by RIC ILGENFRITZ, Executive Director of Planning, Environmental and Project Development, Sound Transit

Ric Ilgenfritz - Executive Director, Department of Planning, Environment and Project Development Sound Transit
Ric Ilgenfritz – Executive Director, Department of Planning, Environment and Project Development Sound Transit
Last week Martin Duke posed the question of whether Seattle Transit Blog readers should be concerned about conceptual scenarios surfaced by Sound Transit staff to start a conversation about Sound Transit 3. He and the STB team have graciously offered us space here to answer that question.

First and foremost, the answer is no, you shouldn’t be concerned. Why? Because this is just the beginning of a year-long process of engaging the public, analyzing project and service ideas and supporting the Board of Directors in crafting a new system plan.

We are literally just getting started. The field is wide open for considering a full range of possibilities for investment that could be included in ST3. We are about one month away from launching a public process to engage everyone about what should be included.

Boardmembers have spent the past few months advocating in Olympia for legislation to provide high-capacity transit revenue authority. Legislators across the region and state are making encouraging progress toward a transportation package that includes the $15 billion in new revenue authority. We should all feel encouraged by that.

More recently, the Board has started discussing the key criteria the want to use in considering and shaping a new system plan. Some key themes have started to emerge from those discussions. For example, the Board has said it wants to make good on the promise of completing the regional spine connecting the area’s major cities, and also serve other areas of high demand for mass transit. Seattle-area members of the Board have emphasized the agency must focus on how to reach both Ballard and West Seattle as part of ST3.

The Board also wants to emphasize some other key priorities that have received a lot of attention in recent years as we’ve worked on ST2: system integration, multi-modal access to station areas, catalyzing density, social equity, and long term operational efficiency. And, the Board made clear they want us to lay the groundwork for ST4 while planning ST3.

That brings me to the question: what are the conceptual scenarios all about? First, let me say they are most assuredly not proposed system plans.

The scenarios are a way of asking the Board for direction on sizing the ST3 package. If you look at the full spectrum, what you see is a range of investment levels, or package sizes, from pretty modest at the low end to quite aggressive at the high end. All but one scenario fall substantially below the funding authority we are seeking in Olympia.

The scenarios are part of our legal responsibility to examine multiple investment levels [RCW 81.104.100(2)b]. They give the Board a way to take a preliminary look at the tradeoffs it would need to consider at varying levels of investment. The analytical results the Board gets on May 28 will help it confirm its direction on how to scale ST3.

So what’s next? We move on to the really fun part: developing a project list and analyzing at a more detailed level a wide range of investments that could be included in ST3. And this is where you come in.

Martin’s post generated a record number of comments—more than 500 and counting—that prove the passion and commitment of the region’s transit advocates. The type of feedback we see from that post is exactly what we are looking for going forward. What should be included on the initial project list? What corridors need service most? What design and operational characteristics should be emphasized?

Your initial message was received loud and clear, and reflects why the Board has advanced an ambitious funding proposal that would enable multiple major projects in Seattle. Looking ahead, I encourage you to get ready to help us answer the question of what should be studied next.

The public involvement period will focus on a Draft Priority Project List. For each project on the final list that the Board advances, Sound Transit will produce an overview outlining its projected ridership, conceptual cost range and other criteria such as how well it would advance transit-oriented development. What advocates will want to pay attention to is promoting the study of projects they think represent the highest importance for the next round of investment. Studies of the various corridors will document the vital statistics for higher performing and higher cost options such as tunneling and elevated alignments, as well as tradeoffs that could reduce costs.

Once all that information is on the table this fall, the Board — and you — will be positioned to begin the more detailed process to consider a draft Sound Transit 3 Plan that aligns specific cost and revenue assumptions with public priorities. Even at the full funding level we are seeking, there will be compromises shaping a financially constrained measure. It will undoubtedly get tense. That is why it is so important to get all the cards on the table and not jump to conclusions yet about what can and cannot be accomplished.

Our goal is to secure the funding authority we need and support the Sound Transit Board in shaping a draft Sound Transit 3 Plan for further public involvement in early 2016. There is growing awareness across the region that we cannot build thriving communities, a strong economy and a sustainable environmental footprint without continuing investments in mass transit. The stakes are high, and your support and involvement will be essential.

140 Replies to “We’re Just Getting Started”

  1. When you emphasize that “the agency must focus on how to reach both Ballard and West Seattle as part of ST3”, do you mean reach by rail, or serve in some other meaningful way (e.g. a mixed-mode WSTT)? I personally think that the WSTT concept better serves the West Seattle in particular, though it may be a hard political sell with the rail bias of the average Seattle voter.

    1. Is there an actual demonstrated rail bias among Seattle voters? Has Seattle ever voted against a bus-funding proposition? I know we voted against a streetcar-heavy proposition a couple years ago, which got attacked for having no funding for additional bus service (although it contained a lot of funding for capital improvements to speed up buses, which would have resulted in more service).

    2. “Reach” isn’t good enough.

      The point is to “serve”. Well.

      [Repeat into mirror until it sticks.]

      1. That was my very first thought. The word “reach” indicates a lot of the conceptual problems the agency has. The point is to provide better service, not “reach” areas with rail whether or not it is appropriate or actually improves service.

        In the abstract, I like trains better than buses, but when I decide whether to take transit or another mode, that preference plays almost no role. It’s “Can I get to where I want to go in a reasonable amount of time?” In two-dimensional space, a one-dimensional rail system doesn’t get me anywhere unless I’m already on that line. You start with the places where people are and want to be and then you build a two-dimensional grid of services based on the conditions that connect them, so that people can answer “yes” to that key question. If building something doesn’t make that question yes in a lot more cases than with the status quo, that thing you’re building is a waste of money.

    3. If done right, the WSTT could even have regional relevance beyond just Seattle. For instance, if Pierce County were willing to cover a small portion of the cost, Sound Transit could route the 594 through the WSTT. For a route that currently spends as much time slogging through downtown Seattle as it does taking the freeway all the way to Tacoma, this would save real people real time, especially those trying to make connections to anywhere north of downtown. Meanwhile, the saved served hours could be re-invested in better frequency, thereby saving even more time.

      And since the 594 would be just one of several routes serving the tunnel, Pierce County’s contribution wouldn’t even need to be all that much – it would much cheaper and much more impactful than extending Link to Tacoma and bloating everybody’s commute.

      1. I agree, especially if WSDOT build an HOV lane to the SoDo busway (which is a project that they are considering).

    4. This is the key question. You are not alone in feeling that the WSTT would serve West Seattle riders better than light rail. Almost everyone who regularly contributes to this blog feels this way. I think just about any independent transit expert would feel the same way. If you did a detailed analysis (typical trip pairs, combined with time improvements) then the WSTT would almost certainly come out ahead (I would put money on it). The fact that it is cheaper is simply a bonus.

      I don’t think that rail bias is a huge problem, once you explain this to people. You could, for example, come out with a spreadsheet showing various trip pairs (Alki to Bellevue, the junction to Westlake Center, South Seattle College to the UW) and it would become obvious to everyone that the WSTT is a better project, let alone a better value.

    5. Rail bias is a problem mostly among those who don’t understand transit and can’t visualize how an alternative would affect their concrete trip or most people’s trips. There’s the irrational view that trains are always better and faster, vs the very real fear that buses are vulnerable to overcrowding, infrequency, congestion, and traffic accidents. Even if they run perfectly in the first year of BRT they may degrade to the status quo in a few years. That’s where you have to show clearly that lane reservations and frequency will not be compromised and that they’ll be effective. People have seen so many failed bus investments and lack of bus investments, especially RapidRide which is the most recent. That’s what you’d have to overcome.

      1. I agree, but I think it depends on the area and agency. From what I can tell, Sound Transit buses are extremely popular. Meanwhile, the first Sound Transit vote (the first light rail package ever supported around here) passed in part because it had just enough rail for the people in Seattle to support it, and just enough buses for the suburbs (to paraphrase the agency that passed it).

        In the city, however, there is great reluctance to support BRT, or improved bus service, because Metro has done such a horrible job with that term. Just as “light rail” is associated with grade separation, “BRT” is not (and is only associated with a different colored bus). But streetcars are not popular either. One of the great strengths of the WSTT (from a political standpoint) is that it looks like simply a step towards light rail, and one that we have taken before. So while someone at 15th and Market would prefer a completely grade separated rail line, they will go ahead and support WSTT, because it is much better than the current system, and will eventually lead to that. This is completely different than West Seattle light rail, which will only support from a handful of people *in West Seattle* let alone the rest of the city, or additional streetcars, which won’t get support from anyone.

        When you consider that Seattle voters are more likely to support transit improvements (we voted in huge numbers to support Metro despite the fact that lots of people don’t like their routes) I think this will ultimately be quite popular. Some may grumble that we are only buying half a loaf, but it is very good bread, and the folks in Seattle like bread. If this is paired with UW to Ballard light rail I think you will see wide spread support throughout the entire city.

      2. I’m not sure people dislike Metro-style BRT (maybe more appropriately called enhanced bus) as much as we do. Ridership on all RR lines as swollen immensely in the past few years, and that’s just with increased legibility, increased frequency, spotty but effective capital improvements (with the exception of the Aurora BAT lanes) and some creature comforts at stops—actually, those sound like all the things that make transit service better/more appealing. Yes there are some crucial blunders—the Ballard Bridge, the slog from uptown to downtown, all-day deviations to commuter rail stations in the middle of vacant land.

        I think RR did fall short of our expectations for BRT but transit service quality is a spectrum. The riding and non-riding public took notice of the improvement and doesn’t really care for semantics.

      3. [I didn’t mean Aurora BAT was ineffective, only that it was extensive and not spotty.]

    6. I remain convinced that “rail bias” is a misnomer. “Bus aversion” would be closer to the mark.

  2. Conspicuously absent is any recognition of subarea equity, either its dissolution or continuation, how that determination will be negotiated, and how it will impact the System Plan.

  3. Thanks for the post Ric. We’re looking forward to working with ST to get options on the table that everyone can get excited about and rally around for a 2016 vote.

    I think one of the basic issues a lot of the commenters had was with the goals themselves. Instead of “complete the spine” and “get to west seattle and ballard” they were looking for: “How do we best use funds to get the best mobility outcomes possible?”

    I was wondering if you could clear up a question here:

    -Ballard/UW appears to be the best rail line to the objective observers here. Why is It seemingly off the table (Sub question: Why isnt interlining being consider?)

    1. Iggyfritz answered that: “the Board made clear they want us to lay the groundwork for ST4 while planning ST3.”

      Ballard-UW does not build towards ST4, it is an orphan line.

      Additionally, a single LR line can’t support all the demand for travel to DT (which is where most of the commuters in Ballard and Fremont actually need to travel). Seattle is still built on an hourglass.

