Angle Lake Station Construction – April 2015 (Photo by the author)
Angle Lake Station Construction – April 2015 (Photo by the author)

This summary of South King County’s ST3 feedback is the second in a series of ST3 feedback summaries. See our previous coverage of Pierce County and Seattle. Future installments will be East King, North King (minus Seattle), Snohomish, and Stakeholder Organizations. 

Federal Way

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell
Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell

Short, sweet, and direct, Federal Way’s 3-paragraph letter supports Link to Federal Way via I-5 and completion of the spine to Tacoma as “the highest priority in the South King subarea”. Federal Way also says that while their preference is for I-5 through their city, they “will defer to Milton, Fife, and Tacoma” to decide between SR 99 and I-5 between Federal Way and Tacoma. The letter closes by expressing the city’s support for parking demand management strategies, which could include pricing, permitting, or additional feeder service.

Auburn

Auburn Director of Community Development and Public Works Kevin Snyder
Auburn Director of Community Development and Public Works Kevin Snyder

Auburn’s letter begins by expressing qualified support for extended Sounder trains (to 8 cars or beyond), asking that any platform extensions be done to the south rather than to the north (which would close its Main Street during train stops). Complicating this process is the fact that BNSF’s Stampede Pass junction lies immediately south of the current platforms.

The letter goes on to ask that Sounder be allowed to become “a mature commuter rail system”, with evening and weekend service and Sounder/Amtrak integration “to [collect] passengers at local stations and them to Amtrak stations.”

The letter closes with strong support for a second Auburn parking garage and full funding for the South Sounder Access Program.

Kent

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke
Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke

Kent has exceeded urbanist expectations for suburban jurisdictions on a number of occasions, including upzones in its town center and in its Link station area near Des MoinesKent’s letter supports Link to Federal Way with joint station planning at Highline between Kent and Des Moines, as well as increased vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle access to Kent Station.

Kent’s letter also brings its demographic cards to the table to argue for all-day Sounder service on both ridership and social justice grounds. Noting that Kent is one of the most diverse cities in Washington and the one with the highest non-Seattle Sounder ridership, Mayor Cooke asks that Sound Transit “[expand] Sounder service in both directions throughout the day…a great start toward meeting the needs of shift work, non-peak travel demands such as doctor’s appointments, access to human services agencies, and entertainment options.” Her perspective brings welcome attention to Sounder’s potential to be part of an integrated transit network for all transit riders, rather than its current existence as a (rather effective) peak capacity relief valve for commuters.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.18.05 AM
SeaTac Mayor Rick Forschler

SeaTac
Making a strong case for the most bizarre letter Sound Transit received, SeaTac’s letter is a strong departure from its (pre-election) comments last summer, in which former Mayor (and current State Legislator) Mia Gregerson supported Link to Federal Way, a second line to SeaTac Airport via West Seattle and Burien, and BRT connections to the airport. Instead, new mayor Rick Forschler functionally withdraws SeaTac’s support for the entire ST3 project, using the “transit share” canard to object to any fixed-route transit spending:

None of [your] projections for ridership, decreased sprawl, and improved traffic have been realized. In fact, the opposite is true[…]

[PSRC] projections for build out of 72 miles of light rail and doubling of bus service by 2040, at a cost of almost 80 billion dollars,  show transit ridership going from 3.1 percent of all trips to 4.3 percent. Traffic congestion on arterials would get worse, and despite aggressive land-use assumptions for density around light rail stations, sprawl would continue[…].

Before we lock this region into technology that may be obsolete long before the bonds are repaid, and given the rapid growth of autonomous vehicle technology, we believe it is essential to ensure that any further investments also support future technology trends…This emerging technology suggests a reprioritization of new investments away from rail transit and toward increasing road capacity. [emphasis mine]

Des Moines, Burien, and Tukwila after the jump…

Des Moines 

Des Moines Mayor Matt Pina
Des Moines Mayor Matt Pina

Des Moines’ letter expresses support for Link to Federal Way, full funding for a System Access Program, and supports all Sounder expansion projects. In addition, it recommends inclusion of planning studies for light rail between West Seattle-Burien-SeaTac and Burien-Tukwila-Renton.

Disappointingly, it also exhibits a standard “have it both ways” mentality with regard to the tensions between capital cost and station access. While the letter rightly states that “much more attention must be given to non-auto access to light rail stations and TOD around those stations”, it simultaneously neglects such access by reiterating its support for freeway alignments and brownfield development:

Extending the system south as fast as possible by using lower costing alignments and station locations should be relatively high on the Board’s priority project list because of its service benefits to moderate and low-income residents.

Burien

Burien M
Burien Mayor Lucy Krakowiak

Like Federal Way’s letter, Burien’s feedback is short and direct, urging extension of light rail from West Seattle to Burien (Project C-13), but Burien requests that this project be expanded in scope to add a second line to Sea/Tac Airport “to complete the loop and maximize overall value.”

The letter also supports a Burien terminus for I-405 BRT instead of Angle Lake, noting that Tukwila International Blvd already offers a seamless connection to Sea/Tac and Angle Lake.

Tukwila

Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg
Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg

Sounder and Link infill stations at Boeing Access Road (BAR) “remain Tukwila’s top priorities.” Their letter claims that Metro’s 2040 plan would terminate I-5 express buses at BAR, improving the integration potential of the station beyond the lukewarm ‘medium’ assessment given in Sound Transit’s scoring.

