Are you ready for ST3? Project evaluation begins in earnest 4 weeks from Friday, when the ST Board will begin reviewing updated project analysis while beginning to look at financial models and overall package size options. Back in May, the initial project list caused considerable alarm (and a record 529 comments) among our readership for not including a grade-separated option to Ballard among other flaws, prompting a quick rebuttal from ST’s Ric Ilgenfritz that there was plenty of room in the process to advocate for quality projects.

So we’ll be watching intently as the board begins its deliberations, looking for hints as to what’s on and off the table, and what has or hasn’t been negotiated behind the scenes. The basic frame for ST3 remains, namely that the Snohomish subarea will likely set the pace for the package at large, as a tax rate that funds both Paine Field and Everett would considerably scale up the package and stretch it to its financial limits or beyond. A smaller package that meets Snohomish’s desires is also possible, albeit only through a politically toxic large-scale transferring of funds between subareas. With voter approval of Move Seattle and Community Transit’s Prop 1 – and with ‘the spine’ as perhaps the only sacrosanct shared value among boardmembers – a smaller incremental package seems less likely than it did just a few months ago.

At ST’s sleepy and sparsely attended Executive Committee meeting yesterday, staff presented the templates for project evaluation that the board (and then the public) will see beginning December 4th (below). As you can see, a binary yes/no on the regional spine is the first criterion, followed by metrics you’d expect such as cost and ridership. There does seem to be an expanded emphasis on bike and pedestrian access, and it’s encouraging that projects will be evaluated with this in mind from the outset. Stay tuned!

How the Project Evaluation Templates Will Look
How the Project Evaluation Templates Will Look

76 Replies to “ST3 Kicks Off with Board Workshop December 4th”

  1. “There does seem to be an expanded emphasis on bike and pedestrian access, and it’s encouraging that projects will be evaluated with this in mind from the outset. Stay tuned!”

    *dances*

  2. Now the question is whether they will:

    1. Select those values (travel time, reliability, accessibility, etc.) based on predetermined infrastructure and confining them to limited options

    2. Determine the infrastructure after they’ve set those goals (preferred)

    These two will give very different outcomes and can influence the characteristics of the vehicles and infrastructures (speed, curvature, layout of transfer stations, etc.)

    1. With three alternatives and a spine yes/no question, at least one of them will be a maximum spine buildout, if that’s what you mean by “predetermined infrastructure”. It may not reach all the way from Everett CC to Tacoma Mall, but it would at least include Everett Station, Boeing Field, and Tacoma Dome because those have been the most-often cited and have the broadest board support. Then the question becomes how much spine will the other two have? The second alternative might focus on medium spine and more other projects, or medium spine and low cost. Then the third one: will ST actually include a non-spine alternative? Perhaps that’s why the number of alternatives is three instead of two. Or maybe it will be another spine variation.

      Now may be the time to start “suggesting” non-spine networks to ST, when we have only the templates and our imaginations to go by. I assume ST’s alternatives are already pretty solidified since they have to write final reports and maps before December 4th. But if we have some other networks either before or after they release theirs, that would give a context to evaluate their proposals in.

      The first thing I can think of off the top of my head is BRT from Lynnwood and Federal Way fanning out to various parts of Snohomish and Pierce. I’m assuming the extension to 320th will be built, since it’s such a short distance from 272nd or 240th. Then in Seattle of course there’s Ballard-downtown and Ballard-UW. West Seattle would still be a big controversy: rail or bus. Then there’s the Denny Way (Metro 8) subway, but ST didn’t include it in its menu last summer so it may be impossible to get this round. The WSTT idea basically revolves around whether a maximum-buildout or low-cost model prevails: WSTT fits more with the low-cost model.

      1. Two major major problems with this assessment method.

        (1) The “spine” is not helpful. You built the part of the spine which is holding the system up already; now you’re talking about, ahem, the tail. “But it doesn’t have a tail” is not a reasonable complaint.

        (2) Second issue: we already know ST’s ridership models are worthless trash, thanks to weirdness like “pretending there is no bus system” and PSRC craziness like “predicting that hundreds of thousands of people will move out of downtown Seattle to Shoreline”.

        So the ridership projections are meaningless because of GIGO, which is unfortunate, because real ridership projections would be very helpful.

      2. I would so love to make sure we do not use Seattle dollars to pay for Mukilteo-Everett-KPAE transit needs… as much as I visit Mukilteo & Paine Field/KPAE.

        I would rather we start thinking about ST4 and making sure Seattle as a Heavenly City with the Blue Angels, the Seattle Winhawks, the Museum of Flight, the Seattle Mariners, multiple great conservative think tanks, Transportation Choices HQ, Seafair and a great menu of AIRBNB options gets the transit Seattle deserves. That means money for east-west trusses to the spine in my mind from listening to you folks.

        Just sayin’.

      3. I agree with most of what you said, Mike. But I don’t think WSTT should be viewed as simply a low cost alternative. A light rail line has to go a long ways before it makes more sense than a bus tunnel. We see this with our own bus tunnel. Thirty years ago, it would have been crazy to simply put in a small light rail line from SoDo to Convention Place Center. It would have carried plenty of people, but the transfer would have been annoying. It only made sense to replace the buses with a train when the train goes to enough places. We aren’t even there yet (although we will be very close when the train gets to the UW).

