AvGeek Joe (Flickr)

Responding to universal angst about the pace of the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) Draft Plan, this afternoon the Sound Transit (ST) Board introduced a series of amendments that propose a leaner, faster Sound Transit 3 measure. The Board will vote on each of these amendments at its Special Meeting on June 2, ahead of a final vote on June 23 to adopt the plan and send it to the ballot. Cumulatively, these amendments represent a dramatic improvement in nearly every aspect of the plan, and they indicate a clear responsiveness by Sound Transit on behalf of the public. Advocates won or at least saw movement on nearly every issue.

The amendments were preceded by presentations from CEO Peter Rogoff and CFO Brian McCartan on project delivery and the ST3 finance plan, respectively. Rogoff outlined his desired improvements in project delivery, including narrowing studied alternatives, bringing jurisdictions in earlier in the process, establishing schedules well ahead of final design, and looking at new procurement processes such as “Design/Build”. Rogoff seemed intent on sharing the burden for timely delivery with the host cities, and ensuring that cities and counties are more joint partner going forward rather than just permitting authorities.

But the real news came from CFO McCartan’s Finance Plan update. We’ll be getting more details in a meeting with ST finance staff next week, but staff told STB that Sound Transit underestimated its bonding capacity by up to 10%, with the recalculation centering on the tricky overlap period between the winding down of ST2 bonds and the ramping up of ST3 bonds. All other financial policies will likely remain intact, as will all other conservative planning assumptions (such as a 6-year EIS process per project). So the timeline improvements above reflect primarily financing considerations, and there would be considerable scope for further improvement via streamlined permitting and environmental review.

Chart by the Author
Chart by the Author

North King (Seattle)

  • The Ballard Line would be fully grade separated and be delivered 3 years sooner, in 2035 instead of 2038.
  • The West Seattle line gains 3 years, moving from 2033 to 2030
  • In a huge win for advocates, the 130th Street Station gets full funding, though it would open in 2031.
  • Graham Street Station gains 5 years, moving from 2036 to 2031.
  • Sound Transit will make a roughly 10% contribution to Madison BRT and pay for interim improvements on Rapid Ride C and D.

South King County

  • The Federal Way extension gets bumped up 4 years to 2024, just a year after East Link and Lynnwood Link. The Angle Lake to Des Moines stretch would be delayed a year, from 2023 to 2024, and Angle Lake-Federal Way would be built as a single project.
  • Boeing Access Road Station would be bumped up 5 years, from 2036 to 2031.

Pierce County

  • The Federal Way-Tacoma Link extension would be bumped up 3 years, and would open with West Seattle in 2030.
  • The Tacoma Link streetcar extension to Tacoma Community College would also gain 2 years, from 2041 to 2039.

East King County

  • The Issaquah line would still open in 2041, but would gain an extension from Wilburton Station to South Kirkland, and trains would interline via East Main instead of Wilburton.
  • Renton would get its planned parking garage and transit center relocation as part of I-405 BRT, and would add new direct access ramps at NE 44th Street in Newcastle/Kennydale.
  • Kingsgate’s parking would be reduced and its TOD increased.

Snohomish County

  • Everett would see light rail 5 years sooner, in 2036 instead of 2041, and Snohomish County leaders get the Paine Field deviation. Trains would run via SR 526 and I-5 from Paine Field to Everett. Rather than opening first between Lynnwood and Mariner, the entire Lynnwood-Everett segment would open together in 2036.


Martin will be writing more about Sounder in the next few days, but the primary changes at this point are a dedicated capital program (funding level TBD), extension to Tillicum and Dupont, and the full funding of 10-car platforms, giving Sounder a 43% capacity boost on top of any new trips.

Downtown Tunnel Funding

While the draft plan allocated 80% of the cost of the new tunnel to North King/Seattle and 20% to Pierce County – reflecting the Ballard to Tacoma operational plan for the Green Line – the updated finance plan allocates the new tunnel’s costs to all 5 subareas as a “regional asset”, alongside such things as fleet acquisition and Operations and Maintenance Facilities (OMF). Though we had heard rumors that the tunnel funding would be proportional based on subarea revenue, we were surprised to learn today that instead it will be allocated based on projected ridership, or on the subarea origin of any rider using the new tunnel.

We’ll ask Sound Transit for more details on this, and we’ll be curious to hear the Expert Review Panel’s take, but it does seem to present some problems. It seems strange to allocate real money on the basis of projections that are informed by (inevitably flawed) ridership models that are themselves based on problematic population growth models such as those published by PSRC. On the other hand, it does seem to marginally increase North King’s financial capacity.

Infill Stations

As outlined above, all 3 infill stations (Boeing Access Road, Graham, and 130th) would be fully funded and would open the same year, in 2031. Staff told us that they would be built concurrently to have a shorter (but more severe) service disruption period.


The gist is that, if passed, there would be continuous construction and incremental line openings over a 20-year period between 2021-2041:

  • 2021: Northgate, UDistrict, Roosevelt
  • 2023: 145th, 185th, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Judkins Park, Mercer Island, South Bellevue, East Main, Bellevue Downtown, Wilburton, Spring District, Bel-Red, Overlake Village, Redmond Tech Center
  • 2024: Kent/Des Moines, Star Lake, Federal Way, SE Redmond/Marymoor, Downtown Redmond
  • 2030: Alaska Junction, Delridge, new Sodo station, new Stadium station, South Federal Way, Fife, Tacoma Dome
  • 2031: Boeing Access Road, Graham Street, N. 130th
  • 2035: Ballard, Dravus, Smith Cove, Uptown, South Lake Union, new Westlake platform, Midtown, new International District platform
  • 2036: Alderwood Mall, Ash Way, Mariner, Paine Field, South Everett, Everett
  • 2039: Tacoma Link streetcar extension
  • 2041: South Kirkland, Factoria, Eastgate, Issaquah

In the coming days we’ll have more in-depth reports on the ST Finance Plan, the planned Sounder improvements, and more.

311 Replies to “Sound Transit’s Updated ST3 Plan: Bigger, Faster, Stronger”

    1. Yeah I think that was a major missed opportunity here, with the Board stripping the Paine alignment of it’s two best features, a 99 Station and the Evergreen Wy alignment. I’m sure the 99 station will be put in eventually, because it’s going to be so obvious to have a connection with swift.

      I’m curious to see how the legal language is, if the board can pivot in 5/10 years and put in BRT on Paine and call that fulfilling the ST3 mandate? I know there is flexibility around the exact alignment & station locations, but can they switch modes? Would be good to agitate for the EIS alternatives to include the staff recommendations and see if the numbers point so clearly to BRT that the board comes around to it later.

      1. Careful with that pivot. ST’s argument against canceling Sounder North is that it doesn’t like canceling voter-approved services. If the Paine detour is in the ballot measure with no explicit alternative of a shuttle line, then ST may say it can’t go back on that. Maybe it could, if it argues it’s adequately serving Paine Field. It would depend on how future boardmembers see it. The most effective way to get it done is to convince the Snohomish cities and a group of Snohomish residents to ask for it loudly and often. A petition with a large number of signatures would also get ST’s attention. There was a 500-signature petition against the northern alternatives for the Lynnwood Station to keep it away from Scriber Lake Park.

      2. The ST Board would be a solid ground to build a rail spur instead of putting it on the mainline. This way, there still is a rail connection, even if it works a bit differently.

      3. Right, the pivot would require strong support from the public and the politicians before the board can make a big change like that. For example, North Sounder is still running because the Snohomish leadership still supports it.

        I’m just wondering if there is still room for people to advocate for BRT as a better option after ST3 passes but before the EIS is complete.

      4. I don’t think there is AJ.

        I’ve been kinda quiet the past few hours in the comments as I’ve had to arrive at a decision regarding ST3. Letters to the editor have been sent to the Mukilteo Beacon & the Everett Herald. The Mukilteo Beacon has a Friday afternoon deadline so I didn’t have a weekend to decide, only (a tossing turning) last night & today.

        It is no secret I am not happy – sad really – the cunning N-02cmod + BRT for Paine Field plan is almost if not dead. But if buses can feed the Paine Field terminal with people going to/from Future of Flight, Flying Heritage Collection, flight schools and more… okay then I can come around to supporting the Snohomish County amendments.

        Yes, I care very loudly – in fact I hold Sound Transit in as much esteem as I do the Seattle Seahawks.

        So I made clear in both letters to the editor, “I have a sincere concern that what must be coupled to light rail for Paine is a public commitment to serve the light rail station with bus routes to Paine Field’s educational facilities plus factories, the City of Mukilteo, and yes nearby housing for maximum ridership.”

        I hope people can see my logic, not just my passion. To me, what is in ST3 must actually be built. Most voters will not like nor trust a Sound Transit that replaces light rail with BRT after the vote.

        But Sounder North is in its own category. It is at best marginally safe. It is inefficient per rider. It screams for a BRT replacement to throwmoremoneyatit or at least some Citizen Oversight Panel re-engagement on this topic.

      5. “I’m just wondering if there is still room for people to advocate for BRT as a better option after ST3 passes but before the EIS is complete.”

        Yes! The EIS has to consider all reasonable alternatives, and for light rail that means BRT if it’s feasable. It’s the same issue that led to four corridors for Lynnwood Link (Aurora, I-5, 15th NE, Lake City Way) plus BRT on I-5.

        It’s what ST is begging the stakeholders about: “Please agree on only two or three alternatives for each corridor. That will speed up the EIS processes substantially.” It can speed it up by a year or more. Each alternative adds a few months of study. Last-minute alternatives after a draft is published add up too. So ideally all the stakeholders would agree on one alternative to ST’s primary one, so that everybody says one of the alternatives represents their interests sufficiently, and there are no environmental impacts that aren’t expressed by at least one of the alternatives.

        So back to Paine Field. We could possibly argue that an alignment with a Paine Field BRT shuttle is the second EIS alternative we want. If it gets into the EIS, then ST probably has legal cover to choose it. If it costs less than ST3 predicted, then the extra money can go into other Snohomish enhancements or allow the tax to go down earlier.

        (There will also be a mandatory “No build” alternative, so that’s where RossB will get his buses from Lynnwood. Although they’ll probably be incremental ST Express rather than higher-level BRT, since BRT may be beyond the scope of “No build”.)

      6. Mike;

        As to:

        We could possibly argue that an alignment with a Paine Field BRT shuttle is the second EIS alternative we want. If it gets into the EIS, then ST probably has legal cover to choose it. If it costs less than ST3 predicted, then the extra money can go into other Snohomish enhancements or allow the tax to go down earlier.

        I think the political blowback in 2018 or 2019 from a stunt like this in the means you propose would be gigantic.

        If we’re going to do BRT, we have to get it into ST3 before 23 June – not after. I do think BRT as a predetermined EIS option is one thing worth studying and floating as a trial balloon.

        It’s not BRT I oppose, it’s how we get it back.

  1. ST3 is still too big and takes too long. My fear is that the average voter will not want to commit to a 25 year plan. My bet is that ST3 fails and seattle and ST go it alone next year on a smaller faster package…

    1. ST intended to do a 15 year plan, but the message it got from all cities and counties and most members of the public was, “More light rail now! Make it big and robust! We’ll pay, yes we will! Give areas certainty when and in what order they’ll get service so they can plan their cities around it.” So if people think a 25-year plan is too big, that’s the opposite of what they said in 2015, so you’d have to account for why they fundamentally changed their mind. The tax rate is the same in either case. I think people care more about what their tax bill will be next year and the year after, not whether it continues 16 years from now.

      1. But does it get us “more light rail now”? Maybe the second tunnel which might have been too overwhelmingly complex otherwise. But mostly a 25-year plan is a way to avoid making choices about who gets to go first.

        The back-end of the expanded ST3 is what would have been ST4, but nobody wanted to risk their preferred project having to wait. We avoid the “we support your project in ST3 if you support ours in ST4” deal-making that could have played out very badly.

        The financial capacity in years 1-15 is quite unchanged.

        So we get to Everett in one 25 year package rather than halfway through a second shorter package. Seattle doesn’t have to decide whether West Seattle or Ballard is their favorite child. The Eastside doesn’t have to choose between the Kennydale park-and-ride and the North Sammamish park-and-ride. Everybody wins, eventually.

      2. By “more light rail now” I meant approving it now.

        “The back-end of the expanded ST3 is what would have been ST4, but nobody wanted to risk their preferred project having to wait.”

        It’s not just the waiting. It’s the uncertainty of whether those things will be in the package, or whether they’ll get booted by something else, or whether the ST4 vote will be in 2020 or 2030 or never, or whether it will pass. Cities have to keep their station area planning on hold for ten years, and they may not bother and instead build something not very accommodating to rail retrofitting in the meantime. ST has not chosen an alignment yet, so it’s not like the city can plan around an alignment that doesn’t exist yet and may be different than the city predicts.

        “We avoid the “we support your project in ST3 if you support ours in ST4” dealmaking that could have played out very badly.”

        Jon Craccolllici made an interesting related comment today. A short plan may involve East King giving Snohomish a large loan for Spine Destiny, to be paid back in ST4. But when ST4 comes around, Snohomish taxpayers may not be interested in paying it back, and not consider themselves bound to a handshake deal by an ex-boardmember who has been gone for ten years. And if ST4 never happens, there would be no paying it back. So this 25 year plan is essentially combining ST3&4, and solidifying the commitments in one integrated plan. Because what if West Seatlte gets built in ST3, and then ST4 comes around and North King has changed its mind and wants something else and Ballard is screwed again. Not the way to go for city that needs both its southwest quarter and its northwest quarter connected to the regional network.

  2. Grade separated to Ballard and the infill stations being solidly inked are good enough to get me to vote yes on this. Glad to see they managed to jam LRT for Kirkland in there as well.

    1. I’m mixed on the infill stations. Yes, they provide better access and more TOD opps. The problem is they increase travel times. LINK is already infrequent compared to Vancouver’s SkyTrain. If it’s not going to be terribly frequent, it should at least be fast.

      1. Graham Street and BAR combined will increase travel time by about 2-3 minutes. 130th by itself will add 60-90 seconds. Those are increases, but improved station access is clearly worth the tradeoff IMHO.

        BAR will allow very efficient feeding of south-end buses into Link, in a way that should allow for sharp increase in frequency on those buses. 130th will allow for a fast and direct feeder bus between Link and two major urban villages. Graham will bring almost all of the Rainier Valley within walking distance of a Link station.

      2. But will it always be at the frequency it’s at now? Mightn’t they increase frequency sometime in the future, especially if more people are riding because there are more places for them to catch the train?

      3. Infill stations make Link more like what light rail is supposed to be. It’s unfortunate that we cannot add infill stations in the tunnels, because we need an actual UW campus station between HSS and U District station. Also, as the U District grows up and out, a 55th St station would be useful.

        On the south end, every additional station serves as a reminder that light rail is a technology for local HCT, and that if we want effective regional connections, we need to improve Sounder.

      4. Norah,
        ultimate capacity on various link segments as I understand them:
        South of IDS to Angle Lake: every 6 minutes
        East of IDS to Microsoft: every 6 minutes
        North of IDS to Lynnwood: Every 2 minutes but limited to every 3 minutes due to at-grade segments south/east of IDS.

        It is likely Sound Transit will increase both train lengths and frequency as ridership grows.

      5. I can’t see ST lengthening the platforms, especially with underground stations. It would more likely build another line at that point, such as extending the Ballard line to Lake City, or reviving the Aurora line idea.

      6. This reminds me of when I was checking out of my hotel in Paris. They asked how I was getting to the airport and I said I was taking the train. They said that should be fine since it’s not the weekend. The RER runs every 6 minutes during the week. I knew the schedule though and told the guy, “yeah, but there’s a train every 15 minutes on the weekend.”

        He looked shocked and said “in Paris we do not wait 15 minutes for a train.”

  3. I can’t believe people are actually entertaining this idea!

    How bout one project at a time each one done as quickly as possible?

    The scope of this is absurd and unheard of in this country

    Hand them $50 billion and they’ll call back in a decade if we’re lucky?

    And out of the blue they ‘speeded up’ the whole thing ?

    I got a bridge in NY for sale, it’s a good deal. Contact me by email

    1. Doing multiple projects at the same time is the way to get them done faster.

      1. Do they even have the personnel and material to do all these projects at once?

        It’s crazy!

        China doesn’t even do shit like this!

      2. They’re not doing all the projects at once, they’re working on several at once. What ST (and basically every other building organization working on multiple projects) does is plan a few projects while building a few others. This is not only faster but more efficient than doing projects one at a time because ST can use their planning and building staff at the same time instead of hiring a bunch of planners/architects, then firing them to pay for a bunch of contractors and construction workers.

      3. Al, China does way larger projects than this. WAY larger. This is the sort of stuff China does on a sleepy Tuesday.

        And yes, Sound Transit could totally do this.

      4. The first batch of Los Angeles rail transit projects were as big or bigger than this, so it’s hardly unprecedented. It’s just that seems cheaper because it was 25 years ago.

      5. “Do they even have the personnel and material to do all these projects at once?”

        Yes, it’s called contracting work, which is how pretty much all Sound Transit projects are planned, designed and built. Sound Transit will definitely take on more people internally, but this package will be a boon for the planning, engineering and construction firms in the region.

