i405brt[UPDATED with additional information and corrections. – MHD]

After studies, drafts, public comment, more drafts, amendments, and so on, you might be a little confused about what exactly is in Sound Transit 3 (ST3). This is the first in a brief ST3 reference series about what’s in the package that we’ll vote on in November. Today: the first five years (2019-2024).

Though much has been made of the lengthy timelines for Sound Transit 3 (ST3) projects, our collective impatience can be partially tempered by looking at the continuous series of project openings between now and 2041. The first years after a successful ST3 vote wouldn’t be vacant years of sitting on our hands, but rather a very busy overlap of completing Sound Transit 2 (ST2) projects while getting ST3 underway in earnest.

All costs below are in 2014 dollars.

Sometime between 2019 and 2024, Sound Transit will implement the bus on shoulder program, where it will work with other agencies to allow shoulder running on parts of I-5, I-405, SR 518, and SR 167 via capital projects worth $102m.

Over that time period, ST will also complete bus capital improvements near Sumner Station, a $30m project that will add transit signal priority (TSP) at 11 intersections, queue jumps at 2 intersections, and 125 parking spaces in McMillin, WA. This would improve ST Route 596, and presumably a new ST Express route as well.

A similar $60m project to upgrade Pierce Transit Route 1 to BRT will add  some queue jumps and TSP intersections. There will be stop improvements, including nicer facililties, real-time arrival info and off-board payment options.  Most importantly, it also envisions Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes for about 50% of the 14-mile scope. The south end of the route will get a park-and-ride, size unspecified.

Finally, ST3 funds $65m for capital imrovements for RapidRide C, D, and Madison BRT by 2024. If ST3 were to fail, Seattle would have to find some other source to open Madison BRT on time in 2019.

This period will also see completion of the ST2 package, with 17 Link stations opening between 2021-2023.

fwtc

Several projects open in 2024. In addition to Kent/Des Moines from ST2, ST3 would deliver 4 new Link Stations. At South 272nd and Federal Way Stations, a $1 billion, 5.3-mile extension would add two stations. The former would be in a trench and include 1,240 parking spaces, added to the 549 already at the Star Lake Park and Ride. The latter would be elevated and include a 400-stall parking garage at the current Federal Way Transit Center to go with the 1,190 already there. The track will mix elevated and at-grade.

redmondIn Redmond, the SE Redmond and Downtown Redmond Stations would cost about $1 billion and add 3.7 miles of track. SE Redmond would be elevated with a new 1,400-space garage. Downtown Redmond would be at-grade with no new parking. The project mixes elevated, cut-and-cover, retained cut, and at-grade track profiles.

Also in 2024, I-405 BRT will be a 38-mile, $800-900m system with 11 stations from Lynnwood TC to Burien TC. Peak headways will be 10 minutes. ST projects 15,000-18,000 daily riders in 2040. There will be 1,300 net new parking spaces; bus-only lanes and TSP in Tukwila and Burien; bus-only lanes on NE85th St in Kirkland for connecting service; and changes to bring all the stations to a BRT standard. For most of the route, reliability will depend on WSDOT’s commitment to keeping the HOT and HOV lanes free-flowing.

NE145th/SR522 BRT is a $400m, 8-mile line with 8-10,000 riders in 2040. There will be 9 stations and all-day headways of 10 minutes between UW Bothell and the 145th St Link Station.The project will finish the BAT lanes between NE 145th and Downtown Bothell. On NE 145th itself there will be a mix of bus lanes and queue jumps. Downtown Bothell to UW Bothell will be on arterials. Finally, Bothell, Kenmore, and Lake Forest Park will each get 300-space parking garages.

sr522brtFinally, in 2024  North Sammamish will also get a park-and-ride with “up to” 200 spaces for $20m. Edmonds and Mukilteo will get some mix of additional parking and other access improvements ($40m).

After 2024, things will go quiet for 6 years from a project delivery perspective, with construction beginning in earnest for the next glut of openings in 2030-2031. We’ll summarize those in the next installment.

99 Replies to “Sound Transit 3: The First Five Years (2019-2024)”

  1. It’s mindboggling that the NorthLink tunnels will be totally dug by the fall, but all the other work will take another 5 years to complete.

