What we could have if we decide we want it.
What we could have if we decide we want it.

Last week, the State Legislature finally approved funding authority for Sound Transit to move forward with their next phase of expansion. This was a hard-won fight, fraught with unpleasant and ill-conceived tradeoffs forced by our state’s political geography, but those compromises have been made. Now is the time to make sure they were worth it.

Sound Transit planners have been pitching a Sound Transit 3 (ST3) ballot proposal for high capacity transit funded by as much as $15 billion in taxes over 15 years. While this would build many badly needed projects, it would be only an incremental addition to a patchwork system that is not growing fast enough to meet the needs of our booming cities.

We propose a single 2016 ballot measure that includes the Sound Transit 3 funding and authorizes the continued collection of Sound Move (the 1996 vote) and Sound Transit 2 (the 2008 vote) taxes past their current end date. This would be enough funding to plan, design and build a complete regional system. Planning for a system and not just a series of lines is how Washington D.C. planned and built their Metro system, and how Phoenix is looking to plan and build theirs. In early planning, Sound Transit has chosen to only collect construction money over a set period of time, but that is a choice. We could choose a different path forward.

It sounds like a dream, but it’s very real.

Taxes would be held in line with what is being planned for ST3 by spreading the cost to the electorate over a longer time period and continuing to collect Sound Move and ST2 taxes until the larger system is complete. Instead of just ST3’s likely projects the voters can authorize ST3 and ST4. After a November, 2016 ballot measure passes, Sound Transit could continue to expand the system as bonding capacity becomes available without raising tax rates in the future or going back to the polls. Sound Transit’s legal staff is already looking into how to write a ballot measure to achieve this if we can convince the Board to pursue this long-term, visionary path.

The effect of pursuing the bigger package would be transformational: Experienced planning staff could move seamlessly from one project to the next, capital equipment like tunneling machines could be reused, and contractors could bid for multiple sequential projects in order to lower costs. Sound Transit could break the cycle of authorizing the few projects that can be built in the next 15 years and then devoting substantial energy to prepare for another vote in 8-12 years.

The details of our vision map are debatable, but not our message: The region needs to plan, decide, and vote on a complete transportation solution in 2016.

The regional political and planning advantages include:

  1. Politically better than ST3
    Any system we come up with using ST3 funds will leave a lot of people who need a transit upgrade feeling left out. A vision for an entire system engages people’s imagination and sense of inclusion. It may be a while, but there will be a stop near me…
  2. Design and build a system, not a line
    Being aware of the entire system design can help Seattle avoid costly mistakes and rework. It also will lead to better design choice without the constraint of looking at just one segment at a time.  Would University District Station be designed differently if Sound Transit knew for a fact that there would be a future East-West Line?
  3. Knowing where rail will be built is enormously advantageous for regional planning
    Where should we focus future growth?  If we know where the entire system will eventually go that question is very easy to answer.  Structural changes to growth and urban design can take decades to implement. Having a full system designed in advance will give planners in neighborhoods and urban centers an immense advantage.
  4. Allows for long term thinking in financing, application for federal grants, and seeking state funding
    Having robust plans for future expansion at the ready can help our region compete for federal funds as they become available, fight at the state level for direct funding, and get ideal terms on financing. The collective impact of these factors could save our region billions of dollars while getting us the transit system we so desperately need.
  5. Regional politics can sink future Sound Transit plans.
    It’s hard to see the future, but fighting separate battles every time we want to expand rail in our region, when stakeholders have uneven transit needs, is hardly an ideal way to build infrastructure. We need to side-step this process and authorize a larger expansion rather than being eternally stuck in the “Seattle Process” and risking compromised solutions.

Please join us in urging the Sound Transit Board to come together and present a true long range plan by writing the board and telling them you want a transportation solution for today and tomorrow.

244 Replies to “A Transportation Solution for Today and Tomorrow”

  1. This is exactly what Seattle needs. We have a huge transportation problem, and the size of the solution has to match the size of the problem.

    Love it!

    1. I’m not trying to be dense here, but I simply do not understand why ST or Seattle Subway or anyone else would see the authorization of a whoppingly large capital revenue stream in perpetuity as the primary or sole prerequisite — or any kind of necessary condition — for designing holistically.

      The world is full of systems that work well because they were designed well from the get-go, then built piecemeal (sometimes one stop at a time) over decades as the money became available.

      You are essentially asking for a permanent blank check, for a map that would be guaranteed to contain oodles of half-assed crap, and would have mediocre impacts 100 years and untold billions on even if completed.

      I’m not sure why you think that’s an electoral or a transportational win.

      1. This plan is exactly the approach you are advocating above. It plans holistically, then funds construction as bonding capacity becomes available.
        This plan moves ST away for the “package” based approach you hate, and towards the continous growth approach you want.
        Happy Birthday DP!

      2. Um, no.

        No effective holistic plan elsewhere in the world has ever involved a blank check. And none has involved an implicit map as asinine as the permutations we keep getting for you guys and from the agency.

        If you look at the map above and think you can draw any kind of reasonable analogy to the DC Metro’s strategic urban-suburban interweaving, then you probably need a remedial Geography 101: Scale & Scope class.

        Or you need to a trip to see the actual Woodinville and “Newport”.

      3. Actually, d.p. is right. This proposal isn’t a “master plan”. It’s not a plan at all. A plan has objectives with many functional details already determined. This is none of that, and there are already several things wrong with the network design in the current proposal.

        Start-ups don’t just go to investors and ask for money based on the thought that “if we get the money, we’ll build something great”. We shouldn’t be doing that with transport either. Unless there are objectives (travel times, station accessibility, transit-oriented development framework, etc.) and very firm commitments to those objectives, this whole thing is bogus.

      4. Jason,

        The proposal is to get ST to commit to a long term planning approach rather than a short term one, and that becomes feasible because the funding mechanism is changed from a short term one to a long term one. An agency without a long term funding plan doesnt create long term system plans because they have no idea if any of it will get built. Planning leading to nothing is considered by many to be wasting tax money. Lets break that paradigm and actually build a system, not just a line or two.

      5. I don’t think it’s particularly feasible to go through all the nitty-gritty of planning, eminent domain’ing, contracting etc. 20,30 years down the road. I don’t really see anyway around a vision map with sub problems of figuring out exact routing method outlined here.

        Perhaps you and/or DP can lay out their vision on how the world should work.

      6. The plan needs to be more detailed and tied down by 2016, to guarantee that it does what Jon Crocollci wants and doesn’t do what DP fears. If it just means that “all future planning will proceed now”, then it should more explicitly say that. The idea is a promising start so we mustn’t kill the baby with the bathwater. One year is a very short amount of time to put something of this scope together, so its quality will depend on putting together a robust structure for the decisions that can’t all be made in that time.

      7. I can see where they are going with this after reading the New Yorker article.
        Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
        Were going to need that endless stream of money to rebuild everything every 300 years or so.

      8. Jon, what accountability mechanism would replace the ST# votes? It’s one thing to plan, but if ST can just construct them by board vote, what’s to prevent ST from building crap? There needs to be some kind of public oversight beyond “the staff holds public hearings, the board votes, and that’s it”.

      9. “An agency without a long term funding plan doesnt create long term system plans because they have no idea if any of it will get built.”

        And an agency that doesn’t create long-term plans demonstrates to taxpayers that they don’t have a vision, much less a clue what they actually need to build. That’s why they don’t get long-term funding. Why would anyone commit money to something, not knowing exactly what the money is for and what objectives it would accomplish?

        And this is not something that only ST should be participating in. There should be a region-wide framework on controlling where the growth is going to go (there is none, and no the PSRC isn’t enough). That would require the cooperation of local jurisdictions across the region, and no one seems to be bothering with that right now.

        You shouldn’t throw money at a transport network if it hasn’t been designed yet, and you can’t design an effective transport network until there is a mechanism to shape regional growth around it.

      10. Here here. d.p and others, including several who I rarely (or never) agree with are right. Tax revenue streams in perpetuity are a magnet for corruption, graft and all other kinds of waste. Has your desire to build a subway clouded your vision of human nature that badly? DOA.

      11. @Mike,
        I dont know, but I would say that the ST# system has not lead to best practice outcomes because the primary challenge is not the design of the system, it is making the most voters and cities happy with a very limited amount of money. I do not know enough about system design procedures and capital management to prescribe a method, but I do think that a more permanent and long term design process will allow the best solution, as opposed to the most politically expedient solution.
        I think that is backwards. It costs money and time to create a true system plan. If ST was spending ST2 money on that instead of actual design and construction, that would be a misuse of the funds authorized to them. So far, they have not been a permanent entity. Creating a long term revenue stream allows the agency to retain it’s planning and design staff after the vote, and allows those people to focus on the actual transit problems rather than try to shoehorn a bunch of ok projects together hamstrung by a small budget.

      12. … which is exactly why a long-term revenue stream would be dangerous now. The planning staff should be fired yesterday. Their dangerous incompetence has been repeatedly chronicled in this blog. We should definitely not retain them indefinitely, or allow them to endanger other needed lines.

      13. Metro has a long-term tax authority for operations. The libraries have a long-term funding source. We created a parks district last year. Arguably we should have more ongoing funding for basic things that cities and states should provide. We’re not getting these things because we don’t have stable funding for them. A difference with this is it includes capital costs, and will hopefully have a well-defined but multi-phase capital project, where each phase might be preapproved. But it ultimately comes down to, do you want a complete transit network or not? If you do, then we have to build the network either via this mechanism or something else.We’ve seen that it doesn’t work well to build a few things at a time with no certainty of what will come after it and what kind of transfer interfaces we’ll need.

        An alternative approach would be a package including the ST3 projects and all full-network planning. Then in 2020 we could vote on the rest of the projects.

      14. Mike sees it.

        The other thing this does really well is keep us from having to go to Olympia again. They have enough pounds of flesh already.

      15. Mike,
        A year isn’t a huge amount of time, but with much of the preliminary work started in 2013 (thanks to Seattle Subway pushing the board) and the LRP work done last year, much of the work has already started and there are only a couple of ‘new’ lines that would need to be studied. That can be done in the next year.

        Then much like they would do with any package, ST would present a rough plan to the voters. The only difference between this and other measures is that it would be twice as big.

      16. I’m not especially worried about corruption, per se.

        ST is not corrupt. ST is stupid.

        ST’s prior attempts at “long range envisioning” have been brain-dead and outcome-deaf self-justifications for keeping themselves employed and their fiefdom growing in perpetuity, but even that is merely human, not corrupt. Ditto the mental shortcuts taken when they talk of “reaching” far-flung areas rather than serving critical masses of people anywhere. Even the insane talk of siphoning urban money to pay for Everett follows logically from the agency’s fetid-bubble-consensus. It’s theft, and it’s offensive, but even then it doesn’t carry the intent to surreptitiously defraud that the word “corruption” implies.

        But if stupidity can yield outcomes as bad as any corruption, does the distinction matter?

      17. And Jon, you have your cause and effect wholly reversed.

        It is ST’s total lack of a coherent and effective network model that has led to such lackluster “ST#” specifics.

        Again, agencies the world over have discerned (non-imaginary) needs and parsed (non-wishful) geometries to come up with (non-asisine) long-range plans long before the source or timeline of the various necessary revenues was understood.

        You’re entering “special snowflake” territory to suggest authorizing 70 years of tri-part funding collections as a vague incentive for ST to get its planning act together.

      18. I think it is easy to blame the mistakes made with the UW to downtown segment on our financial system. We had to throw half the passengers overboard just to save the ship. The reason we hit the iceberg is because of the stupid funding mechanism. Fair enough.

        But I see no excuse for NE 130th. In the grand scheme of things, it is not nearly as bad as the lack of a First Hill station, or a 520 station, or a station (or two) that fits well with the Capitol Hill/Central Area (arguably the most important area in the state). But NE 130th is cheap. There are no soils to worry about — no big holes to dig. None of that. We are talking peanuts here. If push comes to shove, Seattle might pay for the station (seriously). But they insisted (and still insist) that it isn’t needed. I’m sorry, but that just implies that they don’t take bus to rail interaction seriously. They haven’t really considered how important that is, despite a shining example just three hours up the freakin’ road!

        If you think that the battle for this station is over, then you will be disappointed. Right now, folks in my neighborhood are hard at work trying to get this station, as if this was a new park or swimming pool ( Renee Staton (and others) are busting their butts trying to get Sound Transit to build something that should be freakin’ obvious. Are they trying to raise money? No. They are still trying to convince Sound Transit that a stop there is worthy. They are trying to change the zoning code to promote more growth there, because ST believes that without more growth, a station isn’t worthy.

        Holy Smoke — how can anyone have faith in an agency that thinks like that! First of all, you can change the zoning all you want and still not get that many riders walking to the station. Just look at a freakin’ map! Most of the land there is roads and parks. Second, much of the housing that is close to there already is apartments or zoned for apartments. Do you really think people will demolish 3 story apartment buildings so they can put up 6 story ones? Third — this is key here — it isn’t about Pinehurst! I don’t why this is so hard, ST. Lake City is (and will always be) way bigger than Pinehurst. Much, much more populous. Fourth, it isn’t even about that. It is about making a decent bus network. Even if Lake City wasn’t huge; even if it was the size of say, Roosevelt (which is tiny in comparison), it would still make sense to add a station at NE 130th, because it enables good cross town bus service. How hard is it to figure that out?

        Which is why, I regretfully (seriously — I was the son of a politician — I cut those folks a huge amount of slack) conclude that Sound Transit just doesn’t get it. They just don’t understand the importance of station placement. They think in suburban terms, or they don’t think at all. They build light rail lines to park and rides because how else would you get to the station?

        Unless I see Sound Transit change their approach, I have no faith in their ability to make good decisions. To be clear, they are great when it comes to the actual engineering (which should be the hard part). Ask them to dig a tunnel and put in rails and they will be fine. But figuring out how to build a transit system — a real transit system — that is a mix of buses and rail seems to be outside their comprehension. Asking them to build a long term vision plan will just lead to more of the same crap. One stop between Ballard and the UW on a subway? Have you learned anything, Sound Transit? Apparently not.

      19. Didn’t the gas tax amount to a blank check into WSDOT’s coffers for highway development for a lot of years? Not to mention how quickly Olympia will write an additional check when it comes to highway projects.

        I’m for a more comprehensive system like the one Seattle Subway is proposing. I don’t know if extending Sound Move and ST2 taxes in perpetuity would be the right way to do it. However, in lieu of anyone offering a viable alternative I have to give Seattle Subway some credit.

        Sound Transit has made plenty of blunders, but hopefully they are learning from their mistakes. I don’t know that starting with a new regional transit entity necessarily gets you immediate competence.

      20. +1 to both RossB and d.p. above.

