Buses stuck in Interbay without transit priority – Photo by Martin
Buses stuck in Interbay without transit priority – Photo by Martin

In the long journey to a Sound Transit 3 ballot measure this November, the Draft System Plan is the next step. Expected in March before a Final System Plan is adopted early this summer, the draft plan will select a suite of projects from the list of Candidate Projects that matches the intended tax authority that ST will ask for at the ballot. We have covered the candidate projects extensively – see Kirkland-Issaquah rail, Kirkland-Bellevue BRTI-405 BRT, Federal Way-Tacoma, SR 522 BRT, Downtown-Ballard, etc.)

Just as they did last summer when ST solicited feedback on ‘conceptual’ studies that informed the Candidate Projects – (see our summaries of Seattle, Snohomish, South King, East King, and Pierce – ST again asked jurisdictions to submit formal comment on the Candidate Projects by January 21st.

The letters not only provide ST with project-level feedback, but collectively they also help the Board gauge the regional appetite for the package’s size, whose options range from 10-30 years and total revenue of $26-48B. As the letters are made public, we’ll cover each of them in detail. But first, here’s Seattle’s feedback. 

Though there is little new substance in Seattle’s letter, it is perhaps most striking for its urgency and occasional sharpness of tone (though still in a very Seattle-nice way). The letter notes that the potential 10-30 year timeframe for project delivery does little to solve near-term problems, with the city asking for ST to identify project elements it could complete quickly:

Even under the best circumstances most of these light rail connections are more than a decade or two away, and there is a growing disconnect between the long-range vision of ST3 and the immediate transportation needs Seattle and our region face today…we strongly believe an ST3 proposal that invests immediately in key regional transit corridors will not only help address today’s transportation crisis, but also garner stronger public support..the City requests that ST3 fund near-term transit in Seattle and throughout the region to address immediate needs, while planning and building out light rail over the life of the plan.

The letter then goes on to support 11 specific projects, including [all emphases mine]:

Early Transit Deliverables: In this section the City essentially asks ST to supply urban corridors slated for light rail with the same amount of transitional service improvements that suburban jurisdictions get via ST Express:

“Seattle supports and requests the inclusion of transit projects and service enhancements that provided needed immediate transit capacity to regional destinations…examples of this concept include funding operational costs of bus rapid transit lines on future light rail corridors to a Link level of service frequency; speed and reliability capital improvements; and early delivery of light rail infill stations.

New Regional Light Rail Tunnel in Downtown Seattle: The City supports Operational Concept #3, which would provide a new rail tunnel and split the spine to form three lines, Ballard-Tacoma, Everett-West Seattle, and Everett-Redmond.

This new tunnel will ensure long-term capacity and reliability for the light rail lines originating in Tacoma, Redmond, and Everett as the regional system matures and continues to expand in the future. We applaud the opportunity to provide significantly increased capacity for Tacoma connection by terminating in Ballard, and likewise, terminating Everett Link in West Seattle.

Downtown to West Seattle: The City held its cards close on this project, strongly supporting West Seattle Link while punting on a preference between the various options this early in the process.

Seattle supports building light rail from Downtown Seattle to West Seattle, and would like to work with Sound Transit on integrated station area planning….the [process] should vet alignment options through a public participation process and consider the ridership, cost, equity, and impact tradeoffs.

Downtown Seattle to Ballard: Same as above for West Seattle. We’re beginning to see some strong community organizing around the Ship Canal crossing, with industrial and neighborhood groups coming together as the “Northwest Seattle Coalition for Sound Transit 3” to push a tunnel. For the purposes of this letter, the City remained agnostic.

Seattle supports building light rail from Downtown Seattle to Ballard through the Interbay corridor….the [process] should vet alignment options through a public participation process and consider the ridership, cost, equity, and impact tradeoffs.

SR99/Harrison Station: The City reiterated its support for this station near the SR 99 North Portal, which Sound Transit listed as a separate project (C1E) in the candidate list. The station which would provide an intermediate station between South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne.

Seattle supports inclusion of this station in the Downtown to Ballard corridor, which provides access to the Seattle Center and South Lake Union, and provides urban station spacing serving existing dense land uses and regional transportation connections, as well as future growth.

Additional Interbay Station: The City continued its support for a “Whole Foods Station” near West Newton Street in Interbay.

Graham Street Station

Seattle supports constructing this infill light rail station as an early deliverable project to quickly increase access to the regional light rail system. Seattle has committed a $10m contribution from the voter-approved Move Seattle Levy to support this project.

NE 130th St Station: The city asked for expedited construction and simultaneous opening with Lynnwood Link.

Seattle supports this infill station being constructed and opened as part of the Lynnwood Link extension. This approach will eliminate the risk of constructing a station while light rail is operating. This station will provide appropriate urban station spacing between the Northgate and 145th Street stations, and provide access to the growing and diverse communities of Lake City and Haller Lake.

Madison BRT

…Seattle supports this project with a capital contribution from ST3 and a partial operating contribution to fund the remaining headways to bring the service frequencies up to Link light rail level of service…

Local Incentives

The need to deliver transit projects as quickly as possible is clear and there should be zero patience for local jurisdictions, including Seattle, creating roadblocks and delay to the speedy delivery of the regional system. Seattle strongly supports the creation of incentive programs for jurisdictions that are willing to expedite permitting/review processes and additional incentives for jurisdictions that are willing to commit to local funding partnerships.


Seattle supports this funding program [providing] additional support for analysis of transit oriented development (TOD) opportunities and the potential for affordable housing. However, we suggest the following changes to the program:

  • 1) Expand the scope of eligibility to all existing and planned Sound Transit rail stations
  • 2) Expand the scope to include community TOD planning, policy assistance, and education for communities planning for rail
  • 3) Work closely with local government, housing authorities, and non-profit housing developers and providers to ensure affordable housing is strongly considered throughout TOD program planning, development, and implementation
  • 4) Increase the budget of this program to include the expanded scope included above

Seattle then closes the letter with a few process comments, asking ST to “pay particular attention to public outreach and engagement in communities of color, low-income communities, and non-English speaking communities. In what is perhaps evidence of institutional frustration with the disconnect between the preponderance of public comment and the projects Sound Transit chooses to advance, the City asked Sound Transit to ensure that both data and public comment factor strongly into their decision making:

Most importantly, we want to ensure that ideas generated and concerns express[ed] through these meetings are strongly considered by the Sound Transit staff and board…Sound Transit must put forward a system plan to voters that isn’t simply the product of a federated Board of Directions, but one that is prioritized based on the economic and mobility needs of the region, one that will make immediate investments in transit service, and one that will set the longer-term course to achieve our vision of a regional light rail system.

Download the full letter here.

126 Replies to “Seattle on ST3: Build for the Future, But Don’t Forget the Now”

  1. Generally, I really like the Seattle comments. It gets the big things right (lack of mention of Metro 8 line notwithstanding.). It even mentions studying driverless, which is fantastic.

    One thing is confusing me though. The focus on short term wins. Are we talking about rapid ride lines? If so, didn’t we just fund those in the last two Seattle measures?

    Will short term bus wins put the scale of Seattle’s long term plan in jeopardy? If so, it isn’t worth it and the idea should be a non starter.

    1. Seattle just voted for more bus operations funds in 2014 and for new bus capital projects in 2015.

      If those packages weren’t big enough to solve the short term needs, then why?

      And don’t we already have Rapid Ride to Ballard and West Seattle?

      We shouldn’t mortgage regional long term solutions (Link expansion) in order to triple down on Rapid Ride.

      1. If those packages weren’t big enough to solve the short term needs, then why?

        The projects passed by proposition one in Seattle weren’t big enough. That should be clear when you look at the amount of money allocated and what they want to build. I believe it is somewhere around $300 million. That is tiny compared to what Sound Transit is likely to ask for (even for Seattle’s share). The projects that Seattle is trying to build are big and very important. Here is one example: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/01/09/support-full-brt-with-roosevelt-hct/. This would be competitive with Link for trips from the U-District to downtown and would serve many of the areas much better than anything Link is considering building (areas like 50th, Campus Parkway, all of Eastlake, South Lake Union and 7th and Stewart). But the biggest concern is money. If they spend all the money on building that right, then they might run out of money for other projects. Meanwhile, there are areas that are clearly in need of extra service (like Lake City) which aren’t on the city’s, nor Sound Transit’s project list.

        Which begs the question — why didn’t the city ask for more money? I don’t know, but I can speculate. Their may be a legal constraint. Sound Transit has a very large funding authority. I don’t think the city has that (even with a public vote). I could be wrong, but that is my guess.

        Which means they are very smart to ask for more money for projects that provide very good service in both the short and long term. It really is unrealistic, for example, to assume that Sound Transit will be building light rail to Eastlake, for example, even though it makes more sense there than some of the places Sound Transit is considering adding light rail (like West Seattle).

      2. Move Seattle and Metro Prop 1 addressed different issues. Move Seattle replaced a transportation levy and mean to fund all transportation projects, including many “state of good repair”, for a decade. Basically, it was a transpo infrastructure package. Metro Prop 1 was to “save” then boost bus service in Seattle. Which still doesn’t solve many issues when buses are stuck in gridlocked general purpose lanes.

