It’s that time again. If there’s a question you’d like Frank and me to answer on our next podcast, put it in the comments and we’ll get to as many as we can.

The podcast should air sometime next week.

79 Replies to “Podcast Listener Mailbag #3”

  1. Here’s a few:

    1. What are the chances that ST3 passes? (I know there’s no way to know for sure, I’m just curious about your thoughts)

    2. What other RapidRide+ corridor plans will be presented soon? In the wake of Roosevelt HCT, are there any we should be concerned about?

  2. Given the messiness of the ULink restructure (primarily the less than ideal transfer scenarios to UW station), do you think it would have been better to delay ULink by a year or two so ST could open U-District station as a part of ULink instead of Northgate Link?

    1. For better or worse, Link, as is, is still a big improvement over the options before, and the ridership numbers on the north segment speak for themselves. So, yes, opening U-Link when it was ready, and not artificially delaying it was unquestionably the right call. Whether the bus restructures should have been delayed is more debatable, but, overall, I still think it was improvement over what was there before.

      1. Well, the ridership gains would have still happened if done next year, except they would be bigger because there would be more stations, and you wouldn’t have to transfer to a bus to get to the U district. Basically everyone who is not going to the UW school has to transfer to get to where they really are going, and as good as ridership is now, imagine how much better it would be if U District station was open.

        Or think about this: Would it have been better to skip Capitol Hill station so they could open U Link earlier? The question isn’t about artificially delaying it. It’s about getting it right the first time. By any reasonable criteria, doesn’t it make more sense to open U District station with UW instead of Northgate? Under that view, it looks like U Link was artificially expedited by delaying a station, and delivery speed was chosen over thoroughness.

        But, having U Link open the year of the ST3 vote is also something we need to consider. It definitely has been good publicity for Sound Transit when it is needed the most.

      2. “Or think about this: Would it have been better to skip Capitol Hill station so they could open U Link earlier?”

        If it meant UW Station could’ve opened several years ago, and Capitol Hill station would’ve still opened in 2016 without any delay… yes, it would’ve been better!

        If U-Link opening now has delayed U-District, then sure, we can talk. But I don’t think so.

      3. “If U-Link opening now has delayed U-District, then sure, we can talk. But I don’t think so.”

        I honestly think it has. Remember that there is a U-Link section of the tunnel and a Northgate Link section. They could have just done the U-Link tunnel to U-District instead of UW, and although it would have taken a bit longer, it would have enabled them to open U-District before Northgate.

      4. If I recall, downtown to Husky Stadium was shovel ready as soon as ST2 passed, while the U-district station still had years of planning to go before ground could be broken. I don’t think the U-district station could have opened any earlier of U-link’s opening were delayed.

        If the transfers to the train were really that bad, Metro could have simply left the old bus network intact for 5 more years.

      5. Not “next year”; five years from now. They just finished the tunnel, now they have to build the station. Maybe it will be done in less than five years, but one year is rather optimistic, especially since a few of those months would be testing the train after the station is built.

      6. Let’s remember that this was a widely-asked question to ST, couldn’t they do something to accelerate U-District Station because the gap would be a significant hardship for a major ridership market. But University Link was restarted between ST1 and 2 with some money left over, while while U-District station didn’t get funding until ST2 passed. That’s what caused the delay, and whern you end is based on when you start.

      7. What Mike said. Husky stadium to Westlake was funded by Sound Move (and part of the system passed in 1996). Husky Stadium to Northgate (and Lynnwood) is ST2.

        Originally the “starter” line went to 45th but U-District station was cut as part of resetting the goals to something Sound Transit could deliver with funding from Sound Move taxes.

  3. Why in the ever-loving hell is real-time bus arrival information so bad in 2016? What would it take to GPS all of our buses (at least KC metro and ST)? Is there a project underway to do this? If so, what’s its status?

  4. How might the coming UW transit budget cuts impact the U-District Station restructure? Are there any plans from the City of Seattle to pressure them to improve transit connectivity, and how can we help?

