Hewitt Ave, Everett (wikimedia)
Everett Herald reporter Noah Haglund says Everett and Snohomish County officials are adamant that light rail must serve Paine Field, Downtown Everett, and Everett Community College north of downtown:

A letter [Everett Mayor] Stephanson sent to Sound Transit’s board Friday listed three destinations he believes light rail must reach in Everett: the Boeing Co. and other manufacturers clustered around Paine Field; the downtown transit hub at Everett Station; and the expanding higher- education district around Everett Community College at the city’s north end.

There’s overwrought language about “promises” and “priorities,” but ST studies suggest the vision Stephanson articulates would cost as much as $3.72 billion. My (optimistic) assessment is that Snohomish County will generate at most about $2.5 billion for new capital projects in Sound Transit 3. It’s fine to have a vision that exceeds your immediate financial resources, but their reaction is not to complete it in ST4:

Stephanson and other Snohomish County leaders are nervous, in part, because transit authorities have been talking more lately about light-rail segments to places such as West Seattle and Ballard. They’re worried that those destinations could come at the expense of Everett and other cities where people have been paying taxes since the 1990s based on the promise of the original plans.

This is a pretty creative reading of history. It’s fine to prioritize the light rail “spine” to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond, but back when the spine construction was only in North and South King County, Snohomish and Pierce County officials had no interest in contributing to those regional priorities. Instead, they spent their counties’ tax dollars on ST Express service, Tacoma Link, and Sounder. That may have been a vote-maximizing decision that also improved transit outcomes, but it isn’t a single-minded emphasis on “the promise of the original plans.”

It’s mighty convenient, now that the Seattle sections of the spine are fully funded and the East King sections are very close to that, to now say that the region must subordinate all other projects to the spine. The case for more rail in Seattle’s inner neighborhoods is both obvious and strong, in both the electoral and technical senses.

There are non-ridiculous arguments for the core to subsidize the periphery. Seattle isn’t allowing nearly enough new housing to absorb growth, which is going to force a lot of people out into the I-5 corridor. It’s unbecoming for allegedly liberal richer areas to heartily object to a transfer of wealth to the poorer ones. It’s also true that North King residents have gained more than zero benefit* from ST Express while paying nothing for it. But the argument that Seattle spending its own money on its own needs is a violation of existing agreements and norms ignores everything that has happened before.

*though mainly the East King routes.

142 Replies to “New Converts to the Spine”

      1. And just like the heavy rail counterparts speed limit of 25 mph through Canada.

      2. For what it’s worth, the trains that KinkiSharyo produced for Dallas are specced for 70 mph:

        I wonder if they can make trains for us as well for that speed. And the shaking that we experience when Link does 55 mph between Rainier Beach and Tukwila is a result of the wheel and track profile from what I understand and can be fixed.

      3. @Anton: If you look at the design, the wheels on that train sits underneath the high-floor portions of the trains, i.e. they have axles. Link’s center section is low-floor and uses independently rotating wheels (IRW). IRWs lack the steering mechanism of wheels with an axle (the tendency to return to center), and leads to flange contact and excessive wear because it is less capable of damping forces introduced by track imperfections, especially at higher speeds. This is one of the reasons why track imperfections between Rainier Beach and Tukwila are so noticeable (which by the way, shouldn’t have happened in the first place because it’s not the first time mankind has designed/built billion-dollar rail systems).

        It’s a technical limitation of using independently-rotating wheels, and it really shouldn’t be used at high speeds without some sort of steering/stabilizing mechanism.

        Talgos on the Amtrak cascades use independent wheels too, but they do so with an additional passive steering mechanism built into their tilting system to compensate for the lack of an axle. Alstom’s Citadis 100% low-floor light rail (60+ mph) actually has a low-level connection between the wheels, so they’re not independent. Link doesn’t have any of this.

        So you can change the track and the wheel profiles…but to actually fix stability issues and allow for higher speeds would require vehicle redesign.

      4. You’d need to buy a different car design anyway. I don’t think they gave the Link cars gearing for anything above 55mph.

        Besides, Alstom is building those cars right now for Ottawa. KinkiSharyo is probably going to be fully occupied for the next few years with the LA metro cars.

  1. And if this keeps up, we’ll have a light rail line that satisfies political objectives and not much else (including mobility).

    Although I’m not sure why this is an issue. Are they suggesting deviating from subarea equity?

    1. ST board members have already been openly talking about using accounting gimmicks to stretch sub-area equity to the limit. Such as “loans” from North King to Snohomish that everybody knows will never be paid back. Or using North King projects to secure federal grant money, only to internally shift dollars around so that the federal grant money is effectively going to projects in Tacoma and Everett that would never be worthy of federal grant money. Or shuffling around the costs of operation so that North King pays for a greater portion of the line already approved.

      What the ST board needs to understand is that ST 3 is doomed without a majority of the Seattle vote. They can dream about “yes” votes in Tacoma and Everett overcoming “no” votes from Seattle, but any reasonable person knows that will never happen. If ST 3 is going to get the votes to pass, it’s going to have to come from something like 40% yes in Tacoma and Everett and 70% yes in Seattle.

      They should also be thinking of Seattle prop 1 a couple years ago and realize that a “yes” vote in Seattle on anything remotely transit-related cannot be taken for granted. If Seattle people don’t see tangible value in their investment, they will vote “no” like everybody else.

      1. I agree. If you breakup subarea equity, then there would be significant backlash, especially in Seattle, and especially now. A few years ago, a grand plan that included the entire region, but was paid for disproportionately by Seattle residents might pass. But doing away with a system that we are used to, that someone can easily argue has resulted in misplaced priorities, just so you can fund light rail from Lynnwood to Everett is not going to fly. Especially now, when it is obvious to many people that we need more in the city — like Ballard light rail — as opposed to more rail from the suburbs to the city.

        There is little enthusiasm anywhere for completing the spine. It is only the politicians who think this is necessary. I don’t think you could get over 50% of the folks in Snohomish County to support this. Why would they? If you are in Edmonds, Lynnwood or Mountlake Terrace, you get nothing out of the deal, except maybe a faster run in the evening to Everett. Big deal. The rest of the time you can catch a bus and get out there really fast (even the reverse commute has pretty much no traffic on the HOV lanes). Meanwhile, how is this significantly better than just taking a bus from your neighborhood in Everett to Lynnwood. Either way you have to transfer. It isn’t like the train will go through really densely populated neighborhoods. These are all just feeder stations. So why would someone in a typical Everett neighborhood want to spend billions to transfer in Everett (to avoid transferring in Lynnwood) especially since most of the time, for almost all of the trips, the transfer in Lynnwood is faster?

        I think the leaders don’t really understand this. The fact that you can get “from Everett to Seattle” on a train is meaningless. The real question is whether you can get from your place to that other place any faster. UW to Ballard light rail, like plenty of other transit improvements in Seattle, will be a much bigger improvement in a typical commute than extending Link from Lynnwood to Everett. Imagine a guy trying to get from Everett to Ballard:

        Scenario One: Take a bus from an Everett neighborhood to Lynnwood. Take Link to the UW. Then take a train to Ballard.

        Scenario Two: Take a bus from an Everett neighborhood to the Everett station. Take Link to the UW. Then take a bus to Ballard.

        It should be obvious that the first scenario is much faster. Now throw in the “Metro 8” subway (which, if built, would be paid for exclusively by Seattle voters). This means you can pretty much replace “South Lake Union” with “Ballard” in the above scenario (with a transfer at Capitol Hill station). Getting to downtown isn’t the problem (and it will be a much easier once Lynnwood Link is complete) but getting around the city is the problem.

      2. All of this.

        What remains most infuriating about this Snohomish-driven “ST wisdom” is how it continues to pretend Seattle had nothing better to do with its ST2 money than to build express tunnels and miles of wasteful highway trackage straight to the Snohomish border.


        At this point, I cannot wait to watch ST3 go down.

      3. Again, we have already paid out the nose for suburban priorities.

        It is not remotely inaccurate to describe those who flaunt grant-siphoning accounting tricks and other urban-fund diminishments as “thieves”.

      4. At this point, the most important outcome of a “No” vote on ST3 wouldn’t be merely to stop a plan that spends billions of North King money on miles of empty trains to the far reaches of the urbanized area, but rather to end Sound Transit as it’s currently configured. Following a failed ST3 vote, the agency could remain in its role as operator of inter-county buses and the commuter and light rail lines, but expansions would be paused until a new governing structure were put in place that allowed different subareas the independent authority to tax themselves at a level necessary to build transit appropriate for their own needs. Such new authority would no doubt require fixes from the Legislature, so the prospects of this happening anytime soon are remote. Not ideal scenario, but I think putting a pause on Sound Transit capital expansions is the best option now. When the current generation of mid-20th Century dinosaurs is replaced by a more transit and urban friendly generation, we may see greater state support for transit. That’s my hope. For right now, the only sensible thing to do is to oppose not only ST3, but also the possible enabling legislation that would authorize freeway expansion in exchange for giving us the chance to vote on an ST3 package. We need to pressure our legislators to kill this plan in Olympia. In the near term, the more gridlock, the better.

      5. @Under the Clouds

        I have to totally disagree. We need ST3 to happen, and we need it to be the right package. I do not think we can responsibly punt all capital investments into the distant future. We need to pressure our legislators to push for full funding, and push ST’s board to make sure the right package is on the ballot.

        Saying “lets scrap it for 10+ years” because the mayor of Everett is taking a hard line position is giving the mayor of Everett way too much influence over this process. He has outlined what he wants. That doesn’t mean he’s going to get it.

        We have worked so hard to get to this point. If we turn around because of an Op-Ed no one in the political sphere will ever care about transit advocates again cause you can get them to fold by writing a letter.

      6. The political calculation is that Seattle is desperate for transit, and so will vote for packages with less bang-for-buck than other subareas would tolerate, because we really, really want it. Seattle is in a classically poor bargaining position because, ironically enough, it is the area that would most benefit from transit, and it knows it. That gives the suburbs leverage.

