The closest option to the Board's preferred alignment. The Kent/Des Moines station would likely be closer to 30th Ave and orientation of the Federal Way Transit Center is undecided.
The closest option to the Board’s preferred alignment. The Kent/Des Moines station would likely be closer to 30th Ave and orientation of the Federal Way Transit Center is undecided.

Sound Transit’s decision about the Federal Way alignment is not what we would hope. In fifty years no one will care at all what the construction impacts were along 99, but will care at least a bit about the noise generated by all the train’s unnecessary turns. They’ll marvel at the train’s torturous routing south of Rainier Beach, and perhaps (incorrectly) blame lamentably long travel times on it. Most importantly, they will probably care a lot about the difficulty of finding housing close to high-quality transit, and would have liked the extra few hundred such units we might have had in Federal Way. But any process with a lot of democracy in it (and Sound Transit’s process certainly does) will shortchange future voters for present ones, absent extraordinary vision from the people in charge.

It’s natural to have a negative emotional reaction to a decision so contrary to well-understood transit planning principles. It’s very frustrating for studies to agree with experts in indicating the right course of action, and have leaders ignore it for largely petty and shortsighted reasons. However, a few observations are in order.

1. This is about Sound Transit 2, not ST3. There are three stops. Highline CC is funded and scheduled to open in 2023. S. 272nd St is in the ST2 plan but unfunded, and regardless of any ST3 vote the agency will probably find the money somewhere. Federal Way Transit Center (FWTC) would be ST3, but as it’s between SR99 and I-5 the direction of approach isn’t of much consequence. So aside from slightly reduced demand generators for points further South, and a somewhat harder argument for Link to follow SR99 to Tacoma, this has no impact on ST3 at all.

2. It’s mostly about one station.  With the amendments, the Highline station moves perhaps 1/8 of a mile further from the college, and in the thick of Kent’s planned upzone. Approaching FWTC from the East instead of West has few obvious consequences. It’s serving the park-and-ride at S. 272nd and I-5, hemmed in by a wetland and the freeway, that punts signficant development potential. This is regrettable, but perhaps not grounds to declare the whole program a failure.

On the other hand, an I-5 routing also forgoes the possibility of additional infill stations as the area develops.

3. This is consistent with past dynamics. No one really wants elevated sections near their property, especially if it doesn’t come with direct station access. And in fact virtually all of ST’s planned or built elevated track to date has been shunted next to freeways, airports, or industrial wastelands, for better or worse. You may recall the gyrations trying to get the ill-fated Seattle Monorail through Belltown. So this isn’t just a quirk at Des Moines City Hall.

4. Interest groups drive service priorities. Zach already pointed this out, but it’s worth elaborating.

It’s no accident that Ballard and West Seattle are on everyone’s lips. For various reasons West Seattle has a distinct political identity, at least one focused pressure group arguing for investment, and various West Seattle-based leaders naturally sympathetic to its peculiar transportation problems. For all the sincere interest Seattle Subway has in regionwide goals, it’s clear that much of its membership is focused on decent service to Ballard. Meanwhile, there is no “Denny Subway Association” pushing for a line there, despite its merits, and it shows.

Down in South King County, local political leaders will be spearheading the message to vote yes on ST3, and managing the permitting process that often tortures Sound Transit. From both a campaign and a project management perspective, their buy-in is crucial. If the price is moving Highline Station 1/8 mile, sacrificing TOD at 272nd, and meanwhile saving a few hundred million bucks, I’m not surprised that the ST board made that trade.

If the South King electorate was dominated by STB readers and Jarrett Walker acolytes, I’d be worried about the political fallout. If it were, these city halls would anyway have had a different position. As it is, I think the electorate is getting what it wants.

5. Project Savings. Many analysts would say that any alignment to Federal Way is at best of middling merit. $300m diverted elsewhere in South King could do a lot of good. Most obviously, South Sounder is very successful and could use more investment. My personal favorite is Burien/Renton BRT – basically, fixing the F Line through some road projects. But there will be pressure to instead use the funds for the even less meritorious extension to Tacoma, which in effect shifts resources to do stuff beyond the Tacoma Dome. It’ll be an interesting battle for South King cities.

195 Replies to “Implications of a Bad Route to Federal Way”

    1. Also, TOD doesn’t just happen when you build transit somewhere. TOD “potential” doesn’t mean TOD “will happen”. It requires cooperation from several levels of government in the area (which don’t cooperate) and harmonization of their respective regional/local growth strategies (which don’t exist).

      On top of that, you’d need a developer that has a business case for building something that’s relatively far from a large city center, and let’s face it (with or without transit) they’re concentrating their efforts in Seattle/Bellevue/Redmond/Issaquah area because that’s where the demand is.

      Don’t expect that by simply putting light rail down SR 99, TOD would be popping up all over the place. There are many other factors that have to fall into place. Many of those just aren’t there and it’s outside of ST’s control.

      I bet Sound Transit knows all of this. They have to deal with a political environment that’s telling them “we want light rail, but don’t put it anywhere close to us”. That’s why ST is completely fine keeping this area a pass-through community.

      1. We’re in a very large growth boom that will eventually trickle down to south King County and already is. Rents started going up in south King County a year or two ago, which means the housing supply is tightening. Developers will go to the easiest place where they’ll have the least hassle, which means 99. Most residents highest priority is keeping growth out of single-family areas. so they’ll channel state-mandated growth targets to as few areas as possible. The immediate development will continue the bedroom-community tradition, and housing for those working in local industries, but if the growth and regional prosperity continue (prosperity for some, of course), it will eventually lead to new businesses in the south county. Not big-name large companies, and not in the tech sector, but other companies. Mostly small ones, some of them industrial, some of them startups by current south county residents. Most of them you won’t even realize they’re there, because they’re small companies, fitting into any building niche they may find.

      2. Developers will go to places where:

        1. The current land value isn’t as high as what the land value could be (they want to capture land value growth benefits). It’s not so much what the land value currently is or who it serves. It’s the return that the developers can get from it. These are simply higher in the core Seattle/Bellevue area because that’s where the most activities, infrastructure and people are and it’s also where people want to move.

        2. There is a political/regulatory environment and framework that makes those kinds of developments possible. Seattle and Bellevue are (relatively) pro-development. On the other hand, we’re seeing first-hand that local governments in South King County aren’t so cooperative when it comes to releasing their potential for development.

      3. Jason,

        It wouldn’t be “popping up” now. But eventually all the good places for TOD closer to the urban core will be used up and SR 99 would be a good place to plant it. There’s about a quarter mile wide strip the entire distance from the airport to Federal Way which is either ticky-tacky or essentially undeveloped. It’s “strip-blight” with a vengeance.

      4. Personally, building “TOD” solely around transit stations without the rest of the infrastructure in the neighborhood to support a true urban lifestyle is a sham, and only benefits the developers for various incentives they may get during the development process. This is one reason why the line should be on 99, as there already is enough commercial development around to help support TOD in some form without being a TOD island next to some freeway transit station.

      5. Small TOD islands aren’t ideal but they do allow a few more people to live next a frequent transit line and supermarket if they want to. Otherwise their choices are a house or apartment in a hard-to-get-to place, as most of Des Moines and Kent are.

      1. This goes to show why the neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to transit planning tends not to yield something that makes sense as a unit. Indeed, doesn’t this kinda violate what the voters approved?

        Not serving Highline College pretty much defeats the whole point of having Link go that far. Has the upzone east of Highline passed? If not, I bet future Kent City Councils end up fighting ST in court over “impacts” to what will still be a traditional neighborhood.

        It is annoying enough when people call for swervy bike trails, and say they’ve done their part for the bikers. But to see the same philosophy applied to the “transit spine” is beyond maddening. (I’m looking up at the Payne Field kink in the Everett spine, when there is no way to serve Payne Field with a single station, Payne Field already has too much free parking, and trying to do so ruins the “spine’s” utility for riders commuting between Everett and all other points south.)

        In Federal Way, everything worth serving is over on Highway 99. If there are plans for a major upzone around the parking garage, do that *before* condemning the most important station in Federal Way to be nothing but a parking garage stop with no walkshed.

      2. The Envision Midway plan passed in 2011 in anticipation of the original pre recession ST2 build out date. It’s ready to go.

      3. “This goes to show why the neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to transit planning tends not to yield something that makes sense as a unit.”

        Martin summed it up with “too much democracy”. In Canada and Europe, the authorities can do what they want and tax what they want, so they hire transit experts, get a balanced network design, and build it. But here everyone wants to be in control. Until the 1960s cities annexed the rings around them as they became populated and needed urban services. But in the 1950s “local control” became fashionable and suburbs started incorporating their own little fiefdoms. Seattle annexed to N 145th and approximately S 100th and then stopped, and Burien and Lake Forest Park and eventually Shoreline incorporated around it. The flurry of incorporations is inseparable from the other trends at the time: suburbanites saw cities as unsafe, immoral, bad schools, full of minorities, highly taxed, and corrupt political machines. In any case, the purpose of a suburb is local control over their affairs. The state looks at King County and sees political entities (cities), and that’s built into Sound Transit’s structure too. Every political entity has its own goals that benefit their little group, and they may not like what’s good for the whole. This leads directly to suburbs wanting stations but not trains. As they see it, they’re voters, this is a democracy, so they should get what they want. They’re the ones that voted to create Sound Transit, so shouldn’t it do their bidding? And they don’t know much about transit, so they’re fuzzy on the implications of routing a train along a freeway. And future residents are not yet voters; actually they’re that evil “growth” that’s threatening the real residents’ way of life.

        Being an American, I generally think it’s better to err on the side of too much democracy rather than not enough. And there’s no way the other powerful parts of society would allow it to change anyway. But this is what it leads to in the case of transit.

      4. You know, I’ve seen local democracy give *good* results. This happens when, for instance, YIMBY campaigns work. The campaign by Highline Community College to have a station right on their property apparently *didn’t* succeed, and that indicates that something is very wrong in South King County.

      5. The westernmost station location on campus is a concern. The transit market is not just the college, but transfers from the A, a Kent bus, a Des Moines bus, and the planned TOD on the east side. I’m concerned that a station inside campus would shut all the others out and harm the total regional+local transit network. One the west side of 99 is one large building (apparently college offices), then a large parking lot, then the campus itself. It’s a 2-minute walk from the closest campus building to 99. That’s the overhead everyone else would have to walk to give students a front-door station. Highline College should look at redesigning its parking lot instead. The west side of 99 is the furthest west the station should be, and I’d prefer the east side of 99.

        I also want to ensure a good transfer point for a Kent RapidRide bus, one that doesn’t involve a lot of turns and waiting at traffic lights or meandering into a campus.

  1. That useless diversion to I-5 looks really stupid and pointless. Anyone who looks at a map in 50 years will have to wonder if we were insane.

    1. Anyone pondering how they will vote on ST3 will ask the same question. This ridiculous routing may proceed without ST3, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cost votes from the entire district losing faith in ST’s ability to build a sensible light rail system.