    2. 1) They are being done as quickly as possible. There are three tax streams, ST1, ST2, and ST3. The ST1 projects are finished and its tax stream is reallocated to ST2 projects. Both the ST1 and ST2 streams are maxed out through 2023 on ST2 projects. After that they will have gradually increasing capacity as the ST2 bonds are paid down. This means that only the ST3 stream is available until 2023, so only a third of the annual revenue is available for ST3 projects. After 2023 all three streams will be available for ST3 projects so construction can accelerate dramatically. So you have to calculate from a de facto starting date of 2023, and credit backward only a minimum of work capacity before then. The initial work in each project is the 5-year planning and EIS, which are inexpensive compared to construction, so that dovetails nicely with limited initial funding. Also, ST is trying to speed up the schedules, and the cities have their own actions that they could do to speed it up further, and it’s likely there will be additional money from the good economy and grants and cost savings to accelerate it further. ST’s estimates are very conservative, so there’s a lot of room for acceleration if things go well.

      2) One project at a time would mean a hundred years before this is all finished. We’ll all be dead by then. The transit needs are now, and yesterday,

      3) You’re not handing them $50 billion. You’re handing them $23 billion if I recall. The rest comes from ST’s savings (it has saved up a “down payment” on ST3 projects), grants, and other things. Some of the $50 billion is an illusion of inflation: it’s counted in year-of-expenditure dollars, not 2016 dollars, so it looks larger than it is. It also includes the interest payments on the future bonds.

      4) There’s not much detail of how they speeded it up, but we can start with the assumption that the details are there, they just aren’t explained in the high-level summary today. STB will get more information on this and publish it when it’s ready.

      1. Thanks for a great summary of the issues, Mike. I especially find the first comment crucial. If the “real” start date is 2023, then it is one more argument for not approving ST3. We can do better, and passing something else (a couple years from now) won’t have much effect on the time lines (assuming the bonding rules don’t change).

      2. RossB, work has to start now to enable serious construction using the ST3 stream to start in 2023. We need to get voter approval of these projects so that Sound Transit can start the EIS, design, and permitting parts of the work. If we wait until 2020, it will push many of the construction timelines 2-4 years back.

        I really hope you change your mind on this. It’s not perfect, but it’s very good, and we can’t afford to wait another four years to get something that is unlikely to be significantly better given ST’s structure and the state legislature’s composition. In my mind, a “no” on this package to hold out for a much better one is in the same league as Bernie Sanders vaguely hoping for a “political revolution” to make proposals that don’t have a snowball’s chance of passing Congress somehow possible.

      3. I get your analogy, David, which is why I find myself in an uncomfortable position. I am a practical voter. I have voted for many projects and many candidates that I find less than ideal (this election being no exception).

        But I disagree with you when you say this is very good. Not from what I can tell. There are some very nice, little things that are added, but that is about it. Those things can (and should be) added by Seattle itself. One argument for passing ST3 is that we can get Graham Street and NE 130th stations built sooner. That argument doesn’t seem so strong now.

        The main problem I have is with all of the major projects. The spine, Issaquah and West Seattle rail have infrequent, inconvenient transit written all over them. None of them have the all day, bidirectional, stop to stop popularity that a subway line needs. Most of them don’t add significant value for most of the trips. At best they provide a commuter rail type improvement, with all the inconveniences of commuter rail (transfer and wait) with none of the cost advantages. We would get better non-express style bus service in some cases (e. g. better connections in various places in West Seattle) but that is better paid for directly (another prop one).

        Ballard to downtown is a decent line — I give you (and ST) that. But it still isn’t as good as Ballard to UW. It doesn’t fundamentally change the nature of transit in the north end the way that Ballard to UW would. It lacks the speed advantages over driving, and lacks the obvious bus to rail connections that the other line does. It is obviously worse for someone in Ballard (and especially greater Ballard). Its biggest strength is in the stops closer to downtown Queen Anne/South Lake Union. But the WSTT has all that (swapping Belltown for SLU) while providing more direct service to greater Ballard, and much more frequent service to Queen Anne, Belltown and the rest of downtown.

        Overall, the project is poorly designed, with an obvious preference towards rail, when it is obviously inappropriate for the particular area. I don’t see riders in Tacoma spending a couple hours just to get to their job in Seattle, nor do I see very many using this as a way to get to Fife.

        ST has refused to take alternatives seriously. They never proposed a reasonable bus based solution for any area (including West Seattle). They put Ballard to UW on the back burner, and haven’t even bothered to study a Metro 8 line. I just think they don’t know what they are doing, and a solid “No” vote, especially from the city, will send that message.

        Worse case scenario, we muddle along. The city is obviously doing some very effective things (and are poised to be more effective, as money allows). I could easily see them spending a lot more, if allowed to do so. They are only spending $166 million on transit corridors — if ST3 fails, hopefully they will try to add to that.

        In the meantime, we spend money on things that the city (all cities) should spend money on. Police, social services, daycare, education, etc. If we are going to spend big bucks, then we should get huge results. This will only improve things marginally for a small number of people. I just don’t see how it is worth it.

      4. RossB – Why is it so hard to believe that people in West Seattle are justifiably nervous about a BRT solution? This is our one chance – we want rail.

        Personally, I’m totally happy taking the performance hit. That’s because trains > busses for me. When I travel, I stay on the rail lines and rarely bus it. And for West Seattle, it’s the right choice.

      5. RossB –

        Do you think there’s a real-world ST3 plan that ST could present that would convince you, or do you think you’ve spent too much time being mad at their errors to see their successes (even though, as must be the case, the good they achieve is still flawed and less than ideal)?

        I ask because I find that hazard in myself, especially on these forums that are far from the mainstream of politics. I realistically don’t think that even if somebody was right, I’d be able to hear them on a zoning argument for less density. My counter arguments are too primed, I’m too upset by all the NIMBYism. The only reason I understand this about myself is that I really love good architecture and gardens and sense of place. Every now and then, I’ll eat some mind-blowing food from a place in the ID with an interior done in the colors of a dirty Easter egg and a menu that seems to have been translated through several other languages before arriving at English, and think, shit, this will not be here when redevelopment strikes. They will never be able to afford the space in a high rise.

        Or I walk in some beautiful neighborhood of perfectly kept craftsman’s that I’ll never afford, and I realize I want this neighborhood to be here so I can walk it’s streets, even as I want density down the street so I can live there.

        Point is, it’s only that experience that makes me see how intransigent I’ve become.

        So my question is, what realistic plan could ST propose that you wouldn’t hold out for something better?

        I too prefer the peanut butter plan. But we move forward by making compromises, by embracing imperfect improvements rather than forcing the choice between status quo and our ideals (for a great more detailed explanation, read David Brooks’ recent piece on the value of politics, or numerous similar analyses of the current plight of the GOP. Or David Foster Wallace’s explanation of the Democratic Spirit in “Tense Present”.)

        But I think ST3 is still a major improvement over the status quo. It provides true subway service downtown and in the desperately needed SLU and LQA areas. It is grade separated to ballard. We got ALL of our hopes for infill stations. West Seattle, yes, not ideal – but West Seattle is so sleepy precisely because it is so transport constrained in connecting to the rest of the city. Get a grade separated connection there, and growth will pick up. Voters know the glory of u-link and are rather in love with it right now, but buses are still associated with traffic and pain – BRT, and the west side transit tunnel, are rally hard sells.

        Outside of Seattle the quality drops off because of course it drops off! Look at the land use! You want build anything great out there, and while we could all design something better, it wouldn’t get votes because it wouldn’t serve current homeowners in their current commutes like an I5 alignment does.

        Cutting out the suburbs and going Seattle only would require cooperation at the state level, and who knows when that will happen – it could take decades. THEN we’d have a new organization and probably couldn’t interline with Link, etc.

        I just don’t see what constituency is going to push for the kind of package we want. To the average voter stuck in traffic, this looks pretty good. I think they’re right. We could make it better, but complex arguments about bus connections and capacity and land use are beyond the conversation that the general public has, so they’re beyond what we can hope to be really optimal on.

        If you look at transit projects in similar cities in the USA, this package is right in line with what gets built – actually a good bit better (our at-grade isn’t in the downtown core, we have a good number of urban stations, our suburban ones are pretty well positioned and zoned for TOD).

        What makes Seattle different enough that we’re gonna get a much better transit system than Denver, Portland, etc?

      6. (And I don’t even want to hear about Vancouver BC. Yes, Vancouver is nice. Amazing. We should all hold it up to show what transit can be, to show the principals of good transit design and associated land use. But voting against unless we have a plan comparable to the single best city of our size and age is just absurd. We should be thanking our lucky stars that we’re not stuck with transit of Dallas or Phoenix or Silicon Valley or Oklahoma City.)

      7. >> Do you think there’s a real-world ST3 plan that ST could present that would convince you, or do you think you’ve spent too much time being mad at their errors to see their successes

        Good question. My short answer is yes, I do think there is a real world plan that ST could propose that would satisfy me. It really takes a lot to get me to “No”.*

        But I think it would probably take a change in direction for ST. Having followed the planning, it is obvious that they made assumptions that were flawed. How did West Seattle get to be the most important project in Seattle, anyway? Would an outside observer — an independent planning agency — say that? Of course not, but we are focused on West Seattle anyway. So then what — how about digging a tunnel and putting buses in it. Not even studied. They didn’t even bother to do it, comparing buses running on the surface downtown (calling them BRT, of all things) then eventually saying they had concerns with congestion. Of course they did. It was a stupid proposal, and designed to fail from the very beginning (to make light rail more palatable).

        What I hear, more than anything, is political, not practical arguments. But politics change. They change constantly. It is possible in the future that the city or county will be able to raise money for transit (beyond what they can raise now).

        It is also possible that Sound Transit will change. It has changed in the past. If you look at the history of the agency, you can see decisions that were made that had a profound impact on what was actually built. I see no difference here. If ST3 is defeated, I think it is quite possible that a better plan will evolve, as a shakeup will likely happen if this is defeated (especially if it gets low numbers in the city).

        I think there comes a point when you lose faith in an organization, and lose faith in their ability to come up with reasonable plans. I again point to my hypothetical. Imagine you hire a dozen teams to come up with proposals for improving transit in the region. My guess is they come up with all sorts of plans, but none of them would suggest this. Maybe a bus only plan (Move Seattle on steroids) with no major infrastructure improvements (not even the WSTT). Maybe the Metro 8 subway and the Ballard to UW subway. Maybe more relatively cheap rail, such as replacing the Metro 7 with light rail. That last one has never been seriously considered, despite the fact that the 7 is the second most popular bus route (being barely edged out by one of the RapidRide lines). But it isn’t being proposed (or considered) for political reasons. Supposedly, Rainier Valley has “got theirs” when it comes to mass transit. Time to spread the love around. This is an absurd position — thank God SDOT doesn’t feel that way, or the corridor wouldn’t get the improvements that are soon coming. But that is the nature of these Sound Transit projects. There was never an eye for doing the most good for the greatest number for the least amount of money. There was simply an attempt to spread out the rail, as if quantity equals quality or freeway congestion justifies rail.

        Without a doubt my perspective on these issues have changed. Like a lot of people, I assumed that ST knew what they were doing. But the more I’ve learned, the more I realize they don’t.

        I’m not a perfectionist. Unlike a lot of people, I have no problem with running the trains on the surface through Interbay, or over a bridge over the ship canal. But I do have problems with an extremely expensive system that delivers so little. This is only a good system when you think rail automatically solves the problem by coming somewhere close to the neighborhood it purports to serve. Take a typical example: North Seattle College to South Seattle College. This is, officially, Northgate to West Seattle. Great — take the train. But all day long, I would be better off taking a bus from downtown to West Seattle. That trip doesn’t improve at all with ST3. Everett to Ballard is another example. Billions spent on both Everett and Ballard, and almost everyone taking that trip will ignore ST3. It is irrelevant to their needs. I could go on, but it is pretty obvious. Make a list of neighborhoods and pick two, randomly. Now ask yourself if things get better between them as a result of ST3. It is fairly hard to find the combinations that really work. I just can’t see spending such huge amounts of money on something that does so little for the city Subways work when there are people who take it all day long, from stop to stop, not when it makes sense to avoid rush hour congestion one direction. There are plenty of combinations in this city that can deliver this, but few are served with this plan.

        We are better off muddling along with bus service — improved bus service — than blowing it all on something so ineffective. We have lots of expensive needs in this city beyond transit.

        On a side note, mentioning systems that are worse is a good point. I don’t expect us to have one of the best systems in the country. But to be fair to those systems, most didn’t cost anywhere near what ours will cost. If they did, then they blew it, and I see no reason why we should follow a similar path. I can think of plenty of cities with better transit. Most of them built their transit a long time ago (e. g. Boston) or spent a bunch more money on theirs (D. C.). I wouldn’t expect our system to be that good, but — like Vancouver — we should try and mimic their success, rather than the failures of the cities you mention.

      8. RossB, you and many others that criticize the general direction ST took with the plan (as opposed to the specifics) are ignoring the political environment. Let’s look at some examples:

        Imagine you hire a dozen teams to come up with proposals for improving transit in the region. My guess is they come up with all sorts of plans, but none of them would suggest this.

        The problem isn’t technical. It’s political.

        Local jurisdictions in Washington do not have much taxing authority they can exercise independent of the state legislature. To get taxing authority to build something like a rail line, you need specific state legislative approval. But Seattle, by itself, cannot get any serious taxing authority out of the Legislature. There are just not enough Seattle representatives. Legislators from everywhere else have an incentive not to approve anything that is Seattle-only, both because of generalized anti-Seattle cultural bias and specific fear that if Seattle increases its tax burden for its own purposes it will be less receptive to tax increases that would benefit the region or state.

        So to get sufficient capital to build transit in Seattle we need to get legislators from the rest of the region on board. Once we’ve done that, they are going to represent the interests of their constituents. So of necessity we get the subarea structure, or something very like it. And once you have that, the planning is not too bad. The only area where the projects really don’t make sense is the Eastside, and there are a lot of unique intra-Eastside political factors driving that.

        TL;DR; you can’t replace Issaquah with Metro 8 because of the state constitution. That’s not something that ST can magically fix if this ST3 package is voted down.

        Why West Seattle first?

        Because West Seattle has about one-sixth of the voters in Seattle — and they vote at a higher rate than those in other parts of Seattle, and they are overwhelmingly in favor of a line crossing the Duwamish, and they forcefully indicated that in feedback. Not only that, but we have a ST Chair and another Seattle board member who are from West Seattle. Again, there are real political considerations driving that.

        Incidentally, you are way too pessimistic about the usefulness of the line. Sound Transit addressed the worst of those concerns when they added the Youngstown and Triangle stops. Particularly for High Point or Arbor Heights… I’d transfer at Triangle every time if the alternative were to bump through Sodo on the 21 one traffic light at a time. And even more so if putting the transfer in place would enable much of West Seattle’s bus network to be upgraded to RapidRide or frequent service as Metro plans. Seriously, go look at Metro’s 2040 LRP proposal for West Seattle; it’s a real improvement in mobility, enabled by allowing the choo-choo to take over for almost all RR C and 21 service north of the rail line.

        North Seattle College to South Seattle College. This is, officially, Northgate to West Seattle. Great — take the train. But all day long, I would be better off taking a bus from downtown to West Seattle. That trip doesn’t improve at all with ST3.

        Really? You go from a transfer from Link to a half-hourly bus downtown (125) to a transfer at Youngstown to what will most likely be a ten-minute bus. Transfers to infrequent service are horrible, horrible things.

      9. I generally concur with David Lawson here. The key thing is that we have to operate within political reality – a dozen transit planning teams, given no constraints beyond budget and geography, might not come up with ST3, but what they would come up with wouldn’t pass the ballot box, either (or have an easy time with subarea equity – it’s just hard to build something worthwhile where land use is terrible).

        But if you gave them political constraints, I think most plans would look pretty similar to ST3. You have to work in the existing political reality, because if you don’t, you choose no system. You might prefer to hobble along with buses until we pass the perfect system, but I don’t think the politics goes away, and even if it did, the growth as we wait would be car oriented and abysmal, putting us even further from our goals.

        I can’t say much to the qualitative statements that this is bad and that other plan would be good, because numbers all I’d have is mushy statements of “a lot of people go there!” and you’d say “not that many!” and that’s kind of a meaningless conversation.

        But in general, I think you underestimate the good of the projects on the list, and overestimate the effectiveness of imagined projects. I’m guessing, and I mean no offense by this, as I do it too, it has to do with time spent here, repeatedly making arguments for one thing and against another, leading to ever greater certainty about the value of one and not the other.

        The other three effects are, more broadly at work are, an under-appreciation of the value of reliability, of land use following transportation, and of the mental effect of naming our lines after their endpoints.

        Reliability: What matters for a trip where you need to be on time on the other end is not the average length of a trip, but what time you can rely on. A journey that’s usually five minutes slower, but never late, is the one you’re going to take if you start your day with a meeting. Buses stuck in traffic will never be reliable, and more importantly, will only get more unreliable as our region grows. (BRT is of course an option, but here we get to politics: the political cost of taking right-of-way is greater than the political cost of the taxes needed to make new ROW with a TBM or by elevating your line. And once you’re paying for a tunnel, you may as well maximize its capacity and throw a train in it. (open ended BRT is another thing, from the engineering side, but nobody knows about it, so it’s harder, politically, than a train). In an uncertain future, in a city reeling from the current pace of change, reliability is worth a heck of a lot.

        Land use: If freeways built the suburbs, reliable rail will build our new centers. We built grade-separated freeways and suddenly found that if people could live where the freeway went and get to work in the same time, they would; if we build grade-separated rail, people will move to where it goes. Obviously that takes zoning and time and not-terrible alignments, but we have a good bit of all of the above (ironically, zoning on our terrible alignments more than our good ones).

