STC__Complete-v9_Full Artboard2Seattle Subway encourages all supporters of great transit in the Puget Sound region to include the following key points in their feedback to the Sound Transit board. Please email the board with your comments, as they are now due by Monday, May 2.

Dear Sound Transit Board Members,

Seattle Subway thanks the board for proposing a transit package that meets the scale of the need in the Central Puget Sound region. As an advocacy group favoring robust, high quality, high capacity transit investments throughout the three-county metropolitan area, we also appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback on the ST3 draft plan. In addition to our support of the principles of the Transit Access Stakeholders group to which we are a party, we wanted to provide additional emphasis on the following issues:


  • Grade separation in urban areas is essential
  • Collaboration to reduce timelines as much as possible is critical (involves Sound Transit, action by cities before the vote and community group support)
  • Regional infrastructure should be funded regionally
  • Plan for the future, and study appropriately to help the future arrive more quickly
  • Embrace reliable community partners
  • Win!


  • Regional Infrastructure: We should recognize that both Downtown Subway Tunnels will be regional assets. Reliability challenges, left unaddressed, will have impacts on the entire system. Train delays in the Interbay section will have direct impacts all along the Ballard to Tacoma line. Interruptions on this line during rush hour will also push overwhelming crowds–up to 100,000 daily riders–into the existing tunnel that serves Everett, Lynnwood, West Seattle and Bellevue/Redmond as riders crowd just one downtown subway tunnel. This points us to a key fact: the second tunnel in downtown Seattle is a regional asset, just as the original DSTT is (which was built and funded by King County voters in the 1980s for $455 million). Resourcing the tunnel as a regional asset can ensure funding available to resolve reliability issues north of the tunnel that will affect the entire system if left unaddressed.
  • Improving Timelines: We know Sound Transit staff are working to reduce timelines as much as reasonably possible. We note the following:
    • Ballard-SLU-Downtown is the highest ridership line in the region. Every effort must be made to get the delivery timeline without reducing quality.
    • Snohomish County residents have disapproved of the timeline to Everett. Their hunger for light rail immediately can be satisfied with building direct to Everett, providing initial BRT on the Paine Field loop, and constructing light rail from the spine to Paine Field at a later date. That said, an Everett alignment West of I-5 is preferable to best serve transit dependent communities. A freeway alignment has long term costs, undermining Everett’s potential as a thriving city more than the short term construction impacts of construction near denser, walkable areas where people actually live and work.
    • City Efforts. Sound Transit should outline specific actions that cities can take to speed delivery of projects by up to three years. If cities clamoring for light rail take action prior to June to maximize these timeline savings, then the delivery timelines of projects can reflect accordingly. Tacoma, Everett, Seattle and Issaquah all have the opportunity to make a difference here.
    • New Stations. While full light rail lines take time to construct, infill stations should be an early deliverable. With this in mind, Graham St station should be built much earlier and the construction of 130th St station should be guaranteed and delivered as soon after Lynnwood Link is finished as possible.
  • Grade Separation: The Ballard-SLU-Downtown line will be one of the highest ridership lines in America, with half the ridership in the downtown core coming from across the region. Sufficient funding for grade separation through Interbay is essential, otherwise reliability for Tacoma, Federal Way, SeaTac and the downtown core will be seriously affected. That would be a bad outcome for the entire region.
  • Plan for the future. We can ensure the wait for transit is even less in the future if we do the following now:
    • EIS study and provisional status of light rail for Ballard to UW and West Seattle to Burien. Limited spending here shaves 6 years off a future construction timelines. Additionally, given that Sound Transit projects in 2016 are coming in $240 million under budget and the FTA has granted double our expected funding for Lynnwood, we should have an executable plan to efficiently use unanticipated funding. On a package of this size, cost savings could contribute to line extensions to Burien and crosstown in North Seattle.
    • Alternatives Analysis on Ballard-Crown Hill-Greenwood-Phinney-Northgate-Lake City. This line serves transit dependent communities in North Seattle and the study can be completed at low cost.
    • Alternatives Analysis on “Metro 8” serving Belltown-SLU-Capitol Hill-Central District-Judkins Park-Mt Baker. This line connects transit dependent communities in the Central District and also connects region’s highest density neighborhoods.
    • Future-proof Stations for Continued Growth. ST3 will not be the last transit expansion in the Seattle area. Stations should be funded to be built with an eye for future expandability. For example, funding should be sufficient to allow a Ballard station to be expandable both East and North, as the City of Seattle has requested.
  • Embrace Reliable Community Partners. We support expansion of the light rail system to Issaquah, partly because reliable partners are essential to building robust system. Cities and Sound Transit (as noted above) must work together to serve the public interest. While some cities hold transit hostage, others embrace best urbanist principles in planning and in code, and do so in collaboration with regional entities. Issaquah and Redmond are examples of this latter group. Their willingness to work with and for transit will produce the best possible outcomes for the region all while reducing costs to do so. We hope Tacoma, Seattle and Everett also bring the same embrace of best practices to expedite delivery of light rail, maximize quality TOD opportunities, and continue to build the dense, walkable, accessible communities that should surround such an important transit investment.

We are excited for what is possible as part of this robust transit expansion package. We look forward to the impact this has on both economic development and quality of life in great communities from Tacoma to Everett to Redmond and Issaquah, and in Seattle itself. The board has attempted to meet the depth of the challenge our region faces when it comes to transportation. We expect the board will succeed in making many of these improvements that will improve likelihood of passage of such an important measure.

109 Replies to “Seattle Subway’s ST3 Draft Plan Feedback”

  1. Seattle Subway is right about Issaquah and Kirkland. Build big projects in jurisdictions that cooperate. It gets projects running quicker – and sends a message to all the cities where big projects are optional that if you don’t cooperate, you don’t get big projects.

    1. Oh, that was about Kirkland? That darn Seattle passive-aggressiveness is so subtle it went clear over my head.

      Meanwhile, Issaquah is looking to partner on a bigger parking garage. Yay, urbanism FTW.

      1. Kirkland outsourced their growth plan to Totem Lake instead of where growth would naturally occur (actual Kikland.).

        That is the move at the heart of our comments.

        Additionally, to quote the Kirkland Mayor re: The ERC: “Light rail would ruin the trail.”

        Meanwhile, actual Issaquah and Redmond became regional growth centers and have pre-authorized Light Rail as an allowable use.

        It’s a pretty stark contrast.

      2. “instead of where growth would naturally occur”

        Funny, that must be why Kirkland was insistent on having transit that actually served downtown, while Seattle Subway was all for the train that went nowhere near.

        Meanwhile, Central Issaquah… Jeez, I’ll stop there. This is like shooting fish in a barrel.

      3. @Seattleite: If you read the document you’re referring to, you’ll see that this is an evaluation of an extension of LR to the South Kirkland P&R from Bellevue. Kirkland’s request for BRT is through all of Kirkland with no garages. You can think of SKPR as the equivalent of the terminal station in Issaquah, except that Kirkland actually wants transit through the whole city.

      4. True, but it’s not what Sound Transit was offering.

        It’s telling that even Seattle Subway wasn’t willing to stand behind the proposal that was actually on the table, even while they were so offended that Kirkland wouldn’t take it.