    2. 50 years from now people will shake their heads about the misnomer “light rail”. They will also wonder how people in this region ever decided to spend tens of billions on a glorified streetcar that’s 60 miles long. 60 miles = intercity distances usually covered by real rail.

      1. Intercity trips to places without legacy rail, and where from-scratch rail is utterly unjustified by the physical build-out and ridership potential, are covered by buses.

        Yes, even in Europe.

      2. Yep, that’s the other, more egregious side of the coin — this streetcar will be running in the wilderness. Jurassic Park may have a better, i.e. more effective, more cost-efficient rail line.

      3. Yeah. At least that one worked swimmingly as a kaiten sushi restaurant for velociraptors.

      4. @d.p.

        To be fair, some of the neighborhoods that exist today and are being targeted by rail were built up around an interurban line.

        Unfortunately, our rail line is going nowhere near where the few small urban centers that grew up around the interurban. Its not even running along the interurban’s replacement (SR 99) went. Its going by the freeway.

        If the map above is accurate, the Seattle to Tacoma sounder is actually doing a far better job reaching the old interurban neighborhoods between Tacoma and Seattle than any light rail we are building will ever do.

      5. Yeah, sure. And if their growth had remained wholly concentrated around those founding settlement locations, like the compact and populous satellite villages of Europe (surrounded to this day by farmland), then we’d be having a different conversation!

        But that train has left the station. Suburban Seattle sprawled, in all directions, more sparsely even than many of our American peers and in forms that couldn’t possibly be more hostile to trunk transit.

        It doesn’t matter how many office parks you build slightly taller (never closer together, of course, because we wouldn’t want to impact the “open space”), because those new developments will still live in the sprawl, and they will still interface with the sprawl for 99.999% of trips to, from, and between them.

        History. It has consequences.

        But as you say, Kent and Auburn have at least held on to a modicum of their downtown functionality. And for commuter purposes, the legacy rail is delightfully well-suited to them. It will never matter that Sounder is no light rail, because these people will never be taking buses to trains to other trains to third trains to Burien. No way, no how, no chance. That’s the foadreaming that needs to cease.

    3. If Link were being routed along the Interurban Trail (on both the north and south sides) it would probably be worthy of support. If Link were being routed along 99, it would probably be worthy of support.

      But “Freeway Link”? What’s the point? “You can visit the choking, loud exhaust-filled wastelands next to the expressway!”

      Looking at the array of junky uses next to SR 99 in Federal Way, they would mostly be improved aesthetically by an elevated rail line running over them.

      What really gets to me is the refusal to put a station on the Highline Community College campus on the west side of SR 99, *even though they want it and have been actively lobbying for it*, and even though it would be shorter and simpler to run down SR99 from the prison to the college. But no, we must demolish mobile home parks. Doesn’t this violate the “Environmental Justice” rules about not putting all the negative impacts on the poor?

      Actually, if this were being done competently, the route would run down 24th Avenue South (which is practically vacant) and have a station at the enormous public school complex, before going east on 516 to head south to Highline Community College.

      But nooo, the lure of the freeway is too great….

      1. “What really gets to me is the refusal to put a station on the Highline Community College campus on the west side of SR 99, *

        Answered above. There’s problems with that.

  2. Plain and simple, the more we allow mayors of towns, special interest groups, communities dictate what they want in a transit route, the worse the route gets. Too much input from the wrong people. We get farther and farther away from what what the #1 goal is: move people in and out of King County quickly and effectively. Makes no sense owners of a mini marts and a teriyaki restaurants can dictate this route. The more people ST listens to the more zigs and zags we will have. Get a clue, optimize this route and future routes or no $ for you.

    1. Transit should go where the people and jobs are. Who lives or works on i5? Construction crews?

  3. For the top purposes of a transit line, like efficient passenger service and economic development, plan shown is really stupid.

    But I can think of at least three motives. One, both freeway edge and track curves will provide an elevated line with fantastic views of Mt. Rainier.

    Two, the curves will add a terrific roller coaster effect- which combined with some steep vertical sections will be totally rad. Every light rail car should have one open segment with lap bars people can grab while they hang onto their cotton candy and go “Wheeeee!”

    And three, most important from both a historic and an artistic point of view, the classic screeching of round and curved elevated steel will perfectly recreate George Gershwin’s (for real!) inspiration for “Rhapsody in Blue.”

    Only thing I can’t figure out is why the business community would stand for dumping the enormous financial prospects for fast heavy duty public transit along precisely the route long zoned for commerce.

    My guess is that whole local Chamber is chained to a radiator in one of the remaining motels, being de-programmed and brainwashed by the carnival equipment and 78 RPM record industries. And the State Parks Commission.

    So: anybody want to go in with me on a chain of cotton candy concessions? Just askin’….

    Mark Dublin

  4. The ironic thing is that in the statement, they said they don’t want to zigzag around serving every point of interest along the way.

    Folks, they are zigzagging around and serving as few points of interest as possible. How could they even say that with a straight face?

    And what’s the logic there? We can’t serve everyone, so therefore we will serve no one?? By the way, they can serve everyone, because everyone is on 99. No one is on I-5.

  5. The sad thing is that their concerns about “impacts” on SR99 really are pretty bogus. I mean, does it really matter too much if there is an elevated LR line out in front of the local Vern Fonk parking lot?

    This area is pretty heavily impacted anyhow. FW would be better off running LR elevated right down the middle of SR99 the whole way. Instead of this stupid routing, work with ST to get as much beautification and mitigation into the plan as possible. Make some real improvements to SR99 and build towards the future at the same time.

    1. “This area is pretty heavily impacted anyhow.”

      Yes, I would say that the miles of strip malls and one-story freestanding buildings behind acres of parking is itself an impact. Who ever allowed it to be built that way in the first place?

    2. Moreover, a big swath of residential housing along 200th will be significantly impacted. They might not appreciate what their elected officials just did to them.

      1. Well, it’s going to be more impacted by the extension of SR 509 so there’s that.

      2. @Anandakos — I’m sure SR 509 (the new freeway) will be built to avoid displacement and noise. It will swerve this way and that way, forcing people to slow down to 30 MPH or so, to avoid the houses or businesses in the way, right? Right?

      3. If Link is going in the 509 right of way, and 509 is not built yet, then that raises the issue of how much Link might inadvertently impact the future freeway or make it difficult to build in places. Or conversely, will the state tear down part of the track and rebuild it when they’re building the freeway, and would Link have to be interrupted in this area during it?

    3. All the angst is much ado about nothing. The alignments’ performance are the same at two of the three stations. Both of those will leverage good land use. At the third, the options are a half mile apart. Pretty much within the standard walk shed. Not a big distinction there either.

      There are two big differences. One is precluding infill stations. A lost opportunity or unrealistic to begin with? None are funded in the plan. Adding them in the future would be expensive, disprutive, and accompanied by longer travel times. Unrealistic then. The other big difference is profile. 99 is all up in the air. I-5 is half on the surface. Hence the big cost delta. If 99 was at grade, the cost difference and displacements would be even higher. The politics more strident. And travel time and ridership worse.

      25k riders is pretty good performance for segments like this nationally. With land use practically the same for both options at all three nodes and 70% of the riders in federal way, this was an easy call for ST: take the financially prudent course and reserve the avoided expenses for doing more in ST3.

      1. We’re looking at possible infill stations at Graham Street, NE 130th Street, 220th Ave SW (in Mountlake Terrace), and Boeing Access Road. They cost money but they’re not prohibitively expensive, at least if they’re not underground. The additional travel time is 30 seconds, and ST could shave that down if it were as agressive about boarding/deboarding time as some other cities.

      2. Yeah, infill stations are part of the game. They happen all the time, as well they should. They really aren’t that expensive. If push comes to shove, Seattle, even with the limited budget it has, would pay for all of them tomorrow if they needed to.

        Which is not to say that Federal Way will ever want to. But it is worth noting that these are, by the number, the most densely populated areas in Federal Way, if not the entire region (there is a small section in Kent that is far from the light rail line that is actually more populous, but that is about it). I reference the data here:

        So, basically, Link managed to avoid — not fail to swerve towards, but actually swerve away from — the most densely populated areas along a logical path. Imagine a train route from Belltown to Ballard that swerved west, first on Elliot, but then along the Magnolia (Garfield Street) bridge, along Magnolia Boulevard, past Discovery Park, then over the canal to Ballard (by the locks, at 32nd). This is that kind of line. Enjoy.

    4. Elevated down the middle of SR99 the whole way would look really nice. It makes sense to divert it further west to serve Highline Community College or the Des Moines public school compound. Or, hell, divert further west south of Federal Way, follow the power line right-of-way and head for the industrial employment of Tacoma Harbor.

      Diverting east towards I-5, however, is *insane*.

  6. ST says trips to dt Seattle will take too long and the new segment is primarily for local utility. Then they turn around and go against local utility. ST is very conflicted and doesn’t have the nads to fight nimbyism.

    1. Nah, they have a survey to back it up (n=2.8mil).
      Q. Do you prefer:
      A1. Saving $300 million on a line going down I-5, blending in seamlessly to an existing travel corridor.
      A2 Blowing $300 million on a line going down 99, which is noisy, and hugely tall and wide, making only two lousy stops between 200th and Federal Way.
      A3. None of the above, because I’m brain dead and/or don’t give a shit about how my taxes are spent.

      1. When a 3 station alignment can serve 1000’s of more daily riders, then the extra capital cost is worth it when the guide-way system is intended to last a century or more. 2000 more riders on a daily basis is nothing to sneeze about when considering alleviating daily operating subsidies

        And to answer your question, if I lived in the area then of course I want it as close to my residence as possible for convenience. But, like anybody, if my business stands to be disrupted I would be up in arms like anybody, but that is the nature of large civic projects.

  7. I know Tacoma wants light rail to Seattle. Are they prepared for how much slower than driving it will be?

    1. This circuitous route clinches it – instead of making South King a destination for people in Pierce, it’s treated as a pass through. As a resident of Tacoma, I’ve always advocated for our ST# money to be diverted to making Sounder an all day/all week service as opposed to extending Central Link down here. The 59x will always be faster in getting to Seattle than Link, so why bother? Seeing this shit alignment only reinforces my view.

    2. I will once again point out that DMU/EMU is faster than light rail is. Nevertheless, ST has never even recently studied a South King to Pierce link using DMU/EMU. ST could build a cheaper and speedier connection than they get with light rail.

      Meanwhile new rail projects in San Diego, Denver, Marin and Contra Costa are using or building this technology.

      1. Those saved seconds will be wiped out by minutes transferring between trains.

      2. Light rail IS EMU. Your light rail vehicles can go very fast. Sound Transit is building strange, slow, twisty routes for no particularly obvious reason, even while spacing the stations out far apart. ?!?

    3. For both rush hours, I-5 between SR 101 in many places is a barely-moving parking lot in both directions.

      Unless LINK goes to street car- mixed traffic, stops signs, and SDOT signals, both car and bus traffic will defeat LINK for the coveted drugged sloth award every day.

      And remember: unless ST gets reserved coal-and-giant-napalm-bomb-free track of its own, MU’s, D and E, will do about like Sounder.

