ST3 data assumes no provisional stations are built: 1 in Seattle and 3 outside. If built, the core city station percentage drops to 43%. Some data from Wikipedia, others courtesy Seattle Subway
ST3 data assumes no provisional stations are built: 1 in Seattle and 3 outside. If built, the core city station percentage drops to 43%. Some data from Wikipedia, others courtesy Seattle Subway

People felt a variety of emotions after Sound Transit released a draft ST3 package. There was excitement that, finally, we would have an opportunity to make progress on bringing rail to areas that have craved it for decades. There was angst that core elements would take a long time, which forced middle-aged advocates like me to confront our mortality. And finally, there was anger that (a) these were the wrong projects, and/or (b) that the suburbs had somehow hijacked resources that should have gone into the dense core.

Excitement is a reasonable reaction, if tempered by how much lies beyond our remaining professional lives. The projects closely reflect the input of key jurisdictions, and that input reflects the desires of real people who want a true escape from traffic. Many of the region’s densest neighborhoods, in addition to some with practical development potential, will finally connect with the system.

But that connection will not happen for a long time. In the coming weeks, we hope to have much more detailed reporting on what exactly is going to take so long. There is strong momentum to find ways to shorten delivery, so the ST board may make some compromises before finalizing the package. However, a voter that likes the projects, but votes no in the hope that in a later election delivery will somehow speed up, is likely to be disappointed. We shouldn’t condemn another generation to spend its life building what we should build today.

As for anger: as the chart above shows, the share of the rail system inside Seattle, where ridership potential is somewhat higher, is very competitive with peer agencies, far better that the customary comparison to BART and similar to the best postwar system, the DC Metro. Ridership isn’t as high, which is reasonable for a region that (a) is smaller, (b) has worse land use, and (c) has highways running into downtown from five directions. Moreover, although our picture of the subarea math is incomplete, there is no sign that Seattle funds are flowing to the suburbs; indeed, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park funds are coming in to Seattle. There is no “go it alone” approach, even assuming the legislature would allow it, that magically brings more funding and speeds up timelines. The only reason to reject on these grounds is if one is willing to make Seattle rail worse to deny it to the suburbs.

What seasoned observers learned from this package is that the vision of a tunnel from Uptown to the stadiums via South Lake Union is expensive. A year ago I estimated a 15-year package would generate about $5.1 billion (2014 dollars) in North King, including bonds. The current concept costs up to $6.8 billion. Going to 25 years increases the money, but not proportionally: previous financial analysis showed that years 15 through 20 actually yield relatively little revenue as ST hits bonding limits, and inflation increases costs.

There are a few ways out of this. With luck, ST will find a way to save a few years after additional analysis. Value engineering might simplify the project and reduce costs. One of the advantages to a regional package is that Sound Transit can concentrate its cashflow on particular priority projects while others are building up capital — a hierarchy where Seattle currently lies somewhere in the middle. The draft package embodies the collective desires of the region, only slower, but the next two months of tradeoffs will be interesting.

159 Replies to “The Main Lesson from the Draft ST3 Package”

  1. Regardless of time, Seattle Subway, Ben S., the Urbanist, DP have all said the Seattle options are lousy. Seattlish and the Stranger have taken the pro view. Given the opposition, I am not sure how that is fixed before the final draft. Of course, the peanut butter option would win a STB poll over the ST3 draft.

    A light rail at grade, 30 mph down 15th (in a potentially flood prone area) light rail is a really tough sell for me and a few other Ballardites, and that doesn’t include the 22 years when a Ballard to UW is almost as fast and cheaper. The WSTT would provide the same benefits as the current ST3 draft for N. Seattle.

    1. 30mph down 15th is not a foregone conclusion. If my understanding is correct, that would only be required if it ran inside 15th ave with no crossing gates etc., a la MLK, and not if it was fully isolated, a la the SODO busway.

      Also, even if it is stuck at 30 MPH for the entire length of the 15th avenue stretch, that would only add 2.5 minutes extra to the travel time, compared to a train that could instantly accelerate to 60mph and hold it for the entire length from Mercer to Ballard. Not exactly the apocalypse.

      1. How is SDOT and ST going to close 15th to isolate a light rail right of way while Expedia and half of Ballard use it as the primary route to DT and other locations? Have you seen 15th at rush hour today?

        All so trains can take up more space at street level next to DT where land is incredibly expensive. They plan to break ground 7 years from now and have the street blocked off from 2023 until 2037. How is this even being considered?

      2. But you’ve lost the time difference between getting downtown from Ballard to UW, and how much time have you saved with a 15x with a WSTT? And at what price?

      3. Re: closing 15th… have you noticed the plans are probably going to require rebuilds of the Emerson, Leary, Dravus, and Magnolia overpasses, no matter what? If they can manage to pull those projects off without totally obstructing ballard-to-downtown commuters, I think they can manage to also do what’s necessary to isolate enough right of way for the trains. At least, they’ll be able to pull it off with no more disruption than what’s been going on over on SR99, or countless other similar highway projects throughout history. As a society, we have a lot of experience on keeping traffic flowing during massive construction projects.

      4. We have a time standard for Link: the 15X is 20-22 minutes. Link on Westlake-UW is 8 minutes, and U-District is estimated at 12 minutes. That gives an 8-minute budget for a Balllard-UW train and transfer. We may decide that exceeding 22 minutes to downtown is OK given the major Ballard-UW ridership market, the reliability of underground trains, and frequent all-day two-way service which doesn’t currently exist on the 15. For a Ballard-downtown line, it means that 10-15 minutes would be an excellent line, 15-20 minutes would be a good line, and 25+ minutes would be a bad line.

      5. The right thing to do is to have the tunnel portal just north of Mercer Way just west of the apartments at the top of the hill. Then run “at-grade” behind the buildings on the north side of Elliott. Yes, that would require some reinforcement for the hillside which would add to the cost and it might take a little bit of the “park” land, but it’s better than trying to run down Elliott at grade with all the driveways. The alignment would rise a bit behind the Magnolia Bridge access and then transition to the middle of 15th West for the few blocks to Armory Way where it would turn into the street ROW and descend to grade level. Just before the train yard it would turn parallel to the easternmost rail track and head north alongside it.

        A bit north of the Dravus Bridge a few buildings would have to be eliminated or shortened in order to pass the track. There would be a station under Dravus and elevated just before the curve onto Armory Way. The “Expedia” station would be right across from the existing Helix Pedestrian bridge which would be extended across Elliott and a few dozen yards on north to the train station. Some new stairs could connect the station to Ninth West up by Olympic Way.

        There is enough room behind the buildings to do this.

      6. Continued.

        Trains using this alignment could run at track speed between the Ballard and Dravus Stations and Helix and Lower Queen Anne. If the “Whole Foods” Station were eliminated, they could probably get up to close to track speed between Dravus and Helix as well. If Whole Foods does go in, though, the highest speed through there would probably be about 40.

        The point is that even though the vast majority of this alignment would be “at-grade” meaning “built on the ground” but would also be “grade separated” meaning that no vehicles would intrude on the right of way.

      7. Considering that building this at grade is going to require taking land from something else, and considering that the land in question has a lot of uses that aren’t especially intensive, and since the line is going to have to go over a bridge at the north end anyway, it seems to me much of this should actually be an elevated line.

        Going above the BNSF main line and yard trackage shouldn’t be a problem. You might have to pay them something for arial rights or some such (they can no longer use solar panels to power their switch machines). The north end of Interbay is industrial and mostly low level structures. The thing could have a station above Emerson and Fisherman’s Terminal and then continue north above the parking and net storage areas on the west side of the terminal and gain altitude before crossing the ship canal. That puts it sort of in line to hit the main business district of Ballard.

      8. Glenn,

        Sure you could, but why? Except for the short stretch between the Magnolia Bridge ramps and Armory Way you don’t have to extrude structure. Dammit, will people PLEASE understand that ST didn’t opt for “at-grade” to deliberately effyouseekay Ballard. They did it because they’re worried about having enough money for the project.

        Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, the project is somewhat better than West Seattle, but it suffers from the same damn problem: 80% of the ridership north of Expedia will have to transfer from feeder buses. So let’s all quit being armchair quarterbacks and at least give ST staff the benefit of the doubt that they know how to effyouseeking ADD.

        And “No, the alignment behind the buildings on Elliott is unoccupied and will never be occupied.” It’s the edge of a 30 degree slope “park” with some trails somewhat up the slope but none at the base. There is no “higher and better use” than as the right of way for Northwest Link.

        Ditto north of Armory Way. There is (barely) enough room between the Interbay Playfield and the train tracks, but there is enough. And sure, north of Dravus the thing has to start rising to the bridge structure. But just because it has to be elevated to cross the Ship Canal does not mean it has to be elevated everywhere. If there are no cross streets and it’s fenced from random access, trains can whiz along unimpeded.

        Think “Riverside Line” (Boston) or “Norristown High Speed Line” (Philly). Heck, think “Westside MAX”!!! It reaches 50 mph in some of the longer stretches between stations (Millikan to Beaverton Creek) and it’s on the ground. And in fact, it’s not even rigorously fenced! People heading to Nike walk a little way on the tracks from Beaverton Creek to get to 153rd all the time because Phil is a jerk and won’t let a walkway be built directly through the woods to Nike World Campus Drive.

      9. P.S. I totally agree that the new bridge should be a couple of blocks west of 15th Avenue. Well said.

      10. So let’s all quit being armchair quarterbacks and at least give ST staff the benefit of the doubt …

        I certainly do as far as Ballard to West Seattle rail. I really think that if you were tasked to come up with a plan for brand new light rail between the two areas (and couldn’t leverage the existing rail) than this is the way to do it. The stops are very good. The routing seems fine to me. Yes, you might be able to cut into the hillside (as Anandakos suggests) but I doubt that would be cheap. That hillside is a very steep so undercutting it would add millions more to the project, which means adding even more time for this thing. I’m not really sure what that gets you, anyway. If this was built, this would look a lot like MLK. Both streets seem very similar — very wide, with a fair amount of traffic. My guess is they run the trains down the middle of the street, which does make turning left harder. You also eliminate parking, so you still have two lanes each direction, as well as the occasional left turn lane. Compared to MLK, there are a lot fewer of those (since there are so many overpasses). There are virtually no cross streets that don’t have overpasses, either (unlike MLK, which has a bunch). The current plan for downtown to Ballard light rail is fine, as it is essentially what Bruce Nourish suggested we build: https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/12/06/some-thoughts-on-ballard-option-c/. It is all we can afford for a West Seattle to Ballard light rail line.

        The alternative is to simply not build that rail line. Build the WSTT (and assorted associated improvements) and you save more people more time than the rail line. You also save a lot of money, which means you can be built a lot sooner. Along with that, you build the Ballard to UW line, and hopefully (someday) a Metro 8 subway.

        This is a rare ST project, in that they seem to get the little things right. I think this is because SDOT got involved. They have the right stops, and squeeze in right under the budget (but just barely). The problem is that they fail to look at the big picture and question whether rail from Ballard to West Seattle makes sense. It doesn’t.

      11. Sure you could, but why?

        Because with the type of land use involved (ie, nothing anyone really should care about having a bridge built above it) it might be cheaper to build the line above current land use than acquire land for a line on the ground.