      1. That doesnt answer either part of the question.

        It is possible to build towards ST4 and serve the highest need area studied. “An orphan line” is just about the weakest argument I’ve ever heard.

      2. regarding Ballard-UW:

        1) it doesn’t serve the greatest demand which is Ballard/Fremont/DT
        2) It creates capacity issues on the existing LR line
        3) it isn’t extendable in any meaningulway.
        4) It makes the future case for a 2nd N-S line economically impossible to make

        Given #4 above, the effect is no political support of any board member north of about 65th.

        So ya, it is an orphan line in multiple ways.

      3. If Sound Transit refuses to build any line that cannot be extended in a near-straight line in ST4, that is a huge problem.

        Plus, a UW-Ballard line could be extended just as easily as a Ballard-DT line: it could turn north up 25th, or it could turn south and cross the ship canal. Those might not be good extensions, but they’re possible – and little worse than extending a Ballard-DT line up Holman Rd.

      4. Lazarus,

        1) dYes it does/can. Even without a jaunt down to Fremont, the grid enabled by UW-Ballard would allow people north and south of the line to quickly reach downtown. And where are you getting the idea that that is the greatest demand?

        2) Huh? 12,000 passengers per hour per direction on Central Link and UW-Ballard if UW-Ballard is interlined and 24,000, if not? I don’t think so. Not an issue.

        3) It’s not extendable in a meaningful way because it is complete on it’s own and extending would not substantially increase its usefulness. This is not a valid point.

        4) It makes a new N-S economically impossible because it’s completely unnecessary.

      5. It makes the future case for a 2nd N-S [rail] line economically impossible to make

        Only inasmuch as the east-west line is better and more effective, as your statement implicitly admits (whether you meant it to or not).

        Deferring to the costlier and worse option because the better option might be too successful is an awful rhetorical strategy, fyi.

      6. Deferring to the costlier and worse option because the better option might be too successful is an awful rhetorical strategy

        Sadly, it’s also something we’ve seen too often from ST. Where is the 130th St Station?

      7. Lazarus: No. Repeating arguments that are provably wrong doesnt make them true.

        1. Ballard and densest part of Fremont to DT are served very well and quickly (<15 min) via Ballard/DT. Interlining gets rid of the transfer penalty.

        2. There is no capacity issue north of University Station. Running 3/6 trains north would more than handle even ST's rosiest predictions.

        3. I can be extended east from U-Dist, North or South from Ballard, North along Auroa from Fremont.

        4. No, it doesnt. Parts of Seattle are already dense enough to justify future rail expansion. If you "complete the spine" however – why would there ever be another regional measure?

        Your comment on politcal support is nonsense. Who, exactly, are you talking about? Politicians in Snohomish? If you are actually representing ST's positions this is a sad state of affairs.

      8. Kyle, we (commenters in general) had numerous arguments over the possibility of light rail on SR 520 across the lake. One of the key arguments against it was that it would feed passenger traffic into the largest bottleneck in the Link system: southbound to downtown during morning rush and the other direction during evening rush.

        Problem is, the same argument applies to a UW-Ballard line. The capacity issue is real.

        One should also be careful of concluding that a UW-Ballard line will be more cost-effective than other options in the long run. In the short run, sans a Ballard-downtown option, it pencils out incredibly well. But long-term, there *will* be a second north-south line, unless the bus system becomes so fast that full dedicated ROW and grade separation won’t matter.

        The numbers need to be crunched for how much ridership the east-west line will have in a future where it is used primarily just to get to UW, Children’s Hospital, Swedish Ballard, or anywhere just along the line, while downtown commuters take one of two or three train lines that head downtown.

        Laying the groundwork for a second north-south line (or improvements that make such a line moot) is urgent. Ballard-to-UW is less so.

      9. Comments like “Seattle-area members of the Board have emphasized the agency must focus on how to reach both Ballard and West Seattle as part of ST3.” makes me want to throw-up already. ST already has an agenda if you ask me.

        UW-Ballard upto 26,000 boardings
        Extend UW-Ballard to U-Vill then 30,000+ boardings
        Ballard-DT upto 30,000 for corridor D which includes a Freemont stop.

        DT-WS where WS only has a population of 26,000 which is smaller than both LCW and Kirkland.

        Y junction at U-vill allows for extension up 25th to LCW and extension to Childrens/Sandpoint/Kirkland
        T junction at Woodland Zoo allows for extension to Freemont and DT

      10. @William C,

        The logical extension of the Ballard-DT line would be as you say, up Holman, but continueing across to Northgate and then to Lake City — aka something like the Seattle Subway Green Line.

        Lake City is a diverse, dense community deserving of real transit options. Ballard-DT is one way that we could build toward something that directly provides them the service they deserve.

        A second possible extension (interlined or otherwise) would be to turn up Aurora towards Shoreline.

        Both are better extensions than what you would get with a Ballard-UW line.

      11. Even if a second north-south line could get added in the future, lots of trips served by the Ballard->UW line would not be going away. For instance, Wallingford->downtown, Wallingford->Capitol Hill, Fremont->UW, Ballard->UW, Wallingford->UW. These trip pairs do not have negligible ridership on buses today, and with a subway, the transit option would only get more attractive.

        There’s also the fact that if you think “regionally”, a Ballard->UW line allows all the neighborhoods along the line to get north relatively quickly, with a transfer at Brooklyn Station. Build Ballard->downtown first and getting north requires either slogging it out to the U-district or Northgate on a slow and unreliable bus, or backtracking all the way south to Westlake Station.

        Or, in the east direction, a Ballard->UW line would likely connect with buses across the 520 bridge in a much more direct manner than going south all the way to I-90.

      12. lazarus, just because you can draw a line on a map does not make it a good investment!

        Your assertions about the relative effectiveness of Ballard-DT and Ballard-UW have been repeatedly demonstrated to be completely incorrect. Claiming that some inferior future extension to the inferior project somehow makes it superior to the more-effective project we can build today just exposes your fallacious thinking.

        “But if we extend the mediocre line I’m proposing to Northgate and Lake City and Bothell and Kirkland and Redmond and Issaquah and then on to Carnation and Snoqualmie and North Bend, my idea clearly has superior potential than your puny 2-mile line through actual urbanity!”

      13. Thank you, Ric Ilgenfritz, for taking the time to post here.

        If “Completing the Spine” is the primary goal of the agency, lazarus, then Sound Transit has outlived its usefulness. It’s a political goal, not a goal to actually improve mobility for the greatest number of riders. Any hope of ST building a network that actually provides useable, frequent, and fast connections to corridors with the highest demand is gone.

        Does the Sound Transit board or staff actually believe people will ride Link from Tacoma Dome to downtown Seattle, when the 594 will get them there at least half an hour sooner? Or that the number of riders between Tacoma Dome and Seatac justifies a multi-billion dollar investment in rail? It’s Pierce subarea’s money, but the fact that the board wants to spend so much money on a lightly used rail system, after the voters of that county decimated their local bus service just two years ago, shows how little this board and agency know about building a useful transit system.

        I’m a “No” on ST3 and a “Hell No!” on the continued existance of Sound Transit in its present form.

      14. I sure hope you don’t speak for Sound Transit, Lazurus, because if you do, ST3 is doomed. Your statements have been repeatedly rebuked by people who obviously know more about how to make a good transit network than you do. Unfortunately, your statements often mirror Sound Transit’s, which worries me. Sound Transit still isn’t eager to build a station at NE 130th, for the reasons you mentioned (they focus on a flawed ridership model, while completely ignoring the larger transit network).

        So, while your arguments are weak, that isn’t what bothers me. Anyone can propose ridiculous ideas, and defend them with flawed data or logic. But if those ideas mirror the agency’s ideas, and if those ideas run counter to the vast majority of transit experts and transit supporters, we are in trouble.

        Put it this way, if ST3 focuses on Ballard and West Seattle, so be it. Folks in the Central Area (or Central District) have every right to complain, but that is simply where Sound Transit will focus this time. But if Sound Transit decides to propose stupid projects that the vast majority of experts and transit supporters think are stupid, it is doomed to failure. You really can’t propose something like that. Experts and organizations will argue against it and oppose it. Without strong support from organizations like Seattle Subway and this blog, it is bound to fail. Newspaper editorial boards like the Seattle Times and the Stranger will oppose it (hoping for a more cost effective solution or more Seattle centric solution respectively). Given the lukewarm support in the suburbs (assuming they focus on completing the spine, rather than the more popular buses) I think you would be lucky to get a 40% yes vote.

        But, as Keith said, neither comment addresses his two questions.

      15. ” light rail on SR 520 across the lake. One of the key arguments against it was that it would feed passenger traffic into the largest bottleneck in the Link system”

        That’s not the main argument against 520 and I’ve never heard it raised. The main arguments are that there are no activity centers along 520 between Evergreen Point (76th) and Overlake (148th), that it doesn’t serve Kirkland if it goes east, and it’s a long detour if it turns north.

        Since then, Kirkland’s justification for HCT is fading as it refuses to upzone downtown and wants us to count on phantom growth in Totem Lake which may or may not happen, and there’s no commitment from Kirkland’s residents to spend time in Totem Lake if it does.

      16. Ballard – Northgate is an optional extension of a Northgate – Lake City – Bothell line. Nothing more than that. And we don’t even know if the Lake City line will go to Northgate when it’s built, or instead 145th or Roosevelt.

      17. (affirmation was re: 520 rail)

        (But for the record, the Holman to oops-we-missed-Greenwood-by-20-blocks to Northgate pathway is a total car sewer and yet another awful suggestion for any kind of expensive-investment rail. Not to mention a ridiculous non-replacement for true crosstown travel needs.)

      18. An interesecting line is not an “orphan line.” It’s what makes a transit network a network and not just a line. And in any case, the basic Ballard-UW line does have some options for future expansion in both directions (past 15th to 24th, or past UW to either U Village and Children’s Hospital or across 520). I’m not sure either of those are good options, but they’re probably better than any ST4 expansions along the supposed spine (much less deviations to places like Paine Field).

        In many cases, transit-only lanes and buses could serve as the intersecting services. But along that corridor, traffic and development makes that impossible. That’s when you upgrade to a rail line.

      19. That was me, not lazarus, trotting out one of the old arguments against an SR 520 line. I wish I had time right now to look up where Ben S. was making this argument, and how emphatically he was making it. Anyhoo, I’m not trying to defend an SR 520 line. I’m pointing out that Ben S. was making a capacity argument against feeding rail lines into U-Link.

        And with Ballard-UW penciling out better than UW-eastside, that capacity argument is even more important. Don’t dismiss it. Count the peak-of-peak express buses. The capacity isn’t some rosy projection. It is a count of current express passengers from north Seattle, Shoreline, and Snohomish County, and not much more than that. Throw in Ballard, and we have a problem.