        Dislike taxing authority in perpetuity. Dislike extending a tax that was supposed to sunset.

        People that support tax increases always say “but it’s only for thirty years (or whatever).”

        How come they never seem to go away? Are we going to have a 15% sales tax in 2030?

        I’m now waiting for the chorus to chime in with “for a society that we want to live in, that’s the price we have to pay.”

        I don’t buy it, and I do want a functional, urban centric, ST3.

      21. Who said tax in perpetuity?

        We said go bigger and do it by extending the timeline. This is the best opportunity for us to improve the regional planning outcomes.

      22. “Start-ups don’t just go to investors and ask for money based on the thought that “if we get the money, we’ll build something great”. ”

        Actually, they do. You haven’t heard of “dark funds” or “blind funds”? Boy, you are not up to date on the insane world of modern finance.

        (I’m not saying it makes sense.)

      23. Ah, yes, the usual term is “blind pool”. Be horrifed at the fecklessness of these “investors”.

      24. “How come they never seem to go away?”

        Because the problem hasn’t been solved yet. We only taxed enough for a partial solution, and deferred the rest. This is “the rest”.

    2. With our Seattle transportation issues we only seem to talk about cars. There is another big side of this that we don’t address with all our talk of ST3 and Metro. That is the ever growing truck traffic being driven by the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. The ports need to step up and take responsibility for their impact on the roads. The ports have the bonding authority to do just about whatever they can get wall street to finance. RIght now good can not get into or out of the ports. Our Washington state farmers can not get space on trains to get their wheat to the ports due to all of the space being leased up in bulk by coal trains. I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass is a often closed in winter for delivering trucking cargo that results in billions in delays. There is a fallow railroad bed, known as the old Milwaukee RailRoad that is in public hands. It runs from between the two ports in Renton, near I-90 just east of Issaquah and reaches all the way to south of Spokane. It has a very even 1.7 grade at that could easily be built out to 150 MPH. The planned expansion of eastside light rail will come very near to the Old Milwaukee line at Issaquah. The ports could easily restore the Old Milwaukee line and lease excess capacity to Sound Transit, Metro and Amtrak. Imagine how moving all of this truck traffic off our Seattle and Freeway roads would reduce congestion. Imagine how a two hour train ride to WSU, the Apple Cup and Spokane would unite the state, reduce congestion, carbon pollution. With a one hour trip from the massive cold war runway at Moses lake it would allow the port to push freight out of Seatac to open up more lucrative passenger plane slots. This would put the ports at a competitive advantage if they can guarantee containers will be in Spokane on railcars ready for trucks or further rail transports regardless of weather or traffic. Now imagine the Ports building out a high speed rail line along I-90 that leverages cargo and passenger service. By combining the cost and solutions of cargo and commuter transportation together we can solve both problems at lower cost. Win-WIn-Win.

      1. Scott,

        I’m going to take d.p.’s role here and give him a break, because I know a lot about freight railroads. You are in tinfoil hat territory with this post. The reason that the Milwaukee ROW across Snoqualmie Pass is on “a very even 1.7 grade” is that it wanders up every side-creek on the way to the summit. Even the Olympian Hiawatha the Milwaukee’s premier train, was limited to 40 mph up and down the hill. To build an HSR line between Puget Sound and the upper Yakima Valley — to say nothing of the enormous cost of crossing the 1500′ foot deep Columbia River gorge east of Ellensburg — would require a tunnel at least fifteen miles long. It’s ridiculous to contemplate when our state has difficulty paying for the relatively modest upgrades necessary to make the Cascades trains superior to BoltBus.

        And just for the record, reactivating the Milwaukee line through Renton and up the Cedar River watershed is not possible. It’s a fricking trail right next to a large arterial (Renton-Maple Valley Road) with hundreds of roadfront accesses. Such an “HSR” line would have to be elevated for fifteen miles, from Black River Junction nearly to Maple Valley.

        And it’s nowhere near Issaquah. When it passes North Bend (assuming Link ever got that far, unlikely) it’s four or five hundred feet up the side of the mountain to the south of town.

  2. I’m down with this plan. Email sent.

    Is there any word on ST’s consideration of the yellow Route 8 line? I could see that line being very well-used.

  3. I like it in principle. I’m just not sure the idea of asking people to commit their tax dollars to ST4 and ST 5 without evening knowing what the project list is going to be is going to fly.

    People tend to be pessimistic about these sorts of things, always assuming that the money will go to some other neighborhood, rather than theirs.

    1. I think Seattle Subway are calling ST to do at least some planning for ST 4/5/6 now to accompany the “now & forever” proposal.

    2. I think one of the reasons behind this is to avoid/mitigate the West Seattle vs. Ballard disputes that have popped up in ST3/who gets real light rail instead of a streetcar threads. I take it as kind of, “Don’t worry Ballard, you will get your grade separated light rail without having to go through the state legislature, we just have to pass a bond.” I’m sure West Seattlites who think they will only get BRT may feel similar.

    3. We would definitely want them to plan first. There is due diligence necessary to get things on the ballot. They will need a high level plan.

      1. Yes, they need a “high level plan” so that they don’t do bonehead things like not plan for potential junctions at Brooklyn and Roosevelt stations.

        They just don’t need this high level plan.

    4. I don’t think you should think of it as ST3,4 or 5, but as ST* or ST+ where we build what we need when we need it. ST could put out a vision map like Seattle Subway’s with an accompanying priority list and when we get the ability to build it, we plan, apply for grants, etc. and do it.

    5. Keith, are you saying there would still be votes on the construction plans as they’re ready?

  4. The thought of the “spine” as being STs big picture is troubling. They need to encompass the entire region.

    1. Exactly this! And that is it is such a good idea to lock in the goal of a complete system. We do need the spine, or at the very least Everett and Tacoma want it and they can pay for it. But we need so much more than that. Lets build a real system.

      1. I don’t think Tacoma should be on the radar at this point. The section between South Federal Way and Tacoma Dome is simply empty without any support for a long route.

        What I fear is the boondoggle crowds will come out let alone if we look at ST 2, Pierce County was overwhelmingly opposed.

        Everett I can see due to travel times being 80 minutes regularly, but not via Paine Field when industrial areas simply do not have the ridership for the time penalty of overall travel time.

        I would be curious to see something similar to Seattle’s Transit Master Plan for origin destination studies supporting a Paine Field alignment. I understand that yes there is politics but that is a sacrifice for the wrong reason. Every dollar of construction needs to count and a 10 minute penalty just for Paine Field makes little to no sense. Even if you have a commercial airport, it simply will not rival SeaTac anytime in the future and the NIMBYs will likely have some say on it.

    2. Link is already approved to 272nd, and 320th is a small concession to get the spinesters off our back. After that it’s entirely Pierce and Snohomish’s responsibility. They can either put up or shut up: extend light rail or don’t. But soon we’ll have to talk about the post-spine politics, and the 2016 package will have to address that. When the Spine is settled (whether by Link or BRT or Sounder), what will ST’s guiding principles be? How will it prioritize things?

    3. “They need to encompass the entire region.”

      Which, in the feeble minds of regional politicians, will mean “The Spine” plus “Going around Lake Washington” plus “Circling the Sound”, etc. what have you. Never mind that not enough people are being served. That kind “regional thinking” can really screw a region.

  5. This is absolutely what has to happen. Because I was born and raised here, I know this is exactly what will not happen. Seattle WILL screw this up and we will live with sub-optimal solutions for generations. I hope I’m wrong…

    1. I love this town, but Seattle is the master of good intentions executed poorly, and transit is the prize winning pig.

  6. This would be a great start, but I would like to see Renton and Bellevue connected. 405 is always horrible to drive on due to the heavy volumes it sees and a transit line between them would greatly improve things there.

    1. This is exactly the form of every plan that gets shot down by statewide votes. The vast majority of this state does not live or work in Seattle, yet this is a plan for all roads to lead to Seattle. Microsoft, Boeing, Costco … three names off the top of my head that aren’t headquartered downtown, yet somehow the areas where huge numbers of workers commute aren’t covered by this rail system. Add a line along the entire length of 405, and they would have a LOT more buy-in.

      1. Is this a joke?

        First off the state won’t vote for this. The urban areas of Central Puget Sound will.

        Secondly, a line to Chicago would be really REALLY long. However this plan does have a Paine Field stop, and also a Microsoft stop, and Costco would be served by the Issaquah line. Might require a shuttle, but that is what happens when you build a greenfield exurban campus.

      2. There is no “rail system” yet; this is Seattle Subway’s unofficial suggestion, Sound Transit has not endorsed it. The point is to get ST to make a similar plan. You can look at ST’s Long-Range Plan to see what they’re thinking about so far, but that plan was not intended to be used for this purpose, so it would have to be reviewed and revised before releasing the lines to be built.

        With a line on 405, remember that people also have to get to the stations, and few houses and workplaces are within walking distance. So it’s not as simple as just putting a line on the freeway with stations at the exits.

        East Link has a station at Microsoft. Everett is trying to get a Link extension routed to Boeing. Boeing has not been very transit-friendly for decades, both with its isolated locations, huge free parking lots, and transferring people arbitrarily between sites. The Silicon Valley companies have shuttles to the nearest Caltrain Station, and Microsoft has shuttles to where employees live. Boeing has done none of that. So it has to meet us halfway with a transit solution. Costco located itself in an exurban office park, which is difficult for transit to serve, especially a light rail line. Again there are ideas for a light rail line to Issaquah, and a new urban center there. That may or may not help Costco, but Costco might have to relocate to the urban center in a building more walkable to get the most benefit out of it.

    2. I agree. I want to see it eventually go all the way around Lake Washington.

      1. Well, I mean, I’d rather see a bunch of in-city service built up first, but I think a circumfrential lake line would make a better spine than the everett-tacoma version.

      2. Alex,
        There is huge network of abandoned and banked rail lines in the area that could be built out very quickly and at a very reasonable cost per mile. Much of this is already in public hands. WaDOT has a map of the longer lines here and here is a hint of some of the abandoned short lines in the state:, but there are many shorter lines not on the map. Also active rail lines are here . Short lines are here and here

    3. Thats an interesting point. The eastside cities can make a case for what they want, so maybe they will get more. Thats the beauty of a complete system plan, it would allow ST and its Board to think more long term, about what is really needed, rather than just what can fit inside the next round of funding.

    4. I think this is the problem in general with showing the light rail lines, and only the light rail lines. It is interesting from an abstract standpoint, but only in a handful in North American cities can you get by largely on the train. Those cities tend to have rail built a long time ago (New York) or have had a major federal investment in rail (D. C.). For example, the system map for SkyTrain ( shows the “B-Line” (rapid bus) and SeaBus (ferry). This is the third most successful transit system in North America (measured by transit ridership per capita — Even that map is not complete if you want to get a good view of the system. If you go on the TransLink site, you can get a complete transit map (showing lots of buses) as well as a frequent transit map (which also shows a lot of buses). The second clearly shows that obsessing over light rail is misplaced. Vancouver has very high transit ridership because their buses and their rail are really good, and they work well together. The ridership numbers for the light rail aren’t enormous, either — it is the combination that allows them to be so successful. So a map like this: is probably more representative of the system than anything else. It doesn’t show every bus, nor does it show where a frequent bus often runs slowly — but it is reasonable to assume that (unlike us) there aren’t many places where this is a problem.

      Making a map like that for this city would be similarly useful. That is what a long term vision should look like. It would be far more representative of a transit vision than simply showing the areas where light rail would be built. I see no reason why we wouldn’t draw a map like that, and simply assert that everywhere there is frequent transit, it runs reasonably fast (otherwise it doesn’t make it on the map). Thus, for example, until the yellow line is built, the Metro 8 line is not shown on the map.

      1. I dunno – skytrain serves 400,000/day. They serve as many on trains as we do on Metro Busses every day, and they do it in a region with 1.5 million less people

      2. I agree about needing to take a look at everything as a system.

        There is this great proposal to make the BNSF main line a reasonably fast main line, and increase passenger service on it.

        The light rail line that runs across the south side of Tukwila on this map completely ignores the Tukwila Sounder / Amtrak station.

        There are reasons to stop there and there are reasons not to stop there. To stop there or not should at least be part of the discussion when making the map, not just blow past it as if it isn’t there and if the parallel service isn’t already there.

      3. Glenn that is what I have been saying for awhile. Forget an LRT spine to Tacoma, get it to Federal Way and go for express Sounder. If the corridor was rated for high-speed, my goal would be to take the travel time to 45 minutes. That would involve electric stock and easing curves but I think it is possible.

      4. Thanks, d. p., that’s my point. Look, without that eye popping bus number, Vancouver would be just another city with a light rail line. Yes, 400,000 is good, but it won’t get you on the pedestal. You will be lucky if you qualify for the finals. But holy smoke, 750,000 bus riders for a city that size is truly remarkable. Again — they are third in total ridership (per capita), behind only New York and Toronto. Chicago, Montreal, Boston (all cities with way more miles of rail built a long time ago) are below that. Don’t you think that our northern neighbor is doing something right?

        The only reason Vancouver transit ridership is so high is because of both. The light rail does the heavy lifting, and the buses fill in the gaps. It isn’t like European cities, or New York, where you just walk to the subway for every trip. They simply can’t afford that (and neither can we). But the rail moves without congestion, and the buses move fairly fast — otherwise, people wouldn’t take them. This is an obvious model for this city, but Sound Transit seems to ignore it.

      5. FWIW, TeiMet ridership works similarly. Almost all MAX stations have bus routes that feed them,

        Furthermore, routes like TriMet’s 71 make no sense until you overlay them onto a map that also shows MAX.

      6. The thing being missed in mentioning Vancouver, while it is true that there is high quality bus and train service, Vancouver has many more demand-side transit inducements than Seattle. For starters, there is no freeway into the Central Business district, or in to many of the job centers at all. Gas in Vancouver is around $5.20/gallon, which is thanks to Provincial and Federal Gasoline Excise taxes, a regional excise funding transit,and the carbon tax. The metro area has about three and a half times the population density, all around making transit more relatively useful than it would otherwise be.

        Surely, without a strong grid of frequent bus service, successful express bus routes, and an extremely frequent and well developed rail system, ridership would be lower, but Vancouver is starting from a higher natural base

    5. Let’s take Eastside north-south as an example. Bothell – Bellevue – Renton. How would it be decided in this scenario? ST has studied various LRT and BRT between Bellevue and Kirkland. It has studied 405 BRT and outlined a single-line and a multi-line scenario. Renton to Bellevue is on the back burner: it’s arguably not ready for light rail yet, there’s no other suggestion for addressing it, so the only consideration it’s getting is part of 405 BRT, which is dependent on various WSDOT projects that may or may not happen sometime. What will ST have to do in this corridor by 2016? What will it do afterward? When and how will it decide what to build there, and how much ability will the public have to shape it or approve it?