        The problem is long-term solutions such as Link expansion with a new Downtown tunnel will take anywhere between 10 and 20* years to plan, design, build, test, and open. That does very little to solve today’s rapidly growing issues. Tripling down on RapidRide today will help us survive until tomorrow, which will be roughly 2030 if history* tells us anything.

        Personally, if ST advocated for a new rail tunnel with a ~15 year timeline, I’m not sure I could vote for it since it doesn’t address today’s immediate problems. Yes, it’s short sighted and it’s lovely we’re planning for 2040, but the problem is hitting us hard now and I’d like to see some issues addressed on a shorter timeline as well.

        *A reminder of regional Link timelines
        CLink, voted for in 1996, opened 2009
        ULink, voted for in 1996, opens 2016
        NLink, voted for in 2008, opens 2021
        LLink, ELink, and FWLE; voted for in 2008, opens 2023

      3. After ST2 passed Sound Transit had to build the organization capacity in order to execute (you can’t just double the workload of an agency overnight).

        With ST3 only coming 8 years after ST2 there won’t be this gap. Planning can go straight from ST2 projects to ST3 without the layoffs and then subsequent rebuilding we had between ST1 and ST3.

        To get an idea of what is possible with the agency now running on all cylinders in May 2011 the ST board voted to expedite Angel Lake construction. That segment will open this year. 5 years.

        Cost savings from U-Link being $150 million under budget could immediately go to work on the downtown tunnel. And as U-Link and Northgate Link has shown ST is very, very good at tunneling. There is no reason to believe it will take 10 years much less 20 to get a new tunnel built a tunnel that will have real mobility benefits.

      4. Seattleite,

        At five years per station, Federal Way Link has a while to go….. Jes’ sayin’

    2. My impression is the Move Seattle levy only set aside a relatively small amount of capitol money (10-30 million each) for the new BRT/Rapid Ride corridors and this request is for another small chunk for each project for service hours and/or capitol needs.

      If the funds needed are indeed small and could get these routes up and running in 2-5 years instead of 10 years while waiting for additional federal funds, I might be in favor of it…

      The resulting routes should be required to have exclusive lanes for the whole route if this is to occur though.

      1. It’s actually an even lower amount than that…
        Move Seattle sets aside between $9-16M for each RapidRide+ corridor, with most being around the $10M mark.

    3. I agree that not mentioning the “Metro 8” expansion line leaves a huge void. Expanding light rail to the heart of the dense (and growing) Central District would drastically increase ridership, make forgoing a car in the city realistic, and bring reliable mass transit to an often overlooked community.

      1. The Metro 8 subway is far too critical an infrastructure element to allow SoundTransit to design it. Build it? Sure; they’ve very good at that. But they have “miles-between-stationsitis” and the stations on the Metro 8 should be every 4/10th of a mile at the most.

      2. Anandados:

        What strategy do you propose? Do you think SDOT or King County Metro are up for it? This needs to happen soon

      3. I should have clarified that ST should be involved in the engineering; like building subways, they’ve gotten very good at the subsurface engineering that subways require. So, “no, I don’t think SDOT or KC Metro is up for that part”. I do think that the City should be the sole determinant of the route and station sitings; that’s what I meant by “design”.

        So far as how to pay for it I mentioned a “curtain tolling” plan elsewhere in this thread. Now I realize that many in the suburbs would consider such a revenue source “an act of war”. But the legislature seems unwilling to allow cities — not just Seattle — to tax themselves as they see fit, and this is one of the few potential sources of revenue which the legislature has not banned. And of course, it IS a transportation-related source of revenue.

        The City could also enact a Local Improvement District in South Lake Union, the west edge of the Central District and North Rainier. Those are the most likely places in the City for major urban development to occur over the next three decades, and they’re the places to be linked by the subway. They will depend on its existence to enable the densification that will make developers billions of dollars.

      4. It is probably way to late to have the Metro 8 subway be part of ST3. It is also likely that ST3 will fail. I really don’t see why anyone in the north or south would be excited to see the spine extended. On the east side it appears that a lot of sensible BRT projects have some serious problems. The low ridership numbers suggest that very few people will benefit, so I think there will be little enthusiasm there. Voters in Seattle will likely vote for anything with the word transit in it (Discovery Park to Broadview subway — why not?). But that will probably not be enough, especially if they happen to suggest projects that most experts* would suggest are low priority or misguided (e. g. West Seattle light rail). So, if ST3 fails (as I expect it to) — what then?

        One possibility is to simply have another vote. Sound Transit has lost before (they are 2-2 if you count roads and transit). They could probably come back in four years with another proposal and hope for the best.

        But it is also possible — especially if it loses in every area but Seattle — that we will get the right to tax ourselves. This is not a crazy idea. I could easily see some Republicans even warming to the idea. Break up Sound Transit, or at least allow each subarea to vote on their own package at their own tax rate. For some anti-tax zealots in suburban areas, that might be a good thing. They won’t have to worry about lefty Seattle types raising their taxes with a bigger turnout. If the legislature gives us the right to raise a few billion, the big question is what we build next.

        I hope that we don’t simply propose the same thing. I hope that at that point, we take a breath, and figure out what makes the most sense for the area. That would certainly include a Metro 8 subway, Ballard to UW subway and WSTT before it got around to building a West Seattle light rail line or even an Interbay line.

        * I am not a transit expert, but I would put good money on the claim that almost any impartial transit expert would consider West Seattle light rail a bad value.

      5. “I really don’t see why anyone in the north or south would be excited to see the spine extended.”

        They’re the ones demanding it. It wouldn’t be going through otherwise.

        “especially if they happen to suggest projects that most experts* would suggest are low priority or misguided”

        Most voters don’t weigh the pros and cons like transit experts. They look at “Does it serve my neighborhood or my city?” or “Does it go where the biggest traffic bottlenecks are (405, I-5; either on it or parallel)?” If they live in Seattle they’re going to vote on how well they think it serves Seattle, not on whether it goes to Everett and Tacoma. If they live in the Eastside or south King County, they’ll vote on how well they think it serves those areas.

      6. By “anyone” I mean an average voter. I don’t mean the politicians that are pushing it.

        Of course I don’t literally mean anyone. I’m sure there are a handful of people who really want to go from, say, the freeway station in Mountlake Terrace to the freeway station by Martha Lake. For them it makes perfect sense. But for the vast majority of riders, it doesn’t.

        You may be right about the last paragraph, Mike (“does it serve my neighborhood”, etc.). That is why I think it will fail. It doesn’t serve enough neighborhoods. It doesn’t improve the time it takes to get to where people want to go. That is why experts oppose it. It is a failed policy that mimics other failures all over the country.

        The only way those folks will vote for something like this is if they are duped into believing that this magically solve their commuting problems (and talking about traffic bottlenecks on freeways may be just the deceptive spin that is needed to dupe them). I expect very little advertising about the time it will actually take to get from one place to another, or even the areas that it covers. There will be ads talking about “Everett to Seattle” and “Tacoma to Seattle”, but nothing about the important details that determine whether a transit system will actually work well or not (like how you are supposed to actually get to the station or how long it takes to ride the train or get to your destination).

      7. But why are the politicians pushing it? Why are people voting for politicians who push it?

  2. 1. In terms of early deliverables,would BRT from Ballard to downtown mean that downtown would have a transit only lane? More 15X buses?
    2. The attachment does talk about Ballard to UW as well (or at least make the Ballard stop in Ballard to downtown transferable to Ballard to UW). Facebook, Seattle Subway seems to think of this (Ballard to UW) as still in the ballgame. Does the horde think Ballard to UW is dead in ST3?

    1. It talks abut Ballard/UW as the #1 priority contingency line.

      My concern is the focus on Rapid Ride may kill Ballard/UW.

      1. And so for the next 10 years we must slog it out on buses without any priority? It’s not either or. The need is for both.

      2. SDOT can give buses priority tomorrow for no more cost than a bucket of paint (see the new Transit Only lanes on Westlake) without sacrificing the revolutionary gains in mobility that Link expansion in the city will provide.

      3. The 15X buses are as crowded as ever. An argument can be made we need more 15X buses (with more frequency). The evening commute can still be hell on earth though unless you make downtown true BRT and/or delaying the bridge opening times until 6:30 or 7pm

        I would be curious how fast a rapidride express (not using D line stops, but whatever line is chosen as stops) would be.

      4. As long as a heavily used corridor is bus only there will always be demand to add more buses. That’s why you need the capacity that grade separated rail can provide. That is why expanding Link in the city in the fastest way possible to largest number of high demand corridors should be the focus of this measure.

        Sound Transit is the only agency that can actually build the kind of infrastructure that will solve our transit issues. We shouldn’t ask them to slow down work on that to do this other stuff.

