ST3 is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  

Let’s make it great!

As you sit in a car or bus stuck in ever-worsening traffic in our region, do you ever imagine what our region would be like if we had approved Forward Thrust in 1968 or 1970—a system that would have been completed in the 1980s?

There is an equally important opportunity in front of the ST board starting on Dec 4th. We are not talking about just getting rail to Everett & Tacoma, or just West Seattle to Ballard. We are talking about a complete system in one vote.

Due to a unique convergence of factors, the Sound Transit board has a rare opportunity to do just that. They have the ability to connect our entire region and provide the Puget Sound with a much more complete solution to our transit troubles than they envisioned 3 years ago when they commenced planning for ST3.

Changing Times

During the height of the recession, when the board decided that ST should plan for a possible 2016 ballot measure, the choice seemed bullish. It is a bullish decision no longer. Our region is among the fastest growing in the country. Seattle alone added 58,000 people within its borders from 2010 to 2014. Traffic delays have increased up to 290% in some areas since 2010. We suffer from a challenge of abundance—unemployment in most large cities in our metro area is only in the 3-4% range and hiring doesn’t look to be slowing down.

Option that solves more problems

With our rapid growth in population and jobs, should we be content with a limited, recession-era plan to grow our rail system? What if we could do more while spending money more responsibly on a clear, long-term path to a complete transit system in just one vote? And what if that complete plan would cost us the same amount per year as the smaller, recession era version? The basic concept is this: Sound Transit puts forth a ballot measure that has more projects with more time to pay for them and more time to construct them. By planning and building a system instead of multiple votes for a few lines at a time, we have the ability to think and act strategically, save staff time and set ourselves up for more federal funds.

This approach solves some challenges of a smaller ST3 in every subarea.

  • Snohomish county. Paying for Snohomish County’s section of the spine–with or without Paine Field–exceeds the Snohomish subarea’s ability to pay. Under a longer plan this is solved, making the local preference for Paine Field much more feasible.
  • East King. ST3’s current concept only extends rail 1 mile to Redmond, then provides a BRT or express bus variant to cities from Totem Lake to Redmond. But the eastside is a major population center, deserving of an actual rail network. Furthermore, voters do not get excited about buses; they get excited about rail. ST2 passed on the Eastside, while King County’s effort to save Metro last year failed by a wide margin.  
  • South King. Without a larger plan, Burien will not get service, nor will any area south of the West Seattle junction. Other options to serve Renton are also off the table. The smaller option simply completes a Federal Way line that was already approved in ST2. A larger plan will also allow the option of increased Sounder service.
  • Pierce county. A larger plan ensures that Pierce County’s link extension can go beyond the Tacoma Dome. It also provides Tacoma/Pierce county the option to seek additional Sounder service, Tacoma Link extensions or realize other BRT concepts.
  • Seattle/North King. A larger, longer-term plan guarantees that Seattle can build high-performing lines from U District to Ballard, extend lines deeper into West Seattle, and provide service to Crown Hill, on to Lake City and out the 522 corridor–serving some of Seattle’s most affordable housing areas.

Perfect Year for Yes!

When we talk about this with local elected officials and staff, the idea stirs both excitement and questions: Why not just wait for ST4? Will the voters approve this? It seems exciting to them, if only we could. The bottom line is there’s no better time than 2016 to get a Yes on Transit.

Here’s why:

Hungry Voters

Voters are very hungry for transportation solutions. In Seattle, Move Seattle passed by a whopping 17% margin. This is despite the measure having no signature project during a low-turnout, off-year election with $350,000 worth of high-profile opposition spending—all major headwinds the measure easily overcame. In Snohomish county, voters approved the highest tax rate in the state to improve transit service, and in Tacoma voters approved a multifaceted plan to maintain and improve the city’s transportation infrastructure.

A Station for Everyone

When you look at the two maps, the longer-term option offers twice the excitement. Why? Because effectively twice as many parcels will be near a light rail line. Voters are much more likely to vote for something if it will actually serve their neighborhood.

Coincidence of Timing

There is also no better year to show off a great transit agency doing great work. When citizens vote on ST3, riders throughout the region will be riding to Husky football games on U-Link—an extension completed by Sound Transit 6 months early and $150 million under budget. This is the most perfect rebuttal possible to the naysayer contingent that usually grasps onto “mismanagement” as their favorite reason to vote against good things. Sound Transit is delivering—tunnels and all! Let’s set them on the task of delivering more.  

The Cost of Waiting

The most strategic concern here is that if we complete the spine in ST3, there might never be an ST4. Why? Without major signature projects to vote YES on in Pierce or Snohomish counties once “the spine” is complete, it becomes much more difficult to get YES votes from them in the future. This imperils the entire enterprise to conduct further expansion.

What You Can Do

Before the Sound Transit board meets on December 4th for their ST3 workshop, let them know that you want them to go big and support STcomplete.  Here is the board’s contact information. Emails are good. Calls are better.  Let’s seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and leave a legacy of high-quality transit for Seattle and the Puget Sound region.

128 Replies to “ST3 – Once in a Lifetime”

    1. Your privilege, Jon. Though just understand that millions of voters would react to something like this being thrown down before them by making their next heartbeat their last. We’re talking about many miles of tunneling through a wide variety of conditions that would have stopped both the transcontinental railroads and the Panama Canal.

      Example: how far did Bertha actually get before it got stuck? Haven’t checked lately, but have they got it fixed and back in the ground? And what’s guarantee it won’t hit another pipe in an hour? Nothing against Deep Bore, or ST3, or Seattle Subways, but enthusiasm doesn’t move a lot of mud.

      Or last very long in the face of blockages, cave-ins, and deeply-bored screw-ups. Before this project gets anymore public, would be good idea to enlist more than one civil engineer with tunneling experience on team, to explain these matters, starting with everybody reading this posting. Shouldn’t be hard to find a few volunteers.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Have you been paying attention to ULink’s progress? ST has done a great job of tunneling. Lots of people know that, and those that don’t can be told.

        And man, that is a lot of hyperbole packed into one post. This has nothing to do with Bertha, which is one of the most ambitious tunneling projects ever. In history. The conditions in Seattle would not have stopped the Panama Canal or the transcontinental railroads. The conditions in Seattle are tricky, but not some sort of impossible quagmire. The conditions in Seattle didn’t stop ULink from coming in 6 months early.

      2. I doubt most of this plan would involve tunneling. Most of the routes would likely run either elevated or at grade, similar to Lynnwood Link and East Link.

    2. I’d not only vote for this, I’d drive everyone around me to distraction by refusing to shut up about it until they agreed to vote for it, too.

  1. Love you guys at Seattle Subway but I feel we need to:

    a) Seriously consider terminating north light rail at Paine Field for ST3. This way there is an incentive for Snohomish County to vote for ST4 – and for Snohomish County to feed the Paine Field light rail stations they want so bad (I’m from Skagit County so I can flash my contempt).

    b) Why is it taking so long to build light rail? Why isn’t the question – how can we build more light rail now? Isn’t the fastest solution the best solution? Isn’t it best to seek regulatory relief from years of needless Environmental Impact Study and just build, baby, build?!?

    1. 1) I haven’t thought about that option before, and it might have a lot of merit. But that level of strategic steering happened a long time ago. I don’t think Everett is going to dramatically change what it wants.

      2) that could make build times faster for sure. Sadly, it’s all state and fed level stuff. We aren’t likely to get a pass.

      1. Jon;

        I’m a believer in aspiration and “the urgency of now”, let me put it that way.

        Or as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

    2. “Why is it taking so long to build light rail? Why isn’t the question – how can we build more light rail now?”