      It is right, though, to think about changes to improve the comfort of the trains over LINK’s projected distances. Existing Skane Province high speed “Pogatog” regional purple streamliners have reclining seats and bathrooms in every car.

      Each car also has a glassed-off compartment for people who want a quiet ride. Might be more fair to confine passengers who don’t- but compressed space might make them louder and more obnoxious.


      1. BTW- I-5 is a salesman free car lot between SR 101 outside Olympia to Everett. At this rate, pretty sure a customs check-point will made driving even slower.


      2. You’re exaggerating.

        I can usually drive from downtown to downtown in 40 minutes. Might push an hour during commute hour. 40 minutes is current link to SeaTac time.

  8. I can’t help but wonder if there is a land owner or two who is interested in a large scale TOD or high-activity development at at least one of these stations – and somehow forcing the alignment. Where are the larger tracts of land near these stations?

  9. Martin,

    Point of clarification: Seattle Subway is interested in seeing the best possible subway system built in Seattle and don’t have any particular geographic bias. We try to argue for the best or best possible options.

    For what its worth none of our board members live in Ballard and I live in “Ballard” – north of 85th.

      1. The $65-billion Magic Accounting Trick Turd Lines Everywhere map and post from last week was most certainly not “focused on Ballard”.

      2. Haha. DP, as long as you are rolling Niles style, why not just say $200B, it sounds like more.

        Les: Prove what? You can go look at the archive of Seattle Subway articles here or go scroll our FB feed. We are currently focused on trying To influence ST3 to be bigger and better.

      3. Nice strawman, Keith, trying to paint anyone who exposes your “aha!” accounting as ludicrous as an anti-transit bogeyman.

        I’ve said what needed to be said, here:
        and here:

        That map and “plan” were embarrassing, and you should have been embarrassed to post them. That you don’t understand why makes you as much the problem as anyone on the Sound Transit board.

      4. Passing two ST plans at once in a way that favors better urban projects is far from ludicrous and our map isnt all that different from ST’s map. Ours is just better.

        I was just referring to the number you made up and are sticking to. A very Niles like move. I do not think you are anti-transit. I think you are wrong about a great many things and very insistent about them.

        We’ll have a chance to argue money soon. I’m going to work on a post about capital cost/trip in the near future.

      5. You proffered both the physical extent of the plan, and the duration of the (tripartite, un-sunsetted) levy mechanisms. A rough estimate of your 140-ish miles of proposed rail is in no way difficult to extrapolate.

        You desire $60-$75 billion of funding. Own it.

        And you expect that to pass in a single vote, because — in your own words — “people see the value in rail”.

        That isn’t realpolitik. It’s foaming. Own that too..

        And yeah, your map isn’t that different from ST’s! Same old everywhere-to-everywhere no-sense-of-scale-or-precedent crap! Which is precisely why it isn’t any better!

        Why don’t you go check out Zach’s brilliant Twitter series, overlaying ST’s spinal extent upon much more populous and extensively-built cities:

        Looks asinine there. Looks asinine here too.

      6. You keep trying to hang us on “the spine.” Its an argument that doesnt really hold water. The spine is happening with or without us.

        We’re trying to use ST’s political mechanism to get better outcomes where possible. This article is an excellent example of a battle we had no ability to influence.

        You keep zipping past the things you like about what we are advocating to complain about the parts you don’t like – ignoring completely that your favorite parts don’t happen in the business as usual ST3.

        You don’t have a clear idea of what this map would cost locally and neither do we. Parts of it havent been studied yet and there will be federal grants. It safe to say that, in current dollars, it would be far less than $60B though.

      7. Your map goes to Issaquah and to Totem Lake. It goes to Woodinville. It goes to North Everett and South Tacoma. It goes to Renton via Burien and the no man’s land south of White Center, and via yet more malls.

        And it isn’t even all that urban, anyway. It snakes through South Park and Interbay and freaking Holman Road. It pretends the various stupid Junctions are more all-day vibrant and in-demand and growing faster than First Hill or even upper Queen Anne Ave. (Demonstrable untrue. Yes, I’m including Alaska.)

        It’s actually worse than ST’s map, because you’ve doubled the cluelessness… and doubled the cost!

        The “spine” is not happening, because it is egregiously stupid and the next round of voting will kill it dead. Zach’s “idiocy transposed” maps took him all of 5 seconds to make. Do you really think this region is going to approve $15 billion for the next extension nonsense without so much as a peep from the real world?

        But this is all falling on deaf ears. If you can’t see that your map contains just as much retardation as the “spine” itself — likely in the form of sops to suburban teenagers sitting at your own brainstorm table, making you as bad as any ST route mapper — then you don’t know jack about transportation and mobility. I wouldn’t give you a dime for your contributions, never mind billions.

        Maybe in yet another generation Seattle will have grown up enough to consider consulting people with sense when important outcomes are at stake. We can stick a fork in this generation’s chance.

      8. And why the fuck would there be federal grants on anything this unprecedented in its badness?

        Garbage assumptions. Garbage expectations. Garbage results.

        Get out of your bubble, Keith, because it is killing your project.

      9. And it’s safe to say it would be more than $60 billion. 140 miles. Bridges and tunnels everywhere. A complete “8” subway (3x the length of the Ballard Spur). From-scratch digging downtown.

        $60 billion is likely a low-ball. But you’re right that we can’t know for sure — because this much “OMGRAIL”, with virtually no existing ROW, is unprecedented in any sparse mid-sized city in the world!

        That’s why yours is the outlandish position, and mine is not.


        But sure. Keep claiming that the thing you want to pass a $15 billion (plus interest) levy on and also extend indefinitely the prior $25-ish billion (plus extended interest) worth of levies for… keep claiming that it’s fiscally “low-impact”. Be my guest.

      10. I just want to say the magic accounting trick (“If we just don’t roll off the taxes, we could START building these other lines in like 30 years. GUYS GET READY! “) is just ludicrous. My neice was born on Tuesday. She’ll be at least 40 by the time that accounting trick gets any transit stations opened.

      11. [ad hom]

        The spine is going to happen in the reality that the rest of us live in. It doesn’t matter how much Seattle grassroot movements you create, it doesn’t matter how much you’re going to cry about it: it’s going to happen.

        Instead, do something productive with that fact-of-the-universe and advocate for a huge package that allows that fact-of-the-universe to happen in exchange for great lines in our city.

        You seem to think Seattle Subway is for the spine concept, while they’re really for great lines in Seattle to the extent Washington State politics allows us.

      12. The spine is dead when the next vote crashes and burns. And you guys are doing your best to ensure that happens in the most dramatic fashion, and with no back-up plan.

        I’m not a Seattle lifer, but I’ve been here longer than you’ve been a so-called adult. I may be STB’s perpetual thorn, but I’m also this blog’s Cassandra.

        Every terrible ST routing and indifference to station placement? I’ve predicted it. Ignoring its own studies to push ineffective WS lines and Ballard radial cheapouts? Called that too. Shittastic SLUT ridership and the total disaster that is the FHSC alignment? Called those before the first shovels hit the ground.

        And now, I’m predicting that reality will shut down the stupid 65-mile train to nowhere on which you’ve based your entire premise of regional transit truisms.

        I can’t wait to send my “I told you so”s.

      13. Gentlemen, gentleman, please! I’m going to have to ask you to take this outside. :)

        Seriously, though, it reminds me of an argument I had recently at a bar with my son in law (a great guy). It concerned the Greek financial crisis, and whether Germany owed them (and the rest of the world) a moral debt, given how we bailed their ass out after WW II. He mentioned that the war was caused in large part by the fact that we screwed Germany after the Great War. Round and round we went, until we came back to bailing out Greece, and we both agreed that Germany should bail out Greece.

        So, in essence, we argued a minor point even though we agreed on the important things. You guys are doing the same thing here. I personally find the Seattle Subway map silly. I think it is unrealistic, and focuses way too much on the suburbs. But it really doesn’t matter. Really. What matters next is ST3. That is it. As much as folks want to look at the long range picture, recent events (like this one) show that Sound Transit struggles even with day to day decisions. If you can’t make a decent line from one station on SR 99 to another station on SR 99 (here’s a hint, don’t go miles out of your way to avoid the most densely populated areas) then it is crazy to think they will look at a huge map of subways everywhere and think that is the solution.

        So, if I can make a suggestion: Focus on ST3. Focus on Seattle. I disagree with the idea that “the spine is happening with or without us”. For the spine to be extended, board members have to recommend it and voters in the area need to approve it. I personally would recommend that they don’t, but it isn’t my fight. What I want to see — what I am fighting for — is a good set of plans for Seattle. Of course I want good transit everywhere, but if Kansas City proposes something stupid, I’m not going to write a letter to the editor. The same goes for Federal Way and Everett.

        There are several possibilities with ST3. Sound Transit could propose something good for Seattle — something appropriate — something that Seattle Subway has already written about and supported. I’m talking about WSTT and Ballard to UW light rail. Add a little West Seattle BRT along with some infill stations and you have a great plan that even cynics like d. p. will support (enthusiastically, I might add). If Sound Transit does that, then it will pass in Seattle. If they do the opposite, then it will fail both in Seattle and the region as a whole. You can’t have a package with lukewarm support in Seattle and expect to get enough votes in the suburbs to make up for that, no matter what you propose for their areas.

        So, assuming they proposed something decent for Seattle, that leaves a couple more possibilities. Either it passes this time, or it passes in Seattle, but fails outside it. If it passes, then either the stupid spine keeps going (whatever) or they actually came up with an appropriate plan for their area (buses). Either way, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. If it fails, then two things happen. First, we fight for independence. We fight for the right to tax ourselves so that we can deliver something we want (much like we did with the Metro bus addition). Meanwhile, folks in the suburbs either ask for something different (which is quite likely if they were asked to extend the spine) or simply ask to be left alone. Maybe folks down there don’t want that much transit. Fair enough — again, not my fight.

        The most important thing for Seattle Subway to do, right now, is focus on the Seattle plans for ST3. Everything else will play itself out. Suggest alternatives (like folks have here) but ultimately, don’t freak out about it.

      14. Also, what Andrew said.

        Congrats on your new unclehood, Andrew. May your niece grow up to reject the insanity that passes for “common wisdom” in this town. Or to escape to college and never come back.

      15. And Ross, I appreciate your even-handedness and positive attitude.

        But you know what? I’m not sure we are all on the same side here. I keep wanting to believe we are, but then these kids come back with another ludicrous overreach (backed by equally ludicrous “truisms”), and my faith is undermined anew.

        Fundamentally, I want smart, targeted investments to make mobility in this town finally happen, for the purposes and in the places where such mobility is at all enabled by past and present land-use decisions.

        Seattle Subway wants a bunch of trains everywhere. Because rail — automated rail, no less! — snaking past Morgan Junction or into Woodinville wine country will make them feel super fucking slick and futuristic urbane (or something).

        Cargo culting is not the side I’m on. And it shouldn’t be endorsed or euphemized. Sorry.

