My report on Sound Transit’s Conceptual ST3 study triggered a collective freakout, crushing STB’s former comment count record by a wide margin. Perhaps everyone is overreacting to a box-checking planning exercise; maybe the reaction will encourage better outcomes and they’ll claim that was the point all along; or perhaps enough stakeholders have decided on the plan that the future is (unofficially) already sewn up. It’s hard to tell from the outside.
Anyhow, because comment threads have a way of snowballing to the negative, and we’ve all had a weekend to reflect and cool down, here’s a little poll. Search your feelings and lodge an opinion.
155 Replies to “Poll: How Bad Is It?”
I would not vote for any proposal that sends a “rapid streetcar” to Ballard. Nor would I consider anything that ignores subarea equity and focuses solely on extending the extremities of the network.
We need as much grade separation as possible. I don’t necessarily think it needs to be 100% grade separated, but we need as much as we can feasibly get. As the Offspring said, you gotta keep ’em separated.
+1 on subarea equity.
Perhaps there should be an option reflecting the WSTT/UW-Ballard combo? Or at least WSTT, which doesn’t seem to be mentioned at all here (Ballard-UW is implied by option 4)
Also, would it be helpful to specify “some grade separation”– does this mean Option A through Interbay?
There’s a very large theme in the comments: UW-Ballard subway makes far too much sense to leave out.
Perhaps a good question would be “If ST3 contains a UW-Ballard subway, would you vote for it?”
I will not vote for any plan that throws out sub area equity. The suburbs were the ones that demanded it earlier, and they need to reap what they sew. Both North and East King need to get “non-spine” light rail extensions in ST3. The idea that you’d prioritize sprawling out north and south over improving mobility in the core area of the local economy is crazy. And I definitely will not vote for any plan the deviates to Paine Field, doubly so if they divert money from East and North King to do it.
This is where I’m at too. I won’t support any ST3 measure that moves or loans funds from North King to other subareas.
Funny. I wouldn’t vote for any plan that doesn’t serve Paine Field unless it was offset by huge benefits elsewhere. Paine Field is going to be the regions 2nd airport, despite resistance in the local communities. The question would be whether the station will serve the area that is slated in the master plan to be the passenger terminal well or be up further by the Boeing plant.
Really, it’s not.
#notneeded #notviableifnotneeded #ampleprecedent
Building light rail to the *primary* airport was a stupid thing to do. This will soon be obvious as light rail to Capitol Hill, UW, U-District and other stations come on board and greatly surpass it it in terms of ridership (and those are the stops we built — just think of the ones we skipped). To think that we would build a second line to a secondary airport, after the main advantage to the suburban areas (a transit center with good bus service) is about to come on line is just laughable (SeaTac/Tukwilla was the first to serve the southern suburbs, whereas Paine Field won’t be).
Fun fact: The L station at O’Hare wasn’t built until 1984. Yes, that’s right, years after the second biggest city in the U. S. had an outstanding elevated rail system and O’Hare was the world’s busiest airport and the “age of flight” had pretty much leveled off, Chicago added a station there. Somehow folks got by just fine, just as they do in D. C., where the outstanding — truly outstanding — light rail line doesn’t go out to Dulles. We have bigger fish to fry — that one is a sardine and only needs to be warmed up a bit.
But it’s an excellent thing that they did build the O’Hare extension, and people in Capitol Hill an the U-District also go to the airport.
It’s an “excellent thing” that Chicago has a mass transit system worth attaching the airport to.
We do not.
Also, Ross, the Orange Line to Midway is a whole decade younger than that.
And only when Midway was entirely rebuilt to the east of the runways did the train become at all useful.
But Seattle rah! #1 dittohead priority and we can’t even get the station remotely near the planes!
So you’re saying that because Chicago was late in building a line to the airport, we should be late too? That doesn’t make sense.
No, I’m saying that building an airport rail in the absence of any other highly effective transit would have been a stupid move for Chicago, D.C., Berlin, Prague, of any of the hundreds of other important and transit-reliant global cities that don’t share your fascination with airport rail above all else.
It isn’t the airport rail that’s “excellent”. It’s the transit system. Do the former without doing the latter and be St. Louis. Or us.
See also: Montreal and Toronto. Two of the best-used transit systems in our hemisphere, and among the greatest explicitly transit-oriented success stories of the late 20th century.
They’ll get direct airport service eventually. It will be nice to have. It was entirely irrelevant to what they have so far achieved.
I don’t care about Paine field if I don’t have to pay for it. But I am definitely not voting for something that makes me pay for Paine field.
How about a 514 from Lynnwood Station to Payne Field to Everett Station? That would address Boeing workers and visitors from both north and south. It could also stop at any other places west of I-5 that the 512 doesn’t reach. Also, extend the 512 to downtown Everett and Everett CC.
Doesn’t it bother anyone that ST isn’t even testing the waters with an express bus route to see if there is a demand for a service between Lynnwood, Paine, and Everett before seriously considering investing hundreds of millions?
It certainly bothers me.
Why all the obsession with Paine Field? A transit system that focused on moving people, especially people with fewer options for moving, wouldn’t bother going to *any* airport, let alone a second one.
If we could get back the money extending Link to TIB and Seatac and apply it to in-city lines, we’d be doing a lot better. We’d still have to take a cab to the airport, but, it’s actually a pretty small percentage of us that this is an issue for.
Besides being politically popular (almost everyone needs to go to the airport at least once a year), there are also a lot of people who work there. So, serving the airport with Link does make sense. Paine Field, on the other hand, with much fewer jobs and no commercial service, much less so. If Donald Trump wants to fly his personal jet to Paine Field, he’ll be looking at private limos for ground transportation when he gets there, not Link.
(And, while a number of nearby jobs at Boeing do exist, remember, this is a spread out and unwalkable area and Boeing probably won’t provide shuttle service. So, there will be no way to get from the station to any actual jobs. And, even if there were, the resultant ridership would have short, sharp peaks aligned with works shifts, with negligible ridership the rest of the day, and on weekends).
There are four transit agencies (Sound Transit, Everett Tranist, Community Transit, and Boeing’s own private bus service) that serve the area around Paine Field.
The fact that all this bus services accomplishes so little, and what to do to change it, is probably worth of its own series of posts.
If they haven’t figured out how to get the best service possible out of that much bus service, while at the same time ignoring service to a large and reasonably popular museum facility, does building a light rail line to some point or two at Paine Field and hoping it actually accomplishes much make any sense?
ST does add express buses before Link; that’s what the 512, 550, and 594 are. I think with Payne Field the proponents just haven’t thought through the implications enough. If it’s so urgent for Link to go to Boeing in 20 years, isn’t it also urgent for a bus to go there now? If Everett wants to position Everett Station as the north Boeing P&R, why not start now? A lot of the push for Payne has been to please Boeing and convince it to stay here, and theoretical future benefits of putting Payne on trunk transit. But Avgeek Joe and I can’t get to the museum or the Boeing tour now, and commuters must be congesting the roads around Boeing now. So unless you think the need doesn’t exist now but will in twenty years (why?), it’s either a need both now and then, or neither one.
“Why all the obsession with Paine Field?”‘
We’re trying to address what Snohomish says are its priorities. And one of our members has a particular interest in it.
As many jobs at Seatac as on first hill? I doubt it. First Hiil station was cancelled because the risk was too expensive. Throw the streetcar money and the money to get to Seatac together – could we have mitigated that risk substantially, and moved many more people to their jobs?
The point about the politics has merit. But, our transit agency isn’t even trying to make the case about the better ROI of in-city lines, IMO.
Thousands of people take planes in and out of Sea-Tac every day, and a significant number of them take Link between SeaTac and Westlake, more than a regular residential neighborhood station gets, and even more people will take Link from SeaTac to UW and Lynnwood when they open. Beyond the physical number of travelers and workers that take Link, just the existence of a frequent train to the airport promotes tourism and commerce, and makes businessmen more willing to start companies here and open offices here. That benefits all of us beyond its physical ridership.
What Kptrease said. There are major European capitals that have functioned for decades with only bus connections from airport to respective robust urban transit system. Airport rail, if on the menu at all, comes on the 3rd or 7th or 12th line, and often with a cost-covering fare premium attached.
The uniquely American obsession with beginning nascent rail buildouts at airports has, realistically, done very little good for our cities’ transit situations.
Seattle has existing minority modeshare, so the benefit has been observable but underwhelming.
It has had no effect whatsoever in places like Cleveland, St. Louis, or Baltimore.
And Mike, in the grand scheme, traveler usage at SeaTac is not impressive. It’s a tiny percentage of flyers, and even regular travelers are statistically choosing easier access (being dropped off or picked up) more often than the train.
Those are the mathematical facts.