      1. The public would have about as much say as they do now (think about 99 v I-5 routing debates, downtown Bellevue, etc). Federal guidelines wouldn’t change. Just like projects today have to be route and mode agnostic in order to get Federal grants, so would future plans. And just like projects today have to go through the state and Federal EIS, so will these projects.

        Same procedures, just more clarity on future extensions so better planning and more cost savings.

      2. The WSDOT projects are definitely happening now: there’s 1.2bn in the transportation package for them. That’s on the high end of what they were asking the legislature for, so there should be funds for the Renton HOV direct access ramp, the Newcastle flyer stop and the rest of the bells and whistles to the basic HOT roadway plan. Rail around the lake just isn’t practical, but we can have a high quality BRT system.

      3. Ron,

        I am not 100% sure about SR 509 given they either have to condemn properties or tunnel. There could be enough opposition to raise a stink that might derail this and place this from that fund to maintenance but I am not aware of any stink on the 167 corridor given the limited impact on residential areas.

    6. Absolutely. 405 between Bellevue and Renton is a major pain point, and there is a huge amount of development happening in between the two cities. A line that served communities including Newcastle and Factoria would make complete sense and would doubtlessly help to reduce traffic on 405.

      1. Regarding the Renton to Bellevue segment, there is a fallow rail line that runs along Lake Washington between the two cities. I believe that it is owned by the Port?

      2. It’s a moot point.

        Now that the gas tax is being raised, work can proceed on building 4 more lanes on I-405 between those two cities, keeping transit’s share of trips from becoming too large.

  7. Could the map show something more than an end of the line from Tukwila? We are Eastsiders, and we don’t even like Tukwilaians. Then sure, tax me to death forever.

  8. I dig the plan.

    Regarding the map, I find it funny that the Renton line ends in downtown Renton, where there is nothing, besides a parking garage, a once per week farmer’s market, and a single good restaurant (two depending on who you ask). Why not take it to the Boeing factory and the Landing? Are we anticipating the final departure of Boeing and that people from Renton will suddenly stop shopping at Fry’s and Target?

    1. Renton has done a tiny bit to pedestrianize the area right around the transit center. It should do that on a much larger scale. Break up the superblocks, bulldoze the big-box stores, build row houses and apartments and mixed-use buildings. Then downtown Renton would reach its potential.

      1. I hate big box stores as much as you do, but the current demographic of downtown Renton needs the big box stores for now. Many of those residents need to shop at places like WalMart just to make ends meet. It will probably be more of a transition, as the ultra-urban limits of Seattle expand further south as more people are priced out of Seattle proper and end up in Renton, and ultimately the WalMarts of Renton will sell their superblocks to developers, one-by-one over time.

        Again, I love the plan, the strategy, and the overall idea that Seattle Subway presented. I just found it odd to omit Boeing & the Landing. This is definitely a minor detail.

      2. Northgate North has several big box stores stacked on top of each other and a garage next to it. That’s one model; there may be others; but we won’t know unless we look for them, and Renton could at least think about how to restore a traditional downtown shopping district while incorporating the big-box retailers.

      3. @Engineer: Apologies for the nitpick, but the Walmart in downtown Renton is pretty far from the transit center, off Grady Way.

        The McLendon’s superblock on the other hand, that would be prime for redevelopment into something denser. Same with the Safeway across the street. If downtown Renton has any desire to be an actual downtown, a supermarket there should not need a parking lot that huge.

    2. It’s just a tease in a lot of ways. If you look at the station density in Ballard, it’s wildly unrealistic if the line is a subway.

      1. If it’s one of Sound Transit’s patented Terrible Access Urban Service No Comprende™ subways, you mean.

      2. I think 5 stations from Ballard – UW is realistic. What number do you think makes sense?

      3. @Jon — Five (inclusive) is correct. Just about everyone thinks that. Except Sound Transit, they want three (inclusive). Just one stop between Brooklyn and 15th. Seriously — I’m not joking — they really are that incompetent.

      4. Realistically, the Ballard to UW line needs the following stations:

        24th and Market
        15th and Market
        8th and Market
        Aurora and 46th
        Wallingford and 45th
        U District
        U Village

        Notice the plan is only missing 24th and Market. That is slightly alleviated with the 15th and Market station being around 17th

        Turning it up 24th would be useful but not necessary with two stations at:
        24th and 65th
        24th and 85th

  9. I like the approach — I don’t want to squabble over details, but I think there’s a lot more that could be added to this plan. For example, in the older Seattle Subway maps they had a RapidRide E/Swift rail line. I think a SLU > Downtown Fremont > Greenwood > Bitter Lake line would have very good ridership. Honestly, I’m not sure if the Swift portion would have enough to justify Light rail, but it would allow the main spine line to be much straighter because it would be that other line that serves Boeing. Either way, the portion of the line inside Seattle would clearly have good ridership. Also, extending the red line over SR 520 to Kirkland would give a much faster connection between Kirkland and the points north of the cut. Closing the gap between Renton and Bellevue would be a relatively cost-effective solution as well, given the ROW is already there. Also, I would extend something down to Kent — the 150 has good ridership and Kent is a growing area (the 566/567 also see a lot of peak usage).

    Not saying these would happen in the next 20 years or something, but if our goal is to make a long term plan, let’s have them on it.

  10. >> The details of our vision map are debatable, but not our message: The region needs to plan, decide, and vote on a complete transportation solution in 2016.

    I agree, but I’m not sure Sound Transit is capable of doing this without outside help. There have been so many mistakes, and so many inappropriate ideas and suggestions that I have come to the sad conclusion that they don’t know what they are doing.

    I think an outside agency needs to get involved. I would like to see a consulting firm do the hard work and come up with a realistic plan. I think this should involve various funding estimates. It is easy to look at a map and draw a bunch of light rail lines that you would like to have in an ideal world. If money is short, you just reduce the number of lines. But that doesn’t work very well. For example, if you have unlimited money, then by all means, build the orange line on that map. But if you don’t, then simply “adding it later” won’t work very well. With less money, the answer is to add a station at NE 130th, and improve the corridor between SR 522 and there. We shouldn’t be in a position where we wait forever for a rail line to solve our problems, when spending a little bit of money will help quite a bit. I would like an agency to come up with various proposals (gold, silver and bronze if you will) for the area. I think it would look substantially different than anything Sound Transit has proposed (there would be a lot more stops for one thing).

    1. Gawd, that’s so smart, why didn’t I think of that?

      We should definitely scrap the organization that is actually getting some transit done, and start over. We should ignore the folks that are bringing you double-digit annual ridership growth on Link. We should turn a blind eye toward the team that has built six miles of subway tunnel between downtown and UW ahead of schedule and under budget. We should diss the gang that has Northgate almost half built, that brought the Kemper crowd to its knees, is breaking ground this year on east side LRT (on a federal interstate bridge, no less), and is about to leverage another nearly $1 billion out of the federal government to take Link into Snohomish County. Above all, we should lend no credence to the crew that just skillfully navigated the legislature into the granting the region the financial tools to make this vision posted above possible. No, these people have no idea what they are doing. We should ignore them and rely on…. consultants.

      1. If ST gets the Feds to give them one single dime for their low-return sprawl projects, I will eat my shoe.

      2. I never said they couldn’t build anything. I simply said that they have shown gross incompetence when it comes to figuring out what needs to be built. Here is a partial list:

        1) No station at First Hill.
        2) No station at Convention Center.
        3) A single station in the most densely populated large area in the city (Capitol Hill/C. D.) that does not interact well at all with buses.
        4) No station at the intersection of 520 and Link.
        5) No plans for a station at NE 130th, even though it is rather obvious to everyone that one is needed. This may be built, but only after citizens — not the organization — puts pressure on them to build it.
        6) Lack of stations on the UW to Ballard light rail plan.
        7) Stations (like Husky Stadium and Mount Baker) that are at the same time grandiose and expensive, as they are dysfunctional from a transit standpoint.
        8) No future planning on the convergence of a UW to Ballard light rail line with a downtown to UW light rail line even though it should be obvious that this would be the highest performing next line.
        9) Emphasis on light rail to West Seattle despite the fact that it is obviously ineffective and inappropriate for the area, while the alternative (bus improvements) would be cheaper and better for most transit riders.

        I’m sure there are more. That is just Seattle. That has nothing to do with the perverse nature of the agency (subarea equity with equal tax rates in each area). So this list has nothing to do with the spine, except that, perhaps, a focus on the spine over good transit may be part of the problem. But I don’t want to psychoanalyze Sound Transit, I just want them to come up with good solutions. So far, they obviously haven’t.

        As for double-digit annual ridership growth on Link — the same can be said for the buses as well. Like the buses, I have no qualms with the way that Link operates, nor do I have any problem with the way construction has gone. I’m thrilled with the fact that the tunnels have been built on time and under budget. But the lack of stations and their placement is horrible. The best thing about Link right now is the part they didn’t even build — the downtown tunnel. I shudder to think how they might have designed the tunnel if it hadn’t have been built already. Perhaps two stations, instead of five. Oh wait, I forgot — they will only have four.

      3. If ST gets the Feds to give them one single dime for their low-return sprawl projects, I will eat my shoe.

        They might do it by taking a federal grant to an urban project and taking the same amount out of the project and giving it to snohomish county,

        No one is going to ride the train up there, I don’t know why we would even bother building it.

      4. @RoosB, everything you said, except, I’m not even that impressed with the on time and under budget claims: they set their own budget and timeline after they’d cut out all the risk, with little or nothing to prevent them from padding both significantly..

      5. The far superior 1968 plan was based on a report by…consultants (deLeuw, Cather; now part of Parsons Brinkerhoff). Not saying that plan is a perfect fit for today, just that if we had it now instead of the spine the system would be better and its potential for the region would be far greater.

        It’s generally wise to have an outside group come in and have a look at what you are trying to do, whether it be another team in your office or a highly-regarded outside firm. The echo chamber is a real thing and it can be deadly to optimal outcomes.

      6. We know that Jarrett Walker would design an excellent network, so there’s one consultant. But the bigger issue is, what structure will the consultant fit into. What point do you want to call him in, and for what, and what should happen with the results? You can’t just outsource the entire design, “Let an outsider do everything,” because it works best when the consultant is supporting a strong local team and just giving them some expert advice.

      7. I agree Mike. Williams’ criticism not withstanding, I think Sound Transit has good civil engineers on their staff. The report for West Seattle, for example, mentions the nitty-gritty (why going underground on 5th is more plausible than second). But I would hire Walker’s firm and basically explain the situation, including the politics of it all. There would be a lot of give and take, but frankly, I doubt Walker would sign off on something like U-Link. I think he would either recommend we wait until we get more money (to do it right) or just do it right (with more stops). The politics would be hard (pleasing everyone is impossible) but designing a system that an outside observer can accept is a huge step.

        For example, the West Seattle debate often gets lost in the “does it deserve to be next debate”. You could simply avoid this. Let Walker (or whomever) know that we need to do something substantial for the peninsula and are willing to spend a billion or two. I think the experts would come to the same conclusion as everyone else: BRT. It wouldn’t be a billion, either — way less. Likewise with Ballard. UW to Ballard just pops out as a great value. The WSTT does as well. Picking between the projects would be tough (and politics might play a part) but I’m sure an outside firm would come to the same conclusions.

        Perhaps most importantly, they would insist that adequate stations be built, or that at a minimum, could be added later. I’m a huge fan of UW to Ballard light rail, but not if there is only one station in between there. That is nuts, but that is exactly what Sound Transit proposed. There is no way an outside consulting agency would let that fly, because they would consider bus to rail interaction, something that Sound Transit has obviously ignored.

      8. When Jarrett spoke at the Metro long-range plan open house, he was asked what he thought of Link and the preliminary ST3 corridors. He said his biggest wish was that it had been a joint regional-local transit plan; i.e., a joint plan between ST, Metro, CT, ET, and PT for both regional routes and the local routes around them.

        Instead it was designed as a regional plan in isolation, and although Metro was asked what alignment and stations it preferred, and what abstract level of bus service it might provide at stations, but it didn’t designate concrete routes. Instead it waits until a year before a station opens to talk about a bus reorganization. That leaves people with uncertainty of what kind of connection they can expect from their neighborhood. Part of the problem is that Metro did not have a long-term plan at all, and hadn’t thought of that for years, because its funding was so tight it could only focus on keeping the buses running. Now it’s starting a LRP, but it’ll be published too late for the current process, so we have to go without it.

      9. Just a historical accuracy item: DeLeuw Cather was absorbed into the Parsons Corporation, not Parsons Brinckerhoff. Nationally, they are often competitors — although staff often ends up working at both of them at different points in their careers.

      10. Thanks, Mike. That second paragraph is very important. I’m not sure if anything more important has been written about transit in this area. Essentially, a mult-billion dollar line is built with absolutely no input from Metro, then Metro (after the fact) is told to “deal with it”.

        This is bad enough for that stretch, but they show no sign of doing things better now (or in the future). When it came time to analyzing a NE 130th station, they didn’t talk to Metro. No wonder they didn’t think it was a great idea. They don’t seem to care at all about bus to rail integration.

        This is why, although I have no problem with this plan, I think it is doom to fail (if implemented). There will be really long lines on a map, but stations will be few and far between, and not work well at all with possible bus routes. Why would we want an agency to spend a huge amount of time and effort building a long range, regional plan, when they can’t even build a tiny segment of it? Until I am convinced that Sound Transit can do a better job in planning light rail lines, I see no reason to pursue this course.

  11. This might be a stupid question but does anyone know why sound transit never looked at expanding (frequency and reliability) actual Sounder commuter rail to Everett and Tacoma? Light rail seems like a poor solution to the problem they’re trying to fix.

    I know that Sounder, especially north Sounder has problems with track alignment and righ of way but would laying down new tracks just for passenger rail have been more efficient than what they’re doing with light rail?

    I dunno. Just thinking out loud.

    1. Expanding Sounder North would be horribly foolish. The ridership isn’t there, the time savings aren’t there (especially when you consider that Sounder’s only stop in Seattle is at King Street, which isn’t where the jobs are), and the landslides get in the way far too often.

      As for why they aren’t looking at expanding Sounder South…. they are? The 2015 Service Implementation Plan shows that in 2010 the reached an agreement with BNSF that allowed them to add one round trip in 2013, with two more coming in 2016, and a fourth in 2017.

    2. The alignment is a big issue for the north sounder, as well as the cost per rider. The tracks run along the coast thus halving the potential walk shed (the west side is all water with no potential TOD) and it also misses the population concentrations. The cost is something like (not exact for sure) twice as much per rider as link operationally. I think at least the north bound sounder would have been a boondoggle. There may have been some possibilities with South Sounder but again, the tracks mostly miss the population centers as well as have reduce TOD (e.g. the tracks run near/next too Boeing Field). I’m sure a more wonky person than I could give you more specifics…but that is the gist.

