be a low standard, but it’s the one most transit aficianados will use.

  16. Let me put it this way: I will vote against any ballot measure that sends transit tax dollars from Seattle to Paine Field, or proposes at-grade rail within Seattle. Propose both of those things and I will not only vote against it, but I will loudly encourage everyone I know to do the same.

      1. Well, then, clearly you’ll be voting “No”, won’t you? Because none of these options uses all of the revenues from North King within the North King subarea. In fact, one of them, Option 2b uses ALL of the North King money outside the subarea.

        East King voters are getting the shaft almost a completely as North King except in Option 3B, but at least they always get the “fishhook”. I guess that’s the ST Board’s way of keeping East King “on the line” while they play other fish on a different rod. .

        In all honesty, I think Option 1 is what will occur, because the scam in the current system has been exposed clearly now. The only plan which has any chance of passage is The Whole Enchilada® Option 4, but the Republicans in the State Senate have already foreclosed that with their $11 Billion cap.

        Washington Republicans may be Rural Rubes, but I have to admit they’re smarter than the average Rural Rube. Well played.

      2. My vote on ST3 will be determined by how the final package looks. I strongly believe that ST3 will still contain sub-area equity in some form. Hopefully that form will be close to what we know and love, but I don’t expect the doomsday scenario that Martin paints (and even under his scenario it isn’t clear to me which direction the funding will actually be flowing).

        And remember that sub-area funding has crossed sub-area boundaries before. I believe even as early as ST1 South King funding was used to build the Sounder maintenance facility which is pretty clearly in the heart of the North King subarea (I think I’m right about that at least…..)

        But the goal here is pretty clear — develop a regional package that still funds significant investments in NK. The goal for those significant NK investments should be Ballard-DT-WS build to Central Link standards.

      3. OMG, now the fact that the Sounder maintenance facility — which in fact is a rebuilt and revamped version of the old Northern Pacific coach yard — is in the North King area (where all the railroad infrastructure to support it happens to be) is “proof” that North King ripped off South King?

        So far as “develop[ing] a regional package that still funds significant investments in NK”, the only ones that do so are Option 3a (dead on arrival from North King Envy®) and The Whole Enchilada Option 4, which has effectively been made impossible by the Republican State Senate.

      4. “sub-area funding has crossed sub-area boundaries before.”

        The rule is not that the project has to be physically in the subarea, but it has to “benefit” the subarea. That benefit is determined by the subarea, or more practically by the ST boardmembers representing the subarea, and subject to legal challenges. If South King and Pierce wanted to pay for a Georgetown Link bypass from Intl Dist to TIB to get to Federal Way faster, they could.

      5. @Mike O,

        You are correct. While I believe the concept of sub-area equity is in the enabling legislation for ST, ti really is the board that decides how the policy gets implemented. Thus a project in NK that benefits SK can be paid for with SK dollars. The funding effectively follows the benefit and not the geographic location.

        So far it appears like the actual instances of cross-boundary funding shifts have been pretty limited, which is the way I prefer it since it is easy to grasp by the layperson, The danger of allowing too many cross-boundary transfers is that you introduce turbidity into the concept of sub-area equity, and in our current political climate “transparency” seems to be the only way to go.

      6. The Eastside was originally going to pay for East Link from Intl Dist station, because Rainier Station was only of marginal interest to North King and below other priorities. But when Bellevue wanted a downtown tunnel, it convinced ST to reassign Rainier Station and its leading track to North King to partly pay for it. That’s money that now can’t go to a Northgate pedestrian bridge, 130th Station, Graham Station, a Ballard – UW line, that First Hill station, or other Capitol Hill stations. Thanks Bellevue, lovely tunnel, too bad it doesn’t have a station in it that would justify it and be closer to the bus bays.

      7. I’m waiting for the light bulb to go on that sub-area equity should be looking at more than capital costs. The operating subsidy to operate a lightly used light rail line can run up quite a tab over 30 years.

    1. Eric, I’ve got an idea that might make it more palatable to provide mass transit to Paine Field than a damn light rail plan.

      Thoughts about asking Community Transit to use some of their new revenue source to serve not just the Future of Flight (daaaaaaah) but also what the results of a study into meeting Paine Field transit needs would find? This would make a lot more sense than a light rail detour that will satisfy almost no one.

      1. To be clear, I have nothing against building transit to Paine Field if that’s what the people of Everett want to do with their money. It’s just that after subarea equity has forced us to fund this ridiculous “spine” to Lynnwood and Federal Way before even starting on better service to Ballard, there’s no way in hell that I’m going to vote for a plan that abandons subarea equity in favor of connecting Everett and Tacoma to the system before Ballard.

      2. Community Transit needs that new revenue source to fund Swift II service and restored Sunday/holiday service.

        No time or money for Paine Field until it gets commercial traffic of some kind to justify a shuttle.

      3. Bruce, that’s the wrong answer. I really like & appreciate your work on the Flickr man, but your borderline if not sniping at me, the Future of Flight, Paine Field, et al has gotta stop.

        Swift II will serve a big slice of Paine Field. Also the current revenue will fund Sunday/Holiday service.

        I’m attempting to find a way to serve more of Paine Field – and not just my piece of turf, thanks – with less than a damn light rail connection. I hope I’m clear SounderBruce, yes?

        Let’s work together on common goals and shared objectives to get more destinations the proper amount of service, alright?

    2. Of course, the light rail to West Seattle is such a huge boondoggle, it may actually be that the proposal is actually spending most of Seattle’s money within Seattle, albeit on projects that benefit one board member, rather than the city as a whole.

      1. Te C5 line they are suggesting is just expensive. We can question their numbers – but using ST numbers its about the same in $/rider as Ballard/DT elevated. Food for thought on what to support considering the politics.

      2. Part of the problem might be that if you look strictly at a population density map:
        West Seattle doesn’t look so bad, compared to the places they are already aiming towards north of Lynnwood.

        Of course, UW and downtown don’t look so hot on the population density map either, because there is a whole lot more than population in those places.

        West Seattle, on the other hand, has virtually nothing other than residential development.

      3. >> Of course, UW and downtown don’t look so hot on the population density map either, because there is a whole lot more than population in those places.

        I beg to differ. If you zoom in on this census map: you can plenty of places in both downtown and the U-District with very high population density (for Seattle). There are sections in downtown (between 2nd and 5th) that don’t have much density (because, as you said, they have nothing but office buildings) but only a couple blocks away you have some of the most populous areas of Seattle. Likewise, the University itself has low population density, but right next door there are plenty of people. In other words, even if you were just looking at the population numbers, you would start with a line from the UW to Capitol Hill to downtown, it is just that it would be a couple blocks here or there different.

        As for West Seattle, the population density numbers aren’t terrible, but that ignores the biggest problem with rail — it can’t possibly serve them. There are other problems, just to summarize:

        1) The population of West Seattle is very spread out. Despite the fact that a handful of areas exceed 10,000 people per square mile, very few exceed 15,000. The few moderately dense areas are not close to each other. Alki won’t have light rail. You can’t serve Delridge and High Point (pick one, or neither).

        2) Feeder buses make little sense. Based on those census numbers, you would think they would. For example, almost everything east of I-5 and north of the ship canal in Seattle is much the same way. Lots of moderately dense areas, with no obvious “high point”. But feeder buses would work great here (it is the strength of the proposal). Buses go really fast north/south, but then get bogged down crossing the canal, slogging through downtown or heading east/west. Light rail solves that problem, and complements those bus routes really well. Not so with West Seattle. Getting to the stations will most likely mean getting right up to the West Seattle Freeway. From there, you are way better off just getting on the freeway, rather than wait for the infrequent train. Which leads me to my next point.

        3) The alternative is better. West Seattle BRT (or just West Seattle bus improvements) would simply be better. Let’s say you are on Delridge, and take a bus, riding in its own lane, all the way to the freeway. Then you get onto the freeway in an HOV only lane, then onto an HOV only ramp to the SoDo busway and then underneath downtown Seattle. You simply can’t beat that, unless you run the train all the way out Delridge. The same is true for 35th, or various other locations (like Alki). You would spend billions for a light rail line, yet most of the people in West Seattle would get nothing for it. Which leads me to my next point.

        4) It would be really expensive. You are talking about billions and billions before the first stop. That is because of the geography (a huge hill and a big river). That is why there is no streetcar proposal for West Seattle — you can’t do it. It would be great if you could. Spend a little bit of money on a streetcar going on the West Seattle Freeway. Why not (you are better off blowing millions instead of billions) but that can’t happen (too steep).

        5) There are no stops between West Seattle and SoDo. People seem to ignore this. You would spend roughly the same (if not more) for West Seattle to downtown as Ballard to downtown, but have far fewer stops for West Seattle. At least a line from downtown to Ballard would include Belltown, lower Queen Anne, and maybe Interbay or upper Queen Anne (or Fremont, even). But with West Seattle you get nothing. Over two miles of track before the first possible station (Delridge) which, as I said, would be a reduction in service for the vast majority of people who would use that station.

        6) It would probably skip the biggest destinations. As you said, population isn’t everything. Alki, for example, gets plenty of visitors, but light rail won’t serve it. Likewise, South Seattle College is unlikely to be served.

        West Seattle light rail just doesn’t make sense. It is simply not as good as improving bus service, let alone a good value.

      4. Yes, but if you compare West Seattle to the stuff around Lynnwood, where they are already aimed, you can almost make West Seattle look good. So that might be how their comparison got screwed up.

      5. Compare a cookie to a KFC Double Down, and you can almost make the cookie look healthy!

        Glenn, your census map is perfectly clear: this city’s major areas possessing contiguous urban population density and compact multi-use destinations are:
        – Downtown and adjacent
        – First Hill, Capitol Hill, and the entire Central District, out to Madison Valley
        – the entire north-of-canal corridor between Ballard and the U-District, including areas as far north as Greenwood proper
        – Upper Queen Anne (yes, ever Upper Queen Anne is way fucking denser than West Seattle)

        As any (non-politically-usurped) transit expert will tell you, the relationship of transit demand to density is geometric, not linear. Contiguousness is vital in the urban realm for creating the critical mass of anywhere-to-anywhere trip permutations (read: not just commutes) that will fill your “high capacity” investments. That’s why the smart money is on connecting those darker-colored swaths first, and connecting them well.

        Let’s just call West Seattle what it is: inner-suburban sprawl. The most major of those “Junctions” actually encompasses less area, less stuff, and fewer people than even supposedly-sedate upper Queen Anne Avenue, and it just drops off from there. The other “junctions” are even less impressive, and the miles and miles of unabridged SF-5000 start just a couple of blocks from any of them.

        If contiguous to the rest of the city, you might have been able to look at West Seattle cockeyed and think it investment-worthy in perhaps the 2nd or 3rd round. But offset by a channel that will take billions to cross — and which already has a very fast highway bridge that almost works and could be made to work for 1/20th of rail’s cost — West Seattle shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of our list. Much less the #1 priority (by level of expenditure) that all of these proposals make it.

        Your map tells the harsh truth: West Seattle shouldn’t get multiple billions of this city’s limited transit investment. Not now, not soon, maybe not ever.

      6. …..and it also shows just how much more awful the areas around Lynnwood are compared to West Seattle.

      7. @Glenn In Portland

        To be completely fair though, a new LRT line to West Seattle will be 3 billion+.

        Last I checked, Northgate to Lynnwood won’t cost even remotely as much, and will be able to take most Snohomish county buses off of Seattle Streets…

  17. Not only would this screw over Seattle to build the spine but it would also mean no ST4. Once you build out to Tacoma Mall and North Everett, how do you get Snohomish and Pierce to ever vote for another package?

    1. Easy! Extend the train to Gig Harbor and Marysville, using money from Seattle of course.

      1. You joke, but yesterday’s presentation basically said just that. Every single sketch scenario envisioned funding planning/engineering for “logical next steps beyond the spine”.

      2. Maybe we’re just not speaking the same language. Hey ST, how about a rib cage to wrap around the spine?

      3. Another thing about Link to Everett that should not be forgotten is that a lot of it is not so much about Everett itself, but people driving to the train from places like Lake Stevens or Marysville – people who don’t even live in the ST district and aren’t paying one cent to fund the thing through their tax dollars.

      4. The train station has to be in the ST district, but that doesn’t mean the people who use it have to be. People in Orting can and do drive to Sounder, and people in Marysville can will drive to Link.

        On the planning side, if the ridership justification for Link to Everett, over other priorities, is based on people driving to the train from outside the ST district, I call foul. These people are not paying taxes to ST, and are not the people ST is supposed to be accountable to.

      5. ASDF2;

        As to,

        On the planning side, if the ridership justification for Link to Everett, over other priorities, is based on people driving to the train from outside the ST district, I call foul. These people are not paying taxes to ST, and are not the people ST is supposed to be accountable to.

        I agree and I live in Skagit. Sound Transit is not meant or intended to help those of us – some unwillingly – stuck in the exurbs.

        Now I’d love Sounder North to be on an inland line and run to Mount Vernon. But who’s going to vote to pay the taxes for that?

        Sound Transit needs to realize express buses are best and should be fighting for transit-only lanes during rush hour.

      6. The point being that ST cannot extend Link to Marysville, but its long-range plan does have an HCT corridor to Orting. As we discussed during the LRP update, for some reason Pierce has a lot more exurban land in the ST district than the other subareas do. The reason probably involve Pierce County politicians and their state representatives. Covington, Maple Valley, Marysville, and Lake Stevens might object to the asymmetry.

    2. They should probably take an anatomy lesson. A 71-mile spine has very little utility without arms and legs attached to it.

      1. Er, I’m not sure where in the tree I meant to post that, but it wasn’t there. Just to be clear, “they” was meant to refer to ST.

      2. Shh – if you call them that, maybe they’ll take it as a mandate to build out to the Snake River!

    3. Better buses to connect light rail?

      But the problem is this: Should Sound Transit be giving more money to Community Transit and then on top of that subsidize sprawl?

    4. “Once you build out to Tacoma Mall and North Everett, how do you get Snohomish and Pierce to ever vote for another package?”

      More ST express bus service would be one way. It’s quite popular. For Pierce, they could offer more Sounder trips.

  18. As I pointed out in a couple of threads, SDOT has “offered” Ballard residents to vote to put the Ballard stop at the street car option stops. Can someone in STB get an SDOT person on the record about this?

    1. How do Murray, O’Brien and Phillips take on Dow Constantine? O’Brien has gone on the record supporting the Ballard Spur, but what about Murray and Phillips?

  19. The entire concept is extremely disturbing – from neglecting to consider sub-area equity (which effectively means sending money from Seattle and Bellevue to Everett and Tacoma) to not even bothering to consider a Ballard->UW line to prioritizing rail to west Seattle over all else.

    There is simply no way the proposal, as shown, would ever pass a region-wide vote. Even Tacoma has very little to gain from this, given that they already have the 594. And the people that would gain something would be paying far more than they should, in order for their contribution to Link to Everett and Tacoma.

    As Roads and Transit demonstrated in 2007, a failed vote next year will likely mean a better proposal the following year, rather than dooming ST 3 permanently. I can only hope that ST can come to its senses and come up with something sensible now, instead.

    1. Except that a failed vote in 2007 meant a new vote in a high turnout presidential election year, where there was no incumbent. Such a scenario is the best possible one for transit funding.

      If a vote fails next year, which is that same best case scenario, it will realistically be two if not four more years until a favorable election comes up again.

      1. I know that’s why ST needs to come to its senses now and get this right. But if they don’t, we should not be afraid to vote “no” anyway so that they’ll learn the hard way and come up with something better for 2020. Better to have something good for years later than it should have happened, than not at all.

    2. I think we need to start referring to the potential Ballard-UW line as the Ballard, Fremont, North Lake Union, Wallingford to UW line. Our peninsula is 6 miles wide, brings in a ton of tax revenue, has lots of business (UW, fremont tech, everything in Ballard), and is dense or densifying. There are no 6 mile chunks north of there to the Canadian border that are even close in value.

      1. I think people get that (although maybe not). In some ways, I think we need to emphasize the opposite — Ballard to UW to downtown. Usually the first objection I read in (other) blogs about a UW to Ballard line is from folks saying they want to go downtown, not the U-District (from Ballard). I have to explain to them that it will be just about as fast. This isn’t obvious, because people aren’t crows. They drive, and if you drive, you would be crazy to drive to the U-District, then to downtown. But if you look at the distance, and more importantly, the stop spacing, the difference is minor (even if you account for a transfer, which could easily be minimized).

        I get your point, though. I’m afraid we suffer from an unfortunate and misleading set of names. West Seattle is called West Seattle, as if it is the size of Ballard (in terms of land mass). It isn’t, unless you consider Wallingford part of Ballard. I find this extremely frustrating, because light rail will never serve West Seattle the way that it does, say the U-District. That would be like saying we are about to have light rail to the Central District (since Capitol Hill is getting a station). Maybe, but the vast majority of those in the C. D. won’t benefit from it. To make matters worse, the bus feeder situation for West Seattle is not very good, while the bus feeder situation for Ballard to the UW is outstanding. So calling it the Ballard-Fremont-Wallingford-UW line is OK, it undersells it. It is really the “Everything west of I-5, but north of the ship canal line” since everyone west of I-5, but north of the ship canal will benefit (as well as everyone who heads that way, as well as everyone who rides a different bus that benefits from the savings).

