Streetcar 402 entering service at Occidental Mall

This is an open thread.

97 Replies to “News Roundup: Close to Launch”

  1. •TriMet’s electronic fare system close to launch.

    It’s at least a year away. They are close to finalizing the rules of how the system would work.

    The poles you see in the photograph have been installed for a few months, but just last week or so had the emblem and colored top installed on them.

    Among other things, they plan to do a free card program at initial launch. So, just like the ORCA, if you come down here to visit from time to time get ready to grab one.

    1. The article mentions fare-capping when using the Hop card. Will this feature also be available when using your mobile phone (Apple Pay, Android Pay). I like the idea of having a capped daily fare when I visit Portland, but probably wouldn’t buy and maintain a Hop card for the infrequent times that I visit there.

  2. Why do you think directly electing a transit board is a terrible idea? I like it. I would much rather elect a transit board then live with the current system. Right now I can write Sound Transit representatives, but they are busy with other matters. The head of the transit board is head of the biggest county in Washington State, the 13th biggest in the country. His time is spent on public safety and public health issues. The same is true for everyone on the board. No one is directly, 100% focused on Sound Transit, or even regional transit in general (if the head of Sound Transit was also only responsible for Metro then I would feel differently). Speaking of which, one benefit from the current system is that since Constantine is head of the county and ultimately responsible for Metro, you could argue that the current system allows greater cooperation between agencies. It should be obvious to everyone that there has been little to no effective cooperation between the two agencies.

    We elect a school board even though it might make sense for the city to run the schools. After all, there is a lot of cooperation between the two (day care, after school programs, etc.). But by directly electing a school board, we know we are electing people dedicated to education. These are folks focused on education. If they do a good job with education, then they will keep their job. If not, then we will elect other people.

    But that simply isn’t the case with Sound Transit. Was it even an issue last time? Did anyone on the council mention their transit expertise or what they planned to do if elected? Not that I can remember.

    1. I think the concern is that a directly elected board would focus too much on getting votes in the short term, rather than improving transit in the long term.

      1. I don’t see why you can assume that. It really depends on who we elect. The big difference is they could be focused on the transit issues instead of splitting their time with lots of other (some would argue more important) issues.

        It’s not like these folks aren’t concerned about getting short term votes. Ask anyone why West Seattle light rail or completing the spine is first priority and they will tell you that if they don’t support that, then too many people will complain. In other words, politics. No one has said this is the best way to spend our money. No one has said, or tried to make the case that this will result in the best improvement for transit for the money. Not even close.

        If this was an appointed board, then I think you would have a good argument. I’m all for an appointed board that can focus 100% on these issues. But I don’t see that here. Given the choice between a board that obviously doesn’t know much about transit (like this one) or an elected board, I would pick the latter every time.

      1. Many of our existing P&R’s have no reason to exist other than the fact that the other P&R lot, a mile away is full, and it is cheaper to open up a new surface lot, served by a different fleet of buses, than to build a giant parking structure to hold all of those cars in one place. Eastmont P&R, and South Renton P&R are good examples of this.

        The tradeoff of this scheme is that it divides service between each P&R, so that the level of service to any particular location is limited by the capacity of the parking. The result is a bunch of parallel routes running every 15-20 minutes, of which you can only use one of them, rather than one route running every 5-10 minutes.

        For all its faults, this is something that the “spine” emphasis on Link is aimed to fix. A train can serve multiple parking lots on the way to downtown much more efficiently than a bus that has to spend several minutes getting off the freeway and waiting at stoplights for each intermediate stop.

      2. I don’t think you can assume that at all. It really would be up to the people that are elected. I hardly see an urban focus with the board. Quite the opposite. I see a board focused on failed strategies for addressing transit needs. This is a board whose primary goal, repeated over and over, is to complete the spine. I’m pretty sure that includes a lot of park and rides.

        I think the makeup of that board as being a large reason why. None of the board members have the time to really concern themselves with the details of transit issues. I bet I spend more time thinking about transit than any of the members of the board. I hope that is the case. I can spend time because I have the time. The other members of the board have much bigger things to worry about. If Murray or Constantine spend a weekend discussing transit with Jarrett Walker, then they won’t have time to deal with a police crisis, or making sure the government runs effectively. How often do you see members of the board making comments here? I remember Conlin making a comment here and I think Rob Johnson has as well, but that is about it. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the mayor or county council exec have every been involved in the discussions here. Of course they haven’t. They have bigger concerns.

      3. RossB says
        I bet I spend more time thinking about transit than any of the members of the board.

        I bet you’ve spent more time riding transit since January 1st than the members of the board have collectively since elected. In fact I’d bet the last time any of them was dependent on transit was riding a yellow school bus. The only appointed member that makes sense is the director of WSDOT. The worst of it is the discresionary seats that are handed out as political favors. Although I have to say it looks like Murray did the right thing with his appointment of Rob Johnson.

      4. As to RossB:

        I think the makeup of that board as being a large reason why. None of the board members have the time to really concern themselves with the details of transit issues. I bet I spend more time thinking about transit than any of the members of the board. I hope that is the case. I can spend time because I have the time. The other members of the board have much bigger things to worry about. If Murray or Constantine spend a weekend discussing transit with Jarrett Walker, then they won’t have time to deal with a police crisis, or making sure the government runs effectively. How often do you see members of the board making comments here?

        Good points. All the more reason to have transit boards directly elected.

    2. Given the state of Seattle schools, I don’t think it makes any sense to use our directly elected school board as a model for a revised ST board. If anything, it might make more sense to do it the other way around.

      1. Seattle’s schools are outstanding. I’m not sure why don’t understand that. Maybe because you didn’t go there. Seriously, though, take a good look at Garfield High School (where I went). This is our “inner city school”. This is the school that used to have a cheer that included “Soul in the ghetto …”. This is a school that in most cities would be a mess. The type of school that teachers shun. The students might excel in sports (if they are lucky) but nothing else. But that has never been the case. Even when it was an overwhelmingly black school, it excelled in academic pursuits, like chess, debate and music. The school board played a part in making sure that school (and other schools) have done well.