      5. Seattle Subway has always pushed for improvements on alignments. They were pushing against Hospital (now Wilburton) transfer from the beginning. Same thing for serving downtown Kirkland.

        Unfortunately the City Council went all in on BRT, refused to work with ST to improve LRT proposal, and instead tried to hold ST3 hostage.

        Plan backfired. Now Issaquah is first up and Kirkland is complaining about not getting enough spending.

      6. “refused to work with ST to improve LRT proposal”

        Sorry, that’s idiotic. Kirkland studied all the options and pushed for what would have worked. Kirkland was working with ST on improving ALL of the proposed services through Kirkland. You really have no idea what has been going on all this time, do you? Or, indeed, how planning works anywhere.

        Maybe time to get some less caffeinated sources of information. If you were more aware, you’d understand which side of this debate was inflexibly committed to a single mode regardless of access or utility.

      7. Kirkland was requesting BRT because it actually makes financial sense to have BRT. Just like it makes financial sense for Issaquah to have, at most, BRT. If ridership expands enough that LRT is needed, then you go there.

        405 BRT and Issaquah Link are wastes of money. Putting that on the ballot will cost ST3 votes, including mine.

      8. @David — It was not only what made financial sense, but what made sense in general. Check out the census maps and the travel patterns and it is obvious: the BRT plan made sense There is a lot of nice one seat riders there (e. g. Juanita to the UW). Light rail would involve two or three seat rides for almost everyone unless you spend a huge amount more money on projects that will probably never happen (e. g. light rail on 520).

      9. @Keith and Dan — I like shooting fish. Explain to me, Keith, why Totem Lake won’t grow naturally, while a freeway station in Issaquah will? Explain to me why Juanita, a place that would be served quite well with the BRT plan, won’t grow at all, despite the fact that it is heads and shoulders above anywhere in Issaquah in terms of density?

      10. “It was not only what made financial sense, but what made sense in general”

        True, but if someone gave us $20 billion and said spend it on Kirkland, you could probably build LRT to downtown Kirkland, Juanita, and Totem Lake plus a bridge (either via 520 or via Sand Point) to Seattle. That being said, BRT would be perfectly fine for a lot less money.

        As for Juanita not growing, I’m actually not sure how much it will grow. It’s constrained from the south by Lake Washington, from the east by a big hill, and from the west by Juanita Beach Park. It may grow north and eventually connect with the development around the intersection between 100th Ave and 132nd St, but that will require some time and support from the city council, which is mostly focused on DT Kirkland and Totem Lake. That being said, high quality BRT service to Juanita with dedicated lanes will no doubt substantially help.

      11. @David — Agreed. Regarding Juanita, you are right. But the thing is, it has more density now, so unlike half of the plans, it isn’t dependent on pie in the sky hope for growth in the future which hasn’t exactly happened all along the rail line now, despite Seattle being the fastest growing city in the U. S. and the city actively encouraging it.

      12. @RossB

        Othello in particular and MLK in general has seen a ton of growth in the last 10 years. Beacon is seeing significant growth as well, but needs some upzoning to really take off. There are plans for Mt. Baker but other political issues are holding those up. Rainier Beach is really the only stop where I’m surprised how little growth is occurring.

      13. “why Totem Lake won’t grow naturally, while a freeway station in Issaquah will?”

        We won’t know until it happens but my gut feeling is Issaquah will grow faster. It’s physically between the historic downtown and the freeway, the walk is not horrible, Issaquah has trails throughout town that attract people, central Issaquah already has a ton of houses and apartments close together for a suburb, and the growth is the up-and-coming industrial area. I.e., people see it as a place of opportunity.

        Totem Lake is further from downtown, in a completely different direction on the freeway, and has a lot of pedestrian-hostile freeway interference. Kirklanders tend to be more “We’re affluent suburbanites who like our neat lawns and don’t like messiness.” So they shun Totem Lake to an extent, and it may take a long time of development before they start coming to it en masse. Isaquahites are more “I couldn’t afford Kirkland or Bellevue so we drove until we qualified (and I-90 is so convenient and traffic-free)”. so they wouldn’t look down at their urban center as much. At least that’s my feeling.

      14. Rainier Beach still has an aura of remoteness and unsafeness. It’s a longer walk to Rainier Avenue where the walkable businesses are. So there’s more a sense of “Why develop in Rainier Beach when there are still empty lots in Mt Baker and Columbia City and Othello?”

      1. A 35-MPH bus is not what I would ever call effective. And when I say cities not cooperating, that’s not just governments, but communities, and the communities would put up a fight and raise a huge stink. Bellevue and Issaquah the cities have cooperated on light rail, and just as importantly, their citizens have cooperated too.

      2. No one in Issaquah complained because the alignment is along 90 and barely goes into town, which, as we know, is the ideal way to generate ridership. I’d like to have seen the citizen groups that formed if LRT actually went into downtown or Issaquah highlands. And let’s not forget how many problems there were with East Link going through Bellevue.

        As for Kirkland, yes, the ERC is not ideal. But it’s probably the best solution short of converting a street into a transitway or bulldozing a hundred houses. Plus, Kirkland actually put together some decent plans. A 35 mph bus is not a plane, but when traffic is going 10 mph, it’s a lot faster. And it would be reliable, which is perhaps more important.

        The problem in Kirkland is that a bunch of NIMBY home owners who knew their houses were next to a transit corridor refused to work out a solution. There are probably many options to mitigate their concerns, but they simply refused to do anything.

      3. >> A 35-MPH bus is not what I would ever call effective.

        Wow, Donde, you really should do a little research before you comment. You will be hard pressed to find a subway system anywhere that averages more than 35 MPH. 35 MPH is blazing fast. Oh, and just so you know, our buses are capable of going just as fast as our light rail trains (around 60 MPH).

        The problem was that, as David said, there was local opposition to doing anything on the ERC. Meanwhile, ST wanted rail that went nowhere (and would be no faster than the bus, by the way). If Kirkland had wanted that, they probably could have done that. But they saw no point. Why build something that will benefit hardly anyone? Why make a symbolic investment in rail, just so you can say you are doing something? ST punted, and went with a city (Issaquah) that has no problem embracing a pointless rail project.

      4. When I say 35 MPH bus, I’m referring it going 35 MPH between station. Add the station stops and delays at crossings, and it slows to around 25 probably, which is about what Swift does. Swift is nice, but certainly not the guaranteed 55 that light rail gets, and Swift didn’t have that kind of cost.

      5. “Swift is nice, but certainly not the guaranteed 55 that light rail gets”

        Sorry, we forgot that light rail operators flip a switch and suddenly the train goes 55 mph from a complete stop, and then flip another switch and suddenly stop. While bus operators have to crack the whips over the horse-pulled bus to get it to go even 5 mph.

        There are disadvantages to buses over rail (mostly when you need high capacity) but speed is not one. Electric BRT will be able to accelerate and brake roughly as fast as electric LRT. In any case, I doubt you’ll ever get to 55 mph on the ERC through Kirkland. One valid point the NIMBYs have is that it is a residential community and driving at highway speeds through it needs to be thought through. That probably means a speed limit, no matter whether it’s LRT or BRT.