      20. “It’s not extendable in a meaningful way because it is complete on it’s own and extending would not substantially increase its usefulness. This is not a valid point.”

        Ballard-UW is a worthwhile goal in itself, not a means to a longer line. In fact, it’s the most important goal in Seattle after downtown – Capitol Hill – U-District. A Ballard-UW line that is never extended would be one of the most effective parts of a Link network. Of course it would be even more effective if it were extended south to downtown and West Seattle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile on its own.

        Looking at the Ballard-Northgate segment, it would be significantly weaker than either of those two. Of course it would have some value, but that has to be compared to other lines that could be built ahead of it.

      21. The source having been “Ben S.” destroyed that argument before he even hit “post”.

      22. mdnative, Martin’s post drew no such conclusions. It merely provided the latest answers from ST about what features are *limiting* tunnel capacity.

        Perhaps North Link can be fed by a Ballard line without bursting at the seams. So, let’s study those numbers.

  4. Hopefully you’ll answer some questions…

    1) Why wasn’t UW-Ballard even a line in your wildest dreams when that’s literally the best line ST studied?

    2) Why was there specific avoidance of grade-seperated solutions in seattle in most of the scenarios?

    3) Will ST3 support sub area equity?

  5. Through-routing Sounder trips should be considered. That completes the spine: Everett-Seattle-Tacoma. Make it true regional rail and build platforms at Ballard and the North end of Downtown. Add a transfer to RapidRide at Interbay and reopen the west Everett platform. The other projects should be fairly obvious to those not representing a geographic jurisdiction or interest group. I-5/SR99 & I-90 need Link LRT, Ballard-UW – automated subway. West Seattle & Ballard – high quality separated BRT (driverless? can google do that yet?) .405-BRT (needs HOT lane stations). Build the 130th and 220th stations. 522 BRT? Annex more of SnoCo since they will all be using LRT from Lynnwood and Monroe needs a regional connection that doesn’t go through Everett..
    Through routing Sounder north and south lines is a big bang for the buck in terms of opening up new regional transit markets. Edmonds and Mukilteo have ferries that deliver riders with far ranging destinations, & trips to Muk can connect up to Paine field, A single regional rail line with connecting ferries and local transit would also have a lot of utility in moving military personnel between the various posts around the Sound. Adding Edmonds, Muk and Everett as AM destinations would bring more tourists from Seattle and the Kent Valley up to SnoCo. Extending a couple trips north to Stanwood would catch some Camano, Arlington and Marysville commuters and take them off the 5. Please study it.

    1. North Sounder is a waste of money unless we are willing to spend untold amounts of money shoring up the cliffs between Ballard and Everett (esp Mukilteo).

      From what I have seen, the money being spent so far to do this is just a drop in the bucket.

      Additionally, the sounder skips nearly all of the major population centers of Snohomish Co.

      Its a non-starter.

      1. A Ballard stop would serve the 10 people that live in Shilshole and be a waste of money on the even larger waste of money that North Link is. Even with a North Downtown stop (where?), it still gets commuters nowhere near the majority of office buildings.

      2. It might be a cheap station to throw in, but then the question becomes how to get people from the station? It would be (minimally) expensive to extend the 44’s trolley wire, and 90% of the bus runs would not have a Sounder train, and the 44 is already overcrowded at rush hour. Or you extend another route or have a shuttle, but what other route terminates nearby?, and a shuttle has relatively high operating costs.

      3. Sounder North is not a super-reliable system, and the access penalty would take away most of the gains over buses.

        Worse, if this were done, ST would likely put North King on the hook for 40% of Sounder North’s egregious operating costs, since Seattle would host 40% of the stations. This is not the kind of bill we want to get stuck with if we want to build anything actually useful in the future.

      4. Why do we need to spend money to shore up the hills? I would assume BNSF will keep doing that so their freight can be delivered. Mudslides are a reliability issue, with a marginal impact on ridership. The bigger issues are the lack of origins and destinations, peak direction service with limited number of trips, lack of auto travel time competitiveness to N. Downtown, transit connections and frequency because of cuts during the recession, Ferry connections (different schedules in Muk and Edmonds) and fitting in more density near the stations and ferry docks, where locals are protective of views.
        We need to get the 48 hour lockout changed so passenger service can resume as soon as tracks are clear of mud.
        Sounder North is actually well used. Whether it was a good investment vs. alternatives is a moot point now. It’s not going away. Even after Link opens it will be preferred by ferry riders going downtown, and people in downtown Edmonds and Everett, and if through routed, a lot of other places.
        There’s space for a simple platform along the downtown waterfront north of the tunnel. This would serve LQA,Belltown,SLU, PPM and Westlake better than King St.
        Same in Ballard, plenty of room for a simple inexpensive platform. Specific trips of the 44 could swing over there on battery to make a connection. Last weekend I literally watched a Sounder train (passing a freight) that could have taken me home, going right by Shilshole, then I walked a mile and took 3 buses to get where the damn train was going – with 2 kids, a couch surfing friend and a bag of sailing gear. We are a region full of all kinds of people doing all kinds of things. We need to connect them, not judge who’s more worthy of government slop. Build cheap platforms, and stop to pick up passengers, so we can stop listening to the whining about the lack of passengers, which is bs!!! through routing and adding some stops will allow us to get more out of the investment in locomotives and railcars.
        Downtown Edmonds is much more dense and active than downtown Lynnwood, though plans for the latter will hopefully materialize into significant density as well. Mukilteo will be adding development near the station as the old air force tank farm is redeveloped into a new ferry terminal. Everett is going to have to take a fair bit of growth and could generate more Sounder ridership from the west side of town.
        Again, through routing could deliver employees to Boeing with a muk shuttle connection (the company is now running several shuttles around Paine Field) and also to Providence in Everett, to Swedish Hospital/Premera and other employers in Edmonds.
        Even with Link built out, Sounder and Amtrak will serve the BNSF line. I think we could do better in future with a rationalized service that combined Cascades/Sounder into local all-stop and limited stop runs. I don’t think this is any kind of alternative to the urban Link investments which are top priority.
        I’m speaking to SnoCo about how to use our $ and those places on the other side of the ferry that could contribute. We need to think beyond a single focus on the LRT “spine.” If we’re going to run this train, which we are, then let’s do that in a way that provides useful connections to attract trips.

    2. Sounder North should never have been built. There is a better use for any money that would be spent improving it.

  6. If the conceptual scenarios are “a way of asking the Board for direction,” why should we not be concerned that they do only contain one single project that we would consider going in the right direction? What is the point of drawing these maps with projects that you assure us are nothing like a system plan?

  7. The field is wide open for considering a full range of possibilities for investment that could be included in ST3.

    Sir, your claim here is at odds with reality. The whole purpose of voting on a conceptual study package is to perform a first-pass reduction of the “full range” of possible projects down to a narrower study scope.

    Otherwise, what would be the point of voting?

    The public involvement period will focus on a Draft Priority Project List.

    You have directly contradicted yourself. The field cannot be wide open if public involvement commences with a prebuilt project list!

    Your initial message was received loud and clear, and reflects why the Board has advanced an ambitious funding proposal that would enable multiple major projects in Seattle.

    The Seattle projects within the approved study scope are the exact opposite of “ambitious”.

    The single best transit investment this region can make, Ballard to UW, was completely absent from the study scope.

    Instead, multiple study scenarios proposed raiding the pockets of Seattleites to pay for projects of dubious worth in other subareas.

    This was all done in service of ST’s pre-ordained metric of “building the most miles of LRT”. This ludicrous metric flies in the face of anything resembling sensible investment. You put the big expensive shiny thing where it has the most utility! You and your compatriots within Sound Transit might measure “utility” in terms of “public favor curried with outlying suburbs”, but the rest of the world measures the utility of a transit system on its ability to move people and connect communities throughout the entire day.

    ~ ~

    I could go on, but by the time I’m done, the more eloquent STB commenters will surely have made my points for me better than I could have. So let me summarize by stealing the wise words of another particular commenter, d.p.:

    ST is setting itself up to build BART Del Norte, widely considered to be the worst-designed mass transit system in the United States, if not the world.

    1. Actually, BART gets awesome farebox recovery. The current extensions by BART are supported by local sales taxes voted by the counties (not San Francisco) where those expansions are located. San Francisco voters approved are watching a second Downtown rail corridor tunnel being built today — perpendicular to the Market Street tunnels.

      They are doing some things right.

      1. When I first visited SF on my own in 1987, Muni Metro ended at Embarcadero, and there was a trolleybus on 3rd Street to Caltrain’s SF depot. Caltrain had two other stations in SF: 23rd Street and Paul Avenue. After the Loma Prieta earthquake, the F streetcar was extended north on Embarcadero, and one of the other Muni Metro lines was extended south to the Caltrain depot. Several years after that, the other local SF stops were transferred from Caltrain to Muni and the T line was created to the city limits, giving the corridor many more stations and higher frequency, and I assume replacing the Third Street bus completely.

      2. Ignoring the MUNI sidetrack (with its poorly routed $2-billion 2-stop non-extendable subway and lousy Market transfers)…

        BART’s much-lauded farebox recovery is entirely attributable to egregiously overcharging the large numbers of core-system (SF-Oakland-Berkeley) passengers, who pay far more than the cost of their trips in order to make the $32/boarding subsidies to Pittsburg and Pleasanton (i.e. $39/boarding total operating expenditure) seem less egregious in aggregate.

        Anyway, Seattle will have less tolerance for BART-level fares anywhere in its system, and with inner-system ridership likely to take a hit from terrible stop placement and poor connectivity, and no Bay Bridge-level tolls pushing large numbers toward the train, Sound Transit will be unable to mimic BART’s accounting stunts so as to mask the crazy subsidies Federal Way and Everett are bound to require.

      3. Awesome? Awesome is 150% not 66%. An automatic high ridership system like this ought to be pulling 100% and the fact that it is not is a reason to question its management.

    2. I think this is eloquent enough. I was planning to write most of it, but you already have.


  8. OK, I lied. One more:

    For example, the Board has said it wants to make good on the promise of completing the regional spine connecting the area’s major cities

    The Board needs to get through their collective heads that this region has one major city: Seattle. It has a number of minor cities with varying relationships to the regional center, and a whole heaping collection of “cities” that would more appropriately be termed “incorporated bedroom communities”.

    Just because you can draw a line from Everett to Tacoma doesn’t mean that one should spend $10 billion to build grade-separated through the nothingness between those moderately-sized communities and the actually-urbanized regional center.

    1. The Board needs to get through their collective heads that this region has one major city: Seattle

      Even more, the region has only one city where any large portion of the city would use transit.

  9. Thank you for engaging with STB, Ric. If there is one takeaway you and ST get from the (voluminous and loud) feedback STB commenters have offered, it should be this: your Seattle voters, who must support ST3 in overwhelming numbers for it to pass, care much more about truly effective mobility within Seattle than they do about completing the spine. And they do not see “rapid streetcar” as allowing truly effective mobility.