The letter goes on to disagree with a number of Sound Transit’s assessments of BAR’s potential, especially its ‘low’ rating on supportive plans/policies and on the development potential around the station. Tukwila’s response argues for the land’s potential both by highlighting the presence of a potential master developer (Sabey Corporation owns 62 acres with a half mile of BAR) and by stressing how underdeveloped the land currently is (46% of the land within one mile of BAR being currently vacant or “underutilized” by King County’s criteria). For the demand side of the equation, Tukwila believes “With development pressures occurring north in Seattle, development opportunities will continue to move further south.”

86 Replies to “South King County’s ST3 Letters”

  1. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the mayor of Seatac’s letter is so out of touch with reality, because apparently both Fimia and Niles have been down there briefing him on ST. If those are the main voices you’ve been listening to then of course you’d sound “bizzare”.

    You know there is an ST funding vote on the horizon when Fimia climbs out from under her rock and the wackos in Oly start talking governance reform.

  2. It’s very disappointing how the Tea Party managed to swing the Sea-Tac City Council in the 2015 election. Not to call out STB at all, since you paid way more attention to many of these suburban city elections than most folks did, but it’s a failure of our local progressive movement as a whole that we spend so much time fighting over “who’s more progressive” in Seattle while missing out on the real battle in the suburbs, where the Tea Party is winning. As a movement, we have to do better.

    I worry that we will have another opportunity to swing and miss in 2016 – progressives must not let the fight over the 7th CD seat distract our time, attention and money away from critical legislative races in the suburbs. I believe that if we do keep our eye on the ball, we can rack up wins in the suburbs and move our region forward together.

    1. Amen. This gets repeated again and again and can be seen in the state legislature as well. Progressive organizations fail to throw enough attention or money at suburban swing districts and all of a sudden people like Andy Hill are running Olympia.

    2. – 0.5

      Some of the suburbs letters have been pretty good. Some are Somewhat misguided, but at least most want better transit of some sort.

      Of course it doesn’t help that SeaTac already has a light rail line, so they don’t care if Burien or anyone else ever gets one. In fact, maybe they don’t want anyone to get better transit as an incentive for development there.

      1. Yeah, that is what bothers me about the letter. Not a polite abstention, but a rebuke of the same policy that got light rail to SeaTac in the first place. It is pretty easy to be a strong opponent of excessive, expensive and inappropriate light rail after rail like that gets to your place.

        I suppose that is life in the suburbs. Someone in the U-District sure as hell wants light rail to Ballard just like someone in Rainier Valley wants the Metro 8 subway, but there really isn’t much of a network effect with the suburbs — they just want a fast ride to downtown Seattle, nothing more.

      2. The best incentive for development is to upzone like Vancouver. SeaTac happens to be about the distance of New Westminster.

      3. The best incentive for development is to not suck, or at least not suck as badly as nearby places.

        Living within earshot of a freeway sucks, but there can be things about the location that make it suck less than nearby areas. Some places, no matter how much you upzone, there won’t be a demand for increased development.

      4. “Some places, no matter how much you upzone, there won’t be a demand for increased development.”

        There must be a demand ceiling somewhere, but what examples do we have where where development is being held back by lack of developer interest rather than restrictive zoning? In some places multifamily buildings are banned; in others the height limit is less than developers want. Rainier Valley is fighting the history of redlining and paranoia about safety. But SeaTac could be an attractively inexpensive place to live within walking distance of Link or at least the A if the housing were there. And there is a bit of TOD and garden apartments around 198th and… 216th if I remember. So that’s a start. For many years I’ve wished there were more housing near Pacific Highway because it has the most 24-hour bus service in south King County. But in most places the only thing in the bus stops’ walkshed is single-family houses.

      5. Rainier Valley has quite a lot that is walkable. SeaTac is so horribly auto oriented I’m not sure the demand would be as great, and it is cut into pieces by some pretty wide and fast roads. Then, there is the airport noise.

        Compare the condos that were built near the Museum of Glass in Tacoma to Point Ruston. The ones in downtown Tacoma filled up quickly, even though the view is of the industrial areas. Point Ruston still hasn’t built something like 1/3 of their proposed buildings, even though the view is great.

        Point Ruston doesn’t have a whole lot near it that is within walkable distance for many people. Granted, it’s downtown Tacoma, but there is more walkable within downtown Tacoma than there is anywhere near the Point Ruston development.

        So, while the view of the Port of Tacoma industrial wasteland sucks, it sucks less than being miles away from everything.

      6. You still have to take either Link or the A a fairly long distance to get to places if you live near them. It’s a vicious circle: the big parking lots and wide, busy streets make it hard to walk anywhere. Nobody is going to build a walkable neighborhood type arrangement because nobody walks anywhere, and nobody walks anywhere because they can’t.

        Burien is a bit more transit and neighborhood friendly.

  3. While a BAR station right now would seem silly without off-peak Sounder and nothing worthwhile within walking distance of the station, theoretically we could just make both of those things changing prerequisites for a BAR station. They could easily zone everything within 0.75 miles of the station to be 85-feet full-lot buildings, which would generate plenty of ridership. Likewise, if you have all-day/weekend 30 minute service on sounder, transfers make a lot more sense.

    1. My opposition to BAR has been based on the unwalkable land uses around it, even with Tukwila’s announced urban village at 144th. If this area’s future is going to look more like the way Othello and Mt Baker are going, then that would be wonderful and a BAR station might be in order. The price swings in housing have really been price swings in land, and the rich yuppies and investors will not flock to northwest Tukwila until they can no longer find anything in Seattle, the Eastside, Northshore, and Renton. That may never happen if those areas keep building somewhat.

