King County Metro 2015 New Flyer XT60 4514

This is an open thread.

129 Replies to “News Roundup: Growing Fast”

  1. Bill Bryant, the nobody nobody knows challenging Jay Inslee for governor, provides evidence #143,234 that republicans are terrible in every way ever.

    1. I like how his signs are solid blue and don’t say GOP on them anywhere. And his tie is blue too. Trying to confuse the voters maybe?

      Hopefully his policies become better known than his party affiliation, because they are typically atrocious in the transpo field.

      1. Why is the Republican Party even still a thing in Washington State?

        You could use a second party, rather than this joke party.

    2. “Bryant said of Inslee, who is seeking a second four-year term. “If it’s not climate change, he doesn’t care.”

      During an interview at The Daily News on Wednesday, Bryant accused Inslee of deliberately delaying the permitting process for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export dock in Longview.”

      Bryant has actually just transitioned me from a lukewarm Inslee supporter to a moderate Inslee supporter. My biggest complaint with Inslee is that he is all talk and no action on climate change. Glad to hear that he is personally involved in delaying Longview.

    3. I like how he said “We should make I-90 a corridor from Chicago to the Port of Seattle,” with absolutely no interest in actually moving people around.

    4. But if you look closely at his sign, one of the little squiggles that make up the stylized Mt. Rainier is an arrow that points to the right. Very subtle

    5. Certain members of our city council have recently supported his “work” at the Port on a particular topic. I for one will not be forgetting that.

      Dan Evans, we hardly knew ye.

  2. “WSDOT is too focused on transit (!)”

    I agree- way to focused on ruining its effectiveness

  3. *Chuckle*. With construction ending in 2029, I’m not sure “completion is finally in sight” is what I would say regarding SR-520 construction.

    1. 2029??? What a joke! Even the new Oakland Bay Bridge did not take 15 years.

      I gotta’ say, as a California transplant, I am shocked at the incompetence/sluggishness of the transportation agencies in Washington. CA’s are no great shakes, but compared to Washington, they look fabulous.

      1. I wonder what kind of engineer is willing to sign on to a project which will move so slowly it will consume half your career, all by itself. I wonder, is Washington creating a vicious cycle by moving so slowly that we drive our best people out of state looking for opportunities to accomplish things in a reasonable amount of time, thereby slowing our projects down even further? I have no actual knowledge that this is the case but it would be an interesting research study.

      2. It’s not like it’s Water Tunnel #3. I understand why some projects take decades…

      1. I’m getting really tired of saying this, but somebody has to. Can we have at least one, or hopefully a lot more, actual tunnel engineers weigh in on the time it takes Seattle to complete major projects compared to other places?

        Did the Oakland Bay Bridge have an inch of tunneling between one shore and the other? What were that rock and soil the towers had to rest in? I know California has seismic problems. We could have as bad or worse.

        Mars, answer is that it depends upon the engineer, and the project. But another thing a lot of engineers and crew foremen tell me: “We don’t stay around to administer anything. Soon as it’s done, we’re onto the next thing.”

        So it may not mean very much how long somebody stays. The above people stay ’til their part of the work is done, and then leave. Problem is what? The question is, much time is wasted, and how much work could be done, well,safely, and also faster?

        Coming from the East about four decades back, my impression is that these last several decades, Seattle government is worlds less financially corrupt than other places of comparable size.

        But on the other hand, agencies often have real problems making decisions. However again, one reason might be that we the people often act, and vote, like any official who makes a decision is a dictator, and the door to the re-think room should never have locks of hinges.

        Unlike dictatorship, leadership cannot be seized. A hundred percent of the time it’s demanded when the majority of the people in question agree to agree with the decisions of some one person. Generally motivated by mutually undeniable clear and present death or getting fired for being late.

        Again getting tiresome for me and you: Get into politics yourself and start gathering workers and followers. Those people who got the 106 changed got what they wanted fair and efficiently. However wrong the decision was.

        Mark Dublin

  4. DAMMIT BILL! My man’s just lost the STB Endorsement. I hope Jay and Jessyn also forget about getting one.

    At least I know where my campaign contributions will go: Seattle Transit Blog, Transportation Choices (YES TO ST3!) and anybody sane running against Jessyn Farrell.

    Also finally uh 2 June at 0900 will be The Battle of ST3. Transithawk Fans – the 12s of Sound Transit – should descend at this location and turn the place into CenturyLink Field:

    Thursday, Jun 2, 2016 –
    9:00 am to 12:00 pm
    Special Board Meeting
    Union Station, Ruth Fisher Boardroom
    401 S. Jackson St.
    Seattle, WA

    Oh and wear your WHITE-OUT shirts my fellow northerners! Light rail to Everett & BRT to Paine Field!

    See you there!

  5. Mercer Island downzone – maybe we should just defer this station and use the savings to improve the routing/tunnel/stations through Bellevue.

    *Renews call to tie station placement to existing density or potential zoned density*

    1. Two question: 1) Should a bus transit center’s existence also be tied to density?

      1. Yes, actually. Bellevue Transit Center works well because it’s in the middle of the largest urban village and jobs center in the Eastside, so there are constantly people transferring buses, walking to work and shopping, or popping in for a coffee or gyro while they wait for the next bus.

        The Issaquah Transit Center doesn’t do this at all because there’s nothing within walking distance except the garage, so it’s an unpleasant place to wait for a bus. The Burien transit center is not as bad but it’s still a couple blocks outside the walkable city center. The Renton transit center is in the city center but the garage displaces some of the walkshed. I understand it’s for downtown parking as well as a P&R, so it’s only half Metro’s fault. But now Renton wants to move the transit center to where there’s nothing except an Applebe’s and a Uwajimaya. That’s a step backward unless the area is redeveloped. But the reasons cited for moving it are more parking and a nearby freeway-BRT ramp.

        The only way to resolve the tension between pedestrian riders and parking demand is to have two stations: a transit center at each city center with no parking where all the buses meet, and a P&R at the edge of the city center that only the trunk line goes to. The South Bellevue P&R works well in that regard. Note that pedestrians need access to all the routes and walkable destinations, while drivers need only the trunk route, because they’re not going to drive to a P&R just to take a local bus one or two miles. So there’s no need for the local buses to stop at the P&R. And if people are coming in to town on transit to transfer to a local route, they don’t need a P&R stop because they don’t have a car with them; it’s at home or at another P&R.