    1. Yes. They also think that West Seattle light rail is a waste of money, and that the WSTT and UW to Ballard light rail lines are the best values for the areas that Sound Transit wants to focus on (Ballard and West Seattle).

      1. With all due respect, you don’t speak for anything resembling a majority of Seattle voters; you’re a dozen or so very angry folks leaving comments on a blog post, and you’re irrationally obsessed with Ballard.

      2. Yes. They also think that West Seattle light rail is a waste of money, and that the WSTT and UW to Ballard light rail lines are the best values for the areas that Sound Transit wants to focus on (Ballard and West Seattle).

        Whoa. I understand that those are your views, but I wouldn’t necessarily sign on to any of the points you recited there.

        I agree that Ballard should be the highest priority, but giving West Seattle better bus infrasructure and just assuming that WSDOT will do the right thing in managing it is unsatisfactory. Moreover (tunneled) buses for Belltown/LQA and subways for Wallingford isn’t a clearly just outcome.

      3. Jason,

        Just because only a minority of voters are represented here in the comment section of this blog doesn’t make much of the thoughtful analysis that goes on here invalid—analysis that discusses the preferences of different groups of Seattle voters and riders—analysis that goes beyond the anecdotal (sometimes) and looks at data and policy. It’s likely that the comment section of this blog is one of the only places (institutions aside) where discussions about transit, transportation and land use occur at this level of depth.

        The obsession will Ballard probably stems from its status as one of the most popular-yet-difficult-to-reach corners of the city.


        An important and often overlooked point about WSDOT’s willingness and ability to cooperate in managing and installing necessary infrastructure to make the WSTT work.

        Tunneled buses for Belltown/LQA vs subways for Wallingford can be clearly just if you take into consideration geography and our current transportation network. Wallingford gets a subway because a bus doesn’t do the job. Tunneled buses work well through Belltown/LQA given how the rest of the network functions (dispersed demand for travel to downtown from the north and south (from Queen Anne north and from W. Seattle)). Just because Belltown/LQA is the highest density area in the city doesn’t mean a subway is the most appropriate solution.

        But I guess your point about clarity depends on perspective.

      4. I wouldn’t necessarily sign on to any of the points you recited there.

        You wouldn’t and haven’t, but you should.

        Unless you want to see 3/4 of Seattle’s money blown on a 5-mile express rail to the Junction that 95% of West Seattle won’t even find useful.

        Or unless you want to see Ballard forever remain harder to get to from the rest of this city than Bellevue and Lynnwood will be.

      5. Shane V,

        Just asking, but why not a Ballard/UW bus tunnel? It would allow open BRT for the many buses that fan out from UW.

      6. D.p.,

        You seem to have missed the part where I said that ballard is higher priority than west seattle.

        If when deciding to speak for everyone Ross had said the above, I would have signed on. But he said instead “waste of money,” which is another thing entirely.

      7. Touché, Martin.

        There would be a number of trade offs: the lower passenger-operator ratio; no chance for interlining with Central Link on the east end requiring a transfer to get downtown (no big deal at those frequencies), potential speed disadvantages, loss of actual or perceived comfort/quality of service. For those trade offs you give more folks a one-seat ride between Ballard/Wallingford and points northeast. Worth it? Who knows.

        Most of those same trade offs exist for the WSTT open BRT concept. The difference with the WSTT and associated transit lines is that the highest demand segment runs from the western landing of the West Seattle Bridge to Belltown/LQA, neither of which are likely final destinations for transit riders coming into the city in the same way UW and Ballard are likely to be. Forcing a potentially unnecessary transfer for so many people from bus to a high capacity mode at the city’s edge so people can continue a trip in the same direction is frustrating and might be too big of a hassle for people to stomach.

        If instead of forcing a transfer to a rail line that travels this high demand segment from the West Seattle Bridge to Belltown/LQA via WSTT you chose to extend the same line to, say, the heart of Ballard and the Junction in West Seattle, at least on the West Seattle end you still have many people that must make a transfer and you’ve spent a whole lot more money. On the Ballard end, the rail line should intercept all the north-south buses, given a stop in Fremont and east and west Ballard, but this still requires them to transfer to keep going in the same direction.

        I guess you’re right in that it’s not “clearly just” or clear that Ballard-UW should be rail and WSTT shouldn’t. But that’s why we need to have this discussions, so thank you for introducing some ambiguity.

      8. Treating both Ballard and West Seattle as “rail priorities” at all, Martin, tacitly accepts that West Seattle will spend billions more to achieve far less, and that Ballard will be left with whatever pittance isn’t spent crossing the Duwamish and burrowing into that hill. Last week’s shitshow reveal made perfectly clear that pittance might buy no more than an impotent streetcar.

        Your strategy of “going along and playing nice” with ST’s logic-free project lists has gotten us to this precipice, Martin. I am baffled that you think continuing on the same path will lead us anywhere but over the edge.

      9. D.p. yet again, a straw man.

        I just wrote 1,000 words on why the concepts are unacceptable. If it’s either or I much prefer Ballard.

        But I don’t think West Seattle is a waste of money.

        I think you overestimate my influence, and it’s a bit early to declare my “strategy” dead, but your preferred alternative, Seattle Anger Blog, certainly would have had the ST board hire me as a consultant to build nothing but lines radiating from Ballard, the one place God intended there to be rail.

      10. Speaking of straw men.

        How many times do I have to call bullshit on your claim that I’m advocating “rail from Ballard in all directions and nowhere else ever” before you cease to make it? It is your go-to canard when you feel defensive, and as a knowing slander it most certainly qualifies as an ad hominem.

        I clearly don’t give two shits about more radial trains through underbuilt industrial zones where the buses already go 30 mph. And anyone who thinks Holman should be deemed a rail-ready corridor is insane.

        I also obviously think that First Hill and the CD — and the dozen other neighborhoods and connecting swaths here that are already denser and more functionally urban than West Seattle will ever be got completely hosed, and that an 8-ish subway might be our next wisest study project.

        Furthermore, I have never wavered from endorsing the downtown Redmond connection, and have long seen the value in intermodal hubs from Lynnwood to perhaps Eastgate. I think Renton should have rail, if a needed-connectedness-bolstering route can be found (the dumb Burien loop obviously not being that).

        And if you want to push for the 100%-tunneled Ballard-UW line to be built with buses, with lots of expensive extra ventilation infrastructure and some nonsensical (and therefore non-analogous) open-BRT hypotheticals attached, just to prove some warped point, please be my guest. Only the extremely addled would reach for the wrench to pound a nail, just to prove how the hammer should be our go-to tool for tightening bolts.

      11. Furthermore, you’ll note that the last week has seen literally thousands of comments — relatively few of them mine — echoing precisely the sentiments that years ago made me the lone wolf and pariah around these parts: ST doesn’t understand transit, doesn’t know what it’s doing, doesn’t care, doesn’t have our best interests at heart, and that the tacit acceptance of fatal errors has to stop now.

        I am sorry that you have wrongly trusted the ST process. I am sorrier that you are defensive about that. But when you show up and say that “West Seattle + Ballard would not be a waste”, knowing for a fact that the money pot is so limited that the minimum West Seattle rail can’t help but shortchange real urban needs in real urban places (including the other city project in ST3, i.e. Ballard), then you are officially more problem than solution.

        Have a lovely night.

      12. That’s not a “fact” at all. With the full $15 billion ST has enough in North King to do both Ballard/UW and West Seattle, before considering federal grants.

        If short of that, West Seattle will have to wait for ST4. That is NOT the same thing as a waste of money.

      13. Oh, okay, I guess I just imagined those multiple “options” being pursued with giant $3 billion tunnels to Dow’s bungalow and slow-ass cheapo streetcars crawling toward the northwest.

      14. Those concepts almost certainly siphon North King money to Snohomish County to complete the spine; that’s one reason they’re unacceptable.

      15. Honest question: why do people, such as d.p. just above, keep linking to a blogger’s admittedly amateurish GIS maps based on crappy 2010 census data as though they’re authoritative and an accurate representation of Seattle in 2015? Earlier, someone also linked to a piece on the Seattle Met website written by interns without bylines, and treated that as authoritative as well. Both strike me as very strange. Why are you folks relying on these “sources” to support your opinions?

      16. Because the most definitive and recent statistical map — — doesn’t let you link directly to a zoomed-in image of Seattle.

        Follow the link and zoom in yourself. The discrepancy between what West Seattle wants to think is “dense” and the actual definitions of that word anywhere else shock even me.

        (Want more maps? I’m happy to demonstrate your lousy record of voting against any transit investments that don’t put you at the very front of the line.)

        Facts: The Triangle has a handful of new breadboxes, with massive garages accounting for a large portion of their phyiscal space. The Junction has had a couple of nice infill projects, with the neighbors up in arms about the possibility of no longer finding free parking inches from Husky Deli.

        You have not grown in a way that is even on the same playing field as Ballard, or Greenwood or Green Lake or the Central District or all the other places that don’t already have fast highway-based transit like you do. You’re suburban, and whiny, and you freak out any time someone calls you out on your b.s.


      17. And Martin, I know you have some questionable math that magically turns North King’s equity-protected $4 billion portion of a $15 billion legislative ask into $8 billion worth of rail projects.

        But suffice to say that you can’t expect the Feds to pay for crap, and that stated project costs tend to reflect pre-borrowing amounts.

        So when every non-mendacious rough estimate suggests that merely “reaching” the Junction, at a cost of multiple billions of dollars, will consume the lion’s share of the conceivable North King ST3 funds that will actually exist, I take that as fact.

      18. d.p., why do you decide the “facts”? What neighborhood do you live in? What’s your actual profession? What are you credentials? And how is it that you think you know more about literally everything discussed on this blog and in its comment section than everyone else? (Last week, you actually took it upon yourself to “educate” someone about their home city in Bulgaria, which is really pretty galling considering you admitted during your tirade that you’ve never been there.)

        I’m honestly not interested in getting into any sort of competition with you (or anyone else), but many of us, myself included, have multiple degrees, are very involved in organizations throughout the city and region, and have a solid understanding of development, politics, transit, complicated statistics, and financing issues, both in our professional capacities and otherwise, and yet you constantly lash out and treat us like idiots, which is just not necessary or productive. I can’t think of any justification at all for your worldview or the way you treat others, but I hope you can learn to change.

      19. And again, that was a complete non-answer. Why should we all listen to you? I’m honestly asking for a reason. You’re so violently disagreeable and caustic, I’d be at least a little bit comforted to know that there’s a basis for your vitriol.

      20. The basis is that I care about urbanity and mobility and a heterogeneous society, I’m smart and attentive enough to have learned lessons in my life and travels, and I don’t broach meme-driven bullshit.