      16. Haha – Les. Rolling out the first article about us! Whats interesting is that was way back when we thought we would need to run a engineering measure to get anywhere on any remotely favorable timeline.

        Here we are a couple years later and there will be measure next year. I honestly have no idea what you mean by ST “forcing our hand” – we win some battles and we lose some. We are winning more than we lose of late.

        DP – We have said over and over that we are not married to a particular line. The Renton extension, for example, could be configured a bit differently. The yellow line plus the renton extension was studied in the South King study. It was clearlt superior to any West Seattle option on $/rider, FWIW.

        You keep calling me a foamer, but you’ve really convinced yourself of some things that don’t match the information we have from ST’s study work. You don’t think Ballard/UW would rate Federal funding? How about SLU/CD or a new DT tunnel? As much as you get tird into a knot over the Everett extension the $/rider projection is really good.

        Andrew – Our point is that its will be faster and better to go bigger in one measure. But these projects will take a long time to build. No one denies that – its really not something we have control of.

      17. The $/rider all the way to Everett is better than Seattle-Bellevue? Which qualified for $0 in Federal support?

        What if you recalculate, without the 74% PSRC growth that ain’t going to freaking happen. (You can subtract the wasteland-to-paradise metamorphosis predicted for Lynnwood too.)

        There are exactly two segments in your proposal that would earn Federal money: Ballard-UW, and the Denny part of the 8. The latter of which isn’t truly on the table.

        So at best you’ve got $1-$2 billion in government support on your $60 billion map. Woot! Woot!

      18. And you keep denying your foamer mantle. But when pressed, your overreach justification invariably boils down to “people see the value in RAIL! because RAIL! no matter where it goes RAIL! automated RAIL! futuristic RAIL! RRRRAAAAIIIIIILLLLLL!!!!!”

        I call like I see.

      19. I’m evidently more of an adult than you because I can be civil in posts on the internet and don’t get hyper defensive when criticized.

        Remember when you rejected the ST3 polling that specifically showed you that you’re wrong? People are 70% Yes on ST3 even after costs are discussed. You reject that poll out of hand because it doesn’t jive with your preconceived notions.

        Transportation is the number one concern to the Seattle area voter. ST3 is going to pass. Let’s work together to pass a great package within the realistic political guidelines and bring Seattle’s transportation through the 22nd century.

      20. Hooray for push-polling.

        General approval for a large package (wording implied State support when the package grew in size, when the reality turned out to be State theft) has no bearing on what people do at the ballot box, when the personal costs and the value to their lives (or lack thereof) is more readily apparent.

        ST3 is toast. Good riddance to the spine.

        And decorum-in-vain-pursuit-of-consensus is no marker of maturity. It is, in fact, how we’ve gotten decades of insane policies in this state. Transportation, housing, tax policy… rotten to the core, and yet every possible fix is a 3rd rail, because “consensus”.

        I’ll take less politesse in favor of getting useful things done and telling the holders of moronic ideas to fuck off, any day of the week.

      21. But these projects will take a long time to build

        It takes a long time to build because it takes a long time to raise the money, it’s the same problem.

      22. It seems a fundamental difference in philosophy is that Seattle Subway wants to build on spec, while DP is concerned with targeted but quality rail investments based on past and present land use.

        I should clarify that Seattle Subway wants quality rail
        investments in key places too but also wants to build on spec.

        I actually don’t see as big of an issue with the Seattle Subway map, but I wish they had a clear prioritization system to indicate which lines they think need to be built first. I can accept some (not all) of the spec lines but only if it’s clear they are lower tiered priorities.

      23. @d. p. — Yeah, as I said, Seattle Subway’s map is silly. Downright ridiculous. So what? Really, so what? We are nowhere near building any of it, so I really don’t care. They have proposed similar silly maps in the past. They change over time and it really doesn’t matter. So far as I can tell, Seattle Subway has never really pushed for it. To say they are rail fetishists is simply not true. To say they can’t come up with realistic solutions is also not true. I could care less what their “grand vision” looks like, because it changes every few months, and will never come to pass. On the other hand, they are the ones that wrote this:

        That’s not a blog post or a website page or even a feature on an alternative weekly. That is an article on the biggest, most important newspaper in the state. It makes the case — very well — that sometimes rail isn’t the answer. It makes a superb case for another transit tunnel that will contain, at least initially, a lot of buses. This is by far the biggest thing that Seattle Subway has done. I can’t think of any press release or outreach campaign that comes close to this. This, so far, is their moment in the sun. This is their chance to speak to the world, and what did they say? We need more bus focused infrastructure!

        Again, the key is ST3. As much as others (including Seattle Subway) want Sound Transit to come up with a grand plan, executed in stages, that just isn’t going to happen. What is important is what Seattle Subway (and others) want for ST3, so that they might have an influence on what Sound Transit proposes. There is a fair number of people here that want the following for Seattle:

        1) WSTT
        2) UW to Ballard Light Rail
        3) BRT improvements on West Seattle
        4) Cheap minor improvements like infill stations and pedestrian bridges

        If Seattle Subway proposes the projects listed above for ST3, then I will be thrilled, and won’t care what their “long range plans” say, anymore than I ever cared about the nickname for the Seattle basketball team.* Either way I’ll cheer them on.

        * SuperSonics makes no sense — Boeing never built a supersonic airplane.

      24. I actually don’t see as big of an issue with the Seattle Subway map, but I wish they had a clear prioritization system to indicate which lines they think need to be built first. I can accept some (not all) of the spec lines but only if it’s clear they are lower tiered priorities.

        I agree. I think there are several things they could do:

        1) Focus on Seattle. I keep saying this, but as long as Seattle Subway keeps adding lines in the suburbs, things get silly. It just magnifies the problem (and it is a tough problem) many times over.

        2) Include BRT. Vancouver is by far the best model for Seattle, and their “subway” map has BRT (

        3) Include the other bus routes. This gets complicated, of course, but consider that Vancouver also puts out a frequent transit map, that shows a lot more routes ( This is what people ride in Vancouver. Not just the trains, not just the trains and BRT, but all of this. Since SkyTrain is well under half the ridership, my guess is that most of the ridership is shown on this page (and not on the other map). Obviously it is possible that the less frequent routes make up the bulk of ridership, but I doubt it. If you wonder why Vancouver punches way above its weight (third per capita in North America behind only New York and Toronto) just check out that map.

        4) Suggest changes in stages. ST3 is the obvious next stage. But you could simply produce different maps at various stages. This gets to your point, James — setting priorities. But this is a tricky thing politically. I can understand their hesitation in doing this. You basically get people saying “wait a second, I think we should be next — don’t you know how bad the traffic is?”

        It’s great to have a long term visions, but it sets you up for disappoint (“Hey, I thought we were going to get rail”). It allows agencies to avoid doing what makes sense right now, by suggesting a fantasy program in the future (“No sense worrying how Lake City riders will get anywhere, eventually they will get light rail”). It makes realists (like d. p.) think your organization is silly. This isn’t silly: This isn’t silly: That is as much Seattle Subway as anything else, and it is a dead serious, quite realistic, excellent bang for the buck set of proposals. This is why I think Seattle Subway should just stop worrying about Futurama rail lines connecting far flung deserted suburbs, and worry about what comes next for Seattle.

      25. Hooray for push-polling.

        Do you have any evidence of this besides the fact that the results don’t match up with your ideology? Same polling company, same basic questions, and a potential ST3 is polling higher now than ST2 was in this stage of it’s development.

        Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. Just b/c you don’t like what the facts show doesn’t mean you can just toss them out for… reasons.

      26. 1) Does traffic suck? ___Yes ___No
        2) Would you appreciate an alternative to traffic? ___Yes ___No
        3) Does more transit sound like a hunky-dory idea to you, in the broadest possible sense? ___Yes ___No
        4) Especially without having to consider pesky details and caveats, like usefulness or access? ___Yes ___No
        5) Also, what if money fell from the sky? That would be nice, wouldn’t it? ___Yes ___No

        I would remind you, Matt, that an equally recent poll of the greater-greater-metro area — though equally problematic on the basis of its excessively broad boundaries — asked residents what it would take to get them out of personal vehicles on a daily basis. For something like 90% of respondents, the answer was “nothing will ever get me out of my car.”

        Pretend all you want, but their is no great ideological consensus in our region for trains in the sprawl.

      27. And Ross, I’ll keep my reply brief, because I am finally and truly running out of fucks to give.

        As much as I appreciate your silver-lining strategy, I simply do not think it reflects the complete picture of either Seattle Subway’s membership or its leadership approach.

        The “MOAR RAIL EVERYWHERE!” pull is strong in these people. That’s just what happens when you assemble a room of neophytes, and when your youngest and most energetic foot-soldiers have arrived by bus from Woodinville and Issaquah and just know those places “need” rail because they would use it!

        It becomes hard to tell them “no”, to present them with harsh and immutable geometric equations, because they’re the ones you want running around collecting signatures. And so the maps grow more evermore fantastical, the schemes for dollars evermore elaborate, the stars you claim ability to align evermore numerous. Like a microcosm of the same deleterious “coalitions-before-quality” attitude that is sinking Sound Transit, but with college kids in a coffee shop instead. The Seattle Process fails at any level.

        Keith and Matt, unlike their underlings, are at least capable of understanding priority, and therefore advocating the kind of strategic starting points that you and I value as well. Thus the glimmers of hope to which you linked above.

        Unfortunately, they’ve been gradually drinking the Kool-Aid. No longer is it a WSTT to improve access for all. It is “RAIL!-convertible” first and foremost — the sooner, the longer, the more elaborate, the further the extensions the better. The billions and billions that would entail? We’ve got a complicated horse-trading plan, an indefinite tax extension, and an expectation of a 2-million-migrant influx for that!

        I am no longer convinced that the targeted smart mobility investments which initially inspired Keith’s involvement can be divorced from the 3-tier perma-levy and nitro-powered Duwamish-bypass bullshit that pours forth from the organization at every opportunity.

      28. I am no longer convinced that the targeted smart mobility investments which initially inspired Keith’s involvement can be divorced from the 3-tier perma-levy and nitro-powered Duwamish-bypass bullshit that pours forth from the organization at every opportunity.

        Well, I probably can’t convince you otherwise, but from where I sit, nothing much has changed. A few things to consider:

        1) The rank and file will always support the more radical approach. It is up to the powers that be to rally their support, then build something that makes more sense for everyone. $15 an hour minimum wage *now* might have screwed over quite a few tiny businesses (whose owners make far less than that) so they settle on a plan that is truly outstanding. Good job.

        2) Context matters. Politicians say all sorts of things at various moments. Saying something at a press conference is more important than saying something to a supporter. Saying something in a speech is more important than saying something in a press conference. Proposing a bill is more important than a speech.

        So far as I know, Seattle Subway has only had one article in the Seattle Times, which, for a very long time, has been the most influential newspaper in the area. This is basically the politician proposing their one and only bill. They proposed a bus tunnel.