    2. Maybe we should ask that any ST3 station area needs to allow for a 65 foot minimum height limit and 15 units per acre allowed before regional funding can be used to build a station.

  6. Bryant ran a few full page ads in the Seattle Times. I can’t find them, but if you didn’t see the little “R” by his name, you would assume it was put out by a Democrat. It was very “Green” in its appearance. The implication was that Bryant would be a liberal Republican in the Dan Evans, Joel Pritchard mode. All it takes is a little reading to see this isn’t the case. He is as [ad hom] as much (if not most) of the party, I’m afraid. This sucks, because fiscally conservative, environmental Republicans are good for everyone (including Democrats).

    1. Ross,

      Yes, he is just as [ad hom] as the rest. And worst of all he’s a Port Commissioner! There’s no other governmental agency as stuck in the 1950’s as ports.

    2. I think Bill Bryant deserves a chance and frankly we need to clean out the state government. In a way, having Bryant in power also would force Democrats to clean out their benches and double down on public transportation. Jay Inslee even publicly threatening to gut the relatively small amount of state transit & multimodal funding in the 2015 transportation package for his damn carbon tax scheme to me means he’s got to go. If Jay did this once, he’ll do it again.

      That said, I don’t expect Bill Bryant to get a STB endorsement. WSDOT outside of ferries does too little for public transportation or even inter-county connectivity as-is. It is a huge battle just getting state support for wheeled ferries across state highways and that to me is absurd.

      1. Jay Inslee did not threaten to gut transit funding, Republicans in the legislature did that.

      2. Eric;

        Well the supposed poison pill was a compromise and Jay Inslee publicly threatened to go back on it. So it’s mostly Jay Inslee’s fault. If Jay Inslee toys with undoing deals for transit once, Jay will do it again.

        Jay Inslee is the WORST negotiator for transit possible. It’s time to send him and his people packing, clean out the deadwood in the state Democrats and do this while we have ST3 authority and can get pro-ST4 people in 8-12 years elected…

      3. Joe,

        There is not going to be an “ST4”. After the motley stew of weak projects in ST3 there’s nothing left worthwhile. Elevated LRT to Burien? Why? It’s a dead end in a very nice town that is not going to allow itself to turn into a “Regional Center”.

        Sure, Seattle could use a Metro 8 enormously, and Ballard-UW would be nice, though not as long-term critical (unless someone expects UW to have 100,000 students someday).

        But if there’s nothing for anybody else worth doing, the Seattle projects will not get built. At least, not by Sound Transit.

      4. There sure better be an ST4 and if you don’t think so you don’t really believe in transit. The goal should be to create a transit system complete enough that anyplace on on it is called “way the hell out there”

      5. Lake City – “Way the Hell out there”.

        Federal Way – Urban.

        ST has already outlived it’s usefulness.

      6. BTW, house sold in Lake City as promised.

        Des Moines here I come. ST forced my hand. They have paved the way with lilies and rails for me to contribute to sprawl and the death of the planet.

        Spine of Destruction.

        Spiney the Sprawler.

        Spine’s Fine.
        In a strip-mall I’ll dine.
        This is the last you’ll hear of my Lake City whine.

      7. Is ST3 because ST wants to perpetuate itself? Or is it because this is rapidly-growing region that has way inadequate transit? That’s the important issue. Whether the agency wants to perpetuate itself is irrelevant. And it will perpetuate itself in any case because the exiting services have long-term operation and maintenance funding.

      8. Joe, Bill Bryant is according to his public statements still trying to kill Sound Transit *2* by killing the light rail over I-90. This is the sign of a hardcore dead-ender who will fight as hard as he can to destroy, rather than to create.

      9. The Port is assuredly the least transparent agency in the entire state. When comparing their efficiencies with other West Coast ports, they rank at or near the bottom consistently. They are a shadowy organization that has operated under cover of darkness and fog because nobody cares enough to ask what they are doing. The airport, which I use frequently, is a mish-mash of additions and dismal, low-ceilinged corridors — hardly the international hub that it is actually becoming. There aren’t even any services for transfer passengers arriving or departing from those long flights. Even the new international terminal is just tacked on to the side of the existing facility. The Port itself has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past year to fight a project that would actually benefit them by getting funds for the much needed Lander overpass — and finally pushing that to the front of the line.

        Want to know why Link doesn’t actually serve the airport itself, directly, as was originally planned? It’s not because of 9/11 or security as they would have you believe (other US airports have added rail lines directly to their terminals since then, and there is no Federal policy against doing so). It’s because they make an insane amount of money off of what by some measures is the world’s largest parking garage, and if you aren’t driving and spending huge amounts of cash there, well screw you. You can walk forever and we aren’t even going to make that walk remotely pleasant.

        I don’t blame the Port’s employees; I do blame the commissioners, of whom Bill Bryant was a member, front and center, and made no bones about it. No, I won’t be voting for Mr. Bryant. I don’t need the Port’s political style making Olympia even more dysfunctional than it is.

      10. Folks, sorry I haven’t participated in this discussion thread as much as I would have liked.

        That said,

        a) ST4 is necessary because Seattle truly needs west-east trusses to the spine, Paine Field may or may not merit a light rail spur and I’m sure Pierce County will have additional needs. Sound Transit may also expand its district.

        b) Bill Bryant at least is a better man than Jay Inslee. I am willing to give him a chance, but I think neither deserves the STB Endorsement. As a STB donor, in my mind you have to jump a high bar to get that endorsement. Neither Jay Inslee nor Bill Bryant can jump over that pro-transit bar. Put differently, I’d give them three stars out of five at most.

        I doubt very seriously the Washington State Governor can do much to harm the cause of transit. We have ST3 authority and a deal to put light rail on the I-90 bridge. Having fresh eyes and ears in the Governor’s Mansion is better than a guy who used transit funding as a bargaining chip… and hasn’t governed competently. Maybe a new Governor would also stop Bertha… ;-).