        Likewise with the WSTT. A single light rail line from say, West Seattle to the north end of downtown would be silly. Obviously a WSTT carrying just buses would add more value. Even a line from Ballard to SoDo is less valuable than the WSTT. The WSTT connects several different areas — a wide swath of West Seattle, a good section of Ballard as well as the Aurora corridor. I think the rail line has to be quite extensive — with a Ballard line and several branches in West Seattle — before it makes sense to use the tunnel only for rail.

        That is one of the arguments for the WSTT, of course. It follows the exact same model that has worked really well for Seattle. The bus tunnel (not transit tunnel) has saved transit riders a tremendous amount of time — way more than if we had built a small light rail line.

      4. A couple more points. I agree — it is too late to include a Metro 8 subway as part of ST3. But that is another reason why I like the WSTT — it gets you the Metro 8 subway sooner. Build the WSTT now along with Ballard to UW light rail (with ST3). Then the Metro 8 subway becomes the next priority. Eventually you add rail to the WSTT, just as you add rail to Lake City — but if not, it isn’t the end of the world. The combination of the WSTT, Ballard to UW light rail and Metro 8 subway is much better than anything that doesn’t involve all three.

        As far as Snohomish County goes, I remember someone mentioned a bunch of capital projects that would greatly improve bus speed. I wish I kept the link. These were things like adding freeway access infrastructure (new BAT lanes close to the freeway). These were not simply paint — but fairly expensive (yet still a lot cheaper than extending the light rail). This, along with additional service would make a lot of sense. With a lot of the buses, the problem is not when they are on the freeway, but getting to the freeway. The major east-west arterials are clogged, and you would have to spend significant money to fix the problem. But for the kind of money we are talking about, Snohomish County could have one of the best transit systems in the country for a suburban county. Eliminate the bottlenecks and provide fast, frequent service to Link (which serves as both a transit center and connection to the city) and you have a very good transit system.

        I would assume there are similar projects in the south end.

  3. Review of Martins post is a good place to refresh you memory of the possible and improbable.
    https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/08/06/a-budget-for-st3/
    So, here’s my prediction based on Snohomish sub-area with the least revenue to work with.
    SnoHo: Rail to Paine Field and hopes there will be an ST4 to go further.
    N.King: Finish rail to Snoho, rail to W. Seattle and a rapid streetcar to Ballard (not grade separated)
    S.King: Federal Way or bust and more Commuter Rail at $100m a pop for time slots.
    Pierce: Laying the groundwork to convert T-Link to head North to meet S-Link, and more CR/buses
    E.King: Rail to Redmond and a big push for BRT on 405/520/I-90 and 1 bone to Renton. plus go into the banking business to load money to the other sub-areas at prime +2.

    1. Ugh, if west Seattle got for real street car and Ballard got some at grade crud, then I’d definitely vote against st3. Heaven forbid!

      1. I suspect that’s not going to happen. If Snohomish County is going to be able to borrow from other sub areas, it will likely be the East Side and/or South King.

        Frankly, I don’t think any of the subareas are willing to put up with loaning out their funds. If Everett is going to get a Paine Field diversion, it will probably mean a larger package. We won’t have trouble finding more things to build in Seattle, but its a pretty big open question about what the other subareas would build…

        Would South King go ahead and build Burien to Renton? Will East King Build a full Kirkland to Issaquah spine? Will Tacoma build more streetcars or have hourly sounder trains?

        There are a lot of possibilities of Everett manages to push the package size large enough to get what they want.

    2. Mic, I don’t understand why your N King statement contains “Finish rail to Snoho”. Rail is getting all the way to Lynnwood in ST2. Are you suggesting that Lynnwood Link won’t get any federal funding and thus won’t have the necessary funds to make it even to the county line? Or am I reading into your statement something I shouldn’t be?

      1. For some reason, I forgot Lynnwood was fully funded in ST2 because Northgate is way down the road and Lynnwood behind that, so that’s a good catch.
        At some point all the funding for ST2 and ST3 end up in one pot, so with so much work left on the North and East corridors, I doubt anyone will care in 10 years which phase funding went where within the sub-area allocations.
        Sub Area funding is less than half of all the spending.

    3. If ST3 Link terminates at Payne Field, and then something happens and there is no ST4 for a long time, that would leave Everett in an un-enviable situation. No Link in downtown but yes Link in that isolated industrial complex to the west. And the only people who would ride it to Boeing are those coming from Lynnwood or further south. But the bright side is that Boeing Field implies 164th and 128th stations, and that would be a short distance for buses from downtown Everett. In fact, it’s short enough that Everett Transit could do it without going far outside its service area.

      I doubt Burien-Renton will be revived soon, given RapidRide F’s underperformance.

      1. Well if ST3 Link terminates at Paine Field, then a lot of buses would have to feed into it from all directions. Maybe not such a bad thing if the Snohomish County politicians insist on a Paine Field deviation – make Link end there until a ST4.

