[CORRECTION: The original post used an outdated TOD estimate to claim a 60% loss between the alternatives. With the amendments yesterday and updated totals, the true reduction in TOD potential is 29%. I regret the error.]

On Thursday afternoon, the Sound Transit Board voted unanimously to recommend I-5 as the preferred alignment for Link from Angle Lake to Federal Way Transit Center. You can watch the Board discussion beginning at 2:02:05. I-5 will now have preferred status heading into the FEIS, after which the Board will make a final decision sometime in 2016. There were 4 amendments, the first of which chose I-5 itself while the next 3 served particular needs at each of the station areas at Highline, S. 272nd, and Federal Way TC.

Critically, the cities of SeaTac, Des Moines, Kent, and Federal Way were unified both in their opposition to SR-99 and their support of I-5. Board Members McCarthy, Butler, Roberts, and Earling all talked at length about pleasing the local jurisdictions, but mentions of the actual utility of light rail service on I-5 vis-à-vis SR 99 were curiously absent.  In defending her vote, McCarthy said she’d “be hard pressed to go against” those communities, and that “all the metrics” support I-5.

But other than political expedience and capital cost – I-5 saves approximately $300m on the $1.5-$1.8B project – what metrics could possibly favor I-5?  Sound Transit chose an alignment that serves fewer riders, that contradicts its own TOD policy and has 60%  29% less TOD potential, ignores the preponderance of public comment and the pleas of Highline for direct access, has fewer stations, worsens walksheds, does little for intra-South King mobility, and is no faster than an SR-99 alignment. From an agency in the business of maximizing mobility, this decision is a disappointing failure to learn from the mistakes of Denver, Portland, and our own Lynnwood Link when it comes to freeway rail alignments. Sadly, it also continues to treat South King County as a pass-through community, rather than a destination in its own right.

Highland Community College. The station will likely be near 30th Ave S, roughly 1/4 mile walk to the college.
Highline Community College station area. The station will likely be east of SR 99 near 30th Ave S, roughly 1/4 mile walk to the college. Board members spoke of building a “world-class, UW style” bridge to get students across the 6 lanes of SR 99.

The 3 subsequent amendments sought to mitigate the difficulties they had created just minutes earlier by choosing I-5. Amendment 2 provided for continued analysis of an immediate deviation away from I-5 to Highline, with analysis of station locations between 30th Avenue and SR 99, including on the west side of SR 99 (requiring a Rube Goldberg-esque 3 crossings of SR 99 between Angle Lake and Highline). Amendment 3 directed Sound Transit to deviate from I-5 to locate the Federal Way station on the east side of the transit center near 23rd Avenue South. Amendment 4 requires Sound Transit to undertake an Access Study of the 272nd/Star Lake Station, a study necessitated by the action the board had just taken to worsen station access by choosing I-5.

Against their own misgivings, O’Brien supported I-5 “out of solidarity” while Chair Constantine conceded that “a majority of the Board has a valid point” despite his own initial preference for SR 99.  Mayor Murray was not present to vote.

The future Star Lake station area, approximately 1/2 mile from SR 99.
The future Star Lake station area, approximately 1/2 mile from SR 99.

The doublespeak from South King County boardmembers in particular was disappointing. Long vocal about the ‘promises made’ to get their piece of the rail pie, they also described the ‘devastating impact’ the train would have have if it were located anywhere near anyone. Echoing a McDonalds owner who in public comment decried Link’s potential impact to his drive-through customers, County Councilmember Peter von Reichbauer argued for the preservation of the strip mall sprawl of SR-99 and the low-wage retail jobs that prevail there:

“There is so much passion coming out of Highline…[your advocacy for a station] has had an impact…and these amendments reflect your deep concerns. But we recognize that the demographics of the college have changed, and their needs have changed. But to me there’s no better social program than a job, and the displacement that would occur  along 99 if we [build along 99] would affect my district dramatically. We’ve seen large corporations leaving South King County for Seattle, and the displacement that would occur for many small businesses would be devastating for our communities.”

Councilmember Phillips pushed back, even though he too voted yes:

“You start to ask yourself, ‘why don’t we just continue down 99 to Highline?’…When we start to zig-zag to serve interests along the way, we start to lose sight of the overall approach to what we’re trying to do, and riders will ask, why are we zigzagging? There is a system view of this we need to be taking.”

So where does this leave us? There seems to be a clear process lesson for advocates, namely that organizing is far more important than making a better argument, and that absent coordinated efforts to make the case on the ground, anti-urban inertia will continue to rule the day. It becomes difficult not to be cynical about Sound Transit’s corridor studies, which seem to exist to provide a veneer of rigor over what is plainly a political process. To achieve better outcomes, we have to organize and show up.

But as I’ve argued before, Link’s southward march needs a coherent mobility vision that focuses on mobility within the subareas they serve. A political goal of regional connectivity cannot and should not be divorced from the cold math of who can access stations, where they are going, and how long it their trips will take. Whose trips would Link make better, and how? A freeway alignment would be more defensible if it provided faster trips than prevailing alternatives, but Link won’t: both SR 99 and I-5 alignments will be 15-25 minutes slower than existing express buses from Federal Way to downtown, and ~10 minutes slower from Star Lake to downtown (though either option improves trip times from downtown to Highline compared to current Metro service). Sometimes there are unavoidable tradeoffs between providing competitive long-distance trips and maximizing local development and connectivity. But if an I-5 alignment does neither, what problem is the Sound Transit Board trying to solve?

265 Replies to “Sound Transit Chooses I-5 for Federal Way Link”

  1. Well, at least it sounds like they are placing the Federal Way stop near the transit center instead of the park & ride next to the freeway. I had heard rumors that the city was pushing for the latter.

    Part of the problem is that Sound Transit has learned that they can take us transit advocate folks for granted. TCC can argue all they want for better alignments, but ST knows they will fall in line and support them in the end. Maybe Sierra Club should take a more leading role representing our views. ST must realize they can’t automatically count on their support.

      1. Brad, I don’t know where you live, but assuming it’s not South King County, is this alignment seriously going to change how you vote? Or won’t it depend on how they do closer to home?

        That isn’t to say they won’t horribly botch Seattle and East King County; they certainly can. But then it won’t be accurate to say that this decision clinched much of anything.

      2. I didn’t say this “clinched” anyone’s vote.

        What it “clinched”, with clairvoyant-level certainty, is Sound Transit’s irredeemable antipathy toward useful transit that is remotely worth supporting, worth spending a dime on, or worth expecting a plurality of half-sentient people who don’t spend their lives transit-blogging to pass at the ballot box.

        Is Federal Way funded and guaranteed to happen? I thought it was. If so, it will be the last new project for which ST is ever responsible. If not, it’s dead too.

        ST3 is sunk. You may not see it, the push-pollsters may not see it, whatever pathological unseriousness informs this foam-by-accounting-trick nonsense may not see it. But the real world does.

        You don’t build a winning coalition — much less one requiring a supermajority in your sole urban district — by making sure every facet of your plan is as stupid and obviously terrible as you can make it.

      3. On the contrary, what it clinches is ST’s antipathy towards offending major interest groups wherever possible. That is by no means a guarantee of good transit outcomes, but it depends a lot on how awful those groups are. As Zach said, right-thinking people gotta organize.

      4. The Highline station is the only thing in ST2, although 272nd is in the package (unfunded) and might come back if they can find the money.

        I’m extremely doubtful that this alignment will have any impact on how Seattle votes either way. It’s totally unclear to me how this will impact votes in South King County. The people really screwed by this decision — future residents — don’t get a vote.

      5. Martin, yes I’m going to be looking at the whole regional system when I decide how to vote. I won’t be placated by parochialism.

      6. Yeah, I think Martin is right. I don’t this means anything from a future political standpoint. I don’t think this have much influence on the way people vote. It might be a political winner — hard to say.

      7. Some urban-minded voters will vote against ST3 because of this and/or Everett, Tacoma, Kirkland-Issaquah, or West Seattle Link. Other people will vote for ST3 only if it includes one of these. Some like Martin will only look at how good the Seattle lines are and ignore the others. All these votes cancel each other out to some extent. Saying that most ST3 voters will vote no or yes because of any of these things is an unproven assertion. Different people have different values and knowledge, and to prove this assertion you’d need a survey that shows that group A is more numerous than group B. That’s not a given just because one transit fan believes it.

        The most we can say is that Seattle is much more pro-transit than the suburbs, so it’s more likely to vote for any ST measure, while the burbs are more likely to vote against it. Many voters look only at their own subarea and favorite project. So people in north Seattle will be looking at 45th, and people in West Seattle will be looking at West Seattle. They and the rest of Seattle comprise the majority of potential yes votes. In the suburbs, we’ve seen above-average support for transit in Bellevue (and once in Vashon Island), and below-average support in South King, Pierce, and to a lesser extent Snohomish. There’s a paradox that poor, transit-dependent areas tend to vote anti-transit and pro-car than more affluent areas, as in South King and Rainier Valley. That shows how the love of cars has uniquely trickled down in the US. These are the major factors going into ST3’s vote, besides the pros and cons of specific alignments.

      8. Martin, as you’ve said yourself before, planning by “whoever screams the loudest” will invariably disenfranchise all the potential users who are too busy living their lives to become parochial thorns in politicians’ sides.

        That’s the whole reason to plan based on data and expertise, and not on battles of “neighborhood interest” wills. Do the latter, and good outcomes will always lose. And multifaceted urbanity will always take a back seat to homogeneous-minded.

        So who yells the loudest in North King? That would be West Seattle (and their disproportionate ST board representation). These are the people whose narrative insists that sprawl, geographic isolation, a large waterway and 3 miles of absolutely nothing adjacent, and an existing “choke point” in the form of a de facto 7-lane freeway are all selling points for prioritizing West Seattle rail.

        That’s a list of 6 individually-fatal bugs that are being treated as features!

        ST3 is at this point guaranteed to be bad, and while it might earn 100% of the votes of NIMBY homeowners two blocks from the Junction, it won’t fly anywhere else. It’s D.O.A. Watch and learn.

      9. d.p.

        Finally we’re on the same side. I will say up front that you were absolutely right on the Duwamish Bypass. My side of the argument was based on the assumption that Link in South King Count south of the airport would become neighborhood transit, because Seattle-Tacoma ridership will always be small. I credited The Board (typed with all due reverence) with an understanding that transit is mostly a “walk-up” service. No polity can afford enough Park’N’Ride spaces to provide capacity for enough people to fill up the vehicles throughout the day.

        Alas, they clearly don’t understand that. There will be essentially nobody on these $3 billion Link trains south of the airport. And that is a damn near a crime.

        I still disagree with you about the Phinney Ridge dogleg (because I lived there for five years and would have been really pissed to lose my 5), but on very nearly every other disagreement, I’ll yield to you. You understand how destructive the “Seattle process” really is.

      10. “south of the airport during the middle of the day, in the evenings and on weekends. Disculpe me.

      11. F- it, dude. Sub-area-equity means that South King’s money is South King’s to waste. Decisions outside my subarea won’t affect my vote. If South King has to be allowed to flush money down the toilet, in order for North King to build a Ballard line, that’s fine by me.

  2. Too much government involvement in deciding where this line should go. Too many decisions and concessions made and we now end up with a sub-optimal solution. Too many zig zags, too long of travel times, this does not make sense. Obvious this needs to be a straight shot from Tacoma (not just Federal Way) to Seattle with appropriate stops along the way. Go down the 99 corridor, make this work.

    1. This entire system was designed by politics, not engineers and planners. Light rail was turned into a buzz word made by politicians, alignments were chosen by politicians and it will be operated by an agency led by politicians.

      Did anyone really expect any sort of logical solution supported by facts, science and expertise? I sure didn’t.

      NASA didn’t ask the public or politicians “How do we design a rocket that goes to the Moon?” did they? No, because the people (and their respective political representatives) don’t know. Transportation and planning issues are the same thing. There is a science behind that politics will never understand.

      1. Hilarious…if it were all designed by planners and engineers, in conjunction with what people want and use, it wouldn’t be a meandering bus on wheels rolling through every winding path of South Seattle and delayed for decades by snail’s pace tunnel building. It would be a simple elevated system that runs fast, across the entire region, from all points East, West, North and South.

      2. If you think you can design an elevated line to Fremont, Ballard, the UW, and Capitol Hill, be my guest. That’s where people want to actually ride the train.

        (Note further that two of those places still aren’t getting served. That is indeed a problem.)

      3. Tunneling can also be done fast, just look at Crossrail in London…Comes down to money.

        But my point is, politicians should simply facilitate the process of building transportation infrastructure. They should not dictate it, because they’re not the ones with expertise.

      4. “If you think you can design an elevated line to Fremont, Ballard, the UW, and Capitol Hill…”

        It’s called the Interurban…

      5. “…politicians should simply facilitate the process of building transportation infrastructure. They should not dictate it, because they’re not the ones with expertise…”

        Planners are politicians. If it were up to me, I’d fire the entire transportation and transit bureaucracy of the State of Washington and King County and Seattle from top to bottom.

      6. The Interurban? The one whose right-of-way doesn’t exist anymore between Northgate Way and Southcenter? The one that never went anywhere near three of the destinations I mentioned? (And even if you add in the Burke-Gilman Trail and turn every cyclist in the region against you, you still won’t get close to Capitol Hill.)

      7. @ Jason Lu – perfectly said. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in a previous thread, there is an underlying antipathy to “consultants” and “experts” and a willingness to design based on Aunt Mabel’s community group and Mayor Quimby and McCheese’s personal political necessities. This is how we get the “Seattle Process,” generally understood to mean “let every single person in the region have a chance to plan something, then try and please all of them.” I thank Gawd that I do not have to deal with that in my own profession, and the planners at ST must pull their hair out over this crap. Unfortunately by design the agency is terrified to say “No–this does not work and is not worth the billions you will spend on it!”

        (an aside–years ago when a new community center was built in my neighborhood the first public hearing was a “wish list” thing without regard to reality or budget. Somebody honestly wanted a helipad–which got support from some of the others for reasons known only to God. Others wanted items that would have been nice but were far out of scope and budget. Of course none of those things happened, making the hearing a waste of time for the architect, the City, the planners, the staff and the neighborhood residents. But it was mandatory, because that’s just how we do crap around here.)