        For some perspective on land use, SLU didn’t even exist 15 years ago. More than half of Bellevue’s skyline has been built since 2000. Even in the great era of suburbanization, that saw vast swaths of forest and farmland turn into crappy suburbs, Seattle had some pretty remarkable growth: Smith tower was the tallest building on the West Coast from when it was built until 1962, when the Space Needle took that title. You had a nice clear view from one to the other back in 1962; downtown as we know it was built during the great 20th century sprawl.

        So in the twenty years until these projects come online, let alone the 60 years until the middle of their lives, think about how much can change.

        How we name things: We think of Ballard light rail as being about Ballard, because that’s it’s name. But Ballard light rail isn’t about Ballard: it’s about SLU and LQA. That is where the density is, and critically, where Link will make sense for travelers from the north. Similarly, West Seattle, as rail to Junction, was comical overkill. But now that it has multiple stops, in developable land? It isn’t ideal, but it’s a heck of a lot better. But we still think of it as rail to the Junction.

        (side note: West Seattle is first, but that doesn’t mean that it’s higher priority – it’s because the downtown tunnel is expensive and slow to build, and the smart plan in the long run is to connect the existing tunnel to U-link.)

        Ah, so much else to say. Not really worth it. I already failed at resisting the temptation to say why these projects are actually pretty good. eh, may as well go on failing: I don’t think picking destination pairs for improvement by ST3 is fair.

        First off, some destination pairs are much more popular than others. Most trips are from where people live to where they work or like to hang out, and those latter two are usually within a 30 minute drive or so. Ballard to Everett traffic is rare. So is Crown Hill to Wedgwood, Magnolia to Federal Way, Everett to Tacoma. But trips from all kinds of neighborhoods to Downtown, the U-district, SLU, the various other college campuses, Mircosoft, Bellevue, etc. are all common. That’s what the system is built to serve.

        Second, the right question about gains is about the system as a whole. Focusing on “this package doesn’t help this route enough” is what gets us to the spreading of resources to distant non-destinations that you decry. ST1 and ST2 look even worse by this measure, because Link didn’t/doesn’t even reach huge parts of the Sound Transit tax zone. How many destination pairs from Lynnwood were improved by central link? The system as a whole, though, will be improve speeds, and moreover reliability, for a heck of a lot of trips.

        Anyway. I think the Ballard line is great, the new tunnel is great, the Wes Seattle line is solid, the Redmond extension is very good, the Everett and Tacoma parts are about serving trips to them as the urban center rather than Seattle, and thus, not really mine to get upset about. They serve a political need, and hopefully it won’t be so long until they develop the land use to be be good.

      10. “So in the twenty years until these projects come online, let alone the 60 years until the middle of their lives, think about how much can change.”

        That’s exactly what I am thinking about, and that’s why I’m so frustrated by ST3’s lack of ambition. It wouldn’t be enough if we had it today, and our needs will only have grown by the far-distant future day that these new lines would finally open. Why am I supposed to be excited about this? If we’re just kicking the can down the road, why not just declare defeat, embrace our role in the total and catastrophic alteration of our climate, keep on living our car-dependent lives and teaching our children to do the same, and spend all the ST3 money building dikes instead? We’re clearly going to need them if we’re unwilling to make a serious effort at moving past car-dependence.

      11. @David — … you can’t replace Issaquah with Metro 8 because of the state constitution. That’s not something that ST can magically fix if this ST3 package is voted down.

        I agree. In my previous comment I was more specific in my hypothetical. I failed to make that clear, and I apologize. Let me try again:

        Imagine you hire a dozen teams come up with proposals for improving transit in the region. They have to adhere to the legal restrictions (subarea equity). They are asked (for political reasons) to favor some neighborhoods (West Seattle) over other, more cost efficient, more populous ones (Belltown or the Central Area). Again, I don’t see anyone coming up with this proposal.

        Most of the time, for most projects, it is tough to choose which one is better. Metro 8 or Ballard to UW light rail? Hard to say, really. One effects a much larger area and has better bus to rail integration, while the other goes through a more densely populated area. Toss a coin, really (I would go with either one). Same with the middle station with a Ballard to UW route — upper Fremont or lower Fremont? Each one has its advantages (lower is more popular, while upper works better with the buses). Again, toss a coin.

        Those are the sorts of choices we should be making. Of course politics gets involved. Someone from Fremont might push for the lower route, while someone from Greenwood will push for the upper one. I can live with that.

        But this proposal is demonstrably wrong. It is simply inferior to the so called peanut butter plan. I wrote a long (some would say tedious) essay, comparing all the various trip combinations (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/08/28/seattle-projects-for-st3/). The only substantial improvement this has over the other is the trip from Ballard to Queen Anne. Every other trip (and there are dozens) would be better with the combination I listed. If you actually include the new Ballard bridge that Frank mentioned, even the Ballard to Queen Anne trip is better. In short, more people would save more time with the peanut butter proposal, not ST3. It isn’t even close.

        I find that disturbing. Worse yet, I am appalled that Sound Transit never seriously studied it. I’m surprised more people aren’t upset about this. The WSTT got a lot of coverage, but it was never part of any ST study. It wouldn’t have been that hard. Just imagine the tunnel without the rail, figure out how to improve the freeway to get the buses into the tunnel (and away from traffic the entire way) and call it a day. You don’t have to worry about the surface streets (it would be open BRT). But it was never seriously discussed. Instead they studied a couple “BRT” routes, which had no grade separation at all (it was preposterous to call them BRT, really). So, of course, they found those routes slow. Is it any wonder that West Seattle folks wanted light rail? They were given no alternative to even consider by Sound Transit!

        As for the ineffectiveness of West Seattle rail, I stand by what I said. Of course spending billions replacing buses with trains will allow you to move the existing buses around. But you have spent billions to do so! Spend that money on service and you achieve the same thing. Almost all of your savings come from eliminating the congestion, which can be eliminated far more cheaply by building the WSTT and making improvements on the freeway.

        Oh, and funny thing about the long range Metro plan. While it is true that Metro is leveraging Link to West Seattle, it also plans to run buses across the bridge, after Link gets there. This even includes a RapidRide line! So, not only does this mean that this project is a very expensive way to save service hours for buses that currently head over the bridge, it won’t even do that! The only way to do that is to force everyone to transfer. That is crazy, when simply building the tunnel (and making improvements to the bridge) would improve every bus ride to the peninsula.

      12. @EHS — I know we have to work with the existing political reality. I know this means subarea equity, and working with various groups and cities to build what they want, balanced with the desire to actually build what makes sense. I disagree that people wouldn’t support that. The first Sound Transit proposal (the full spine) failed. The second proposal passed, and did so because it had light rail for the city, and enough express buses and commuter rail for the suburbs. The folks who passed it said as much. So a smart, well designed plan could be effective. Kirkland actually proposed such a thing for their area (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/11/16/kirklands-brt-design/). It was rejected. Not enough rail, I guess (which is what the Sound Transit board wanted). I don’t see how Kirkland is better off with ST3, versus that plan.

        But that is the suburbs. I am confident there are better ideas out there (like what Kirkland proposed) and I’ve read a few, but I sure don’t know them. The city is much simpler, especially if you assume the political restraints, as you do (e. g. no Metro 8 subway). There is no reason ST couldn’t have proposed the so called peanut butter plan. They could have studied a new bus tunnel. That is hardly an obscure idea (we have built them before) and this was featured in the Seattle Times. But they didn’t study it.

        As to the numbers, please read my post: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/08/28/seattle-projects-for-st3/. Unlike Frank’s version (which advocates for much the same thing) it is focused specifically on trips, with a mathematical breakdown of the differences. The other difference is that I don’t advocate for a new Ballard bridge. As I said in my last comment, this really isn’t like comparing apples to oranges. There is tremendous overlap. You can go through all the possible trips, and the peanut butter plan wins. The comparison is relatively easy, because they follow almost exactly the same route through downtown. Essentially, you get an extra line (and arguably the best one) in Ballard to UW, along with faster, more direct service in many cases.

        As to whether I am wedded to these ideas (and thus underestimate the value of what ST proposed) that is a fair concern. I wonder that sometimes too. But believe me when I say that I took an open mind with this proposal. I’ve told opponents of ST — people who hate them worse than I do — that I would probably vote yes if this included Ballard to UW rail. I would still be disappointed (the WSTT is not only a better value, but better overall than Ballard to West Seattle rail) but I can put up with flaws, if it dramatically improves transit in the region. This doesn’t. This is just too much money spent on too few trips.

        As to other points, I will reply to each one using the same heading:

        Reliability: I agree, this is very important. Although, to be fair, I think it is greatly exaggerated. There is probably no less reliable a form of transport than to get into your car, alone, and drive on the freeway to your destination. But it remains the most popular form of transport in the region. This is because most of the time, it is faster than public transportation. People want time savings over reliability.

        But that is a moot point. I am not suggesting we simply do everything with paint. I have been a strong proponent of the WSTT, which would enable open BRT. I am baffled by the idea that we somehow “don’t know” about open BRT, when, by some measure we had that exact thing in Seattle for many years. We had off board payment in the tunnel (albeit a very poor version of one that caused huge problems elsewhere) along with total grade separation. It would be trivial to have RapidRide buses operate with level boarding and off board payment there (and on board payment elsewhere) since that is very similar to what they do now. The main difference is that they would get the grade separation — the absence of traffic lights and congestion — that would justify the use of the term “BRT”. Seattle could then back it up with other improvements on the surface streets (which they already have planned). Hell, we are in the process of buying an entire fleet of dual sided buses. This means that we can have center platforms in the tunnel (for quick transfers). It is hard to imagine someone would hop off the Madison BRT (which will be 100% off board payment) and then go into the tunnel to catch a BRT bus to West Seattle, but be confused as to how to pay. Like Link, it will all work the same way.

        Land Use: I’m not sure what your point is about land use. If you are talking about transit oriented development, then it is hard to get excited about ST3 in the city. Two of the three stations in West Seattle will be close to the freeway — a lousy place for development. Besides, I don’t buy that transit has much effect on development (it hasn’t in this city) and I’m not alone: http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/transit-oriented-development-doesnt-need-transit.html?platform=hootsuite

        But if you are suggesting that Seattle in general will continue to grow, thereby justifying large expenditures in transit, I completely agree. But that again suggests we are building the wrong thing. Ballard to UW rail improves trips for a much broader area, all day long, than Ballard to downtown. But density along there is not as high. Each stop has a decent number of walk up passengers, but not as many as some of the stops on the other rail line. But if the region itself grows (and it will) then Ballard to UW becomes a much better line. It is probably just barely big enough to justify rail right now, but will become an obvious choice in the future.

        Trip pairs: Of course some trip pairs are more common than others. But basing your system upon the assumptions of forty years ago is bound to fail. People want to get everywhere to everywhere. That is how all successful subway lines work. Lake City to Ballard, Wallingford to UW, Greenwood to Capitol Hill. These are the trips that actually do occur in large numbers during rush hour. Why do you think people are driving on the freeway? Do you think they are all headed downtown? Why would anyone do that, when buses can get you there from anywhere (and often faster)? Like me, they drive the freeway (even when it is congested) because it is so damn convenient to places that Link and the buses don’t serve well. Fremont is a great example. So is Ballard. Speaking of which, while Ballard largely employs people in the medical and retail market right now, they are poised to start adding office towers soon. The UW, meanwhile, is about to add a bunch of them. Consider getting to UW, Redmond or Kirkland from north of the ship canal. ST3 doesn’t help in the least, even though we are spending a huge sum on the section to Ballard alone (a new bridge and now elevated rail to Ballard). That is a lot of rush hour traffic that won’t be helped at all, despite spending a lot of money.

        But again, that is just rush hour. Every successful subway line in the world doesn’t depend on rush hour traffic alone. They have heavy rush hour use, but in the middle of the day, there are plenty of people who ride the train. Is that a nurse, showing up for her shift? Maybe someone meeting their friend for lunch? Maybe a guy visiting his mom? Yes, to all of that. Those are the trips that a good subway — a good transit system — enables.

        ST3 reminds me of how people view Metro. Ask someone about Metro, and they almost all say the same thing. It is great if you are headed downtown, but otherwise it is a pain. This is so ridiculously similar, it is laughable. The implication with the statement about Metro and with this plan is that everyone (even people who live in Ballard and West Seattle) will probably want a car if they expect to get someplace (besides downtown) quickly. This simply isn’t the case with the peanut butter plan. That plan would improve transit for most of the city. I wish I could say that about ST3, but I can’t.

        As far as the system as the whole goes, that is my problem with this line. Let me quote you:

        >> Focusing on “this package doesn’t help this route enough” is what gets us to the spreading of resources to distant non-destinations that you decry.

        No it doesn’t. How does the peanut butter plan spread our resources too distantly? It is the same area. Same thing with Kirkland BRT. It is matter of geography. More connections — very common connections — means more bang for the buck. It means building lines that work well with buses, and simply acknowledging that buses will remain the biggest form of public transit for the foreseeable future. They are in Vancouver, a city that has a way better subway than us (in part because they focused on that).

        >> ST1 and ST2 look even worse by this measure, because Link didn’t/doesn’t even reach huge parts of the Sound Transit tax zone. How many destination pairs from Lynnwood were improved by central link?

        Dozens. Let’s see Lynnwood to UW. Lynnwood to Northgate. Lynnwood to Capitol Hill. Lynnwood to every neighborhood south of downtown (too numerous to mention). ST2 may have gone too far into the suburbs (ending at 145th or Mountlake Terrace would have been a much better value) but will obviously be a huge improvement for folks from Snohomish County. Ending at Northgate would have been terrible. It takes too damn long for the buses to connect there. It is a terrible terminus. Direct service to downtown is clogged and there is no cheap alternative. Getting to the UW is also a problem, as traffic bogs down on the surface as well as the freeway. It is simply a different dynamic than Ballard and West Seattle. Again, I’m not a perfectionist. I wouldn’t oppose ST2 because it went too far into Snohomish County, or because of alignment problems on the east side. Overall, it is still a very good value. I just can’t say that with ST3.

        >> Anyway. I think the Ballard line is great,

        The Ballard line is much better than any other major project on the table. I agree with that. But it doesn’t dramatically improve the mobility situation in Ballard. As you said, maybe that wasn’t the point. Folks there will still own cars (like most everyone in the city). It will improve things quite a bit for lower Queen Anne, and a little bit if you live north of Westlake (although probably not as much as if Roosevelt “Full BRT” is built). There just aren’t enough stops (and they are too close to Westlake) to really change things. Just to be clear, I think they did a great job with the alignment. If had to build a line from downtown to Interbay to Ballard, then this is an excellent one. It just isn’t as good as the WSTT (even though it is a lot more expensive), nor is it as good as Ballard to UW (although that is a tougher call). It certainly isn’t as good as the combination of both (which was never studied).

        >> They [light rail to Everett and Tacoma] serve a political need, and hopefully it won’t be so long until they develop the land use to be be good.

        No, sorry, they will never be good. Tacoma would probably have to double in size before that line makes sense. Everett would have to quadruple. By then folks will wonder why they put all of their eggs in one basket. Those cities are simply too far away from Seattle, and too small for a subway to make any sense for them. Similar cities on the BART system just don’t have high ridership, and thus don’t have high frequency to justify the cost of running the trains that far.

    3. You obviously have not heard of Denver, Colorado and its massive transit package (fastraks)

      Commuter Rail (airport that just opened), light rail, and streetcar investments, along with bus, BRT, and other modes.

      Same thing with Utah whom also combined multiple modes into a single large package.

      California as well whom did Amtrak California (Intercity rail), Metrolink and SMART(Commuter Rail, one is a brand new line using DMU’s), light rail (multiple extensions opened up this year alone) and subway…

      For giggles, in Canada, they also did a large package in Toronto, creating Metrolinx (formerly GO Transit) whom has been very aggressive with its transit package, including a massive expansion of freeway, commuter rail, airport trains, light rail, streetcar, AND Subway.

      1. Too bad we aren’t joining the order for EMUs with Denver for on a frequent electrified Sounder line between Ballard/Golden Gardens and Lakewood

      2. What was the fare for Denver to Airport, $9.00 last I checked. Which areas got left off the LR network, University of Colorado (a major destination). Who paid heavily (similar to Renton) and got squat in return, Longmont. Soooo many screw-ups with RTD!

      3. @poncho We’ve been over this before. No one will use the Golden Gardens station.

      4. Les,
        Renton dug its own hole. It didn’t press the board over the last 20 years for specific projects.

      5. Denver’s airport train replaced a $13 bus route. There’s nothing in between for ten miles. Link is a similar distance from Intl Dist to SeaTac but has the stadiums, SODO, Beacon Hill, and Rainier Valley in between. Beyond the airport it will have a college and other neighorhoods. SeaTac Station itself was expected to have a civic center+housing adjacent to it. That’s on hold now because the lot owner won’t sell, but it could be revived in the future. So it’s a combined airport/community station, not an isolated airport station. So there are few similarities at all between Denver’s airport line and Link. A closer resemblance to Denver’s line is the Heathrow Express, Newark’s Amtrak line to Manhattan, and Toronto’s express line. All of these have $10+ fares.

      6. Sure – but Denver is dead flat, and the system is almost entirely freeway or existing railway aligned, or at grade. That makes construction incredibly cheap (and fast).

        But for all of that track (50 miles on 7(!!!) lines), they manage less than 90,000 riders a day. Link is at 60k and growing fast, on less than twenty miles of track, all one line.

