North 145th St, Shoreline (Google Street View)
North 145th St, Shoreline (Google Street View)

In the institutional comment on Sound Transit 3 (ST3) from King County cities north of Lake Washington, the “522 Transit Now” coalition effectively rallied cities, the legislative delegation, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, universities, and private citizens around three requirements:

  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on SR 523 (N 145th St.) to connect the cities of Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Bothell, and Kenmore to the light rail station.
  • BRT on SR522 towards downtown, and planning for light rail on that corridor in the future.
  • Structured parking on SR522, especially in the town centers of Bothell, Kenmore, and Lake Forest Park. The Lake Forest Park letter highlights the walkability challenges due to “natural features [that] prevent gridded streets” as a driver of parking demand.

These three points are strikingly consistent in almost all letters to Sound Transit from these areas.

Shoreline requested 10 minute and 15 minute headways in the peak and all-day, respectively. It says that although “Shoreline currently has no official ownership” of 145th, “it is willing to address access problems” to make the Link station successful. Multiple letters talked about transit lanes and other speed and reliability improvements. Encouragingly, the joint letter from all four cities (p.102) says HCT is important to “provide diverse opportunities for people to live without cars.”

Somewhat late in the game, these areas have figured out that organizing is the key to gaining priority at Sound Transit. Although park-and-rides aren’t as cost-effective per rider as other projects, the BRT proposals are quite worthy. Unfortunately, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, and all of SR523 are in the North King subarea. To the extent that Sound Transit adheres to subarea equity, many of these projects will be stacked against some of the most coveted and most expensive projects in the entire ST3 package.

53 Replies to “North King Cities Focus on Three Points for ST3”

  1. Any guesses as to how much is available in North King’s budget, after the SDOT proposal from Ballard to downtown and whatever West Seattle gets (assuming it is getting light rail)?

    1. My SWAG is that North King is about $2 billion short, although my revenue estimates are conservative in that North King revenue is growing faster than elsewhere, and it assumes no federal funds.

      1. Does that assume full grade-separation for both? Also, how do you think they’ll resolve this?

      2. Yes, fully-grade separated. I don’t know how they’ll resolve it. No one wants to alienate any stakeholders by saying anything about priorities until the financing structure comes out, for pretty good reasons.

      3. They’ll have to either raise ST3 above the “$15 billion” [1], downgrade West Seattle to BRT, replace Ballard with a streetcar or BRT, or be creative with subarea equity. But Snohomish’s requests also require raising the ST3 ceiling or creative subarea equity.

        [1] Which is not really $15 billion because that was just an estimate of what the allowed tax caps would raise under an assumed economic forecast, not an ST3 budget. It doesn’t include factors like cash on hand, extending the ST1 and 2 tax levels, federal grants, what the bond market will lend and interest rates, or an economy different than projected.

      4. Because West Seattle has a lot of ST board members/councilmembers/mayors and former such, and a lot of visible activist support from single-family homeowners for it. The Ballard-UW line doesn’t go downtown and we can’t have that, plus it would be disconnected from the West Seattle line so it wouldn’t have the operational efficencies of interlining and a common maintenance base. A Ballard “spur” (meaning a branch line from downtown to UW to Ballard) has never been acknowledged by ST as a feasable alternative. The WSTT hasn’t either, plus ST is likely wary of ever doing joint operations again.

        So the Ballard spur and WSTT don’t have any “stakeholders” recognized by ST. If the spur advocates and WSTT advocates can generate a larger organized public response, then they could force ST to recognize them. The most effective way would be to convince some city councilmembers. That would influence the letters Seattle sends to ST, which would make the most difference, because ST listens to elected city officials more than anyone else.

      5. Ballard Spur: Still is very much on the table. There may be some operational challenges w.r.t. a trainyard etc. May be shuttered due to budget constraints. (Push for a large ST3 package!)

        WSTT: Not sure, specifically. ST isn’t going forward to study it, but they didn’t say why specifically. We’ll try to get more info this Thursday at the board meeting.