      8. I agree, Scott. Anyone want to chip in to hire an outside consultant to analyze and plan a transit network for Seattle? After everyone chips in for this blog (of course).

        I’m serious. I wonder how much it would cost, and how detailed of a plan they could come up with. I would be willing to bet good money that it would be very similar to what the consensus is here.

      9. I attended a Lynnwood Link public-feedback session where none of the speakers except me said anything about the specific alternatives or stations or alignment or worthwhileness of this line. Instead half the comments were from members of a Latvian community center north of Northgate mall that didn’t want the alignment displacing their building, and the other half said “We need more Link” in general but nothing about this specific line.

      10. I’ve seen good systems (of many kinds) designed by politicians.

        On the other hand, that was always when I was looking at *good politicians*. A good politician is very serious about learning enough of the technical nuts and bolts to make good decisions — even ones which look bad at first, but which everyone comes to appreciate a couple of years later. This is how a good politician develops a *reputation* for being *worth* voting for.

        You seem to have some genuinely bad politicians in the Seattle Metro Area, especially since the sainted McGinn left. (Anyone who knew enough to oppose the Big Dig despite the political forces arrayed in favor of it was a *good* politician.)

    2. “too much government involvement” is a weird thing to say about a project being built by a government agency. What other alternative is there?

      Staff might do a better job, but then you get the critics complaining about “accountability.” Moreover staff are certainly capable of picking alternatives that will result in the least pushback, construction headaches, and pitchfork-wielding locals.

      And of course it’s politicians best positioned to figure out what maximizes YES votes. If we had a system that didn’t have to vote on every damn thing we’d probably have a better system.

      1. But how much value is there in a “YES” vote on ST3, if it’s just going to contain a bunch of freeway alignment’s like this? Certainly the Seattle lines are desperately needed, but on a whole continued extension of the spine, especially if it follows I-5 is a massive waste of resources. Given my knowledge of ST routing, and continued diminishing returns of extensions further north and south, I am frustratedly skeptical that ST3 is going to be worth voting yes on. And I would be much more confident in this assertion if there was a reasonable Seattle only back up plan to get HCT to Ballard and West Seattle in the event of a ST3 failure.

      2. There are a number of different ways in which the planning could be handled differently. Off the top of my head we could:

        1) Hire consultants to sit down with the bus agencies, look at the data, gather public input and put together a plan. Priorities would be set based on doing the most good for the most people, as opposed to public input, or political pressure. They present a plan, which could then be altered by the politicians (in response to public input).

        2) Hire a set of consultants to each come up with a plan.

        3) Get a committee together to do long rang planning. This committee would be similar to the committee that was tasked to work on the viaduct replacement, the increase in the minimum wage and HALA (all Seattle committees). In all three cases, they put together a board made up of various interest group members and experts. In the case of the viaduct committee, they had environmentalists (like Mike O’Brien, before he was a city councilmember), port officials. transportation experts, etc. They came up with two suggestions (a new viaduct or a combination of improvements on the surface, I-5 and transit). The mayor ignored the committees work, and simply did his own thing (and now Bertha is stuck).

        In all these cases the politicians can ignore the experts, or the committee. But at least we know what they recommend. In this case, we only have people on this blog saying this is a bad thing. There is a big difference.

      3. @RossB I would say that is a worthy compromise in having consultants to verify these decisions. I do think however we have to look at what data is being utilized and how.

        Doesn’t PSRC data favor these kind of suburban decisions or is that not the case?

      4. I think data is important, but at the end of the data, someone has to do the work of deciding which data points are important, and how it all fits together. For example, I could come up with a plan focused on ridership per dollar. It would feature one thing: streetcars. Run streetcars down every major corridor. Force bus riders to transfer. Just like that, I have huge ridership per dollar numbers. But I have built crap. Fewer people take transit overall.

        Overall transit ridership per dollar is a much better metric. This means the planners have to work with the bus agencies and design a system that integrates the two. It should have lots of stops, and those stops should complement the bus routes. A suburban stop with a big park and ride as a terminus is not a horrible thing in this instance — some very good transit systems have them — but you get diminishing returns when you try and pretend that light rail can work as commuter rail. Washington D. C. has one of the finest subways in North America, but Baltimore (a city much bigger than Tacoma) is not on it. Of course it isn’t. It is simply too far away.

        But even overall ridership per dollar may not be ideal. What if you have a community that will accept anything from a transit perspective, while another community needs a huge improvement. Should the first community get short changed? Of course not. So really, it should be ridership time saved per dollar, with the assumption that everyone is taking transit right now. So that means that you have to figure out where people are going, and how long it currently takes to get there, and how much faster it will be if you build something. That isn’t simple. But that is what the planners should do, and that is what good planners do all over the world. That is how you end up with systems that work.

        Sound Transit isn’t doing that, or if they are, the reports are being buried and no one sees that planning. Instead we have planning that consists of “Hey, how about we send a train over there. Yeah, that sounds good. Where should we send it? Excellent, let’s do a study, but ignore bus to rail interaction. OK, the results are in. We got great responses from the outreach (two hundred people commented — fantastic). So, we are going to build it this way, with two stations. What’s that? No, we won’t have any stations in between there. People will just take a bus or drive to the station if they are in between. Anyway, what’s next?”

      5. RossB: historical accuracy matters. You wrote:
        “In the case of the viaduct committee, they had environmentalists (like Mike O’Brien, before he was a city councilmember), port officials. transportation experts, etc. They came up with two suggestions (a new viaduct or a combination of improvements on the surface, I-5 and transit). The mayor ignored the committees work, and simply did his own thing (and now Bertha is stuck).”

        It was actually Governor Gregoire and a number of state legislators in a back room who ignored the committee’s work and rammed the Impractical Deep Bore Tunnel down everyone’s throat. It’s a matter of public record.

  3. “both SR 99 and I-5 alignments will be 15-25 minutes slower from Federal Way to downtown, and ~10 minutes slower from Star Lake to downtown (though either option improves trip times from downtown to Highline).”

    Slower than what? A comparable car ride on the freeway? And does “downtown” mean “downtown Seattle”?

    1. Than existing express buses to Downtown Seattle. I’ll clarify the post, thanks!

    2. If Link and the 578 both leave Westlake/Pike Street at the same time, Link reaches SeaTac in 37 minutes, right when the 578 is pulling into Federal Way. So Link would take some 15 minutes longer to reach Federal Way (I forget the exact estimate). At the worst 5pm rush, the 577 takes 42 minutes.. still probably faster than Link. Saturday midday the 578 takes 19 minutes. Link gets from Westlake to Columbia City in that time.

      This bad performance doesn’t apply to the north end or Eastside. Link is expected to be in the middle of the 550’s and 512’s ranges. A couple minutes slower off-peak, but ten minutes faster in the worst peak.

      The best you can say for this line is that freeway congestion will get worse over the next twenty to forty years, so the buses would eventually slow down to Link’s travel time.

      1. This assumes, of course, that the bus route continues after the Link is completed.

      2. It’s my understanding that ST Express is seen as an interim use until HCT is built, and that both from a policy and even legal perspective that ST considers those routes toast the day Link opens, which raises the stakes for all this considerably. If that comes to pass, I hope we’d see Metro be able to expand by the equivalent of the 577s service hours and put them into 177s etc. People will rightly howl if they lose ~40 minutes round trip each day. Link will be a tolerable option off peak, as frequency will ease some of the pain of the increased travel times, but for commuters on today’s services (577, 578, 177, 178, 190, 192) it’s a net loss.

      3. This also assumes that your wait time for Link and the bus are the same. Link will soon be at 6 minute headways during peak, while the 577 is at 20 minutes. That’s an average wait time difference of 7 minutes based on mode.

      4. Yeah, if I’m taking a long trip like this, increased headways are cold comfort. I’m happy to time my 20+ mile trips to a schedule, especially if it saves me so much time. Such long trips are considerably less likely to be spontaneous than short, in-city trips where serving spontaneity is important.

      5. Beadbaker: no, it’s a comparison, not a scenario of parallel service.

        Zach: That clearly applies to the 550 and 512. It’s not so clear that it applies to the 577, 522, 545, and 554. It depends on what the threshold is for equivalent service. ST could conceivably argue either way on these routes, and a judge might or might not accept it. Also, does ST have a written definition of its threshold? That would help answer the question of what would happen to the buses, which matters to both current riders and ST3 voters.

        It’s the same situation with the 150 and 101. Metro doesn’t believe that truncating them at Rainier Beach would provide equivalent service or it would have done it already. But Metro is a separate agency so it’s under no obligation to do anything wherever ST puts its lines. Of course it’s still worth it for us to push for truncation, combined with more frequent service and timed connections on the feeders.

      6. “I’m happy to time my 20+ mile trips to a schedule, especially if it saves me so much time.”

        You may be but others are not.

        “Such long trips are considerably less likely to be spontaneous than short, in-city trips where serving spontaneity is important.”

        Less likely probably, but not zero. The point of transit is to go where people want to go, when they want to go. Having to schedule your trip around a half-hourly bus is a major factor in why people drive, and why they drive to Link P&Rs rather than taking a feeder bus. If your mom calls and is sick or needs some shopping done or wants to do something, frequent service can make the difference whether you can fit the trip into your afternoon. Especially if it’s a two- or three-seat ride so you have to add all the other transfer times.

      7. In addition to what DJW said, ST has no intention of ever running 6-minute service out to the deep burbs, rendering Pete’s silver lining moot.

        I don’t know how many times it must be said: long-haul journeys are not like urban trips. Long-haul journeys are not like urban trips. Long-haul journeys are not like urban trips.

      8. And Mike, therein lies the absurdity of expecting any hypothetical South Link use to be about “intra-area” trips.

        If your region is so sparse that there is no chance of moving in 3 dimensions without multiple infrequent connections, then you’re going to handle those “getting things done”, emergence or otherwise, in a car. You just are.

        From those kinds of distances, transit that is high-capacity by design, bus or train, is going to be about longer hauls into major centers of activity. The kind of journeys for which you’re guaranteed to be gone a while. The kind of journeys you’d spend 20-30 minutes planning and preparing and grabbing all the stuff you need before embarking upon even if you drove.

      9. DP, that may be, but people still go somewhere to return a library book, or they go to a store and it’s out of stock of what they want so they go to a different branch. They’d like these trips to not take all day.

      10. That is why, when based in th sprawl, these people have cars.

        Let’s deal in reality here.

      11. Well, they should probably get Zipcars, because Link will never do them a lick of good in a million years.

        At what point are you going to show interest in trafficking in reality? Because the result of lifetimes of fact-free utopianism (and the ass-backward transit schemes that result) is that reality will keep trafficking in us.

      12. Folks,

        Can we all take a moment and see what the trade-offs are here? If we vote “No”, Link goes no farther south than 272nd [if it gets there]. It goes no farther north than Lynnwood [it will get thee]. It will probably make it to Redmond.

        Seattle will not get Light Rail to West Seattle or Ballard or UW-Ballard or even the West Seattle Transit Tunnel. Which of these can Seattle do without?

        Well, clearly, it can’t do without the WSTT in some sort of configuration. The PSRC says that by 2025 downtown Seattle is going to suffer a “deficit” of transportation capacity. [Nice phrase]. So the City needs that one. Can West Seattle and Ballard survive without Link? Well, so far they have and it’s mostly an irritation, not an existential threat. Maybe Mayor Regional Orgy can find it in Himself to support Red Lanes where necessary.

        How about Ballard-UW? Well, the 44 is a fustercluck for sure, but thousands ride it daily and seem to be OK with reading a book. After all, they’re headed for class and it’s a last-chance thing to bone up for that pop quiz!

        So what’s the catastrophe of a “No” vote? I’d say it’s mostly on the ‘burbs. They’re the ones who [think they] want the soothing caresses of Link in their communities. But of course they want North King to “lend” them the money to Complete The Spine [trumpet blast]. But they’re Not Interested in urban transit linking close-in Seattle neighborhoods. That would be “Socialism”.

      13. Martin,

        Please be harsh with the [ot] or [ad hom] pen where necessary. I’m extremely distressed by the slammed-with-a-plank cluelessness of The Board [typed with all due reverence] today.

      14. “thousands ride it daily and seem to be OK with reading a book.”

        You can’t read a book when you’re standing. Sometimes you can, but not always.

        “After all, they’re headed for class and it’s a last-chance thing to bone up for that pop quiz!”

        They’re going to work in Ballard, getting a haircut in Wallingford, visiting a friend in the hospital, transferring to the E to go to Shoreline or Edmonds, going to see a band….

      15. “Well, clearly, it can’t do without the WSTT…” Clearly it CAN, but some here choose to interpret ST’s deaf and dumb routine on 2 minute design headways in the current tunnel as the gospel truth. IT IS NOT.
        ’nuff said.

      16. @Anandakos — I disagree with your political assessment. I think Seattle needs light rail and wants light rail badly. I think most of the suburbs would be OK without light rail. For example, if Link only goes as far as Lynnwood. then an Everett rider would still come out way ahead. Getting to Lynnwood means you are half way there (and you have eliminated the worst stretch, especially outside rush hour commuter flow). On the other hand, Folks on various buses (like the 44 and the 8) are crawling through traffic, when they actually can catch a bus. This will only get worse, as that area grows.

        That doesn’t mean I won’t vote against ST3. It all depends on what is proposed. As I said elsewhere, I’m working hard to get Sound Transit to propose what I consider to be the best set of proposals for the city possible (and that includes West Seattle BRT). If I (and others) fail, then I will vote against the proposal. The kicker for me is that the legislature gave Sound Transit the right to try again, if a vote fails. This is huge for me. I would have a very tough time deciding yes or no if it meant going back to the state. But if it means Sound Transit has to come up with a better proposal, then I would have no problem.

        I’m not sure how this plays into ST3, except it might get more suburban voters to wonder whether extending the spine makes sense. I don’t think this has anything to do with TOD or better ridership, but just the overall route. If you look at it, it looks ridiculous. If your goal is to get to Tacoma, it looks terrible. Why the hell is it curving back and forth? What is the point of that? It is one thing to curve around to serve Rainier Valley (I get it — lots of riders there) but curving around for what appears to be no good reason will raise a few eyebrows in the South Sound area, and get a lot of people thinking “what we really need here is better bus lanes and better bus routes”.

