A General Electric promotional film touting the benefits of rapid transit featuring scenes from various cities including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and Toronto, with a look ahead to San Francisco’s rapid transit project now known as BART.

98 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Rapid Transit in 1964”

  1. Too bad Seatttle’s new light rail isn’t rapid category. Light rail on city streets is slow going. But definitely public transit progress.

    1. Jean, try something. Ride the 550 to Westlake Station, and transfer to LINK for the 8 minute ride to UW. I was a union representative on the employee committee that advised the engineers about building a rail tunnel for buses.

      I drove the dual-power Tunnel buses for the five years after it opened in 1990. Before the hybrids came in in 2005, our fleet had trolleypoles on the roof and a miserably underpowered diesel engine in the trailer.

      A minute north of Westlake, my first ride on NorthLINK’s first day was same degree rapid as subject of video. Except a lot quieter. And our machines are boring very rapidly. Same with tunneling technology itself.

      Reason our system has taken so much time to date? Chicago is the east end of a prairie. Seattle might as well be a mining town in the Rockies for the digging and elevating we have to do. In the mid- ’80’s, we didn’t yet have the population to even pay to start the project. And also, finally crowded enough to convince people we needed it. Exactly like I-5 tomorrow morning.

      Reason for starting with hardest and most expensive part first, a five station subway through the Seattle CBD, and the most complicated buses in the world, was that Bellevue residents and their cohorts weren’t going to put a billion dollars into Seattle for trains their kids wouldn’t live to ride.

      But most important now: First suburban residents passengers left Westlake on LINK, after voluntarily paying 19 years’ taxes- because they enabled us to build, in three years’ construction time, a system that would give them a fast single-seat ride through Downtown.

      ST3’s worst vulnerability at the polls will be exactly same: human life-span. So project had best be looking for segments where same treatment will work: Something hard, necessary, and expensive first- with things like a decades-overdue southbound bus-only lane between Northgate and about where CPS will shortly not be.

      And about “light rail.” Working definition of the term for me is “able to run street track if necessary, but also 60mph or more on viaducts or in tunnels. Used to be called “Interurbans”. Check wikipedia. Single link will get me banned from STB.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Was the US entirely white in 1964? Did the slave trade and the Civil War happen after that? It looks like that from the film.

      1. The US wasn’t all white but it was much more segregated and bus routes tended to be more “color coded”. If you look at the history of redlining in Seattle, you will notice that the old 12-26th Ave S. route (today, mostly the 4S), stopped at the redline boundary.

      2. 1964?

        Hell, take a look at how earthshattering “Different Strokes” was in the 1980s.

      3. http://www.amazon.com/Conceived-Liberty-William-Chamberlain-American/dp/0140247971

        Mike, some depressing reading for you, but explains a lot. Starting with the real outcome of the Civil War. The Confederate Army was beaten. The South took terrible damage. Usually happens between an industrial side and an agricultural one.

        Slavery was outlawed- by Union force- and as long as Federal troops stayed, black people really were able to earn a decent life for themselves by their own hard work. But except for General Lee, nobody white surrendered.

        Main reason Union troops were pulled out a decade later was because very few whites in the North were willing to go fight Confederates on their own home ground anymore. Feds were taking a lot of casualties.

        But despite many pro-slavery lies, their most important accusation was true: The Union Army fought to keep the Union together. But many, if not most average Northerners hated blacks worse than their old enemies did.

        After the war, prejudice got progressively worse in the North. Segregation laws began to be passed where they’d never existed. President Woodrow Wilson- remembered as a great liberal leader- imposed laws against mixed marriage in Washington DC.

        Joshua Chamberlain, whose men saved Washington DC at Gettysburg, immediately started fretting about the freed blacks tyrannizing their former masters, and very negative about blacks ever getting to vote.

        You might remember a posting here about Dr. King’s reception by white workers in Chicago. Video showed flags of four places. Tough second-generation Chicagoans usually considered anybody extracting from someplace else in Europe inferior.

        And treated their presence in neighborhood bars as a hostile invasion. But a single unusual agreement- also shared by the police, ruining their usual cheerful mode of corruption- was that blacks were secretly members of all the other ethnic groups they hated.

        Worst thing about the violence according to doctor King? “In the South, these mobs were generally a rabble element”- (meaning despised by everybody else white, like Bob Ewell in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”) But in Chicago, we were attacked by ordinary working people.”

        CTA had many black passengers. My mother was a social worker, and when I was three, insisted that I give my seat on the ‘El to women who’d scrubbed floors all day. Wished I’d been tall enough to see anything but a wall of wool coats.

        But I don’t doubt top transit system management had usual kinds of reasons for insisting that much truth about their operation didn’t exist.


      4. Good point, Mike. I had to view the video after you mentioned that, and sure enough, what a ridiculously white portrayal of America.

        What is surprising is the subway shots. I have no idea where those were taken, but a typical east coast subway didn’t look like that. But then again, the shots were of a particular station, not the riders in the train. There was a lot of segregation in the big cities (including the northern ones) so while everyone might have rode the train together, they didn’t all get off at the same stop.

        My guess is that they worked really hard to get as white a portrayal as possible. They probably went through a lot of footage and found what they wanted. This was their target audience (white suburbanites). The stock footage probably wasn’t as hard, but still pretty funny. A generation after Jesse Owens took home the gold for the U. S. A. they have a bunch of white sprinters. I believe the football game was in the southern college game (Auburn vs. Alabama?) which was, of course, segregated at the time. It wasn’t hard to find swimming pools that were segregated as well.

        What is interesting is that ten years later the opposite would have occurred. By the 70s, this ad would have featured more minorities, even if they were tokens.

      5. Dunno.

        I count at least 7 cities in the map at 11:08 that even today would be a bit on the segregated side even into the 1970s.

      6. This is the utopia dream of by those who wish to make America great again.

    3. I was working late in Bellevue last week and I missed the 550 by 15 seconds. My original plan was 550>Link to Columbia City Station. Rather than wait 30 minutes for the next 550 I took the 271 to Husky Stadium and transferred to Link. Even with the deviation to the U District I was home sooner than I would have been sitting in Bellevue for 30 minutes waiting for the next 550.

      1. Good idea. I’m used to not doing this because it traditionally adds a half hour to the trip, but now with Link it can make up for when the 550 drops to half-hourly.