    3. A shorter version of what other people are saying about Sounder North:

      Expanding sounder north frequency is both difficult and expensive, because the freight tracks it uses are operating at capacity through Seattle, and have been for quite a long time. Adding additional trains would require buying additional track time from BNSF at astronomical rates, at the same time that BNSF is trying to cram more coal and oil trains down that congested freight corridor (driving prices even higher).

      This is why Sounder North is consistently Sound Transit’s biggest money pit, out of all their projects. It costs ST around $30 per passenger-trip to keep Sounder North operating at it’s current levels. The only reason ST has not axed Sounder North entirely and reinvested the money elsewhere in Snohomish County, is political pressure from the few hundred people who currently ride it, and the PR disaster that would come from cancelling their most visible service in the County.

      Improving Sounder North reliability requires miles and miles of landslide improvements, mostly on a patchwork of hundreds of private parcels uphill of the rail line. Everyone wants it to happen, but it’s a very expensive, red-tape laden, slow-moving proposition.

      In short, the cheapest way to get reliable rail service to Everett in the long-term, is to build our own tracks, on our own land, and eventually cut BNSF out of the picture entirely.

    4. The biggest obstacle to adding Sounder is the cost of BNSF timeslot leases, and the physical capacity of the track now that coal trains and oil trains have become popular. The state has looked into dedicated passenger tracks from Seattle to the Oregon border for Cascades, Sounder, Amtrak, future high-speed rail, and whatever need; but it would cost a lot of money and the state hasn’t committed to implementing it. The state is implementing incremental improvements to the track that will bring Cascades up to 90 mph and 2.5 hours to Portland, but that doesn’t help the Sounder issue much. Or the state or ST could buy the existing track from BNSF if it’s willing to sell, and lease back excess capacity for freight. But again it would cost a lot of money, more than ST has.

      Some of us are hoping for half-hourly Sounder South someday, more like Caltrain. When the 2017 runs are running it will be almost hourly, daytime weekdays. So half-hourly wouldn’t be a huge step after that. But ST is not currently going that direction.

      Sounder North has a lot of intrinsic problems because of the track location. It’s far away from Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace and south Everett where most of the population is centered. It’s single track. and freight trains have increased the past decade and filled up the capacity. It’s on a hillside with houses above the bluff, so it would be expensive to double-track it. The hillside is prone to mudslides that cancel Sounder service several times each winter, and BNSF’s rules require a 48-hour minimum cancellation after mudslides. It would be more cost-effective to cancel Sounder North and put the money into replacement buses and the Everett Link extension.

      1. The very-long-term Amtrak Cascades plan includes a third track for the whole distance from Seattle to Vancouver, WA, with one track devoted to passenger service and two shared between passenger and freight along most of the distance. (They shied away from triple-tracking the bridges to Portland). This is quite feasible.

        It’s much more difficult expensive to expand the Seattle-Vancouver BC route, unfortunately

      2. If money were put into expanding commuter rail instead of light rail to Tscoma and Everett, I really don’t think the cost difference would be that much, if handled right.

        Take a look at Union Pearson Express on Toronto. The new elevated sections really don’t look that different than elevated Link nor do they seem that much more costly.

        However, one big difference: those are fully legal lightweight FRA compliant cars. When they need to, they plop down onto the Canadian National main line and hit 90 mph. No special waivers required.

        Granted the new elevated sections can’t handle 320,000 lb freight cars, but it isn’t supposed to. The light weight FRA compliant DMUs really don’t require that much more expense than elevated Link trains.

        The Georgetown and Tacoma line needs to be combined and converyed to something like that. 55 mph Link trains are not going to do it. This would also give Sounder and Cascades trains the badly needed separate track.

        Link on this corridor just isn’t cost effective when for about the same price you could have something that meets the actual needs of the longer distance regional traffic.

        Oh, and Union Pearson express operates every 15 minutes from 4 am to 1 am. It is not commuter rail, but an actual frequent service designed to meet travel needs at all times of the day.

      3. There’s a train from Pearson to downtown? When I was in Toronto you had to take a bus to the nearest subway station and continue from there.

    5. Sounder South actually goes through the population center of south King County, so it’s in the right place for that. The Tukwila/Renton station is out of the way, but those cities could do something about building something there. Tukwila claims its Baker Street TOD next to Southcenter will be within walking distance of the Sounder Station with a pedestrian bridge.

  12. This is what ST should have done in the first place: a full-network system plan with phases. We’ve learned that designing each round in isolation doesn’t work very well, and leaves all the left-out areas perpetually wondering when or if they”ll be connected and if so how and where.

    So we need to retrofit this process, and one year is very short to put together a whole-network system plan. So it will require some kind of framework approach: set the overall goal and put together a framework and as many detail decisions as possible by 2016, and fill in the rest of the details afterward. That presents two more challenges: don’t make hasty dumb decisions before 2016 (like selecting a mode or alignment prematurely), and build accountability into the framework for deferred decisions.

    This would also change the process itself. The debate over how much to spend when would be over: it would be a steady rate available to the subareas. Instead of a feast when a buffalo is killed and famine if no other buffalo is found for several years, it’s like a steady water flow or annual agricultural harvest. The issue becomes which projects to do in what order within that rate. That could make some controversies easier. West Seattle is worried it may get light rail, or inadequate BRT, or nothing. But what if it’s guaranteed to get something if it plays nicely with Ballard and Lake City and Denny Way? Then it might decide BRT in five years is better than light rail in twenty years, especially if it’s upgradeable to rail just in case. It would also be easier to “fit” projects into the available funding and timeline — rather than having to wait for a regional package, compete with other urban villages to get into the regional package, and hope that the package passes.

    ST’s “Long-Range Plan” is a menu of things it might want to do in the future; it’s not something ST should just implement as-is. So ST would have to draw up a more concrete plan. Several corridors have been studied but several haven’t yet, so they would have to be studied.

    The next issue is urban centers. ST prefers to design the network around them, and we have a few centers we want added. So let’s get ST to designate Ballard/Fremont and Lake City as “essential HCT centers” (urban center equivalents) while the county and PSRC catch up with their statistics. That way they won’t be neglected while suburban centers forge full steam ahead.

    ST originally started with two implementation tracks. The fast track was low-startup-cost services: ST Express, Sounder, Tacoma Link. The slow track was high-startup-cost services: Link., The plan should probably recommend pursuing both tracks: we can’t build all light rail lines immediately, so we should fill the intermediate gap better. ST Express was a good start but it’s not frequent enough and it’s not very suitable for Seattle neighborhoods. So what’s the next step beyond it?

    The second downtown transit tunnel is similar: a dual-mode tunnel would fit the fast track while also scaling to the slow track. A rail tunnel would be trickier. One because it would take longer to build the light rail lines so would the tunnel be unusable until then? Two because it wouldn’t help the non-rail neighborhoods as much. People could take a train across downtown and transfer to a bus to a non-rail neighborhood, but it would require a good transfer station.

    Anyway, these are some thoughts to start with.

  13. We could also ask for more consideration of “urban issues’. Some boardmembers believe ST’s charter mandate is, “Build the Spine first.” That issue will soon be settled. Either Central Link stations will appear at Tacoma Dome and Everett Station or they won’t. Then what? We have a good case to make that ST needs to identify and address urban-mobility issues better. Perhaps ST should have a statement of urban principles; e..g., in Seattle and similar neighborhoods, stations need to be closer together than ST2 Link, all station entrances should be part of a TOD building where feasable, etc. Then maybe a staff committee to monitor and follow up on these issues.

    1. “Build the spine first” – is concern #1. A bigger concern: “Build the spine first (and last.)”

  14. I am glad that Seattle subway is suggesting that ST do better planning! I do think though that we should be deliberate and point out how the lack of systems planning has created several “fails” in our system flexibility that occurs without system planning:

    — lack of 520 integration
    — lack of planning of branching in the system (such as UW-Ballard)
    — lack of grade-separations in the Rainier Valley and SODO to allow higher frequency trains
    — lack of cross-platform transfer capabilities at IDS

    I’m sure there are others. I realize that it may be ‘politically incorrect” to point out mistakes in the system, but the need for a system design FIRST can’t really be convincing until the general public understands why not doing it leaves us with an less-than-optimal system.

    I’m sure there are others that I’m not mentioning, so I’d suggest that we identify the others to have a good list of why systems planning is important.

  15. Just a friendly reminder to Seattle Subway that some station names are close to changing. No more Rainier/I-90; Hello Judkins Park!

  16. Can we increase corporate taxes to help offset the cost? This is why we are having so many people moving here in the first place.

    1. I’d suggest advocating for transit impact development fees within Seattle. If we give developers a break in cost by not requiring parking, we should be instead requiring that they kick in to paying for the new transit capacity that we need. I’m sure we can incorporate a method to address some housing affordability, while making sure that market-rate developers are paying for the new transit lines. After all, those lines increase their property value! If we could bet $10K for each new condo in Central Seattle (and funding from each of the many high-rise office towers in planning), it would go a long way towards funding the second DSTT.

      1. One of the central points of this article is that if a new funding source becomes available, we are ready to use it.

        So pick a source: Federal/State grant/local source/etc.

  17. If this is what goes to voters in November 2016 and it fails – does that mean no ST3? Basically, are we risking our chance to get a substantial amount of good rail via ST3 by instead trying to get everything? I totally support this, just to be clear, but I don’t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and wind up with nothing.

    1. This might also be what would help ST3 pass in the first place. If ST3 doesn’t have enough money to do both Ballard and West Seattle will people vote against it if their preferred option isn’t on the table? We could end up with nothing by going to small.

    2. And I guess I should ask – since they’re talking about extending already existing funding sources, would anything have to go to the voters except ST3? The MVET?

    3. ST can extend the ST1/2 taxes to complete projects that were approved in ST1&2 but deferred due to the recession. For ST2 that means the south Link extension to 272nd. For ST1 that means University Link/North Link to 45th. But anything beyond that would require voter authorization. There may be wiggle room for small things like Graham Station, 130th Station, and Boeing Access Road Station since they were deferred (thus approved in some sense). But not for a new line or extension.

      1. Nathaniel: I’m taking about things that were in the ST1 and 2 ballot measures but the budgets of the time couldn’t afford. The Westlake-45th segment was because ST underestimated the costs. The 240th-272nd segment was because the recession gutted South King’s sales-tax revenues. The three stations were deferred because ST decided to defer them. I don’t know whether ST2’s legalese would allow a downtown Redmond extension: it was clearly intended to be the ultimate terminus but I think the ballot measure was written to stop at Overlake TC in that phase, whereas 272nd was included in the ballot measure.

  18. In theory, I like this. In practice, I’m undecided.

    My primary concern is this: Why would the ST Board ever build what I want?

    Right now, every ballot measure is carefully crafted with some semblance of geographical equity in mind. I live in Seattle, and I know they have to include enough Seattle projects in the package to get our vote in big numbers*. If they didn’t have to keep coming back to us for approval, why wouldn’t the board – which is mostly comprised of suburban officials who are just as worried about mitigating the “impacts” of light rail as they are providing quality useful service – keep prioritizing suburban projects with low cost-benefit over the urban rail lines most of us think we need?

    Some sort of binding long-range planning principles would have to be adopted before I feel more comfortable with this.

    * Let’s just say for the sake of the hypothetical that they do an adequate job of this.

    1. This plan is not an elimination of sub area equity. It just allows each subarea to pay for more project in thier backyard. This is really the only way to get to Everett without raiding North King (Seattle).

  19. The lines to Tacoma and Everett are ridiculous, and will cost so much to operate per rider, it’ll be difficult to maintain service in the other, more useful, parts of the system.

    1. Bottom line- I tend to agree with you but Everett and Tacoma want them and want to pay for them so…. it is probably going to happen. Like, pretty much definately going to happen.

      1. They don’t have the money, so… maybe not going to happen. Like, pretty much definitely not going to happen unless they trick Seattle & East King co. to pay for it.

      2. Andrew,
        That is correct in the context of ST3, but not in this context. Thats one of the big points of this plan.

      3. This doesn’t change how much money they have, it just changes how long they can collect it for.

      4. Collecting the same taxes for longer results in more money.

        Only in like a 50-year time frame. The bonds are for 30 years, and suck up most of that money for the duration. This is why ST3 needs more authority, and isn’t just a “longer timeframe” version of ST2, and that’s why ST2 wasn’t just a longer version of ST1.

        If the map is a 100 year map, fine. I’ll be dead, so I don’t really care that much.

      5. Sound Move bonds start retiring next decade and ST2 bonds the decade after that. By wrapping their extension into the new vote, you use those taxes that would otherwise sunset at that time. So collect more + collect longer = more money and more projects.

      6. Heaven forbid that one should expect all those extra projects with all that extra money to be remotely useful.

      7. Sound Move bonds start retiring next decade and ST2 bonds the decade after that.

        Start being the operative word. ST2 bonds end in 2053. ST3 bonds will end in, what, 2063? I’ll be in my eighties.

      8. The reason they sunset over a period of time is that they were taken out over a period of time. That’s because in these kinds of projects all the money isn’t needed up front. Same would apply to these new projects.

      9. That’s because in these kinds of projects all the money isn’t needed up front.

        That is not why they are bonded that way. It is because they can only bond a specific ratio of the amount they are raising. If they could bond the entire project upfront, they would be building these things a lot faster.

        The problem is the amount raised from the sales tax isn’t that high, so they have to bond a bit at a time.

  20. WTF?! Toy train planning at its best. Spinal tap included. Slowly shuttling all the supposed masses of passengers and workers to the renowned international hub “Paine Field” (just wait another day). A west Seattle train all the way to Renton.
    But the most daring trick seems to be the red/orange line that goes via Interbay International to branch off at Ballard towards the U-district. Instead of doing the right thing by branching the main line at the U-district, all kinds of non-transportation problems are solved by throwing more rail and money at the wilderness. Fine backwards logic.

    1. Is this blog real? Are people actually serious with what is being discussed?

    2. To be fair, one argument is that if Sound Transit has done this sort of long range planning from the beginning, then the “right thing” (branching from the UW) would have been possible. It is still possible, of course, just very difficult (from an engineering and political standpoint) because they never planned for it. As said in the post, “details of our vision map are debatable”. But the main point is that long range planning should be done so that we avoid painting ourselves in the corner as we did with the UW.

      Personally, while I think this is a worthy approach, I’ve lost all confidence in Sound Transit’s ability to plan. I think they could come up with a long range plan, but it would suck terribly, just as the lack of stations between the UW and downtown sucks. Seattle Subway takes shortcuts with their map — there are obviously areas where a station could be added. But the only way to come up with a real plan is to sit down with Metro (and other bus agencies) and figure out a real plan. But Sound Transit doesn’t do that, so I see no point in asking them to do bigger planning when they can’t do the little stuff well.