        Besides, you miss the point. Again, the key here is you can elect a different board. The board is focused on education: nothing more, nothing less. This stands in great contrast to the city council and the mayor. The mayor and most of the city council have a wide range of issues to consider. Some of them might bet involved in transit, but it is rarely the primary focus. There is a good argument that it shouldn’t be. They have lots of other important things to worry about (like public safety and public health).

        Not that I’m suggesting that the Seattle Transit board, like school boards, get paid nothing. I do think they should earn a decent salary

    3. After 40+ years in Seattle observing local government, I’ve concluded that the most consistently dysfunctional bodies have been our elected school board and port commission. Elections should be reserved for general-purpose government, our city and county councils. Creating another single-purpose elected body would not be a step forward.

      And besides, voters already hold Sound Transit accountable every time they put a plan and a tax increase on the ballot. Sound Transit does nothing without first obtaining voter approval.

      1. I have lived in the city for over 50 years and find your statement ridiculous and unsubstantiated. I know a few former school board members personally, and can tell you that sometimes it functions well, and sometimes it doesn’t. The same thing can be said for any board. If I had to rank the various boards I would rank Sound Transit towards the bottom, as their focus on the spine is nonsensical.

        But the big difference is that people on a school board are focused on the school. So far as I know, there is no place in the U. S. which doesn’t have a school board. There are plenty that are run by the mayor, but the mayor appoints the school board. The mayor and the city council don’t spend time on both education and police matters, the way they spend money on police and public health. An appointed Sound Transit board would be fine. But the current board spends way too little time on transportation issues to understand the nuances.

        You are right — eventually we get to choose whether to build something or not. But that is a simple yes/no vote. If the board proposes a mix of both good and terrible projects, then we all are stuck with a tough choice. Approve it because it is better than nothing, or hope they will come back with a better proposal next time. An elected or appointed board completely dedicated to transit would stand a better chance of getting it right the first time.

      2. RD,

        I agree. The results of making ST directly elected will be much more like the results with the “Port Commissioners” than that with the various School Boards. Ross is right that the School Boards attract passionately committed parents. But that’s nothing like what happens at the Ports. The people who run for Port Commissioner have barrels of interest conflicts. Heck, not just barrels, cargo containers full.

        Have you ever met a Port Commissioner that didn’t make your skin crawl? (Well, with the exception of the new one down here who was elected because people don’t want the oil terminal).

        The same thing would be true with a directly elected Sound Transit Board. Construction companies would spend millions to get plaint, corrupt representatives who would favor them. Right wingers would spend big to get people on the board who would just vote “No” on every proposal.

        It would be a fustercluck of the first order.

      3. Ross, since you’ve been around even longer than I, you should remember that it’s been rail transit opponents that have trumpeted an elected Sound Transit board. They wanted to elect a majority of Rob McKennas, or at least enough of them to really gum up the works. You know, like having an Airbus VP on the Boeing board of directors. Just not a very good idea. And where would the campaign money come from for all those political campaigns? From the industries that that receive ST money in the course of building their projects — architects, engineers, and construction contractors. Again, just not a good idea.

      4. @RDP,

        The real problem with Seattle is that we don’t directly elect our landscape architects. I mean, have you seen some of the plant and flower combinations our park department chooses to put in our parks? It’s really embarrassing – an amateur blogger could do better.

        We spend millions of dollars every year and we get total crap and incompetence. And there is a total lack of transparency and accountability on how these dollars are spent.

        So following through on RossB’s line of thought, it is way past time that we directly elect our landscape archetects! Because I too have lived in this city and I know for sure that everything would be better if we used the Seattle school board as our model.


        (And yes RossB, I actually do know a thing or two about landscaping- don’t even try to go ther)

      5. And where would the campaign money come from for all those political campaigns? From the industries that that receive ST money in the course of building their projects — architects, engineers, and construction contractors. Again, just not a good idea.

        Good point, but of course that happens now. Or do you think they never considered giving money to guys like Constantine?

        The big difference is that there would be more transparency. It would be more obvious as to who is in whose pocket. Right now it all gets muddled together.

        The port is an interesting analogy. I really don’t pay much attention to the port and my guess is very few people do. That is because, for the most part, what they do is invisible to most people. Sound Transit is different. The money is huge (not that the port isn’t) and the effects obvious. You can’t say that about much (you certainly can’t say that about landscaping, Laz). Of course you don’t want every single interest to be specialized and with its own independent (elected or appointed) board, with all members 100% dedicated to the issue. But I believe Sound Transit rises to that level. I want an ST board completely dedicated to the very expensive, very important task at hand. Whether that position is elected or appointed doesn’t matter much to me, although I would prefer the former. I would much rather vote for the ST board than vote for Sheriffs, Judges, and half the state wide positions (like Insurance Commissioner, etc.).

    4. Everybody loves public schools, except a few who want to turn them all into charter schools. Not everybody loves transit or thinks it’s worth investing in. Many of those who do think spines and P&Rs are all we need. Seattle is 1/5 of the ST district’s population. So the risk of getting a worse board than we have is significant. You also have to look at who’s pushing this. It’s generally people who want ST to spend less, do nothing, use only BRT, keep buses and trains out of my neighborhood, etc.

      1. Right, but I really don’t care who is pushing this. The people who pushed for breaking the city council into districts wanted a board of neighborhood preservationists. They figured they could concentrate the urbanists into one district and rule the council. It didn’t work out that way.

        That could easily happen here. But the big problem with the current board is that their priorities aren’t good for anyone. Completing the spine is one of the stupidest ideas out there. No independent commission would ever vote for that. Hire a dozen transit consultants to figure out what makes sense for the area — even given subarea equity realities — and not one would suggest a light rail line to Everett or Tacoma. I really think the current board is just ignorant of transit. I don’t blame them. On paper the spine sounds great. I voted for it. But the more time you read about what works and what doesn’t work, the more you realize that it won’t work. It is just a terrible way to spend that kind of money. Not only for the region, but for the people it purports to help. But none of the folks on the board have as much time to spend reading about transit and discussing it as I do. They all have very tough day jobs. The fact that someone like me — a nobody — can spend more time learning about transit than someone who is tasked with that sort of responsibility is the problem.