    1. Yeah, I don’t get this either. I get that the stations are pretty freakin’ big and a lot of testing is needed, but it does seem like an extremely long time. What are the chances it opens, like, a full year early?

      1. The project schedules have a year of float for contingencies. U-Link opened six or nine months early.

      2. IIRC the money is all there for finishing Northgate Link so construction will proceed at full steam ahead. There is a fair chance Northgate Link will open early but Sound Transit isn’t likely to say anything until it is near certain of the timeframe.

      3. Ballard to Downtown is scheduled to open in 2035. If it opens in 2034, is it “early”?

      4. Yes. The schedule is padded to take into account everything they could think of that could go wrong short of a recession or earthquake. That way it can’t be “late”. It also assumes a status quo amount of time for EIS planning and negotiating with the city over permits. If the city expedites the permitting like Redmond did and Murray promised to do (by preauthorizing light rail as a permitted use), that could shave a year off it. Another year could be saved if the community agrees on just two or three alternatives in the EIS rather than more, because each alternative adds several months of study time. There will be ST’s preferred option and a no-build option, so the question is what the third one will be. Then there was the possibility of grants shortening the schedule, but it sounds from other recent comments that more money wouldn’t make it faster. There’s also the fact that the Ballard segment depends on the second tunnel. West Seattle can build an early stub to a SODO surface station, but a surface station downtown is impossible and a temporary underground station would be way too expensive, and terminating at Elliott Avenue sounds silly to me (that’s where the D is the fastest).

    2. It’s a very long time, but ULink wasn’t much faster. The two Capitol Hill TBM breakthroughs were in March and April 2012.

      1. The TBMs completing their journey are just a small part of what has to happen. Once they complete the tunnels the cross tunnels need to be dug and built and then the concrete floor needs to be placed throughout the entire tunnel system. Then the tracks need to be installed as well as all the life safety systems such as fire protection. The air ventilation systems need to be installed as well as all the electrical and signalling systems. And that’s just in the tunnels. The stations need to be constructed as well and they can’t even be started until the tunnel excavations are completed because the pits are how the excavated soil is taken out of the ground. And then once everything is built there is a six to 12 month period of testing and commissioning on the systems. And lastly the trains must run on the competed system without issue for a given period of time before passenger service is allowed. It might seem like along time but it’s not actually when you think about all that has to be done.

      2. Yeah, tunnels are tricky. When Bertha is done it will still be a while before the new SR 99 is complete. That is one advantage of above or on the ground systems. You can do everything from various spots, making it all go a lot faster. Five years to get from the UW to Northgate; two years to get from Northgate to Lynnwood (a lot farther distance). Not that I’m suggesting we should have gone above ground (it is just part of the price we pay).

      3. Well, you could excavate each station box at the same time, and send separate TBMs in each direction from each station and portal such that they would meet in between (just as you can start from various spots above ground), but that would be prohibitively expensive. That would have meant 12 TBMs on North Link–even starting at each end on each tube would mean 4 TBMs instead of the two they used.

        You’d still need to mine the cross-passages (done by “hand” through grouted or frozen earth, not TBM, of course) and install all relevant equipment as Chris says above.

        It would likely save a great deal of time but at a very high cost (many extra TBMs and commensurately more earth moving and disposal equipment and labor). Perhaps if we had Dubai’s resources or were the show project of a totalitarian government we could do that.

  2. You mixed in ST2 projects with ST3 projects. This would make sense if ST3 passes, but is rather confusing, since that isn’t a given. Most of the really big stuff you mentioned will be built regardless of how we vote. I assume that other Move Seattle projects will be done in that first five years (along with Madison BRT, which is also not dependent on ST3). If Corridor 3 (Metro 7) and Corridor 5 (Metro 44) are built like Madison BRT (and not like Roosevelt BRT) the combined set of projects will have a bigger impact on transit than anything in ST3 built in the first five years (unless they do manage to wrangle some really big Sounder improvements).

    1. For Seattle, yes. For East King, the two BRT lines to open will be big, plus all the ST Express restructuring that will happen when East Link opens.

      1. Good point. But East Link will happen with or without ST3. But with ST3, the east side does have arguably the best big project out there — the extension of Link to Redmond. I-405 BRT is a joke (and I’m a big fan of BRT). It is the worst part of Link (ignoring neighborhoods, and focused on the freeway) with insufficient headways to make it worth taking. SR 522 BRT is much better. It will be expensive (very expensive) but a much better value than most of ST3.