  21. I think it’s a good idea to get funding authority all at once, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to give carte blanche to any agency to build in perpetuity using that funding authority. The key is to tie that funding authority to a process that allows for flexibility, public feedback, and learning over time instead of doubling-down on the big mistakes.

    So, sure, start with the agency’s best guess at what a full build-out would look like at different timeframes. As part of that process, develop a realistic ridership model and metrics for prioritizing what projects have the best return on investment. The big picture would include interline and inter-modal connections so that one set of projects wouldn’t foreclose good connections in the future with others, and the priority list would determine the best bang for the buck at any time.

    Then you put each project list before voters and give them a chance to approve or disapprove. If possible, let voters for non-spine projects in each subarea have the ability by themselves to approve or reject a list of projects. Create a mechanism for localities to get their own funding to accelerate or expand on the regional plan in each subarea. Once you have the funding in place, limit the approval of services to the people who will use them.

    Another thing you’d need is a phase-out plan for areas where rail is not cost-effective currently. As part of the prioritization process, you would know which rail projects were needed to meet capacity, and which ones were just a waste of money where better bus service would fill the need just as well or even better. So have a set of criteria whereby the agency would select one or the other, and decide later to upgrade to rail if future demand and capacity requirements makes it a good use of money. But if those criteria aren’t met, the agency won’t just propose rail for political reasons. It will have a process that is based on actual transit expertise and real data and realistic projections.

    All of this accountability would sell to voters, and also set expectations correctly. It would create a predictable cycle of improvements and expansion and a sense of where everything is headed. Do all that, and it’s a good idea.

    1. This isn’t carte blanche. This would be the same checks and balances that would be on a smaller system vote – but bigger.

  22. This proposal is DOA.

    Any suggestion to not sunset taxes and ignore the promise made to ST1 and ST2 voters will have no backing in Olympia, no backing from the city council, and leave the populace fuming. You’ll recall an attempt was made to not sunset the kingdome tax and that was killed right away.

    If this is attempted my fear is that ST3 will be voted down and we won’t see another transit initiative on the ballot for decades to come.

    1. Totally disagree.
      1) We don’t need Olympia’s backing. We already have what we need from them.
      2) People are really really really impatient with the pace of progress on this system. Polling shows massive support for expansion, even when informed of the formidable costs. Raising taxes a bit, then keeping them at that level for longer, will play fine with voters if they get an actual system for it.

    2. I happen to agree with Jack that re-upping the ST1 and ST2 taxes now is an electoral non-starter. Outside of Seattle, I believe that tax aversion is going to trump the impatience. On the Eastside, the problem, once ST2 is finished, is finding stuff that’s worth building at all. Elsewhere, outside of Seattle, the problem is lack of money to meet the (I [not alone] believe misguided) local aspirations. Unfortunately, all this proposal does is suggest that some time, starting roughly 12 years form now, there’ll be money to get the spine done.

      But, I don’t think it really matters. Look at the level of detail required for the ballot to be legal (most, but not all is specified by RCW 81.104.100). I don’t see any way to fit a perpetual tax into the framework demanded by the bill, and I doubt that ST can produce an acceptable ballot for even a long term extension of the taxing authority in the available time.

      1. Why would it be a non starter? The last few elections have shown that the big scary total project cost doesn’t move people, it’s how much they will pay a year. By just extending Sound Move and ST2 (with voter approval) you are still only raising people’s taxes the same amount you would just for ST3. Except you get twice as many projects so twice as many people think: “Hey, I could use this.”

      2. ST1 and 2 are perpetual for the operating costs, which is a small fraction of the capital costs. If no further projects are approved, the taxes will be rolled back to the operating level as the bonds are paid down. I don’t think it would be “build anything forever”; it would be “build this large complete network”. The size of ST3 was chosen simply to be the same size as ST2 and ST1, but that doesn’t mean it has to be. It could be three times as large and take three times as long, if that’s what ST and the voters want. But at the end of it the same principle would apply: when it’s fully built the taxes would be rolled back to operational levels, unless voters decide to build more after that. There’s also the issue of eventual refurbishment and replacement if you go out several decades: eventually the cars will have to be refurbished and replaced, and the track refurbished.

      3. William is right. There is a fuming hatred of the way transit is funded in Washington, especially out in the suburbs. It’s going to be hard enough to pass just ST3 alone without poking people in the eye with a proposal to kill the sunset on the previous levies.

        Obviously, the way to fix this is to fix the way transit is funded. But a different tax structure also a non-starter with the public; people think it will be an excuse to raise overall taxes.

        So, the answer is for North King to insist that everyone live within the tax budget that their own subarea can raise. At every Sound Transit board meeting thos should be the message: “All of you depend on our voters to carry any package; no other subarea except possibly East King is going to vote yes, and unless strict subarea accounting is followed, we will advocate for a “No” vote by our constituents. There will be no ‘loans’ to Snohomish or South King. We want to be repayment for the ‘loan’ to East King. We insist on a package sized exactly to what it is possible for each subarea to pay.”

        Say that over and over and over at the negotiations.

        That means Link no farther than 128th in Snohomish, I-405 “Express BRT”, the Redmond extension and probably the “Green Line” but as BRT for East King, Link to Federal Way (which is a waste but seems politically inevitable) and a good BRT system for Burien and Renton/Kent/Auburn for South King, Tacoma Link to TCC plus as many more Sounder runs as can be bought at $100M a pop [and to which BNSF will agree] for Pierce, and for North King the dual-use West Side tunnel, Ballard-UW with urban station spacing, and BRT-convertible-to-rail bridges to Ballard and West Seattle with BRT networks to use them.

        Such a list would fit within the $14.5 billion allowed with some room for contingencies and would be “right sized” for the transit needs of the region.

        It would mean that Seattle City Council will have to take a deep breath and give the buses full time lanes on Elliott and 15th between the new bridgehead and the interface to the DSTT northwest portal and at least during peak hours on several streets in both Ballard and West Seattle.

        That will not be popular, but people say they want better transit. This is the way to give it to everyone on the west side who needs it. The only way.

      1. Just buy an electric vehicle. There’s your sunset.

        The thing about the gas tax is that it’s becoming less of an analogue of a miles driven tax as time goes by. Higher milelage cars, alternatively fueled vehicles, and the gas tax is less effective as a funding mechanism over time. Yet, we pledge its revenues to bond debt service to build megaprojects.

      2. So any VMT tax should have a sunset clause in it when proposed.
        Just like the current gas tax increase.

        I’m behind that.

    3. “Any suggestion to not sunset taxes and ignore the promise made to ST1 and ST2 voters”

      That promise is superceded if voters approve something else. If I borrow a book from you and agree to return it Tuesday, then I call you and ask if I can keep it till Thursday and you agree, then the first promise to return it on Tuesday no longer applies; the promise to return it on Thursday does. It’s the same voters who approved one who approved the other.

      1. So you ask the voters, and they say no. No to ST3 with extended ST1/2 taxes. Now what do you have?

      2. Funding authority to change the package and try again. They did exactly that in 2007/2008.

  23. I don’t understand why it’s necessary to permanently extend the sales tax; is that really legally required to operate under a paradigm where you hang onto expert staff for the next extension, or is it an operational one? Seems to me that if in 20 years the political environment allowed us to access tolling $, VMT fees, income tax etc. we could address that then. You’d need the voters to approve the projects anyway, and to permanently commit to the growth of the capital construction ignores that we may not permanently grow.

    1. Seattle might not grow forever, but we are not in the stage where our transit is needed for growth. We need it for today. There are so many projects that should have been started 20 years ago. We are still catching up, and will be for some time.

    2. Operating costs are a fraction of capital costs. Right now we have a backlog of capital needs because they were neglected for decades. If voters don’t approve anything more, the ST1&2 taxes will be rolled back to operation/maintenance levels as the capital projects are finished and the bonds are paid down. The same principle applies to this. The tax authority granted by the state is perpetual, but ST can choose to charge less than that, and can raise and lower it if voters have given specific or general approval. So it revolves around whether ST asks voters for a specific large list of projects, or for an open-ended “let us build anything forever”. The latter would be a harder sell than the former.

      Somebody also mentioned a second vote in 8-10 years. I’m not sure what that means, but the principle of a revote every ten years could be used to update and confirm the plan and deal with population changes, work changes, ridership changes, etc. But it shouldn’t be written to expire immediately after the next decade vote if it fails. Instead there should be an ongoing plan for at least the following few years, If we wait to the last minute we get things like (A) the short year we have to come up with a full-network plan by 2016, and (B) the imminent end of SDOT capital projects if Move Seattle is not approved.

  24. It wouldn’t have to be forever. Just have them give themselves enough padding (go 35 or 40 years instead of 20) with the provision that if they finish before then the taxes will roll back to just enough for Operations and Maintenance. Same thing they do now, just bigger.

  25. You all might want to think about the way Measure R in Los Angeles (2008) treated undefined corridors. It didn’t try to draw a map with stations for corridors where no planning had to be done. Rather it said let’s make a commitment to major transit on this corridor (for example from the Westside of LA to the San Fernando Valley), then let’s plan it and build it. So they’re planning the Westside-San Fernando Valley corridor, discussing whether to build rail or a bus tunnel or what.

      1. Also, Los Angeles has almost exclusively dealt in corridors connecting through fully built-out areas with real, concentrated, and intense demand.

        Not in sprawl, dartboard politics, and wishful thinking.

      2. With adaptations, but yes.

        Warning: you might not like it. It will involve no fantasy rail lines crossing greenfields to minuscule outposts. It might involve strategic surface running where “automated underground everywhere” makes no financial sense. And it will involve lots of very frequent buses running in straight lines and doing a surprising amount of the heavy lifting.

      3. Sounds like the system we have now. If you predicate all of your analysis on the idea that Seattle will not grow, then its easy to see where we part ways on the conclusions side.

      4. Sounds like the system we have now.

        Hahahahahahahahahahaha NO.

        If you predicate all of your analysis on the idea that Seattle will not grow…

        If you predicate each new strategy upon drawing a gigantic pretty map and then reverse-engineering both your justifications and your funding plans, then you will rightly be called out as unreasonable and unable to advocate usefully for transit in these parts.

        Your maps continue to suggest you believe Manhattan is coming to North Greenwood, and that the PSRC’s “cloverleaf outpost village” vision makes a goddamned lick of sense.

        Please tell everyone in your organization to shut up about “climate refugees” and 4,000,000 STEM jobs in Issaquah. That’s not happening.

      5. Keith, if you think d.p.’s description describes our current system, that makes me seriously doubt your understanding of Seattle. Every-fifteen-minute buses are not “very frequent”; that means at least every ten minutes, if not every seven – hardly any corridors meet that standard. Similarly, most of our buses don’t go in straight lines. And, finally, we don’t have the multiple rail lines d.p.’s description takes for granted.

      6. William – Its hard to identify exactly what we are talking about in these conversations. DP is clearly mad about something but doesn’t offer alternatives. I was referring to express buses – is that not what we are talking about? Are we talking about the 8? Are we talking about the 44? Are those not good places for a subway? Because we are fighting for those lines and they will not exist without us fighting for them.

        DP: No one has ever said anything like that. We’re talking about very long range plans and trying to work out better outcomes within a system that isn’t ideal. You know that, we’ve had some version of this discussion on repeat for years.

      7. Your [ad hom] says permutations of “millions upon millions of new residents” all the time, when pressed to explain why they believe the hypermap should be taken the remotest bit seriously.

        And the only thing I’m angry about is that this is practically the same thing you come up with every time! Whether it involves baked-in tradeoffs to “ensure electoral success” in ST6 through ST27, or whether it involves spinning the existing and bonus levies into a single referendum with the frothing expectation of near-perpetuity, it always comes down to some eventual way to “OMG BUILD ALL THE STUFFS!”

        You’ve been explained six ways from Sunday why that is simply an exercise in diminishing-returns-cum-failure-cum-partial-half-assed-fragment-network, but it never seems to sink in. The map to Woodinville and Tacoma
        Fucking Mall inevitably returns.

      8. Right – we continue to conclude that Sound Transit is the best way forward to get higher quality built in Seattle. If you have a better idea, please… we’re all ears.

      9. It seems clear enough what DP wants. Chop off the extensions at Highline CC and Lynnwood. Delete the West Seattle line, the Kirkland-Issaquah line, and the Burien-Renton line. Replace them all with BRT, except the Burien-Renton line which just needs RapidRide F straightened out. Why do all this? Because they’re too undense to justify light rail or achieve ridership beyond BRT’s capabilities,l and they won’t ever be dense enough in 25 years or 50 years or 75 years because those areas hate density, and people won’t move to the suburban “growth centers” as much as the PSRC predicts; they’ll move to north Seattle instead as they’re doing now.

      10. I get what Dp says he wants. He says that he wants a totally and totally results based approach to planning with no politics.
        That would be no bad thing. But it isn’t how you get things out of oly, or committee or a board, so it’s pretty much DOA unless you already have an agency that is politically durable.
        But since he doesn’t actually do political advocacy, just shouts at people on STB, I have to conclude that he actually just wants to be the smartest guy in the comments section.

        Which is fine. People have their thing. But it won’t get Seattle any closer to more transit.

      11. Cute.

        But up there at the top of the page, you have $60 or $70 billion worth of rail lines to fucking nowhere — an unprecedented expanse of from-scratch rail for a metro area of any size, never mind one as small and middling as ours.

        And your plan to pay for all this amounts to little more than a grand, unified charm offensive. Show up at the politicians’ offices, at the farmers’ markets, at the colleges and media events… Insist that all of this rail — tunneled! automated! express tracks! — will make us the transit envy of the universe, whether or not it even has passengers! As soon as you’ve convinced everyone that these subways rule! just as much as you think they do, the pocketbooks will open and the billions and billions will just come pouring out, forever superseding any and all other priorities.

        There’s something a bit unseemly about a group of barely-20-somethings thinking they’ve discovered the secret to unlocking so many tens of billions in investments that they need not concern themselves if fully half of those billiions would be dedicated to boondoggles. There’s something extra squicky about those same barely-20-somethings declaring themselves the “effective political advocates” in the room, and something profoundly delusional about thinking this has gotten us any closer to “real transit” than did the last petulant assholes who thought they had it all figured out.

      12. LA also does not directly send tax revenue straight to the operator. The countywide transportation authority collects it.

      13. The RTA in LA has the same board as the Countywide Operator. Just as the RTD (taxing district) and RTA (operator) have the same board here.