Airport rail is the ultimate example of a destination that requires “network effects” to be appealing. We don’t have those, and it seems we never will.
p.s. Writing this from 34,000 feet.
@d.p. It would have had a much more measurable effect if they had done something sensible like running Link to UW before the Airport… or even at the same time.
Still not nearly as useful as connecting downtown to the rest of itself though.
One can make the argument that Link should have served First Hill instead of the airport (assuming the costs are even comparable). But, the number speak for themselves, and the ridership at SeaTac and TIBS stations is certainly not tiny. Airports also make for a good terminus of a transit line at the suburban end, because they are a rare source of proven all-day demand that’s not downtown. The airport is big reason why Link gets some semblance of directional balance of riders, as opposed to everyone going to downtown in the morning, from downtown in the afternoon, and almost nobody traveling in the reverse direction.
There’s also the fact that the effect Link has on getting to the airport is huge. To compensate, you would have needed to double the frequency on the 194, while significantly increasing the span of service, plus added yet another bus route between Ranier Valley and the airport – essentially, running the 97 and 97A like they did that Saturday that Link was shut down. Possible yes, but, in the long run, more expensive than just running the train.
Meanwhile, I won’t deny that First Hill is not a big destination, but one can walk there from either downtown or Capitol Hill in about 15 minutes or so. By contrast, walking is not a viable alternative to reach the airport from virtually anywhere.
Sorry, you and Mike are simply incorrect.
SeaTac station sees about 6,000 daily boardings. That includes any employees who regularly use it, as well as those
…as well as those transferers and others with non-airport destinations headed off to the opposite-direction sky bridge.
SeaTac sees almost 100,000 passengers per day.
Passenger modeshare is, in the scheme of things, very low. And if you consider 6,000 boardings the blockbuster to end all blockbusters — especially at great distance and expense and opportunity cost — you probably shouldn’t be building a rail system anywhere to begin with.
Meanwhile, the 194 is a straw man. Those world capitals without airport rail (or with airport rail on their 9th-built lines) invariably have really good holistic transportation networks with which to connect closer than downtown. This makes them worth accessing for the average traveler, even at the cost of a moderate bus connection.
But no, in the U.S. we blow fortunes on AirBart and express rail from Denver to the fucking cornfields, because our politicians have all drunk the same non-holistic Kool-Aid that you have.
This is yet another American know-nothing worst practice, no better than “development” streetcars and distant-parking-lot rail.
The “great distance” is only from TIB or Rainier Beach, wherever it would have ended otherwise.
Just to repeat what I said above: The ‘L’ didn’t connect to O’Hare until 1984. For you young folks out there, that was years and years after Chicago had built a great transit system, was the second biggest city in the U. S., plane travel had pretty much leveled off, and O’Hare was the busiest airport in the world. They didn’t seem to be in a hurry to build a train to the airport, and neither is D. C. (I took the cab to Dulles just the other day).
I’m sure eventually they will have a line out to Dulles, but they have far more important things to build. So do we.
It’s still a city of 3 million people and tens of thousands of people at the airport, many of whom are either going to/from the city or can layover there if there’s a train that’s (A) frequent and (B) they won’t get lost on. And isn’t DC building an extension that will go to Dulles?
The train goes 6 miles without even stopping, Mike, on entirely new elevated construction, and in a direction that it would only have plausibly gone for the purpose of serving this one lauded destination.
That is indeed a “great distance” in my book and in comparison any other mass transit investment you could imagine.
Much could be written about airports and rail systems and how to do them right.
I’m not sure that a discussion of how to best serve Paine Field is really that relevant to that discussion since I’m not at all convinced that it could be done right at that airport.
Ridership statistics will tell you that MAX had about 3 million passengers at the Portland airport in the first 10 months of operation (and that says a lot because opening day was September 10th 2001). However, what the ridership statistics won’t tell you is that it was fairly low on TriMet’s priority list. The ridership just wasn’t good enough compared to some of the other corridors. However, it got moved higher on the list due to a private investor offering so much money towards building the line that no federal or state funds, or local property taxes, were required to build MAX to the airport.
My feelings about Link to Paine Field would improve a bit if Boeing felt it was a high enough priority to put its money where its mouth is. The airport shopping center developer felt that way about airport MAX.
And isn’t DC building an extension that will go to Dulles?
Yes. And it will be the 11th major line/segment of the DC Metro system. That was exactly our point.
Dullas is much further from downtown D.C. that SeaTac is from downtown Seattle. Reagan Airport has been served by the Blue Line for a long time time.
Boston Airport is served only by buses, which are constantly strained to capacity by passengers carrying luggage, and require an interminable 5 mph slog through all 5 terminals, just to get out of the airport, which makes it somewhat of a pain to get in and out of.
Also, like it or not, airports are important to serve, politically. Not everybody works downtown, but almost everybody goes to the airport at some point in their life, so with an airport line, almost everybody will get to say that they have some legitimate opportunity to ride it.
In any case, the segment of Link south of Ranier Beach is not just about the airport. TIBS does get decent use, and it’s not all park-and-ride. And there’s no way you’d be able to get South King funds to pay for a First Hill Station anyway.
Wrong and wrong.
Boston-Logan’s Blue Line shuttles operate on 2 routes: an A+B and an C/D + E. They also run as often as every 1-2 minutes. Both of them. They are therefore a near-instantaneous connection to the Blue Line, which — wait for it — predated the airport!
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this particular point on the Blue Line is airport-adjacent, and that it is literally 2 stops and barely a mile from downtown. But being “on the way” comes with the built-in benefit of real demand for real frequency.
I have had trips in which I have:
– stepped off the plane
– exited the terminal
– caught a shuttle bus
– bought a weekly MBTA pass
– caught a Blue Line train
– gone downtown
– switched to an Orange Line train
– and reached the Back Bay
…in less than 20 minutes.
At SeaTac, I would have spent more than half of that just walking to our glorified shuttle, and I’d likely still be idling in the station at the 20-minute mark. Not so awesome by comparison, huh?
(Note: you may have been thinking of the crappy Silver Line airport alternative, which does crawl through every terminal before talking a moronically roundabout journey to its poorly-built “Innovation District” bus tunnel. This “dedicated line” is dysfunctional enough that the Port Authority has made out-of-airport trips free. Of course, a dedicated airport train would have to make the same loop, and 1000x times the expense, and would still probably be less convenient than the Blue Line shuttles that exist today.)
If you are flying into Washington DC and are needing to get between the airport and downtown Washington DC by transit, and can’t use Reagan National due to its limited flight schedule, there is also Baltimore. Baltimore has Amtrak and Maryland Area Rail Commuter service between it and Washington DC.
Dulles is truly in the middle of nothing and on the way to nowhere, and about as far from Washington DC as BWI.
This is also the type of pattern you see with a number of European airports: they are an intermediate stop on an intercity railroad. They don’t necessarily have a place on the urban train system, but the regional trains on the intercity network do better at serving them as an intermediate stop.
Without traffic, driving from Union Station to SeaTac takes about 20 minutes. Union Station to Tukwila Station takes about 20 minutes on Sounder.
This is why certain cities in Europe have found it advantageous to put their airport station on an intercity line: that’s the type of service that can compete with driving speeds. Even at Sounder speeds it is close to competitive with driving, if the airport were actually located on the main line. At European mainline speeds, taking the train blows driving away.
SeaTac isn’t on the main line, so it doesn’t work that way. It takes about 8 minutes to drive from the Tukwila Station to SeaTac. So, even with a bus connection at Tukwila you could probably shave 15 minutes off the 45 minute Union Station -> SeaTac time required on Link if you were willing to put up with a two seat ride, and you would get closer to the terminal building to boot! You’d not beat driving time without traffic, but driving time with traffic is a different matter.
Sadly, we have a huge cost barrier between light rail and main line passenger trains here in the USA, so the light-rail-like operation you see on regional trains in Europe can’t be done here. Otherwise, Sounder would really be the Seattle-Tacoma “spine” method of choice. Desirable regional network frequency just can’t be done at current Sounder costs.
NOTE: That 45 minutes time from Union Station to SeaTac on Link is based on what Google Transit gave me. It may include a walking time estimate that isn’t on the Link timetable.
It is 31 from the I.D. stop.
(Not counting the hike at the airport end.)
Not sure I’ve ever done Logan to Back Bay in 20 minutes using transit. That is impressive. I did it in a cab at midnight and the reciept said 17 minutes. Even in perfect conditions, Shuttle-Blue-Orange is more like 30-35 minutes in my experience (both at rush hour and late night). It has taken me as long as 50 minutes going to the airport, caused by a long wait for the Shuttle to depart Airport Station. Google Transit says 30-35 minutes (17 minutes of travel time, the rest is transfers and walking) depending on the direction and time of day.