      2. I have high hopes for 405 North. It has two good anchors in Bellevue/East Link and Lynnwood/North Link, and interesting transfers with 522 BRT and SWIFT 2. It’s operationally distinct from 405 South,which is key, and headways won’t be much less than link.

        405 South is a totally different animal, and I don’t see what it does better than robust ST Express service, aside from connecting Burien to TIBS. It will all depend on completion of the 405 master plan and tolling south of Bellevue,which is out of Sound Transits control

      3. The problem with 405 BRT North is that its basically slightly more frequent 532/535 service with better signage. And we don’t know what headways will be. The documents say 10 minutes at peak, but I’m betting off-peak will be substantially less frequent (20 minutes? 30?). In any case, 535 service is decent today but while peak buses can be full, off-peak are basically empty. Calling it BRT will not fix this.

      4. RapidRide is 15 minutes minimum until 10pm. ST needs a branding standard for BRT to distinguish it from ST Express, and I don’t think it can argue that 30 minutes is it, because STEX is already 15-30 on the 512 and 545 and 550.

      5. Considering the 550 gets from Bellevue to downtown Seattle faster than the RapidRide D, I wouldn’t see any harm in designating Ballard>Downtown a ST regional express.

      6. @David – yeah I guess it is basically the 535, except it won’t divert into Bothell, which should save a decent amount of time during peak. I’d say I’m banking on induced demand from BRT branding/frequency to drive ridership, along with TOD commitments from Lynnwood and Kirkland.
        Higher BRT frequency should also make it easier for Community Transit (and Metro) to feed routes into 405 stations, rather than running bus all the way to Link stations in Lynnwood and Bellevue. I’ll be interested to see how much the SWIFT 2 line opening increases transfers at Canyon Park.

        Put another way, I’m expecting ridership along I405 north to grow such that the 532/535 should be upgraded to a BRT corridor to better handled this increased demand.

    2. This post has been updated, and is a lot better. This new post clearly lays out the improvements that will occur the first few years if ST3 passes, and which ones will occur regardless. Great update — my original criticism of this post is now outdated. Good work.

      Now if only Sound Transit would improve in a similar way …

    1. The Madison BRT project was planned long before they figured out what would go into ST3. It will happen with or without ST3.

      1. yep…so knowing that Madison BRT and the already-funded, under construction and marginally useful Judkins Park station will happen regardless of ST3, nothing will open in Seattle per the above story until 2030 or 2031 save a couple of bucks’ (relatively speaking) improvement to Rapid Ride C and D.

        Well, that’s only 14-15 years, right? I’m sure we can make do until then….

      2. Oh, and Seattle is about to sell a parking garage for $87 million. So, if ST3 fails, there you go (with $22 million extra as well).

  3. It will be interesting to see if the blending of ST2 funded projects with ST3 projects is done to increase a yes vote. I think that the biggest risk for votes that ST3 has is its lack of major regional destinations (except for Soith Lake Union and Seattle Center) – even though it finishes the spine.

    1. No love for Tacoma Dome & Everett station as regional destinations?

      I think people will be plenty excited because the new lines will connect many more people to major regional destination that are already served by the ST system. Places like Federal Way, Redmond, and Issaquah may be places people travel from, not to, but it’s adding trips nonetheless.

      1. You can get to Tacoma Dome and Everett right now on the bus or train. In most cases much faster or more frequently. So, no. No excitement for Link to areas so far away. Now if it was high speed commuter rail, that would be something different (imagine getting to Tacoma as quickly — or quicker! — than you can if you drive in the middle of the day).

      2. An hour from Seattle to the Tacoma Done. Another half hour by bus to get to Lakewood Park and Ride.

    2. It is quite fascinating to think that if ST3 passes, the Federal Way Link opening in 2024 has both ST2 and ST3 projects on the same line opening at the same time, even though the ballot measures were 8 years apart. Granted, this is a special case because Sound Transit has been doing research and study on the corridor for a while before even the first ST3 draft (The I-5 alignment was decided on in July 2015, for example).

      1. Although Federal Way was part of ST2 when it passed. Remember that is was taken out during the recession. That is part of the reason that it will be the first thing complete in ST3.