      14. It may be the same administrative agency, but the LA funding is managed separately from operations. LA is set up so that the operator or builder does not keep all of their referendum money. There are three different referenda and each has proportional rules about how revenue is transferred to new capital construction, operations (note that LA County has several non-MTA local operators like Foothill, Santa Clarita and Santa Monica transit systems) or to the cities to spend as they like on transportation (like DASH in the City of Los Angeles). If Seattle had this system, one revenue source could go to capital or operating transit and include transit projects by the City, Metro or ST. It’s like having one referendum for the entire transit system, and not for just one operator in that system. Will ST3 transfer 20 or 25 percent of their funding to CT, PT or Metro or to a local city for operations like LA does? I highly doubt it.

      15. “that he actually just wants to be the smartest guy in the comments section”

        He’ll have to be second smartest because Sam will never cede that position.

      16. @ Al S.

        But funds aren’t managed separately for large rail capital projects like those being proposed here. LACMTA contracts with the state to collect sales tax revenue destined for capital projects, and then directly allocates spends that revenue on MetroRail. City operators, like BBB or Culver, aren’t the subject of any discussion here and don’t even exist in this region.

      17. @Ben: A defined proportion of proposition-approved revenue in LA County goes for large capital rail projects — just like here, That funding was used for part of Gold Line, Expo Line and now Crenshaw and the Downtown Connector funding. Another portion funds transit operations with lots of discretion from cities about where to spend it.

      18. I think you guys are missing the point of the article.
        The details of our vision map are debatable, but not our message: The region needs to plan, decide, and vote on a complete transportation solution in 2016.

        I would be willing to debate Seattle Subway’s vision, but that isn’t the point. The point is to have Sound Transit come up with a long range plan, and then implement it, piece by piece. Arguing over a long range plan (such as Seattle Subway’s) is quite interesting, but that should probably be in a different post. I could do the same. d. p. could do the same. Nothing wrong with that.

        But the idea here is that Sound Transit would come up with a long range plan and implement each part, piece by piece. This is all good and well except that I think without a change in the planning department, it would suck. It would suck much worse than this plan, d. p. Remember, the one piece that they share is UW to Ballard. This plan has three stops in between there. Sound Transit had only one. One! Holy smoke, they seem to have learned nothing from years of failure. Don’t get me wrong — I would have no problem if they had one, with dotted circles as “future stations”. That is what a long range plan is about. Build what you can now, then add stuff as money comes along. But Sound Transit has screwed up things so badly that this simply won’t happen. There will never be a station at 520 and Montlake, despite the fact that the train goes right under there.

        In short, while this is a good idea, I just can’t support it, because I think Sound Transit, from a planning perspective, is incompetent. As I said above, I sadly have come to that conclusion. There are very few public agencies I feel that way about. They often get a bad rap, and I am willing to cut them some slack. Nor do I think that Sound Transit does a poor job at everything. Quite the contrary. But as far as planning a line that will serve the needs of a city like Seattle, they simply have failed, and show no signs of improving.

  26. It would be nice to see an author listed on these posts instead of the generic “Seattle Subway” or “Guest Contributor.” It always seems a little odd to me that these articles are essentially unsigned as if the writer(s) assume that everyone knows who Seattle Subway is as an organization and as individuals.

    When there are multiple authors it would be okay to list more than one, but it seems odd that all the other posts have authors and then these don’t really tell you who they’re coming from. Even something like “John Doe representing Seattle Subway” would be helpful.

    1. If you click on Seattle Subway above it gives more information about who the Seattle Subway communications team is.

      We co-write these posts.

  27. I think it would be extremely useful to put an overly on this map that shows the area’s most overcrowded and ponderous bus routes.

    Ballard to UW might not make sense to most people in the region, but anyone that has spent time on the 44 should see the need.

    1. While you are at it, overlay frequent (and relatively fast) bus service, since that is essential for a decent transit system of this size. When you do that, UW to Ballard makes a whole lot of sense.

      1. Especially when you consider places where relatively fast bus service is possible.

        In many places where it is possible, it already exists.

    2. A map with a topographical layer would also be useful for those who don’t know where the hills are.

  28. Point of clarification on this post. We arent suggesting anything new about Sound Transit’s governance.

    We are suggesting that a regional vote next year is our best chance to fund a full system and that Sound Transit should consider 25 (or so) years worth of projects instead of 15.

    We are also suggesting this strategy is superior to the path we are current on for the reasons innumerated above.

  29. We seem to be rebuilding much of the infrastructure my grandparents remember before WW2. Lucky my descendents who will enjoy this system.

    We can blame whomever we want for letting it go back in the 40s and 50s, but it wouldn’t have happened if the people hadn’t just let it slip away.

    1. The road system and cheap gas killed it. When gas was cheap and plentiful and the roads replacing it were new and fresh they had very few people on them, and it was a lot faster to get around.

      There were also auto coaches (later to be replaced by buses) that were a lot more efficient and fun to ride… when the roads were not full of cars going to the suburbs that developed later.

      The post war era was a gasoline fueled dream built on surpluses that couldn’t last and would be choked out in the coming decades by their own success. There is no way we can sustain all of the suburban road system we have built let alone grow it more.

      We are returning to the natural order of cities were a single occupancy vehicle is no longer the most efficient way to get around and where walking is the main form of local transportation. Its going to be a long, painful process, but we will get there eventually (or the oceans will swallow our coastal cities… not sure which will come first).

  30. “We are suggesting that a regional vote next year is our best chance to fund a full system and that Sound Transit should consider 25 (or so) years worth of projects instead of 15.”

    I think the problem is the article didn’t explain this very clearly. Reading the middle of the article again, it says this. But then there’s the sentence: “Sound Transit could continue to expand the system as bonding capacity becomes available without raising tax rates in the future or going back to the polls.” I interpreted this as meaning ST could keep on thinking up more projects beyond the original plan and building them, and apparently others interpreted it the same way.

    But if you’re just saying that ST3 should be a larger set of projects than previously thought, and include all the Seattle Subway corridors or similar, and end when those are finished, then that’s different. That’s not a big deal, and it is a way forward.

    My concern about a one-year preparation is that if ST goes too fast in selecting the corridors, it might put in dumb corridors that would be hard to override later, or miss a corridor that nobody noticed. The “Metro 8” corridor came up late last year when the Long-Range Plan was almost finished, so it didn’t make it in, but now it’s the darling of the blog. That’s the kind of mistake that going too fast can do, without giving enough time for all good ideas to get the attention and study they deserve. For ST to adopt Seattle Subway’s suggestion, it would have to study several additional corridors, and compare it to… something (its own future idea that it hasn’t thought of yet?) We’d have to make sure that nothing we want gets left out.

    Also, the map shows only Link. Have we forgotten about Sounder? Do we not want any more Sounder South? If it’s to be built in the next 25 years it would have to be in the package, and if we want it in the package we’d have to speak up about it. Likewise, I see no dual-mode tunnel. Is that gone? Since ST has not yet acknowledged it (like it hasn’t acknowledged the “Metro 8” segment), it won’t do it unless it’s in the plan. Some plans can have a wide variation; e.g., a lake crossing somewhere between Kirkland and 520 to be decided later, but turning a rail-only tunnel project into a dual-mode project after the vote may be too big a variation, since it would presumably make it more costly and complex beyond the stated scope of the project.

    1. Thanks Mike. We always focus on Link for simplicity’s sake. Adding Sounder makes this very confusing for people who arenr familiar with the system. We support increased Sounder South service but its not our primary focus at all.

      Regarding ST3 – Sound Transit isnt going to actually finalize a plan until pretty close to that vote. In their own words they are “just getting started.” Board members are going to make them study things during this process. The public should too.

      Its a tight timeline but far from impossible. Its not at all clear how far down the planning road they have to get to include things on the ballot. We’re meeting with them soon to get additinal clarity on a few of these issues.

      And yes: We are just saying ST3 + ST4. Not a new governance structure or a blank check.

  31. Does the Rainier Valley have enough in it to justify two lines?

    The reason why I ask this is that it seems to me a good thing to do with the Yellow Line / Metro 8 Subway would be to make it an inverted L, so that one end is at Seattle Center, and the other end is at Renton. That would have better connectivity to East Link and a few other places.

    I realize that currently there is a perception of capacity limitations on the line in the Rainier Valley, but if there is enough demand there for two lines then modification of ML King and its cross streets would probably be cheaper than building a completely new line.

    The San Diego Trolley and a few other cities worldwide operate some pretty frequent service on median lines like this, in some fairly busy roads. It would be interesting to know what those places have found to be the limits of train traffic on their lines. It seems like Moscow and Budapest in particular have some busy median strip tram lines on very busy multi-lane roads with busy multi-lane roads intersecting them.

    1. One of the issues that doesn’t get much discussion on here by ST is the train frequency issue. We would probably not want to continue to have 6 minute trains in the Rainier Valley going to SeaTac because the new direct line to SeaTac would be serving those trips. This could free up MLK to have two lines at something like 10 to 12 minute headways — one to SeaTac and one to Renton.

      I’d probably configure south of 90 completely differently. I’d have two sets of tracks — the existing tracks in Rainier Valley and a second set of tracks generally along a 99 to 509 corridor. The Rainier Valley tracks would branch either to SeaTac or to Renton, and the 99/509 tracks would branch just south of the needed Duwamish crossing with one branch make a “U” to White Center then up the West Seattle spine to Alaska Junction, and the second continuing to Burien and then to SeaTac. If we could suspend the assumption that the only way to get to West Seattle is the West Seattle Bridge corridor (something that no one seems to seriously consider), we could get a similar system to serve West Seattle, Burien, SeaTac and Renton for billions less than even the Seattle Subway vision does.

      I think it’s important to appreciate that the Seattle Subway is a significant departure from the single-line segment thinking that pervades the recent ST study process. Because the Seattle Subway proposal inspires the need to plan for a system, it isn’t operationally balanced for frequencies yet;that requires years of analysis. At least the envisioned system by Seattle Subway would have flexibility so that different route combinations can be implemented or even reconfigured after 10 or 20 years.

    2. “Does the Rainier Valley have enough in it to justify two lines?”

      Not really. The expected zoning has a hub urban village at Mt Baker (i.e., a few office buildings like Fremont) a residential urban village at Othello (smaller than the above), and a residential urban village at Rainier Beach (which may not materialize for a long time). The rest of the valley would stay pretty much the same.

      “Yellow Line / Metro 8 Subway would be to make it an inverted L, so that one end is at Seattle Center, and the other end is at Renton”

      That would have to be justified by operational efficiency or Renton coverage rather than the valley needing it. It would also be difficult to find space for it. The reason Link is on MLK rather than Rainier is that Rainier was considered too narrow and too high-volume traffic, and the construction disruption would have been greater. A tunnel is unlikely because of cost, and elevated would impact the ambience of the Columbia City historic district. If you put the line east of Rainier, it would be in a single-family area with heavy opposition, and wealthier the further east you go, and away from pedestrian destinations.

      “If we could suspend the assumption that the only way to get to West Seattle is the West Seattle Bridge corridor (something that no one seems to seriously consider)”

      Somebody did suggest that a while ago, a downtown – Georgetown – White Center line that hooked back north to the Junction. The response was mainly that it’s an interesting idea but it’s probably too strange for politicians or the public to accept. Some people said it would add only a few minutes travel time at grade-separated speed, while others said even those few minutes of backtracking were a big negative. Also, it would favor a different part of the penninsula than traditionally assumed: White Center and Westwood Village would have a shorter travel time than the Junction (and those coming to the Junction from the north). That would turn West Seattle privilege on its head, because southern West Seattle is generally poorer than the Junction or the north, and the high-powered businessmen in pin-striped suits would not tolerate having the slowest trip when they should have the fastest. So it may be possible to pursue this if it avoids some steep hills, but it would be a long shot, and it’s not on ST’s radar. (Which doesn’t mean that the staff and board don’t know about it since they read STB, but it’s not “acknowledged” in any of their official alternatives, which is the first step to getting it accepted.)

      1. Thanks for the reference, Mike! I’m bad about reading Page 2 and missed this.

        I guess I find it funny how adding a few minutes to get to Alaska Junction is considered such a fatal flaw to some, but adding a few minutes for residents of White Center or Burien is totally okay! Why do Alaska Junction residents get a right to a better travel time preference over the other neighborhoods further south in West Seattle or Burien?

        There are other benefits to the “U”. The “U” alignment could be extended north to Admiral or even Alki. Maybe those Admiral or Alki folks would be willing to accept a few extra minutes if they could get direct rail access. Maybe some Alaska Junction residents would like being at the end of the line so that they get on first — and get seats for their trips — rather than having to stand on a RapidRide bus. Maybe if ST3 built only to White Center, all those riders in White Center and points south would move to rail and wouldn’t be on crowded Alaska Junction buses at rush hours — so Alaska Junction would benefit. Finally, I’d note that gentrification is alive and well in southern West Seattle too and it’s moving southward fast so that by the time this line opens (and aided by building the line), the area will be trendy and hipster like what we’re seeing in Columbia City..

        My bigger point is simply that this option would be more attractive if ST was doing a systems vision first and looked at a second single South Seattle trunk line with two branches — one to West Seattle and one to Burien that could double as the Rainier Valley bypass. ST missed a step. All the ST corridor alternatives were single lines, not a system with two branches. They have just spent millions laying out new individual corridors and segments without an initial discussion of what kind of system decisions are needed — technologies, branching, ridership performance targets, etc.

      2. I should have worded that better.

        Is there enough demand in the Rainier Valley to justify the expense required to improve the existing line to allow the frequency to increase enough to allow the “Metro 8 Subway” line to also use the Rainier Valley line?

        I then questioned the current capacity assumptions because it seems like other cities have been able to have surface lines on busy thoroughfares.

        Near the sport stadium, Budapest has two huge six lane roads that come together, and there is a busy tram line down the middle of one of them.

        Furthermore, nobody uses six minute traffic light timings. Cycles are usually down in the 90 second range.

        However, even if some of the intersections need improvement to allow more frequent trains, it would be less expensive than building an additional line, unless that line is really necessary.

        It seems to me that the time may not be ripe for the other north south lines to the west to be proposed, but Renton might be low hanging fruit if the Rainier Valley line could be made to accept traffic from both the Central line and the “Metro 8” line.

      3. Building over/underpasses for Alaska Street, Othello Street, and Henderson Street would be good for the existing line and would presumably lift the frequency restriction.

        Rainier does not appear to “need” more capacity, but sharing the track could be a low-cost alternative that would give double-frequency as a bonus. The 2-car trains get pretty full peak hours sometimes, but with 4-car trains there should be plenty of room.

        Rainier Valley and Renton are economically/ethnically similar now, so there’s probably a lot of people who have relatives or friends in the other area or go shopping there. So a one-seat ride between Renton and the mid valley would probably be welcome.