Now I usually take the temporary (for the 2 years while Government Center is under construction) Back Bay Logan Express bus. It is a one seat ride and absurdly it is free as long as you have any sort of Charlie Card, whether or not there is a pass or any money on it.
“This is why certain cities in Europe have found it advantageous to put their airport station on an intercity line”
Then there’s Duesseldorf, where the airport is at the end of an S-Bahn line.
Sure. Until recently it was S-Bahn line 7 — SEVEN — which was extended there in the late 1970s.
What part about “nowhere else in the world was it the #1 priority when the rest of the transit system sucked” is not getting through to you?
Were there signs for the express bus? Does it exist in the other direction? Last night I took the Silver Line because I was headed to the Green — god, that Congress Street loop-di-loop is absurd — but I was exhausted and kind of running on autopilot from plane to bus.
Obviously that 20-minute example was an outlier, since it involved about zero seconds of waiting for any of the three vehicles. But it did happen, because such extreme frequency, the product of not being an airport-and-nothing-else rail, allowed it to happen. And also because shuttle buses in airport situations can be more helpful than ridiculously long walks.
(It doesn’t hurt that MassPort is serious about reducing car pick-ups, which is why buses have their own dedicated lanes at the congested terminals, and why port cops actually work to keep SOVs out of their way. My example was at the height of rush hour.)
I keep bringing up Berlin as another example. My reason is that I had a similarly amazing 3-leg trip from the non-rail-served airport there. I was headed from Tegel (in the northwest) to Steglitz (in the southwest).
1.5 miles on a city bus (ticket purchased off-board outside the terminal) + 8 stops on one U-Bahn + all the way to the end of a second U-Bahn = 22 or 23 minutes!
Berlin is about to move all of its air service to the famously delayed Berlin Brandenburg. The new airport will have a dedicated rail line. That rail line will be, comparatively, much worse-connected to the rest of the urban transport network.
Public-transit airport access is about to get a lot worse than it has been at the one that never had rail.
Yes, Back Bay Express runs both ways, hitting every terminal in order. It runs every 20 minutes until 10pm inbound. The signage is poor at Logan – according to Massport the bus picks up at the “Logan Express” stops but finding that stop at C was hard the one time I’ve taken it inbound. Often I get in after 10pm so then it is subway or, reluctantly, a cab.
From Back Bay to Logan, I get on at the bus stop adjacent to the inbound entrance to Copley Green Line station. The bus takes various random routes from there to get to Logan, I guess depending on traffic. Drop off is next to Copley Square.
Ok, so at 31 minutes station to station the current Link operation is probably equivalent to what could be done with Sounder + express bus from Tukwila.
Except if Sounder were an all day service like any European operator would have it, it would serve Kent, Auburn, Tacoma, and others. Throw in Amtrak Cascsdes at the station then you also throw in Olympia, Centrailia and maybe Kelso. Maybe even Portland due to the price of air tickets to get up there, and an awful lot of Portland flights require a transfer at SeaTac.
This becomes much closer to Baltimore, where you can take Amtrak or MARC trains to the airport station from an assortment of places, only one of which is downtown Baltimore.
So I found MassPort’s page on the shuttle. This could prove helpful to me a few times this year.
The page says that the fare is supposed to by $5 for anyone not in possession of a T pass. Passholders ride free; monthly or weekly is not specified. Are you saying that this was ignored in your experience, so anyone carrying an e-pursed (or even empty) CharlieCard can just walk on?
Either way, I presume this means the T is picking up some of the cost as part of the Government Center reconstruction project, and that the bus will likely go away when the Green/Blue connection reopens.
It should be noted that, given the non-urban level of frequency on mainline trains even in the most railed-up countries, the situation you describe applies better to peripheral (and sometimes secondary) airports than to primary and relatively proximate airports.
Thus London’s distant Luton and Stansted airports, being on intercity lines to elsewhere, can enjoy more service than their own demand could generate alone. But relatively-close Heathrow would suffer for being attached only to services that ran only half-hourly, because it would be so much more tempting to cover the shorter journey on demand, using a taxi or some other less scalable mode.
Your BWI comparison is thus more apt for D.C. travelers than for those from the Baltimore area itself, who would balk at having to conform to MARC’s schedule to go not-that-far.
Baltimore Light Rail’s airport line fails in part because it too is only every 30 minutes most of the time. (It also fails because it connects to so few other places, having been poorly built and terribly integrated with other urban transit on the basis of the aforementioned airport-über-alles vision-warping.)
My point is that SeaTac, at only 15 miles from Seattle and 20 minutes drive in no traffic, would not have been a good candidate for mainline/commuter service either. The best plan would have been dedicated, frequent buses to whatever point on an eventual well-designed mass transport network was closest and easiest to reach — which could have been any of many logical candidates in the south end of Seattle, or even in Tukwila — until such a time when enough of our other needs were met that a direct airport rail spur would have become a more rational priority.
Sound Transit needs all day sounder service 7 days a week for South King and Pierce subareas. Not sure how you’d temp Federal Way though except with a LINK extension.
Buses to Federal Way. We really just need HOV to HOT (or HOV2 to HOV3) and those issues go away.
I agree with your other point — more Sounder. Good bang for the buck there.
Sorry RossB, I usually agree with you.
Sounder is NOT a good bang for anyone’s bucks.
Short Term: Adding a time slot for each train is costing $50m upfront payments for each, along with pretty high trackage fees. I think the BNSF is only committed to 2 more, even at that price.
Long Term: The contract with BNSF is finite (~30 more years??). After that, they can hold a gun to ST’s head and ask for anything – and probably get it with all the sunk cost, and nothing in the ‘WE Own it’ category.
Comments running 50/50
Voting running 100/0 Yes to something.
Margin of error between comments and voting: Mind Warping
I think it’s a bit more complex than that–just about everyone wants to vote for *something.* But pretty much none of the commenters want to vote for the presented plans (option 2 in this poll)–as I write this there’s 7 votes for it, out of 81, so around 8.6%. Counting the “I won’t take this plan” voters as those who picked options 3 and 4, that’s 61, or just over 75% of votes
The fact that it is even close should scare the sh** out of Sound Transit or anyone who wants to spend political capital fighting for it. This is a transit blog. OK, maybe some anti-tax people are on here, but I doubt it. The poll pretty much represents the feelings of all those that commented the other day (and I recognized those names). In contrast, the poll numbers of the same people was probably 95% in favor for the Metro Kink County vote (which ended up losing). If your biggest fans don’t support your projects, you are in deep trouble.
Go on a Sonics blog and see if fans there support a new stadium. If the numbers are 50/50, you better go back to the drawing board.
I wouldn’t vote for anything that doesn’t spend every penny raised in North King in North King.
For obvious reasons, I will not vote on this survey.
However, it might be interesting to ask, at some point, “How often will find [name of option] meaningful to your transportation needs?”
It’s too often that these things get passed because someone thinks “I’ll vote for this because it will work really well for those people.” In fact, it isn’t a all what “those people” near the project would find useful at all.
With the vast majority of people not living near any of the proposals, weather it passes or fails is going to depend on the impressions of those that will never ride.
I chose 4. In the end I might be willing to compromise more, but first we have to discuss the outstanding issues with ST and see what’s the best offer we can get and how good it is. Things I’m looking at:
* Ballard-UW is superior on both ridership, cost, and area mobility.
* Ballard-downtown travel time. Tunnel to Interbay, surface beyond that, and a 70′ moveable bridge may be acceptable, but what’s the travel time and reliability? Must be 20 minutes or less Westlake-Market, preferably 15 minutes or less.
* Open BRT in West Seattle to upgrade the D, 120, 21, and possibly others. This needs serious consideration.
* More alternatives on the spine. Frequent express buses from Link’s termini to Tacoma and Everett. I don’t care whether Link is extended a short distance to Federal Way, Alderwood Mall, or 164th. If Link to Tacoma and Everett is inevitable, consider a surface alignment south of Federal Way and north of Alderwood Mall. It can run faster there than on MLK or 15th.
* The balance between “spine” investments vs high-ridership city investments.
I agree. The two projects that make the most sense are the WSTT and Ballard to UW light rail. I’m sure someone can make a solid argument for one or the other, but that is what we should be choosing between (if we even have to make a choice).
Ballard to downtown (that skips the UW) would be OK, after those, but they didn’t consider even that in isolation. They somehow got the idea that West Seattle to downtown rail is more important than any rail to Ballard. Even the monorail folks weren’t that stupid (they tried to only build the Ballard to downtown section after they realized their funding estimates were way off). Anyway, this is how I see it:
Ballard to UW, WSTT, Metro 8 subway
Ballard to downtown
Everything else is pretty distant, yet Sound Transit wants to *start* with West Seattle light rail. I won’t vote for that because I think it is just a terrible idea, and I don’t believe in blowing money on the wrong things, just because “we get transit”. I fear that we would not get the good things the first tier things without it.