      2. The only trouble is – when the 550 drops to half-hourly, the 271 isn’t super-frequent either – if you have to wait in Bellevue for 15-20 minutes for the 271, it seems not worth it. In your case, I’m guessing that you got lucky and the 271 was leaving very soon, perhaps already waiting at Bellevue TC with the doors open.

        Eventually, the 271 (at least the part between Bellevue and the U-district) needs to be upgraded to be a full-time frequent route, and also operate until at least midnight, rather than have the last trip leave at 10 PM. Currently, weekends the 271 drops to hourly as early as 5:30 PM. Part of the problem with the 271 is that the Eastgate->Issaquah tail is dragging down the rest of the route.

      3. It was a 12 minute wait for the 271 but I did get onto the Link train just seconds before it left the platform. Generally, when I’m forced off my planned schedule I prefer to be riding somewhere–even if it seems out of the way– rather than standing in one spot waiting for 30 minutes.

        Checking the online schedules I see that the 271 left BTC at 850pm and arrived at Husky Stadium about 907pm. I think I then caught the 911pm southbound train which arrived at Columbia City Station at 936pm. If I had waited for the 550 at 908pm I would have arrived at IDS at 931pm and caught either the 934pm or 944pm train (depending on how fast I could do the platform switch). I would have then arrived at Columbia City Station 12 minutes later (946pm or 956pm).

      4. @asdf: ST3 will help with the 271 by providing light rail service for the Issaquah tail.

      5. @William Aitken

        A good exercise for the reader is explaining why we’re devoting such a magnitude of resources to upgrading the weak tail.

  2. With the final drafts of both ST3 and Metro’s LRP floating around, it seems that the days for buses on the Busway south of town are numbered. Several agency spokespersons have indicated express buses will transfer to Link when Federal Way Link comes on-line, and West Seattle Link will have it’s own tracks on the busway.
    If all the above is true, is there a plan to put bus lanes on 4th Ave?
    With all those tracks coming up E-3, maybe my RDC’s from Renton could share some trackage rights to at least SoDo.
    Any flies on the wall know the answer?

    1. What’s your plan for RDCs to Renton? I know there’s existing trackage but BNSF moves a lot of garbage and fuselages on that line. Is there room for passenger service?

    2. Not so much a plan, but musing from an earlier post.
      Looking at ST3 from Renton, Kent and Auburn’s perspective has $243m in the plan with a note that further study is needed. Improvements to Sounder call out station enhancements, more time slots, and adding one car to each train where space is available.
      Now, temper that with a huge dose of reality that BNSF ‘may’ allow more trains dependant on freight traffic. Even the current draft only calls for purchasing 12 more cars. At $50+ million a pop for track rights on the last go around, that’s not much added service on Sounder for the next 25 years.
      Couple that with Metro planning to truncate most express routes at KDM or Sounder, and the travel options just got worse, never mind all day travel still depends on a slow 150 ride into town.
      Contrast that to a Link train leaving Tacoma or Everett every few minutes all day long, and the envy gets to be unbearable.

      1. There really needs to be an all-day Kent->Seattle express bus when Sounder isn’t running. Auburn, and even Sumner/Puyallup have one, so there’s no excuse.

  3. Poll Time.

    Will ST3 pass in Nov 2016? (y/n)?
    What will the percent will it win or lose by?

    Right now i say no, with the no getting 60 percent.
    ST3 needs to be 25 bil$ and 15 years max to pass.

    1. fil, and Mic: Hold both those thoughts. And then pelt the whole ST3 campaign with them like dead cats (audiences only used cats that had died of natural causes) in 19th century politics which were still polite and civil.

      But Mic, you’ve got to think bigger. To Fourth Avenue, add every additional arterial and abandoned track in the whole electoral boundary. Because the cold truth is that if anybody thinks people will pay that much to look at lines and dots for thirty years, they also think historic politics used furry stuffed ones.

      More or less political head-gear this election, only more hair tonic now. But hope I’m right that DSTT approach can help here. Because if not, every graffiti artist now busy with transit will soon get a lucrative contract so pavement of whole prospective ST3 routing will have chartreuse lines and dots connecting every terminal.


    2. It’s not worth predicting because nobody knows the future, or who will vote or stay home, or whether they’ll change their mind at the last minute, or whether the pollsters are missing some segments of the population. We don’t even know what the final will be yet. There’s also unwritten editorials and ads that may or may not influence people.

      1. Sure it is Mike. If the current draft ST3 is on the ballot in november, does it pass?

        ST3 needs MASSIVE revisions in order the pass in november.

      2. Not to mention, this is just a draft plan. We’ve not seen the final ballot measure yet.

      3. “Sure it is Mike. If the current draft ST3 is on the ballot in november, does it pass?”

        That’s what I think is unpredictable. Some people say, “It will pass because so many people want light rail now regardless of the details.” Other people say, “It will fail because the Everett and Issaquah extensions look so wasteful.” I don’t find either extreme convincing. People will make individual decisions based on their different knowledge and circumstance, and the margin of error with these is larger than the difference between winning and losing. My feeling is that a lot of people want light rail now and have had it with the freeways and are willing to spend money on rail, and these outnumber those who think it costs too much or shouldn’t go to Everett and West Seattle etc. But that’s just a feeling, not a prediction, because I don’t think we have enough information to say for certain.

    3. Most transit initiatives have failed on their first submittal, but the process does create a lively dialogue and the packages are more focused when they are resubmitted. ST3 does seem a bit overdone, maybe it would benefit from rejection and the resubmitted package will be more popular.

      1. I completly agree. Failure by a widw margin could be the best thing for ST in the long run.

      2. Joe, i think that ST should have different priorities for the county. I would like to see ST invest in HOV lanes and ramps and concentrate on butting BRT on them.

      3. Fil;

        I disagree. Light rail to Everett Station please. BRT to feed the spine.

        The problem you have is for twenty years, Sound Transit has had Spine Destiny. We can’t just reinvent the script or the wheel as much as to be brutally honest if we could do Sound Transit all over again we’d really make sure Mukilteo got more out of Sound Transit, scrap Sounder North and a heckuva lot more BRT. Hell, we’d even have a ridership standard for BRT routes before considering light rail.

        But Fil and Joe don’t run Sound Transit. We comment on Sound Transit.

    4. ST3 will win. 55% yes. Whatever version. It is a presidential election with no incumbent, so no voter group is “staying home”. Trump will bring out the minority vote even if Clinton fails.

