stc__complete-v12_full_artboardSEATTLE SUBWAY

Seattle Subway was formed just over 4 years ago with a simple goal: Speed up high quality rail investment in Seattle. Today, the Puget Sound region took a momentous step towards that goal when the Sound Transit Board approved the ST3 plan that will be on the ballot in November. The planning process has been long and sometimes contentious, but the final product is very much worthy of your vote.

The light rail extensions alone are expected to carry 243,000-307,000 people a day including a 7 mile Ballard/Lower Queen Anne/South Lake Union/Downtown line that will carry more riders each day than the entire 60 mile Portland MAX system. West Seattle riders will enjoy a 12 minute trip from the Junction to International District station that never gets stuck in bridge traffic. The plan has a a lot more good news for every part of our region.

Nearly all of our criticisms of the draft plan have been addressed in the final plan:  

  • It will be built faster
    Timelines are sped up by 3 years on most projects via tweaks to the finance plan. We have noted that they can be sped up 3 more years by cities choosing to expedite public process prior to the vote. Projects can be expedited even further after the vote by changes to the bond coverage rules or by additional federal/state funding.  
  • ST3 rail will be 100% grade separated
    We fought long and hard for this win. Grade separation for rail is a founding Seattle Subway principle and the speed/reliability/capacity benefits of this choice will be enjoyed for generations to come.  
  • Provisional/EIS
    This is a very big deal. Though they are not called out as “provisional“, we have been assured that additional extensions can be built as part of ST3 if more funding from Federal, State or local sources can be identified, if projects come in under budget, or if the bonding coverage rules change. Currently, the funding assumptions for ST3 are: 11% from the Federal government, 0% from the State government, and 0% from additional local funding mechanisms. Essentially any funding mechanism other than additional tax receipts. What does it mean? Though all the dotted extensions we show are unlikely to be built, they could be. Smaller gains could mean significant improvements to the plan via single station extensions such as Fremont/Zoo/Aurora and Westwood Village, or additional study work that could save 6+ years off future project delivery.
  • 130th Street Station will be built
    This gives a solid timeline for greatly improved transfer opportunity for Lake City bus riders than 145th and is a prime location for TOD/affordable housing per the Seattle 2035 plan.

Seattle Subway always focuses on the light rail part of the investment, but it’s worth noting there is something for nearly everyone in this plan. ST3 will also include major expansions of Sounder, Tacoma Link Extensions, and 405 BRT to serve Burien to Lynnwood via the Eastside. Seattle Transit Blog will have full coverage of the plan’s details tomorrow morning.

Over the past four years, Seattle Subway has spoken to thousands of people at hundreds of community events and hundreds of thousands on our social channels. The biggest criticism we’ve heard from nearly everyone is that rail can’t get to more people, faster. ST3 is a giant leap towards that goal for our region. We want to thank the Sound Transit Board for their hard work balancing competing priorities to put together a very good plan and to Sound Transit staff for their tireless work behind the scenes.

Seattle Subway is excited to fight for the passage of ST3 and to one day enjoy a city that no longer lacks this essential transportation infrastructure. Today, we have a plan ready for a vote in November that will overturn a century of false starts in Seattle.

For both ourselves and for future generations –the answer is clear: YES on ST3.  

104 Replies to “ST3 is a Go!”

    1. Both Bothell and Renton are getting Bus Rapid Transit.

      As to Link, see the third bullet point. Since both are in the Long Range Plan if additional funds come available they can be built.

      Now all we have to do is get additional funds.

    2. Huh?

      522 BRT and 405 BRT are in… hitting Bothell twice and Renton in a couple of spots. The Sounder upgrade arguable helps Renton too.

      1. I’m inclined to vote no as well. Nothing significant for Fremont, Bothell, Renton and etc, and please don’t anybody suggest that BRT is anything worth mentioning, especially when Ballard gets 5 billion for LR though they already have a perfectly functional D line.

      2. Wait, so les, you are saying that BRT is good enough for SLU, Lower Queen Anne, and Ballard, but unacceptable for Bothell and Renton?

      3. it’s not ideal but they can’t cover the entire city in one go. how about we stop being selfish and do what’s best for the city as a whole?

      4. Thanks for that concise and convincing argument against ST3, Dan, as it is clearly not the best thing for the city as a whole.

      5. William, Les, etc.: This is as robust of a plan as the board could have gone for. You want rail in Bothell, Renton, or more in Central District…. Then you have to build these sections first to get there in most cases. This lays the groundwork for future expansion to the areas you specified.

    3. You’ll be able to take your car on the road, which will not be as clogged with traffic because others are taking the light rail.

      1. Transit gives an alternative to congestion, but doesn’t fix it, because the extra space on the roads from transit is filled by induced demand.

    4. I need to research how BRT will be any better than the busses we have now, but I already ride the bus to downtown and although better than driving It still sucks. They threw that in to do something to appease the N. Eastside, but it won’t be any better than the current bus lines.

  1. Did Donald Trump write this post? Talk about a delusional level of self-importance.

  2. “Though they are not called out as “provisional“, we have been assured that additional extensions can be built as part of ST3 if more funding from Federal, State or local sources can be identified, if projects come in under budget or if the bonding coverage rules change.”

    Can you/allowed to name the source?

    1. And what’s the deal with the “Essentially any funding mechanism other than additional tax receipts.”? What happens if there are additional tax receipts due to rapid regional growth?

    2. “Currently, the funding assumptions for ST3 are: 11% from the Federal government, 0% from the State government, and 0% from additional local funding mechanisms. Essentially any funding mechanism other than additional tax receipts.”

      “what’s the deal with the “Essentially any funding mechanism other than additional tax receipts.”?”

      That’s the explanation of “additional local funding mechanisms”.