A Metro 8 subway? How did that make it to your first tier priority list, before Ballard to downtown? The 8 currently serves about 10,000 daily weekday trips, with boardings and alightings roughly split between SLU-Madison Valley and Madison Valley-Rainier (Page 6):
You want us to build a subway to serve a route that currently serves about 5,000 trips? An entire route, not just one station, that serves fewer people than the SeaTac Airport station that everyone here is being up for supposedly being a waste?
And I’m saying this as one of those 5,000! The 8 sucks! I hate riding it. But even I know this is not cost-effective or reasonable use of funding. For a fraction of the cost, and a lot less time to build, I would rather build a transit-only bridge over I-5, perhaps at Thomas, and make whatever street it runs on transit-only through SLU to Seattle Center.
I think a huge part of that number being so low is just that the 8 does suck, horrendously. I’m open to being persuaded that something like a gondola would be better, but citing “well, only 5,000 people manage to swim across that river” isn’t the way to do it.
The 8 is not in ST’s long-range plan, so you’d have to get it in the plan before ST will do anything further with it, unless you can convince them it’s close enough to be an alternative for the “Madison Street” corridor. Which should theoretically be doable because it’s closer than I-5 is to Lake City Way, or Magnuson Park to 520, and they were allowed alternatives.
Im with William on this. However, I have no expectation that an “8” subway is at all in the cards for ST3. It just isn’t. But I think it would be successful. I would knit the center urban area together in a really effective way.
The river analogy is appropriate. If I am in SLU, I dont consider going to Cap Hill for any sort of non-critical reason because it is way too much hassle. But it isnt actually far. I would go there if the best way didn’t seem to be walking up a giant hill.
The idea for the “Metro 8” is to have it be a Seattle project funded as a capital bond (passable only by a 60% majority) and therefore not chargeable against the city’s 1% property tax limitation. It would be automated classic SkyTrain or Canada line equipment running frequently enough that it would be reasonable for people to jump on to go a couple of stops.
It would be too slow and expensive to operate with normal LRT technology.
Obviously, the vehicles have to have closed manual operator closets so that they can pass over Link trackage to the Maintenance Base. The storage yard would be at the Elliott/Interbay end. The “connection to the outer world would be at Mt. Baker.
The point of it is to serve all of SLU and most of the destinations on First Hill with a single transfer from any line approaching downtown Seattle. Except those approaching through the Duwamish flats. But West Seattle and Burien are not the source of many of the people who work in SLU and/or First Hill.
It’s a “collector/distributor” for the inner ring of neighborhoods not served directly by rail lines, mostly because of geography.
Are you guys nuts? In concept, yes, I love the idea of this service existing in a world of limitless resources, but there are so many reasons this doesn’t make sense. And it’s not anything like the Canada Line and could never be like the Canada Line.
First, the 8 is only a “river to swim across” about three hours a day, in PM peak, mainly affecting eastbound reliability, which could be fixed with strictly enforced dedicated lanes along a nearby street like Thomas or John. Almost all of the westbound issues with the 8 are due to the run being so long and infrequent, which will be fixed with the Alt. 1 Link restructure, if it goes through.
Second, it would be exceedingly expensive and technically challenging to build. It could cost $2 billion… all borne by Seattle taxpayers? You would either need to deep bore or cut-and-cover through LQA, Seattle Center and SLU. Deep bore is in the order of a half billion dollars a mile plus stations. Cut and cover would be cheaper but would cause serious disruption. It would then need to cross under or over I-5. Under means more deep bore and another deep station on Capitol Hill. Over means elevated guideway beginning perhaps around Fairview, transitioning into a very tall bridge to Capitol Hill, either staying elevated to CHS or transitioning underground again somehow for a shallow station.
Third… and then what? To Madison Valley? Madison Park? Or all of that expensive infrastructure for maybe five stations at most?
This is no Canada Line. It’s nothing like the Canada line and never could be. The Canada Line connects downtown Vancouver, the second most densely populated residential downtown in North America, with several schools, hospitals and other dense and rapidly densifying neighborhoods of high-rise development. It intersects with several east-west bus routes that each carry >10,000 people a day, including the 55,000 daily passenger 99 B-Line, the busiest bus route in North America. The Canada Line ridership exceeded 100,000 in its first year of operation.
This is a distraction. We need to build grade-separated transit where it makes sense, where it’s going to maximize ridership and improve the network. I have to agree that a second downtown tunnel makes the most sense, followed by the Ballard spur, which has far more potential than an 8 subway.
Keep in mind, Gabe, that in all the proposed lines we’re talking about, only about 50% of the route is take from the 8 (specifically it’s the core part of the 8N). The other half of the line is to connect to First Hill and Mt. Baker hitting a number of key destinations along the way. You can’t just look at 8 riders and use them as a proxy for ridership on the line in question.
West Seattle is building in dense housing and mixed use like crazy but have gotten to eat the shit sandwich with the introduction of the C Line or so called BRT. None of these growth concepts work if you don’t follow through with effective transit options. Light rail connecting Ballard and West Seattle through DT or you’ll lose a lot of votes that would otherwise support ST3.
No one is disputing the need for transit that is much more effective and than RapidRide, and not done-in by bottlenecks.
But the idea that West Seattle experiences worse transit troubles than the majority of this city is simply false, as is the notion that West Seattle is becoming remotely as dense as Ballard, First Hill, the Central District, South Lake Union, Fremont, Wallingford, Lake City, or even Queen Anne Hill.
Those are the facts: https://buildthecity.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/census-2010-city-of-seattle-population-density-map/
Meanwhile, the assumption that West Seattle needs $3 billion in rail to (poorly) reach only one junction, siphoning so much money that Ballard gets nothing but an ineffective streetcar and other parts of the city continue to suffer 20-minute bus rides to move a barely a mile, is downright offensive.
I am not in favor of scrapping sub area equity if the money is going to to go toward extending the spine at the expense of the core. Grade seperation to Freemont Ballard is a must have IMHO.
I do understand the politics of it however, it’s to appease the suburban voters, knowing that Seattle is so desperate for any transit in city that they will take whatever half ass cheapo measures thrown at them. Everytime ST is brought up I conversations with my Kent East Hill parents, the complain that they get nothing from ST, i have to explain the sub area concept and how they get exactly what they pay for- which all goes down into the Kent Valley granted but still. Then I have have to explain that metro money is not the same as st. It’s a process.
As for Paine Field, I do think that eventually we will need transit there, since it’s almost a sure bet that it will be the regions second airport. Someday.
If the comment threads here are any indication, Seattle will not just take any half-assed cheapo measure thrown at them. They will vote “no” and demand that ST come back next year with something better.
That’s not what the votes say. The half-a-loafers are ahead 60-40.
Note that’s assuming one of the four options, with the Ballard-DT-WS routing, and more grade separation than I expect will be there. Otherwise, the quarter-loaf option is losing 3:1.
But there is no “Ballard-Downtown” only option on the table. The only “Ballard-Downtown” option without “West Seattle-Downtown” is the rapid streetcar. By definition, that’s not going to be grade separated.
So in fact “Add some more grade separation in the Ballard corridor and we’re good.” assumes the wasteful stub to West Seattle.
All I’m saying is that the consensus of the posts: Ballard-UW or WSTT first, other things second is not what’s winning the straw poll. Martin did the right thing by running the poll, but it turns out that those of us skeptical of ST’s methods and products are in the minority.
I completely disagree. The poll says, at most, that people would rather build Ballard-DT-WS now than build nothing now in hopes of getting the consensus-of-the-posts option later. That’s a reasonable option, assuming a reasonable Ballard-DT line – i.e. the Uptown-Belltown Tunnel which (again) we are not guaranteed. I disagree with it, but it’s reasonable. However, it says nothing about which corridor they’d prefer to build now. It would be great if we had that poll, too.
And what’s more, consider that in this blog – almost the single most transit-positive place in Seattle – around 40% of people are willing to refuse any rail now rather than get any of ST’s packages. I think the result in Seattle overall, to say nothing of the Sound Transit district overall, will be far more negative.
@William — You got it. This is like Gandhi saying “go kick his ass”.
One very important thing to remember is that you dont get to provide an explanation of why you voted the way you did. No is just no. No doesn’t necessarily say, “come back to me later”.
I think UW-Ballard is probably the best line. If there is a ST3 on the ballot with Ballard-DT-WS fully grade separated I am sure as hell voting for it. I think calling something like that “half a loaf” is being pretty damn picky given the politics involved in getting this moving in the first place.