      TIB also has a lot of underused commercial land north, west, and northwest of it. So how about some TOD there too, please?

    2. Oh, I’m assuming a BAR station close to 99, not right at the Sounder station. ST has been studying both. A station close to 99 is important both for walking to future nearby destinations and so that the A and 124 can get to it without backtracking. If the bus routes have to go east to a station next to Sounder, then that would be even worse than the current bus deviations into TIB Station.

    3. The utility of BAR Station is ultimately in both the transit access planning as well as the surrounding land uses. It’s one of those situations where only a comprehensive, integrated station area development plan along with a good bus and rail operations strategy would begin to provide some justification for the station. If all the pieces could be put together, it could be an amazing place.

      I congratulate Tukwila for at least having the vision to prioritize the idea. All it needs now is a more glamorous name.

  4. Looks like “driverless cars will replace transit” will be the anti-transit argument of choice for a while.

    Of course, if claims that they will use road space more efficiently than human drivers are true, we obviously don’t need to increase road capacity.

    1. I honestly see the technology making congestion worse. If people could drive to work, and instead of worrying about where to park, could simply tell their car to go home and park at home, the miles driven would have simply doubled.

      1. If Googe has the PNW “You go,… No You Go…, No you first, I insist” driving algorithm programmed into their cars, then gridlock will most certainly ensue.

    2. Their blind spot is amazing. Yes, driverless cars or PRT could serve the outskirts of a city or the center of a small suburb, and yes they’ll be closer together on the road and won’t make as many swerves and other sudden moves, but they can’t completely replace high-volume transit in a city. People who say autonomous cars can replace transit are either not thinking of inner cities (because they don’t live or work there) or don’t understand the limitations of SOVs and 4-person taxis. Which is surprising because the evidence is all around them on the freeways: how much space do 10,000 people take up in cars vs in buses or trains?

      1. And besides, there’s some ways that driverless cars could make transit MORE attractive. Most prominently, if we don’t need as much parking anymore, density will increase just about everywhere, especially in the cities.

      2. I’m not convinced driverless cars decrease following distance much. People already leave very little space. If a flying sofa suddenly appears in the lane or something, you need stopping distance, and driverless cars don’t change basic physics.

      3. Driverless vehicles could change the dynamics of transit, but your point is still valid, Mike. High capacity vehicles (trains) are still needed in the city. They run frequently and carry a lot of people. It really matters little whether they are automated or not (this is really one of the side issues with Vancouver transit — yes, they are ridiculously cost effective because they have automated trains — but the main thing is that the trains are cost effective and run quite often because they pick up huge numbers of people). But with a sprawling suburban rail system, this isn’t the case (they are a lot less cost effective).

        On the other hand, with an automated bus system, it becomes an even better deal. Yes, you still have wear and tear as well as fuel costs for the buses, but that has always been a minor cost. If you don’t pay the driver, things become a lot cheaper. The point at which spending more money on trains versus buses just moves a bit towards the bus when both are automated. The big advantage to running a train every 20 minutes versus buses every 5 minutes is that the train requires one quarter the number of drivers. If they are all automated, running the buses is just a better deal.

        I doubt that is what the guy was trying to say, but if he was, then he has a point. What is bizarre is that he is mayor of SeaTac — the poster child for excessive suburban rail — making the case that suburban light rail can be excessive.

      4. Right on, Glenn. These people who are blah-blah-ing about “trains” of RoboCars being such a big road-space saver haven’t driven I-5 through North Portland toward Vancouver in the PM peak, have they? If one lets more than six feet separate one’s car from the bumper ahead some azzole will nose in, knowing that “the car behind gets the ticket”.

        They’ll be even more aggressive with the RoboCars. People riding in them in heavy traffic will have to wear neck braces prophylactically.

      5. Actually, in my experience, the worst traffic azzolery in the region seems to happen around Centralia, though the section from Tumwater to Lacy is pretty bad too.

        La Center to Woodland definitely takes the cake when it comes to random furniture appearing in the middle of the freeway though.

      6. People say that most of the cost for operating a transit vehicle is paying the driver. Except, when the total operating cost is $135/hour while the bus driver only gets paid $25/hour, that statement doesn’t quite add up.

        Also, the cost of wear/tear on the bus could actually increase if you go driverless, since all the sensors that allow a driverless vehicle to function safely become yet another expensive component that needs to be periodically inspected and/or replaced.

        Even without drivers, the labor cost for operating a transit system would not be eliminated. You would still need roving fare inspectors, police, mechanics, etc. You should also be rest assured that any attempt to use driverless buses will meet extremely stiff union opposition. Expect to see driverless Uber cars hit the roads long before driverless transit buses.

      7. the total operating cost is $135/hour while the bus driver only gets paid $25/hour,

        First off $25 an hour is well below the average for a Metro driver not even including overtime and holiday pay; more like $33/hr. Then there’s the 7% social security the employer has to pay (actually a hidden tax on the employee) so you’re up to $36/hr. But the big hit is providing employer paid medical. And in the case of Metro funding a pension plan. Then there’s incidentals like training, providing facilities, etc. The true cost of that driver is like more like $75/hr. IIRC, fuel was down around 10% of operating costs.

      8. asdf2 says: “Expect to see driverless Uber cars hit the roads long before driverless transit buses.” But wouldn’t Uber have to buy those cars themselves? I don’t see that happening.

      9. Glenn,

        Love the note about “random furniture”. I have a funny story along those lines, but it involved a jeep rather than furniture. A guy was hauling a jeep on a very undersize lowboy trailer directly ahead of us when we were descending the north side of the hill leading down to the Cowlitz River crossing from the first rest area north of Castle Rock where NB it goes three to two.