  20. “tax themselves heavily to benefit people far away”

    You’re perpetuating the same fallacy they commit by phrasing it this way, which I find odd for a pro-transit blog. Perhaps you’re trying to illustrate their perception, but IMO it doesn’t really come off that way.

    Really, ST1 should have been five different ballot measures, one for each region, and should be planned accordingly, unless they are really planning on treating the REGIONAL Transit Area as ONE REGION instead of five completely separate ones, which is how it currently works. They shouldn’t pretend that they have an interest in connecting areas that need transit with transit.

    I’ve yet to see a fundamental, utilitarian transit-oriented defense of the subregion system. Everyone just accepts it as The Way Things Must Be.

    Imagine if the MBTA in Boston decided to underserve Roxbury and overserve the Back Bay, or the MTA in NYC decided to underserve Queens and overserve the Bronx, or DC Metro decided to underserve Georgetown, etc., etc. Would these be the successful metropolitan transit examples they have become if that was their model?

    1. The argument that Seattle should suck it up and pay for Link to Everett for the good of the region is mind-boggling. Seattle is at least a destination for people all over the region, so some people from outside Seattle would use a Ballard->UW line. However, almost nobody in Seattle will be going out to Everett (or not in numbers that a #512 bus every 15 minutes can’t satisfy).

      1. I think Link to Everett has its merits. However Link to Paine Field after what the Everett Transit planning staff & you guys have told me the past few months…. uh, there’s a better way of accomplishing the mission for less money and a bigger service net.

      2. Link to Everett has some merit. I would argue very little, but that is not the point. Anyone looking at the situation objectively would not say “OK, the next thing we should build is light rail up to Everett”. That will provide a very minor benefit to the region compared to numerous other projects. You would probably lay 40 miles of underground light rail before that bubbles up to the top. But if a regional entity wants to build all of that and then says they want to extend light rail to Everett, I will consider it.

    2. Keith,

      Um, er, ah, DC Metro doesn’t “serve” Georgetown at all. It will if its hopes for a third tunnel under the Potomac come to fruition, but it doesn’t at this time.

      1. … because Georgetown didn’t want low-class trains from low-class areas, and is now regretting it.

    3. Oh, and it could certainly be argued that NYCTA does “under serve Queens”, certainly in comparison to the Bronx.

    4. Yeah, and the MBTA completely screwed over Roxbury from the 1970s through the 1990s. There was a high-profile case documenting the environmental racism practiced by a more insidious era of that agency.

      But Georgetown and Roxbury are actually great examples of political errors that have impacted the holistic functionality of the transportation networks. And at least neither place was screwed over for the expressed purpose of building expensive subways to Manassas or Andover that absolutely none of them would ever have use for in a million years.

  21. An honest question here: How do we know that the line from Ballard to West Seattle shown in options 3a and 4 is to be at-grade light rail and not grade-separated? I don’t see anything in the document to indicate whether there will or will not be grade separation.

      1. They specifically say “at-grade on 15th”. That corresponds to exactly one of the old DT/Ballard options, though in theory it could be tunneled under Belltown and LQA.

      2. Martin – I can’t imagine when they say a new tunnel under DT Seattle they don’t mean at least Belltown and probably LQA.

      3. If you simply take the component projects from the studies that’s kinda what follows most easily. It’s all a question of money and exactly how much they’re shipping north.

      4. Just listened and the language is: “Downtown Seattle to West Seattle Junction via a second tunnel, then connect through that tunnel to an at-grade Ballard line running at-grade along 15th Ave.”

        I guess it really isn’t clear – like you said, a portal at Interbay is very different than a portal at Westlake

  22. Sub-area controversy is always inevitable. But I think that Seattle’s best competitive stance is to have a strong plan as to what the city can do, if necessary with no money at all from other localities.

    For instance, if Ballard can’t have both at the same time, would Ballard-CBD or Ballard U-District need to come first? Leading then to the technical question as to which one would be the harder to build?

    And could either, or both, be done in stages? One real benefit to LINK-caliber light rail is its ability to handle- on the same route, as with Central LINK now, different degrees of grade separation. Enabling the line to be taken off-grade as tunnels and elevated pylons get built.

    I’d put UW line first, both since I think a tunnel straight through Phinney Ridge and Wallingford would be simpler. Also, for first phase, trains could run surface reserved right-of-way between Ballard and the 8th NW, where the grade starts to climb.

    Meantime, reserved and signal pre-empted LRT line from Leary Way to Fremont. Or same ROW as bikeway west side of Leary. Tunnel under ship canal at Fremont could serve also future subway under Queen Anne Hill.

    Infrastructure for the planned SLU extension to Ballard could be “overbuilt” to handle future LRT.

    Meantime also, either a tunnel or a transit-only bridge across the Ship Canal would put Ballard express buses a decade ahead. With reserved lanes and signalling whole length- branch of RapidRide missing Lower Queen Anne.

    With all above deliberately planned as working foundation as the heavier caliber future system gets funded and built.

    My main point is that the more detailed technical plans and specifics Seattle has, the stronger its position in subarea discussions. As opposed to politicians whose job description is fervent competitive volume, many constituents from every subarea both need and want better transit in Seattle itself.

    It really galls me that a thirty mile express trip from Tacoma Dome takes me less time than Route 71 “Express” from IDS to Ravenna. And that I can’t do two errands five miles apart the same visit- without a cab.

    Faster KC Metro would please a lot of Expedia workers. And Seattle residents working other side of city line. Remember: Bad mile either end means whole trip by car.

    Mark Dublin

    1. No part of the Ballard to UW line should be on the surface. The 44 is slow and unreliable precisely because it runs in the street, and we don’t need to spend billions on a line that suffers the same problems for even part of its length.

      1. Eric, look at your map. We’re not talking serious distance here. All flat east of Elliott, Market Street not too narrow. If Ballard Chamber of Commerce wants this project as bad as I think they do, reserved lanes and signal pre-empt not much of a fight.

        Another choice: electric street rail down 8th to the Ship Canal to haul out dirt night hours. Shifted to passenger after work is over.

        Harder thing would be turnback track west of Ballard. Where there is an industrial area with freight track.

        Anyway, if we can get the money to do the U-District tunnel, something like this is just a fill-in. And probably last in list of what we’ll really do,

        With above transit accommodations, easiest for local passengers just to ride the 44 to the foot of the hill while the flat part of the line is being cut and covered.

        Main point of this kind of thinking is to let rest of the region- and home voters- know that this city has shovel ready choices and a few hardware stores left.

        Also- welcome relief from power point, and fighting over subarea boundaries which the future is swiftly rendering as quaint as the grange.


      2. Yeah, that’s not a crazy idea, but I don’t think it would save that much money. You are talking about avoiding about a half mile of tunneling. I don’t think it would be worth it, for what you would give up (a totally grade separated line). In contrast, Link’s decision to go on the surface (over continuing the tunnel) meant saving miles and miles of tunneling. That was a reasonable trade-off, but I don’t think it would be for UW to Ballard.

      3. If we tunnel from UW to 8th NW, it will cost next to nothing to continue tunneling to 15th, and almost as little to 24th. North Link was originally going to surface at 63rd, but with Roosevelt demanding an underground station and the cost of going up and down around freeway overpasses between there and Northgate, it turned out to be cheaper to continue tunneling to 95th.

        A surface or elevated alignment east of 8th NW is effectively impossible because the streets are too narrow, the NIMBYs would choke at an elevated line, the Burke-Gilman Trail is too valuable a regional asset to take its right of way. Putting Link over the trail or the trail over Link is probably not feasable.

      4. Eric,

        Link has to have reservation and signal request; it’s not a streetcar and can’t play like it is one. The trains are too long, too high, and too heavy to stop for other vehicles. For the distance between 24th and 8th NW MLK style right of way would be perfectly adequate. MLK is a fustercluck because it’s in the middle — well not exactly the middle but close — of a much longer line. This is the end of this one. Any westbound delay gets canceled out by the layover.

        The only reason not to do what Mark suggests would be to have automated trains which do of course require 100% separated right of way.

      5. @Anandakos — Yeah, but let’s not forget that we want to connect this line to the main line. Ideally you time this line, especially in the middle of the day. It is quite likely that it will require a transfer to get from this line to the main line. Since lots of people will be headed that way (from Ballard to the UW to downtown) you would want to time that, such the train arrives a minute before the other train (assuming a transfer can be done comfortably in a minute). A surface delay means a lot of people missing their transfer.

        It would also limit headways. Remember, that is (by far) the worst part about the surface alignment for MLK. The trains move pretty fast, but they don’t move that frequently. The city won’t allow it to run that frequently. The same thing would be true of this line, especially since 15th is a major cross street (much bigger than any of the streets crossing MLK). So once you start limiting the headways on this run, you start running into bigger headaches when it comes to connecting this to the main line.

        Again, not a crazy idea, but I really doubt it will be worth the savings. For what it is worth, you probably wouldn’t start at 8th, but start at 3rd instead ( You would probably have to take over parts of 55th, and turn those streets into dead ends then start taking lanes away from Market. It’s possible, but again, I really doubt it would be worth it — not only would you have the problems I mentioned, but you would piss off the neighbors as well as screw up traffic. Once you start dealing with all of that, I doubt you would save any money, as Mike said.

      6. The best solution remains a cut-and-cover segment, under 54th or 56th, all the way from the end of the bored segment (3rd) to wherever the terminus ends up.

        Only then will you convince the powers that be to retain the urban-spacing-, unabridged-walkshed-, grid-preserving stop at 8th, which could be quite small and cheap on a shallow line but prohibitively expensive in a bored tunnel.

        Furthermore, a Ballard terminus that is immediately sub-surface would significantly improve its accessibility to patrons who would walk further to it, which Ballard’s rare-for-Seattle 3-dimensional urbanity makes feasible.

        See the Waterfront terminus of the Canada Line for an example of just how convenient a cut-and-covered stop in an urban environment can be (even one built in the 21st century).

    1. Yep, that and Ballard to UW light rail. Those two projects are both high end. Everything else that has been talked about will provide less value for the money.

  23. Okay I’ve been following along at least 80% of the comments here and I think I have a solution that might please almost everybody.

    #1. We want Community Transit to do a study into unmet transit needs at Paine Field. I think we’re coming to a consensus more buses are a heckuva lot better than a light rail detour that for big slices of the transit day will just be unnecessary and underutilized.

    #2. We want a Ballard to UW subway.

    #3. We want light rail to Microsoft

    #4. We want more streetcars for Tacoma.

    #5. We want Sounder South to get to Olympia?

    Okay, what did I miss?

    I sense an online petition getting on here.

    1. 1. A study’s fine, but I’d say just send out the buses.

      2. Absolutely. With strict half-mile stop spacing, and ruinous fines for any spacing above three-fourths mile. I no longer trust Sound Transit.

      3. We’re already getting that. Do you mean to Redmond (which I’d support)?

      4. Sure.

      5. No, we do not want Sounder South to Olympia unless Thurston County pays. Better bus service would be good, though.

      1. Well William I sure appreciate your support.

        1. That would be sweet man. :-) I have a feeling the Future of Flight is fine, I just want to see about the other Paine Field tenants that don’t speak up and don’t er, threaten to leave every time they want to build a new product.

        3. I think to Redmond yes.

        5. I agree Thurston County would have to help pay. Barring that, better buses so folks can talk to their legislators.

        We’re going in the right direction here. Just some things to smooth out.

    2. And also, I’d add:

      6. A WSTT.

      7. Bus improvements for the West Seattle Bridge.

      8. A study on a Denny Way gondola or subway

      1. Me neither. That is the type of thing we should be building. Yeah, maybe I don’t like the streetcars in Tacoma — someone else doesn’t like Sounder to Olympia — so what? That is so close to a great system that we can easily handle a few warts. Throw in a bunch of express buses (folks love those express buses) and you have a really strong proposal on your hands that will get the support of plenty of people.

      2. @Joe — Exactly, especially if the state gets off its ass and changes the HOV 2 lanes to HOV 3 (or HOT).

      3. I think we might see that RossB. Certainly I’m all for tolling a small token amount HOV 2 users in a HOV 3 lane….

    3. Did you look at CT’s long-range plan? It’s pretty good for the most part, so it may be already there, or it may just need some minor adjustments in the Payne Field area.

    4. I think that’s pretty solid for a start, Joe. (Unfortunately I think some of those other Paine Field tenants may, er, threaten to leave at times anyway, but this couldn’t hurt.)

      I’m not sure that it wouldn’t make more sense to have WSDOT, under the aegis of Amtrak, which is just a brand now for state run services, fund Seattle–Olympia service under the Cascades logo. They could be short run versions of the Seattle-Portland service, at least until SEA-PDX service becomes much more frequent. The route is identical and they could maintain the Seattle-Tukwila-Tacoma-Olympia pattern or add stops (Kent?) if deemed reasonable.

      It’s currently an hour and twenty minutes, which will drop by 7 or so minutes when the Point Defiance Bypass is completed. That’s a reasonable travel time (driving is about an hour with minimal traffic; ST to Lakewood is about 1:10) so long as direct express buses meeting the train and traveling to and from downtown Oly also exist. That would have to happen regardless of who ran the trains until/unless a spur into town was rebuilt.

      1. That’s a good idea. Why can’t the state run Cascades to Olympia with shuttle buses to the city center? The state already manages Cascades, it wouldn’t require expanding the ST district, and it is the state capitol which should be making it easier for the bulk of its constituents to go do their civic duty and engage with their representatives.

      2. The tricky part about shuttle buses to Olympia is that the train it connects with is not super-reliable. Do you have the bus leave the station for downtown Olympia empty when the train is late? Do you pay the driver to sit there with the bus every day until the late train arrives?

      3. The buses would have to be timed, in a similar fashion to the Amtrak Thruway buses. The difficulty would be in the return to the station, since there’s bugger-all to do out there if you have to wait. However, timing the buses specifically for the train (and here I am imagining these be run as a continuation of the train, not as a local transit route) would enable the bus to layover in Oly whilst waiting for a train’s delayed arrival.

      4. Oh, except Cascades is $13 one way a month ahead, while Sounder would be around $6 or $7. A big difference for frequent travelers.

      5. That shouldn’t be a commuter line, Mike, except for those people who want to pay the externalities of a 75 mile (each way) commute (i.e. a $13 fare). It’s an expanded intercity service that, by utilizing WSDOT’s existing operations, can add additional trains Seattle-Tacoma without either taking from Sound Transit’s pot or having to jump through the legal hoops of expanding the ST district to an area whose voters may or may not be allies of the Seattle metro area’s transit needs. It also provides additional trains to Olympia, where politicians and residents may find this whole transit thing much more useful than they thought – and it WOULD make a Tacoma-Olympia (or v.v.) commute possible at a fare that isn’t $13.

        There’s also nothing that says that ST and the state can’t work out a different fare package, use of ORCA on all trains Everett to Olympia, or whatever. With the state now having to fully fund the Cascades service they can be more flexible than when they had to answer to Amtrak.

      6. The point of extending Sounder is for commuter rail. Mark Dublin comes up from Olympia several times a week, and the argument is that other people do too, and others would go the other way if transit made it feasable. Some people travel five days a week, others a few days a week, others once a week, others once or twice a month or less. That’s commuter rail, and if it’s bankruptingly expensive at that level of use it has failed in its goal. Therefore the issue of whether short Cascades runs can be a stand-in for Sounder depends on how high the fare is.

    5. Seriously, screw extending Central Link to Tacoma. We have the 59x buses which I can guarantee will be faster than a T-Dome-Westlake ride. You know what would be a truly wonderful way to spend Pierce’s subarea cash? Heavily expand Sounder South’s frequency throughout the day. That has infinitely more utility than extending Central Link down here.

      Also, more streetcars for local service would be nice, too.

    6. Great list, but I’d add a very important item.

      We want Sound Transit to use *realistic* population / job projectons in its modeling, along with *realistic* projections for connecting bus service.

      Because the current PSRC projections are simply, transparently, garbage, predicting ten times as much ridership for Everett than is plausible, and one tenth as much ridership for Ballard as is plausible. And getting the predictions for 130th and 145th obviously wrong too.

  24. If they can agree to non-spine now, why didn’t they do this years ago?

    Specifically, why was so much money and time spend digging holes in Seattle making everything else wait?

    We could have built an entire regional light rail (or monorail) style system by now running without local stops to key destinations from Ballard to Issaquah, from Tacoma to Seattle or Bellevue to Everett.

    These new plans aren’t screwed up. But the entire debacle of the past 25 years…is!

    1. John;

      Please inderstand that SoundTransit designs its lines for 55mph operation. Even if you support far-flug BART style lines, that won’t be the result of building this. Instead, what you would get is something operating at Sounder level distances at MAX level speeds and comfort level. Furthermore, it will be on an alignment that skips all the population centers between most end points, so building ridership through transfers will be difficult.