      7. I’m folding? Ok, let’s review:

        The Everett mayor writes a public letter, demanding that as a part of ST3 rail be built not just to his downtown (where the 512 currently goes) but also deviates miles out of the corridor to connect with Paine Field, and
        then continues further north of downtown Everett to ECC. In addition to these demand, the mayor repeats the falsehood for public consumption that
        building rail projects in North King have a direct impact (i.e. takes “our” money from) expanding the spine in Snohomish County. If this letter were just one bombastic politician’s attempt to show some leg to a narrow constituency, then I would ignore it. But in fact, the mayor’s insistence on completing the spine, irrespective of whether his sub-area can afford it
        and whether it makes sense based on ridership, isn’t the demand of one marginalized politician. “Completing the Spine” is Sound Transit’s
        primary guiding principle in designing an ST3 package, as you no
        doubt know, since ST lists “Completing the Spine” as the top criterion in its recent Conceptual Scenarios matrix posted 4 days ago on this site .
        You can ignore the Everett mayor’s letter, or the Federal Way city council’s letter demanding an I-5 alignment for a Link extension to Tacoma, but you shouldn’t ignore the steady drumbeat of statements of ST board members, such as Pat McCarthy, Paul Roberts, or John Lovick. In a recent board meeting, Mr. Lovick, for example, stated that an extension to Paine
        Field was important to Snohomish County. We’ve heard from Mr. Roberts concerns that funding a station at 130th distracts from the goal of
        completing the spine northward, and from Ms. McCarthy that a second downtown Seattle transit tunnel shouldn’t even be considered before building Link to Tacoma. Really, if you haven’t watched an archived board
        meeting, you should. And if you have, and still think Sound Transit, as presently organized, can reach consensus on a coherent ST3 plan, then we’ll
        have to respectfully agree to disagree on whether this is a worthwhile prospect.

        What makes this comedic situation much, much worse (heck, in isolation, I’d enjoy voting no on an Everett-to-Tacoma Spinafest Destiny) is that fact that, even to get this dreadful plan to the public for a vote, our legislative representatives would have to agree to fund several billion
        dollars worth of new highway construction, adding to congestion and the sprawl of a region that is already difficult to serve with transit. I’m
        throwing in the towel? In my opinion, the transit advocates throwing in the towel are those who say “Give us just the chance of a vote on ST3, even if it means building without public vote miles and miles of new freeway lanes, greater congestion, and
        sprawl”. I’ll support a rail expansion plan with my own tax dollars when it makes sense, and when it comes without a multibillion dollar bribe to
        politicians whose own constituents would reject any tax measure were it put to them for a vote. Until then, I think the worst decision we could make is to vote for a $15 billion plan that permanently wastes money for
        rail lines that leave our highest ridership corridors unserved, and that also costs us billions in sprawl-inducing new freeways. The billions we spend on rail to Paine Field and Tacoma Mall are billions we can never get
        back. Throwing away billions on bad transit while high ridership corridors are passed over merely for political reasons, possibly forever, is truly “throwing in the towel”. Count me out.

      8. “The political calculation is that Seattle is desperate for transit, and so will vote for packages with less bang-for-buck than other subareas would tolerate, because we really, really want it. Seattle is in a classically poor bargaining position because, ironically enough, it is the area that would most benefit from transit, and it knows it. That gives the suburbs leverage. ”

        While people in Seattle is desperate for transit, they are also not stupid, and they realize that a package that simply sends their money outward simply doesn’t fulfill their desperate need. If we’re going to send our money Everett, we may as well send it to Portland or New York, which could get a lot more riders with it than Everett.

      9. @EHS — Absolutely. — Bonus points for the great YouTube video, too. That strategy is essentially being used right now in the state legislature. It is a lot more complicated, but Democrats want some roads, and the right to tax ourselves for transit. Meanwhile, a handful of Republicans and Democrats in swing districts (suburban districts) want projects of dubious value, but close to their district. So the road package they put together is terrible. An independent board asked to come up with a set of roads for Washington would never come up with that turkey. But a board looking at political reality would of course support it. Which begs the question — would the voters support it? Even with the attached Sound Transit proposal (allowing us to tax ourselves on top of that, and only if a second vote is passed), I think the answer is no. It is a turkey, and folks from both sides of the state (and both sides of the aisle) would vote it down. This includes lots of people who could care less about transit, and want improvements to the roads.

        Which reminds me, Seattle voters had a choice like this, and it was “roads and transit”. Similar scenario, really. Folks knew that Seattle voters really wanted transit, and suburban voters really wanted roads, so they combined the two, assuming everyone would support it. But it died — big time. A few brave politicians opposed it, and plenty of environmental groups did as well. I could easily see the same thing happening with a similar (all transit) turkey. All it takes is a few editorial boards and a few organizations opposing it, and the thing is doomed to fail. Sound Transit should be aware of this, or live with the outcome.

        I think if they do propose a turkey, and it fails miserably — failing in every subarea — then I think heads will roll at Sound Transit. This is why they really should consider outside help. It is obvious that there are a lot of things they don’t understand (like why a station at NE 130th is a bargain or why completing the spine is not) and there is no reason they can’t come up with a decent package for every area. In some cases it might mean a little bit of rail (or none at all) and a lot of express bus service (or additional commuter rail). There is nothing wrong with that. ST bus service is very popular, from what I can tell. Combine that with a decent set of projects for Seattle and everybody is happy — the folks at ST get to keep their jobs. But propose a turkey (like completing the spine) and I think a lot of people will be out of a job soon, and it could easily transform the way Sound Transit works.

      10. Who is saying the letter is the reason to vote “no?” The reason to vote “No” would be should ST3 contain provisions that the letter writer seems to feel are the birthright of his constituents. As RossB so clearly put it (and d.p. colorfully so), THAT would be a sufficient reason to vote no. I think we all hope it does not get to that point–but if it does it will likely be a death rattle for ST’s capital funding mechanism as currently constituted. Under The Clouds is not wrong about that at all.

      11. Wow, late to this party, but I’ll pile on.

        While Seattle and its environs seem perpetually mired in naiveté (not only with respect to transit), the spine seems to be a magnet for foaming, even from those largely rational and reasonable.

        Blogs (horsesass), friends (nameless to protect the as-yet innocent), radio talking heads (KUOW), and assorted other local media, seem convinced that not only is Spinefest Destiny a given that need not be question, but that we are ‘doomed’ to traffic carmageddon (fish truck follies!) if we don’t get the full $15B to flush down the toilet after this (in all likelihood) hot mess. News flash!! Transit ‘alternatives’ that do not serve the trips people actually make, will deliver us to a similar fate, though perhaps with more saliva on our collective collars as we marvel at BART-NW (allow me to propose the moniker ‘Seattle Highspeed Intercity Transit’).

        With so much ink given to actual, DEMONSTRABLE, transit-solvable problems (*cough*Westneatrantsaboutthe8onDennyAgain*cough*), it is painful to imagine how NOT shocking it will be when Sound Transit offers us empty trains on gold-plated rails to nowhere.

        It’s like my response to the planning process for transit in this regions is stuck in a perpetual do-loop of, “Yes, please, yes-please, oh wait, no, NO, anything-but!”, with the odd dose of nose-holding as I grasp for the palatable table scraps.

      12. The claim that Seattle voters will vote irrationally just because ‘transit’ is in the initiative is totally false and easily proven so by last year’s monorail vote. Seattle Subway (and others ofc) successfully killed the transit initiative 20%-80% or close to that.

        We’ve already pushed ST more to our side with respect to non-spine investments, which is shown by the non-spine conceptual studies added in the last board meeting. We’ve got to keep working, but the pessimism here seems totally misplaced.

      13. ST is probably not to blame, but it doesn’t get off blame-free. Politics has a lot of influence in these projects (usually not a good thing), but ST hasn’t exactly shown the willingness to push back against ridiculous proposals. My perception (yours may differ) is that it sort of sits back and waits for politics to take over and dilute the project. It’s also more than willing to let that happen, either for funding reasons or political support. I think this comes down to the way ST is organized, and it’s simply organized in such a way that it’s vulnerable to too much politics from different spectrums.

        Want mobility in Seattle? Everyone else will complain. Want to connect the region? Seattle will complain. So we end up with a slow “regional light rail”, a short “light rail” for Tacoma and some money for Seattle to build a streetcar. Nothing in the end works as its supposed to in terms of actual mobility, but we’ll find that it somehow (surprise) satisfies political objectives.

      14. And at this point, I wouldn’t mind seeing voters reject ST3, because I’d rather we build nothing at all and find ways to restructure, than spend billions for a system that won’t improve the mobility situation anyway.

  2. Many talking points refer to sub-area equity as the holy grail of fairness. So, I tried to look at sub-area equity on the ST website and find surprisingly little there.
    Spending one areas tax receipts in that area is only part of the equation. As most projects are bonded out 30 or more years now, and Federal and State grants get dolled out to various projects, one must be able to see the long term implications of raising ST taxes across the region yet a third time.
    If in the end, after all the dust has settled from building the spine and associated STEX and Sounder service is that Snohomish only got back what they put in, then I have to question the wisdom of their participation in the larger regional effort.
    If on the other hand, they will be getting back $2 in benefits for every dollar raised then it would be stupid to not be in. North King well certainly be the benefactor of most Federal funds and bonding capital.
    Can anyone find a reasonable accounting of this?

    1. mic – Sound Transit publishes a Financial Plan which details (at a basic level) revenue and expenditures by subarea, including grant, fare, and bonding revenue.

      1. Yes, that’s all I could find. It’s pretty basic, as you point out.
        Try searching for sub-area equity, or look under that Sub-Area Equity tab. You’ll find nothing, but that is what seems to be driving this whole process.

      2. Best I can do is point you at Resolution 2008-10 and its appendices. This resolution is the “official” ST2 System Plan and contains the language about subarea equity. This is not necessarily binding on the Board for a future ST3 System Plan.

        You’d think they would have a single page that at least links to the relevant documents.

  3. Is there huge demand from Everett Station to Everett Community College now? Looks like there’s 20 minute service on ET 7 and a few routes that run hourly and that’s it.

    1. Exactly.

      Level of service isn’t necessarily an accurate measure of demand, but it does help reveal the extent to which the community and its politicians have been willing to invest in this apparent must-be-served-by-spine-light-rail-transit corridor.

    2. There’s also 15-20 minute service on CT 201/202, which skips most of the Broadway stops and doesn’t stop in the college’s transit center.

  4. If Everett really, really wants rail or bust, here’s an option that could be somewhat affordable. Give them a slow streetcar from Everett Station to Everett Community College, taking existing streets and operating in mixed traffic all the way, with a transfer to an I-5 express bus required to get to Lynnwood to reach the train that actually goes to Seattle.

    Granted, streetcars are a huge waste of money, but not as wasteful as building track for all those miles of nothing between Lynnwood and Everett.

    And, the argument that we in Seattle should pay for it just makes me crack up. We’ve been paying taxes since the 1990’s too.

    1. Extend the 512 to Everett CC. It would be limited-stop just like Link would be. Of course the 512 would be truncated at the other end at Lynnwood, but should get significantly more frequent. Or extend Swift to Everett CC, which might serve its student base better.

      1. The problem with extending Swift to Everett CC is that it’s out of the way unless you give up service to Everett Station. If you’re going to have a giant detour to Everett Station on the way between Everett CC and anywhere else, you may as well just make it a separate route.

        Extending the 512 would be less useful since Everett CC is really a local destination, not a regional destination.