  5. What *else* is in ST3 that we should be talking about? 405 BRT? Improvements to 5xx bus routes?

    1. I think we very much should be talking about what ST3 means for ST express in the near-term. Unfortunately, sound transit has been basically mum about it, so I’m not sure there’s much to talk about.

      1. I think the plan is to reduce ST express when Link replaces much of it, which I think is not a good decision. I think that at least if they are going to cancel a bunch of long-haul Seattle expresses, they should (at the very least) reinvest the cancelled service into new areas (like Orting), upgrading current peak-only routes into all-day Link connectors (like DuPont and Bonney Lake), and increasing access to Bellevue by adding service on route 566 and adding a route from Pierce County to Bellevue, especially since it will take much, much, much, much longer to get to Bellevue from the south by transferring at Seattle.

      2. I’m talking about comparing the 2023 ST express network both with and without ST3, which would presumably have Link truncation regarding ST2 regardless. I am specifically interested in all-day frequency, not just peak-hour capacity.

      3. That Link refers to the ST2 world. It does not say how the service would be impacted by ST3. That is what I want to know.

      4. It shows that ST is leaning heavily toward truncating the buses in ST2. People keep talking about whether the 594 can continue after ST3. But from what ST has shown so far it looks like the 594 will be long gone by then, which means it’s not likely to come back. The one thing I think might change with ST3 is the Des Moines truncation. If Federal Way opens just one year later in 2024, then ST might postpone the truncation until then, as it did with the Snohomish County buses and Northgate.

      5. For ST2, it was rail that got all the attention, but it did fund bus improvements as well. To what extent this is also true for ST 3, I really have no idea. For instance, ST currently has a long unfunded “wish list” that would provide significant frequency improvements to a lot of routes at all hours of the day. Would ST3 fund this, or just add a couple of peak-hour trips here and there? Even if some of the routes on this list may not exist in their current form beyond 2023, the could still use some service improvements now, which ST3 could theoretically fund as early as 2017.

      6. The scenarios show that ST was/is considering a world with either fewer or more ST Express hours than today. That shows that ST wasn’t depending on the replaced bus hours to pay for Link operations, because in that case the “more hours” scenario would not be possible. This raises a number of questions such as what would ST do with the money if it didn’t go with the more-hours scenario. As to why ST has not been specific about its 2023 plans, I would guess that it doesn’t know, it hasn’t decided which way to go on that. And now with ST3 it’s asking for a larger ST Express budget without saying what it might go to. Some of that is doubtless pragmatic: it will go wherever there’s crowding. But it would be nice to know more specifics. And ST should get it through it’s head that the fate of the 594 and 577 really is a material issue in the ST3 vote; it’s something Pierce and South King voters have a right to know before the vote.

    2. Seattle Subway talked about receiving assurances that “provisional projects” (like Ballard to UW) would be funded in ST3 if they have additional funding. How sure are we of this? What projects would you fund? Which ones would you do first?

    3. It’s too early to know about Sounder plans, but it might be interesting to discuss what we would like to see.

  6. Is there any plan to add train arrival times to existing link stations? How about Angle Lake?

    Audio only announcements are useless for folks with little to no hearing.

  7. 1) What do you think are the best metrics we have at this point for getting a feel for whether or not the electorate is leaning towards or away from passing ST3? And what are those metrics indicating?

    2) In case at some point in the next decade or so there’s a large federal infrastructure bill that funds a way larger portion of ST3 than Sound Transit has budgeted, how much could ST3 speed up or add to its project list? Or, perhaps, let’s say Seattle city proper grows in population and wealth, and decides to spend more money to speed up just the Seattle projects. How much faster could the West Seattle and Ballard lines be completed?

    3) What if the growth estimates for the subareas are off, and the North King (Seattle) subarea ends up providing much more money than is projected (indeed, Seattle has recently grown faster than the suburbs, which is the opposite of the budgeted projections) and other subareas provide less? Will the order of projects shift? Will Seattle’s timeline speed up and, say, Issaquah’s slow down?