      It’s as if someone hand picked all the features of rail transit you hate, all the stuff that d.p. hates, and all the stuff I hate, and threw them together to create one massive example of every system’s current worst practices.

      I suppose if they wanted to make it worse they could add a giant fan and cooling system to chill each platform to Chicago or Edmonton winter temperatures or something.

      1. Yeah probably Glenn. Hope you got my e-mail a couple of nights ago or so.

  25. We should have built the Seattle Monorail when we had the chance; if we’d stuck with it, we’d have had grade-separated rapid transit running to Ballard and West Seattle for *five years* already.

    But the city chickened out and let our own local group of Kemper Freemans lobby us out of a decent transit system, so we’re stuck begging for scraps from an agency which provides rapid transit within Seattle as a more or less accidental byproduct of its mission to provide *regional* transit between various cities in the eastern Puget Sound region.

    I had hoped for better from ST, but this really is the way they operate. They are all about inter-city transit, thus the endless blather about “the spine”, and the intra-city transit Seattle needs so badly just isn’t their concern.

  26. If you’re a Seattle resident and want to contact the ST board, you can call in order of # of people represented

    1) Your KC legislature
    2) Mike OBrien, who represents the City Council
    3) Ed Murray
    4) Dow Constantine
    5) Lynn Peterson (i guess!)

    1. I think it’s worth rallying suburban opposition to this plan as well. Aside from Boeing workers getting a private train to work on Seattle’s dime, there’s really not much here for them. Slow trains that don’t beat driving times? No comprehensive plan to actually reduce Eastside commutes? Billions of dollars of projected wasted spending sending trains into exurban wastelands? Really?

      So, contacting the Mayor and City Council does us no good, since they don’t represent us. Some of us have County Council members on the board. For me, the closest thing to a local rep on the board for me is Dow Constantine, and I suspect some of this stupidity is his fault.

      Anyway, finding suburban allies and pointing them to their ST board representatives would also be helpful.

      1. Yes! I am a Snohomish County resident, and I am 100% on-board for supporting HCT to West Seattle and Ballard before downtown Everett. I can’t imagine I am the only one.

      2. Don’t forget to remind people in Pierce and Federal Way that Link will be slower than their existing buses or Sounder. See the recent Link-related articles for details.

      3. The train will be faster than driving any time except after 7:00 PM and on non-football Sundays. It will only make six stops in King County north of Westlake.

      4. @Anandakos, Mike was talking about Pierce County and South King, where it will be slower.

      5. I was replying to Cascadian, not Mike. Yes, because of the Rainier Valley diversion. South Link will always be somewhat slow. However, even it will probably be faster than driving to and from downtown Seattle in the rush hour fairly soon. It is certainly more reliable already.

    2. Personally, I’m to wait until the legislature gives (or doesn’t give) us authority to build anything. Then someone here will probably write a great post about what we should build for Seattle (some combination of UW to Ballard light rail, the WSTT, West Seattle bus improvements and some back fill stations (e. g. NE 130th)). Then we can just link to that post and have at it.

      I totally agree that we should try and get suburban support for this. There are a lot of people from Snohomish County that would benefit a lot more from Ballard to UW light rail than just anything else on the list. The same is true for various other areas (e. g. unless you live in West Seattle, light rail to West Seattle would be useless to you — a bus is faster unless you are headed eastbound in the morning).

    1. I think that might be the highway 99 diversion, because there is too little along I-5 through there. It’s hard to tell with no additional references.

      1. Nope, that’s Paine Field. For some reason political leadership in Snohomish County really wants Link to Paine Field (but no commercial air service).

        ST put in several I-5 options and Paine Field for the ‘not I-5’ option.

        99 is the better option vs. I-5 and Paine but there doesn’t really seem to be a constituency fighting for it as most of the ‘not I-5’ energy has gone into lobbying for the Paine Field route.

    2. Commerical traffic at Paine Field has been in the works for quite a long time, though there are NIMBYs (mostly in Mukilteo) who are fighting against it. I imagine its inevitable that commerical traffic will eventually arrive, but its pretty up in the air (no pun intended) in regards to when it will actually happen.

      For what its worth, there actually is a company that is interested in building a terminal there, and negotiations are currently in the works between them and the County.

      1. If it ever comes to pass, it will involve a 3rd-rate startup airline or a sub-contractor marginally connected to one of the legacy carriers, and that airline will soon find itself unable to achieve the economies of scale that would allow it to offer any sort of discount pricing or convenience advantage to customers.

        And then it will fail.

        Just as *EVERY* politically-instigated effort to seed commercial service at a secondary airport in a region where the primary airport isn’t maxed-out has failed before it.

      2. On this one D.P. I agree. Without quality mass transit service, a footprint large enough to handle parking & support businesses & roads, and a pressing need for commercial airport service from customer surveys; the Paine Field terminal effort will likely collapse.

      3. Alaska Airlines is tentatively interested, but not ready to pull the trigger. I doubt it will happen until it becomes commercially viable, which will probably happen about the time that SeaTac is truly maxed out. I do believe that this will eventually happen, though.

        If/when SeaTac does become maxxed out, the only real options for another commercial airport will be Boeing Field or Paine Field. There would be advantages for both, but there are some major advantages of having an airport north of downtown, seeing as there is already a very large airport south of downtown.

      4. Seatac won’t become maxed out. Seatac has 3 runways 2 of which can be used during low visibility conditions.

        London’s Heathrow only has 2 runways and they can only use one during low visibility conditions.

        Right now there is a shortage of gates, but fixing that issue doesn’t require s whole new airport.

      5. d.p., you only need to look a bit further north to Bellingham for a counterexample. I fully grant you there are examples of “3rd-rate startups” trying and failing there a decade or so ago, but once Allegiant’s investment succeeded, Alaska joined in with more than just Horizon puddlejumpers to Seattle, and the airport is now thriving and expanding.

        It’s definitely a boom or bust proposition, but it’s not doomed to failure EVERY time.

      6. I honestly don’t think commercial service out of Paine Field is that bad of an idea. Paine Field is over 40 miles away from Sea-Tac Airport. Heck, Paine Field is roughly the same distance from Ballard as Sea-Tac is, and you don’t have to go through downtown Seattle to get there. It would be a nice option for people in the northern suburbs and even those in the north side of Seattle proper.

        I believe it was Allegiant that proposed to serve Paine Field. Alaska applied to fly out of there as well, not because they really want to serve Everett on its own merits, but because they felt obligated to do so if a competitor was going to do it anyway.

        Transit access to Paine Field is pretty terrible, and I certainly don’t support using Seattle money to pay to improve that situation, but for the large number of people who drive (or get rides) to the airport anyway, Paine Field could be a nice alternative.

      7. Eric, I don’t think “Seattle money” is necessary to fix Paine Field’s transit mess. Try Community Transit’s.

      8. I believe Allegiant has either pulled out of BLI or is about to; Alaska has pared its Honolulu flights in response (and of course both decisions are largely affected by the weakening of the Canadian dollar). BLI is a price-valve airport for lower mainland BC because prices out of YVR are not often competitive, particularly to popular US vacation spots like Hawai’i and Las Vegas. As the U.S. dollar is actually back at more historically supported levels, it remains to be seen what this does to BLI.

        It really is a pleasant little airport to fly from, and you can often save $100 or more on Alaska’s HNL flights vis-a-vis SEA.

      9. Kacie,

        At 94 miles away, Bellingham is a “reliever market”, which is quite a bit different than a “reliever airport” in the same market. The former has a better track record of success.

        For example, Providence, RI and Manchester, NH have earned robust business as relievers for local travelers who might otherwise have needed to fly out of Boston, as well as for people situated in between. But attempts to make commercial service at Hanscom Field, which offered only direct inner-suburban competition to Boston-Logan without any of the economies of scale enjoyed by the established hub, have invariably (pardon the metaphor) crashed and burned.

        There are many examples nationwide of similar commercial terminals at unneeded relievers, often opened by politicians with great fanfare, now sitting empty after the last tri-weekly seasonal non-stops to Boca packed up and left

        Bellingham is also advantaged, explicitly and by design, by its proximity to the Canadian border and the international flight taxes that can be avoided versus YVR if your final destination is within the United States. That alone makes it an irrelevant precedent on which to judge Paine’s chances.


        “A nice option” to reach from the northern parts of town is not enough. It has to offer the destinations, and the schedules, and the connections, and be price-competitive in doing so. Unless your primary airport is so maxed-out that the airlines and the port authority and a near-consensus of power brokers decide to pursue a new one — and as Chris points out, SeaTac will never find itself in a Dallas Love Field type of constriction — a same-market commercial reliever is simply not viable.

      10. Good comment D.P. about Paine Field being a viable terminal versus Bellingham International. It seems to me it’s more the Everett Elite (TM) who are pushing the Paine Field terminal and the Mukilteo community that welcomes a Boeing factory & aviation tourism for Paine Field. The real fear for folks is not one or two gates serving (mostly) quiet Bombardier Q400s and Boeing 737s, it’s if/when we have more gates there.

        If Paine Field ever needs more than a couple of gates, the terminal will require:

        *Parking, lots of parking
        *Rental car spaces
        *A transit hub for airporters, taxis and yes public sector mass transit

        All of which will take prime avgeek real estate and use it for less than its intended purpose which is to serve the manufacturing & maintenance facilities + museums. This makes Mukilteo leaders and should make Paine Field boosters nervous.

        I am also of the view Community Transit better not make the same mistake with the Paine Field Terminal that they did with Future of Flight & Whatcom Transit Authority/WTA did with the Bellingham Terminal and forget about transit service all together until it builds to the breaking point. With Bellingham International having lost their aviation museum to Skagit Regional, possibly losing Allegiant and being well served by multiple private sector airporters; the breaking point has and likely will NOT be hit for WTA as explained a few years ago. Better to bake in the transit growth capability from the get-go…

      11. I never said Bellingham is or could be a reliever for Seattle. Obviously it’s meant as one for Vancouver instead. (And yes, obviously the currency exchange is a confounding issue that makes it an imperfect analogy.) I was merely positing it as an example of a smaller airport that became successful commercially with the right investment.

        Also, I haven’t been keeping up with the news since moving back down south (I lived in Bham until 2013), but quick research seems to indicate that Allegiant is reducing service because they’re pulling out of Hawaii, not because they’re pulling out of Bellingham itself. If Alaska is following suit, then that sucks for the customers that prefer that airport, but that route was always meant to be seasonal, so it’s no great surprise if seasonal turned out to mean temporary.

      12. Even for Vancouver, Bellingham is more “neighboring reliever market” than “same-market reliever airport”.

        Meaning that there are explicit location-based and external-price-influencing-factor-based circumstances under which it may make more sense to travel to it than to fly out of YVR. And those circumstances are more complicated than just being in the same major metro area but on the wrong side of the suburbs.

        If someone suggested a second airport in Burnaby or Coquitlam, simply to not have to get themselves all the way to the west coast of Richmond — but that new airport would enjoy none of YVR’s preexisting economies of scale, nor have any of Bellingham’s cross-border or semi-independent-market structural advantages — then that would be similar to any proposal floated to commercialize Paine. And it would be just as likely to fail.

      13. With several scheduled flights to Friday Harbor and a few other locations, Boeing Field already is a reliever airport of sorts. If decent local transit existed it could even be complimentary.

        Then, there’s the little issue of so many SeaTac flights being to/from PDX, which should eventually be shifting towards train traffic.

    3. I do agree that the hump in the spine makes no sense, though. Seems like BRT (via Swift II) would be a better option for serving Paine Field, and just making a high-quality transfer point between the two modes.

      1. Exactly with a bus feeder around the Mukilteo Speedway to serve Future of Flight and the base of Bernie Webber Drive – future home of a Park & Ride, current home of the famous Paine Field Windsock & Historic Flight Foundation.

  27. Just watched the Board Meeting. Ugh. The “best” options are 3A and 4 and those are not up to par. Not to mention, the criteria they’re using to evaluate the options seems stacked against them.

    1. Where is the board meeting video? The lastest one I see in the board video archive is March 5th.

  28. It turns out that d.p.’s critique of ST was not overly harsh at all – the more I think about all of this the more frustrated I get. Can Seattle go at this alone somehow – if Seattle approves some sort of city-only revenue to go towards real urban rail could we utilize ST’s infrastructure and capacity to build those lines? Or would that be technically and politically unfeasible? If not ST, than how?

    1. Hmm. Sub-area equity that is actually dictated by the sub-area.

      Can the SoundTransit charter be amended by citizen initiative process?

    2. The issue is two fold I think

      1) By statute, Seattle can only raise property taxes 1% at most. Though this may be able to wiggle out some more $s from the Park District we created last year

      2) This would eat into Mayor Murray’s Move Seattle program he proposed, both money and political wise.

    3. Seattle can hire ST to build anything it wants outside ST# funding. That would be the way to go to build city light rail, because ST has the most experience and (since 2000) conservative budgeting.

      ST’s current structure requires a joint vote and common tax rate across all subareas, but money raised in each subarea has to benefit that subarea. The first part is supposedly required by “equal taxation” legal doctrines, but some question whether the legal principle is really as rigid as that. It would make sense to me for each subarea to choose its own projects and tax rate, and perhaps have elections at different times.

      1. I think that makes a lot of sense, as long as you have contingencies for when the other jurisdiction fails to pass their proposal. For example, let’s say Seattle and Snohomish County want to build BRT along Aurora up to Lynnwood. Seattle voters approve, and set aside money. But Snohomish County voters reject it. What next? Run the line to the city border, or just abandon that part of the proposal. Each proposal would have to have such language in it. This isn’t that hard, but would need to be specified.

      2. Just to continue (I should have thought about this more before I submitted it) I think what makes more sense is just to have different proposals. A joint one, that requires overall approval to pass, and a local proposal. So, for Seattle, that might be a “Metro 8” subway. For Snohomish County, it might mean Swift 3. For the two together it might mean the proposal I suggested.

  29. By “High Revenue” on these maps I assume they are talking about tax revenue, rather than actual ticket sales revenue?

    1. High tax revenue, basically what the legislature decides to authorize and how much ST decides to use.

  30. This area had rail all through it. walked miles of rail line to get from A to B as a youth.
    Politicos and $$$grubbers talked the transplants into giving up rail RoW for ped/bike trails.
    OK we did that.
    Now we have to endure a raise in taxes to give ST taxing authority to purchase right of way to re-install tracks????


    and we are the top of the food chain????

  31. Let’s remember the primary goal of a Ballard – downtown line: travel time and frequency. It should be at least as fast as the 15X without traffic, and 10-minute minimum frequency. The most comparable 15X is the 6:31pm southbound, between Market to Pine Streets in 18 minutes. So Link at 10 minutes would get an “A” grade, 15 minutes “B”, 20 minutes “C”, and 30 minutes “F”. The current SLUT is 10 minutes from Westlake to Mercer, so going on to Ballard would be 10-15 minutes more. So the acceptability of the surface proposals revolves around the travel time, and the reliability of sticking to that time. I can’t reject them out of hand until I see the estimates, but that’s what I’ll be looking for.

    1. As Martin says, I think the big question (for Ballard on 3a and 4) will be whether the portal is in Interbay or Westlake. If they are talking MAX-style through downtown then travel times will be terrible. If they tunnel under LQA and Belltown and the train comes out on 15th, then it could be good. The at-grade along 15th would still be terrible though.

    2. I assume that the Ballard numbers are just those in the study (I am too lazy to find the link). They had time and cost estimates for the various proposals (Corridor A through E if memory serves).

      But no matter how you cut it, this isn’t as good as UW to Ballard rail. It simply doesn’t improve overall transit mobility. Even the most expensive route (Corridor D) does not connect the north end (everything north and east of the UW) to the everything west of there (Wallingford, Greenwood, Phinney, as well greater Ballard). So not only would it be a lot more expensive, it wouldn’t be as good.

      Not only that, but you only get Ballard light rail if you include West Seattle light rail (which, again, is not only more expensive than West Seattle bus improvements, but less effective in moving people). As I said above, it is like Sound Transit wants to buy a $50 Big Mac, instead of $10 Pad Thai.

    3. “The current SLUT is 10 minutes from Westlake to Mercer, so going on to Ballard would be 10-15 minutes more. ”

      Only 10-15 minutes more to get from Mercer St. all the way to Ballard! Maybe possible assuming no traffic interference and zero intermediate stops. But with any kind of reasonable stop spacing, forget it. And then, there’s no reasonable way for a surface line to bypass the Fremont Bridge without significant expense.

      1. A “rapid streetcar” would involve upgrading Westlake in some unspecified way, so the current stretch would be less than 10 minutes. I just used the existing line as a worst-case scenario. Northern Westlake Avenue will be fast because there’s few cross streets or stations. Leary Way will be reasonably fast IMO. That leaves the bridge and Fremont as the biggest bottenecks. Time to dust off that automobile bridge idea at 3rd NW?