  4. The view of South King County political leaders seems to be that light rail should be designed for the decently well-off who don’t use transit and probably still won’t, and not for those who do use transit or would if it were convenient.

    1. or that they read in the business journal that you merely need a rail transit line to attract millennials and the hottest companies. its just the presence of LRT that matters much like a holiday decoration or checking a box, not that it actually be of any use.

  5. It may be useful to compare one of Portland’s Mistake Stations to the photos above.

    Freeway alignments may not be ideal, but there is a bit of a difference between building a station next to an urban freeway that goes through neighborhoods that have been building up for over 100 years (which is the state of the neighborhoods along I-84 in inner east Portland), and a place like Federal Way.

    If Portland’s freeway stations are a mistake, imagine how much worse of a mistake a place like Federal Way will be.

    1. Don’t worry, they’ll build a bunch of apartment towers right next to the giant parking lots and freeway… because people love living in parking lots next to the freeway, right?

      Everyone else too poor to own a car can take a 30 minute bus ride to their light rail station that is slower that the bus they already had to downtown Seattle.


      1. That’s one of the big differences between the Portland freeway stations and, say, Federal Way.

        TriMet’s 72 was at one time one of the busiest routes here. I believe the numbers at one time were in the 60,000 per day range. It and the lesser 77 hit MAX at I-84 and 82nd Ave. The 71 ties in at 60th, and the 77 and 75 all hit MAX at the Hollywod station.

        So, in this case, the freeway stations represent a time savings over the previous available bus routes for a huge swath of the inner east side, thanks to a frequent grid bus system that feeds MAX from the north and south (and a few other directions).

        Portland blocks are 20 to the mile, essentially, so 82nd Ave is only 4 miles from downtown. That’s the Far East side of the map in the link. Probably the only way to compare this to Seattle is this is Rainier Valley had I-5 been built down ML King. It would probably have still been a good place to put Link, but development next to it would have been vastly harder due to it being a freeway that tore through the existing urban fabric.

        Federal Way? There is no Portland comparison. 22 miles from downtown puts that station outside TrMet’s district, for the most part.

        At the very least, this is going to need a vastly improved feeder bus network than what I experienced when I visited it a few years ago. I would hope for something like TriMet’s 72. Feeding it from where though? RapidRide seems busy enough, but that’s north-south traffic. Swing the southern end of RapidRide over to I-5 to hit the Link station? That gets some of the demand but it seems like it would need to go further east and west than that to pick up over a larger area.

        Making this work is going to be an interesting challenge.

    2. “The Lathe of Heaven”, a science-fiction book by Ursula Le Guin, posits several future Portlands, as our protagonist’s dreams shift reality. The first worlds are overpopulated, but then there’s a mass die-off and the later ones have low population. In the overpopulated worlds, our protagonist lives in a tiny room and consults a lawyer who works in a converted parking garage, meaning a multistory garage that has been converted into offices. They become romantically involved. Then the die-off happens and he now lives in a large house (like in Seattle ca. 1980). He doesn’t know if she still exists, but he remembers that she works in a converted parking garage. Then he stops short and thinks, “Who the hell works in a converted parking garage?! There’s no such thing….”

      1. Mike Orr, I have always seen your name and thought of George Orr, since I’ve been lurking here.

  6. There is one silver lining to the I-5 alignment – it leaves open the possibility of a freeway station to allow Tacoma->Seattle buses to stop somewhere in South King for local connections (e.g. people going to the airport, allows the 574 to be retired), while still maintaining a reasonable travel time for those going all the way from Tacoma to Seattle.

    This is essentially what RossB has been advocating for.

    1. Yes, retiring the 574 and taking away the one-seat ride from Tacoma/Lakewood to the airport is absolutely a silver lining. *sarcasm*

    2. No, asdf, Ross has been advocating to terminate the damn thing at Highline and transfer buses there. He was agnostic about the alignment between Angle Lake and there, though he did say he thought that having it along I-5 would make such a bus intercept easier.

      And he was right about the termination.

      Jeebus, there will be at most five [or just barely possibly six] stations between Sea-Tac and Tacoma Dome: Angle Lake, Kent-Des Moines, 272nd, FWTC (if we’re lucky), and Fife. Maybe they’ll put one at Milton so the big electric signs can take a ride into town for a “futbol” game at Tacoma Dome. That’ll light up their lives.

      Who in the effyewseekay is going to ride this boondoggle?

      1. Ok, it’s the same as RossB was asking for, plus a few token additional Link stations further south. But the point about a 594->Link transfer that allows the 594 to still get downtown quickly is still valid.

        Assuming of course, that ST has some sense to build the freeway station in the first place. The way the board is talking, a 594->Link transfer isn’t even on their radar, so no freeway station. Which means the 594 either skips Link completely or gets truncated. Either option does make Link down south look like big boondoggle.

      2. Define quick. Fed way to Seattle will take an hour on link, compared to 30 minutes with current express buses. Truncating the 594 will mean from Tacoma, probably 15 minutes from Tacoma to Fed Way, plus probably 10 minutes for transfer and average waiting, plus an hour of Link = 85 minutes total. It’s even longer if you’re coming from Lakewood.

      3. If push comes to shove, the 594 patrons can transfer at 272nd, where Link will be right next to the freeway. Put a Mountlake Terrace aedificio in the median and a pedestrian bridge and you’re GoodToGo!

    3. Just to be clear — I am the same RossB — I do want to see Link terminate by the freeway, with a Lynnwood/Mountlake Terrace/Mercer Island type station. Once it gets to the freeway, I don’t see the value of spending huge amounts of money extending Link, especially along the freeway. I could maybe see including a really good station away from the freeway (such as the college) but I would have to look at the cost (not every college is going to be by a light rail). That is neither a criticism or a compliment to this design. To be honest, I’m not sure what exactly this proposes (anyone have a map? — I looked for plans of this on Sound Transit but struck out).

      Anyway, my reasoning is this: I really don’t think that Link will ever work from Tacoma. It is just too far to compete with buses. Since buses will run from Tacoma to Seattle, I think it makes sense to stop once, on the freeway, to let people connect to SeaTac, Kent and Federal Way. This would slow down the express buses by about a minute while adding great value to the system. You could even have just half the buses stop there (which sounds about right, since Link frequency will be a lot less than the current express bus frequency). Meanwhile, places between Tacoma and the station would not have light rail, but rather, good local bus service.

      So, just to be clear, I would not terminate the bus routes. I would terminate Link (by the freeway).

      1. OK, so now someone has shown me a map. Yeah, this is a crazy route. I would have done either:

        1) Go out to the freeway (as shown) put in a station by the freeway (with HOV lanes both directions from and two the HOV lanes on the freeway) and end it.

        2) Do as above, but end the line at the community college.

        3) From Angle Lake, go down 99 until the community college. Add stations between the college and Angle Lake. End at Star Lake.

        Each alternative would be cheaper (of course). Use the money to pay for bus service.

        The really weird part is that folks assume this is going to Tacoma. This will take long time to get from Tacoma to SeaTac, let alone Seattle. This wouldn’t matter if all the twists and turns are there to pick up more people, but that isn’t the case. How bizarre. The section that should be straight makes a huge deviation, while the areas that need a little more curve (like in Seattle) does not.

    1. Technically, it’s not “The Ballard Spur”. It’s “Ballard-UW” with no possibility of interlining except for out of service vehicles and maybe an amazingly lame fustercluck of a transfer at [I can’t remember the new official name for Brooklyn Station].

      1. I say that because a station for Ballard-UW will probably lie in the block between 15th NE and University Way, “In order to minimize the walk for University of Washington students”.

        That would of course then require transfer riders to exit the station, walk back to Brooklyn and enter the North Link station.

        Too crazy even for Sound Transit? Watch them do it……

      2. You’re assuming ST will put in a Ballard-U District line, and not say, a line down Westlake Ave. aka “the 40 streetcar”

      3. No, I’m not assuming anything, except that the station placement might be um, er, “sub-optimal”. It was you who mentioned “The Ballard Spur”, which ST has unequivocally rejected.

    (+1 = good, urban village potential, not near a freeway, ignoring zoning/developer issues which may change; -1 = near a freeway)
    Southeast Seattle: +1
    RB to Angle Lake: 0 (tradeoffs both ways)
    Angle Lake to FW: -1
    FW to Tacoma: 0 (undecided)
    University/North Link: +1
    Lynnwood Link: -1
    Everett: 0 (undecided)
    Eastside: +1
    TOTAL: +1 (perfect score = +8)

    “Link can’t disrupt 99!” was the same objection Tukwila gave!!! The original proposal was a surface alignment on Southcenter Blvd and Intl Blvd, but Tukwila objected that it had just beautified Intl Blvd and didn’t want it torn up again.

    Even if Everett and Tacoma both get a 99 alignment, that would put pedestrian-accessible stations where they can do the least possible good: in the furthest exurbs. So our blue-collar non-driver is supposed to live in south Everett or Fife because Des Moines and Federal Way couldn’t give up strip malls and drive-in restaurants? And as for “No better social program than a job”, are these Highline College graduates supposed to work in the drive-in McDonald’s? Or where will they work? What about the new businesses that could have multiplied on 99 alongside the TOD? Even McDonald’s could find a smaller-footprint space for its drive-in among them.

    At least “Star Lake Station” sounds better than “Redondo Station”. I could see Emerson writing a poem about the stars there. The picture looks like it could use a swimming pool as a neighborhood amenity. It would lead two two stations with “Lake” in their name. So Link won’t just be “The Subway to the Five Malls” but also “The Train to the Two Lakes”. Take that, Denver.

    Finally, what I said in the open thread:

    I want to know what’s going to happen to the $300-350 million ST saves. Would it go into Sounder? How many Sounder runs could it buy? What about east-west transit so that people can get to the Link stations? ST could buy RapidRide buses for Metro to run on KDM/KK Road and 320th. Or that all-day express from Kent to downtown that has been the biggest hole in the south county’s network. Or if ST just lowers ST3’s total cost by $350 million, what’s the chance that the money would be used for transit in some other measure, rather than for a non-transit project or nothing?

    1. I’m not sure how you get a +1 for University/North Link. I mean, no First Hill station, no good connection for buses in the Capitol Hill/C. D., no 520 station — I think you set a really low bar for +1.

      1. Broadway & John underground, check. University Way & 45th (within 1 block) underground, check. Roosevelt neighborhood underground, check. Northgate urban center, check.

      2. OK, but like I said, you set the ball very low. Integrates well with buses — uncheck. Stops at good stations along the way — uncheck.

      3. Serves the campus instead of as a freeway station in the middle of SR 520. Re-check.

      4. Serves the campus without 8 levels of escalators, two labyrinthine bridges, and a grand expanse of passive space = uncheck.

  8. It’s infuriating that Seattle has such weak representation on the Board. O’Brien and Murray are more interested in regional comity than actually fighting for an effective transit system. Sub-area Equity” is toast.

    1. That’s exactly what this looks like. This is actually pretty common for this board. In general, board members will let the area do what its reps want to do, unless it makes it much worse for them. So O’Brien and Murray basically went “Really, you want that? OK, well, if that’s what you want. Just remember us when we need a vote” instead of actually proposing something that they feel is better.

      That is why I said about that I think this board will forever be a mess. They need a different planning layer,

  9. [W]hat problem is the Sound Transit Board trying to solve?”

    Um, I dunnow. “How to spend $15 billion in the craziest way ever?”

  10. The part of me that overreacts to things tells me that I’m not sure why a South King voter would support this package, given how ineffective this line will be and the wealth of much better project possibilities in this subarea, including better alternatives to Federal Way.

    On the other hand, Sound Transit always builds its elevated track next to the freeway, so this is true to form, and Central Link isn’t all that much worse for it. Furthermore, with all the amendments the only fatally compromised TOD situation is at 272nd.

    What confuses me is why, with all the wailing about “impacts,” no one noticed that all this curving around is going to make the train much noisier than if it just shot straight down SR99.

    1. This South King voter is disgusted with County Councilman “Pete’s” stance on the issue. The guy is completely out of touch with his constituents. Otherwise, he’d notice how many of his constituents commute to Seattle, eat out in Seattle, go to parks in Seattle, shop in Seattle, go to concerts in Seattle, use the SeaTac Airport, and would live in Seattle if they could afford it. The least he could do is do something that would promote development in the ugliest and dirtiest part of the county, SR 99, home of the $30 per night motel next to a Wal-Mart and a McDonald’s knock-off. We want something better for our community, but Pete obviously doesn’t. When is the last time I ate out in Auburn, Kent, or Federal Way that it was not out of necessity (i.e. we happened to be there and needed to eat and didn’t have time to go home to cook)? It’s been years. We’ve been very busy lately and have skipped meals on several occasions because there wasn’t time to cook and none of the nearby restaurants had anything remotely appetizing, so skipping a meal was better than eating out in Federal Way or Auburn. South King has absolutely nothing to offer anybody besides low prices. In the meantime, my house gets devalued relative to both Seattle and Tacoma, and my councilmember does nothing to help that situation.

      1. And this would probably something more attractive to the area than what is currently there. This would add new vibrant neighborhoods along a strip mall commercial corridor.

      2. Engineer,

        +100! SR99 could be a fantastic “string of pearls” with walkable high rises every 2/3 to 1 mile and frequent RapidRide service between them. A “wall of walkability” through South King County. But for whatever reason, FW and DM are scared of it. Sad.

      3. … and what gorgeous views of the Puget sound and Cascades all the rooms would have except for the vibrant pedestrian scale activities on the first floor. But that would require stations closer than 2-3 miles apart, as are currently planned.

    2. I think the most voters aren’t paying too much attention to the details. Most don’t really care about TOD. Federal Way is huge, and spreads quite a ways in all directions. The communities by 99 are considerable, but they don’t overwhelm the other areas. In short, I don’t think that many voters will care if this does a poor job in serving people in the area. They will be focused on park and rides and the like.

      But the zig-zag will really hurt. I think people will look at the map, and wonder what the hell the train is doing. Then they will do the math, and realize that buses are faster. That is the scary part about this. From a political standpoint, this isn’t terrible if this is the end of the line. Not great, but what’s done is done. You can focus on express buses, better bus service in general or even streetcars. But if the plan is to extend this farther all the way to Tacoma, and you have all this zig-zagging (with fewer riders) it just looks silly and overly expensive.