        All of a sudden the trailer started yawing wildly and the effing jeep jumped off the trailer crosswise on the road in front of us! When it started yawing I (and fortunately the folks to the right of me) hit the brakes pretty hard and I headed for the left shoulder to keep the guy behind from ramming me. The jeep took a couple of flips before coming to rest back on its wheels, but it was pretty wrecked.

        “Furniture in the road”, to be sure.

      10. Saw something like that on I-205 / Glenn Jackson Bridge a couple of years ago.

        As you know, that bridge has a reasonably good sized hill on it.

        Traffic was pretty much normal, and then all of a sudden cars started going in all different directions to make way for this unoccupied car heading south going backwards in northbound lanes at a pretty decent speed.

        Based on the pickup with a trailer at the top of the hill, I’m guessing the thing broke loose at the top of the hill and rolled off and just kept rolling back down the hill once it hit the road.

        Somehow, it didn’t hit anyone. I’m not sure how that was avoided considering how tightly spaced traffic usually is in that area. It made a tremendous crash when it hit the median barrier though, so I imagine there was some damage to it.

        I really just don’t see it being safe for automated cars to have even tighter spacing than today when they have to always be prepared for nonsense like that. If anything, their safety and self preservation algorithms will probably require somewhat increased spacing since an automated car would have enough sense to know its own stopping distance.

      11. asdf2: payroll taxes and benefits. Bernie explained it: $33/hr take-home pay is more like $75/hr after you add in payroll taxes, disability insurance, health insurance, pension contributions, etc. etc. etc.

        If we had national single-payer health insurance funded out of the income tax, this “hidden penalty” for employing people would go WAY down. So vote Bernie Sanders. :-) Seriously, single-payer is pro-business — the only businesses which would not benefit are health insurers and medical conglomerates.

  5. Thank you Ms. Cooke. Her idea of all-day Sounder service hits the nail on the head. Drop the platform expansions and make more frequent trains instead,

    1. More frequent trains means more drivers and train staff, and track time from BNSF. So it costs significantly more than longer trains. That’s why Sounder and buses aren’t twice as frequent now.

      1. Well, if BNSF keeps ripping off Sound Transit, they should eminent domain the right to use the track (not the track themselves). This is exactly the essential public service that eminent domain was invented for.

      2. Railroad companies are part of a protected class involving interstate commerce. They have the right of eminent domain, but are protected against it.

        The solution many agencies wind up doing is just buying the track outright. That’s what Metrolink in LA wound up doing.

      3. I wonder what it would cost to purchase the tracks between Tacoma and Everett from BNSF? How many billions? Could we do that instead of completing the spine and save money? :)

      4. It would be nice to buy the tracks, as well as the UP line, while modernizing and grade separating them both (grade separation on UP over time). I assume that this would both increase passenger service and also increase freight both in terms of flexibility (the ability to schedule for either line) and speed (advanced signaling, grade separation, etc.). While the speed may not matter so much to a freight, creating additional time slots for more of them certainly would.

        I wonder what the cost comparison between purchasing the BNSF line and completing Link south of, say, Des Moines would be. There would also be income to be made on BNSF leasing slots to the railroads instead of the other way around.

      5. Even if ST doesn’t buy the tracks, I will point out that merely the threat will suddenly cause BNSF to start making better offers.

      6. It’s not so simple. First, BNSF has expressed less than zero interest in selling. Second, even if for some reason they did want to unload it it’s not clear that it’s theirs to sell.

        Federal Railroad Rights of Way

        I’m sure Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle would object strenuously. As for eminent domain forget about it; you’d have about as much luck as seizing tribal land.

      7. Berkshire Hathaway increased its net worth by $18.3 billion last year, the company said in its 50th annual letter on Saturday, with a “good year” marred in part by underperformance at its Santa Fe railroad unit.

        The BNSF was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway for somewhere around $44 billion. The value of the small fraction of the property between Tacoma and Everett must be a vastly smaller portion of that (a tiny 60 mile segment of a 32,000 mile empire). It wouldn’t include freight cars or locomotives either.

        A strict proportional value puts it at $82,500,000.

        Furthermore, the property is starting to underperform thanks to unfortunate freight loadings in recent years.

        Also, if you look at Metrolink and other such purchases, keep in mind that you wind up leasing the line back to the freight operator so there is some long term income on the line too. It isn’t as if Sounder would be the only thing on the track.

      8. The underlying legal status of the Northern Pacific Tacoma Division tracks which run from Seattle to Portland is quite obscure. This is where I’d start if I were researching them:

        http://www1.storehost.com/stores/xq/xfm/store_id.615/page_id.23/Item_ID.123819/qx/store.htm

        But it doesn’t really matter. As long as freight service is continued (not discontinued entirely) it’s totally legit for a public agency to buy the track, and no reversionary rights can be exercised.

    2. What’s clear is that Auburn and Kent want much more frequent train service. I’m not sure if the BNSF strategy is the most cost effective. A Plan B is needed — if for no other reason than to have a bargaining position with BNSF.

      1. Today, even during peak hours, in the peak direction, Sounder is still not all that frequent – mostly 30 minute headways, with a couple peak-of-the-peak trips 20 minutes apart.

        This is a large part of the reason why getting rid of the parallel bus service is so politically difficult. Today, if you miss a Sounder train, you just hop on a bus and you’re moving within minutes. If the bus went away, you’d be stuck waiting 20-30 minutes for another train.