      2. Meh. There is nothing ST could promise — and then water down later* — that is going to make me agree to fund $1 billion worth of “the 40 bus with a tiny bit of signal priority”.

        Not gonna happen.

        *(Hey, remember when U-Link suddenly got 2 minutes slower than every document for a solid decade claimed, despite no physical alterations and only a single freaking stop on the line?)

  32. I watched the board meeting in horror when option 2b was displayed. That’s the medium cost option with some completion of the spine and no additional corridors.

    That the staff thinks that this is even an option speaks volumes, because there’s no way to explain how that would work except with the elimination of sub-area equity. And I’m fairly certain that’s where they’re headed. They can hide behind “these are just concepts” but that’s just a dodge.

    I’ve watched every board meeting for the past two years or so. All decisions are made prior to the board meeting. It’s not like board members show up and make decisions on the spot. So I doubt any of this is really new to them. And if they thought staff was off on a wild tangent, they would have said so. No, I think this is where they want to go. “Complete the Spine” is all they’re focused on.

    This better get much better fast, or I’ll enjoy helping it fail at the ballot. As someone who is a die-hard transit advocate, I never thought I’d be in that position.

    1. It’s been headed in this direction inexorably since the first ballot passed. It’s just take fifteen years to unfold in all of its wrong-headed glory.

    2. Exactly. That is what is crazy. All these die hard transit fans are basically saying “I won’t vote for that crap”. ST3 will go down in flames unless they figure this out and reverse course very quickly.

      1. What gets me is they don’t even have the authority yet. Why should I advocate to my elected officials down in Olympia for the full $15B when this is all they can propose? If this is the best they’ve got, maybe I tell my State representatives to forget it.

        I’ve watched these board meetings, and I think it’s become a textbook example of groupthink. Mayor Murray was there, O’Brien was there, and when it came time for questions, they say nothing.

      2. “Why should I advocate to my elected officials down in Olympia for the full $15B when this is all they can propose? ”

        You do it because maybe, just maybe, when ST3 fails 70-30, the board members will realize that their ideas are a pile of shit and come up with something better. Without the authority, there’s no hope.

      3. asdf2, I’m beginning to believe – and I could be wrong – that a smaller authority means a package that’s more based on market forces than political fantasies.

        I mean does Paine Field need a light rail diversion or a better bus network for Boeing, Future of Flight, flight schools, et al?

        Does it really make sense to have light rail from Seattle to Tacoma when more Sounder South could do most of the job faster at lower cost?

        Or does it make sense to address unmet needs in Sound Transit Express Buses, replace Sounder North with something better than a ticking time bomb and make damn sure Seattle gets high density transit?

      4. I’m just saying that they would have a lot more folks clamoring for ST3 authorization if the concept plans had been any good. Now representatives in swing districts have cover to vote against the full $15B.

        They shot themselves in the foot. They’d better repair the damage, and quick.

      5. The best argument I can think of for the ST3 authorization is that the authorization is good across multiple elections. Even if this travesty goes down in the smoke it so richly deserves, they can run another vote the next year.

      6. William, I have the suspicion the STB Revolt of 2015 just might change that :-).

      7. My one bit of charitable thinking toward Sound Transit is there is some sort of connection to the ST3 authorization in the lame scenarios presented.

        In other words the “fuck Seattle” aspects of the plan are there as part of convincing the legislature to pass the bill.

      8. @Joe — I’ve thought that way for a while. A smaller package is simply more likely to pass. There are several reasons for this;

        1) Seattle politicians have good cover. Imagine ST3 with the full 15 billion, than Seattle says (which they should) that West Seattle light rail is just too expensive. How do think that will go over? Saying “sorry, the state shafted us, we have to build the WSTT” would probably gain a bunch more votes.

        2) It might force Seattle to adopting more cost effective light rail, which basically means UW to Ballard. This is not only cheaper, but better than the other proposals (ten dollar Phad Thai versus a fifty dollar Big Mac).

        3) The other subareas don’t have that many really good, really expensive projects. We are really starting to get diminishing returns. In Snohomish County, for example, not that many would benefit from extending light rail to Everett. Most of those folks would take a bus to Lynnwood which will be faster most of the time (it is only when the HOV lanes are really bad that you can make up for all the stops along the way). The common tax rate, subarea equity rules are starting to pinch, since many of those areas are grabbing the low hanging fruit. So a smaller budget means you have a lot more buses, which has historically (since the first successful Sound Transit vote) been what suburban areas favored anyway. It is anecdotal, but I’ve only heard good things about the ST buses.

        4) People who would vote for a full loaf will vote for half a loaf a lot more than the other way around.

        It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a smaller package would be more likely to pass, what is surprising is that it might simply be better.

      9. RossB, we are thinking mostly the same way. Just as I argue the Future of Flight – I’m a foundation member – deserves a Return On Investment/ROI for the disproportionate amount of tax paid versus services received; I “get it” you guys to my south worry about the very same ROI up here. Light rail to serve shift workers – mostly for one tenant who makes threats towards legislators & employees every few years to leave or else to get concessions – is not going to be supported enthusiastically in Seattle & nearby. Light rail that runs empty is only going to be used against us for ST4 & ST5.

        A few commuter rail lines – maybe.

        Express buses and more bus service for basically Snohomish County’s SoDo district – if it’s the price of a Ballard to UW line – sure.

      10. RossB, you’re thinking too much like a transit person. If you think from a local elected official’s perspective you don’t see diminishing returns at all – instead you see massive capital spending in your community that will stimulate real estate investment. You need to remember that they aren’t at the table because of the transit outcomes.

      11. Ross, It isn’t entirely clear to me that Murray and SDOT oppose this. See the Ballard survey offering street car stops, SDOT folks telling me that Ballard to U district is not what they want, etc. I have often asked STB in open threads to interview Murray or Kubly on this, get them on the record. At this point, we need them to state yes or no, to give Seattle Subway more lead time to plan whatever they are going to do (most likely a WSTT).

      12. Heck, I’m starting to wonder if Murray’s “exclusive lanes and minimally improved signals” on Westlake was all about getting the polish out ahead of this predetermined turd.

    3. Mark Y., as to:

      I’ve watched every board meeting for the past two years or so. All decisions are made prior to the board meeting. It’s not like board members show up and make decisions on the spot.

      Can you kinda spell out where that perception is coming from? Also who makes these decisions and where then?

    1. The comments are finally slowing down, at 10 PM, with 278 comments. We know some Metro executives read this blog and pay attention to it; let’s hope Sound Transit executives do too.

      1. I agree William C. I would add some stuff, but I have a crisis of high national security order closer to home tonight & need to get off a comment letter.

      2. I am sure Metro is actually on our side with this one. They want good bus connections, they want a city that is easy to get around in, and they want a system that hyper charges the bus system… one where a bus ride or two in the middle is a quick trip two or from a station to your final destination… boosted by a quick transfer or two on a highly reliable, grade separated rail network.

        No one will ever whine or worry about metro buses being hours late again, because they won’t be in the tough traffic jams anymore. They’ll be that super reliable bus that always gets you to and from the station on time, so frequently you never even have to check the schedule (for real).

      3. Does Sound Transit care about Metro’s opinion, though? Have they ever listened to them on any significant decision at all?

      4. @Charles B — I agree. For example, Metro definitely wants the NE 130th station, while the WSTT would be wonderful for them. Meanwhile, the Ballard to UW subway would finally allow Metro to put the 44 out to pasture (good work old gal, you got really slow in your old age, but you always worked hard).

        @William — Very good question. I wonder if other transit agencies talk to them as well. It would make sense to have the head of each transit agency sit on the board, and have some voting power. We would probably get better results than this.

  33. Let’s continue the line to Mukilteo ferry docks, THEN the cars could detach and go on the ferry itself!

    Of course boarding Link from the ferry would be an Orca transfer.

      1. A train to OLF Coupeville would be my wildest dream, but I’m not asking for it DeePee.

    1. An Orca transfer at extra cost involving tapping again, presumably, and not usable on day passes. Because “integration”.

  34. Of course a 250-comment thread happens when I’m in meetings away from the computer all day long.

    As a result I can’t really add much new. But I should just say that I, usually a staunch defender of the good faith of our local agencies (if not always the execution), can’t muster any words to defend these options.

    I’m very reluctant, ever, to oppose funding for transit. I would oppose a ST3 based on these options. It can’t stand. From my past track record, I think if they’ve lost me, they’ve lost Seattle.

    1. Yup and without Seattle, ST3 is game over. No need for the State Legislature to do anything at this point.

      I hope Mayor Ed Murray and his people are watching this and have a counterproposal to offer.

      1. Based on my earlier comments on the Ballard survey and SDOT not liking the Ballard to U district line, I don’t expect much from the Mayor– after all West Seattle gets their transit.

    2. Given your track record, David, and those who have made similar pronouncements, this should send shivers down the spine of everyone that sits on the ST board. Get it together, folks, or ST3 will fail miserably.

  35. the regional spine is complete; it is routes 512 and 594; revise the latter to serve the Federal Way TC and skip the SODO busway and use the Seneca Street pathway; run each every five minutes, toll I-5, and call it good.

    1. ASDF2 and Fast Eddie:
      The conceptual Plan to complete the ‘Spine’ shouldn’t come as any big surprise to anyone, and your questioning the wisdom of plowing full speed ahead on the current game plan raises lots of red flags for the future. I think it will become increasingly more unsustainable as the so-called spine nears completion.
      A look at the time-line for Board action ramping up to the Nov 2016 vote that includes nothing but ‘spine’ talk is where the current Board and Staff are driving us. Frankly, I’m not enjoying the ride we’re being taken on.
      A simple look at the current SIP reveals that STEX service is a big as it will ever be, and will get cannibalized to feed the spine in future SIP’s beyond 2020. But look at some of the metrics of the current and projected Link system (yes, the most efficient and highest ridership section), then compare that to peer agencies selected. x2 or x3 is where we are at, (and it ‘ain’t gettin any better folks)
      Look at some of the Sounder metrics, with NO discussion of how to stop the bleeding of cash to the BNSF masters. Some of the numbers even play games with ‘Subsidy per Boarding’ to make it look better than the NTD standard accounting methodology would produce.
      Some of the STEX routes are stellar performers in subsidies, and others like the 540 just leave me speechless.
      Surprized? No.
      Disappointed? Beyond words.

  36. I watched the presentation and have a question – when he discusses the Ballard rapid steetcar option he explicitly says it would include a new bridge. When he discusses the Ballard LRT option he just says at-grade along 15th Ave NW, but he doesn’t mention a bridge. Is it possible they are considering retrofitting the existing bridge and having light rail wait during the bridge raises? At this point nothing would surprise me.

    1. I would be really surprised if that was the case. “LRT” and “streetcar” are basically the same thing (like “car” and “truck”, they are both automobiles). The terms have certain implications, and people assume LRT means mostly grade separated, while streetcar does not. So while a new bridge is assumed for LRT, it is not for the streetcar, which is why they specifically called it out.

  37. How much will be wasted on stupid-expensive “free” parking? Don’t trust sound transit.

    1. Yeah, maybe that’s the problem. You really can’t add that much free parking with Ballard to UW light rail, and none for another bus tunnel (the WSTT). Without parking, Sound Transit just doesn’t know what to do — after all, how will people get to the stations?

      1. RossB, people can get to Sound Transit stations via local bus connections!

      2. But Joe, remember, Sound Transit is determined to pretend local buses don’t exist!

      3. Thanks for the reminder. I’m Mr. North by Northwest, remember? Sound Transit though should start thinking a bit more, er, neighborly.

      4. Yes, I must drive from Greenlake to Wallingford Station! Or from my house next to Gasworks Park to Wallingford Station. There must be a free parking space there for me.

    1. It looks like old threads remove comment counts?

      I have no other realistic way to verify externally…

    2. Here’s the 2014 summary at New Year’s. One above 280 and five in the low 200’s. This year seems to have accelerated. There was one Link-related one several weeks ago that spiked above 220 and may have reached 300, and since then pretty much every ST3/Lynnwood Link article has been up there. I don’t know if that means we’re more chatty or more people are reading and commenting. STB has been mentioned more in newspaper articles and politicians’ speeches, so that’s probably bringing more people.

      1. Right Mike, I got to recently talk to the Everett Transit customer service employee monitoring us. He enjoys our work at STB very much as our agenda is just transit.

        Also I’ve let state legislative Republican staffers know we exist, we matter, we endorse and I kick a** for Marummy as a recovering Lane Legionnaire.

  38. A TALE OF TWO CITIES – Federal Way and Lynnwood
    The differences between how Link will operate from these two locations are striking, and in my opinion exactly backwards from what it should have been.
    Both are adjacent to I-5, with FWTC being a few miles further away from Seattle than LTC. Both have access to I-5, where traffic volumes vary between 160-190 thousand vehicles per weekday, with associated traffic jams. Both have an anchor city Link seems desperate to reach at all costs and that’s where the similarities end.
    The combined population of Everett and Lynnwood is 141 thousand(k), while Federal Way and Tacoma are over double that at 295k. It would follow that ridership would be higher on the south end. But look at station boardings from the EIS. LTC – 17,000. FWTC 4,500.
    Look at bus truncation: LTC, nearly all of the buses transfer. FWTC nearly none
    Travel times are the key: LTC to Univ/3rd = 28 min. FWTC = 52min.
    If the same team were designing the system, and FedWay is by far the bigger area with just as much freeway congestion, therefore higher ridership potential, then why totally different approaches and outcomes. (who shouted politics from the back of the room?)
    NASA doesn’t always get it right, but when faced with failure, it at least makes mid-course corrections. Is it too late for that conversation?

    1. Mic,

      They aren’t really comparable. Between Seattle and Everett is much mor continuously populated than Seattle to Tacoma. There are some large gaps with few people between even Seatac and Federal Way much less between there and Tacoma.

      Also Federal Way is much further than Lynnwood. 15 miles vs 22 from Westlake. Or 19 vs 28 minutes by car without traffic.

      Next look at transit ridership, there are roughly double the number of transit riders coming from North of Seattle as from South of it during peak. I don’t have traffic volume data handy but if I recall correctly it follows a similar pattern to transit ridership. Certainly I-5 between Lynnwood and downtown Seattle has much more congestion and delay on average than I-5 between Federal Way and downtown Seattle.

      North of Downtown is lucky to have must-serve regional destinations like the UW and Northgate along with geography and density that requires grade separation.

      Could Link have made a beeline for the airport with minimal stops and grade separated RoW between IDS and there? Yes. Would that have decreased travel times and increased ridership from the South? Yes. However the ridership gain likely wouldn’t have offset losing all of the riders from Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley.

      The value to Seattle would have been minimal as there are next to no places with residential density or that people want to travel to in the Duwamish Valley.

      1. Thanks Chris. I won’t quibble with a few of the details, but just looking at both those cities as Hub Centers offer a huge contrast in application of HCT.
        FWay, with a population of 92k dwarfs that of Lynnwood at only 36k. Likewise the larger anchor cities Link is trying to connect (Everett @105k, and Tacoma @203k) defy logic with what you correctly describe what the current transit market and mode share is supporting.
        Truncating all routes at LTC makes good sense for all the reasons given.
        Truncating all routes south of FWTC makes no sense at all, therefore it’s paltry ridership in comparison to its twice the size.
        So Link is only about 1/8th as effective from FWTC as it’s counterpart to the north. (1/4 the boardings, but twice the population to draw from).
        It’s really a “Tale of Two Cities”, without an easy answer as to why this story is ending so poorly for one, and great for the other.
        As far as trying to salvage Link ridership from Tacoma to Seatac Arpt, “That’s a fools errand”.

      2. Well as I said both road traffic patterns and transit demand patters show more people make trips from Snohomish County to Seattle than from South King and Pierce to Seattle. Even if the population of the latter is higher.

        Even if Link had taken the fastest route to Seatac ridership from South King and Pierce would still be lower. It’s not politics, it is geography. (Longer distance, less density, less travel demand)

    2. UW is almost as big a draw as downtown for Lynnwood commuters.
      Lynnwood will only be 6 stations from UW and 9 stations to Westlake.
      Federal Way will be 20 stations to UW and 14 stations to International District (+-1)
      Travel times as you pointed out are going to be much longer for Federal Way commuters.

      Get over 10 stations with the longer commute time then who wants to ride it. Express buses, Sounder or other alternatives become much more viable and a draw on ridership.

      On that note, I think if FW were connected to Tacoma thereby giving Tacoma access to the airport and FW access to Tacoma then the numbers would make a meaningful jump.

      1. Some years back, a certain transit opponent made a long ranting post on a certain usenet newsgroup, in which he included the statement “Nobody actually rides any buses because they stop everywhere to pick up passengers.”

        Apparently, all those passengers that do in fact get on at all those stops that are everywhere don’t count to anybody that matters…..