      6. Kirkland came up with a sensible, efficient plan… That their citizens HATE. They savaged ST in their public presentations. They went all-in early on buses on the ERC, and never really seriously considered anything else. Despite the fact that the region has made a clear commitment to rail thru two votes. Despite the fact that ST owns the transit rights in the corridor. Despite the fact the other four east side cities have actively been working with ST on rail. Despite the fact that ST, not the city of Kirkland, is the agency barged under state law with developing HCT.

        Stop apologizing for Kirkland. They played his wrong from the start and pissed off the region and their own people in the process. They put a trail on a rail corridor without a master plan in place and probably forever have exiled transit from using a valuable public asset as a result. Sheer incompetence.

    2. That’s an unfair characterization of what happened in Kirkland. Kirkland City Council pushed *hard* for good transit going through Kirkland and did so for several years. Things failed because Sound Transit came back with “do it our way, or the highway” (literally).

      If you read the details of what was proposed, Kirkland put on the table several options (including both rail and bus options) that were superior to Sound Transit’s *option* from an urbanist’s perspective.

      Of course, if you’re just referring to the few wealthy and vocal NIMBYs that oppose anything on the trail—that can happen anywhere.

      1. You are right about Kirkland’s Open BRT proposal; it was elegant. But it used the CKC, and the City Council couldn’t keep the narcissists quiet. ST did NOT want another Surrey Downs fight, so Kirkland got exactly what it’s mouthiest citizens wanted: crappy freeway-and-car-sewer oriented buses.

      2. I’m sure that played a part in their thinking, Anandakos, but I wonder what would have happened if Kirkland had simply embraced the pointless rail on the ERC (that ST wanted). It would be strange for ST to push for a project, have the city enthusiastically embrace it, then chicken out because of a handful of local opponents. I think ST decided to go with Issaquah rail (and 405 BRT) for both reasons — they didn’t want to build BRT, when they could build rail, and they didn’t want to upset the neighbors.

        Oh, and won’t ST have a “Surrey Downs” type fight anyway, with Issaquah rail? That will involve going over the slough, or knocking out some private property in the area I assume.

      3. @RossB Yes. Saveourtrail make convenient villains, because they’re often tone-deaf and easy to caricature. But they had zero impact on the Kirkland City Council (it’s a small city where we recognize bluster when we see it).

        Harder to tell if it affected the Board. Certainly made them nervous, and there were alternatives on hand that didn’t affect anybody because they never got off the freeway. But in the end, the Board pushed for what it was pushing for a year ago, and it wouldn’t have made SOT any happier if they had gotten rail. So maybe SOT is all noise and completely irrelevant.

        To your other comment, Issaquah rail does have a Surrey Downs problem. Bellevue doesn’t want to re-open the Surrey Downs issue they thought they had just put to bed (and an elevated structure swooping down from over the freeway will re-open it in spades).

      4. Who would SOT name in any lawsuit?

        I’ve seen city councils get advice from staff on particular projects with a caveat “This could bring lawsuits”.

        Deep pockets can bring budgeting grief to cities who would rather not spend taxes on legal battles.

      5. “an elevated structure swooping down from over the freeway will re-open it in spades”

        In an industrial big-box area? “That train offends me so!” as I drive off the freeway exit to the strip-mall parking lot. Surrey Downs was a problem because it’s a 1950s leafy green single-family neighborhood. Western Issaquah isn’t like that. And the Slough is about environmental issues, protecting wetlands. I don’t see a slough in Issaquah.

    3. Why are you still calling yourselves “Seattle Subway”? That’s not a map of Seattle, and that is not a map of a Seattle subway; that is a “central Puget sound region” transit network. If you are no longer an advocacy group for Seattle transit, what is your purpose? And who is going to take up the job your group was created for, which was to focus on Seattle transit?

      1. Sorry, posted this on a phone and couldn’t see what I was doing; meant this to be a top level comment.

      2. I’m not a Seattle Subway member but a proper urbanist needs to realize that no city is an island, especially when the municipal boundary is a political accident and most of the metropolis’ population is in the suburbs. A healthy city needs a healthy metropolis and vice-versa. The “Seattle” Premium Outlets are in North Bend, other “Seattle” businesses are in Lynnwood, “Aurora” Marketplace is just beyond where Aurora Avenue ends and unadorned “Highway 99” begins [1], etc. When people in Federal Way go to the east coast or London, they say “I’m from Seattle”, not “I’m from Federal Way, Washington”. So it’s not surprising that “Seattle” Subway is concerned about the region and the suburbs as well as the city.

        [1] Snohomish County should rename the highway to Aurora. “Highway 99” is boring.

      3. Everytime Everett annexes another chunk of 99, they rename it Evergreen. Lynnwood etc should follow suit.

      4. Okay, Mike, but we need a group to specifically focus on rail within the city – for example, to give the Metro 8 line at least as much airtime as the West Seattle Junction – Burien line. When every third statement out of Seattle Subway’s mouth is, “Plan ahead to extend this line to the suburbs!”, we need someone to truly focus on the city.

      5. Mike: the region already has an organization looking out for its transit interests, and that organization is called Sound Transit. The point of Seattle Subway as I understood it was to articulate a Seattle focused vision of transit so that those of us who don’t include all that far flung, low-density, peripheral sprawl in our conception of Seattle can band together to lobby Sound Transit for transit service which actually serves us instead of merely passing by on its way out to the hinterlands. If Seattle Subway has joined Sound Transit in prioritizing long-distance, low-density suburban travel over the kind of dense, urban centrally-focused transit service which could actually help repair the damage wrought by decades of “regional” sprawl, it is difficult to see what value they are bringing to the conversation.

      6. It is one issue I have had with Seattle Subway because they are directed to do whatever to get funding for Seattle lines hence they will support whatever alignment is wanted in the hinterlands regardless of productivity. I feel that does a disservice to transit and opens it up to more claims of being a boondoggle. Case and point Link to Tacoma.

        I don’t know how many freaking times I have to say that an airport line does not generate as much ridership as connecting population centers. Canada Line trains that come from Richmond are packed where connecting bus passengers at Bridgeport wait for trains from YVR given the lower demand during the morning peak.

        We have allowed ST to serve areas via I-5 when in all reality for the North, we should have gone for a 7 mile tunnel from Union Station to Northgate via downtown Seattle so you could have a fully electrified rail corridor that doesn’t hug the coastline to Everett providing comfortable, highly reliably and high capacity transit. However as per usual when the federal funding is involved, it influenced decisions towards an I-5 park and ride shuttle. If you really want an I-5 park and ride shuttle, you’d be better off lobbying DOT when they rebuild I-5 to put in ETLs from Alderwood to South Center but I still think rail is better.

        I think many people if given the guaranteed travel time and a good likelihood of a seat would be willing to opt for transit but I am fearing that Lynnwood might get loaded up after Link makes it to there on day 1. It would depend mostly on ridership of current CT routes which if 3 car trains are utilized every 3 minutes, 50% of capacity would be used assuming all passengers transfer to travel to DT Seattle. Bridgeport works for Canada Line given it is a 20 minute trip.