        But please, gaze around this dumb, dysfunctional city and then reveal to me the wisdom of deferring to those who flaunt “credentials” in their groupthink pursuit of 71-mile redefinitions of “light rail”, growth quarantines that have grossly backfired, mixed-traffic streetcars, 10-year “end homelessness” plans that found greater number living on the street at their conclusions, and the malignant political fiction that West Seattle is important and “special”.

  10. Regarding “completing the spine”, I’m not sure why that is a valid measure of the value of any of the scenarios.

    Will Scenario X “compete the spine” from Everett to Tacoma? If it has an all-day train line running from Everett to Tacoma, I suppose the answer is “Yes”. If it just runs from Paine Field to Federal Way, I suppose the answer is “No”.

    If the criterion is rephrased as “Does the scenario pave the way for an ST4 package”, then the answer for any scenario that “completes the spine” is probably “No.”

    The “completes the spine” criterion is merely reverse engineering toward a desired outcome.

    If we are to keep the “completes the spine” criterion, than it is just as valid to have criteria such as “connects UW to Ballard, “connects UW to downtown”, and “connects West Seattle to downtown Seattle”. Why would any of these criteria be less valid than “completes the spine”?

  11. The most fundamental question is, “What does serving the spine mean?” What’s the criteria for determining whether something adequately serves the spine? We should also ask the same question about West Seattle and Ballard, although the answers for each one will be different.

    The ST board has implied that only Central Link extensions can fully serve Everett and Tacoma. What is this based on? Travel time, one-seat ride, something else? Link’s theoretical travel time to Everett is the same as ST Express and Sounder, but to Federal Way and Tacoma Dome it’s 10-20 minutes slower. There are at least three alternatives. One is in concept 1: “enhanced ST Express” from Link’s termini to the spine ends. I would add that Link’s termini could be anywhere from KDM to 320th, or Lynnwood to 164th (or 128th). That covers the majority of riders and traffic congestion, so buses from there will be less congested. The second alternative is more Sounder runs, especially south where Link is slower. The third alternative is a surface alignment on 99 in Pierce and Snohomish counties, which was not in the corridor studies. Again it would be faster and more reliable than surface alignments in Seattle because the roads are wider, have higher speed limits, and less congestion. The board should set criteria and explain why these alternatives do or don’t meet them.

    In West Seattle, Open BRT has a lot of promise and should be studied. It could potentially meet West Seattle’s needs better and at lower cost. One rail line can’t serve all of Fauntleroy Way, Delridge Way, 35th Avenue, and California Avenue, but open BRT could. Again, what does serving West Seattle mean, and why couldn’t this be a solution?

    Ballard/Fremont is the largest urban village conglomoration in Seattle that’s not near Central Link. It has very high transit use per capita and wilingness to pay for HCT, and 45th/Market Street is severely overcongested. It really severely needs a 15-20 minute solution to downtown and/or a 10-15 minute solution to UW. Concept 4 may address this although it’s unclear. ST should also acknowledge that a Ballard-UW line would serve more riders and cost less than a Ballard-downtown line, if we have to choose only one.

    For ST4, the three biggest areas not in concepts are 45th, Denny Way/Central District. and Lake City.

    1. >> One rail line can’t serve all of Fauntleroy Way, Delridge Way, 35th Avenue, and California Avenue, but open BRT could. Again, what does serving West Seattle mean, and why couldn’t this be a solution?

      This the key right here. One rail line can’t serve all those areas, and a set of rail lines is prohibitively expensive, given the number of people there. Speaking of expense, any rail line would be ridiculously expensive for the number of new transit riders. This is because the cost per station is so high. There is a huge gap between SoDo and the first possible station at West Seattle (Fauntleroy). This station doesn’t gain any riders (there aren’t that many people there, and from there you are faster just staying on a bus) which means that the first station that offers any kind of improvement (either on Fauntleroy or on top of the hill) is about 4 miles and several billion dollars away from SoDo, Spending billions on the first possible station that offers any sort of improvement is nuts.

      In contrast, you could build the entire UW to Ballard line for less than that. That is four excellent stations, each one of which offers a dramatic improvement in mobility and fits into a bigger transit grid. It just makes more sense to spend spend less money to provide a dramatic improvement to entire region (the area north of the ship canal and west of I-5) instead of a single station that will only benefit a very small area (in a minor way).

  12. Mr. Ilgenfritz,

    Thank you, for your and your staff’s willingness to listen to and, we hope, genuinely assess public input. I think all of us who post of STB understand that no matter what your personal and professional conclusions might be, you are directed by your original enabling legislation to the create a genuinely “regional” transit system while preserving the “sub-area equity” concept.

    Since when “Sound Transit 2” is completed, the North King sub-area will have “regional” links connecting to just about every somewhat “urban” area outside itself — except arguably Burien and Renton — your task of finding projects of regional scope on which to spend its tax revenues is difficult. In all honesty, relatively few people from outside Seattle want to travel to either Ballard or West Seattle; there isn’t that much employment in either place, and non-employment trips tend to be taken by auto, not transit.

    So you are a bit stuck. Whatever you do in Seattle is going to look to envious suburban voters — and to a lesser degree their representatives on your Board — as “giving our money to the leftists in Seattle”. Never mind that those leftists paid for nearly all of the infrastructure within the North King area that an admittedly small but non-trivial portion of those jealous suburbanites ride on daily. And never mind that the suburban-dominated Board is not about to countenance any such “transfers” into North King, the comments in all the regional news media websites show clearly that suburban voters think Sound Transit operates under 40-40-20. And they don’t like it.

    And then of course you have the poor folks on West Seattle Island who themselves have a streak of Seattle envy but who also have a very effective advocate at your organization. So, even though they’re spread out and density-free except along Alki Avenue, if any other neighborhood is to get a train, they demand to get one too. Whether they will use it or not remains to be seen.

    So, since from this point on you apparently won’t be able to please most of the people any of the time, you might as well throw caution to the wind and act as if you are a Seattle agency, at least with North King’s tax revenues, and build lines that maximize mobility within the inner city. In order to do that it would probably be a good idea to tell your planners not to do anything more until some sort of agreement with Metro has been reached which commits Metro to realigning bus lines to feed your trains. To continue the existing policy which demands that you essentially ignore any potential bus transfers except to and from your own vehicles is frankly stupid, and gets you bus intercept facilities tied to your Park-And-Ride lots which are in turn tied to freeway access.

    So your “projections” lead to stations ringed by clogged roadways and with marginal opportunities for residential development like 145th. Stations which can only be approached by feeder buses using those same clogged roadways. This is not good planning.

    It’s clear that a part of the burden under which you struggle is the composition of the Sound Transit Board. Though most of the members by their service on the Board have come to see many of the transportation “truths” blasted about by the paid mouthpieces of the “Transportation Industrial Complex” as false, they are nonetheless themselves constrained by their voters. And of course, you are constrained by those same voters because a third “package” depends on their assent, no matter how good it may or may not be.

    If Seattle Transit Blog members can do anything to help you, it would be my suggestion that we lobby for the cancellation of constant tax rates within the Sound Transit Service Area. North King clearly needs more transit than do Pierce, Snohomish and to a lesser degree East or South King. North King is except for downtown Bellevue the only piece of real “city” in the state. If North King and East King could voluntarily tax themselves more than the other three sub-areas, it would mean the end of consideration of stupidities like “Link to Tacoma Mall”. Tacoma Mall? There’s no “there” there and never will be. The voters of Pierce County know it and will certainly rebel at paying the same transit tax rates as those necessary for North King to prosper. Similarly, while a weak argument can be made for Link to Everett, it’s mostly predicated on “we promised”, not on any actual ridership benefits. The voters of Snohomish County understand that, too, and will object to doubling their ST tax contributions when most of them will still be riding feeder buses to Ash Way or Lynnwood. Most in the ST Service Area live well south of Everett and find it easy enough to drive there when they need to go.

    It’s my strong belief that most of the people from South King, Pierce and Snohomish who are agitating to “complete the Spine” are doing so because “we were promised” and “my neighbors will ride it and I’ll have an easier drive”. They don’t want to use it themselves for any number of reasons easily seen in the Seattle Times comments section. Most of such comments expose some of the baser human tendencies.

    Obviously, you can’t advocate for changing your enabling legislation, but the Senators and Representatives from the Sound Transit service area certainly can. This should be something on which both parties can agree. It’s local control writ large within a system that meets regional needs. What’s not to like?

    1. It is clear that the commenters on this blog do not understand or have visited West Seattle lately. Setting aside what the best investments for ST3 are, here are a few things you should know:
      –The population of West Seattle is 126,000, not 26,000 as someone said–16% of the city lives there
      –West Seattle has four urban centers all with multi-family development–Admiral/Alki, Alaska Junction, Morgan Junction, and Westwood/White Center
      –There are actually more units in development in the coming two years in WS than in Ballard. Over 2000 in the Alaska Junction alone. Ballard is where the development has happened in the last 10 years, but is mostly built out in the areas zoned for multi-family. West Seattle is where a lot of the growth outside downtown will happen in the next ten years.
      –West Seattle doesn’t have Seattle envy because we are part of Seattle…since 1904
      –Of the new corridors studied that weren’t in the ST2 studies, West Seattle showed the highest potential ridership along with Everett.
      –The fact that there is essentially one main way out of West Seattle makes it highly transit friendly
      –We already have strong transit ridership. The C line and the Route 120 are among Metro’s top 20 routes.
      –The WSTT does little for WS bus commuters. We already have strong transit priority through downtown on Third Avenue. Not a bad idea, but don’t pretend it is a good idea unless you have rode buses from West Seattle.

      Finally, I would say a package is always about politics and ridership. To pass at the ballot, ST needs to have regional support. A strong majority–65%–in Seattle is essential. If you only go to Ballard, you might have a hard time getting votes south of the Ship Canal. Tacoma wants light rail, not to get to Seattle, but to get to the airport so they can attract businesses and grow. Everett wants light rail because it is highly congested on I-5 and a strong job market. Redmond and 405 BRT make the most sense on the Eastside. In addition to a strong vote in Seattle, to pass an ST package you need to win on the Eastside and in Snohomish, because you will likely get about 45% in Pierce despite strong support in the city of Tacoma), and in South King which is still struggling economically. Let’s all try to be thoughtful and regional in our thinking.

      1. Right, 16% of the city, spread out in an enormous peninsula. There is no way that light rail will serve the majority of that 16% (which is a very small number, by the way). As said above:

        One rail line can’t serve all of Fauntleroy Way, Delridge Way, 35th Avenue, and California Avenue, but open BRT could.