  8. I’d like to know if the proposed eastside service restructure is ever going to happen. The frequency of cross-lake service on evenings and weekends is pretty terrible, and is only marginally better now than it was in 2005. Splitting the 271 so that the Bellevue to U-district section can run more frequently and for longer hours than the Issaquah tail would be a good place to start.

    The dearth of evening/weekend cross-lake transit service has been a significant source of Left/Uber rides for me over the past couple years, and has left me wishing that Car2go could someday expand to parts of the Eastside to help fill in the gap if Metro and Sound Transit are unwilling to act.

  9. Do you think the Boeing access road infill station will get much real world use, and do you think that it is worth it to add this stop for every Link trip to/from Federal Way and Tacoma, which already have very long travel times as is?

    1. The “use” will be a place for people from Tacoma and Federal Way to drive to, so, you look at it that way, yes, it will save them time, albeit at the cost of a couple gallons of gas.

      1. Haha, yeah, I guess you’re right on that. They would rather drive from Tacoma to Boeing Access Road and then take Link because Link is so fricking slow to Tacoma.

      2. Exactly. Taking the idea one further, the next logical step would be a 10,000 stall park and ride in SODO (bypassing the Rainer Valley detour), featuring direct access ramps to/from I-5. Totally useless for anyone trying to get around without a car, but seems like the kind of thing that South King secretly wants, but id afraid to ask, so they get a parking garage at Boeing Access Road instead.

      3. Oh, but if that’s the case then that’s a very bad thing. It means that even Sound Transit isn’t confident in Link’s ability to attract riders, and canceling Seattle express routes will drive people back into their cars to Boeing Access Road. Doesn’t that make Link south of the airport futile and ultimately a failure because of it’s slow speed? Why the hell are we building it out so far if people are just going to drive to BAR anyway?

      4. The one who asked for BAR station was Tukwila. It talked about its urban village plans at 144th, and how the station would be a good terminus for the A, and would serve the Museum of Flight and Aviation High School better than TIB does. (Even if you’d still have to take a bus to them, hmm.) And what Tukwila fully asked for was both a Link and a Sounder station at BAR, I guess to transfer between them. Because I guess one Sounder station is not enough for Tukwila, it wants two. But anyway, that’s what’s driving the station, not people driving from Tacoma.

      5. Yeah, not sure what they would use the Sounder station for (to transfer to… Seattle?), but it’s definitely not a Boeing field or a museum of flight station. I propose that they name it “Public Storage Station,” because that’s the only thing really in the station area.

      6. That’s the pretend purpose of the station, but the real users will most likely be people driving in from Tacoma who don’t want an hour+ commute, each way (at least until the parking fills up).

  10. Do occupancy an residency requirements help or hinder TOD? What are the upsides and downsides for TOD in consider rent control and other regulations to help control Seattle’s historically insane current property market?

  11. Frank, could you expand on these thoughts:

    1. AlexKven: Re: Are surface problems at one station reasons to postpone its opening until next station is opened because it might make a better terminal?

    2. William C: Re: Considering the cost in lost operating time due to traffic that UW pass cutbacks will cause, would transit really save money by giving UW people same fare break as now. Probably easiest to issue same passes. Even put a husky on them.

    3. Gwed Re: Best way to “get a feel” for how voters presently feel about ST3. And why? As with a personal conversation, could we ask what people really need, and give them some ideas what ST3 can do?

    4. AlexKven Re: Do likely passenger loads make Boeing Access Station worth effect on Seattle-Federal Way-Tacoma operating times?

    Eventually, I think we’ll build an express line from south end of the CBD past Boeing field to Sea-Tac Airport, switching into Rainier Valley line so airport passengers don’t have to risk grade crossings. See this line coming out of the second DSTT.

    If so, Boeing Access could become important enough to attract development. What do you think, Frank? Wouldn’t any other city have done this for airport transit long since?

    5. Neel Blair Re: What measures can Seattle take to deal with housing prices rising at rates far beyond realistic results of supply and demand, which are doing terrible damage to both ordinary life, and public transit, in this whole region?