Right, no explanation on the ballot, but if Seattle Subway and similar groups are leading the “No” campaign, I think ST would get the message.
And if they offer a totally grade-separated Ballard-DT-WS corridor, I think I would vote for ST3 as well. But that isn’t on the list.
Seattle is desperate but there’s a limit. I was willing to go along with whatever the other subareas wanted until all the concepts had (A) nothing in Seattle, (B) West Seattle light rail only, (C) West Seattle LR + Ballard streetcar, (D) West Seattle LR that may nor may not be tunneled to Interbay. There’s no way I’ll vote for the first three because they don’t address the most urgent mobility need: the largest urban village conglomoration left out of Central Link. The fourth I could maybe vote for if it’s tunneled to Interbay, but it’s still excessive light rail in West Seattle. ST2 is enough rail to fall back on if we can’t get a good line to Ballard, so suck it spinesters (spinalists?).
I like to think of it as Snake Transit (all spine, no ribs).
Just to clarify — The (D) was West Seattle light rail + Ballard light rail with maybe a tunnel at Interbay. (I’m pretty sure that’s what you meant to write). Like you said, that is by far the best choice, but is still a very hard pill to swallow because it means way to much light rail to West Seattle, and skips the cheapest and best way to get to Ballard (via the UW).
Subarea equity serves one purpose: To buy votes. Nothing more. It doesn’t deliver a better system or even a more “fair” system. It delivers yes votes from more conservative areas that would otherwise not vote yes. The consequence are hugely expensive services (e.g. Sounder) being delivered where it’s not needed and areas where it is being short shrifted. Lack of grade separation in Rainier Valley anyone?
I’m not agreeing with how ST is proposing spending the money, the plans proposed were poor even with sub area equity, but the subarea equity requirement is a huge efficiency hit to delivering a good system. We need to get away from it, but just not this way.
It buys votes, but for what? ST ballot measures or suburban politicians?
You already know the correct answer, which is both.
Yeah? Then why do these guys want to do away with it?
Without subarea equity, the initial rail lines would skedaddle from downtown to the city limits, and everything after that would be in the suburbs and exurbs. The only thing the city would get after the initial lines are built is higher frequency where multiple lines happen to overlap. That’s exactly what happened to BART, and only forty years later are they now considering maybe an additional line someday in the city. It’s also what some of ST’s concepts suggest: only spine extensions and nothing else.
I agree. The biggest problem with this is not that it moves away from subarea equity, but that the plans for each subarea are so terrible. Many of the plans had West Seattle light rail and Ballard streetcar. Well, that would cost a bunch of money (just West Seattle light rail would cost a bunch of money). But that is stupid (for reasons I am tired of explaining — most of you know that anyway).
Subarea equity is a problem, but the bigger problem is that it comes with the same tax rate for each area. Those don’t have to go together. From a political standpoint, we are running into obvious problems with those going together. Even if the Seattle project was better (WSTT or UW to Ballard light rail) you still have the fact that you are trying to spend a huge amount of money on suburban areas that will see diminishing returns for their projects. For every voter in Everett who says “great, now I can take the train to Seattle” you have a voter in Lynnwood saying “I don’t want to pay for that, I never go to Everett”. The deciding vote comes from the guy who says “wait a second, can’t I just take the bus to or from Everett — won’t that be faster and a lot cheaper?”.
That is the way it works with these things. Different areas have different needs. Trying to get from Ballard to the UW quickly will require spending billions. Trying to get another tunnel through downtown will require billions. Trying to replace the Metro 8 with something fast will require billions. But getting from Everett to Lynnwood will only require a bit of paint (to change HOV to HOT) and a few buses. That is simply a lot cheaper (and thus would be a lot more popular).
That doesn’t mean there is no hope for ST3, but it does mean that ST4, or ST5 or ST6 just won’t fly with subarea equity and everyone having the same tax rate. There are only so many Swift BRT or express buses you can add to match the expense of the Seattle projects.
Obviously some options are better than others. But, when push comes to shove, I’ll vote for anything that has the following two things:
1) Substantially all of North King’s money spent on fully grade-separated, high-capacity rail serving high-ridership corridors within North King. This would include the new westside lines, infill stations on Central/North Link, and any other lines ST might propose to high-ridership areas in North King.
2) Real improvements for mobility on the Eastside, not just the Redmond tail and planning studies. This could be any of a very wide variety of things. But I live on the Eastside and I have no interest in seeing Eastside tax receipts go to fund service between Paine Field and Seattle.
I live on the eastside as well. I can support my money going to other subareas if they have any benefit to people living on the eastside – jobs or similar – and primarily to downtown Seattle or similar areas. But the eastside needs to receive a benefit from this as well.
I’d be fine with Eastside money paying for something like major bus/rail transfer improvements at UW Station or capital projects to speed 520/I-90 bus lines that serve Seattle. I’d even be fine with Eastside money paying for all of a I-405 BRT corridor that extends into SnoCo.
I wouldn’t be fine with Eastside money being diverted to extending the spine to North Everett or Paine Field, which seems implicit in all of last week’s proposals.
As a downtown Kirkland resident, do you need a fast train to Totem Lake?
+1 on everything David says in this comment and the others.
I’ll respect Snohomish’ right to spend their own money on any damn fool thing they want.
If the region dispenses with subarea equity, it should send money where it can do more good, not less. A transfer into North King would be a net benefit for the region as a whole. Transfers from either North or East King to Snohomish shouldn’t even be on the table.
As a transit advocate, I’ll have to look at the entire package, although I wouldn’t endorse any of the hypotheticals floated last week. As an Eastside taxpayer, I have less than zero interest in funding Snohomish’s half-baked ideas.
That’s a very good point, David, which is why the infatuation with the spine will end with a failed vote. You might get enough people in Bellevue to vote for a Seattle project, but they sure won’t vote for a Lynnwood to Everett or Federal Way to Tacoma light rail project. Not only do they not see the direct benefit, but they don’t see the point. When you consider that many (if not most) of the east side voters aren’t like you (they are less likely to raise taxes for any transit) it just seems like it is stupid to consider throwing away subarea equity to complete the spine.
Meanwhile, completing the spine with subarea equity is very problematic. You have the same mindset (what is in it for me) and the same answer (not much). You basically have a commuter rail transit pattern, but with the cost and time limitations of light rail. Those in Tacoma won’t be excited once they realize it will take way over an hour to get to Seattle, while those in Federal Way won’t be that excited to get a fast trip to Tacoma (or somewhere half way in between). Those are areas where buses make sense. Tacoma to Bellevue or just adding more hours on the existing runs (including Sounder) would be a much better use of money.
Then you have the voters (like many on this blog) who will vote not on self interest, but for what they feel is best for the area. For us, voting to extend the spine (before any of the projects that are a much better value) would be stupid.
All those gamblers in Federal Way…..;-)
Mike, I personally don’t need a train to Totem Lake (that’s what my bike and the ERC are for) but I think BRT going Totem Lake – Kirkland – Bellevue partially via the ERC is a project with legs. This isn’t the last time you’ll hear that. :)
I’ve riden the bus downtown and elsewhere from Totem Lake almost every day for 6 months now, before that I lived on Queen Anne for well over a decade. If you’d asked me a year ago I would have been all gungho on 405 BRT, now I think it is probably conceptually the single weakest thing in the plan outside of the Ballard options.
Fact is 405 based routing doesn’t create new travel options for people or result in appreciable time savings. I concluded that after spending the last month timing traffic and looking at speed, dwell and travel times, after all what does a transit nerd do during his commute? I also don’t believe it will get people out of their cars either as they’ll still be driving to P&R’s or stops near the freeway, so yet more pavement needed. Just all around IMO it’s full of mediocrity. Now if it followed the ERC that would be a little bit better and could be used to encourage development around the line and it could be replaced during ST4/5 or whenever light rail was warranted.
Frankly the only money for buses of any kind that really needs spending on 405 are direct transfer points and improvements to the 520 and 90 interchanges for merging + targeted enhancements at a few other locations.
Between neighbors and tight curves, you can’t run buses or trains down the ERC at any meaningful speed. Not to mention that creating a transit corridor there would completely destroy the aesthetics of the trail and the neighborhood.
The proper place to run buses is 405, and hopefully, the express toll lanes will allow buses to run faster than they have been. Operate the 535 and 566 more frequently, while adding a nonstop express route between downtown Kirkland and downtown Bellevue. That is what ST 3 should be funding.
I don’t think the main goal/effect of transit (whether BRT or light rail) in (at least) the northern half of the east side will ever be about getting people out of their cars 100%. You will get some TOD around the stops (which is a good thing) but most people who want dense urban living are going to be either in Seattle or Bellevue. What you can do is get more people to drive less if you can provide reliable service. So that instead of driving 10 miles they drive 3 miles and then take transit. That would be a win in my book.
