The Sound Transit Board is poised to finalize the ST3 Priority Project List (PPL) on Thursday. When creating a ballot measure in 2016, the Board will draw from the PPL, and only from the PPL. While alignment and station details are not final at this stage, the importance of this list is obvious.
The Seattle Transit Blog Board recommends that Sound Transit make the following changes to the draft PPL. We understand that many tough choices are ahead, but Sound Transit should work from the best project list it can. We believe the changes below will help get there.
- Add BRT along the ERC from Totem Lake to Bellevue/Seattle: The PPL includes a range of investment for most corridors, including at-grade, elevated, or tunneled alignments. Oddly, BRT along the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) is not in the PPL despite clear requests for its addition by the City of Kirkland. ST’s study shows that BRT has the same ridership as Link in the same corridor for less cost. Moreover, buses will have an easier time leaving the ERC where it misses key population centers. This project should include both the purple and blue lines from BRISK.
- Add Bellevue College Connector and NE 6th Street Projects: These projects provide critical building blocks for a more efficient and integrated transit system. Sound Transit shouldn’t be the sole financier of these projects — the City of Bellevue and Metro need to share responsibility — but Sound Transit has a role in access to HCT, and ought to contribute.
- Add a Center Platform at International District-Chinatown Station: Adding a center platform will allow for easy “cross-platform” transfers between Central Link and East Link. It may even increase the LRT system’s eventual maximum peak throughput capacity. Now is the time to fix this issue. ST engineers insist they need a turnback track there. We believe that is the poorest use of that valuable space, and that wyes would be both faster and avoid single points of failure for the system.
- Expand the Scope of the Northern Lake HCT Study: While this study will provide valuable information for a possible ST4/5, we believe it should expand to look at near- and mid-term improvements to cross-lake travel. This would include UW Station bus-rail integration, SR 520 HOV improvements, and an SR 520-to-SLU transit pathway. These additions will go a long way to ensure this study provides near-term benefits.
- Add BRT from UW to Redmond: Route 545 is Sound Transit’s second-highest-ridership express route, yet there are no improvements to it in the PPL. The PPL includes improvements to other high ridership routes like routes 512, 522 and 554. Sound Transit needs to do right by the riders that pack route 545 (542 in the future) and identify BRT-level improvements, especially since route 542 will continue to be time competitive with East Link during non-peak periods.
- Remove LRT from Lynnwood TC to Everett Station via Southwest Everett Industrial Center: While the Board has different priorities than us when it comes to Link’s routing, and the City of Everett’s input is not helpful, the Paine Field alignment has self-evident critical flaws. Paine Field produces no net gain in riders over an I-5/SR99 alignment, for $200m-300m in added cost, while even the SR99 alignment will challenge Snohomish County’s fiscal capacity. Although there are many jobs at Paine Field both today and in the future, for many different employers, they will be scattered over a wide area and will require connecting buses to serve them anyway. Those connecting buses may as well come from an SR99 station as one on- site. We believe that Swift II would be an appropriate alternate investment, with CT participation, for a quality connection between Paine Field employers and the Link system.
The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Frank Chiachiere, and Brent White.