      12. The City of Seattle already owns at least half of the land behind the buildings on Elliott (it’s “Kinnear Park” but really just unbuilt able land) and all of the land between Armory Way and Dravus alongside the BNSF right of way. The land behind the buildings not owned by the city is not currently valuable enough to build on, otherwise in this economy, someone would be upgrading at least one of the properties.

        This option has no traffic signals‘ whereas building down the middle of Elliott and 15th West has several. And they won’t always be green.

        To your proposal to go elevated, what do you do at the Magnolia Btidge? It would either be a 50 foot high over crossing or deviate “behind” the bridge on-ramp. The problem with at-grade mid-street is that it also takes a pair of lanes “downstream” of the Magnolia Bridge which feeds nearly a full lane of traffic at the peaks.

        I really do not see how they can take a pair of lanes forthis. Unlike MLK, there is no large parallel arterial a half mile away.

      13. I really do not see how they can take a pair of lanes forthis. Unlike MLK, there is no large parallel arterial a half mile away.

        But isn’t that the plan north of Market Street if they build it along 15th?

        By “behind the buildings” do you mean to take the BNSF maintenance road east of the yard and west of the Interbay Athletic Complex?

        The railroad will most certainly not sell something like that off. If your plans depend on that, you might wind up having a stupid S curve to get around the area the railroad won’t let you have.

        Where are you thinking of crossing the ship canal? I’m thinking of going north through the net storage area west of Fisherman’s Terminal and east of 21st. Not sure where you come down on the other side though.

        South from there it seems to me you go above the parking lots around Fisherman’s Terminal. A station here gives you access to the 31, and maybe run the 32 over here now as well.

        South of there, above the roundhouse parking and the BNSF sand house.

        Around Dravus, you have enough space for a set of pillars between a set of yard tracks, and another space along the side of the maintenance track for another set of pillars. It’s true you’d have to be fairly high above ground to get above Dravus, but it wouldn’t be that high above the rest of the buildings because at that point the streets and buildings are mostly raised above the original ground level and the railroad below actual street level.

        South of Dravis, you wind up having to shift further east slightly because the yard tracks get a little closer together.

        At the Armory, I don’t see any problem going above the parking lot and/or the driveway or the vehicle storage area.

        This gets you over to the Whole Foods parking area.

        You could go under the Magnolia Bridge south of Whole Foods. It means you would have to take several properties though because the empty space along the back of such properties as the Staples is required as a fire lane for industrial properties. At least, that is usually the case. If you go over the top of the railroad through there (and yes, it would be high up there) you don’t have to take any of them. I don’t see it being any higher than the west end of the Magnolia Bridge and that just sort of fades into the hillside.

        There are a couple of problems I see with keeping it too close to Queen Anne Hill, and one of those is that because of the hill there aren’t too many ways through to 15th.

      14. Of course they will take the lanes. Seattle has no problem taking lanes. They are taking them on Madison, for heaven’s sake. In general, the stretch where they would take lanes is really not a problem. Most of the traffic comes from Ballard, and the bridge limits that. Likewise, Mercer and Denny limit the amount of traffic that can flow onto it (or out of it). It is similar to the West Seattle freeway — adding lanes really won’t help things (the problem is down stream).

        As far as lights are concerned, north of Mercer, there are very few. It is very similar to MLK, only more so. Yes, MLK has a parallel street (which will soon have lanes taken away) but it also has a bunch of pretty decent cross streets. Elliot/15th does not. North of Mercer and south of the bridge, you only have Gilman, which is a really minor street. Tough luck, really. Those that want to go north on Gilman, then take a left (to go south on 15th) will have to wait a while (for the light to turn) or use the overpass on Dravus.

        This is not like the 45th.Market corridor, where the city will have a hell of a time negotiating light priority. The corridor goes under Aurora (thankfully) but you have Greenlake Way (with cars coming and going to Aurora), 8th (which looks like Aurora compared to Gilman) and the mother of all intersections, 15th.

        Speaking of which, I forget, is this thing going to be elevated up to (and over) Market? If not, then that is what we should be worried about. Giving a train signal priority on that intersection would mean pretty high headways for this thing, as well as limit the functionality of east-west bus service.

      15. Of course they will take the lanes. Seattle has no problem taking lanes. They are taking them on Madison, for heaven’s sake. In general, the stretch where they would take lanes is really not a problem.

        Donald Trump?

    2. I would gladly trade light rail to Paine Field with BRT to Paine Field AND loan the money to Seattle for a Ballard grade separated line. Whether that’s elevated or tunneled is not my problem, getting ST3 passed is.

      It’s time for some serious bargaining here between Seattle and Snohomish County. Giving Mukilteo a slice of Sound Transit BRT could sure weaken Snohomish County’s support for light rail to Paine.

      1. Snohomish county is getting a massive transfer of funds from other sub-areas to pay for the Paine Field diversion. We won’t know the exact amounts until Sound Transit releases its report on sub-area benefits. It appears there are transfers from East King, South King, Pierce, and possibly North King to pay for Paine field service. This needs to be killed now. I’m guessing that technically these are all paying for the downtown tunnel and a transfer from north King is being used to pay for Paine field. I’d just as soon see the second step skipped.

      2. Chris,

        I think you and I are real close to agreement. One reason why I support BRT to Paine Field is to cut the overall cost so the understandable discomfort, squirming and from some angry outbursts can be placated with a win-win solution to reduce or eliminate this understandable controversy. I find the more and more rail for Paine Field is pushed, the more those who used to oppose bus service to Paine Field realize supporting buses to Paine Field is only right & in their best interests.

      3. The point is Snohomish county officials need to drop the idea of serving Paine Field directly with rail. Lets provide good frequent high quality bus service on all the major corridors in the area serving all of the major destinations with connections to light rail up 99 or I-5. Use the savings to either fund Ballard/UW or build LQA to IDS faster.

      4. In actuality, I don’t think the assumption that everyone is paying for Paine Field is exactly true. Snohomish County could have afforded a direct line to Everett in 15 years. They chose to wait to 25 to pay for it with their own funds and some federal grants. There is NOT a massive sub-area transfer going on here. So, at 25 years, it’s quite frankly THEIR money and they, to some degree, should have some freedom to do with it as they wish.

        Playing communities against each other for things those communities are in actuality buying is not super helpful here to getting things fixed or passed.

        IT’S A TOTALLY DIFFERENT STORY if Snohomish legislators try to get Paine Field with its 25 years of costs in 15 years. Then that WILL cause massive subarea transfers and it should be resisted at all costs. The choice should be quite clear: Snohomish can get it fast, or they can get it hyper-expansive. But they can’t have both.

      5. I agree Jonathan. There is nothing, absolutely nothing saying that if Boeing in 25 years is still at Paine Field, has committed to build new lines of planes at Paine Field to go ahead and build a light rail spur at that point in a hypothetical ST4.

        My concern is at the end of 25 years, that’s about when the 777 & KC-46 (767 tanker) & 787 lines will all be petering out. Nobody knows what will happen then, or even if Mukilteo will continue to support & adopt Paine Field as much as Mukilteo does today. But to be stuck with a light rail line… well I “get it” the consternation at this point.

      6. Is Snohomish budging at all now that they’ve had a week to put the 25-year timeline in their pipe and smoke it? It’s the Everett mayor that’s most heavily pushing the detour. Boeing hasn’t even asked for it as far as I know, or indicated that it wants more than “general transit improvements” in its neighborhood. It seems like Everett should just take the 15-year line and run with it, because it won’t get anything better or quicker than that, and if ST3 fails and goes to a second ballot measure, it may not get even that. (More likely 164th or 128th.) And I would be happy to give Snohomish one or even two BRT lines if good corridors can be found. And the corridors are already there in the Swift long-range plan.

      7. Jonathan,
        I’m sorry, but basic math says Snohomish is receiving a massive subsidy from other sub-areas to afford Lynnwood-Everett via Paine FIeld. Sure the finance timeline makes a difference but not enough to explain why Snohomish has the largest project budget after North King. Again it is very clear East King is subsidizing someone as there just isn’t much spend in their project list. Also Bellevue-Issaquah is waiting late to finish as well.

      8. That’s very generous of you Joe, but it really isn’t the core of the problem. To be clear, I think for many areas (like Snohomish County) BRT, along with dozens of surface improvements are a much better value. But as long as Seattle is infatuated with rail in all the wrong places, spending money here (versus there) is not likely to result in a better system.

      9. Indeed. One of the hazards of “rail to Paine Field” that I see is that Paine Field is a pretty huge place. In fact, there are quite a number of locations at Paine Field where you could put a light rail line and serve absolutely nobody since everything that would actually generate ridership is quite distant.

        The Future of Flight Museum is in the northwest corner of the airport property. Boeing is mostly on the north side of the runway. The place that looks like it is intended to be the passenger terminal is in the southeast side of the runway.

        As best as I can tell, a line serving most of the west side and southwest area of Paine Field would serve not much.

  2. I am not angry because these are the wrong projects. I am just disappointed. Disappointed in an agency that is incapable of planning properly. Yes, we all knew that a second tunnel downtown was going to be expensive. We also new that a tunnel under West Seattle, and a completely new bridge was going to be expensive — and unnecessary. But Sound Transit plowed ahead, because they are incapable of building what is appropriate for the area.

    It isn’t just Seattle. Kirkland is a fine example of Sound Transit’s focus on rail, even when the city actually opposed it. The city hired consultants and came up with a very nice BRT plan that leveraged the ERC corridor without holding out the illusion that it made sense for rail (given its lack of density and attractions). ST didn’t want that — they wanted rail. So the end result is that Kirkland got nothing on the corridor, and is stuck with very weak BRT (that comes nowhere near the few pockets of density in the area). Meanwhile, Issaquah will get light rail to Bellevue, which means that most of the city of Issaquah will have three seat rides to Seattle. Oh goody.

    Nor is this anything new. The failure at Mount Baker station is well known and well documented. The intersection of our second most popular bus line (over 13,000) and Link involves a transfer so onerous that a small fraction of the riders make it. Missing stations in our most urban area (First Hill, 23rd or close to 520) are not the result of an agency unwilling to risk bad soil, or delays (obviously) but an agency that really doesn’t care. They don’t care about mobility, about making a transit system that actually works for people. They are more interested in symbolic, political gestures. They aren’t even willing to support a dirt cheap station at NE 130th! Of course a station like that would pay for itself many times over, but for Sound Transit, it isn’t a win, because it doesn’t make the system longer. They seem fixated on building more rail, without considering how people will actually use it.

    This editorial suggests that this is the only thing we can build, it will take time and there is nothing we can do about. Nonsense. Given that logic, it would be OK to build light rail from Discovery Park to Magnuson Park. Sure, it is expensive. Sure, it will take a while. But what else can we do?

    Building something better. Build something cheaper and better. Piece by piece, the way that other cities do. Build a system that integrates well with buses, and is a good value. Build this: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/11/30/an-alternative-for-st3-with-something-for-everyone/

    1. A practical (or political) question: the clamor from STB and others to build Ballard-UW and to not run light rail to West Seattle has been going on for a long time. ST has heard it again and again. Yet, they’ve rejected it. Soundly (so to speak). Why does anyone think they are suddenly going to change their minds now?

      (And I’m all with you – build Ballard-UW and a 520 station on U-Link ;).)