      “What happens if there are additional tax receipts due to rapid regional growth?”

      That goes beyond the assumptions. If tax receipts are higher than expected due to a good economy and growth, then that’s automatically more money for ST3. Likewise, if federal grants come in higher, or the state suddenly realizes its responsibility to cities, or local governments kick in a share, then that’s also more money to ST3. Any of these might change the percentages, because the percentages are based on the assumed receipts.

      That “local governments” part is pretty likely, and shows how ST’s budget is very conservative. If cities expedite permitting, or give ST in-kind trades of land to speed up the project, the net result is lowering a project’s costs, which then means ST will have the remaining money left over.

  3. Does the coloring of the lines reflect actual train paths? I see that the Bellevue-to-Downtown line continues northbound, suggesting those trains will continue to the UW and beyond. Is it implied, then, that all trains coming from SeaTac will continue to Ballard and that one would have to transfer to go from SeaTac to Capitol Hill or the UW?

    1. East Link is unchanged, Redmond to Lynnwood (or Everett). The other two lines are Everett to West Seattle, and Ballard to Tacoma (in the second tunnel). There will be a gap when West Seattle is a stub line to SODO and the second tunnel and Ballard aren’t finished yet, so during that time you’re likely to see Lynnwood to Tacoma, or if that’s too long for a single line, maybe Lynnwood to Stadium and Northgate to Tacoma.

  4. That map shows the provisional from Ballard to Crown Hill, but there is absolutely no mention of this in ST3 planning. I know it was in the study from two years ago, but my understanding is that section is being ignored for ST3. Any insights?

    1. The corridor is “to Ballard” and earlier planning included corridor studies up to 85th (which is the end of Ballard.). The last round had an extension to 65th, but the change in “provisionals” led us to include it as possible.

  5. Seattle Subway has gone to the dark side. They were just a bunch of nobody-hobbyists until 6 months ago when they went mainstream, seduced by becoming a part of the in crowd of Seattle transit politicos and insiders. Their support of an objectively crappy list of projects is truly embarrassing for those who really support high quality rail for the region. Ballard, West Seattle; fine. But light rail to the hinterlands is something nobody else in the world has even considered, let alone championed – and for good reason.

    Kudos to Seattle Subway for inserting themselves into a vacuum and earning a place at the table. Before them, there was no organized voice championing a true subway in Seattle. I just wish they hadn’t sold out to the timid, status quo-accepting, establishment. I want the old Seattle Subway back.

    1. What are you talking about … and again .. if you think this is a crappy list of projects, you have no idea what Sound Transit is supposed to build in the region an are delusional yourself.

      This thing will be BART of this region an better for Seattle than BART is for SF. This thing will carry half a million people every year … think about that!

      ST’s mandate is to build REGIONAL transit … a BART or DC Metro … and they are building it, according to plan.If you do not like that — find another way to fund and built it, because ST is building exactly what it needs to build — a way to give the REGION an option to move around.

      Now that said Seattle needs more — however Seattle cannot have its needs met strictly through ST. Just like SF need BART and MUNI, Seattle needs to look beyond ST to get all their transit needs met.

      1. Not really. They’re trying to build something that has a similar breadth as BART and DC Metro, but with many more political compromises hurting the end product. Those systems don’t skirt and avoid major downtown business centers (like Bellevue), don’t take miles-long deviations to areas with no ridership (Paine Field), and don’t require transfers that are miles out of the way while building nearly duplicate track for several miles (Issaquah-Seattle passengers having to connect at East Main rather than South Bellevue).

      2. Ryan
        – you really think that there are no compromises?

        Let me give you some examples from BART (because I know them better than DC MEtro).
        — They serve SFO, even though it’s in a county that does not pay into BART.
        — They allowed a key county (San Mateo) to leave BART, cutting the Silicon Valley from BART — and now BART is reaching SV the LOOONG way around through East Bay, which makes absolutely no sense and defeats the purpose.
        — so much of BART was built and is still built in the middle of nowhere in highway medians. Link at least departs the highways for key points.
        — Absolutely no overage of SF — one tunnel through one corridor, bypassing 90% of the city.
        — Connecting to OAK via a separate spur instead of a proper line — requiring a transfer for all passengers ….
        — Finally, currently in Livermore, there is commuter train station in the city downtown that connect Son Jose and Sacramento. The Livermore station could connect this commuter line to SF — it’s the only point of intersection, but the residents (who are clamoring for BART to finally “reach them”), refuse to let BART into the actual city, instead keeping the rail locked in the highway median, miles from the center and on the far outskirts of the”far our suburb”. BART is caving and planning to build just that .. a highway station with massive P&R and feeder busses — and forcing any transfers from the ACE commuter to SF-bound BART trains to take a 10-20 minute bus shuttle between the two rail station. (keep in mind that BART owns the only rail crossing of the SF Bay — so the only other way to get to SF from Sacramento is AROUND the bay, or by road (bus or car).

        Truth is that all these systems are HEAVILY the result of a political compromise.

        Now to your specific points.
        — Bellevue will have a station — should have 2, but ill have 1.
        — If I am not mistaken, the map is wrong and Paine Field will not be there as a deviation — it’ll be a spur or BRT
        — East Main is a MASSIVE improvement from the “politically ideal” solution which was the”Hospital station” … the East main transfer will be a major battle as it is, but I actually do hold out hope for this to get changes and the merging occurring in South Bellevue.

      3. “They serve SFO, even though it’s in a county that does not pay into BART.”

        SFO benefits San Francisco big time. I don’t know how the Colma or SFO extensions were decided, but most likely Sam Trans or San Mateo County are paying the construction and operating costs. VTA is paying for the San Jose extension.