  11. Sound Transit apparently learned nothing from the Tukwila Mistake — routing Link along freeways to hit a major park-and-ride lot, and conveniently avoiding good TOD sites, any activity centers present or future.

    I’m glad this Sound Transit board was not in charge back in 1998. Central Link would be running down the Duwamish corridor and missing SE Seattle entirely.

    In cannot fathom this preference for freeways and park-and-ride lots over TOD and urban activity centers. We should be beyond the old suburbs/cars/freeways model, and not reinforcing it.

    1. Too many folks in the suburbs would never even dream of taking a bus to a train. If its not near the freeway and doesn’t have a garage, its a wasted station.

      1. B.S.! I take Rapid Ride A now to get to the Airport Link station to ride into Seattle.

      2. DLK

        Unfortunately, folks like you probably didn’t get to vote on the alignment. The folks who made these decisions probably never take anything but a car.

    2. I actually think you could make a decent case that the initial “southern” rail line should have run through the Duawmish river valley. Such an alignment would have both been much faster in reaching south King County and made a heavy (automated) rail system a plausible option with all the associated system benefits of automation. Neither of these potential benefits are present in this case.

      But I agree completely with the TOD comment, which makes Reichbauer’s quote particularly ironic. He states: “We’ve seen large corporations leaving South King County for Seattle, and the displacement that would occur for many small businesses would be devastating for our communities.” TOD is probably the best chance that his district has at adding jobs back to his region and he rejects it in favor of a model that makes South King County little more than a bedroom community.

      1. No way should the Initial Segment have gone through the Duwamish Valley. Instead of serving SE Seattle, population 95,000, it would’ve served Georgetown, population 2500.

        Under Subarea Equity, Seattle taxpayers would’ve gotten zip out of the Initial Segment, and south county commuters would’ve saved maybe 4 minutes on their commute trip to downtown.

      2. RDPence, this discussion is borderline off topic, but I disagree completely with your assessment of a Duawmish line. Currently Link is scheduled to take 24 minutes between TIBS and SODO. A BNSF alignment with a stop (or two) in Georgetown would take closer to 14 or 15 minutes not the 20 minutes you claim. But more importantly the alignment would have saved a substantial (no tunneling) amount of Seattle resources to be spent on higher productivity lines in Seattle’s most dense neighborhoods and, as I noted earlier, would have made automated technology possible with substantial long term operational savings. Also, if done correctly, a Duawmish alignment would have provided much better connections between W. Seattle buses and the rail system.

        It’s also worth noting that building the main line south through the Duawmish River Valley wouldn’t have precluded a branch line serving Beacon Hill, MLK and Rainier, which would have provided much of the mobility benefits of the RV segment of link at significantly less cost and with the other benefits I mentioned.

      3. Still off-topic, but Alex is wrong.

        It is nearly 8 minutes from TIB to the hypothetical merge point. The so-called “Rainier deviation” — which in actuality deviates cardinally by less than 1 mile — takes only 16 minutes end to end.

        There’s no way you’re knocking 10 minutes off that, unless your proposal is for some kind of “nitro-boosted funnytrain”.

        As ST will eventually have to find out itself, you cannot mount a solid transportation plan on mountains of flowing bullshit.

      4. I think you can make a case that Sound Transit mislead Tacoma from the beginning. “Hey, we can build a light rail line that can get to your city, thirty miles away, and get people there fast!” Not really. It wouldn’t be light rail. It would be commuter rail (e. g. Sounder). Light rail has lots of stops. It curves this way and that way, so that it can pick up passengers. The whole idea is not a really fast trip — but a trip faster (in general) than a bike. This is most welcome in the city, where typically the fastest route is via a bike (e. g. UW to Ballard, downtown to Capitol Hill, UW to Capitol Hill).

        But this isn’t the case in Tacoma. A race (even in the worst rush hour traffic) between a bike, a bus and a car would have the bike come in third. It just doesn’t work that well with light rail. It fails in comparison to other modes, and since it is usually less convenient, it will suffer from a ridership standpoint. Either express buses, commuter rail or a high speed ferry would be faster (I’m serious about the last point — the Victoria Clipper would be faster than Link if it went from Tacoma to Seattle).

        Now, to be fair, it is possible that Tacoma leaders knew this all along. They really aren’t that concerned with getting to Seattle that fast. Getting to SeaTac would be nice, but what they really want is a way for folks from the suburbs between Seattle and Tacoma to get to Tacoma easily. This will benefit Tacoma businesses. I still think it is a huge waste of money (compared to other possible projects) but there is some reasoning behind it.

      5. @d.p.

        I don’t know quite enough about the engineering to say you’re definitely wrong. But a reasonable corridor between Georgetown and Tukwila is about 8 to 10 miles. I assume the corridor would presumably not include sharp turns in the middle which would allow a maximum operating speed of at least 60mph along most of that segment. So if its 8 miles at 60mph that’s 8 minutes plus a 2 to 3 minute buffer for acceleration and deceleration. Add in 3-4 minutes between SODO and Georgetown and you arrive at my estimate. Please explain to me what is wrong with that analysis?

        Alternatively if you assume that the merge point takes 8 minutes (I suspect its closer to 7 but I haven’t stopwatched it), subtract 1 minute for faster technology (as assumed in both previous comments) and add five minutes to cover the final four miles and you arrive at 11-12 minutes to get between Tukwila and Georgetown, which is technically longer than what I suggested but only marginally. Even an only 8 minute travel time saving is 33% of current trip time and a very substantial time saving.

        So shouldn’t Tacoma leaders on the board want a proposal that maximizes ridership between South King and Tacoma? In other words, if there is substantial TOD in South King along SR-99, that’s to the benefit of Tacoma because light rail can be used to reach more destinations for Tacoma residents within reasonable time frames.

        Of course I think the real problem is that most people don’t understand how good transit works at all, so crap gets built instead. (For the record I don’t think the RV segment is crap but it could be better). In this sense Tacoma wasn’t mislead so much as just ignorant. It’s really transit 101 to understand that light rail won’t be useful to make trips of that distance (Seattle to Tacoma).

      6. 1. In reality, light rail trains don’t consistently go that fast, even when perfectly straight. That isn’t what they’re for, so it isn’t what they’re good at. (And no, I don’t care what test-track models Glenn will foam around the internet in order to cite here. We’re trying to talk about lived reality for once.)

        2. The track from TIB to Boeing Access Road is anything but straight, and if you think that already-express segment is being rebuilt from scratch, you’re nuts. It currently goes 50-55 as it zigs and zags to 518; it’s never going any faster.

        3. You Seattle Subway types probably need to decide among yourselves whether you want to claim we’ll build pointless low-demand no-stop high-speed bypasses, or whether you want to put 5 nowheresville stations on every Sharpie line on your mao so that it sort of looks like Manhattan is coming to South Park. Neither makes a lick of sense, but each inherently contradicts the other. And you keep trying to ingest all of your fantasy cakes in the same mouthful.

      7. The most you’re ever going to shave off with your billion-dollar bypass is 3-5 minutes, on a trip that is already nonsensically long for the distance-commute purposes it purports to serve.

        And you are guaranteed, as a corollary consequence, to damage headways in the very rare parts of our system where high frequency actually means a damn to patrons.

        Geometry and geography simply do not support the Sound Transit/Seattle Subway “all the regional rails” fantasy. Just how many failures will it take for that to work its way through your skulls?

      8. “I think you can make a case that Sound Transit mislead Tacoma from the beginning. “Hey, we can build a light rail line that can get to your city, thirty miles away, and get people there fast!””

        Did ST ever say that? In any case, it’s been known ever since Link opened in 2009 that it’s 37 minutes from Westlake to SeaTac. Did no Tacoma leaders ever take the 574 to SeaTac to try Link out, this thing they so desperately want? Can they not subtract 39 from 60 and see that it’s not enough time to get from SeaTac to Tacoma, therefore Link will be slower than Sounder or the 594?

      9. @Mike and Alex — Yeah, mislead is probably too strong a word. They probably explained how long it would take, but never emphasized it. I wouldn’t either, if I was pushing the plan. I think people just looked at a map, and drew their own optimistic conclusion (“Cool, it would connect Tacoma to Seattle” morphs into “Cool, you would be able to get from Tacoma to Seattle really fast”). I felt the same way. I voted for the first Sound Transit proposal with that (amongst other things) in mind. I like Tacoma, and figure it would be fun to ride a train once in a while down there, just as folks in D. C. ride a train to Baltimore once in a while. The difference is that between Baltimore and D. C. there is a fast train. Light rail will never be fast. No matter how you try and straighten it out, it just isn’t built for speed (as I said earlier).

        As to your other point, Alex, I completely agree. Assuming the spine is completed, this screws over Tacoma as much as anyone. I think that Tacoma is so fixated at completing the spine (at any cost) that they don’t want to rock the boat an upset the folks that will pay for much of the route. Either that or the savvy business leaders in Tacoma have all left town. Perhaps they have followed Weyerhauser and Russell to Seattle.

      10. @d.p.

        Late to respond to your comments, but I suggest that you read the thread more closely before ranting so vitriolically. I didn’t say we should build a duawmish line NOW but that hypothetically it would have made more sense to build INITIALLY. As part of that hypothetical I suggested that a duawmish line would have offered an opportunity for heavy rail (and automation) because a median running segment would not have been necessary. These points make your “responses” about “light rail” irrelevant to the arguments I’m making.

        With that being stated I’m not affiliated with Seattle subway and agree that a duawmish line makes little since NOW (again note the temporal difference).

      11. This idea that “heavy rail” would magically shave minutes-by-the-dozen off running times is yet another fantasy.

        Even BART, with its ridiculous stop spacing and supposed 80mph top speed, takes a really freaking long time to travel the egregious distances that it has been charged with traveling. Walnut Creek, for example, is 35 miles but a full 70 minutes from SFO — that’s a one-seat ride, and Walnut Creek isn’t even the end of the line!

        Commuter rail is (sometimes) able to run longer distances and faster speeds, but that is only because it is designed for a service pattern that no one expects should be able to cover complete corridors or be accessible to any pedestrians along the way. When you advocate for those kinds of speeds on a “subway” service, you emphatically negate it as a “subway” service at all!

        Anyway — and this is a rare compliment to Sound Transit from me — it is awesome that your dreams were dashed, and that the Duwamish Express was not built first. We’d be running a 4-stop shuttle with fewer than 15,000 riders a day, and would be hard-pressed to run it more than 2-3x an hour (like most other anti-urban rail projects in recent memory), further depressing ridership.

        I can’t for the life of me imagine why a train to nowhere and with no one on it would need “automation”.

    3. @RDP,

      It’s not ST that is the source of the problem here, it is the local governments in South King that have all lined up against the 99 alignment and for the I-5 alignment. Trying to force a 99 alignment would get very messy. ST could probably do it, but they seem to think it is not worth the fight.

      South King is the economic laggard locally. Their leaders desperately want in on the growth and wealth that the rest of the county is experiencing, and they view LR as at least part of the way to do that. However they still have antiquated views of the impacts of LR. So they want it, but there mindset won’t let them put it where it really should go (99). So they will end up passing on all the economic redevelopment and increased property values that LR could bring.

      The other issue is that South King is republican territory, and their leaders will prioritize small business on 99 over the citizenry, which is what you see with this alignment. The impacts to business is less, but the impacts to homeowners and commuters is much worse.

      But hey, there is a reason why FW is so far behind economically, and they just seem to want to stay that way.

      1. I fully appreciate the power that suburban cities have on the Sound Transit board. The system is stacked in their favor. Valid rail transit values and concerns get filtered out by the time these things get to board decisionmaking.

        I had hoped the Tukwila Mistake would be apparent and weigh on boardmembers, but the only time they ride Link is to the airport and their minds are on travel, not on the tortured route their predecessors created.

      2. Lazarus gets it. As does TCC when they tweeted this from the meeting:
        “Local electeds were what @SoundTransit cared the most about… And they were unified for I5.”

        Here’s the deal – TCC, Futurewise and other hobbyists aren’t the ones writing the agreements and issuing the permits to ST for construction through the myriad of local feifdoms ST serves. It’s the local governments. All the advocacy in the world to ST won’t do you any good if the local bosses want something different. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.

        Buck up and convince the local leaders what’s in their best interest or help get the right people in office and then you’ll have a fighting chance. I wonder how many meetings the advocates for 99 had with local electeds from SeaTac to Federal Way.

      3. @Gern,

        Ah, no, this bad decision is not the fault of the “advocates” and “hobbyists” for not advocating hard enough. It is the fault of the local electeds who just can’t follow the data, put up to many uncompromising positions and think only of existing small business and not of some greater future. This decision is essentially short term thinking and flawed ideology winning out over vision and data.

        Yes, ST could force the issue, but it would be messy and with 2016 being the make or break year for ST 3 it just isn’t worth the risk to the greater package.

        But this is essentially why FW is the economic laggard that it is. They pass up a great opportunity to increase their tax base, spur economic development, serve a greater number of their commuting citizens and to maybe get a little TOD based housing. And for what? Because they don’t want to damage their SR. 99 beautification project? Ya. That is some mighty big thinking on their part……NOT.

      4. Lazarus,

        Your political analysis is spot on. Plumber stores and used car lots trump nice five story apartments or condos with a Whole Foods on the ground floor. Sure they do; they’re the right kind of people!


        The “right thing to do” is not to “convince the local leaders”, because they can’t be convinced. People have been trying to convince them for years, but they only have ears for the smarmy small businessfolk at their Rotary meetings.

        The right thing to do is vote “Hell, NO! and rub their noses in the poo they’ve spread on the floor. Bad kitty!

      5. I agree, but I think it also suggests systemic problems. If the local officials ignore the data — a simple choice between a few routes — then how can they be trusted with the bigger, more complicated decisions? Are we so sure that other politicians in other areas are more knowledgeable?

    4. “I cannot fathom this preference for freeways and park-and-ride lots over TOD and urban activity centers.”

      The biggest thing that has shaken my faith in Sound Transit is a secondhand comment (i.e., a rumor) that the planning director is hostile is hostile to urban activity centers and prefers freeways and P&Rs, and didn’t even know that ST’s own studies show that Ballard-UW has both higher ridership and lower cost than any of the Ballard-downtown alternatives. I don’t want to put too much weight on this because I don’t know who the person is or what he’s otherwise like or how accurate this characterization is. But if it’s accurate, it’s one more thing on top of the anti-urban tendencies of some boardmembers.