      7. Seattle Subway is a private advocacy group with its own message. The “Seattle” part is more city lines. They also have a metropolitan view, as do I and STB, although we don’t always agree in all the details or priorities. I grew up in the suburbs so I know suburban HCT is important and vital, and that a significant number of people drive not because they aren’t willing to take transit but because there’s no reasonable transit option that doesn’t take an hour or two. In any case, Seattle Subway has its view, and it may have been slow to recognize the Denny Way corridor and Lake City like almost everybody else was. If you want a more urbanist advocacy group, form it. A third one alongside SS and TCC might be beneficial in getting a better outcome.

        SS has a regional vision but that doesn’t mean it’s identical with Sound Transit’s. SS generally takes what SS wants and adds what it wants: that’s the urbanist part. It has succeeded both in pushing ST toward some alternatives and studies, and in creating a visible public movement for in-city lines especially Ballard and 45th. I believed in Ballard and Northgate and other subways since I was a teenager — or at least since I first went to Chicagoland at age 20 and heard about the El and the North Side although I didn’t have time to see them then, but it planted a seed. I wanted it in Seattle but everybody said “It’s too expensive, people wouldn’t vote for it, they want highways not trains.” Ben S and Seattle Subway were the first ones to show we me that there were enough others with similar views to form a visible movement large enough to swing votes.

        The urban-purist opposition to Seattle Subway boils down to believing that it should not just add to what Sound Transit wants to do, but it should subtract the far-flung extensions. That’s a viable point of view but it’s not the only urbanist view. Seattle Subway is doing something valuable by promoting its view, and if there needs to be a more city-centric view alongside it then somebody should fill it. My position is that the extensions beyond ST2 or in West Seattle aren’t necessary, but they’re not worth obstructing either. What’s necessary is a consensus among the politicians and cities and public and legislature in order to get anything done, and that’s what Sound Transit has achieved in ST1 and ST2. ST3 is more difficult because we’re moving beyond the obvious minimums most people agree on to things where one person wants this and another person wants the opposite. It’s unclear where this will go but I still think we should try to do something in the ST framework and acceptable to all the subareas. If it fails then we’ll try something else. But we shouldn’t just rip up the consensus that has developed for a more perfect urban plan, in case the latter fails too and we end up with nothing.

      8. “I think many people if given the guaranteed travel time…”

        The way ST approached the issue is not ideal. We should have started with a comprehensive plan (ST1+2+3) and phases (funding votes), with the feeders and local transit outlined (coordinated planning across the agencies). Then we would have built phase 1 knowing what the feeders would be, and the people on phase two would know they’d be next and when. Instead the feeders for phase 1 weren’t known until a year before opening, and the county council sabotaged some of those to please status-quo activists. Meanwhile Ballard had no idea when or if it would get a line, and people without cars didn’t know whether it was safe to move to Ballard without major inconvenience. And now Lake City still doesn’t know when or if it will get a line or what might be before it.

        But it’s easy to see all this in hindsight. It’s another thing to consider how the Pugetopolis body politic of the 1980s and 1990s could have achieved this. Where was a visionary to spearhead a Vancouver-like or Germany-like approach? How would the public have accepted it when they were even more low-density-happy then? STB didn’t exist until shortly before ST2, and there was no unified transit/urbanist voice before it. Seattle Subway started even later. Metro’s long-range plan draft of 2016 is the kind of thing we needed in 1980 and 1990 and 2000 but it was nowhere, neither in Metro or the county or the other counties. Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan is more a menu of things it might consider someday rather than a comprehensive phased plan. ST earlier stayed out of the low/high density station area debate to avoid being villified by both sides; but now it has realized it has to stand on the high-densitty side. So the region would have really done better if it had started with a completely different approach. But how could that have started in the 1980s? And we can’t do anything about it now. The only thing we can do is try to make the situation incrementally better.

      9. Mike: I am not objecting to the Seattle Subway organization Ben S. founded, which *was* articulating that city-centric point of view. That vision is the reason I am here, the reason I am paying any attention to Sound Transit whatsoever.

        I do object to the fact that the people who wrote the above article are continuing to ride on that original goodwill by calling their organization “Seattle Subway,” despite no longer being advocates for Seattle urban transit. It’s not clear to me what their new vision is, if they still have one, but it certainly isn’t the vision that convinced me to give a damn about any of this.

        By continuing to call themselves “Seattle Subway” and continuing to act as though they are pursuing a city-centric vision without actually doing so, they are taking up an unreasonable share of the limited time and attention available for such advocacy. It’s very much the same as the way that Sound Transit, by consuming all of the tax money and political will available for transit development, is not just wasting those resources by spending them on projects which really aren’t all that important, but is actively preventing us from building the transit network we very badly need. We *can’t* just ignore them and do it ourselves, because they’re in the way taking up all the air in the room.

      10. Max,

        Seattle Subway is committed to promiting high quality urban transit as our priority #1.

        Sound Transit is just one of the tools that exists to promote that goal. ST3 is likely our last chance to use this tool.

        There are several folks here (and elsewhere) who think we should take an absolutist veiw or that we should fight the good (aka losing) fight against the possible in order to seek the perfect.

        We are not interested in that activity. Mike makes an excellent suggestion: Start your own organization if that is an activity you are interested in.

        We are interested in getting the best possible transit outcomes using the tools that are available.

        We do not think that voting against ST3 in order to stop an extension to Everett or whatever element of the plan you find most odious is a principled stand. If people in Everett want rail and are willing to pay for it – great. We will share our opinions about what their best options are. ST3 doesnt work if people outside Seattle don’t get anything they want out of it and arent excited about it.

        ST3 will be worth voting for if it has high quality urban rail.

        If Ballard/DT is at grade in the next version of this plan, we can start to have an entirely different conversation.

  2. 130th St station should be guaranteed and delivered as soon after Lynnwood Link is finished as possible.

    130th St station should be built at the same time as Lynnwood Link. The line should open with that station in place. Not only would that be better for all involved, but considerably cheaper. I’ve heard 25 million if down as part of the project, and 80 million if added later.

    1. Yes. If the line is, as we’re told, being designed to accommodate the station, then it should be funded and built as part of Lynnwood Link. Much cheaper, a very early “win,” and no disruption to Lynnwood Link as there assuredly would be if built later. It would also show good faith – and if the cost is really that low, Seattle would probably be ready to drop a few dollars extra in the pot to help move it along.

      1. I would also love to see just where on the line the accommodation for the station is intended to be; this information needs to be available ASAP so that we can avoid the clusterf**k that 145th’s design is, and ensure the best possible platform location for seamless bus transfers. If those transfers become difficult or onerous, there will be almost no additional riders using that station – the whole point of it is to allow easy bus transfers from Lake City and Bitter Lake to the trains.

        Perhaps a few of whatever dollars ST may be saving by completely cutting their 522 service to Lake City can be put towards the station that will serve those people they will otherwise be ignoring.

      2. I agree. The whole point of this station is to provide an easy connection from bus to rail. There is talk of an upzone — even the creation of an urban village — next to the station, but there is only so much you can do. Roads take up a huge part of the pedestrian catchment area, while parks take up a good chunk of the remainder. There are some apartments fairly close by (the area is a lot more dense than anywhere in Shoreline) but you are talking about only a handful of walk up riders (a thousand if you are lucky). This is all about the buses.

        The Urbanist had a proposal that included a schematic, but I found it hard to read: I believe the bridge needs to be redone either way, which makes things interesting. How exactly the street as well as the station will be laid out isn’t obvious.

