Angle Lake Station in December 2015 (SounderBruce – Flickr)

In our summary series of Sound Transit 3 community feedback letters, four letters fell through the cracks, as they were not included in our original request for letters from Sound Transit and were not published by Sound Transit’s website until last week. But without further ado, here they are!

Sierra Club

The Sierra Club’s comments are detailed and exhaustive, with a 12-page letter that comments on nearly every Candidate Project. Unbeholden to regional consensus or political considerations, it’s also a wonderfully consistent application of urbanist values. Go read the whole thing, but in summary, the letter supports:

  • Reduced reliance on Park and Rides through better multimodal access
  • Priced parking
  • Non-freeway alignments
  • Project phasing explicitly focused on maximizing ridership
  • Redirecting 522 BRT to Lake City and 130th St Station
  • Lynnwood-Everett via SR 99, with Paine Field served at a later date either via rail spur or BRT
  • Mode-neutral electrified service on the Eastside Rail Corridor
  • Selecting alignments that maximize TOD potential
  • Canceling the Edmonds Permanent Station project “as long as Sounder North [generates] anemic ridership”.
  • Canceling all parking expansions, especially at Mountlake Terrace and Tukwila International Boulevard
  • Ballard-UW, interlined with the Downtown-Ballard line as “one of the main proposals, not relegated to a second tier”
  • Downtown-Burien via Alaska Junction, with RapidRide+ on Delridge
  • Building Graham Street Station by scaling back Northgate parking
  • Letting SDOT and the feds fund Madison BRT instead of Sound Transit
  • Higher-capital I-405 BRT to maximize stations and access
  • Totem Lake-Issaquah Link, but interlined between Wilburton-South Bellevue
  • Interim BRT on the Eastside Rail Corridor between Totem Lake-Bellevue
  • All-day and weekend Sounder service, explicitly prioritized ahead of completing the spine
  • Revising Link to serve SR99 between Angle Lake and Tacoma
  • Building Tacome Dome-Tacoma Mall Link before completing the spine, seeing it as primarily a Tacoma project
  • Exploring DMU options for mid-day Sounder, with the possibility of DMU service between DuPont and Tacoma with locomotive service from Tacoma-Seattle

Seattle Subway

Seattle Subway’s priorities shouldn’t be a surprise to regular readers, as we regularly feature their guest posts on the blog. Beyond the joint letter they signed with a dozen other organizations (including TCC, Feet First, etc), they submitted a separate letter with their own recommendations. Their letter is true to Seattle Subway’s form, pushing the envelope and asking for maximum investment now, a prioritized contingency list of projects beyond the ST3 System Plan, and planning funds for additional projects. In short, they support:

  • Splitting the spine, with a new Downtown Transit Tunnel
  • West Seattle Junction-Downtown, Downtown to Ballard, and Ballard-UW as the minimum investment for North King, with full grade separation
  • Tunneling under the Ship Canal for Interbay-Ballard both to make the line more reliable and to set up for an underground junction for a Ballard-UW line.
  • Serving Belltown in ST3, and creating better connections between the new Downtown tunnel and the Aurora corridor
  • Totem-Lake Issaquah Link, but interlined with East Link between Wilburton and South Bellevue
  • Contingency lines including Ballard-Lake City, Alaska Junction-White Center, Burien-Renton, and Tacoma Dome-Tacoma Mall
  • Expedited study funds for Ballard-Lake City
  • Building all lines so that future expansions or infill stations do not impact operations
  • Studying the “Metro 8” subway

South County Area Transportation Board (SCATB)

Kent Councilmember and SCATB Board Chair Dana Bash
Kent Councilmember and SCATB Board Chair Dana Ralph

Kent Councilmember and SCATB Chair Dana Ralph’s letter is short, positive, and direct. Stating her “confidence that the South King County Subarea…can generate revenue to accomplish the proposed investments”, the letter asks first and foremost for expediting furloughed ST2 projects (Link to Star Lake and 8-car Sounder trains) so that they “can be completed closer to the time frame voters intended.” For ST3 projects, SCATB asks for most of the Candidate Projects in South King to be built, including:

  • Link from Star Lake to Tacoma Mall
  • Additional Sounder Service
  • South Sounder Access Program
  • Boeing Access Road Infill Station (both for Link and Sounder)
  • Structured parking at Tukwila International Blvd Station
  • Link from West Seattle-Burien
  • The low-capital version of I-405 BRT, with a Burien terminus rather than Angle Lake
  • Study funds for Link from Burien to SeaTac Airport and Burien-Renton
  • Funding the System Access Program