  7. Wow, I didn’t realize the plan for West Seattle was to run the train above ground the whole way. That explains the (relatively) low cost. “Only” a couple billion.

    So how exactly will it get to these areas? Will it go over the existing freeway, or over Avalon? If it is the latter, I think a lot of people will be pissed. You have pretty good bus serving now, with the C and the 21. Now you will have to take a bus, then transfer to an elevated train, all while enjoying the occasional train running by your window.

    To say nothing of the Junction. I know the train used to run there (which is why it is called that) but the train ran on the surface. It is one of the nicest parts of West Seattle, one of the few areas that actually seems pedestrian friendly (quiet, with pedestrians outnumbering cars much of the time). So, now you have a train above you. I know this was the monorail plan (which was very popular) and I know folks have no faith in BRT, but man, West Seattle is getting screwed if this goes through. Fix the bridge situation and the C, the 21, the 120 as well as buses from Alki all provide better transit, while the neighborhoods remain as nice as they are now.

      1. A streetcar is a train. It runs on tracks. Typically on the surface, which was my point.

      2. A bus isn’t a train, but thanks to decades of tradition at some transit agencies (including TriMet) the number on the bus indicating the run number is called the “train number” just as it would have been 100 years ago.

        With some digging it looks like West Seattle was originally served by steam dummies pulling a coach or two (typical street railway operations before electric streetcars), which is most certainly a train.

        I’ll do a bit more digging to see if I can find photographic evidence.

    1. “The ST3 package should allow for future consideration and evaluation of a tunnel alignment through West Seattle, if cost savings within the ST3 program or additional funding resources become available.”

      That better not mean taking it out of 130th Station.

      Some of the comments suggest a short .5 mile tunnel just under the Junction area. That, er, sounds like Bellevue’s downtown tunnel. The one that required economizations elsewhere to accommodate, and led to a surface alignment in part of the Spring District and Overlake.

      1. The 130th station is really, really cheap. Cut back on a few Sound Transit parties and you can pay for it. I kid, I kid. Seriously, though, it is only 25 million, in projects that are measured in the billions. It shouldn’t be hard to find the money.

      2. With the not insignificant difference that this tunnel would serve an actual transit purpose rather than being built merely to satisfy the arbitrary whims of a then virulently anti-transit city council.

      3. It looks like the only place to put a subway portal is east of 35th Ave SW and even there it would be a real threading challenge. I can only imagine the disruption and delay that this tunnel segment could cost.

    2. I think West Seattle leadership is pushing for a tunnel under the junction. The first station (closest to downtown), though, will be a surface station.

    3. Whatever they cost, a bridge over the Duwamish and a subway through the Junction aren’t going to either get stuck in traffic, block any views, or lid anybody’s business district.

      From CBD to Spokane Street, anything that’s supposed to be fast will have to be elevated. The E-3 could get away with three street crossings on an old freight track through a lightly-traveled part of town. West of there, you’ll probably be forced to elevate.

      Maybe only good thing to come out of the Monorail project is a set of studies of the soils through there- because they’re going to be a problem.


  8. I watched quite a bit of LA Law back in the day, so I think I know a thing or two about the US legal system and important it is how things are worded. RapidRide 24/7 All-Door Boarding began Saturday, and this one sentence jumped out at me from Metro’s website, AND I QUOTE! … “Beginning that day, drivers can use all doors to board customers during all service hours on RapidRide bus service.”

    Did you catch that? Drivers CAN use all doors … This makes it sound optional. Driver’s choice. This is unacceptable to me. It should say Drivers WILL use all doors.

    Kevin Desmond, I understand you are briefed every day on my blog opinions, so would you please make the necessary changes. Thanks.

    1. So you’re exoected to be psychic in order to know whether or not to tap your ORCA card at the offboard reader?

    2. Yeah, but the show never said anything about real-world transit episodes like a Confederate re-enactor found with his head cut off, wearing a corset, near Othello Station or anyplace else!

      Let alone a guy blown away by an enraged rancher who thought he was a coyote because he threw up in the middle of the highway while wearing a wolf suit that somebody had poisoned in revenge for getting his pretend kitty-cat mate stolen. And also got run over by a truck!

      Since CSI-everywhere is gone now (too bad they never had an episode on that new busway!) have to make do with a box series about a high school teacher who becomes a meth cook. And so finally gets nailed not by police, but by fare inspectors because meth makes somebody too shaky to even tap his ORCA card. Or makes them tap it too many times.


    3. I rode the E a couple of times. There were places that the driver couldn’t use all doors thanks to misplaced autos or other obstacles.

      1. There are a few stops on Aurora where it is impossible to open the rear doors even to let passengers off because of the way the roadway works.

    4. Sam, for once, you’re actually right. This sort of wording does matter.

      1. That’s my point. Is the policy now that RR drivers can use the middle and back doors to board after 7 PM if they feel like it? Or is it now policy that RR drivers shall open the middle and back doors to board after 7PM at all stops?

  9. The ignorance of the comments on ordinary news blogs is pretty stunning. There was a guy on the West Seattle story who said “surface rail is subject to all the same traffic problems that buses are”. Sure, once in a while a Link train T-bones a car driven by a moron who turns in front of it, but they’re not subject to “traffic problems”.

    1. Ignorance about transit in general is a huge problem. For every person who feels that way about what is obviously a very cost effective solution for Rainier Valley rail, there are a dozen who feel like you couldn’t possibly do the same sort of thing with a bus. It doesn’t help that the agency in charge seems to feel that way as well (they never studied a bus solution for West Seattle that would have grade separation similar to what they are going to give the rail).

      Which is not to say that there aren’t drawbacks. With Rainier Valley, it is frequency. It is limited to six minute headways because the city doesn’t want to screw up traffic by giving it signal priority that often. There are a bunch of pretty sizable cross streets. With other stretches of road, however, there really isn’t that problem. I could imagine the Ballard line being given 3 minute headways if it needed it.