      3. BTW Sound Transit’s excuse as to why 130th would have to wait until after Lynnwood Link is complete is utter bullshit. Everything they have built so far has had modifications between when the FTA announced grants and when construction actually finished. Central Link added the Stadium station and also Airport Link (the latter to use up leftover grant money). The FTA actually gave Sound Transit more than they asked for ($1 billion, larger than the University Link grant) for Lynnwood Link.

        Frankly I think Sound Transit is trying to pull a fast one here and stall the 130th station in hopes those advocating for it will just go away.

        Also worth noting the complaints about adding 130th from those further North. Mainly because of the extra minute of travel time the station would add. Lynnwood is somewhat understandable, but Everett can go piss up a rope until they drop the idea of a Paine Field diversion.

        Finally the 145th station needs a complete redesign no matter what happens with 130th. The station is sited to be convenient to the parking garage whereas the station should be sited for easy pedestrian access from 145th. Also the whole area needs to be redesigned for easier pedestrian, bike and transit access. Admittedly there is only so much you can do with a highway interchange there.

      4. Rogoff if the former FTA director so he presumably knows something about this.

        The problem seems to be that “the federal project” can’t add the station. But external funding could add the station. So why won’t ST just pay for it from other ST3 funds. Somebody (Juarez?) yesterday at the open house or hearing said, why doesn’t ST just commit to figuring out how to build the station as soon as it can, and look for ways to do it, rather than looking for reasons not to. For instance, Seattle Subway has asked ST to study several things over the years. It doesn’t presume to be an expert in the cost or perfect alignment, it just asks ST to study them and give them fair consideration. Likewise, if ST would just start with, “We’ll build 130th Station somehow”, then it can figure out when and how, and how to avoid invalidating the federal grant. Maybe it can be finished by 2023, maybe not, but at least start trying.

      5. Given that ST is receiving a bigger grant than they asked for why cant they just use unspent local funds?

        IIRC it wasn’t Rogof who was pulling out the Federal funds excuse but staff. He needs to explain how this is different from Central Link before I’ll be live this is just Sound Transit dragging its feet in hopes the idea of a 130th street station will go away like reviving the Waterfront streetcar.

      6. Rogoff was the one who said 130th was risky for the grant during the TCC panel forum if I remember right.

      7. “Given that ST is receiving a bigger grant than they asked for why cant they just use unspent local funds?”

        The answer seems to be that they can’t do that and Ballard and DSTT2 and West Seattle and Graham: the other projects take every last penny.

      8. Max,

        Seattle Subway is committed to promiting high quality urban transit as our priority #1.

        Sound Transit is just one of the tools that exists to promote that goal. ST3 is likely our last chance to use this tool.

        There are several folks here (and elsewhere) who think we should take an absolutist veiw or that we should fight the good (aka losing) fight against the possible in order to seek the perfect.

        We are not interested in that activity. Mike makes an excellent suggestion: Start your own organization if that is an activity you are interested in.

        We are interested in getting the best possible transit outcomes using the tools that are available.

        We do not think that voting against ST3 in order to stop an extension to Everett or whatever element of the plan you find most odious is a principled stand. If people in Everett want rail and are willing to pay for it – great. We will share our opinions about what their best options are. ST3 doesnt work if people outside Seattle don’t get anything they want out of it and arent excited about it.

        ST3 will be worth voting for if it has high quality urban rail.

        If Ballard/DT is at grade in the next version of this plan, we can start to have an entirely different conversation.

      9. Again I call horseshit. First the damn station is only $25 million if it is built during Lynnwood LINK construction. Second Lynnwood Link and the Federal grant are for a ST2 project. AFAIK the budget for ST3 was not set based on using these unexpected funds nor possible budget underrunns like the $200 million left over from University Link.

        Second I’m sure Sound Transit could cut some parking or maybe a diversion to a certain airplane factory to get some extra money. Hell cut the waste of money studying commuter rail to fucking Orting.

      10. @Ross – thanks for the schematic link for the 130th station. It is better than 145th by some way, with a fairly direct bus zone to platform transfer from eastbound buses. For westbound buses the street needs to be crossed – not ideal but still much, MUCH better than 145th. If there is some reason the station cannot be built directly over the street, using two much smaller mezzanines on either side rather than one large one, this is a reasonably good design. It has a small footprint, is designed for transfers rather than parking, and sites the parking it does provide basically where the existing small park-and-ride is today. That land is unbuildable and is already in use as a P&R so I have no issue at all with keeping it.

        With the Metro draft service plan just coming out, it’s very clear that Metro is planning for the very cross-town service that will make this station work well. There can be no further excuses from ST on this issue regarding this–Metro has put their cards on the table and said “There WILL be frequent bus service to this station.”

        It needs to be built, and it needs to be built for the $25 million and no service disruption, NOT for the $80 million and whatever issues that causes for an already operating Lynnwood Link.

  3. There is “at-grade” and there is “in the middle of a stonkin’ big highway”. “At-grade” (as in “alongside BNSF trackage north of the Magnolia Bridge” and “at the base of the hill behind the buildings along Elliott”) is not a problem if there are no road crossings.

    1. Everyone I talked with yesterday at the Sound Transit presentation said there would be road crossings, though they disagreed on how many there would be (one person said “one or two”, another said four).

      1. Unless it is adjoining the rail tracks rather than the street. The tracks have minimal grade crossing, so 55 could easily be safe there. Looks like ST is currently proposing to put in on 15th, but the ballot measure certainly provides the flexibility to move it west a few blocks.

      2. The maximum speed is practically meaningless. The difference between 55 MPH and 35 MPH is less than a minute for this stretch.

        What is at issue is the crossings, and how that effects everything. There are way fewer crossings here than on MLK. Assuming the train would pop out of the tunnel north of Mercer (which seems like a safe assumption, given the diagrams) there really aren’t any significant intersections. There are overpasses much of the way, so I think you could give this signal priority just about all the time. This is the big issue with Rainier Valley. The surface running doesn’t cost much time, but limits the headways to six minutes. This is annoying now, and really limits the possibilities in the future. Having a split and extending this out to Renton could make sense, but not if each line is running every twelve minutes.

      3. FYI: The current representative project has 4 at grade road crossings. The roadway the representative project is in the middle of has twice the vehicles as MLK. We expect the final plan will resolve this issue.

  4. Hey Seattle Subway, please update the text of the letter to match your map by calling for a study of a “Metro 8” line that would extend further south to serve Mt. Baker station. Anyone traveling between Rainier Valley/points South and East King County would benefit by not having to go all the way to the ID transfer point. The one mile btw. Mt Baker and Judkins Park is a key missing link in the rail system that needs to be addressed.

    1. If I could wave a magic wand at Seattle and build light rail lines, this line + the Lower Queen Anne to Ballard segment of the Ballard line would be the next line I would make. It still skips Belltown, unfortunately, but it would hit an awful lot of busy areas.

  5. Grade separation only matters when it enables transit to have its own private right of way that could not be achieved via other means. A light-rail line to Ballard could be surface-level through much of Interbay if they managed to squeeze it in along the existing freight rail facilities.

    It’s also not always necessary to construct new infrastructure to achieve grade separation where it is needed. For example, there’s a good chance the existing overpass at Dravus St. could be utilized for light rail as well. Just build the planned station there under the bridge much like the MAX stations along I-84 east of downtown Portland.