      1. Good question. I couldn’t find the name of the planning director on the Internet.

        Sound Transit is trying to hire a new CEO right now. Perhaps the new CEO could be someone, say, competent, and could hire a new planning director?

  12. From an agency in the business of maximizing mobility…

    I think you may have your agencies mixed up. Sound Transit is in the business of building as many miles of rail as possible. Mobility improvements seem to be a secondary or tertiary concern.

  13. Zach is lamenting the lack of “urbanist” pull here, but the fact is that approximately zero urbanist votes on ST3 are going to be driven by the plan is in South King County. The Federal Way extension is marginal enough with any alignment that anyone unwilling to consider marginal investments already quit this bandwagon a while ago.

    Really, if you’re a Seattle resident and ST3 does a good job of connecting Seattle neighborhoods*, is this admittedly ridiculous routing going to stop you from voting yes?

    As usual, ST has put the interests of current residents and interest groups over future riders and residents, and all the interest groups get something. Highline CC (probably) gets their stop. FW gets service to their transit center. People along the rest of SR99 can carry on as before. No one’s speaking up for 272nd, so that goes in the trash bin.

    * by no means assured given past form!

      1. Well, obviously “Seattle” is a collection of interests that don’t completely overlap. But I think most Seattle urbanist types would be happy about rapid, high-capacity transit to at least three of Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, Belltown, and Lower Queen Anne/Seattle Center. A lot would also be pleased with a connection to West Seattle.

      2. Of course, others will bail out at the first less-than-optimal decision (e.g. at-grade through Interbay, no 8th Ave station crosstown) and declare the whole thing a travesty. But those people are not winnable in any sort of democratic process anyway.

      3. Martin, at this point, Sound Transit is almost going to have to swear in blood to the number of stations and the location of station entrances to make me believe a single word they say. Otherwise, based on their track record, I could easily assume that by Belltown they mean Bell Street at the Great Northern Tunnel, by LQA they mean Myrtle Edwards Park (entrance on the far side of the rail tracks!), and by Ballard they mean right under the 15th Avenue Bridge (entrance to the east only). Oh, and it’ll run express in-between, and end at the ferry docks.

      4. The core objection, even in South King, is elevated track next to things that are there today. So to the extent that Seattle sections are underground, there won’t be an issue. Furthermore, the Board is going to defer to the Seattle reps, and I just don’t see O’Brien/Murray/Phillips as coming to the same decision.

      5. Sure, Seattle won’t face the exact same objections that South King did. But I’m looking at their entire track record, not just this decision. All their in-Seattle conceptual studies assumed the same sort of incompetent station siting and refusal to believe that anyone will ever transfer. Are you assuming that the same planning director who allegedly doesn’t even look at his own studies will amend this? Or that some other forces inside ST that didn’t make a peep against the South King P&R Express, or in favor of the 130th St No-Brainer Station, will suddenly show themselves? Or that Murray will single-handedly fix the whole mess? I don’t have that much faith in our politicians.

      6. William C,

        You should read Seattle’s official comment letter on ST3. They indeed want a station at Myrtle Edwards Park, but then also a station to serve Uptown at … Aurora and Harrison!

      7. You’re almost right (P. 61 of this PDF.) “Close proximity to the Elliott Trail bridge” still can and should mean to the east of Elliott. And, Aurora and Harrison will become a lot better if the tunnel is ever finished. But, it still seems to me these stations are seriously suboptimal. We need to contact SDOT.

    1. In defense of O’Brien, Phillips, et al, something like this must have occurred to them:

      I don’t want these clueless South King pols dictating how to build rail in North King. If I cast a futile “no” vote, that will give them precedent to make a hash of the possibility for useful rail in North King

      ASSUMING (I realize it may just be an assumption) no playing around with sub-area equity (now that is penalizing the north and south suburbs rather than North King), as far as I am concerned they can do what they want, however dunderheaded, with their money. I’ll not likely ride Link in South King past the airport, and this makes it even less likely that I will. If they want to choke off future mobility and intelligent development in their area for the sake of preserving their strip malls, only to see whatever remaining businesses-with-a-choice they possess move to Seattle as soon as they can, it’s no skin off my nose. Assuming we can get a sensible ST3 plan for North King, all I want is some sort of a decent ST3 “yes” vote there (unlikely to be a majority), and I’m not sure a more intelligent plan would run much, if any, stronger than this.

      1. The South King reps could have spun the 99 alignment to their favor: “Look at all the 1950’s motels operating as brothels, fast food restaurants that barely meet health codes, and massive unused parking lots that we’ll be able to upgrade once we get TOD. We project your home will increase in value by X% over regular inflation thanks to new nearby amenities and removal of blight. And, a transit stop at the Commons will breath new life into a mall that continues to struggle despite an ongoing redevelopment plan.” Yep, the 99 routing could have been spun as a huge net positive for Federal Way. They chose not to.

      2. Also, if you don’t go past the airport, you aren’t going into the south half of King County. The midpoint of the county is at roughly Burien/SeaTac/Renton.

      3. I don’t think the suburban boardmembers care about North King alignments now that there’s a line to Lynnwood and Federal Way. What they care about is keeping North King costs low enough to reach Everett and Tacoma. On the 130th Station issue, there was not a single boardmember comment about it’s increasing travel time that I heard; it was all about the station’s cost.

      4. Mike, I think the reason ST is dragging their feet on 130th is so they can offer a little pork to north city voters in 2016. The same with the Northgate Bridge and Graham Street (SE Seattle) if Move Seattle goes down. They want to keep a bag of goodies in reserve to lure Seattle voters.

      5. Mike,

        keeping North King costs low enough to reach Everett and Tacoma”

        Exactly. They expect North King to pay them tribute in the form of “loans” to build their BART del Norte Dreams of Empire, and they have no intention ever of paying them back.

        If they respected sub-area equity they’d recognize that the more North King needs, the more they’ll get. But No, better to depend on welfare from the braniacs.

    2. “Really, if you’re a Seattle resident and ST3 does a good job of connecting Seattle neighborhoods*, is this admittedly ridiculous routing going to stop you from voting yes?”

      Based on what you have seen so far in ST3, are you confident that ST3 will do a good job connecting Seattle neighborhoods?

    3. The asterisk talked about “past” form. I was referring to “present” — the initial Spine presentation that forced an ST rep to appear on this blog, the poorly designed survey that seemed to game a West Seattle victory, the feedback we have gotten from ST folks that the Ballard to UW line having only one stop. Of course, you may be referring to “past” in a Faulkner-esque kind of way

    4. I agree. I really don’t think this matters for the average Seattle resident, or for the average person in general (people in Lynnwood or Bellevue don’t care). I doubt this will have much of an impact on the vote.

    5. @Martin,

      Your cavalier willingness to accept this routing based on the FW extension being “marginal already” totally misses the point. Yes, the FW extension is marginal, but that is exactly why the routing is more important. With marginal lines it is precisely the secondary issues (like TOD, redevelopment potential, urban planning, etc) that have greatest meaning.

      Stated another way, in a developed urban area like Seattle a meandering line will still pick up activity centers and reasonable walk based commute demand, but do the same thing in an underdeveloped area like FW and the situation goes from bad to worse.

      I.e., a bad routing in a urban area will likely just be bad, but a bad routing in an area like FW is likely to be really, really bad. And don’t forget, at some point the goal is to connect in Tacoma, and they should be rightly pissed that they will be saddled with a line like this.

      But I think the key here is Pete vRB. If he is against the 99 routing, then it just won’t happen.

  14. The biggest concern here to me isn’t the specific alignment, its not even the stupid idea that you can crowd in a bunch of TOD crammed in at the freeway and bussing to excuse a freeway alignment up front (rather than making up for a horrible freeway alignment after the fact) its that these same board members get the final say on any new stations in Seattle.

    If your primary alignment determination avoids population centers just to bus those same people to the rail in the middle of nowhere, you have already failed.

    Not only can they vote to prevent 130th station from coming to fruition, these same people could choose to look at any new Seattle lines as “express lines” to service the suburbs. Why have any new downtown stops at all? Why not just have Westlake straight to Ballard without stopping at all? Maybe we can skip Belltown and LQA for stops in the middle of Interbay instead? Perhaps West Seattle only needs a single stop at the Junction and no stops until Westlake as well?

    If the board members think that this freeway stop is a good investment, what’s to stop them from ignoring the voice of the citizens (again!) and giving us the worst possible kind of Ballard to West Seattle line.

    We need to mobilize a lot more to stop this kind of thing from happening again. The worst case scenario isn’t a streetcar to Ballard anymore. Its a multi-billion dollar to Ballard that doesn’t go anywhere.

    This is really disappointing.

    p.s. its really interesting to note that bussing to freeway stations seems like a great idea now to these folks but seemed like a really bad idea when Seattle was trying to mend a broken alignment near 130th station.

    1. These Very Serious Ladies and Gentlemen who comprise the Sound Transit Board I am sure are wonderful people and believe they are serving their constituents well. But they know diddly squat about how to attract transit ridership; they’ve proven it over and over in ST1 and ST2.

      The only way to stop the clueless suburban domination of Sound Transit is to vote Hell No!!! on the ballot next year, urge all your friends to do so, and ask them to do the same. If this boondoggle doesn’t get 65% in Seattle it will fail.

      To fund the plan that’s already clearly baked, North King will have to “loan” Snohomish, South King, and Pierce funds “to finish the spine properly”. And you can be sure that getting to Redmond and then building the completely-separate-bypasses-Bellevue ERC line will render poor East King “unable to repay the loan from North King at this time.” So that’s going to limit the portion of the $14.5 billion that ST will receive over the next twenty years. Maybe by as much as 20% of its total.

      So, the icing on the cake will be that the North King project list will include that multi-modal bridge SDOT wants, the transfer-all-the-time “Light Rail” line to the Alaska Junction and the loans to other “less fortunate” sub-areas. At least the D Line will run more smoothly.

      Will North King taxpayers ever be paid back for Seattle to get the urban transit it needs, say in ST4? Did you need to ask? Once the Spine is finished and Kirkland and Issaquah have Link, however uselessly, the suburban vote will be 80% “No” from henceforth.

      The Republicans will be overjoyed of course; they want it to fail. “We told you so!” But they’ve given Seattle a revolver with six bullets in the cylinder and said, “Hey, give it a spin, comrade!” It’s “lose-lose” but with a $15 billion dollar price tag.

      If it does go down in flame and the expected Initiative rebellion against the gas tax with benefits almost exclusively for King County succeeds, it’ll be a replay of Roads and Transit. Sound Transit then will be forced to present a package focusing on actual mobility enhancements and genuinely honoring Sub-Area Equity without gimmicks. Or it can choose go out of business except as a tax-and-pay-bonds-off agency.

      At that point Seattle should just raise property taxes to whatever is necessary for it to build its own infrastructure and wait for the State Supreme Court to rule it legal.

      1. I’m withholding judgment until I see the package, but yeah, assuming its a bad package, ST3 going down would be a badly-needed wakeup call.

      2. Yes, if a single dollar of North King funds goes out-of-subarea, I will actively campaign against ST3.

        Unless, I guess, ST offers something like Ballard-UW with every station listed on this blog, plus the WSTT, plus Eastside BRT and West Seattle BRT. So it’s still theoretically possible for them to win my vote.

      3. I’m with William. I’m reserving judgement, and I’m working hard to get Sound Transit to see the light. If there is hope here, it is based on the fact that the board in general deferred to the locals. We didn’t like what the locals decided, but at least they deferred to them. For Seattle, the same thing could happen, which is why it is essential that our local reps push for a set of programs that are as effective as we can make them, given the money available.

        I’m not giving up yet — I’m a competitive guy — I don’t give up until the coach pulls the starters (and then I put a towel over my head).

      4. MJ, William, Ross,

        Well, sure. If they come up with the list of projects William listed, of course vote “Yes”. Happily. But do you honestly believe that they can, let alone will? “Can” meaning literally “are able” given their preconceptions about how transit works?

        It seems to me that The Board [typed with all due reverence] has made up its mind to build Light Rail from 15th and Market (or maybe 65th) to the Alaska Junction via downtown Seattle, probably along Fourth Avenue. Whether or not SDOT can convince them to swing north along Westlake and through Uptown instead of turning west at Denny is unclear, and it’s unclear that it could even fit within the budget, wonderful as it would be.

        I personally would be almost as happy with that as a Metro 8 beginning. Maybe the curve east of Aurora and Harrison could be stacked so that eventually they could add a section looping east. We can hope they would agree to that sort of future-proofing.

      5. @Anandakos — Yeah, if I was a betting man, then I would bet against ST3 being as good as what William suggests. But at the same time, I don’t think it is a given. First of all, if Seattle comes up with good proposals, I could accept damn near anything in the suburbs. I’m not going to vote against a good Seattle proposal because a suburb is building something stupid.

        So, if I (and others like me) can convince the local leaders (Murray and O’Brien) to come up with a good plan for Seattle, then I figure we have a chance. The general rule of thumb in all these debates has been to defer to the locals. This, in fact, gives them a lot of ammunition in that regard. If we can get O’Brien and Murray to support a combination of West Seattle BRT, the WSTT and UW to Ballard light rail, then things get interesting. If someone from outside insists on West Seattle light rail and Ballard streetcars then our local reps can justifiably raise the “what’s good for goose is good for the gander” argument. How can anyone tell Seattle to build something different when we allowed Federal Way to build what they wanted?

        Like I said, I’m working hard to write a BRT proposal. I am having a hard time with the editing. So if someone wants to help, that would be great. But anyway, when I’m done, I will write O’Brien and Murray and suggest that those three projects (WSTT, West Seattle BRT and Ballard to UW light rail) be the focus for Seattle.

  15. Thinking ahead a bit… Assuming the “spine” gets recommended for ST3, how will the choice of station location at Federal Way Transit Center affect the orientation of the platform on an extension into Pierce County?

    The published alternative on the web has the platform south of FWTC, but the Amendment 3 is described as east of FWTC on 23rd Avenue (not in the published set of alternatives). That seems to be setting up returning the alignment to I-5 into Pierce County.