        The one change I would make to the proposal is to directly elect a head. This is the key role and one where an urban voice would likely win. But it would be someone who knew a thing or two about transit, or I wouldn’t vote for him/her. It is obvious that Dow Constantine knows little about transit, but I will vote for him come the next election.

        The big benefit from this change is that we would get officials talking about and defending the proposals. It is easy to assume that a board made up of like minded officials is a well functioning board, but that really isn’t the case. You don’t want people who are stubborn on a board, but you don’t want people who can’t defend what is right. Even just for Seattle issues I would love to see an elected board. Sound Transit defers to the local reps, and is, in my opinion, headed down the wrong road right now. To support a West Seattle to Ballard line when other alternatives would be much better is silly. The fact that it is happening without any real representation is worse. I would much rather have someone run on that platform and lose than have a board made up of people who assumes that the best measurement of effective transit is the number of miles of light rail you build (regardless of location).

      2. It’s too early to say district-based councils will do. We avoided a major catastrophe, but it remains to be seen how eagerly the council implements HALA or returns to the issue of making single-family zones do their part in alleviating the housing shortage and making neighborhoods more walkable.

      3. Come on Mike. Every candidate that was supported by those same organizations failed. The people who thought that this would usher in a new power structure — one lead by neighborhood preservationists — must have been disappointed. Their candidates lost in the primary. No one knows what the new council will support (the mayor is so far the weakest on the HALA recommendations) but it is obvious that the strategy of divide and conquer didn’t work. Now these people are back to their most successful strategy, which is put pressure on elected officials in meetings (where angry people dominate the discussion and those who are busy living their lives can’t attend).

    5. Ross, there was a lot of discussion of this very subject for decades, and it figured very heavily in the election when King County’s elected representatives replaced the Municipality of Seattle, the original Metro- whose officials were, like Sound Transit’s, elected officials from other represented governments.

      The problem that a directly-elected official concerned only with transit must still negotiate with all the above officials- and their departments- to get anything done. Having watched a campaign over “Governance”- a term I really came to hate, regardless of the outcome.

      The exact officials whose full attention was required by the Downtown Seattle Transit Project at its most critical phase was at every level diverted from their most pressing duty. I remember more than one discussion with Breda personnel that they simply could not get an answer without which they could not proceed.

      “Governance”. A nuisance at the worst time to competent authority. A gift to the scared and the lazy. We’re lucky that our boring machines aren’t permanently parked alongside Bertha. Given the difference between the election choices, to my mind the damage from the shift of attention outweighed the best possible outcome.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Which is PRECISELY why you should SUPPORT an elected Sound Transit Board. Instead of Chairman Dow Constantine, you could have Chairman Martin Duke.

        As I said last night, Spine Destiny is here to stay. But there are things that an elected Board of transit advocates could do that the current board cannot.

      2. The problem is that this is what Federal Way decided was their preferred alignment. They don’t want something that has the potential for causing ugly centers of employment and housing in the middle of the vast beautiful wilderness of decaying parking spaces.

        I’m therefore not convinced that having an elected board is going to do much to solve stuff like that. In fact, it may make things worse.

      3. This is not what “Federal Way” wanted, it is what Federal Way officials — who in my opinion don’t know any better — wanted. I think like most of the board, they really don’t understand transit issues. They probably don’t understand them as well as me, which is really saying something. They have no expertise, nor have they ever claimed to have any understanding of transit issues. Even guys like Constantine and Murray, who I think are fine administrators, don’t seem to understand the issues. They barely even talk about it. We have had numerous worthwhile discussions about ST3 projects (like Ballard to UW light rail, and WSTT) as well as future projects (like a Metro 8 subway) but not a peep out of the folks that are in charge of this stuff. I don’t blame them. They have more important responsibilities. Directly electing (or appointing) a board would change all that.

        Look, here is an ad for someone to work for Jarrett Walker’s firm:
        My guess is few, if any member of the transit board meets their criteria. II wouldn’t make this a criteria for running, but if someone had that experience, I would certainly consider it a bonus. But my point is it never comes up. When evaluating candidates for that board, it never comes up. I want to see people who sit on that board be focused on transit, and not much else. When it is time to pick someone, I want to see a real discussion, a real argument as to what makes sense for the region, instead of this wishy-washy, just build more rail here or there crap. Of course we might lose an election or two, but at least we stand a chance of winning.

      4. RossB, as to;

        I want to see people who sit on that board be focused on transit, and not much else. When it is time to pick someone, I want to see a real discussion, a real argument as to what makes sense for the region, instead of this wishy-washy, just build more rail here or there crap. Of course we might lose an election or two, but at least we stand a chance of winning.

        Absolutely. I have to be very careful what I write about Skagit Transit since I’m on their Citizen’s Advisory Committee, but our board only meets for 30-50 minutes once a month to discuss transit issues. That’s it. It’s hugely problematic at best.

      5. Those very same Federal Way leaders are elected.

        If you switch to an elected transit board, I don’t see how you don’t wind up with local business leaders and others that also don’t understand transit but are just good at running elections.

        Down here, our local equivslent of the PSRC is elected and the TriMet board is appointed. The regional council claims as it wants to maintain livability and all that. What we’ve gotten is anti-transit sprawl due to perpetual increases in the urban growth boundary and some of the fastest increasing housing prices in the country. The elected people know how to run a campaign, but not a great deal about urban planning.

        If possible, you want your elected transit board to not resemble that.

      6. Glenn;

        I hope you’re not offended when I say I think the Regional Council should be appointed of electeds and the transit board elected. One of which clearly should be for electeds to network and the other is to provide a service.

      7. Not offended at all. Of people that post responses here my feedback is probably the least legitimate due to where I live.