      Nearly everyone talking about what will enable it to get yes votes is just lobbying, not actually threatening to change their votes.

      Voting down ST3 will not help ST. Roads and transit got voted down in 2007. ST2 then came back as a smaller package in 2008 and passed.

      The cost of going with a smaller ST3 is to have to go back to the legislature again to get permission for ST4, and the highway lobby gets another huge bite of lard without a public vote in order to get the bill passed. Please, for the sake of the planet, go big ST! Add all the provisional stuff you can think of, so we don’t run out of projects to fund.

      And then, the City of Seattle should self-fund 130th St Station out of Move Seattle funds, and make it a top priority so that it can open with Lynnwood Link. None of the BRT routes are more urgent than getting that station built with the rest of that segment, saving tens of millions over the cost of building it later. Metro is counting on this station in its LRP. Someone needs to get the memo to Rogoff, so he can work with the City on enabling it to happen.

      1. “It is a presidential election with no incumbent, so no voter group is “staying home”.”

        They will if they have nobody to vote for. There are Bernie Bros who think everyone else has sold out to the 1%, and aren’t swayed by the fact that Hillary would hold back the worst of it and prevent right-wing extremists from stacking the Supreme Court. There are Republicans who think both Trump and Cruz are dangerous for the country but can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary. So they stay home.

        “The cost of going with a smaller ST3 is to have to go back to the legislature again to get permission for ST”

        I thought the ST3 tax authority was perpetual, not limited to one ballot measure and that was it. So if ST3 is smaller, then we’d be essentially voting for the first 15 years or projects now, and the next 10-15 years later, like what ST was originally going to do in the first place.

      2. If Republicans stay home, so be it. ST3 passes by a wider margin. If Democrats don’t want to vote for Clinton, there will be several other lefty candidates on the ballot to suit all their tastes, including Jill Stein. Anarchists will be anarchists.

      3. Brent, I agree with your thoughts.

        A modest suggestion: Have everybody tell their bosses, “Sorry transit family emergency on Thursday, May 26, 2016 – starting at 1330 Hours, Board of Directors Meeting, Union Station, Ruth Fisher Boardroom, 401 S. Jackson St. , Seattle, WA”…

        Just get some sorties downrange… I’ll gladly suppress the Alex SAM Site and clear the way for you guys :-).

    5. My gut feeling is that if ST3 was voted on in its draft form today, it would fail.

      I think the major short term political problem ST3 has is that politicians raised people’s expectations by talking about “going big” and then presented a draft plan whose project list met people’s minimal expectations, but takes 5-10 years longer to build than people were expecting.

      In the longer term, I think the draft plan has a few weaknesses, even among pro-transit voters:

      * The East King projects seem uninspiring- it feels like they’re being picked to meet a price tag to balance with the other sub-areas

      * In North King, among West Seattlites, there does seem to be pent-up abstract desire for rail, but the reality of light rail terminating at Alaskan Junction may not meet their expectations.

      * In South King and Pierce sub-areas, current travel times to Downtown Seattle via ST Express and Sounder are going to compare poorly to future expected travel times on Link

      * Between the sub-areas and projects, the extended timeline for project completion seems to be creating some perception and attendant resentment that all the other projects are being unfairly prioritized over the projects in one’s own neighborhood or sub-area.

      The argument people are for voting for the ST3 draft project proposal seems be “Voting no won’t get us better projects, or a faster timeline- we’ll just get the same projects, but delayed 2 or 4 years, so we should hold our nose and vote yes”. I’m not sure that this argument is correct, and given how awful ST3 is on its merits, I’m not sure if it’ll have enough emotional resonance to put ST3 over the top.

      The draft isn’t final yet- maybe the ballot measure will be good enough. The election is still 6 months away- people might have enough enough time to lower their expectations.

      1. “talking about “going big” and then presented a draft plan whose project list met people’s minimal expectations, but takes 5-10 years longer to build”

        Exactly – this is not an ambitious, impressive, inspiring plan; it is a mundane, slow-moving, incremental plan, which would spend a very long time building up to a minimal level of service which would not be satisfactory if we had it tomorrow and certainly won’t be anywhere close to adequate by the time it is scheduled to be complete.

        “Going big” would include a Ballard-UW line or a Metro 8 line. A “complete” proposal would include both and add a Ballard-Lake City extension. An impressive, wow, “holy shit we have to do this now” proposal would offer this on a 15 year timetable.

      2. But this is “going big”. Ballard alone is $4.7B.

        There’s an argument that ST played the expectations game poorly. Lots of observers figured, incorrectly, that something like Ballard and West Seattle and the second tunnel was achievable in 15 years, and therefore a 25-year plan would have lots of juicy extras. So there’s some disappointment based on the dashing of expectations that were always unrealistic.

        Same in Snohomish, where electeds promoted a delusional expectation that rail would get to both Everett and Paine Field quickly. (and that they were ‘promised’ this).

        But there’s no more money. Or not much. This is really expensive stuff. Arguably the price tags should prompt some reevaluation of priorities. But the free money to load up a bunch of extra goodies doesn’t exist.

    6. ST employees have hinted that the draft plan will most likely change significantly between now and November. Many of the projects/timelines on the draft plan were probably calibrated to ignite a specific response.

      For example, my theory of Ballard Link is that Sound Transit released a conservative 22 year timeline to put pressure on the Seattle City Council to streamline the permitting process. It also built public support for limiting impact studies, something that the public might have balked at if they weren’t comparing the average life expectancy to the project completion dates.

      Another example: Paine Field. Polling shows that Snohomish county residents don’t care much for the Paine Field deviation, but their elected officials put pressure on ST to include it. So ST released a 2041 completion date with a side note that without the Paine Field deviation Everett Link could be completed 10 years earlier and for half a billion dollars less. Suddenly you have Snohomish elected officials lining up behind the second option, something they opposed before the public reeled at a 25 year project.

      So really, there’s no point in making predictions based on this plan. After putting transit packages on the ballot 4 times, ST knows the politics of the region. For all their mistakes, they’ve gotten very good at dealing with our cumbersome political process, and this draft plan is probably designed to get public opinion to do some heavy lifting.

      1. “After putting transit packages on the ballot 4 times, ST knows the politics of the region.”