      But the biggest problem by far is the assumption that once a light rail line comes to your city, your transit needs are complete. Link to Tacoma will make a smaller difference in the lives of Tacoma transit users than if they managed to double bus service (and doubling bus service would be a lot cheaper). I think the problem is that folks think in terms of freeways, or even fast roadways, which is really not appropriate for transit. I’ll admit I used to think in the same terms. It isn’t until you do the math that you realize the difference. I think people ignore the fact that a subway makes stops (that is the whole point). One great example of this is Ballard to UW versus Ballard to downtown. If you asked most people, they would assume that Ballard to downtown is much faster. It isn’t. The difference is around 2 minutes (not counting the transfer, which might not be required depending on how the line was built). At the same time, going the other way (Ballard to the UW via downtown) will never make sense on a train. There are just too many stops.

      1. Sound Transit “never studied a bus solution for West Seattle that would have grade separation similar to what they are going to give the rail” because people would laugh and fire them all. As soon as such a thing were built SOV drivers would LEAN on the politicians to open it for private cars paying a toll. They’d do it for six months during which you’d have three billion dollar “Express Toll Lanes” between West Seattle and downtown. Then they’d get the tolls abolished evenings and weekends. And finally they’d get them abolished all the time. You can’t build something with pavement on it for buses only; the snarling jerkocracy will never stand for it.

        Also, I know very well what you think about Ballard-UW versus Ballard-Downtown. So does everyone else who reads this blog. Ballard-UW is not on offer from Sound Transit; it isn’t going to be.

        The ST Board is not traveling to Damascus any time soon, especially with the Syrian civil war happening.

      2. “Ballard-UW is not on offer from Sound Transit; it isn’t going to be. “

        Whenever I hear people repeating this as a conclusion, it makes me want to vote down every package without it no matter what, until we get a Board that actually cares about effectiveness.

      3. Actually, there already is a reserved bus lane across the WS Bridge, and drivers have long since gotten used to it – they haven’t been demanding it to be handed over to SOVs. I’d say that actual reason a bus solution for this corridor would be rejected is that people have eyes and ears – they are generally empirical – and they’ve noticed that they’ve been oversold “BRT” (aka RapidRide) and justifiably have no trust in that concept, no matter what promises get made.

      4. Anandakos, are you familiar with the bus tunnel? It is over 25 years old, and not once have they tried to put regular cars on it.

        Nor have they tried to do the same with the bus lanes on the West Seattle freeway (as JW said). They are simply inadequate. It doesn’t need much (not billions) just ramp meters and an extra lane on the Spokane Street Viaduct (estimated cost, based on previous work of less than 100 million).

        You also completely missed my other point. Ask the average person on the street (in Ballard) what the difference in time is between the two options and I guarantee you very few will say two minutes. But, that is a fact. That sort of thinking permeates everything within ST, from the spine, to Issaquah rail, to not even considering a Metro 8 subway. I don’t blame the average, ignorant citizen, but I certainly blame an agency that has no interest at all in pointing out such ignorance, and prefers instead to profit from it (while building pointless light rail lines).

        As for JW’s point, I refer to my first one. Seattle (or King County) has invested in bus based infrastructure before, and it worked out quite well. More people have saved more time with the bus tunnel on a bus than they will ever save with anything that Link ever builds. But, again, ST didn’t seriously consider it for West Seattle — they simply proposed the type of project that passes for BRT in this town (which you rightly point out is crap). Seriously, the alternative to the light rail plan was not a WSTT tunnel, but to have the buses run on the surface! They even pointed out that congestion might be an issue. Ya think? Maybe because it isn’t a serious proposal. It is like a guy who is asked to consider buying a car, but really, really wants a truck. So he finds the crappiest car in the world, and then tells his wife “Honey, I looked at cars, but obviously a truck is better, let me show you my research …”.

    2. If the surface rail is in the middle of a street, the commenter is right, they are subject to the same traffic problems as a bus. Signal priority? Buses can do it to.

      Now, if the surface rail is in its own right-of-way with crossing gates instead of traffic lights, it isn’t subject to traffic.

      The commenter on the blog clearly was referring to the first scenario. I wonder if you’re thinking of the second.

  10. “The units will consist of 76 studio units, ranging in size from 539-768 square feet and renting for $1,255-$1,789 per month; 56 one-bedroom, one-bath units, ranging in size from 609-739 square feet and renting for $1,418 to $1,721 per month; and 40 two-bedroom, two-bath units, ranging in size from 959-1,327 square feet and renting for $2,234 to $3,091 per month.”

    Egads, that’s as high as Seattle. The only saving grace is these are brand-new, rather large, and with high-end amenities like a pet park and gym. Which means that apartments without those would be somewhat less. But still, it raises doubts about the long-term viability of moving to Tacoma to escape Seattle’s housing prices. The flip side of that question is, why would anybody live in Tacoma when they could get something in Seattle for the same price? Unless they work in Tacoma or have family there or really love Tacoma of course. But I’m more concerned about people being pushed out of not only Seattle but the entire Puget Sound region.

    1. Well, Mike, EVERYONE can’t be “pushed out of the Puget Sound region” can they? If they did, house prices would fall to pretty close to zero, so it’s a self-correcting problem.

    2. Not all places in Tacoma are that expensive. You can find a very nice, view home in Tacoma and it will cost a bundle. But that doesn’t mean that your typical house is expensive. Same with apartments.

      But yeah, that does seem crazy high for Tacoma. I think they may have trouble renting all those out.

    3. The Stadium District is basically our version of Belltown, so I’d expect rents to be fairly high there. As RossB pointed out, most of the city is more affordable, although it is getting less so as more economic refugees flee Seattle.

    4. This is a prime location. Moreover, brand new apartments are rather scarce in Tacoma. While North Tacoma will continue to demand an insane premium for real estate, the remaining three quarters of Tacoma will probably continue to consist of run-down houses, vacant lots, cheap apartments, and half-vacant strip malls, all at prices that the average man can afford. Want to live in a neighborhood with well maintained lawns and cute restaurants? You have to pay. Want to live in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, potholed streets, the occasional lawn that hasn’t been mowed for two months, and a need to drive anywhere? You can live there on the paycheck of an average working man.