        West Seattle BRT: Because Chairman Dow is from WS, and has a strong incentive to want to take the light rail to STHQ (assuming he doesn’t become governor eventually!) Also, rail bias.

      6. Will Dow be transferring to Link from a bus, or does he live along the West Seattle Link axis?

    2. Ballard and West Seattle are just tide pools and sand dunes, once Seattle V 9.0 gets released.

      Focus on the sustainable bits, and run light rail from Roosevelt to Bothell.

      1. Finally, someone that makes sense! Compared to other areas the proposed short LR stubs of WS and Ballard to DT are not the best lines to minimize subsidies. Give them LR but first serve more deserving stretches of LR. Find grants and other resources for DT to WS and Ballard.

      2. Ballard is the largest urban village that’s furthest from ST2 Link. It’s a 30-minute overhead just to get to a Link station for every trip out of the area, and that rises to 60 minutes during the worst peak conditions. Times two for a round trip. That’s unacceptable for a city urban village that we want people to live in and/or work, shop, and recreate in so they’ll downsize their cars, and to offer an alternative to the U-District and Capitol Hill which not everybody can squeeze into. That’s like what we should expect for Kenmore, not Ballard. Even Crossroads has better access to Link than Ballard does. Ballard must be the next stop for Link.

      3. If you want to maximize the efficiency of a line you need volume spread out over distance otherwise you’re in streetcar territory. UW to Bothell offers twice the distance and over twice the population, thus less required subsidy. Running stops on shortly spaced stations for a short line is not as economical. Go much over 10 stations and/or 20 miles for significant points of interest and you lose ridership interest.

        20 miles vs 7 miles to Seattle

        populations
        ballard 41,000

        Lake City 32,000
        Bothell 36,000
        Kenmore 21,000

      4. I’m just assuming you’re trolling, Les. The Ballard line won’t just run past places with populations on it’s way to downtown. Among different alignments, the Ballard-DT line could hit Fremont, Westlake, Interbay/Maglonia, Uptown/LQA, Belltown, SLU and maybe UQA.

        And that’s not even to mention the Ballard population increases vs. Bothell isn’t even in the same league.

        Ballard line >>> Bothell line

      5. That would be a miracle if Fremont would be picked up, but if it was that would exclude Magnolia/Interbay. QA would be a good load, but Lake Forest Park would balance at least 1/2 it. And stations in town are low ridership contributing, I mean where do they have to go, oh downtown. That’s what streetcars are for.

      6. One other major point, your offering two major destinations, uw and dt for price of 1 track.

      7. Ha, I want to know what got censored as well. You didn’t talk about his mama now, d.p., did you? I know it is tempting, but we talked about this. Funny stuff.

        OK, folks seem to be serious, so I’ll bite. First of all, much of the 522 corridor is restricted by …. a lake. As I’ve said before, fish don’t ride transit. So there goes much of your ridership. The Sammamish Slough is magnificent — my brother once watched a bald eagle snatch a salmon out of there — but neither one (the eagle nor the salmon) is going to ride transit. That area isn’t going to change any time soon. There just aren’t that many people there.

        If you check the old census map (http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?useExisting=1&layers=302d4e6025ef41fa8d3525b7fc31963a) you’ll find that not a single census tract along 522 north of Lake City is over 10,000 people per square mile. Not one. An arbitrary number, perhaps, but around fifty of said blocks are found in the greater Ballard area (north of the ship canal and west of I-5). Fifty. 50. So, basically, there is infinitely more densely populated census blocks in the area you dismiss; but, if one area in say, Lake Forest Park should arise, then you would have fifty times the number in greater Ballard. Hurray!