        I know I have said this before, but there are many destinations at Paine Field that need buses: Manufacturing, flight schools, museums and yes Boeing.

      2. Oh and one last thing: Making ST3 spine end at Paine Field would mean Everett Transit & Community Transit would have to feed into it from the North with more buses, making that station bustling instead of for mostly shift workers and tourists.

        I am not too keen on doing anything that uses Seattle money and votes in such a manner that would genuinely jeopardize ST3.

      3. The closest station from downtown Everett is not necessarily the terminus. If the plan is to stay on I-5 after 164th but still make a smooth curve to Airport Road, then it would start diverging from I-5 at 136th and have a station at Airport Road & Evergreen Way. The buses from Everett can meet it there. They’ll want to avoid the congestion on the Casino freeway. Or if that’s too far off I-5 for some routes, they could meet Link at the Ash Way P&R.

      4. Sounds good. The idea of leaving some spine work for ST4 sits well with me. This way we could say for ST4 we’ll pay for some east-west lines and to truly complete the spine into Everett… and Tacoma?

      5. The biggest question I have is what is the cheapest way to get people from Everett to Seattle on transit while having a reliable travel time?

        Do we do LRT along I-5 to serve park & rides and then get actual subway later? I am just dumbfounded on having the “spine” serve Boeing Field. There isn’t a single example that I know of an industrial area having all day ridership. A university is an all day ridership generator but industrial areas are shift based. PSNS here in Bremerton has coordinated with Kitsap Transit and they buy out old coaches for worker driver buses that go all across the Peninsula that serves the one shift that happens. The system breaks down at 7 am heading into Bremerton in the morning and grinds again to a hault at 4 pm given you have ferry traffic from the 3 pm and the yard along with Bangor all letting out at the same time.

        I am not sure how Boeing works but I would truly have discussions first of if this would realistically change habits because I do not see a point in a diversion to serve an industrial area that will only generate ridership at two distinct parts of the day. You would be better off utilizing the Swift II investment and use BAT lanes to connect to Link elsewhere.

        Prove the ridership before spending the billions.

      6. Daniel,

        First it’s Paine Field not Boeing Field. Highly unlikely Boeing Field will get a light rail extension before ST4 or ST5… maybe an infill station on the current spine in ST3.

        Second, as to, “Prove the ridership before spending the billions”, once again I have to educate people that Paine Field is so much more than the Boeing factory. Paine Field has not just Boeing but flight schools, general aviation hangars, more manufacturing – such as a plant that takes used 737s and renovates ’em for Southwest Airlines, and FOUR world-class museums.

        To be brutally honest: My proposal to end the spine in ST3 at Paine Field is to give everybody what they claim to want. Those worried about ridership will see the Paine Field stations used as bus drop-off points both around Paine Field and points north, and those wanting light rail at Paine Field will most certainly get it.

        Furthermore, ending the spine at Paine Field gives an incentive for ST4 to support the upcoming east-west light rail lines that are necessary for Seattle. Couple them to a spine extension to Everett Community College and in ST3 & ST4 we won’t have Seattle money shipped to the spine.

        I wish I thought of this way sooner than I did.

      7. “There isn’t a single example that I know of an industrial area having all day ridership.”

        Lockheed Martin has a station on VTA light rail. It’s been deserted whenever I’ve been there. But VTA has more of an excuse for a station because it’s right in a straight line to the Mountain View terminus.

        The Boeing station is all political, so ridership is irrelevant. It’s to make Boeing feel good that the region is investing in it so that it will be persuaded to keep jobs here and expand. The only workers who could really use Link are those living in Lynnwood or further south, or right in downtown Everett. I have yet to see a study that that’s where a large percentage of them live. I assume most of them live straight east of the plant, around Silver First and Lake Stevens. They’d have to go out-of-direction to take Link, or take it just one station which is ridiculous if they’re driving the rest of the way. I’ve heard Everett wants it so that drivers from Marysville and further north will park at Everett Station and take Link to Boeing. I don’t know if that’s true but it sounds screwy. Why is it better for Boeing workers to park at Everett Station (taking up space) rather than at Boeing? And how does they think these workers will get from Boeing Station to their jobs, which probably won’t be within walking distance. They’re to take a shuttle bus when they parked just a few miles away?

      8. So much to deconstruct before I clean my office, I’m going to block quote:

        The Boeing station is all political, so ridership is irrelevant. It’s to make Boeing feel good that the region is investing in it so that it will be persuaded to keep jobs here and expand. The only workers who could really use Link are those living in Lynnwood or further south, or right in downtown Everett.

        Folks, for the umpteenth time Paine Field is more than Boeing. Flight schools, FOUR world-class museums with another one or more planned, general aviation, IAM 757 HQ, several industrial tenants and even a community college extension campus. Please stop the fixation on ONE tenant of Paine Field. PLEASE!

        Furthermore, SoDo an industrial stop station if ever does get some ridership. So really sniping at a stop for an industrial area is a bit… much.