    3. Absolutely technically feasible and a highly probable revenue generator (that could very well pay for itself), separating freight and passenger traffic on the two mainlines into Seattle from Tacoma, and upgrading both corridors for improved services, is a brilliant idea.

      In fact, a plan exists that is capable of doing just that for the region. It is the politics and capital expense of the plan that is problematic, even though the infrastructure transformation would benefit both commercial and public interests.

      Please do check it out:

      Improving Rail Mobility in the Puget Sound
      https://transportationmatters.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/improving-rail-mobility-in-the-puget-sound/

      1. Absolutely technically feasible and a highly probable revenue generator (that could very well pay for itself),
        Is there a passenger system in North America other that strictly tourist routes that actually runs in the black? On what do you base this “highly probable” expectation?

  6. “Sounder’s potential to be part of an integrated transit network for all transit riders, rather than its current existence as a (rather effective) peak capacity relief valve for commuters.”

    THIS

    1. The South Line’s neglect in light of the construction of a brand new railroad through suburban, auto-oriented communities is disheartening.

      Yes, the Sounder line has complications due to its ownership by BNSF, but if political effort had been made since 1996 to either separate traffic (and move all freight trains to the Union Pacific mainline), or even construct a third mainline track, its importance to the region today would have been dramatically and positively affected.

      Sound Transit should own, or, at worst, have nearly exclusive operational rights over, the BNSF line between Tacoma and Seattle. It’s potential as a preeminent public corridor is too extraordinary to not invest.

    1. And Des Moines. Kent is upzoning the east side of 99 and wanted Link there. Des Moines is dragging its feet on density and wants Link away on I-5, and it incredibly claims that the one-story McDonalds and strip malls and car shops on 99 are more important to keep than having a frequent light rail within walking distance. Way to go thinking about Des Moines’ future, and what future residents would want. Des Moines won the argument on Link’s alignment, to the region’s detriment.

      1. I wonder if Des Moines would be singing a different tune if the light rail actually went thru downtown Des Moines instead of thru the strip malls.

    2. If Kent and Auburn were one city, it would be the fourth largest in the state — and pretty close to passing Tacoma as the third largest in the state.

  7. SeaTac has had good progressive City Council members in the past, and a couple of Mayors have been OK. So it is disappointing to hear they have regressed. Incorporation has really helped the area though, that is for sure.

    Oh, wow I just read this — http://seatacblog.com/2016/01/20/seatac-council-approves-hiring-of-james-donald-payne-as-interim-city-manager/

    Not good to hire a non-professional city manager!!!! Yikes, situation likely worse than I thought.

    1. Luckily SeaTac Station is already there and Angle Lake is under construction, so they can’t sabotage those. The Burien – SeaTac extension is something Burien wants more than ST. By the way, what route would it go, and what would have to be demolished for it? It looks like Burien would have to convince SeaTac’s mayor before it could get that extension. That could possibly turn Burien into a significant pro-Link, transit-now activist, which could be the start of a general positive change in South King County’s attitudes toward transit and prioritization of transit.

    2. It was progressive organizing, not SeaTac itself, that regressed. After SeaTac passed its $15 minimum wage, progressives declared victory and moved on, while conservative anti-labor groups were just getting started. With 14% of SeaTac’s population turning out last November, they were able to get a regressive slate of candidates elected while no one was watching.

  8. In SeaTac’s letter, which can only be described as an anti-transit tirade, he brings up that the cost of all the projects adding up to $80 billion. Is that really the cost, and something which we might end up spending by 2040? With a very approximate calculation, assuming Wikipedia’s definition of “Seattle Metropolitan Area” (King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties) is approximately ST’s taxing district, then taking $80,000,000,000 divided by 2014 estimated population of 3,610,105 gives you $22,160 per man, woman, and child, which is somewhat alarming.

    Is this a realistic figure, though, or is it an unrealistic worst-case scenario example meant to dissuade transit supporters?

    1. Previous unofficial estimates of a 30-year Seattle Subway plan have been around $50 billion. ST’s trend as of December was a 25-year plan with fewer lines than that. But yes, if we go “ST Large” with Link to Tacoma and Everett, and hourly Sounder, and a second Seattle tunnel, and Kirkland-Issaquah Link, then the cost would be at least $20 or 30 billion and maybe up toward the 50s.

      “Projections from the PSRC for build-out of 72 miles of light rail and doubling of bus service in 2040, at a cost of almost 80 billion dollars…”

      That sounds like a PSRC estimate. Which ST project list is it based on? Nothing is final, not everything in the July 2015 menu will be chosen, and some of those projects are mutually exclusive. Does “doubling of bus service” include all transit agencies (ST, Metro, PT, etc)? The PSRC’s focus is all of Pugetopolis, not just ST. And its job is to estimate future population and transit need. If it says an $80 billion investment is needed for adequate mobility and choices and avoiding more highway lanes, and its prediction is accurate, then aren’t we shooting ourselves in the foot if we don’t make the full investment? Our transit system for decades has been a saga of underinvestment. That makes transit unavailable for those who need or want it, and makes people invest in and advocate privatized solutions (=cars). Isn’t it about time we made a full investment in transit, or even err on the side of overinvestment?

      Zach, research opportunity. Pull this PSRC report and see what it says in context.

      1. $80B sounds like the kind of number Niles, Fimia and crew would claim. Typically they add up all the construction costs, all the financing costs, all the maintenance costs, all the operational costs and all the contingency costs, then double the per boarding subsidy and add that in, then multiply by the cube root of 7 to be conservative and adjust everything to year 2040 dollars so they can claim a consistent baseline.