Travel Tacoma

Travel Tacoma is a marketing consortium of Pierce County tourism and business interests, whose board includes representatives from industries as varied as mountaineering, brewing, hotels, and tour operators. Its ST3 letter is signed by Chair Jeremy Foust, a local businessman known for his mountaineering business and spats with Pierce County over his raw goat milk sales. Travel Tacoma makes the case for Link to Tacoma and hourly Sounder service largely on business competitiveness grounds, arguing that attracting convention and visitor traffic is dependent on a robust connection to SeaTac that Tacoma currently lacks:

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Travel Tacoma…I am communicating our support of Pierce County projects in Sound Transit 3, especially expanding…Link light rail…to Tacoma and running Sounder trains every hour throughout the day…

Expanding the transit system will take people farther and move them faster throughout the region. This not only opens up Tacoma and Pierce County to locals living in the greater Seattle area, but also to visitors traveling from [SeaTac Airport]…

Critical transportation issues, including costs to get from the airport to Tacoma, sharply decrease our ability to book events requiring 600 room-nights or more. Sound Transit Link light rail to Tacoma and increased Sounder trains will result in a higher volume of meetings and events in the region thanks to the east of travel, less congestion, lower costs for convention attendees, and attractive alternatives for those who wish to avoid driving in an unfamiliar region…

83 Replies to “Four ST3 Letters We Missed”

  1. Opps, you missed another one.

    MattMobiles LLC ™
    Base of the 12th man flag
    Seattle Center, WA

    On behalf of our organization, please consider running gondolas from all Urban Centers, Transit Centers, Manufacturing Centers, and Airports to all other points – a literal spiderweb of direct, HCT at lower capital and operating cost than the current plan.
    Thank you for listening.
    “Just Rise Above it All”

  2. If only sound transit would listen to ANY rational comment on their parking waste, that would be a step in the right direction.

    Be a transit agency, not a free commuter parking agency.

    1. I strongly support “managed” parking, which I think is the appropriate euphemism for paid parking. But I think the hardcore urbanists who read this blog need to understand that the bulk of the Sound Transit region will continue to be suburban. Maybe in 30 years when density continues to increase, we’ll tear down some of the parking garages in Northgate, Lynwood, etc and replace them with TOD. But in the meantime, it’s an effective way to generate access to transit in neighborhoods that simply were not designed for feeder bus routes.

      Frankly, with parking fees these lots should be a net source of revenue for Sound Transit over time, which can be reinvested in transit.

      1. AJ,

        Parkind at Lynwood? Yes. Tukwila? Yes. Angle Lake? Absolutely; go big. North gate? NO. Access is way too difficult already and badly worsens the traffic in the neighborhood, making bus access more difficult. Rather than clogging the streets at the peaks when bus access is most critical, prioritize that bus — and walk up — access.

      2. When Metro studied the usage of Northgate P&R, it found that most of the drivers are from west and east of it. So ST asked Licton Springs and Maple Leaf and surrounding areas whether they wanted a larger P&R or more bus/ped/bike access, and some 80% of them want the latter. They said they drive to the P&R not because they want to, but because the lack of frequent feeders and sidewalks and paths make it difficult or unsafe to get around without driving. This is the only P&R I know of where the majority of users want a transit-oriented alternative, but others could change over time, particulaly after the stations open and as housing prices increase (meaning more people will prefer apartments and minimal commutes).

      3. A thought: Surface parking can easily be converted to TOD in the future. Parking structures can’t.

        Perhaps if ST said that they would only be able to acquire land for surface parking, and that they cannot dispose of it unless it is defined as ‘surplus’ after the system is operating at that station site for 10 years. That way, ST can assemble the land and entertain TOD proposals when the drmand for parking is replaced by ride share services and driverless local shuttles.

      4. Surface parking can easily be converted to TOD in the future. Parking structures can’t.

        Before they could build the two apartment complexes at S. Kirkland it required building a parking garage. So yes, S. Kirkland was a surface lot but it was only the addition of the structured parking that allow TOD. OTOH, if you factor in the cost of the garage those affordable housing units start to look pretty damned expensive.

        One thing I think we almost all agree on, there should be a fee for parking. I mean, providing the parking costs about the same amount as providing the transit… really!

      5. I should mention, some of the Northgate parking will have to be replaced because it’s not Sound Transit’s to eliminate: the mall’s tenant contracts promise a certain amount of parking. So if ST displaces those spaces it’ll have to replace them. So “no P&R spaces” does not mean no garage.

    2. After much consideration, reflection, and thought I think that Sound Transit should no longer being offering free parking at most of their facilities, especially the ones with parking structures and that connect with rail. the users of these facilities should have to pay a modest fee to park there, at least enough to cover the cost of operation of the facility.

  3. Is it too late to move Angle Lake to Tacoma to SR-99? I thought that ship had sailed.

    I love including funding for study/design for next generation routes – basically the contingency routes Seattle Subway laid out.