        In other words, light rail would simply be infective in providing a transit improvement for the vast majority of transit riders. You would force a transfer right when a bus would be traveling at high speed with no stops right to (and through downtown). Assume, for a second, that a bus on Fauntleroy can get to Madison just as fast as a train can. This is a fair assumption, and the basis for WSTT. So, if you are riding a bus on Fauntleroy, which would rather do: keep riding the bus to downtown, or get off and wait for a train (that is probably several hundred feet above you)? The former means that you get to your destination significantly faster, and without getting out of your seat. The answer is obvious, which is why BRT (and the WSTT) is simply a better project for West Seattle.

        The fact that it would cost billions less is simply a bonus.

      2. By the way, the population and travel patterns of West Seattle run in contrast to those in “Greater Ballard”. This area has a naming problem. It is easy to call the entire area west of the Duwamish “West Seattle”, but there is no term for a similar area in north Seattle. I am calling it “Greater Ballard” but it includes neighborhoods like Greenwood and Wallingford that no one would consider Ballard. Basically, I am talking about the area north of the ship canal and west of I-5. This area has way more people than “West Seattle”.

        But that is not the key point. The key point is that this area (the area west of I-5 and north of the ship canal) would benefit greatly from UW to Ballard light rail. It would see a dramatic improvement in transit mobility. This is because:

        1) There is no “Ballard Freeway” like there is a West Seattle freeway.
        2) The UW is a major destination (second biggest in the state and growing).
        3) There is a light rail line there, which would allow riders to quickly go in both directions (as opposed to a new light rail line from West Seattle, which would only go north, the same direction the freeway goes).
        4) Per station, building there is much cheaper than building light rail to West Seattle (see previous comments).

        So even if West Seattle was as densely populated as the area I mentioned, building UW to Ballard light rail is just a better project (by far).

        Don’t be fooled by those who like to belittle West Seattle. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter. From a project perspective, building the WSTT (along with other improvements in the area) is simply better, and a much better value.

      3. “First of all, employment in Fremont and Ballard is not minor and it is growing.”

        It’s not like nobody in the Eastside works in Fremont, and I’m certain people in Snohomish County do.

    2. I disagree with your assessment of suburban attitudes towards Seattle projects. First of all, employment in Fremont and Ballard is not minor and it is growing. Second, wouldn’t suburban voters look more favorably towards the projects we are favoring? Just imagine these two proposals:

      1) West Seattle light rail with Ballard streetcar or
      2) Ballard to UW light rail and the WSTT

      The first looks like a huge amount of money for a very small area (which it is). The first will get plenty of opposition from transit supporters (which it has). That, to me, will just fan the flames of Seattle resentment. Why does one neighborhood, a neighborhood with very little employment, get a full fledged light rail line, when all a suburban area gets are more buses?

      The second, on the other hand just looks more frugal. The WSTT is for buses, so if you approve more buses for the suburbs, they go hand in hand. Even if the plan is to reserve the buses for Seattle, those in the suburbs could always hold out hope that eventually they get to use it as well. If nothing else it provides better service to First Hill and Belltown. Meanwhile, the light rail line is obvious smaller and cheaper. This looks like Seattle simply cut corners, and came up with a scaled down, cheaper plan. So before you even try and convince folks that it is better (which it is) you can say that it is cheaper. This just seems like a better approach for those inclined to think that Seattle is “getting too much”. Meanwhile, the folks in the northern suburbs who want to get to Ballard and Fremont, it is a much better trip.

      I agree, though, that fixating on completing the spine is bound to be a political loser for the voters who would actually pay for it. Someone in Lynnwood benefited greatly from Lynnwood Link. So did folks in Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Everett. But Link to Everett will primarily benefit those in Everett, and only in a minor way (an express bus from Everett to Lynnwood would probably be faster than a train from Everett to Lynnwood). So expect any support from those in Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds and Lynnwood and don’t expect much support from folks in Everett.

      1. Ross,

        I don’t believe that Ballard-Downtown-West Seattle light rail can reasonably be said to serve Lower Fremont. At least, not without a third transfer to the 32 or 40 or some possible “BRT-lite” replacement for one of them. There is very little employment north of 15th and Elliott along any conceivable alignment such an LRT line might follow and never will be. That’s why I think suburbanites will rightly view it as a facility for Seattle residents only. \

        The same is true for West Seattle. Though the port facilities on Harbor Island are huge, they actually employ relatively few people, and once one gets to the top of the hill, it’s all residential all the time. Some day there may be a useful argument for Delridge-White-Center-Burien, but that day is not here, as shown clearly by the almost complete omission of such an option from the examples shown.

        Even Ballard-UW is won’t serve Lower Fremont directly, at least in the “low-cost” option that most people have in mind when we advocate for it. Some folks may make the walk on a nice spring day. And of course a frequent shuttle of Fremont Avenue North is certainly doable — probably with just three coaches — but 46th and Fremont is not close to Google, Adobe or any other company which might settle there. The Sound Transit Board is unlikely to make the more expensive choice of the sinuous Ballard-Fremont-Wallingford-UW alignment which would be necessary to serve the employment node with Ballard-UW.

        So, a “Rapid Streetcar” extension — with significantly longer tram style trains, please — from SLU is the only non-bus transit likely to make it to Fremont for a very long time, if ever.

        But if Thomas actually crosses Aurora north of the portal of a WSTT, BRT from Fremont on Westlake, Ninth, Thomas, Aurora then the bus tunnel and some sort of lane preference on the existing bridge would remove the need for than that more for Fremont. This of course assumes that the new 3rd NW auto bridge is built as discussed so that lanes can be made available on the Fremont.

    3. North King transit users should be cognizant of the following: if ST3 passes, Seattle will be prevented from building, even with our own taxes, additional high capacity transit, because there will be no desire in the other subareas (except perhaps East King) to fund an ST4 or beyond. (Pierce didn’t even support ST2). If Seattle wants to build an effective grade-separated network, the city’s tax rates and planning criteria need to be decoupled from Sound Transit as it exists today. Maybe new legislative authority allowing different subareas to vote on different tax rates would solve this problem. Otherwise, I think this is a fatal flaw for the agency.

      1. I agree. Eventually, the difference in value catches up to the suburbs. For the most part, better bus service and maybe more commuter rail are what the suburbs need. These are relatively cheap, while Seattle still needs more expensive light rail (such as a grade separated line to replace the Metro 8).

    4. “relatively few people from outside Seattle want to travel to either Ballard or West Seattle”

      Regional transit includes trips within Seattle! This is a very important point. A trip from UW to Northgate or Capitol Hill to Northgate is just as significant as a trip from UW to Redmond. The issue is how many people does a center attract from outside the neighborhood, not how many people does it attract from outside the city’s boundaries. That is always a judgment call, but West Seattle is clearly a regional destination, and its geography means that something must cross the river to the penninsula or 1/5 of Seattle is isolated from the region. The only question is what mode or level of service that thing should be, and what priority is it compared to other Seattle corridors.

      “We already have strong transit ridership. The C line and the Route 120 are among Metro’s top 20 routes.”

      Do West Seattlites understand that the C and 120 would become penninsula-only shuttles with Link? Do they understand that transferring to an east-west train (because not everybody lives right at the Junction or Delridge/Andover) would likely take longer than their current buses or potential BRT? Don’t expect shuttles every ten minutes, especially evenings/Sundays.

      Finally, West Seattle’s multi-family development is good but it’s scattered, and that’s what makes it hard for a single train line to serve it. If all those villages were close together and merged into each other like Ballard/Fremont to, then there would be much more activity and ridership and a single station or a couple nearby stations could serve it. Likewise, Ballard/Fremont is weaker than Chicago’s larger 2-D concentrations, the equivalent of Ballard to U-Village to Greenlake. If we had that, we could support more grade-separated lines and stations.

      1. You guys really don’t have any idea what you’re talking about when it comes to West Seattle’s development patterns or layout. The vast majority of the mixed use development is occurring around the Triangle and Junction areas, all the way down to the western terminus of the bridge. There’s also quite a lot of development heading up toward Admiral and down toward Morgan, with thousands of units coming on line in the next two years. Once these developments come on line, the core area of West Seattle will be every bit as dense as Ballard. There’s also a great deal of infill development in lowrise transitional zones all over the peninsula, with SFHs being replaced by 4-6 unit developments. I spend a great deal of time in both neighborhoods, both for work and during runs and bike rides, and the development patters are really very similar in both places. The main difference is that Ballard development started in earnest a few years earlier. West Seattle currently has more large projects in the pipeline, and much greater potential for continued high density infill in its central area.

        Re: the repeated statement that open BRT is a solution, there simply isn’t room to implement that without ST engaging in a very expensive and protracted takings process that would either completely eliminate SOV traffic from all of your N-S arterials, or require demolition of hundreds of homes and businesses followed by significant street widening, neither of which is desired by ST or anyone who’s taken the time to think these things through.

      2. Jason, the only casualty of open BRT in most of West Seattle would be on-street parking on arterials. There are only a couple of places (a bit of Delridge and a bit of southern Fauntleroy) where you would need to change the ROW in order to make an exclusive-lane BRT network that would replace the C Line, 21, 56, 120, and 128. Taking parking away is politically very hard, but it’s not nearly as expensive as the sort of massive reconstruction you seem to be envisioning.

      3. David:

        Doesn’t open BRT imply the existence of bus facilities on both sides of the coaches? Or a large center platform bounded by bus lanes on each side? All of the main arterials in West Seattle are basically five vehicles wide, with two parking lanes, two general purpose lanes, and a center turn lane. (This isn’t yet true of 35th, but that’s being rechannelized later this year, and is the last remaining corridor with a 2-2 configuration and no center turn lane.) Depending on how the open BRT was configured, I think you’d have to remove a minimum of three lanes from each roadway. At best, that would leave no room for bicycle facilities, narrow sidewalks for pedestrians, and one general purpose lane in each direction. Additionally, much of the housing stock in West Seattle, especially the homes along 35th, lacks off-street parking, so there’s another factor to consider.

      4. I guess there was an assumption behind my post — that the “open” part of West Seattle open BRT would be the infrastructure shared by all the lines between downtown (or, ideally, the WSTT) and the Duwamish crossing. Within West Seattle, I was assuming plain old bus lanes with TSP. Only at and near the Alaska Junction would anything more complicated really be needed.

        To make bus lanes on California, you’d have to narrow (in some places) or remove (in others) the center turn lane, but in that corridor I think the tradeoff would be worth it. My various network proposals have had buses as frequently as every five minutes along California. There’s more than enough room for bus lanes on 35th or much of Delridge without that compromise. South of Holden, you’d have to rebuild Delridge to some extent to create any bus lanes.

      5. The development in West Seattle is fucking pissant compared to many other parts of the city, and not just Ballard.

        The Junction/Triangle amalgamation is not especially dense in population or built form, it doesn’t extend more than a few blocks in any direction, and every inch the sprawliest-possible single-family minimum-zoned plots that surround it completely is considered sacrosanct.

        West Seattle growth is not statistically impressive, and the all-day ridership it generates on any mode will be piddling compared to about 2 dozen busier and contiguous parts of the city.