        All while failing to compare to any other modes of course.

  9. Seems to me that whether or not six consecutive small amounts driving count for more or fewer trips, might be best to count how much many trips can’t be made in car stuck in traffic.

    Especially on freeways, where people can spend an hour stopped or crawling before they can even get off. Whether or not the car has a driver. Even worse, or better: anybody demanding more road capacity as a solution might find that available land for highway expansion doesn’t have their grandfathers’ prices.

    Or older generation’s amount of land to buy or condemn. And do so again when traffic once again outgrows that, and the new traffic jam is both longer and wider. Facing a younger generation who aren’t their grandfather’s car-lovers anymore.

    As part of ST-3 budget, might be good to devote some capital building “transit oriented” communities, which not only put people close to transit, but provide decently-paid work, schooling, and everything else included in the trip counts above.

    But one really devastating killer tactic: mission statement proclaiming goal to make the new town a place to run away two, not from. Idea depopulated a whole younger generation from Eastern Washington, didn’t it?

    But only the beginning of the fight. Next job is to get the young refugees to vote for their freedom as tenaciously as their abandoned elders if to for their property, privilege, and everything else that by Nature’s term limits, they, including me, soon won’t need anymore.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I don’t know, Seastrap. The man seems to be a David Brooks wannabe, though his glasses are unfortunately the computer glasses I’m wearing right now. I’m still trying to retrofy into the 1940’s. Swing music, women with sharp suits and seams on their nylons, though the war was a lot worse than Viet Nam.

      As a decade I purely hated the 1970’s hair styles so bad I’m glad I found a barber across from JBLM whose only instrument is an electric clipper. However, hours watching YouTube convince me that this was the last decade where pop music was written and performed by musicians, rather than lip-synched by marketing and legal departments.

      So the DesMoines mayor will, through his own hard work, soon be able to be photo-shopped and dubbed in to be onstage with Emmy Lou Harris, as she emphasized that Louisiana is a good place to leave in broad daylight, before whatever else is there comes out. Lookin’ good, Matt. Look up Emmy Lou on YouTube.

      Federal way…wish they’d use picture of Mary Gates, was my favorite Metro Council member when I got politically incorrect, I mean active.

      But be very, very careful, Sea….I’m afraid this decade is gonna suck so bad they can use it for a vacuum cleaner. YouTube won’t ever let it online.

      Mark

  10. I think that it’s noteworthy that 405 BRT is not mentioned anywhere here. The concept of transferring at King Street/IDC Stations would appear to be the preferred way to get to Bellevue and Redmond judging from the lack of endorsement in these letters.

  11. “This emerging technology…toward increasing road capacity”

    Umm, there are emerging technologies in cars, but none that will increase their ability to move more people. The real emerging technologies are in public transit, things like hyperloop and maglev and personal rapid transit. The car, being stuck to its highways, can never hope to benefit from these advances.

  12. Tukwila’s response argues for the land’s potential both by highlighting the presence of a potential master developer (Sabey Corporation owns 62 acres with a half mile of BAR)

    Sabey is a data center company. Their idea of development is a fortified structure that runs lights out 99% of the time. I also doubt the FAA will allow anything taller than a warehouse because of Boeing Field. Then there’s the issue of who wants to live at the end of a runway between a railroad and a freeway.

    1. Spot on on all points, Bernie. BAR could make a great bus intercept if a Duwamish Bypass every becomes a reality. But the area around 112th and East Marginal is too close to the flight path and too damn noisy for serious gentrification.

    1. But then again, even a broken clock is right twice a day. IF as seems so, everyone here is disgusted with “Spine Destiny” maybe this flack for The Reason Foundation is right about this. The best way not to extend Link where it ought not to go is not to extend Link.

      The suburban cities along the Link alignment, with the apparent exception of Lynnwood treat it like it has Ebola, banishing the alignment from any opportunity to serve actual places within their jurisdictions. They refuse to upzone the station areas and put them in places which even the existing neighbors have trouble accessing.

      The only subway that Seattle actually must have would run from Expedia through Lower Queen Anne, under Seattle Center, through SLU then connect with The Spine at either Capitol Hill or a new station by Convention Place and then serve First Hill, the western CD and North Rainier down to Mt. Baker.

      In truth, even Ballard can make it with BRT as long as SDOT adds genuine Red Lanes along Elliott, Denny Way, and Third through Belltown. Where the City needs a new subway is through the arc around the existing high-rise CBD that supports tripling the area of that CBD to accommodate the new people and jobs that want to be in Seattle.

      People coming from the suburbs who want to drive can pay a toll at the first point their tires hit city streets: at Seattle exits from the freeway and at the places arterials cross the north and south city limits. Or they can join the club and ride buses or Link to downtown Seattle. After all, they’d have better transit options than in-city folks, at least as regards grade separation in the “trunk” portion of their trips.

      Yes, it’s radical, but many of the same arguments about density that Ross and most other people make about West Seattle and “Spine Destiny” apply equally to Ballard. Sure, south of 60th between 15th and 24th there’s a nice cluster of density. If that density continued to downtown Seattle getting moreso the closer to the CBD one came, Rail Yes! build a subway.

      But it doesn’t. Interbay is an industrial wasteland and everywhere else would be covered by the (extended slightly westward to Expedia) “Metro 8” as defined above. So what if people have to transfer to and from Link to get deeper into downtown? Especially if the transfer station were a new one around
      Ninth and Pine there would be little out-of-direction travel and boardings and deboardings on The Spine would be about balanced.