    “Building Tacome Dome-Tacoma Mall Link before completing the spine” – would that run into issue with lacking access to a Maintenance facility?

    “Mode-neutral electrified service on the Eastside Rail Corridor” – love it. Build that Issaquah-Totem Lake light rail the Eastside wants, but enable the ERC to still handle buses to get all the KCM benefits of the BRT route. Maybe this is a way to increase the capital spend on the Eastside to help support a large package without hunting for projects in this region?

    1. Yes, it’s too late to move Angle Lake to Tacoma to SR-99. That ship has sailed and we’re gonna get this the entire way: http://i.imgur.com/fvJcwlv.jpg – weaving back and forth between I-5 and the actual destinations on SR-99. It’s laughable, really.

      As for Tacoma Dome to Tacoma Mall I believe they will continue to use Tacoma Link technology. They will forever be a separate service from ‘THE SPINE OF DESTINY’.

      1. I-5 and 99 are only 200 yards apart of K-DM Road. It’s not so bad as that diagram makes it seem.

      2. Barman, Sierra Club is advocating building Tacoma Dome to Tacoma Mall as as light rail before connecting it to Federal Way. They are advocating for the complete line, but to not complete it in geographic order. It actually makes a lot of sense to do it that way.

      3. The candidate project is to extend Central Link to Tacoma Mall. That implies 4-car platforms, dedicated lanes minimum. and I’m not sure if there’s a voltage difference. The 4-car platforms is the biggest design issue because that precludes small neighborhood stations within a single block. Building a Tacoma Link line from downtown to the mall may make more sense, but it would depend on how willing Pierce and ST are to forego Central Link to the mall.

        Tacoma Dome Station also has another issue, in that a north-south train from downtown Tacoma would have to make a detour east to get to the station, and then either reverse direction or go south a block to get back to the north-south corridor.

      4. As for Tacoma Dome to Tacoma Mall I believe they will continue to use Tacoma Link technology.

        This was one of the routes on the table for Tacoma Link expansion and it got almost zero traction… so to speak. IIRC there were three areas under consideration and the Mall was low man on the totem pole.

      5. I don’t understand the need for both Link to Tacoma Mall and Sounder a half mile to the west. It seems like they’ll be serving the same market, and it’s not a big one.

      6. Because Tacoma has slated the Tacoma Mall area for high-density redevelopment, with most buildings targeted for roughly 10-stories in height. Yeah, the Sounder line goes nearby, but on the very edge of the area, and the northwest side of the track is mixed between vacant and industrial with little development potential.

      7. Donde, thank you. Is there any interest from the development community actually to realize Tacoma’s vision?

      8. There is some consensus in the real estate biz that Tacoma is the next big thing. We’ve seen developers ink agreements to renovate a couple historic buildings that are in poor shape and will be expensive to fix. The Hilltop has a lot of large development, in anticipation of the coming Tacoma Link. So, a link station at Tacoma Mall would certainly cause a building boom there, and the city intends to allow and encourage that to happen.

    2. The ST board has made a decision preferring the I-5 alignment, and directing staff to design the corridor with that assumption. That doesn’t mean it can’t be reversed but it makes it more of an uphill battle. Kent wants it on 99 (for an urban village) but Des Moines doesn’t (to protect 1970s strip malls and big-box stores from construction disruption). I think Federal Way prefers I-5 due to lower construction cost and an assumption that mainly peak commuiters will use it), and SeaTac prefers I-5 to keep it away from the low-density businesses between 200th and KDM Road. So that’s one for and four against if my memory is correct.

      1. Mike,

        Your memory is correct. You omitted what many of those “low-density businesses” are: new and especially used car dealerships. The cities like them because of their huge sales tax revenues.

        Thus the mental image of the Good Burghers of Sea-Tac and Des Moines lying in the stinking hallway of a 99 strip motel smoking rock.

    3. You’ll want a new shop in Tacoma anyway. It’s too far from everything else to be worth doing without a new shop building. There are enough destinations between Bellevue and Lynnwood that it sort of makes sense to run end of service trains through to the Eastside shops. It makes no sense to run end of day trains through the vast nothingness between SeaTac and Tacoma – at least, it would be nothingness at those hours of the day.

    4. There already is a yard at the Tacoma Dome for Tacoma link, and a larger one planned for the Fed-Tac connection, so it’s happening anyway.

  4. “Totem Lake-Issaquah Link, but interlined between Wilburton-South Bellevue”

    Both the Sierra Club and Seattle Subway took this position and I completely agree with them. Issaquah to South Bellevue, then interlined with East Link is a vastly more usable line for Issaquah, Eastgate and Factoria when compared to the proposed line that goes from Issaquah to Wilburton via the ERC. The environmental cost of crossing the slough is outweighed by the environmental benefit of getting additional riders out of their cars.