        I have yet to see a study that that’s where a large percentage of them live. I assume most of them live straight east of the plant, around Silver First and Lake Stevens. They’d have to go out-of-direction to take Link, or take it just one station which is ridiculous if they’re driving the rest of the way. I’ve heard Everett wants it so that drivers from Marysville and further north will park at Everett Station and take Link to Boeing. I don’t know if that’s true but it sounds screwy. Why is it better for Boeing workers to park at Everett Station (taking up space) rather than at Boeing? And how does they think these workers will get from Boeing Station to their jobs, which probably won’t be within walking distance. They’re to take a shuttle bus when they parked just a few miles away?

        All the more reason why we need to discuss what the bus network will look like to feed these stops. We need to market to folks it makes sense to ride the bus in the first place.

        I too have my reservations about a Paine Field light rail stop and would prefer a compromise be worked out instead of an I-5 alignment or something that will keep transit advocate enthusiasm down. To me, it’s about ridership to justify the stop – and making clear to transit advocates transit service to Paine Field ≠ special treatment for one controversial tenant. There are other tenants that bring out-of-Puget Sound visitors & business to Paine Field who then spend sales tax to help pay for transit.

        Hope I was clear.

      9. “Flight schools, FOUR world-class museums with another one or more planned, general aviation, IAM 757 HQ, several industrial tenants”

        I still don’t accept that’s many people, or more to the point, many transit riders. Link goes through an industrial area between Rainier Beach and TIB, and I don’t think many people would use a station there if it existed. The jobs are too scattered and almost no of them are within walking distance of the station, and a singnficiant percentage of the trips require carrying big heavy object that aren’t practical to take on a train. You talk about the Museum of Flight and its thousands of visitors per year, but I still see that as a small number, and many of them wouldn’t take Link even if it existed because they like cars, or they use cars in sprawly areas like that, or they’re out-of-town visitors who don’t know their options or don’t have time to research them or wait for trains.

        “and even a community college extension campus”

        I didn’t know that. If it’s going to be as large as Edmonds Community College, I might reconsider. If it’s a certainty and not a long shot.

      10. There’s a significant difference between SODO and Payne Field. (Your mention in the other article reminded me to say this.) SODO has an intact street grid, so it’s easier to walk from the stations to jobs or businesses. I worked at the Starbucks factory for a short time when it was there, and I could easily get off a bus and walk to it. I also take Link or the bus to Costco, Sears, RePC, Grocery Outlet, a wholesale food distributor, Studio 7 (live-music bar), the Showbox SODO, the army surplus store (although I like the one in Belltown better), and a coworking space. The maximum walk is 10-20 minutes. People assume SODO is the lowest-ridership station, but ST says Stadium is the lowest because of the near-zero use outside of ballgames.

        In the Payne Field area the roads are curved with cul-de-sacs. It can take 30-60 minutes to walk to a business, and it’s depressing to pass only one or two intersections and two or three buildings that whole time; you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. The roads are wider and higher-speed, and sometimes there’s no safe pedestrian crossing, or you have to go way around to get to the side of the street your destination is on. There’s a much more limited number of destinations and variety of them, and even with future growth it’s unlikely to have as much as SODO, because everything will be built at large automobile scale and spaced far apart.

      11. Mike, great comments. I hope you don’t mind my acute and hopefully not rude rebuttal as one of those tenants has a hard & fast 2000 Hours/8 PM deadline…

        But I would simply say the buses will feed the light rail stations. If the bus network cannot feed the stations with to/from traffic like from Mukilteo, Future of Flight – which constantly gets requests for real transit service, and the flight schools of students paying a ginormous amount of tuition; then yeah I’d 100% agree with you.

        Again, Boeing ≠ Paine Field. Paine Field > Boeing. Please remember that and support transit.

      12. As to;

        You talk about the Museum of Flight and its thousands of visitors per year, but I still see that as a small number,

        Is 777.8 average mean visitors to the Future of Flight per day based on 2014 stats a small number? I don’t think so.

        I’m again of the view that if the buses don’t or won’t feed the Paine Field light rail stops, forgetaboutit.

        Time to support transit.

      13. The only mistake Mike has made is in misspelling the field. It is Paine Field (not Payne Field). You are basically arguing for better bus service. Sorry, but 1,000 people a day isn’t that much. Ten times that number go through Northgate on the 41. That is just one bus. The museums, flight schools and other factories scattered around the area have decent demand, but not huge demand. Meanwhile, SoDo, with all of the advantages that Mike mentioned, is still one of our worst performing stations. It is only there because it is on the way. Paine Field isn’t on the way to anything if it is the terminus.

        We all want to support good transit, but spending a huge amount of money on a very expensive train that will be empty most of the day (if frequency is high) and provide very poor service (if frequency is low) just doesn’t make sense. Seriously, at what point do you fill up even half the train? Every 15 minutes? Every half hour? That just doesn’t make sense for a light rail line. Put the money into improved bus service that would be much more frequent (and much cheaper to both build and operate). We may have a tough time filling up the trains that go to Lynnwood, but we can at least service it with every bus that lies north of there (making it a decent terminus). But that just doesn’t make sense for a Paine Field station. Sorry Joe, I wish it was a different, but it isn’t.

    4. Wow, mic, that would crash and burn big time. If ST is seriously thinking about that project list, then they are nuts. Other than East King, I don’t think anyone would vote for that. It just adds very little value for the money.