        “They allowed a key county (San Mateo) to leave BART”

        “They” don’t have power over the county, and I don’t think it was ever in the BART district. When BART was created, San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa County voted for it. San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Marin Counties voted against it. So BART initially went from Daly City to Concord, and Richmond to Fremont. The original BART proposal was a ring around the bay and a line in north San Francisco to Marin. That got dashed when the South Bay and Marin vetoed BART. Santa Clara County did it because it wanted to spend the federal funds on expressways instead. San Mateo County figured Caltrain was sufficient. I don’t know much about Marin; probably it thought it was too suburban for that sort of thing.

        Link is much better than BART because it goes through the entire long axis of Seattle. Going from Rainier Beach to Northgate? Take Link. Going from Rainier Beach to Greenwood? Take Link and transfer to a short bus segment. ST2 Link doesn’t directly serve the west half of the Seattle, but at least it serves more than one corner of the city. (However, Link is worse than BART because of its lower speed. 55 mph vs 85.)

      4. “ST’s mandate is to build REGIONAL transit.” While that may be technically correct I think most everyone can agree that they really should be building good and useful regional transit, not just any old regional transit. For the most part, the suburban ST3 extensions fail to meet the good and useful criteria given their projected ridership and price tags.

        And while the BART comparison is reasonably apt, it’s a misnomer to compare the DC metro to Link. No section of the DC metro, not even the Silver Line, goes much deeper into the suburbs than the currently funded Link termini of Highline CC and Lynnwood. Link post ST3 will go far deeper into the suburban hinterlands and will be less effective per mile as a result. For that reason, among others, it isn’t reasonable to expect Link to come close to matching the usefulness of the DC Metro.

      5. San Mateo County does pay into BART through a sales tax – and there was a buy-in amount. Santa Clara County does pay into BART through a sales tax. They just don’t get represented in the BART district, which collects property taxes.

      6. @Alex, DC Metro and Link are not the same, but they are much more similar than we are to BART when it comes to urban focus. Check out the actual numbers:

        As for what Seattle Subway has accomplished, lets chat about that. We went from an original consideration of a 15-year, $26 billion package to a $54 billion expansion package. Who was arguing for that? Seattle Subway. The 15-year package never would have done BOTH Ballard and West Seattle–unless they severely degraded the quality of the rail. And guess what, passing authorization for all this rail in November allows us to set upon another important mission: making it happen faster by fighting for federal, state or local funding (and collaboration) to speed the process or extend already-planned lines.

        It’s correct that the larger package also meant the suburbs got more, too. But there is not a political avenue available to start building anywhere close to $10 billion in rail within the city of Seattle without including the suburbs. The choice is to build regional rail now, or to do NOTHING (except build streetcars and degraded rapid ride). There is not a viable in between. Finally, as cost of living goes up in Seattle, many of these “suburban” areas are applying urbanist principles and becoming proper, densifying clusters in their own right (re: Redmond, Lynnwood, hopefully Tacoma). Even as Seattle builds more housing in downtown than all of SF does citywide in 3 years, we are still going to have tons of people that power our city, but live in places they can afford that aren’t in Seattle. Again, everyone deserves good transit–especially those that need it most.

        We have taken a simple reality-based premise that we can all get more together, or get nothing working alone, and worked from there. We are ONE REGION, and it takes collaboration to make that work. You know why? Because everyone deserves good transit. Working with others, Subway made it bigger (who else was fathoming a $54B plan) and we made it better (remember at-grade to Ballard? Bu-bye).

        If you want to know the impact of Seattle Subway’s engagement, find someone else in the room and ask. And when we are all riding on a grade-separated system in which 44% of the stations are in the City of Seattle, even the most hyper-urbanist among us should be happy that we have that instead of nothing. Because guess what, we are building one of the absolute best systems in the country currently under construction (

      7. It seems like a main criticism of ST3 is that it covers too many miles into the suburbs, filling the role of commuter rail. Holding that in mind, I have to wonder why Sound Transit couldn’t have express trains for Link — seems like that should be possible if there were enough demand. That would benefit the long-commute people and allow Link to provide local service to/within Tacoma, Everett, etc. Why not?

        Here’s my Tacoma-centric criticism of ST3: why would Link go away from Downtown Tacoma before going to TCC? It would make way more sense, like waayyyy more sense, to go into downtown and through Stadium District, where there’s actually a lot of residential density, instead of the Tacoma Mall/S. Tacoma. I, and — I’m sure — others, would ride that thing to work in Seattle everyday; and, surely, the local usage would be way higher also. Right now, I drive to the Tacoma Dome Station parking garage because there’s really no viable, sensible connection between Stadium District and the Sounder, at least not at 0430 in the morning, nor does the 590 run that far. If the streetcar (AKA Tacoma Link) runs more frequently and longer hours once they extend the thing, it would be possible to not drive at all to get to the Sounder and, consequentially, not need Link to go through Stadium, but it would still make more sense to me than running Link to the Tacoma Mall, a place without nearly any current density. The only way you could be for that is if you owned the land there and wanted it to skyrocket in value, develop it, or if you’re one of the ten people who currently live there that would use it.

        So, in case I lost you in the above ramble:
        1) Express Link trains (distant future)?
        2) Why circumnavigate densest areas of Tacoma?