        Get over yourselves.

      6. What facilities on both sides of the coaches? ST’s BRT has never been defined, so that’s something we’d need to find out and give input on.

  13. I appreciate your engaging with the blog, Ric, but your response has not allayed any of my concerns about the conceptual scenarios. Why is the seemingly arbitrary goal of “completing the spine” with more “miles of LRT” such a top priority? Why do all of the conceptual scenarios specifically ignore sub-area equity? Why is the concept of grade-separated transit within Seattle entirely absent from even the most pie-in-the-sky scenario being considered? How will unnamed “other projects” make their way into the priority list when they’re not present conceptually for initial analysis and review by the Board? As a Seattle voter and taxpayer, how can I have any confidence that projects based on these concepts will provide any meaningful benefit to me?

    I’ve pasted below a copy of a letter that I mailed last week to the Sound Transit board.

    I’m writing to you today in regards to the document “Draft Conceptual System Expansion Scenarios” presented at the Sound Transit board meeting yesterday, April 23. As a resident, taxpayer, property owner, and voter in Seattle, I am deeply concerned by the priorities, scenarios, and evaluation measures under consideration. Despite being a long-time transit supporter and daily rider I would feel compelled to vote against any future ballot measure (such as ST3) that is based on the concepts as presented.


    The document contains many priorities that I agree with. Ridership, integration, connectivity, transit-supportive land use, and socio-economic equity are all excellent goals. Their benefits are largely self-evident. Unfortunately, the overriding priority used to categorize all of the scenarios appears to be “completing the spine.” There is no discussion of what this goal means, why it is important, or how it contributes to the growth of the region. I feel that it is incumbent on the Board to explain this priority and its use as a decision making tool.

    Expansion Scenarios

    All of the conceptual scenarios are presented in relation to their cost and progress toward completing the spine. None of them contain even a cursory mention of the other core priorities. Why is completion of the spine being used to frame our system expansion scenarios instead of the other priorities?

    The selection of the individual scenarios also raises serious concerns. I realize that they are only intended to be conceptual ideas and not specific routes, but the lack of any scenarios that include high capacity grade-separated transit in the North King subarea is a glaring omission. Previous Sound Transit outreach has shown overwhelming public support for additional grade-separated rail service corridors within the City of Seattle, for example in the Downtown-to-Ballard and Ballard-to-UW corridors. Early studies have shown that these options would be some of most cost-effective high ridership transit corridors in the region. And yet, they seem to be outside the scope of even this conceptual analysis while maps showing LRT service to the Tacoma Mall and North Everett are included. Expansion of high capacity transit within the City of Seattle is a concept that must be included in this conceptual analysis. How can the Board fairly evaluate these concepts when they are excluded from a fair analysis at the very beginning?

    My understanding is that Sound Transit will be asking for public input on a “Priority Projects List” in June and July, and that all 8 scenarios presented here will be included in the list. If that is the case, it seems disingenuous to tell voters that these scenarios are only “concepts” and that other projects “are possible.” What is the value of a conceptual analysis if it does not include projects that are already planned to be included as priorities (even if they are presented only conceptually)? How does the Board intend to collect input for priorities that aren’t even included in the analysis or public messaging about the system expansion?

    Evaluation Measures

    I am also concerned about the proposed evaluation measures. The only metrics for evaluating the “completing the spine” priority are “Miles of LRT.” What is the use of this measure? What constitutes a “good” or “bad” number of miles? How does this metric relate to the other measures? Building miles of track simply to have more miles is a useless metric that, in itself, does not to improve life in the region. Track mileage is incidental to what should be our main goals of providing efficient and reliable transportation alternatives to as many people as possible.

    The connectivity measure is very specific in its language: “Connecting the region’s designated centers with HCT,” and “number of centers served by HCT.” However, many rapidly growing areas in our region are not specifically designated as growth centers (Ballard, for example). Our priority should be to connect areas in our region that have large numbers of people, whether residents or jobs, regardless of arbitrary designations.


    As I write this letter, construction is underway on the lot next to mine to build 6 new townhomes. Permits are in the works to build dozens of new apartment units on my residential block. The proposed system expansion ideas would do nearly nothing to improve the mobility and transportation options for these new residents. Time and again, Seattle voters have expressed their need for better transit connectivity within the city. Seattle is not a monolith that can be effectively served by a single transit “spine” that reaches only a few of the residents and job centers within the city. High capacity, grade-separated transit between our urban centers is the only fiscally responsible means to enable a coherent transportation network for our interconnected city.

    I urge you to revise this system planning process to include all concepts and projects being considered by Sound Transit, along with explanations of the priorities and measures being used to evaluate the concepts. A ballot measure based only on the current proposal would not receive my support.

    1. A wonderful and level-headed analysis and demolition of the non-sensical framework Sound Transit seems to be using to decide how it wants to spend our money.

      Thank you for writing to ST and sharing!

    2. Beautiful. Would you be ok with others sending this letter? (minus references to neighboring townhouses, of course)

      1. By all means, feel free to modify and send a copy to ST. I mailed individual copies to Murray, O’Brien, Phillips, and Constantine, and sent one to the Board as a whole too.

  14. What is a “system plan”? So far, this appears to be an “expansion plan” for ST. It’s important not to confuse the two. As long as ST staff continues to talk about a systems plan but merely present expansion plans, it’s clear that ST staff and board are primarily interested in building and not operating a rail system. I wonder if there is a collective naivety or collective arrogance that thinks that the two things are the same.

    At the very least, a systems plan should include looking at several systems issues — like solutions to the reduced speeds in the Rainier Valley and SODO, the missing infill stations and the station upgrades to handle heavier passenger loads. These scenarios don’t have any of these things and no where in the presentation is it even mentioned that these questions need to be or have been answered. ST staff has not presented any recent detailed facts about these, and is now seeking to moving ahead with a mere expansion plan without adequate study of these and other basic system things.

    Just calling it a systems plan doesn’t make it one.

    1. A “System Plan” is a set of concrete projects in a ballot measure, and consideration of how they affect the network as a whole. None of these concepts or corridor studies or priority project lists are system plans: they’re preliminary sketches used to design a system plan. ST’s timeline says to finalize the Priority Project List in July, evaluate it by December, start working on the System Plan in January, and finalize it in June.

      The current controversy revolves around why certain ideas were left out of the concepts when they clearly had North King support, and whether the Board will give them the consideration they deserve for the Project List.

  15. I think it’s important to realize that “completing the spine” is not a good strategy for the suburbs either. I live in Bothell. The main employment destinations from there are to downtown Seattle, Redmond, downtown Bellevue, and Everett via Lynnwood. Note that not one of those destinations is improved by building even a mile of the spine anywhere, except I guess if you count the East Link extension to downtown Redmond (which in any case isn’t where most of the Redmond jobs are). On the Eastside, what would help my area is better bus connections to East Link. What would help going north toward Everett is some kind of BRT-style commuter buses. What would help going toward Seattle is a station at 130th and a bus that continues west to at least 99 from that point to improve connections to the west side of Seattle (Belltown, Lower Queen Anne, SLU). Link does not help me. Better intersecting bus lines to useful Link stations and other bus services such as RapidRide and Swift and 405 BRT would.

    Similarly, what does most of Snohomish County need? The cross-town bus from Bothell I already mentioned, but also other services to create at least a commuter hours grid. Unless I live in Everett or want to get there from areas directly south of it, Link doesn’t help. And Paine Field isn’t on the logical corridor for the supposed spine, so it makes no sense to create a scoliotic kink just to reach it. An intersecting bus service that also connects to Link is what that area needs.

    What does South King County need? Better connections between Sounder services and population centers (like Renton and Kent) to the east and Link and population centers to the west. Yes, Link to Tacoma helps provide a way to get people to and from the airport, but even that investment is worthless to most people without intersecting bus services.

    What does Pierce County need? Link as an extension from Seattle doesn’t make sense, but it does make some sense if you think of it as a Tacoma-to-airport service that just happens to be on the same line as the functionally separate service to Seattle from the airport. Airport service won’t attract a lot of riders–and only with good connecting bus service, but it does provide an amenity to attract businesses to Tacoma and be justified in those terms. But for most actual riders, particularly to Seattle, what’s needed is more Sounder service and connecting and commuter buses. So that’s what should be prioritized for suburban Pierce as opposed to Tacoma urban corporate priorities (which may weakly justify the spine, if it’s only paid for with Pierce County dollars within Pierce County).

    So the spine doesn’t really help the bulk of potential riders anywhere (except those few who just happen to be on the line already). So it should only be paid for strictly within subarea equity, so that it’s a choice of the people paying for it and not something subsidized by areas that have other priorities.

    1. “I live in Bothell. … What would help going toward Seattle is a station at 130th”

      So you would support rerouting the 522 to turn west at 125th to 130th Station and Aurora, even if Link’s travel time to downtown were 5 minutes longer and the transfer might take 5-10-20 minutes?

      1. The transfer would not take 20 minutes. It would take more like 5 minutes. If the truncation, plus a restructuring of the 372, allowed for a bus down Bothell Way every 10 minutes (a bus for every train, all day long), it would still be a big improvement over the 30-minute frequency the corridor gets today.

        It would also make it infinitely easier to get from Bothell to pretty much any destination in Seattle north of downtown that is not directly along route 372. Remember, NOT EVERYBODY VISITING SEATTLE FROM OUTSIDE THE CITY LIMITS IS HEADED DOWNTOWN!!!

      2. “The transfer would not take 20 minutes.”

        I’m talking about the worst-case scenario if the eastbound 522 is still half-hourly and you just missed it.

      3. What sources are you using to suggest that travel time is 5 minutes longer? The projected Shoreline-to-downtown travel time is 17 minutes, compared to 22 (AM) or 26 (PM) minutes in the no build alternative. That’s 5-9 minutes faster. As for the time to make the connection, Lynnwood link is planned to have all the trains coming from Central and East Link (as far as I know), which is every 7.5 minutes, which is an average wait time of 3:45.

        But that’s not a fair comparison, because the current 522 takes Lake City Way all the way to I-5, which even subtracting the I-5 travel time on Link from Shoreline to Roosevelt station takes much longer than going down 125th to I-5 and a 130th St. station even with stops along the way–which would also serve more people than currently, which *does not stop* along that whole stretch of 522 until downtown.

        At the same time, by getting rid of the current tail from 125th/Lake City Way and downtown and going west to 99, you serve even more people.

        Feel free to pick apart my math, but that looks like a faster, more reliable trip that serves way more people and builds a gridded network that we don’t have today. It’s still possible with 145th, but would be inferior because of the traffic on 145th (including all the extra cars that would theoretically be drawn to the park-and-ride).