        The County and City already do Rapid Ride. We, the citizens of Seattle, just voted TWICE to give SDOT hundreds of millions to improve our bus system, including a dozen new Rapid Ride + lines. None of which have even gone in yet. If those votes weren’t enough to meet our short term needs than the city should explain why they low balled them.

        Let Sound Transit do Sound Transit. The high capacity grade separated rail they provide is the only real solution for these high demand corridors. Slowing that work down (or shrinking the network) to throw more money at buses is a horrible, horrible idea.

      5. “If those votes weren’t enough to meet our short term needs than the city should explain why they low balled them.” I don’t buy this. The city never claimed that the improvements would solve all mobility issues, and to the degree that they need to explain why it didn’t, the answer is obvious. The city wanted the levy to pass, and the concern, literally up until votes were counted, was that it might fail for being too large. Regardless of my personal desire for more transit improvement sooner, I think the city got the balance here right.

      6. The Move Seattle Levy provides local funds for a lot of projects, with the assumption that these will make us more competitive for external funding sources, such as federal grants and ST3 dollars. It was never intended to fully fund all of them. The project descriptions in the levy materials [PDF] all have phrases like this:

        “The Ballard to Downtown enhanced transit corridor is a candidate to fund with grants or other partnerships and may be included in a proposed future Sound Transit special levy.”

        “The Center City Streetcar Connector has received federal grants and will be competitive for additional grants. These grants would be needed to fund a large portion of the project cost.”

        “E Marginal Way is a priority corridor for regional freight operations. It is likely to compete well for state or federal grant funds, and may engage other partnerships.”

      1. It might be alive, but certainly not “well.” Not with proposed number and placement of stops.

      2. The metro 8 line, however isn’t even in the long range plan. At least SDOT is planning some lane restrictions on Denny to help things. We still have a long way to go though.

      3. That’s not the final number of stations, it’s just an initial concept with “must serve” neighborhoods. There will be several rounds of studies and EIS feedback before the stations are decided. If you’re concerned about certain stations, the first thing to do would be to get it written into the ballot measure so that it has the presumption of existence and ST would have to justify deleting it, as opposed to 130th where ST has to justify adding it. That then depends on how the measure handles the Ballard-UW line. Does it mention it at all? Is it one line under “Contingency Projects”? Does it have the map with sample stations? When the draft system plan comes out we can comment on it. Although it remains to be seen how ST handles contingency projects: would there be a list with the draft system plan, or would it punt on it?

    2. Seattleite – The Westlake transit lanes are costing quite a bit more than just some paint. There will be 2-3 months of construction and reduced service on the streetcar, demolition and reconstruction of large sections of sidewalks and some pavement, and deletion of some parking. Sure, it isn’t a major re-directing of traffic patterns, but it isn’t quite as simple and cheep as you are making it out to be.

      1. The platform/sidewalk extension will help, but the bigger boost may come from restricting turns at both Denny and Mercer. Box blocking in both areas seems to be the biggest bottleneck for transit on Westlake.

      2. Yes. People ignorantly saying “just paint” gets really old. Is your job “just typing”?

    3. Downtown already has “a transit lane” that the D Line RapidRide uses: Third Avenue. Yes, private cars can use it in the off-peak but they’re pretty much banned during the peaks when it really matters.

      The problem with the D Line is the LQA jog. Sure, there are plenty of people who want to take that jog, but there are more who would prefer not to. It’ll be GREAT when it’s done with a subway line, but it sucks on the surface. Hence, the “BRT” that exists is really not.

      1. Queen Anne jog makes me avoid D line at all costs. As if downtown to LQA isn’t served by half a dozen other lines…

  3. I used the link in the article to re-read Auburn Mayor Backus’s statement of non-commitment. ….ugh, time for a phone call to the mayor and my council members. The need to support ST3. This ought to be fun.

    1. Thanks Engineer, for showing exactly why public transit is a mess in this town.

      They [Auburn mayor and city council] need to support ST3.

      There isn’t even a project list! This is what bugs the hell out of me about this blog and many of its commenters. So many people just assume that light rail anywhere is the answer. It just isn’t, and hasn’t been anywhere in the country. There are numerous cases of cities and regions much like ours that have spent billions on light rail and have gotten practically nothing out of it. They have built the type of projects we seem obsessed with building (i. e. the spine). Yet you want to chastise the Auburn city council and mayor because he isn’t committed to a project list that hasn’t been decided yet? How does that make any sense at all?

      1. Mayor Backus stated that the City is not in support of Sounder unless there’s a commitment by ST to pay for either local bus service or more parking spaces. Expansion of Sounder will benefit Auburn regardless of what accessory improvements also happen. Improved access to downtown Seattle & Tacoma via Sounder will make downtown Auburn more vibrant and more attractive, something it desperately needs. Auburn City Council clinging to a downtown business district anchored by the now-defunct Rottle’s “Department Store” and the Safeway is not a plan to improve the downtown area. Improved service on a corridor which already exists and has already been proven to be highly utilized is actually a good plan. Will residents of Auburn’s single-family neighborhoods be able to perpetually park at Auburn Station free-of-charge? No, and it shouldn’t be that way. Transformation of Auburn’s downtown has already started and needs to continue. (A 4-story mixed use building recently opened, and another one is under construction.) Improved service on Sounder, for which there is already a high demand will be the catalyst to continue this growth and transformation.
        As far as her demand for local bus service similar to what Bonney Lake is getting, apples and oranges. The 596 that she cites is similar to the 497 in that it is a peak-only service that syncs with Sounder, but it is different in that it is more of a long-distance route connecting one city (Bonney Lake) to another (Sumner) along a 60-mph highway, not a slow-moving local route winding through a neighborhood and stopping at many stoplights. She needs to be lobbying Pete Von Reichbauer (our King County Council Rep) for improved local Metro service. While the PT 497 is a Pierce Transit route, 90 percent of its alignment is in King County, and about half the stops are in King County. PT was chosen to serve the route because of costs. King County Metro should have this route as part of its network.
        So, I am not necessarily asking Auburn City Council to advocate for blanket approval of ST3 (although I personally believe that it’s the right thing to do), they need to, at a minimum, support expansion of the Sounder south line, without conditions. Sounder expansion can only help Auburn.

      2. The Auburn mayor asking for added bus service seems like a bold thing to do. I don’t blame him. He is playing hard ball with an agency that has never been able to justify its projects with a third party, objective source. It would be one thing if an independent transit organization was tasked to come up with a transit plan for the area. If they came up with a plan, then the mayor would be out of line to oppose it. But it is the opposite. There is a ridiculous obsession with the spine, and that is nothing more than the result of political pressure. For him to push back is a very reasonable and I think sensible thing to do.

        You can bet your ass that the mayor of Everett is making similar claims about extending the spine. The big difference is that the mayor is demanding we spend billions on a light rail line that will carry a handful (and thus be a huge waste of money) while this mayor is asking for a little extra bus service that will undoubtedly have very good fare box recovery .

  4. I’m personally encouraged by this letter. It’s good to see institutional emphasis on urban stop spacing, desire for consistent iterative improvement alongside major capital investment, and a strong sense of urgency. I don’t think getting near-term wins is a zero sum game against an ambitious capital proposal. It’s precisely because bus lanes are so cheap that implementing them would not jeopardize funding for the rail lines we want in ST3. If a token contribution from ST3 to 24/7 bidirectional bus lanes and signal priority provides political as well as literal capital, all the better, as it would help sell the package to voters while improving tens of millions of trips in the intervening decade, especially for major looming headaches like Expedia’s move. Of course SDOT and Metro should do these things on their own anyway, but I don’t see harm in asking ST to invest more in its corridors than just its eventual trains.

    1. Overall it is a good letter. With STs track record of coming in under budget and the possibility of Federal Grants there should definitely be contingency lines for future expansion.

      But the city trying to pull ST into funding their bus service has we worried. And not because I am opposed to buses, but I am worried that siphoning off funds could delay or stunt Link expansion. We need to be very careful that we aren’t robbing our future to triple down on short term bandaids.

      1. Your characterization of bus improvements as short term bandaids is not accurate. Even after full buildout of Link these lines will be well used and needed.

      2. But if those bus improvements could prevent long term solutions due to funding source, that is a problem. I’d much rather run another measure to build bus stuff too. I will phone bank for that too.

      3. What exactly are you worried about losing? Sound Transit doesn’t look like they will fund a UW to Ballard subway and they most certainly won’t even consider a Metro 8 subway. So that leaves only the West Seattle to Ballard subway. If they do make a cut, it will be of the West Seattle subway, which is by far the least productive thing I just mentioned. Many of the BRT projects Seattle has in mind will be much better long term solutions than that.

  5. I’m having trouble linking to the letter on two different devices. I’m not sure why.

    Anyway, I’m rather disappointed that Seattle hasn’t made a pitch for station enhancements at existing stations. The lack of down escalators in the DSTT (now approaching 30-years old) and at Mt. Baker station is a big missing item. ST included station issues in their initial project lists.

    Don’t City leaders realize the number of Seattleites with arthritis that have lots of trouble going down stairs (harder to go down stairs than up stairs), and that the current elevators are slow and going to get even more crowded?