        I’ll take Link, thank you very much.

  4. I was worried that the initial ST3 plan couldn’t be improved meaningfully, because it seemed like there were too many C+ / B- projects with tradeoffs in quality or timeline, and not enough real headliners in quality, Worse, the zero sum nature of funding meant everyone in the region would be desperately clawing to speed up their own projects, cancelling out any individual improvement.

    So I was wrong about that. It’s magic what happens when you root around under the cushions and find 10% more funding!

    At first glance, the weight of this improvement feels like it moves the marker back on the right side of the accept/reject line. It’ll be slow, but it has the right breadth and quality.

    1. I am curious as to why you feel that way. From my perspective, it looks very similar. The only significant improvement is the NE 130th station, which Seattle could have paid for (and will probably pay for if ST3 fails). Other than that, what do we have? The Ballard line being elevated? What exactly does that get us? Better headways? Did they even mention the headways before and after (I don’t remember anything). Oh, and now Everett Link goes to the Everett train station by first going all the way back to I-5. Does this mean that we will continue to run express buses from Everett to Lynnwood? If so, does that mean we can take a half empty train to Paine Field every 20 minutes? Oh goody.

      This is just lipstick on a pig from my perspective. Issaquah light rail is a joke (even if it manages to go to a freeway station in the south end of Kirkland). Folks will be lucky if that thing runs every 20 minutes. Light rail to West Seattle that is slower for 90% of West Seattle destinations 90% of the time. Hour and a half commutes from Tacoma. Infill stations that take ten years longer than they should. About the only project of merit is the Ballard line, and that is still done years after other, obviously less valuable projects.

      1. The only way I see Seattle paying for 130th St Station is if it does so essentially as a loan to get it built simultaneously with the rest of Lynnwood Link.

        I’m happy to support such an effort, but I will not support Seattle going alone to build 130th Station or Ballard Link, with SDOT’s track record on transit projects. ST knows how to build transit. SDOT clearly does not.

      2. What makes you say that? SDOT’s planned a whole lot of good transit projects even if their implementation is sketchy due to political compromises, and ST-approved contractors would be doing the construction either way.

      3. Brent, I think RossB is arguing to use the monorail authority to build Ballard to UW, and having ST do the building. (BTW, I have asked STB in the past to do a post to analyze whether the monorail authority would allow this).

        As for me, this latest gets me closer to voting for it– but it will be a coinflip for me (since Ballard to UW, which could be built faster than Ballard to DT) is at best, a provisional project.

      4. “Hour and a half commutes from Tacoma.”

        Tacoma has said many times that commuting to Seattle is not the primary reason it wants the Link line. 60-minute commutes will be available on Sounder, and possibly reach 40 minutes someday. Tacoma wants Link for a connection to the airport, to attract companies and workers to Tacoma, and visitors/shoppers from south King County. The fact that it eventually reaches Seattle is a side bonus.

      5. I do believe that there is enough money, now, to build the NE 130th station and Graham Street station. At a minimum, NE 130th station should be built when the line is built. Not only is that cheaper (only $25 million) but it is less disruptive, and it means folks have a station much sooner. Graham Street doesn’t have the first two advantages, but money should be found to add it, and add it quickly. This would likely be done “by Sound Transit” (i. e. the same contracting process as the rest of their work) but like William, I find Brent’s pessimism about SDOT’s inability to build transit infrastructure to be unwarranted.

        Good idea, mdnative, but I’m not suggesting that. I really have no idea whether we could use monorail money or not. If so, then I would definitely support it. If not, I think we should try and find the money some other way. This might take a while, of course. But none of this can be built that quickly anyway (bonding authority). It is quite possible that we can build more effective things faster, even if we approve them later.

        It is hard to predict the future, but I see a few scenarios. One is that it passes in the city, but fails in the suburbs. I think this is most likely. I just don’t see much in the way of added value for the suburbs. Why, for example, should someone in southern Snohomish County (which has more people than Everett) pay for a light rail line to Everett? Buses are just fine for that sort of trip.

        Seattle will likely vote yes, because Seattle will likely vote yes no mater what is proposed. By the way — can someone come up with a less cost effective light rail line in Seattle? I have been struggling with some ideas, and every one has some sort of advantage that these don’t.

        Anyway, if Seattle does say “No” — if there is a solid “No” vote across the board, I think it would send a message that the planning is screwed up. This just isn’t a very good set of projects. Imagine hiring consultants to come up with various plans given subarea equity limitations. Tell them you want to save the most time for the most riders. You could hire a dozen agencies and not one would come up with this. This is obviously biased towards routes that look pretty on a map, and not functionality.

      6. Ross you are clearly not paying attention. Rail does well when it goes where the people are. Where they live and where they work. Under our planning structure (GMA) in this state and this region, governments designate centers and channel population and employment growth into those areas. This plan completes the links between those centers. The logic and the practice are sound, as we are seeing with ridership on the initial line.

        The centers are informed as much by topography as they are by land use policy. Lines aren’t picked because they look pretty on a map; if that was the case we’d have a snowflake-shaped system with lines ending out the middle of Puget Sound and Lake Sammamish. Would you like that better? Lines are picked to go where people are, and where they want to go, and to make connections possible to other lines to other places people want to go.

        Your’s appears to be a failure of imagination. You cannot visualize a future in which the region realizes its growth projections. But there is nothing about actual growth in the past 30 years to suggest that PSRC or the counties or the cities — or the US Census Bureau for that matter — are wrong about what’s going to happen in the future.

        And stop understating the cost of 130th. $25 million is a years-old estimate for a surface station. The alignment through that area will be elevated, and an elevated station costs a lot more. It’s your right to be the voice of negatude, but it’s not your right to be wrong on basic facts.

      7. Ross, I can think of all kinds of less cost effective lines! What about Magnuson Park to Carkeek park? What about a tunnel under West Seattle, but then a single track connecting it to downtown? How about Leschi to Duwamish?

        Are those absurd – of course! But that’s the thing – these projects already come from a list built with an eye towards ridership and cost-effectiveness. It’s not like ST is just picking neighborhoods out of a hat and then connecting them.

        But, you are 100% right that if the directive was “save the most time for the most riders” this package would not be the result. That is because, necessarily, the directive was “build the thing that will get the most votes possible, and ridership is pretty good, too.”

      8. The more urban alternative would be to relocate all those urban centers to Seattle, or at most between Lynnwood and Des Moines. Then a smaller, more concentrated network could connect them all. (Bellevue/Redmond would have to be an exception since it’s so built up already; so East Link would remain as is.) But the Seattle NIMBYs would lie in front of the bulldozers and occupy City Hall. And the suburbs don’t want to lose their economic golden egg. Relocating the Issaquah urban center to Seattle means that Issaquah won’t get those jobs or tax base — that’s what this is about. People in Issaquah can move to Seattle to take advantage of it, but the municipality can’t move, nor can the people who dearly love Issaquah and don’t want to move. They want prosperity and opportunity to come to them. The same in Tacoma and Everett, Lynnwood, and Kirkland. Woodinville would do it too if it had enough clout, and if it were willing to upzone that much. That’s what this is about, and why The Spine goes from Everett to Tacoma.

      9. >> But that’s the thing – these projects already come from a list built with an eye towards ridership and cost-effectiveness. It’s not like ST is just picking neighborhoods out of a hat and then connecting them.

        Yes they are! Your last paragraph proves it. Seriously — why West Seattle? I can argue all day about ideas that are better for West Seattle, but why is it the next light rail project in the city? Was it because of very high employment there? Was it because it was the neighborhood that can most cost effectively benefit from light rail? Was it because of the very high density there? No, no, no.

        As you said, it was based on the idea that building light rail to West Seattle would gain the most votes. That is nuts. Why should the Central Area, Belltown, and similar neighborhoods that could get far more cost effective light rail so that one neighborhood in West Seattle gets to ride a choo choo? The proposal is based on ignorance and symbolism. Someone in West Seattle (say High Point, the most densely populated part of West Seattle) may assume that their transit trip will be hugely better as a result of this change (since they definitely live in West Seattle and Link will soon “serve West Seattle”). Nine times out of ten they would be better off staying on the 21, rather than making a transfer. But worse yet, they were never given the choice to weigh in on a proposal that would really make a difference (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/08/03/build-real-brt-for-west-seattle/).

      10. @Mike — The problem is, proximity matters. Even if Issaquah becomes the next South Lake Union (which is highly unlikely), it still isn’t best connected to the region by light rail. It is just too far for a subway. A subway only makes sense if there are stops along the way with a very high number of trips, and issaquah simply doesn’t have that (nor will it ever have that).

      11. >> Tacoma has said many times that commuting to Seattle is not the primary reason it wants the Link line. 60-minute commutes will be available on Sounder, and possibly reach 40 minutes someday. Tacoma wants Link for a connection to the airport, to attract companies and workers to Tacoma, and visitors/shoppers from south King County. The fact that it eventually reaches Seattle is a side bonus.

        OK, well that explains why Pierce County is being asked to chip in 20% for the new tunnel in downtown Seattle.

        All snark aside, I sure hope that message is clear to voters. Because if I was a Tacoma voter, and someone said they are extending the Seattle light rail line to Tacoma, I might assume that this will actually allow me to get to Seattle faster.

        But if that is the justification, I think that is ridiculous. Just imagine this line didn’t go to Seattle, and ended at the airport. Why in heaven’s name would you build such a thing? Who does that? What city the size of Tacoma, which struggles with basic transit service (and whose light rail line carries less than 4,000 a day) would decide to arbitrarily pick a direction, and head out to those suburbs? Look at the density in and next to Tacoma and that is obviously absurd (http://arcg.is/22rrjSQ).

        So then you have the trip to the airport. Again, that is nuts. Just consider how many people currently go to SeaTac from Seattle. Right now it is around 6,000. This is with direct service from downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and Rainier Valley. These areas are many times more densely populated than anywhere in Tacoma. You also have great connecting bus service (e. g. Northgate to Link) that is as good as you can get (same platform transfers). Do you really think more than 6,000 people will ride this thing from Tacoma? They will be lucky to get one third that amount. Those types of trips are much better served with buses.

        No, the only way you will get votes from Tacoma for this plan is you convince folks that this is a faster way to Seattle (whether it is true or not).

      12. RossB,

        I have said the same stinking thing. Who is regularly riding to the airport? If employees are having to show up during non-peak driving periods and transit doesn’t accommodate that usage, we are building an overpriced system for little benefit. If we wanted to do Tacoma Link later we can but please make a true BRT corridor first with bus only lanes along there to demonstrate ridership and by that I mean bus only lanes with signal priority.

        Richmond-YVR-Vancouver had about 60,000 riders per day before converting over. You might be facing a similar wrath in the poltiics of being taxed too much even with people living in the city depending on how Sound Transit looks like to the voter outside the City of Seattle.

        Even then I am curious as to what Belltown and Queen Anne people are feeling given Upper Queen Anne was proposed initially but with a tunnel under Ship Canal that would not have worked out unless you made a bridge the same height as Aurora and impacted Freemont.

        Let alone will those along Lynnwood Link would they benefit from a further north extension and what about those along Sounder? Lynnwood Link fulfills some significant needs in the corridor and will allow many commuter bus hours and deadheading to be freed up for frequent connections. What benefit is there to get to Everett for those within the city?

        If we are going to spend in some cases almost $600 million/mile on grade separated transit then let’s make sure it is going to carry the capacity and be utilized at high frequency on Day 1 having to run 6 minute peaks with the capacity for 90 seconds. Let’s make it automated and grade separated.

        In fact, I would like to talk to people outside the transit dependent circles in the neighborhoods of Tacoma and Everett and see what they think. Phone polls show broad support, FB comments on news sites show heck no, it seems like just the rest of America, split like a 7 10 on the bowling lane.

      13. “Just imagine this line didn’t go to Seattle, and ended at the airport. Why in heaven’s name would you build such a thing?”

        Because employers want it. Companies in Tacoma are keen on it and think it helps make their business more competitive, and companies Tacoma is trying to attract cite the lack of it as a significant reason why they don’t locate to Tacoma. Not just a few companies but a lot of them; that’s why this is an issue. You can put it down to rail bias or people not calculating the benefits to themselves accurately, but that doesn’t make it go away and it affects people’s decisions. I think it’s because Americans have put up with skeletal transit for sixty years and they’re not going to take it any more, so possibly overbuilding sounds better than underbuilding.

      14. @Mike — Are you sure? Are employers really saying “What is holding us back is a subway line to the airport?”. I find that absurd. Run express buses, for heaven’s sake. You can run them a lot more frequently and they will be faster. Besides, most subway lines don’t go to the airport, or at least have taken a long time to go to the airport. Chicago didn’t have a train to the airport until the 80s (for you kids out there, airport travel was huge back then, too, and O’Hare was the biggest airport in the world). D. C. doesn’t have a subway line to Dulles. New York City doesn’t run the subway to LaGuardia. New York City!

        Really, I doubt the Spokane chamber of commerce (a city the same size) feels the same way. If they do, they are fools. My guess is that Tacoma business leaders could use a couple things. First, a fast way to get to Seattle and second, a good public transportation system in Tacoma itself, if not Pierce County. I agree on both points. But Link delivers neither. Sounder has a chance (an outside chance) of delivering the first. Put enough money into it, and maybe the connection between Seattle and Tacoma can be made fast enough. I think it will be tough — I think the distance is just too far. I don’t think Baltimore, for example, is riding the good times of D. C., despite have excellent service (arguably the best in the county) for that distance. But Baltimore has more problems than Tacoma (that’s for sure). It they managed to run really fast trains to Tacoma, it is possible that it would get more businesses interested in the area.

        Having a really good public transportation system for Tacoma and the surrounding area, on the other hand, can attract some people. I’m thinking Swift, along with the existing streetcar. Swift is a fairly nice looking bus, in my opinion. If you ran something like that in various neighborhoods in Tacoma, I could easily see it attracting people, which in turn will attract businesses. It wouldn’t be hard to portray Tacoma as a “right size city” — not too crowded, like Seattle is now, but with plenty of urban charm. A good bus system could help a lot in that regard.

      15. @Daniel — Yeah, I think we are on the same page. With regards to your comments, I completely agree about your comments on Snohomish County. I have a hard time seeing how a knowledgeable and self interested voter in that county will support ST3.

        As far as other places go:

        People in Belltown, Fremont, Greenwood, Wallingford, the Central Area and many other areas might wonder why we built this instead of something that would benefit them (or, at the very least, more people). But then again, they might just vote yes, because they generally support transit, and assume this was the best value. There is the assumption that buses will forever be stuck in traffic (even though we building a line that won’t, right in the heart of the city). People also make regional assumptions. Another light rail line to Rainier Valley could make a lot of sense (the 7 is our second most popular bus) but people would immediately cry foul (those guys already “got rail”). So West Seattle, which is “out there” looks good on a map.

        As for Upper Queen Anne, they did miss out, but my guess is they will support this. A line through Queen Anne was always a long shot, and I think people knew that. It is a lot cheaper to run on the surface, and even this being elevated is a big savings over that tunnel. Plus the biggest beneficiary of this entire project are their neighbors in lower Queen Anne. No other station is as far away from the existing stations, but has the density, all day congestion, all directions advantages of this station. So folks on upper Queen Anne will take the trolley down to the station, get in, and get to plenty of places in the city much faster than before. Places like Ballard, Capitol Hill, downtown, the UW and Rainier Valley. If people vote their self interest (and don’t consider alternatives) then this will be quite popular in that area (or at least it should be).

  5. Suburban Seattle Times headline tomorrow: “Sound Transit deceives public on timelines in March”

    1. “Regrettably, the disruption caused by Link construction will now happen even faster than projected.”

    2. “Sound Transit Delays Des Moines Light Rail by a Year.”

      “Interview with two Highline College students who say that will be a great hardship.”

      “Federal Way to Open at the Same Time”

    3. “Sound Transit Puts Final Nail in Coffin of Light Rail Disaster with Loss of Several Hundred Parking Spaces”

    4. Wow, I’m pleasantly surprised. The actual headline is “Light-rail stations could open sooner under new Sound Transit plan”

    5. “ST gets suckered by neighborhood that gets its own light rail station that will barely increase ridership, while neighborhood leaders there still say no other neighborhood has traffic congestion”

      Interview only one neighborhood leader

  6. Any word on whether additional time can be shaved off these dates for cities that care to cooperate in the EIS and review process?

      1. Thanks. It would be awesome if Seattle took it upon themselves now to start narrowing down the wide options to a top 3 to be studied by ST in the official alternatives analysis, EIS and other BS bureaucratic hurdles. Having all-grade separated committed by ST should help streamline that process too.

      2. Seattle has already stated its Ballard preference in last month’s feedback, and ST adopted it, so what you see is what the city wants. The city was less specific about the West Seattle alignment, which probably means it doesn’t feel as strongly about any particular alternative. The outline of the alternatives that we can see at this point are ST’s elevated option and something with a short or a long tunnel in West Seattle. There were several alternatives in ST’s 2014 study, which can perhaps be leveraged (meaning the initial work has already been done on them).

    1. They said that Snohomish County, Everett, and Lynnwood made a joint commitment to that this week. Seattle committed to part of it this week, which means there’s room to ask it to do the rest. Mayor Murray has promised legislation on light rail permitting by this summer. Redmond has made light rail a permitted use, which means ST can just sail in for a standard construction permit rather than the much longer process of asking for a custom variance.