    2. Seattle Subway from what I’ve seen has always tried to reconcile what ST and the subareas want in the suburbs with what it wants in Seattle lines. So it’s basically adding to ST’s network, or slightly modifying it, but not subtracting from it. Others (not Seattle Subway) have advocated an urban-only approach that adds things ST won’t (Metro 8 line), chops off suburban extensions, and gives the suburbs instead BRT from Lynnwood and Desmoind and maybe Sounder South improvements. So Seattle Subway’s approach is basically a compromise, and the urban-only approach is like purist fundamentalists. They are right for an ideal network, and for imagining how Pugetopolis might be if we hadn’t made the land use mistakes from 1950 to 2010. But like other fundamentalist rebels, they won’t be able to get their proposals through the political powers or the public. I wish Pugetopolis had different public attitudes, different land-use priorities, and different attitudes among the political powers, but this is not Vancouver or Toronto or Europe. It’s a region where the suburbs have the most population and the most political power and a freeway-centric mindset. So that shapes the kind of network ST can build, and the kinds of choices Seattle has (i.e., not building our own four-line city subway). And thus why a compromise proposal like Seattle Subway’s has some practical merit.

    3. huskytbone, the purpose of Seattle Subway is NOT to fight light rail to the suburbs. The purpose is to deliver it to the central city, broadly defined.

      They have delivered.

      Why someone would vote against a project they want because someone somewhere else will get a project they want, at their own expense, that the voter thinks isn’t worthwhile, is beyond me. It’s a great argument for not having public votes on anything.

      1. Martin,

        I’m not following the jump between Seattle Subway’s purpose and voting against ST3. I support it, will vote for it, and will urge others to as well. And I would hope their purpose is to do more than simply deliver light rail the central city.

        The broader point I am trying to make is that Seattle Subway use to be aspirational. They use to imagine and champion rail to Children’s and U Village and up Lake City Way and a 520 crossing. Maybe some of it was delusional and silly, but having grown up here and lived in DC for many years, I know all too well how awesome heavy rail subways are.

        Anyway, they traded in their aspiration for tactics. They wanted a seat at the table and that meant accepting the dumpster fire that will be 75 miles of LRT that should be commuter rail. Case in point, DEMANDING that Ballard be merely grade separated instead of tunneled. Seattle Subways asks were so meager that they made me cynically think they knew all along their demands would be met, rendering their threat of a “No” vote pretty meaningless.

        We need the vision back if we are going to bend the curve toward the highest quality, most impactful projects. That vision will never come from ST and necessarily has to come from a grassroots group like Seattle Subway.

    4. huskytbone

      This statement:

      “But light rail to the hinterlands is something nobody else in the world has even considered, let alone championed – and for good reason. ”

      Makes me think that you have gotten the impression that commenters on STB are somehow “everyone”. That if you don’t hear an argument in these comments, then no one must hold that position. That’s so flat out wrong.

      Lots of people in the suburbs which you call “hinterlands”, have been considering, and championing, light rail to their communities. And their votes count every bit as much as yours. They want to invest in a car-free future for their communities, and how is that a bad thing? It is not a transit advocate’s role to try to keep people from getting excited about building transit.

      1. Jon, my comment is not meant to be paternalistic – half of my family lives in the hinterlands. Of course Everett wants light rail, because that’s what’s been offered. But LRT is a really poor technology to be covering these distances. It’s just too slow. We should be building Sounder replacement from Marysville down the I-5 corridor and terminating at Union Station or Northgate or anywhere, with transfers to local Link service.

        I know it’s too expensive. I know our leaders lack vision. I get the constraints. And no, LRT to Everett is not visionary. It’s crappy and someday we’ll be laying tracks next to ST3’s to deliver actual commuter service.

        I’m voting yes but I’m pissed about it!

  6. I remain incredibly disappointed by Seattle Subways lack of advocacy for the gold line/Metro 8.

      1. Seattle Subway is nothing but a ruse for Ballard Subway. Every time they do a post I feel the urge to buy a can of red paint for future x-ing out of ST3 signs.

      2. Les,
        Don’t know what your problem is. I have explained to you over and over all the outreach we have done in other parts of Seattle, and helped champion projects in other parts of the city. At this point, you don’t like us for reasons that aren’t true, and people know aren’t true. So I don’t know why you’re anxious to hold on to this animosity, but have fun with it I guess.


    1. Keep it in perspective. They asked for it and lost, and since it’s not part of the Long Range Plan, can’t be built in ST3. So it makes no sense to keep it on their ST3 map now, unlike say, Crown Hill which is at least theoretically possible.

      1. Asking for it and full throated advocacy for it are two different things. I understand Seattle Subway is not the final arbiter, but they have cultivated a reputation that is respected – even if not wholly justified. They should do more for the dense areas of the city.

        Zach – what do you suggest the new strategy should be for grade separated transit along Denny/23rd?

      2. They asked for it [Metro 8 subway] and lost, and since it’s not part of the Long Range Plan, can’t be built in ST3.

        And, yet, nobody has ever bothered to say why it lost. Sound Transit has yet to put out any kind of figures; I didn’t even see it in the 2014 “potential list of projects.” Because I fully suspect that the ridership numbers would be just as good as a Ballard/UW route and have the benefit of serving an area of the city that has been almost completely ignored, transit-wise, by both Metro and Sound Transit.

        (Sorry, no, a single Judkins Park station, located in the middle of a freeway and away from anything, and “kinda-RapidRide” with no hope for bus lanes or queue jumps anywhere along the major arterial through the area, does not count.)

        (Further evidence of this: “Let’s split the 48 for reliability!” Great, except the split happens on the other side of the point of congestion, aka the Montlake Bridge. So we get the bus bunching and the congestion, and the 45 gets the direct access to University Way and the shiny new light rail station and Roosevelt.)

      3. Chris:

        We very much want the yellow line but as Zach noted, it was a bridge too far considering it was out of the LRP.

        What we want to see happen: ST can update the LRP and study it. Then we can look at local funding options.

        ST3 is not the end of our efforts. We arent done until the map is.

      4. Keith,

        Please provide more detail for your strategy to make the yellow line/Metro 8 a reality. Are you talking about ST4 (40-50 years out)? What are the local funding options?