      4. Also, westbound (AM) and eastbound (PM) frequency of the 522 is much more than every 30 minutes. It’s the reverse direction that is stuck at 30 minutes (what happens to those extra one-way buses anyway?) Even with the new western tail along 130th, you might still save enough service hours to add reverse-direction buses if they were needed. But the reality is that you probably don’t need frequent all-day service in both directions for that route. And of course the 372 adds frequency if the goal is just to get to and from downtown.

      5. I was comparing the current 522 from 130th to Union, which is 14 minutes at 6:45am. At 7:10am it’s 20 minutes, so that’s a wide variation. As for Link’s time to 130th, I clearly overestimated it; I was trying to guess the fractional time between Northgate and Lynnwood. It’s 15 minutes Westlake-Northgate, and it can’t be more than 2 minutes more to 130th.

        So in any case, the main issue is the transfer time, and it’s a bigger issue northbound than southbound as anyone who has transferred from a train to a bus knows. (I’m specifically remembering Dallas, where the light rail is frequent from downtown to Arapaho Station, and the connecting bus west is half-hourly.)

      6. Peak bus service in the typical commuting direction is 15 minutes at the longest. So the northbound commuting time in the PM isn’t horrible (7.5 minute average, sometimes less). But yeah, the reverse or off-peak wait northbound would be 15 minutes on average and the speed of Link to that point doesn’t help you. That is a minority use case, and with a restructure like this I would expect there to be some extra service hours to play with. But we can’t even consider it if all the money goes into the spine and not to improved bus service connecting at logical points to Link.

        14 minutes at 6:45 is really fast. The 20 minutes matches my personal experience more (but I also left later). The PM commute is even longer, because the 522 frequently takes forever just getting to I-5 through downtown streets. Link will help with that for sure. But there definitely needs to be a focus on how to integrate bus connections in a way that serves both the existing and potential ridership.

  16. A big problem with ST 3 is the business that every sub-area has to be taxed at the same rate, so the only way Seattle gets enough money to do what it needs is for the other areas to get way to much money for projects of much less usefulness.

    The more I read about ST 3 possibilities, the more I feel that there is simply no way to put something together capable of mustering a majority vote across the entire region if the uniform tax rate thing does not end.

    Given that the uniform tax rate is enshrined into law by the legislature, the best hope is probably pass something small with ST 3 (mostly more service on ST express bus routes, with minimal rail expansion), then move into a world where individual cities that want more put forth their own funding proposals and pay ST to build them whatever rail projects in their area need building.

    1. I’m curious how sub-area equity treats common resources. For example, building rail to Ballard may benefit quite a few people that live in Federal Way. But extending rail to Federal Way will probably not benefit many people in Ballard. Are Seattle project only paid for with North King area dollars? Or do we balance it by predicted usage?

      1. That’s a very good question, Matt, but I think it’s simply North King pays for facilities within North King.

      2. Well that doesn’t sound fair. No wonder we’re ending up with a suburb-heavy system.

      3. That’s an open question. Remember that the suburbs pay for all of Sounder, even though there’s one stop – and maintenance facilities – inside North King. Meanwhile, East King was going to pay for all the East Link tracks – and rightly so – until the Sound Transit board decided to charge Seattle for track they didn’t want. I’d say projects should definitely be balanced by projected usage; for instance, Pierce should be paying for part of the WSTT and then get to run the 59_ through it. But given the suburban bias of the ST board, I wouldn’t count on it.

      4. The subareas can pay for other subarea lines. For example, North King money paid for some of east link.

      5. The reason North King is not paying for Sounder is that the schedule for Sounder is virtually useless for anyone living in North King. Unless you’re out for a joyride, riding North Sounder is virtually impossible without an overnight stay in or near Snohomish County. South Sounder in the reverse direction is theoretically possible to ride for a day trip – if you’re willing to leave home by 6 AM to arrive downtown in time to catch the last trip. In practice, virtually nobody does this. The only reason reverse-direction Sounder even runs at all is because the trains would be deadheading the route anyway.

        While most of the benefit of EastLink does fall on people who live on the eastside, it’s not nearly as one-sided as Sounder. There are real people who live in Seattle and would ride EastLink to jobs in Bellevue. The ridership numbers on the 550 prove it.

    2. Yes. I think that it is the very role of ST as one of many local transit operators and funding recipients that lacks clarity. Merely picking project packages won’t solve this basic institutional quagmire and taxation dilemma.

      1. Even ST has mixed messages about this! There are 15 light rail corridors in the long-range plan without prioritization just issued by ST — and yet here the staff is saying that “completing the spine” is more important. This is serious, serious lack of consistency from ST. No wonder everyone is unclear.

  17. ST2 is building light rail north to Lynnwood, east to Redmond, and south to Federal Way. Conveniently trains were routed to four of the five sub-areas. No doubt by design, this plan garnered substantial political support and won an election handily.

    I expect ST3 will have to do something similar. It does seem like a Ballard-UW-or-Childrens line would get a lot of use. The question is, what will the other regions get in return? If we really want a Ballard spur then we should think about what else to build. A clever solution would help both “North King County” and some other area; for instance a subway/surface line from Northgate to Lake City to Lake Forest Park to Kenmore to Bothell to Woodinville. Or perhaps the old Burien-Southcenter-Renton idea could be resuscitated. To get Federal buy-in with their sweet cash you’re going to have to help more than Seattle hipsters.

    Speaking of cash, is it too early to throw around some numbers for capital investment? Assuming a $15 billion package gets approved, and assuming $12 billion of that goes for light rail, what is feasible? A Ballard-UW subway seems comparable to University Link, so that might be $2-3 billion. Reserve another $5 billion to get a train to Woodinville, and maybe another $2 billion for south end folks. That leaves $2 billion for Pierce County, sadly still unconnected to the rest of us.

    As a side note, I would like to hear more definitive statements about headway in a single trunk line from UW to downtown. According to wikipedia, some New York City stations get 18 trains per hour at rush hour, which roughly matches my experience in big urban subways. You can run more than one spur line into Central Link if your headway is only 3 minutes 20 seconds. If you simply require a transfer to a different train at an outlying station then any headway problem diminishes.

    1. Pierce County is connected to “us” (if you mean Seattle) via Sounder. If it needs Link at all, it is for commuter and airport traffic into Tacoma (with anything north of Seatac being irrelevant for the area, because the number of people using that service would be negligible).

      Even accepting your premise that $12 of the $15 billion would go for light rail, I’m not sure what could be built that would actually justify the expense in ST3. Link to UW Bothell from Lake City and Lynnwood Link somewhere would be great for me, but it doesn’t serve enough people to make it a cost-effective cross-area service at this time. You’d either have to take money from UW-Ballard or other Seattle projects, or build it with East subarea funds (even though Lake City is part of the line), leaving very little for most of the people on the Eastside. I don’t think there are enough South King subarea funds to build the Burien to Renton line, though arguably it would be better than spending money to extend the spine into Pierce County. It at least puts some ribs on the spine.

      But I do think politically you have a point: subareas will balk if they get no light rail and Seattle does, even if light rail would be a bad deal for them. I’m not sure what to do about that other than change how this system is funded.

    2. ST (obstenibly) practices subarea equity, so spending monies on lines like such as you’re doing isn’t comprehensible. The other subareas “get” what they pay in and what they want. All we’re asking for here in north king county is to not take our money to build stupid rail to everett.

  18. Even if the conceptual plans aren’t suggestions for actual packages, ST needs to be careful about not including important and incredibly desired lines in their proposals. Circulating plans, for whatever reason, that don’t include some sort of grade-separated plans for Ballard, will destroy enthusiasm. And to be honest, I’m not especially enthused about any line to Ballard that doesn’t go further west than 15th, which seemed like the plan is some older proposals (though I’m not sure if this is in the current plan). For transit to be really effective, it needs to be a way of life for people, like it is in NYC and Chicago. If a rail line is constructed that doesn’t go into the central business district of Ballard, you lose that and people who live more than a 10 minute walk to the train will continue to be underserved.

  19. Never fear: The ST3 Expert Review Panel has been appointed by the State of Washington, and is getting underway on Monday and Tuesday in downtown Seattle.

    Mainstream media has just brought this to my attention:

    I missed the earlier announcement stating there will be $175,000 in consultant support to the panel:

    Quoting the expert panel’s mission ( )

    “The purpose of the Expert Review Panel, as directed by RCW 81.104, is to provide independent review during the development of the plan update so that critical questions are posed and assessed, as well as to guide the preparation of the plan through the panel’s review of methodologies and assumptions, and to ensure the assumptions in the study plan are appropriate and reasonable.

    “The panel’s technical review of the plan development is necessary to guarantee that the Sound Transit governing board can make appropriate decisions for Phase 3 Plan investments in the region’s high-capacity transportation system.”

  20. consider slide three of the recent ST3 presentation. The core priorities would be OK if they were weighted. Giving ridership 95 percent of the weight would be about right. Then, could give equity about four percent and split the remaining one percent among the other six, including completion of the spine as Link. Completing the spine is unimportant and counter-productive to maximizing ridership. That the ST Board thinks it is the most important objective shows how far we have to go in considering ST3.

  21. My bet would be that Sound Transit’s Board would do whatever the local politicians want them to do, which – unfortunately – wouldn’t necessarily result in the most-practical result, only the one that gets the politicians re-elected. I’ve often mentioned the enormous cost that their selection of 145th Street as one of their stations is going to involve, which could have been avoided with an objective look at the alternatives – 130th and 155th – the pair being superior options for Seattle (130th) and Shoreline (155th) for numerous reasons. My first principle would be to be objective.

    My second principle is to not duplicate existing (especially) BRT or light rail service (I consider Sounder/North a needless and tremendously-expensive duplication). For example, the direct route (I-5) to Everett makes the most sense, as a BRT line is planned to cover 128th to Boeing/Everett and does not need to be duplicated, particularly given the history of low transit ridership to that destination. From Ballard, for multiple decades, the obvious need has been for cross-town service to the UW, whether the connection be at 65th (which might allow a possible Greenlake station) or 43rd, which would allow folks going to Ballard from north of there a light rail option that doesn’t mean having to go downtown. I highly doubt that “fast” streetcars will be meaningful, and their new idea (Ballard to/from downtown) needlessly duplicates RapidRide D.

    My third principle is to serve new destinations, particularly where the most congestion is. West Seattle deserves a spur to start with, eventually possibly a straight shot to the C-Link line. To the east, the obvious to me is Bellevue to Renton, eventually to Tukwila. I also support the Marginal Way station, it’s something that makes a ton of sense and which I believed should have been there to start with (along with a direct route to/from downtown, and if not that, grade-separated through the Rainier Valley).

    My fourth principle would be to improve reliability and reduce liability. Eventually, I’d like to see them go back and elevate C-Link through the Rainier Valley, as I’m concerned about the costs of vehicle/train accidents and the potential future liability, but that’s filed in the “good luck with that” category.

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