    2. Yeah, vote No on ST3, and make ST come back in four years with a plan to shave 4 1/2 years off the projects you think are meritorious while cancelling all other projects. That’ll save a few months.

      (Sarcasm alert)

    3. Seems to me there will be lots of debate on the downtown tunnel alignment, but once you get to SLU the station selection seems pretty straightforward. There might be some difficult alternative analysis for West Seattle on how best to get to the Junction.

  7. So they are planning to extend Sounder to Tillicum and Dupont but no word more frequencies?

    Definitively need to get Thurston County to work on an extension to Downtown Olympia. Sounder would pretty much be right at their door step in Dupont. Then again this extension to Dupont is pretty much letting them free ride it…ST counties pay while Thurston County uses it.

    1. If you want to get to A, getting halfway to A is a good start. ST seems to think Du Pont is valuable in itself. Proponents also claim Du Pont serves JBLM better than Lakewood does, and that’s thousands of potential riders in Pierce County. ST is already serving Olympia via the 592 extension, which Intercity Transit is paying for via a state grant as a pilot project. And maybe the Du Pont P&R will charge money so that Thurstonites can pay something.

    2. Sound Transit can’t discuss frequencies because they’re negotiating with BNSF for the tracks; if they disclose they have x dollars to spend on more frequent Sounder service BNSF will ask for that full amount.

      1. Makes sense. Well it sounds very positive that they are on it.

        State governments should allow railroads to trade property tax payments for passenger train access rights, the more they allow, the less they pay.

      2. Makes sense. But for what it is worth, I’d much rather have 6 car trains every 30 minutes than 10 car trains every hour. I get that commuter rail users have more regular hours than light rail users, so you need to long trains to capture those 9-5 workers who all want to ride the same train in and out, but it would be a great win to even have 4 car trains during off peak to serve more of the population and induce more demand.

        At a certain point, it’s much better to boost frequency to gain capacity rather than just longer and longer trains. I’m not familiar with the stations on the south side, but I’d imagine at a certain point longer trains will be disruptive when stopping in Kent/Auburn/Puyallup downtown because of the size of the station?

      3. I don’t like the platform extensions for that reason. They relieve political pressure that otherwise could have gone into pushing more frequency. Also, as AJ alluded to, Auburn does not have room for a 10-car platform.

      4. Long trains are already “disruptive” in Auburn, since a nearby rail spur will make design difficult.

  8. This is definitely a big improvement over what was there before. I am very pleased by that 130th St. station is now officially on the map. It would be even better if the 130th St. Station could be accelerated to open in 2023. One would think that the costs would be lower to build the station while the construction crews are already out there building the tracks and no service disruptions would be required to an existing line.

    1. That is the next step, get 130th included in Lynnwood Link. Now that it is funded some bright bulb on staff or the board is going to realize it is stupid to add it later as Lynnwood Link hasn’t even started construction.

      1. I agree completely. I fail to understand why the infill stations take so long, but especially NE 130th. It should obviously be built while the whole thing is built.

      2. I totally agree. Wasn’t there a large savings in $$$ if the station was built concurrently with Lynwood Link? Or they could build the station platform at the same time, the work on station finishes and changes at the street after Lynwood Link opens. That would at least minimize disruption to the rail operations.

      3. Ross, I’ll be happy to push for getting 130th St Station moved up if you support ST3. If you campaign against ST3, I will campaign against 130th.

      4. The stated reason is that opening all three stations (130th, Graham, BAR) simultaneously in 2031 shortens the service interruption on the line.

      5. @Mike — That makes no sense for NE 130th, though. If it is built while the new line is built, there is no service interruption at all.

        @Brent — Nice trolling.

      6. @RossB,

        130th St Station will certainly not open in 2023 if ST3 is voted down. Its odds of opening in 2023 would certainly improve if ST thought they could pick up votes by doing so. You are not helping make that happen. Indeed, you might be helping to get 130th taken out of the project list altogether.

        And I am serious that if Lake City ends up not supporting ST3, then the City has no reason to self-fund a station the neighborhood voted against, and I really will lobby against it.

        130th is a political station, not a merit station. It failed to justify itself in ST3’s analysis. It got added because of politics. I support it, even though I know on it is very low on the merit totem pole.

        Why do I support it? I want people on your side of town to support my side of town getting a light rail line, as the bus system does a poor job of connecting my side of town internally and externally.

      7. @Brent

        Sure, 130th is a political station. But so is the rest of ST3.
        The Spine? Political
        West Seattle? Political
        Ballard via Interbay? Political

      8. Oh, bullshit. The NE 130th station is an obvious station. The fact that it was left out says as much as about idiotic Sound Transit station placement as the other missing stations (First Hill, Graham, 23rd and Madison, 520 and Montlake Boulevard*). It isn’t that complicated, but let me try and explain it to you:

        1) First, it is cheap. My God, do you know the difference between millions and billions? This isn’t even an underground station. There are no “soil issues”. Skipping this station is like building a freeway but forgetting to add ramps.

        2) The areas that will benefit are dense and growing. Lake City is more densely populated than Northgate, and more densely populated than any place in West Seattle (http://arcg.is/1UbWeMv). Both Lake City and Bitter Lake are urban villages, which means that zoning allows them to continue to outpace the rest of the city. If the station was added, the area close to the station would also receive an up zone.

        3) It will greatly improve the transit network. Look at the transit map of the city: http://seattletransitmap.com/app/. Now scroll up to the top. There are no crossing bus routes to the north of 92nd. This means someone trying to get from Bitter Lake to Lake City has to go all the way down to 92nd. That is ridiculous. It kills the entire north end bus system.

        If you don’t understand this, please, for the love of God, do a little research. Visit our neighbor to the north (it really isn’t that far of a trip). They don’t run trains to North Vancouver, but they do have stops at every major crossing road. People take buses — way more buses than trains — but their system is still three times more popular (per capita) than ours. As mentioned by a previous commentor, we shouldn’t expect our system to be as good as Vancouver’s, but we should at least expect us to follow the same approach, especially when doing so is very cheap.

        * A station at Montlake Boulevard and 520 would enable buses to quickly get people to and from the 520 corridor. But it isn’t the only way to solve that problem (a second, transit only bridge could be built, for example).

  9. Looks good to me. Curious if any of the provisional lines that Seattle Subway mentioned get added.

    1. There’s apparently a list of provisional projects but it wasn’t revealed at the meeting. ST seems to be favorable to the idea of including provisional projects, probably one for each subarea. I don’t know how closely ST’s list matches Seattle Subway’s. Maybe Zach will have more information soon.

      One thing I’m concerned about is the proposed amendments designate the 99/Airport Road station as provisional. I’m not sure if that’s adding a station or downgrading it from definite. If that’s the transfer to Swift, then it’s an important station.

      1. I believe that’s a downgrade from the prior draft, to facilitate an earlier delivery timeline

    2. How about even just designing for future infill stations and junctions where they might be a possibility in the long long long term future? Look at Philly’s Broad Street Subway, that thing has tons of built junctions and even flying junctions for all these branches that were planned in the 1920s when it was built so that extensions could tie in without impacting service.

    3. Peirce County didn’t submit our provisional lines amendment but formally asked staff for more information – so it’s still in play.

      Regarding the current plan to fund HCT studies, we’re somewhat left scratching our heads. Did’nt they just do HCT studies in those corridors?

  10. After reading through the comments, I’m encouraged to see mostly positive responses. This is a huge improvement from the 400+ (mostly) disappointed comments on the draft plan. I look forward to more thorough coverage of this on the blog!

      1. 100 negative posts from a single individual should not be taken as a change from mostly positive responses from a large plurality of people.

  11. Zach Shaner: The map in ST’s pdf you linked shows a dashed yellow line from Ballard to Kirkland via UW. The map’s key calls that “future investment study.”

    What does that mean? How is that different than their earlier proposal?

    1. As far as we know that’s a “High Capacity Transit” Study, which gets it a little farther along but falls short of making it shovel-ready. That part looks like it hasn’t changed since the Draft.

    2. Can we have “provisional EIS studies??” So the board can fund an EIS if available? Probably not a bad way to spend a few million bucks while the Board prepares to go to the voters to fund actual design & construction.

  12. I see new SoDo and new Stadium stations. Whats the plan here as there is not a lot of room in this right-of-way? Replacing the E3 Busway or cut it back further south? 4 track stretch? Might be an opportunity to grade separate this at-grade stretch perhaps elevated or on a berm?

    1. I was thinking something similar and would be curious as to why the need to make it separate when there is already limited 6 minute frequencies down the south Spine? It seems like quite a bit of money to do that. Honestly it should have been grade separated in the first place to not throw good money after bad.

    2. Yes, I am curious about operations between 2030 (when W Seattle opens) and 2035 (when 2nd downtown tunnel & Ballard open).

      I don’t see how there would be capacity for W Seattle trains to run through the current DSTT (along with Central Link & East Link trains). It seems like separate (grade-separated??) platforms would be built for W Seattle at Sodo and Stadium, and the line would terminate at Stadium initially.

    3. I believe the plan is for full grade separation all the way from IDS to the Junction. I doubt ST will abandon the existing tracks. However the junction at SODO should at least allow trains from Tacoma to use the new elevated tracks.

    4. “I don’t see how there would be capacity for W Seattle trains to run through the current DSTT (along with Central Link & East Link trains).”

      There has been vague information on this. ST’s map published in the Seattle Times this morning says, “West Seattle and Bellevue trains continue to Northgate.” Separately, ST’s contingency plan if buses have to leave the tunnel in 2017 is extra Northgate-Intl Dist runs. So the West Seattle runs could just take over those.

      Also, Martin wrote several months ago that the tunnel capacity limitation due to the missing ventilation shaft at Montlake was a myth. When ST eliminated the shaft, it split the signaling zone or fire zone in two to compensate for it.

    1. Let regular people in Snoco know how much delay to Everett their leaders have signed up for. Right now, in the Everett Herald, there’s an article telling how they have sped up service to Everett (which is only true relative to the March option). Snoco elites don’t hear from a lot of voters who pay attention to this stuff.

      1. Dan;

        I finally decided to conditionally support the Sno Cty amendment IF we (very likely) can’t get BRT back on the table. “What must be coupled to light rail for Paine is a public commitment to serve the light rail station with bus routes to Paine Field’s educational facilities plus factories, the City of Mukilteo, and yes nearby housing for maximum ridership.”

      1. I am well aware. But N-02cmod + BRT would have provided true BRT with exclusive lanes.

        So now my concern is that what must be coupled to light rail for Paine is a public commitment to serve the light rail station with bus routes to Paine Field’s educational facilities plus factories, the City of Mukilteo, and yes nearby housing for maximum ridership. Otherwise, this is a favor for the same Boeing that has special tax… preferences.

    2. Yes, that adds an additional complication. Ideally ST would just make a contribution to the Swift line. That would accelerate it, and could even allow it to get a higher level of service. And it would make a 99/Airport Road station absolutely necessary, which would transfer to Swift I.

      1. Mike;

        That was the plan in N-02cmod + BRT – make the BRT gold-plated with its own lanes & signal priority. But the BRT couldn’t run every three minutes like ST3 w/ light rail.

      2. ST BRT is not Swift until they say it is. Until then it’s a separate line.

  13. Wasn’t Graham St. listed in the (ten-year) Move Seattle plan? Now ST is saying 2031. With that plus the recent bicycle plan fiasco, I’m wondering where city leaders are funneling that $900 million.

    1. The City is going to spend the money on big parties. Lots of caviar and Champagne!

      1. … and lots and lots of ads in the Seattle Times and KIRO, spending twice as much as the rest of the cost of the parties to advertise the parties.

  14. Will the West Seattle line be grade separated? Also, does anyone know if there was any talk of the West Seattle line going underground?

    1. Yes and yes. West Seattle will be pretty much 100% grade separated (maybe a street crossing in Sodo alongside central link) and the current plan calls for elevated rail through West Seattle to the Alaska Junction. There has been some discussion of building a tunnel under the junction, but it’s not clear if that would be financially feasible (or if ST sees it as a priority)

  15. I think it’s notable that there was no real discussion of performance benefits nor willingness of city mayors to proactively propose increased density. This comes off as primarily a popularity game or a letter to Santa Claus. A lack of discussing benefits here is quite disappointing – especially for the latest changes.

    1. ST has changed from being neutral on TOD to avoid controversy, to promoting TOD. So it’s part of the negotiations with the cities. Also, ST used to try to minimize its construction footprint to minimize property aquisitions, but as of this year it’s more relaxed about that and intends to dedicate its temporary parcels to affordable housing when it can. Unfortunately this enlightenment came after the Central Link, North Link, Lynnwood Link, and East Link alignments were finalized.

      1. But that’s a change in policy on how to treat ST owned land. I think Al is more pointing out that station location should also depend on density & land use decisions around the station.

      2. That’s in what I said about ST promoting TOD and making it part of its negotiation with the cities. It may not be an absolutist position (“Build towers like Vancouver or else”) but it helps get the cities to move on it and accept it.

    2. I’m particularly bothered by an agreement to pay out money to RapidRide C and D and Madison BRT without having a policy on why ST should subsidize projects by other operators. I realize that the FHSC was a precedent for this in ST2, but at least that had justification (loss of the First Hill Station). This appears simply an effort to appease people but has no logical explanation. There was no explanation of how the amounts were derived either.

      1. Upgrading RapidRide C&D can be seen as a stopgap until the trains are running. It’s similar to the original reasoning behind the ST express buses: here’s what we can provide until we build the train system.

        Madison, though, looks like appeasement.

      2. I can see a thought process that would have led to investments in the C and D lines. Other places got interim ST Express service while waiting for their light rail line. Why not Ballard and West Seattle? (or so the thought process would go)

        That said, if the north subarea has early money to burn, I’d rather see it spent getting 130th open the same day as the rest of Lynnwood Link, or accelerating construction of Ballard Link. There isn’t much that could be done to improve the C and D lines besides improved signal priority, ROW, and banning paper transfers. Those are political decisions, not capital expenses.

        If there is a legal reason why 130th can’t open with the rest of the line, I hope ST is ready to ‘splain it.

      3. I agree with you Brent. If there are available funds for north King, 130th would be more strategic! It could make sure that the major platform area improvements could be incorporated before Lynnwood Link opening day.

        As for Madison, I would prefer a better station investment to better link First Hill with an entrance east of I-5.

        Most of all, I would love to see a specific commitment to DSTT updates – especially down escalators.

      4. What’s strange about ST subsidizing projects by other operators? What about the Tacoma Pacific Ave BRT and the Puyallup Meridian BRT, both run by Pierce Transit? What’s wrong with that? Regardless of operators, isn’t transit what ST is supposed to be doing?

      5. One of the candidate projects for ST3 in an earlier list was in fact a subsidy for Madison BRT. ST’s long-range plan has a Madison corridor, so there’s that justification too. Mayor Murray asked for it a few times when the ST3 list was being drawn up. The issue is not whether it’s owned by a different agency, but whether it is or complements “regional transit” sufficiently. Arguably all the RapidRide lines do, because they’re the second level of transit below Link, and necessary to get to, e.g., Aurora and in the future Renton, Kent Station, and East Hill. I believe ST should fund all five or six of CT’s planned Swift lines instead of its other Snoho projects. So that’s the same thing. And the draft system plan includes a contribution to Pierce Transit’s Pacific Avenue line, which is philosophically like RapidRide although lower level.

      6. I think the idea is ST can provide capital dollars that may not be available for local funding. For Pacific and Madison BRT, and some investment in Puyallup, they are making an infrastructure investment without O&M investment. I think it’s a great way to invest in corridors that don’t merit full Sound Transit investment, but still can put dollars to good use. Politically, it’s helping a region/neighborhood get some benefit from ST3 that wouldn’t otherwise.

        For C & D, it’s specifically stopgap measures to improve corridors that ST is saying they will “own” via Link lines. Here, it’s more about meeting the “early deliverables” request for these particular corridors.

        Also, will C and D will continue to exist, in some form, after these lines open, and will be key feeder lines that “shadow” the light rail and cover areas between stations?

      7. Metro’s long-range plan shows the D being substantially the same but without the Uptown detour. The C is changed to a north-south line, so like the 128 but with different endpoints.

  16. I’d like to know what level of ST express service is expected to remain once this whole plan is fully built out? The map in the ST plan shows grey lines for ST express bus routes, but it says nothing about whether these routes will be all-day frequent, peak-hour frequent, once-an-hour off-peak, or peak-only with no off-peak service at all.

    For instance, if someone who live in Seattle and wants to visit Tacoma will be expected to slog it out on a 90-minute train ride because the express bus and Sounder service are all peak-period-peak direction only, this would be a significant regression in service quality over today.

    Meanwhile, the Issaquah line adds a sizable deviation to get between Issaquah and downtown Seattle. Will anyone ride it, or will they just drive to South Bellevue P&R and take the more direct route? One good think about the South Kirkland P&R extension, though, is it will, east least make Issaquah better connected with the north part of Seattle, assuming all-day SR-520 bus service from South Kirkland P&R to the U-district continues to exist.

    1. Maybe, just maybe, we might have an improved frequency and duration Sounder train that replaces the Seattle-Tacoma express buses.

      Yeah the only people who are going to ride an Issaquah light rail train are going to be going to Seattle. At a minimum it needs to have the transfer at South Bellevue or Mercer Island and even better just have Issaquah as a direct branch off East Link at the sacred slough. Even if there isn’t capacity to run the Issaquah trains in the Downtown Seattle tunnel, then send them to West Seattle and interline with that route.