        I’d like to take your word for it, but…

      5. Step 1, get it in the LRP.

        Step 2, get money for it.

        It will likely be a couple years though before we will be able to focus on it to be completely honest. First priorities after the vote will be a)pushing for faster permitting and planning to speed up the process b) identifying other ways to speed ST3 up. After that we’ll turn the other lines we want and how to build them (Ballard – UW, 8 Subway, Lakecity, etc). There are a variety of funding mechanisms we’ve identified as potential sources, but don’t want to play our hand until we’re closer to a decision point.

      6. Chris,

        If you want to talk about how to continue advocating for Metro 8, and the potential political strategies for that, I really suggest you contact us offline and get involved. We can always use more help, the more enthusiastic people involved the better.

    2. Have your pick … Ballard or Metro 8?

      I vote Ballard in ST3 as proposed.

      I have a hunch about what ST4 will include and most here do not care because they plan to be long gone to other cities before ST4 is built out, but for ST3 it was clear that either Ballard or Metro 8 got the North King County subarea money to go first.

    3. As I’ve recounted before, the Metro 8 subway comes out of a candidate corridor during the 2014 Long Range Plan update. Somebody (one person in an open house, according to an ST spokesman) suggested a line from West Seatlte to Jackson Street, 23rd Avenue, Denny Way, to Uptown (possibly extended toward Ballard or Magnolia). ST added it to the candidate list. The ST board was bewildered, who would ride such an indirect U-shaped line? Nobody from the public spoke up to defend it, and ST deleted it from the candidate list, so it never got into the LRP.

      A week before ST deleted it, people on STB started talking about how the 23rd-Denny segment was actually very good and would bring high-capacity transit to the Central District. They claimed the CD’s density is not that far behind First Hill and Belltown, and higher than Ballard/Fremont, and it’s a historcally lower-income/minority area that has always been left behind in getting transit. A movement to save the U-shaped corridor started, but it was too late to bring it to ST’s attention because the final board vote was a few days later. Several months later, some STBers started talking up the Denny/23rd corridor again, and eventually named it the “Metro 8 Line”. Seattle Subway at one point had a line coming up from West Seattle (?) through downtown to Denny Way, then east and south, a kind of fishhook that incorporated it. (A few people suggested extending that further south to Judkins Park Station, Mt Baker Station, or Renton.)

      As to how to pursue the Metro 8 line now, I agree with Matthew to rest for a few months after these tiring ST3 negotiations and U-Link restructure, and then develop a strategy, probably city-based. But don’t pit it against ST3, because having ST3 is better than not having it. And if you want to use the Monorail tax authority, you’ll probably have to decide whether you want Metro 8 or Ballard-UW more, because it would likely not be enough for both. As for getting it into ST’s LRP, ST usually updates it before each ST#, so it depends on how soon ST4 would be (or whether ST4 is even realistic once Everett and Tacoma have the spine).

      1. The ST board was bewildered, who would ride such an indirect U-shaped line? Nobody from the public spoke up to defend it, and ST deleted it from the candidate list, so it never got into the LRP.

        At the risk of throwing some sour grapes, I spoke up in favor of it–Denny to 23rd, at least–and I have the e-mail (and comments during the candidate survey) to prove it. Sound Transit never acknowledged that e-mail, either. But I guess one person “the public” does not make.

        Maybe their spam filters are blocking me.

    4. They fought for it, lost, but still want to support the greater good. They can see the positives despite negatives.

      Are you suggesting that because they didn’t get one thing, they should take their ball and go home? I don’t think Seattle nor the region needs this child-like mentality.

  7. Is Ballard getting light rail in 19 years instead of 22 years supposed to make me excited? Because it really doesn’t.

    1. If the Seattle City Council agrees to speed up permitting and planning we can shave another couple years off.

      Also, either more money or a change in bonding ratios could speed things up.

      There are multiple options to speed things up and Seattle Subway is going to push on all of them. We won’t quit in November, trust me. We want more faster and will continue to fight for it.

      1. Never quit. Build, Build, Build! As many a lines as possible as soon as possible. I vote yes on ST3. This region, This country, The world needs it.

      2. exactly …. plus … Ballard will go through a new tunnel that needs digging.

        Look at East Link — opens in 2023 and what are we building in 2016? A tunnel through Bellevue , cause … you know .. tunnels take time.

        I am quite disappointed at the vitriol here because reality sets in that a large system buildout like this — even at full tilt .. takes massive amounts of time.

        DC Metro was approved in 1968, broke ground in 1969, and was finished in *2001*. (1 year to breaking ground, and 32 years to build)
        BART was approved in 1961 broke ground in 1964 and was finished in 1976 (3 years to breaking ground and 12 years to build)
        ST3 will be approved in 2016, break ground in 2023, and finish in 2041 (7 years to breaking ground – 18 years to build).

        Context is everything here.

    2. “Is Ballard getting light rail in 19 years instead of 22 years supposed to make me excited?”

      19 years is better than 40 years or never.

  8. Now that we’re 100% grade separated and building a new tunnel, can’t we re-examine the technology? Let’s try and get an automated driverless metro for Ballard to West Seattle and use high floor rail cars that are more spacious and comfortable. The existing light rail cars are too small and require expensive manual operation. Rather than double down on a bad technology, let’s use this new line as a way to start changing it.

    1. I was wondering why someone hadn’t called out the “choice for small cities that no real city would ever go for” in Light Rail. If we’re running in roadways then fine but if we’re building a brand new tunnel how about we put our big boy pants on and build a real transit system?

    2. Sound Transit has already doubled-down on bad technology via ST2. This would be a triple-down. I agree with you and it’s disappointing that automated metro was never seriously considered. There’s simply too much institutional inertia in Sound Transit for light rail. Plus, for ST’s own operational efficiency, it doesn’t make sense to have a stand-alone Ballard to West Seattle line (even though it would make sense for the City of Seattle). Therein lies the problem of relying on a regional, suburban-focused transit agency to build rail in Seattle.