Personally, I haven’t decided what I think about BRT or light rail here. Light rail ending at totem lake is going to a result in a lot of people driving to totem lake just to get on the train. I already know people who could easily walk to Brickyard but drive to totem lake because there are more buses there. But creating a BRT along the ERC to totem lake and continuing up I-405 may be worthwhile if speeds could match those of the 532/535 (45-60 mph). The ERC route would bypass downtown Kirkland and Juanita though, which are the more dense areas around here.
In the name of maximizing car throughput, WSDOT has appearently decided that nobody is allowed to walk to Brickyard P&R – even people that live in the apartments right across the street!
If you have to get in your car anyway to drive across the street, you may as well drive to another P&R a couple miles down with better service.
The actual bus stop for ST is on the ramp, so while having a crosswalk there would be great, it’s actually not a huge issue because you can just walk a few hundred feet to the ramp, cross Juanita-Woodinville Rd, and go straight to the stop. The bigger issue is simply lack of sidewalks along major streets in that area, but that’s not an ST issue and probably more because until a year ago that area was unincorporated King county. Now that it’s part of Bothell hopefully there will be some more investment in such things. It would be great, because there’s a decent number of transit users in that area and a good chunk of them live close enough to walk.
What is really needed there to increase service is a ramp from the HOV lanes that’s convenient to both the P&R and to people walking/biking from the surrounding area.
@asdf2 – The ERC will require straightening in places with the added acquisition costs but it is certainly possible to run at good speed on it, at least good enough for our goals, I paced trains on it at 40MPH as a kid and the line was already pretty shoddy then, the speed dropped further through the 90’s as the line deteriorated until by the late 90’s even that was unacceptable, I think a train even derailed at some point. The larger problem than the curves IMO though is the # of grade crossings that would have to be eliminated to allow good speed.
The neighbors are another matter of course. :-) I’ve never been sympathetic to people who buy a house by an active airport or highway at a discount and then are indignant when it expands. The return of any type of “traffic” on it though is going to be completely unacceptable to large #’s of people, your example non-withstanding people are rapidly forgetting it was ever anything other than a trail.
BTW, I actually basically live on ERC love the trail and wish it extended further north than totem lake, it would be great to be able to bike to Redhook without having to go on 124th. . :-)
The ERC has plenty of room for buses to run at 35-40 mph, faster in places (although with the right stop spacing they wouldn’t get much faster). Current hybrid buses are pretty quiet. There would certainly be neighborhood opposition, but there would also be a lot of support from potential riders.
The issue with 405 is the lack of access to… well, pretty much anywhere. You can only serve Totem Lake at the 132nd freeway stop. You can’t even serve downtown Kirkland that well, at least without a deviation. (It would be possible to make such a deviation fast, but it would be a major capital project.) You can’t serve Houghton, S Kirkland P&R, or Hospital at all. I still support 405 BRT, but we have to recognize its limitations.
The problem with the ERC is not so much operational conditions as the fact that it too misses the downtowns of both Bellevue and Kirkland. The Bellevue problem is easily solvable with the coming extension of NE 6 St, which will provide a straight shot from the ERC into the transit center. The Kirkland problem is a harder one… but we’re going to be hearing more about it.
I also live basically on the ERC (it’s less than a block away) and love it as a trail, but I’ve come around to it as a BRT corridor. I still think building actual rail on it would be the height of folly.
DavidL, I actually was expending some brain cycles on the downtown Kirkland problem the last few months, and was wondering about dropping a rail line down the hill south of downtown and going right between Park Place and the park and taking out the QFC for the station. Gets close but doesn’t require major urban infrastructure except for some possible elevated structures. The north bound line isn’t as tricky as it seems because 85th is largely built on fill ramp to climb up to 405 so the ERC is pretty level with downtown Kirkland in reality. Do you know of a specific conversation pending on solutions to that problem or were you more generalizing that it will be part of the conversations surrounding transit on the eastside?
“most people who want dense urban living are going to be either in Seattle or Bellevue”
… or Redmond. But not in Kirkland because Kirkland won’t allow growth except in Totem Lake, which may or may not happen. (Where are the concrete plans and the developers?) Kirkland is kind of taking itself out of HCT justification. Which is unfortunate because Kirkland led the way with densification in the 80s, all those condos downtown and the waterfront and Carillon Point. What happened to their spirit?
“The ERC will require straightening in places with the added acquisition costs but it is certainly possible to run at good speed on it”
Sure, but in process, you would completely destroy the neighborhood. There are extremely few urban corridors where you can take a quiet stroll without traffic noise and still get somewhere useful. The Cross-Kirkland trail is one of them, and it would be a shame to destroy it.
It’s not just the noise from the buses themselves. It’s also the fact all the fencing and concrete to build the road that such buses would travel on would completely destroy the aesthetics, not to mention, render the trail unusable for years of construction.
And all this for what? 108th Ave. is uncongested doesn’t have a lot of stoplights. And if you really want fast service between Bellevue and Totem Lake, nothing is going to come anywhere close to just taking the freeway that’s already there.
Tight curves? Perhaps by rail standards. However they are still broad enough to allow buses to travel at decent speeds.
405 can almost sorta, kinda serve as an OK express corridor. But there are very limited places where you can have useful stops due to where 405 is in relation to people.
In any case we already have regional express service in the North half of the corridor. I fail to see what BRT is going to do to improve on that.
As for the southern half, ST’s attempts at express bus service keep failing miserably even though 405 is notoriously congested between Bellevue and Renton.
@Mike Orr – Yes, agreed, Redmond looks quite nice. Not as dense as downtown Bellevue yet, and I don’t know if it will be at anytime soon, but they’ve definitely done a good job. Both Kirkland and Juanita could be like that as well, but if they don’t care, then it will never happen. My only issue with Redmond is that there’s no fast transit from there to Bellevue except a few buses in the morning and a few in the evening.
@Chris – Some of those curves on the ERC a bus could barely take at 30 mph, let alone 60 mph. The nice thing about 405 is that buses can travel 60mph on it when there’s no traffic and the new HOV/HOT lanes will hopefully improve reliability there during peak time. Buses running 15-20 minutes late during peak times is not uncommon right now.
The problems with bus service on 405 right now (from my view) is the lack of HOV ramps for any stop except 128th St and the lack of service to certain destinations. Even if the new HOT lanes let buses run at 45 mph the whole way, they’d still need to move out of them , cross several lanes of slow moving traffic, go through the exit, and then get back into the HOT lanes. That takes time. Then there’s the problem of getting to places like Kirkland. Unless you do something like the ERC, diverting to Kirkland is 10-20 extra minutes. 10 if there’s no traffic or a dedicated bus lane. 20 if there’s any traffic. A stop at 405 and 85th street would work, but would require a shuttle from downtown Kirkland.
If you want to attract people to transit on the eastside, you need to decrease or match their commute time by car. Adding 20 extra minutes to every trip will cause people to drive instead.
My point is a 30mph curve for freight rail is still relatively broad by road standards. I know of some 45 mph curves that are much sharper than anything seen on the ERC. There is no reason ERC BRT need be slow. While the location of the ERC isn’t ideal it at least lets you serve the S Kirkland P&R, the edge of Houghton, and a diversion to the Kirkland TC would be short.
@asdf2: The ERC is not “urban”, in fact in some areas it would be considered rural. It seems you are more opposed on grounds of neighborhood impact other than anything else such as poor ridership #’s or lack of connections. Is that correct?
IMO the ERC is a great alternative to 405 because people actually live there. Following highways with mass transit is questionable at best and in very high density situations outright folly, it eliminates a significant portion of the passenger walk shed and puts a massive barrier between at least half of that and the station. It fosters congestion on surface streets surrounding the freeways and results in massive park and rides all of which have impacts on the neighborhoods surrounding it too. 405 due to it’s massive right of way is particularly bad. The north link and Lynnwood link lines following I5 so closely are nearly enough to get me to vote no on ST3 as it is.
@David: Which curves are you concerned about? Any specific area so I can poke around next time I bike? I’ve recently walked/ridden most of the route north of 520 except some of the sections that still have track which I was last on as teenager so my memories are fuzzy. I know when ST did commuter rail transit studies the average speed was calculated at 24MPH with stops on a straight rail replacement with limitted curve adjustements and regrading, that actually isn’t much slower than Central Link is now.