    1. Nick’s commented noted above that there could anywhere between 1 to 4 road crossings through Interbay.

      1. Maybe, but the crossings are minor. All of the major crossings (Magnolia Bridge, Dravus, Nickerson, even a connection to the the Amgen/Expedia side street) have overpasses. The only street that is at all significant (that doesn’t have an overpass) is Gilman. But there still isn’t the volume on that street to be much of a concern. If it ever was an issue, you could widen the intersection, have a left turn signal and a right turn signal. The right turn signal would halt general purpose traffic, but not the train. The left turn signal would change very rarely (and only when a train isn’t coming). The area is nothing like MLK Way, which has significant crosstown traffic. Headways are limited there, for fear of backing up traffic on those streets, some of which have bus service. That just isn’t the case with 15th. You can run a train exactly the same way you run a train down MLK (in the middle of the street) except more frequently.

        All that being said, this seems like a very important question. What are the maximum headways for the Ballard line?

      2. FYI: The current representative project has 4 at grade road crossings. The roadway the representative project is in the middle of has twice the vehicles as MLK. We expect the final plan will resolve this issue.

      3. @Jonathan — The current representative project has 4 at grade road crossings.

        I missed that. Where exactly are the crossings?

        The roadway the representative project is in the middle of has twice the vehicles as MLK.

        Right, but that is pretty much meaningless. All that traffic will flow around it. What is important is the amount of traffic that would go over the at grade crossings, and it has to be a small fraction of the traffic that goes across MLK. I think Orcas, for example, has more traffic than all the streets that cross 15th at grade combined. I can think of several streets like that ( Graham, Othello, etc.). As I said, the only street of significance along 15th is Gilman, and it is tiny compared to those streets. I really see no harm at all with giving the train signal priority even if headways drops to three minutes. That is still plenty of time to allow the cars to go where they want to go. My guess is every one of those lights is a really long one now, so people wouldn’t even notice.

    2. Please use Bybee Street as the new example MAX station of what could be done, rather than I-84.

      That station has elevators and stairs on both sides of the road bridge, making transfers to the #19 fairly easy.

    3. I keep hearing this fantasy of utilizing the BNSF yard for LRT ROW. Anyone that mentions this does not realize the two problems that will kill this idea before it starts:

      1. BNSF holds on to their ROW very tightly. They aren’t too keen on selling off any ROW on active lines, especially a heavily used rail yard. It’s just not going to happen. Not to mention that there’s no open space to squeeze LRT into, even if BNSF had a change of heart.

      2. LRT in the BNSF ROW pulls the line away from the denser areas of Interbay closer to the single family Magnolia neighborhoods, but doesn’t really serve either.

      For this line to not be a waste of time and money and hopefully future proof, it’s going to need to be grade separated and as close to 15th as possible.

      Of course in my opinion, they should have stuck with the ‘S’ shaped tunnel line that served LQA, Fremont and Ballard, that was the most popular (and expensive) of the Ballard options. But Scott Kubly seems really keen on serving the 3 companies (Expedia, Gates and Amazon), that may not be here come 203X, with a crappy alignment that everyone is still scratching their head over.

      1. Oh, I don’t know. To me the best value (by far) is Ballard to UW. But if you want to go via Queen Anne, then Interbay is a very good value. Of course going through Queen Anne is much better, but that is a lot of money for, what, a couple extra stops? Unlike Ballard to UW, it still doesn’t connect the north end, so you really haven’t gained much from a network standpoint. Ballard to UW is still a two seat ride while Northgate to Ballard would require a three seat ride (both including a slow bus ride in the middle). It has two stops on Queen Anne, but that is it (getting to SPU, for example, the Interbay alignment might be faster). I agree with you that it is a much better alignment, but I doubt it was worth the money.

        The Interbay stations (all of them) are pretty much “might as well” stations. They are “on the way” as Walker puts it.

        I agree with your main point, though. Density is roughly the same on either side, so you are really robbing Peter to pay Paul if you move it to the west. The apartments in Magnolia get a shorter walk, but those on the side of Queen Anne don’t. Add in the fact that Interbay itself is growing with new apartments built or planned, and I don’t think there is any benefit to going one direction or the other. It is an awkward spot that has a fair number of apartments, but the bulk of the people will have to walk a fair ways to the station, no matter where put it. From a bus connection standpoint, right at 15th and Dravus seems better (if you put it at to the west, then you lose a lot of flexibility).

      2. A Queen Anne Station would solve a difficult transit access problem for upper Queen Anne. But that has to be compared to the importance of Queen Anne and the cost of the tunnel. Upper Queen Anne is a small urban village that resists upzones, and I think it has become an affluent boutique in the past twenty years although I’m not 100% sure. The cost of a tunnel under Queen Anne would be immense, and the station would be around 200′ deep like Beacon Hill so it would also be very expensive. Interbay is a piece of Wal-Mart cake in comparison.

    4. Ballard/SLU/DT is 7 miles and will have more riders than the entire Max system.

      Anything but full grade separation is entirely unacceptable to Seattle Subway and should be to anyone who lives in Seattle and is voting on a $50B package.

  6. The 70 foot drawbridge needs to be replaced with a simpler tunnel. Dredge the crossing, drop a prefabricated tube in place, and then cover! No need for a complicated TBM dealing with the water table, no need for a massive bridge with ginormous approaches on either side. Dredge, tube, and cover will be significantly quicker to construct and a lot cheaper.

    1. Dredging in a salmon migration waterway when there are lower impact alternatives (bored tunnel, drawbridge) available? Mighty optimistic to think that’d make it through the EIS process.

    2. I really don’t have a problem with a 70′ bridge. It would open very infrequently. Mostly for commercial traffic and the occasional huge sailboat.

      1. The drawbridge is an appallingly terrible idea. The drawbridges on Chicago L and NYC Subway cause astounding amounts of trouble even though they open “very infrequently”. They’re huge pains and a constant enlarged operating expense.

      2. Worse than the added construction and maintenance cost of a tunnel and underground station?

        Besides there is an opportunity to do the bridge with SDOT as the Ballard bridge is due for replacement. This would offload some of the maintenance headache.

    1. Yeah, Renton is getting hosed. I’ve been thinking about writing — and may still write — a little thing on Page 2 comparing Renton to the cities that are getting rail. Consider this:

      Renton is roughly the same size as Everett, but more dense. It has roughly the same number of moderately dense census blocks.

      It is much closer to Seattle than Everett.

      A line that went from Everett to downtown Seattle could basically replace the 7, which is the second most popular bus route in our system (only a few hundred fewer riders than the RapidRide E, and more than any other RapidRide line).

      Getting to Renton is relatively slow. HOV lanes on the freeway can be leveraged, but only for a bit.

      It stands to reason, then, that a light rail line to Renton would be a much better value than the Everett light rail line.

      While a Renton light rail line would make more sense than an Everett rail line, it would make a lot more sense than an Issaquah light rail line. Issaquah is much smaller, much less dense, much farther away from anything and has little in the way of ridership for any of its buses.

      This is not to say that any of these light rail plans make sense, nor that a Renton line could be built (given subarea equity restrictions). My point, though, is that from an abstract standpoint, light rail to Renton makes more sense than light rail to Everett, and way more sense than light rail to Issaquah.