      In general I feel sorry for East King. The current planning seems quite reasonable and sensible. No grand plans for light rail to Issaquah. Just an obvious extension of light rail to Redmond and a lot of BRT/bus improvements. I think it is bizarre that Seattle is considering a much more suburban style, low performance, high cost project while the suburbs (or at least the ones east of the lake) seem to know what they are doing.

  4. Does the Move Seattle Levy contribute to Seattle’s part of funding ST3?

    Do you think King County, seeing the success of Prop 1, will/should come up with its own transit oriented levy based on property tax?

    1. Move Seattle adds a few infill amenities to Link (Graham Station, Northgate ped bridge) but it does not address ST3. It focuses on the “local transit” issues that ST doesn’t. It didn’t include things that could plausably be in ST3 or 4 (Ballard-UW subway). But it includes seven RapidRide lines that will be needed in the meantime until we get more subway lines, and would complement them after they open.

      Last year’s Prop 1 was the first use of a new funding model where cities pay Metro for additional service. (City-funded enhancements are not new, but this framework for them is.) I believe other cities beyond Seattle have started using this or are at least thinking about it, and some suburbs have taken up Seattle’s matching funds for city-suburban routes. So the new funding model is successful and growing, and I think the county will keep promoting it for a few years to see what its potential is.

      As for a countywide proposition, the last one failed, and I doubt the county wants to do another one anytime soon. Different cities have different transit needs and desires, and willingness and ability to pay. Seattle and Bellevue are heavily interested in transit enhancements and have the means to pay for it. South King County has a lot of underservice and a large transit-dependent population, but it doesn’t have much money or tax base. So perhaps the thing to do is for the cities to continue taking the lead, and the county can figure out how to subsidize lower-income cities.

      1. Or the State…if we ever get to the point of going fro Sound Transit to Washington Inter-City Rail (WSICR).

  5. If you’ve been watching the board meetings over the past few months, I think it’s clear that Pat McCarthy has stake out her position that any projects that do not complete the spine are secondary and should only be considered after the light rail reaches Tacoma and Everett. Her first question yesterday was whether each project will be graded on whether it completes the spine, and it is the first criterion on the template.

    What remains to be seen is whether that includes loans or transfers from sub-areas, because reaching Tacoma will be a stretch and Everett not really possible (with the diversion to Paine Field) without it.

    It also sounds as though the board will take this data and come up with a draft plan, which will then be presented for public comment. There will be feedback from area governments before the draft plan is finalized, but it does not sound like they will be asking for public comment until after they have put forth a plan. So again, this will be driven mostly by the local government input. Waiting until ST asks for public comment will probably be too late to really affect the outcome.

    So it probably makes sense to reach out to your local representatives now.

    1. It will be interesting to see what actually gets included. I will have a difficult time voting for a Tacoma-Everett spine-uber-alles as it is simply wasteful for Link-style technology to serve an 80-mile line, but if in addition it brings reasonable solutions to some of the more urban problems I’ll hold my nose and do it. (Frankly they should build out from Tacoma towards Federal Way first if that’s the point of completing the spine in that direction; travel to Seattle from that far south is not time-competitive.) Honestly, clearing the board of the “spine” mentality Ms. McCarthy and her ilk have would be a positive outcome of an otherwise bitter defeat.

      Perhaps “spine” should more aptly refer to what North and East King members seem to be lacking at times in dealing with this issue.

      IMHO spine money, at least to the south, might be better spent on fully grade separating both BNSF and UP lines from Seattle to Tacoma in exchange for a good number of additional slots. It’s a shame that both lines in the valley cannot be used in a way so that freight trains could be routed to either as necessary.

      Also am worried about the “service to PSRC-designated centers;” we have in the past seen what a fallacy that can be as their guidelines skew away from areas that we may feel are better candidates for ST3 service than some of these centers. This was something that d.p. waxed poetic on and isn’t discussed enough at the planning level.

      Definitely contact your reps now, then comment on this when the time comes!

      1. I’ve gotten to the point where I really don’t care too much what the Pierce and Snohomish subareas want to do project-wise, so long as there are no subarea transfers (“loans”). If they want Spine-ifest Destiny with their own money, so be it. But I don’t care to pay for it from North King or East King subarea funds.

      2. One of my feedbacks to the Seattle 2035 commission is that we need to get Lake City and Ballard-Fremont designated as PSRC growth centers. Then the skew problem would go away or at least be more balanced. Unfortunately it’s too late for ST2 or 3, but the sooner the city and county recognize them as major urban centers and transit hubs the better. The person I talked to said that PSRC growth centers are based mainly on the number of potential jobs rather than housing or other aspects, so it’s mainly an issue of having them zoned for enough jobs to meet the county’s criteria. He also said that the minimum size they’d have to be is not much more than they already are, so it would not require doubling the density or anything like that. Longer-term I think the criteria should be more balanced: it should consider the housing-jobs balance as well as the raw number of jobs, but in the short term we just need to get those areas on the map. That would then tell Sound Transit strongly that these areas need a high-capacity transit line.