      1. In defense of ST (I can’t believe Iwrote that), the mayor (through SDOT) and Dow Constantine promised that, so it was a done deal. I would be ok delaying Ballard to DT further if ot got Ballard UW built first, but that won’t happen either

      2. Eastside, I still think problem with Ballard have been partly low population numbers- which are now exploding. But technically, however much the Ballard-UW subway costs, the line between Ballard and West Seattle will cost a lot more, in both money and difficulty.

        Two waterway crossings. Either a subway through Queen Anne hill or above-ground track elevated both elevated and subway, including second DSTT. Second Avenue business community’s opinion about elevated was absolute and final.

        Then: Find old map. Most of Seattle’s history, Jackson was the north shore of a bay. IDS is basically a concrete lid over a lot of water with a little dirt in it. Wonder if ST kept any pictures of the hundred-foot long posts pile-driven into the mud like a Sioux “teepee’.

        Each with a cement pad at the point. A couple of dozen places. Then a concrete pad at on the point of each triangle. Holding up what’s now floor IDS staging. One of many problems I doubt last monorail would even admit, let alone be able to finance.

        Then, across, over or under, the Duwamish. Before line even gets to West Seattle. Definitely do-able. But like the cave-man plumber in the Gary Larson cartoon looking down a hole featuring a forked stick holding a roll of toilet paper: “Oooooh. This not be easy!”

        Mark

      3. “Jackson was the north shore of a bay”

        It’s odd to be worried about climate-change flooding in Interbay when Raineir Valley and SODO will have the same problem.

      4. @Mike Orr,

        I put the “Interbay is going to flood because of climate change! What is ST thinking?” whining in the “anything to attack ST” bucket. It’s clearly just the latest artificial edifice to attack ST with.

        I dint really take such concerns very seriously. Clearly we will have much greater problems when CC gets that bad

      5. Just to be clear, if you are going to run a train line from West Seattle to Ballard, then this is the way you do it. This has all the requisite stops in West Seattle as well as all the essential ones on the way to Ballard. You save a bundle by building a very tall bridge (that will rarely open) as well as running on the surface (when you can). I agree, Lazarus, climate change is really a silly concern for this area (but the largest concern we face as a civilization).

        The problem is the idea that the next thing to build is a line from West Seattle to Ballard. As I said up above, it is too expensive, and ineffective for the people in the area, let alone the region as a whole. There are better alternatives, and they have been ignored by Sound Transit. To answer your question, EastsideRider, I don’t expect them to change their approach, but I feel duty bound, as a citizen and former child of a politician, to at least give them the opportunity to do so.

      6. RossB, I’m sure even you have to admit building rail between West Seattle and Ballard is a better use of taxpayer money than any other rail project in ST3. (I still can’t believe they post both Issaquah and Paine Field in with a straight face$

      7. The problem is the idea that the next thing to build is a line from West Seattle to Ballard.

        Um, that isn’t what I saw in the timeline.

        What I saw in the timeline as first priority was West Seattle to International District as a line separate from anything else.

        Ballard doesn’t happen until a bit later.

      8. Re flooding: we need a citywide plan by flood/climate experts, not ad hoc solutions project by project that may or may not be adequate or excessive, and especially not out of the limited transit budget.

      9. @Chris — Hard to say. Extending Link to Redmond is a great idea (I think everyone believes that). I’m not impressed with the BRT plans (Sound Transit seems to be confused on the idea) but they probably don’t cost that much (it is hard to really screw up BRT — even a bad BRT system, like RapidRide, is still probably a decent value). Issaquah to Bellevue light rail is by far the most absurd project. It is tough to imagine anything in Seattle (even my mythical Discover Park to Sand Point rail line) that would be a worse value. But West Seattle rail — built before Ballard light rail — is trying hard to compete with it. They both have a lot in common — multi-seat rides for the vast majority of people, costing billions when much faster, more frequent service would cost a lot less. Ballard to downtown is not a horrible project — it is just that Ballard to UW is better.

        @Glenn — I meant from a big picture, funding standpoint (with ST1 we got this, with ST2 we get that, etc.). But you are right, even the order in which we get our wasteful projects is wrong.

      10. It would be a political firestorm for ST to change its plan in any way other than in small details at this time. It would (rightly) lay them open to charges that their “study” protocol is just so much hand-waving. The plan to be voted on for the North King sub-area will be West Seattle to downtown as the “new” version of the Red Line running in the DSTT and Ballard-Downtown interlined with Central Tacoma as the Green Line in a new parallel tunnel.

        That is what you will vote on whether it is the “best” system or not. Make your pitch for the PeanutButter plan, sure. But ST has made it clear that they think the nut butter is rancid. People should be making strenuous efforts to ensure that the transfers between the tunnels at Westlake and IDS are as rational and easy as possible AND that Ballard-Downtown gets as much non-roadway alignment as is possible.

        I very much doubt that staff is happy to propose center-lane running on Elliott and 15th West. They understand how unpleasant the station experience will be in the Dravus underpass and at Helix. Yuk! If we can show them a way to get from the tunnel portal to the bridge some way other than down the middle of an urban semi-freeway, they’ll be happy to use it I would bet.

      11. Mike, re flooding: no, that’s not how you do it. The way you do it is to integrate flooding analysis into ALL projects as a matter of course.

        Yes, including this one.

        Saying “Oh, we’ll let the future city flooding plan handle it, in the meantime we’ll just build this expensive infrastructure in the flood plain while we wait for the city to create a flooding plan” is totally irresponsible behavior.

  3. The “core city” metric is a little misleading with BART, as both Oakland and Berkeley are job centers, and many, many people ride BART who rarely ever go to San Francisco. That might be true to some extent in Seattle someday, once Bellevue is accessible and the U District is connected to more places. Bellevue isn’t really a “suburb” anymore, in the classic sense; increasingly, Seattle itself is a bedroom community for jobs on the eastside.

    The biggest problem for me with the new plan is the absence of crosstown routes. There are already fast buses to downtown from most places, but downtown isn’t that interesting to most residents, and the real need is crosstown, where both transit and driving utterly fail.

    1. Sound Transit is trying to connect population centers to job centers, not to places that are “interesting”

    2. I live in Seatte and work on the eastside and plan to move to the eastside at some point where 405 BRT and 522 BRT will help a lot. I don’t work in either DT Seattle or Bellevue. So there goes your theory of only the bay area having job centers outside of DT. Wake up, there is a lot more than DT Seattle and Bellevue in terms of job centers and its not just some extent or coming down the road.

    3. That’s what fnarf said: “Bellevue is not a suburb anymore”, implying that it has become a jobs center. And anyone who has spent time on the Eastside knows that most commutes are within the Eastside. Seattle is the largest single destination but it’s not the majority destination. The Bellevue-Redmond Link axis is the second-largest trip pattern, which will only grow. We can take “interesting” to mean “desire to travel there for any reason”, which is the purpose of transit to fill. Connecting residents to jobs must be the primary focus because that directly affects people’s livelyhoods and the cities’ revenue health, and it’s also when the most people travel and take transit and cause congestion. But other trips are important too. And not all jobs are in downtown, and in fact, not all urban centers are in downtowns.

      1. Totally agree, Mike. The primary goal is to provide transit along core commute route. If this also provides service to “interesting” places, all the better. And over time, we can expand transit to serve more than just work commutes (and special events i.e. stadium games & the Fair). I just want to ensure ST3 serves commuter first, as there isn’t enough time or money to afford scope creep over the next 20 years.

      2. The goal is to make urban centers mixed-use so that there are interesting places in all of them, and 24-hour all-directional demand between them. Then a lot of people can live in any of them and travel to all of them for work and other reasons as they see fit. That will over time become the majority trip patterns and ridership demand, or at least the largest plurality. And low-density single-family areas will be blissfully unchanged, with only a minor increase in transit. And even they will be able to go to the nearest urban center and have the rest of the region at their fingertips.

      3. Not sure if 1900 had global warming or not, Lazarus, though like much else here, end of the Ice Age could have done the lagoon. But the large flat area south of Jackson Street was definitely completely flooded in 1900,

        And still is, except that there’s enough dirt now mixed into the water that people are tempted to try and build things on it. Or sink monorail pillars in it.

        Also, before serious global warming events, an earth-quake will quiver the ground enough that buildings, as well as transit pillars will simply sink and disappear. As with IDS- manageable.

        But not if, like last monorail board, you pretend the swamp isn’t there until a mile of your track, and anything on it, isn’t there either. Well, maybe under the swamp, with passengers waiting to get off the cars that are now also part of the swamp.

        Mark

      4. Mark, enough with the bullshit about the Duwamish Industrial District being a slurry breathlessly waiting to liquefy at the slightest tremor. Are you that lunatic “Wells” who rants over on Crosscut about Bertha?

        The massively heavy Kingdome and now Safeco and The Clink are perilously floating on that slurry. Shall we check each morning to be sure they’re still there? You might want to take the first couple of shifts as an example for the rest of to follow.

        ST will be able to build the new section of IDS successfully and safely. Even if it requires more underground tee-pees.

    4. I agree Fnarf, that is the problem. There is a total lack of cross town routes, because ST spend all of their money on light rail going from West Seattle to Ballard, when BRT would be more effective and cheaper for the vast majority of the people in the area. The result is that they have no money for cross town routes, even the ones they were supposed to be studying.

      1. West Seattle needs a crosstown BRT north-south bus line that hits White Center, Westwood, all the Junctions, and Alki and feeds into the station at Alaska Junction. This is critical if West Seattle light rail is ever going to remotely work.

      2. My guess is that such a BRT line would serve primarily as a feeder system, in much the way that Issaquah to Mercer Island service will. There will be a handful of people who will benefit from service to Mercer Island but not many. Without a doubt there are more people traveling within greater West Seattle, but still not enough to make for huge numbers. The 128 does all that (and more) and still carries less than 5,000 a day.

        The alternative is this: http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/WSTT-Initial-Service-Pattern.jpg. You would still need some locals for inner West Seattle travel (like the 128 and 50) but just about every trip like that is made much better by speeding up all those buses. The 50, for example, is a big connector, and would benefit from the West Seattle Freeway/Spokane Street Viaduct changes even though the bus wouldn’t go in the new tunnel. You would still have some transfers to get from one part of West Seattle to the other, but far fewer overall than with light rail (and the transfers would likely be a lot faster).

    5. If “core city” is misleading with BART, it’s also misleading here. If you want to count Oakland and San Jose as core cities there, then you need to count Tacoma, Bellevue and Everett as core cities here. And if you include Berkeley there, you should include Redmond here.

      1. I agree. I used to think the comparisons with BART meant that we weren’t serving Seattle enough. Next time there’s a BART analogy I’m calling BS until they’re more specific. A lot of the complaining seems to be that bay area cities are just plain denser, which I would agree with, but is not entirely related to ST3 route planning.

      2. @Maritn — Didn’t you make a BART analogy, on this very post, when you published the chart? Are you calling bullshit on yourself? Ha, just kidding.

        @Donde — No, Berkeley is not Redmond, any more than I am Steph Curry (yes, we both can play basketball). Here is a quick review:

        Redmond:
        59,000 people
        3,325/sq mi density (http://arcg.is/1Vrj1IM)
        8 miles of low-density to Bellevue
        16 miles to Seattle

        Berkeley:
        118,000 people
        11,350/sq mi density (http://arcg.is/1Vrjiv9)
        Contiguous with Oakland
        12 miles to SF

        The maps really show the difference. You can see lots of very dark, contiguous areas in the Bay Area. You can’t see that in Redmond. The fun part about the map is that you can click on the individual census blocks to see the difference.