I think the only curves that are worrisome are the ones up by Forbes Creek Rd, but they can probably be dealt with. I think my biggest issue with the ERC is that it would add 25 minutes to the travel time from NE 128th St to Bellevue TC. Right now, the 532/535 can make that in about 10 minutes even with a bit of traffic (assuming 45 mph). At 23 mph average using the ERC plus a diversion to Kirkland (5 min at best) plus the trip across 405 in Bellevue (another 5 min) you’re looking at 35 minutes for the same trip. Right now, you can convince people from Lynnwood to take the bus because they’d be using that exact same route but can now avoid the traffic. Add an extra 25 min each way and you’ll remove that time savings.
As a local route the ERC makes some sense and is probably the best option given cost, etc…. But pushing all express commuter buses on to it would be a bad idea.
I pretty much agree with David.
That said, it’s time to start emphasizing quality over quality, and to start working hard on building a network. Specifically, I want a no compromises, fully grade separated link between at least one of the Downtown or the U District. This link must provide excellent interchange with existing rail infrastructure. This link must have well sited and effective intermediate stations, at intervals appropriate to a rapid urban transit. Any plan that scrimps on this ideal by even one iota is suspect. If this means nothing for West Seattle so be it.
Somewhere between my brain and my fingers the fact that the Link needs to serve Ballard got omitted from my previous comment.
The cheapest, most effective light rail that they are even considering is Ballard to the UW. It is much cheaper, provides greater mobility and will simply make life better for more people than any other rail project. So if you are looking for a high quality, short line, that is it.
But if you are willing to accept better bus service — I mean, much better bus service — than the WSTT is excellent. The slowest part of the Ballard to downtown, West Seattle to downtown or Aurora to downtown trip is eliminated. Meanwhile, those in lower Queen Anne or South Lake Union have a trip that is just as fast as a grade separated train. Meanwhile, the vast majority of those in West Seattle come out ahead (since they won’t have to transfer).
In general I have a tough time choosing between the two. Both are great, really, and much better than streetcars, light rail to West Seattle, completing the spine or most of the nonsense that Sound Transit seems to talk about. Both are better than even Ballard to downtown light rail (which is at least pretty good). The fact that these two projects (the WSTT and Ballard to UW light rail) are actually cheaper than the really bad projects, or even the pretty good one, just means that we need to build one of those next.
Strategy wise, I would fight for Ballard-uw first. WSTT can be passed using monorail authority
I think we have to be very careful how we talk about subarea equity. It’s not just that we want North King money to be spent in North King, but that it be spent for North King’s benefit. In fact, even that isn’t really enough: we want all subareas to contribute to the extent the work benefits their population. A new downtown bus tunnel that is used by both West Seattle buses and Pierce/South King buses should be paid for with contributions from the North King, South King and Pierce subareas. I could easily see the current board trying to pass this off as a North King project.
I think if a long, well-planned West Side Transit Tunnel were built and served all core west-side buses, but happened to serve some South King and Pierce buses as well, everyone would be fine with North King paying for it, or at least satisfied enough to vote for the package.
The objection is to having North King funds diverted to spine extensions to Everett or Tacoma, which appears to be happening in all or almost all of ST’s scenarios from last week.
Well, if the instance is that North King pay for the full cost of the tunnel, then only buses that benefit North King should be allowed to run through it. There are plenty of North King routes that could easily fill up the capacity tunnel, without even thinking about South King or Pierce.
Well, I agree with asdf2, what’s fair is fair, but personally I would just vote for WSTT regardless. Chances are, they would figure it out before the vote. To begin with, the folks in West Seattle would want to know what exactly this included (additional ramps, HOV lanes, etc.). There may be enough bus service right there (and they are likely to be the most demanding, since they somehow think they should jump in line for light rail even though they are less in need and it would prove to be less valuable). But I could easily see some sort of agreement, like 80% West Seattle, 10% Renton, 10% Tacoma. The cost, then is split between the three (with Seattle paying most). That might actually get you some votes in Tacoma and Renton (although you would need to build the HOV ramp to the SoDo busway — but WSDOT already has plans for that).
I will vote no against the concepts as presented, unless they are changed significantly. Here’s what would get me to vote yes:
* With $15B to spend, light rail to West Seattle will not be superior to present bus service. A workable plan includes speeding up buses from WS to downtown to BRT standards. To do that requires:
* The West Side Transit Tunnel, with bus and rail operations from the beginning. The tunnel in the conceptual doc is not workable because it’s for streetcar rail only, which means you can’t run buses in it. We need a tunnel that supports buses until the very moment that we have superior rail alternatives.
* Every light rail investment must be grade-separated in North King, and if an area isn’t dense enough to make grade separation feasible, we should reconsider using rail as a solution in that area.
* Cross-town destinations must be served by either exclusive-lane buses or, where density makes it the right option, intersecting (grade-separated) rail lines.
* Every station should be evaluated in terms of its place in the grid and its suitability to support connections to buses and other modes.
* No parking lot stations should be built anywhere in Seattle or in other areas with urban density.
* No North King money should go to support any projects outside of the area, as Seattle does not gain from those projects any more than it has already paid in to build projects such as East Link. (I say this as someone who does not live in the North King subarea.)
The smart package remains WSTT with beefed-up buses, and Ballard-to-UW. Adding infill stations (130th, Graham) is also a good idea where those stations can support bus connections and a citywide grid.
Outside of North King, some deference to local politics is fine. Paine Field is a bad use of money but if it can be served without affecting frequency in Seattle, and that’s what people want, fine. But I live in the 1st District (straddling King and Snohomish Counties) and have already made it clear to my reps that I don’t support it. Pretty much in my view, the important part of Link north of Northgate is how buses connect to it, and the corridor itself on I-5 is already a loss except for speeding up trips to downtown Seattle. I’d much rather spend money adding transit-only lanes for east-west buses to connect to Link than worry about where Link goes in Snohomish County. I’d like the focus to be on Swift and other bus connections rather than Link, though.
East King needs BRT along 405, but branching to various locations at both ends of the lake, and with connections to East Link made as direct and frequent as possible. Buses north of Bellevue should probably connect at Hospital Station, which makes for quick trips to Redmond, Bellevue, and Seattle. A Link extension to downtown Redmond is fine, but it’s not cost-effective to do light rail anywhere else just yet.
As for South King and Pierce, getting to Tacoma with Link is fine with me if they use their own money to do it. No one is going to ride the train the whole way, and operations should probably be split at the airport, but there is a case to have a Tacoma-centered commuter spine as long as it’s fed by good connections to buses and other modes.
So really if North King looks good and there’s some thought about integrating bus service in a way that helps people in other areas (including my neighborhood), I’m on board even if the individual decisions in other areas are questionable or just plain bad. But part of me just wants to see a coherent 100-year plan developed and then built as money becomes available without all the politicking and bad design and implementation that comes with it.
“if an area isn’t dense enough to make grade separation feasible, we should reconsider using rail as a solution in that area”
Note that the surface alignment for Ballard-downtown is not at all about density, it’s about cutting costs to be able to afford West Seattle light rail (which is significantly less dense).
I get that. But what’s the result? You get a light rail stub to the nearest point of West Seattle that is worse than the existing buses. It’s faster for anyone who needs to go from the junction to downtown, but everyone else will have to transfer (or the buses will just remain as they are and none of those people will see an improvement). All at the cost of more than a billion dollars, and a subpar light rail line to Ballard. In an attempt to serve both areas, neither is served well at all.
Surface rail in a dense area is not going to be fast and reliable, so you might as well use buses unless you’re going to do it right. The WSTT’s great virtue is that it serves both buses and eventual light rail that can be phased in as money is available. You have a long-term vision and you build the part of it that makes sense now. For that reason, I might even favor it over Ballard-to-UW if I had to choose. But a WSTT that contains only a subpar light rail line that doesn’t improve matters much in either direction is a waste of money that makes the long term vision impossible. If it can’t be done right, it shouldn’t be done at all.
Again, completely right Cascadian.
Light rail stations aren’t magic ponies. You don’t spread them around (not worrying about the cost) to various corners of the city, hoping folks will flock to them (let’s see, we should put one here, and there, oh, and over there). I’m beginning to wonder if Sound Transit gets that. We have to fight and scratch just to get ST to build a cheap station at NE 130th, when it so obviously improves the bus grid. Their attitude seems to be “What? Folks will just go to Northgate or 145th for their magic pony — we need to extend the magic ponies out to Everett!”
I completely agree with what you said (and you said a lot). If there is one comment on this whole issue (and that includes the hundreds of comments the other day) it is this one that summarizes the feelings of the great majority here. I think this should be “comment of the day” because it is so good and so reasonable. If folks from Sound Transit read the blog (but skim through the comments) maybe this will get them to notice that they really need to make things better or ST 3 will fail miserably.