      3. I think we have a solid plan going for Seattle-Tacoma via the BNSF and retooling the UP alignment. Just give them the monetary incentives and we are golden.

        I would point the whole logic of that is what we have promised does not translate to good policy years later. It is like completing 167 and 509 even though those projects will yield little benefit and the same congestion.

        There is also the PSRC disconnect given what is actually happening vs where PSRC wants centers to be.

        Spinefest destiny especially with these stupid diversions needs to be stopped. I am fine with LRT to Redmond, Federal Way, and perhaps a bit north but in all reality, LRT is simply not the technology for longer distances.

      4. Goddamnit, it’s so irritating to hear my representatives talk about completing the spine over everything else. Bringing Link all the way down here to Tacoma does not make it time competitive with any other mode of transport. We should use our subarea money to fund hourly Sounder service and expand the streetcar network

      5. @Atenhaus, write the city government, and tell your neighbors to do the same. Now is the best chance to change Sound Transit’s plans. I’d do the same, but I don’t live in Pierce County, so you’re a better person to advocate for your subarea.

    2. It reminds me of the SR 99 tunnel project, except without the construction problems (Bertha). A lot of people said that from a driving perspective, the tunnel was stupid, but no one heard that. They didn’t hear about the fact that the lack of downtown and Western ramps means that it simply won’t work for drivers. What they heard was straw man arguments. Those who opposed the tunnel either wanted nothing (which simply wasn’t true — a surface option would have added a lane to I-5) or a new noisy viaduct (which also wasn’t true — a new viaduct would be much quieter and take up less ground space than the current one).

      This seems to be going on with the spine. No one is asking whether it is really a good idea to spend this money on a project like this. It obviously isn’t. Every argument used makes sense. If you really want to build light rail to Tacoma, then start at Tacoma (although it does seem crazy to spend that kind of money for a city that size when it can’t even afford good bus service). If you want good rail service from Tacoma to Seattle, then leverage Sounder. Add more runs and/or do as Scott suggests (improve the speed of Sounder). All those things would be much better for non-Seattle residents than improving the spine.

      But speaking of Seattle, the singular focus on the spine misses the importance of Seattle projects for non-Seattle residents. Ballard to UW light rail, for example, would completely change the commute for anyone in Snohomish County headed to Ballard or Fremont. This would make a much bigger difference than extending the spine, since the spine will never be within walking distance to that many riders. You will have to take a bus or drive anyway — it doesn’t make that much difference. Once Link gets to Lynnwood, the biggest, nastiest part of getting from, say, Everett to Fremont is getting from the UW to Fremont. Extending light rail north makes a marginal improvement (if any).

      If you dare to say that West Seattle would be better off with buses, then you suddenly hate West Seattle. If you say the same thing about Everett it is the same story. Why should the elitist guys in Seattle get the fancy light rail, while the smaller cities or suburban areas don’t? West Seattle is huge 9and growing!) so obviously it should have some light rail too, right? Just like the tunnel debate, we are very quick to pit one side against the other and make stereotypical judgements in this town (“greens” versus “car lovers” or urbanists versus suburbanists) without any thought to building what might just work well for everyone.

      It isn’t just transit, of course — just look at The Stranger and see how they talk about density in this town. Somehow rich developers are responsible for causing a housing crisis because they are actually building more units. What passes for political discourse and political leadership in this town is horrible.

      1. Saying Tacoma can’t afford bus service is not exactly correct. If the city came out to buy service hours from PT through a TBD, we’d likely support it based on past transit measures. We just happen to be saddled with places like South Hill and Orting, which are very hostile to transit.

  6. Go big or go home. Its the only way we might also get the Ballard to UW line, given current politics.

    1. That’s the issue I have right now.

      This whole “go big or go home” we are spending dollars for the sake of getting one great outcome for many more medicore outcomes where we will be having higher taxes for decades to come just for the sake of politics that does not achieve the goal of high quality transit. We have shown time and again we can spend all the money we want but if we do not change the gears that lead to poor outcomes we will continue to achieve mediocrity.

      I am of the opinion we need to demand high quality alternatives not just to achieve Seattle’s goals but the regions goals. Tacoma Link needs to be stopped and all day Sounder needs to be pushed ahead with a trip time reduction goal to 45 minutes from Tacoma Dome to Seattle. I would like to see a North Seattle station for Sounder at some point but I don’t think that is on the radar.

      1. You mean “Central Link to Tacoma needs to be stopped”, I assume. Tacoma Link (the streetcar) seems to be doing perfectly well and could become the nucleus of a useful streetcar network in Tacoma, if planning is sane enough.

      2. Yeah, Nathanial — riders love the Tacoma streetcar. Both of them. OK, cheap shot, but the ridership on that line is much smaller than a typical bus. It is pretty cheap though. I’ve bought cars like that — terrible value, but not that expensive.

        @Daniel — I agree. I think in general, though, the projects that have been suggested for East King make sense. But for most of the other areas they don’t. I’ve focused on Seattle (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/08/28/seattle-projects-for-st3/). Those projects are a good value (and from my estimation the best we can do for this round). I hope you can do the same for Tacoma and convince your representatives to push for a better set of projects for there as well. A 45 minute ride to Tacoma followed by a decent bus ride to a neighborhood in Tacoma sounds very nice. A very long ride on Link to Tacoma does not.