        As far as a specific BART comparison — here is an interesting fact: Outside of Berkeley, Oakland and San Fransisco, ridership is less than 140,000. Take away Daly City (which is closer to the center of the city than Northgate is to the center of Seattle) and you have less than 130,000. Not that many people ride this outside of the cities that are both dense and close.

        Which brings up another point. Check out Snohomish County and compare it to Hayward, Union City and Fremont California. There are some similarities. There are areas of very low density, with clusters of higher density. Except the ones in California are much higher. These are where they put the train stations. Check out Pierce County. Same thing. Nothing even close to the density in those other cities. Now back to ridership. The combined Hayward, Union City and Fremont ridership is less than 20,000. The E carries about 14,000 (and is a lot slower).

        The lesson is clear from BART — long haul rail to suburban locations doesn’t carry that many people. San Fransisco is many times bigger, travel from places like Fremont to San Fransisco is much faster, places like Fremont are many times more densely populated, the region is much more populated overall, yet ridership is very small.

        The only way you could substantially improve ridership is if you concentrated on the areas that are both very dense and closer (which means areas like Oakland and Berkeley). More stations there, along with perhaps an extra line would greatly increase ridership. You could do the same in San Fransisco, but Muni Metro already does that. Oh, and Muni Metro carries around 130,000 people a day. In short, the contiguous, close urban area rail system carries the overwhelming majority of the riders, despite having only half the track miles (57 of the 104 total).

        The other takeaway is the ridership estimates for Sound Transit are absurd (based on BARTs numbers).

      3. I think the main point of Ross’s comment is that the Bay Area is altogether denser than the Seattle area. That’s true, but I’m not sure what conclusion you expect us to draw. Perhaps that we should resign ourselves to lousy transit (or pin our hopes on a huge philosophical change at WSDOT to enable good bus transit) rather than build good transit, because we’re less dense?

        The lesson is clear from BART — long haul rail to suburban locations doesn’t carry that many people.

        Sure, but my chart shows that the long-haul suburban component of ST3 is much smaller than BART’s, and much more like DC’s. You could argue that we shouldn’t build long haul suburban lines at all, though I don’t know where you’ll find the votes to pass that, or find a modern American precedent for doing such a thing.

        The other takeaway is the ridership estimates for Sound Transit are absurd (based on BARTs numbers).

        That may be true, but I’m not sure why a system more urban than BART, with an additional 25 years of population and ridership growth, couldn’t beat BART in 2016 by about 25%.

      4. No, Martin, that wasn’t the main point of my comment. Jesus, man, stop putting words in my mouth. You actually quoted my main point, yet you ignored it.

        The lesson is clear from BART — long haul rail to suburban locations doesn’t carry that many people

        Got it? The suburban cities of California (e. g. Fremont) are many times more dense, many times more populous, and connect to a city many containing many more times jobs and attractions than us. Yet it doesn’t work! I don’t how else to say it, but I’ll try again:

        Successful transit systems allow for movement of people throughout a contiguous, urban landscape.

        This means everyone can get everywhere within the densely populated urban core quickly. This is what DC provides.

        Sure, but my chart shows that the long-haul suburban component of ST3 is much smaller than BART’s, and much more like DC’s.

        No it doesn’t. Your chart is bullshit. How you would think that the DC system is anything like ours is beyond me. Hell, look at this comment, way back when, where the difference is clearly spelled out: https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/02/14/news-roundup-geeks/#comment-292594

        Look at a census map, and notice how density drops off a cliff as you enter Shoreline. Once you exit Shoreline, you are already as far away as just about any part of the DC system. Yet you have miles and miles to go before you get to Everett! What is true to the north is true to the south. That is BART like. It is more BART like than BART. Fremont California may be way out there — it may (and is) too far to justify a major rail investment — but at least it is reasonably dense. Everett isn’t. Even Tacoma isn’t.

        Nor is the city any better. Again, this is nothing like what DC has. DC has miles and miles of criss-crossing light rail lines, which enable you to get anywhere to anywhere within the city. With ST3 you still can’t get from Northgate to Ballard quickly, despite the fact that they are two of the most densely populated areas in the state, and despite the fact that light rail goes to both locations!

        It is pretty obvious what you should do, based on various systems around the world. Focus on making travel within the densely populated areas really easy and fast. That is my point. This doesn’t do that. This fails, and fails miserably.

  4. “One of the advantages to a regional package is that Sound Transit can concentrate its cashflow on particular priority projects while others are building up capital”

    Even within Seattle, ST isn’t doing this. Their proposal has West Seattle opening a full 5 years before the second downtown tunnel, even though the train would be truncated in SODO with a forced transfer (on top of an additional forced transfer for those taking a bus to the train) to get anywhere useful.

    The timeline should be the other way around. In my opinion, the most important part of the project is the tunnel underneath downtown/Belltown/SLU/Lower Queen Anne – this is what is sorely needed yesterday to bypass the worst of the traffic congestion.

    While not ideal, an interim configuration like this would be manageable for a few years, just like an interim configuration for U-district->downtown riders where Link ends at Husky Stadium is manageable for a few years. During this period, the D-line would probably continue on downtown, anyway, to serve Belltown, but with a high-quality train transfer available to Lower Queen Anne, perhaps the LQA deviation could at least be eliminated. Meanwhile, the C-line could be rerouted to First Hill instead of SLU, once a subway already exists from SODO to SLU.

    1. the D-line would probably continue on downtown, anyway, to serve Belltown, but with a high-quality train transfer available to Lower Queen Anne, perhaps the LQA deviation could at least be eliminated.

      This is also how I see it playing out. Once the LQA station goes in, the D is rerouted to serve belltown. But envisioning exact belltown routings & future development might be premature until we see how the neighborhood shapes up with the Battery Street Tunnel approaches removed.

      Meanwhile, the C-line could be rerouted to First Hill instead of SLU, once a subway already exists from SODO to SLU.

      This, on the other hand, I don’t see happening. I can’t imagine Metro sinking any expensive service hours into crossing the Duwamish with buses once west-side truncation is possible, especially with the Viaduct and the Seneca/Columbia ramps disappearing in 2 years time, and all buses getting dumped onto surface streets at Atlantic. C maybe gets extended southward to meet up with the F, possibly, but First Hill is going to be a two-transfer ride from southern West Seattle.

      1. I was envisioning an interim configuration where Link went from SODO to Interbay, only, so buses would still have to cross the Duwamish to get to it. Once the buses get to SODO, you may as well send them somewhere useful, and if the train goes to downtown and South Lake Union, that useful place may as well be First Hill (via the southern half of downtown).

    2. It would be interesting to see a timeline with West Seattle last. But part of the impetus for West Seattle is the Viaduct about to come down and West Seattle buses about to get a slowdown, not to mention the disruption while the waterfront is rebuilt and the transit lanes installed. Ballard doesn’t have anything like that, and even the problems with the existing D and 15 are arguably not as big.

      1. Which is all the more reason to get the second downtown tunnel done first. If it exists, the train tracks will have to go south at least to SODO, if for no other reason than to connect to the existing maintenance facility. If the trains are going through SODO anyway, they can have a stop, and that stop could become a transfer point for bus riders, which would avoid whatever mess happens when the viaduct comes down. The crossing of the Duwamish doesn’t get any worse when the viaduct comes down, and already has bus lanes.

    3. Can this be done with prioritizing Ballard-UW and West Seattle spurs first, and then putting the downtown tunnel at the very end? This would mean stations like LQA & Denny would be pushed back 10+ year, but I think getting service to farther out Seattle neighborhoods is more important because taking the bus from the near neighborhoods (QA, 1st hill) isn’t bad b/c the physical distance is minimal.

      I think ST staff is worried about overcrowding on the single tunnel, but in the interest of expediting all other projects, we can push the 2nd downtown tunnel to the end of the ST3 package. Is it worth getting service to Ballard 5 years earlier if that means the tunnel is packed for a few years?

      1. If you’d said Ballard-Elliott it would be more feasable, but Ballard-UW has a fallacy that ST has repeatedly and emphatically refused to accept it as an alternative this round. We should still tell them to do so this comment period, but doing that the past few years hasn’t budged them an inch.

        Doing the tunnel first has some advantages, in that it puts rapid transit where buses are least competitive and ridership is highest. Having buses from Ballard and West Seattle connect to the new tunnel would be a more effective interim step than having trains to Elliott and SODO. There’s also the SLU-downtown and SLU-Pioneer Square ridership which would come along with the proposed tunnel. And if the Madison station is pushed east toward First Hill, SLU-First Hill ridership would come along too. (Shh, don’t tell the City Center Connector; it’ll get an inferiority complex.)

      2. They’re not going to “push the station toward First Hill”. That means two new undercrossings of I-5 and an even deeper station than Fifth would be. Look how many people are complaining about having to use three (long) levels of escalator to get out of HSS to the overpass. A station at Eighth or (heaven forbid) Ninth would take at least five levels or be as long as the Metro Red Line champion.

      3. Yes, I meant to say the First Hill option doesn’t look very likely at this point, since it’s not in ST’s concrete proposal.

      4. If they built UW to Ballard first (pushing back Ballard to downtown), I could vote for it, but as Mike said, that isn’t on the table.

    4. Building a second downtown tunnel is essentially what the WSTT would mean, except that you would run buses in it. Inside it would certainly be BRT (off board payment as well as level boarding). We are talking about dwell times under 20 seconds. Even that could be built in stages. Start with Elliot to SoDo. Add the spur to SR 99 later. Just that first piece would be a huge improvement and could probably be done in five years. At the same time, whatever surface improvements would be done for the train could be done for the bus (taking lanes, building a station underneath the Dravus overpass, etc.). West Seattle freeway improvements (extra ramps and meters) wouldn’t cost that much either (and might actually be completed first).

      The Ballard bridge would remain a problem, but eventually you get the Ballard to UW subway built and it isn’t as big of a deal. The only trip that would be significantly faster with a new bridge would be Ballard to Queen Anne, which while important, is not a very high priority (the Metro 8 would probably be built first). Eventually you could just build a higher bridge just for buses (and bikes).

      By the time all of that gets built and people use it, I think very few people would call for light rail inside the tunnel.

  5. ST3 as currently planned will fail. Its too much money to ask for at once and takes too long to complete. ST needs to focus on BRT. Outside of seattle, there is little or no desire for the kind of density that light rail is needed for. Quality BRT for west seattle to ID station and Ballard UW light rail should be included in ST3.

    1. I do understand the point you’re making. I guess I overreact when I hear West Seattle being somehow referred to as not part of Seattle,,or a suburb.

    2. The problem with West Seattle light rail extends beyond the density issue. You would really have to have extremely high population and business density (similar to the UW) to make it worthwhile. Even then, it is questionable. But here is why light rail isn’t a great idea for West Seattle, as I see it:

      1) Population is very spread out. So, yes, if the area around the stations looked like South Lake Union (full of both large office towers and apartment towers for a square mile around the station), then maybe it would make some sense. I doubt that it ever will. I doubt that there will ever by the volumes where light rail would make sense (especially since BRT can handle some pretty big loads if done right).