        Yes, it says that it can be converted to a train tunnel *some day*. So what? There is nothing inherently wrong with that. If West Seattle becomes another South Lake Union, I’ll eat my hat. After enjoying that fine meal, I’ll push for light rail there. But until then, it is not worth considering, and not worth worrying about. If light rail to West Seattle is route #8 on their list, I could care less. I don’t think we will ever get past #6, so big deal.

        3) Seattle Subway wants to study things. This isn’t that bad. Really — just roll with it. How much for the most expensive champagne? Interesting — OK, I’ll have the beer. In post after post they have asked Sound Transit to *study* things. I think the studies will show the obvious (it is too expensive) but the money spent studying is really small. If nothing else, it shows folks that there are no cheap alternatives. Light rail from Sand Point to Kirkland or to West Seattle is really, really expensive. Bummer. Now, let’s move on and build something cheaper and more effective. I think that most of the projects that you think Seattle Subway is supporting are just things they want to study. I really don’t see anything wrong with that.

        I keep going back to it, but the rubber meets the road at ST3. Seattle Subway can propose something that makes sense (and that includes WSTT) or they can propose more and more rail (to areas that are inappropriate for it, like West Seattle) or they can just shut their mouth. I haven’t heard what they want for ST3, but I hope it is what makes sense. If that happens, then they can hand out as many silly mega-rail projects as they want. We will push for what makes sense now (as part of ST3) and then wait to fight over ST4 later.

      29. Much as I adore bantering with Matt, and much as I respect Keith as a well-intentioned dude, I can assure you that you’re putting way too much stock in their ability to adjudicate rational scale.

        The current Seattle Subway “plan” is to push for ST3, ST4, and ST5 at once. West Seattle, Burien, bypasses, suburb-to-suburb, and all. They are on record about that.

        And now they’re busy drawing up posts to “prove” that the cost/rider for Everett and for the southwest L-shaped spawl line are “much better than expected”.

        Whatever. I can make up random migration statistics and parrot “Magic TOD” press releases too.

        I will never have a problem with “studying things”, or even “studying things” with the gigantic PSRC asterisk and nonsense misunderstandings of basic geometry give our “studies” ±50% margins of error. But that isn’t what Seattle Subway is truly about. Seattle Subway is about millions of migrants and a ceilingless tech sector and every other delusion on the sampler platter of Seattle Exceptionalism that will somehow engender a need for 3-minute automated headways on 800-capacity trains to the middle of nowhere.

        Your silver lining is obscuring the storm of destructive insanity that has been brewing in the cloud.

      30. “Why don’t you go check out Zach’s brilliant Twitter series, overlaying ST’s spinal extent upon much more populous and extensively-built cities:”

        There’s a flaw in this that I only realized after a couple days. Only the first one is comparable because the Link line is centered on downtown, so it’s only half the distance out. NYC subway lines do the same thing: Queens to Manhattan to Brooklyn. So it’s not really “past Danbury” but from I-237 to somewhere in Jersey. That’s about twice as far out as the edge of Queens, not four times out, if the edge is near that highway between “Queens” and “Hempstead”.

  10. No matter what the alignment, the station layout will be a major factor in returning the public investment. Will these be single entry stations like Mt. Baker station or double entry stations like Columbia City? Will pedestrians have to run to cross any streets? Are pedestrian over crossings needed anywhere?

    One of my biggest concerns of SR 99 alignments was the danger for pedestrians to cross that road on foot anyway. Maybe the cost savings here can make things better for pedestrians (although I rather doubt it given ST’s terrible track record on station connectivity in other places).

    1. For Highline, hopefully one of the station exits will have a short connection to the bridge over 99. I’ve seen lots of pedestrian bridges designed without access paths in mind, and so more people jaywalk than use the bridge. Perhaps turning this stretch of 99 into a Lake City or Beacon Hill style slow zone would be a much better investment than a bridge.

    2. The current plan is to locate the stations somewhere between I-5 (which no pedestrians will cross) and SR-99 (which no pedestrians will cross), in order to absolutely minimize the number of pedestrians who will be able to get to the stations.

      Given the past record of Sound Transit, we can expect only one entrance at one end of the station, with an elaborate emergency exit at the other end which is gated and locked to prevent entry.

      The entire plan needs to be killed with fire and Sound Transit needs to get new planners. Because this is absurd.

  11. So just think, in 1945 we can take a ride on RapidRide A from Angle Lake to 240th and see what actually benefitted from not having Link “disrupt” Pacific Highway, and then we can go further to Federal Way and see what other amazing things are along the way. I wonder if it will still be strip malls and big-box stores.

    1. and with the way LINK is currently setup, I could get in-between Tacoma and Seattle faster in the 1920s than in the 2020s

  12. By calling this their “preferred alignment” does that mean they will still compare it against other alignments?

    When the Westside MAX line was being planned, they actaully had a “lets please everyone” route like this. I think it was option D for the east end tunnel portal. It had such laughably awful results in the tabulated data of the route comparison (where they have to compare ridership, operating cost, construction cost, etc.) that it lasted maybe three months.

    I hope they at least have to go hat far with the analysis of the alternatives of this. I can’t picture the actual analysis of this thing being good.

    1. “Preferred alignment” is part of the EIS process for federal grants. You designate a preferred alignment, and compare the other alternatives to it. Typically the preferred alignment is what the agency wants to build, but sometimes the agency is sure about some aspects (i.e., the alternatives are unlikely) but less sure about others (i.e., the alternatives may be just as likely). When the EIS is finished, it can build anything in the studied alternatives; it doesn’t have to stick to the then-preferred alternative. But it can’t build any alternative that hasn’t been studied, so if it comes up with a new idea, it has to study it to the same extent and add it to the EIS.

      1. Yes, but will they also include meaningful alternatives to this in their analysis?

        Or, by saying this is the preferred alignment, does it mean no meaningful all highway 99 alternative will appear in the charts?

  13. The simple truth here is that ST is trying to be both a regional mover of people and serve local urban interests. It’s doing neither very well. No fast competitive trips to auto travel on the south end and little TOD.
    This is how we get all the marginal (spelled low ridership and high cost) light rail projects, like tunnels under Bellevue with 4 hard 90 degree, wheel screeching turns, tortuous trips from Redmond to U-district via Mercer Is, and 2nd tunnels to support the mythical ridership at the Junction. The Paine Field Fantasy of Urban Transit facility is on the radar scope now, so service can’t be far behind in geologic time.

    1. When it comes to rail, ST acts like a pork-barrel builder much more than an operator focused on effectiveness and productivity. I wish that wasn’t the case but it is. Why else would this extension be a priority in the first place?

    2. I’d actually like to see ST Express lines deployed to Paine Field sooner rather than later. It would be good to start testing ridership before investing billions in serving it. We already know there is a market for riding transit between Everett and downtown Seattle.

      1. I would concur on this, utilize buses first before making a routing decision. I am still in favor of a full EMU solution from Seattle-Everett along I-5.

        If there is any spine, I think an all day rail service from Marysville-Seattle-Tacoma-DuPont would be best with a travel time of 2 hours. Everett-Seattle-Tacoma could be 90 minutes regularly (45 and 45) with 35 minute express travel times and limited stops.

        BRT should come before a massive capital investment. Although I am disappointed with current LRT routing options. There seems to be a need to connect Ash Way Park & Ride even though I think it might be best served by bus to connect at Lynnwood Transit Center with an alignment going to SR 99 via the Mukilteo Speedway.

        I am willing to fight this preferred alignment but I am curious to know if the elected leaders have open minds about this.

    3. I don’t think EastLink was ever intended for travel all the way between Redmond and the U-district. That’s what the 542 is for.

      1. The last ops plan I saw had Overlake and Redmond trains ending at either Northgate or Lynnwood. That’s a lot of dead miles just to get trains positioned for AM-inbound trips, or PM outbound trips.

      2. This is one reason I really don’t think the “East Link + Lynnwood Link” combined line will ultimately make sense. I think eventually, if UW-Ballard ever gets built, the sensibility of having one of the two lines go to Ballard and the other set of trains go to Lynnwood will eventually be clear once trains are running to Northgate.

      3. The purpose is double-frequency where it’s believed to be needed for capacity. Earlier ST had all Central Link trains terminating at Lynnwood, and East Link trains terminating at Lynnwood peak hours and Northgate off-peak. Later it extended all East Link trains to Lynnwood thinking that peak-only wasn’t enough. It’s not really about a one-seat ride from Lynnwood to Bellevue or Redmond, but about capacity north of Stadium. ST and Metro haven’t said what will happen to the 542, 545, and 271, so for now we have to assume they’ll remain. Link is clearly competitive with the 550 and 512 so they’ll be deleted/truncated, but it’s less clear if a trip “around the bend” from Bellevue to UW is competitive or reasonable to expect of people; a lot of people would say no. This may come down to seeing what ridership does after it opens. If most people take Link because it’s more frequent and it’s a train, then the buses can be deleted. If they say “No way train” and keep taking the bus because it’s faster, then it’s more likely the buses will remain.

      4. Agreed Mike. More than likely, we’ll end up with some of both, with lower frequency to save some money. So my original point was:
        “This is how we get all the marginal (spelled low ridership and high cost) light rail projects,”

    4. “The simple truth here is that ST is trying to be both a regional mover of people and serve local urban interests. It’s doing neither very well. ”

      That’s what’s so awful. I think part of the problem is that they’ve interpreted “serve local urban interests” to mean “hide the stations away from NIMBYs and slow down the route with twisty turns to avoid NIMBYs”, and interpreted “regional mover of people” to mean “don’t have enough stations”. :-P

      If “serve local urban interests” meant “have lots of stations near places with lots of people or lots of jobs” and “regional mover of people” meant “speed past the empty sections as fast as possible”, you’d get a much saner result.

  14. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Doing the downtown Bellevue alignment politics dance over and over again.

    Doing the spiritual successor of interurban lines that failed generations ago over and over again.

    Doing BART over and over again.

    Doing screaming into the void in blog comments over and over again. That’s at least something I can do something about. It’s a nice day, time to go for a run.

    1. Ha. You are a true Northwesterner. Rainiest day in months and you think it is nice day. I hear you man. I think I’ll go for a walk as well.

    2. “Doing the spiritual successor of interurban lines that failed generations ago over and over again.”

      The interurbans failed because the governments killed them. They stopped maintaining and modernizing them and built highways instead. In areas where they were maintained they’re well used: Chicago’s Metra, New York’s LIRR and Metro-North, New Jersey Transit, the West Bay Caltrain. We threw ours away.

      1. Nothing you name was an “interurban”. All were born as the same radial regional rails to the same central-city hubs that they remains today.

        The so-called “interurbans” — cheaply built dinky-trains that meandered through each outpost large and small on their way from one city to the next, taking hours and providing zero comfort — thrived only when cars were a novelty. In many cases, they thrived only when roads were a novelty.

        They’re dead for good reason.

        The last vestigial interurban on America is the line from Chicago to South Bend Airport. Past Gary, this is by far the worst-performing line in the Metra network. If the state of Indiana stopped paying for it, it would cease to exist tomorrow.