    Pretty sure this takes things to the State level, but instead of trying to control prices themselves by law, instead write legislation limiting purchase of residential property to people and corporations who intend to be owners, renters, and landlords?

    Because I think the 500 pound skunk in the residential room is how much property is being bought for speculation, really putting it the gambling market. Where homes and apartments are gambling chips. Priced and managed accordingly.

    Huge political fight. But huge long-term catastrophic problem. So wouldn’t good first step be to identify and constantly publicize ownership and the purpose behind it? Do you think Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, or Ayn Rand would mind?

    Would her characters like John Galt or Hank Reardon ever have let these people into the blue-green-steel mill? Or if heroine Dagny Taggart would let purchaser of my Ballard home ride on the roof of The Taggart Comet, let alone let him buy her a drink in the parlor car before closing the door of their compartment and folding down the bunk?

    Some handsome romantic recovered liberal would probably climb off the roof through the window coach roof and save her. Might make us good campaign ads. Looking forward to the podcast.


    1. I wonder what happens to the economics of building new housing when a portion of the purchasing market is taken off the table by requirements meant to discourage pure speculation (AKA houses as piles of stored money, functionally NOT part of the residency/ridership picture).

      I don’t think we’d be adding units at the clip we are today… but I don’t know.

  12. Where do you think will be the next redevelopment hot spots in Seattle? How much will this be affected by link? What will happen when we start to bump into the limits of developable land within the CBD? Will we increase height limits (and tear down existing buildings to reach those limits), expand the CBD area, build office space in other areas, or restrict growth to preserve character? I know, I’m endowing you guys with a crystal ball that you don’t have.

    But since this is for fun, what does a population and employment density map of the region look like in 2040?

    1. How about Rainer Beach? It already has a Link Station, but largely hasn’t been redeveloped yet.

      1. For sure. Or the Mt. Baker Station – much shorter commute to downtown or UW. Or LQA, or Northgate, Aurora corridor, etc.

        My question is, which of these places will go first? Which will languish? Why? Which do we expect to see first: development in places Link doesn’t directly serve, but within the city limits, or places that are further away, but with a more reliable commute via link?

      2. The problem I see with Mt Baker is the amount of traffic through it.

        Mercer and Denny tend to have somewhat less along them even though South Lake Union is very popular now. 15th in Ballard is significantly less developed than further west.

        These big busy roads act as an impediment to high quality dense development.

        Places like Burien exist on what is essentially a giant cul-de-sac. This may make it a more attractive type of place.

        Parts of Magnolia have some decently sized apartment buildings. If eastern Magnolia gets an upzone it could be pretty popular because it has decent transit access to east-west as well as north-south routes (31 and 33 and RapidRide D if you need something when the 33 isn’t running). It’s close to Fremont and Ballard centers of activity.

      3. The word “decent” is subject to the assumption that walking to the D line is an acceptable travel option, something which is only the case for a very tiny fraction of Magnolia.

      4. The areas with small apartments along 22nd aren’t too far from the D. The west end is hopeless with the current arrangement of the 24.

      5. Sometimes, after a walk through Discovery Park, I’ll go through west Magnolia, eventually catching the 24 at 28th and Blaine. For many of the homes, it’s a 30 minute walk to an every-30-minutes bus (unless you’re willing to ride the 24 all the way around, which takes about the same amount of time, depending on one’s walking speed). Fine for an occasional stroll through the neighborhood after a walk through the park, but not so great for one’s everyday commute. Although they do at least have the bike option.

      6. People do take the 24 from one part of Magnolia to another. Whenever I take it to the end to go to Discovery Park and enjoy the Viewmont Way view, I see people riding it from 28th to 34th or to Magnolia Village. It’s seven blocks on paper but very steep, so the zigzag makes some sense based on the interior of the penninsula.

      7. Also, decent is a relative term.

        A couple months back I visited a friend living near 188th and Highway 99 in Shoreline. It’s nice the E operates early in the morning, but it is s long, slow trip to much of anything.