        And the ST Board are the politicians of the region.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the speculation is true, that the draft had some features to force the hand of the least productive positions and get them to agree to something more productive.

  4. I don’t see St3 passing,

    25 years with out a rescission fat chance.

    They are trying to build a regional and an urban system. The two people will void each other out. Urbanism does not want 600 million in storing cars. Regional does want to pay for expensive tunnels or put metrics into the timeline. Which would net better for dense urban areas.

    1. Bb, I completely agree. I really think ST is going to have to drastically change the package and funding plan for ST3 to pass.

      1. fil, what I’m saying is that outcome at the polls doesn’t have to be a matter of chance. To me, the point most likely to kill the project is the amount of time voters won’t be getting anything for their money.

        Exactly the problem we faced in 1983 when we started serious planning to start the regional system. So I’ll start making predictions when I can see how much this next regional project can use from the one I remember.

        One just-for-example: Say Ballard/Queen Anne/CBD line gets a tunnel under the Ship Canal. Dig that first, and from the south end near Fishermens’ Terminal, and give buses a reserved transitway toward Downtown.

        Spaces for pillars ideal. But painted lanes with signal pre-empt better than nothing. We’ll have one hard part done. But while Queen Anne tunnel is being dug, we’d have a really strong transit corridor for as long as necessary.

        Which can then provide local surface transit after the line itself is finished. Real problem: Buses aren’t double-ended. Curious how short a headway a turntable will handle. But since line will probably head north anyway, northbound ramp possible.

        So I’ll give you my prediction after I see some route maps. But meantime, I think the effort itself will be good for both PR and our own fighting spirit. Over the years, transit around Seattle has raised more hackles about what it’s still fretting about than what it’s done.


      2. But if people want the projects sooner, voting down ST3 won’t help. We’ll make sure voters understand that. Delaying it four years adds four years onto all delivery times. And, really, a presidential election with an incumbent will be a tougher campaign to win.

        Anyone thinking they will speed up any ST project by voting no on ST3 is fooling themselves.

        ST2 isn’t complete until 2023. That’s the single largest reason the delivery dates are so far away. From there, West Seattle is a mere 10 years after ST2 is complete. Everett is 8-18 years after ST2 is complete, depending on the alignment. Federal Way is just 5 years after ST2 is complete. Downtown Redmond only 3 years. Ballard, 15 years (sigh).

        Groups are jostling for priority for their favorite project, but the only group that has threatened to vote No to stop a project is the Kirkland NIMBY group. But they also have not promised to vote Yes if all their demands are met, so doing what they ask instead of what the Kirkland City Council is asking may actually lose votes, since it sounds like most of them are going to vote No regardless. A little polling in Kirkland may be warranted, as the public process is merely measuring who can scream the loudest.

      3. Brent,

        Given the projects could not start construction for sometime there is plenty of float for 4 years. I am not sure ST even would have the resources to begin design on the other extensions and go through the EIS process. I would argue that the timeline would be similar with less financial constraints.

        We can’t vote yes on something just for the sake of it is better than what we have. We are in an environment where we need to make an effective transit system. We don’t need a BART El Norte. We need to be bold on the Tacoma south segment. No one has done an origin destination study to see where people are going and if the existing transit network says something, it is very downtown oriented. Airport trains are not as productive as those to downtown. Why don’t we actually go for the gold and build a true all day rail service from Seattle-Tacoma and if there is enough demand have it go further south to Lakewood then Dupont?

        Coordinating with Pierce Transit for connections would help increase ridership and reduce the need for increasing parking in the area and this is where I think Kitsap Transit does well is feeding the commuter ferries. Without more frequency on Sounder, Puyallup-Tukwilla sees no benefit out of this. I am not sure how Bellevue is going to vote, that depends on how many people really need to get to Ballard or West Seattle or if they would go those directions. ST has ticked Kirkland off let alone ignored them since ST played hardball and with the 405 debacle who knows. I know anyone who supports the ETLs is committing an act of political suicide.

        Funny thing, no one has even talked about Belltown, they might sink Seattle. If Ballard-Seattle isn’t fully grade separated let alone West Seattle SS will likely come against it. I would be surprised if they decided to withdraw the grade separation but grade crossing on Interbay is a non-starter and based on ST’s plans they want to run it parallel to 15th. If they plan on taking lanes for that, it is going to be DOA.

      4. While ST might be stressed to apply enough resources to accelerate projects while ST2 projects are being finished, passing ST3 this year will allow four more years of collecting revenue at the front end. That could be used to retire Sound Move and ST2 bonds early so the agency would have ample bonding capacity to accelerate projects later.

      5. aw

        I do not believe you can use ST 3 funds to pay down original ST or ST 2 projects. I believe those would have to be held in a separate account and specifically paying for those projects. It is one issue I found with San Jose. Projects that were promised in 2000 still not completed because of BART to San Jose.

        We need to make an actual try of an all day frequent corridor that uses commuter rail rolling stock on electrified tracks rather than extending what is essentially a Metro to the suburbs with sprawling park & rides. BART has done that and even Vancouver at this rate will have half the track miles and beat out BART’s ridership. Vancouver is short by about 30,000 to BART but once Everegreen line opens with 6 more stations that will likely make it eclipse BART. Number of stations is about the same right now 47 for Vancouver vs 45 for San Fran. Vancouver will be at 53 stations with Evergreen and BART will be to 49.

        Less track miles and more stations likely mean lower capital costs and a more effective system serving the core rather than outlying areas. The big question I still have are do Ballard-Downtown numbers pencil out. I would like to see true RR treatment on D line with more frequency during the rush to see how far the ridership could be pushed up but I don’t think 3rd Ave has enough room to do that at the moment.

      6. The bond ceiling is a debt-to-asset ratio: how easily ST can make future bond payments if revenue goes down in a recession, emergency expenses arise. [1] So if the money accumulates in savings or pays down ST1&2 bonds, it’s essentially the same thing for ST3 bonds as far as my inexpert eye can tell.

        [1] There’s also the possibility of an Eyman initiative hurricane, but that can’t override bondholders’ claims so it’s the rest of ST that would be impacted.

    2. “They are trying to build a regional and an urban system. The two people will void each other out.”

      They aren’t equally numerous. The suburbs are 2/3 to 4/5 of the population.

      “25 years with out a rescission fat chance.”