      2. You’re basically wrong about Interurbans, d.p.

        But the principles of the interurban design is not being followed by Link. The principle is:
        — run on the local, closely spaced streetcar or urban-rail network in the city (what local streetcar network?)
        — run like an intercity train outside the city

        The first round of interurbans were eating the business of the steam railroads, because they were faster — and being electricially powered, they were in many ways more comfortable. The initial round of interurban failures happened when the ‘steam’ railroads were improved to be faster on speed.

        The second round of interurban failures happened due to the collapse of the streetcar networks. The collapse of the streetcar networks was, of course, mostly due to lack of exclusive right-of-way and automobiles getting in front of them.

        The Chicago-area interurbans had acquired grade-separated downtown access. Most of the interurbans with grade-separated downtown access continued operating until the general collapse of American passenger railroads due to road subsidies. They actually routinely did better financially than the steam-operated commuter lines.

        Anyway, Link doesn’t resemble the interurban design or business model in the slightest. Actually, BART doesn’t either (if it did it would be running on Muni tracks in downtown SF). The modern incarnation of the interurban is the Karlsruhe ‘tram-train’, or the RiverLine in New Jersey.

      3. The Indiana line remains an inconsequential ridership blip. The River Line is a pointless disaster too.

        You can’t ignore 100 years of development history just because it doesn’t happen to line up with your ideologies.

        The reason the Karlsruhe model can work — the only reason — is that the (very small, mind you) cities that have adopted it are still surrounded by hinterlands whose population is 99% concentrated at the same precise outposts where the legacy lines were built 100 years ago.

        Not true of northern Indiana. Not true of south Jersey. Sure as hell not true of here.

      4. Or you can acknowledge German land use policies which encourage dense villages in those hinterlands that are walkable to the train stations. It’s fairly remarkable when you approach any German airport how there are clusters of dense neighborhoods along rail lines with green space between them. Might even be the sort of thing Jarrett Walker preaches, except it can work for streetcars, S-Bahns and interurbans. It’s nuts to try to design transit if the land use policies aren’t compatible.

      5. You’d be surprised how consistent the population patterns are in Indiana and New Jersey; the population is still concentrated around the stations along the South Shore Line route, and around the stations (mostly in the locations of old stations) on the RiverLine route. Both of those interurban lines do well enough to have long-lasting and reliable political support and decent usage.

        But as I say, those interurbans are NOT WHAT LINK IS DOING. You want to know what’s like those interurbans? Sounder South, stopping at the same old cities which had train stations 100 years ago, is like those interurbans. Link isn’t. Link running down 99 might be like those interurbans; Link as-actually-built is far worse.

        The only comparable system I can see to Link is BART — specifically the extensions of BART through the East Bay, *not* the Peninsula route which follows an old railroad route.

        And as you know well, those East Bay extensions of BART are particularly terrible.

    3. At least BART goes 80 mph rather than 55 mph like Link light rail — or an even slower 35 mph on MLK.

      1. If your urban-modeled, urban-frequencied transit system has room to get up to 80 mph, then you’ve already done it wrong.

    1. Ohm, they have a “Spine”. It runs all the way from Tacoma Mall to Everett.

    1. James,

      Sure it does. Westlake Station lies between Fourth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, so any north-south tunnel would underpass it. It would doubtless share the Mezzanine with Central Link and, north of the station, curve into Westlake’s right of way. The station box for a Fourth Avenue choice would probably have to be entirely south of Westlake’s Central Link box, because the tunnel would have to snake its way over to Westlake, perhaps under Stewart.

      1. So, are you suggesting the tunnel would only go until Westlake and then be at grade on Westlake, and then at grade along whatever route it would take to get to the Aurora & Harrison station and to Elliot/15th? That sounds like a streetcar – even worse than what I was thinking. That would definitely get a no vote from me for ST3

      2. Also, if link would run at-grade along Westlake would that mean the SLUT would cease operate?

      3. No, of course not. It would be underneath Westlake as far as Denny Way. It would have to go across the road network to get to Aurora and Harrison, but it would still be in tunnel.

    2. That’s a great catch man. I’m going to email Scott Kubly and my Seattle City Council from the 7th District to point out that Belltown ought not be missed in ST3.

      1. Is it possible for the same line to serve both Belltown and SLU? With the growth of SLU it’s hard to justify bypassing it for Belltown anymore.

    3. OK, the crazy part of what you are suggesting (or what they are suggesting) is no station between Aurora and Harrison and Expedia (Elliot and 16th). That would mean going right under lower Queen Anne (one the more dense areas of the city) but failing to put in a station. That is nuts. A station at Queen Anne Avenue and Mercer/Roy would be essential with such an alignment, at a minimum.

      Not that I prefer that over a Belltown alignment, but I would say the choice is tricky. All the more reason to support the WSTT. It doesn’t make the Sophie’s choice that this route makes. It serves both. Not that it serves South Lake Union in a great way, but then neither does the other plan. Overall, WSTT serves more areas, for a lot less money ( It also would serve as a great place holder until we build more rail (along that route) or build the Metro 8 subway (which would connect to the Uptown station).

      1. Ross – you are spot on about the Queen Anne station. What is wrong with SDOT that they would propose a stop at the Gates Foundation and 3 stops in Interbay but no stop near the center of LQA? And were talking about a line that would go right under it, as you said. If this is what is proposed for ST3 I would actively campaign against it.

      2. I should clarify – a Belltown route via something like the WSTT tunnel would be preferable to this route, but I could still support this route if there was a proper LQA station.

      3. DP keeps telling me that Uptown is not that dense and Seattle Center doesn’t generate much total ridership.

      4. Well, it’s a hell of a lot denser than the Gates campus or freaking Amgen!

        The idea of zig-zagging three times to reach from Westlake to Interbay, and not bothering to stop anywhere that the slightest modicum of activity exists, is so fundamentally ludicrous that it only becomes a fathomable outcome [ad hom]

      5. (I’m referring to LQA, of course, that overestimated but not nonexistent area of middling density and moderate activity.

        The Seattle Center is the definition of an urban vortex.)

      6. I was at the Bite last week and a lot of people were there. If a quarter of them took transit, that’s a lot of people. And I didn’t see the ones who had already left by the time I got there, or arrived in the late afternoon or evening. One of transit’s goals is to take people to large pedestrian concentrations, like ballgames, colleges, malls, and multi-purpose events centers.

      7. No, the flexibility to serve thrice-per-year event surges is one of the corollary benefits of having capacious urban transit near where such events happen to be held.

        That is — emphatically — not “the goal.

        That’s why there is no freaking subway to Coachella!

        BumberFolkBite (and 356 days of an otherwise empty expanse) is not a subway argument. There are other subway arguments for the contiguous area, but not that one.

        is not a transit argument, and

  15. Great points Martin, except you may have more readers from South King County than you realize! Especially as more low to middle income people are priced out of Seattle some may still want to retain some the anemities like public transit andd walkability that Seattle provides. There are many S King Kounty residents that actually depend on frequent bus service within walking distance. They just don’t have the collective will and clout that the business owners along the I-99 corridor possess. Once the mayors of Federal Way Way, Des Moines, and Sea-Tac came to a collective agreement of accommodating this constituency before the soon to be displaced residents along I-5, Mayor Cooke of Kent and Councilmember Upthegrove felt like they had no choice but to be in favor. The Sound Transit Board then had to follow suit. What is problematic is that nobody seems to call them out for some of the reasons they assert for favoring an I-5 alignment until after the board voted for this. For example, in last month’s board meeting Mayor Farrell cited the visual impacts and noise beside Federal Way High School as a reason not to build the alignment on 99. Despite the fact that Truman High School and Mark Twain Elementary will experience similar impacts with an I-5 alignment. Business displacements were the emphasis while residential dispacements were apparently less of a priority.

    1. Right. By the way, did anyone mention that the 509 freeway is supposed to cut through the same general area? Did the same leaders who opposed a sensible alignment down 99 oppose the freeway for the same reason (displacement and noise)?

      1. Yes, and also who is more likely to vote for ST3 to even make any expansion to the 320th possible? The people who value TOD and pedestrian access to stations? Or the businesses who want the alignment along I-5 because they view rail as a nuisance? The same logic applies to who will also ride the train.

    2. Bleh. Is there any way for the numerous residents of the dense, and obviously fairly low-income (mobile home park etc.) blocks near SR99 to complain to the Powers That Be and get these terrible routing decisions reversed?

      The fact that they ignored the pleas of Highline Community College makes me think they’re immune to public pressure.

  16. I think the strongest argument is the last one. But if we are going to save money, can’t we save even more by cutting it shorter? Just cut over to the freeway and end it there. Put up a big freeway station, with connecting HOV ramps in both directions and call it a day. That could be done (I think) at the Kent/Des Moines Park and ride. It would be a lot like Mountlake Terrace, with connecting pedestrian ramps and bidirectional HOV ramps for buses. Some of the buses from Tacoma (or other neighborhoods) go on the freeway, stop by the station, then keep going. The station then becomes a major connecting point.

    It might be even cheaper to end it farther north. This would be a new station — a big new station, but it would provide a connection with buses from the freeway. That’s probably all you need if you are looking at best bang for your buck.

    Even if it ended at Highline CC, you would save a lot more money than this plan. That would mean no Star Lake and no Federal Way Transit Center Station, but so what? A freeway station is a freeway station. You only need one. Save the money and just end at either the college or the freeway.

    1. Crap, If we only get one freeway mega-station (25,000 + cars in phase 1 auto-terminopolis), I’m voting for Mercer Island.

  17. On the other hand, an I-5 routing also forgoes the possibility of additional infill stations as the area develops.

    You forgot the value of infill stations right now. Check the old census map again ( Two things jump out at me:

    1) About half way between Angle Lake and Highline CC is a census tract that has over 16,000 people per square mile. This is block group 530330289.021, which borders 216th and 220th, along SR 99.

    2) About half way between Highline CC and Star Lake Station, there is a census tract that also has over 16,000 people per square mile. This is block group 530330290.042, which borders 252nd and 260th, along SR 99.

    Now 16,000 people per square mile won’t impress anyone from Brooklyn, Queens, or even the UW and the Central Area, but it is quite sizable for this neck of the woods. Even in parts of Seattle, it is hard to find that many census blocks bigger than that. For example, in West Seattle I found two — one in High Point, the other in White Center. For Federal Way, these are fairly important, fairly populous areas. Bus connections would be fairly good as well. But this alignment pretty much eliminates the possibility of serving them, ever. Oops.

  18. No one really wants elevated sections near their property …

    Fair enough. Another solid argument. So why not run this down the surface (Rainier Valley style)? Better yet, have a combination. From where this will be elevated anyway (around 208th) to SR 516, you could certainly run on the surface and grab similar signal priority. When you consider that this won’t run that often (let’s be realistic — the ridership this far south will never approach that of Rainier Valley, let alone Capitol Hill) then it should be easy. After clearing 516 (which should be very easy) you would be back on the ground again until the next station, around 260th. Ultimately, this would involve less elevated in non-freeway areas. Oh, I suppose it might be a few seconds slower, but then again, it would probably be about the same, since you would avoid the ridiculous back and forth that has people who have never heard of the term “TOD” scratching their heads.