    2. Can somebody estimate what half-hourly Sounder would cost? I was assuming the time slots and track upgrades would be several times higher than ST3. But if Tacoma Link’s money would buy a substantial upgrade to Sounder, then we’d have more leverage to push for it.

      1. Mike the largest capital estimate I would say would be $5 billion.

        That would be shifting all traffic to UP, making a double or triple track there along with grade separations of both corridors and curve corrections. So basically if you went gold plated.

        Now the other option would be to complete the third track on the BNSF, I am not sure if communities would want grade separation on the triple track segments given the amount of traffic. I am wanting to push towards dedicated freight and passenger corridors to create a high quality Seattle-Tacoma segment for Cascades to Portland. That would likely be cheaper and the third track’s purpose was to accommodate commuter rail.

  7. The complete blockage of I-5 from SR101 to Olympia for every single workday’s rush hours proves that “The Spine” has already created itself. With a lot of bad hereditary back injuries.

    So to me, only two questions are: How fast can we build it? And can we make our equipment fast and heavy enough to do the job? Cost should be about the same as repairing damage of a major earthquake. Whose occurrence might cause us to be glad we spent the money for the trains.

    Very serious about calling this both civil and national defense. A Federal highway in this condition could kill a lot more people than either earthquake or enemies.

    Between U-District and Ballard, answer on surface streetcar is that the new trolleybuses with their own lanes and signal pre-empt through Wallingford will be as good or better.

    But here’s a political tactic nobody will be expecting for the subway that really is only solution.

    If we can assemble enough people who know enough geology and tunnel engineering to make an anywhere-near-credible technical assessment…one plan-and-profile for each really tricky area is worth a million lines, dots, and cliches.

    Hell, make it a coordinated class project for several UW departments. We’re not looking to build the thing or even advocate it. Just to take the discussion off the video screens.

    Makes my skin crawl to use this precedent, but didn’t a recent transit project recently get voter approval and, what was it, a hundred million dollars? So this time: No card tables!

    Mark Dublin

  8. While the binary choice of completing the spine was probably placed on this scorecard because it’s a high priority for the ST, I think its presence could illustrate the folly of this thinking when most of the projects that don’t complete the spine have far better stats below the “yes/no”

    1. I’m not worried about the criterion. It will show what the spineists care about, and it will also show what kind of tradeoffs we’re making if we choose a spine alternative. That could make the costs of the spine more transparent, and by costs I mean the opportunities it would preclude.

    1. It’ll have some form of transit to Ballard that goes under the name “rapid.” That may or may not be a “rapid streetcar,” and it may or may not cross the Ship Canal on a gold-plated drawbridge instead of taking the cheaper and more effective route via the UW, and it may or may not be vigorously opposed by all friends of effective transit.

    2. Maybe.

      See slide 2. In December ST will release the three concepts, and the board will tell the staff which parts it likes and they left out. At least one of the alternatives will doubtless have a Ballard-downtown subway because that’s Seattle’s highest priority. In 2016 ST will synthesize that into a draft plan (perhaps with multiple alternatives again) and a final plan by June. Then we’ll know whether it includes a Ballard-downtown subway. I would say probably because the political winds are pointing to a large buildout rather than a low-budget increment.

      As for Ballard-UW, ST’s studies last year showed it would generate higher ridership for less cost than Ballard-downtown, and on our own we can see that it would serve both the Ballard-downtown and Ballard-UW transit markets (and Ballard-Northgate, Ballard-Lynnwood, Ballard-Lake City, …) But so far the board has not prioritized it.

      As for getting both Ballard-downtown and Ballard-UW, that would depend on ST going for the extra-large size of the total network.

      1. Well said. That third paragraph puts the situation in perspective. Better, cheaper, but so far the board has not prioritized it. Aaach.

  9. Meant to say I-5 between Olympia and Everett, but by 7 every weekday morning, it takes as long to get from the west to the east side of Olympia in same time as it takes to Everett at midnight.

    Still wondering about where this giant linear blockage suddenly came from. Am I right that a lot of it is due to people who were priced out of their homes in Seattle have decided, as the saying goes, “to drive ’til they can buy”?

    Mark

      1. It’s caused by a lack of housing closer to downtown… which in turn is caused by intrusive, social-engineering “single-family” zoning.

  10. It will be interesting to see how the 3 options generated by the Board (L-M-H) on funding packages will be scored. If the spine gets a maximum of 9 points and everything else gets a point then guess what. A no point evaluation criteria, or one without clear goals, gets to be very un-scientific and open to all kinds of tinkering.
    Also, reviewing the ST financial policies adopted in 1996 and modified in 2007 (res. 72, 72-1), reveals a much more black and white criteria of how to handle funds allocated to each sub-area, bonding, and how that is all supposed to be transparent in annual accounting. I don’t see that in any recent documents of the Financial Plan 2015 ( with only a one page summary of the total dollars collected and spent by sub area between 2009 and 2023. After bond holders are protected as 1st in line, then the Board has great latitude to move money around if they choose to do so.
    The North sub-area has paid zero towards any express bus service or commuter rail service and paid zero for any capital improvements for them, while they gobble up all the Federal funds towards light rail to the tune of $2 billion. That may be how dense urban transit gets built, but will that trend continue through ST3 and should it?
    Completing the spine may be the only option left standing at the end of the process to honor promises made since Sound Move was adopted in 1996.
    Stay tuned.