    3. Using different technology on one line than the other is operationally not smart.

      FURTHER … the technology is not AT ALL the issue. Let’s compare with the NYC Metro

      ST link carsa re 95 ft long, 8.7 ft wide with 200 passenger capacity
      The latest NYC cars (R160) are 60.21 feet long and 9.77 feet wide, and fit 240-246 paccangers.

      So a shorter, slightly wider train fits 40 people more .. how could that be?! Well the Metro has only ~40 seats (all along the edges, and wide open spaces. LINK has 74 seat in nice rows after rows, taking up crap ton of space.

      Here’s a modern 100ft long European LRV (similar to LINK cars) that can fit 300 people ( — why? Because most are standing.

      So you do not need metro to fit more people — you need fewer seats.

      Second, NYC metro can cain up to 10 (that is TEN) cars into a train. That means that every 90 seconds or so, they can run 2,400 people in a train! ST tops off at 600 people .. which seems laughable..

      HOWEVER . again, the problem is NOT AT ALL the technology — it’s platform length and the fact that the system still has at-grade sections (on east-link and in the valley.

      In short .. there’s nothing wrong with continuing with a catenary-fed LRV system. There is nothing inherently work with LRV. If ultimately all of LINK is elevated or underground, the catenary makes no sense — third rail would have allowed for smaller tunnels, but third-rail cannot run at grade in the streets, and Link was designed to allow for that flexibility.

      If you’re worried about capacity — lobby ST to being constructing longer platforms, and to begin buying cars with fewer seats. There is no need to switch to a different technology.

      1. Yep. Seattle Subway is following the procurement process for the new vehicles and will push for a more open layout.

      2. The problem isn’t light rail technology or the overhead catenary. The problem is:

        Trains – Low floor vehicles that have stairs and are over a foot narrower than normal subway cars. It all adds up to a much more crowded and uncomfortable train experience. Ride the DC Metro or BART and tell me it’s equally spacious (both of those systems have 2 x 2 seating as well). At the very least ST needs to have longer cars and/or cars that don’t have operator cabs on both ends (see new MAX vehicles). ST should never need to run single vehicles again.

        Size of Stations – An automated metro line from W. Seattle to Ballard could be built to a scale where the trains are shorter but run every 2-3 minutes. Frequency wouldn’t be an issue because there would be no variable costs other than additional electricity. No need for a driver and building in time for breaks, etc. Millions upon millions could be saved if that entire line could be built with shorter (say, 1/2 the length) stations that require much less tunneling, fewer escalators and elevators. See the Copenhagen Metro – perfect size and scale for that line.

        Train operators go on strike and are expensive. We’re too far in on the existing “spine” and can’t switch to automated operation any time soon (maybe ever), but that doesn’t mean we should let it perpetuate. I strongly believe that by eliminating this future operating cost, as well as the smaller station costs mentioned above, the costs associated with two different technologies would be more than overcome.

        The bigger problem with me, and the reason I’ll be voting this down, is that ST simply won’t budge from outdated assumptions and bad compromises. Doubling down on streetcars for a system that will never run in the street is stupid. Building duplicate tracks along the Wilberton Rail Corridor and avoiding S. Bellevue is stupid. Avoiding Downtown Bellevue makes no sense. Going to Paine Field is an insane use of resources. To get a much needed Ballard & West Seattle line, the region shouldn’t have to pump billions into useless slow streetcar extensions far into distant suburbs.

      3. Ryan,

        There will never be a Ballard to W-seattle line. It does not exist. For better or worse — mostly better, as that line will not have the required volume to justify its tunnel.

        The LRV vehicles are a little narrower and smaller, but not enough to change. The headache of running two incompatible systems is too much to fit maybe 10 more people per car (just ask places like Philly) .. (also while talking about BART, ask them how they like their ‘reinvent the wheel” system … LRVs have an advantage — they are the world over and are cheap to build, buy, and run. (but I digress)

        The disadvantage of adding a second tech into the system becomes THAT much pronounced when you consider that we’re leaving so much capacity on the table with the current setup:
        — fewer seats
        — longer platforms
        — having dedicated “master” and “slave” cars (as you suggest)
        All of this can VASTLY improve the capacity — just having a better designed cars can take use from 800 people per train to 1,200. Add 8 car trains and you’re at NYC metro — 2,400

        Finally, again — Automation is a signaling issue, not “different train” issue. However, ST sill in 2041 have an at-grade section on every one of its lines (maybe except for Everett to W Seattle — automation (currently) does not cope well with things like vehicular or pedestrian crossings.

        Let’s be honest about why we have drivers — ST was not given the mandate and the funds to build an automated line in the 90s nor in 2008 , and again in 2016, it will not be given the mandate to build less rail and build it more expensively so it’s fully automated. The region wants miles of tracks — not automation on shorter rail. … so we have drivers, and through ST3 will continue to have drivers.

        Further on, nothing (besides the unions) precludes ST from pursuing automation to seek closer headways, higher capacity cars, and lower costs … it’s just a signaling and vehicle tech issues.

        Even if the current cars cannot be retrofitted, the typical life span of LRV is ~30 years. Each expansion is requiring the acquisition of new vehicles. By the time ST4 is in the works, we can include money for automation and purchasing new vehicles that are fully automated.

        *That said, when ST4 comes along, I strongly believe automation will NOT be a priority as ST (and the region) will seek second L. Washington crossing (as part of the Ballard to UW to Redmond connection), rail to Actual W Seattle, Burien and Renton, rail to actual Kirkland, likely rail through SoDo to bypass Rainier Valley, likely Metro 8 rail, and likely rail to Lake City and 522, — so again (despite your personal preferences) the region will probably choose to lay more tracks than to spend more per mile on an automated system.