      That doesn’t matter for passing the resolution. If revenues fall then things will be scaled back or postponed in certain subareas, the same way ST2 was. The revenue projection is just an estimate anyway: nobody knows if it will actually be higher or lower. Saying we shouldn’t plan anything because a recession will surely occur in 25 years means you’d never build anything ever.

      1. Seattle got 60% of King County’s population growth last year. The heyday of the suburbs is over, and their political dominance will not last; it would be a mistake to commit ourselves to another quarter-century of suburb-focused transit development because of 20th century trends which are already reversing.

    3. Bb, might be worth a night’s stay in either Everett or Olympia, or both, to see firsthand how close number of cars storing themselves on I-5 every single weekday rush is approaching 600 million.

      However, from repeated personal observation, new tracks are being installed between present Sounder railhead at Lakewood and the main BN track along the north bank of the Nisqually River. Probably twenty minutes to Amtrak station in Lacey, east-side Olympia suburb.

      Express bus could make Downtown in 20 minutes or less. Meeting every train. From conversations with current neighbors, if Sound Transit could phase in Thurston County by bringing in Olympia first, we’d have both a willing electorate and attention-getting advertisements that being trapped is now a matter of choice.

      Also that via Tacoma Dome and ST 594, they’d be less than five hours late for their flight from Sea-Tac.

      Since I-5 is a Federal highway, which also goes by a fort, Feds really should cover this extension no matter what. Like the video noted, when the Interstates were coming online, official thinking assumed that public transit would always be part of the picture.

      Otherwise, obviously, those expensive defense highways would become region-wide death traps. In the ’50’s,when “bombers” meant four engines with two propellers each and red stars on the wings instead of guys with box-cutters, people really did believe that good civil engineering really was national defense.

      Word to both major parties this election is that it still really is.

      Mark Dublin

    4. Every now and then we get an Administration and a Congress who look at major public works such as transit projects as measures for curing a recession. Right now there’s a straightforward cure for just about everything wrong here on a grand scale:

      Hire everybody in sight at wages bringing a decent life and have them repair a country that is literally, and likely deliberately, being allowed to fall apart, highway-by-bridge-by-school-system-by-water-supply.

      I can’t believe nobody financial has pointed out that it’s not “conservative” to lie about book-keeping itself. Red number can exceed dollar amount of black one. But as long as black number shows equal or increasing value, the budget is in balance.

      A machine shop owner- or a transit system- shows his banker a higher black balance sheet total than red. After a quick look out the wheeled junk-pile out the window, the banker will add ten whole-numbers in front of the zero to the debit column with his own red Sharpie.

      Same with a country. With massive cost increases in the Sharpie market.


    5. 25 years with out a rescission fat chance.

      Another recession might actually result in ST3 happening faster.

      After all, it was the Great Depression of the 1930s that brought the massive Good Roads Movement and the first generation of a national network of paved multiple lane highways.

      Of course, at that time we weren’t trying to pay off the debt from a massive 15 year military campaign in a combination of Central Asia and the Middle East.

    6. Mike is right in saying this is pure speculation and probably pointless. But I’ve engaged in more pointless activities, so why not:

      Predicting votes is very difficult business (most pundits expected Trump to be long gone by now). As mentioned, this is just a draft. So we are really trying to predict two things — how much this will change, and will people vote for this.

      As to the first, I don’t see major changes, but I do see ST addressing the major complaints. In many ways, the situation right now is ripe for them to improve. It is just like any negotiation. Come out with the shocking number, then dial it back a little. If light rail to Ballard takes 18 years, suddenly it doesn’t sound so bad. Meanwhile, there are a lot of little projects that were left out that would certainly get votes if added back in. For example, Graham Street and NE 130th stations. The folks are working really hard for those, and if they get it, they are likely to vote yes. This is in contrast to if it was simply part of the project initially.

      But I doubt there will be a fundamental change to the proposal. The WSTT is dead, Ballard to UW rail is dead, Kirkland BRT is dead. Metro 8 subway was never on the table. In other words, all of the most cost effective, life changing proposals aren’t going to be part of this enormous project.

      For that reason, I see this failing, but I could be wrong. I see too little added for too much money. I can break it down, region by region, but that will take a very long time (my comments are long enough as is). My main point is that if people really look at the number of people who will benefit and how much they will benefit versus the cost, I think it will fail. This makes it different than the two projects that passed. While some parts of each were excessive, there was plenty in there that would benefit everyone.

      But I could also see this passing, just because of the nature of politics. I could see it passing for several reasons:

      1) Traffic is bad. Transit experts will always tell you that good transit doesn’t reduce traffic (it just gives you an alternative). But ST3 proponents will say otherwise, implying that driving will be a lot better, like it is for Sally in the video (https://youtu.be/1hDHx2ll19I?t=349).

      2) People don’t look at the details; they trust the politicians and assume this is the best we can do. I understand this, and would put myself in that category for the first Sound Transit vote. Before I got on this blog (and spent a lot of time reading and evaluating the arguments) I figured light rail from Tacoma to Everett was a great idea. When you think of transit like you think of driving, it makes a lot of sense. It isn’t until you get into the nitty-gritty details that it becomes apparent that a lot of the plans (or, in this case, most of them) just aren’t cost effective improvements in transit.

      3) A polarized electorate and media leads to bad assumptions. It is tough to analyze the efficacy of a transit system, so I don’t blame anyone for not taking the time to figure out whether this thing makes sense or not. We should be able to rely on various organizations that are hopefully knowledgeable and impartial. Unfortunately, I doubt that will be the case. The Seattle Times has lost all credibility. No one pays any attention to the Seattle P. I. or many of the other moderate online media sources (I’m not sure if they even make endorsements any more). The Stranger has a lot of power, but based on what I’ve read, they have been an uncritical supporter of Sound Transit (i. e. any rail anywhere is worth it). So it is quite possible if not likely that you will have a lot of liberal politicians and The Stranger on one side, with a lot of anti-tax, anti-transit Republicans and The Seattle Times on the other. If such a dynamic unfolds, you can expect the city to vote for ST3 in large numbers. Since it is a general election year, such a dynamic would help ST3 considerably.