      The state limited the tax rate and sources. Projects have to wait until enough credit accumulates. The feds require the 2-3 year EIS process to be eligible for grants. City obstruction like Bellevue delayed East Link by a year. The recession shrunk revenues and delayed North Link (UW-Northgate) by a year. They’re building it as fast as they can. Some of it may be regulations or supersized stations; I don’t know.

  2. Seattle Subway should consider coloring the lines in their maps to match Sound Transit’s official line colors (which. at this point, means red for the main line, and blue for the east line).

    But on a more serious note, what chance is there do you think that ST3 will be rejected by voters, since that is a possibility, and quite a damaging one at that? Especially since ST3 will be voted on in not just Seattle and Tacoma, but in places like Sumner, Bonney Lake, Auburn, and basically all the suburbs which has sunk every recent county-wide transit measure (except Snohomish County)? This may be more of an issue with Pierce County than King, since (for the most part, with exceptions) ST’s coverage area goes beyond Pierce Transit’s coverage area.

    1. I think the chances of a down-vote are a lot higher if we decide to do less for fewer people. I think the chances ST3 passes are a lot higher if we do more for more people.

      I know that’s not terribly complicated, but I think it’s true.

      1. Right, but what does that mean? Voters rejected the spine once. Then they passed a scaled down version that had less light rail and more bus service. Given the geography of the region, this makes sense. Lynnwood is just as dense as Everett, and a trip on a light rail train to Everett or Tacoma will take a very long time. Given the fact that we are pretty much built out as far as the logical suburban end points of our system (with the exception of Redmond), putting money into bus service in the suburbs would do more for more people than simply extending the light rail line.

        Likewise in the city, building this ( would provide more value for more people than West Seattle to Ballard light rail.

        If those sorts of plans are proposed, then I think there is a very good chance that ST3 will pass. But if not, then I doubt it. A proposal including the spine would be dependent on misinformation. You would have to convince folks north of Lynnwood that traffic would be better by extending the spine, or that their trip anywhere in Seattle would be faster. There just aren’t that many people taking trips from Everett to Ash Way or points similar (which would be the main benefit of extending light rail farther north or south)..

      2. Well, sort of. Voters rejected the “spine” that was included in the Olympia-mandated forced marriage with a giant roads package that drew aggressive opposition from both the anti-tax right and the anti-carbon left in an off-year election in 2007. They also rejected a package with parts of the spine in 1995, again an off-year election, when ST hadn’t been created, nor delivered any projects at all. Not really representative samples. The voters have never been presented with a “clean” ballot measure that completes region-wide connection the way this post is suggesting.

        And I think your reasoning isn’t right for this electorate as it pertains to spine destinations. Commute times from Everett are now routinely 80-90 minutes by SOV and transit. Light rail would beat that by 20+ minutes, based on published travel times for Lynnwood link and ST’s corridor studies for Everett.

        Tacoma is indeed a different story, as Link travel times will be longer than Sounder and bus scheduled times. However, two things are important to keep in mind in that corridor: a) when I-5 suffers and incident, which can be anything from bad weather to an accident so construction, travel time degrades completely, meaning Link would provide a viable choice; and b) primary markets for the Tacoma rail users wouldnt be limited to Seattle, but also include Sea-Tac airport, Federal Way, and off-peak linked trips for one-way Sounder riders. The point isn’t that LRT would beat a car or bus every time, but that it would make new trip combos possible, while completely removing traffic & weather from the equation.

      3. Lynnwood is just as dense as Everett

        Actually Lynnwood is more than twice the density of Everett and a hell of a lot closer to Seattle and the Eastside.
        Lynnwood 4,570.9/sq mi
        Everett 2,100/sq m
        And given that Everett already has rail lines into Seattle hurting for ridership the idea of extending LINK that far is crazy talk sure to fire up the HELL NO campaign.

    2. Your attitude is beneath you.

      We can market transit to folks who don’t live in A Big City. It just takes some things called aspiration, a positive attitude and talking in numbers like surface area.

      Chin up, pal.

    3. If ST3 fails in 2016, there will doubtless be another one. If it’s like Seattle Subway’s and fails, the following one will doubtless be smaller. If it’s like ST’s default plan, then the second one may be smaller or larger or just different. It will have to pass in an off-year election which may be more difficult, or conversely the difficulties may be diminishing year by year as demand for transit grows. If both of those fail, then Seattle can consider its own approach, which given current tax ceilings would just be one or so of these projects, and ST (or at least one ST staff) believes Seattle would face a higher bond interest rate.

      If all of these fail, then we’d be left with the ST2 network. That’s not the end of the world as far as I’m concerned because it reaches the most critical necessities. However, it does mean the east half of the city will have significantly better transit access than the west half, so people without cars will find it easier in the east half (as they do now). Also, Move Seattle will improve the citywide bus corridors, and we can do more beyond that.

      1. @ Bernie Sounder North isn’t really serving many of the most populated areas of Snonomish County that North Link would serve, through- plus light rail would be far more frequent then Sounder………

      2. Sounder North isn’t really serving many of the most populated areas of Snonomish County that North Link would serve, through- plus light rail would be far more frequent then Sounder

        Snohomish County is spread out like peanut butter. The fastest growing area in Snohomish County is North Creek which is on the eastside. The areas that could be considered dense, and that’s a stretch, are Montlake Terrance, Lynnwood, Mukelteo and Mill Creek; pop. ~3-4k/sqmi. Marysville is up there too at 2,900/sqmi but it’s north of nowhere and one hopes most are not moving there to commute to Seattle. If they are I prescibe a healthy dose of congestion. In short, building light rail north of the confluence of the I-5 and I-405 rivers makes no sense in a 30 year plan. But hey, don’t those BNSF tracks go right through Marysville? I’m serious, Marysville has a larger population than Lakewood. It’s slightly less dense but growing much faster.

  3. I’m conceptually on board, but I also hope there’s a strong political and messaging strategy for when the Seattle Times and Republicans attack this for doubling ST taxes. Both of them will try to intimidate the ST board away from pursuing this path.

    1. It’s true that ST3 will be more complex but seattle just beat the Seattle times by approving nearly a billion dollars in transportation and infrastructure spending.

      1. But the Seattle Times beat us countywide in the April 2014 Metro bus vote. And a big package went down to defeat in Vancouver this spring. Move Seattle was a good sign – but we need to see a bigger vote across the three counties. Will a larger project list overcome the larger anti-tax backlash?

      2. Seattle’s Prop 1 and Move Seattle and the council elections and the CT vote are early evidence that things are turning around. It will take more evidence to prove that this is a long-term trend, but the initial signs are positive that the anti-tax backlash itself is starting to be backlashed.

    2. The Seattle Times is something to worry about for sure. But the taxes aren’t doubling, they are just happening for longer. $100/yr doesn’t become $200/yr, it stays $100/yr. We just keep paying it in the 20 or 30 years instead of for only 15. I think that’s a message that the transit community can get across to the public.

      1. Part of the Seattle Times problem can be leveraged by alternative media coming together… and by financial support for Seattle Transit Blog plus some Seattle Transit Blog swag.

        Folks need to think Seattle Transit Blog as a must-read on transportation issues.

        Just an ongoing concern of mine.

      2. >> But the taxes aren’t doubling, they are just happening for longer.
        Perhaps not, but they are going up
        I think you are mistaken, ST3 would be using new taxing authority. ST1 taxes will be collected in full roughly 12 more years, and then at a somewhat lower rate in perpetuity. ST2 taxes will be collected at the current rate for at least 20 more years, and then, again, at a lower rate in perpetuity. ST3 taxes will be new taxes, and will go into effect almost immediately if they are approved.

      3. @William,

        I see what you’re saying. Yes, ST3 will be a tax increase, my point was that it is the same tax increase whether it lasts for 15 or 30 years.