    1. I believe you are correct. The amendment dictates a south-facing station on 23rd Avenue S perpendicular to the transit center, ostensibly to make it easier to continue back to I-5.

      1. And nearly a block south, interestingly. Let the polloi walk! It’s good exercise.

        Of course, Seattle can’t throw stones after Mt. Baker and Husky can it?

      2. Watch the video ST created for FW-Link. It shows a subway coming off I-5, so presumably it tunnels under 320th, S.FW/PR (another stop?) and rejoins I-5,”merrily spine-ing ™ its way to Dupont” (got’s to keep up with Bellevue don’tcha know.)
        Oh, rejoice transit brothers and sisters and give me a big AMEN

    2. “Assuming”? Dude, that’s a 1:0 bet. The Board has so many “tells”, it’s probably a good idea to fold early if you want to bet on sanity.

      1. I hate to say it but I think you are right. Oh the board will have rail to the Junction and Ballard, but both lines will be “value engineered” to ensure lots of ‘spine’ money for Snohomish and South King.

        This means both will be built as cheaply as possible. Ballard gets a streetcar (or at best a MLK style alignment). There will be no new downtown tunnel. West Seattle gets a shuttle between SoDo and the Junction.

      2. I don’t think there is any chance that Seattle will spend a dime on any project outside Seattle. Seattle voters would reject that. As in, that is not only unfair, but it makes no freakin’ sense. With a strong Seattle ‘no’ vote, ST3 is toast. I just don’t think the Sound Transit board is stupid enough to suggest moving money from Seattle to the suburbs.

  16. I’m calling it now … Downtown to Ballard will be routed on I-5

    UW to Ballard will be routed on I-5

    Marysville to Comox BC will be routed on I-5

    Paine Field will be moved so it can be closer to the station on I-5

      1. And the consensus on this blog will be that people going to the UW will be confused by the similarity of the names.

    1. Final solution : ST buys I-5
      What’s the big deal anyway. It’s only a couple of stations between 200th and FWTC. No big.
      “Peddle to the metal, ball to walls, RapidRail to supplant RapidRide, We’ll get you there.”
      QED. Build a spine, and don’t sweat the little things like stations or alignments.

    2. It will all become one giant mall, and the Train to Five Malls can be renamed the I-5 Mall Parking Lot Train, serving the world’s largest mall. Suck it, Dubai!

  17. I’d encourage everyone to read the comments submitted by the various local jurisdictions on their wishes for ST3. As you can see from this decision, they’ll be the number one influence on what’s in the package. My takeaways:

    Every eastside jurisdiction is on board with Totem Lake – Issaquah after Redmond Link. I thought there’d be more concern trolling about “impacts” on the ERC, but there seems to be a consensus for it.

    The north county cities really hate the STB suggestion of SR522 transit going down 130th. 145th or bust. Shoreline is promising transit improvements on 145th though. They want to declare 145th/SR523 the HCT corridor, so presumably eventual light rail from Bothell would run that way too.

    SR99 is DOA in Everett with the promise of a fight from the city if it’s picked. Paine field is the consensus in SnoCo.

    Seattle is building the monorail green line, except with a tunnel under LQA/SLU/downtown. And possibly a new multimodal Ballard bridge, which I’ve always thought was a great idea.

    1. Where are these comments? I don’t see any links, and I can’t find them on Sound Transit’s website.

      1. Ron,

        Thanks for the link. What a bunch of selfish people in those city letters!

        “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” [Oh, and make him pay for it!]

      2. Fife gets it!!!! (page 22 of 147 of pdf)…

        “That would extend light rail from the Federal Way Transit Center area to Tacoma
        Dome Station generally following SR 99 in a primarily elevated profile or with a mix of elevated and at-grade sections.”
        As we have discussed, this needed light rail project is consistent with our 2015 Comprehensive Plan calling for a new “Fife City Center.” Both the City’s Transportation Plan and draft City Center Subarea Plan have the light rail alignment generally following SR 99 (along the 15th Street E corridor) with the station likely being located east of 54th Avenue E. Our preference for this alignment is for a light rail station to maximize ridership and benefit the City. (A light rail station located along the I-5 corridor would minimize the station’s ridership.)

      3. The problem with these suburban “city centers” and “urban centers” is they’re way behind the ball. The should have been building them in the 1990s and 2000s when they could have gotten some of the real estate bubble money. That would have put them in a stronger position to ask for Link lines. Instead they wait until now and say “We promise we’ll build them.” Part of the doubt is not just whether they’ll build them, but how large and dense they’ll really be, or whether it will just be a bunch of car-oriented development stacked on top of each other and around each other. Bellevue is building, I can’t believe it, five-lane roads on 120th and 124th. Why does it need several mini-highways to its “urban” Bel-Red district?

      4. Maybe because the design is bullshit faux-urban buildings-around-a-managed-pedestrian-pen design, and the city knows that the vast majority of future employees and residents will desire an efficient path to their ample garage parking?

    2. From what I’ve heard, Shoreline wants to widen 145th and add two more lanes to make the 145th station work.

      1. Extra lanes to allow buses to access the station and for turn pockets. And to mitigate traffic analysis showing D level intersections that limit their ambitious station TOD upzone plans. Come to a public outreach session before assuming motive. Shoreline Staff has been very active in trying to make lemonade out of bad station placement. Its the very vocal Nimby crowd that is the problem in Shoreline.

      2. RB,

        So they aren’t really “widening the street” as the original post stated but rather making pull outs. OK, that’s more reasonable; it won’t add two more lanes of traffic. Thank you for specifying.

        Any chance of getting some sort of signal priority when a bus needs to leave the bay? That is, holding both the through traffic and left turners red for a few seconds at the light behind long enough for traffic to clear and the bus to pull out. The only time there won’t be heavy traffic approaching from behind the buses is when the opposite direction is turning left.

      3. 145th has a 60 ft right of way, so there’s not much to work with. Initial public meeting focused on collecting neighborhood comments on current deficiencies in the corridor. Presentation suggested the types of improvements being explored. ped/bike, and bus priority featured prominently. Additional lanes… Not so much. P30

    3. If the 522 goes to 145th, then Lake City will lose access to the 522. Then it will really need 130th Station because otherwise a bus will have to slog through the Northgate traffic or backtrack to 145th. So how about 130th Station in exchange for rerouting the 522 to 145th.

      1. Mike,

        You are indeed a generous soul. You are assuming that the North County cities give a rodent’s hindguarters about Lake City transit; that speaks very well of you. I’m sure God/Holy Spirit/Whatever-you-might-call-Him/Her/It will smile on your application for Heaven.

        But I’m also curious; what data do you have to support that assumption?.

        You’re also assuming that they want to “barter”, but since they and their allies in the “suburban” caucus completely dominate The Board (typed with all due reverence), why would they bother?

        I would suggest that you might want to re-evaluate that position.

      2. “hindquarters” not “hindgarters”, although there might be some interest in such a garment….

      3. The greater Lake City area (roughly between 145th and 125th on Lake City) is very populous, and growing at a very good clip. As of the last census, it contained the most densely populated tract between the UW and the Canadian border (and that includes Ballard). In short, it is growing into a very densely populated region. This means that both the 145th and 125th corridor make sense for buses. What needs to be improved is all the corridors, but especially Lake City, between the two ends.

        When I sketched out a future map of the area (assuming a NE 130th station) it looked like this: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=z-ZcpzpzqRA0.k6iH2FJatoUU
        This would have very frequent service to both ends of Lake City. But it would not have a one seat ride from Lake City to Bothell. This is not ideal, since folks trying to get from the south end of Lake City to Bothell (UW for example) would have to take a two seat ride. But that doesn’t seem horrible to me.

        Meanwhile, it would probably mean fewer buses from Lake Forest Park, Bothell and Woodinville. If you skip Lake City Way, you skip a huge number of passengers. You would cut into ridership quite a bit. Thus it becomes a lot harder to justify big improvements, such as a BRT route. I could easily see a BRT route from Bothell to 125th, then west to Aurora, if not Greenwood. The part out to Bothell is actually the weakest part (the area with the fewest connections and density). So if the areas around the north end of the lake insist on 145th, just keep in mind that it might bite them in the butt. They might be left out of a very good system. A BRT line from 145th and Lake City Way to 130th and Greenwood would be very popular, and be an outstanding value. If it hooks into buses going less frequently (and much more slowly) from the north end of the lake to 145th, then so be it.

      4. Indeed Shoreline would appear to oppose a 130th station in their comments on ST3.

      5. Shoreline and the Northshore communities want the fastest route to Link possible and ‘Fuck Seattle’. Ignoring that there is not insignificant travel demand between the Northshore and Lake City for non-work trips both for drivers and transit users.

      6. Shoreline, where the 145th and 185th NIMBY residents are ready with pitchforks, and they oppose a 130th station? Tend to your own knitting!

        I made a comment similar to Chris on page 2. I’m sure the average Hwy 522 commuter is more than happy to co-opt the increased boardings created by the Lake City rider (making 522 more BRT friendly) but at the same time arrange it so they never have to see them after 145th..

    4. Can I just say, what the ?!?!?

      IF this is what’s in ST3, kill it with fire. Totem Lake to Issaquah?!?

  18. A map of the final alignment would be helpful for those of not glued to these things 24/7.

      1. Good lord, it’s like they’re trying to make it as ridiculous as possible… It’s even worse than I thought.

      2. That’s a tight turn around the school.

        That is a lot of curves and tunnels and elevated sections. They should use smaller cars travelling at a much higher speed and make it even more fun! Could add a 720 over the landfill, a splash zone in the wetlands and end with a corkscrew at Wild Waves. Costs $20 to ride, but free popcorn with transfer!

      3. Oops – that last turn isn’t really there, is it? A more gradual approach down 23rd. closer to Steele Lake? Or a more gradual approach where the $1 Theater or Marlene’s is? A stop at 320th would be right by a McDonald’s. Then what… cross back over the P&R to rejoin the 5 on to Tacoma eventually?

        Stupid question… what if the 320th Park and Ride and the High School were swapped? Would it work as an extension of the FWTC? The P&R uses a right-hand I5 exit/entrance (southbound only) while the FWTC enjoys center I5 entrances/exits. What makes the 320th. P&R so unique from the FWTC? (I’m asking because I don’t know and I’m curious.)

      4. That truly is the dumbest thing I have seen in my life.

        Congrats all around to the ST Board.

      5. Just wait until the preferred alternative on the other end of BART2 goes to Paine Field, ending at the Fantasy of Flight, and the newly constructed Fantasy of Urban Rail facility – staffed by former ST Board and Staff members. Wear good shoes, the station is a bit of a trudge to get there.

      6. I haven’t seen alignments this stupid since the private Victorian era railways, when eminent domain wasn’t available, when they had to make crazy detours to avoid “holdout landowners”.

      7. mic, I could not have said it better myself. It is quite true, it is a BART like proposal for the sake of having rapid transit without building it for high quality.

      8. I love on that graphic the note “visual impacts” where the line would run past Midway landfill.

        Like too the expense of a trench at Star Lake where there is nothing..

      9. That is insane. I can’t even fathom the level of NIMBY arse-kissing that has to go on in the ST board room to come up with something that horrible. I drew lines on an old Thomas Bros. atlas in middle school that made more sense than this.

        Star Lake is the only thing on the entire alignment on I-5 yet the line weaves back and forth and back and forth? To serve a park-and-ride surrounded by a large freeway and a wetland? With (apparently) a subway station?

        Whether or not I ever ride it (unlikely) or not, the point remains that something like this validates the “waste of taxpayer money!!!1!1!!” that all transit agencies have to deal with, and makes it incredibly unlikely that any further ST initiative ever passes…assuming this one does. We really need authority for sub-areas to set their own tax rates for their own projects so that places that need it aren’t going to be dragged down by this anchor. Just wait until people see what service to “Downtown” Bellevue and stuff like this actually ends up being–ST will be scrounging to even get anything on the ballot in the future.

        Oh, for there to be an adult in the room to stand up and say “No!” Alas, there isn’t one, at least not one with any authority.

  19. How could this mistake of epic proportions have been chosen unanimously? And how could “all metrics” favor the I-5 alignment? As far as I know, the only two metrics that favor I-5 is cost and completion time. I hate to say it, but it may take a failed ballot measure to knock some sense into Sound Transit. As a resident of Federal Way, here’s what I’m looking at if this thing goes through in its current form:

    1. The move over to I-5 from 99 suggests that they intend on making all off-peak travel along I-5 on light rail exclusively, meaning that my 577/578 off-peak will almost certainly be eliminated, and be replaced by a longer, higher fare, $3B route that takes double the time the 577 takes. It will take longer to get from Fed Way to Seattle than Tacoma by transit, even if you include the Sodo portion of route 594.

    2. Even the improved frequency doesn’t help with travel time at all, because taking Link to Seattle actually takes longer than missing the 577 and waiting 30 minutes for the next one.

    3. If I am not going to Seattle, I’m likely going to somewhere along highway 99. Too bad. Star lake station is about a mile from 99. The only thing at Star Lake station is a gas station and a park and ride. Highline College station is half a mile from Highline College, necessitating a pedestrian bridge, which ST will probably spend $25,000,000 on just like the Northgate bridge.

    4. I don’t expect route 574 to change much, although they might truncate it at Fed Way.

    If this is what it is, I honestly don’t expect to vote yes on ST3, as sad as that is. This line is unjustifiable.

    1. re 3, just for informational purposes (i.e. I don’t disagree that they will probably come up with a $25 million dollar bridge again): This bridge cost $4.5 million. http://www.greenvillesc.gov/175/The-Liberty-Bridge

      While I know bridges over freeways need longer spans and will probably have other requirements that add to the cost, I’m not sure what would make them cost 5x something like this did. I have no idea what that bridge at Husky Stadium station cost, but I wish they had been able to do something more visually attractive than what we got. This bridge is now the symbol of this small Southern city and is extremely popular despite having been built in a tea-party stronghold against the wishes of many loud, loud people.

  20. For all the “now I can’t vote for ST3” people, this alignment has very little to do with ST3.

    Highline is already in the oven for ST2. 272nd is in the ST2 plan, though unfunded, and even (especially) if ST3 fails they’ll find a way to get it done. So for ST3, you’re really voting about FWTC service, which is midway between SR99 and I-5 and therefore the one station where the alignment doesn’t much matter.