      2. 272nd was in ST2. 320th would have been approved if South King had enough ST2 funds for it. Aftter the recession dried up South King’s tax base, the line was truncated to 200th, and in exchange Federal Way got shovel-ready studies to 320th. Later South King recovered enough to restart the 240th segment. So ST2 was basically Federal Way without the last station funded, like Redmond.

  4. With a “big bang” opening in 2023 and a “little bang” opening in 2024, if all goes well, this sets Sound Transit up nicely PR-wise for an ST4 vote in November 2024. It also times nicely with previous measures:

    ST2 in 2008
    ST3 in 2016
    ST4 in 2024

    It even makes realistic the possibility of passing an ST4 in 2023, out of a general election year, with 2024 available as a fallback (in case it fails the first time around like ST2).

    1. With ST3 being a bigger package, I would imagine that Sound Transit waits until after the early 2030’s projects are complete. I could see a 2032 (post West Seattle link) or 2036 (post Ballard link) ST4 package. Plus both of those are general election years. That way there would be 5-9 years left on ST3 before the ST4 projects would start, just like now where there’s 7 years until ST2 finishes.

      Sound Transit will probably also base it on when equipment needs replacement. By then the original link cars will be 30+ years old and as such ST4 will likely include a significant sum for maintenance. Sound Transit will coordinate ST4 to fund those replacements at the correct time.

    2. It all depends on how much demand there is for transit. Look at LA – they’re doubling down (potentially) well before their existing projects are finished, because there’s lots more demand for transit than supply. If Seattle falls on hard times, though, we might have a long gap before we build more.

    3. “By then the original link cars will be 30+ years old and as such ST4 will likely include a significant sum for maintenance.”

      ST 1, 2, and 3 include ongoing maintenance and replacement costs.

  5. What do you all think the st3 vote will be? I think 55% no. ST3 will fail and we will have a couple years while ST regroups and proposes a smaller package. Im not convinced we need a 2nd tunnel down down for a long time. The Ballard line should be driverless, elevated and end at westlake with a maint yard in interbay…

    1. It’s not worth predicting until the votes are counted. ST3 could pass or fail for a number of reasons. Anyone who tells you they know it will fail because voters want a smaller package is just counting themselves and their few friends. Other people think it should have been bigger, or they’ll vote for it because at least it’s something, or they think that Paine Field detour is necessary for Snohomish’s economy, or …

      1. Mike, do you think ST3 is a good package? Will you vote for it? What parts of it do you do and do not like?

      2. I’m voting tor it because we have leverage the level of consensus that has been achieved between the politicians and cities and public, because that’s the only way anything gets built. If we hold out for the perfect system we’ll get nothing. We’ve been through sixty years of transit neglect and it has created a huge car dependency. The only way to reverse this is with a lot of transit so people have a choice, and if we err on the side of too much transit or in the wrong cities, that’s better than too little as we keep doing and then wondering why it doesn’t make much difference.

        I’m neutral on the extensions beyond Lynnwood and Des Moines: I could support either light rail or BRT. What the entire Link network will do is provide a reliable frequent baseline service throughout its area, with one-seat rides between a lot of urban villages and a single train-to-train transfer to many more. Right now we have a baseline of a small light rail corridor, ST Express, RapidRide, and buses that get stuck in traffic and it’s so difficult to get any lanes painted red.

        I wish Link had more Seattle stations, I wish Ballard-UW was prioritized, I wish the “Metro 8” line had gotten more attention in 2012 and 2014. But to vote down ST3 because of the lack of First Hill Station, or the lack of a Ballard-UW line, or because West Seattle and Everett and Tacoma get too much money spent on them just doesn’t make sense. Having a seamless rail network is better than not having one, and having two tunnels with plenty of capacity for another line is better than having one tunnel that might or might not reach capacity in thirty years. We were very luck an earlier generation built the DSTT so that ST1 didn’t have to include it and cause sticker shock. Now let’s try to build something we can expand upon, and infill the service area with housing for those who want to live near good transit.

      3. Amen. We can fill in the gaps ST3 leaves with ST4 or a Seattle only package, but it’s a lot easier to fill gaps than to build an entire system. The alternative to ST3 is either a) crappy Ballard and West Seattle lines or b) one or the other. Plus a smaller package means fewer destinations which means fewer votes.