        To tell you the truth, I am not super worried about being able to make the case that the taxes are worth it- provided we go for the big package. ST Complete would benefit so many people so much, that I think people will be really excited to vote for it.

      4. I agree with you, but the Seattle Times *will* say that the tax is “doubling.” They’ll total up the cost to a taxpayer over 15 years, compare it to the cost over 30 years, and say that “hey, you’re going to now pay twice as much!”

        The answer should be something like “we can build three times as much transit to get you out of traffic simply by extending the same tax rate for a bit longer.”

      5. Robert,

        I think that is a good line to take. I’m sure that battle will happen, we just have to be ready for it. I think it is a winnable battle. As Charles said, the ST is not all powerful. They did win in April 14, but basically no one voted on that ballot. That’s not a problem for us if we go in Nov 16

      6. The Seattle Times would complain if taxes were any higher than $0. No matter what the budget is the anti-tax people will oppose it.

        “and then at a somewhat lower rate in perpetuity”

        Way lower, like 80-90%. Just enough for operations and maintenance and routine planning. They would go “back” up only if ST decides to spend the remainder on new capital projects, which it has said it would only do with a public vote (ST3 or other).

  4. I like the point that we’ve reached in transit right now.

    Products like Sounder do the job. I used to think it should be like the LIRR running all day, but then I ask myself…why? Is that necessary.

    I like LINK running from Angle Lake to Northgate…but anything more? Again I say….why?

    I guess I’m wondering whether we’re approaching a Transit Asymptote where the big gains in lifestyle quality have been achieved, and anything more will not bring significant results…especially as it reaches out into much less dense areas where significant personal transit use is still needed to get to a centralizing rail system or even a BRT.

    1. You don’t think Ballard, Belltown, SLU should have HCT with exclusive right of way? If any place should have it, it should be those three neighborhoods.

      1. I agree with you Zach, but that is only a small part of this. The projects include light rail to Tacoma, Everett, Woodinville and Renton. Those are huge lines that, as John says, will get people saying “Why?”. Angle Lake is a reasonable terminus for south end rail. Lynnwood is a logical terminus for the north. A second line to the airport (through a very sparsely populated area) is absurd. Woodinville and every single census block between it and Lake City has a population density less than 10,000 people per square mile. That puts it in the range of west Magnolia. While I would would love to take a train to Discovery Park, such a subway line would be nuts. How exactly is this light rail line supposed to get out to Woodinville, anyway? Surface? Then it is no better than BRT. Elevated? Not going to happen. All elevated rail in this town is by the freeway, and there is no way Lake City will put up with that. Subway? Way too expensive for the ridership. Speaking of the last one, what about operation costs? Woodinville is miles and miles away from Seattle, which means that running a train if very expensive. Since you wouldn’t have the ridership to justify it, you would have trains running infrequently. This would mean adding a turn back area in Lake City or telling the folks in Lake City that they have a worse system than they have today (the buses may not be that fast, but they sure as hell are frequent). It’s just silly. Most of this is silly.

        The plans you mentioned are definitely worthy. Lake City to Bitter Lake light rail might someday make sense (as a subway). But everything else you mentioned should be built first, and then, as Bailo suggests, maybe we should take a breath and reassess.

      2. “Lynnwood is a logical terminus for the north.”

        Speaking as a Snohomish County I can assure the ST3 vote will fail up here if the Link is not extended further north.

        It’s a fair argument as to whether one feels the Paine Field route is a good idea or not. But to ask residents of Snohomish County to approve the ST3 tax increase without giving them something is the height of ignorance.

      3. The point is not to give them nothing, but to give them something more useful than extending the light rail line, which should be extremely easy. There are probably dozens of improvements that could be made for way less money than an extension of Link. I wish I had the comment link, because I remember reading about them. But just consider that actually getting to the station is a challenge (because of course, the station is by the freeway). So if you can add extra lanes and ramps and such, suddenly the trip is actually substantially faster.

    2. We have yet to begin making the big gains in lifestyle quality. Public transit is still secondary, and secondary by a large margin. Building this citywide rail network would be the *beginning* of public transit as a primary mode of transportation. If we adopt this proposal, we will start to see the big gains in lifestyle quality happening in… oh…. 15-20 years. If we don’t adopt this proposal, but do continue building, it’ll take 20-30 years. Why wait? Let’s move. It’s worth the money. It’s difficult to imagine anything the city/region do with the money that would be *more* worthwhile.

      1. Wow, you don’t have that much of an imagination. Seriously, you can’t imagine anything having a bigger impact than this? OK, let me just think a second: OK, how about better policing? How about more social services? How about job training? How about free daycare? Hmmm, that didn’t take that long. Hell, just putting the money into other public transportation improvements (more frequent buses) would probably do a better job.

        Seriously, why do you think someone in Rainier Valley will get more out of an infrequent train to Woodinville than they would job training, social services or better policing? There was a story recently about kids being afraid to walk to school and wanting bus passes as a result. Here is a crazy idea — make that walk safer!

      2. @Mars

        I feel the same way. We are going to need this so bad by the time it’s done. The urban lines will already have more people around them, and the regional lines give development a bit of breathing space. We have a great opportunity here to take a big leap forward, and we should seize it.

        This is a major improvement, and investment. It has a big constituency, and is politically possible. We have a big transportation problem, and this is a big solution. I like it a lot, and I think lots of other people will too.

      3. Not in downtown Seattle, it isn’t:

        45% of people who work in the downtown core take transit there, compared with 31% who drive alone. We need to expand the area of work-locations that this is a good choice for, while better-serving and expanding the areas that you can live and do this conveniently, which also has the effect of adding more lower-cost housing, as transit can be cheaper than owning/maintaining/fueling/insuring/parking a car.

      4. @RossB – I think that’s the first time in my life someone has called me out for *lack* of imagination! Generally I have the opposite problem.

        I think we’d have better policing if we spent *less* money on the SPD. Instead of wasting money on high-tech toys and fancy cars, creating an us-versus-them attitude and year after year of multimillion dollar lawsuits, we should put our police resources into a) detective work and b) good old fashioned community-level foot patrols. Or bicycles, I guess. Cops as participants in the community instead of lords over it, what an idea, eh?

        In any case, the kinds of projects you’re talking about are great for the people who benefit from them but don’t create systemic change. When the money stops, the benefit stops.

        Building a citywide public transit network, on the other hand, benefits the majority of people, with substantial environmental and economic benefits that will accrue for at least a century to come. It would improve affordability by connecting the city, by reducing the need to build parking into new developments, and it would lower the overall burden on the working class by freeing them from the necessity of owning a car.

        If we build this now, it reshape ways of life in our city for the better, paying off for decade after decade. That’s a big deal. I don’t know of any other project which can claim that.

        @Jeff Dubrule – sure, I’m one of that 45%. But I don’t take the bus downtown because it’s *good* – it sucks, and I’d rather drive. Alas for me, I can’t afford the Columbia Center’s monthly parking rate, so I’m stuck riding the bus. We have a bus network that offers a functional alternative for people who can’t afford anything better – but why should we settle for that? That’s no “gain in lifestyle quality!” That’s just “you’re not completely screwed”. It’s possible to build a transit network that *is* something better, that *would* be a gain in lifestyle quality – a transit network that is faster, cheaper, and more convenient than driving, that opens mobility to a wider range of incomes, improves our local health and global environmental impact, that stitches our city together more tightly and creates new economic opportunities. If we can get that transit network on the ballot as “ST3”, I believe people will vote for it. I sure will, and I’ll campaign for it too.

      5. RossB, In an era when the State is running a $2Billion deficit and is in contempt of court for failing to adequately fund schools; when the public takes any opportunity to hamstring the government from balancing its budget while meeting its obligations how do you honestly expect to provide the additional things you envision?