      1. I disagree. Many Issaquah (and Sammamish) residents commute to the Eastside – it’s already a shorter drive or bus commute. If I work in Bellevue, Issaquah is a great, affordable place to live, whereas if I work in Seattle it is quite a haul. I don’t have data, but I’d guess that the majority of Issaquah commuters are going to east king destinations, not Seattle.

        Further, once East Link opens, Issaquah residents won’t have a one seat ride to downtown Seattle – they will transfer a Mercer or South Bellevue. So requiring a Link-Link transfer won’t be a new penalty.

      2. Very few people will ride the Issaquah train. Very few people live in Issaquah, and most don’t live anywhere near the station. It is pretty much useless for getting to Seattle (taking an express to Mercer Island makes more sense). So you basically have Issaquah riders who are willing to put up with the transfer at the station to get to Eastgate and downtown Bellevue. Given the number of people who will ride this, my guess is that the train will run very infrequently, even during rush hour (it is hard to justify running trains frequently when they are so empty).

      3. Sensibly, it’s the last thing to be built, and it still 25 years away. Eastside leaders likely had the choice between the Issaquah line sooner, or adding S Kirkland but keeping the 2041 timeline. They chose the latter, wisely in my opinion. Because a lot can change in 25 years.

        In 1991, Bellevue only had 99k people, Issaquah had *8k*, and Seattle had 517k. Today Bellevue has 140k (40% growth), Issaquah 35k (400% growth from a tiny baseline of course), and Seattle 675k (30% growth). 25 years is plenty of time for a number of things to happen, including population explosions, agency implosions, global recessions, legislative chicanery, or “Tim Eyman Jr’s” future success at kneecapping investments. But I’m totally ok with getting the line on the map and giving the agency the authority to build it. In the meantime, it gets the Eastside’s substantial tax dollars flowing.

      4. “Because a lot can change in 25 years.”

        Including the Eastside’s leadership. And the Issaquah urban center which will be built out by then (or not). And people may change their mind about priorities.

      5. Issaquah may also view it more as a bargaining chip to make sure it gets something eventually and doesn’t get left out. The city will obviously have to make do for 25 years, by which time a child born today will have graduated college, and a thirtysomething will be about to retire. So they’re not screaming it has to be done now like Seattle is about Ballard. They just want it in their future. And maybe when the time comes, they’ll be satisfied with something else instead. Maybe by that time Issaquah will be a bustling city and RossB will live there and want a light rail line to Bellevue and Redmond because he doesn’t go to Seattle anymore.

      6. Don’t forget the Issaquah line also serves the third largest college in the state. Depending on the routing, Factoria could also benefit, possibly resulting in redevelopment a la Northgate.

      7. So, Issaquah gained 27K in 25 years, largely by replacing trees with houses. Impressive. So it will do that again is what you are saying, thus being a bustling city of over 50K. This despite all trends in the region (and generally speaking, the nation) moving the opposite direction. I will drink the Kool-Aid, and decide to move to Issaquah, just because.

        Don’t bet on it. But even if that does happen, so what? Why does that imply that building a light rail line makes any sense at all? BART has stations that serve cities that have 200,000 people, connecting them to cities with downtown areas far bigger than Bellevue, and they still only operate about every twenty minutes. They just don’t carry that many people.

        It really isn’t that complicated. Subways work really well in dense areas, where you have lots of stops close together. They can also benefit greatly by complementary bus service, that runs in a crossing direction. So what does that mean for Issaquah rail, exactly. The stations are miles and miles away from each other. There is no meaningful crossing bus service, unless you think that Cougar and Squak Mountain are going to turned over to developers so they can build high rises. It just isn’t going to happen. It will never make sense.

        You are absolutely right, Evan, the Factoria/Bellevue College/Eastgate area *does* deserve an investment in public transit. But my guess is, this would benefit them only tangentially, like most of our system. The hardest part right now is getting from the freeway station to the college (or many of the businesses). I really doubt this would change that. I would be willing to bet that the plan is to serve the exact same station. The best thing to do for these areas is do things that directly benefit them. Fix the bus system — make it faster. If you are willing to build a huge train line that parallels the freeway (or goes right over it) then you can build something that leverages it.

        @Mike — Fair enough. If that is Issaquah’s game — plan to build something ridiculous, but then ask for something more sensible later — then kudos to them. I wonder how Renton feels about that (since they will pay for it).

    2. Link replaces the buses. Sounder is already there. Increasing Sounder is a separate set of projects in ST3. A year or so ST released alternatives for ST Express after ST2, and all of them truncated the buses at Des Moines, Lynnwood, and South Bellevue or Mercer Island. So the Tacoma-Seattle buses were to be gone before ST3 anyway.

      1. But I suspect Sounder will be the preferred choice for the Downtown Seattle-Tacoma trips. Plus its not like Link gets you any further downtown in Tacoma.

      2. Well, hopefully, Sounder will be increased enough to run all-day.

        What I’m afraid is going to end up happening is that nearly all the new trains will end up going into peak-hour service, while the 594 goes away, leaving anyone who travels to Tacoma outside of rush hour stuck with a 70-minute trip, one-way, plus wait time.

        If nothing else, I suppose Amtrak will at provide least skeletal Seattle->Tacoma express service on the way to/from Portland.

      3. Only the Board can make a decision to discontinue route 594. I don’t see that happening until all-day Sounder service happens, and I don’t see all-day Sounder service being part of the project list because (A) It is not a capital improvement project; and (B) telegraphing a service guarantee to BN&SF means they will take ST to the cleaners, like they did with Sounder North. ST is not going to repeat that mistake.

      4. I could see something like the 594 running when Sounder isn’t running, running counter-peak and off peak. So Sounder will free up some service hours, but at certain routes & times of day, simply running a single bus is much better way to meet the demand.

      5. @AJ — Exactly. Run the Sounder when it can be run, and run the bus when it can’t. The two complement each other. In the middle of the day, the bus is faster than the train (even if substantial speed improvements are made). Both are faster than Link to Seattle. Link goes to more places, so it will serve as a very expensive, very infrequent line at the south end to places like Federal Way and Fife.

      6. “What I’m afraid is going to end up happening is that nearly all the new trains will end up going into peak-hour service, while the 594 goes away, leaving anyone who travels to Tacoma outside of rush hour stuck with a 70-minute trip, one-way, plus wait time.”

        It’s 50 minutes now. So 70 minutes is only 20 minutes longer. In return the frequency goes up from 30 minutes to 10 minutes. Being able to ride without a schedule and not wait 20 minutes when transferring is a significant benefit to some people, and others appreciate it once they experience it. It also eliminates the delays and fear of potential delays due to random traffic congestion and accidents.

        Also remember that some people are going to UW, Capitol Hill, Ballard, and other parts of the Link line. They will find Link significantly better than transferring from the 594.

      7. Mike, off-peak the 594 is about 30 minutes between the Dome and Sodo, or 40 between the Dome and IDS. With a 70-minute Dome-IDS travel time on Link, someone just missing one 30-minute headway bus and waiting for the next one would have the same total wait-plus-travel time as someone who barely gets to the train on time. This is why Sounder speed improvements are essential, and the bus cannot be canceled or truncated until Sounder is available as a replacement, regardless of where Link is.

        The Tacoma-Seattle travel market is significantly larger than the Tacoma-SeaTac and Tacoma-Federal Way travel markets combined. Our Pierce County elected officials are throwing actual transit riders under the metaphorical bus in favor of the ambiguously defined economic development benefits of having “a train to the airport”.

      8. @Brent — You are right — 10 minutes is not infrequent. But I don’t expect to see this run every 10 minutes. I expect it to run every 20 minutes, like every other similar line in the country. As mentioned, it doesn’t even make sense as a way to get to Seattle. There simply won’t be that much demand for a trip to SeaTac (or Fife). It is too expensive to run empty trains every ten minutes. I would expect the buses to run often, though, as they will be faster and cheaper to operate.

    3. This is why there is a possibility that ST3 could harm transit service in Pierce County. We need our negotiators to stop bying nice with BNSF so they can give us specifics on Sounder improvements prior to the vote this November; if we don’t get fast, (relatively) frequent, all-day Sounder, then I cannot support ST3. Link makes no sense for Tacoma-Seattle trips, even considering the current freeway congestion.

      From conversations I have had with multiple legislative candidates in suburban districts, I am cautiously optimistic about our chances of increasing bus speeds on I-5 in the next few years. Once we get the buses free-flowing, Link will make even less sense. If our political elites down here are determined to get a train to the airport, then fine, but not at the expense of effective transit service.

      As for the plans to truncate the buses in 2023 (I suppose it’s 2024 now), I’m not too concerned about that. If we haven’t fixed the HOV lanes, then the truncation would probably be an improvement. If we have fixed the HOV lanes, then with the likely increased ridership on the 590/594/577, voting for the service change required to carry out the truncation would be political suicide.

      1. ST3 is not a promise to truncate bus routes. It is a plan to build infrastructure, and provide for ongoing maintenance and operations. If riders don’t want to lose their bus line, it won’t happen. The only ST Express routes I can recall ST eliminating were route 593 from South Tacoma (after South Tacoma Station opened) and 599 (mostly empty).

        Metro has truncated four all-day expresses because of redundancy, and because the riders wanted the improved network in their neighborhoods that came from connecting to Link and reinvesting bus service hours for more frequency in the neighborhoods.

        As for Sounder, the best thing to do is *not* commit to a service plan, so it can negotiate a better price with BN&SF for trips ST is not obligated to buy. ST is smarter than you give them credit for.

      2. I doubt that we have an answer on BNSF negotiations by November. This hasn’t gone real smooth in the past. It is really a one sided tough negotiation for Sound Transit. BNSF has the leverage. ST has no choice but to be vague to the voters.

        I agree that Link is not for Tacoma to Seattle. It is for Tacoma to the airport, or Tacoma to Seatac Mall or Fed Way to Tacoma, or Fed Way to the casino.
        Sounder has to have improved frequency and night and weekend service.

      3. The 594 could also be sped up significantly by taking the Seneca St. exit into downtown and skipping the SODO slog. The 577/578 already do this, but the 594 doesn’t, presumably to make the time penalty of replacing it with Link artificially less (but still very significant).

        As for Sounder, perhaps it might be time to bite the bullet and build a parallel passenger track, rather than pay BNSF through the nose for every single trip. More expensive in the short run, but it seems the only way to get all-day, semi-frequent service in the long run. It would allow ST to legally run smaller trains during the off-peak hours, when demand is lighter. Currently, it has to be either a gigantic 8-car train or no train at all – there is no “in between”.

      4. “We need our negotiators to stop being nice to BNSF”

        I don’t know where this idea comes from that you can win a negotiation just by “being tough.” You need leverage, and BNSF has the leverage here, because they can always tell ST to go pound sand.

      5. >> ST3 is not a promise to truncate bus routes. It is a plan to build infrastructure, and provide for ongoing maintenance and operations. If riders don’t want to lose their bus line, it won’t happen.

        OK, but is there money for that? I would like to know the specifics. It is quite possible that they are assuming that many of these lines will be cut, with money going into running the trains (and building the lines). Without a doubt many of the ST bus routes will be cut once Link gets to Northgate and Bellevue. But in most cases this is welcome. This isn’t the case for express buses that run farther away (since they will be faster than the light rail most, if not all of the day).

      6. Ross,

        Do you know for sure that ST has the money to keep running the 594 all day in perpetuity if ST3 fails?

      7. David, in any political situation, there are always ways to get more leverage. I’m not sure I would trust an agency that can’t think of them with $23 billion of revenue from sources that are regressive on average.

      8. ST has clearly figured out the most important step to improving its leverage with BN&SF: Maintain the ability to walk away. Everything I’ve seen so far suggests they are simultaneously playing hardball with the service plan and with the tracks ST owns that BN&SF would like to use.

      9. “perhaps it might be time to bite the bullet and build a parallel passenger track”

        That’s one of the things ST and BNSF are negotiating. WSDOT outlined passenger tracks from Seattle to the Oregon border in its long-range plan years ago and it’s being pursued incrementally. One option ST is exploring is a total package price from BNSF for the third track to Tacoma and hourly Sounder runs into the evening and some weekend service.

      10. “Do you know for sure that ST has the money to keep running the 594 all day in perpetuity if ST3 fails?”

        Yes, ST1 has a permanent residual budget for operations and maintenance.

      11. The Future of ST Express

        ST draft, January 2016. In 2024 (the end of ST2).

        1: Lynnwood – Everett (10-20 min off-peak and weekend)
        2: Bellevue – Everett (20-30 min)
        3: 145th-Woodinville (10-20 min)
        4: Bear Creek – UW and Kirkland – UW (10-20 min)
        5: Issaquah Highlands – South Bellevue – Bellevue Downtown (10-20 min)
        6: Bellevue – Renton – SeaTac – Burien Westwood Village (20-30 min off-peak, 30-60 min weekend)
        7: Puyallup-Auburn-FW-KDM, and various parts of southwest Pierce to FW and KDM. (10-20 min) I don’t understand how the southwest branches form routes or how frequent each branch would be, but there’s something coming from Du Pont, two Lakewood origins, downtown Tacoma, and “Narrows” (TCC or Gig Harbor?) This is the highest of three service levels, with 8% more hours than currently. So this is the baseline ST3 starts from, if the board approves the high level with no changes.
        8: Pierce County Sounder Connectors (peak only)

        No buses from Tacoma to Seattle, no siree. So to the extent that the south end slowdown is in Rainier Valley and SODO, it will be the same whether Link replaces them to Tacoma Dome or not.

        Metro’s long-range plan has an Express route to Federal Way, so that could be FW commuters’ savior. The standard Express frequency is 30 minutes minimum all day.However, it’s unclear whether all Express routes will really run full time or if some will be peak-only. So this route may serve the 577’s role, or maybe just the 17x.

      12. One of the reasons why we’re having so much difficulty standing down Sounder North is because BNSF got top dollar out of the easements to use their tracks. So now we have a huge sunk cost into a service that costs a ginormous lot of money per rider. I’d rather let Sound Transit staff do their jobs than second-guess them.

    4. I see two possibilities:

      1) They truncate the bus routes. This means that folks who travel a long distance (e. g. anywhere in Tacoma to downtown Seattle) will have a very long trip. Ridership will be low, because most people aren’t willing to commute that long, even if it is rather pleasant. The main value added will be for trips that are on the way (e. g. Fife to Federal Way). Trains like this typically run every 20 minutes and they aren’t very crowded (farebox recovery is very low).

      2) They run the express buses, which further cuts into Link ridership. This would provide much faster long distance service (Tacoma to Seattle) but the flip side is that it costs money. Either they cut service even more (e. g. half hour trains from Tacoma to SeaTac) or it is hard to imagine paying for the buses we run now.

      Improvements in Sounder follow the same pattern. They provide an excellent alternative to light rail, because they have the potential to be much faster.

      I see very few people taking this from Tacoma to downtown Seattle (again, it is just too time consuming). The destinations along the way (Federal Way, SeaTac, Rainier Valley) will probably represent the bulk of the ridership. Given the number of people who live in all of the areas and the relative popularity of those areas, I think there will be very low ridership there. What is true of Tacoma, is definitely true of Issaquah (which has even worse fundamentals).

      The Everett line is a bit more complicated. I do see express buses from the Everett station. This is enough of a short cut to be worthwhile. In general, it is faster to reach areas that are more popular. For example, South Everett to UW. This assumes, though, that Link puts a station there (where the train crosses SR 99). While density there is much higher than most of Snohomish County, it is still not very high. I have no idea how long a trip to Seattle would take, but my guess is it wouldn’t be super fast (there are still a bunch of stops along the way). It is hard to see huge frequency on that line, just because I don’t see huge numbers of people taking that trip (there aren’t that many people there, and Seattle is a long ways away). But it is still better than the other trips, so my guess is it will run every 15 minutes (it will run more frequently farther south).

      1. The difference between the north and the south is Rainier Valley. The at-grade section is why southern bus truncation is so much worse than northern. The Paine Field deviation would duplicate the problem on the north end but without the benefit of providing HCT to transit-dependent communities and enabling dense walkable TOD.

      2. “This means that folks who travel a long distance (e. g. anywhere in Tacoma to downtown Seattle) will have a very long trip.”

        They already have a very long trip. They always have and always will, unless Sounder gets that 33% speed increase someday. Getting from Tacoma to Seattle takes over an hour, and people base their expectations on that, and decide how much to travel and where to live. We’re arguing over a 20-minute time premium, but it already takes an hour so you can’t go down and back within a 3-hour period except for the most marginal cases (e.g., returning a library book). People think in terms of a total round trip as being “less than an hour”, “half an afternoon”, “a full afternoon”, “all day”. This is a half-afternoon trip at minimum, and the 20-minute difference doesn’t change that. So people won’t often go just to return a library book or have lunch, but they will go for a one-hour or three-hour event, and at that point it’s a “full afternoon” trip.

        But Link’s frequency still helps. Say you’re going to Seattle Center. You come back whenever you get bored, and you can’t be certain when the bus or train to downtown will arrive. So maybe you make the 594 and maybe you miss it. If you miss it that’s 30 minutes of waiting. Is that really better than a 70-minute Link ride? But wait, there’s more. ST plans to interline the south segment with the SLU/Ballard segment. So you can get on Link at Seattle Center and it’s a one-seat ride to Tacoma Dome. Hail the one-seat rides!

      3. “The difference between the north and the south is Rainier Valley.”