      2) Lack of interim destinations. North Link will mean that someone can get from Northgate to downtown very quickly. But not that much faster than the 41 (when the express lanes are going that direction). The trade-off is going to places like the UW and Capitol Hill are much faster. That really isn’t the case with the West Seattle line. You have a very expensive system, yet my guess is very few people will travel from one new station to the other — there are only three, and two of them are likely to be in very sparsely populated areas (limited by the freeway as well as parks).

      3) Lack of all day station to station travel. This is really an expansion on my last point. If you go to any busy subway in the world, you see people getting on and off everywhere all day long. As someone who routinely heads to West Seattle in the morning (and back in the evening) I can tell you very few people are doing that (traffic is rarely a problem).

      4) Extremely expensive per station. Again, there are only three stops, but to add those three, you need a huge bridge and a tunnel. That is a lot of miles of track for very few stops. This is the geographic reality of the situation. The Duwamish is huge, with nothing to speak of for a very long distance. It is about 2 miles from SoDo to Delridge (itself nothing but a feeder station) and nobody has suggested we add some stops. Because there is no point.

      5) Lack of complementary bus service. This is different than feeder bus service. In the case of feeder bus service, everyone just wants to go that direction. With complementary bus service, they want to go either direction on the train, or just stay on the bus. Both parts of this line (Ballard or West Seattle) lack this. It is very rare within our system (and where it exists, there have been execution problems, like at Mount Baker) which is why it hasn’t performed that well. Ballard to UW, on the other hand, would have this. If you are south bound on the E, for example, you can keep going (to downtown) or go to Ballard or the UW. All the areas are major destinations. That part of town is really the only area within our entire system that has a decent grid (again, because of the geography) as well as the wide spread density to support it. The biggest weakness is the east-west route (it averages in the single digits in the middle of the day) and a subway would solve that problem.

      6) Very good alternatives. If the freeway didn’t exist, then I think this would be a very different conversation (for one thing — West Seattle might indeed be a different city :) ). But the freeway exists, and can be leveraged for very good BRT service. It wouldn’t be cheap to make a grade separated route from the ramps to the WSTT, but it would not cost as much as a brand new bridge, let alone a bridge and a brand new tunnel. In my estimation it would cost around $100 million (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/08/03/build-real-brt-for-west-seattle/). Even if it was substantially more, it wouldn’t be as much as a rail line, since you wouldn’t have to build a tunnel (since buses can go up steep hills).

  6. What we need is light rail looping around I 405 and I 5 so people can go to Bellevue from Lynnwood for jobs and errands for example. Not everyone goes to Seattle.

    1. Bellevue to Lynnwood by light rail will be possible in 2023, whether or not ST3 passes, with total travel time around 45 minutes.

    2. Not everyone would ride light rail, either. For a trip like that, very few would. Overlapping bus service from the neighborhoods and along I-405 would make a lot more sense and be just as fast (if given similar treatment), run more frequently, cost a lot less and save more people more time.

  7. If you define a “core city” that’s comparable between Seattle and the Bay Area, ST looks a lot more like BART.

    The comparisons to BART are apt because, though I think we plan to do some things better, we really are repeating some of their conceptual errors. How often do you exit a BART train and walk right into a walkable suburban downtown, and how often do you exit a BART train, trudge through a Fred Meyer-sized parking lot, and then out along some unreformed “stroad”? BART had that 20th-century built environment handed to it, just as we do, and the disappointment is how little BART did to change it. When you’re building right up against the freeway, and you’re not willing to do major freeway surgery, there’s only so much that can be done. Why should we think we can do the same thing and get a different result?

    This sort of transit isn’t totally useless. Daly City and Lynnwood are both important transfer locations. But their ability to go beyond this is limited by elements of the built environment that we are unwilling to change. The same utility might be delivered much cheaper if we didn’t have to build whole new track structures to do it — if we could get a little support from the state to make I-5 work seamlessly for transit. Because we can’t we have to spend many billions on more complex infrastructure. Maybe an example from the “core city” brings it home — at Northgate we’ll spend millions on a pedestrian bridge to mitigate one tiny part of the damage done by the 20th-century national freeway-building craze, and we’ll use local pedestrian, bike, and transit funding to do it!

    By comparison, Move Seattle is a mandate to overhaul Seattle’s arterial transit lines by reforming the streets. Fully using the existing infrastructure instead of adding more when we’re struggling to maintain what we have. Again, though, we’d need more state support to actually get Move Seattle on a regional scale, and even Move Seattle, with a fairly supportive transportation agency, could get watered down.

    1. The difference is that, due to a confluence of extreme NIMBY influence and tax distortions caused by decades of prop 13’s malignancy, Bay Area suburbs are incentivized to build anything but compact, walkable mixed use redevelopment with strong residential components. Office parks and parking garages and nothing else.

      We don’t suffer from the same problem: some on here love to scoff at the idea of suburban mixed use, but the municipalities are zoning for it and if the market delivers the outlying ST stops won’t look like BART’s.

      1. Oh, yeah, there’s zoning. There’s tons of high zoning in many of our freeway-destroyed places. That’s a legacy of freeways plowing through places where high zoning makes sense, and of zoning high near interchanges to provide better car access — nothing particularly progressive. Why would you expect the market to build for pedestrian access in places where the infrastructure is stacked against it?

        I don’t scoff at suburban mixed use — it’s absolutely necessary! But mixed-use at a pedestrian scale requires support from public infrastructure, and it just isn’t very compatible with freeway interchanges. There are real opportunities here to build great suburban centers that aren’t dominated by the roar of the freeway and cut off by ramps, and we’re mostly squandering them — the cities themselves as well as ST. This is largely true of the Bay Area, too, on top of their many other problems.

      2. “I don’t scoff at suburban mixed use — it’s absolutely necessary! But mixed-use at a pedestrian scale requires support from public infrastructure,”

        It requires both public and private changes. We have to acknowledge that the new clusters at the Ash Way P&R and Canyon Park are a step in the right direction: they’re denser and more mixed-use than the previous generation of development there. But it’s not enough, just as downtown Bellevue is not enough. Ash Way and Canyon Park need to work on putting things within walking distance of each other, and getting rid of surface parking or at least putting out of pedestrians way (like in the back). Bellevue needs to work on its parking minimums, because even though garages are better than surface parking, they still push destinations further apart than they’d otherwise be, and thus make it less easy or pleasant to get between them without driving.

      3. Ron, the Bay Area actually has many more quality, walkable commercial downtown centers than the Puget Sound. Aside from SF, Berkeley and Oakland, there are about a dozen quality, walkable commercial centers between San Francisco and San Jose and several more in the East Bay and even Marin. The problem is BART doesn’t go to the vast majority of these, and even when it does (e.g. Downtown Walnut Creek), it’s on the periphery and surrounded by a huge parking lot. Caltrain hits at or near a lot of these downtowns and other walkable districts along the Penninsula, but that’s a commuter rail that – despite running all day – is still low frequency for much of the day.

        We honestly lack the bones and the commercial centers that the Bay Area has – there are tons of places like, Shoreline, Lynnwood and Federal Way that currently have nothing resembling a walkable district. I hope and am cautiously optimistic that Link will help change that.

      4. Downtown Bellevue has a good deal of the public infrastructure necessary, mixed in with a good deal of public infrastructure that makes walking miserable. Downtown Seattle has some of that going on, and SLU in spades.

        I used to go through Canyon Park and Ash Way pretty regularly… Ash Way is in the middle of a parking lot, backed up against a freeway that can only be crossed at one of the worst interchanges in the region. So far, then, the development has stayed west of the freeway. New apartments are fine (though, sadly, they pay the air quality penalty by being shoved up against the freeway). I think they’re only residential, but they’re a quick walk from a school, the bus station, and a few little businesses — so not half bad. You can imagine more apartment complexes between Ash Way and I-5, but to really make much out of the station’s walkshed (the little area between the freeway, 164th, and the swamp) they’ll need public street infill. Nobody has much of an appetite for that these days. Across the freeway lies more high zoning and one of the longest bike trails in the region… but crossing it on foot is more tens of millions.

        I’ve lived in the South Bay, and there are some things I liked about Canyon Park when I worked there in contrast to that. But it’s definitely the part of the world that “goes ’round at .4 FAR”, and the walkshed of the station is funneled down severely by a freeway, a near-freeway, their interchange, and a residential cul-de-sac.

        Even here on the west coast we have older suburban downtowns with the public infrastructure to really grow into great public places. This is a random place I stayed in the suburbs of London while waiting to catch a flight the next morning. That’s suburban mixed use. This could all, physically, be built here over time; the buildings and infrastructure are mostly pretty modest. But it wouldn’t be built around a freeway interchange. Note the High Street pedestrian mall (and all the people on it, also true in person, even early in the morning), a block away from English Wal-Mart. The neighborhood can survive a giant parking lot! But scroll north to the M4 and you’re back in America Land. On the other hand, you can put a big mixed-use building next to a BART station, but can you get across or even down the road? Zoning is just a number. The kind of infrastructure change we need takes will we don’t have, and so many of our proposed stations are right by intensely awful infrastructure.

      5. (All the places I linked to images of are places I’ve been at least once. I’ve had lunch at a cafe in that building in Colma, I’ve climbed around the barrier between the cemetery driveway and the crosswalk, and I actually have walked somewhere from the Daly City BART station: a rental car agency. But that’s another story.)

      6. In an ideal world our rail stations would look like the ones on Vancouver’s Expo and Millennium line with a cluster of tall towers at each. Of course to make this work we really need to not build stations right next to giant limited access highways.

      7. That’s an example of transit-adjacent development: something that could have been TOD but it’s designed without integration to the transit stop. The stuff in Canyon Park is like that too (along the road as well as the office park): it’s multistory apartments that could be pedestrian-friendly to the adjacent bus stops and future Swift stations, but it isn’t. Everything is funneled to one car entrance.

      8. Also, you do realize that there are more than 10 Bay Area cities that are not SF which have way higher density that anything in our region (except Seattle)? The Bay Area as a whole is far, far more compact than the Seattle Metro area.

    2. Al, questions from BART territory:

      Bay Point Station serves Pittsburg and Antioch (California). Both towns seemed to me to be wonderful places to live. Great scenery. BART could use some better bus connections, but not a deal-breaker. Why are both places ghost towns?

      I really think that BART has made a lot of the Bay Area into a single city- meaning it’s faster to get between stations than through whole cities same width elsewhere.

      So I wonder if BART’s service area has been about fifty years’ slow in developing to BART’s capacity? Which could mean that in fifty more years, a whole very large region could be very glad they don’t have to start from scratch.

      Packed freeways mean to me that thousands of us live our work-lives across half a dozen subareas. So little patience with inter-neighborhood arguments. Neighborhood borders, city, county, and State lines? In 50 years, less visible than they are now. About like last winter’s lane dividing stripes.

      Mark

      1. Making it easier to go between stations than to the surrounding neighborhoods is a characteristic of a lot of transit networks, and it’s a quantum level higher with the freeways. Connecting bus service is not BART’s fault but AC Transit’s, Contra Costa Transit’s, and SamTrans’s. BART comes every 5-15 minutes in most cases, so why are buses only every 30 minutes? (Because they’re only coverage routes for the poor, clearly.) That’s losing an incredible opportunity: balanced service levels between BART and the local buses would make a huge difference in mobility in the East Bay and penninsula, and turn them more into something like Queens or Jersey City or central LA which would be a major improvement.