        My only concern is keeping Seattle from making the same mistakes Portland has.

    6. RossB;

      I have a good friend on the new Island Transit board. She tells me as Island County Commish restoring Island Transit to honor & duty is taking up the most amount of hours Granted, citing Island Transit for anything good in 1/2016 is not necessarily a good idea and the work to fix that agency is hard, but I have to say electing transit board members is a good idea. I want people who have the passion and commitment we have down here in the comments running these transit agencies – not somebody who’s running between mental health meetings, transit meetings, trying to hire & keep good planners, deal with the land use crisis of the month, liaise with major employers, deal with justice reform, and take public comment on all of that and more for starters.

      As RossB said,

      Why do you think directly electing a transit board is a terrible idea? I like it. I would much rather elect a transit board then live with the current system. Right now I can write Sound Transit representatives, but they are busy with other matters. The head of the transit board is head of the biggest county in Washington State, the 13th biggest in the country. His time is spent on public safety and public health issues. The same is true for everyone on the board. No one is directly, 100% focused on Sound Transit, or even regional transit in general (if the head of Sound Transit was also only responsible for Metro then I would feel differently). Speaking of which, one benefit from the current system is that since Constantine is head of the county and ultimately responsible for Metro, you could argue that the current system allows greater cooperation between agencies. It should be obvious to everyone that there has been little to no effective cooperation between the two agencies.

      There is a good argument to govern everything with a generalist view of the above instead of a bunch of Jarrett Walker fanatics. But I would argue I want these transit agencies watchdogged carefully. One of them – Island Transit – clearly needed a better board a few years ago and one current boardmember is musing about going to direct elections. Another of them clearly deserves a full-time board with a stipend/per diem for each board member – and considering how attendance at Sound Transit Board meetings was used against a King County Council candidate, food for thought.

      On that note, I am of the bias that Chairman of the Sound Transit Board Martin Duke is long overdue. Love you guys at STB a lot. You guys make me feel like I’m not alone. Now if any bullies show up, we Duke Nukem like [cp] Zimmerman that goes off every stinking month with his Orwellian two minutes of hate. Zimmerman also endorsed Donald Trump today, just so you know.

      Back to the topic at hand. Although Sound Transit is truly sound, there is the matter not every jurisdiction is currently represented. Furthermore, I want transit advocates on these boards – not to have to vote for least worst of all of the above choices on a menu of issues in Skagit. Yes, if the Skagit Transit Board would be directly elected I’d run. I’d campaign on pivoting Skagit Transit into more of a pulse system – smaller vehicles, but more frequency. But for the Everett Connector and Camano-Skagit-Whidbey connector we’d put buying some Double Talls into our TDP…

    7. I have to say all this anti-Spine Destiny stuff is making me cringe. At some point, at some time it makes sense to build a strong spine from Everett to Tacoma.

      Any Sound Transit district spanning that area – and more, I might add – is going to have a board say this. Electing the Sound Transit Board shouldn’t be done in a doomed-to-fail means of stopping Spine Destiny.

      No, rather the idea should be to elect the Board so the proper east-west trusses are built – and a Board that will better represent transit advocates who are COMMITTED to a better transit system.

      1. >> At some point, at some time it makes sense to build a strong spine from Everett to Tacoma.

        I doubt it. Sorry, Joe, I appreciate your opinion and all, and I think you have a lot of good stuff to say, but I really doubt it will ever make sense to build the spine from Everett to Tacoma. Very few cites have ever done that. New York, Chicago, Toronto, London, Paris — none of their subways go as far away from the center as that would. All of those cities are much bigger than ours, have much more popular destinations along the way, and have much higher density in the far off reaches of their cities (or the other cities, as the case may be).

        The closest comparison is probably BART, which really didn’t make sense to build. If they had simply improved the (cheap) commuter rail, added more bus service to the suburbs and then focused on covering Oakland and Berkeley better (with a solid connection to San Fransisco) transit ridership would be much higher in the region. Fremont California is roughly the size of Tacoma, which means it is over twice the size of Everett. It has more densely populated pockets than both, including around the station. Yet the station (the only one in Fremont) only carries around 8,000 people a day. Other stations in the area are worse. The result is infrequent transit.

        It is much better to leverage what we are about to build, which is the type of thing that cities like D. C., Toronto and Vancouver do. So that means Lynnwood. Run buses from all over Snohomish County to Lynnwood. Change the HOV 3 to HOV 2 and you will actually get there much faster. Meanwhile, once you get to Lynnwood, with all of those feeder buses, you will get decent frequency. Everyone wins!

      2. I wouldn’t praise DC too highly. While the center of their system is much better than BART some of it does trail way further out into the suburbs with freeway stations than it should.

        The Silver Line is the worst offender with the end of the line being 45 miles or so from central DC.

      3. RossB;

        Many, many thanks for the kind words.

        The strategic problem anti-Spine Destiny folks have is that ST1 & ST2 were all about setting the stage for an Everett-Seattle-Tacoma spine with a truss well past Bellevue. A little late now to wind the clock back, eh?

        I get the frustration. But the Sound Transit District is NOT Seattle, and Seattle is NOT the Sound Transit District.

        The original 1996 plan said,

        The electric light-rail line is a cost-effective way to serve the core of the regional system where transit ridership is the highest. This new transportation link provides a stepping stone for expansion into the next century (a two-way light-rail line can carry the same number of people as 12 freeway lanes).

        In ST2 was this on page 10:

        North Corridor ST2 expands light rail north from the University of Washington to Lynnwood, adding seven planned new stations in the University District, the Roosevelt neighborhood, Northgate, 145th Street/Jackson Park, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood. This extension is scheduled to be open to Northgate by 2020 and to Lynnwood by 2023. If additional funding and/or cost savings are available, preliminary engineering and environmental review for the extension of light rail from Lynnwood Transit Center to Everett may be performed as part of the ST2 program.

        Those plans have been well and underway. I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised about light rail’s future here. Spine Destiny isn’t such a bad thing – and remember it’s very hard to expand out west and arguably east. Plus California has a car culture, the Central Puget Sound has a growing transit culture.