      1. Thanks! I can read it now.

        I remain disappointed that the System Access Program is not in the original list, but is instead demoted to the broad category of Additional Program and Project Priorities in this letter. Consider this analogy: Why would someone build transit vehicles without plenty of accessible doors so that people can get in and out of them?

    1. And don’t forget that the SB elevator at Mt. Baker has been broken for weeks now. They expect people with impaired mobility to either walk down a long flight of stairs or go to Columbia City then backtrack to Mt Baker.

  6. Generally, I’d rather see ST money not go to one local BRT project (Madison BRT). The intent of ST Express buses were to utilize freeway HOV lanes as a replacement for not having rail in many corridors. Also, the intent of a citywide BRT system involves multiple corridors and not just one.

    This strikes me as making an exception for funding reasons — but it lacks transit funding policy logic. Why are we paying for BRT on only one arterial when it’s not even going to carry any ST Express buses? At the very least, I’d rather see the ST Board clarify under what circumstances that bus rapid transit gets funding when it’s not on freeways before merely adding a corridor as part of a political negotiation.

    I’d also add that I think that ST should be accountable by managing transit line projects that they fund. The number of problems with handing the project delivery of the FHSC is embarrassing. ST appears to be better at executing projects. If Seattle is asking ST for Madison BRT money, then ST should be managing the project including acquiring the vehicles — and not just handing a check over to the City of Seattle.

    1. What’s wrong with them just handing over the check? I don’t get this. I know ST was designed for a specific purpose, but as should be obvious, other agencies simply don’t have the funding mechanism available. Seattle would simply ignore ST if it could. It would build every corridor proposed (at a high level of service — “True BRT” as they call it) plus a Ballard to UW and Metro 8 subway, add a few stations and a few more BRT lines (to areas like Lake City) and be done with it. We wouldn’t have our future tied to an agency that obviously has no idea what it is doing, or worry about whether enough suburban voters approve (even though they don’t chip in for Seattle projects either way). But we can’t. We aren’t allowed to. The state allowed ST to ask for billions, but they won’t allow us to ask in the same manner. So I think it makes sense to leverage the agency and its funding as much as possible, as long as it is for transit.

      1. Ross, Think this through. if ST gives money to Seattle, every other local jurisdiction could ask for funding favors too. It’s a slippery slope of logic.

        I’d be an advocate for a comprehensive regional transit funding strategy – but only if the receiving agency is not an operator or a city or county. This region has let each government decide what they want, and there is essentially no coordination required. Coordination problems are discussed almost weekly on this blog. These problems won’t go away until we change this basic structural dilemma. Until then, ST should mainly raise funds for ST and not hand out gifts to 70 children just because they want it.

      2. Again, what is wrong with that. In what world, for example, is it a bad thing if Pierce County or Tacoma gets a bunch of money for a handful of specified bus routes instead of a light rail line that will carry far fewer people? Because they run it? Who cares?

        Look we are pretty much stuck with ST as the only agency that allows for this sort of funding. Otherwise each county and each city would try and pass their own thing. Some (like Seattle) would pass. Others might fail. But I have no problem at all with joining together and each passing our own thing if that is the only thing that the legislature allows us to do.

      3. Just this past week, I got on the First Hill Streetcar. Although ST paid for it, Seattle did exactly what they wanted. What happened from no coordination? THE SIGNAGE DOESN’T ANNOUNCE THE LINK STATION LOCATIONS. This selfish lunacy of every city getting what they want with no coordination needs to stop!

  7. I like a lot in the letter, but I am worried spending money up-front on quick fixes will seriously reduce ST’s bonding capacity for the major projects we need to get Seattle’s transit actually on track. In a vacuum, I am always for bus funding. But I think forward thinking transit planning and funding is the real cure to Seattle’s transit problems. Temporary operational funding shouldn’t be allowed to keep us from building real fixes.

  8. ST shouldn’t be paying for buses. They should be banking the money for Light Rail construction to save bonding capacity and increase the number of projects they can complete in as short a time as possible We can re-up on the Seattle Prop 1 measure with additional funding for more buses if we need to.

    1. Hmm? You would cancel ST Express, one of the best all-day express bus services in the US?

      The City argues that ST should provide some support to Rapid Ride C & D until the parallel Link lines open, just as other ST Express routes (550, 512) provide temporary service until Link extensions open.

      1. I’m not exactly clear on what the ST money would be buying on those lines. We’ve already got 7-minute peak service, we’ve already got the fancy new buses. Late night and weekend hours could always be improved and I’m sure there are some infrastructure stuff that could increase reliability (none of which would be as effective as simply eliminating parking on Elliott), but is that worth draining the piggy bank and having to water down the effectiveness of the light rail lines later on?

        In general I am not opposed to ST bus money going to popular routes in the city rather than unproductive ones in the suburbs in order to placate suburban mayors, but I’m with Ben – I’m not sure it’s worth the potential consequences.

      2. Just to repeat what I said here, https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/01/28/seattle-on-st3-build-for-the-long-term-but-dont-forget-the-now/#comment-684317
        What consequences? What exactly are we afraid of losing? I’m trying to imagine a set of light rail projects that ST has to abandon or delay compared to what the city has planned (or similar projects) and I just see what the city is planning as simply a better deal. I might feel differently if a UW to Ballard or Metro 8 subway (by far the best rail values) were on the table. Of if they were planning on building a WSTT (another great value). But when I look at the various projects, I can’t help but think that the set of projects that Seattle is designing will save more people more time for each dollar spent than most of what ST will build. This is not a “now” versus “later” trade-off. It is a choice between what works and what sounds appealing (i. e. more rail for rail’s sake).

      3. RossB, I agree with what you’re saying. You’ve identified what should be the priority rail lines.

  9. The lack of Metro 8 makes me think we are going down a road where ST will want Seattle to “buy” additional rail segments like we do with bus service.

    1. No, it’s just a question of what ST considers the region’s needs to be, and what level of service inside Seattle is equitable with that outside. Buying additional bus service is with Metro, not ST. The reason it happened is that the county voted down King County Prop 1, so Seattle decided to fund additional service, and it’s possible other cities will do likewise. So the counterpart is if ST3 is voted down and Seattle hires ST to build its own line.

    2. The City should plan a Metro 8 and arrange funding itself. It’s much too important a line to be left to ST’s suburban designers.

    3. Would the suburban board do such a thing, knowing that Seattle can’t help but pass most tax increases? I think you are right.

    4. Seattle has state-imposed tax ceilings that aren’t enough for light rail lines. There’s only a bit of property tax capacity left and the city is reserving some of it for emergencies. There is an unused monorail authority which might be tappable, but its formal language excludes light rail and there’s some question as to whether that’s enforceable or how different it would have to be from Link to qualify.

      1. So build the “Metro 8” as a “heavy rail” system that happens to have pantographs on the roofs of the cars so they can use “trackage rights” on Link lines to access the SoDo maintenance facilty.

        I believe a Local Improvement District for SLU, the west end of the CD and North Rainier could probably build it if the stations weren’t ST palaces. And there is curtain tolling to extract some baksheesh from the suburban nay-sayers.

  10. Still not convinced that Everett to West Seattle AND Everett to Redmond is the best strategy. After downtown, the West Seattle leg and Redmond leg frequencies are cut in half because of the branching. 6 minute frequency on the north end results in 12 minute frequency for both West Seattle and Redmond. I’d rather see Redmond detached from the spine and end in a stub tunnel in SLU. The current Ballard proposal only serves the edge of SLU. I’d prefer to see the Ballard line go through Belltown, and the Redmond line service Denny Triangle and SLU.

    Begs the question if a new Downtown tunnel is even needed south of Westlake Center. At 6 minutes frequencies for each line, that results in 2 minute intervals through the downtown core (Westlake through IDS).

    1. It’s the same Central Link and East Link as before, just the southern segment is reconnected to West Seattle. So headways will be 6 minutes peak and 6-10 minutes off-peak on each line, so 3 minutes peak and 3-5 minutes in the combined segment between Intl Dist and Lynnwood. 10 minutes should be enough for the Eastside because it’s enough for Rainier Valley and SeaTac.

      1. But does anything north of Northgate warrant 3 minute peak now or in the future? Don’t you think people would rather have more options for places to go with 6 minute headways than 1 place to go on 3 minute headways? I think the improved system effect of a third branch would be a lot more popular.

        Besides, doesn’t the lack of a Montlake Vent shaft limit the peak frequency between UW and downtown to 6 minute intervals?

      2. The shaft limitation is a myth, and I was wrong about the headways. Martin said ST is planning 4-minute peak headways (8 minutes per line), and believes it can go down to 3 minutes with the existing equipment. There’s an ST3 project to upgrade the DSTT to under 3 minutes, with 1.5 minutes as the theoretical minimum.

        I’m mainly concerned about the cost of the existing ambitious plan and getting it approved. Adding more Center City endpoints is almost as expensive as adding another line. If we want to do something more than the Split Spine we should look at the Metro 8 Subway first.