        My friend who had in Seattle for a few years (originally from the East Coast) got a job offer in San Francisco. He looked into apartments and found the closest he could afford was Hayward, and even that was a closet. So he could take BART to SF and Oakland, but getting around Hayward or other East Bay areas was significantly more difficult and required driving. The same organization had a job opening in Sacramento so he took that instead, where he could get a roomy condo right in the city near the light rail and get to the rest of the city more easily, and he could take Amtrak to SF once or twice a month for fun. If we imagine that part of Sacramento is comparable to Hayward and Walnut Creek and Pittsburgh and Dublin and part of Oakland, why don’t those cities have a transit network (and land use) closer to Sacramento’s?

      2. Are Pittsburgh and Antioch really ghost towns? I’ve never been to either. I once tried to go to Walnut Creek on BART to see what it’s like, but I only got to Orinda and it had already taken half an hour so I turned back. What I’ve heard is that Walnut Creek is a successful and improving city, growing in population and urbanism. Are Pittsburgh and Antioch different?

      3. BART does not yet go to Downtown Pittsburg or Antioch. e-BART will; it will be a DMU with less frequent service and new, exclusive track.

        Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and Concord have some mid-rise towers under 10 stories but they are nowhere close to Downtown Bellevue or Siuth Lake Union in terms of density.

      4. Yes.

        Bay Point area (East Contra Costa) developers only know how to build single family homes. It’s tragic.

        They even have to build a separate eBART connection station. It’s not pretty. At least Central Pittsburg is trying to do something better than park-and-ride. The only saving grace is that it’s not BART technology or service levels.

      5. By the way, what’s the story behind the long stationless gaps in the Dublin line? It was a pleasant surprise going through ten minutes of country. The first time I didn’t notice any houses at all, but the second time I saw a few farmhouses. I assume it must be all protected farmland or a park? Later I heard there was a station that was deferred, which is now on the map (West Dublin). Are other stations or development expected, or will both sides around Castro Valley be empty forever?

    3. Comparing BART’s and Link’s station areas has value but it’s a detail compared to Martin’s more fundamental comparison of the systems. Link goes entirely through the city on its primary axis, which is also the primary ridership/traffic corridor. Downtown-UDistrict and north and south to both of them is the overwhelmingly biggest need, Rainier Valley has the most transit-dependent people, and north of Northgate is within a mile of the ideal alignment (Aurora). That gives somebody in Wallingford or even Ballard access to the majority of places they would on average go even without another line. BART serves only a quarter of San Francisco, and while the Market-Mission corridor is important it’s not the overwhelming largest like downtown-UDistrict is. Getting from the west end of Geary, which probably surpasses Mission in trips, requires taking a bus slowly across most of the city because BART doesn’t go there.

      BART was built in the early 1970s when walkable station villages was not even a minor priority of city planners or politicians, and was another thirty years before it finally became a priority. That gives Pugetopolis less excuse as you say, but let’s at least solve the problems the region is willing to tackle now while still trying to persuade them to make better decisions in the longer term. It’s becoming increasingly obvious to suburban cities that their economic future depends on centers like downtown Bellevue; that isolated office parks and malls have gone as far as they can. Kirkland, Federal Way, and Des Moines are taking longer to get the clue memo but they probably will.

      State support for transit is not related to the ST3 issue before us because we can’t make the state invest more in transit. The state did what it was willing to do by authorizing the ST3 taxes; i.e., it did as little as it could get away with. Changing that requires getting voters in exurban and rural districts to vote for somebody else.

      There is an opening now to get cities to support Move Kirkland, Move Bellevue, Move Kent, Move Renton, etc, measures. Bellevue has the master plans, and while it hasn’t been ready to go the fundraising step, a little nudge from residents might get it going. Kent and Renton have a more tax-adverse and lower-income public, but it’s worth planting the seeds now. But these all really address local transit: they’re not directly relevant to whether ST3 is good or bad or should be modified.

      1. When I mention Move Seattle I’m referring to a regional agency taking that approach to the sorts of long-distance problems they are trying to solve: reforming the freeways to support transit in a first-class way, with minimal hard infrastructure expansion. This can’t be done because the state isn’t willing to reallocate space currently used for private cars, and doing it properly would require reallocating a lot of space currently used for private cars. ST is forced to spend a ton of money as a result.

        And ST is forced next to the freeways (but still not in a way that leverages much of the existing infrastructure) by myopic city leaders that don’t want anything disrupting the status quo anywhere else. So that’s not their fault either, I guess. Oh, well.

        At some point the political constraints kill the cost-benefit ratio, and the fact that it’s not all ST’s fault doesn’t change that. I don’t know if ST3 is there or not. It’s a lot of frustrating stuff with some silver linings.

      2. (It certainly is important that our region is laid out like it is, that so much travel demand goes north-south to downtown and UW. The Bay Area doesn’t have a single dominant axis like that, certainly not within SF.)

    4. Even when it does go through suburban stations many times more dense than ours (e. g. the stop around Fremont California) it still doesn’t pick up huge numbers of people. Even though it is essentially an express, Not everyone in Fremont is heading out of town, and not everyone is headed along the handful of stations that BART has. I’m sure there are people in Fremont that drive to Oakland, because the set of stations just don’t work for them. In general BART is not that successful outside of the core. Not because the other areas don’t have pockets of density, but because they are too far away from the areas that have continuous density.

      You are absolutely right, Al, we can learn a lot from all these systems. Don’t build BART, build something like DC built. Of course we can’t afford that, so we should build what Vancouver has. It is funny not to see that system listed, since the two cities are very similar to each other (a lot more similar than the other ones listed).

      Also, to suggest (as others have) that Bay Area transit is not very urban because only a handful of stations exist within the city proper ignores not only the geographic differences of the region, but an entire subway system (Muni Metro).

      1. MUNI Metro is a significantly lower quality of service compared to BART. Its speed is good in the grade-separated sections but it’s as slow as molasses when it hits the street, which is at least half of most lines. It’s less frequent than BART and you have to transfer to go outside the city. There should be a BART line to the northwest part of the city around Geary, and to the north of the city around the Marina district. Where they would go on the other end I don’t know but the planners can look at that. And they should have started building them thirty years ago.

      2. San Francisco has not significantly raised the height limits for the entire northwest part of the City, including outer Geary. The new taller buildings in that part of town are pretty much restricted to the Van Ness corridor. The opportunity for growth a big reason why the T-Third line and the Central Subway were chosen to be the most recent rail investments 20 years ago. Zoning keeps many more units from being added in Northwest San Francisco west of the Van Ness corridor.

        A note on Marin as well: West Marin used to be planned for dense urban development, but the environmental activists won the day in the 1960’s and 1970’s so that Marin is one of the slowest growing counties in the Bay Area. Most of the county is in the Marin Water District, and the district keeps a lid on growth because the local voters won’t approve bonds to import more permanent water, resulting in more growth.

        With Silicon Valley job growth, the commute patterns to/from the south are almost even these days (as opposed to when most San Mateo residents commuted into San Francisco). Thus, the only way to mathematically get more workers to jobs in San Francisco is mostly a challenge from the East Bay. Hence, the topic of the video!

      3. Good point, Martin. It pretty much proves my point. The numbers for BART look great because MUNI Metro is slow. Mass transit functions best in an urban, close knit environment. If San Fransisco had the speed inside the city of BART, and an extra line (and more stations) for Oakland/Berkeley (instead of the miles of rail outside it) then ridership would be much, much higher.

  8. After reading this, I see why the SLU subway segment is needed. I just hope that its construction doesn’t become too problematic.

    http://m.seattlepi.com/local/article/10-tower-projects-Seattle-growth-business-7218759.php

    I also think it would be a good idea to call the project the Northwest Subway rather than just the subway to Ballard. Voters see only Ballard in the name and don’t fully register it is serving a much bigger future market, and serving Ballard is less critical than SLU and LQA.

    1. The other truism here is that Ballard-to-UW would not serve SLU at all, and that U-Link couldn’t handle the added riders anyway. While all projects have merit, the Northwest subway is objectively more beneficial.

      1. Hear hear. Neither SLU nor Expedia.

        Who exactly works in downtown Wallingford to justify the glowing pipe dreams of people commuting from Lake City or Lynnwood who’ll be so advantaged by a Ballard-UW line?

        [Crickets].

        Because there aren’t any jobs that are going to attract commuters from Lake City or Lynnwood in Ballard. It’s a massively net out-migration in the morning place.

      2. “Wallingford or Ballard”, not just “Wallingford”. A dumb mistake for which I apologize.

      3. Off the top of my head:

        Wallingford: Brooks, Tableau
        Fremont: Google, Tableau, ProQuest
        Ballard: Swedish (as well as dozens of clinics around them).

        Ballard employment is likely to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years, as more office buildings are added. It will never be downtown Seattle, nor will it ever be the UW, but few places will. The UW is a major employer, a major university, and a major entertainment district. Employment is likely to grow substantially in the coming years (as soon as they figure out how many office buildings to allow).

        In general fixating on the employment centers is taking the wrong approach. No successful subway system in the world works like that. On every good line, you can ride it in the middle of the day, and wonder why the hell twenty people got on and twenty people got off. Do they work there? Are they visiting a friend? Are they shopping, drinking or eating? All of the above. Welcome to the big city.

        @Al — The other truism here is that Ballard-to-UW would not serve SLU at all

        Neither would this. The only stations in the area are on Denny, which is only a few blocks away from Westlake Station. Don’t get me wrong — if I was designing this line I would certainly add those stops — but if you think this is some sort of game changer for the region, you will be sadly disappointed. The Roosevelt BRT, if built to the standard they call “Full BRT” (https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/01/09/support-full-brt-with-roosevelt-hct/) would provide better service, and a Metro 8 subway most certainly would.

        U-Link couldn’t handle the added riders anyway

        Absolute nonsense. Even by ST’s wildly inflated numbers (which have always been inflated) it is nonsense: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/03/21/capacity-limitations-of-link/

        Anyway, this is a silly argument because we really don’t have to choose between the two. Build the WSTT first. Then build the Ballard to UW subway. Now you have just as much service for the greater downtown area (Belltown and South Lake Union) as you would with this subway, but with more frequent service. You still have the lower Queen Anne station, and just about everything that this subway added (and then some). Then, after that you start work on the Metro 8 subway.

        In many ways, that is what pisses me off about this proposal. Those who think that the first thing we should build is the Metro 8 have to wait. They have to wait for all of this, then the Ballard to UW line. That is nuts. That is a huge amount of money before we build what is arguably the best light rail segment other than UW to downtown (which Sound Transit managed to screw up by not putting in enough stations). I’m OK with building the Metro 8 before Ballard to UW, but I sure don’t like building this line before either one of them. I think it is quite likely that if we build this, that will be it, which means that for the vast majority of trips in this town, driving will continue to be the only reasonable option.

      4. The continued fixation on the commute to job centers (something transit already does pretty well) and relieving congestion during rush hour is partially why transit mode share outside of those times and much of our built environment are veritable garbage. Most trips in the region are not to and from work nor are they trips that happen everyday. Our networks are not designed or being designed with the flexibility necessary to make them an option outside of going to and from major centers. This is not because transit can’t perform well in lower density areas; networks actually perform better when travel patterns are decentralized/randomish. There is very little in this package that will work to change the way transit is thought of and used.