    Speaking of freeways, I think it is funny to see the 509 freeway route coming through there. Just out of curiosity, is that underground through there? Because obviously you wouldn’t want to run something as noisy as a freeway through such a pristine area. I wonder if the local reps will fight the freeway and the noise and displacement that comes with it with as much fervor as they fought a natural routing for Link?

    Just kidding, we know how this will all play out. Ultimately it shows that the folks on the board have no imagination. They are focused on adding miles of track and serving farther and farther park and rides. They didn’t consider the little pockets of density that actually exist right along the logical path of the route. The train, in fact, goes way out of its way to avoid these people.

    1. The SR-99 corridor from Angle Lake to Federal Way TC is already blasted with noise every time a plane takes off from SeaTac airport. Whatever noise an elevated train is going to make is going to be negligible by comparison. The argument against SR-99 is strictly one about short-term construction impacts trumping long-term gain.

      I can kind of see the argument from a business owner’s persective – that if the short term construction impacts puts you out of business, it doesn’t make any difference whether the long-term brings more people to the area or not. But, in the long term, new businesses will open up to replace those lost during the construction, so it’s not like the area as a whole is at a loss.

      1. The whole area is already blasted with noise thanks to traffic on highway 99.

        There are ways of making elevated structures reasonably quiet. I doubt Tokyo would tolerate Chicago elevated style deafening racket on their lines.

        In fact, Tokyo has figured out how to make the space under elevated lines a hot shopping district.
        Federal Way would be good (not perfect due to the distance from anything, but still good) for this since there are already these vast tracts of parking lots over which this line could be built without really impacting much of anyone. Build a shopping district in the parking lots directly under the structure, maybe with a few nicely placed façade style building tops to help redirect the noise, and you might very well placate a few neighbors.

        Basically, take the money that you save in not building a bunch of extra zig-zags out to I-5 and back, and plunge it into urban (ok, in this case suburban) redevelopment work, and you have a line people don’t mind too much, plus you have a series of new traffic generators directly under the line.

      2. It’s easy enough to hide stations and guideway in buildings or behind buildings, or make it into an artistic complement to the rest of the landscape. The will just has to be there. Federal Way apparently doesn’t have much will for new things, it keeps sticking to 1980s style designs. We keep hearing that a large dense downtown is planned, where is a plan for it? What will be next to the suggested stations? Where will their entrances and walkways be? Where is something to mitigate the concrete-cars-and-traffic-lights hellhole on the ground? The only thing I see is a “Commons” sign. That’s a start, but how about something more now?

  19. These meandering suburban lines that stop in places that won’t allow significant population density are incredibly poor value for money.

    I don’t live near there or spend any time down there really, but South King residents are really getting a bad deal here. Did they pass ST2 there? I can’t remember, but imagine “You federal way residents are getting taxed to build some moderate-to-low-usefulness train line because people in the city and Bellevue voted for it”.

  20. I honestly don’t understand how any — let alone all — of the Sound Transit board members can look at this map and say with a straight face “this looks like a much better way to transport people than we have now. Let’s spend one-and-a-half billion dollars on it.”

    1. The diagram is not to scale in the middle section. SR 99 and I-5 are almost next to each other at Highline College. Look at an actual map to see what the alignment actually would be.

    1. Then, we start pushing for authority to do a go-it-alone approach. Seattle voters pay for Seattle projects, and if other cities don’t want to pay for their own projects, Seattle isn’t held hostage.

      1. It’s going to pass. That’s what drives d.p. so crazy. People intuitively like the Seattle subway approach of laying a DC metro/BART map over the Puget Sound.

        For every transit nerd disgusted by the sausage making of getting an alignment every jurisdiction will support, there’s ten average folks who want suburban park and ride service and see getting to Everett and Tacoma as a manifest destiny.

        With the sub area equity rule, we can get a pretty good urban metro thrown in there if SDOT is pushing good outcomes. The nihilism of ”blow it all up, these suburban alignments are terrible!” is pretty distasteful to me.

      2. With the sub area equity rule, we can get a pretty good urban metro thrown in there if SDOT is pushing good outcomes. The nihilism of ”blow it all up, these suburban alignments are terrible!” is pretty distasteful to me.

        IF we get the urban metro without having to pay the operating costs of these suburban lines, I’d say it’s worth it.

      3. That’s a pretty consequential “if”. Having seen what a Seattle-only effort that wasn’t supported by the establishment ended up in before, I’m not excited to go down that road again.

      4. Meh.

        As I said above, I’ve been the resident Cassandra on every major transit botch since I’ve lived here. The incompetent RapidRide rollout, the fruitlessness of Stubcar 1 and Suckcar 2, the failure of Countywide Prop 1, and every Sound Transit routing mistake and misplaced priority, years before they were “finalized”.

        $100 $15 billion dollars says ST3 goes down.

        What all the dreamers, the self-appointed sausage inspectors, and the silver-liners of STB need to understand is that “spec” doesn’t exist in Totem Lake and Issaquah and Woodinville. These places could blow up beyond their boosters’ wildest dreams, and long-haul light rail would remain an artifact of nonsense to them. Especially attached to an urban element so botched that it makes in-city WMATA service or the MUNI Metro look like Paris by comparison.

        Fake urbanist node in the sprawl to fake urbanist node in the sprawl is simply anathema to how subways work.

        Again, deal with it.

        The Seattle Subway map is actually worse than the “spine”, because it triples down on the same false precepts. Overlay that piece of shit on a map of any real city, and your friends in those cities will laugh you out of the room.

        This blog is now soundtracking the slow, steady march toward failure.

      5. I disagree, Ron. Subarea equity has created a very delicate structure. The suburban areas want rail, but they don’t want too much rail. They pretty much killed every rail project (including the first Sound Transit vote) until a smaller rail proposal was created. You simply have diminishing returns there. It is a completely different world than with the city.

        Let me use Snohomish County as an example. It will soon get light rail to Lynnwood. This is great. A good chunk of the county gets all that they ever wanted — a fast ride to Seattle. What does light rail to Everett give them? Not much. Those folks (the ones in Lynnwood and south) don’t go to Everett that much, and when they do, they don’t encounter much traffic (I certainly don’t). Meanwhile, the folks in Everett (or in between) get an improvement, but not much of one. Lynnwood Link will remove the worst part of their commute. So now, instead of transferring in Lynnwood, they transfer at some Everett station. Big deal. Link isn’t especially fast — it isn’t an express. So do they want to spend billions on something when they already have something that is almost as good, if not better? I don’t think so.

        But wait, they also get what every light rail plan has, better connectivity to areas in between. So now someone in Everett has better connectivity to Martha Lake. But again, these folks don’t care. It is a commuter rail transit pattern, not a light rail transit pattern. I just don’t think they want to spend the extra money.

        Now compare that to Northgate Link. You could almost say the same thing. Folks from Northgate who commute every day to downtown may miss the old 41. Except that in exchange for a somewhat slower ride, the train stops in the U-District and Capitol Hill. These are huge destinations. Lots and lost of people travel between those spots (each direction).

        What about extending light rail from Ballard to the UW? Again, this means that folks along there (and that includes folks that might take a bus that connects to there) not only have a fast route to downtown, but a fast route to the UW. That is huge. The UW is the second biggest destination in the state. So you have the opposite in the city versus in the suburbs. You have a network effect that means that (unlike commuter rail) you get more out of each addition. The fact that Link goes from the UW to Northgate (with only two stops) means that UW to Ballard is better — much better. It means that someone who wants to get from Northgate (or even Lake City) can get to Ballard (or any place between Ballard and the UW) much faster. There are huge numbers of people that do this. There just aren’t that many people who go from Martha Lake to Everett (and those that do have cars).

        Now, that example is for the relatively fast section (Everett). As noted by everyone, light rail to Tacoma is slow. Very slow. Slower than a ferry. So it is hard to expect much enthusiasm down there when you have the exact same dynamic but an even slower ride (which amplifies the effect). Light rail just doesn’t work for commuter rail.

        All of that means that you have to have really good numbers in the city (and the east side) to make up for what will obviously be a big negative vote in the suburbs. If Sound Transit seemed to on the verge of something sensible, something great, for the city, then I would feel optimistic. But at this point, it doesn’t look that way. West Seattle light rail seems like a given, and frankly, it will just kill the entire proposal. It will take so much money, and deliver so little (to the people of West Seattle and the region as a whole) that it will get some major negative press. The strongest argument amongst transit supporters will be “just support anything”. I’m sorry, but the last two proposals — with all their flaws — did not have that problem. Not even close. Those proposals were reasonable, if not obvious.

        Sound Transit needs to propose something great for Seattle, and something reasonable for the suburbs. They could do that — and I will keep pressing them to do so — but I would bet against them doing that.

      6. I agree with asdf2. it would be time for Seattle to alone take the initiative on funding rail expansion within the City limits in as many ways as possible, and not feel like they are but one car in a longer ST train. By 2025, there will be three different lines emanating beyond the Seattle city limits 5 to 10 miles to most of the important regional destinations and each will have feeder buses and lots of parking outside of the city. Seattle will almost exclusively care about new lines inside Seattle from this point on.

        On a different level, transit funding in general would need a major overhaul in the region. Given the number of voter initiatives and proposed initiatives, it increasingly leaves the appearance to the voter that transit is not managed well and thus is always asking for MORE. The more votes, the more voter frustration that local and state officials can’t figure out what to build and operate when it comes to transit. I think that an ST3 revote would likely face the same fate as ST3 would — at least until 2020 — unless it is fundamentally approached differently (like with each subarea doing an up or down vote, perhaps with a combination funding package that includes local bus operators in addition to rail construction).

  21. First, the extension to highline should be along 99, there’s no logical reason to dive back to the freeway and back to 99 again. After Highline, if they wanted to take a freeway alignment that is fine with me. They can upgrade the P&R at star lake with a garage and make it a suburban express line if they so desire.
    This also brings me to a second point, what IS LINK’s goal in life? It seems to have dual purposes right now, and before we get too far along I think it needs to be evaluated so that we do not screw ourselves in the future. I see LINK doing two things, providing a local light rail service in Seattle, and adjacent communities. I also see political pressure to extend LINK and turn it into a true interurban service from regional cores to Seattle. The Bellevue line, since it’s on a separate alignment seems to actually do this well, however I wonder how well that will work with the existing Central LINK? The North line I don’t see as TOO much a problem since it has a direct route downtown. The South Line is a different story. How will Downtown-to-Downtown commuters like slogging through the rainier valley day in and day out? Will South LINK have enough capacity to Downtown-to-Downtown traffic + local traffic? I’m assuming the 57x, and 59x buses will be eliminated to reduce duplication (and pay for the service), but will a 4 car train every 15 or so minutes be able to accommodate everyone? How will people like the increased travel times (at least on good days on the freeway) from having to slog through the rainier valley (and back and forth to the airport and back and forth for highline) every trip? I support building light rail, and I support transit however I feel that using LINK in its current form as a “regional spine” is the wrong approach due to overall slow speeds, lower capacity, and the fact that it’s been poorly designed for that role. That being said will it happen? Oh hell yes. The decision has already been made by the powers that be, all this is mere formality at this point. Time to sit back and watch the mistakes get made, the ST apologist’s apologize, the service degrade in quality and life go on.