      I’d bet that many people riding BRT’s between Ballard and Pioneer Square would change at Expedia and take the three-seat ride.

    2. “The suburban cities along the Link alignment, with the apparent exception of Lynnwood treat it like it has Ebola”

      And Fife!

  13. I am new to the area but I have a background in transportation planning and construction. It does not appear that Sound Transit, not other transportation agencies in the Puget Sound use Municipal Bonding heavily. Is this true? This is how most of the major transportation projects were funded in Northern California where I’m from. It alleviates some of the burden on tax payers, helped sped up the delivery time and tried to take some of the politics out of projects as we didn’t have to go back to voters (tax payers) for funding for the “next segment” We looked at projects holistically, as a system. I just can’t see projects like the Link being built in segments as opposed to all extensions (branches) of the system being completed simultaneously as quickly as possible. The projected growth of the area will far outpace the infrastructure with a continued segmented approach. I do not mean to offend, just trying to learn more about the history of transportation development in the area. I’m sure these discussions have occurred and I’m just trying to catch up. Thank you.

    1. ST funds projects with a combination of pay as you go and bonds. It currently has a very good financial rating and I expect it gets a better interest rate than if it were an amalgamation of muni bonds from the various cities. Not to mention much of the taxing district is unincorporated.

      Series 2015 Sales Tax Bonds (Green Bonds)

      I’m not a tax lawyer nor do I play one on TV but page 61 says, “interest on the 2015 Parity Bonds is excluded from gross income for federal income tax purposes”. Since Washington doesn’t have a State income tax that’s perhaps not as relevant as it might be in California.

      1. I appreciate your response. I just appears that with ST being it’s own entity with a revenue stream (i.e. ridership fees) that can be leveraged against bonding, they would qualify for more bonding, regardless of the tax base. I worked on the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge project (a toll bridge) and various San Francisco municipal transit (MUNI) and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) projects (also based on ridership fees) and actually met several bond writers who explained the process to me. While they were Project managed by the local or state agencies, funding was heavily based on bonding to limit a perceived tax burden. It’s difficult enough to get public support for transportation until it’s much too late to have an impact as it is.

      2. ST being it’s own entity with a revenue stream (i.e. ridership fees) that can be leveraged against bonding, they would qualify for more bonding, regardless of the tax base.

        Bridge tolls have a long and successful history of paying off construction bond obligations in Washington. But ST doesn’t actually have any net revenue from operations. Fare recovery is ~20-25% meaning operations are a huge drag on the bottom line. The revenue stream that is offered to investors as proof of the ability to make payments on the bonds is purely the taxing authority; mainly sales tax with some MVET thrown in.

      3. Bernie, from my experience, ridership is artificially depressed due to a vary limited system. Ridership projections are often based on potential rider base within reasonable accessibility to each station. They never take into account the convenience of choice when you have a complete system as a viable option. ST and I’m sure other governing municipalities often shoot themselves in the foot by their piecemeal approach to system construction. Case in point… If you could go back in time and construct a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system which only went from downtown San Francisco to San Francisco Int’l Airport (SFO). The ridership numbers would never support it. But factor in the travelers to SFO from the entire previously existing BART network and the extension that was built from the closest station to the airport was more than justified and supported including additional stations in between. In some cases, Travel times to the Airport are greater than an hour, but people would rather use the system than drive, especially (frequent) commute flyers. It also doesn’t accurately account for Tweeners (people who commute to stations outside of the high traffic locations), for example to a station near a community college and not the airport.

      4. ridership is artificially depressed due to a vary limited system. Ridership projections are often based on potential rider base within reasonable accessibility to each station. They never take into account the convenience of choice when you have a complete system as a viable option.

        That is certainly very true and the reason U Link will create a huge increase in ridership. The trick is to build the best lines first which is something Sound Transit can’t do. It’s structurally impossible the way the agency is governed. But there’s another problem with the “build it and they will come approach” and that is that no system in North America or even Europe runs without a tax subsidy. London comes close but the population of their metro area is about the same as Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and toss in the half dozen people that live in Wyoming. BART does very well at almost 70%. But when you dig a little deeper you find that of their $1.6B/year budget “only” $400M comes from fares. That’s because with a mature system a huge part of the on going cost like fleet replacement, system maintenance, administration, etc. is considered capital rather than operating expense. At the end of the day, or fiscal year, it’s all accounts payable vs. accounts recievable. Moral of the story is that even if percentage wise it looks better with the whole enchalada in terms of actual money out the door the larger the system the more it costs in tax supported revenue. And the catch 22 is that the more you put out in real dollars the less you have from bond money to expand the system. There’s no free lunch and your buddies that told you BART was financing bonds with the negative revenue stream from fare collection are people you should steer clear of for finacial advise. It’s crap like that that almost killed ST before they drove the first spike.

    2. Welcome, Kenyon, both to STB and to the area. I’m not the one who can answer your financial questions but I know there are several people on board who have discussed various funding methods allowable by the state, as well as what other options it might make sense to bring to Olympia.

      I’d also love to find a way to work on multiple lines at once, as well as opening segments sequentially, so long as that were possible based on construction methods. Additionally, allowing each Sound Transit sub-area to obtain funding raised in their areas solely based on the election results in that area will help cover us down the road as more areas “get theirs; F you” as indicated by the Sea-Tac mayor’s letter above. If Sea-Tac or Woodinville or Sumner don’t want to pay for (and receive) service and that prevails in their sub-area, that’s their right, but it shouldn’t prevent people in areas that vote 70-80 percent for more transit from getting theirs.