    1. It will be interesting to see whether that carries any counterweight with the ST board. While individual Seattlites arguably don’t have standing to go against Eastside and Snohomish cities, the Sierra Club’s membership is the whole region so it does have standing, and Seattle Subway could argue that too. However, it’s still nonprofits vs the cities, so I assume the nonprofits will likely lose.

      1. Does Bellevue oppose light rail on the Slough? I would assume Issaquah will support any route to/through Bellevue as long as it’s getting service from Issaquah.

      2. The only ones I’ve heard opposing the slough is environmental activists. One group said they’d support an underground routing across the slough, and tried to get East Link to go underground south of the P&R.

      3. Noted railroad engineer John Chelminiak has determined that it is impossible for Link to get past I-90 (check out his guess post in the blog archives). Personally I’m shocked that the Sierra Club would propose crossing the Mercer Slough when it’s well know that would be an environmental disaster. Was it really so long ago that people have forgotten the lessons learned during the East Link EIS process?

      4. Well, if the Sierra Club doesn’t sort of epitomize “environmental activists” who does? If they’re good with cross-slough Link let’s go for it!

      5. Bernie,

        I guess there’s an environmental disaster of sixty years’ occurrence right now lying athwart the Mercer Slough. And it’s one which washes oil and ground tire rubber directly into the waters of the Slough.

      6. Nah, go back and look at the East Link comments. The fact that it would be in the I-90 corridor was irrelevant. It’s not clear if building light rail is far worse than highway construction or the environment is just that much more fragile since the roadway was constructed. Seems like a lot of Bull Carp to me but ST stood by the science. Some skeptics thought at the time they were lying through their teeth regarding environmental concerns, cost and ridership projections because they didn’t want to miss out on all the free parking at South Bellevue. But Sound Transit would never do that!

      7. And so far as Chelminiak’s self-serving “overview” article, there’s no reason that a relatively low-volume Bellevue-Issaquah line with ten-minute headways can’t cross SE 118th at grade with gates and enter an increasing cut as far as the ERC.

        There is a large manhole just east of 118th a few yards south of the free way structure. To avoid it some of the yard of the house to the south might have to be taken, perhaps even the entire house for equity.

        A tunnel portal would be just west of the ERC and from there a bored tunnel would proceed first due east then curving southeast to pass under I-405 and continue in the right of way of SE38th to a station under Factoria Boulevard.

        The hardest part is getting across I-90 south of South Bellevue Station. It looks to me like it can be done but the curve to the south of the freeway would necessarily be pretty sharp. The good news is that it’s close to South Bellevue so it wouldn’t be a schedule killer.

      8. It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis. No one disputes crossing the Slough damages the environment, insofar as some land will cease to be Slough and will become a rail-line. The question is whether the damage to the nature park is outweighed by the superior service of interlining at South Bellevue?

        This is no different than all the other cost-benefit analyses that need to be done with choosing a route. The fact that it is an environmental concern does not make it a deal-breaker.

      9. Part of the cost benefit analysis for using B7 was based on the crossing already being built and paid for when it was time to build light rail to Issaquah. What we were told was no way, can’t do it, wouldn’t be able to get to Issaquah anyway. Seems now the East Link EIS was based on lies and we should pull the plug on the project until it’s reevaluated in light of this about face. Surely the Sierra Club would favor not impacting the wetlands along the west side of Mercer Slough if we’re going to build a bridge across it anyway.

      10. I went back and read Chelminiak’s comments. He was specifically talking about the B7R alignment. That alignment was north of I-90.

        This South Bellevue to Issaquah alignment could be in the I-90 median, with ST paying to put a bit more space on the freeway there by scooting the lanes out from the median only a few feet.. It could and perhaps should be south of I-90 so that it can serve Factoria more easily. Finally, the turning radii from South Bellevue towards Issaquah (noting that the Chelminiak discussion was having the line head east and not north) may be too tight to have the alignment north of I-90 in the first place.

        I would have hoped that ST would have assessed this in the initial studies. I’m not sure that they did. Does anyone know?

      11. Let me be clear about what I’m proposing. First, it would mean some re-engineering at South Bellevue, so I understand it’s not likely to happen. But if ST could be pulled back from the brink and design South Bellevue Station with the junction in mind, the line would continue on the slightly east of south heading that they will be on through the station. Just south of the platform the “eastbound” track would diverge to either pass under (tight) or over (ugly) first the Link mainline then I-90. The “westbound” track would just seek the same level as mainline Link and merge with it.