      4. I think your point is well taken, as the high frequency headways on Link are required because of the passenger loads between Downtown Seattle and UW (Westlake to Capitol Hill being the maximum load segment). The only reason to run six minute trains to the airport is mainly to make the connection attractive. I doubt that there would be much concern if it went to a 12-minute frequency (it’s 10 minutes at most hours today) and ST started running longer trains like they intend.

        The issue also includes where to put the branch to Renton. Unfortunately, ST has not studied how this segment could be built or how much it is. It could use a number of alignments. I think it has proven merit from the ridership levels between Renton and Seattle in general. We seem to be so obsessed with reaching Issaquah and Downtown Renton that it never registers on an East King wish list (Renton is in East King). Without political pressure to even study how to put in tracks and stations, it remains a reasonable yet elusive concept.

        One added benefit to extending Seattle Subway’s Yellow Line beyond Mt. Baker is that Renton riders would only have to ride directly the Judkins Park station to transfer to East Link and get to other Eastside destinations. It links Renton to both the Eastside and Seattle.

      5. 10 minutes is a good minimum standard for rapid transit. Even if Rainier Valley and SeaTac don’t strictly need it off-peak, it makes the transit network more effective and useful, and easier to live without a car or leave it home.

        Going to Renton would require going down a big hill. ST has not studied that corridor. Light rail has a maximum incline.

  32. What would the total size of the package be? I think it is widely understood that ST3 would be $15B. Would this make the actual package $30B-$40B? Opponents are going to put a total price tag on this (even if it is taxes we are already paying and 30-50 years out). There might be an optics issue if it is too large.

    1. Well, you can estimate it by comparing the miles of track and neighborhood environments to ST2. ST2 was around $15 billion and 15 years. By “neighborhood environments” I mean that surface routing is cheapest but it’s feasable only in areas with a wide street and few cross streets; elevated along a suburban highway is second cheapest; tunneling is expensive but if you’re already underground to cross a hill/river barrier it may be cheaper to remain underground a little further. Kyle’s estimate of $25 billion/25 years would be 1 2/3 the size of ST2. I would guess it’s probably less than twice the size ($30 billion/30 years).

      Note that the biggest cost is the Everett and Tacoma extensions, because Lynnwood-Everett is as far as downtown-Mountlake Terrace, and Federal Way-Tacoma is as far as downtown-Redondo (272nd), so they’re not short extensions and almost twice as far as we will have built already.

  33. Seattle Subway,

    If I remember correctly, this is all supposed to be grade separated? Isn’t that the reason for your name? So what technology are you proposing? I guess that since the green line will use Link tracks from Hospital to South Bellevue and the Yellow Line from Sea-Tac to Midway, you’re assuming another hundred miles of Light Rail. Is that correct? Otherwise you’d be assuming “dual-mode” trains with both third rail arms and pantographs. I didn’t see any mention of that.

    Building BART del Norte — and make no mistake, that’s what you’re proposing, complete with the infrequent Park ‘n’ Ride stations — with Light Rail technology is bluntly speaking, crazy. Tunnels have to be bigger to accommodate the overhead, the long cars are less stable at speed, and the multi-level format is an inefficient use of space. If you’re going to build a heavy rail line use heavy rail vehicles.

    But more to the point, out of this elaborate, many-armed, sprawling dream, there are exactly two short segments of genuine urban transportation: Ballard-UW and the “Metro 8” tail of the Yellow Line. Everything else is a glorified commuter railroad to downtown Seattle.

    You didn’t include Sounder on the map so I assume that you left out Kent and Auburn (both significantly bigger than Woodinville) assuming that they would be served by all day Sounder. Do the “Longacres” and “Boeing Access Road” stations provide interchange with Sounder? It looks like they might, but there is currently no station for the commuter trains at BAR and it would not be easy to provide one in the midst of BNSF’s Intermodal Terminal.

    But if the only way for Kent and Auburn to interface with the larger Light Rail system in the South King County area is by changing to the Red Line and then changing again to go anywhere except Burien, it’s not going to make Kent and Auburn happy at all.

    And of course, the whole issue of “all day Sounder” is an expensive proposition that requires the agreement by BNSF to affect its operations all day long rather than just at commuter peaks.

    You’ve swallowed Everett’s Paine Field Kool-Aid, but the vast majority of workers around the field live in a belt from Edmonds through Lynnwood and on east to Mill Creek and Canyon Park. I’m surprised the Green Line doesn’t go to Paine also. Has nobody mentioned that possibility at one of your meet-ups?

    It would help satisfy the “around Lake Washington” caucus, too. A missed opportunity, for sure.

    1. I’m kind of surprised that you aren’t reading between the lines here. It seems like you follow this closely enough to know what the “do nothing and let the powers that be decide” version of the plan will look like. So you should be able to infer the difference between that plan and what we put out here.

      Everett and Tacoma will have rail as part of the next package regardless of what anyone says or does here. It’s part of the forming mission of Sound Transit and their governance isn’t about to change.

      Ballard to UW and the Yellow line WILL NOT be on ST3 without changing the prevailing assumptions ST’s board is working under.

      When we say go bigger – we’re talking about adding things that are better than what will be in ST3 without going bigger and that will be politically impossible once the spine is complete.

      1. That’s precisely the point! Never once is your inclination to strategize for how the conversation could be shifted to spend the next $15 billion more wisely. For you guys, it always comes back to another iteration of “let’s build $65 billion worth of everythings!”

        At some point, you’re going to have to address a few pretty fucking basic questions posed by your critics, such as:
        – “Wow, both that expenditure and that system are unprecedented in a city our size, or even 5x our size. How do you reconcile this?”
        – “Your proposal would enshrine an awful lot of ineffective transit, and goes against best mobility practices at every turn. Don’t you worry both about the practical and political effects of the failure you’ve baked in, and the potential for cancellation before any of the useful parts are done?”
        – “There’s no way I’m paying a $5 fare to go a mile and a half, which is the only way this thing’s ever going to balance its books. And no, your magic “operating efficiencies” won’t fall from the sky. Trains need humans on them to prove efficient.”

        Seriously, Keith, where in the hell is there anything here to “change the board’s assumptions”? All this does is to reinforce ST’s stupid-ass definition of “light rail”, suggest that they’ve been on the right track all along (why else would you be proposing intra-suburban lines and even-more-express tracks?), and convince them that they can have all of their stupid-ass independent “corridors” to the fringe of Bumfuck (extension to East Bumfuck pending) without having to give us any useful transit until until decades from now. Because we can have it all!!

        …Except for one problem. They’re not going to go for a $60 billion and 70 year ballot measure. They just aren’t. So while you’re sitting here claiming Seattle Subway are the “real advocates” because you’ve just invented yet another million ducks perfectly in a row “strategy” for building all the things, you will soon discover that no actual purse-string parties have the slightest interest in what you’re selling.

        How “effective”!

      2. I’m not from the east coast, so I wont be as loud about some of the issues as d.p. is.

        However, to me it seems like the map you have presented assumes that the entire $15 billion authority authorized by the legislature goes into building light rail lines.

        We already know that they are working on trying to get Sounder frequency increased, and there may very well be some bus and transit center money going into various projects.

        Thus, the money authorized will, we already know, go into projects other than light rail.

        This is one reason why it might be a good idea to consider all the other projects beyond light rail that might get funded. It’s not just for the sake of the map and visualizing the connectivity, but also visualizing where all the money is going to go besides light rail.

      3. Honstly DP, is there a suggestion somewhere in there?

        Come up with how Seattle is going to start building quality rail and I might start reading your blocks of invective.

        Otherwise you’re just trolling and its really getting old.

      4. Maybe start with asking “where can Seattle have effective transit, and how?”, rather than starting every sentence with “rail”.

        If you can’t get it through your head that nobody gives a shit about trains that don’t take them anywhere, then you’re never going to be useful to anyone around here.

        This city may be full of [ad hom] but no one is actually going to hand you $60 billion because you’ve promised to magically undo 150 years of land-use bedmaking with your pile of foam.

      5. I’m pretty tired of the excessive harping on d.p.’s ranting. I hesitate to assume, but it seems pretty clear from a quick review of past posts/comments that d.p. would be _thrilled_ to support a package that actually comprises of useful transit. This includes two potentially awesome proposal from none other than Seattle Subway, namely the WSTT and the UW-Ballard line.



        Yeah, there’s a lot of constructive criticism, but it is exactly that, constructive. And apparently, given the proposals, it’s repetition is not redundant. Clearly there are a number here who may find the geometry lessons beneficial.

        It seems petty to demand a proposal from d.p. when his position appears to be wishing that Seattle Subway would stop screwing around with the foamy fluff of marginal utility and push for its OWN excellent proposals that could be afforded by a modest package and would deliver ACTUAL regional mobility. Sheesh.

      6. Thank you. That was perfect. I apparently couldn’t have said it better (or nearly as well) myself!

      7. I agree. Frankly, the first thing I think Seattle Subway should do is focus on Seattle. Draw the map, but draw it with arrows to the suburbs. The suburbs should not be your focus. Judged from that perspective, a few things jump out:

        Ballard to UW — We are all in agreement that this should be a priority.

        Yellow Line — Just fine for the eastern section (Judkins Park to downtown). We can quibble about how to take that corner (around Madison) — some would cut it tight — others wide, like shown — but overall, just fine. Excellent, even, because my guess is not for your work on this, Sound Transit (and the greater community) would not consider it.

        Ballard to Downtown — Maybe not a priority (WSTT is better for now) but fine as a long term proposal.

        Lake City to Northgate — Maybe. I think Lake City to NE 130th would be cheaper. I’m not sure if either would pencil out, but maybe. This section of the city is growing, is already bigger than most areas and has huge potential for growth. Unlike a lot of areas, it doesn’t all occur on the main corridor (meaning the growth will be lot more substantial). The distances here aren’t huge (to 145th) so it might work. Perhaps it is overkill to build this, but reasonable. The city line is 145th, and population density drops dramatically after that. Traffic is also bad here (in every direction). An underground line could easily pop out of the ground here and end in a parking lot fed by buses along SR 522. It is an extra mile and a half to Lake Forest Park Town Centre (yes, the spelling is correct) but that would make an outstanding terminus (as it would be the convergence of SR 104 and SR 522). This is where a nice arrow would be great. Put a station at 145th, with a line pointing out to Lake Forest Park and let folks there decide how long they want to extend it. Oh, it is twenty blocks from 125th to 145th, so you need to add a station in between there (of course).

        Then there are areas that range from a stretch to just silly (even in the city):

        Yellow Line to Georgetown and South Park? Why? Georgetown and South Park are tiny from a population standpoint, and they aren’t going to change any time soon. There are just too many industrial areas surrounding it (along with a major river) as well as highways. Speaking of which, the transportation needs for those folks can be met by leveraging that. To think that we would build miles of light rail to serve those two areas is really nuts. There is no way I would want to pay for that (no offense Georgetown and South Park). I understand that there are people that really regret the fact that we slow down to pick up people on the way from the airport, but that is what light rail does. Besides, that bird had flown. No one is proposing that we build another line from downtown to the UW because Sound Transit failed to put in obvious stops. Just move on.

        West Seattle light rail — I don’t think this will ever make as much sense as West Seattle BRT. Neither, in a backhand way, does Sound Transit. Consider that every single proposal for light rail to West Seattle has ten minute headways. Not “expected frequency of ten minutes”, but ten minute headways. Maybe they meant frequency, but if not, it means that even if West Seattle becomes Brooklyn, the train will only travel every ten minutes. Now, how does that line look to someone on the all important Delridge corridor (arguably the most important corridor in West Seattle)? How about those in Alki, or Admiral, or Avalon? What if South Seattle College actually grows into something big? That will justify light rail, right? Yes, except that it will be totally pointless for it. Ten minute (at best) frequency means that you are stuck making a transfer, right when the bus is poised to accelerate to 55 and hustle off to downtown!

        Northgate to Ballard — Not worth it. This is very expensive, and the area isn’t that densely populated. The population is spread out here, and no single line will connect it. Meanwhile, the north-south bus routes can do an excellent job of some heavy lifting here. This maximizes the value of the Ballard to UW line. I think if you want to extend the Lake City to Link section, then go via NE 130th, and end at Bitter Lake (or Greenwood). This might not be that expensive (although it is hard to tell). Grade separation is tricky, but cut and cover on NE 130th might work well. If so, then you would have a north end east-west line that would not only connect dense areas (Bitter Lake is no Lake City, but it is decent and does have potential) but serve to improve the grid. The buses that go north-south would compliment trains that go east-west (and one important line that goes north-south). That still might not pencil out, but I think it has a better chance than the orange line as shown (that while OK, would be way more expensive).

      8. To continue quibbling with the routes, what about if we have the orange line run Northgate-Fremont via Greenwood instead of Northgate-Ballard via Holman? The density’s significantly greater then, and the 5 runs more slowly than the D. The one sticking point I can see (beyond right-of-way) is what to do once you get beyond the Ship Canal. Perhaps we could move the Ballard-Downtown line over east as well.

      9. I could be wrong, but I think this conversation starts with a misunderstanding about why we are saying what we are saying. I don’t think we’re going to get there in the comments section. I’m happy to explain further if any of you want to email us at

        I very much agree that the Ballard/UW, the WSTT, and “the 8” line are the best projects.

        I also don’t want to give the impression we don’t want constructive feedback. We very much do and take your input seriously. We are all volunteer and need all the help we can get.

      10. With all due respect*,I do not believe that you are being misunderstood here.

        You have made amply and repeatedly clear that believe in working within Sound Transit’s egregious blind spots rather than confronting them head-on, and that you thus see the pursuit of “ALL THE THINGS!” as the only way to achieve some reasonably good things along the way. Almost as a collateral/accidental outcome.

        Furthermore, you have made clear that you believe the only thing standing between our present transit state and an “ALL THE THINGS!” outcome is a glorious aha! accounting moment. And this is now the second or third time you have claimed to have stumbled upon that moment.

        It is impossible to enumerate the problems with this without breaking out some harsh-sounding adjectives, and for that I apologize.

        But in addition to coming across as indefensibly resigned to system-design-by-worst-practices, it seems painfully naïve to believe that this pot of gold you claim to have found would automatically produce quality outcomes in any location, given the agency’s ample countervailing precedent.

        It is also rather arrogant to expect your single brainstorm session to unlock three compounded tiers of fairly heavy regressive tax burden for nearly a century. And all to build a system that is >50% useless overkill. Just because the 3-tier-no-sunset approach might technically be legal does not make it electorally feasible. Much less ethically correct.

        Transit is a vital need around here, but we have others, and misspent transit can only detract from them. Waste is waste is waste.

        So did you really not intend to propose $60+ billion of “ALL THE THINGS!”? Or did you not mean imply that you prefer a pursuit of “ALL THE THINGS!” to an intervention against Sound Transit’s dumbest priorities? Or did you not mean to falsely suggest that this permanent-levy trick is both a shoo-in and our only hope?