        Living in the land of the 220 foot MAX station spacing, I certainly see your point. However, well planned and executed station stops maximize ridership. If you are concerned about stations every mile, then it is time to push for higher maximum speed and better performing station stops. If you get station stop timings down to the 15 second range, allow the cars to accelerate as best they can (3 mph per second is about as good as you can do for passenger comfort, but you need to gradually transition into and out of it as well) you should still be able to do reasonably good, depending on what maximum speed they allow for the cars. One mile between stations should see a fair amount of time at the maximum allowed speed, with decent acceleration allowed.

      2. @Glenn — but it is silly to try and convert light rail into commuter rail. Most light rail systems (outside really big cities like New York and Chicago) rely on the old railway, which saves them billions. The only new line that is trying to work like commuter rail is BART, and it fails miserably, despite the fact that the region, including the suburban cities it serves, are about four times bigger than our area (e. g. Fremont is about 400,000 people and the BART station there gets less than a typical Seattle bus in terms of ridership). So, despite the pretty fast speeds (with really wide spacing) it just doesn’t generate much ridership. When you consider that our line would parallel a freeway, which would always have superior speed (even if we ran bullet trains from Everett) because of the express nature of those buses (or driving), means that trying to convert a light rail line to a commuter rail line is pretty silly.

        Better to try and improve the commuter rail line we have. There are very few stops between Tacoma and Everett, so maximum speed might actually make a difference.

      3. Plenty of people will ride Link from Federal Way to Seattle, even with ten stops. More would ride with a cut-off, but folks will still ride, because it will be reliable and comfortable.

    3. Truncating all express buses is a good thing; it’s an argument for Lynnwood and against Federal Way, not vice-versa. There’s a ton of travel between south Snohomish County and north Seattle where express-level transit is currently spotty or nonexistent that will open up with Link+feeders, where the Link portion is not 28 minutes but 10 or 15. I have worked in several parts of north Seattle with people who drive from Lynnwood, south Everett, Mill Creek, etc, and it’s impossible to recommend transit to them because it would take 2+ hours each way. There’s no express bus to Northgate or Roosevelt, no local buses at 145th, and that kills transfer possibilities.

      The south end is awash in highways so traffic is not as bad. If I-5 is backed up there’s 509, 599, 167, the West Valley Highway, other wide industrial roads, etc. The north end has only I-5 and is denser so it gets more congested. Much of the south end is industrial with not as many vehicles; a few trucks cause less congestion than 25 SOVs.

      South King County does need much better transit because of its high population and relative poverty, but Link from Federal Way does not address most of it. And South King County probably should be connected better to Tacoma, but there are other ways to do that too.

      Your population levels should include Edmonds, Auburn, and Puyallup, since they’re also in Link’s cachement area when Sounder is not running. Already people are driving from Auburn and FW to TIB to take Link to Seattle, including off-peak.

      1. Mike;

        Last December, I talked to Community Transit. Their biggest excitement about Link getting to Lynnwood is the idea – which would likely be supported by Community Transit’s board – of using the Lynnwood Link Station as the end of CT’s branded & operated commuter lines…

        I rather like this idea. Community Transit has to get on with serving not just you-know-where but also serve better some very strung out places on the map like Darrington, Arlington and the like. Not to mention having more service hours makes it possible to get to Swift III & Swift IV.

      2. Your observations are great, Mike! The ridership projections for Lynnwood Link show much higher use than Federal Way Link, which seems consistent with the closer distance to important destinations..

        I often wonder where the “break point” between Seattle and Tacoma should be. I never quite understood why light rail that ended at the Tacoma Dome is more attractive than extending Tacoma Link to the Federal Way Transit Center, for example. I’d note that unless someone is going to somewhere within walking distance of Tacoma Dome, they will have to transfer anyway! If Tacoma Dome was proposed as some sort of urbanity with 40 story buildings and tens of thousands of employees and residents (and expensive parking rates), it would be different — but it doesn’t appear to be.

      3. I’ve often wondered why there hasn’t been a push to extend RapidRide A east from Federal Way into Auburn. South County needs some core trunk routes that link it to the region better, and this seems like a natural solution.

      4. That would make a surprising amount of sense, Al. I’d break up the 181, and transfer the center section to RR A and the east section to the 164. Extending the 164 to Auburn would give it a better anchor on the south end, and it seems to me that RR A is at least as good a route to connect to Auburn as the 181-West.

      5. Extending Tacoma Link to Federal Way is an interesting idea I haven’t seen before. ST’s Tacoma Link alternatives include a line to Fife (54th Ave E), but that looks like only a quarter of the distance to Federal Way. An unofficial idea that’s been floating around is to extend RapidRide A to Tacoma. Combined with full-time frequent routes on S 320th and KDM Road, that would get all of Tacoma’s most likely cachement area of workers and shoppers, if Tacoma ever does succeed in becoming an attractive regional center like Bellevue.

    4. “It’s really a “Tale of Two Cities”, without an easy answer as to why this story is ending so poorly for one, and great for the other.”

      You’ve almost answered your own question. (1) The south end is too long and wide for a single line to do everything. (2) There are fewer destinations than in the north, and they’re less pedestrian-friendly. (3) The tight street grid of north Seattle/Shoreline is missing. (4) Land use, culture, and historical patterns may play a role.

      So for #1, we think of Tacoma/Everett and Lynnwood/Federal Way as parallel, but really Lynnwood is as close as Kent, and Everett is just a bit further than Federal Way. That’s the length. For the width, we’ve spilled tons of ink about how Link is too far west of Kent or Renton for Link to serve them. Their north end equivalents are Kenmore/Bothell which have a hill barrier from I-5, and Mill Creek/Canyon Park/Lake Stevens which are less populous/no city centers/less transit-dependent.

      For #2-4, much of south Seattle was under water in the 1800s, so streetcar suburbs developed mostly north. South Seattle/South King County developed later in the automobile era and was the industrial area, so it has north-south highways every mile. South Seattle is pigeonholed by hill/river barriers that hinder east-west travel and I believe hindered urban destination-building: it’s so hard to get between West Seattle to Rainier Valley that people don’t, so destinations there have a limited clientele draw. South King County has a large-scale street grid, not very walkable. Again this may be because cars were the goal.

      Finally, every American city has a “favored quarter” where the rich live. The industrial district is on one side of downtown so that’s where the poor/working-class live. The favored quarter is usually on the opposite side of downtown, as ours was until the 1960s when it shifted east (coinciding with 520). Since then, South Seattle, South King County, and Pierce County have been lower income so they just haven’t developed the destinations that bring a lot of visitors/customers and don’t have the money to do so. The Kent Valley found a niche with postwar industry, but that only brings workers, not visitors.

      Also, before the 1990s Seattle-Bellevue-Lynnwood-Kent was a single urban market for workers/shopping/recreation, while Auburn-Tacoma were separate market(s). In the 90s more people became willing to drive longer distances to exurban developments, and that’s how the markets fused. But Link’s difficulty in reaching Tacoma may reflect the fact that it’s such a long distance it was a separate market until recently.

  39. So what do you guys think of Martin’s best-case scenario, a tunnel from Intl Dist to Interbay and surface from 15th W to Ballard? Regardless of any other projects in other areas.

    In my mind it mostly revolves around the travel time: 10 minutes excellent, 15 minutes OK, 20 minutes maybe tolerable, 30 minutes bad. None of the 2014 corridors are directly equivalent: B (tunnel+elevated) is 11-12 minutes, C (at-grade) is 15-19 minutes, and we might wonder if C is too optimistic. So that suggests tunnel+surface would be at least 13 minutes, maybe 15. Both scenarios envisioned a new 70′ moveable bridge, which would open less often than the Ballard Bridge and not be a traffic bottleneck. If they put it on the Ballard Bridge, travel time would be longer.

    This alignment would serve Interbay and the pending Expedia HQ, but it would leave out Fremont and upper Queen Anne. Is that OK, bad, unacceptable? What’s the minimum that would be adequate for Fremont? If Ballard-downtown is served by an adequate Interbay Link, I could see acceptabe service for Fremont as being any of a full-time frequent 40, a Westlake/Fremont/Ballard “rapid streetcar”, or a Westlake/Fremont/Greenwood rapid streetcar.

    1. I see that Fremont — while a great urban village — is not at the robust high-rise development level seen in Ballard and in many other parts of Seattle. I actually think that would ruin the character of the commercial district! I’d agree with you on the streetcar solution — but only if it linked to the U-District Link as well as either Ballard or SLU at a Link station because to me Fremont seems systemically linked to UW as much if not more than it does to Ballard or SLU.

      I think an east-west alignment south of Amgen/Expedia would be great! I’d nope any alignment would go east deep into SLU. I wonder how many of the rider projections in the 2014 Ballard Study took into account recent SLU redevelopment and we know it didn’t include Expedia. I suspect that there will be a need to examine more alternatives for the alignment from Queen Anne through Downtown, and we should keep an open mind on what that should be until we more further iterate through engineering studies along this segment. I’d also note that another “game changer” proposal bigger than Expedia, say for example a 50-story signature office tower in SLU — or along Elliot — we would have a much clearer expectation on which alignment works best.

      I’m discouraged about this upcoming systems study. Ideally, it’s a chance to examine things like whether the Ballard Link should be one or two lines, and how best to interline something from Ballard (West Seattle? City Hall/First Hill/CD? Eastside?) to maximize ridership and minimize rider travel time. This next study by ST could focus on this — but I’m expecting that it won’t. I wish that ST would shift its mindset from primarily being a track builder first and fawning over lines on maps and renderings of stations — to being a rail transit operator first and design a system expansion to minimize public subsidies and connections required to operate the system. I wish that farebox recovery was presented on every alternative, rather than presenting just rail riders — and I wish that the alternatives showed how much eliminating Metro service duplication would ultimately save Seattle taxpayers!

    2. It’s still not nearly as useful and cost-effective as Ballard->UW. The former is all about Ballard->downtown and nothing else. The latter is about not only Ballard, but also Fremont and Wallingford. It also helps with not only getting downtown, but also trips north.

      It is Ballard->UW that Sound Transit should be looking at first. That and a second bus tunnel through downtown that includes Belltown and lower Queen Anne.

      1. Do you think that UW-Ballard would have a stronger case if the entire “arc” from Downtown to Fremont/Ballard to UW assumed each alternative began and ended at a Link station? I can see that the systemic flaw of studying two separate “one-way” corridors is probably not as effective of a strategy (few riders, less interest in the community) as it would be to have a corridor that has “two-way” travel alternatives. It naturally pits UW-Ballard with Downtown-Ballard when it potentially could be a single arced transit line design. Even if it couldn’t all be funded in ST3, it would at least be a concept that could endure in later efforts.

  40. Here’s an idea of what might be a better investment for Snohomish County’s money than a long, slow light rail to Seattle through Pane field:

    1) Extend the tax boundary north to Lakewood Crossing
    2) Cancel the North Sounder
    3) Sell the BNSF slots to Amtrak Cascades (if possible)
    4) Buy new slots from Everett to Lakewood Crossing
    5) Redeploy the sounder trains to shuttle folks from Downtown Marysville, Smokey Point and Lakewood Crossing to and redeploy the trains to run from Lakewood Crossing, through Marysville to Everett and stop there.
    6) Redevelop downtown Marysville along State street (old 99)

    This could actually get folks past real traffic jams where no carpool lanes exist, provide transfers to high speed freeway buses between Everett and Seattle for folks that need to keep going south. Others who live this far north could be better employed by the redeveloping North Everett College and Hospital District

    Alternate Idea:
    Run a third Swift service from Lakewood Crossing to Downtown Everett along Old 99/Smokey Point Blvd/State/Broadway straight into Everett station with Swift like stop spacing and frequencies. There is enough lane space for most of the route to get dedicated lanes if needed.

    In addition to changing the HOV lanes on I-5 to HOV 3+, this will provide a lot more mobility for the money than running light rail from Everett to Seattle via Boeing.

    1. Charles B;

      As to;

      Alternate Idea:
      Run a third Swift service from Lakewood Crossing to Downtown Everett along Old 99/Smokey Point Blvd/State/Broadway straight into Everett station with Swift like stop spacing and frequencies. There is enough lane space for most of the route to get dedicated lanes if needed.
      In addition to changing the HOV lanes on I-5 to HOV 3+, this will provide a lot more mobility for the money than running light rail from Everett to Seattle via Boeing.

      I agree with this, but, but I want Community Transit to lead a survey into unmet transit needs at Paine Field. Not just the Future of Flight, but also the 2-gate terminal, the flight schools, the other industrial tenants and the other museums. I’d like to see some service hours for them from Community Transit. Start with the Future of Flight – the need is pressing there. But then address the others – like the fact the $2 Everett Transit commuter run from Boeing to Mukilteo Station is standing room only.

      One last thing: Under both of your proposals Charles B – including the one I disagree with as impractical; I would believe that maybe Skagit Transit could stop 90X (Burlington-MV-Everett Tri-County Connector) at Lakewood Crossing. It’d save us Skagitonians some bucks and we could then redeploy our resources locally. A big win for the north!

      1. We might start with the premise that Snohomish and Pierce know where their transit deficiencies are, but can’t quite grasp which mode or agency can best solve it. Snohomish has identified Boeing and Everett CC. Pierce has identified Tacoma Mall, and I think that’s for an urban village. I don’t want to consider extending ST’s district or another train line at this time. Extending ST’s district would bring in mostly tax-adverse, commute-centric people, and we’ve already got two train lines to juggle.

        Joe has a good idea for a CT survey, but I’d extend it further to a full review of CT’s/ET’s long-term plans. If they’re deficient, fix them. If not, give them funding so they can do it. CT has 4-5 Swift lines outlined, and one of them is Everett-Marysville-Smokey Point as Charles B suggests. Payne Field would have to be a different line. I don’t know enough about that area to say how it should go, but conecting Boeing/Casino Road to Everett Station would be like parts of ET 8, 12, and 29. Connecting it to the South Everett Freeway Station (112th) would be closer, transfer to the 512, and cross Swift I in the middle, but the 512 transfer would be in the middle of nowhere.

        Maybe we should help Snohomish and Pierce come up with a local+Swift bus network like David Lawson has done for Seattle, if not completely then at least a few routes that could meet their underservice. It would be a harder lift to get them implemented though. I think Community Transit has reached its state-imposed tax ceiling, and Pierce County is too tax-adverse to reach its tax ceiling. But visionary maps and concrete route suggestions are the most effective way to make them come round.

        And, ahem, some of ST’s alternatives include “ST Express enhancements” from Link’s termini to Everett and Tacoma. Exactly what I’ve been suggesting! Now that ST has acknowledged them as a possibility, we can build on that.

      2. Mike;

        a) I’m real wary of adding more to the ST District except for maybe Olympia due to a shared fear most of those people won’t support transit.

        b) I’m of the view if we force Community Transit to focus on Paine Field and lead the way towards getting a transit alternative for Paine Field that is not rail we all can get what we want out of ST3 in a positive, collaborative way.

        c) I enthusiastically support “CT has 4-5 Swift lines outlined, and one of them is Everett-Marysville-Smokey Point as Charles B suggests.” Not just for helping Skagit Transit 90X end at Smokey Point instead of Everett but also because a lot of transit dependent people could use easier access to the big stores up there (not that I’d patronize them, but still…).

      1. Mike;

        From WikiPedia;

        Lakewood Crossing is a 495,000-square-foot (46,000 m2) retail complex in the Smokey Point/Lakewood neighborhood of northern Marysville, Washington, constructed by Powell Development. It opened in September 2006 with the opening of its first tenant, Costco. As of December 2014, over three dozen tenants have opened stores in the complex including seven anchor tenants: Costco, Target, Best Buy, Marshalls, Office Depot, Petco, Michaels. [1]

        It is located at Exit 206 (SR 531/172nd St. NE) off Interstate 5, south of 172nd St. NE.[2] It is the largest retail complex in Northern Snohomish County. Lakewood Crossing currently includes such stores as Costco, Red Robin, Target, and Best Buy.

        Sounds like a good place about halfway between Chuckanut Park & Ride and Everett Station to put a Swift northern terminal. Sure would be sweet for us Skagitonians – a lot more service hours just came back to us :-).

      2. Should also note that they are surrounding it with apartments and a few sprawling housing sub divisions.

        No where you’d want anything like LRT, but its a growing employment center for north Snohomish county and could make better use of local service than Everett could make of a long, slow LRT to Seattle.

  41. 375 comments so far… yeah, we transit activists are worried. Good writing Martin, you got everybody’s attention and we’re negotiating how to put a better ST3 package up.

    1. Its going to take more than an active comment thread to change things, but I get the feeling that the wheels are already in motion.

      Its rare for transit activists to be this united on something. The package as pictured above will not stand.

      1. I hope the Sound Transit communications leadership puts aside their political views and starts reading this book from a leading conservative:

        Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World by Hugh Hewitt

        I don’t share all of Hugh’s politics as I’m not a religious guy, but it sure is a good manual. Let’s hope Sound Transit wakes up and rejiggers their plan. Otherwise it’s doomed to an expensive 11/2016 failure.

      2. It would be a shame to get the 15 billion ok’d by the Senate only to have it tank as a referendum.

        Would it be at all prudent to only allow for 3 “Angle Lake” like stations be built at the 3 endpoints to appease the spine and preserve the remaining light rail work for higher need and lower subsidized segments? This way ST can continue to chip away at the spine and ensure regional voter support but get more bang for the buck.