      4) The feeling that there is no other choice. It is a bit like voting for or against the SR 99 tunnel (i. e. Bertha). Towards the end of the process, alternatives were ignored, folks were basically asked to built it or not (in a nonbinding resolution). It would be much better to build a new (quieter, skinnier) viaduct, or simply put the money into transit and I-5 improvements. A focus group said as much. But unlike then, there is no focus group saying there is an alternative. You have plenty of folks (including me) saying we can do better, but we can’t point to “Plan B” (or “C” or “D”) because there is none. At least no plan that has the research backing it that the SR99 tunnels had. I’m sure a lot of people feel like voting no is simply delaying the inevitable. This goes along with the second item. If you think that completing the spine is the best transit project that can be built, but think it isn’t needed quite yet, then it is pretty easy to be convinced to vote for this. Feeling that way is reasonable. After all, this isn’t that much different than what was originally proposed (and failed). I’m sure there are folks saying “if only we had voted for this in the first place, it would be much closer to being done by now”. When you consider that the Seattle rail piece is essentially the same as the monorail plan, it gives the impression that what is being considered is just the obvious choice. This is nuts, of course. The monorail route was specifically chosen to avoid any conflict with Sound Transit, not because it was the most cost effective monorail route. Likewise the spine is only considered because those in charge are infatuated with it, not because an independent analysis has shown it to be the most effective, time saving transit project we can build.

      So, yeah, I could see this passing in the city, even in areas (e. g. Belltown and the Central Area) that are getting nothing and should be getting meaningful improvements way before one tiny part of West Seattle gets rail. I would imagine those in Snohomish County and Pierce County will vote no, but if they buy the “it will help with traffic” or “we don’t have a choice” argument, then the numbers won’t be too big. The east side should be interesting, and could easily decide this. The Redmond extension is an obvious winner, while the Issaquah line is the opposite. There are only 30,000 people in the entire city of Issaquah and most wouldn’t gain anything from this (a three seat ride to Seattle isn’t too appealing). Kirkland and Renton pretty much got nothing, and may decide to vote no. Organized opposition (from those cities) might be a smart political thing to do, if the folks feel that is the way the wind is blowing (might as well take credit for a defeat as a bargaining chip).

      I do think a lot depends on whether any of the left/centrist leaning organizations or press oppose this. Even a new organization (e. g. “Transit Supporters Opposed to ST3”) could have a significant impact. Whether that happens or not is anyone’s guess.

    7. “So we are really trying to predict two things — how much this will change, and will people vote for this.”

      I would be more fun to speculate on how much it will change in the final. There are 18 boardmembers, who hold the keys to the decision. So it’s a skill game of understanding their values, their psychology, what would make them change their mind, and how likely those mind-changing factors are.

      I think we can assume that the alternatives presented by ST staff will go through: the Paine Field spur/BRT, Issaquah Link junction at East Main, the split-spine configuration. The 405 BRT downgrading is less certain, because how much value is left in it? Then we come to the things ST hasn’t budget on. 130th, who knows. I hope they at least debate it rather than stonewall it. The Ballard-UW and West Seattle-Burien EISes may be seen as a cheap concession, and the letter would also benefit Burien that’s getting nothing otherwise. Renton’s wining will probably amount to nothing, because again Renton hasn’t articulated what it wants from ST beyond what ST included. Kirkland is out too, but maybe the STEX route Bellevue – downtown Kirkland – Totem Lake will quietly appear in the ST Express budget.

    1. Temporary lease. ST had too much equipment and VRE not enough.

      I had thought all of that had been returned to Sounder.

      The most out of place lease I remember was the GO Transit (Ontario, Canada) that wound up working in Los Angeles for a few years after the 1989 earthquake took out some of the highways.

      There are some good things about having a continent wide set of rolling sock standards.

      1. The first time the Onario Northland express pulled into the station with its shiny refurbished fleet of Dutch Trans-Europe Express equipment probably produced the same result.

        Canada has no hesitation about turning European equipment loose in North America.

      2. I remember something about VRE leasing Sounder equipment, but then trading their purchase to ST.

        So that when ‘their’ cars became available, the just went to ST directly.

        I wonder if the Sounder cars are still running around down in LA?

      3. When I was in LA in 2008, I saw some Sounder cars with Metrolink logos at LAUT. Why I even have pictures on my phone.

        I saw some mention of the VRE – Metrolink transfer on an old post Trainorders.

        I should look closely at those pictures to see if I can make out any VRE logo ghosting on the paint.

    2. Would PhotoShop in about a dozen sets of legs and shoes more, Joe. 99% of world’s urban transit lines would wonder why nobody found that poor girl asleep with her eyes open before the cleanup crew found her just before dawn.

      More or less same take as on our passengers demanding three cars for loads that take up three standing seat-rows in the real world. Good thing The Seattle Times doesn’t get edited in Rio de Janeiro. “Not only overweight cars (Casey Corr, in lead-up to “Governance” vote) but NO RIDERSHIP!”

      Sounds more outraged in Portuguese. Anybody want to buy Dori Monson some School of Languages lessons?


  5. Uh oh. Should have said ST 574. Buzzards are already eating the window seals on the 594. Good thing I didn’t get hired for Customer Services!


  6. Even though the sound quality is uneven, the orchestration in the video is great! It’s a 50’s symphonic version of motion!

  7. Speaking of the 1960s, I’ve been thinking about Forward Thrust lately (for obvious reasons). I wonder how much of Ballard (and other neighborhoods) would be unrecognizable had it passed. I’m imagining the corner of Leary and Market as a giant, windswept concrete plaza, and most of the Ballard Avenue redeveloped in a similar 60s urban renewal way. Am I wrong?

    1. Forward Thrust was more aimed at Lake City than Ballard, but I’m sure that any stations built in the 1970s would have been built with enormous P&R lots as the surrounding infrastructure.

    2. More likely, Frank, that end of the only line would be Northgate. Possibly with the other end at Sea-Tac Airport, with a single intermediate station at Boeing Access. Speaking of airports- how long did it take BART to get to the San Francisco one?


      1. Forward Thrust didn’t go to Northgate or SeaTac, but to Lake City and Renton. That’s the change in population distribution between 1970 and now. If we had had Forward Thrust, it might have changed where people wanted to live.

    3. An awful lot of the 1960s was a huge mistake. Seattle figured out how to make that sort of thing work (witness Seattle Center), but many cities didn’t.

      I think it probably would have been heavy on parking at first, but parking lots are easy to redevelop if they become underused.