      4. Removing seats might look good on paper when you are young, but I’m in my late 40’s right now and if I get caught having to stand on the bus ride from Lynnwood to downtown I feel it in my knees every time the bus accelerates and brakes.

    4. ST is not planning a Ballard to West Seattle line. West Seattle will be connected to Lynnwood, and Ballard will be connected to Tacoma. In other words, the Ballard line will have the MLK surface segment. So no driverless trains. West Seattle’s line will be fully grade separated (if they really build separate tracks in SODO), but it will share a long segment with East Link which will have surface segments in the Spring District and Overlake.

      As to why light rail was chosen, that decision was made in the 1990s. ST envisioned a lot more surface routing to save capital costs, as all American light rails before it had been. So surface from Mt Baker to SeaTac. That would have happened if Tukwila hadn’t objected to construction on 99, which it had just rebuilt. But when the time came to design each segment, first one and then another was changed to elevated or underground, because people finally saw the benefit of grade-separated transit and were willing to pay for it. In ST2 this went back and forth, and at one point ST2 was fully grade-separated. But Bellevue wanted a downtown tunnel and asked ST to economize elsewhere, so a couple East Link segments became surface. But Lynnwood Link has underpasses at the cross streets so it has no street crossings even though it’s “at-grade” along the freeway. In ST3 these issues arose again, and ST gave south King County the same treatment as Lynnwood Link. So that’s how we ended up with a mode chosen for its street-running ability, that will actually be 90% grade separated. But ST didn’t want to revisit the mode, and it prefers all trains be interchangeable for cost-limiting, maintenance, and ability to deploy a spare anywhere. For a while it was semi-open to new technologies when Ballard-West Ssattle was going to be fully separate, but now that they’re mixed on the ST2 lines that motivation has evaporated.

      1. Mike, appreciative of your deep level of knowledge here. Makes sense why LRT was chosen 20+ years ago. Hopefully there is appetite at SOME POINT to revisit heavy rail as a superior technology for long distances.

      2. The Sounder South corridor is there; all it takes is the state to arrange a deal to buy it from BNSF and build the tracks in its long-term plan, and partner for half-hourly Sounder to Olympia.The north corridor is more limited because the track is along the coast next to hills and nowhere near Lynnwood. So whatever we do will have to involve the Link track and/or I-5.

    5. Because all new extentions will be grade separated, the possibility of driverless trains is there. As for technology, these light rail trains aren’t really light as any vehicle or person who had the misfortune to collide with them could attest (if they weren’t dead). These cars hold as many people as 2 heavy rail cars on the CTA. So it isn’t about capacity. The only downside that I see is their top speed is limited. Short of building a maglev or hyoerloop, I think this is a reasonable technology choice for the next 100 years.

      Of course, there is always gondolas.

  9. They really should have worked on the permitting and bonding issues before putting this up for a vote. Another 3-6 years off the timelines would take them out of ridiculous territory.

    1. We will spend the summer pushing the Seattle City Council to agree to an expedited permit and planning process. Hopefully we can shave a couple years off the timelines before the vote.

      1. You want ST3 built faster. Get on board with what ST3 is trying to accomplish. What slows down progress is disagreement. So let’s all agree that we want ST3 and we want it built as fast as humanly possible.

  10. Is that map to scale? Really highlights how long the spine is compared to everything else.

    1. Yep, Lynnwood to Everett is almost as far as downtown to Lynnwood, downtown to Redmond, or downtown to Des Moines. And in the south end, Des Moines is the distance of Lynnwood, Federal Way is a bit less than Everett, and Tacoma is further so maybe the distance of Marysville or Snoqualmie. Happy spine ridiing.

      1. And, of course, the insane length of the spine is a major driving factor as to why there will always be far too many seats on our trains for an urban metro.

        A quick glance at that map would have anyone new to the area saying “something doesn’t fit here.”

        A real system – in its most extreme scenario – probably would have terminated at 130th or 145th and made a termination for buses from farther north there work, and the airport (or at most Highline CC. However, for reasons hashed out here innumerable times, this is what we have and this is what we get to vote on. There are valid arguments on both sides, even for hard-core transit supporters, and ST would be well advised not to count any chickens before they hatch. The experts thought Brexit would never happen either.

        (just a note – Rome has overhead catenary on their Metro, and one driverless line [the new one] to go with their others. Of course, the system is fully grade separated IIRC.)

  11. I think it’s a mistake to treat any project as large and long-lived as this one as a set of fixed, static “givens.” Good perspective might be to remember what’s changed and what hasn’t between 1992 and now. First column includes creation of Sound Transit itself.

    Also remember that retrospective years here include the Crash of 2008- and everything leading up to it. And that before first train into Lynnwood, good chance lifetime-in-debt graduates will massively and justifiably refuse to repay loans for worthless schooling.

    When coupled with a decades’ underpaid national workforce unable to ever repay their VISA bills, making 2008 a pre-game warm-up.

    We’re also talking about six Presidential elections, and many more Congressional. No to mention “electeds” in Washington State, at least three counties, and numerous cities. And outcome of any of these elections likely to be less important than Nature’s own term limits.

    Everybody twenty-six now will be fifty. With grand-kids who’d better get a lot of fun rides before they vote! Consider how little seniority will left to people who were forty when Sound Transit was born. Meaning that ST-3 will be finished by another generation. in charge of two generations more.

    Meaning in turn that most of Seattle Transit Blog readership tonight will be in a strong position to repair any defect and adjust any course in ST-3 when they take their seats on whatever the regional transit agency has come to be called.