  11. Ugh… annnnoooottthhhheerrr snarky headline about Mercer Island.

    You know what, you are right. A developer now wont be able to build 5 story boxes on the Island, so whats he going to do? DESTROY PARKS AND OPEN SPACES IN OTHER CITIES! Muhahahaha! Die environment, DIE!

    Seriously…. Mercer Island downtown is a quiet town center. Its expensive to build there, and the retail and other commercial spaces that exist, or are proposed, cannot compete with the likes of Bellevue and Seattle. It is not economically viable for a vibrant commercial center to exist on Mercer Island.

    The new construction (circa last 15 years) in the town center, has not brought “vibrancy” nor “walkable” neighborhoods. All it has LITERALLY done is increased local traffic (oh and made a handful of developers wealthy). Wait, sorry, there is Bennets Bistro now… yippie!

    Furthermore supporting the “non-vibrancy” of Mercer Island, and as I have pointed out in previous posts, the town center land area is hilarious constricted. You have steep geographical ridges to the direct west and east, a concrete river (I-90) to the north, and park land to the south shouldered by a 1970’s/1980’s era suburb. A cute vibrant walkable downtown will not exist here.

    Sheesh, get your boots on the ground and stop being a keyboard warrior….

    1. Oh, and before you go all “Defend STB!!!” mode on me, keep in mind I hate most Island residents.

      I want light rail across I-90 and the Island. I have gone toe to toe with many fanatical Island residents over their fear/hatred of light rail. Some of their stuff is mindbogglingly stupid (one guy, “Marco” believes WSDOT cannot be trusted with construction on I-90 because the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed back in the day….. yeah…. he really truly believes that…)

      I understand Mercer Island, their people, their commercial and geographical limitations, etc… It’s just pretty clear that many on STB do not….

    2. Not sure which straw man is being knocked down here. For developers to get rich, the retail and commercial spaces would indeed HAVE to be “economically viable”. No, the core objection is NOT that there’s nobody wanting to rent, buy, or lease the space to be developed. Rather, it’s that there won’t be a “cute walkable downtown,” we don’t have a lot of cool restaurants yet, and that there’s more traffic.

      I’m a MI resident who has pushed back more than my fair share on anti-MI snark. I’m glad you’re looking forward to light rail here. But we also have to accept some of the increased density that is coming to the region. My guess is that we WILL eventually have a more interesting downtown – but that’s not the main reason for accepting our fair share of density.

      I’m afraid your comments help make the snarksters’ case.

      1. @Jim,

        You sound like someone on the island I WOULD get along with haha.

        The new town center apartments/condos do cash flow do to the strength of their rental unit revenue (developer profit).

        My point was aimed more at small businesses / companies not finding the location of their would-be store front on the Island being economically viable (competition from Seattle/Bellevue, increased rental price per square feet, population size of their direct customer base, etc..)…. hence the often and recurring store front vacancies “we” witness YOY.

        For a good laugh, see what Marco has to say on the Mercer Island Nextdoor Neighbor site. Can you say looney tunes?

      2. Clarification: “Rental unit revenue” is in reference to the apartment units, not commercial space.

      3. The only people I see getting rich are the greedy self-serving NIMBY homeowners laughing all the way to bank as they block new housing stock that would meet demand. Gotta block new construction to keep the $1.75 million “value” of their $35,000 house bought 40 years ago.

      4. @poncho

        Are you saying that as the value of their personal residences increase, they somehow earn more money that is then deposited in their bank accounts ?

        If so then I have some family members who are missing out on that money!

      5. “The new town center apartments/condos do cash flow do to the strength of their rental unit revenue (developer profit).”

        Owner profit. The developer is just the builder. In some cases they’re the same person but in other cases they’re not. They myth of “evil developers” is that they rove around building one site after another, raking in the profit and leaving before the negatives surface. But developers are only paid a middling amount that hasn’t changed much relative to other costs. The insane profits go to the landowner, because they accumulate as the building is used over time. The landowner might be a developer, or an investor, or somebody who bought the land long ago, or somebody who bought it recently.

      6. @Mike

        You understood what I implied, therefore my point was made.

        We agree on a lot of topics, but lets not get wishy washy with this one, please?

    3. I actually can’t understand why having slightly tall buildings in any downtown area would affect you in the slightest. If you’re concerned about traffic, ensure the tall buildings are built with few and no parking spaces, so those people who would live there leave their cars behind. We’re building a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project and restricting access to the train is criminal to the highest order – not to mention immoral.

      CP, do you seriously support the 2-floor limit like someone in the article wanted? Why are you on the transit blog if you’re so anti-transit?

      1. @Zach

        Its… Its… almost like you didn’t read my entire post. :P

        Criminal to the highest order? So like equivalent to the rape of a woman? Lets bring it back to reality…

        I, in fact, don’t support this down-zoning effort. I am also not dumb enough to think a ONE SIZE FITS ALL CITIES APPROACH TO URBAN DEVELOPMENT is the best approach for city planning. Each city in the region is different, and no city is better than the other. Island residents, in fact, have not benefited very much from the new development on the Island. Plain and simple… So while I’d prefer no down-zone, I completely and utterly understand WHY residents want the down zone. The city center retail industry just does not compete well with Bellevue/Seattle.

    4. A “small town feel” is a place where no building is more than two stories high? I thought it was a place with a low population surrounded by rural areas. I dig the restored 1800s town center in Issaquah. I don’t dig 1960s one-story offices and strip malls. Is that what islanders are trying to protect and calling it a small town? Get the wrecking balls and start building. And if Mercer Island won’t upzone its city center, defer its Link station.

      1. To be fair, the Island does have many forested parks (deer are occasionally spotted), trails, ravines, and even horse ranches… soooo more rural than many of it’s direct neighbors lol….

        Small town in the sense of less density. Kids use to be able to skateboard/bike down in the middle of the town center in the 1980’s/1990’s with ZERO fear of being struck by a car. Now a days not so much…

        The Island is a quiet community, end of story. I don’t agree with it, but its perfectly fine if Island residents prefer their town center to NOT resemble downtown Bellevue/Ballard/etc…

        Oh, I’d take a wrecking ball to the 1960’s strip mall style as well, but not if its going to be replaced by another ugly-azz cookie cutter box of an apartment building. I dig restored 1800’s town center issaquah, I pretty much dig a lot of styles other than the current modern designed crap being produced today.