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong but the proposal to for the second round to get to Everett was during the failed 1995 Phase One vote. The proposal lost the election thus promises made during the campaign are null and void. The only other Light Rail to Everett Promise I know of was during Roads and Transit which failed then was scaled back to ST2.

    Has anyone projected if getting to Paine Field (as the ST3 terminus) is feasible with in a 15B ST3 budget? If possible I think that would be a big win politically.

    1. What are the shift times at Paine Field? Will rail be able to handle pre-dawn or late night demand surges from shift workers, or are Paine Field rider forecasts a mere mathematical fantasy because they don’t incorporate shift times and loads?

      1. Link Runs almost 20 hours a day, but I’m not an expert on Boeing’s operations in Everett but it would seem workable. I really want to to see an early mourning train so downtowners could make a 6AM flight.

      2. I believe shifts changes are around 5:30 am, 2:30 pm, & 11 pm… Seems like reasonable times for trains to run.

      3. Keep in mind that many transit riders begin their trips an hour before start times and ride an hour afterwards. The forecasts also usually assume working riders choose transit partly because of congested traffic – not likely at these times (except the 2-3 pm time).

      4. I once tried the 6 AM flight thing, hoping that with fewer people traveling at 5:00 in the morning, the security lines would be shorter. In reality, fewer people traveling at that hour simply means the security line has fewer lanes open, and you have to wait just as long as you would for a flight at a more reasonable hour. Which means getting to the terminal between 4:30 and 5:00 at the latest.

        At that hour, my tolerance for anything longer than a 20 minute ride to the airport at 70 mph down an empty freeway decreases significantly.

      5. Yeah, seriously. Even if, by some miracle, a statistically significant portion of Boeing workers wound up living where commuting by train would ever make a lick of sense — already a huge logical leap — that train is not going to be available northbound before 6am, or probably southbound after 11:15 or 11:30.

        If by some further moneysucking stretch late-night trains become a commitment, you’ll see them running half-hourly (at best) on the low-demand, distance portions, as they do in every single other poorly-thought-out sprawl rail in North America.

        This Paine obsession gets dumber with every iteration.

      6. Even if the train is running in time for the early-morning/late-night shift, rest assured, the bus connections on the other end won’t be. It’s possible a Boeing worker with a spouse who works in downtown Seattle might deliberately choose a home right next to a Link Station to make this work, but overall, the numbers won’t be too great.

        Remember, even if the trains are (being generous) moderately full to Paine Field around the Boeing shift changes, they will still be almost empty the rest of the time. 1% of 700 visitors a day to the Future of Flight represents 7 people total – nothing compared the capacity of a light-rail train.

      7. What was the rest of the extent of the failed proposal?

        And how much was it expected to cost, or should I not ask because it’s way more laughable than the estimate for SeaTac to 45th?

    2. You are correct. The only time that LR was promised as far north as Paine Field was during the original RTA vote, which was rejected by the voters. There has never been a voter approved package that included LR to Everett.

      After the original failed vote two changes where made to gains suburban approval: 1) The size of the package was reduced, and 2) sub-area equity was introduced because suburban voters didn’t want their tax dollars being diverted to “gold plate” :LR in Seattle.

      The result is predictable: 1) A slower build-out of the spine, and 2) less investment in suburban areas because they don’t have access to Seattle dollars. Basically suburban voters painted themselves into a corner and are now throwing a hissy fit.

      That said, any wholesale changes to sub-area equity and I will probably vote “no” too..

      1. Yes, that is my understanding as well. A key part of the revised plan, by the way, was a lot more express buses in the suburbs. So basically, the first proposal, which had lots of rail, and practically completed the spine, failed miserably. The revised proposal, with a scaled down subway plan, along with lots of express bus service and some commuter rail, passed comfortably. So the argument that “Everett voters were promised the spine” is ridiculous. Voters rejected the spine (or at least most of it) and chose a more sensible alternative.

        By the way, I remember when Everett threw their first hissy fit, which was over the fact that the original vote didn’t include Everett. There were leaders (if memory serves, the mayor of Everett) who opposed the measure. I could be wrong, maybe he was angry and then changed his mind, but that is how I remember it.

        Anyway, the politicians really don’t understand the reality on the ground. For a lot of people, Lynnwood rail will be “just enough”. There are a lot of people thinking “OK, my bus will quickly get to Lynnwood, then I can take a train and get to UW or downtown — that will be a lot faster”. There really aren’t that many people that would benefit that much by extending the rail – that it the problem. Unlike Seattle, you get diminishing returns, because there are so few trips from points along the way — it is a commuter rail pattern. Northgate Link will be extremely successful because every combination of Northgate, Roosevelt, U-District, UW, Capitol Hill and downtown will be popular. Roosevelt to UW Hospital? Of course. Northgate to Capitol Hill? Certainly. But Ash Way to Mountlake Terrace? Not so much. This is all you gain from extending light rail — things like Everett to Ash Way. On the grand scheme of things, most riders would say “Who cares?”.

        Will it make their commute faster — not necessarily. For those in Everett, it means either a bus that runs express on the freeway and connects to Lynnwood, or a bus that drops you off at Everett. What is the difference? If traffic is really heavy from Lynnwood to Everett, then the train is faster. If not, then the bus is faster. For someone in Ash Way, it is an even worse bargain. The station just eliminated 80% (the worse 80%) of the freeway section. Does someone like that really want to spend more billions for marginally better service? I doubt it. Give them a fast way to get to the park and ride and they will be happy, and see their commute improve considerably (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/05/31/cambridge-guided-busway/#comment-623540).

      2. Going as far North as SR99 & Airport Rd could have some merit if for nothing else than connecting Link and SWIFT together. Though realistically there aren’t a lot of good reasons to go any further than the Ash Way P&R.

        Diverting through Paine Field with LINK is pure folly. While an all I-5 Everett-Lynnwood line would be at least cheap I’d really rather use 99 from Airport Rd to Everett Station (if Link ever goes that far).

        Might as well get some TOD out of the deal.

      3. Ash Way P&R might be worth doing if the leaders in Snohomish County actually believed their TOD claims enough to plan something like a city around the two Mountlake Terrace stations and especially Lynnwood P&R, instead of putting parking garages front-and-center. Then Ash Way would be the big P&R station at the end of the line. As it is, Ash Way is nothing much but an overflow parking lot right next to a freeway interchange that’s in the conversation for worst pedestrian conditions within the ST service area.

  6. Exactly.

    Level of service isn’t necessarily an accurate measure of demand, but it does help reveal the extent to which the community and its politicians have been willing to invest in this apparent must-be-served-by-spine-light-rail-transit corridor.

  7. Question: if Tacoma had agreed to forgo the ST Express service, the streetcar, and Sounder- would the “Spine” have reached Tacoma yet? Let alone serving the Kent Valley at all?

    And more important, would there now be more or less demand for regional transit, including the Spine?

    Like density, there are more and less productive ways to think about making a goal of ridership in the abstract. Predictions in the abstraction have their use. But results largely depend on unforeseen events, and even more, constant work.

    Whatever motivation Everett lacks now, we’ve got one definite ally: the fact that I-5 commuters now have to leave home an hour earlier to get an hour’s parking that eventually takes them to work.

    Which also gives both Spines and Densities powerful allies: bosses who lose money when more people are late than they can afford to fire and replace.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Show us the density! Show us the parking rates at all these places! Show us the riders! Just willing this with a chunk of the money is not enough; it costs lots of money and takes a lot of demand to run a railroad.

  9. ST will be operating two lines to Lynnwood. Should ST and Snohomish look at two lines rather than this single, meandering one?

    1. Which two lines? Both the ST and the CT express buses will be truncated at Lynnwood when Link opens. Sounder of course is nowhere near Lynnwood.

      1. ST has proposed running two lines:
        Lynnwood-Overlake (Redmond)
        Lynnwood-Angle Lake (Federal Way0

      2. it may be “two lines” but they share the same tracks north of International District. Splitting them North of Lynnwood would just cost much more money Snohomish doesn’t have.

      3. East Link was originally going to serve Lynnwood only peak hours and terminate at Northgate otherwise. It was later extended to Lynnwood full time because the ridership projections said it would be necessary. But that doesn’t mean East Link would automatically be extended north of Lynnwood.

  10. This is rail manifest destiny vs reality.

    Everett is concerned that places that could actually use rail today might use their own money to build it while that same money could be used to build fantasy sim-city projects up in Everett.

    If we just build rail, people will appear like magic, right?

    A financial argument for helping disadvantaged areas would make some sense if Everett was talking about serving populated areas, but they aren’t.

    They want to take the money Seattle would generate within its borders to build rail to places like Ballard and use it instead to build a rail line out to a manufacturing center in South Everett were very few people live, and most who work there are scattered all across the county, and couldn’t be compelled to write this turkey. This line won’t serve them, this line serves the hopes and dreams of a future new Everett that doesn’t yet exist.

    Its as if they are asking Seattle to shell out a giant subsidy to fund the Boeing complex, at the cost of no more real rail in the city limits. All of the tax breaks the state is giving Boeing is enough, we don’t need to subsidize Boeing with our giant mortgage for transit too. We need to solve the problems that exist today, not throw all of our money at the future fantasy plans of some suburban neighbors.

    1. “If we just build rail, people will appear like magic, right?”

      They see it as fulfilling a contract (an implicit promise in ST1&2) and getting value for their spent money. And the people will appear like magic because Everett will become the next Bellevue and all Snohomish County will prosper.

    2. At least since the dawn of the railroad the process of development has followed transportation investments at least as much as the other way around, both in quantity and form. It’s still true today, even for infill. Some of that is influenced by our unfortunate zoning tendency to put the biggest numbers near the biggest roads, a cynical way for incumbent homeowners to control development “impacts” that ignores the health impact of living next to a roaring, polluted road. Still, beyond zoning, it’s not surprising to see new development on the urban periphery when long-distance transportation is expanded, and it’s not surprising to see a Whole Foods go in when a streetcar line is approved.

      Where promises of new development around Link to Everett go off the rails is that they ignore the constraints on both quantity and form of development imposed by existing auto-oriented investments, which are large, ubiquitous, and long-established; they overwhelm the proposed transit investment and work against walking, a necessary complement for transit.

  11. I want to clarify in response to the financial argument: if this was truly about sharing money to serve lower income areas people were being forced to move to due to economic forces in Seattle, the “spine” alignment would be along HWY99 through Everett, not out to Paine Field.

    Given the alignment they are dead set at getting, the financial argument holds no water. We would not be subsidizing riders being forced to live in the suburbs, we would be subsidizing Boeing. Again.

    1. Yup, and mark my words – by the time Link to Paine Field finally opens, Boeing is inevitably going to say “screw you, suckers”, close up shop, and move their factory to some other part of the country where labor is cheaper and there are no unions to deal with.

      1. You appear to be accepting the argument – Paine Field needs trains for the Boeing Workers – at face value.
        The two gate passenger terminal seems much more likely to be the real driver.