        Just to be clear — I’m not dismissing Lake City. But it ends there. It really does. If you drive along there, it doesn’t seem like it, but the population density just jumps off a cliff after that. I love some of the areas there (Kenmore Camera is fantastic — this is a great place to buy a camera or turn that snapshot into a poster) but let’s be serious — you don’t need a light rail stop there. They have parking. There just aren’t that many people there. Connecting Lake City to the rest of Seattle (and 522) makes sense. But let’s not pretend that the 522 corridor is just like 45th. It isn’t. Other than Lake City, you really don’t have that many people. BRT along there (Bothell to Lake City to Greenwood Ave) is a great idea. Light rail at some point from Lake City to Bitter Lake might make some sense. But anything else along that corridor is ridiculous overkill.

      8. Density isn’t the only factor that drives ridership. As I pointed out, LCW would have two major destinations for a single set of tracks, unlike Ballard which will need two lines to get to dt and uw. And I don’t dispute that Ballard has higher density, I never said it did, but P&Rs, in such places as Denver and Phoenix, have proven themselves as some of the busiest stations along their respective lines. Bothell would thrive as well. When the studies list Ballard they only show no more than 2 stations, which only makes them B&Rs (bus and rides) as oppose to a LCW/Kenmore line which would have actual neighborhood stations (LC could easily support 4 stations and Kenmore 2+).

      9. If P&Rs are the biggest stations on a line it’s not going to do much business off-peak, counter-peak, or between suburban stations. Lines like this are either infrequent to the point that they’re not very useful except during peak hours (Chicago’s Metra) or massively subsidized in the ‘burbs (BART).

      10. Peak or not if they serve the most riders they are doing their intended job. And what’s the difference, if you put 1 station in an area to serve as a B&R vs 1 P&R and several neighbor stations.

      11. >> Density isn’t the only factor that drives ridership.

        No, but it is one of the main ones. Other factors include whether it is a popular destination for employment or entertainment. The Ballard to UW corridor beats the 522 corridor by a huge margin on all three counts.

        >> As I pointed out, LCW would have two major destinations for a single set of tracks, unlike Ballard which will need two lines to get to dt and uw.

        Wrong. One line can serve both Ballard and downtown. It is called the Ballard to UW subway, or the Ballard to UW spur, or the Ballard to UW light rail line. Going from Ballard to the UW to downtown is much faster than going from Bothell to downtown, no matter how you get there. Get a map, do the math. Or just read this: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/08/14/fast-train-to-ballard/

        >> And I don’t dispute that Ballard has higher density, I never said it did, but P&Rs, in such places as Denver and Phoenix, have proven themselves as some of the busiest stations along their respective lines.

        Which means their lines suck. Seriously, if your busiest stations are park and rides, then your stations suck. Big time. Again, do the math. How big of a parking lot are we talking about? 1,000 spots? 10,000? Fill that baby up with 10,000 cars and you still don’t have a decent station on a decent line. Look at BART, the mother of all suburban focused light rail lines. One of the most disappointing rail lines of all time. Now look at their performance by station (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bay_Area_Rapid_Transit_stations). Notice something? Every single station about 10,000 is in Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco (dense areas). None of them have parking.

        >> Bothell would thrive as well. When the studies list Ballard they only show no more than 2 stations, which only makes them B&Rs (bus and rides) as oppose to a LCW/Kenmore line which would have actual neighborhood stations (LC could easily support 4 stations and Kenmore 2+).

        You really have to be crazy to think that any line to Ballard would have 2 stations. The SDOT plan has 8. The Ballard to UW plan has 4. Again, do the math.

        I live very close to Lake City. I was just in Lake City. I have been one of the strongest proponents of NE 130th, because it will benefit Lake City. I can go on and on about how important and big Lake City is, but I think your analysis is ridiculous. The Ballard to UW corridor is simply a much bigger, much more densely populated, much more destination filled corridor than 522. We should build something to serve Lake City (like a BRT route from Lake City to Bitter Lake) but the rest of 522 is simply tiny, and the ridership will never justify a major investment, for the same reason that no one is talking about a major investment to Discovery Park (as lovely as it is).