        I’d gander a fair number of Island residents would be perfectly fine with their existing town center if all of the new development held similar architectural styles.

      2. “Rather, it’s that there won’t be a “cute walkable downtown,” we don’t have a lot of cool restaurants yet, and that there’s more traffic.”

        Urbanists want a walkable downtown too. Four or six stories above does not destroy the ability to walk between the ground-level businesses. But I’m less concerned about the precise zoning limit than about the principle of keeping two-story car-oriented structures because they make the town better. No they don’t; they make it worse.

        “I’d gander a fair number of Island residents would be perfectly fine with their existing town center if all of the new development held similar architectural styles.”

        Hopefully, but many other places also argue that stunted heights are an essential part of the architectural style. But look at the original buildings in Pioneer Square. Some are one story, but some are four-story compact and vertical, and they’re beautiful. It’s possible to have both density and a small-town aesthetic.

      3. “its perfectly fine if Island residents prefer their town center to NOT resemble downtown Bellevue/Ballard/etc…”

        Nobody is expecting Mercer Island to get as big as downtown Bellevue or Ballard or become a major jobs center. It’s not an urban center. What people expect is something like Shoreline, or Burien, or maybe smaller than that. Some housing, some neighborhood businesses for the island residents (including new residents), a few unique small businesses that people come via light rail to, etc. No big city bomb, just grow up because it’s not the 1970s anymore and the illusion is over, and people need a place to live.

      4. @CP – “Small town in the sense of less density. Kids use to be able to skateboard/bike down in the middle of the town center in the 1980’s/1990’s with ZERO fear of being struck by a car. Now a days not so much…

        The Island is a quiet community, end of story. I don’t agree with it, but its perfectly fine if Island residents prefer their town center to NOT resemble downtown Bellevue/Ballard/etc…”

        This is the crux. Mike Orr and others are right – if we’re going to sit between Bellevue and Seattle, with I-90 and light rail service, we don’t have the choice to reject density.

      5. @Jim

        “This is the crux. Mike Orr and others are right – if we’re going to sit between Bellevue and Seattle, with I-90 and light rail service, we don’t have the choice to reject density.”

        Well, I mean Islanders actually do have that right unless I missed something?

        Now I have heard rumblings about each city receiving light rail/mass transit must ensure a certain amount of new construction/increased rental units? Any merit to this? I wonder where the Island is on THEIR requirements?

      6. A small-town feel?

        That means four story and six story brick buildings clustered for about two blocks around the town center.

        Yes, I come from the Northeast US.

    5. What is a keyboard warrior? Maybe you should take up Buddism, or maybe marijuana. Obviously you can do what you want. I just think your agitation is probably bad for your health.

      Or maybe you post like this for attention, and by responding I’m merely enabling you. In that case I apologize.

      I wonder if this comment could get moderated away for being off topic on the open thread.

      Haha, whatever.

      1. @Ben P

        I am not sure what you are critical of?

        Because I disagree? Oh good heavens! The horror of a different opinion!

    6. All it has LITERALLY done is increased local traffic (oh and made a handful of developers wealthy)

      Of course, it has also provided people who need a place to live with a place to live. In a region with a severe and worsening housing shortage, this is a BFD. (That the place to live will be close to convenient, frequent transit to the CBD, of course, makes it all the more important.)

      The notion that the value of the fact that more people live somewhere near their jobs and schools* is so trivial it’s not even worth mentioning when discussing the consequences of a particular development is extremely strange to me.

  12. Yes, the Seattle Times did freak out about the marketing expenses regarding the Link party. I thought it was particularly dickish considering what a drop in the bucket it is compared to the overall cost of projects, and the myriad benefits it brings in terms of jump starting ridership. In fact, many of their headlines just over the last week felt particularly clickbaity and meant to stoke the flames of angry commenters…

    1. I agree. I think it was especially tacky to make it a front page article. ST has so many problems — so, so many problems — their excessive partying is way down the list.

      What is especially sloppy, or irresponsible about the article is that it repeated ST talking points, and ignored the flaws. “On time and under budget”. No, not at all. Not based on what voters originally voted for. It was way late, and way more expensive. Meanwhile, we lost out on a First Hill station. I could care less how much they spend on promotions or advertising (which is way more than this party, by the way) if they simply do a good job. But they haven’t, and it sucks.

      That is the real story. I hope the Seattle Times bothers to cover it.

      1. RossB, put the flamethrower away. I get that you’re pissed that Sound Transit leaves much to be desired, but ranting about it throughout these comments sections accomplish nothing. No, you BRT wet dream is not going to happen. No, WSDOT is not going to morph into a transit advocate anytime soon. And no, Sound Transit can’t prioritize Seattle projects over all else. The problem with your comments is that they utterly fail to take into account the politics behind passing a $50 billion package. Sure, it’s important to push ST to choose better projects, but attacking them for playing politics is unhelpful. Instead, pick your battles and try to draw attention to problems that ST might actually be willing to take a second look at.

      2. As transit advocates, can we go for “look how much better we could make it! Let’s do it!” rather than “it sucks!”

        Do you think the Seattle times is going to do a piece on how much some decisions we’ve made suck, and come to a transit-positive conclusion? Maybe the Stranger will, but not the times. The times would combine legit ST problems with “not enough parking, ruining our suburban strip mall’s character”

        If we want to get better design decisions from ST, we should angle to get the Seattle Times to do a series on the great transit systems of other cities, so Seattleites say “I want that too!!!”. An article on Portland’s frequent grid, an article on Vancouver’s land use policy and automated trains, an article comparing street running, with freeway stations with gold plated rail.

        This the Seattle Times might report, and this could lead Seattle to clamour for better options. But focusing on perceived scandals is going to get us nothing more than the status quo.

      3. “playing politics”

        Q: Who is the ST board?
        A: City and county politicians.
        Q: Oh.
        Q: What is their job?
        A: To make political decisions and advocate for them. And consider alternatives voiced by their constituents.
        Q: Isn’t that the same thing as playing politics?
        A: Yes.