      3. The $15 billion would continue to be authorized, though. Even if this referendum fails (and deservedly so, if it’s on a plan like this), the authority would stay around for a future year.

  42. Martin, you should amend the “criteria” list, because it turns out even those bullet points are worse than they look:

    It isn’t “ridership” they’re evaluating in various scenarios. It’s “what percentage of ridership-miles can we rack up on light rail”.

    Not percentage of useful trips. Not percentage of speed-improved trips. Just as many people riding relatively far as we can possibly induce to make our great 71-mile rail experiment look like it might be achieving something.

    That person who racks up “30 rider-miles” is still just one freaking person.

    1. I can’t get the image out of my mind of ghoulish-zombie Board members walking to the Fisher Room chanting the number one priority in the evaluation criteria.
      “Must Complete the Spine”…. “Must Complete the Spine”…. “Must ….

      1. Be kind to the Zombies! In this age of information overload isn’t it nice to have one phrase that encapsulates a simple concept that is politically and mentally transportable?
        Beyond zombies, these concept drawings strike me as kindergarten geometry. There is the shape of a lake so you gotta draw around it (like BART around the bay). There are some pearls arranged in a linear fashion so you gotta string them up in a line. Even if it’s the Tacoma Dome (?!) politicians just can’t help it. It’s almost a universal law. Did you know there is an urban highway in Berlin that was started in the 1960s and even now local politicians are just itching to complete the “full ring” against all common sense and better alternatives?
        This one-dimensional thinking cannot be excused. That’s just plain incompetence by ST’s board.

      2. There was no prioritization. The list was alphabetized. (Which happened to make Completing “the spine” the visual top priority.)

    2. Someone needs to point out that in terms of sheer cost per passenger mile, the SoundTransit express buses perform far better than Link.

      1. Thanks much Glenn. We need to realize that the Washington Senate Republicans want to give us ST3 – but not the ST3 that will throwmoremoneyatit. :-)

      2. Someone needs to point out that buses have had 100 years to evolve into a network. A single spur is never more efficient then a network regardless of mode.

      3. Why are we using passenger miles as the denominator of our metric? Doesn’t doing so say that suburban riders are more desirable than urban ones?

      4. @william
        Yeah, that seems really nuts. That would imply that a train carrying 10 people 10 miles is a better investment than a train which carries 90 people 1 mile. Which is…. wrong?

  43. Ballard is not the center of the universe. That said, any kind of at grade solution in the city that isn’t already supported by a bus is a waste of money. West Seattle suffers from the same kind of bottleneck congestion as other parts of the city, so I don’t think people should laugh off the idea of support for rapid transit from West Seattle to Downtown.

    There are other schematic solutions not proposed here that might be worth considering for West Seattle:
    Build a bridge or tunnel across the Duwamish dedicated to rapid transit. From there, any number of possibilities exist to get to Downtown quickly without a lot of impediments. One idea is to create a spur from Lander Street station parallel to Spokane Street, using an abandoned right of way connecting rail traffic from the port directly to the freight mainline, above grade of course. The second idea is simply to run an above grade line down Alaskan Way to Downtown.

    1. No, of course not, that would be Fremont.

      However, Ballard is considerably easier and cheaper to serve for the gains available, especially via Ballard-Phinney/Fremont (take your pick)-Wallingford-UW. This would not only serve the neighborhoods in question, but also plenty of neighborhoods to the north of them. A direct Ballard-DT line would also pick up Belltown, LQA, and either UQA (and possibly Fremont) or Interbay on the way up.

      A West Seattle Line would require a very expensive new Duwamish crossing, from which it could not pick up any passengers. The geography and density of West Seattle simply doesn’t make it appealing compared to Ballard. Appealing in the abstract–sure. But when resources are finite and needs are many, West Seattle light rail simply isn’t the highest priority. The WSTT on the other hand, would provide a lot benefits to West Seattle and some of the benefits of a Ballard-DT line (and could be converted later to either line as demand warrants). That in conjunction with Ballard-UW will serve a lot of people, especially in West Seattle (more than a quickly terminating light rail line will) for less cost.

    2. West Seattle already has a highway.

      On that highway, there is never any westbound traffic backup.

      Eastbound, there is already an exclusive all-hour transit lane. The problems occur only in getting to that lane (lack of exclusive on-ramps) and in getting from that lane to a northbound route into downtown (lack of exclusive off-ramps).

      These problems can be fixed, easily and (relatively) cheaply, without a brand new cross-Duwamish right of way. A brand new Duwamish crossing would be about the worst possible use of our money, but that is precisely where many of the released “options” would send as much as 3/4 of all of Seattle’s ST3 revenues.

      This is why people are rightfully upset by the misweighted priorities conveyed in the plans.

      And that’s just the cost disparity. That’s before you even factor in West Seattle’s shockingly scant density — — and massive physical size, and thus its relatively unserveability by any single rail line. You are arguing for something that could cost 2x-3x as much as the highest-quality options that head to Ballard (through contiguous, multi-faceted, multi-destination city), and in the end you’d have relatively few riders to show for it.

      People keep making the mistake of thinking that isolation and having a broad “barrier” like the Duwamish to cross makes West Seattle an obvious candidate for a high-profile, built-from-scratch rail line. This is simply incorrect. Distance and isolation and a sprawling built form are bugs, not features.

      1. Exactly. People don’t get it. They don’t see the trade-offs between good bus service and light rail. They don’t understand the cost or benefit of a light rail line that involves literally miles of track without a single station. They don’t even understand the traffic pattern. You look at a map and think “look at all those people who all must squeeze into that tiny little freeway — no wonder it is crowded”. But that isn’t the problem. If it was, the freeway would be crowded in the evening. But it isn’t. It is smooth sailing, because there aren’t that many people in West Seattle, despite the fact that they are spread out, and mostly drive. The only reason the bridge is crowded the other direction (in the morning) is because I-5 is crowded. Put it this way — add ten lanes to the West Seattle freeway and you still have traffic on the West Seattle freeway in the morning, they are just spread out onto all ten lanes. But add ten lanes to I-5 and I-90 and the congestion goes away. Happy days are here again, you can cruise to your heart’s content on the West Seattle freeway.

        But again, that isn’t the worse part. It isn’t *just* the expense. It isn’t *just* the fact that it will have only a handful of stops. It isn’t *just* the fact that all of those stops won’t perform that well. It is that it will be worse — WORSE — for the vast majority of transit riders. Imagine a short rail line with stops in Delridge and the junction. You’ve just blown billions of dollars, and you want to get from someplace on Delridge to downtown. Keep in mind, very few people live close to that stop. So, you take a bus that goes through the same old traffic in West Seattle. But instead of getting on the freeway (with your own, existing HOV ramp) and then going in your own (existing) lane onto a (brand new) ramp to the (existing) SoDo busway and through downtown (on a brand new tunnel), you have to transfer to a train. Not only is the transfer annoying, but it just costs you a ton of time. Of course, it doesn’t add any more stops. It takes a lot longer than just staying on the bus, but doesn’t serve anyone along the way. That is insane.

        It wouldn’t be so bad if very few people lived along Delridge, but that isn’t the case. They represent a good chunk of West Seattle. So too with the people around Alki (who would be in a similar boat). And if you think that serving Delridge (or Alki) makes more sense, why then you leave out the people in the junction(s) or High Point. West Seattle is just too spread out, with too few (even moderately) dense areas to serve really well with light rail. The fact that it would cost huge amounts of money to serve them, and there is a really good alternative (just leverage the freeway) makes the idea of West Seattle light rail simply absurd.

      2. RossB;

        I would add as well the more money you gobble in light rail that only works certain times of the day (e.g. West Seattle, major factories) the less money you have for buses & express bus lanes & signal priority.

        I know we’re sliding well into using Bus Rapid Transit/BRT to replace light rail, but let’s be honest here: We need a package that’s going to pass in November 2016. It will “only” have $12 Billion of authority. As currently constituted, Seattle Transit Blog is united against it.

      3. Or RossB, perhaps West Seattle would be happy with a streetcar like Tacoma Link is right now?

    3. How deep is the Duwamish? Puget Sound and Lake Washington are really deap just off the shore. The Duwamish could be the same way, and that would make your tunnel more expensive than a typical river crossing.

      1. “How deep is the Duwamish?” Shallow enough that it has to be dredged frequently.

  44. Based on reading just a sampling, these comments collectively seem to support my view that ST3 in 2016 is premature, as I described in my testimony to the State Legislature last fall, posted at and also reported by the Seattle Times at .

    I vividly recall the claim in the 1996 tax campaign for Regional Express that the Sound Move light rail “starter line” from NE 45th in the U District to S 200th in SeaTac was going to carry 105,000 riders per day in 2010 and prove conclusively whether or not to build even more light rail, for example, the extension to Northgate, which would be cheap and easy. This “starter line” ridership forecast was issued by the Regional Express campaign as a very conservative prediction of light rail’s likely success.

    As everybody reading this knows, that train has still not left the station. It won’t have left the station by voting day in November 2016, and not even by the Presidential/ST election day in November 2020. Light rail won’t serve the big hole now visible in the U District until the train to Northgate is open in 2021.

    Back in November 2008, we doubled down on light rail, voting for new taxes to build extensions that are not yet all under construction, and in the case of Lynnwood, not fully funded with the required Federal New Starts grant. This proves, perhaps, that the majority of us don’t care about rail’s ridership performance before voting to commit tax funding to build a lot of it.

    What’s interesting and pertinent now is that the PSRC official Metropolitan Transportation Plan with computer-generated travel forecasts for 2040, approved by a vast majority of the region’s elected officials in May 2010, suggests that ST3 is going to be surprisingly ineffective as a generator of transit ridership compared to the billions of dollars required in investment to build the thin rail spines envisioned for so long. So far, they are proving to be thin indeed, except on game days at the stadiums. Light rail ridership, to quote ST, has been “slow to mature.” Percentage growth looks good; absolute numbers compared to forecasts do not, especially for the daily commuter market.

    And speaking of slow to mature, the approved PSRC rail ridership forecast with ST3 complete is only half the ST rail forecast for 2030. That’s well known by staff specialists inside the transit bureaucracies, but never explained to the public.

    CETA’s new documentation of the PSRC 2040 plan conclusions in just a few charts is posted in pdf at .

    Elected officials are looking at that, so you might want to also.

    1. +1 John.

      I have to head off to internet-based training, but may I just add part of the problem of light rail spine is getting the bus network to feed into it. Something to think about, eh?

      1. +2 John. Completing the Spine is about the only talk on the bridge of this ship heading into ‘Icebburg Laden Waters’, and it’s pretty apparent having just read all 450 replies the crew isn’t happy, and the passengers are still dancing at the party.
        The spine has and always be a crappy excuse for a HCT system designed to move masses. Funding and validating that false hope just precludes doing the things that make sense later on and impossible journey given the over-riding billions of debt we’re piling up to keep this ship afloat.
        To continue the analogy, even the Titanic took on too much water to stay afloat.

    2. Absolutely disagree on ST3 in 2016 being premature. The problem with these conceptual goals isn’t timeline, it is that they are predicated on spending the wrong people’s money on the wrong projects. There is simply no way that voters in Seattle will spend money to build rail to North Everett Comm College before building a subway that goes where people in Seattle go. Not in 2016, 2018, 2020, ever.

      The projects need to happen asap, if you listen to how the public feels about it. And those projects need to *at a minimum* not take money from the people most desperate for transit and spend it in places those people don’t go.

      People REALLY want St3 to happen, they just also want it to be a good group of projects that doesn’t ignore the needs of the densest, most in need of transit places in the state (Seattle and Bellevue).

      1. Yes Jon we need speed from Sound Transit. Not more damn studies and meetings once the voters approve a package – just build. Just seek regulatory relief to create congestion relief to just build. At some point, a decision has to be made and the programming code submitted for voter approval and approved by voters must be executed upon, just build.

      2. exactly joe. Maybe do some thinking too, but people know where the subway actually needs to go. Lets start from there and get it to happen.

    3. Also, rosy forecasts not coming true has nothing to do with whether or not people in this city need a new way to get around. That’s what they want, and that’s what they need.

      1. Right, what we need instead of this “complete the spine” trance is to focus transit resources on where they’re needed. Namely transit deserts and on feeding the light rail we have today and are building for tomorrow.

        It’s time for Sound Transit planners to nuke everything they’ve planned and use the almost 450 comments here (as of 1326 hours) to get a better plan.

      2. JonC: Except when Rosy Forecasts (BS) by those hired to do the job don’t come true, guess who gets stuck with the bar tab?
        Has anyone even read the shocking revelations John Niles has posted coming from our official Planning Org – the PSRC.
        4% mode share by transit after spending 175 billion by 2040.
        4/10% on rail.
        Spine – Smine
        This is about getting a reality check before launching any more Titanics with the same crew.

      3. clarify: … after spending 175 billion [on all transportation modes] by 2040 [2008 $$]
        The most damning estimate is for total daily boardings on Link in 2040 after the complete spine is built, all freeway lanes are tolled, and bus service has been doubled.
        It’s under a 100,000 per day. Care what the PSRC thinks? Go look it up.

      4. … and after doing some re-reading of the Niles report on PSRC numbers, I’m compelled to fact check much deeper tomorrow. Commuter rail showed 14,000+ daily boardings (ST Feb ’15) and John is only showing 8,100+ in 2040. It’s been a long day, I’m beat, so don’t anyone pounce to hard for any mis-statements I’ve made. I really want the truth to come out on this.

      5. John Niles/Mic – if you’re going to argue that we should give up on public transit and tell everybody to just get a car and drive everywhere, just say it.

      6. No, No, No, a thousand times NO.
        I think both John and I want many more people riding transit and many fewer needing to rely on and SOV to get around.
        The current plan has not, and will not make much of a difference in that plea and that’s worth talking about.
        Demonizing those that aren’t satisfied with the current and planned progress may make some of you feel better, but does nothing to make the paradigm shift we need. Another 500 comments on the trajectory of this plan would be welcomed.

      7. John/mic,

        The first problem I have is the PSRC 2040 numbers seem wildly off. Mic has already pointed out the descepancy In the commuter rail numbers with the actual ridership being twice what PSRC is forecasting for 2040.

        Similarly the projections for 2040 light rail ridership seem a bit off when you consider ridership on the current line between Downtown and the airport is already half that. I don’t think anyone can look at the currently funded build out and claim it will only double current ridership. I sincerely doubt Sound Transit will have any problem hitting their projected ridership in the Downtown to Northgate segment.

        Another issue is the PSRC has VMT rising where most actual measurements of VMT show it has flattened.

        Finally there is is question of mode share. This is a number that varies wildly depending on how eaxactly you measure it. For example for all trips across the entire CSA you are going to get a very low number due to all of the exurban and suburban areas included. On the other hand looking at just commute trips in King county will give you another very different number. Again the PSRC number seems low compared to even today’s mode share.

        When looking at mode share nationally Seattle is #6 behind New York, SF, DC, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

        Some areas where I more or less agree with John:
        – The ROI of suburban rail is dubious. Especially any new lines on the Eastside or further extensions of Link south of Federal Way.
        – The majority of transit trips in the ST district will continue to be on buses, even after the full ST2 build out. This is how it works in most cities. Having excellent bus service and good bus/rail integration is necessary for the success of both modes of transit,
        – More investments in buses are necessary particularly in suburban locations. BRT or express buses are more appropriate to the built form and geography.
        – More investment should be put toward vanpools and carpools. These provide an excellent return for the money invested.

      8. @mic,
        Im not saying listen to PSRC. Im saying that there are obvious needs in obvious places and we should get on that.

    4. The transit holes in Seattle need to be filled ASAP. But 3 months is a very short time to resolve these issues before the Priority List is written in July, and 7 months until the Draft System Plan gets started in January. Anything that isn’t studied yet will have to be studied before it gets into the priority list or system plan, and that will take a few months at least. That includes DSTT2, a full East King reevaluation, our preferred alignment for 45th (and that transfer station or junction), and the West Seattle open BRT (I think ST only studied only a single line). If those aren’t done by the end of the year, they’ll either have to be dropped or the System Plan delayed. The schedule calls for adopting the System Plan in June 2016, and the ballot measure deadline is around June or August. So at most it could be delayed by a month or two, but then it would be rushed and that might lead to bad mistakes or omissions. There’s also no time to ask the legislature for more local-agency tax authority to replace some of ST’s request before the session ends, and the head of the transportation committee is against it anyway.

      So the only path to a good 2016 ST3 is to get the ST board to fundamentally change its position by July when the Projects List is finalized. Unstudied items would have to be provisional pending preliminary studies by December, and ST would have to fund the studies.

      We should continue pressing for the full $15 billion, even though it risks a bad concept. Seattle legislators might understand that in this circumstance we might not be as opposed to the $11 billion as we’d ordinarily be, but we mustn’t just concede that now or we may never get anything beyond that ever, if a future legislature refuses to consider ST4.