        Even making three circles through Outer Magnolia on the 24 provides a faster connection to more places than being located way out in the middle of nowhere.

        Take a look at the big apartment developments north of Dravus and west of 22nd.

        Give Magnolia an upzone and those apartments will spread south. Magnolia is too close to everything else compared to distant suburbs for this not to happen.

        Note: this upzone will not happen in my lifetime.

      8. Magnola and Madison Park made a deal with the city: remain outside the urban villages and their upzones in exchange for no transit investments.

  13. What is most unique about Seattle’s transportation and land use situation, both in problems and opportunities?

    What cities (besides Vancouver, BC!) can we look to for inspiration for progressive models of growth – that is, where transit and land use policies have led to the best outcomes for the poor and working class in growing economies?

    1. … and that have a United States political environment so that we have a chance to reach them.

  14. I’m sure this has been discussed elsewhere on the blog, but what are your thoughts on through routing some of the Sounder trains? How useful would it be? How viable (financially, technically, politically) would such a proposal be?

    Years ago when I was an intern at Boeing in Everett and staying with my parents in Maple Valley to save money, I would drive to Kent Station and take an express bus to the Everett plant. I remember thinking that if the Sounder ran through Seattle, I could transfer in Mukilteo and potentially save myself some time in the afternoon (the bus was frequently stuck in traffic coming home). While it wouldn’t be useful for my commute anymore, I’ve still had the question rattling around in my head ever since.

    1. There was some talk about that earlier, but you’d need reverse-commute North Sounder trains for that to make any sense for you – and between track limitations and forecasted ridership, that’d make no sense.

      I guess you could through-run forward-commute North Sounder with reverse-commute South Sounder, but that wouldn’t save any trains, and you’d need to juggle the schedules.

    2. The point isn’t to “save trains”, it’s to enable through trips like Curtineer’s. One big advantage of Link is that it provides a one-seat ride for trips that would require two buses. People complain that SeaTac to downtown is slower than the 194 was, but where Link really shines is SeaTac to UW, Columbia City to UW, and eventually KDM to UW and Columbia City to Greenlake. Curtineer’s trip is that same kind of thing, and so are people who want to go from Portland to Vancouver BC on Cascades without spending a night in Seattle.

  15. Frank, something I think has been missing since I discovered Seattle Transit Blog: any participation by ATU Local 587, for either postings, interviews for postings, or comments. Though over the years, several individual union members have.

    No similar problem with Agency spokespeople of officials. Though I could also ask Local 587 members who do read and write here: I understand that members aren’t at all reticent about Facebook and Twitter.

    So might want to talk about this, Frank. Seems like a major facet of transit just missing for a long time.


  16. What are the chances that Link could someday be upgraded to a heavy-rail rapid-transit system? Would the benefits of doing so be worth the cost?

    1. What is your definition of heavy rail rapid transit? The amount of grade separation and the high capacity stations that were built in many locations make Link almost there.

      1. I presume that he is taking about travel speed, since that’s the clear weak point of suburban Link.

  17. I would like to hear a healthy discussion of station layouts and access from each kind if user – like a tourist, a bicyclist, a woman with a baby stroller and a guy with a cane. What are the most critical fixes needed at current stations? What are the problems upcoming at the ST2 stations? How are Uber and similar services changing station needs?

    1. Perhaps what has been done right at UW and Capitol Hill stations would be a way to consider this topic.

      1. One thing that has been done right – at UW Station, the escalators drop you off next to the ends, but in Capitol Hill Station, the escalators end closer to the center of the platform. Right now, it doesn’t matter much, but when we eventually move to a world with four car trains, the design decision to disperse passengers between the cars, rather than nudging everyone towards the same cars will help with crowding.

  18. Why are bus-> link transfers cost extra? What consequences would there be to allowing free transfers? Unrelated, would it be worth it to upgrade the downtown transit tunnel’s slow,claustrophobic, and often unsanitary (pee) elevators which force transfers to other elevators at mezzanine levels?