My only suggested change to your plan is for the 405 BRT from the north to drop passengers off at Bellevue transit center and not the hospital. Stopping at the hospital station would basically force everyone to transfer to Link unless you’re going to the hospital (which is a small fraction of people). Plus that would mean that buses would need to take the 8th street exit which is not from the HOV lanes. If the buses go to the TC, only people heading to Seattle or Redmond would need to transfer to Link.
I would suggest adding some improvements for traffic around the Bellevue transit center. 6th street is pretty empty for buses that use it but waiting at both lights adds a minute or two to most trips. Going the other way out of the TC through 110th Ave is always slow though, and something should be done there to improve reliability.
I like all your ideas. But I would encourage you to vote yes if we get a reasonable deal. Because you just listed everything I want, but I never ever ever get everything I want.
Voting no doesn’t send that comment into ST’s brains. It just tells them you don’t want the transit investment. Obviously vote no if they dont improve on what we’ve seen this week. But Im not going to hold out for a perfect offer.
Hey Martin, You should do a poll on the question of “which LR segment should be given highest priority, ie, Ballard/UW, Ballard/Downtown, Burien/WS/Downtown, WS/DT, Bothell/LakeCity/UW, Kirkland/UW, FW/Tacoma or some other segment?” It would be even better if ST would put this out to King county to decide. It would also be interesting to know what % of the burbs would vote yes on ST3 if only a “Angle Lake” like station were added at the 3 endpoints.
I’d support subarea equity — if it looked at capital and operating costs and it went for all transit operators rather than just ST. Subarea equity for merely light rail construction is just silly — and diverting resources from North King is even sillier.. North King is the only place that’s going to get a decent farebox recovery out of any of these proposed corridors.
Just to clarify, subarea equity does cover both operations and capital expenditures. Although as you know, only ST follows subarea equity – not any of the other agencies.
My bigger issue with subarea equity is that is pre-supposes that Sound Transit should be the builder and operator. I hate to see ST suck up the political will of the voters to fund transit, and leave Community Transit and Pierce Transit and even King County Metro with situations that make it harder for them to provide things like rapid bus systems and purchase vehicles. The typical citizen cannot distinguish what part of their tax dollar should go to ST versus local bus transit systems and the result is that we end up with things like building rail lines when the money could better be used in faster and better and less expensive bus service. ST is a nice system and important for the region, but even when it’s open as planned in 2023 it still won’t be carrying more than about a quarter to a third of the region’s transit trips.
What happened was, regional transit was neglected for so long that it finally boiled over and people demanded a regional transit agency. It also seemed the county-based agencies couldn’t do it because they were too busy preserving status-quo milk runs, and the state didn’t want to micromanage it directly so it created ST to deal with it. And there was this monorail authority to build something using “a fixed-guideway technology that’s not light rail”. That was originally inserted to prevent the monorail from being turned into light rail at a time when all American light rails were slow surface things. Then came Eyman initiatives and a polarized legislature that doesn’t want to allow new taxes for any transit agency except ST, so we’ve been forced to turn to ST for most capital projects.
Could ST propose using only a portion (say 50%-70%) of the funding on the rail extension projects, and leave some on the table to be allocated later — for county operators, for the most cost-effective corridors (competitive evaluation) or for core system improvements (infill stations, core station improvements, maybe a grade separation or two on MLK or in SODO)?
At this point, I am voting to kill Sound Transit.
Martin has long made the case that going along and voting along — even on the matter of the spine — would be the only way to ensure that this region’s urban nucleus would get so much as a misshapen fragment of the life-enabling mass transit that it so desparately needs.
He has clearly been wrong.
Because none of the network concepts exposed this meeting are binding and ST board members and staff can hide behind the whole “we were just exploring some network expansion possibilities/concepts”, there is still an opportunity for ST to recognize political and network blunders associated with their conceptions of ST3 expansions and the values driving them. I haven’t given up all hope; all hope will be lost when staff trot out the same network concepts during their May meeting with the board.
They have one more chance, though there is no reason to believe they will correct course last minute when their track record shows they have never done this. The lack of any response to last week’s (certainly recognized) freakout is quite damning and points to willful ignorance of the dead end road they are traveling down.
+1 on all points. Sound Transit still has a chance – I don’t think they’ll take it, but there’s still a chance.
The most positive interpretation is that this is an attempt to shut the spinesters up, by showing that their extensions won’t pass, not in their own district and not in Seattle, not unless they give Seattle a big enough cookie now. Then we can all start talking about the BRT we’d be glad to give the periperhy.
Disagree. You are right about so many technical things here, but political reality is just that. Being in a leaky boat is better than not having any boat at all. Without ST, we just dont have the potential to raise enough taxes to build the sort of investments we really need. Sinking ST wont bring a better agency along. It just keeps investments from happening in the next 10 years.
That has long been the argument.
But it is increasingly clear that supporting ST will sink us just as surely. Streetcars for us and siphoned funds for everyone else? That’s already a hull breach. Put down the bucket and abandon ship.
We will clearly need the political shockwave of this agency’s failure if we are to have any hope of being allowed to fund and execute things what we actually need.
If these concepts are what actually make it on the ballot, I’m voting no. But that hasn’t happened yet.
And I dont think the agency’s failure would spur change, or new opportunities. Because the state doesn’t really give a damn about our transit needs.
At least then we won’t have taken on decades of debt, and blown the last of the public’s patience with transit-based mobility solutions on a bunch of abjectly useless crap.
But perhaps I’m actually more optimistic than you that the failure of a political entity built on violating sound principles sometimes long-arcs into a political moment that values wise spending and tangible outcomes.
p.s. This crap is what Sound Transit intends to push forward. This and nothing else. Public input is for show with this agency. Never before has it walked back a clear expression of intent such as this one, and you won’t see it start now.
If ST had ever paid attention to a sane, pragmatic, success-precedented word we said, we wouldn’t be discussing these insane proposals today.
Im definitely less optimistic,and less pessimistic, and less sure of the future than you are. There are a lot of layers of politics on stuff like this, and a lot of possibilities. But I dont see good outcomes from “blow it up”
I have been avoiding basking in the “I told you so” aspect of this week’s revelations, Jon, because to be honest I don’t find it all that fun or rewarding.
But the fact remains that I have spent way too many hours on this site over the years, issuing warnings that ST does not care in the slightest about high-quality, useful urban outcomes, and that “going along” with their sausage-making process was going to get us terrible urban outcomes and eventually our money siphoned away for crap in the hinterlands. (Our early-round funds having already been used to pay for routes that didn’t serve us nearly as well as they could have.)
And it turns out that I was 100% correct, and the peacemakers have been 100% wrong. Sub-area equity is dead in ST’s clearly-displayed long-term plan. The city gets streetcars and poorly-integrated stubs, but only as sops so that they can steal the rest of our funds for history’s most bastardized definition of light rail.
I don’t enjoy having been proven so on-the-nose on this, but that is what has happened. ST is, to its core, a BART-like agency intent on siphoning money and bringing only poor outcomes. It should die, before we end up tens of billions in the hole and with nothing to show for it.
That’s what you’re saying because of seeing some conceptual plans that are frankly terrible. They are. But that doesn’t mean they will happen.
I know you hate the sausage making and wish that the agency would do the right thing. But the sausage making is not a aspect that has arisen from the agency, it arose from the political reality of the state and region. A different agency would have the same issues, because they aren’t ST specific. There is a lot of political crap going on right now, and ST will probably have to alter their position several times in order to get funding authority or win votes.
You also cant say “i told you so” until those terrible options are on the ballot.
Honestly, you have always been a voice of frustration against non-optimum outcomes, but haven’t gotten involved to actually push for better ones. Please join the push. Getting better outcomes is better for Seattle transit than “being right”.
Well, you don’t know what I have or haven’t done outside of the context of the STB community.
But my aim here has never been about “being right”, as much as it has been about not charging forth under the mistaken assumption that ST’s idiot figureheads might accidentally provide this city some mass transit worth a damn (a.k.a. The Martin Plan).
And again, it isn’t just about this round of scoping plans. It’s about an agency built from the ground up on a platform of bastardizing the basics. See the source in Frank’s tweet that I linked in the last comment. The terribleness we’re seeing right now is not the exception over there; it is the rule.
I was actually pleased by the recent series of articles.
I had no idea that Regional thinking was so far along, and there is enough mutiny in the ranks to allow for thinking about “non-spur” rail building.
De-Seattlization should be a primary goal of Washington in this century and what I’ve seen so far marks a great start.
I honestly don’t think you read what people write.
What I care about is core urban transit, and the ability to quickly get around within first ring Seattle neighborhoods. Anything else does not work toward building a dense city or truly combat sprawl. Anything outside of grade-separated frequent transit in or near downtown in an ST package I consider a political trade-off I’ll vote for to get what I want (especially if those projects are paid for by other sub-areas). Remove the true urban transit and you’ve lost my vote.
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