      12. For all-day mass transit, contiguous density containing a variety of demand generators is what drives demand.

        Period. End of story.

        That we’re even still debating this fifteen years into the 21st century should remind us how massively fucked up our regional mobility conversation ramains, and how terribly this so-called “transit blog” has been failing in its stated purpose to advance discourse by separating fact from fiction, and by refuting the counterfactual and abjectly stupid beliefs of the local yokels.

        essenitally

      13. But hey, better to keep flogging the coming Downtown Lynnwood and Interbay Renaissance that will save us all, and to keep falsely maligning rationalists like Ross by lumping him in with transit-haters like Niles, rather than educating yourself before you publish a transit blog, thereby performing an actual public service with your time.

      14. Yes, “one line can serve both Ballard and downtown”, but is that what’s on the table? The Ballard to DT alternative list doesn’t have this option so I am assuming not.

        “Going from Ballard to the UW to downtown is much faster than going from Bothell to downtown” Of course it is. So the f*(U&( what.

        “Which means their lines suck. Seriously, if your busiest stations are park and rides, then your stations suck.”

        I used a Mesa P&R for 1 year and it was the best station on the line as far as feeder stations go. The 3 P&Rs of Mesa, “though they suck”, worked best for the area because of the spread out nature of the area, and Mesa is much better off for having them than not. In fact they just added another P&R station and are adding 2 more in a couple years, yep sounds like a complete failure. When there is no dense neighborhoods to draw from, but yet a station draws significant drivers off the roads, is it a failure. Hardly

        “>> Bothell would thrive as well. When the studies list Ballard they only show no more than 2 stations, which only makes them B&Rs (bus and rides) as oppose to a LCW/Kenmore line which would have actual neighborhood stations (LC could easily support 4 stations and Kenmore 2+).”

        I’m only talking a single line, Ballard to DT vs Bothell to DT for ST3. It’s crazy to think that both a Ballard – UW line and a Ballard to DT line would be included in ST3 concurrently or in any other ST package for that matter.

        “You really have to be crazy to think that any line to Ballard would have 2 stations. The SDOT plan has 8. The Ballard to UW plan has 4.”

        I’m only talking about the next N. Seattle line. I’m very doubtful a B to UW and B to DT both are part of ST3. I’m not comparing a LCW to UW line to a combo Ballard – UW and DT to Ballard. I haven’t even mentioned the Ballard – UW except to illustrate that a LCW line to DT would be inclusive of UW, a Ballard to DT would not, as is presented in the Ballard to DT studies.

      15. Correction: The Ballard to DT alternative list doesn’t have this option (to UW that is) so I am assuming not.

      16. Les-
        Are you trolling? Stating population numbers for a whole, generally physically large, suburban city doesn’t imply that those people are going to ride a train. It is more about how many people live in the walkshed of the stations, not how many people live in the municipality.

        Going by municipal numbers, why send any lines outside of seattle or bellevue at all? Seattle has 670,000 people right here.

      17. The stations will be decided in a much later phase. These are just conceptual lines and must-have stations. The Lynnwood Link stations were finalized just this year.

        Also, did somebody say the Lake City line would go downtown? No it wouldn’t, for the same reason the Ballard-UW line wouldn’t: ST is so far unwilling to have any line other than the blue and red in the U-District to downtown tunnel. ST’s Long-Range Plan shows the Lake City line terminating at Northgate Station, so that’s the initial assumption.

      18. JonCracolici, I’ll take 8 feeder stations spread out over a less densely populated area, with greater overall population, greater but tolerable travel distances and with two major destinations on route vs 6 stations with greater density, fewer feeder stations, lower population and a single destiny any day. My passenger boardings and miles traveled per passenger boarding are going to be greater. 1 or 2 P&R rides will help neutralize the density factor.

  2. Take that corridor.

    Make those apartments 5 stories instead of 2.

    Now do that along every cooridor in Seattle.

    Then run light rail on the street.

    Housing cost problem solved.