    1. Transfers are already free of you use an Orca card. If you don’t have one, you can get one at any of the Link Stations.

      1. …..for $5.

        There are also free ORCA card events from time to time, but due to my location I don’t know too much about those.

      2. True, but at least for me, when visiting other cities, I usually end up buying an RFID card for the local transit system, rather than paying cash for each ride, even if it costs a few extra dollars and I’m only there for a few days. Compared to the plane ticket, this is really a negligible amount of money. Vancouver BC, for example, the card was $6 (CAD). The extra convenience is well worth the cost, plus I can reuse the card if I ever visit the city again in the future.

      3. They are convenient. I have both a compass card (Vancouver BC) an ORCA. I got the ORCA free of charge as it was before they were charging for it.

        Not everyone sees it that way though.

  19. What’s the future of bicycles on Link? Trains are already getting pretty crowded during rush hour and I’m frequently seeing 3-4 bikes per car. Are they considering more racks or perhaps a section of the train which can store multiple bikes?

  20. I think the ST3 proposed taxes are locked in with Olympia at this point, but was a gas tax rate hike considered? I would think that a gas tax increase of a couple of cents (even restricted to the cities that ST3 will serve) would fund this easily. I know nationally gas tax is the third rail, but in the NW I would think that we could pass a gas tax to fund TRANSPORTATION!!

    1. The state constitution prohibits gas tax money from going to rail. This was enacted in the 1930s to prevent subsidizes from going to the private railroad barons and to ensure that highways not interurbans or streetcars would be built. Specifically the gas tax money most go to “highway purposes”, which the state defines as highways and ferries. So an in-line bus station or a pedestrian trail or a noise wall can be part of the highway purpose, but light rail or heavy rail can’t.

      Some people suggest that the state may have more leeway than this, that because regional trains take people off the highway, that serves the highway purpose, but so far the state has not been moving on that or seeing how the courts would react to it.

      Another convenient fact for car advocates: the gas tax replaces a sales tax on gasoline. So while sales taxes on other goods go into the general fund which is unrestricted, gas taxes to go highways. That “steals” money that other programs would otherwise get from the general fund.

      There was also an interesting shenanigan with the ST3 taxes. I don’t remember all the details but I think ST capital expenses were exempt from sales tax and some lawmakers objected to that as an undue subsidy to transit (by the same logic that it “steals” money from the general fund), so it made ST3 expenses non-exempt (meaning ST has to start paying sales tax on construction materials), but then an amendment diverted the money to education rather than the general fund. So some of your ST3 taxes will go to education, and ST’s budget is decreased by the same amount.

      1. Mike, Wow, excellent response. So we get to blame the rail barons from the 1900’s for limiting where the gas taxes are spent, and now that you brought that up I think it’s the same at the national level. With the possible exemption for Amtrak. That really needs to change because with these projects going out till 2045 I foresee probably 3 recessions between now and then. That will throw the schedule off at least 5 years with the current funding sources.

        Thanks for the detail Mike, Oh and if anyone is interested, a list of past recessions which I found rather depressing actually:

  21. Piggybacking on the Al S. comment. I used transit from the suburbs to the center city over a few years and a few contracts, transferring as was necessary. (For reference: At places like Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, Ash Way P&R, Lynnwood Transit Center, Canyon Park P&R) I must ask: why are the transit centers in the suburbs such absolute wastelands for people on foot?

    More specifically, when I was standing around waiting for my transfer, which generally arrived around a 30 minute frequency, why was there no:

    –Place to get a cup of coffee
    –Local community notification board
    –Accessible store to get some last-minute/impulse shopping done – i.e. Bartells
    –Any excuse for eyes on the street that didn’t involve people specifically there to catch a bus

    There may be a different answer for each of these, but I’ll zoom in on one: Cup of coffee. Would have made the daily minutes spent shivering in the rain so much easier if I could have patronized a cart or something. Is there a specific Sound Transit law or regulation you are aware of that forbids this, or would a letter campaign, entrepreneurial spirit, etc. actually have a chance of making this possible?

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