      5. Are you suggesting that we give up on the rail drawbridge hassle and expense, end the SLU Green Line at Elliott and Harrison, and build a segment from Ballard-to-UW instead?

      6. A Metro 8 Subway delivers passengers to the current U-Link line from Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union. It probably does more to serve either place than the proposed Ballard to downtown line does because of the sheer number of connections that it allows.

        Going south into downtown? Transfer at Capitol Hill?
        Going south even further? Avoid the overcrowded tunnel stations and continue south to the Mt. Baker station.
        Going east? Transfer to an I-90 bus.
        Going north? Transfer to any of a dozen different routes that cross this.
        Going home to West Seattle from Seattle Opera (see several complaints from a commenter that has this very issue)? Go east and you are delivered quickly to a bus route going there.

        Ballard to Downtown is then free to go direct through Belltown and not cast into concrete the skipping of another very important area.

        I’ve seen how busy the 44 is and there is no question in my mind that thing needs to be a subway, but there might be more political support for the Metro 8 due to the impact it would have on all the surrounding areas. As awful as Mercer and Denny are for buses and the lack of any good way to improve them for faster transit, I don’t see anything happening through there anytime soon without a subway.

    2. “Increases in rent seem to be easing”

      I just got my rent increase, $100. It’s not an awful 10% like it was earlier, but it’s not an “increases are easing” 3% or 0% either. The interesting thing is that two units on my floor have been empty for over a month. I thought that might ease the price pressure, but apparently not enough yet.

    3. The problem is, this doesn’t serve the area better than the WSTT. Consider these two maps:

      http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/WSTT-Initial-Service-Pattern.jpg
      http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/29154032/SDOT_Ballard-DT-corrected.png

      The trade-off is pretty simple. Belltown versus Denny/Westlake. That is a wash, in my book. A few things to consider. Both those stops are close enough to poach some other riders (from SR 99 and Belltown). The station at Denny really isn’t in the heart of South Lake Union — it is only a few blocks north of Westlake. Second, the area by SR 99 will someday fill in (when Bertha is done digging). This will mean that there is likely to be a very fast, frequent bus going east/west.

      Speaking of which, the Roosevelt BRT will serve South Lake Union more thoroughly, and at great speeds, if we decide we want to spend that much money on it: https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/01/09/support-full-brt-with-roosevelt-hct/. Calling the station South Lake Union only gives the illusion that it will serve the bulk of South Lake Union transit riders, which it obviously will not.

      1. Ross,

        It’s going to be in the effyouseeking BASEMENT of Amazon. I think that counts for something. Those buildings are actually being built, whereas there are a lot of vaporware towers with pretty prospecti scattered around which may or may not actualize.

        The whole idea of SLU is “step down to the water” so every building has a least a few floors with a lake view. That means that closer to the lake the buildings will be smaller. Mire the new Googleplex for an example.

      2. Just out of curiosity, do we expect Bezos / Amazon to lobby for faster timeframes or send a letter regarding the draft ST3. Would they put n money for a pro ST3 campaign using the current draft?

      3. Good point about the step down, but that still doesn’t negate the fact that the stop is less than half a mile from Westlake Station. If anything, it proves my point. For many people, Westlake Station will be a better stop.

        For example, Amazon Tower I is at 2021 7th Avenue. Amazon II will be at 2101 7th Avenue. Both of these are pretty much midway between the two stations. So, no, that doesn’t mean a freakin’ thing to me.

        Again, it just proves my point. Draw a circle around the new station at Westlake and Denny. To the east you have park land. To the south you almost immediately get into a zone that is better served by Westlake Station (or at best, a wash). It is only to the north — an area you claim is not as important — that you start gaining substantial ridership.

        Again, as I said above, I would certainly add this station. But let’s not get carried away and think this is the reason the line will be even remotely popular. It will serve greater downtown as well as Queen Anne (just like the WSTT would) and make for a fairly quick trip from Ballard. But those stops aren’t all that. They won’t dramatically change the area. In some ways, they remind me of a couple stations, one lost and one we never bothered to build. The first is a station at Madison, which the bus tunnel folks considered, but lacked the money to fund. Is this the end of the world, even though buildings a lot higher than Amazon’s are in the area? Of course not. People will just have to walk a couple extra blocks. I would love to have that station, but it isn’t a deal breaker. Same with Convention Place Station. Of course this is a huge loss, but no one is talking about spending billions so we can get it back.

    4. Just like the Forward Thrust plan named its routes: Northwest, Northeast, East, South, and West Seattle.

  9. 1. Re: Sound Transit’ route picking and rail-building: “Compared to what, and where else?” For fair competition, I’d count the hill towns of Portugal and San Francisco. Anybody can build and operate anything anywhere wide and flat.

    2. Re: “BRT”: Term is false advertising without exactly same structure and operating conditions as rail. Except heavier structure, and buses that can be coupled. Also sand and plow trucks the size of the ones Pittsburgh transit owns. Which in Pittsburgh clear fully-reserved roadways, on inherited rail routes.

    3: Fifty- years projects: However sloppily our DSTT has been operated, its concept gave us 20 years of transit progress, carrying passengers stop-light and weather-free under Downtown Seattle from the get-go. Let’s talk with taxpayers about rail lines grown from bus-lines.

    New batteries and chargers mean no noise, fumes, or trolley-poles. Not possible every track and tunnel. But let’s check which ones could handle. Heavier and wider structure might be fair trade-off for earlier use.

    4. Re: Overdue funding source: The Interstate system and everything transit-hostile it spawns has “National Defense” in its title. And very morning’s traffic reports and WSDOT camera footage show miles of a death trap with shields on its highway signs.

    So for starters, at least one clear transit lane is a fifty years overdue “Security” measure. Rush hour, every shield-wearing lane in King County. Because right now, no terrorist even needs a blasting cap. Just Twitter account to take credit for result of any fender bender. Right, Senators? And Representatives?

    And my neighbors the officer corps at JBLM, who technically own the convoy route passing their gates, presently used to park cars?

    Mark Dublin

  10. Where does the 525K ST rider estimate come from? Is it system entries and exits, line boardings or a sum of all the data on each extension? Those create very different totals. Frankly, the most at-capacity light rail subway line segments in San Francisco (Muni Metro tunnel) and Boston (Green Line) can’t physically push more than 200K through on a weekday as total line ridership.

    The BART and DC numbers are system entries and exits, so an ST comparison should be the same thing.

    1. I now realize that Muni Metro and Boston’s Green line are mostly one- directional and the use smaller rail cars and trains, unlike Link. Still, the capacity limits are notable.

      1. Chris,

        Very good point. As a collector/distributor for SLU and LQA (broadly defined) Northwest Link will get lots of short hops to and from The Spine. But the “main stem” north of Expedia will not be all that much better than West Seattle Link. “West Seattle” (also broadly defined to include Arbor Heights and White Center) may be weak on density, but it is considerably larger than the area between the Ship Canal and 105th west of Phinney Ridge.

      2. Probably true that without Ballard/UW the NW line ridership north of Expedia will be less than West Seattle ridership (at least based on all buses crossing the West Seattle bridge vs all buses using 15th NW/Elliott. Then again most of the expense in the Ballard/Downtown line is for the tunnel between IDS and LQA (where most of the ridership is). Also some of the Ballard/Downtown ridership is simply moving the South Line ridership from the DSTT to the new tunnel.

    2. I’m having a hard time with these comparisons. We’re saying you can take a light rail system with maximum four-car trains and only a minimal network (because we’ve chosen to build long spines instead of a denser grid), and we’re going to get similar ridership as heavy rail systems do today with 8-10 car trains and a more traditional network? I’m having trouble seeing that.

      1. At least regarding train cars, a single Link car is articulated, and about twice the size of typical subway cars (e.g. New York, Chicago).

      2. “Typical” subway cars in New York are a bit of a red herring, since there are three different sizes in large-scale deployment (51, 60 and 75 feet)—post-war subways (BART, WMATA) seem to run toward the higher end of that range, but I think the El and the Boston Green and Blue lines are toward the bottom. I really wouldn’t want to put a single Link car up against two R142‘s for total capacity, though, even if they are pretty similar in length.

    3. To put out an example:

      If a rider that was taking a CT bus to Lynnwood and riding Link to Downtown Seattle gets to get on Link in Everett instead, there is not any gain of ridership; it’s just that Link is carrying a longer trip distance.

      If a rider that was taking a Metro bus from Ballard to Westlake, and riding Link to SeaTac gets to get on Link in Ballard and transfer at Westlake for a train to SeaTac, there is not any gain of ridership; it’s just Link is carrying a longer trip distance.

      I wonder if ST trips like these are double-counted or even triple-counted.

      1. Good point. I think it is quite possible they are double or triple counting. I seem to remember when they discussed the new line to Ballard, they got some really high numbers. These numbers only really make sense if you count transfers. If I’m riding the train from West Seattle, Rainier Valley or even the U-District, and I’m headed to South Lake Union, then I’ll transfer (inside the station) to that other stop. But if I’m standing right outside the Westlake Station, then I probably won’t bother. It is just a very short distance, and surface options have the advantage of being, well, on the surface (our stations are very deep). So if you want to see if the stations along Denny make sense, then of course you count this.

        But if you want to count system riders, then you don’t. Or at least, you shouldn’t (because no one else counts it that way).

        In any event the numbers are ridiculously inflated. It is crazy to think that our system would exceed BART, when our system is way more suburban (and our cities have way less density). This is way less functional than SkyTrain (in so many ways) yet SkyTrain carries less than 400,000. The numbers are absurd and show once again that ST doesn’t know what they are doing when it comes to planning (even their estimates are ridiculous)

  11. As to:

    There is no “go it alone” approach, even assuming the legislature would allow it, that magically brings more funding and speeds up timelines. The only reason to reject on these grounds is if one is willing to make Seattle rail worse to deny it to the suburbs.

    Oh and denying light rail to the suburbs is going to quash support for future transit expansion, I can guarantee that right now. Well written Martin, time to get on with making ST3 better for ALL.

    The only people who truly want division politic on this are those that want a war on suburbs (aka affordable housing and quality neighborhoods) and those that want to stop transit altogether. Think about it…

    1. Quality neighborhoods? The ghettos in Seattle never were really ghettos, and the genuine problems in them (caused by official neglect) have been more than half fixed. There are people in Greenwood and Ravenna who are as rabidly enthusiastic about their neighborhoods as people in Mill Creek and Bothell are. The suburbs have lower-cost neighborhoods and more single-family houses available, but not necessarily higher quality neighborhoods.

      1. For thirty years, Ballard personified the quality I need to live in. Or say “qualities”. Honest, hard-working, intelligent small manufacture, and its whole spirit. Knowing the kind of people who’d work and live in such a place

        And also including an actual landlord who set rents he thought fair for his tenants, many both retired workers, and young people of above economy. As opposed to the speculator he had to sell it to. And swarms of similar forces who suddenly bought, with no consent of ours, what the rest of us had earned.

        But worse than the rent increases, a way of life so uninteresting that the most eye-rolling high-school girl can’t get in all the “o’s” between the “B” and the “ring!” A place like, along with South Lake Union, I wouldn’t live rent-free for life.