        There are two ways to evaluate ST’s money/time performance. One is by the original promises made for ST1, which RossB is alluding to. Those were proven to be overoptimistic, and the estimates were adjusted for ST2. Those estimates were conservative and ST has beaten them so far. ST3’s estimates are likewise conservative. Harping on the failure of the ST1 estimates is beating a dead horse. It’s no wonder the Seattle Times doesn’t dwell on that. Perhaps there should be an article somewhere explaining the two viewpoints and how relevant they are. Oh wait, there is.

    2. As to;

      thought it was particularly dickish considering what a drop in the bucket it is compared to the overall cost of projects, and the myriad benefits it brings in terms of jump starting ridership.

      I agree. Transit geeks came down to Seattle to celebrate & network! Now THAT has got to count for something.

    3. While I understand the frustration of transit advocates with the ST’s article regarding the party and marketing expenses, they make a good point. If we combined this with all of the other waste, the expensive lunches, the banquets, unnecessary travel expenses, and mainstream media advertising, we could build some awesome projects. Instead… we are marketing. ST isn’t the only agency at fault. Pick almost any larger city, any county, or any politician, and I’ll bet I could find some very unnecessary high-cost expenses that they’ve made. And that’s the real story. It is unfortunate that they chose to attack ST, especially given ST’s stellar track record for staying on-time and under-budget. But we need to start holding our elected officials – all of them, Democrat and Republican; city, county, state, and federal – accountable.

      1. I see your point, of course. My bigger issue is just that it seemed deliberately inflammatory and meant to get people to bring out their pitchforks. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that in the overall world of government projects and government in general, these kinds of numbers are a rounding error. Like consider the amount of money Seattle City Light has burned on a new billing system — something like $40+ million dollars.

        Call me jaded — since I have been on my fair share of crap IT projects — but it’s all too easy for me to imagine how to waste this much money on a project: bad management, expensive consultants, buggy software crappy vendors that grease up the local politicians, and more. I guess my point was that yes we should have fiscal prudence, but in the grand scheme of things, this seemed like a big nothing burger compared to the millions, tens of millions, and hundreds of millions of dollars that are wasted every day with almost nothing to show for it. And the Seattle Times knows that — but it’s not sexy journalism, and doesn’t get the hits that other puff pieces get.

      2. I see your point. I think frankly we should ban public bodies from meeting anywhere but their headquarters, we should cut down on the expensive lunches & banquets and the travel.

        Now advertising is important but an always questionable expense. We have to pry regular people out of their single occupancy vehicles SOMEHOW. Otherwise, public transit is just another social service agency like DSHS or Social Security.

      3. “in the grand scheme of things, this seemed like a big nothing burger compared to the millions, tens of millions, and hundreds of millions of dollars that are wasted every day with almost nothing to show for it.”

        US military: roughly $1,000,000,000,000 / year, and as far as I can tell, it’s being used to make friendly people into enemies and then leave weapons behind for them to use.

        There’s an elephant in the room. The newspapers have been quietly ignoring it for about 15 years now.

      4. Thank you, Nathanael, for saying something that must be said. Point well taken.

  13. MI wants to preserve it’s charm? WHAT CHARM? The MI-DT is any aging strip mall in the LA basin with pine trees instead of palm trees. At any time smaller home could be bulldozed and replaced with a single tech millionaire house. The only building over 5 stories they will allow is a 20 story free to residents valet parking garage the ST has to pay for.

    If they truly want some sort of charm for their DT require the developers to spend money on design so everything new isnt a breadbox with corrugated steel siding.

    ok old man rant done

    1. Yep. I sympathize with the desire to build it right the first time, since ugly buildings can have frustratingly long lives. But to pretend that there is any character there now is just silly.

    2. The city could guide new development by surveying the best practices around the world and coming up with a dense but charming design, and permitting it all ahead of time, and then inviting developers to fulfill it. It would still be up to the landowners whether to allow their lot to be developed and when, and they could still propose a non-conforming building if they go through the whole permitting process.

      1. dense but charming design

        No need to go anywhere else in the world for that. Just visit Port Townsend.

      2. @Mike

        I wonder if there was any thought to this by the MI city council before development of the town center began years ago?

        I whole-heartly motion to approve this plan.

  14. The second-to-last sentence on SR520: “Construction of a second bascule bridge across the Montlake Cut will complete the west side project.”

    Really? When did that go from “might” to “will”? The important question – who will this bridge be for? If it’s transit and bike/ped, that would be HUGE. 520 buses could get to the UW station, mitigating one of the worst mistakes in ST history (lack of a 520 station). And a bike friendly connection between the Burke and Montlake would be a huge improvement in access.

    1. Edit: Yup, there in the 2014-15 west side design refinements, that I’ve absolutely looked at. It doesn’t look like they’ve decided which option we’re getting just yet, but I’m glad to see that it’s in there. Biking across the existing bridge is sketchy.

      1. Hmm, I think I’d like to get A & C … I’d love to add some Bus (maybe HOV) lanes between the 520 and the Link station / multi-modal hub AND get a nice little bridge away from the traffic for bike/ped.

    2. They’ve been saying that for years. They may be required to say it because it was part of the final EIS, but their own traffic studies have shown it doesn’t actually fix the traffic congestion in that area because of the bottlenecks on either side.

      It would be good to have a separate bicycle facility, especially once the new 520 trail opens; unfortunately, the opportunity to make a truly reliable bus-rail transit connection was foreclosed when the state elected to drop the 520 options that provided a bypass of the drawbridge back in 2010.

      Since then, the best idea I’ve seen to improve bus-rail integration at UW station is this:

      Also, we desperately need a southbound HOV or transit lane on Montlake Blvd. from U Village to UW Station, for transit and emergency vehicle access. UW is proposing an epic amount of new construction in the East Campus area:

      1. Montlake certainly needs an upgrade, but I doubt E1, the tennis courts, and the driving range will be covered with buildings any time soon. This is no more than an illustration of what is possible…

      2. Wow, that is quite a bit of development. Bets on which comes first, that much infill or a vote on a ballard-uw line?

        Because it’s gonna need another light rail station, if they build all that.