      4. @Chris — I think you mean kilometers, not miles. That is for the whole line, too (both sides). From what I can tell, the farthest reaches of the DC subway is the far west of that line, which is about 15 miles to the center city. That is roughly the same distance as Federal Way to downtown Seattle. So it basically goes out as far as ours. So their system certainly covers the suburbs (more than Vancouver and Toronto) but it also covers the city quite well. Basically, once you get to the city, you can get almost anywhere within it (except Georgetown, because they didn’t want a subway station, which I always found weird). There is a great contrast between a city that has most of its inner core covered and is thinking about extending it outward, versus a city that has little of its core covered and is considering extending much, much farther outward.

        I do think it is worth mentioning that the subway doesn’t go to Baltimore, while we are busy trying to build a line to much smaller cities roughly as distant.

      5. What worries me about the Spine, Joe, is that it will cost a bunch of money, yet not deliver that much in the way of transit. I wouldn’t worry about extending rail east and I certainly wouldn’t extend it west. But the core city itself, unlike D. C., Vancouver or Toronto, is just not covered. It isn’t convenient. So extending it outward would be like buying a new spoiler for your hot rod before you have bought wheels. Someone from Everett, I’m afraid, will be very disappointed. They will have a relatively slow ride into downtown (with all the stops) and still not be able to get to where they actually want to go. Meanwhile, there will be little left over for other transit in Snohomish County. So riders trying to get to other locations (e. g. SR 99 or even to central Everett) will have to wait (at a bus stop a very long time). I would much rather have a lot more Swift style service and other bus improvements everywhere. I think most people would if they really knew what they could buy for the money.

        It is possible that we will build up to the level that it doesn’t matter. That is basically the Seattle Subway — light rail everywhere — more rail miles than NYC model. If that were to happen, then we probably wouldn’t have much left over for other things, like paying the police, or making sure that they aren’t too busy (by paying the social workers and teachers).

      6. RossB, I have a simple response to your concern, which is quite legit.

        Sound Transit provides the regional connectivity piece of transit.

        Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro and Pierce Transit all feed into Sound Transit.

        So the only question is what to prioritize the regional money on? I say finish the spine, then build good west-east trusses for that spine. Starting with Ballard and West Seattle.

      7. At some point, at some time it makes sense to build a strong spine from Everett to Tacoma.

        I’m not convinced that trains running at 55 mph maximum speed is going to get you a strong spine.

        This is the type of regional service where places in Europe would use a 75 mph train. For example:
        is used on some services that are in the Seattle – Everett range.

        However, it isn’t just speed that those lines need. They need to be part of an overall transit network that feeds them. No matter how many thousands of people work in downtown Seattle, there are thousands more that don’t work in downtown Seattle.

        The Spine gets you from Lynnwood to Capitol Hill in a reasonable amount of time, but if you work in Lower Queen Anne or South Lake Union you are now looking at a long, slow slog on the 8 or some similar bit of awfulness. So, the spine benefits a few people, but the Metro 8 subway benefits a whole lot more, and sets things up so that some day the Spine might have a chance of working.

        It’s one off the problems with automobile based sprawl: it is exceptionally difficult to serve it well with transit because it exists in such far flung places.

        Take a look at, say, Utrecht, Netherlands looks on Google Maps. They have very sharp transitions from the city into farmland outside the city. In a city in the USA, that land would all be parking lots and a tangle of very difficult to serve suburban streets.

        For the spine to work, it has to be better enough than driving to be able to attract people to live and work next to it rather than having vast acres of parking lots. It won’t be better enough than driving for enough people without a really good network in those places that already have a large number of jobs and residents. In Seattle, those places are South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne.

        The Everett end of things is really a mess as far as that goes. For the Spine to work they need to be ready to upzone for higher density within a reasonable distance of the light rail line. Much has been written about getting transit to the airport, but the fact is there is a lot of sprawl up there that is hard to serve with anything – not just the airport, but even downtown Everett.

        Take a look (using Google maps and street view) at what is going on near many of the Skytrain stations in Vancouver BC. The Surrey Central station is in the middle of a huge blob of sprawl, with lots of single family houses around it. Yet, near the station the zoning now allows for very tall structures to be built, and you will see 20 floor or so buildings going in near many of the outer Expo line stations.

        Unfortunately, Everett needs to figure out how to do this without making vast acres of parking lots. I think that is one of the big differences between what you see around Skytrain stations and what you see around BART stations. What you see around most of the Expo Line Skytrain stations are buildings. You see buildings around the suburban BART stations too, but an awful lot of them are separated from eachother by some pretty huge parking lots. This makes them harder to serve with a single transit station.

        Then, once the amount of stuff near the stations is dealt with and the local transit networks are dealt with, there is probably going to have to be some consideration given to the maximum speed of the trains being used. It isn’t the biggest issue, but when the parallel road is a freeway it means that over that kind of distance it is probably going to need something more than 55 mph to really attract really large numbers of off-peak riders.

      8. @RossB you are right my numbers are off. The furthest reaches of the system are the West end of the Orange and Silver lines along with the Northwest end of the Red line. All of these are roughly 20 miles from the Washington Monument. The silver line phase II out to Dulles will make the total Silver Line length about 30 miles. You are also correct that the Washington Metro provides much better coverage in the core than our system does.

        I suppose there is the consolation that even with just the ST II lines there is better core coverage than BART, but that is damming Link with faint praise. That said I wouldn’t slam Sound Transit or Link too hard. Against most other modern US light rail systems it does a better job of serving the core and that will be reflected in the ridership of the finished network.

  3. Cap Hill businesses don’t want the FHSC extended.

    Also, when I was on the northbound FHSC, at Broadway and Marion, it announced Seattle University but not Swedish Hospital. Do I have to do all the thinking for everyone? People whose job it is to program the announcements, there’s an enormous hospital right across the street from the stop at Marion!