        ST3 would be a vote of the people of this region to provide a fundamental infrastructure. They seem willing to vote for such things as opposed to schools, food stamps, and more police.

    3. ” I used to think it should be like the LIRR running all day, but then I ask myself…why? Is that necessary…I like LINK running from Angle Lake to Northgate…but anything more? Again I say….why?”

      What’s interesting is that JB is saying his own area might not need more service beyond ST2. I would reply two things: one, the population is increasing and housing prices will continue to rise until we can get the vacancy rate up, and that will push more people out to places like Kent. Two, he’s thinking about it as a person with a car who can drive to a P&R when Sounder isn’t running. But the transit-maximizing goal is to make it easier to live in Kent without a car, or at least to go to more things than work without driving, and for that half-hourly Sounder would make a significant difference.

  5. Absolutely agree with this! However, what sorts of impacts will other parts of the government have if this money is used all for transit. If we can find a way where there are benefits and no repercussions – voters will consider this. However, if there are high tax hikes and more consequences, people will turn their head away, just like they did in the 60s. I think we should keep it in stages, so we don’t overwhelm/scare taxpayers.

    1. What sort of repercussions are you thinking of? I don’t think I understand you there. We pay taxes for longer, we get a big subway system…

      Why do you think people are scared of too much transportation investment too fast?

      Everyone I’ve talked to is PISSED at those voter who turned down the Feds back in the day.

      1. Please remember that we voted YES in 1968 and 1970 (among my first opportunities to vote) but not as a supermajority, as required at the time. 50% + 1 vote was not good enough.

      2. Oh wow, I didn’t know about the supermajority requirement. What a bummer! But my point still stands. I think the general public attitude is a lot closer to “impatient” than “cautious”.

      3. I agree that people are impatient, more than they are cautious, but that doesn’t mean they will vote for crap. Let’s fact it, this plan has a mix — some good stuff, and some crap. Extending the spine is really crap. It just doesn’t make sense. Proponents rely on a complete misunderstanding of how transit works. I’m not talking about study after study that would obviously show this is crap, but just common sense. Expensive rail lines (like new light rail) terminate in the outer suburbs because that is where the stop to stop ridership ends. There will be plenty of people riding from Northgate to the UW or Roosevelt to Capitol Hill. But very few will ride from Everett to Ash Way. There just isn’t the demand there. Making a stop only slows down the riders coming from farther north. If you are in Everett, you are better off just staying on your express bus to Lynnwood.

        Then there is the operational costs. Everett is a very long way to Seattle. So is Tacoma. It is unrealistic to expect trains to operate all day to those locations very frequently. You start building DART, with 20 minute midday frequency. Do folks in the suburbs want to spend billions for that? I doubt it. The obvious answer is to terminate where we have planned and just run express buses.

        The city is a different story, and this contains some obviously solid routes (UW to Ballard, the Metro 8 subway). But even then it goes to far, and wastes money on obviously expensive and poorly performing lines. I have no doubt that Seattle is impatient and that to a certain extent so too are the suburbs. But I don’t think they want to just throw caution to the wind and build a transit system with no logic or science behind it. Even the monorail failed eventually.

      4. “But very few will ride from Everett to Ash Way. There just isn’t the demand there. Making a stop only slows down the riders coming from farther north. If you are in Everett, you are better off just staying on your express bus to Lynnwood.”

        I suggest you check the ST 512 schedule which makes stops in Everett then Ash Way and other spots on the way to Seattle. Your argument is faulty.

  6. Could be a generation thing. But every time I see this format, I wonder if every line represents a huge laser capable of boring a tunnel through every possible geological feature of this region.

    How does the Seattle Subway program relate to ST3? Competitive or cooperative? No idea of its internal history either, though effort seemed easier to understand before Ben Schiendelman disappeared. Will they find him at the bottom of a piling hole like that guy at CPS?

    Also since from the beginning I’ve always finished every comment with my first and last names, I’d really like to speak in person with Guest Contributor. And remind Clark about Earthling prejudice against anonymous ads. Though ST3 and Seattle Subways will be glad to make his every tunnel red and blue.

    Mark Dublin

  7. I’m not sure exactly what you are proposing, other than “going big”. Is this what you think we should try and vote for with ST3:

    If so, I have a few questions. How much would that cost? How many miles of rail is that? What about ridership? How does that compare to other cities?

    I’m guessing that this would break all sorts of records. By my estimation, there would be around 150 miles of rail. This would make it second in North America (behind New York) in terms of mileage. It would be significantly more than Chicago, and several times more than bigger and older cities like Toronto, Philadelphia, Boston and Montreal.

    Then there is ridership and maintenance costs. Running trains is very expensive and only makes sense when ridership can support it. This does not serve the city the way that, say, the D. C. system does. It is good, but not great. The D. C. system has a lot of miles of track, but a lot more lines. It travels through much more densely populated areas. This increases ridership, and causes a virtuous cycle. The trains run in a fairly densely populated area, thus increasing ridership and allowing for more frequency. This would not.

    In terms of cost per taxpayer this would also likely be a new record. This would be paid for regionally, not nationally. I think it is unrealistic to expect the federal government to chip in a dime when there are obviously more worthy projects all over the U. S. (in New York, Boston, L. A., etc.). There are tiny little segments here that might compete for a bit of that money (like the Metro 8 subway) but most of this would not. A lot of the huge regional systems have been built relatively cheaply by taking advantage of existing infrastructure (freeway right of way or existing railways) or flat expanse. This would do some of the former, but none of the latter. In other words, this would not be cheap.

    All of this reminds a bit of the old monorail plan, or maybe this:

    Back of the envelope planning with little consideration of what has worked or not worked in cities this size is not a great idea. We aren’t L. A. We aren’t that big, nor as densely populated. Nor would this provide anything close to the functionality of L. A.’s rail system.

    This would be a huge experiment. We would be attempting to build something that has failed, and failed miserably in much more populous cities (e. g. BART) and probably spend a huge amount more money per tax payer on the effort. While I can understand why you believe that “voters do not get excited about buses”, I don’t think voters will get that excited about such an experiment.

      1. Best we don’t tunnel too far south, Rab. In the Old South, the slave-owning class considered “rabble” to be on same level as the usual slave-candidate, but got rabble votes by convincing them there would always be somebody worse off.

        By reputation, John Henry dug one Hell of a tunnel. But by history, he could have been the kind of convict labor with which his society replaced slavery for poor people of all color after Federal troops left the South.

        But those were the times when average person really did think there should be railroads everywhere. However, dollar-wise in every decade’s currency, pretty certain that this country has spent a lot more money to assure ROADS TO EVERYWHERE AND BACK.

        Assuring that everybody will have as much freedom as a big rock until we build some more rail at least somewhere.

        Mark Dublin

    1. I think there is still something to be said for planning big… Imagine what the population density was like back in the 1950s and 1960s when people started talking about building a system like this. It would have seemed nuts as well because the Seattle area wasn’t as populated. The city has changed a lot, even in the last 8 years, so imagine how much it will change in 30. I’m not saying that all of this plan my be practical or even possible, but having a plan like this might help start the conversation of “why not?”. What if these lines were first phased in as true BRT lines so that between bus and rail we get this ”complete” system? Then if the ridership is there in some places and not others we have a better view of routs that rail is worth building. What if some part of Ballard or Belltown or First Hill becomes the next SLU? or somewhere else? Then the infrastructure, or at least the plan for one, is there to respond to that new need.