      3. Also – yeah, I haven’t gone through the details of the UW bus integration messing a long time, but that STB post is familiar. All I know is, the montlake bridge isn’t going down to one GP lane without a revolution in ROW politics. So a transit bridge , or a bridge allowing transit to get its own lanes on the existing bridge, is going to be essential if we want to make the UW station/520 transfer better.

        As someone who rarely goes to the Eastside, though, it’s the bike connections that get me excited.

  15. I’m sorry to be so direct but there is simply not the density in West Seattle to warrant the expense of a subway tunnel, especially under California Street. There are plenty of other areas in Seattle that aren’t getting any light rail and they are much denser than West Seattle along California Street.

    We are in the Santa Claus wish list stage if ST3. Expect lots more expensive letters to Santa,

    1. How will an elevated station be built with 65 foot buildings lining the Alaska St right-of-way?

      How will an elevated line curve south onto California Avenue with buildings built out to the R-O-W on all four corners of California/Alaska?

      Actually, these are good questions for the tunneled option as well, since the station box would need to be excavated from above.

      Once details like these become actual renderings, expect the 90% support in West Seattle for light rail to drop substantially.

      1. Chad, DSTT dug and built three underground stations past buildings of varying heights and ages in the heart of Downtown Seattle in three years. The first, for moving utilities.

        Timing was actually lucky that we could do this project at a time when several other buildings were being constructed as we worked. Thereby a lot of disruption coordinated to happen together, so as not to keep things torn up for much longer.

        There’s more than one way to deal with an existing building. Including to dig the station a block or two away, and have passengers walk down a hallway or two go get in our out. The underground transit world has a long trail of experience.

        In Europe, they’re probably running into buried castles, and also guys whose armor and weaponry do same thing to a cutter as that pipe that got Bertha.

        My own guess is that any West Seattle resident who’s been north of Westlake, on LINK, especially a merchant, restaurant owner, or condominium complex marketer, all have same thought right now:

        “How do we get this before Ballard does?!”


      2. Chad,

        If there’s a tunnel expect it to be under Oregon until 42nd Avenue SW then curve into the Alaska ROW, set up for continuing southward. A station under Oregon between 36th and 37th SW would be well-placed to serve the Triangle.

        Yes, expensive, but if this thing is ever to continue to Burien it’s necessary.

        Not that I think that continuing to Burien is likely given that there are no other good suburban projects for “ST4”. Still, it’s a good idea to future-proof better than has been done thus far.

  16. Does program to get light rail to South Kirkland Park and Ride from either direction have a map yet? From the south, existing rail right-of-way runs through an activity-free area across 405 from the Downtown Bellevue.

    Bellevue Way could handle street reservation. But nothing on rail is going to get from the P&R to the trail going north without one of those Cincinnati cliffside streetcar elevators. Which really would be kind of cool.

    Who do I e-mail or call for the latest?


    1. The idea is for Bellevue-Issaquah to join East Link somewhere just south of East Main Station. How they’re going to manage that is not clear; it may be right at the northern boundary of the Mercer Slough Reserve.

      Then the line will leave just north of Wilburton Station at the curve northwest of Lake Bellevue where East Link turns to go east through the Spring District. The Kirkland stub will continue on to South Kirkland P-n-R where it will stub end.

      Personally I think it would be far more useful for Issquah-Bellevue trains to continue to Microsoft, but I don’t know of any turnback facilities planned for the area.

  17. Metro is giving away free ORCA cards again!

    If you live in Ravenna/Bryant, go to

    If you own a car and pledge to reduce your driving, you will get an ORCA card with a 2 week unlimited pass.

    If you don’t own a car, you can choose between a $10 ORCA card, a $10 coffee gift card, or a coffee mug.

    I hope that Metro targetting Ravenna/Bryant twice in 2 months for free ORCA cards isn’t a sign that our neighborhood has abysmal ridership.

    1. The northeast generally has pretty decent transit ridership, and Rav-Bry at least enough to keep its one-seat-to-downtown peak-hour expresses and the 71 at least part of the time.

      I think the promotions have more to do with reaching out to people affected by the recent restructure — now, you might say that car owners in Rav-Bry weren’t affected as critically as some other groups… but it’s a pretty vocal neighborhood.

  18. Allegedly, West Seattle demands—no, it deserves!—light rail transit, but the same people so in need are now going to fight the massive, hill-climbing aerial viaducts that bring the rails to its center?

    Who ever could’ve thunk it?!

    Already wildly pricy per mile due to the enormous civil works proposed, and all just to serve a modest ridership demand that is induced by poor bus infrastructure, I anxiously anticipate the escalating costs and technical issues encountered on this boondoggle of a rail line.

    Trains are not always the appropriate transit solution.


    LRT vs. BRT to West Seattle: A Mapped Comparison.

    1. I have wondered whether a more rational rail route to West Seattle could be built using the existing highway bridge. I have not yet seen any engineering analysis saying that it couldn’t.

  19. The reason RossB keeps asking for West Seattle BRT is because that is the historic service pattern. This is why it would serve West Seattle so well. They initially had a streetcar only bridge, splitting off into different routes. We could call this “open LRT”. What if we did this again, splitting the train off into 3 lines that went every 15 minutes off peak and 10 minutes on peak, leading to 5 minute frequency all day and 3 minutes on peak on the central section?

    1. That would probably be the ideal. A big issue is you multiply by three the amount of new right of way you are creating once you are in West Seattle, augmenting the cost. From my experience and understanding, grade-separated transit for West Seattle would primarily address congestion issues at a chokepoint getting in and out of West Seattle during weekday commuting hours. Giving transit priority though the chokepoint by constructing or designating exclusive right of way would pay huge dividends for transit speed and reliability. The investment in exclusive right of way doesn’t pay off as well where you have existing right of way that is fast and reliable and isn’t yet so scarce that it would be politically difficult to give over to transit, which is generally the case once you are in West Seattle for most parts of the day. This is a situation in which open BRT can really shine for a lower cost than building or designating new right of way throughout West Seattle for light rail. Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t shoot for the highest quality solution, but in a region with substantial need for fast and reliable transit and scarce resources, higher quality solutions in one area generally means lower quality or no solutions in another.

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