  3. One of the arguments for Sound Transit is that it spans various jurisdictions. I would say it is the strongest argument for its existence. For example, Bothell, one of the biggest cities along the 522 corridor manages to span the county divide. This means that it is hard to serve by Metro (which is focused on King County). A connection between Bothell (in both King and Snohomish County) and Seattle (in King County) serves as a marvelous test case for Sound Transit.

    Based on this report, the various agencies have failed. The most populous area along the 522 corridor is Lake City (by far). Roughly defined as the area between 145th and 125th, this is one of the most densely populated areas in the state of Washington. To suggest that a major mass transit system should skirt the area is akin to suggesting that a light rail line should skip the UW. Yes, it would be faster for some riders, but the whole point of a major investment in transportation is that you include large numbers of people. The largest numbers of people along that corridor live in that area. This is an area with plenty of people, and the numbers are growing. This is an area that is already more densely populated than Ballard (making it more densely populated than any census block in West Seattle) but is poised to jump ahead of various parts of Seattle. This is partly due to politics. Tear down a house to put up an apartment, and people complain. Replace a parking lot or a porn shop with an apartment and they hardly bat an eye. Greater Lake City will be huge in the next few years, and it makes sense to connect it to transit. A mass transit system (whether BRT, express buses or light rail) should include it. That is the whole point of Sound Transit.

    Get it together, guys and gals. You all need to talk to each other and figure this out. Cooperate — it’s not that hard.

    1. There’s something else the North Lake Washington cities need to keep in mind. HCT doesn’t have to go all of the way to their cities to benefit them.

      If their corridor to Seattle is Lake City Way, then bus lanes or other transit infrastructure helps everybody who travels that corridor. It doesn’t help, say, a Kenmore rider as much as if it reached all the way into Kenmore, but it still gets him out of most of the worst traffic.

      1. How cost effective would running seaplanes every 10 minutes from Kenmore to SLU be?
        This seems like a no-brainer to me and puts new meaning into ‘High’ Capacity Transit.

  4. What we need in North King, before anything else, is:

    physically-separated bus lanes, on 522 and 523
    off-board fare payment (it should be county-wide, on every route)
    transit signal prioritization (more than the half-assed prioritization we have on Rapidride now)

    This is all totally doable, but everyone keeps pushing grade separation. Most of the Seattle area is nowhere near dense enough to need it (sorry, Lake City doesn’t impress me much).

    1. No LCW in itself is not impressive, but when comparing an 8 station line from Bothell via LCW and Roosevelt to a 6 station Ballard to DT line, LCW would have better numbers.

  5. Mic, if you said “hydrofoils” instead of “sea planes”, idea could be worth investigating.

    Weren’t both Mercer Island and Lake City connected with Seattle by boat before the floating bridges were built?

    I suspect that with marine craft fast enough for transit, there could be traffic problems worse than on surface streets.

    I’d check it out, though.

    Mark

    1. Sorry, but a hydrofoil is just a seaplane that is too heavy to get airborne. I’m sticking with my idea. Howard Hughes is backing me too. Think how many riders we can get into a fleet of spruce gooses landing every 2 minutes. It’s at least an 11 lane freeway.
      Then Kenmore can grow to its potential.

      1. Fact Check: Lifting capacity of the Goose was 150,000 lbs, or 833 riders x 30 trips/hr = 25,000 peak hour/direction, or 12.4 lanes.
        This isn’t rocket science.

  6. I think that the smartest approach at this point is to ask for switches and sidings north of Northgate that could allow a 522 branch. We have 7 years before Lynnwood Link opens and a tail track is already planned there.

    We should be setting up our rail system to allow branching options — even if it is just for out-of-service trains. It’s very disruptive and more expensive to do that once a line opens. Look at the opportunities we now have missed because of not planning on branching: Ballard-UW, South Bellevue-Issaquah, Ballard-Downtown. Let’s quit making this same design mistake to save a few bucks and forever screw up system connectivity for generations to come!