      3. Mike, thanks for the link. That’s good news indeed. I support the Metro 8, I think is it surely needed. But the lack of political will for it at this time concerns me. I desire the quickest option that is effective (no more streetcars!). The SLU route and the belltown route are at least in the Long Range plan and being studied in some shape in ST3. I’m just spitballing ways to save us the trouble and expense of what seems to be a redundant tunnel south of Westlake. If we are going to tunnel, it might as well serve another corridor (SLU or Belltown). And having uneven travel patterns from the North just seems screwy. I would love for the density to build up north of U-district, but it seems unlikely and doesn’t seem worth a doubled-up line. Only way I could see two lines up north as being useful would be if one split off at some point, perhaps Lake City.

        As a good placeholder for a Metro 8 subway, I would opt for a Gondola to showcase how strong of a route it really is. And the Gondola has the perk of grade separation & negligible dwell times at a much lower price.

      4. It’s not redundant. It provides capacity for current and future needs. If you’re popping popcorn and the bowl is 90% full, you can either try to make do and hope you don’t hit a demand crisis, or you get a second bowl and then both bowls are at 50% or less. Two tunnels gives us capacity for four lines, or possibly six lines in the future. Even with a second tunnel and Ballard line and the City Center Connector there’s predicted to be a downtown transit capacity shortfall of 5,000-8,000 daily trips by 2035.

        Also, Seattle is gradually moving away from hundreds of regular buses downtown. Link, RapidRide, and the City Center Connector will take over more of the mode share. That means more frequent service with evenly-spaced headways and more reliability than the current spaghetti. That’s doubtless why the C and D were split, to get three full lines on 3rd Avenue, and when the 7 is converted it will be a fourth.

      5. Okay, I can get behind the popcorn capacity analogy. So lets say the new tunnel south of Westlake is built and ready to take on multiple lines. I don’t think Seattle’s proposed line is a line you would build if they plan on multiple lines. It looks like a compromise line that peripherally serves SLU as if they thought this would be the only line. It doesn’t set up for expansion easily. How would a future line serve the heart of SLU, Belltown, and utilize the new DSTT? Lots of zigzagging…I still prefer they branch it north of westlake with the Ballard route through Belltown and the Redmond line through Denny to end in SLU (future expansion north capable).

      6. (I thought I answered this but I must have erased it as I was responding to the other issues.)

        “But does anything north of Northgate warrant 3 minute peak now or in the future?”

        ST thinks so. The first operation plan had East Link trains going to Lynnwood only peak hours and turning around at Northgate off-peak. Later plans extend them to Lynnwood full time believing they’ll be needed. At least some ST staff are concerned that even two lines may reach capacity before the performance target (2040 I think); that’s partly why ST is considering DSTT improvements to transcend the 3-minute barrier. It’s also why ST won’t hear of diverting one of the lines to Ballard or adding a third line in the tunnel. (Maybe in the future when they see how well the tunnel handles 3-minutes they’d be willing to add a third line, but not now.)

        “Don’t you think people would rather have more options for places to go with 6 minute headways than 1 place to go on 3 minute headways?”

        Yes, in general. But this is what I meant by ST’s plan being ambitious and expensive, and I’m not sure I want to add more downtown endpoints or branches on top of it. Except for a “Metro 8 Subway” solution if it can be feasably interlined somehow.

        Regarding the Split Spine and variations, ST proposes that East and Central Link go Lynnwood-Redmond and Lynnwood-West Seattle in the DSTT, and the third line Ballard-Federal Way(-Tacoma) in the DSTT2. I would prefer Ballard-Redmond but I can see how that would be problematic (overcrowding one tunnel and underusing the other -or- Lynnwood split between two tunnels -or- West Seattle-Federal Way (ugh!) -or- Lynnwood-Tacoma (the biggest thing ST wants to avoid)).

        In June Seattle Subway proposed a Georgetown line that would go north to Denny Way, east to 23rd and south, to incorporate an Metro 8 Subway. Reconnecting that to the West Seattle line (WS-CD) could have potential (although it’s backtracking and may contradict the probable dominant ridership pattern of north-to-east). But then what would the Ballard line do when it gets downtown?

    2. The DSTT was built such that there can never be a branch at the north curve. The curve should have been stacked, but it wasn’t so there can be no junction there.

      1. You’re right, the turn into Westlake is a challenge. To make this work, I would consider a new additional station box on 3rd Ave between Pine st & Virginia with stacked tracks. The DSTT tracks on west side would split at the same level right at the turn from 3rd to Pine. The inside track would peel off just north of University station and travel over the 3rd to Pine turn/intersection to join into the new stacked station. A passageway could connect the two Westlake stations at their sourthern ends. I realize a picture of this would be a lot easier to explain. Since this second westlake station would be stacked, it would make the split between the Belltown route and the SLU route a lot easier.

      2. It’s possible, but obtaining enough separation between the tube walls would require some nasty curves. You have to have a lateral offset of at least five feet between the east vertical tangent to the existing tunnel wall and the west vertical tangent of the new tunnel wall before you start changing elevation. That puts the new tunnel squarely under the buildings on the east side of Third Avenue.

        Now those buildings aren’t very tall, so they probably don’t have super-deep foundations, but at least some of them doubtless go down at least two stories. Rising up to pass over the existing tubes would surely get very close to one or more of them. You can be damn sure that the old Bon Marche building (Macy’s) goes down at least three stories below grade. Yes, it’s north of Pine, but you absolutely cannot get the track centers 16 feet apart, change elevation and then get the track centers back to the same heading before bumping into its foundation.

        So I believe you would need the northbound track to dive not rise because of the foundations of the buildings on the east side of Third Avenue.

        There is only about 1000 feet between the north wall of the University Street station box and the curve and you’d need to have track level about 30′ different in that distance; it’s easier to dive at three degrees than climb, especially when the train is just starting up from University Street. Going down would put more earth between such new tubes and the foundations above it and would probably allow the curves to be gentler. Going down might allow under-runing Macy’s which would make the whole project much more possible.

        All that said, ST is not going to agree to put a junction there. It would take the tunnel out of service for at an absolute minimum of eight months to a year during which downtown Seattle would grind to a halt.

  11. Along with the Renton park-and-ride request discussed yesterday, I think it’s important to recognize that we are now in the “Santa Claus wish list” season for ST3. Every city is going to try to be as creative as possible to add local projects that appear transit-related to the ST3 list.

    It will be interesting to see if the ST Board sticks to its stated principles about what they should be doing for regional transit improvements, or if the ST Board will feel like they have to grant every wish that every city has just to make City Councils happy.

    My wish is for the ST Board to choose what goes into ST3 based on principles and performance criteria. One possible simple principle: Any project with more than 20% or 30% ST3 funds gets delivered by ST and not a local city. ST3 should not be thought of as any local city’s Santa Claus.

  12. Appreciate the emphasis on urban stop spacing and infill stations. The absurdity of building a lone station in Capitol Hill tempers legit excitement over U-Link.

    1. Yes, absolutely. I think it really is fantastic that after years of trying, we finally connect the areas that make the most sense to connect (UW, Capitol Hill, downtown). But the fact that we did such a poor job of connecting them really puts a damper on things.

  13. Love the letter and some actual commitment from the City to try and create some vision with future alignments, something that was a real disconnect with previous alignments. There’s been a lot of talk about the so called Metro 8 Subway but I frankly don’t get it. Maybe because I don’t see what it’s intended to connect to. And I know all too well how screwed up Denny is but I can’t see it as being anything more than a boutique line at best. If something like this were an extension of something like a Metro 48 Subway (U-Link to Central Link bypass) then I’d be more impressed. Alone though? Meh. I don’t think the ridership justifies it alone.

    1. Same as Ballard-UW, ridership doesn’t justify cost as well as future rider subsidies. If a Ballard-UW line continued on to a populated area then maybe a good line. I also have a problem with West Seattle, if it doesn’t connect to Burien then it will be a highly subsidized line for eternity.

      1. I agree but at least with Ballard-UW it’s on the way to somewhere and E/W crosstown routing is important. Where though is Metro 8 actually going? Is it on the way to anywhere people wanna go other than avoid traveling on Denny? That’s a lot of capital to throw at something like that.

      2. @les and lowkey — http://tinyurl.com/zydfdru

        Move the map around to look at the various areas (Ballard, UW, West Seattle and Burien). The darker areas are the ones with more population density. You can actually click on the census block and see exactly how dense it is. I hope that makes sense.

        You might also read the comment I made below https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/01/28/seattle-on-st3-build-for-the-long-term-but-dont-forget-the-now/#comment-684279).

        Let me know if you have any other questions, but I think that should clear it up. But until you understand the basics (like which areas are actually populated, or have destinations, or the importance of connectivity) I suggest you continue to ask questions (and avoid making embarrassingly absurd statements).

    2. “Metro 8” would tie together pretty much anything headed into downtown Seattle from the north, east and southeast so that you have better connectivity. It would significantly decrease travel times in a number of areas, and there is quite a lot of development going on along that particular route (Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, etc.). Furthermore, by hitting link to two spots (Rainier Valley and Capitol Hill Station) it acts as a feeder route for the current Link line from all of those areas.