      1. That’s exactly it. We should have a baseline level of planning ready to go for every line in case funding becomes available. Imagine if we had “shovel ready” lines planned when all that stimulus money got released!
        Planning ahead creates momentum- and we have all seen the effect that can have. Exhibit A: The Spine.
        Planning ahead makes the region more nimble in responding to changing development conditions, and to funding opportunities.
        Planning ahead also prevents needless redesigns. Cap Hill and 43rd and Brooklyn should both have stub tunnels allowing E-W connections, but they don’t, because ST2 was planned in a vacuum, with no assurance that anything else would ever be built ever.

        As a city and region, we are growing up. And it is time to start planning ahead.

    2. In retrospect ST should have proposed a complete network with phases at the beginning. Then areas would have certainty of when or at what stage they’d get Link and where the lines would go. Instead we’ve done it picemeal, planning one phase at a time. Lake City has no idea when or if it might get Link, or whether it would terminate at Northgate or go through to Ballard and West Seattle, or anything. When it takes an hour by bus to get from Lake City to Ballard, that’s a significant issue that affects where people choose to live and shop and businesses to locate. ST’s Long-Term Plan is not this complete network: it’s a sketch of the maximum extent ST thinks it might possibly want sometime in the next hundred years, and some of the lines are mutually exclusive.

    3. Now that I’ve finally watched the video, I realize what those sirens were on Tuesday. That was poor d.p. having an aneurysm.

      This is everything about Seattle Subway I’ve grown to roll my eyes at, in a few short minutes.

      1. Sub-area equity. If you build what you need you also have to build someone else’s pipe dream.

      2. Yes, the things outside North King are weird fantasy, but the things *inside* North King that Seattle Subway advocates frequently make no sense.

        Frank’s alternate plan, posted the day before, actually moves people without insisting that they’re only ever going to be interested if they’re moved on rails. If the outlying areas want to build infrequent rail with their money, go for it. But, let’s at least build things in our own subarea that make sense in that subarea.

        They’re still flogging the airport bypass, for crying out loud.

      3. And it’s a shame, because one of the pillars of Frank’s plan, as I understand it, is the WSTT. That makes a lot of sense, and Seattle Subway deserves a ton of credit for it.

        But, then they insist on magic time warps on a train through georgetown and a train to burien and a train in West Seattle.

        They’re an advocacy organization, insisting that they have to advocate for something that makes no sense, because the voters won’t vote for something that does make sense. So, advocate for the thing that makes sense! That’s what you should be doing! Convince them!

      4. But there is are FATAL flaws with the WSTT, if money is available to do more.

        1) It has no constituency. The people who it would benefit largely don’t want it, and want a higher quality line instead.

        2) most people aren’t even aware of the problems the WSTT solves. Getting broad support would require teaching too much to too many people.

        3) the politicians don’t like it. See (1)

        4) the agency who would build it and run it don’t want to do either of those things.

        5) it is not on the possible project list, so it couldn’t be part of a 2016 measure without changing some ST governance stuff (not happening)
        5b) It conflicts with some of the things that are on the list

        The WSTT is a great and efficient use of limited resources. But we could wind up not being so resource constrained, and be in a position to actually give people what they want. We aren’t on a shoestring budget anymore. Lets do more, and give people what they want.

      5. They will not get a higher quality line with rail. As has been pointed out repeatedly, West Seattle isn’t geographically set up to allow one train to serve all the population centers. Even with infinite money, and building three lines to get them all, they have to merge into one set of tracks heading into downtown. So, the frequency of each is cut in thirds. Which makes it lower quality.

        You don’t get to compare Frank’s alternative to a fantasy in which West Seattle is densely populated in one line. It’s not.

      6. You feel that way. According to metrics, you may be right. But you and I don’t count. West Seattle voters count. And they have very clearly expressed to politicians that they DO NOT want the WSTT.

        Your idea of what a quality line is different from theirs. But the politicians will listen to them, because you only have one vote.

        Nowhere did I say that the WSTT would be a major technical downgrade from light rail. I said that people in general, the WSTC, and important institutions, completely oppose it. So that’s it man.

      7. If only there were a transit advocacy organization in the area that felt it was their job to change those voters’ minds.

  8. “Over the last 5 years….a 3.9% increase in the population.”

    The population is Puget Sound is growing by WELL over 1% per year. The population has probably grown by about 8% in the last 5 years.

    1. Thankfully they provided their source in the video itself. From the cited PSRC Transportation Policy Board “Stuck in Traffic: 2015 Report”, page 4:

      • There were 144k more people in our region in 2014 (a 3.9% increase)
      • King County had the largest increase in people (both in total and percentage)

      If you want to go deeper, the PSRC’s source is April 1, 2014 Population of Cities, Towns and Counties, Washington State Office of Financial Management, Forecasting Division

  9. I too enjoy the contributions that Seattle Subway has made. I do have a question. At one point their vision included running the yellow line shown above up Aurora as well as extending the UW-Ballard line to Sand Point, Kirkland and Redmond. What happened to that old map? Were the changes predicated on a vision for what could cost effectively be built sooner?

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Nathan!

      When we realized that STcomplete was possible by extending the timeline, we starting thinking about what would be possible in a couple of measures, considered subarea equity, and tried to aim towards what would serve mobility best.

      The Aurora line was dropped because there will be two direct transfer/one seat rides to downtown from Aurora if the lines on STcomplete are built. Building that corridor seemed like a lot of money for not that many new stations. Long term it probably makes sense, but it seemed like overkill for a next steps.

      Similar logic with the Sand Point crossing. The Eastside would probably rather spend it’s money elsewhere.

  10. I like these ideas, but the targeted ST decision is just days away. Sending some emails over 3 days doesn’t strike me as a campaign with a strong chances of success.
    How an ST board member supposed to change their thinking and rationale that quickly? Is there polling? Have there been conversations w/ board members?

    1. They’re not making decisions on Friday, it’s their first briefing on possible package sizes. Sure a lot of negotiating is surely already going on behind the scenes, but there’s plenty of time to influence the Board on this.

    2. Short answer- Yes, Lots.

      We are hoping that getting a timely reminder of how badly people want transit will show them that there is truly broad support for building a real system in Seattle and the region.

  11. Too bad it took so much Commentary Tunneling to get back to you, Jon. But if I really had anything against this project, I’d have used 21st century project-prevention methods like credit-column-free accounting, negatively-speculated population predictions, Tim Eyman sightings, and the absolute Doomsday Machine:

    Demands for Re-Thinking emerging a week after boring starts. Hyperbole is so slicked down hair, waxed mustache, checkered pants, rattan cane, flower in lapel, wagon-load of patent medicine and flat 19th century! Hyperbole is black powder. Enthusiasm-based toxic Rethinking is C4 packed in anthrax.

    Now: What Bertha has to do with every tunnel in the world is the potential to be stopped suddenly for a very long time by a piece of metal too small to detect.With strong possibility for same thing to happen anywhere ahead of it. In places with more than blue sky blocking the removal equipment.

    The ground under the Portland zoo was just fine. Except that the machine started digging a short distance away, where it had to be dug out. moved, and restarted a year later. And some faulty soils calculation has lately resulted in not only the loss of a major LINK station, but the existence of the First Hill Streetcar.

    And these are beginnings of projects in one not-very-big city. Yes, our crews have a lot of skill- though I’m pretty sure every workman would give much credit to luck. But look at the size of the schematic. We’re talking geology and hydrology with much variety over very short distances- making up a much bigger map.

    So if I didn’t favor this project so strongly, I’d never have suggested- very seriously- that from the get-go, we’ve got a tunneling engineer to answer public questions at every single meeting. Honest answers in ordinary English convince a lot more voters than all the region’s PR.

    Mark Dublin

  12. I would like to reiterate what others have said. I like the idea of going big, but it needs to be big and smart. Completing the spine is not smart. Investing only in Link (or selling the whole package as if only Link was being built) is not smart.