        Once clear of I-90 the trackway would curve to parallel the roadway at a height above the Slough a little lower than the freeway deck. It would cross 118th Avenue SE at grade then enter a cut leading into the hill on which the right of way of the ERC sits. Just before passing under the ERC it would enter a pair of tunnels on a heading just slightly north of due east and then in a hundred yards or so begin curving to the south until they match SE 38th Street extended virtually across the freeway.

        The tunnel would pass under the freeway and then down SE38th to Factoria Boulevard where an uinderground station would serve the development there magnificently. It would continue on east from there under SE38th and then under the green belt, curving north to cross under I-90 and surface on the north side of Eastgate Park-N-Ride. It would then essentially follow the current alignment to Issaquah.

      12. Let me be clear, crossing the Slough has never been an environmental or engineering issue. In fact it was the logical route to follow. The canard thrown up by ST was all lies because they needed to make S. Bellevue P&R look really good to pad the pathetic East Link ridership. The problem with lying is that it’s really hard to be consistent and now that they want to look at rail to Issaquah it’s all coming back to roost.

      13. Trying very hard to see the environmental difference between a guideway supported by single pillars at the slough, and the widening of 520 through the Foster Island area, which is juuuuuust a little more destructive.

        Oh yeah, WSDOT/cars. Magical fixer of all things environmental.

    2. Well isn’t that awesome, go Sierra Club! Great to see that the Sierra Club can see big picture that there is no problem crossing the slough with a minimal impact 2 track electric light rail line and especially given that in doing so will make transit so much more usable that it actually helps the environment by getting many people out of their cars and enable walkable communities around transit.

      The opposition to the slough crossing is just hypocritical drive everywhere NIMBYs that call themselves environmental activists but do absolutely nothing for the environment.

      1. Here’s the official response from those hypocritical drive everywhere NIMBYs that call themselves Sound Transit:

        Response to comment ELFElS023-7
        The City of Bellevue’s proposed B7R would impact the Mercer Slough Park. As discussed in Section of Appendix 0 in the Final EIS, there is no prudent and feasible alternative to avoid the Mercer Slough Nature Park. As described above, the United States Department of Interior has concluded that there is no feasible or prudent alternative to the preferred alternative and that all reasonable measures to minimize or avoid harm (e.g., environmental commitments) to 4(f) properties have been identified.

      2. East Link is still in the slough. The activist I heard was not complaining about South Bellevue-Issaquah Link, he was complaining about East Link. He said ST needed to put it underground or they were going to sue ST.

    1. Nah. It needs a tunnel under the water to Port Townsend, and the branch to Edmonds needs to cross over to Kingston before weaving back to Shoreline.

      Oh, and one of those eastward swings needs to go to Woodinville.

  5. I love the comments about the order of construction. I particularly like building the Dome-Mall connection in Tacoma first, before completing the spine. It makes a lot of sense. And all-day South Sounder first, so Tacoma still gets a good Seattle connection early in the process. They also like the Boeing spur concept in Everett as everyone here seemed to agree with.

      1. Unfortunately no rail solution is good for Paine Field. You will always have two enormous and one smaller peak eight hours apart with almost nothing between them. While, yes, rail has great capacity, it also has very high operating costs per vehicle. So if the vehicles are empty most of the time, it makes more sense to pay for lots of buses at those three big peaks and call it good.

        That doesn’t mean that there should not be bus lanes and other amenities for service to Paine Field. But in the absence of genuine morning to evening reasonably frequent and permanent passenger service to a new terminal there, ANY rail service is overkill and always will be.

      2. Really, Boeing is the type of place that would be ideal for rail service, but not light rail. It needs a successful Sounder North so that you can ram an eight car train up the Japanese Creek line every shift change. You need something that is huge capacity at very infrequent intervals.

        The first part of that (the successful Sounder North) will not happen under the current circumstances.

      3. @Glenn: This has nothing to do with “current circumstances”. Sounder North’s stations are not in the right locations to capture eight carloads of riders at any single time of day. Link will have much better station locations, as ST and CT express buses do today.

        Today’s transit offerings to Boeing, taken as a whole across a few different agencies, connect a loose network of P&Rs to a collection of destinations around Paine Field, providing P&R or kiss-and-ride opportunities over a pretty large area. Working backwards from how the service works, I’d guess that the distribution of employees tends to avoid Seattle-oriented transportation corridors, perhaps because of higher housing costs there. In any case, the Boeing-oriented service doesn’t bend toward major ST transit centers in Snohomish County, and regional service at these transit centers isn’t scheduled to connect well to Boeing-oriented routes.