    1. Thanks for the link, Sam. I can understand why businesses are hesitant. Tearing up the street is really hard on them. In the long run it is better. But from the looks of it, not that much better. An additional 1,000 riders is very small. The weird part is that extending it makes some sense. The worst part about this line is the middle. Very few people will take this from Jackson to Broadway because of the curves (that needs a snappier title than the 12th/14th/Jackson/Yesler detour). But people will take this along Jackson and they will take this along Broadway. Thus extending it up Broadway makes sense. But not if only a handful of people take it.

      There is some interesting wording in the article. Here is one quote from the article :

      The Roy terminus has drawn some strong criticism among those who wanted to see the streetcar land closer to Volunteer Park. Some have even called for the remaining two stops to be scrapped, though it seems unlikely given the millions already sunk into funding the early stages of the project.

      Interesting use of the word “sunk”. I’m no economist, but even I know what sunk cost means.

      With one transfer, riders will one day be able to travel from the southern shores of Lake Union, though the Denny Triangle, downtown, the ID, First Hill, Pike/Pine, and up to Broadway and Denny across from the soon to open Capitol Hill Station.

      I imagine they meant “without a transfer” instead of “with one transfer”. But more to the point, why would anyone want to do that? Why would you ride from South Lake Union to Capitol Hill via the I. D.? That makes no sense. You would walk or catch a bus to the 8 and just go up the hill. Its weird to think they are promoting something as a benefit, when it is of course the biggest weakness of the system. This won’t work for anything but very tiny trips, and even some of those (at the south end of Broadway) won’t work very well at all.

      1. I think one of the selling points of the CCC is that once you are on it, you don’t need to transfer to any of those other places. In other words, the SLUT, CCC and FHSC are all one line.

      2. Actually, there would still be one transfer. Remember that the SLU cars are only going to run to somewhere on Jackson St, while the First Hill cars are going to turn back in central SLU a few blocks short of the park. The SLU cars would need to do this since they don’t have any off-wire capability, but I don’t know anything stopping them from extending the First Hill cars all the way to the Fred Hutchinson.

      3. OK, interesting. So, basically no different than today. To get to all those places right now, you would take the 70, then transfer to a bus. Now you will be able to take a bus and transfer to a bus (or a streetcar). Any way you cut it, that was a weird way to write that paragraph (in my opinion). I think you could say something like “streetcar service will one day extend from the southern shores of Lake Union, though the Denny Triangle …”.

      4. Operational plans for the CCC aren’t set in stone yet. However to the best of my knowledge the plans include replacing all of the current SLU cars with off-wire capable cars and running two overlapping routes over the CCC (Broadway-Westlake and SLU-Union Station). This would allow for peak 5 minute headways in the core and 10 minute headways on the ends.

        For any of the streetcar investment to make any sense the cars need to be frequent. 20 minute or worse service means you really shouldn’t have built the damn thing in the first place.

    2. It’s probably like the Metro bus announcements: they announce the closest GPS street like “Broadway Court” and “4th Avenue” when what passengers are looking for is “Broadway” and “3rd Avenue” on the other end of the block.

      1. But with a streetcar, should they be relying on a GPS-located street? I’d be surprised if they were. The thing is on rails, they know *exactly* where the car is and where it’s stopping. It should all be pre-programmed.

      2. Whether it’s GPS or not, Metro seems to go for geographic closeness rather than arterials and transfer streets.

  4. Does anyone else think it’s kinda pathetic that the Lake Union Park foot bridge has been closed for a year and a half due to settlement problems that we can’t afford to fix, yet there’s easily a $1 billion worth of development within a mile?

    There’s a lot of wealth in the city, yet our City is so poor.

    1. Hey, back off. This is Seattle, and we have hills and lakes with muck and mire and all sorts of unique challenges the rest of the world can’t begin to comprehend. If the bridge were painted gold and was in San Francisco, would you be so harsh? It’s also why mega projects like FHSC and Bertha must be ‘soft started’. Things are tricky here.

      1. My reading, Mic, indicates that more than one project was considered a ridiculous non-necessity on the drawing boards, and counted priceless after opening day- though often not immediately.

        Both the Golden Gate and the Brooklyn Bridge had critics pointing at the miles of farms, forests, and church steeples and demanding to know who besides cows would ever want to cross it. Unless somebody invented a People Prod.

        San Francisco itself was, and maybe still is, a dangerous pile of firewood sitting on top of a permanent earthquake. Huge number of books on the Brooklyn Bridge noting how many critics were absolutely right about all its danger and impossibility.

        One tower rests on plain sand, because legal departments did not yet have the teeth to prevent the chief engineer from deciding that since fossils proved the sand hadn’t shifted since the sun got lighted, the lives of a lot of Irish workers could be saved.

        Patience. We’re just not in History yet.


    2. I’ve been wondering why the engineers that designed this footbridge didn’t discover the muck under the east footing. Investigating soil conditions is part of their job.

    3. Why is the footbridge there in the first place? It’s a short walk around it; the bridge seems superfluous.

      The city should focus more on the uninviting empty space with paths running through it. People congregate at the edges of spaces, not in triangles surrounded by flat paths.

      1. Good point. Could they just move it up to Northgate and call it good? Soils there are much better.

    4. I used that footbridge all the time. It makes me sad, but I understand it’s a pretty low-priority fix.

      To Mike’s point, I’d say that parks with some open space in them for open-ended play are fine. Sandel Park is a nice old-school park where you can have a picnic, sit and read, set up a wiffleball game, etc. There’s also a playground on its north end. Denny Park is fine, with a dog park, playground, judicious internal paths, and lawns full of trees. At Cascade Playground and Wallingford Playfield people use the big lawns to get their dogs some exercise. People sit out on the lawns at Seattle Center and walk its paths, which are reasonably sized and spaced for the access they provide. What doesn’t work is the excessive, weirdly laid-out paths (see also Hubbard Homestead Park), and the unattractive gravel surface (see also Counterbalance Park).