      If ST needs more time to come up with a good ST3, one possibility might be to press for the maximum tax authority, but then float only a small ST3 with interim bus projects everyone can compromise on, to be followed in 2-4 years by a bigger ST4 when a full-scale System Plan is ready. We could perhaps tie that in to the comprehensive regional+local phased long-term plan we want. ST could publicly say it needs more time to prepare the full package, but we must at least get started on immediate needs in the interim. That may be a hard sell to the public but it may be a possibility.

      One thing to watch for is whether the new tax authority is perpetual, limited to one ST3 round that may fail before it passes, or limited to one ST3 vote and expires if it fails. The existing authority is perpetual, and ST promises to roll back the taxes when the public stops voting for capital projects. But the current legislature is more polarized and may be more restrictive.

      1. Mike,
        As to,

        If ST needs more time to come up with a good ST3, one possibility might be to press for the maximum tax authority, but then float only a small ST3 with interim bus projects everyone can compromise on, to be followed in 2-4 years by a bigger ST4 when a full-scale System Plan is ready. We could perhaps tie that in to the comprehensive regional+local phased long-term plan we want. ST could publicly say it needs more time to prepare the full package, but we must at least get started on immediate needs in the interim. That may be a hard sell to the public but it may be a possibility.

        May not be too much of a hard sell at this rate…

      2. We could also ask CT how far along their post-2023 plans are. It has suddenly become more urgent to know what corridors, frequency, and span its feeders will be, at least a preliminary sketch. Truncating the expresses will free up, what, 2/3 of its service hours? If CT can get 7-day frequent routes from all cities to Lynnwood, that might address much of the gaps. I think it will fund one more Swift line. If ST funds the others, Swift could be recast as “A Joint Project Between Community Transit, Sound Transit, and Everett Transit” and keep the same blue bus color.

        Similarly in Seattle, after June, September, and March (including C/D split), we’ll have a lot more full-time frequent routes, and that will address some of the perennial underservice Metro has heretofore had, to an extent that I don’t think people fully grasp now, both transit fans and moreso the public.

      3. “a small ST3 with interim bus projects everyone can compromise on”

        … and the Redmond extension. We might as well finish it now since it’s small and it’s on everyone’s list.

      4. … and the 130th St Station, and the Northgate ped/bike bridge if that still isn’t funded yet. We might as well finish those, too.

      5. Shouldn’t we leave out the Redmond extension from such an ST3, that way East King has something to vote for in ST4?

  45. 5. Every alternative has the spine reaching Federal Way Transit Center. (Don’t get me started on how poorly-sited FWTC is.)

    The state legislative delegation from Federal Way appears to have been handed the luxury of not worrying about whether ST gets any new funding authority. Link to FWTC is a decided issue, with funding apparently in hand.

    So, how are we going to convince the Federal Way delegation to support full authority (besides saying that, if we don’t get it, we will kill the highway package)? And, more importantly, how are we going to convince Federal Way voters to support ST3? They are already getting theirs.

    (I assume that in some or all scenarios, the Link extension to Federal Way and beyond is being funded in part by north King subarea revenue.)

    1. I don’t really care if Link is extended to Federal Way, Alderwood Mall, 164th, or 128th. Any of those would be better than the full spine, and any of them could have full-time frequent express buses from the termini.

    2. Kent and Renton also want better transit. South King’s legislators aren’t going to say that’s enough transit when Link reaches Federal Way.

    3. You tell them that without ST3, they won’t be able to get light rail from Federal Way to Tacoma. It is just like the folks in south Snohomish County — without ST3, they can’t ride light rail to Everett.

      That, right there, is why completing the spine is such nonsense. Very few of those folks are willing to spend billions on the “upgrade” to light rail for those corridors. They are willing to spend money for a faster ride into Seattle. They might even spend money for faster rides inside Seattle (e.g a faster way to get to South Lake Union, or Fremont or Ballard or First Hill, where they work). Of course, they won’t be asked to pay for something like that (even though many would benefit from it) — the folks in Seattle would pay.

      That is why improved bus service as well as better commuter rail makes the most sense at this point. You just can’t make light rail work if you have a commuter rail usage pattern. It takes too long, and it too expensive. But good bus service is popular — very popular — in the suburbs. For good reason. It is cost effective and simply downright effective for their needs. For example, an express bus route from Federal Way to Bellevue would probably shave twenty minutes off of using Link (if not more) once the HOT lanes are complete.

  46. The studies may be producing garbage output in part because of the garbage input of direction from the Board to staff.

    “Geographic equity” is not a criterion.
    “Sub-area equity” is not a criterion.
    “Following existing legal constraints in financing methods” is not a criterion.
    “Cost-effectiveness” is not a criterion.
    “Likelihood of voter support” is not a criterion.

    1. Brent, there is a +1 or +2 on many things.

      On this, it’s +100 to me. Best comment of the thread. Kinda hard to beat:

      The studies may be producing garbage output in part because of the garbage input of direction from the Board to staff.
      “Geographic equity” is not a criterion.
      “Sub-area equity” is not a criterion.
      “Following existing legal constraints in financing methods” is not a criterion.
      “Cost-effectiveness” is not a criterion.
      “Likelihood of voter support” is not a criterion.

      As I cram to learn C# and follow along here, man do you have a point. It’s time to look at cost-effectiveness and voter support. Otherwise this isn’t just a Sound Transit staff & board exercise; it could be so expensive to run ST3 to voters that it takes from valuable Sound Transit service hours into a Sound Transit election doomed to fail. I hope not, but still?

      At this point, it seems to me if I were anti-transit and anti-Seattle I’d just give Sound Transit the $12 Billion in authority contingent on using it only in 2016. Unless Sound Transit redoes their plan based on the comments here, ST3 could be doomed to fail.

  47. We are now on 439 comments. I’m going to e-mail one of my few contacts deep into Sound Transit, make sure she’s reading this…

  48. I just sent the below to my contact in Sound Transit communications. A similar message was sent to the King County Executive’s Office.

    To be professional and thoughtful, uh I really think Sound Transit Communications needs to be collectively aware there are over 440 comments as of 2:25 PM Sunday the 26th on Seattle Transit Blog at regarding the current Sound Transit ST3 proposal.

    Seattle Transit Blog readers – especially the commenters – are the biggest advocates for transit in this state out there. We’ve got operations in Spokane, Northwest Washington, Seattle, Vancouver-Portland, and the Eastside. If we’re collectively skeptics or worse about ST3, then it should be a rude awakening you guys in Sound Transit HQ have a major earthquake of a problem.

    I don’t think your agency has any real defenders of the current ST3 proposals in the comments, and I’m certainly not a defender of the current ST3 package. I think ST3 is a reflection of being cost-ineffective and a bit ignorant of political realities. I would rather see a ST3 plan reflective of the Senate Republican amount, one that serves Ballard to UofW and one that forces Community Transit to serve Paine Field better than one that plans on more than Sound Transit can get, one that annoys many Seattleites who would be the ones to push ST3 over the top, and one that will serve Paine Field but be cost-ineffective.

    My ask is that you guys in Sound Transit HQ need to rebuild the code for ST3. Or plan on a two-step proposal – one to deal with immediate needs, another for long-range needs down the line. Otherwise the whole thing’s doomed to failure.

    Please read the comments on Seattle Transit Blog about this. Please.

    At least one of us was man enough to go Paul Revere and wake these folks up. It is beyond time to call in whatever contacts you got people and get Sound Transit to listen to us.

    1. You are doubtless the bigger man, and I’ll probably start writing people soon, but it’s impossible that they don’t know about this, so the effect of letters is more to make your specific recommendation. Dow says he reads STB every morning, and Murray reads it and O’Brien probably does, and several staff across ST do, and it’s impossible they won’t tell the rest of the board that the biggest urban revolt in ST’s history has started. But we can’t expect them to read all 477 messages and notice all the points scattered in them. That’s where email summaries and follow-up articles are needed.

      A couple more ideas. This may be the beginning of the War of the Spine vs the Non-Spine. If people in Pierce are entitled to believe that the ST1 and 2 votes promised spine first, then we’re entitled to believe that ST1 and 2 promised to meet the region’s largest mobility needs first. Ballard-UW is important because it gets at why we’re building light rail: to put HCT where it can be most effective, where the most people will use it, where the greatest percentage of people are willing to use it and to pay for it, and where it can give the most “abundant access to places” as Jarrett says. I didn’t care whether the spine extensions happened as long as we had a good chance of getting some most-needed lines, but if Ballard-UW or at least Ballard-downtown are in doubt or in danger of watering down, then it raises the question of why do ST3 at all? If it has now become a full collision of spine vs non-spine, brought on by the spine-insisters, then we need to mount a full defense of not only the Ballard lines but the whole philosophy of what regional transit can most effectively do.

      1. Mike;

        I know Everett Transit has a guy who has on his job description unofficially if not officially monitoring this blog.

        It’s just I feel somebody had to take in regards to Sound Transit instead of asssss-uuu-mmmme.

      2. Mike;

        That said,

        a) I am not the man to be the spokesman for the non-spine or Ballard-UW + better buses + Redmond countercampaign. But somebody could mount it easily.

        b) I agree, “to put HCT where it can be most effective, where the most people will use it, where the greatest percentage of people are willing to use it and to pay for it”. Exactly. At a time and place where we are still having transit deserts & transit droughts around key destinations, we are still buying back pre-recession service hours and we are attempting to figure out how to provide better transit to Olympia – our state capital; is it really the time and place to discuss a light rail spine plan that may or may not have a net positive Return On Investment?

        Swift I has a great Return On Investment for Community Transit. So do Sound Transit express buses and arguably Central Link light rail. Sounder South maybe and certainly not ‘my’ Sounder North I refuse to ride until 1 May => slides.

      3. By “specific recommendations” i meant your personal specific recommendations. It’s not your burden to represent causes that aren’t yours. There are other ways to make a collective response, such as an editorial by STB + Seattle Subway, or a petition with signatures.

        (Imagine if Seattle Subway collected signatures in the usual places — Ballard, U-District, Broadway — and some unusual places. The record for a Lynnwood Link petition was some 600-700 signatures. Do you think we could get more than that? We have some 200 people just among ourselves, and the Transit Riders’ Union might also be interested. And what if each person checks off which subarea they’re in and has family/close ties in? And what if some of those checks were in suburban subareas? What if you asked people at 51x/59x/57x/4xx/8xx stops whether they want better circulation to more Seattle neighborhoods rather than spine extensions? …)

      4. I don’t have any real philosophical opposition to the “spine”. I don’t think its a really great plan, but I basically don’t care what other people do with their money.

        The real problem is that they are thinking about using money that is needed to solve real mobility problems to do it. Seattle’s money. Or Seattle’s fed grants. And that is a no no to me. We need all of it.

      5. “The real problem is that they are thinking about using money that is needed to solve real mobility problems to do it.”


        It’s not really clear what problem ST is trying to solve by taking this tack. If anything they are going to create problems: exhausted funding sources, exhausted constituents, exhausted people who actually care.

    2. FYI: The above letter I wrote according to Sidekick by Hubspot has been opened at least 10 times, 3 in the last 10 minutes. I suspect it’s been forwarded around Sound Transit :-).

    3. We’re now on 16 views of that e-mail.

      Consider this a hint people: Follow up your comments here with your political & Sound Transit contacts.

  49. Is there much of anything in Everett that justifies a light rail line in its own right without connecting to Link? Sort of the way Tacoma Lonk does?

    I’ve not gone there much. My impression is that it doesn’t.

    Stuff like two floors of apartments above some retail just doesn’t seem to exist there, let alone the larger Tacoma structures.

    1. Glenn;

      Some tall apartments but let’s be honest Everett is the epicenter of some depressing sprawl. Sprawl north to Smokey Point, sprawl south to the Snohomish County-King County line. Ugh.

      I’m increasingly concerned about ridership return on investment. The more I hear you guys talk here and from what I heard from Everett Transit the ROI of light rail to the east half of Paine Field unnerves me. Especially without great bus feeder routes from Seaway Transit Station to Paine Field museums & flight schools…

    2. I have looked around downtown Everett for traces of a streetcar suburb or the beginning of an urban village but I haven’t found anything. The most is a few commercial blocks around Wetmore St & Hewitt Ave where the buildings are denser and closer to the street — like downtown Kent and every other old suburb. But if you go south around Broadway, which to me looks like the main street, it’s so undense and one-story I couldn’t find even one denser building.

      The street grid is good. It goes on for many blocks in both dimensions, unlike downtown Renton and Kent which have destroyed their grid with superblocks and left only three blocks intact. So it has a lot of potential for a revived traditional city. A streetcar might make sense if you keep your expectations low. I don’t know what’s hindering development: draconian zoning or just lack of money. People are increasingly moving to Everett after being priced out of Seattle, so it would be nice if it were a more walkable place to live.

      1. Historic Everett stretches north from downtown into the peninsula, not south toward the intercity-sprawl continuum.

        But the rest of your assessment is correct; there’s just not much there.

      2. Everett is the Peninsula as d.p. says. Old Everett is basically between Broadway (old highway 99) and Rucker in the South of the Peninsula and Between Marine Drive W and Marine Drive E on the north of the Peninsula. The dividing line between these two grids is roughly Everett Ave.

        Everything else is to the south basically former farmland sprawlville except for the tiny cores of Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds until you reach Seattle again.

      3. Yes, it is really quite striking. If you look at the census maps with a map that shades for population density and crank up that level (so that you can’t see the names of cities or towns) it is hard to find Everett. In contrast, Seattle is obvious. The northern border (at 145th) is clear, just by the big change in density. But even before that, you see the clusters of high density areas around town. Everett, though, doesn’t have that. There are only three census blocks over 10,000 people per square mile, and only one over 15,000. The blocks aren’t contiguous, either. In contrast, even Lynnwood does better than that — if you ignore the small bits of geography (like the sea) you would assume that Lynnwood was Everett (nowhere near as dense as many parts of Seattle, but not North Bend, either).

        The same is not true for Tacoma. There are several contiguous census blocks over 10,000, with one of those over 20,000. None of those are as high as the one in Lake City, but they are better than Everett. It is like it is 1849 and we are trying to strike gold in Texas.

      4. That’s sort of what I was getting at before, when looking at the population density maps. Even West Seattle looks good compared to what isn’t around Everett.

        I’m thinking that it maybe isn’t such a bad idea to do the “complete the spine” thing to Tacoma (so long as it happens by Highway 99 rather than the express bus route served I-5 area), because Tacoma is a true regional center in itself.

        Maybe half a spine would help appease the “must rebuilt the Interurban network” crowd?

        The bus lanes required to give Everett what it needs could be called something like “convertible to light rail” when needed (in, say, a few decades).

      1. As of “Post Comment”, 493. I think we got people’s attention.

        I know Senator King’s office is well aware of this and gee who do we have to thank ;-) ?

        This is a crisis in the transit commons and I’m happy at least we in the transit community are a) paying attention and b) speaking up now and not in 2016 where it’s all or nothing.

    1. Search for the “2014 summary” comment above. The record in 2014 was 280. So far this year I think there have been some in the low 200s. I don’t know about earlier years.

      At the 200 mark Charles B said, “I predict this will be the longest comment thread in STB history.” I didn’t believe him then, but if earlier years have no such spike then he was right by far.

      1. I heard on twitter that the last record was 386 or something of that nature. We broke the record for sure if that’s true.

      2. I kinda feel sorry for poor Spokane Transit, who produced such a wonderful and reasonable proposal for their region, and announcement of it only produced 8 comments or so to date thanks to it being on the same date that this awfulness appeared.

      3. Silence implies acceptance.

        That isn’t always true, but it certainly is in this case. The Spokane Transit plan is a good one. The ST plan is not.

      4. Glenn,

        ST (Spokane Transit, that is) is headed by a Metro veteran. From what others have posted, I gather that he fought to reform the radial system the whole time he was there.

        Of course, the new Spokane system is pretty radial, but that’s because the city is shaped like a bent cross, It broadly speaking has four “arms” (one much longer than the others) so radial is the name of the game. There aren’t even many diagonal cross roads through the un-populated areas to route buses over.

  50. Know this might be seen but I’ll post it anyway

    I’m going to put on my tin foil hat on for a second and suggest a little conspiracy if I may.

    Is it possible that anti-rail politicians could have hijacked the planning process in order to put forth a study/plan that they knew was terrible because they want it to fail?

    1. You mean anti-mobility/-economic prosperity/-better quality of life politicians?

      The values/objectives/goals and the methods for realizing them as represented in the April 24th meeting materials are wrongheaded enough that your tin-foiling might not be so off.

    2. Honestly, IDK, but I’m glad it got out. I hope they adjust course after seeing the reaction. Our region has been relying on really shaky projections and estimates to plan around for too long, and I hope this wakes them up to that.

  51. I’ve been overly busy this weekend, so I haven’t had time to put in my two cents, or even to read what others have had to say. To some extent I suspect anything I have to say will be redundant, but I feel like venting so here it is.