      What Renton should consider is trying to partner with Seattle to extend BRT out there. The 7 will eventually be converted to BRT, and extending it outward is not a crazy idea, in my opinion. The toughest problem is finding a good anchor in Renton.

      1. The problem is as far as I know the city of Renton doesn’t have a clue. Witness their desire to move the main transit center into the middle of a sea of car lots next to a highway interchange. Everything I’ve seen from Renton is they are still very much driven by automobile-centric thinking, where transit is a nuisance to be pushed out of the way of cars as much as possible.

        Issaquah and Redmond have been playing nice with both Metro and ST for a long time. They have both made it very clear from early on they want light rail.

      2. Metro’s long-range plan draft has RapidRide from the Highlands to downtown Renton to Rainier Beach (105/106). There’s also an Express on MLK to downtown (101) which you may be less happy about.

      3. Renton should partner with Tukwila.
        Looks like it’d be a six mile LR spur from S133rd, to Southcenter mall to Renton transit center.

      4. One spur deserves another. I haven’t heard of a spur from 133rd but it’s an idea. But why not go to BAR Station in that case because it has more existing board support, and it would also complement Tukwila’s desires so it might be an ally. But Ballard might object to being left out of what would be the replacement for the Burien-Renton line.

      5. @mike,

        BAR is two miles further, and remains a terrible place to plop down a station.
        History suggests that Tukwila would do anything and everything to get a stop at southcenter.

      6. 133rd is better than BAR. There are some offices nearby (most notably BECU HQ) and some warehouses. BAR has pretty much nothing in the station walkshed.

    2. What did Renton ask for in ST3 that it’s not getting? It’s got the relocated transit center and access ramp. It was conspicuously silent about the Burien-Renton Link line after the 2014 study, as we Tukwila and Burien too. Renton has intrinsically difficult geography with three highways meeting downtown and the residential areas separated by a ridge on the east. It has never pursued Renton-Rainier Beach transit of either train or BRT form. What else does it want? When will it lift a finger to make more than two blocks downtown walkable, and do something about non-vehicle access to its residential areas? Can’t it find any more useful businesses for The Landing? Can’t it consolidate The Landing’s parking in a garage? Will the new transit center have anything around it except a garage and highway entrance; will there be anything to walk to? Renton needs a transit and pedestrian master plan before it can even articulate what Sound Transit could do for it.

      1. Well,
        I know during the I-405 Corridor Program (EIS – 2001) what the City of Renton Did Not Want was…

        Trains in their streets. They were the Executive Committee partner with the Kennydale Neighborhood Association that had the ERC pulled from any consideration, HCT or othewise.

        Of course, the CITY still has trains (much improved trackage, by the way) and AIRPLANES in their streets, but at least the KNA got what they wanted:
        No trains
        My [their]

        I smile as I write this.

      2. I think part of the right of way around Kennydale was not BNSF’s but the homeowners’; BNSF just had an easement on it. So the landowners could say “F* you it’s our land and we don’t want commuter rail.”

      3. When the ERC was being discussed, BNSF still operated freight on the corridor. It’s how they delivered the 737 fuselages to the Renton plant.

        There was no talk about selling by BNSF back then.

        The ‘dartboard guesstimate’ by WSDOT of a sale price was around $300 million.

        The Citizens Committee was only an advisory committee. The Executive and Steering committees had the voting power. The KNA needed the City of Renton’s backing to carry their request.

        They requested the study be stopped after the initial ridership estimates (which were roughly the same as ‘BRT’ for the shared segments) showed promise.

        I have to give Kim Browne, the KNA representative on the Citizens committee, credit for having a bigger set than the Kirkland SOT.

        There was a point when going deeper into the numbers for the freeway widening revealed that through the Kennydale neighborhood there were going to be 12 property takes.

        Most of Kim’s comments centered around the ERC, and when I saw that, I approached her and asked about why the ERC was an issue when the KNA was okay with sacrificing the homes adjacent to the freeway.

        “Kim, why is commuter rail on the train corridor an issue, and the freeway isn’t? After all, you already are dealing with the freeway ‘in your back yard’.”

        She replied “Well, then we would have TWO Back yards.”

        Point taken.

        She didn’t greenwash the issue like others on the ERC are doing now.

        I don’t begrudge a neighborhood for voicing their concerns. But they aren’t the elected officials.

        Renton was making their bed back then.
        I’m impressed by how well they short-sheeted it.

  7. Isn’t Seattle Subway the group that thought it would be a good idea to build a rail crossing from Sand Point Park to Marina Park in Kirkland?

    1. Yes. Although in their defense, they just wanted the idea to be studied. We can’t assume they would support it after seeing the astronomical cost that everyone assumes would be the estimate.

  8. … others embrace best urbanist principles in planning and in code, and do so in collaboration with regional entities. Issaquah and Redmond are examples of this latter group.

    So, these are “best urbanist principles”:

    * A single station in the middle of nowhere, with a 500 stall parking garage.

    * Another stop in the middle of the freeway, this one surrounded by such a lack of density that the census blocks resemble the one covering Medina. This stop is provisional.

    * Four miles from that first stop to the provisional stop, and another two miles before the next stop (which means it will be six miles between stops if the provisional stop isn’t built).

    In contrast, this apparently, is not best urban practices. Some of the highlights:

    * Gold standard BRT (per ITDP standards) with eight stops between Totem Lake and Downtown Bellevue.

    * Several overlapping services connecting Seattle, Juanita, Downtown Kirkland, Downtown Bellevue as well as more distant areas like Woodinville and Lynnwood.

    * Combined frequency of 2-3 minutes through the shared corridor.

    I am truly flabbergasted by your statement. Can you honestly tell me that the first project involves “best urbanist principles”, while the second one does not?

  9. I appreciate the real title of your post, as can be seen in the URL: “Make ST3 Great Again”. It is quite fitting that ST3 has got the connotations of a Trumpesque revival show – for $50 billion. Seeing that other regions of the world build (multiple) metropolitan heavy rail or nationwide high-speed rail systems for that kind of money, this plan doesn’t reflect well on Seattle. The region-wide trolley system will have a lackluster ridership per mile of around 5,000 per day – maybe good for trolleys but not good at all for what should be rapid transit.

    We’ve been hearing about how this is ‘The Only Way’ to get everyone in the region into the boat. By buying votes with billion dollar rail projects, twisted every which way, with limited utility or by giving every subarea what they want no matter how useless. Which would be fine if this was an one-time outlay. But the 100+ mile system will carry serious maintenance/operating costs. Where is that money coming from if the added miles don’t create enough value – especially in this constrained taxation environment?

    That’s the trap other systems have walked into and it’s the same with ST. It seems to have a cultural bias towards being a rail building agency instead of being a transit agency. If push comes to shove, there will be talk of ST4 (as if there will ever be such a thing) because the system will have become unfixable from a value standpoint. The light rail tracks in the hinterlands will weigh heavy like a concrete ring around the neck. The only idea some people will have is to build even more: this time is different.