      It’s not that SLU Park shouldn’t have paths; a lot of people run and bike through it. But the paths connect comically poorly to the Lake Union Loop route on both sides, fail to provide a clear way through for people following the larger route, and direct people going through to jumble in the middle of the park. They should instead flow smoothly around the edges, leaving the middle for people that are there to be there (strollers, museum and Center for Wooden Boats visitors, fountain splashers, toy sailboat floaters). The extraneous paths (and the planters in the grassy parts) break up the space but aren’t edges because they aren’t destinations or attractions and don’t lead to them.

      1. Don’t get me started on the paths. It’s like they gave a monkey a bottle of tequila, put a hat with a banana on a stick on him and paved wherever he walked.

        But that bridge was immensely popular and it’s sad, if not embarrassing to see it languish for so long.

  5. “•Yet another terrible bill for a directly elected Sound Transit Board, proposed by a couple of Republicans.”

    Maybe one could provide more information on why having the people elect the leaders of an organization with a larger budget than many states/countries is a terrible idea.

    Is it the extra oversight and accountability? Is it that the leadership will be democratically elected? Is it that it will create roadblocks?

    Am interested in others’ thoughts. Thanks in advance.

    (As a side note, the Republican bashing on this site is the worst part of an awesome site. As someone who is conservative and loves mass transit, it further divides the two sides, instead of bringing them together. People are more apt to continue to oppose something if they keep getting bashed for things that many do support. Other than that, I visit the site nearly daily and enjoy all the content.)

    1. The “bashing” is frustration at transit obstructionists, and legislators those who pass state-funded highways without a vote but won’t fund transit, and put arbitrary limits on what local municipalities can do to fund their own transit. There’s a large overlap between Republicans and the want-more-highways-and-parking-but-don’t-want-transit-taxes faction.

    2. the Republican bashing on this site is the worst part of an awesome site.

      So, what should they be called instead? People who happen to have an R by their name in the list of elected officials?

      If a Democrat or Democrats come up with something stupid, they are referred on this site as Democrats. If it is a mixture of Democrats and Republicans they are referred to as that.

      Why is naming the party they belong to a bad idea when it is done for those on the other side?

      As to the rest, elected boards have worked OK in places, but they have also proven extremely ineffective or terrible in places. Among other issues, if the elected boards happen during minor elections it means that only a very small number of people actually turn out for the election and determine the outcome.

      Do you really see any point in having a bunch of judges on the ballot that nobody knows anything about and are running unopposed? Transit board elections can be just like electing those guys.

    3. GK, I am one of the top 3 political analysts on the west coast, and I can tell you, that in my expert opinion, the people who bash Republicans here simply don’t have the courage to blame their own party.

      Just remember this the next time one of these keyboard transit experts starts blaming “the Republicans” for this or that local transit issue … Seattle is a city run by a Democrat, that’s in a county run by a Democrat,that’s in a congressional district that’s run by a Democrat, that’s in a state that’s run by a Democrat, and that has two Democrat US Senators, that’s in a country that’s run by a Democrat.

      “But Sam, you have to realize that Republicans control …” Oh stfu.

    4. As someone who is conservative and loves mass transit, it further divides the two sides, instead of bringing them together.

      Are you seriously asserting that Republicans legislators are likely to have a more pro-transit voting record if this site avoided any critical commentary?

      Anyone who pays attention to WA state politics knows that, with occasional exceptions, Republican politicians are pretty solidly anti-public transit. It seems incredibly silly to ask the authors of this site to avoid mentioning that.

    5. My opinion on the matter is found in the comments above. I think it is a good idea. I really don’t care who came up with it. The one thing I would add is that I would also directly elect the head of the committee, rather than allow the board to elect a head.

    6. Truth is that Metro itself was largely spearheaded by Republican attorney James Ellis- at a time when many Democrats thought it was great enough that the average guy finally had a car.

      But you also need to understand that the worst of the Southern Democrats had not yet seized their current control of the Republican Party. At the time Metro was formed, to a Republican businessman a balance sheet could justify different courses of action.

      But at least he knew it was not a madly-waved flag to cover the economic performance now the province of today’s self-identified Republicans. Jim Ellis wouldn’t have needed to be thrown out, because pin-striped suits are wrong work clothes for a hog-pen;

      But the Republicans whose like founded Metro served another priceless purpose. Democratic voters never had to panic over an election lost to such people. Meaning one term’s defeat could be a relaxed time to retool and regroup.

      But seldom would a the Democratic Party have a permanent decade’s long one-sentence platform:
      “What choice have you got?” This is why Democrat’s most effective political salient should be an organization called “Democrats for Improved Republicans!” Citizens United means you don’t have to tell anybody it’s your money.


    7. There are some pro-transit Republicans like Avgeek Joe and (I think) Bernie. But the party leadership and platform is anti-transit and anti-tax and can jerk good-meaning representatives around into toeing the line. Democrats haven’t been the best in transit and urban issues and they’re too afraid of Tim Eyman, but at least their majority doesn’t have an anti-transit, anti-tax ideology motivating them. It’s up to pro-transit Republicans to reform the leadership and majority of the state party. Then more of us will be willing to trust that they won’t slash and sabotage things.

  6. @GK,

    I always get a kick out of how the R’s will throw around the words “transparency” and “accountability” as if just saying the magic words is proof enough that a problem actually exists. But they never go beyond saying the words. They never show proof of a problem.

    Show us that there is a problem with “transparency” or “accountability” and then maybe we can talk, but until then, where’s the problem?

    Is it a problem that ST is bringing in projects ahead of schedule? Is it a problem that ST is bringing in projects under budget? Are these “problems” that need to be corrected?

    Na, the fact of the matter is that ST is working really well and that the main issue some conservative legislators have with ST is not it’s management, but it’s choice of projects. But ultimately ST’s project list is held accountable by the voters by a direct vote. So what are the R’s trying to accomplish here?

    Na, show us a problem first. Until then these Republican bills are just solutions in search of a problem.

    1. There are plenty of people, and if memory serves, an entire organization that has written extensively (if not well) about ST’s lack of accountability.