      1. Seattle also blocked a lot of the horrible stuff that was proposed in the 1960s. If those things hadn’t been blocked, Pike Place Market and the Pioneer Square neighborhood would be sterile modernist “urban renewal” zones and there would be a six-lane freeway running through the Arboretum and roughly paralleling MLK Avenue through the CD.

        As many regrets as I have about the FT rapid transit measure getting shot down, and the recent widening of Highway 520 to the detriment of the Arboretum, things could easily have turned out worse. Much worse.

      2. Yeah, I agree. There were a ton of really bad ideas back in the day. Urban renewal in general was a horrible mistake, and another freeway would have been awful. There were also plans for a floating bridge across the Sound, which would have cut through Discovery Park and brought (even more) sprawl to the islands.

      3. “Seattle also blocked a lot of the horrible stuff that was proposed in the 1960s. If those things hadn’t been blocked, Pike Place Market and the Pioneer Square neighborhood would be sterile modernist “urban renewal” zones and there would be a six-lane freeway running through the Arboretum and roughly paralleling MLK Avenue through the CD.”

        That started me thinking this morning what the city would be like now. No Pike Place Market, no Pioneer Square. And if we had torn down the World’s Fair buildings, no Seattle Center. That sounds like what you hear about other cities, destroying themselves for urban renewal. “I went back to Ohio and my city was gone.” And now those things that weren’t destroyed have become the most valuable things, what residents want to live around and tourists want to be around. But that 1964 video was right at the time all this urban renewal was happening, and it praised the modernist breadboxes. It reminds me of another contrast I’ve seen recently.

        Yekaterinburg, a medium-sized city with Stalinist breadboxes. Another view.


        Alumina factory ($), Pikalevo, Russia. (St Petersburg area.) Lovely 19th-century archways, looking like a czar’s palace. Sure it could be more multistory, and larger windows are possible now and probably beneficial, and it’s not in walking distance of anything (that I can see in the picture). But it shows that factories don’t have to be like modernist industrial parks in Kent. Full story ($)

        The first pictures are from Jarrett Walker’s transit consultation in Yekaterinburg, which also has pictures of the more historic features, as well as streetcars.

      4. The ironic thing is, on a national scale, the US embraced modernist architecture because it was the opposite of the Nazis, who turned to neoclassical grandeur and considered modernism decadent and Jewish, and the modernist architects fled from Nazi-controlled lands to the US. The Soviet Union embraced mondernism because it went hand in hand with “the new Soviet main”, eliminating remnants of the feudal/bourgeois past. So two countries with different systems and for different reasons came to the same place.

      5. Seattle also blocked a lot of the horrible stuff that was proposed in the 1960s. If those things hadn’t been blocked, Pike Place Market and the Pioneer Square neighborhood would be sterile modernist “urban renewal” zones

        Portland had a public market right on the waterfront.

        They demolished it in 1968 to make way for an addition to Harbor Drive, which was our equivalent of the viaduct.

        A few years later Harbor Drive was found to be a bad idea and surplus anyway, so it was demolished too.

        Today, demolishing a highway that had been expanded 6 years prior would result in a terror on talk radio, and probably never happen.

        The good news is that really bad ideas sometimes do get demolished.

      1. Obviously, this doesn’t have a line all the way to Everett, That was a self contained community to then.

        If the Redmond line of Forward Thrust gets built, does the Microsoft campus wind up in Federal Way or something because real estate values are too high in Redmond?

      2. I have a copy of that map, it’s from the 1970 proposition. The plan included parking for 20,000 cars at the various stations and Ballard would have had a large parking lot at about 17th and Market. Notice that the proposed train lines don’t serve Northgate, the airport or Rainier Valley.

      3. Notice that the part of the city where people of color lived was not to be served at all?

      4. @Breakbaker — Not true at all. It is hard to see from the map, here is a better one: https://www.flickr.com/photos/afiler/488657396/. Notice there are four stops between the UW and downtown. The three stops close to Madison were surrounded by people of color back then (I would guess higher minority population than anywhere in the city now). There would be less service for Rainier Valley, but still both sides of Beacon Hill. Meanwhile, there would be what appears to be BRT for Rainier Valley, as there was for West Seattle. So, basically, better service for people of color in general than what ST has built (or plans on building).

        The urban renewal (or similar changes) that Frank alludes to are a completely different matter.

    4. It’s interesting that whenever the video said city or apartment building and wasn’t pointed at the sidewalk, it showed modernist breadbox buildings. Things Le Corbusier and the Urban Renewalists would have approved of, but look ugly and inhuman now. But in the early 60s they were probably seen as the Brave New World. Still, when it talked about apartment buildings at the outer suburban stations and showed a ten-story concrete behemoth, viewers in their houses probably went, “God, I wouldn’t want to live in something like that. I’m glad zoning prohibiits it in our neighborhood.”

      1. Mike, and Glenn, from what I remember about the 1960’s, this country went into the decade believing that everything still wrong in the country would be fixed and improved in the future. Until November 22, 1963.

        Shortly followed by a war that shared all the worst mistake-generators of that period’s public transit design. Fueled, unfortunately, with the same optimism that our country’s strength, wealth, and goodness would constantly fix any mistakes.

        Leaving us with forty years of war damage that really did make the future look like an unavoidable zombie apocalypse. But- zombies can’t run very fast. (Brad Pitt should have retired after that line in “Burn After Reading” where he got punched in the nose for telling John Malkovich that a Schwinn isn’t a bicycle).

        And they also fall apart. Also, and best thing of all for Tunnels: shovels have terrific record for killing them. Probably boring machines too, though the big cutters don’t leave any evidence. But since if anybody staggers in front of a train, even if they’re already dead, police still have to shut down an at-grade line like MLK.


    5. One difference is probably the orientation of the line. As the film indicates, the thinking then was heavy on commuter traffic. So, you probably wind up with a system with a schedule a lot more like MAX: 3 to 15 minute service during peak periods, and hourly service in the evenings.

      After all, if your predominant assumption is that everyone has a car, then your second assumption is probably going to be that everyone is going to drive in the off-peak anyway? So why bother trying to be convenient in the off-peak and not concentrate the service hours into the peak periods?

      1. Where does MAX have “hourly service in the evenings”? Around 2001 I was living in Portland and working on the OGI campus between Beaverton and Hillsboro, and more than once rode the train home late from Quatama Station. I remember 20 or 30 minute headways at worst, not hourly ones.