    1. “Seeing that other regions of the world…”

      Stop right there. Other countries have a very different regulation regime. Their provincial and national governments prioritize transit, give it direct funding sometimes, and cut the red tape. They don’t allow NIMBYs to veto it or water it down or limit station area development. They don’t require it to pay for non-transit social or aesthetic needs. They don’t hobble it with streetcars sharing lanes with cars. They don’t say “Build it for $1”. They don’t have “Buy America” provisions even though the American rail-vehicle industry has been gutted for decades and can’t produce anything even vaguely as advanced or inexpensive as off-the-shelf European trains. They don’t require a supermajority vote for transit projects. They don’t require transit projects to have a vote or even two votes when similar-scale highway projects don’t. The only fair comparison for Sound Transit is US cities, not foreign ones. And we are building a system that’s substantially faster and more grade-separated than most light rails, so that’s why it’s more expensive and why we’re getting more value out of it.

      1. Comparing the costs to other US cities sets a low bar since US construction costs are generally outrageous. Funding, regulations and all those stereotypes simply cannot explain the order of magnitude differences to other countries, some of them with high construction costs of their own.

        Comparing the functionality to other light rail systems sets an even lower bar because most of them have turned into weird commuter-centric trolley systems. Light rail with some of the grade separation known from heavy rail comes with a high cost without the benefits. I think light rail came at a time when transportation views were changing but the polity was simply not ready (or competent) to be consequential. For that environment, light rail (which is certainly not “light”) was the perfect marketing ploy. It’s a means to avoid unpleasant political decisions.

        The unpleasantness will come later when this systems starts decaying because of its limited usefulness and high cost..

      2. “I think light rail came at a time when transportation views were changing but the polity was simply not ready”

        That’s probably true. The light rails before Link were 99% surface: MAX, San Jose, San Diego, Dallas. And it often had stations too close together. That drove me up the wall because I’d experienced underground subways in Europe and BART. It’s why I supported the Monorail because I was afraid Link would be watered down like MAX. The first Link proposal was surface from Mt Baker Station to Sea-Tac, and that would have been the model to Federal Way and Tacoma (one’s mind boggles predicting the travel time), and it was also in the I-5 express lanes or next to Eastlake rather than under Broadway and University Way. I was glad when it turned out more grade-separated, without too many stations, and ST2 is almost entirely grade-separtaed. And MLK didn’t turn out that bad after all, faster than MAX downtown or San Jose along 1st Street, once they fixed MLK’s signal priority in the first year. Above I wrote about the evolution of the body politic through Sound Transit’s lifetime; this is along the same lines.

      3. San Diego’s LRT is an example of how to do LRT right. Yes, it’s mostly surface with grade crossings, and yes, that makes it slower than a fully-grade-separated system. In laid-back San Diego, this is OK; it’s still faster than the buses. The grade crossings have full railroad-style *crossing gates*. There are no lanes shared with cars.

        And the advantage of the surface running in San Diego is that they managed to do it really cheaply by US standards. Even including the complete reconstruction which they did recently. A large part of this was that they almost entirely used the right-of-ways from former passenger rail lines, so they owned the land and they were basically reinstating infrastructure which was already there; they even reused the existing tracks on what is now the Blue Line. Now that they’re making expansions into areas which never had streetcars or passenger rail lines, the price is going up and they’re grade-separating most of it.

        The Seattle-area equivalent to the San Diego LRT system would be putting rail on the Interurban Trail (the former Interurban) which frankly is what you should have done, but it seems to have been politically impossible. I’m totally in favor of the San Diego model where it can actually be executed, but in the Seattle area, reclaiming former rail routes for rail seems to be astoundingly difficult, so the San Diego model does not work.

        Seattle’s been spending gold-plated prices and not getting gold-plated results.

      4. I went to San Diego some years ago and remember the trolley waiting at red lights downtown and remember thinking how incredibly stupid that was. Seattle is certainly way better off for actually tunneling in congested areas.

    2. No current LRT system with the exception of Boston exceeds 5000 riders per mile per day. The next highest is SF Muni at 3600 riders per mile per day.

      Even several US Metro systems don’t exceed 5000 riders per mile per day, most notably BART and MARTA. (yes, saying you suck only as bad as BART isn’t necessarily a great thing)

      Personally even with all the rail to nowhere I think Link with ST3 will still manage respectable numbers based on some very high ridership segments inside Seattle.

      As for the O&M question, Sound Transit does have an ongoing revenue stream to pay for O&M costs. I don’t think any of the other systems that “hit the wall” so to speak had a steady revenue stream to pay for O&M costs (certainly not WMATA nor BART). Even then both systems have new extensions under construction. Furthermore nearly every US light rail system with a handful of exceptions has had expansions open in the past 10 years.

  10. Every time I see that map, it makes me wonder if anyone in Seattle Subway has ever been to Tacoma instead of just passing through on their way to Olympia. No stations between the Dome and the Mall is even worse than ST’s proposal. Then, after the train from the Dome gets to the Mall, there is no realistic routing by which it would get to TCC. Furthermore, there is no reason to have two lines connecting TCC to the Dome when so many other areas that are just as potentially densifiable don’t get any rail.

    “Potentially densifiable” because no where down here in Pierce County outside of downtown currently has the density to justify rail.

    If you’re going to give us light rail, do it correctly.

  11. Here’s the plan that ST should advance, but due to the Snohomish County politicians having their minds made up long ago, won’t advance (and I have it on good authority that the county executive has snubbed getting acquainted meetings re: BRT):

    1. Extend the BRT line from Canyon Park, 128th, and Airport Road to Paine Field, set to open in 2018, in 2018. How can this be done? A new Seaway Transit Center, across the street from Boeing’s towers, is to open then. Northbound BRT buses could jump onto 526 (the Boeing freeway), exit at Evergreen Way, continue north – following the present Swift route – to Everett Station.

    2. Make the speed and reliability improvements that ST planners have envisioned for the BRT route, bringing it to 85% BAT or HOV lanes.

    3. Complete the northbound parts of the 164th/Ash Way direct access ramps. Doing this will keep buses that go between Everett and downtown Seattle/Bellevue in the HOV lanes and not crossing traffic between 128th and Lynnwood Transit Center.

    4. Contribute to funding a bus/pedestrian/bicycle overpass at 128th to alleviate the worst traffic along that street, the approaches to I-5.

    5. Revise the ST #513 so that it starts revenue service (going southbound) at Airport & Casino Road, meaning the legions of multi-family residents will have a bus that takes them from going to downtown Seattle without having to take a bus north to downtown Everett to do so. If possible, have that route serve the 112th Freeway station as well as Eastmont Park & Ride.

    > The “first five” could be done between 2018 and 2020, before light rail reaches Northgate!!! <

    6. Put in light rail following I-5, which can be completed 10 years sooner than the proposal. This would serve the growing and populous Cathcart, 112th, Snohomish/Monroe, and Marysville/Arlington areas far better and far sooner.

    7. If and when demand warrants it, fund a light rail spur between Everett Mall and Paine Field. Thus far, $1 express bus rides from south county were eliminated in 2003, never restored, and $2 express bus rides from north and east county have been cut to 2 trips a day, most never restored, due to lack of interest. Instead, paid parking lots have sprouted up around Boeing.

    The above is a balanced proposal that provides some relief for today’s commuters as well as tomorrow’s, and it gives Everett more transit for their hard-earned money.

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