        It’s more than that. People assume that Tacoma and Everett are the same distance, and Federal Way and Lynnwood too. But Lynnwood is as close as Kent, and Everett is just beyond Federal Way. That’s why the timings to Federal Way and Tacoma work out so badly for Link. The Rainier Valley detour just adds 10 minutes to it. That’s 10 minutes to serve several urban villages, which is the purpose of rapid transit, and they also happen to be lower income/multiethnic neighborhoods.

      4. Mike, normally when I mention that, I include the fact the the Rainier Valley is what light rail is supposed to be. I must have forgotten this time.

      5. >> >> “This means that folks who travel a long distance (e. g. anywhere in Tacoma to downtown Seattle) will have a very long trip.”

        >> They already have a very long trip. They always have and always will, unless Sounder gets that 33% speed increase someday.

        I agree completely. That is why you will never see huge numbers of people making the trip unless Sounder gets much faster (and even then, you won’t see typical subway numbers). They are just too far away and thus too independent. I’m sure thousands of people ride between D. C. and Baltimore (Baltimore being twice as big as Tacoma and Seattle being similar to D. C.) Yet those numbers are small compared to the number who ride the D. C. subway or the Baltimore buses.

        >> But Link’s frequency still helps.

        But buses will run more often than trains. They are cheaper to operate. Ridership will dwindle south of SeaTac, which means you either run express buses from there, or from Seattle. Or you don’t. and folks are worse off than they are now.

      6. But buses will run more often than trains.”

        No they don’t, they run less often, and that’s part of the reason people are demanding Link. The 71/72/73 were 7 minutes daytime, 15 minutes evening. The 550 is 15 minutes daytime, 30 minutes evenings and Sundays. The 594 was 15 minutes daytime, 30 minutes evening, and not at all after 9:30pm. The 512 is 15 minutes weekdays, 30 minutes evenings and weekends. The 594 is 30 minutes. The agencies just won’t invest in bus frequency like they will in train frequency. Part of that is because a train serves multiple bus routes so it has multiple sets of riders and can thus combine the stops of all if them so it can afford to stop at every stop every 10 minutes, which helps not just the former bus passengers but also those who would have had to transfer between two bus routes so they didn’t ride it.

        And you can’t say ST will automatically do what other cities have done. ST is a different agency from them, Pugetopolis has higher ridership per capita than most of the US, and if we cross our fingers maybe the cities will follow through on developing their urban centers.

      7. @Mike — Of course they run the trains often. They serve downtown Seattle! Even then, you are cherry picking part of the line. If you want to get from Westlake to I. D. (and a lot of people do) you would be better off with the bus service that existed 20 years ago then you with the trains (although that has more to do with headways). Do you really expect the trains to turn back, instead of going to the UW? Of course not.

        Besides, you are comparing the most urban section of anything we will ever build with a suburban line. The Madison BRT will run every six minutes all day. That hardly means that it serves a typical bus line, and we can expect similar frequency on all the buses.

        You are also ignoring the crucial difference between the U-Link line and the old bus line. With all its faults, it still adds tremendous value over old routes. It is just as fast (if not faster, depending on the ultimate destination) yet adds more stops! These additional trips (or trip, in this case) are, of course, really popular. UW to Capitol Hill has plenty of riders. But compared to the old 71/72/73 we get them for free. As this gets further north, this continues. Northgate to UW, Roosevelt to Capitol Hill. Every combination will be popular (even one side of campus to the other). This is a value added above an existing express. The 41 is great for getting downtown (but only in the morning) but it doesn’t go to Roosevelt, the UW or Capitol Hill. Of course you can justify running the train more often than you ran the old bus. It goes to more places (and much faster to boot)!

        But for the 590/594, that simply isn’t the case. There just aren’t that many people (as I mentioned) that want to go to SeaTac, or take stops along the way. Federal Way to Fife? Angle Lake to South 272nd? Sorry, but very few people will ride that. Meanwhile, the 590/594 *is* reasonably frequent. It makes around 70 trips a day. It is heavily oriented towards rush hour, but in the middle of the afternoon and the evening it runs every 20 minutes. I fail to see why a train that will be *slower* for the most popular trip destination (Tacoma to Seattle), yet cost more to run, will run more often. Do you really think there will be enough customers making trips to the airport (or other interim trips) to make up for that? It doesn’t even carry that many people now (less than 5,000 for the combined routes).

    5. @asdf2 , I have to assume the all-day SR-520 bus service from South Kirkland P&R to the U-district continues to exist. The staff might be viewing South Kirkland as a better place to truncate 520 buses that before went to Bellevue TC. Further, 520 pencils out as the easiest way to extend light rail across Lake Washington (not necessarily best, but easiest). Having UW-Issaquah gives a nice “X” with the East Link anchored by Bellevue, which makes great sense to serve the east-west travel in King County, giving almost every major destination pair either 1-seat or 2-seat rides.

      1. Indications are that all-day Overlake-UW, Kirkland-UW, and Bellevue-UW express buses will continue to exist (and be more frequent than they are currently). I haven’t heard that the South Kirkland extension is relevant to express buses. It’s too far out of the way for an Overlake or Bellevue freeway bus or others to terminate, and too short for a Kirkland route. The South Kirkland extension seems to be about getting the Eastside’s line toe into Kirkland, and serving the affordable TOD at the P&R, and perhaps because “It’s a park n ride!”

      2. Even if it’s not the purpose of the line, a Kirkland UW bus will certainly stop there, so it will improve connectivity between Issaquah and north Seattle, even if it’s more incidental than by design. One would hope that a truncated 255 would be able to run maintain 15-minute headways between Kirkland the UW 7 days a week, including evenings.

    6. Ross,

      Can you point to any planning document that will have the south Link line running only every 20 minutes?

      1. Ross’s argument is that headways will have to be lengthened due to low ridership. I don’t know how accurate that claim is.

      2. Given that the neighborhood around 130th St Station is very dense, and all of the neighborhoods in South King County are rural, and so is Everett and West Seattle, I guess we can look forward to 20-minute headway everywhere except the line to very-dense far north Seattle.

      3. Ross is assuming this based on other cities. MAX runs at 15 minutes per line. BART in the East Bay is 15 minutes, but in recession periods it sometimes goes below. VTA light rail is 30 minutes on the Mountain View line. (It overlaps with another line in San Jose for 15-minute service, but it diverges in Santa Clara.) Denver is apparently in 30-minute territory I’ve heard. Maybe Dallas.

        But ST’s precedent has been 10-minute minimum on every line until 10pm, and I’m hoping it sticks to that. But even if it does go down to 15 or 20 minutes north of Lynnwood, that’s not the end of the world.

      4. Yep, pretty much what Mike, Eric and even Brent said. Proximity and density matter. Here is a nice density map of Seattle: http://arcg.is/27VXkXh. Scroll up and down to Seattle and Everett. Now do the same for other cities and you can see that compared to many areas (like the Bay Area) we are nothing special. They have very fast service (much faster than we will ever have) and much more densely populated suburbs, but ridership is too low to justify running the trains that often to the places that aren’t close in (San Fransisco, Oakland, Berkeley).

        Subways work where there are lots and lots of quick trips that make sense, all day long. Northgate to Capitol Hill. UW to downtown. Those are the trips that justify frequent service. Unfortunately, in our area density drops off very quickly, just as proximity to popular destinations wane. There is not a single census block in Snohomish County that it is as dense as one of the ones in Lake City.

        For the various suburban lines, it isn’t obvious where ridership will go down. For the south end, I see it being very low in Tacoma, if not Federal Way (and that entire corridor all the way to SeaTac). Density is low, and it takes a long time to get to the really popular places (downtown Seattle). This is especially true of Tacoma, which is better served by Sounder (and express bus service). For Issaquah, it is similar, if not worse. It only works well as a means to get to downtown Bellevue. Right now that bus carries only a few hundred a day, so I don’t see that changing, as it gets less convenient for most of the riders (a two seat ride from the highlands).

        As mentioned before, Snohomish County is tougher to call. The UW is a major destination, and sits to the north. It is simply a lot more popular (especially for folks outside the region) than Rainier Valley is to the southern suburbs (Rainier Valley has cultural ties to the Central Area and Renton, but not Federal Way and Tacoma). Lynnwood isn’t exactly a high density area, but it is better than most of Snohomish county. It also works really well as a feeder location, as it has freeway ramps and plenty of existing crossing bus routes. Since it is only 20 minutes from that station to the UW, I could see it working for a fair number of people.

  17. Has Sound Transit released any details on what the “improvements” to Metro’s C and D lines actually entail?

    1. It appears to be a mere Christmas gift card mentality. It doesn’t appear to have any justification for the amount of logic of it.

    2. My best guess would be money for more service hours, meaning better frequency.

    3. ST is not Metro. Any word on what improvements ST has promised to Pierce Transit on Routes 1, 2, 13, 14, and 16?

      1. It would be interesting if they ever could or do a Rapidride Express, which would only hit the stops (where practical– not sure how it would hit SLU et al) that are planned for light rail.

      2. That’s in Metro’s long-range plan. A RapidRide line without the detour. It’s only in the 2040 plan, so it seems to be predicated on the Link line existing and having an Uptown station.

  18. Much better. Why not frontload the infill stations to 2024 instead of 2031 (they’re all cheap) and delay the 2024 slate of stuff if necessary (it would not extend them all the way to 2031 since they’re more expensive)? That seems like it would be a natural improvement…

      1. That was while he was still able to resist having 130th built at all. Now that 130th is part of ST3, and will be built if ST3 passes (and won’t if ST3 fails, Ross), ST needs to come up with a defensible argument that is more than “Trust us”.

      2. If they find extra money, the board can speed up 130th even further after the federal funding agreement is signed. For now, they don’t want to do anything to disrupt the grant application. Reading the tea leaves, I expect 130th will still open with the rest of the line.

    1. Kent Des Moines was part of ST2, already passed like 8 years ago. So yeah, why not tack on another 7 years to the completion date?

      1. They are tacking one year onto the completion date.

        A benefit for the station area is that it will not have to build a permanent car garage for the hordes that will be parking there in what would have been four years between that opening and Federal Way Link opening. In that light, opening the whole segment at once makes more sense.

        Northgate Station is being forced to build a parking garage nobody except the mall wants, simply because it is opening two years before Lynnwood Link. I’d almost be tempted to accept a couple more years’ wait for Northgate Link, if we could cancel the garage.

      2. ST says that not having a temporary terminus saves money and time and construction complications.

        Northgate’s garage is not based on a 2-year gap. People in the U-District are suffering from a 5-year gap, so no tears to Northgate. The garage is based on tradition, residual use, and ST’s obligation to replace spaces the mall owns that ST will displace during construction.

      3. Boeing Access Road and Graham Street were part of ST*1*. Remember? Maybe they should get priority, ya think?

  19. It’s misleading to characterize Ballard as fully grade-separated when the plan still has a drawbridge over the ship canal instead of a tunnel under it. I don’t support spending $4+ billion on a rail line that can be stalled regularly by marine traffic. I’m still a no vote.

    1. 70 feet above the water hardly will be “regularly” stalled – there are very few ships that high

      1. True but if we have seen previously all it takes is one failure to hurt reliability and even outside of hours it could still happen at 3 pm and have it stuck until 6 pm. If we are needing a reliable crossing of the Ship Canal, best we go under versus over.

      2. The reason the drawbridges sometimes get stuck is they are all old. A new bridge won’t have that problem for quite a while and may never have issues if proper regular maintenance is done.

    2. Isn’t the US Army Corp of Engineers the entity that determines how often the bridge must open? How can ST make any assurances to voters prior to a November vote about the bridge’s reliability when it’s not the entity that has legal authority over marine traffic? No one can know for sure how disruptive marine traffic would be, just as we didn’t know how quickly (8 minutes? 6 minutes?) U Link trains would run with reduced buses in the tunnel. Still, even ST’s own analysis lists Ballard line’s reliability as only “moderate”. Compare that to Link north of Lynnwood, which is truly grade-separated and whose reliability is rated “high”, or West Seattle which is getting a high, non-moveable bridge. It’s insane that the one line projected to carry over 100,000 riders daily is the one compromised by a drawbridge.

      I suspect ST3 will pass, but I will not add my vote to a measure that, for the sake of political expediency, builds the lowest quality line on the line that has, by far, the highest ridership.

      1. Seems like what they are proposing is the worst of both worlds in the cost category, they are going to the expense of building a high bridge then also going to the expense of making it operable. The ship canal cant be that deep, hell, its man made. Go under.

      2. @UnderTheClouds: A 70′ bridge with opening mechanisms and a 140′ bridge that would never open COST APPROXIMATELY THE SAME. Since this is a budgeting exercise and the actual crossing isn’t (and legally cannot) be decided now, you probably should vote YES.

        Voting no GUARANTEES you WILL NOT have a grade separated crossing (you’ll have no crossing at all.

        Voting yes allows the community process to go forward, and if sufficient support, garners a different type of crossing.

        We already have the budget. The rest is a post-election decision.

      3. A number of people have said they don’t want the visual impact of a 140′ bridge. I believe such a high bridge may force the market street station fairly high in the air as well.

        A 70′ bridge won’t open very often (a few times a day) so it isn’t the worst thing in the world.

        A tunnel is much more expensive and therefore unlikely.

      4. Trudge the ship canal, drop some pre-fab concrete tunnel sections in (i.e. BART’s transbay tube), and cover. You get a shallow tunnel with minimal approach, you don’t have to worry about design/construction through the water table, and you get a quicker completion due to the nature of pre-fab. Also would reduce cost.

      5. Andy,

        Tell NMFS and USACE you’re planning to dredge a major salmon migration route to drop a tunnel from above and see how quickly you get laughed out of the room. There’s no way that would be permitted these days. It’s deep bore or a bridge. And people suggesting they’d vote no over a 70′ bridge should really look at some empirical data on the average mast heights of recreational sailboats. They’re the vast bulk of the traffic of any significant height (trawlers, tugs, barges aren’t really an issue), and 70′ is enough to fit just about all without an opening.

      6. And a bridge will interfere with birds and butterflies…blah blah blah. Salmon aren’t migrating year round, and they certainly aren’t spawning there on account of the industrial usage of the last 100 years. Plan the dredging construction around the salmon runs to appease people like you.

        PS. Pick a better pseudonym; you’re an embarrassment to Mr. Swanson.

      7. The ships are already there every day; you can see how many would require a 70′ opening. From what I’ve heard it’s once or twice a week. That’s hardly enough to veto a bridge about, and it’s not like the Fremont Bridge that opens several times a day. The Coast Guard requires openings on demand, but has given Seattle a no-opening period peak hours, and in the evening it’s 20- or 30-minute notice because there’s a single bridge tender that drives between the bridges.

      8. People like me? You mean those who understand how the EIS process works? You mistake me for someone who endorses it; I’m still pissed over the far superior 520 Pacific interchange option being dropped on similar environmental impact grounds (largely as a smokescreen for the real objections of rich Laurelhursters who didn’t want to look at a larger bridge).

        That said, Ron’s key value is realism verging on cynicism, so I’ll continue to espouse my realist hot takes under his name, thanks.

    3. You seem to be incredibly misinformed on this aspect of the project. Please read the revised plan again before committing yourself to a no vote.

      1. The revised plan still has a 70′ moveable bridge. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean I’m “incredibly misinformed”.

    4. I will be voting no, so I should probably shut up. If you want to vote no, please, be my guest.

      But I find the worries about the bridge to be completely unjustified. Many bigger, more effective systems have similar bridges. A 70′ bridge is extremely tall. Very few ships are that tall. You will probably get one opening a month, if that. This will never be at rush hour (of course). Depending on the frequency of the trains off peak, it is quite possible that none of them are delayed at all (like today, the bridge operator decides when to open the bridge(s), and the operator will time it for the least amount of disruption). Even if the timing was terrible, and the train has to come to a complete stop, a boat passes through fairly quickly. The delay would be minimal. What completely screws up traffic is the effect an opening has later. That isn’t an issue with a train.

      1. The justification for 130th St Station is pretty weak, too. But you got it. And now you are still voting No. Why should Sound Transit, or anyone else, care what you have to say, when you don’t negotiate in good faith?

      2. Ross, there are other good reasons to vote against this plan. For me, what the 70′ span signifies is how unwieldy and ineffective the regional approach is to building effective transit, especially in the densest corridors. We’re building lines that solve political problems instead of conforming to best performing metrics.

        As far as how disruptive a 70′ moveable bridge might be, we’re all just speculating at this moment because there is no performance guarantee contained in the ST3 measure for voters to consider. It may be a minor issue, as you say, but after an successful vote transit advocates will have no leverage to ensure bridge openings are kept to a minimum during least disruptive times. “Just vote for ST3 and trust us to do the right thing afterwards” is not something I’m willing to do. The main reason advocates are getting a 130th Street station added to plan is because they exercised political leverage before the ST3 vote.

      3. “We’re building lines that solve political problems instead of conforming to best performing metrics.”

        That’s life. This is the United States, where people think in terms of cars and highways and commuting and low taxes and suburban supremacy. Canada or Germany wouldn’t do this, but this isn’t Canada or Germany. 2/3 of the region’s voters live in the suburbs, so they’re the majority of the ST board and legislative districts. If things had been different, the city would have grown more densely and annexed the inner-ring suburbs like it did until the 1950s. But they didn’t, and that’s why the Sound Transit structure and rapid transit planning is the way it is. You can’t change it by just slamming a book on a table and saying it’s the wrong metric.