        The big question, then, is whether Link’s span of service will overlap with Boeing shift changes. If not, I imagine Boeing-oriented transit will ignore Link just as it ignores ST transit centers today. If it does, and Link doesn’t stop right at Paine Field, it ought to be added to the network of P&Rs with Boeing-oriented service. If it stops right at Paine Field it ought to be among the collection of Paine Field destinations covered by arriving and departing buses. Depending on the station location it would probably fall along some other local routes. That might be enough. In any case, I don’t forsee the need for massive capacity from any one place to Boeing at shift-change time. But I’m not really close to the situation, so I could be wrong about a lot of this.

      4. To handle large shift changes, the best mode of transportation is a long commuter rail train that runs relatively infrequently, perhaps on a single track, and can load hundreds of shift workers with one train — as opposed to light rail which would have a crush capacity of about 600 riders and if the train already has riders, say 400 to 500. With free parking available for workers, the most appropriate market for getting shift workers onto transit are those that have to drive at least 45 minutes to get to and from work. If Sounder North tracks were usable for that, using that technology would be the best way to go — but that’s not in the cards.

        Yes, light rail would seem to be good for a commercial airport — but it’s not that good in reality. Take a close look at BART to OAK or Max to PDX. Those are both airports that are likely 3 to 6 times busier than Paine Field will ever be. They both appear to be a total average weekday usage of about 3,000 combined arriving and leaving riders — and both are located within a few hundred feet of terminal check-in counters. Even if Paine Field was 1/3 as busy as these airports are (and that would be a stretch), that would be 1,000 daily riders in today’s environment.

        I agree with the Sierra Club that a bus connection with a possible future spur is the way to go!

      5. Glenn,

        The problem with a “Sounder North” solution for Boeing is that the Boeing branch has a trailing point turnout for traffic to and from the Everett direction. The natural direction for a train using the branch is to and from Seattle, but there simply are too few Boeing workers there to make it worthwhile.

    1. I like doing almost anything first, before completing the spine, since I see very little value in completing the spine at all.

  6. They shouldn’t be expanding South Sounder to every hour. They should be expanding it to every 15 minutes. Then show it on the rail maps the same way you would show the light rail line.

    1. This is not correct. Sounder Trains have three times the seated capacity of a Link train. During the off-peak hours currently ST runs the 590 every half hour, giving decent service.

      But those buses are not full, and to think that a Sounder train carrying 800 seats every fifteen minutes would be is fanciful, at best.

      Grant that Sounder might get some additional ridership from Auburn and Kent (it’s more expensive than the KCM 150) and would certainly attract a few riders from Puyallup, it’s crazy to run a commuter rail train on a Light Rail schedule.

      1. This nice thing about these trains is that you can run 2 cars instead of 4. And the frequent service makes the platform expansions unnecessary, another plus.

      2. “594”, not “590”. 590 is peak direction peak hours only.

        And the 594 does go to every twenty minutes about 1:00 in the afternoon.

        My apologies.

        But the volumes are still miniscule compared to a Sounder train.

        To Donde’s assertion that “[running] frequent service makes the platform expansions unnecessary”, it’s not mid-day service that needs longer trains; it’s peak hour service.

    2. Half-hourly Sounder would be a good compromise between commuter rail and the need for frequency. But each time slot costs a lot of money, and BNSF wouldn’t want to turn away freight customers. ST is negotiating with BNSF a total price for hourly Sounder including evenings and weekends and the third passenger track. That would be a good milestone toward hopefully half-hourly service in the future. After the third track is built there may be more opportunities than there are now. Another option that has been unofficially floated is for ST or WSDOT to buy the BNSF track completely. But there’s no indication BNSF would be willing to sell.

      1. I’ve never entirely understood why exactly passenger rail and freight rail comingled quite well in the past but cant today.

        Is it solely counterproductive bulls*** FRA rules that drive (literally) traffic from very safe rail transport to super dangerous road transport?

      2. In the past the railroad companies were some of the largest employers in the country. There would have been vast hordes of local train order clerks spread throughout the system between Seattle and Portland. Union Pacific had its own main line from Seattle as far south as Longview, and the interurban added an additional line for various north-south traffic (both freight and passenger) as well.

        Today, everything across some 37,000 miles of track is handled by a dozen or so Centralized Traffic Control people in Houston. It means its cheaper to operate, but it means less flexibility for local train movements. Centralized traffic control also led railroads to eliminate what they felt was duplicated capacity, and Union Pacific eliminated most of its main line, with everything south of Tacoma pretty much going away. (A small industrial branch just south of downtown Longview is all that remains.)

        Yet, in terms of sheer number of tons of freight, the railroads are moving far more tons of freight than they did during most of those earlier years. World War II peak traffic levels I think are still the record in terms of sheer tons per year, but at that time people were much more understanding about delays for vital freight traffic. Last I checked, today’s freight traffic is near that level, but with far fewer employees and infrastructure in place to allow for flexibility in train movements.