        See this exploratory proposal – approved in March.

        Think how much the airport staff would love to poach flights from the Port of Seattle, and how much Snohomish and Everett officials would enjoy new junketing opportunities.

        A side benefit would be coming in ahead of King County airport – where Southwest was exploring flights for a bit.

  12. There are at least two ways to cut costs on this.
    1. Use single track sections.
    2. Use DMU/EMU.

    What is more important to Snohomish? One seat rides to Seattle and high frequency, or coverage?

  13. This is not new; it reflects longstanding differences in interpretation of Link’s mission in Snohomish and Pierce vs Seattle. Link to Everett and Tacoma was impossible until it reached Lynnwood and Federal Way, so Snohomish and Pierce did other things in the meantime. (I’ve heard that Pierce has saved a significant amount of its ST1/ST2 money for the Link extension.) This year the differing interpretations are coming to a collision because it’s now possible to extend Link beyond Lynnwood and Federal Way. As background, Lynnwood to Everett is 4/5 as far as downtown to Lynnwood, while Federal Way to Tacoma is 6/7 as far as downtown to SeaTac, but both are significantly less dense than their adjacent inner segments.

    This will be the primary issue in ST3, spine vs non-spine projects, and it could prevent the board from reaching consensus. Or if they do reach a compromise, it will come up even bigger in ST4. The difference is perhaps similar to the state budget impasse, where it gets gradually more acute until they can’t pass a budget. However, in ST’s case, the King County boardmembers are somewhat sympathetic to the spine argument, and an impasse would mean the end of ST light rail expansions rather than shutting down the existing network.

    The best way forward would be for Snohomish and Pierce to start discussing what would be an acceptable alternative to Link extensions, but Everett’s letter shows they’re not even ready to consider the possibility of that at this point, and Pierce is feeling similar.

    To add to the issue, Jason Lu has written some Page 2 articles on how Link’s technical specs may lead to excessive wear and replacement parts if it does have long 55mph segments. I’m not qualified to say whether they’re accurate, but he says that in-city tight-curve stop-and-go service requires different specs than long nonstop segments, and Link’s hybrid spec is not very suitable for the Lynnwood-Everett and FW-Tacoma segments. If this is an issue, the board should address it directly, and explain why putting Link into this role is worth it, and the costs it would incur with premature wear and extra replacement parts over Link’s lifetime.

    1. If Pierce has saved its own tax dollars for the useless extension to Tacoma (which was promised in the scaled-down package), then what I wrote below has to deal with a fairness issue. The taxpayers of Pierce County — at least, those in the “ST service area” — have been paying taxes for which they have received no benefit in the expectation that they would be able to use the saved funds to pay for their portion of The Spine.

      If Link isn’t extended south of Midway/”New Kent” and both sub-area equity and equal taxation remain Sound Transit law, Pierce will increasingly be overpaying for the service it receives.

      It’s doubtful that there will ever be demand for more than one ST Express bus between Tacoma and Seattle every fifteen minutes, so it’s not like we can just flood the region with frequent buses to compensate folks. There aren’t enough genuine bus users to take advantage of the service.

      So I would propose that as a part of a “No” vote, Seattle and King County voters offer Pierce voters the option of taking its accumulated funds and any excess generated in the future greater than needed for ST Express and South Sounder operations and transferring them to Pierce Transit as a permanent and acceptable “non-regional” usage of the funds.

      1. Or spend it on a Sounder track that’s separated from freight, to allow for half-hourly all-day trains. That would help Pierce and South King much more than Link would.

      2. I’d say you have hit on the implicit bias of ST3: It all goes to one operator. At some point politically, I think we will need to shift from agency-centered funding strategies to an umbrella one for the region, and/or have cities or subareas gather transit subsidy revenue and spend it like they want (like Seattle just did). RT1 (Regional Transit 1) anyone?

      3. This is the gist of my observation on Sub-Area equity earlier in this thread. All of the accounting for St1 and 2 can fit on a half sheet of paper buried in the 2014 Financial Plan and nowhere else on the web site (someone correct me please, as I’ve looked).
        Yet, all these decisions about what to do now for ST3 seem to be based on myths of who’s getting screwed or enriched, and not much on what is the most cost effective solution, or which moves the most bodies for the least bang required. What ever happened to ‘Least Cost Planning’ passed in Olympia some years ago?

      4. Sure, any of these Sounder related ideas are great. But clearly Pierce wanted to get The Spine extension and if ST3 gets voted down they need the right to spend the money they’ve saved themselves as they see fit.

        Maybe the will spend it on Sounder, but that’s not for us to say, We can recommend, but they should not have legal constraints.

  14. The “phenomenon” detailed in this post by Martin is an excellent reason for Seattle to vote “No” on ST3. Nearly every person posting on this board except Bailo and Raised-From-The-Dead agrees that the only part of the region that can effectively use true high-capacity transit is the City of Seattle and the slim corridor through the East Side soon to be served by Link, probably including an extension to Redmond, but only by the narrowest of margins.

    As Martin points out, when “funding The Spine” meant that North King taxpayers were paying the full bill, it was a great idea. Now that North King taxes would go to improvements pretty much affecting only North King residents’ trips, the ‘burbs aren’t so happy any longer.

    The portion of “The Spine” that’s funded in ST2 is pretty much the optimum extent from a transit operations point of view. Now that Federal Way has made it clear that there will be no “string of pearls” development along SR99, “New Kent” including Highline CC should be the permanent end of Link to the south.

    As we know, ST has two options for getting to New Kent, elevated along SR99 with an optional station at South 220th or the I-5 to SR99 option that uses the right of way of the proposed SR509 extension to reach the west side of the I-5 right of way.

    If Sea-Tac does not want a high-density node at South 220th, choose the I-5 to SR99 routing with the station option within the New Kent development to be built just south of Kent-Des Moines between 99 and I-5. Place the terminal station for Link in the southeast corner of the HCC campus for an easy interchange with the A Line and other non-freeway buses to Des Moines and northwest Federal Way.

    Then, as Ross has been advocating, put a Mountlake Terrace/Evergreen Point/92nd Avenue-style bus intercept station somewhere between Kent-Des Moines Road and the point at which Link joins the I-5 right of way. Ideally Link would rise up and cross over the southbound lanes of I-5 twice to a station directly over the bus interchange stop. This would make New Kent accessible via a slight double-back, as well as the airport, accessible to people riding the I-5 expresses.

    Or, if Sea-Tac is amenable to intensive development between Angle Lake and Kent-Des Moines at a 220th station, continue down SR99 with that new station and do a “fishhook” with the Highline CC station at the northeast corner of campus, then cross SR99 to a station at the southeast corner of the “New Kent” development with the bus interchange station there in the freeway. It would require a little more walking for transferring passengers but it would still work and would make “New Kent” a destination directly served by the freeway expresses passing by.

    Then of course, Seattle has to solve its own near-term mobility problems, of which only four actually require significant new construction: Ballard-UW, the WSTT, probably without rails, an automated Skytrain-style “Metro 8” ring subway supporting an expansion of the currently too-constricted downtown core, and some sort of separated busway from Northgate Way and Lake City Way through the transit center at Northgate and the cluster west of the freeway (NSCC and to the north) then on to Greenwood and Holman Road.

    Since #4 is a new proposal, I’ll elaborate just a bit here.

    I think such a facility would have to be completely underground east of I-5 but with some “double-back” could be mostly at grade along the south side of the cemetery using the 110th street right of way and the old interurban right of way to get back to 105th to the west. Short sections of tunnel between 105th and Fremont and Holman just west of Greenwood and along Meridian between 100th and 110th would be required. Aurora would have to be underpassed and obviously, it should be built to be convertible to host Seattle Subway’s “Red Line” should it ever be built. Such a busway would solve the 130th Street Station problem and would support an upzone of the area between 105th and the cemetery east and west of Aurora. The dead don’t care about building shadows.

    All the other problems faced by Seattle can be solved by taking parking lanes for 24/7/365 bus facilities on three important arterials (15th West/Elliott), Aurora, and the West Seattle Freeway/Avalon, some localized widening of other arterials for queue jumps, and software.

    By “software” I mean aggressive and creative use of signal preemption, wide expansion of the real-time information system, and off-board payment facilities at any stop at which more than five people queue more than twice a day.

    There is no reason for a city as “undense” as is Seattle to have a lot of subways. If the city wants to change to be more like Toronto or New York, fine, build the radial subway lines of Seattle Subway’s plan and erect large buildings at the stations along them. The City will have the money to pay for such a system itself from the massively increased property taxes such a population boom would generate. But if the residents choose not to follow that path — and that seems to be the strong preference of most — then the city can’t afford those subways.

    Instead, it should get on with the unexciting but not terribly expensive process of speeding buses on surface streets and improving their interfaces to Link so that it gets more total rides per bus service hour. And cameras, lots of cameras pointed at the bus lanes. With big fines flowing out of them for red lane violators.

    1. I really do think the ST board is living in fantasy land where they expect 70% of Seattle voters to just automatically vote “yes” on anything with the word “light rail” in it without bothering to ask themselves whether the rail in question goes anywhere useful. I consider this view somewhat insulting to the Seattle voter.

      1. I think they’ve learned that a ‘spine-first’ approach is not acceptable to Seattle/King County voters. The first round of their ‘conceptual studies’ didn’t include any non-spine alternatives, while their second round does.

        We’re having an effect; keep contacting your representatives and make sure your voice is heard.

      2. I am of the opinion that economic and cultural forces mean that we need to focus on Seattle proper as much as possible (Ok, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland too). Facebook expanding here, Weyerhauser locating in Pioneer square, growth of South lake union. Desire for walking and protected bike lanes, urban lifestyles, etc. Amazon office growth.

        I am also against WSDOT spending on expanding road capacity. If anything we need to congestion charge the hell out of the existing single occupancy vehicle lanes. Just funding the maintenance of the existing roads is not sustainable.

    2. Anandakos is 1000% correct this time. On every harsh “Puget wisdom” corrective, every finely drawn limit of geometric feasibility, every itemized (and non-negligible) urban investment priority, and every negation of napkin-mappers’ Manhattan fantasies.

      That there are zero public entities or civic figures saying any of what he just said — that from Stephanson to Constantine to Roderick, all we ever get is fallacious, wishful nonsense — suggests that non-automobile mobility is as doomed in this town as Sound Transit itself.

      This is how your dreams of a better city die: not with a bang, but with a newspaper transcription of a letter from a bureaucrat.

    3. A couple of solid No votes on completing the spine and an antsy Seattle looking to keep the transit momentum up could be a real game changer. Of course all the bonds have to be retired over the next 30 years on current taxes being paid, but that just math.
      I finding more agreement with this than ever before. Good post!