      There are several recent threads on the blog right now–perhaps to get a better answer than this I would suggest re-posting it in the most current (or next) open thread.

      1. Thanks Scott. I believe we need to push for better bonding and up our investment restrictions. The NIMBY’s and “I got mines” are to be expected however we can’t be delusional state isolationists and need to implement 30+ year growth plans; not 15-20. I am interested in contacting some my former colleagues who worked directly with municipal bond writers on our projects in No. California.

    3. Most transit agencies are run by the counties or transit benefit districts, so city bonds don’t apply. Everett Transit is the only one I know that’s run by a city. Seattle Transit used to be before Metro was formed in the 1970s. Metro is the county, so I don’t know if the county used bonds for RapidRide or bus fleet purchases.

      Sound Transit has a state-imposed debt ceiling so it has to keep the bonds under that. Nobody official has proposed a Los Angeles style “buy it all now” approach. And it’s only in the past few months that ST has considered a larger package than the 15-year phases they’ve been going in. People just don’t comprehend that the accelerating transit needs will get really big if we don’t build major things beyond ST2 in the next twenty years.

      PSRC had a study that even with a second downtown transit tunnel and the City Center Connector streetcar, downtown’s transit demand will outstrip supply by some 10,000 people a day in that timeframe. There still isn’t a plan to address that, although I suspect that’s why the city is so keen to split RapidRide C/D and convert other 3rd Avenue routes to RapidRide (7, 40, 120), because evenly-spaced high-capacity service can handle more volume than the spaghetti of regular routes currently, and can absorb people who are just traveling within downtown or transferring to another route.

      1. Thank you Mike. Being hindered by the state imposed debt ceiling now brings to light the true issues. It’s so unfortunate that our infrastructure becomes politicized. I’ve unfortunately witnessed first hand when large projects become political footballs. I understand policy makers desire to try and keep projects manageable, however transportation needs have to looked at in 30 plus year increments because realistically (per our own history)major infrastructure investments in this country may occur only once in 50-75 years. 15 year phases is not only unsustainable, it’s borderline negligence to sell constituents on the belief that they can manage mobility needs this way. In fact as evidenced by the SeaTac Mayor’s letter, efforts to sabotage system expansion become all to easy. It’s like the development of BART in the Bay Area. Many of the outer lying areas were apprehensive, with Marin County (one the most affluent counties) completely rejecting it. However, once the complete system was built ridership more than exceeded their original projections. If you talk to most transportation planners, usage of piecemeal systems are always vulnerable as riders are skeptical of a limited system, but complex and complete networks almost always see rapid rider growth as people see a viable alternative to get to a vast amount of locations. In other words, as Road Warriors (pun on infrastructure geeks) we see the bigger picture, but it is the responsibility of the governing agency to produce the picture that most constituents can get behind quickly. Politicians and Administrators are often too afraid to give people the “Whole Meal” thinking it’s too much for the public to digest, but most often Americans rather “sit down to a full plate” then one item at a time. We must push to get a deliverable system before well before twenty years. Unless people are willing to try population control (being sarcastic of course) we’ll far outstrip the supply. Besides we’ll be retired by then and what use will it do us? ;-)

      2. The legislature caps ST’s tax rate and outstanding debt but not the duration of the taxes. The 15 year phases were based on what ST thought the public would tolerate at a time. The willingness to go beyond 15 years now is based on the enormous public feedback the past year in the form of Seattle Subway’s following, STB’s following, the Transit Riders’ Union’s following, the passing of Seattle Prop 1 and Move Seattle, the city’s keen interest in a Ballard line and other lines (to the point that the city contributed funds to accelerate the Ballard-downtown study), the suburban boardmembers’ keenness to “complete the Spine and everything else too” if Ballard is going ahead, and letters to ST and polling saying “Expand light rail now! Tax us now! The freeways are intolerable!” (Unfortunately the bulk of the public thinks in terms of freeway alternatives rather than urban villages. That’s another thing that gets better after the network gets large, as you say. Although by that time the early routing decisions have already been made.)

        The good thing about ST2 is that by 2023 we’ll have a high-capacity line across the entire length of the city and well into the suburbs, and that will be a useful “deliverable system” no matter what happens in ST3. It may suck to take a bus from Ballard to the U-District to transfer to Link, but it will suck a whole lot less than if that option in the U-District didn’t exist (like it doesn’t exist now).

      3. Anecdote. My first summer after high school in the early 80s I worked at a company near Seattle Center that my dad had been with before he started his own business. I was working on a database project and needed some help with the structure. I talked with my dad’s programmer, who lived in Redmond, and asked if he wanted to be involved in the project. He said, “Tell them my rate is $20 an hour, or $40 if I have to cross that bridge.”

  14. Can anybody on here explain to me why I have to pay $10 to get a refund of the money I’ve deposited on my two Orca cards??? I am on my third try attempting to re-activate one of them, as my previous two attempts were unsuccessful. It sure would seem a whole lot easier on everybody (me, the drivers, and the people at the switchboard) if they could just cut me a check and I could just pay cash. I used to be a multiple-trip-per-day user, but now I take transit infrequently – to a meeting here or there in Seattle or across Tacoma so I can get the oil changed in my car. It’s money I paid in cash to put on the card that they refuse to give back to me. I guess I’ll just keep wasting my time and theirs calling every time I try to use transit and need to have a working Orca card.

    As much as I love transit, and want to have improved transit service in my area, I absolutely cannot afford to spend the time to use it. It would take me 130 minutes on transit to get to work, versus 25 minutes in my car.

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