        For me, South Lake Union began its death-dive when the “Mokas” cafe, across Fairview from the car-barn went down for what’s still a parking lot. When “Kakao” goes, I’m going to to call command to see if the gunships coming back from the War on the Suburbs can level everything except the car-barn on their way back to the carriers.

        Fifty years ago, places like Bellevue and Kirkland could have become peaceful and productive places to live. Now their transportation is blocked beyond rescue with motionless cars, their farmland is suffocated and poisoned under concrete, their residents live in cheaply made houses for which they’ll be in debt their whole lives.

        And all their medics are pinned down trying to gently unroll 16-year-old girls’ eyeballs down from inside their skulls. Ask any defeated country. You always lose a war where so many of your people are collaborators. “We’re losing her, Hawkeye! Quick, get her on the chopper to where she can join the Ballard resistance!”

        Mark

  12. I feel I’m doing my part, my fair share to help everybody out with the below. But you tell me folks…

    April 2016 Everett Herald

    http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20160401/OPINION02/160409962/Bus-better-option-for-Paine-Field

    Bus better option for Paine Field

    I’m an aviation photographer who occasionally visits Paine Field. I do not believe the best solution for Paine Field is light rail to Paine Field, nor do many transit advocates who are quite capable of speaking up.

    Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick is right (March 26, “Leaders fume over Sound Transit’s 2041 Everett timeline”) that bus rapid transit to Paine Field from the Sound Transit spine is the best solution for Paine Field. Paine Field lacks the density to truly support light rail without a bus feeder network; but is very economically diverse and needs quality transit to most if not all of its destinations such as manufacturing, museums, general aviation hangars and flight schools now.

    Although I will not get to vote for ST3; I find it hard as a transit advocate to champion a ST3 that is slow in serving the Future of Flight with over 300,000 visits last year and does not connect Sound Transit’s spine destiny to Mukilteo. There is also the sensitive matter of traffic mitigation for any commercial terminal at Paine Field seemingly absent from public discussion.

    There you go.

  13. About BART Bay Point line. I doubt that BART buys the idea isn’t responsible for bus service critical to its own success. More likely the bad service results from long-term light ridership. Which is my own main question.

    Need some local history. Downtown Pittsburg has a statue of a cannery worker, and I was told the cannery employed a lot of people. In addition to polluting a lot of the Bay. Maybe despite nice parks, swimming bad idea. Would explain a lot, since Pittsburg and Antioch are both places I’d move to.

    Got off the train? Boy, where’s CSI Walnut Creek when we need it! Coming from somebody with KC Metro experience, not a credible excuse about the headless Confederate officer in a girdle found by a railroad track (not BART). Let alone the coyote who’d been shot while throwing up on a highway before being run over by a semi. After going missing from an animal-impersonators convention in Vegas!

    However, Las Vegas does have a busway.

    Walnut Creek is more or less Alderwood Mall without a roof. Except that Pacific Bay Roasting is best espresso source, and cafe, south of the Oregon state line. But I really think large consideration in that whole area is water. The Bay doesn’t count. Has to add a lot to residential expense sprawl-wise. Though linear development along BART certainly possible.

    Mark

    1. If the buses can’t be in BART’s budget, I can’t see how BART is responsible for them. It may recognize the importance of walkable station areas on ridership and promote them to the cities as ST does; I don’t know about that. But if the cities don’t do it, I don’t see how that’s BART’s fault.

      1. Because BART rail cannot serve many corners of the far East Bay, BART does subsidize some of that local bus service. BART used to directly contract for the bus service in the early days, but now it goes to local operators, who get funding from a variety of sources.

        I would also note that the contracted services are not burdened by onerous labor provisions, so their operating costs are significantly lower than the nearby systems.

      2. I think you’re talking about the routes that extend from the BART termini to cities further out and I think are peak-only or weekday-only. I’m taking about feeder routes in Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, Fremont, etc.

  14. I actually generally agree with Martin’s overall sentiment, although I do have major issues with the draft plan.

    But the comparison with BART isn’t really honest. You’ve got to include Oakland and Berkeley in “core city stations”. Those two jurisdictions combined have a very similar urbanity and density to Seattle (SF is much more dense and urban). Their urban fabric and vibrancy is much like Seattle’s and nothing like Bellevue or any other Seattle suburb.

    So that would be a total of 18 stations in core cities (and one could argue 19 if you include Daly City, which is adjacent to SF and has a density of over 12K pp/sm.)

    In addition, there is a big difference between light rail and heavy rail – BART may have operational issues but nothing like the MLK section or the proposed Ballard alignment. These things change the nature of the system.

    1. I’m also not convinced of that figure for the DC Metro. The city of DC itself is not something that can be expanded. The founding square of DC is 10 miles on a side, minus the Virginia side of the river. It’s 61 square miles and despite the huge number of office buildings and monuments and other non-populated land it winds up being about 11,000 per square mile average for the city itself.

      Seattle itself is 142 square miles, and is about 8,000 per square mile.

      When the DC Metro crosses the border into Maryland or Virginia there are still an awful lot of stations that are pretty core metro area stations.

      1. Arlington was actually part of DC for 45 years in the early 1800’s. It was ceded back to VA because of issues around slavery in 1846.

      2. I think the land area of Seattle is somewhere around 83 sq mi, Glenn, although I agree with your point otherwise.

  15. Wow… That’s generous. The problem here is twofold. First, a decision was made very early in the process that rail to west Seattle was the non-negotiable highest priority for north king. Anyone worth eyes could see this, and several people had made that point here. Still, we were assured that everything would turn out fine. It hasn’t.

    Second, ST has made a decided that the current tunnel has inadequate capacity. I have yet to see a believable justification for their belief. In particular, 2 minute headways for 4 car trains gives capacity for somewhere between 15,000 and 18,000 per direction per hour. We probably will eventually get there, but not soon enough to justify this boondoggle.

    I might even be convinced that this new tunnel were a good idea of the opportunity were taken to fix the First Hill mistake. It is not. Instead ST see hell bent on building the mew tunnel as close as possible to the existing one.

    Bottom line though is that Ballard can’t get trains because they can’t get to the maintenance facility until the redundant tunnel is built. That’s where the stupid long time line comes from.

    As far as I’m concerned, all we really need from ST once ST is done is Ballard access and some sort of solution to the route 8 problems. The former is treated as an afterthought, and the latter is at best only partially addressed. Everything else is a nice to have…. In some cases a very nice to have, certainly nice enough to justify spending lots of money, but not so nice that losing sight of the main needs can be excused.

  16. This may have been pointed out before, but please note that 3 of the 4 systems compared are, or were proposed to be heavy rail subway systems. These run in 6-8 car consists of 75ft long vehicles, vs the maximum of 4? 90ft long car consists for Seattle. Not to mention added capacity due to level floor boarding, high floor vehicles, etc. So at the end of the day, you can put lipstick on a pig, but you still have a pig. Please keep this in mind when dreaming about Light Rail extensions to Everett and Tacoma.

  17. >>We have a time standard for Link: the 15X is 20-22 minutes. Link on Westlake-UW is 8 minutes, and U-District is estimated at 12 minutes. That gives an 8-minute budget for a Balllard-UW train and transfer. We may decide that exceeding 22 minutes to downtown is OK given the major Ballard-UW ridership market, the reliability of underground trains, and frequent all-day two-way service which doesn’t currently exist on the 15. For a Ballard-downtown line, it means that 10-15 minutes would be an excellent line, 15-20 minutes would be a good line, and 25+ minutes would be a bad line.<<

    I'm pretty sure Westlake-UW is supposed to be cut to 6 minutes when the buses are kicked out of the tunnel, and that Westlake-UDistrict will only be 8 minutes. It certainly won't be 12. It's only supposed to be 14 minutes Westlake-Northgate, and no way will UDistrict-Northgate only be 2 minutes, especially with the stop at Roosevelt in between.

  18. I’ll just say, that generally speaking, the suburban portion of ST3 should remain the same. Sure, you can change the schedules or how to serve Paine, but largely it’s what it should be.

    The Seattle portion, however, is poorly done and needs change. I would think Ballard-UW tunnel, second downtown tunnel, direct bus-ramps from West Seattle Bridge to Sodo busway, and various BRT work from downtown to Ballard would be better. And when I say BRT, I mean improve it so they can guarantee 35 MPH on streets and 45 MPH on highways at all times, and show the lines on the light rail maps as long as they meet those speed standards.

    On a side note, the 405 BRT, 522 BRT, and Tacoma Pacific BRT should also have these speed guarantees and appear in the light rail maps as light rail lines. Maybe also for Aurora/Evergreen.

  19. It’s a bit misleading to say that Seattle’s core has a similar share of stations to DC’s Metro system. The District of Columbia bleeds directly into very dense suburbs (Silver Spring, Bethesday, Arlington, etc.) that in most other cities would be part of the actual urban core city. DC only has 69 square miles. Seattle is not huge, but it is a little over 21% larger than DC with 84 square miles. So quite a bit of DC’s “suburban” ridership is very much an “urban” ridership. Here, those suburban stations are separated by a lake and are much further spread out. So I, as an urban core resident in Ballard, cannot support a system that does not truly address in a timely fashion the congestion and quality of life issues that are being caused by a lack of reliable public transit.

  20. I was disappointed at first that Ballard would be partially at grade, but according to the website it’s a 17 minute trip. Maybe it’s”at grade” but there won’t be actual intersections with traffic and will run at 50mph. In that case I think it’s fine.

    A lot of people seem obsessed with Ballard to uw, but the problem with that line is it requires two transfers for tech workers to get to slu from Ballard, and part of the trip would be on a slow streetcar that gets stuck in traffic. This line is a straight shot in less than 17 minutes. In addition to that it provides a fast route to other tech commuters coming in on light rail.

    Frankly both the Ballard uw line and metro 8 lines don’t make a lot of sense in terms of getting people to their jobs. they are just short neighborhood lines going through trendy parts of town. They also seem to follow existing bus routes closely, but light rail won’t stop nearly as often as the bus. Most people will still need to transfer from the light rail to the bus.

    Overall, I think sound transit’s map makes more sense the more I look at it, and the Seattle subway makes less sense.
    .

    1. You say “getting people to their jobs” which suggests that you are looking for a commuter system, in which case it makes sense that ST’s plan would appeal to you. The criticism is less that ST’s plan is a bad commuter system and more that a commuter system is not actually going to solve our transportation problem; what we need is a general-purpose urban transit network.

      1. Well, most of the traffic on a given day is people getting to and from work and school. That’s true of both people living in Seattle and people living in the suburbs.

        The downtown to ballard route is projected to have 114,000—145,000 riders a day. That’s amazing for a single 7 mile line. That’s way higher than any other line in this project, or any other line that’s been proposed for that matter.

        Seattle is a city of 600k people. We’ll never have a network like Manhattan or Tokyo where you can get everywhere via subway. However, we can build a network where the busiest routes are covered by light rail, and you only need to transfer from a short bus ride to the rail.

      2. The problem that I have with that ridership estimate is that they are probably not new riders. They will not only come from parallel Metro routes, but riders will shift from the other Downtown Link line. How many are new Link riders? How many are new transit riders period?

  21. FFS, compare the system to a decent city-focused system. BART and DC Metro are both infamous for their suburban sprawl mentality, due to being built in the 1960s and 1970s.

    Try looking at, oh, I don’t know, San Diego? Minneapolis? Or any of the prewar systems.

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