    4. There isn’t a ballot proposal to vote no on yet. Lets try to make the proposal the right one instead of walking away from the table.

      1. +1 Jon.

        It’s our job to make sure ST puts the right NKC and EKC projects on the table (as SeattleTransitBlog at least!)

        And guess what – it worked. Ric from ST wrote a letter here telling everyone to calm down. We have power and influence over ST and we can make them do the right thing.

      2. We, as transit advocates generally, are being very easily appeased. We’ve bought into the ideas that (i) the conceptual scenarios were just a going-through-the-motions exercise, and (ii) everything that’s out for public comment in North King is really on the table.

        There is a going-through-the-motions exercise, but I’m not sure it was the conceptual scenarios. There’s no particular reason to suppose that this isn’t what they really mean to build.

        If Curtis King gets his way, maybe this.

        Fully half of what Scenario 4 spends in Snohomish comes out of the revenues of some other subarea. And that doesn’t even get to Everett CC. In scenario 3d, almost half the entire ST3 package went to Snohomish.

        This is crazy, but it’s also the inescapable math of what Ray Stephanson is demanding.

        ST will tweak the final project list. But it’s really hard to listen to the Board Meetings and not make a conclusion that this is broadly where we’re headed. It’s the Spine to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond. Plus I-405, plus West Seattle rail, plus whatever we can still afford in Ballard.

      3. The mayor of Everett is going to ask for Everett’s version of the moon. We need to show the board that it makes more electoral sense to not do that. That instead it makes more electoral sense to give Seattle a big ol upgrade and prioritize that.

        And d.p., I can sleep easier knowing that you are, as ever, not appeased. :)

      4. I agree — we need to push for what’s right, before walking away from the table. But if they propose something stupid, it will fail. So far, it looks like they are planning on something stupid. I think Sound Transit needs to know a few things:

        1) There is no way that Seattle will chip in for anyone else’s light rail. Sorry. We had to pay for our own, which the rest of the region will no doubt enjoy (headed from UW to downtown, please enjoy our fine light rail system — you’re welcome). We are generous liberals here, but we don’t like to throw our money at stupid projects. Light rail to Everett just isn’t cost effective. My guess is there are tons of people in Snohomish County, and even Everett, who feel the same way (sorry mayor).

        2) Careful what you build in Seattle, too. For the same reason, West Seattle light rail is a ballot killer. It is just stupid. For a lot less you can get a lot more for West Seattle. A lot more. I feel less sure about Ballard to downtown light rail. Ballard to UW light rail is cheaper and better, the WSTT is cheaper and better, but Ballard to downtown light rail is still a good thing. Ballard to downtown light rail (by itself) would make a lot of people hesitate — should we support a decent project even though we could build a better project for less money? Hard to say, really, but if I’m counting every vote, I wouldn’t build that. Sound Transit should lead with UW to Ballard rail, and hopefully add on the WSTT. If not, then I think they will be in trouble, because:

        3) Suburban support is going to be lukewarm. The last proposal had light rail to Bellevue. Of course it passed. It had light rail to Lynnwood. I’m not surprised Snohomish County supported that, either. The alternative was taking a bus to the UW, which is never easy (especially if it ended up being Husky Stadium). You needed to at least go as far as a nice freeway station, and they did that (and then some). A similar, although not as strong dynamic exists for the south end. Bailo has a point — the park and rides are crowded. It is a pain to get to Tukwila, so you need to go somewhere further south. Well they are going to get all the way down to Federal Way, which is really far south. Extending it further will benefit very few people. The same goes for extending it north. The same goes for Redmond — yes it is nice, but it isn’t the game changer that East Link will be. In other words, all the low hanging suburban fruit has been picked. You are going to have a tough time getting suburban voters excited about anything you propose in their area. More buses and more commuter rail might be popular (I would imagine they are getting crowded) but there is no way you are going to get the big suburban numbers you got with ST2.

        Sound Transit could still pull this off, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Of course, right now the legislature has to authorize it all anyway, and that might not be a sure thing, either.

    5. Can you flesh out/provide a link to #4? I see the east/west line drawn about 25 blocks south of the possible 130th LR stop. I don’t see it providing a direct solution to connecting the Lake City urban village.

      1. Yeah, I’m with you. The rest of the comment by Anandakos is great. I agree completely. I didn’t want to mess with the praise for what was otherwise a very fine comment. We only need a few light rail lines, along with good, complementary bus service and we are good. Hear, hear!

        But I really don’t think we need to spend the money on a tunnel from Lake City to Northgate — 125th/130th will work just fine. It isn’t like Northgate is Belltown. Nor are the areas to the west (Greenwood). A line with only a handful of spots, next to a cemetery (dead people don’t ride buses, either) connecting to a relatively low density area just doesn’t make sense. Connect Lake City to Bitter Lake instead. There are way more people there (on both ends and along the way) and way more potential for growth. All you really need is good bus service there, too. It can easily be extended on both ends — there are bus lanes much of the way. I’m thinking of a BRT from Bothell to 130th and Greenwood. That will blow the doors off of whatever it is that #4 is, but for a lot less money.

      2. The reason I think the Northgate via a separated right of way makes sense is that it is and will increasingly be the ultimate destination for a significant number of off-peak rides for North Seattle residents. By Northgate I mean the area between Roosevelt and Meridian, 92nd and 115th. That entire area cannot be served effectively by the single station at 102nd and First NE. Think of it as “Downtown North”; there are four Link Stations serving an area about twice as big. And of course, “Downtown North” is not nearly as dense as is downtown, but it will get denser in the coming years.

        By building an admittedly rather convoluted separated busway, with several close stations, one gets two good things: quick, reliable access to Link from the entire Lake City Way corridor — it doesn’t turn off at 125th — and a frequent “collector/distributor” for the broader Northgate development area. Even three additional stations, one at 8th NE and Northgate Way, one by NSCC and another at North 108th and Meridian, would vastly improve the coverage of the developed area.

      3. OK, Northgate could grow, but it will never be huge. For it to grow to be big, basically a couple things would have to happen:

        1) Northgate would have to go through a complete transformation. This seems to be the most realistic scenario. I could easily see the city changing the zoning and allowing 25 story buildings there. But height doesn’t always equal density. If you do allow 25 story buildings, then it will probably come with lots of parkland (in an area that needs it). So when all is said and done, you have something similar to a Vancouver tower. Very pretty, a lot more walkable, plenty of people, but not hugely populous (not Belltown, nor even a typical UW block).

        2) North Seattle College would have to become a lot more like Seattle Central, or even Bellevue College. It would have to become big, and. like Northgate shopping center, shake off its suburban character and embrace a more urban (and hopefully prettier) motif. This could happen, but I’m not sure if it will. I haven’t seen a lot of new buildings being built there — my guess is that most of the action in the area is at the UW (either the main campus or the branch campuses). But this is not a crazy idea.

        But here is the thing, even if you do that, you have a few problems. First of all, the freeway itself takes up a huge amount of land. You also have a lot of wetlands, forests an the like that take up a good chunk of the area. Meanwhile, you have a lot of two to five story buildings that will remain two to five story buildings. In other words, a lot of the growth is already done.

        If I was a betting man, I would bet on Lake City instead. It is bigger (in population) now, and has been for many years. Every time it seems like Northgate is about to catch up, you see a couple new buildings go in around Lake City. It doesn’t have the swamp problem or the freeway problem that Northgate has. While it isn’t quite as flat as greater Northgate, it is still plenty flat. But the main advantage it has is lots of land that can be converted at very little political cost. Seattle allowed apartments along the arterials, and there are bunch of converging arterials there. It is a natural (and artificial) convergence zone. A lot of streets meet up at Lake City, and this is makes for a very convenient place (for walking, biking and riding a bus). Lake City is similar to Northgate in that a lot of it was built for the automobile. But with Northgate, you have primarily the mall as the area of great potential. But for Lake City, you have dozens of little spots that are basically sitting idle, as parking lots — many are used to sell cars. Overall, I see greater potential for that than I do Northgate.

        The main problem is that I think a tunnel would cost a bundle, and not be worth it. Put the money into improved bus service and you get a much better deal. If Lake City has more people and Bitter Lake has a bunch (it already has plenty, and is an area that could explode in terms of growth just as easily as Northgate) then why should you spend a fortune connecting Lake City with Northgate? Connect those two communities (Bitter Lake and Lake City) with BRT, and worse case scenario, someone has to transfer at NE 130th to get to Northgate. Big deal, from my perspective. Done right, that station would have the smallest transfer penalty in the system (since the road and the rail line would be at similar heights and because it would be built from the beginning for that express purpose). I would use the savings to build lots of complementary bus service (heading on every north/south corridor) and call it a day.

        Sure, it would be nice to have, but I just don’t think it will ever be worth it. This puts in a completely different category than Ballard to UW or a Metro 8 subway.

        I should mention that focusing on “hot spots”, is in my opinion, the wrong approach. It is what has gotten us into this mess. It is why we have to fight for a NE 130th station. If you take the approach that everyone wants to go to everywhere, you come up with very different priorities. You build Ballard to UW rail not because Ballard is such a hot destination, but because it cross cuts the entire region, and driving along there is horrifically slow. Likewise with the Metro 8 subway — it isn’t about South Lake Union, it is about all of the other destinations, all of which are outstanding. I just don’t see that with an east/west Northgate line. A few spots are great, and a few spots are OK. Meanwhile, driving is really not that bad, and bus service can be made great with a little bit of work.

      4. Yeah, frankly as a Lake City resident I’d think the fully-formed HCT transit lines would be 1.) 130th bus that hits a 130th station and 2.) BRT along Lake City Way terminating at the Roosevelt LR. That way, if you wanted more compact development, less of a string, the two lines would support it.

        It forms that 130th east west line at the top of the tomato cage.

        I do like Anandakos line at around 105th, forming the next line at a mid point of the tomato cage. There is plenty to hit at 105th, and even some at 85th also.

        Then there’s 45th with the Ballard/UW cross line.

        But see where we are going? Decent cross lines. Seattle as a tomato cage.

      5. Ross,

        Read the article in Crosscut about five days ago (http://crosscut.com/2015/05/seattle-2035-five-maps-that-will-determine-the-citys-future/). In the most likely alternatives (keep doing what we’re doing and cluster in the big five) Northgate becomes significantly more important. I believe one of those two scenarios will come to pass because the folks who would be impacted by the greater number of growth nodes in alternatives 3 and 4 will scream louder than everyone else.

        In fact, I’d bet a good chunk of money that alternative 2 will be the chosen path. It is the most efficient from a transit standpoint because it produces the greatest density of group destination. It’s certainly true that it’s not “traditional Seattle” by any means, but the growth has to go somewhere and if you look at alternatives 3 and 4 the “blobs” of development consume a significantly greater portion of the city. People who want to live in SFH neighborhoods will fight that.