      4. “As far as how disruptive a 70′ moveable bridge might be, we’re all just speculating at this moment because there is no performance guarantee contained in the ST3 measure for voters to consider. It may be a minor issue, as you say, but after an successful vote transit advocates will have no leverage to ensure bridge openings are kept to a minimum during least disruptive times.”

        There is no performance measure because it’s outside ST’s control. ST can’t blast an advertising campaign to boaters, “Please don’t bring boats over 71′ into Lake Union.” If the Coast Guard says oipen the bridge on demand, then the bridge opens on demand. But as I said above, that doesn’t mean it can’t wait a minute for a train to pass. The tender doesn’t have to press the button the instant the horn sounds. It just can’t hold up boats for ten minutes or thirty minutes. Cars will never clear in two minutes because there’s always an endless stream of them, and their average priority is low. But it’s likely possible to manage a rail-only bridge in a more train-friendly manner.

        So ST has no control over the boats. The issue revolves around how accurate the predictions are of how often a boat will pass and what that implies for train operations. The boats are already there every day so it should be an easy one to answer. It’s not like there’s going to be a sudden rush next year for 71′ sailboats. In fact (this is a guess) they may be getting less common over time because of the hassle of crossing the Ship Canal.

      5. @Brent

        The justification for 130th St Station is pretty weak, too. But you got it. And now you are still voting No. Why should Sound Transit, or anyone else, care what you have to say, when you don’t negotiate in good faith?

        Wow, you should probably check yourself, before you get banned. I’m surprised your comments didn’t get removed. But then again, there are hundreds of comments here, so the moderators obviously can’t catch all the trolls.

        Just a little history, though. It is true that I support the NE 130th station. I also support the Graham Street station. In both cases, I’ve supported adding them to the existing system, outside of ST3. But I also support them with ST3.

        I have also supported adding Ballard to UW light rail to ST3 (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/06/30/ballard-uw-should-be-the-next-light-rail-line-in-seattle/), West Seattle BRT (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/08/03/build-real-brt-for-west-seattle/) and the WSTT (which is an essential part of the West Seattle BRT — http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/sound-transit-may-propose-another-tunnel-in-27b-package/). The first two of those articles were written by me; I offered my input on the last one (before it went to press). All of those culminated in this article I wrote suggesting these projects be added to ST3 (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/08/28/seattle-projects-for-st3/). This was, in turn, the basis for this one (after much plodding) written by Frank (a much better writer than me): https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/11/30/an-alternative-for-st3-with-something-for-everyone/.

        As I’ve said before, I don’t take the decision to vote against this lightly. I am not a perfectionist. I know fully well that I shouldn’t expect everything I want to be in this proposal. I also know that this proposal (like every possible proposal) is likely to have some good things. But when the balance of projects are this poor — when they are such a horrible value — when there is the distinct possibility that this will represent the bulk of our transit spending for the next fifty years — I can’t support it. It is too much money for too little.

        My actions in support of the station (and the support for every other project) have been consistent. I find it interesting that when someone says they are going to vote their conscience, you think they have somehow negotiated in bad faith. First of all, that is very flattering, but i wasn’t part of the negotiation. Second, it shows — or the very least, implies — some extremely slimy vote trading by Sound Transit. Supposedly, we are supposed to accept billions in boondoggle projects, so that we get a tiny little inexpensive improvement in the system. That might work for some, but it won’t work for me. I will vote in support or opposition to a project based on whether the project as a whole is worthwhile or not. I always have and always will.

      6. Mike,
        ST can make an agreement with the Coast Guard similar to what SDOT has to restrict the operating hours of the bridge.

        Large vessels may still be able to get bridge openings but most of the larger vessels on the canal tend to do their movements at night or early in the morning so as to avoid pleasure boaters.

      7. Brent, actually, the justification for the *145th* St. Station is weak. The 130th Street Station is essential. It’s really quite clear if you actually look at the data.

    5. I’m sure there can be an arrangement to have tall ships wait (Are there any tall ships that actually go through the ship canal?) if a train is coming in the next couple minutes, and to not allow such ships through during peak hours.

      1. If I remember correctly, there is a tonnage (vessel size) limit. If a ship is above that limit then the bridges are required to open regardless of the time of day, including during rush hour. These types of ships/barges very rarely transit the canal and typically try to schedule their transits during less disruptive times. I’d be surprised if rush hour bridge openings like these happen more often than once every couple years.

        So, any likely ship tall enough to require a 70′ bridge to open will likely have the authority to order a bridge opening over any objections of an operator.

      2. But delaying it one minute for a train that comes every six minutes is different than delaying it for a continuous river of cars.

      3. But do the really big boats have sails? Cargo ships powered by sails went out a century ago. Most big ships are motorboats, aren’t they?

      4. Big cargo ships of any type stopped coming into Lake Union and Lake Washington many decades ago. The tallest stuff going through there is going to be large sailboats.

      5. Glenn,
        Incorrect there are still a fair number of working vessels using the ship canal between portage bay and salmon bay. There are a few boat yards including Lake Union drydock. Docks for fishing boats and factory trawlers. The UW Oceanography vessels. (And until recently the NOAA pacific fleet). I believe Glacier is still running a gravel barge up to their Kenmore site nightly as well.

        Sure not all of these will require a 70′ bridge to open but some will.

  20. I am afraid this monstrosity will pass. Millennials don’t have a lot of property and hence taxes to pay and they obviously don’t like to or can’t drive so no loss in car tab fees. This all makes me want to vote Republican next time around.

    1. You obviously do not understand how the rental market works. Millennials will be paying their fair share in rent increases. Get off that high horse now, would ya?

      1. Not all landlords pass 100% of expenses on to renters. A lot of their property equity is their return while they continue to eat some of their overhead.

      2. They still pay it though, one way or another, since the tax is on the value of the property and structure, not just the land. So someone who is thinking about building an apartment might not do so, because the added taxes won’t make it worth it (at the margins). Obviously it gets complicated, and there isn’t a completely one to one correspondence with renters (unlike some taxes) but this is a significant tax that everyone pays (at varying degrees).

      3. Rents are based on the vacancy rate, not taxes. Right now landlords are making a gold rush because rent increases since 2010 have risen much faster than taxes or inflation. And they’ve been making a profit since 2000 and before then, except maybe the high-vacancy period in 2008-2010. If they someday lose their profit margin in the future for a while, that’s the flip side of the business. But that’s unlikely because the population increase shows no sign of stopping, and even if there’s a recession its long-term trajectory is upward. Because of the Sound and the mountains and climate change and liberal tolerance and “creative energy” and tech and aerospace and future business models….

      1. No, the troll is in Fremont, one of the districts getting shafted by Sound Transit.

    2. Even those who keep a car sitting in the garage and only drive it on weekends still pay the same car tab fees as someone who drives it everyday.

    3. Oh no! Silly millenials can’t afford houses or cars because I refuse to retire or pay them more money!

      1. If they would have went to class once in awhile they wouldn’t be in as bad as shape.

      2. Wow, Les! That’s pretty bad grammar to use in chiding someone for not going to class often enough!

        (I know this is going to get removed, but I just couldn’t resist!)

      3. Guess what. At UW Station on many days almost everybody walks up the long escalators. So much for bad shape.

    4. Millenials would love it if you simply moved away and sold them your house.

      1. Landlords will jack rents and make them move first because of ST3. I don’t have to worry about it, my mortgage is paid.

      2. You said earlier that renters won’t be paying because landlords won’t pass on the cost of the property tax. Now you are saying that landlords will jack up rents and force people to move because of ST3. Which is it?

      3. Not all property owners are landlords. And the property tax for a 2-3000 sq ft home will be a hell of a lot more than the increase of rent to a tenant.

      4. @Les then you can sell for a pile of cash and move somewhere else where no one will ever infringe on you or walk on your lawn. But for those of us who want or need to be in the city for our careers would appreciate not spending endless hours of lives sitting in traffic.

      5. homeowners never asked you to move here. the option to leave works for you just as well.

      6. In cities with extensive subway networks where most of the population doesn’t have cars like London and Moscow, rents are significantly higher in station areas. But in the US we can thank the drivers for dampening that effect. Many people will just happen to live near a station but never use it, and won’t consider station proximity a factor in their moving decisions so they’re just as likely to end up away from a station. And Ballard has been increasing rapidly even without a station.

        But Seattle rents will be prohibitively high around stations anyway, for reasons that go beyond the stations. Citywide real estate pressures are high, the city is not saturating the market with housing, and station areas have other attractive features anyway (road convergence, bus route convergence, concentration of businesses).

        However, the low quality of the transit network outside of station areas is also a factor. People without cars flock to the stations because it’s difficult to live elsewhere, and they’re a captive market for jacked-up rents.

    5. My rent goes up year after year, faster than inflation. After several years of this, I got a note from my landlord saying the latest rent increase was due to property tax increases from stuff passed at the ballot. But it was in the range of the previous ongoing increases.

      At least now, I can celebrate that my next rent increase will help fund my ability to travel all over the region much more easily without risking my life on a bike or in a car.

      1. The landlord can make whatever excuses he wants, but the reality is he’s raising the rent because he can. If the market weren’t willing to accept it, he wouldn’t do it, property tax or no property tax.

    6. Les,
      Everyone, even renters who don’t own a car, will pay the additional sales tax.

      1. Not to mention those of us who, like Brent, have been told by our landlords that our rents are being raised because property taxes have been raised. As it should be.

      2. Just because the landlord says the increase is due to taxes and utilities doesn’t mean it’s true. You’d have to see their accounts to verify it. Often it’s just an excuse. Or even a polite way to say, “Sorry, it’s going up.”

  21. Is it too cynical to wonder why ST didn’t deliver THIS proposal the first time around? What does it say about an organization that has to be cajoled and screamed at to deliver its highest quality work?

    1. ST and Metro folk have proven themselves inept time and time again. But we keep forking the bucks out for them.

    2. Some have speculated that the two-step approach was necessary to get the agreement of boardmembers and cities. ST had to prove there was high demand for more expensive alternatives, or low demand for somebody’s pet project.

      1. But Mike, don’t you think if they had initially proposed what they were really capable of all along, advocates would have shouted and ST would have come back with something even better? This whole thing has been played like a negotiation, where ST started with a weak offer to solicit information about our ZOPA. By leaving the Ballard line at-grade, we all shouted for it to be grade separated. If they had initially proposed the Ballard line to be grade separated, we would have shouted for it to be tunneled… and so on. By staking out the position they did in the initial swag and benchmarking where they did, we were all forced to shout and shout about the various improvements that Seattle Subway rep’d for us. But those improvements AREN’T ENOUGH. We should have been demanding more than studies and simple grade separation for Seattle.

        Anyway, bottom line is that the “improvements” ST just released are clearly enough to satiate folks about timeline, when ST obviously could have led with that in the first place. ST basically just whooped our asses in this negotiation because they’re going to deliver something they were always capable of doing. Meanwhile, those still advocating for the highest quality rail projects for the most meritorious places as determined by performance metrics and other data will be forced to grudgingly vote “yes” because this [obscenity] is the best we’ll get.

        As Martin and Frank discussed in their last podcast, Seattle will just have to go it alone in a decade when Move Seattle expires. I sincerely hope West Seattleites will be a little less provincial when it comes to considering rail projects in other parts of the city that are more worthy of the investment.

  22. This is awesome! Please lobby your City Councils to streamline approval timelines for these projects.

  23. Well, I predicted this. Not that it is too surprising. I’m sure there is a name for this (folks who know negotiation techniques can chime in). First you start with the shocking number, then dial it back a bit. You still have a really bad proposal that will take a long time to build, but not as long as they originally thought.

    Not that I’m accusing ST of doing that. I don’t think they are that clever. I think they don’t know what they are doing, and this is further evidence of this.

    There are only a handful of projects that are justified. The infill stations and Ballard to downtown rail. That is pretty much it. The infill stations still take 15 years. These are stations! How does it take that long? The worst one is NE 130th, that is skipped over initially, then retrofitted almost ten years later. That is nuts.

    Meanwhile, Ballard to downtown still takes almost 20 years. There is still no explanation why other projects — even projects in Seattle — are done first.

    I really don’t understand why anyone is excited about this. If this was the original proposal, it would be greeted with surprise (over the timeline) and disappointment (over the projects themselves). I see no reason to change my mind, just because it doesn’t look as bad as they originally said it was going to be.

    1. Summary: Seattle Good. Everything else Bad. Who cares who’s paying for it.

      1. “Summary: North Seattle Good. Everywhere else Bad. Who cares if South Seattleites are paying for pricey North Seattle infrastructure?”


      2. Summary: Seattle, meh (the good project takes too long and the best ones aren’t going to be implemented). Everything else bad. We’re all paying for something that is at best, meh.

    2. “Not that it is too surprising. I’m sure there is a name for this (folks who know negotiation techniques can chime in).”


    3. “Meanwhile, Ballard to downtown still takes almost 20 years. There is still no explanation why other projects — even projects in Seattle — are done first.”

      The explanation is clear. Ballard is tied to the second tunnel, which is expensive. West Seattle is not tied to it. There’s no other North King project holding up Ballard. The front-loaded things are small.

      Somebody pointed out that most of the cost of the Ballard line is in the downtown tunnel and SLU/Uptown routing, not the segment beyond it. That’s also where some 2/3 of the ridership is though, so that makes some sense.

  24. I’m confused about the necessity of the Boeing Access Road Station. I thought this was needed for a connection to Sounder so Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn and Kent people could get to the airport. If there isn’t a connection, then who needs the station? A 400 student high school? Not many Boeing or other jobs within walking distance because it is spread out industrial land next to a non passenger airport. So is it really just for the Flight Museum? I don’t think it pencils out unless you find a way to connect to Sounder. Why did the connection go away?

    1. There’s not much in the proposed station walkshed, but the proponents have proposed a private bus along E Marginal Way and Interurban Ave, to shuttle workers to Boeing at the north end and the Gateway Corporate Center at the south.

      Why they can’t just do this from the Rainier Beach and/or International Boulevard stations is beyond me. Or better yet, fund service improvements to the 124 and 154, which already serve the same area.

    2. You can also expect that it will be a bus transfer station. If designed right, BAR will allow south-end express buses to be truncated in a very efficient (i.e., frequency-increasing) way.

      1. Except that if the 577 and 594 are going away completely, there will be nothing to truncate.

        That leaves one usage left. People living in Federal Way and Tacoma who don’t want to put up with hour+ train rides, each direction, can drive their cars to BAR and park there, saving a good 20+ minutes, each way, over hopping on the train closer to home.

      2. Boeing Access Road will be the terminus of buses from Renton. Also from Bryn Mawr-Skyway. Betcha.

    3. BAR Station has a variety of proponents with different use cases. None of the cases are particularly compelling, but the people are insistent about them and there are several kinds of people wanting it. Tukwila and Renton have rated it one of their highest priorities. Tukwila cites an A extension, the 144th urban village, the Museum of Flight, and Aviation High School. It also wanted a BAR Sounder station for Sounder-Link transfers but ST isn’t pursuing that. Other people want to truncate the 101 and 150, and others want to truncate the south end express buses. But ST listens most to city governments, so their feedback is the most informative for understanding the situation.

    4. If we are building rail lines in other places with the hope of growth, the idea of putting in an infill station at a site with awesome accessibility as well as bus transfer capabilities is a bargain!

      The biggest problem with BAR is that there hasn’t been any discussion of what the station or station area could become. Understanding that there are height limitations and aircraft noise are obviously negatives, but being where it is is a positive. For example, it could be a midday truncation point — with express buses going to Downtown Seattle or Bellevue at peak hours.

      1. Is there really a point in having this truncation point in the middle of I-5? Are frequency increases going to outweigh the transfer penalties and will there be room on Link at 6 minute frequencies with the extra cars down the line for bus transfers and if the plan was to truncate further down the line anyways then is there really a point in doing this station? At 3,000 riders per day and less, I just don’t see a point in an infill station.

    1. Yes. I would trade these minor timeline improvements for quality alignments to places that merit LRT investment.

    2. Do it fast *and* do it right, because we aren’t going to live forever, and our opportunity to stop wrecking our planet’s atmosphere is rapidly closing.

  25. The lack of a possibility for a decent Fremont station, the indication of a line along 520 for kirkland/ballard which would bypass U-village and Children’s and the implementation of a 130th station vs any mention of Lake City Way LR, I would like to think ST3 has enough opposition to fail. Maybe there will be enough disgruntled home owners willing to reject help reject it.

    1. If I were living in Fremont, I would vote Yes for ST3, with the thought that ST4 would likely have a Higjway-99 aligned rail line that includes SPU Station and Fremont Station.

      If I were living in Lake City, I would heartily vote Yes for ST3 because it has 130th St Station, and that building that much significantly increases the odds of having SR 522 light rail in ST4. (And I would remember who campaigned against it, so I could keep them very far away from public office.) That SR 522 line won’t make sense without first serving Ballard.

      The Ballard/Kirkland study, being a study, is certainly not going to be limited to one possible alignment. Anyone wanting light rail to the U Village and Children’s is likely to vote for ST3 to fund the study, as well as to make Ballard-Kirkland possible by having Link reach Ballard.

      1. Look what happened to Boulder and Longmont Co, a lot of promises and tax payments but no product.

      2. And what projects can you point to that voters approved that ST will fail to deliver?

      3. “Why commit to 50 billion when no guarantees for what I think is important?”

        No reason. It’s just that hardly any voters have the priorities you do, so they’ll be voting yes or no for different reasons.

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