    So what I’d like to see is something for everyone over a long time horizon, but each thing scaled to the relevant area. For Everett and Tacoma, add full BRT build-outs and (in the latter case at least) more Sounder service, and show how that would beat both the status quo in terms of speed and frequency and reliability and would also beat any possible Link solution. For areas closer to urban centers (or that might become future urban centers of sufficient density), show how changes can be staged as areas grow (and sell the idea that transit-ready development is a prerequisite of high-capacity rail). Bake some flexibility into the implementation over time, so that people don’t feel like they’re giving up all future input into multi-billion dollar projects.

    If people go for that, great! If not, the campaign is still a success in that it educates the public on the complexities of transit so that as a fallback targeted campaigns won’t start from scratch. If both policy makers and the public had greater awareness of these complexities, building package-by-package wouldn’t be so dangerous, because every stage would be built with the longer-term vision in mind.

    1. Cascadian;

      Thanks, I think we need to start at the same place so you can understand our perspective. Tacoma and Everett are getting rail extensions. It’s written in stone for the next measure.

      We also do not believe that there will be an ST4 (using this funding source, anyways) once Tacoma and Everett have lines.

      If you start with those two assumptions, I think you can make it to why we thing going big in this ballot measure is so critical. This is our one big shot.

    2. BRT for Tacoma and Everett just ain’t gonna cut it. The HOV lanes basically disappear in downtown Seattle if you take a wrong ramp, so the buses get stuck in the mess, not to mention the downtown streets. Sure, in theory, you can improve the freeway and put in dedicated bus lanes. In practice, you simply can’t do this in downtown Seattle.

      1. If demand for Everett/Downtown is so high, why is the Sounder underperforming? The bus appears to be the more popular way to get there. How is light rail going to be better?

    3. It wouldn’t be BRT from Everett and Tacoma to downtown. It would be BRT from Everett to Lynnwood and transferring to Link, and BRT from Tacoma to wherever Link’s southern terminus is (Angle Lake, Kent-Des Moines, or Federal Way). Everett’s travel time would be in the mid range of ST Express, so better than peak. Tacoma’s travel time would be slower by ten minutes but it would be more reliable, and increasnig traffic congestion would eventually catch up to it in 10-20 years.

  13. I want to commend Seattle Subway for presenting rail visioining! There are many people who can’t vision and take repeated exposure to an idea before they can envision it. Bonds are low and now is the time to leverage this opportunity!

    I really like how Seattle Subway pushes a real systems approach rather than get into the distractions of pitting corridors incrementally against each other.

    Frankly, the area needs a corporate endorsement of rail transit visioning. Most successful systems had a general corporate advocacy for a system presented by a respected company President or Chairman of the Board with a team of leaders behind them. The energy and vision of Seattle Subway needs to be replicated at this level for the public to believe it as a good idea!

    1. Thanks for bringing in “Vision”, Al. And similar vision for it. But that very concept requires above all the ability to see and comprehend critical real-world facts. So I’ll end my comments here with one more thought. Career engineer I mentioned should not only be at public meetings, but at every project meeting as well.

      Mark Dublin

  14. I recall Forward Thrust building some KC facilities (swim pools specifically) but may be mistaken….

    As for ST(pickanumber)….look whats happens….
    They get a little $$$, make some progress
    get more money, not as much progress, but damn, some grandiose implementation
    and now, asking for more….but wont cover the sound (let alone the state!)

    My concern
    why we been selling RRRW for other things, when we got to turn around and repurchase it?!!
    This area been Xcrossedwith tracks for years. just dug em up!! Tracks connected points near and far. (the tracks may not still connect, but the RW trails do!!)
    Just a bit of negotiating, probably could save (have saved?) ALOT of money and be farther along in Mass Transit Rail Arena…..

    just a goober from the nut gallery!!

  15. The Census says 6.7% population growth in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area from 2010 to 2014, or about 222,000 people. It’s a non-trivial growth rate.

  16. With autonomous vehicles coming and more efficient options available, why would the region invest in infrastructure that ties us to light rail? Seems like a short sighted plan for the region to me.

    1. Big analysis firms like KPMG see self driving vehicles making traffic much worse. While they will have many upsides, we don’t have any reason to believe making traffic better or improving mobility in congested areas or at peak travel time will be on the benefits list. Transit will still be a critical part of our region’s mobility strategy.

  17. King County’s effort to save Metro last year failed by a wide margin.

    Really? Metro Failed? What was that bus I was on today? Belt tightening during the “Great Recession” was the only way Metro would ever have improved operational efficiency. And there were plenty more really good ideas left on the table when the tax base recovered to pre recession levels. And now as we are getting ready to open U-Link virtually all the savings, both in time and money of restructuring are being squandered because; “we’ve got free candy to hand out so let’s do it.” Business as usual, make service crap and then hold out hand for more money. Repeat as required.

  18. U-Link—an extension completed by Sound Transit 6 months early and $150 million under budget.

    Only if you look at the ammended ammended revised “this time for sure Rocky” budget and schedule. Years late and millions of dollars beyond what was originally promoted to “get out the vote”. Granted, once they started digging things have gone extremely well. Timing construction to coincide with a depressed economy was a big help.

    once “the spine” is complete, it becomes much more difficult to get YES votes from them [emphais mine, “them” being us stupid tax payers] in the future. This imperils the entire enterprise

    The “enterprise” being the collection of tax money for politicians invited to the board to have a giant slush fund to play with. That is, buy votes and pay back supporters that will profit from the mega construction projects. Same old same old since I-5 was bulldozed through Seattle. Oh the fear of waiting to propose a tax increase until there is a compelling project to fund. Fitting that this time of year ST is asking for everyone’s wish list to put gifts under the tree.

    1. In my reading of the quoted passage, “them” does not refer to voters in general, but voters in the Pierce and Snohomish subareas in particular. Those particular people will have what they want, and any ST4 will basically involve them taxing themselves to pay King County back. That would make ST4 bad political juju for the board members from those areas. Due to Sound Transit’s governance structure, those particular members have plenty enough power to keep ST4 from ever really happening. The funding authority would never make it through Olympia.

      If we are building the spine in this go around, this is basically our one shot. Lets make it a good one.

  19. Forward Thrust is an early example of why transit and transportation in this State are a fail. The Seattle Monorail Green Line suffered from exactly the same flaw. Part of it is the “go big” mentality. Instead, what should have been done is first and foremost, secure the ROW. Not a huge expense since if you’re not tearing everything to hell you can lease the property and more than cover the cost putting money in the bank instead of going deeper and deeper into debt. And, if development shifts you can shift with it. The Forward Thrust routes really don’t look that great today. Since we’re going back to the ’70s I feel a pointyball quote is in order, “three yards and a cloud of dust”. Not sexy and a hard sell at the polls until you deliver a winner; and then everyone’s “on board”.

    1. “Part of it is the “go big” mentality”

      No, people were just thinking about driving rather than transit. If the problem had been size, they could have come back with a scaled-back version. Instead it was nothing for twenty years.

      “The Forward Thrust routes really don’t look that great today.”

      If the subway had been built it might have changed people’s living patterns, transportation mode, and desired jobs locations during the high-growth 1970s and 1990s. It would have continued the early postwar trend toward Renton and Lake City and Burien. But when I-5, 405, 520, and I-90 were the only game in town, new living and work patterns emerged with massive growth in the Eastside, Kent, and Federal Way. If people had a choice between sprawl and a subway station, some of then would have chosen a subway station. But when the choice was sprawl or an infrequent slow buses (most Seattle routes were half-hourly, suburban routes hourly, and almost all were were milk runs or peak expresses), they chose the sprawl completely.