        But, OK, find, I’ll give up on this. I quarreled with d.p. on a Duwamish Bypass and it turned out that the politicians in Federal Way made the argument moot. There will never be enough riders on South Link to make a bypass worthwhile.

        Since I can’t edit the post to remove the idea, you’ll just have to ignore it.

  15. “Troy McClelland, [a business group’s] president and CEO, said there’s a business case: ‘Not only will it help employees reach jobs, it should free up the roadways for freight delivery.'”

    Ayayay! Repeat after me:

    Transit not help congestion.
    Transit not help congestion.
    Transit does not help congestion.

    What transit does is allow passengers to bypass congestion. But when a hundred drivers switch to the train, a hundred other drivers start making more trips until the road is as congested as it was before. Freight cannot get on transit, nor can it prevent the replacement cars from filling the road. If freight mobility is an issue, it needs to be addressed directly, with freight lanes or SOV tolls.

    1. The corrected chant so you can cut and paste it onto a poster:

      Transit does not help congestion.
      Transit does not help congestion.
      Transit does not help congestion.
      Transit allows passengers to bypass congestion.

      1. (Ssh…if people have misconceptions that will get them to vote for transit when they otherwise wouldn’t, correcting such misconceptions is not the way to campaign for more transit).

      2. No, people need to understand what they’re getting. The Seattle Times had an editorial a couple weeks ago saying the Move Seattle levy should fix congestion first. It can’t because congestion is not “fixable”, so it’s holding non-automobile infrastructure to an impossible standard. People have probably complained that ST1&2 haven’t reduced congestion. So we need to get ahead of this before votes rather than after, or it leads to people solidifying on No. I think ST and Metro have stopped using the “congestion relief” argument, but it lingers on in third-party minds and statements, like how south Seattle got safer in the late 1990s but it will take decades before most suburbanites fully believe it.

      3. It depends on how fast VMT is declining, whether it affects all roads evenly, and whether 10-minute suburban trains will cause a massive shift to transit like in the 1920s when only 10% of the people had cars. I am much more supportive of high-quality regional rail than some are, but I don’t see a massive shift in the timeframe we can plan for (2040). I see a modest shift, and making transit significantly more useful for those who do use it.

        Also, the effect of lesser VMT will probably be uneven on different roads. Most people choose the freeways now because they’re the fastest way around. Some people use arterials when the freeways are prone to congestion or backup-causing accidents. As the freeway volumes decline, these people will shift to the freeways. That means the freeways will be the last place that lower VMT manifests itself. Also, the lower VMT is partly a decline in intercity driving, which is outside the metropolis. And part of it is people moving from a suburb 30 or 50 miles from work to a suburb 10 miles from work, so they’ll still be on some part of the metropolitan freeways.

    2. Very well said, Mike. In any area which has enough economic activity that congestion occurs at more than a few localized points, any means by which policymakers attempt to divert the drivers creating the congestion, others take their places. The means can be transit or more roadways; it really doesn’t matter unless 18 lane freeways replace every third urban arterial.

      But even that just moves the congestion to the on- and off-ramps…….

    3. I understand this conventional wisdom has a long history of empirical support. But! We’re now well into the second decade of declining VMT regionally, and the trend doesn’t seem to be abating. At what point does this conventional wisdom need to be revisited?

    4. I disagree. One of the reasons certain cities in Europe have invested heavily into new rail systems is to reduce congestion.

      The problem in the USA is that we don’t build transit lines designed to attract huge numbers of people out of their cars.

      When looking at plans drawn up by a certain transit agency, a certain transit geek I am familiar with in Europe told me “If anyone proposed that here, there would be people thrown in jail for wasting the people’s money.”

      Sadly, this particular proposal doesn’t seem to have any chance of being something that will, in fact, reduce congestion.

  16. To add an East King perspective to this, any substantial transfer of money from East King to Snohomish/Pierce will result in a no vote from me. It would not be hard to convince me to spend money on North King; I go into Seattle at least a few times month (even though I don’t work there) and being able to use transit (when East Link opens) will be amazing. Adding more LR within Seattle would be great and have a direct benefit to me.

    But while I’m sure a lot of people on the East Side could easily see how better Seattle transit will benefit them, even if occasionally, I think very few people here will benefit from completing the spine. The most congested areas here are along 405, 520, and 90, and that congestion stops around Lynnwood. If we were talking about LR along 405, you could potentially convince East King to support some of the work in Snohomish. But that’s not on the table for good reasons, and I fail to see why Lynnwood to Everett is any better or why other subareas should help build it.

    Plus there are much bigger and better priorities in East King than funding the spine. Building 405 transit, Bothell-Shoreline-Seattle transit (route 522), or transit to Issaquah is way more important to East King than building portions of the spine that no one here will ever use. If Snohomish/Pierce want to use their money for it, they can do so. But East King shouldn’t be helping.

  17. Subarea equity is more meaningful on a political level than a legal level. The legislation forces ST to be fairly explicit about revenues and expenditures by area, but there are ways (such as loans) to get around the subarea budgets if the Board wants to do so.

    There are opportunities for gaming too. Who gets the benefits of TIFIA loans on a project in one area? Should East Link costs all go to the Eastside, or should some of the west end costs stay in North King?

    That’s all chump change compared to what Snohomish is attempting here. Their wish list is far over any plausible ‘budget’, so they are going to have to raid the revenues in the other areas.

    South King and Pierce are about fully committed with their own spine extension. Neither much over or under if the ST3 package lands with the intended revenue authority.

    So it’s up to North and East King. That’s why there was so much resistance to even including other projects on the draft project list. The scolding of Ed Murray when he asked for Madison BRT to be considered. The skewed Eastside options where BRT options other than I-405 aren’t even being put out for public comment. The insistence that I-405 BRT is an East King project even as 25%+ of the riders are from Snohomish. The pocketing of the savings from every under-budget project and the TIFIA loans. The steady deprioritization of ST Express (now to be known only as ‘interim ST Express’).

    I don’t know whether ST is much worried about what transit advocates think, particularly outside Seattle. I think they figure that elite opinion will count for more than the comparably few folks who follow transit policy closely.

    But they’re kidding themselves if they think Eastside voters will swallow sending 40-50% of their money to Paine Field and Everett CC.

  18. Boeing will get their link or threaten relocation to SC otherwise. Power and money always have a way of tarnishing democracy. Look at the 3 billion < 1 mile tunnel created so the wealthy can have killer views at the taxpayer/toller's dime. Sure ST3 will be up for vote but Boeing will figure out a way to package it with a nice bow.

    1. Boeing will threaten relocation to SC even if it gets Link. I can just picture a nice new shiny rail line opening up to Boeing’s Everett factory, and months later Boeing turns around says “bye”.

      And, even if Boeing didn’t leave, they would probably be too cheap to run shuttle buses to connect the train station with their spread-out buildings, so nobody would be able to use it anyway.

      And any trains to Boeing would run virtually empty outside of the 3-times-a-day changes it work shifts.

      The whole idea is ludicrous.

    2. Yes I can hear it now. Boeing threatens to leave the Seattle area due to a lack of public transit choices for the nation’s public transit mecca of South Carolina.

      1. Boeing really doesn’t give a shit about public transit access to its facilities. They really don’t. If they did, they would at least run shuttle buses connecting their facilities with nearby transit hubs, or even pay for a couple of commuter routes like Microsoft does.

        Sure, they’ll gladly take light rail on the taxpayer’s dime – as long as somebody else is paying for it, why not? However, the reason for Boeing to choose South Carolina over Everett is all about paying its workers lower wages and not having unions to deal with. That is many, many orders of magnitude more important to Boeing than whether or their employees can ride a train to work.

      2. Doesn’t Boeing pay for some of the routes that serve the Everett plant? I was under the (misguided?) impression they at least contributed to operate MT952.

      3. I believe route 952 has a special fare that is substantially higher than the normal Metro fare – enough so that if the bus is standing room (which I think it is), it comes reasonably close to paying for itself.

        Of course, the 952 only has the capacity to carry a very tiny percentage of Boeing’s work force…

    3. You know it was the port of seattle and WSDOT that wanted the deep bore tunnel. Most Seattle citizens would have been fine with just tearing the viaduct down and make 99 a surface street. Old timers wanted the viaduct to stay. I don’t think rich people wanted better views and that is why there is an insane tolled tunnel under construction.

  19. We need to retain sub-area equity. If we don’t, we’ll end up with something like BART with suburban extensions in almost every direction and only one line in the core city. We need to not repeat the mistakes of the Bay Area!

    1. Recent BART extensions outside of San Francisco use local sales taxes in each county to build them. Alameda, San Mateo, Contra Costa and now Santa Clara County approved their measures separately and on their own. San Francisco has not voted to add a BART line since BART opened, and has several times chosen to instead spend their transit rail capital mostly on Muni and on Caltrain Electrification (along with San Mateo and Santa Clara). And as much as you like to call BART a “failure”, it has one of the best farebox recovery rates (65 – 70%) among rail operators in the country! It’s a better success than lots of other systems.

      BART expansion relies on a version of subarea equity, by the way. In BART’s case, each county (de facto subarea) had to make the case on its own (and get a 2/3 vote, which is quite hard to do). Here, ST is hoping that North King will carry enough yes votes to overcome the possible no vote majorities in Snohomish or Pierce or East King. If these subareas had to get a 51% yes vote each on their own, this entire ST3 planning discussion would be radically different.

      If we retain subarea equity, I’d like to see that ST3 be an up or down vote in each subarea. That way, the local elected officials would be more accountable to propose something financially reasonable — and be more like stewards of our local tax money and not be advocating taking more out of the regional transit pot..

      If we ditch subarea equity, we need some clear performance measures about cost per rider or number of riders or total transit travel time saved or something like that to guide funding more corridors. Otherwise, we will end up shifting resources away from Seattle to pay for political boondoggle lines.

      1. I do like your comment on allowing ST3 be an up or down vote in each subarea, with subarea revenue guided to the respective subareas. Like if King supports it strongly, as it likely will, and Snohomish and Pierce decide to not because of insufficient spine investment or whatever, why should King not get improvements that it wants? What is the argument against different subareas of the ST District levying different tax amounts?

        If you have a link to some literature on the funding structure of BART, then I’d certainly be interested in reading it. I will point out that Santa Clara County is outside the BART district and is having their county agency VTA build the San Jose extension and having BART the agency operate it with county-provided funding. The SFO extension is a similar case with San Mateo. I was under the impression that Measure J in Contra Costa and Measure BB in Alameda were supplemental measures to expand BART along with other road and transit improvements, whereas BART’s general fund with capital and operations revenue is derived from sales and property taxes levied across the BART District, which is only SF, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties.