    At some point, I think that 522 will have rail. It may be in ST4 or ST5 but it looks inevitable. If we have full branching capabilities, then all sorts of possibilities open up. Even a branch to 99 or express tracks for Everett trains could be more easily introduced. Sure BRT may make sense for awhile but sometime we will chalk this branching switch omission up as another example of ST rail short sightedness.

    Rather than merely ask for more studies, I wish I could have guided these cities to recommend steering a few million for this change order to be funded through ST3. It’s too bad that they didn’t ask!

    1. Instead of this being an argument of servicing Lake City vs Ballard, I’d think there’d be wisdom (and efficiencies) in connecting these (seemingly dissimilar) locations/destinations rather than having a system of branching/spur/dead-ends . . .

      whether Light Rail to Ballard takes the form of an alignment direct from downtown, or as part of an E-W North 45th line, it should NOT terminate in Ballard, but rather continue onwards. North along an aprox 15th Ave alignment; then Holman Road; Northgate Way, and into Lake City.

      Service to North. Ballard, Greenwood, NW Hospital, etc. With connections to the SR 99 corridor, LINK at Northgate, etc.

      1. Andy, the advantage of building sidings now is to maximize the operational capabilities of the system before the new lines open. To go back and do this after the lines are built and after the lines are in operation is very expensive and messy — requiring massive service disruptions during construction and adding hundreds of millions of dollars to the system construction cost of doing it.

        Even if the 522 corridor is ultimately served by a Ballard line, the ability to go between the two sets of tracks could have lots of operational advantages — deadheading trains; special events; track blockages; train car re-allocations; passenger load balancing. Denver light rail has alternating service destinations Downtown with some of their lines. DC Metro has played with different Orange and Blue line combinations over time because they could. Sacramento RT switched their light rail line combinations when their south line opened.

        I particularly note that right now, there are no track connections anywhere on the current Link system to allow future Ballard line train cars to switch on or off the current Link system. No one is talking about basic inter-operability between lines — even for mere maintenance reasons. ST designed the area around Convention Place to not even allow for cars to get to a Downtown-Ballard line. It’s as if there is no integration thinking at ST.

  7. The politicians fail to grasp that people (citizens) find the path of least resistance. In one paragraph, they’ll bemoan the up to 60,000 vehicles/day that clog SR-522 that they attribute to tolling SR-520. In another, they claim that people from as far away as Monroe (!!!), but more often Woodinville (!!) will endure that slog, then the 30,000 vehicles/day+ that have clogged NE 145th Street for decades where there are at least four owners of the roadway and only a 60-foot right-of-way that will take years of construction and millions of dollars to fix. Yes, they knew this when they pushed for the NE 145th station location, and yes, they (the politicians) ignored transit planners’ (the experts) recommendations to connect the SR-522 traffic to light rail at a NE 130th station, which would bring BRT through the Lake City business district, which using NE 145th would avoid. These politicians are the same group that regularly bellyaches about not having BRT on SR-522, and while it’s not named that, I never have to wait more than about 10 minutes or so for a #372 or a #522 that goes south from Bothell, and I see where Metro is proposing their service to be at BRT frequency in the very near future. But, that wouldn’t play well with the ST Board or the general public, most of whom are unaware, so why be objective?

    When L-Link opens, we will all see what the driving public will do, and assuming today’s route structure, as the future one is TBD, I predict: riders in Woodinville will continue to take the frequent ST 522 to downtown Seattle or will drive to the Lynnwood station, a trip that’s 95% by freeway and a location where there will be triple the number of parking spaces. Lynnwood is also where the first seats will be available. From Bothell, they’ll take the frequent ST 535 to Lynnwood. From Kenmore and Lake Forest Park, they’ll take one of the many back ways to the Mountlake Terrace station (e.g., 61st, SR-104) or even to NE 185th (e.g., Perkins, 5th NE). All of these options are the paths of least resistance.

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