      1. After the manufactured “gas crises” driving remained dirt cheap for the last couple of decades of the 20th century. Forward Thrust would have been a huge boondoggle. But I want to redirect the focus; the importance is to secure the ROW. It’s not sexy and politicians can’t buy many votes with it. But that is the key to long term planning. And, like I tried to say, it’s almost free bordering on turning a profit. The difference between “investing” in the future and borrowing against it. You know, kind of like real people have to make choices regarding delayed satisfaction. Our transit tax me now packages are all about charge it!

      2. ST wouldn’t even build a transfer interface and junction at U-District Station because the Ballard-UW line wasn’t voter-approved yet. so I really don’t think you’re going to see ST pre-buying property in Lake City. And property isn’t cheap; it’s one of the biggest parts of a line’s expense. ST couldn’t do it with excess change, it would have to be an item in a vote. And people would say we’re spending all this money and not getting any transit out of it. Finally, you say “charge it” as if the transit needs go away just like that and will reemerge twenty years later when we can afford it with cash. But the transit needs have been here for more than twenty years and have just been neglected, and the region has developed in bad ways because of it. We have a lot of catch-up to do, and it’s way to late to wait until we’ve saved enough cash. And saved cash has a way of being raided and diverted to other things or lost in tax cuts when a new governor and legislature comes around and want to cut taxes or government or build a new highway.

      3. ‘After the manufactured “gas crises”…’

        … Europe did the opposite of what we did, and started putting transit first and stopped coddling drivers. They built their Forward Thrusts and high-speed rails and frequent bus networks and real BRT and bikeways. Now they have an infrastructure that people can use without each having to pay $8000 a year to maintain a car, and is resilient in the face of recessions or oil-price spikes or climate change, and bypasses traffic. They went bigger than we did and now they’ve got the rewards.

  20. I don’t know how something like ST Complete would be accomplished bureaucratically, but if we could get buy-in? Man, this would be such a great option. I think there is a very real chance that the boost in turnout and “light rail or nothing” votes could overwhelm the fiscal hawk/”this is a blank check” people. Man, we need champions from various sectors, like Seattle politicians, regional business leaders, and suburban leaders. If Snohomish, Seattle, Tacoma, and a suburban Board member or two fall in line, I see the Board being okay with this kind of “swing for the fences” type proposal. It would rival Los Angeles’ 30/10 proposal, which got massive national press.

    Having a super-spine (Everett CC to Tacoma Mall or CC) and more lines in Seattle in one fell swoop would be so preferable to the way we’re currently doing it.

    1. Seattle Subway and their earlier activist Ben S were what convinced me that thirty-year-long desire for a multiline subway between all the urban villages might finally be politically possible. Before it had always been dismissed as “too expensive to even consider” and “only 10% take transit” and “the public wants roads and highways, not trains”. But Seattle Subway managed to tap the latent demand in the 45th corridor and Ballard in general to show that a lot of people do want it and are willing to pay for it. Now they’re trying to do it on a larger scale. It may be too big but you’ve got to start at the top and lay out a network of everything you want; that’s the only way to get the parts to fit well into the whole and to get beyond this “GP lanes with a few buses” or “HOT 2+ lanes that get congested” or “surface light rail limited to 35 mph and vulnerable to collisions with cars and peds”. If we (the region) are not going to do it this way (SS’s way), then we need to start talking about what other way we’re going to do it to fully serve all these areas. An ST3 with the default plan would give certainty to some areas but would leave others still hanging with no idea of when or how they might ever be addressed.

  21. Not enough offered for Snohomish County and Pierce County to even bother. As of late, this seems to be more about King County and East King County. It isn’t going to pass that way and I sure in the hell wouldn’t vote for this.

    1. The only way to offer more to Snohomish County woukd be to export money from King Co to pay for it.

      All money collected in each county is being spent there.

      Also: The spine into Snohomish county effectively replaces much of the Community Transit and Sound Transit express routes. All of those bus hours could be re-distributed to provide much more frequent bus service to a street near you.

      If a bus came near your house once every 15 minutes instead of every hour and connected to a train instead of another bus, would you consider riding it?

  22. When I saw the map ( ) a few months ago, I was blown away. To look at what they’d accomplished since 1980 and what they’d be doing in the coming years was just amazing.

    I was born here, lived in L.A. for a decade after college and then back here for the past decade. I’ve kept an eye on their progress because this stuff is interesting to me (that’s why I love hanging out on here with you guys). Didn’t realize when I saw that video that “back to L.A.” would be our plans for June 2016.

    But back we head. Somehow I ended up employed by an L.A. firm that now wants to pay for our relo. Because of the last 25-years of rail transit investment in L.A. (financed by yes- after yes- after yes-vote), we have so many more choices as to where to live in L.A.

    Let this sink in: We’re moving to L.A. and I’ll be able to commute to work by rail.
    (Disclaimers… One way trip will require: A short drive to free parking, 1 heavy rail, 3 light rail lines, and 1.3 mile walk. Won’t be much faster than driving and my company also has free surface parking, but I’ll be able to use that time more productively than sitting in traffic and that walking is going to finally help me get into shape.)

    Why this story, why here?

    Just to make a few observations:
    (1) Things start slow. But as people see the success, they will support it, even if they themselves will still drive. They have 5 lines in progress now. They have 10+ additional unfunded routes mapped out. We keep talking about the next 15 or 30 years but with the same pace.
    (2) Washington has too many elections, advisories and primaries. Voter fatigue. Make the elected officials do their jobs so that when you have to vote, it’s on the big issues that representatives alone shouldn’t be making.
    (3) Don’t fear surface and elevated rail lines. Subways are awesome, but surface and elevated are great visual reminders of the investments until you hit that tipping point where burying the lines what people are now asking for.
    (4) Always have plans – look at the map – short lines are constantly being extended. Not an accident. People see it getting closer to their homes, they’re going to vote for that next round that gets it to their homes.

    Rather than flaming me for mentioning L.A. or suggesting it’s something we should aspire to be more like (or getting bogged down in how we’re different from L.A. geographically or politically or demographically), I’m hoping that you’ll pick up the ball and run with it to suggest more things we can learn from L.A.’s quarter century of rail.

    If this move to L.A. is part of a weird yo-yo for our family, we’ll be back in 2026. What will you have for me?

    1. Let’s see, 18.5 million in the LA metro area vs 7 million in all of WA State. Not really shocking that they’ve got more passenger rail. But I’ll put our ferry system up against theirs any day of the week ;-)

  23. The time to go big is now. I don’t think I can vote for a spine without these other lines.

  24. Nice video. But can you post a pic of the proposed STcomplete map? I’d like to take a close look, please!

      1. Great! That had bothered me for a long time that it appeared to end at Ballard (thought it might have had to do something with tunnel capacity and that Seattle cant put more than one line in a tunnel).

        It would be nice it was possible to create a new direct line with pretty much no additional track to run from Seattle to Renton utilizing the existing blue line and just connecting to the Tukwila-Renton red line.

      2. The key concept here Poncho is that ST needs to be studying these options holistically, so they can explore and plan for just those sorts of potential gains. This map is a vision, but we won’t get there if Sound Transit Plans ST3 as a bare-bones line between Ballard and West Seattle. That’s how we ended up with a station at Tukwila that really cannot interline from the necessary directions.

  25. Reality and truth in The Stranger:

    When it comes to appealing to voters, a huge package has its downsides, too.

    “[To say] ‘You get to ride this train in 30 years,’ that’s not exactly compelling,” says Shefali Ranganathan, the new executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, the group that led the campaign for the last Sound Transit measure, ST2, and will do the same for ST3.

    Opponents could call a 30-year measure a “never-ending tax,” Ranganathan says.