    1. >> First, the extension to highline should be along 99, there’s no logical reason to dive back to the freeway and back to 99 again. After Highline, if they wanted to take a freeway alignment that is fine with me. They can upgrade the P&R at star lake with a garage and make it a suburban express line if they so desire.

      I agree. I think ending at the freeway (with one stop there) is fine. That would be cheaper than what they did, yet carry more people (one extra stop between Highline CC and Angle Lake and you carry more people). The freeway station should be like the Mountlake Terrace station, and allow some of the express buses to stop off and drop people off (to connect to Link for SeaTac as well as other areas) and then get back on the freeway to quickly get to Seattle.

      >> I also see political pressure to extend LINK and turn it into a true interurban service from regional cores to Seattle

      Yes, that is the problem. You really can’t get light rail to work that well as commuter rail. That is the problem. It just never adds up. Folks from a long ways away want an express. If you make lots of stops (and you will have to make lots of stops) then it just becomes too slow. You also have relatively low ridership — even the most popular commuter rail lines that do a great job of running as a cost effective express don’t have very high frequencies. This makes sense. If I’m trying to get from Tacoma to Seattle, I don’t care if I have to wait fifteen minutes. Beats being stuck in traffic. But if I’m trying to get from Ballard to Capitol Hill, which will require a transfer, then I want the trains to come along very frequently, otherwise I’m better off driving.

      So yes, it is the wrong tool for the job.

  22. I believe the model of the extension is to move people short distances from point a to b.

    For example, most people are riding light rail from Tacoma to the airport or Federal way to work in Tacoma. I doubt many people are going to use it to go all the way to Seattle for work.

    Many are using Sounder for that reason. Simply drive to the park and ride and take Sounder as it’s much faster. 12k pax a day for the south line.

    1. But will Sound Transit eliminate the current raft of express buses in favor of Light Rail? Will Sounder expansion include all day service? The latter i’m sure is a no. the other remains to be seen, however I have a gut feeling that is where the operations money for south link will come from.

  23. For me personally my bottom lines for ST3 are as follows:

    1. Grade separated rail serving Ballard
    2. No North King money used to subsidize other sub-areas.

    Given those two things I will likely vote ‘yes’. On the other hand use North King money to fund Sonohomish’s Paine Field boondoggle and stick Balard with a 40 streetcar and I will actively work for the ‘No’ campaign.

    Mind you there are many bad ideas in all the sub-areas, but if the local leaders want stupid projects and don’t insist on having Seattle’s money pay for them then, sure whatever.

    1. Well, since Snohomish County will not receive enough funds from ST3 for anything except the I-5 alignment and at the same time Everett representatives are demanding the Paine Field “kink”, funds will “have to” be loaned from North King “to complete the Spine”.

      And of course they’ll be “repaid” from the Snohomish sub-area’s ST4 funds. Of course they will.

      The same thing will happen with the Tacoma extension.

      1. Well in theory the funds for the Paine Field route could come from East King. Or the board could tell Snohomish to STFU and either come up with additional money themselves or accept an I-5 alignment.

        Not sure if extending to Tacoma would require funds from another sub-area. Pierce has a lot more money than South King or Snohomish (just not quite as much as North or East King)

      2. “Well in theory the funds for the Paine Field route could come from East King”.

        In theory, East King might have an issue with that. :)

        East King leadership is very much aware of Snohomish County’s mathematical challenges, and is on guard against subsidizing their extravagance. South King and Pierce will have their hands full with Link to Tacoma + Sounder.

        Snohomish is on its own, and needs to gracefully break the news to their voters that there is no Santa Claus over the county line.

      3. Honestly, sub-area equity might be the biggest protection we need.

        An I-5 to Everett alignment is time competitive sadly with the current buses. If we to run on SR 99, we could run it as full subway/ elevated heavy rail down through shoreline to SLU and connect in downtown Seattle before the express leg to SeaTac airport.

        Although I would rather say forget Link on the spine, let’s do EMU Sounder with a new two track 100 mph alignment with 7 stations, build a new 6 mile tunnel from King Street to Northgate. I would have stops at UW (closer to U-District), Northgate, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood TC, Ash Way, Everett Mall, terminate Everett station. Save room for infill at 130th or 145th along with a north Seattle station (Westlake or SLU). Future extension to Marysville and the Outlets potentially.

        I would then instead of Tacoma Link do the same for South Sounder, no new stations but have a feeder route using F line, extend south to DuPont and perhaps JBLM if the service could be coordinated.

        Goals would be
        35 minute limited stop express between Tacoma and Everett to Seattle
        45 minute local all stop
        1 hour from the far ends of the lines.

        These would be time competitive to taking a vehicle during most of the day which is what I would aim for. If transit is time competitive/ more convenient between 6 am and 9 pm, more people would likely ride.

  24. Maybe I’m daft, or maybe the map isn’t accurate, but isn’t the route shown from Angle Lake to Kent/Des Moines over twice as far as the direct route would be? That would imply a permanent increase in operating cost, increase in energy use, increase in travel time, and reduction in ridership forever. Much more than any one-time capital cost saving. I hope that decision can be overturned.

    1. No one is talking about how 99 and I-5 are just a few hundred feet from each other around Highline College. The diagrams are not to scale!

      If the alignment map was to scale, the different alignments would look very close to each other. Perhaps some posters wouldn’t be so outraged if the diagrams were to scale.

      1. Lisa: I think Godzilla is bigger than Superman.
        Homer: Pfft, it’s not to scale!

        Seriously, though, 99 and I-5 are literally right next to each other around the Midway area. I can understand complaints about the whole idea of going to Federal Way, but this minor deviation isn’t worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

      2. The most dense census tracts in the area are to the east of the school complex containing Mt. Rainer High School. Deliberately shoving the train off to the far east edge next to the I-5 wall is *stupid* — it loses half the walkshed. If Link goes this far south, it should actuallly be even further west than SR99 — on 24th Avenue South to the school complex.

    2. Al’s right, Carl. The I-5 alignment is a little longer between Angle Lake and Midway, perhaps a quarter of a mile, because SR99 diagonals toward the freeway south of about 220th. SR509 diagonals as well, but it’s closer to being perpendicular to I-5. So the I-5 alignment will have a “dogleg”; SR99 would as well, but the angle would have been much closer to a straight line.

  25. The challenge is whether your dreams of “infill” being wall to wall apartment buildings in Kent Valley will happen, or whether this should be a funnel for homeowners living around the valley to drive to and commute downtown.

    As it stands, LINK is really not good for the latter because it’s slower than a bus and no match for Sounder. As for the former, I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

      1. If dense development in South King County is a fantasy, then the board absolutely made the right decision, sacrificing TOD potential for a cheaper line, while still building rail down there, a decision already voted on.

        It really can’t be both.

    1. Wall to wall apartments on 99 sounds great. The entire Kent Valley isn’t going to happen because that’s a humongous amount of space and much of it is empty open space. It would take fifty years to build and you’d end up with a duplicate of north Seattle. Let’s start more modestly, filling in the superblocks and gobs of underused space on the west side of downtown (around West Meeker Street).

    2. It seems that the plan is to bypass the most densely populated census tracts in the area, and then demolish dense mobile-home parks, in order to… do what?

      I mean, really, they could at least try to serve what’s already there.

      1. In contrast to d.p., I have *low standards* for what I’ll consider an OK rail line. I’m OK with political sausage-making. I’m OK with substandard results if it gets done sooner.

        But this is getting *ridiculous*. The original routing takes a stupid route from Boeing Access Road to the airport (the correct route was SR99 of course), but it’s avoiding NIMBYs on its way to the airport, so whatever, acceptable price to pay. The Bellevue situation was bad enough, but hey, Kemper Freeman was throwing his weight around, and he was hard to fight. The North Link alignment is bad but at least defensible; there is stuff on both sides of I-5 in this area. Lack of NE 130th situation is ridiculous but it can be fixed later. The poor design of the UW station with the idiotic detour-overpass is awful but again can be fixed in the future. Lynwood Link is an extension too far, but if Lynwood wants something, I suppose it’s not that bad. Angle Lake extension is a low-return-on-investment, but it wasn’t that expensive and it’ll be kind of useful. Federal Way extension was probably an extension too far, but there is Highline Community College to consider…

        But this is ridiculous. Take a route which was questionable and low-ridership to start with, heading for no major destination; shove it next to a freeway to cut ridership further — and there’s a sharp dropoff in population on the east side of the freeway, unlike in North Seattle; avoid the highest-density locations along the line; refuse to serve a major institution even when you have a petitions from it asking you to serve them; and then make it as swervy as possible and demolish low-income housing to do it? What? What? At some point you have to have *some* standards for what you’re building.

      2. Nathaniel I would disagree that Lynnwood was too far. I would say along the wrong corridor but a 30 minute trip from Lynnwood to downtown Seattle is very competitive with current travel times.

        I would rather use the I-5 corridor for mainline HSR for intercity and all-day service to Everett

    3. John, what are you talking about? The Link alignment is NOT in the Kent Valley. This is up on Highline/West Hill. Are you talking about Sounder or Link?

  26. I will admit this map looks a lot better than the first one. Presentation is important.

    Re: mobile home parks. Is this just an excuse for east coast-style slum clearance?

    1. Sounds like it to me. I think this could be fought on ‘environmental justice’ grounds — the local cities seem to be making a point of leveling the mobile home parks, while not serving the community college directly even when it pleads for service (community college is for poor people, I’m sure they’re thinking).

  27. Could we have a graphic that is to-scale? Sure, it’s an idiotic routing, but SR 99 is practically on top of I-5 at Kent-Des Moines. It is stupid, but not nearly as bad as the graphic makes it look.

    1. +1.

      Some of these posters need to look at the alignment on a real map, and not just obsess about the diagram provided in this post. Then they would see that the alignment issue is relatively minor.

  28. “As it is, I think the electorate is getting what it wants.”

    I’m betting you’re wrong here. I think what’s happening is that the voters who live in the mobile home parks and go to Highline Community College are being ignored, while a rich enclave of car-driving business owners is getting listened to. The electorate is getting screwed, but the money men are getting what they want.


  29. The spine exists. It is regional express bus. South Link is a poor investment. It could also harm the political prospects for ST3. ST should improve it. Sub area equity does not require the proportionate distribution of Link. Link is very costly. South King County riders need better service today.

  30. If you want a real horror, or if you want d.p. to really get pissed off, draw a map of what this looks like if the concept is continued all the way to Tacoma.

    You know: along 99 when there is a station, then all the way back out to I-5 for the distance between stations. That way, the thing looks like a giant stitched-up scar.

    So, by the time you get to Fife, the thing looks like the mouth of a jack-o-lantern.

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