    1. “For all the “now I can’t vote for ST3″ people, this alignment has very little to do with ST3.”

      That may be true, but will voters conflate the two?

      I’d expect the number one task for ST3 supporters is to RUN away from this alignment decision

      1. I think that is what has to be done if this alignment goes through, I’d be voting no confidence on the board with this one.

        In Vancouver, they could have gotten a Broadway Subway, but that was still rejected even in the City of Vancouver.

        So why should people vote Yes in North King just because of Ballard-West Seattle.

        I think it is time to vote for quality transit not just for a specific sub area but for the entire region. Who wants to pay extra taxes just to have it used up on something that will not be well built or utilized? We have limited funds, lets use them in the best way possible.

      2. So why should people vote Yes in North King just because of Ballard-West Seattle

        Because the structure of the Sound Transit district requires that each subarea gets projects the way it wants in order to get anything done? If this is the true will of South King voters it would be suicidal for Seattle to vote down its own stuff to correct them.

      3. Martin I disagree on this one.

        We cannot just keep spending money for poor planning decisions. These decisions that lead to poor ridership in the future jeopardize the future of Sound Transit and anti-tax contingents coming through, we need to really get the most bang for the buck as possible. It is like saying build BART to Silicon Valley even though you could build a quad track passenger rail track from Oakland-San Jose for higher speed commuter trains benefiting a larger geographical area than BART tracks. That ship has sailed but BART in the Bay Area has become a money sucker. In fact, I would say parts of it should not have extended as far as they have given the technology choices. System reach should have been more fast intercity rail trains in an RER type fasion rather than the current system.

        We want transit to succeed, it will be a political fight but the short term pain of dealing with certain cities might be long term gain in seeing the value of transit and making sure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.

    2. Martin,

      Correct. Except that if the line went down SR99 some day in the future somebody at ST might wake up and realize, “Hey, look at all that juicy development potential around 220th! Let’s add a station” (which is pretty easy to do for an elevated line).

    3. Not voting for ST3 because of this is a last straw thing. For me It’s because of 1) the consistency of choosing bad alignments and 2) my loss of confidence that that issue will be fixed absent a major defeat, 3) the fact that they will do this again, no doubt, on other lines, absent some change of leadership or Board makeup that would only come about after a defeat.
      It is sad that leaders in this region won’t do the right thing until forced, but so be it. ST needs to hear unequivocally that they should build based on the best SYSTEM metrics, not the whims of suburban politicians beholden to the auto interests.

    4. I think Eric makes a good point. Every Sound Transit vote has a certain amount of wiggle room. So while you might like the proposal from a general standpoint, you still have to trust Sound Transit to do the right thing when it comes to the details. So, for example, if light rail goes from Ballard to downtown, what will the stop in lower Queen Anne be like? Will it be at Queen Anne Avenue and Mercer, thus providing a very good connection with buses, and serving the most densely populated (and lively) area, or will it serve the Seattle Center (a stop already served by the monorail)? Details matter, and this suggest that Sound Transit can’t get the details straight. Or, at best, it suggests that it lets the politicians handle the details. This might mean that Seattle would be better off, but it also might mean that Seattle would be out of luck. Either way it doesn’t inspire confidence.

      1. Obviously the downtown-Ballard line will not have a stop in lower Queen Anne at all. For speed, you know. And because it’s too difficult given the geology of the tunnel under the Ship Canal. For the same reason, the only Ballard stop will be on 85th St.

        Given Sound Transit’s record so far, would you bet against this?

  21. Sound Transit has managed, despite all odds, to create a design that is actually worse than nothing. This is the Bertha of transit projects. $3 billion for a useless piece of infrastructure made only for the sake of checking boxes off a list. Maybe the ridiculous deviations and zigzagging are their way of conflating the amount of LRT miles in the network? Exactly how many miles of the ‘spine’ will end up entirely arbitrary?

  22. Unanimous ignorance… So if we all jump off this cliff together we can fly, right?

    They just earned a NO vote on ST3, from a lifelong transit advocate whose future ability to earn a living in this region likely depends on its passage.

    And Mayor Earling, WTF??? Dude, YOUR CITY lost a Link station or 2 because of a similar decision to go up I-5 to Lynnwood instead of SR99 – So Link will miss the densest spot in South Snohomish County at Swedish Hospital/Premera and that new parking garage you permitted will be full of cars.

      1. Martin explains above that most of this alignment belongs to ST3.

        Ergo, it will be part of the compounded failure that sinks the next vote.

      2. Oh, I thought you were referring to when he wrote, “For all the “now I can’t vote for ST3″ people, this alignment has very little to do with ST3.”

      3. Zach,

        Dude, the dam has burst. The Board (typed with all due reverence) has shown itself to be clueless, craven, and car-besotted. They have no qualifications to be within one legal jurisdiction of a transit system.

        Sound Transit has lost 80% of the readership of Seattle Transit Blog in the last week. That is truly an Olympian performance. [And my wife’s nephew is Genuine Olympian, so I know “Olympian performance”].

      4. That’s not an accurate description on what happened yesterday. The governments down there unanimously didn’t want a 99 alignment, and ST couldn’t stuff an alignment down their throats. That’s totally understandable, while regrettable.

      5. Zach L –

        For those of us who have watched the machinations of the Sound Transit board, under this governance structure, this is just the latest in a long line of poor decisions.

        The individual board members have changed (many times) over the last nearly 20 years. The decisions, and they way they function as a governance board, continues to lead to sub-optimal decisions.

        Here’s a history lesson. Fourteen years ago, with Sound Transit coming apart at its seams, there was one dissenting voice on the board. It was then-King Co. Councilman Rob McKenna. Yes, he was a Republican. Yes, he supported the pro-car, anti-transit Eastside political base. But he was on the board of directors of a transit agency charged with building … transit. And you know what, rather than rubber stamping decisions, he engaged his fellow board members, questioned their positions, and urged the board to make the best decisions given the resources available.

        Ron Sims, King Co Exec and chairman of the board, tossed McKenna off at the end of his term. Sims didn’t want anyone asking questions, and didn’t like that McKenna was such a powerful opposition voice both on the King County Council and ST Board.

        In the intervening 14 years, no one on the ST Board has asked the questions of other board members, and the staff that McKenna did. Ron Sims’ move 14 years ago made it clear that dissent and questions like McKenna raised would not be tolerated. And thus, you have the board of today, where everyone will back each other’s sub-area stupidity so their own sub-area gets something equally stupid. And no one there is asking … is this the best decision for the entire system?

      6. “Sub-Area Stupidity”. I pledge forever more to use that term instead of the technically correct, but oh so bland and boring one Sound Transit’s enabling legislation uses.

      7. KH, don’t forget about Maggie Fimia, who was also a King County Councilmember and equally adamant about doing this thing right, instead of politically half-assed. She continues to be an outspoken ‘voice in the woods’ for what most here recognized as another in a long string of crappy compromises for the happy-face-crew.
        I was at a press conference at IDS 14 years ago, as then Co-Founder of TCC imploring ST to quit trying to be like BART. I grew up next to the Fremont Bart Station. The pols have so screwed the Puget Sound with sub-optimal transit forever.

  23. Holy shit. Angle lake to Kent/ Des Moines is just ridiculous. http://federalwaylink.org//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/I5-opt-2_base.jpg

    “Yes sir, I’d like from here on highway 99 to here on highway 99, not far away. How do you recommend I get there?” “Don’t take highway 99”


    I agree with Martin’s sentiment, that this isn’t about ST being anti-urban so much as it is structured to give power to regional* political interests rather than making decisions with any basis in planning or even a larger consensus.

    And how on earth do we change that? It seems like the electoral college system – sure it gives unequal representation to different parts of the country and sets up an insane electoral calculus in which most of the country’s votes don’t really matter, but, hell, it’s not like it’s going anywhere.


    *by regional, I don’t mean the puget sound region, but each official’s little piece of turf, as opposed to some broader, more integrated type of political interest.

    1. EHS,

      Thank you. That’s a very cogent analysis. It’s not the people on the board — even though I laugh at them, I’m convinced they are Good People and are truly doing what they believe their constituents want. However, if they were in charge of the Apollo Program we’d still be in Low Earth Orbit.

    2. I told my wife about all of this and how it has the folks here up in arms. I mentioned the whole TOD thing, and other considerations and so on. We both agreed that most voters couldn’t care less. She mentioned that it was understandable that the route include the college. I think so, too. But then she saw the route. She said simply “I agree, that is stupid, just make a line” (as she waved a line north to south). Without looking at the stop spacing (which is ridiculous) the TOD or other considerations, she came to the obvious conclusion that this is stupid. Experts, amateurs and those that have more important things to worry about (like my wife) all agree — this is stupid.

      I fear that lots of other voters will feel the same way. Sound Transit is in trouble when the folks that know a lot about transit (like the folks here) as well as folks that don’t know much about it think the decisions they make are stupid. Yeah, yeah, I know — blame the local politicians. Sure, but will people see it the same way when it is time to vote for the next round? I doubt it.

  24. Don’t take the following comment as a defense of Sound Transit – I have many issues with their planning and implementation of Link. First and foremost, the “complete the spine” directive is ridiculous and I see no defensible argument for going any further south than Highland Community College or North than Lynnwood using Link (Tacoma and Everett should be served by good commuter rail, but I digress).

    However, my comment is that I’m not sure I see as big a loss with the I-5 alignment over 99 as most others seem to. Don’t get me wrong – I’d prefer 99, but if you look at the map we are really talking about one actual station swap at 272nd with Star Lake over Redondo. This is obviously a negative – but if you look at the Redondo station vicinity it’s a super-sprawly middle of nowhere strip mall hellscape. Sure, you could eventually build some TOD around there, but I don’t see people scrambling to move to a station area in the middle of nowhere that’s about an hour away from Downtown Seattle and not very close to any of the region’s major job centers besides Downtown Tacoma. Look at how long it’s taken any multi-family or commercial to happen at Rainier Beach, which is obviously much closer to the core. 30-40 years down the line, of course, a lot could change, but I’m just not seeing that one station as this dramatic loss.

    As for the Community College, I agree it would be worse if the station ends up being East of I-5 (1/3 of a mile from the campus), but there’s still the possibility it could be West of I-5 and even if it does end up being East I’m still not seeing it as something to get super outraged about. (Such as, say, not having a stop at First Hill and only one stop in Capitol Hill).

    Finally, one could argue that we are ruining the chance for future infill stations along 99, but given the landscape of 99 along this route it seems doubtful there would be any justifiable new infill station happening any time in the next few decades.

    So, to summarize, I definitely would have preferred 99 and am frustrated by Sound Transit eschewing good planning and system implementation for political reasons (although it is a regional political entity governed by a regional board with heavy suburban representation), but I’m not seeing the net loss being as bad as everyone else. Also, this wouldn’t impact my vote for ST3 (I’d still vote yes) if within Seattle it at least includes grade-separated rail to Ballard and a new Downtown Transit Tunnel.

      1. Right. It’s a wasteland today. But Kent has the east side of this roadway zoned for twenty story buildings. Will they get them? Of course no one can say for sure. But you can be double damn betcha certain that if the east side is twenty stories the west side will be five to eight. And there will be more pedestrian bridges than just the one to Highline College.

      2. Also, the station location that is the best is on 30th Street South with an elevated pedestrian walkway (like the one from the Coleman Dock in downtown Seattle) to the west side of SR99.

        I can’t speak for others but I think that “potential” for TOD that you put forty years in the future is the sole and only reason to be building fricking light rail down in Upper Egypt at all. If they’re just going to whiz by all the places people might someday live and work (they will NOT be cheek by jowl with the freeway, that’s for sure), then you can run a bunch of express buses for a long time for the $3 or $4 billion dollars that will be blown on this boondoggle.

        And give people better service to boot.

      3. Actually, ST Link at the margins (past SeaTac) is more expensive per passenger subsidy than the Express bus service it will replace – ala Lynnwood Station and Redmond.
        So you could just pocket the 3 Bil and and run buses forever, building your pile of cash
        … or put a match to the pile to answer Martin’s original question.

    1. The problem still is you are dilly dallying the route in and out of I-5 to where it would be best to extend it along 99 before going to I-5. I think the potential TOD stations for infill later are a lost opportunity and sure it looks like one more station on the surface at first but it could be two to three later with more ridership opportunities.

      I am not wanting to spend money on a system just to have bad money go elsewhere. Vancouver voted along a split even though they were getting a Broadway Subway. Surrey did not want LRT and it was not any more effective than their current B-Line.

    2. Just say no to the westernmost station inside the college campus. Even if it’s 17,000 students and they’d have a shorter walk to class, the station must have a good transfer to RapidRide A and a bus from Kent. You can’t just throw those overboard; otherwise there’s no way to connect between local to regional transit.

    3. I agree with most of your points and initially agreed with just about all of them. But then I started looking at this route some more, and it just looks more and more stupid. Here are a few weaknesses, other than the ones you mentioned:

      1) No station between Angle Lake and Highline Community College. This is the result of the route. If the route went down 99, then you could have a pretty good station about half way in between. You actually have one of the more densely populated areas in Federal Way right there. Pretty good bus service could integrate quite easily as well.

      2) Similarly, there is no station between Highline CC and Starlake. Again, the same reason, and again, a fairly populous area. A station around 252nd or so would be a very good one (for that area).

      I encourage everyone to look at this map, zoom in on that area, and see what I’m talking about: http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?useExisting=1&layers=302d4e6025ef41fa8d3525b7fc31963a
      Those are top five locations for the area. I mean top five between Tacoma and south Seattle (and that includes West Seattle). But somehow Link avoids those spots. It goes out of its way to avoid them. If it just went down 99 (a more direct route) then it would pick those up by default. You wouldn’t need to build stations now, necessarily, but by going to the freeway we avoid those stations forever. I guess the flip side is that without stopping to actually pick up passengers, the train will go faster. Except that …

      3) The zig-zagging makes it slow. Light rail will never be great at serving areas that are a long ways away. But it doesn’t help if in between those areas you end up curving back and forth to avoid the populous areas.

      So, yeah, I don’t think this is the worst thing that Sound Transit has ever done, and it certainly won’t make me vote against ST3. But it does make me (and lots of other people wonder) what they were thinking.