      Metro route 44 was busy enough it was converted to trolley bus decades ago. However, today there is so much traffic along the route it is very slow. Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford and the U District have all developed quite a lot of density. All of those are places people live and/or go to work. All of them have busy north-south bus routes through them that need to be tied together to really provide good transportation options between a number of destinations. The 44 no longer provides this due to the slow nature of the surface streets.

    3. It doesn’t need “connect to” anywhere! The Metro 8 is an urban collector/distributor for riders between the ridesheds of “The Spine” and Westside lines and major employment clusters along the Metro 8. It will also serve to link three up-and-coming neighborhoods which provide the best opportunity for true “city-scale” development in the next three decades: SLU, the west end of the CD and North Rainier.

      If Seattle is to absorb the expected 200,000 new residents without wholesale change to its SFH neighborhoods, these three neighborhoods must all become like Belltown, only even bigger.

    4. The Metro 8 would add a ton of value to the system. It would bring many tens of thousands of transit-needy residents into the light rail system. The communities around the Metro 8 are being choked by traffic and left with a dire parking shortage. Providing reliable subway access to SLU and the Central District will also serve the HUGE development that is going on in this area. Look at 23rd and Union, look at SLU, all the LR1 townhouses in the Central District. We need to plan ahead, and because this project will take so long, we need to start now.

    5. I would add that we need to remember that 23rd Ave is being put on a road diet, making this stretch even more vulnerable to paralyzing traffic. Yet 23rd is also identified as a priority transit corridor (for the very reason that it is dense and growing). The Metro 8 subway would alleviate that problem by putting transit underground.

    6. @lowkey

      I’m sorry you don’t get it. I’m not sure where to start. Maybe a book. Jarrett Walker’s is a good one. You can also figure stuff out by just reading this blog. Over time you will probably pick up the general concepts.

      But asking a question like that is not a bad idea. I’ll see if I can give you a quick run down of some transit basics. First of all, density matters. The more dense a neighborhood is, the more people will use a particular bus or train stop. This is because more people can easily walk to that stop.

      Destinations matter. if everyone is headed to the same spot, then a transit line won’t be as successful as one where people are constantly getting on and off. You have higher overall ridership (which means higher fare recovery) a more manageable load and a more popular system. If everyone is headed to the end of the line (typical for a suburban express) then hardly anyone wants to spend time slowing down to pick up people along the way. But if people are getting off all along the line, you provide a much better service by having those stops.

      Finally, connectivity matters. A good transit line serves more than the people who walk to the stop and walk from the stop. It connects into other transit — other buses and trains in this case.

      So, with all that in mind, it is interesting to see how this Metro 8 subway would function:

      Density — As good as any place in Washington State. Much better than any place in West Seattle, Lynnwood, Everett or Tacoma (to say nothing of the places along the way). Here is an interactive density map — http://tinyurl.com/zydfdru — let me know if you have any questions about it.

      Destinations — Plenty. First Hill and South Lake Union, which are top ten destinations. Way bigger destinations than any in West Seattle, Lynnwood … (you get the idea).

      Connectivity — Outstanding. This would connect with the north, east and maybe even south end of Link (assuming this went as far as Mount Baker). So someone from the Central Area could save a lot of time for their trip to the UW or Northgate. Someone from Roosevelt or Lynnwood could save a lot of time on their trip to South Lake Union or First Hill. Similar time saving connections would occur all over the place. C. D. or First Hill to the East Side. South End (including Rainier Valley) to the C. D, the East Side, First Hill and South Lake Union. Meanwhile, fast and frequent buses would connect to the various places from all over. Madison BRT is a given, and frequent service along 23rd is likely. Service along Cherry/Jefferson and Yesler/Jackson (which exists now) would also boost ridership.

      I hope that helped.

      1. Ross I’m sure you mean well but your self importance makes you increasingly irrelevant to any productive conversation. I understand very well what good transit policy is but I won’t go along to get along. Any line worth its salt should be critiqued as to why it’s usefulness is, access to areas of high density, quality sync to the broader transit network, etc. As a standalone line it’s not worth in my opinion building. No amount of repeating yourself in the mirror makes you more of an expert than I am. For me if we interline service so it becomes something more useful I’m all for it. An extension connecting U-Link along 23rd to the Rainier Valley with proper urban spacing is a good look and would make up for much of the agony about proper connectivity through the CD. Splitting that with the Metro 8 gives you great connections all along that routing. But you’re too busy “instructing” me I suppose.

        Interline with Central Link and take that line into Renton, Kent and perhaps Auburn. Interface that line with a stop at U Village (connecting with an extended UW-Ballard line to Children’s) and up to Lake City and points north, while connecting to a Metro 8 looping into Ballard through Crown Hill, Greenwood meeting in Lake City and you something, or do I still not “get it”?

      2. I’m not trying to be self important lowkey. I honestly thought you were ignorant of the city or ignorant of how successful transit works. When you say you “don’t get it”, I assume you were telling the truth. Maybe you are trolling. If so, mission accomplished.

        I have no idea if you get it or not. On the one hand I see this:

        Any line worth its salt should be critiqued as to why it’s usefulness is, access to areas of high density, quality sync to the broader transit network, etc.

        That makes me think you get it. Because that is exactly what the Metro 8 subway has. Again, it has density (along every fucking stop). Destinations (two of the top ten destinations in the state — assuming it serves First Hill) and connectivity. Good Lord, it has connectivity — connections to South Link at Mount Baker, North Link at Capitol Hill, East Link at Judkins Park, along with major, frequent buses (more frequent than Link) at Madison, 23rd as well as other streets.

        Feel free to refute any of these points. Feel free to tell me why this area isn’t dense, or why First Hill or South Lake Union aren’t destinations. Or feel free to tell me how this wouldn’t make any of the connections I mentioned, or why those connections aren’t important. Or feel free to come up with a different line that hasn’t been mentioned that will outperform that one based on those criteria. Or explain why such criteria isn’t important even though it has been the difference between highly successful systems and failing ones all over the world.

        But for God’s sake, man, don’t tell me that it makes sense to

        Take that line into Renton, Kent and perhaps Auburn.

        Those are all sprawling suburbs, with little in the way of destinations. I don’t know how else to explain this to you. It is obvious if you have ever been there, but it is also obvious if you look at the fucking data or the fucking satellite maps. It is also a long fucking ways from everything else. Do I really have to explain why spending billions for light rail to distant sprawling areas is a bad value? Really?

      3. A line roughly following the Metro route 8 doesn’t need to interline with anything else in order to be a good transit line. Rail to rail transfers are relatively painless (compared to the shitty bus to bus transfers most of us are used to) so transferring to the rail lines built as part of Sound Move and ST2 isn’t a huge deal and would provide the connectivity you seem to imply is needed.

        Sure it isn’t the first rail line one would build if starting from scratch, but I agree with RossB and others that it is a whole heck of a lot more cost effective than any suburban spine extensions or West Seattle. Heck it might even give Downtown-Ballard a run for the money.

        Like 45th/Market, Denny/John/23rd have relatively high density along them already and narrow, congested surface arterials. This is exactly the sort of situation where investing heavily in grade separated transit makes sense.

      4. It doesn’t need to interline with anything, but it would be nice if it did. If you have an hour of running time or so it helps make for a reasonable layover time at each end.

      5. Yeah, no need to interline. If it did interline, I think it would do so at the west end. It could loop around to Belltown, then either go into the WSTT, or the main tunnel. That would form a loop (which is silly) but parts of the loop (e. g. all of downtown to Belltown and South Lake Union) would be really popular.

      6. Ross, knowing who I am is irrelevant. If you have to know me first before granting me a basic respectful dialogue then everything else from that point forward is pointless. Your first response was to proceed to attempt to embarrass les and I, and then proceeded to condescend to me in a completely separate post complete with maps and other crap as you were attempting to dismiss us, particularly me with “…until you understand the basics (like which areas are actually populated, or have destinations, or the importance of connectivity) I suggest you continue to ask questions (and avoid making embarrassingly absurd statements)”. You think after that I would care to entertain your ideas? After trying to invalidate and dismiss me? OK. Show me someone that would and I’ll show you a fool. So, no my reply wasn’t to insult you, it was acknowledge you. What’s funny is that I believe you honestly believe you were being helpful. You suck at communicating it.

