Seattle 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
- 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.