    I’m a resident of East King not North King, and it’s obvious to me that these proposals aren’t good for North King, or for the region as a whole. Some, but by no means all of the the proposals are also bad for East King, but generally speaking not by enough to get too worked up about at this stage of the game

    Of particular concern to me is the shabby treatment of Ballard. Once the currently funded segments of Link are complete, Ballard will stick out like a sore thumb as one of only two genuinely regional destinations not well served by regional transit. (The other is First Hill, which ought to have had a station included when Link was extended northward. I understand the reasons for the decision, and the political environment in which the decision was made, but I still think it was a mistake: the system is permanently less useful than it should have been. Water under the bridge.) The concentration of employment and entertainment opportunities it affords make it a very desirable destination, but the difficulty of getting there in a reasonable amount of time, either in my car, or by transit, mean that I essentially never go there, and would never take a job there. Once Link (as currently funded) is done, I can’t really think of anywhere else I feel that way about — perhaps Fremont, I guess. A light rail connection to Ballard, built with an excellent interchange with the existing Link infrastructure is by far my highest priority or ST3. As far as I’m concerned, it’s dramatically more important than any project on the Eastside. I’d be happy to send East King money to help fund it. I’m entirely ambivalent on the choice between Ballard-UW and Ballard-Downtown, although I like the cost effectiveness of the former, and the fact that it opens up East-West journeys north of the ship canal. Ultimately, the high order bits here are grade separation and excellence of interchange with existing transit investments [on the latter, I, unfortunately, have little confidence in ST.]

    There’s been a lot of talk about East Link to Redmond being a no brainer. Speaking as someone who lives somewhere that will be well served by East Link, and who works in downtown Redmond, I disagree. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think it should be built, just that it should compete with other East King priorities on the merits, not be built because of some decades old napkin plan says so. Perhaps if it were some very cheap add on, or if it could be built soon enough to allow a different location fro the Eastside depot, I would feel differently. As it is, I hear that there may be significant technical challenges with gradient down into the Sammamish valley, and the cost numbers I’ve heard suggest that completing this extension will eat up the lions share of East King’s budget.

    It’s hard to understand where this proposal came from. One possibility is that South King, Pierce, and Snohomish are using their numbers to extort North King. Another possibility is that the State Legislature is, behind closed doors, is sending the message that a show of commitment to the Spine as the sine qua non fro ST3 funding: something along the lines of “you promised us a spine when you came asking for authority for Sound Move, then you reiterated your commitment before ST2. Many billions spent, even more debt outstanding, and thirty years later, there’ll still not be a spine. It’s time to put up or shut up.” The problem is that I’m not convinced that any one of these proposals gives us an ST3 worth voting for.

    Perhaps it’s time to give up on ST. Given strict subarea equity, uniform taxation, and an appointed governing board made up of elected officials whose day jobs require them to represent narrow local interests, it’s hard to see how there will ever be synergistic effects. In short, I think the best we can hope for is that ST will be about as good as the sum of it’s parts. At worst, it’s easy to see it as a beggar thy neighbor exercise in back room deal making.

    So what replaces it. I suspect that North King, or rather Seattle, will feel that it wants more, and will have the votes to finance more. I also believe that they can go it alone without any help from the State legislature. [They need to be tactful enough that the legislature doesn’t cut off their existing authority, and that they don’t fall afoul of ST’s monopoly on light rail]. When looking at new transit investments in Seattle, there are three things to consider: infrastructure capital expenses, replacement of equipment, and operating expenses. The first can, with a 60% vote, be paid for with long term \bonds backed by property taxes that don’t count towards the 1% limit. The second can be paid for with Monorail money. As for the third, I believe that the farebox plus a small subsidy out of the general fund, or perhaps TBD expenditure like Prop 1 will suffice. Recall that Metro recovers roughly 30% of operating expenses at the farebox. Seattle routes are somewhat better than average, and light rail will replace the best performing Seattle routes. The whole point of Light rail is that it provides lower operating expenses per passenger than buses. All this suggests that farebox recovery rates will be very high by any but East Asian standards.

    Finally, while I think the majority of the blame for this abomination lies elsewhere, Seattle is not entirely blameless in this debacle. There’s been way too much talk about the importance of Light Rail to West Seattle relative to talk about other needs. It’s easy for an outsider to reach the conclusion that North King’s number 1 political priority is rail to the Junction.

    1. William,

      I completely agree with this post, especially now that you have made me aware that capital bonds do not count against the city’s 1% valuation cap. That makes it almost a non-brainer for the city to go it alone with an automated classic SkyTrain or Canada line automated system.

      Build it with compatible voltage, contract with ST to maintain the cars (they have control cabinets so they can be moved over non automated trackage) and call it good.

      1. Just to be clear, the not counting part is my reading of Article 7, section 2b [ignore 2a, it’s not really useful for funding transit. As always, I could be misreading it.

    2. Oh, and I think the second line should not be [someplace] – Downtown Seattle. No, it’s more important to build the Arc line from Elliott West through LQA, SLU, lower Capital Hill, the eastern edge of First Hill and the southwest corner of the CD (14th and Jackson). Continue on down Rainier to Jimi Hendrix and an end at Mt. Baker. What a useful city line. It would be the best of all worlds bus intercept for close in neighborhoods allowing them to avoid the painful “last mile” to 3rd and Pike for transfer to buses or trains headed where they’re really going.

      1. I would love a line like that. Maybe loop it back in a little earlier, but in principle yes totally. IMHO one the best ways to increase mobility is in the last mile, not the one by your house, the one by your destination. It is so hard to get around anywhere in the center city, and fixing that would go a long way to decreasing commute times or just “traveling to that new restaurant” times.

      2. Ultimately, it’s Seattle’s money, and they can do as they wish with it.

        I’m assuming that it has interchanges with East Link at Rainier and with Central Link at Mount Baker, so it leverages existing infrastructure well. The former interchange probably won’t be excellent, but it’ll probably be adequate to serve _Seattle’s_ needs. I agree that a line like that would solve a lot of existing transit issues, but it does very little for Seattle north of the Ship Canal, and nothing at all for West Seattle.

        It’s easy to see how it could be extended northward to Ballard, which at least checks the Ballard box, but that still leaves a lot of other north Seattle people underserved.

      3. I’m not sure I understand how a line like that would be routed, consider CHS is at Broadway. Would the train swerve towards Boren after CHS? I’ve always imagined such a line as going either from (say) Amgen-LQA-CH-23rd/MLK and then turning down. You could either serve First Hill followed by downtown, go down 23rd to Mt Baker, or serve First Hill and then swerve towards Mt. Baker.

      4. Hmm. Something like an underground version of the 8? That seems like it would be about as high a priority as Ballard to UW.

      5. Yeah, but the 8 goes East as far as MLK, and the “core” 8 as I understand it goes as east as 15th if not 23rd. That’s a long ways from First Hill.

      6. William,

        I apologize. I didn’t specify the line to which it would be second (I did say “second”). That would of course be Ballard-UW.

      7. Farro, William,

        Well, if research shows that it should be farther east, I’m fine with that. But I don’t think it should be all the way out at 23rd. Maybe I don’t know my socio-geography well enough, but it seems to me that 12th Avenue is the boundary between First Hill and the CD. So basically I’d essentially rebuild the streetcar underground where it should have been built.

        A station diagonaling across the Spine at the south end of CHS — probably underneath because it will have less distance between the freeway and the station than does the Spine Line — could swing back west a little to a station with entrances at Madison and Marion either right at or just east of Broadway would connect Madison BRT to the subway system better than it will be with just the DSTT line. It would serve both SU and and Swedish and even practical for staff at Virginia Mason to use it, though probably not patients. That’s enough to make it worthwhile. Another station just north of Yesler would serve the new development there and Harborview.

        Then it would swing eastward to pass through the node at 14th and Jackson, probably come out of the hillside and run down the middle of Rainier on stilts with a station between the CD and Jimi and one between Jimi and Mt. Baker.

        The connection to the outside world would be at Mt. Baker which has close access to the MF with facing points.

        A reason I like Broadway/12th is that it’s the “congestion curtain” for buses in the CD. They run very easily east of there; it’s only once they cross Broadway that they are confronted with problems. In the absence of a commitment to demolish and replace significant clusters of housing in the CD with much denser development — which I think would run into a buzz-saw of rejection — the subway should serve the employment and dense development farther west.

        Yes, there would be a lot of stations (I can see value in twelve); this wouldn’t be a whiz-bang distance gobbler of a line. It would be much slower than Spine Link, so Sound Transit probably would never touch it. But it would be incomparably faster than the surface options in the area.

        Just FYI, I think the stations west of CHS should be at Elliott and 14th, 1st West and Republican, Sixth North and Harrison (if possible), Westlake and Denny, and Pontus and John. But of course they’re up for discussion.

      8. It wouldn’t exactly parallel the 8, but you might be able to eliminate the 8 from Seattle Center along the entirety of the Denny Disaster. That could make life better for a lot of people, even if they now have to transfer.

        Or, dare I suggest: put up dual wire and make the 8 a tunnel bus that serves this route before going to the surface somewhere east of I-5? It means making some very careful overhead wire designs, but I think it could work. The 8 might make a good trolley bus route.

      9. From my understanding (and anecdotal experience riding it), the 8 is pretty full up until 15th/Group Health, and a stop there could be merited, however, the 8 is also a lot faster from there as well.

      10. Shane,

        It’s close, but I wouldn’t have the stations on First Hill follow Boren, but rather Broadway. The geology under Boren is the reason that the Spine doesn’t go that way. Also, I would never have it run under Queen Anne Hill instead of serving the emerging 14th and Elliot West stop. I did not intend it to connect to Ballard-UW, but that might not be a bad idea at all, especially using the Option B alignment west of Interbay Yard. It would make B-UW more bi-directional in its passenger loads and give folks in North Seattle access to SLU with a single transfer. But not through Upper Queen Anne. It is never going to have tall buildings; the neighborhood won’t stand for it. The good thing about Option D was that it served Fremont, not Upper QA. That was just a convenience station. Ballard-UW with frequent shuttle service along Fremont Avenue North would obviate the need for a line directly through Fremont. It isn’t that large a center.

        And I don’t think the Rainier Valley needs a second transit line. Give Rainier a three-lane road diet with transit queue jump lanes where physically possible and the 7 will perform better.

        And you missed what I think is one of the major benefits of the line: the stations along Rainier between the CD station and the East Link Rainier Avenue station, perhaps a bit north of Charles and the one between the East Link station and Mt. Baker, about Hill. There is supposed to be a big Urban Village between I-90 and Mt. Baker. This would serve the core of it directly, and there’s no reason not to extend it right on up Rainier to the CD. There are no views to be blocked because I-90 has the hill to the west. In fact, it creates view properties, at least those high enough in the buildings.

        But the overall look would be what you drew.

      11. Thanks for helping me refine a decidedly half-baked idea. I had been thinking about a line like this for some time but as soon as I put it on (digital) paper and shared it, I saw it for it’s flaws.

        The connection to the Ballard spur seems unnecessary as the spur itself obviates any need to travel directly from Ballard to Downtown because of the quality of the transfer at Brooklyn station. Anyone in North Seattle on a north-south transit line should (ideally) be able to reach SLU with a single transfer. I just don’t think the billions or several hundred million you’d have to spend to connect LQA with Ballard-UW would be worth it to make a few people’s trip more legible/shorter. Additionally, between LQA and Ballard, there aren’t any areas worth serving by themselves and nothing north of Ballard that needs the capacity of a train. I’m not sure what you see around Elliot and 14th—I see a narrow walkshed, industrial and some 1950s traffic engineering. LQA seems a strong place to end an urban line.

        Fremont can be well served by the grid of buses enabled by Ballard-UW.

        The Hill St station makes sense but the one at Charles is an area served by both I-90 + Rainier and the Boren/Jackson stations. Additionally, the walkshed at Charles is constrained and the environment pedestrian-hostile (though neither of these are worse at Charles than they are at I-90).

        I have no great defense of the extension from Mt. Baker to Rainier Beach other than that it seems Central Link thoroughly missed the center of gravity in the Rainier Valley (Rainier Ave) and it flies past much of the area it claims to serve and connect. Of course Rainier Valley needs a second “transit” line (and has more than one), but does it need to be a train? Probably not. Will buses on Rainier ever get the treatment necessary to be the best way to get around and through the Valley? Probably not. But enhanced bus/BRT would be the most appropriate solution given the robust-but-not-currently-overwhelming demand.

        Good thoughts!

    3. I love your comment. Welcome to the conversation William.

      One topic you brought up rang a bell for me… farebox recovery. One of the ways that East Asian agencies do so well is by incorporating retail spaces into the stations. The rent helps pay the bonds etc. I think this willingness to partner government and the private sector could go a long way in helping a Seattle Subway work.

      1. The lack of retail of any sort inside our stations is a sore spot for me. I feel our mezzanines are a complete waste of space.

        Often people waiting for trains and buses have to walk multiple blocks to get a drink while waiting for trains/buses. This might be great for the retail upstairs, but is a really bad user experience and a waste of the potential rent ST/Metro could have made with the space.

        Even vending machines would have been better than what we have now.

        We’re supposed to be building useful infrastructure, not just fancy art gallery space. The art is fine, but fill some of that empty space with rent paying retail!

    4. Of the possible rail projects for East King completing East Link is likely the best. Ridership isn’t spectacular but it is good compared to other sub area projects. It connects two regional centers (Overlake and Downtown Redmond) for what that is worth. Cost wise I believe the estimate is around $800 million which is far less than the available funds for East King.

      1. Personally, I’d rather see East King’s money go to excellent BRT in the 405 corridor, from Canyon park to Renton, direct HOV ramps from I-90 east to 405, and a direct access ramp in Issaquah. I also would like to see improvements to Renton’s access to Central Link.

        I’ve heard estimates up to a billion for the Redmond extension, and revenue projections as low as 2.5 billion for East King. That would put it somewhere between a third and a half of the available money.

        Agreed about Overlake, less sure about Downtown Redmond, although it’s probably better than any other Eastside regional center not already scheduled to more or less be served Link.

      2. Or, it occurred to me, thinking outside the box a little, retrofitting a better interchange between SR-520 buses and Link.

    5. Outstanding comment.

      That 60% supermajority thing is the reason we don’t already have a better system–see 1968 vote, which garnered a clear majority–but I think today a Seattle-only vote would clear it.

  52. I’d do as Executive Pat McCarthy of Tacoma suggested: mix and match. And, they’re missing a bunch. What I heard was that these were a starting point, but there were far better ideas out there.

    The Sound Transit staff didn’t say, but the “medium” and “medium high” options are presumably on the table with the state senate’s $11.2 billion version of the authorization bill. Loosely translated, that means that it’s costing an extra $3.8 billion to take the scenic tour to and from Everett via the Boeing plant. I know, the argument for this substantial deviation is that this is the largest manufacturing facility. However, consider that, just over a decade ago, all of the direct bus service to the plant from south county, from places such as Bothell, Mountlake Terrace, and Shoreline, was cut, never to be restored. Further, a few years ago, the bus service from north and east county was cut back to 2 trips a day each, never restored. This tells me that there isn’t sufficient demand to warrant the kind of investment we’re talking about. A novel idea, but the politicians are too busy groveling to consider it, is asking Boeing to contribute to a line that goes by their plant, say a spur, so that everybody wouldn’t have to watch a handful of people getting on and off there on weekdays, fewer on weekends. Now, if the politicians weren’t afraid of their not getting re-elected, they’d also state that the reason for the diversion is to serve Paine Field, where perhaps 20 flights/day may be in commercial operation some day. Even with the direct route to Everett – via I-5 – there will be a spur: it’s called bus rapid transit, which is planned to go from Canyon Park to 128th and I-5 to Boeing, so there’s the question of needless duplication.

    My second beef is the “fast streetcar” to/from Ballard. As Sound Transit staff explained, this would change the traffic signals to green upon approach. I can only imagine the outcry from motorists if this ever came to pass. Why is Sound Transit again duplicating existing service, i.e. Rapid Ride D? They – and the region – would be far better served with a Ballard to 43rd/Brooklyn or, if more practical, 65th station.

    My third issue is with the Issaquah to Bellevue to Totem Lake idea. The worst traffic congestion is regularly reported as I-405 between Renton and Bellevue, yet that segment is always avoided. Ironically, a Renton to Totem Lake line is almost exactly the same length as an Issaquah to Totem Lake line, or 18 miles. A Renton to Totem Lake line would serve significantly more riders, both on the eastside and throughout the region, for a Lynnwood to Renton commute by light rail would become possible. Boeing is well known for up and transferring its employees from plant to plant in the region. I doubt there would be as much demand for a Lynnwood to Issaquah commute.

    The eight scenarios that were presented at last Thursday’s Sound Transit board meeting are, fortunately, “not draft system plans and do not encompass all of the projects that will be considered for a ballot measure.” That being the case, my choices would thus be: to Everett via I-5, to Tacoma, to West Seattle Junction, but adding Ballard to 43rd/Brooklyn (or 65th/Roosevelt) and Totem Lake to Renton.

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