      2. One difference is probably the orientation of the line… After all, if your predominant assumption is that everyone has a car, then your second assumption is probably going to be that everyone is going to drive in the off-peak anyway?

        From an orientation standpoint, ST plans are even more oriented towards a car. Here is a couple more maps: https://www.flickr.com/photos/afiler/488657396/ and https://www.washington.edu/uwired/outreach/cspn/Website/Images/Mullins%20images/1985system.jpg. A few things stand out:

        1) Four stops between downtown and the UW (not one).
        2) Belltown gets a stop (on the way to Ballard).
        3) West Seattle gets BRT (back when few had heard of the term).
        4) Lake City gets service, Northgate does not.
        5) Pretty much ignores the suburbs outside King County. This was a county proposal (not a regional one) and serving those suburbs was a lesser concern.

        In general, I would say the Forward Thrust plan is far more oriented towards providing a real alternative to driving than the ST plan. About the only area I see that is better with ST is Rainier Valley. Using the freeway seems like a weird choice (and out of character with the rest of the plans) but my guess is they wanted a fast and cheap way to get to Renton (for all the Boeing jobs). Rainier Valley was that populous back in the day (it still isn’t, really) whereas the Central Area (with its three stops) was.

      3. Where does MAX have “hourly service in the evenings”?

        Up until the mid-1990s, the schedule was far more weekday and peak oriented. Hourly started around 10 pm, but then it was also synchronized with the big bus pulse on the transit mall every hour on the half hour.

        The real bright spots with good service into the evenings at that time were the 5 (Interstate – Hawthorne), 15 (Belmont – NW Portland, as it is today) and 4 (Division – Fessenden, as it is today). MAX didn’t go there.

        At that time, the OGI campus required going through 3 miles of farm fields.

        In general, I would say the Forward Thrust plan is far more oriented towards providing a real alternative to driving than the ST plan.

        I guess I was thinking of how far out into the middle of nowhere places like Redmond and Bellevue would have been in the 1960s. Bellevue at the time wasn’t much.

    6. The first vote was in 1968 so no lines would have been completed until the mid-1970s. I would guess that any such “urban renewal” would follow the completion of the transit infrastructure, unless it was part of the station development itself.

      However, considering the weak economic conditions at the time, I don’t think much development would have occurred. By the mid-1970s Seattle was losing population. I’d guess we’d have a few ugly buildings in Ballard and probably a large parking structure (which could’ve become TOD by now) but I’m not sure it would be massively different than what we have today assuming height limits remained the same.

      1. I agree. This map (https://www.washington.edu/uwired/outreach/cspn/Website/Images/Mullins%20images/1985system.jpg) shows the Central Area as a “model neighborhood”, which is another word for urban renewal. I think this would have been killed, just as we killed other stupid ideas (destroying the Pike Place Market, a second freeway to the east of I-5, etc.). Given the organization in the Central Area, I think it wouldn’t have gone very far. The area that was mostly black was simply not that poor, nor that run down (and well organized). There wouldn’t have been the “we have to do something” attitude that prevailed in way too many cities. Start tearing down middle class houses just so you can build some brutalist piece of crap in the name of “renewal” and that idea would die really quickly.

  8. I filled out ST’s survey. It was actually easy to do the “choose 7 (very urgent) for things you want and 1 (not important) for things you don’t”because each light rail project had its own choice. I did give mid-levels to Tacoma Link and Pacitic Ave bus because I thought they should get some love. There was no separate question about the Paine Field spur, but since I think the entire Everett extension is not important it didn’t matter. I’ll go along with it if it wins based on other people’s choices, but I don’t think I have to consider it urgent.

    I also suggested ST give Metro a large capital contribution for its Eastside long range plan instead of 405 BRT. I put very urgent for ST Express and Sounder and the miscellaneous stuff so they get some attention. I asked for NE 130th Street to be definite rather than provisional, Seattle Subway’s EIS/Record of Decision for Ballard-UW, and Alternatives Analyses for Lake City and “Metro 8”. I also put, “Transit, not parking! Let the cities fund parking around stations if they want to.”

    1. Mike,

      I am curious as to the 405 corridor would there be agreement with using it to route many different buses rather than just one or two routes in order to better serve the area and form an all day frequent network? I have had a hard time pinning down what would really be best for 405. Even with the ETLs, the single lane portions north of 522 bog down quite regularly albeit not as often but it looks like reliability is still impacted.

      I am still a no from Link to Tacoma, I am all day faster frequent Sounder would fit the needs better and give those living along 167 some alternative given the lack of DOT investment on the HOT lane extensions further south.

      1. I think that was the consensus amongst many (including me) on the blogs the other day. The idea of running a bus just along 405 — and running it every ten minutes at most — is really a bad idea. A series of overlapping express buses makes more sense.

        Personally, I have no problem with the infrastructure improvements (new ramps, flyover stations, etc.) but it the routing that is a failure. I think ST should just do the work, and let Metro figure out the routing. That does run across the issue with Snohomish County, but an express or two from Lynnwood could complement it (I don’t even see the need for King and Snohomish County to cooperate much).

      2. I prefer a multi-line BRT on 405, which was one of the alternatives in the 2014 study. That would have overlapping lines terminating in downtown Kirkland, Renton, and other downtowns off the freeway. But ST chose single-line BRT because it’s less expensive, so I’m assuming it’s not willing to raise the budget for multi-line. But maybe I should have asked for it anyway.

  9. When riding the 62 this morning there were two overhead announcements I had never heard before, sounded like the same voice that tells people to move to the rear, and “This is the last stop.”
    The first announcement was a reminder to use cellphones responsibly and the second one was a reminder that seniors and people with disabilities have priority searing in front–both very helpful reminders when the bus is filling up.
    The volume was much lower than that annoying security-related one that Metro did last year that made every boarding passenger feel the announcement was aimed at them.

  10. Okay, this really happened to me today about 7:30 or so. I was driving east on N. 63rd where it goes under the Aurora Bridge. There’s a light there which is where the E exits Aurora to take the Winona cutoff.

    The light is green for me. It was green before I got to the underpass and it continued green. But the E, heading north, began making its left turn, clearly against the light, as I came through the underpass.

    I’m fairly certain there is no Metro rule or exception to basic traffic laws that lets it do this. I can’t believe it went through two light cycles, and in any event, I can’t imagine anyone using that particular exception with a bus.


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