  25. I should ask this honestly: has Sound Transit made *any* good alignment decisions with regard to Link? They seem to have made more bad decisions than good.

    (1) The bus tunnel already existed. Using it is a good decision, I guess, if obvious.
    (2) The major routes were copied from Forward Thrust. Using that is a good decision, I guess, if obvious.
    (3) The Rainer Valley route was a good decision.

    Any other good decisions? I’m not seeing them. Even on the Forward Thrust routes, the individual station locations are really terrible, with the possible exception of Mercer Island and Judkins Park, which are forced by the location of the expressway bridge and tunnel.

    Sound Transit’s best alignment decision was probably the Sounder South route, and even that was largely forced by the location of the railway lines. (But they could have chosen the UP line and terminated at the Amtrak station, so I guess I have to count it as a good choice not to do those things.)

    1. Good decision? I’d say there are a few.

      On the Northgate line: 45th and Brooklyn with a station that can handle high rise overbuilds; Roosevelt station on 12th Ave instead of I-5; Northgate station with a smaller than planned garage and twice the original TOD (albeit owned by the county).

      On the Lynnwood line, the transit center and parking west if I-5 to stimulate redevelopment of Shoreline Center; at Mountlake Terrace a station east of the existing garage closer to the upzoned town center instead of a freeway station; and a Lynnwood station configured to activate the city’s land use vision and maximize surplus land for TOD.

      On East link, it’s a mixed bag but there is some good stuff. The obvious is adding a station not originally in ST2 at the Spring District to activate the city’s land use plan. They scrapped a surface parking lot at 130th and instead are turning the land over to Bellevue for ToD. At Overlake Village ST designed the station plaza to integrate with Redmond’s land use plan for the area and designed the city’s bike/ped bridge over 520. At OTC they partnered with Microsoft to provide a bike/ped connection to west campus. And in downtown Redmond (even tho not funded yet) they put the stations right where the city wanted to activate land use plans there. Hmm what else? Two firsts. The Maintenance base was unfortunate, but they are encasing in with six acres of 85-foot TOD. That has put been done anywhere in the country but New York. And ST fought and won the war to put Link in the center lanes of I-90. A huge win, with no equal in the country open terms of converting freeway lanes to transit. These good decisions are offset by a lousy downtown Bellevue station too far from the center of town and not enough stations in south Bellevue, because… Politics.

      And U-Link of course. People will say there aren’t enough stations and they are right. But the ones they are doing will be outstanding. Capitol Hill is super cool and will have 400 units of underparked housing on top. The buildings could be higher but that’s on the city and the nimbys, not ST. UW will be a game changer, and given where the university was coming from, I not sure they could have pulled off a better solution.

      Last I’d say on the initial segment, it’s hard to love the MTBaker station, but the city will fix that street mess eventually. But Beacon Hill and the other RV stations are cool and successful.

      1. “at Mountlake Terrace a station east of the existing garage closer to the upzoned town center”

        Still waiting for the upzone, and hoping it will be more than just two stories to three stories.

    2. I think the best you can say is that it could be worse. Like you said, the best thing, by far, about Link is the set of downtown stations. We are losing one, so that is bad. But it could be worse. We could have had a route up the Duwamish to SeaTac — that would have been worse. We could have built an underground line connecting Magnolia with Windermere — that would have been worse. Seriously, though, I think you have to look at what the obvious alternatives were, and assess them:

      1) Compared to Forward Thrust, I don’t think there are any good choices.

      2) There were alternatives that included more stops between downtown and the UW. Obviously they failed in this regard.

      3) Starting with SeaTac to downtown was a poor decision. Ridership there will never be as high as from Rainier Valley to the UW. One proposal was from Rainier Valley to Capitol Hill (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20010525&slug=sound25m). That probably would have had much higher initial ridership, and could have been extended a lot more easily.

      4) Most of the little choices with regards to the stations are failures. Mount Baker fails despite being very close to a lot of buses. It just doesn’t integrate well with them. The same is true in most cases.

      5) I’m not sure if Roosevelt will turn out to be a wise decision. The original choice would have saved a significant amount of money, and served both sides of the freeway. The west side (closer to Green Lake) has plenty of people. Tough to tell, but this isn’t an obvious win.

      So, yeah, I’m sure there are little decisions that it made that will turn out to be good ones, but overall, the record is really, really bad. Like the Mariners with out Felix Hernandez, they might have a few wins, but they are still really bad.

  26. Honestly, I don’t see what this offers over express buses with dedicated lanes. Nobody is going to use this outside of the peak commute, and even then, only if the express bus routes that exist now are cancelled.

    1. Yes, exactly. Three or four billion dollars for empty trains 20 hours a day. That is not a good use of the Public’s money.

  27. I can’t say I’m surprised by the vitriolic rhetoric on here, but what do you expect ST to do, pick a fight with four jurisdictions at once that they need on board for permitting? I remember the immense showdown over the proposed international boulevard alignment with Tukwila in sound move. I can’t blame ST for not wanting to repeat that fiasco.

    I’m also not convinced this alignment is that much worse on the merits than SR99. The Envision Midway project is a serious stab at real TOD for the area east 99. Roosevelt isn’t zoned for 200ft buildings, but Midway is. Putting the station in the middle of the development is reasonable planning if the college gets a pedestrian bridge. And the college acts noble about this but is, per past statements, unwilling to consider developing its massive parking lot along 99 with any sort of TOD.

    Frankly, I’m more relieved that the board is willing to accommodate the desires of local jurisdictions. Yes, suburban mayors are driven by parochial strip mall interests (although sales tax collections are serious business in a small jurisdiction). But big city mayors aren’t. What Ed and the city council want will stand a good chance of making it in ST3. Let’s focus on promoting a good urbanist outcome there instead of forming a circular firing squad.

    1. Ron,

      No, I don’t expect them to “pick a fight with four jurisdictions”. I expect them to be adults and say to their constituents, “Light Rail is not the right solution for our needs. It won’t serve enough people directly [sotto voce: especially after we’ve routed it away from anywhere with more than five people]. We’re too spread out and nobody wants to live near the density necessary to make this enormous investment worthwhile. Let’s put our heads together and figure out some way to make the express buses and BRT work for us.”

      Is that too much to ask?

      1. I agree. The best thing about this proposal is that it saved money over some of the alternatives (money that can be put into bus service). But a better proposal would have been to terminate the line sooner and save even more money.

    2. And I do agree strongly that the South 30th Street station location is the best, because of the development plan. But we could have that very station, plus one at 216th and a terminal at Ross’s bus intercept and forget about the Wile E. Coyote emptiness south of there.

    3. The Tukwila International Boulevard alignment is *still* the correct alignment (Tuwkila government was apparently run by fools), but it was worth taking the crazy detour in order to get past Tukwila to the airport.

      There is no compelling destination south of the airport which Link needs to reach — except, perhaps, Highline Community College.

      So if the mayors and city councils refuse to consider a good alignment for Link, they should get no alignment for Link at all.

      I’m comparing this situation to light rail planning in Phoenix (sprawl city in the extreme), Denver, Salt Lake City, and Portland — and Sound Transit planning *sucks*. For all the errors made by Denver, their new lines are very clearly worthwhile. Denver’s stopped building expressway lines. And their individual station locations and designs make a modicum of sense — they’re designed to be used. Phoenix is even better. And these are cities with *far worse land use*.

  28. Martin has an interesting comment above about the increased noise impacts, but another to consider is operating cost.

    If you look at the Natonal Transit Database, Region 10,

    The 2013 statistics show Link expenses being $0.70 per passenger mile. Sounder costs $0.60 per passenger mile. The express buses are down in the $0.43 per passenger mile range.

    You’d have to break it down by route, but to me it looks like the express buses may be cheaper than the equivalent trip by light rail, once you start getting out this far and with popular and frequent routes.

    What does this proposed line routing do to the operating expenses per passenger?

    1. Generally it’ll make it better. That’s the problem with that metric. Inherently biased towards moving exurban commuters. Taking 1 commuter 50 miles from gig harbor counts as much towards the ratio as much as hauling 50 commuters one mile from cap hill. By this measure, the suburban mayors desire to cut costs to go as far south as possible as soon as possible makes sense.

      1. Yes, but you have to have those passengers to begin with to accumulate those miles.

        With the express bus going away, those that are moving the long distances will be less inclined to ride.

  29. in that pdf on page 61 of 147 here’s seattle’s recommendation for downtown-ballard: downtown tunnel with underground station connection at westlake, then Westlake/denny, aurora/Harrison, Elliott trail bridge/expedia, interbay whole foods, dravus, 15th/market, 65th/15th. almost all at-grade and with new ballard bridge..

    1. It says at-grade on Elliott/15th. That’s were at-grade might be acceptable. It doesn’t say at-grade in Uptown or anywhere further south. I’m concerned about the bridge “lower than 70′” though. The lower it is the more it will open, and that would disrupt; e.g., 5-minute headways. The advantage of 70′ is it’s cheaper than 130′ and it would open only a few times a year. Would a lower bridge open several times a day?

      1. Typical recreational sailboat mast height is less than 65’, as the bulk of the fixed bridges on the intercoastal waterway have a 65′ clearance. Any lower than that and you’re increasing the amount of openings substantially.

        The problem is a 70′ bridge might require a good bit of property takings for approaches, especially if it’s going to carry GP traffic.

      2. They’d better not expect Sound Transit to pay for the entire multimodal bridge. Letting ST study it may be fine, they may be able to make it better for transit than if SDOT or another car-heavy agency designed it. But ST should pay no more than it would have paid for its own train crossing.

    2. That would be a terrible and unforgivable alignment. It would miss Belltown (the densest residential neighborhood in the State!) and put one station on the far periphery of Queen Anne, also a dense residential neighborhood with a lot of commercial and civic activity. Sorry, but that is not worth it just to get a station at Westlake and Denny.

      1. But you can get to Interbay Whole Foods in that industrial meets highway strip wasteland by Link!!!

        Id personally rather the 40 streetcar to what is proposed by SDOT. Though i still most want to see Option D. With all the crap alignments and savings from those we should now be able to afford Option D. However the all these lines desiged by politicans will assure a piss poor alignment for this Im sure too. MLK Rainier Valley style at grade running on Elliott that maintains left turns and designed for full freight movements you can be sure, this can be like Portland’s new Milwaukie line that does a fantastic job serving industrial SE Portland at grade and designed first and foremost for truck movements.

    3. Also, how exactly does SDOT expect Sound Transit to tunnel under 4th, 5th, or 6th Avenue if they want to go from Westlake station to Westlake and Denny and then to Harrison and Aurora?

  30. I watched the video last night (starting from the point Zach mentioned), and I’d urge everyone to do so. There’s a disconnect between some of the comments here (“How could they do something so stupidly anti-urban?”) and many of the board comments, who feel like they are being sensitive to urban-village potential and that the cities know better than they do about the cities’ growth plans.

    They also say repeatedly that this is not the final alignment, and that their yes votes are contingent on that. This is basically to choose some avenues for further research, not to be a final decision. Several boardmembers said they feel that they don’t have enough information at this time to make a decision, and asked the staff for more details on things like how effective pedestrian bridges would be (at 240th and 272nd), what the impacts of the zigzagging would be (to travel time, cost, and the guideway going through designated TOD lots).

    As Martin said, if we assume no more than three stations, then 272nd is the only one that’s dubiously far from its activity center. And as I’ve said before, what matters is where the stations are, not how the train goes between the stations. The in-between part just needs to be reasonably straight and not have grade crossings. Of course the zigzagging is not straight, but the question revolves around how bad is it. One boardmember said, “It’s only four blocks between 99 and I-5 in some places”, and one of those places is north of 240th where the KDM station is proposed.

    Since STB is trying to hire an investigative reporter paid by donations, I’d like to see investigative reporting over the next year on what the cities are doing with their urban-village opportunities on 99, and to prod them on why can’t they do more. Why do they think a 99 alignment would ruin it so much (I’d consider highly-visible HCT an asset or amenity). What do the cities want for east-west transit to the stations, and how willing are they to assign transit lanes for it? Can Federal Way do something about the low-density no-man’s land on 272nd, or is it going to dig in its heels and say the existing uses are sacrosanct? Are there any opportunities for continuous medium-density rather than tiny islands of it, and what would it take for the cities to do that on 99?

    And most crucially, when will the cities start looking at how navigable they are for people who don’t drive at all during the week, as opposed to those who drive for most of their non-work trips or non-Seattle trips. If you talk about “transit-dependent riders” and “choice riders”; that’s what it means, but these four suburbs are completely not designed that way. We need a lot of destinations and housing within walking distance of certain stations and each other, over several square blocks, not just some. The reason Capitol Hill and the U-District work so well is that, for instance, you have a choice of several supermarkets and natural-food stores in several directions within walking distance. It’s like several 10-minute walk circles back to back and in a square. Even if only one of them has a station, if you live within the conglomoration you can walk to several of them. Getting to the station only matters when you’re going out of the area, but the fact that there’s so much in the area means that you don’t want to or need to as much. This is what we want the suburbs to have, somewhere, please.

    Also, again, the 240th station needs to consider not just Highline students and TOD residents, but people transferring from RapidRide A, a Kent bus, and a Des Moines bus. It has to work for all of them, and most importantly the transferers, for the good of the whole transit network.

    1. Mike – great post. You should re-post this comment on the thread for today’s post by Martin..

    2. “many of the board comments, who feel like they are being sensitive to urban-village potential and that the cities know better than they do about the cities’ growth plans.”

      This indicates that the board is loaded with total incompetents who should be removed. Immediately.

      RossB has made the most important point: this awful alignment is specifically bypassing already-dense areas with urban-village characteristics. Forget delusional “growth plans”, *this makes no sense*.

  31. And those underpasses for arterial crossings to avoid grade crossings: that’s what MLK needs! Why were we never given that option? We were just told that a tunnel was too expensive so it had to be surface with grade crossings. But this is the best of both worlds, and it’s also being done in north Seattle. So why wasn’t it considered for MLK, and how can we retrofit it now? ST needs to put this in its long-term plan and consider it as a project. Not necessarily with the train diving under the cross streets; it could be the cross streets going under or over the rail line. But at least something along those lines.

    1. How much more expensive is a tunnel vs elevated? I know communities hate elevated in general…but I think with some beautification projects, it could become an endearing part of the community.

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