        If so, then please feel free to correct me. But that does appear to be your thinking, and you do not appear to have been misinterpreted in the slightest.

        *(and whether you choose to believe it or not, I do like and respect yourself and Matt, as well as some of your younger collaborators; that’s why I so desperately wish to see your thought processes improve)

      11. Ross,

        You were ragging on my proposal for a busway from Lake City through Northgate with a stub to the west. Now you’re willing to countenance LRT between Northgate and Lake City? Why not a busway for now? Maybe it’ll need rails someday; maybe the subduction zone earthquake will come first.

      12. DP –
        What you would call the most egregious parts of this system are:
        1). Really not that bad on a $/rider basis. I’ll write a post soon on just that point and lay out the data so lets defer that argument for now.
        2). Going to happen in any version of ST3 – the stuff we are adding is all either high quality or serving a political function like the bypass part of the yellow line.

        No one wants to build this?
        No. We just disagree about that.

        People want to vote for this and they see a value in having a rail station near where they are. I contend that you lose zero voters in the difference between paying a tax for 20 years vs 30 years. You gain voters by showing that the plan will eventually help them. ST’s polling numbers suggest I’m right.

        So – are we willing to work within the ST system to push for the best possible outcomes, even if it means going along with some less than ideal plans?
        Yes. That’s how politics works. What we are trying to do is get some better plans along with the not-as-great ones.

        What is really ironic here is that the plans you like the best are exactly the things we are adding (vs politics as usual.)

        Also to clear the air – I do appreciate your input and am sorry I got crabby on the earlier post.

      13. I really do appreciate the air-clearing, and I further apologize that I may have no way to react to your above statements without doing something as impolite as labeling them “delusional”. You yourself may not be delusional, but the statements themselves represent selective thinking that is quite so.

        Really not that bad on a $/rider basis.

        No. Sorry. No. I can’t begin to imagine which goalposts you might be inclined to move, or which absurd development assumptions you might be inclined to buy into, in order to try to make this case. But this statement is counterfactual.

        The vast majority of the map above guarantees the kind of Nowhere Rail whose capital cost and operating costs/rider are egregious even in precedent cities where the analogous projects go to places far more populous and spread less thinly. The map above is worse on a cost-consciousness basis than some of the worst rail projects on earth.

        There is no way you will spin that convincingly.

        People want to vote for this… I contend that you lose zero voters in the difference between paying a tax for 20 years vs 30 years.

        You are talking about treble tax and about bonding obligations for the better part of a century. You are talking about $65 billion in projects, and there is no way that number is going to remain hidden. You are judging enthusiasm on a single cold-call survey that measured only aspiration and desire, devoid of pesky quibbles like personal-budget consciousness and the voters’ need to see the actual proposal as useful before committing to it at the ballot box.

        And you are still talking about a literally unprecedented scale of build-out, to places that any non-delusional adult can see have no business being “nodes” on subway systems.

        they see a value in having a rail station near where they are.

        But here’s the crux, the seed of your delusion tree. You are buying into Sound Transit’s fact-free rhetoric abougt “serving” vast and disparate places, just by plopping down a big, expensive station and a parking lot, throwing lip service at “TOD”, and patting yourself enthusiastically on the back.

        No, people do not “see the value” in useless crap somewhere 5 miles from their pastoral rambler. Because there is no “value”, and people are not nearly as self-defeating or as impressed by “rail” as a cargo-cult bringer of awesomeness as Seattle Subway clearly is.

        If you continue to base your political presumptions — $65 billion will not pass, period — on something as delusional as the last quoted statement, then you are setting all of us up for colossal failure!

        Yes, it really is that simple.

  34. Funny how the plan cuts out the entire valley but includes Milton :/ no guesses why the op wants the plan for development now

  35. I’m still not convinced this is a real blog. These are pipe dreams everyone is talking about. Seattle and King County would never go along with anything you are proposing to spend/tax billions on. The community would come up with their own pipe dreams and change everything this blog is discussing. Not even close to what will happen in the next 10-20 years. This is like Fantasy Transit, everyone is dreaming.

    1. The most expensive part is the Everett and Tacoma extensions, and those are not Seattle Subway additions but one of the biggest existing constituencies. If ST sticks to “just ST3”, it will include those. Because those areas are crawling all over themselves to demand Link and insisting they’ll vote against ST3 if they’re not included, and it would be a violation of ST’s mandate because it was supposed to complete the spine (Everett/Tacoma/Redmond) first, and other things can be concurrent with it but not before it, and some ST bordmembers believe this too.

      What Seattle Subway is adding is the Denny/CD segment, the Georgetown bypass. and the Ballard-Northgate segment. The Denny/CD segment is new, while the other two were probably in earlier ST long-range plans but deleted. They’re also also up-prioritizing the Ballard-UW line, Northgate-Woodinvile line, and Burien-Renton line. Everything else is just accepting what ST wants to do anyway: Kirkland-Issaquah, Everett, Tacoma. In other words, they’re not resisting what ST wants to do, but instead saying these more urban corridors need to be included.

      As for advocating the Payne Field alternative, I take that as either guessing what ST wants, or a minor option that’s just a small part of the total.

      1. There are ways to reduce the cost for Everett and Tacoma. Either build segments of the system as single track, or operate the extensions as separate lines without electrification. It’s not ideal but it might sell if the design and ROW accommodates full conversation in ST4.

        In Tacoma’s case, I’m also curious if they could extend Tacoma Link to Fife or Federal Way with a cross-platform transfer. It would be easier and cheaper to build that at a new station than at an existing one like Tacoma Dome.

      2. I like it Al. Everett to Lynnwood could be on a Link Mini-trainset ™, riding on single tracks. Converting double talls with no catenary would save a lot of money. I know they would look like buses, but we promote the crap out of them, and keep saying Light Rail Lite.
        If the budget gets too big, we could leave the rubber tires on them, and run down I-5 for a few more years.

    2. Chuck – no offense, but your commenting in something you have no idea about. Are you even aware of the ST3 funding authority and what Sound Transit is planning to bring to voters in fall of 2016?

  36. We need two Chunnel railway tunnels:

    One across the Puget Sound and one through the Cascades.

    “At 37.9 kilometres (23.5 mi), the tunnel has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world, although the Seikan Tunnel in Japan is both longer overall at 53.85 kilometres (33.46 mi) and deeper at 240 metres (790 ft) below sea level.”

    Then we could finally expand across our physical boundaries.

    1. Oh fuck off John. You don’t have any money. Surely you can understand that the State of Washington doesn’t either!”

    2. I apologize for the expletive and ad hominem, John. But the basic reality of my post is true: the state can’t afford to improve the Cascades without nearly full Federal subsidy. Why in the world would you think it can afford to build tunnels under Puget Sound (very deep) and the Cascade Mountains? They’d both be tunnels to nowhere.

      It’s close to delusional.

    3. Really, a lot of traffic issues could be solved if they would just get the speed and frequency up to take care of the Portland to Seattle corridor. That would also help Sounder become a core service.

  37. Regional LRT trunklines can effectively replace equivalent long-distance bus lines, but bus connections at LRT stations are equally important components of regional transit systems necessary to affect convenient transfers and guide growth and development. The dispicably “Old School” Metro system is incredibly overbuilt yet utterly fails in this regard. Metro by design operates more buses than necessary, and too few at the same time. ST builds grandiose noisy/polluted park-n-ride stations with least development potential. Both agencies collude to build a transit system that cannot reduce chaotic cross-county and local traffic congestion, in effect, unknowingly or otherwise catering to motorists and automobile-related business interests more than transit users who would prefer accomplishing daily travel objectives closer to home and nearby community.

    Subways can create more demand for long-distance travel than they can handle, the excess met only by driving. During rush hours, subways are miserably overwhelmed with passengers, but leave most seats empty during off-rush hours and in the reverse-commute direction. Filling subway capacity at all times and in both directions can only be met with mixed-use infill development at every station and along bus connection corridors. Bill Gates is an asshat overlord punk.

    1. [ad hom]

      Well, Artie, that was apropos of nothing.

      Your observation about how to fill “subway capacities at all times” was spot on, although you’ll never get rid of the “peaks” as long as you have cities. People want to work together and the daylight hours are the most productive. Hence there will always be more trips in the morning to work and evening from it. But we can certainly try to use transit infrastructure throughout the whole day; it’s a good thing.

  38. The Renton to Bellevue segment is repeatedly ignored by everybody in its need for high-capacity transit. Yet, that segment of I-405 has the worst traffic in the region. The best they ever get is the hope for BRT. I have yet to see a case for why Issaquah needs to be connected to Totem Lake.

    A better option would be to connect Renton to at least South Bellevue, which would connect many if not all of the Boeing plants in the area between Renton and Everett. Since that company tends to transfer folks from plant to plant, someone living in Renton could continue to live there and take HCT to Everett, or visa-versa. As for Issaquah, connect that city to South Bellevue as well if that demand exists. Save the overlapping segment in Bellevue for the future. Having to transfer is not a calamity.

    Similarly, I’d prefer the direct route to Everett, as Community Transit is the passage of a ballot measure away from having BRT between 128th and Boeing, so there’s no need for light rail to overlap while at the same time forcing anybody who doesn’t want to go to Boeing to take a daily side-trip there whether they like it or not. The facts are that south county service to Boeing was eliminated early in this decade due to low ridership and has never been restored. A few years ago, the virtually door-to-door bus service from north and east county was pared back to about 2 runs per day, again due to low ridership, never restored. Instead, Boeing-Everett has added parking in nearby lots of other companies, because their employees strongly prefer to drive.

    1. I’ve raised this issue many times on other posts, transitrider. The ST staff seems to be forcing the 405 BRT as the strategy. The bias is so strong that the tested Eastside Rail Corridor alternative is structurally flawed to fail — few stations, costing of miles of double-tracking even with a 4-mile single tracking section which adds hundreds of millions of dollars of unused tracks, no deviation to serve Factoria yet assuming a light rail and not DMU, not directly tying into Downtown Bellevue station, etc.

      A Renton extension of the Seattle Subway yellow line as pondered in other posts here (ending at Mt. Baker on the Seattle Subway map) would give Renton residents a single-transfer option to the Eastside as well, changing trains at 23rd/Rainier (Judkins Park) station.

      ST seems to be happy forcing rail connections from Renton to go to a time-consuming trek to Tukwila International Boulevard (as does Seattle Subway) to get to Bellevue or Seattle! Given that Renton is much more populous than Kirkland and Issaquah combined, it really is amazingly myopic!

      At this point, I’ve felt like most on the blog are resigned to merely accepting 405 BRT as the only solution to a major traffic problem — although I believe that a rail solution would attract much more voter support and seem more feasible than the studies show and deserves a better alternative design than ST gave it.

      1. The “Renton to Bellevue” segment has little-to-no ability to consolidate trips into any single corridor.

        This is the trouble with looking at highway congestion and presuming it can be immediately alleviated with a pedestrian-accessed alternative. That’s not how highway-dependent land usage and movement patterns work. 405 is not congested because people are coming and going in great numbers from its immediate vicinity, but because people are coming and going in great numbers between a million other places and the corridor is currently the only reasonable choice to get there.

        The only transit “solution” for 405 will be whatever moves transit vehicles faster than general traffic in the absolute cheapest way, and connects in non-excruciating ways to other places and other transit.

        Still, the modeshare will remain paltry. That’s just a sprawl-to-sprawl transit fact.

      2. “At this point, I’ve felt like most on the blog are resigned to merely accepting 405 BRT as the only solution to a major traffic problem —”

        the name of the blog is SEATTLE Transit Blog.

      3. d.p., I’ll present you with this statistic from the US Census American Community Survey.

        Transit commuters who are Issaquah residents – 1,299
        Transit commuters who are Renton residents = 3,341

        So why is Seattle Subway pushing more direct transit service from Issaquah than it is from Renton? It doesn’t match these data at all and it would take quite a lot of growth in Issaquah to match this number in Renton today.

        I think that the legacy of Renton being factory workers and not Bellevue/Seattle commuters is increasingly not true. Over half of Renton residents are persons of color and 28 percent are foreign-born — many from countries with a culture more eager to use public transportation. It’s a different place today than it was in 1980 or 1990..

      4. That’s a very good point, Al; thanks for bringing it up.

        But where are those Renton residents going on transit? I’d guess the majority of them are going to Seattle; better service on the 101/106 or a train to Rainier Beach would work much better than a train to Bellevue.

      5. The only rail line to Renton in the ST planning besides the ERC is the line to Tukwila International Boulevard and then Burien. I think everyone would agree that this is out of the way to any commuter bound for either Downtown Seattle or Downtown Bellevue. There is truly a suspension of reality about connecting Renton by rail to either Downtown — and instead we have this historical clinging by ST to a horrible rail transit alignment that doesn’t really work..

      6. So why is Seattle Subway pushing more direct transit service from Issaquah than it is from Renton?

        Beats the crap out of me.

        Transit commuters who are Renton residents = 3,341

        But this is obviously no argument for “Renton needs rail”… in any direction.

        I, for one, think that Renton’s transit trip time both for radial trips and for connections to anywhere else is just shy of atrocious. I would heartily advocate for better connecting the place to its nearest and most economically symbiotic places, including southwest Seattle. Perhaps rail could play a viable role in that; perhaps not.

        But you can’t make a case for mega-modal mega-investments merely by noting that transit usage is less-worse than somewhere to which rail is completely nonsensical.

        Renton’s poor numbers reflect the lousy quality of today’s service, but also reflect the sprawl in which it is enveloped and the fractured nature of movement patterns in the area. You can’t sweep that away.

        That said, it’s always refreshing to pour over the reality of numbers like this, which should that should provide an antidote to the delusions of napkin-mappers.

    2. because their employees strongly prefer to drive”


      And it will always be so, because most employees don’t travel very far north-south. East-west travel through Snohomish County south of Everett is easy-peasy.

  39. @RossB:

    >>This is the third most successful transit system in North America (measured by transit ridership per capita — Even that map is not complete if you want to get a good view of the system. If you go on the TransLink site, you can get a complete transit map (showing lots of buses) as well as a frequent transit map (which also shows a lot of buses). The second clearly shows that obsessing over light rail is misplaced. Vancouver has very high transit ridership because their buses and their rail are really good, and they work well together. The ridership numbers for the light rail aren’t enormous, either — it is the combination that allows them to be so successful.<<

    The article is wrong actually. Vancouver only ranks 4th within Canada for per capita ridership:


    Ottawa barely eeks out Vancouver, but Montreal actually beats Vancouver by a good margin.

  40. A transit stop in Renton is not needed, no one wants to go to Renton, everybody wants to get out of Renton. It is just a pass through.

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