    “That yard sign writes itself,” she says. (Ranganathan is fresh off a campaign against anti-taxxers over the city’s Let’s Move Seattle levy.)

    Ranganathan also says that in order to buy into Seattle Subway’s idea, she needs more specifics from Sound Transit about exactly how much different light rail lines would cost. That’s part of what the Sound Transit board will get into on Friday.

    “Those are nice lines on the map, but my question is, ‘Can you actually do all of that with the tax authority we have in the timeframe Seattle Subway is proposing?'” Ranganathan says.

    Instead of the 30 years Seattle Subway is pitching, Ranganathan says she expects the board to craft package that spans 20 years.

    “That’s the trick,” she says. “What’s best mix of projects that mostly completes the network in a reasonable amount of time but doesn’t give people complete and total sticker shock?”

    One other thing to keep in mind: However the ST3 package ends up, it will also have to have enough new projects spread across the region to comply with the requirement for so-called “subarea equity.” That rule requires that taxes raised in each of Sound Transit’s subareas (portions of Snohomish, Pierce, East King, South King, and North King Counties) be spent in those areas. (Here’s more on the pros and cons of that complicated policy, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

    Sorry folks.

    1. But those folks vote no anyway. You aren’t going to find someone who wants to pay 15 years taxes for a bus, but not pay for 30 years for a train. That person is not real.

      Transit opponents will have yard signs. And the majority of people disagree with them.

      Prop 1 passed by a big margin in an off year election, and it had no real clear transformative project. STComplete in 2016 would blow that margin out of the water.

    2. Sorry, not sorry? You seem almost gleeful Joe.

      For what it’s worth, Shefali was convinced she was going to lose Move Seattle, which WON by 10pts. Doesn’t exactly sound like she has her finger on the pulse of the electorate.

  26. Nice to see the TCC showing some true colors and representing the anti-transit side here.

    20 years is perfect but 30 years is forever? Got it.

    1. 20 years is still better than 15. We don’t have to get into internecine battles and dilute our impact. Different transit fans will have different opinions along a range; that’s OK. And she asked a question; she didn’t make a statement. That approach may be a way to begin the discussion with cost-timid but potentially supportive parts of the public. When you’re negotiating you start with your top position because you can only go down, not up. Seattle Subway may get everything it wants or it may get only some of it, but we’ve effectively set the minimum and maximum of the range now. The minimum is 15 years; the maximum is 30 years. And we know 15 years isn’t enough for Payne Field and Everett, which seem to be ST’s highest priority, so the realistic minimum may be higher than 15 but we can call it 15 for now.

  27. Could have had a world class monorail system..but only after 3 votes…killed. Now it’s 30 years for maybe the perfect freight rail system (light rail stands for light capacity).

    Extend the current monorail downtown to circulate to the tourist attractions? Oh no..that’s just too weird.

    The world is passing you bye Seattle and you shill for the rail industry…

  28. I like the excitement but it’s hard for me to get on board. I’m not getting why we would want to extend extremely expensive light rail far out to low-density areas but we wouldn’t put it across 520 which is one of the worst commute corridors? Is there really going to be high density development in Woodinville? Not to mention that the timelines are so long it is hard to see any benefit in my working lifetime. At least BRT can be built out in a few years.

  29. Looking at this map it seems that given the reality of where density exists and give we decided to build a healthy dose of scoliosis into the spine the only viable route for light rail, especially a subway, to serve West Seattle is to follow it’s population density (what a concept) along the ridgeback and connect to Central Link at Boeing Field. An out of the way detour you might say; yeah, well look at Bell-Red to UW. I’d also add that when you look at the density map the meander from DT Seattle through the RV starts to make sense.

  30. If extending Sound Move/ST2 taxes into the future would enable Sound Transit to borrow more today, then why can’t they do that right now in order to complete the already authorized projects that were deferred from ST2?

    This is basically just a numerical/financial exercise. What’s the present value of extending the existing tax rates? Seattle Subway thinks it’s a huge pot of money, enough to buy us STComplete. Sound Transit thinks it’s not even enough to finish the already voted Link to Federal Way.

    Why are Seattle Subway and Sound Transit so far apart on the math?

    1. Why are Seattle Subway and Sound Transit so far apart on the math?

      That’s so easy to answer maybe it was meant to be a rhetorical question. Seattle Subway is pie in the sky and ST actually has to present some sense of reality (not much) with respect to ridership and cost. The Great Fire of London was in 1666. The great Seattle Fire was in 1889. Maybe in 300 years there will be a subway stop in Milton.

    2. It’s not borrowing more today; it’s borrowing more when the initial ST3 bonds are substantially paid back. The maximum outstanding debt is based on the tax revenue each year, and that obviously doesn’t change by extenidng the timeframe.

      The only thing still deferred from ST2 due to recession cuts is South 240th to 272nd Street, or am I missing something? I don’t know why ST chose not to just continue until 272nd was done, but it basically folded it into ST3. 272nd is kind of silly as a terminus because the center of Federal Way is 320th. 240th makes sense because the college is there and the road to Kent is there.

      1. So, a couple of questions arise.

        (1) Back in July, Seattle Subway wrote here that their proposal was to get voter approval to extend the Sound Move/ST2 taxes along with the ST3 taxes that Sound Transit proposes.

        “We propose a single 2016 ballot measure that includes the Sound Transit 3 funding and authorizes the continued collection of Sound Move (the 1996 vote) and Sound Transit 2 (the 2008 vote) taxes past their current end date.”

        Is that still the plan? I see commenters assume that we’re only talking about an extension of ST3 taxes, but unless I missed it, Seattle Subway hasn’t wavered off the original financing.

        (2) If it is the former (extending Sound Move/ST2 taxes), then I think we’d start to see incremental tax revenues in the late 2020s. At least that’s what somebody had suggested here in comments. ST’s position seems to be that they have planned borrowings over the next several years that are as much as they can support with the projected revenue streams. Does Seattle Subway disagree with that assessment and why? Or am I mischaracterizing ST’s position?

        (3) if it really is just an extension of ST3 taxes beyond the $15B project list, when would those generate incremental revenues? Isn’t it even further in the future, so that the present value is even less. ST3 isn’t being paid off in 15 years – the bonds will be repaid over a much longer schedule than that. So at some point far in the future we can build more stuff, but in terms of near-term borrowing capacity, it’s a nothing-burger?

      2. ST would extend the ST1 and ST2 taxes too, because the whole point of going to the legislature last year was that the ST1 and ST2 tax capacity alone wouldn’t be enough to meet the immediate needs, especially since ST can’t borrow more on them until it pays the bonds down. Therefore the ST3 capacity alone wouldn’t be enough either, but it’s the only one we have for the initial years.

        1) It’s the same idea, just more detailed now.

        2 and 3) I think you’re getting caught up in details. It’s pretty certain that both ST and Seattle Subway intend to max out the ST1+ST2+ST3 capacity to finish their chosen projects the fastest. People are demanding HCT now and 15 years is already a long time, so there’s no reason to hold back. (Minus a bit of reserve capacity for emergencies.) Didn’t everybody understand that when ST asked for more authority it was tantamount to a “tax increase”, not a “tax replacement”? So therefore it is ST1+ST2+ST3. But the ST1 and ST2 capacities are limited until the bonds are paid down. Therefore, initial spending will just be on the ST3 account, but in the late 20s the spending will be able to accelerate to finish it faster.

        15 years was the estimated work schedule, not the payoff time. It was chosen because that’s what ST1 and ST2 were.

      3. But, ST doesn’t want to use the MVET portion if it can avoid it, because MVET is so heavily unpopular and a lightning rod for tax-haters. So if it does avoid it or minimize it, it wouldn’t be using the full ST3 capacity.

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