        If I am correct, that makes those supplemental county Measures more analogous to Snohomish, Pierce, or King passing their own county-only transportation measures that include funding for ahead-of-schedule Link extensions, rather than the Sound Transit District-wide ST3 tax, which is what I speak of in terms of sub area equity. Those Bay Area Measures are closer to being “Move Seattle” on a county scale than ST3.

        I never called BART a failure. It’s just that it is a heavy rail subway designed for crush loads between urban centers, but it is now being used for uneven commuter uses in the suburbs. That makes for a peak direction-heavy ridership balance befitting of commuter rail, instead of the more 50-50 dynamic a heavy rail subway is really meant for. Also, part of why the farebox returns on BART are so good are that it is relatively infrequent, i.e. 20 minute headways during the non peak and because there is so much demand for the corridor the tube crosses, essentially between Oakland and SF. BART as a system design is more suited to a grade separated network in SF and surrounding urban environs, than a commuter subway, which it will remain until more lines are built in SF.

      2. Also, as I have noted many times, BART significantly overcharges its core inner-system (trans-bay) users so as to offset the ridiculously high per-passenger subsidies to the outer extremities (up to $32/rider, despite the relatively low frequencies, and including in the average the sole unidirectional rush hour with a modicum of non-fictional demand).

        So even if SF and inner-Alameda residents aren’t getting explicitly abused at the point of tax collection, their BART users are getting extra-abused at the farebox.

        Puget Sound would not, of course, have any kind of tolerance for $4 short-haul or $8 long-haul fares, so across-the-board terrible farebox return and whopping “spine” operating subsides are to be expected.

      3. Describing the history of transit capital funding in the Bay Area is complex, and goes back to the late 1980’s for county funding and 1960’s for creating BART. I’m sure someone must have written a book by now, but I haven’t seen one.

        California transit capital funding is burdened by a super-majority requirement. It takes lots of creative consensus-building to get those, which is why almost all packages have a multi-modal flavor. Along with that came a companion requirement to do countywide transportation planning for rather than just have each city or operator to go at it alone. The result is that all the operators and the cities and the state DOT have to sit down at a table and talk about cooperative planning and funding on a monthly basis. That’s a whole detailed level of interaction that is much more intense than we have in the MPO’s like PSRC or MTC.

        I’d note that much of BART was built at a time when Federal funding was substantial, and that no longer is the case. (Seattle really did blow a big opportunity a few decades ago!) Thus, BART has had to more worry about paying to operate the system than to expand it especially since the countywide funding and planning requirement came about. Now, BART retrofit is emerging as a new topic (along with overcrowding) and it’s going to be their next big political debate.

        Just because BART goes out of San Francisco doesn’t mean that aren’t serving important, urban places in the Bay Area worthy of heavy, high frequency rail. Downtown Oakland has at least a dozen buildings over 25-30 stories tall and parking charges are similar to Seattle or Bellevue. UC-Berkeley is the dominant college campus for the Bay Area and parking is much harder than at UW. Many other BART stations in the East Bay have lots of nearby buildings at the 70 – 100 foot tall category. Even in commuting, employer shuttles to bio-tech campuses and even Silicon Valley tech campuses connect to BART, so the heavy directional demand is becoming more balanced.

        True, I did mistype. You did not call BART a failure — but you did call it a mistake. Given the limited land mass capacity of San Francisco and the long distances and water crossings to get into San Francisco and that it’s very hard to build stations for 10-car trains and build radii to allow the trains to operate at a reasonable speed within San Francisco. I don’t think it was a mistake at all. I can’t imagine how awful the service would be for those 250K riders in the Transbay tube if they were on four car light-rail trains, for example. After all, people are advocating a second DSTT when ST is forecasting under 100,000 light rail riders in 2035 at its most crowded point Downtown.

      4. Other commenters have made my points for me, but I have to clarify a couple things. I used to live in Berkeley, so I am familiar with the texture of the area.

        I am saying that the SF-Oak-Berk core deserves service expansion moreso than the Pittsburg/Bay Point. Dublin/Pleasanton, Livermore, Warm Springs, and even San Jose directions that BART is growing in. Downtown Oakland and Downtown Berkeley definitely deserve heavy rail. One difference with BART stations vs. Link stations though, is that many of them still don’t have TOD 40 years later. Ashby and El Cerrito Del Norte are two examples I am familiar with. The attitude in those areas is still very, “hop onto the train to the City.”

        Regarding the tech shuttles, I have some friends who take advantage of them and live near BART in SF or Oakland. They predominantly take the shuttles from their neighborhood directly to the tech campuses, rather than connecting to BART at any point.

        I did not call BART a mistake. I love and fully support BART, but a 100 mile heavy rail system should have a focus in dense areas and more extensively serve SF and inner ring environs, rather than the outer ring suburbs that it’s currently growing toward. The mistake is not BART itself, the mistake is spending too much money, some of it likely regionally raised, on only semi-productive suburban extensions. The tube is not a mistake, but prioritizing BART to high density-scarce South Bay, funded by Santa Clara County or not, might be.

        Essentially, my point is we need to retain sub-area equity, so that North King funds aren’t being used to build rail to the unwalkable employment density of the Boeing area in Everett, Totem Lake, or Issaquah before it’s used to develop grade separated rail to Ballard, along the 45th corridor, and yes, West Seattle. I support Link to those far flung areas, but only after substantial investment is made in the City proper. We have the opportunity to learn from the compromises the Bay Area made and to tactically apply advocacy pressure so that we aren’t sitting here in 2050 looking at a Link network with no other lines in Seattle besides Central and East Link!

      5. Fremont, California is a city of 220,000+.

        The BART stop there has barely a few thousand boardings on weekdays.

        BART within the SF-Oakland-Berkeley core is substandard and incomplete. Beyond that core it has proven the wrong tool for its intended job. But the outermost segments are very much “failures”.

        Also, a reminder that pervasive density and high-capacity-transit-amenable land usage have precious little to do with “height”, ever.

      6. The April 2015 BART ridership report lists over 9,100 riders getting on and another 9,100 getting off at Fremont. That’s 18,200 total just for that one last segment. That’s about half of what Central Link is currently carrying when all station data are combined. That’s not exactly a failure, is it?

      7. Again, that segment “reaches” — to use ST parlance — the 16th most populous municipality in California, with a wealthy (commute-y) population exceeding Tacoma’s and more than double Everett’s.

        But that number, despite having speciously risen about 20% since the last reported numbers, and despite acting as the primary endpoint P&R + transfer collection point for the southern end of the system for the last 40 years, equates to about half the boardings of a decent station on a New York commuter rail. (Hell, it is barely half of ST’s ridiculous “estimates” for the Lynnwood terminus, which should tell you something about those estimates.)

        And that’s all BART is out there — a much-too-costly-to-build-and-run commuter rail. In one direction only, because Fremont, like everywhere ST intends to “reach”, is a totally useless place to attempt to arrive on transit, even if your job or other destination is there.

        The off-peak trains from Fremont may not be as vacuous as the 1-passenger-per-car trains crawling in from Dublin/Pleasanton, but they’re close.

      8. I don’t want to take the focus away from the important topic at hand. The issue here is whether we should be pursuing the spine as a continuous light rail line at very high frequencies up to Everett..

        At your leisure, I’d suggest that you should look at Fremont a little closer. It’s a very different place than you may think. It is 43% foreign born in 2010 and has a Little Kabul because of so many Afghan people who have relocated there. It has a 7.4% public transit mode share in 2010 — notably higher than Federal Way (7.0%) or Redmond (6.9%) which are two rail service priority cities here. Fremont BART and Warm Springs/South Fremont BART (the second Fremont station coming on line) both have major station area plans that will add thousands of housing units and tens of thousands of jobs (Lennar just assembled the land around Warm Springs/South Fremont BART to accomplish this at that station). It really is an interesting, urbanizing place increasingly conducive to transit!

      9. When I look at the ridership numbers for individual BART stations, what really jumps out at me is the distribution. Only the top ten stations have over 10,000 a day. It goes like this (in tens of thousands):

        42, 40, 28, 20, 13, 13, 12, 12. 11. 11, 9, 8, …

        When I look at DC, on the other hand, it is more rounded:

        32, 27, 25, 25, 25, 23, 22, 20, 20, 20, 16, 15, …

        For BART, the top four stations (that carry more than the next ten combined) are all in San Fransisco proper. All of the top ten are in Oakland, Berkeley or San Fransisco. In other words, BART works fairly well for exactly what you mentioned, Al — connecting urban areas that are close to each other. San Fransisco (as most people know) is very tiny, from a geographic standpoint. Oakland is right across the water, and Berkeley is right next to it. The distances we are talking about are very small.

        But BART travels for miles and miles after that, and picks up hardly anyone. The Fremont station that was mentioned as a failure is really an outlier — most stations perform much worse. That is one of the few stations not in the core area with decent numbers. There is no poaching going on, either — it isn’t like 45th makes the number at 55th look bad — there are literally miles between stations, and hardly anyone rides the train. BART only works well for that tiny segment linking exactly the area you mentioned — San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley. But it doesn’t do that nearly as well as it could. They spent billions going out to far away lands, and got essentially nothing for it — they could have done just as well with buses. It would have made much more sense to invest in the part that obviously is working really well (the urban areas close to each other).

        Again, the DC area provides an interesting contrast. Like the Bay Area, the top stations are in the main city. In fact the top ten are all in DC proper. But the second ten are dominated by stations in Virginia and Maryland. Given the wide spread distribution of ridership, the geographic distribution of ridership and much smaller stop spacing (meaning some stations are poaching from other stations) one can only conclude that the folks in DC got a lot better system for their money. BART built some good stuff (San Fransisco/Oakland/Berkeley) but rather than leveraging that and maximizing that, they blew a lot of money on suburban rail that has simply not been that popular.

      10. @Al — I think that is d. p.’s point. Fremont should have decent numbers from a transit standpoint, but BART, with its one station, doesn’t do a very good job. It is serving as commuter rail, and not doing a great job at it. It should be obvious that for a city that size (similar to Spokane or Tacoma) a really good bus network is just fine. Put the money into buses, and you would have a much better system.

        I think that is what is often missing, when it comes to plans like this (light rail to Everett) or light rail to Tacoma. Its not that I am dismissing those cities — I sure wouldn’t dismiss Tacoma, but that light rail is a huge waste of money for that purpose. It is very expensive, and offers very little over cheap commuter rail, or express buses. The fact that the Fremont station carries fewer than 10,000 people per day (less than a lot of our buses) despite all the advantages it has over cities like Tacoma and Everett, just shows that this type of system often fails to deliver a good value.