      As for the choice of projects, there are plenty of people here who think they terrible. There are plenty of people who think that replacing a First Hill station with a streetcar was ridiculous. They also think that failing to even consider building any additional stations with U-Link (like along 23rd) was the result of incompetent planning. They essentially forced the voters into accepting a barely adequate proposal, or nothing. An elected board might change that.

      What I find funny is that in a few months Sound Transit is likely to propose similar projects. There will be plenty of people pointing out the obvious flaws in the set of projects, and that for the same amount of money, we could do much better. But when it comes time to vote, my guess is the people in charge of this blog will support ST3 regardless of what is proposed. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and all that. The obvious contradiction in those two ideas is staggering.

      1. The list of projects seems to be based mostly on what the local cities and counties are asking for.

        How is making an elected transit board going to be any better than the elected city governments?

      2. @Glen,

        Good comment.

        ST does spend a lot of time in appeasement mode, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if it was an elected board that is all they would be doing. It would be suburban bus routes and Park & Rides from here to eternity.

        Roads, cars, some buses, and a lot of parking lots. That is what governance reform is really about. Real transit improvements would end.

      3. Also, I would point out that PSRC has a lot to say in transportation policy, and they are appointed by local governments as well. It seems to me that you might make more progress with starting with them being an elected organization since they are the ones that set overall regional planning for growth management, transportation and economic development.

      4. >> How is making an elected transit board going to be any better than the elected city governments?

        Focus. An elected board will focus on these issues. They will have to run on these issues. They will be asked about their transit expertise and their approach to it. They will be able to spend all of their paid time working on transit. I think Constantine and Murray are smart guys, but I also think they don’t know much about transit. They have higher priorities.

      5. Directly electing the Sound Transit board is nothing more than a power play by those who oppose transit. The purpose is twofold, first to stop further expansion by packing the board with as many anti-transit members as possible, second to get their hands on Sound Transit’s revenue stream for building roads, parking, and local pork.

  7. Here’s the thing. Lots of suburbanites want to come to Seattle to work in the Financial District or South Lake Union. Even more want to come to the stadiums for athletic events occasionally. But they don’t want to pay taxes to support the transit system that makes downtown Seattle possible. They don’t want to pay taxes to support the transit system that makes attending games in SoDo possible.

    Federal Law prohibits tolling Interstates without at least jumping through a long series of increasingly tiny hoops. And besides, the freeways are owned by WSDOT, a wholly owned subsidiary of suburban Washington State. So congestion tolling ain’t gonna happen.

    So what’s a poor Municipality overrun with auslander poseurs to do?

    Curtain tolling! with autos proven to be owned by actual Seattle residents receiving a rebate. Put tolling apparatus directly at the physical end of every in-city off-ramp from the freeways and at the point at which surface arterials enter the city to the north and south. Make the entire city a huge version of London’s “City” with a $5-$20 access fee depending on the time of day and whether there’s a game entry fee.

    Then everyone in Seattle votes “No” on ST3 and uses the toll revenues to build its own in-city system.


    1. Wouldn’t it be simpler to raise parking rates, special taxes on private parking lots? Seattle residents could be given a rebate, but that has the odd effect of encouraging Seattle residents to drive more.

    2. I’m not an expert in transportation law, but I’m pretty sure that any scheme like this would almost certainly be challenged in court. There’s probably some state law or state constitutional provision somewhere that prohibits it.

  8. I love the idea of electing the Sound Transit Board. That would mean real accountability.

  9. Wish more people paid attention to headline pics and videos.l Add two or three car- segments and the correct number of overhead wires, and see the trainset I think is perfect for the Totem Lake to Bellevue line.

    Looking at the corridor itself, I think many residents would favor a transit line that can be a good partner to a foot and bike trail. From the transit I’ve seen overseas, the best thing about street rail of this size is that it’s probably the most comfortable mode for nearby people.

    For the diversion toward downtown that Kirkland wants, a spur line of street track-meanin not every train- would be easy and painless, especially with a reserved lane and signal pre-empt. Top speed? Maybe 35, which without freeway-style possible blockage is rapid enough.

    Mark Dublin

  10. Have the mods here considered using HTTPS on this site? It may not add that much in terms of security, but every little bit helps…

    (Sorry for going slightly off topic even on an off topic thread here, but I just wanted to draw the mods attention to this).

  11. It would be great to get an update from SDOT on what Prop 1 funded projects they are working on now to implement first. The Urbanist reports SDOT is working on spot improvements to the #8 on Denny Way, I’d be interested to hear more about improvements similar elsewhere (besides Madison BRT & Roosevelt BRT). Are they actively working on the other RapidRide+ lines and priority bus corridors?

  12. Borderline hilarious for people to be complaining about $2 per day or $40 per month parking at Tacoma Dome. They must not have ever paid to park in Seattle!

    I love the idea of a relatively nominal fee to park at a big transit center. As noted, the parking structures have monthly costs — we need to make back some (or all) of that money from the people who actually use them. Even if it was $1 per day / $20 per month, it’d keep people from abusing a 100% free spot near popular places to go in downtown Tacoma.

    Every parking area near a Sounder station is completely overrun and over capacity — adding a fee for parking would greatly improve its efficiency while also paying for the upkeep.

  13. Can anyone explain how Railplus works for going to Tacoma via Amtrak? I have an ORCA passport and it’s says online that I’m supposed to get a special Railplus ticket from the TVM and show it to Amtrak window. No luck with the TVM at least the one at ID station. Does it work for weekends?

    1. Rail Plus only works between Seattle and Everett. South of Seattle, Amtrak’s convinced they’ll be able to sell all their seats anyway, so they didn’t want to make a deal with Sound Transit there.

      Also, I’ve heard you can only purchase Rail Plus tickets from the vending machine on the actual Sounder platform, not from Link machines.

      1. Thanks! Ah more needlessly complex and almost secret ways to travel that even researching beforehand one still can’t figure out. It’s a shame we can’t make greater use of our already in place train runs.

Comments are closed.