    1. “Completing the spine may be the only option left standing at the end of the process to honor promises made since Sound Move was adopted in 1996.”

      What promises? When, specifically, were they made? In what wording? Where do they stand vis a vis the legal requirement for subarea equity?

      1. I doubt you’ll find many documented in policies and Board resolutions, but knowing one of the original Board members quite well, along with one of their Exec Directors, I can say with a straight face that ‘quid pro quos’ amoungst the sub areas were freely discussed as expectations of what would come after Sound Move was adopted. The resistance of current Board members to stray too far from the spine concept remains intact to this day. Reading Board minutes from the JRPC, RTP, an RTA in the 90’s confirm this.
        Is all that legally binding? No.
        Can it now be changed dramatically. Sure, with hell to pay from the other sub areas supporting Seattle for the last 25 years since the Rail Advisory vote in the late 80’s.

    2. It is like promising to finish the freeways 167 and 509 let alone the planned 605. Just because it was a good idea then does not mean it is a good idea now. Our needs have changed and the funding is completely different than where it was at 20 years ago.

    3. Or like sidewalks in north Seattle.

      Why do you think Pierce, Snohomish, and south King signed on to Sound Transit? Or East King for that matter. Part of it was for ST Express, and Sounder was seen as low-hanging fruit. But mostly it was about eventually getting light rail extensions.

      1. But frequent Sounder would probably be better for Tacoma than sluggish light rail…

        I think all of us here are in favor of a passenger-exclusive route from King St. Station to Tacoma.

    4. “L-M-H”

      Did it say they’d be low, medium, and high? I must have missed that. I expected one to be high and one low, but I thought the third one would be more of a variation than a middle level.

      1. I was referring to the the quote from Ric Ilgenfritz comments in the post.
        “The scenarios are a way of asking the Board for direction on sizing the ST3 package. If you look at the full spectrum, what you see is a range of investment levels, or package sizes, from pretty modest at the low end to quite aggressive at the high end. All but one scenario fall substantially below the funding authority we are seeking in Olympia.”
        Two ends and a middle, No?

    5. “The North sub-area has paid zero towards any express bus service or commuter rail service and paid zero for any capital improvements for them,”

      “while they gobble up all the Federal funds towards light rail to the tune of $2 billion.”

      They can’t help it if they have a more competitive grant situation, because of the higher density which intrinsically leads to higher ridership. And even if North King forewent a grant, that doesn’t mean it would be awarded to Everett rather than Dallas or Atlanta or San Diego.

      1. Lynnwood Link is looking for something like $129m in Federal grands to complete that section by 2023, and E-Link is showing 304 in Federal funds towards completion (YOE). That helps, and like you say, Seattle projects score higher than the ends of the spine projects in a very competitive grant funding arena.

    6. “The North sub-area has paid zero towards any express bus service or commuter rail service and paid zero for any capital improvements for them,”

      North King gets little substantial benefit from Sounder. There’s little reverse-commute south, and north the schedule is impossible to use. The number of North Kingans who use Sounder is just a token number compared to the total ridership. When ST Express was set up, it was clearly mainly for the suburb’; benefit, because they needed to get to Seattle more than Seattle needed to get to them. That has arguably changed with the 550 and 545, which are now more even both ways, but not most of the other routes. In any case, a network needs a strong center to function well and serve everyone, and North King is building the center.

      1. There’s a reason the suburbs exist, and why the current freeways have a ‘Jam Factor’ of crazy.
        Large corporations need worker bees to support the hive. These come from near and far, so to say “because they needed to get to Seattle more than Seattle needed to get to them” is debatable. If Seattle wants to remain the economic center of our universe, then it needs to get those workers into downtown. They are clearly benefiting from a labor force willing to work for less, that if everyone had to pay higher prices for homes and apartments living close to work.

      2. The suburbs wouldn’t exist if Seattle weren’t there. They’d be towns like Spokane or Bellingham or Aberdeen with a limited jobs base, and tending toward low-paying jobs and high unemployment. Living in the suburbs is a luxury for people and companies who want more space than in the city, so thy can pay the cost of getting to and from the city and to suburbs on the other side of the city. If they asked Seattle to pay half the cost, Seattle would just say no because it’s low on their priorities and that would be the end of it.

        An exception may be Bellevue and Redmond, which are kind of becoming part of Seattle in some aspects, with even travel both ways and a tendency toward wealth and cultural equalization. In an earlier era they might be annexed but that has gone out of fashion. So there’s an argument that North King should pay more for trips across I-90 and 520. But the suburbs accepted the current ST arrangement, twice.

  11. There are a dozen criteria listed. Suppose they were weighted by value. Example: 90 percent of the weight given to ridership; one percent to Link spine (Y/N), as the spine could be regional express bus.

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