      11. I’d only counter by saying that if BART did a milk-run local-stop focused system, it would lose its “rapid” status. There wouldn’t be just 10 stations between Fremont and Downtown San Francisco on a train that does do over 75 miles an hour between stations. Rather than arrive in San Francisco in 46 minutes, it would take 80 or 90 or 100. The sheer size of the Bay Area creates the need for high-speed, long-distance routes with limited stops in order to have reasonable commute options. Add to that that electric-powered tunneling is pretty much the most feasible choice for getting across the Bay, and heavy rail lets the tunnels be smaller than light rail or electrified commuter rail tunnels would be. Geography is a basic factor as to why BART is heavy rail.

        I note that BART built the Muni light rail Market Street tunnel as part of the BART construction in San Francisco in the 1970’s. There was pretty much an understanding that Muni was more for trips inside San Francisco and BART was for the longer-distance trips. BART knows that Muni rail is important to BART’s success. Now, San Francisco is building the City segments of the “second” original 1960’s BART line with the Third Street light rail and the Central Subway for Muni.

        It’s actually pretty interesting that here in Seattle we’re doing this current rail “dance” thinking that only ST is the dance partner. Couldn’t Seattle just work with Metro or own its own to sponsor its own rail projects and leave ST behind? Hasn’t ST already implicitly messaged for years that its intent with Link is to be a mere single, long distance spine anyway (through track designs that don’t enable more integrated local rail lines in Seattle like not putting in track connection options so that it could interface better with other potential rail corridors in Seattle)?

        I predict that if ST3 goes down, we’ll be quickly discussing on this blog how to get more light rail in Seattle built without having to work around the logic problems surrounding ST subarea issues. If ST3 fails, it won’t be as if the sky is falling; Seattle will move on to another strategy that will be less politically problematic on many fronts.

        Let’s let ST know that Seattle is the prettiest (in ridership, support and funding base) dance partner in the room, and that ST needs us more than we need ST! Woo Seattle better, ST, or we can just pick a strategy that uses another funding dance partner!

      12. I believe BART actually travels about 66-70 because of braking system limitations. The new cars might fix that. Also, in common transport planning parlance, “rapid” doesn’t necessarily mean fast ride times so much as complete grade separation/row reservation joined with frequency. The Muni Metro subway between Castro and Embarcadero is rapid transit, but the Caltrain Baby Bullet, which is pretty fast to Diridon, but infrequent, is not. Also, I want BART to be heavy rail. I’m not arguing for it to be light rail, just that far flung expansions might be better served by something like eBART that would interface with real BART in the inner ring suburbs, instead of all the way out at P/BP.

        I believe the “going it alone” conversation is an interesting one that gets alot of attention from time to time. I do think having ST manage the development of a local Seattle light rail system is a good thing, so we’re not encouraging the development of redundant staffs. One idea I haven’t read yet is if the ST Board only decides to fund at-grade Ballard LRT, then perhaps Seattle can develop some sort of measure to pick up the tab on the difference in cost to make it grade separated, a tunnel under the Ship Canal at the very least.

        What I wonder is how we’d fund it in the City. Aren’t we coming close to maxing out our levy capacity with Move Seattle? What taxing authority does the City have left at its disposal short of having to go contend with Olympia?

      13. Without re-itemizing all of my frustrations with the BART-as-successful-model-if-you-squint-just-right argument, I would simply point out that no one is arguing for local-stop subway service all the way out to Fremont.

        The issue is not whether Fremont and points similarly distant need a rapid, long-haul commuter option — commuter rail or unfuckwithable express bus to a less-sprawling BART. The commuter-oriented sprawl exists, and so non-SOV alternatives should exist too.

        The issue is that a modified quasi-urban-but-wide-spaced subway, which falls short of meeting most needs on the urban end in order to only do moderate good on the sprawl end (and only at rush hour), is simply the wrong tool for such long-distance jobs.

        If BART ever reaches San Jose proper, it will still run empty all day. The distance between that massive (and unfocused) city and the region’s other poles is non-negotiable, and so back-and-forth demand will be finite. By definition. No matter how rich and busy those places become. A full-fledged urban-styled subway train, with its very high ROW, staffing, and maintenance costs, is quite simply never justified for intercity service of such distances. (Not even in infinitely-denser megacities like Paris, where such needs are met not by the RER, but by the less frequent and more Caltrain-like Transilien.)

        Now we in Seattle, lured by the unsubstantiated claims of the bang-up job BART does, are chasing the very same fatally-flawed model. Only with less populous poles boasting even worse interior transit, even sprawlier sprawl (and many total dead zones) along the way, and far worse economic prospects at our southern end.

      14. @Al — I think you missed my point. It would be silly for BART to go all the way out to Fremont while making dozens and dozens of stops along that way. That would be like, I don’t know, Link going to Everett or Tacoma. You would — as you rightly point out — create a system that no one wants to ride.

        But not that many people ride from Fremont anyway! That is my point. It has everything going for it. Very fast speeds, a surprisingly dense community, connected to a much bigger city as well as a huge university along the way, yada, yada, yada and it still doesn’t perform as well as many of our buses. The only spots on BART that are solid, that are the least bit successful are those close to the city itself. The obvious answer was for folks to simply not worry about Fremont, or Concord, or Walnut Creek and put your money where it is successful — in the city. Have a bunch more stops (and maybe a second line) in Oakland and Berkeley and you would have numbers way higher than you do now, at a lot less cost. You would have a much better system and still have plenty of money left over to run express buses to Fremont all day, carrying more passengers.

        The obvious lesson to be learned from BART is that running a line to Tacoma or Everett will get you very few riders. Considering all the advantages that BART has (for its suburban riders) we should expect much lower numbers than they got, and their suburban numbers are low.

  20. Its a good thing that Everett wants to do a moon shot. We just need to be sure that Seattle gets a moon shot out of that deal. If ST gets ST3 authorization, it will take a heavy lift from advocates and the community in general to make sure this happens — but it’s completely possible.

    1. I agree. A worse thing would be Everett’s politicians being lukewarm about the whole thing.

      Advocates here need to remember, politicians are doing what they can/have to to get full funding out of Olympia. It takes the suburbs demanding a lot of money to even get that conversation to happen. A deal that looks like “Seattle wins, everyone else-meh” would have no chance in Olympia.

      Once it is out of Olympia’s hands, then we should start sticking to our guns about how to use the money. Right now anyone asking for lots of money for transit is basically on the same side.

  21. Let’s look at two possible board votes, I used titles in an attempt to show interest:

    Complete the spine and scrapes for the North and East
    King County Executive – NO
    Councilmember City of Everett – YES
    Mayor City of Tacoma – YES
    Mayor City of Bellevue – NO
    Mayor City of Issaquah – Swing
    Mayor City of Edmonds – Swing
    Mayor City of Sumner – Swing
    Snohomish County Executive – YES
    Mayor City of Redmond -YES
    County Executive Pierce County – YES
    Councilmember King County Council – NO
    Councilmember City of Lakewood – Swing
    Mayor City of Seattle – NO
    Councilmember Seattle City Council – NO
    Secretary of Transportation WA State Dept. of Transportation –YES
    Councilmember King County Council – NO
    Councilmember King County Council – NO
    Councilmember King County Council – NO

    Yes- 6
    Swing- 4
    NO – 8

    Who of the No’s could be Changed? I don’t see any. Of the Swings they would need all of them: How do they get the mayors of Edmonds, Lakewood and Sumner without sounder expansion? What inducement do they provide for the mayor of Issaquah?

    For a plan with Subarea equity:
    King County Executive – YES
    Councilmember City of Everett – NO
    Mayor City of Tacoma – No
    Mayor City of Bellevue – YES
    Mayor City of Issaquah – Swing
    Mayor City of Edmonds – Swing
    Mayor City of Sumner – Swing
    Snohomish County Executive – No
    Mayor City of Redmond -YES
    County Executive Pierce County – NO
    Councilmember King County Council – YES
    Councilmember City of Lakewood – Swing
    Mayor City of Seattle – YES
    Councilmember Seattle City Council – YES
    Secretary of Transportation WA State Dept. of Transportation – YES
    Councilmember King County Council – YES
    Councilmember King County Council – YES
    Councilmember King County Council – YES

    Yes- 10
    Swing- 4
    No- 4

  22. Downtown Everett does not NEED Link, and the other two Everett destinations are a laughable waste of money.

    Ever been to downtown Everett? If so, did you exclaim, “man this place needs rail!” No. It’s a ghost town 2 days a week. If there are more restaurants closed than open in your downtown on a Saturday night, this is a problem. Rail will not solve this. How would you even convince people to use it? There’s no parking or congestion crisis in any of these locations in Everett.

    There are lots of places in Seattle that NEED high capacity transit. We should not fund WANT ahead of NEED.

    1. Next time I am in downtown Everett (which could well be years away), I think I will exclaim “man, this place needs rail!”

  23. I don’t get how diverting the “spine” with extreme scoliosis over to Paine Field will result in more ridership.

    Right now, don’t most employees at Paine Field have ample free parking at their homes, spread out over sprawly Snohomish County, and acres of free parking at their job sites? Will lots of parking be available at each station, since most residents won’t live near a station and won’t have urban-frequency transit to get to a station? Will everyone just switch to riding a bike? How will employees get from Paine Field Station to all their job sites near the station? They aren’t all in the walkshed of the station, are they?

    So, lots of Paine Field workers will need a connection to “the spine”, and a connection from Paine Field Station to their work site. But they will still have free parking on each end of a one-seat ride direct from their home to their work site. How will this produce ridership on the train?

    Meanwhile, the spine will have developed enough scoliosis that even commuters taking a straight shot from Everett to Lynnwood will prefer an express bus instead of the train “spine”.

    When was Paine Field ever part of any “promised” spine?

  24. Since we are talking politics here, Everett elected officials who want to throw a temper tantrum and ignore facts to get their way should take note of how well that worked for Federal Way elected officials.

    The tactics were pretty much the same: Claim they have been paying taxes for no service (ignoring the ST Express service and the transit facility costs — which did not even include Sounder in Federal Way’s case), and making up promises about how their city would get light rail (and they weren’t even expressing entitlement to a *second* rail spine).

    The ringleader of Federal Way’s temper tantrum lost his bid for re-election as mayor.

  25. I think a 99-elevated alignment for Everett Link terminating at Everett Community College is the best option. All the employment in the Boeing area is too unwalkable in the last mile, except for maybe the plant itself, to justify running LRT in a deviation to it. There are only forecasted to be something like 3000 boardings a day at the Boeing station anyway. Fewer at the Pain Field station. Deviating Link to Boeing would add between 0-1000 riders compared to leaving it on 99. However, extending 99 Link to Everett CC would add between 2000-3000 additional riders, making that extension what Everett should be pushing for, not Boeing.

    There should just be stations at Airport, 100th, and Casino, with design accommodations at the stations for last mile shuttles that could be provided by Boeing or privately by the businesses in that industrial area.

  26. the obvious answer is to use regional express bus as the spine between Angle Lake and Tacoma and between Lynnwood and north Everett.

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