        I’ve been reading posts on this blog since Norman was a regular and I have watched a lot of thoughtful dialogue between all the participants here, yourself included. I also know just how tightly wound to those ideas many of you are, at many times to the detriment to the discussion (your WSTT idea for example). [ot, ah] Metro 8 appears to be sacred to many here. I don’t disagree that it wouldn’t be useful, I maintain the value doesn’t make sense unless it’s connected to something. As for my examples I listed them. You acknowledged them in your responses to me. To be clear I’ve not repeated any questions but rather tried to clarify the basic question I initially asked. Everyone else seems to have missed the ideas I’ve put out there that I thought would improve upon the Metro 8 and increase access, except where I apparently didn’t offer suggestions. Feel free to reread them. Or not. I’m tired This whole thing is getting really stupid

      7. Guys,

        You know I agree wholeheartedly about joining North Rainier, the CD and southwest Capitol Hill to SLU. But I do not agree that it should go down 23rd. There is much more possibility for major development along North Rainier and Boren east of Broadway than there will ever be along 23rd. And a line running roughly along 10th Avenue would provide a fantastic bus intercept for all the lines out of Madrona, Madison Park and the eastern part of the CD. They run very quickly on the relatively uncrowded east-west arterials east of Broadway; they’re streetcar wide and if it ever comes to it they can have bus lanes. There are parallel arterials which don’t have heavy bus traffic, in particular James.

        A line up 10th has Swedish a block way, Seattle U right at the station and a whole lot of low-density nothing south of Seattle U. Twenty-Third is already being built out at three and four stories, not really enough to justify the cost of a subway. You can put towers between Boren and 15th south of Seattle U all the way down North Rainier.

        A 14th and Jackson station would even touch the edge of Little Saigon.

      8. Anandakos, you know what else is one block from 10th? The Broadway/First Hill Streetcar… With unlimited resources, a subway down 10th would be on the table, but with the streetcar just built, it is certainly not a priority.

        I share the view that providing a subway line along 23rd that connects with the Capitol Hill Link station and extends west to SLU and Belltown is the main priority for building up light rail in central Seattle. It would bring rail to a new segment of the city that is all too often overlooked and highly dependent on public transit.

    7. The 8 is a relatively new route, created around the 1990s after decades of public requests for a route between Uptown and Capitol Hill. It started with a limited span and extent (only to 15th, daytime only, not sure about Saturdays, infrequent), but it was so popular it was expanded several times to its current level of service.

      I don’t find RossB’s census-tract appeals fully convincing because each square is not uniform density, and density alone doesn’t fully determine what kinds of destinations are where or how much demand there is between them, but in Center City (Mercer-12th-Jackson-waterfront-3rd W) you can easily observe the masses of people walking and taking transit in every direction 24 hours. So yes, a Denny Way subway or approximation of it would be well used.

      1. Thanks Mike. I’m Seattle born and raised and live and worked at Group Health when the 8 was first created. I’m well versed on how busy the route and still use it occasionally. With the subway though, even with the connections it would make in South Lake Union there is still no real destination the line would go. Sorry, I’m not a sycophant so I’m not interested in hearing it’s a great idea just because it’s a connecting service. There still has to be populations and neighborhood connectivities to be considered beyond just Denny and Seattle Subway’s convoluted idea doesn’t do anything. Show me an alignment that actually generates trips as part of interline of some sort and perhaps you got something but if I still lived in the CD for example my first response to this would be “Why the hell would I want this?” No one has demonstrated to me the utility of this line outside of avoiding Denny.

      2. lowkey74’s arguments sound like arguments against mass transit in general. Obviously a Metro 8 subway line would generate trips and increase ridership. It would connect a dense population center with a dense employment center, plus it would create useful transfer points to other areas of the city (and beyond). And the dense population center is getting denser (single family homes are making way for town homes, etc). If we truly want an integrated subway system (which is a VERY popular goal), the Metro 8 plays a key role.

        Everyone is familiar with the complaints that parking is being eliminated and choked out, and traffic is a mess. Putting transit underground will help solve these problems and provide an important service to a community that moves within Seattle proper and would use convenient mass transit.

      3. Marc: I don’t think lowkey74 is arguing against mass transit across the board, he just seems biased toward a Ballard-UW line, mostly likely because he would use it! I support the Ballard-UW line, but I also strongly support the Metro 8 subway line for many of the same reasons. They connect dense and growing neighborhoods to the lightrail network and would increase ridership. Metro 8 is certainly important.

        Lowkey’s distinction between Ballard-UW and the Metro 8 does not make any sense. They are both key and should be completed as soon as possible to keep up with the city’s growth.

      4. To be clear I am absolutely not against mass transit, in general or otherwise. I’m a huge supporter. Voted for Sound Move, same with ST2 and will likely vote yes on an ST3 depending on what’s presented. I also believe in being critical in evaluating the choices. I would not likely use Ballard-UW even though I support it because it’s a great deal. I recognize its usefulness to the system overall. My question is one of connectivity and how it fits into an overall network. Discussions I’ve found on Metro 8 just sort of float out there and aren’t grounded in anything useful so I’ve been asking a very basic question, “how does it connect?”

        Which is why in previous comments I though it should spur off a Metro 48 line running along 23rd Ave, which would interline with Central Link before branching off to Renton, Kent and Auburn. I would like that same Metro 8 to interline north through Ballard on its way to Lake City via NE 130th. So in general, yes I would support a Metro 8 just not as a standalone such that it appears here.

      5. There’s all sorts if interesting things that could be done with it, given the money.

        Among other things, it could be interlined with the Rainier Valley line during off-peak periods so that Rainier Valley gets more off peak service. If SoundTransit and other powers that be can be convinced that to increase frequency in Rainier Valley, maybe it could be part of an extension to downtown Renton?

        Lots of stuff is possible. It’s getting the important segment made a priority that needs to happen.

      6. >> even with the connections it would make in South Lake Union there is still no real destination the line would go.

        I’m beginning to think you are either trolling or have no imagination. A Metro 8 subway would not follow the exact path of the Metro 8. That would be stupid. It would of course deviate from it. Let me draw you a map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zq-vQCJbvN5w.kvjui0NlQ-Jw&usp=sharing

        It’s not pretty, but that blue line there is one variation. Ignore the west end, which involves a connection to Belltown and South Lake Union. The green line is Madison BRT. The dots are train stations. Just follow along where I mention the stops east of Capitol Hill station:

        Madison and 10th — This is close to Seattle U as well as the hospitals and office towers on First Hill. The next stop is 15th and Jefferson. This is the other side of the Seattle U campus, as well Swedish Cherry Hill. Those are your major destinations. Other destinations are minor the way that Roosevelt or Northgate are minor destinations. But even those minor destinations are densely populated. Densely populated areas are what mass transit is all about. It is why cities like Vancouver or Toronto have very successful transit systems, even many of their lines only contain a handful of “destinations” (like South Lake Union). The other obvious reason they are successful is because they integrate well with other transit (including buses) which is exactly what this would do.

      7. Look, no one on here is a sycophant. No one sucks up to anyone. You can look through the comments and realize that we respectfully agree or disagree all the fucking time. Seriously. Ask Mike Orr. I respect his opinion highly, but I am not afraid to tell him I disagree when I think he is wrong (and he does the same to me).

        But you’ve asked about destinations, and I’ve offered two fairly big ones (South Lake Union and First Hill). You’ve asked about connections, and I’ve listed those as well. The thing is teaming with connections. Very fast, very frequent bus service along Madison. Fast, frequent rail service connections at Capitol Hill (north), Judkins Park (east) and Mount Baker (south). Frequent if not fast connections along 23rd (certainly) but also along other streets in the Central Area (Jackson and Cherry). That is just the east end. The west end includes a stop in the heart of South Lake Union, but also Aurora (which is a major connection point). From there it really isn’t clear where it should go. But possibilities include Belltown or up towards Lower Queen Anne (which would have connections to buses from Ballard, Magnolia and Queen Anne). Belltown would give it three major destinations and would probably make it the highest, most destination filled line of that distance.

        >> If I still lived in the CD for example my first response to this would be “Why the hell would I want this?

        You would want this if you were headed to South Lake Union, or Capitol HIll, or the East Side, or towards Rainier Valley, or the airport, or towards the UW, or up Aurora, or Queen Anne or Belltown. Hell, it might even be useful if you are headed to Kent. Auburn or Renton (since you seem to think everyone is headed that way from the Central Area). That would require a bus (of course) but it is possible those buses might someday park themselves on the outside of the line (e. g. Rainier Beach) instead of heading right to downtown.

      8. There are various ideas about what the 8 subway would be, and whether it would be on its own or part of a longer line, but in all cases it would connect to at least one Central Link station, probably Capitol Hill, and certainly other lines and modes and stations if feasable. Since the other future lines are in flux, we’d have to refer to specific proposals for the other lines to say what it would connect to. But in any case it would be a one-seat ride or a train-to-train transfer to other parts of the Link network, so no different than the 44th subway. The argument for it being more useful than the 44th subway is the higher density of all the areas it would go through, at least west of 12th.

        I also respect RossB a lot. He’s clear-minded and understands what makes a transit network useful to its users. We just disagree on a few things.

      9. I’m ok with disagreement, I’m good for having a debate. But I don’t tolerate disrespect nor do I take kindly to his condescension. Ross deciding to have a debate on ideas I’m all for it but I won’t put up with his crap simply because the rest of folks on here do.