        There is also the issue of speed. A string of heavyweight coaches being moved by a steam locomotive didn’t move that much faster than a string of freight cars. Today, highway speeds are faster and thus the desire for faster passenger train speeds to be competitive with road traffic. Freight trains, however, have largely gone the opposite direction where long, slow heavy, and cheap per carload, is a huge portion of the traffic. Higher speed freight service mostly goes by individual truck on the highway so the big mainline railroads really don’t see any reason to try to compete with that. Sure, there is intermodal but that really only works for long distance traffic, and the profit margin on intermodal is quite a bit less than it is for general freight traffic because of the handling and infrastructure costs of containers or truck trailers on flat cars, plus they have to compete with the very low profit margins of owner-operator trucking outfits.

        With the tax subsidized highways of the 1960s, railroads started shedding infrastructure and employees, and developing alternative methods of doing business. It wasn’t just the passenger traffic that suffered.

        So, you can’t just look at the sheer number of trains moved in the Seattle area in the 1920s and wonder why railroads can’t do that now. It ignores all the employee shedding and infrastructure rationalization that had to happen after highways were mass produced. Yet, in reality, there is also an awful lot of traffic moving right now, in terms of sheer tonnage.

      3. Glenn,

        And excellent post, with one exception. UP never built north of Portland. When NP opened the Vancouver route, replacing the car ferry at Kalama, UP asked to be granted trackage rights, with the implied threat that “it’s only 80 miles to our branches north from Chehalis”. NP saw the advantage of having all three roads pay for the maintenance of the line and said “Yes.” GN was already a tenant from the time of the Northern Securities Trust.

      4. “I’ve never entirely understood why exactly passenger rail and freight rail comingled quite well in the past but cant today.”

        Attitude, mostly.

        The private railroad companies lost money on most of their passenger services for most of the 1920-1971 period, with a brief exception in WWII This was mostly thanks to huge government funding of roads, the rise of the automobile, and very cheap gasoline. After that they stopped running passenger service for their own account. They continue to see it as “the enemy”, for the most part.

        Where tracks are owned by the *passenger* railroad operator, generally a public agency of some sort, the freight trains run just fine, for the most part. So there’s a huge asymmetry and there’s a good reason to buy the tracks away from the private companies.

      5. P.S. There is one fundamental issue: traffic of very different speeds isn’t compatible. So passenger traffic at 80 mph isn’t compatible with coal traffic at 20 mph.

        Thankfully the death of coal traffic is rendering this an irrelevance. The “freight” railroads are mostly running intermodals, which run best when run fast.

    1. Then by all means vote against it. But you won’t find much sympathy here for “oppose it because Benghazi!”

  7. Sierra Club
    Project phasing explicitly focused on maximizing ridership
    Canceling all parking expansions, especially at Mountlake Terrace and Tukwila International Boulevard

    One of these things is not like the other.

    1. I have no problem with that statement, with the assumption their desire is that ST can get out of the parking game and the local governments can do whatever the heck they want with their parking needs.

      In some areas that just makes sense due to the local car culture, and does not necessarily militate against TOD. Boulder, CO and Greenville, SC are two examples of extremely successful and walkable downtowns where the municipalities felt the need to integrate several parking structures into the immediate vicinity. Tukwila, Mountlake Terrace, Mercer Island, whomever is welcome to pay for that if they desire. Take it off of the ST books.

  8. I agree with the Sierra Club w.r.t. SR522 BRT. 130th and Lake City makes more sense than trying to fit BRT on 145th.

  9. Good job Sierra Club!

    I would like a public referendum on the 99 south alignment. It is so stupid to go along I-5. What a waste. run a multi billion dollar high capacity rail line right next to an undevelopable partially re-mediated sixty acre landfill.

    I think the elected officials don’t reflect what their citizens want. Easy access to rail on 99, plus developers want low utilized land next to rail. Makes me sad and a bit angry

    1. They’re addicted to the crack of used car sales taxes. It’s a VERY tough Jones to shake.

      1. I remember reading something about how 25% of Seattle’s tax base is coming from taxes on new constructions. Maybe walk Des Moines through those numbers & they can see how new development can pay for itself.

        Since Kent wants it, and Des Moines doesn’t, maybe Kent can gift some of it’s lucrative 99 land to Des Moines as a part of a compromise. I’m serious here – much of the city line is right on 99. If Kent gives some of that commercially zone land to Des Moines (i.e. spots for businesses that will pay taxes), that should be enough to placate the DM city hall. Kent gets the I99 alignment & the urban village, and DM gets a few more pieces of commercial added to it’s tax base.