    Don’t like to think how present economy and politics compare to tanker-train loads of Bakken crude oil recently departing from curved track in Oregon. But just sayin’ that ability to put a nut on a bolt without either of them breaking is now requirement for all political leadership, not just on rail transportation.

    Mark Dublin

  12. Some events across the Atlantic very pertinent tonight. Whose results are less serious than the forces and attitudes that have led to them. Transit vote this fall will be good indicator of how well We The People of this region can handle the next 24 years in the face of them.


    1. This morning a British interviewee said Boris Johnson, leader of the Leave campaign and London’s mayor and possible next Prime Minister, has made Trumpesque comments like declaring Obama a secret Kenyan with anti-colonial resentment toward Britian, as well as the Leave side’s regular skepticism of immigration. If Britain is heading toward a Trump-like victory, that could help the original Trump here. Which may be OK for transit infrastructure projects, but not for other things. Although if Johnson messes up and the Brexit becomes a fiasco by November, it could have the opposite effect. (“See what happens when someone like that gets into office?”)

      1. Boris Johnson, whatever else he is (and he is a lot of mostly unprintable things IMHO), is no Donald Trump. I would be shocked if he had ever said anything like that – my sister lives there and is a citizen, so I’d probably have heard that. Nigel Farage, on the other hand….

  13. Is Seattle Subway concerned ST3 enters a transit ‘Twilight Zone’ of unsustainable costs?

    1. (hit a wrong key)
      Google FTA Useful life of assets, then follow some of the dialog on rule making to avoid some of the short sighted practices of the past in ignoring the fact that all assets wear out over time and must be replaced.
      Using an average of 30 years (FTA useful life varies by asset class), and a $54 bn investment yields a cost per daily rider of about $20, plus the actual operating expense of about $5 at the current rate, for a total of $50 per day per rider (2 rides per day).
      This is a crude estimate of the daily cost, but worthy of asking ourselves if the ”juice is worth the squeeze”.

      1. 30 years is about what agencies get out of light rail cars.

        Most of the $50 billion is going to things that last far longer though. Bridges and tunnels will need occasional maintenance but considerable large pieces of the BNSF main line from Seattle to Longview is still there 110 years later, and no programs exist to completely replace those bits of infrastructure.

      2. Does the “actual operating expense of about $5 at the current rate” still hold true? I would hope it has come down considerably since U-Link opened.

      3. That’s why I used an average Glenn. Some assets, like buses are 12 years, and as we all know IT stuff gets overhauled all the time. Fare collection, rider info, track and wayside all less than a concrete structure which the FTA classifies as a 40 year asset.
        Bart, DC and Atlanta are all good examples of having to come back 30 years later and propose massive upgrades to existing assets. It’s also the law now in MAP-21.

      4. You can’t expect stable results after two months and two stations. When ST2 Link fully opens there will be another wave of cost-per-rider going down as people can get to more destinations on Link. With ST3, you have to separate Ballard, West Seattle, and the second tunnel from the other projects. Ballard and the second tunnel will definitely have a low cost per rider. West Seattle might have. But the Everett and Tacoma extensions, given that they’re less effective than the Lynnwood and Des Moines extensions and doubling the distance of those lines, may not be so economical.

      5. Link from the airport to Northgate will be the most cost effective segment in the entire system. From here on out, the trains will still have the same number of cars or more as they head away from Seattle, but will run emptier and emptier as they approach the ends of the spines. This drags down the cost/rider metric as ST3 comes on-line.
        My estimate of $50 per day costs per passenger (2 boardings) has yet to be challenged, considering that capital is not free, and assets wear out.
        The FTA has finally started paying attention to ‘state of good repair’ as a cost of doing business in transit land.
        50+ bn / 30yr / 300k riders per day / 300 days is about $20 capital depreciation for each boarding every time someone steps on a train. The operating cost is the cheap part, and fares barely make a dent in that.
        At some point the 95% of people making trips on something other than transit will wake up and say NO, your ride is too damn expensive for me to keep subsidising you at these levels.

    2. Unlike the Washington Metro or BART operations and maintenance costs are baked into the financing packages.

      Cost per boarding has been going down as ridership has increased. Not exactly sure what 2041 looks like from a cost per boarding perspective, but worst case will likely be in the same range as BART.

  14. Question: a few months or so ago (whenever it was), the options for going to Everett were presented. The option to go by way of Paine Field was going to be 13 minutes longer IIRC than going straight along I-5. So what will the travel time be with this diversion to Paine Field compared to the original options? I imagine travel time will be somewhere between the two previous options, but does anyone know the exact numbers? What will travel time from Everett Station to Westlake be?

  15. I’d like to congratulate Sound Transit on fixing all the things STB criticized about the draft project list.

    I disapproved of the draft. The final ST3 is a pretty good deal and worth voting for.

  16. Sounds like a much needed upgrade! I used to live in Ballard, tacoma, and Gig harbor but live in Portland now. From experience, the green line has too many stops in the south section. One at the T-Dome and then one at Portland Ave is like a half mile away. My opinion is that it should be more of an express from the south with fewer stops. The more stops you put in, the longer it takes to get where you are going. I think people would take an extra 5 min drive to their park and ride to get to downtown 20 minutes quicker.

    1. If you eliminate too many stations you wind up with longer travel times due to having to use slow local buses for more of the trips.

      Except for Fuller Road Park and Ride, all of the Green Line stations serve fairly busy bus routes. Green Line serves as a vastly faster alternative for getting between those than the slow, awful 72.

  17. If there was a poll of everyone posting here to see whether or not they would vote for Sound Transit 3 (the final rendering), and if they would encourage their friends, family members, and neighbors to vote for it, what would the results look like? Is it safe to say at least 75% supports this package?

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