        Ross spare the lecture and the maps already, your not showing me anything I don’t already know. The southern terminus points were about primarily providing a frequent connection to areas not particularly well connected to transit because of remote locale but still decently frequented service like the Benson corridor or services served by slow bus service like the 150. Service that may be rerouted and better served running frequent east to west since throughout the region those types of routes are sorely lacking not to mention infrequent existing service or the fact these areas are increasingly poor and transit dependent. I proposed interlining into Renton not because “everyone” wants to go there but because I see it as the more logical place to go providing the potential lines through the West Seattle and Burien on the table and of course the spine. There is a service gap throughout the eastern half of the region that could be served decently well with some thought.

        As for the 8 traveling strictly on Denny, that is a dumb idea and equally so as to think I would go there. You do presumption well, so you’re at least consistent. I again have to go back to connectivity because I want to understand it as part of a connected network, not just choices made in a vacuum. You know, the same thing you’re so critical of ST for? If that makes me a troll for asking, whatever. You’ll be fine.

      10. What destinations does the Metro 8 subway need other than what is already there? That bus route is quite busy for its length. It would be good to have it be a bit further north than Denny to hit South Lake Union.

        What do you consider a destination? South Lake Union to Rainier Valley along the current 8 has maybe 10 times the activity along it than the proposed Issaquah line. The whole thing is a destination from one end to the other, compared to Issaquah and the suburban sprawl between Issaquah and Mercer Island.

      11. “I also respect RossB a lot. He’s clear-minded and understands what makes a transit network useful to its users. We just disagree on a few things.”

        [ah, ot]

      12. Glenn, my whole point has been that the connecting part is great. Get it. But if I were to use it in theory where would it take me and is useful? Or the opposite, if I lived in the community is it any use to me? Understanding that question is different for everyone but if a good number of people see no utility in going there then there won’t likely be a reason for it. Someone in the CD may or may not care to go west out of the CD beyond downtown. That person isn’t taking that train. The 8 has weak ridership through the CD currently. The strongest ridership has always been between Capitol Hill and Seattle Center. Now the line I’m speaking of would combine aspects of both the 8 and 48 and seems to be a natural fit and mimics the intention behind Metro’s service proposal. Stronger and better utilization of an overall network is all. Many folks have answered here and I thank them for that just in case anyone needs to rehash anything.

        Les, I agree with your assessment but figured I wasn’t going to go there…

      13. The Metro 8 is hugely important for an integrated urban subway system, but Ross’s mapped alignment is not the best routing. The line should follow 23rd much more (starting at Madison and 23rd and going south all the way to Mt Baker.

        23rd is already understood and recognized to be a priority corridor for transit, but the street is going on a road diet. An underground subway line along the dense 23rd corridor will solve the problem.

        This is a much better alignment: https://www.theurbanist.org/2016/01/11/ballard-spur-and-metro-8-subway-serve-seattle-better-than-interbay-light-rail/

      14. @lowkey — I’m ok with disagreement, I’m good for having a debate. But I don’t tolerate disrespect nor do I take kindly to his condescension.

        OK, let’s review here. I’ve been on this blog a long time. I’ve written a lot of comments (some of them smart, some of them stupid). I have written plenty of posts, too. Some on the main page, some on Page 2. In all my writing, I’ve tried, at least initially, to be respectful.

        Since I spend a lot of time on this blog, I recognize, and have met, many of the people who post comments here. With all due respect, low key, I have no idea who you are. I don’t recognize your handle. So when you say “I don’t get it”, I assume you really don’t get it. Look, none of this shit is easy. None of it (to my mind) is intuitive. I certainly didn’t “get it” ten years ago. Of course I favored transit, but I had no idea what would work or what wouldn’t. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that the more miles of rail the better, or that we should have transit mimic our freeways. The problem is, the more I read and the more I listened, the more I realize that just doesn’t work.

        For the same reason, it isn’t obvious why West Seattle light rail is not a good value, but the Metro 8 subway is. On the surface, it would appear to be the opposite. West Seattle traffic sucks. West Seattle is a lot farther away from the core of the city. The areas served by a Metro 8 subway are not that far from the other subway (i. e. the Central Area already has its light rail at CHS, so why add another line?). Thoughts like that are perfectly reasonable.

        So, because you literally said “you don’t get it” and offered no counter argument to the Metro 8 subway, as far as I know, you are just tuning into transit issues. I write a long, detailed description of the basics. I sure as hell wish someone had done that when I got here. I’m sorry if you took that as condescending, but it wasn’t meant to be. But it also included a description of how they apply to this line.

        But rather than saying “thanks”, or even “thanks but no thanks — I didn’t mean that I really don’t understand transit issues, I mean I disagree with how they apply here”, you reply with insults, calling me self important and irrelevant. You fail to even respond to my key points. You still haven’t, even though lots of people have repeated the same thing.

        Just look at your last comment:

        Glenn, my whole point has been that the connecting part is great. Get it.

        Good, because you mentioned it as a weakness in every one of your other comments.

        But if I were to use it in theory where would it take me and is useful? Or the opposite, if I lived in the community is it any use to me?

        This also has been repeatedly answered. That is where the connectivity comes in. The answer in that case is implied. But in several comments, the answer was actually explicit. To quote:

        So someone from the Central Area could save a lot of time for their trip to the UW or Northgate. C. D. to the East Side. South End (including Rainier Valley) to the C. D, the East Side, First Hill and South Lake Union. Meanwhile, fast and frequent buses would connect to the various places from all over. Madison BRT is a given,


        You [someone from the CD] would want this if you were headed to South Lake Union, or Capitol HIll, or the East Side, or towards Rainier Valley, or the airport, or towards the UW, or up Aurora, or Queen Anne or Belltown.

        Other people have said the same thing. But nothing. No response. No “but it won’t be much of an improvement” or “very few people take that trip”, just insults and a repeat of the same questions (about connectivity and destinations).

        You say you are all for a healthy debate. That sure as hell is what I’m after. But then you insult me (after writing a very long, very time consuming comment meant to be helpful) and then you wonder why my comments directed to you are no longer tactful. You still haven’t addressed any of the points raised by me (and others) in response to your questions, other than to finally admit that connectivity is actually good here. Failing to respond to the substance of an argument and then responding with insults (when none were thrown your way) is not exactly “having a debate”.

      15. @Marc — You are not the first one to say that. I put together that map in hopes of making it a Page 2 post. The map is actually interactive. You can select and deselect various options. For example, deselect “First Hill Variation” and select “Garfield High Variation”. That may be more to your liking. It still doesn’t serve 23rd and Madison, though. I should put that in as a variation, since you are not the first to prefer it.

        Personally I go back and forth with all of it. It would be really nice to serve First Hill with a train. That would be a much faster way for people to get to a very popular destination. But that does mean less service along 23rd, and the stop at Madison and Pike/Pine would be extremely popular.

        This is one of the reasons why I have not written a Page 2 post, even though I am very curious as to what people think. I believe that unlike Ballard to UW light rail, there is no obvious routing. With Ballard to UW, you really only have one choice — upper Fremont or lower Fremont. With this you have a bunch of variations, each one of which would be very good. Plus the west side is complicated, because we have no idea what will be built there (WSTT, a light rail tunnel or nothing).

  14. You arguments are straw men, Mike. I never said that there is uniform density around each census block. But this is the smallest available data point. In most cases, these are actual neighborhoods — actual areas small enough that you could expect most of the people in the neighborhood to walk to the station. Furthermore, in the case of the Central Area, it is surrounded by similar census blocks. The entire region is dense, which means you really can’t go too wrong. It means feeder buses, for example, will of course carry lots of people. It means that if you put in a station practically anywhere, it will be a decent one. This just isn’t true for most of Seattle.

    Nor did I say that there is a one to one correspondence with population density and demand. Read the whole thing over again. I mentioned density, destinations and connectivity. This one has it. First Hill (Seattle U, major hospitals, big office buildings) and South Lake Union for destinations and a ton of frequent buses and connections north, south and east for rail. All of that adds up to a huge amount of demand.

    1. Yes, it would be nice if cooler heads prevail and Ballard Subway (aka Seattle Subway) takes a back seat.

  15. While I have not seen an official project list yet (I don’t think there is out yet), based on what I have read and heard so far there seems to be a general consensus on completing the spine and other capital heavy projects. Personally, ST “3” should have been ST 2.5 focusing heavily on service improvements, and capital projects related to improving the existing system (New buses, P&R capacity, improvements for more Sounder Trains) etc. Honestly we need to double – or more the amount of ST Express bus service, make Sounder an all-day service similar to Metrolink in LA or Metra in Chicago, Add P&R capacity across the system although with the caveat of finally charging a use fee for parking there. I think you could bump all ST express bus routes up to 15-20 min headways and they would more or less fill up across the board. All this would have gotten passed, but another light rail capital heavy project….. Its a hard call. Especially in the areas of the ST district that currently do not receive any direct service.

    1. I agree. Anytime ST wants to spend 5 billion on a Ballard LR line where a north extension leads to nowhere, where Sounder is a better long distance option then Link will ever be and where cluster-f**k exist in such places as Lander Street where at grade crossing and bus exchanges are abominable then Seattle needs to dump ST board and groups like Seattle Subway and start from scratch.

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