        If you look at the concerns by the DM mayor, they are around erosion to his tax base impacting the residents of Des Moines. Those that are advocating for the I99 alignment should be addressing that concern directly, not belittling Des Moines for their lack of vision.

      2. Bernie,

        Yes it is. But ST gets it no matter where in its service district the cars are sold. Des Moines does not get it for a car sold in Federal Way or even worse, in Fife. So Des Moines self-abuses in order to keep the crack pipe full.

        If you were the Mayor of Des Moines wouldn’t you really rather have a beautiful new “string of pearls” of mixed commercial/residential development in the 1/4 mile wide strip centered on SR99? Your inner aesthete says “Yes!!!”

        But they wouldn’t deliver the ultra-high octane tax receipts that mean you can tell your constituents “I’m keeping your taxes low.”

        It’s a scam of course; you’re keeping the taxes low and the crime rate high.

    2. Yeah the Sierra Club’s list rocks, I couldn’t have made a better list. They definitely see the bigger picture that really high quality transit that is actually usable is extremely good for the environment.

  10. If they build a station at 130th can I have sidewalks in my neighborhood so I can walk to it? How about sidewalks throughout the “walksheds” of both the 130th and 145th stations? Right now I am not too jazzed to walk in the street to a bus that takes me to a train.

    1. Totally fair. A surprisingly expensive issue, and a city of Seattle/Shoreline issue, but neighborhoods without sidewalks are absurd, especially in the context of massive transit investment.

  11. As reported above by taking action over the matter of goat milk, Chairman Jeremy Foust should be given credit for harking back to the days when the Interurbans often had the front third of at least one car per train be a freight room, with a large sliding door.

    Carrying, among other things like tractor parts, milk of which some came from goats. As a disclaimer, while the Chicago and North Shore interurban did indeed run the Electroliners, (sorry, but they did exist!) neither of these trains carried any freight, and I doubt that average passenger in the restaurant section would have permitted goat milk in their coffee.

    Or being told they couldn’t smoke, either.

    Still- one or two Kinki-Sharyo’s with a sliding-door section would be great for bikes- especially green ones. And a lot of wheeled baggage. And also goat milk, in those great old rural milk cans. So glad for your help, Mr, Foust. We might yet have some out-county support now.


  12. C’mon, Bernie, fewer people remember that song about bad marijuana-sharing etiquette than the Electroliner. It’s like chance that hippies in 1967 recalled “It’s a long way to Tipperary” from WWI.

    Also have to ask that nice old pharmacist down on the corner if, now that cannabis (I really used to be scared of those things, because in addition to having sharpened teeth and bones in their nose also ate people) is legal, if anybody “bogarts” anything anymore? Milkshakes, maybe?

    One piece of advice you might be able to use, Bernie. Next debate, ask Hilary if Bill used to “bogart” those cute little marijuana cigarettes, or if he politely let everybody have their share?

    “The slang term “bogarting” refers to taking an unfairly long time with a shared marijuana joint. Allegedly, it derives from Bogart’s style of cigarette smoking, leaving his cigarette dangling from his mouth between puffs.[151]” In a historically pro-transit ime period.

    Which prooves that Wikipedia has hippies on staff, who won’t vote for you anyhow because of loyalty to their generation.


  13. I’m glad to see that the Sierra Club is so blunt about pointing out the problems with the N 145h Station. Looking at the sketches for station entrances, bus access and local traffic circulation for drop-off and ride sharing, I cringe at the impending mess:

    – drop-off passengers jumping out of cars at intersections
    – pedestrians getting run over
    – delays for buses and cars on 145th as it turns into a de facto loading zone on top of I-5
    – bicyclists trying to navigate a path through cars making multiple turns getting hit

    While the light rail train won’t be affected, all modes of accessibility will be horrible! I don’t think any of the existing Link stations are anywhere near a magnitude of circulation problems that this will become. If STB is around in 2027, this will be one of the most popular ST problems discussed on it.

  14. I’m glad to see that some folks aren’t fooled by the “shiny bright object” that I call “the Paine Field diversion.” Why, in essence, pay $2 billion to construct the diversion and saddle taxpayers with 44% higher maintenance costs with no discernable difference in ridership? About all that would accomplish is to disenfranchise those on the east side of I-5 by moving the line west and adding 26 minutes a day, which translates to 2 weeks per year, in extra commuting time for those in central Everett and north. At present, there’s no hint of demand: existing transit service from the north as well as the south to that area was pared back, the latter 13 years ago, but was never restored due to a simple tenet: lack of demand. BRT is going to be tried from the south, why duplicate it? For following highway 99, why duplicate the BRT on that corridor?

    I know, they’ll still find a way to sidetrack to Paine Field: the facts above won’t get in their consciousness. And, they’ll get the requisite campaign contributions to get re-elected, which is their primary objective.

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