        The takeaway is that regardless of how close or far ST3 is to perfect, it’s better than its alternatives.

      4. “The only way to reverse this is with a lot of transit so people have a choice, and if we err on the side of too much transit or in the wrong cities, that’s better than too little”

        Way too little transit is exactly what we’re being offered here, and that’s why I’m having a very hard time supporting ST3. This isn’t giving people a choice; most people are still going to be car-dependent whether we build ST3 or not. Link will still be a secondary transit mechanism and not the primary way people get around. We need to concentrate our transit investment on urban centers and build a high-density interconnected network in order to get the biggest bang for our buck if we are going to allow significant numbers of people to treat their cars as optional, secondary transportation mechanisms.

      5. Mars: it’s too little transit, so voting no means even less transit.

        “We need to concentrate our transit investment on urban centers and build a high-density interconnected network in order to get the biggest bang for our buck if we are going to allow significant numbers of people to treat their cars as optional”

        Ah, but that’s a different goal. That’s “much more transit in the city”. (Or wherever you set the boundary. I’m assuming N 110th St to Rainier Beach, or the Seattle city limits, or maybe including Bellevue/Redmond, or maybe excluding West Seattle.) I sympathize with this view (as long as there’s some transit plan for the suburbs beyond the status quo). But you’ve changed the terms from “A regionwide network” and “Something Sound Transit can propose” to “An ideal city network” and “Something requiring a different regional political environment”. And then to implement it you’d have to say how this different political environment can be achieved, or how we can get the legislature to allow Seattle to tax enough for this network on its own.

      6. No one knows what voting no will mean. To say it will automatically mean less transit over the next 20 years is presumptuous. It might mean much better planning — planning focused on results, not arbitrary markers (e. g. the spine). That would mean more transit, not less.

      7. Mike Orr: it’s true, I don’t believe in regional transit; ST’s mission to connect the suburbs might have made sense in the ’90s, but it’s become an outdated plan for a bygone era, and we need to change the political reality so that we can develop the urban transit connections we need far more desperately than a bunch of sprawling track and cavernous park-n-rides in low-density suburbs. We should be shifting investment away from the suburbs and back to the cities, because the cities are the places where we can actually make significant progress toward solving our extremely pressing environmental and economic problems. Transit investment in the city centers accomplishes far more value per dollar than ST’s misguided spine project ever can. We should scrap the regional spine and empower each city to solve its own transit needs, then focus on the high-speed connections among dense population & employment centers that would actually change the transportation game. Such projects would offer an order of magnitude more value per dollar than these long-haul tracks out to far-distant suburbs where car-independence will always be a remote, foolish fantasy.

        Voting no doesn’t mean no transit; it means no commitment to this specific plan. The need for transit will not go away and the discussion about how to build it will not end. If we kick this proposal back to its designers, the process won’t simply stop; we’ll continue talking about what we need and how best to accomplish it, and we’ll take another run at voting on it when the next election cycle arrives. The demographic trend toward reurbanization gives me high confidence that Seattle’s negotiating position will only strengthen over that time, and that I feel confident that we can do better than the not-even-bare-minimum proposal we’re being offered today.

      8. I believe in regional transit, but i don’t believe in can be achieved in a cost effective manner by extending light rail for miles into the suburbs or low density cities. No city, anywhere, has done that. None.

        They have spent money on bus service and commuter rail. They have bolstered their inner city transit system at the same time. The result has been better for everyone — both suburban and urban.

        It is pretty easy to see why ST3 won’t work very well. If it passes, we will have spent way more money than Vancouver BC on rail infrastructure. We will have more than twice as many miles of rail. Yet most trips will be as slow as ever. By train or bus, it will simply take a long time.

        That is what happens when you focus on a particular strategy for solving a problem, rather than solving the problem itself. The problem we are trying to solve — or at least the problem we should be trying to solve — is transit mobility. How can we improve transit mobility, given a finite amount of money. Rather than answer that question — rather than figure out the best way to solve that problem — Sound Transit picked a particular strategy (e. g. The Spine) and then measured every project by that metric. If that seems like hyperbole, just read any of the documents on any of the projects. Along with very important factors like “Capitol Cost” and “Ridership”, there is “Regional Light Rail Spine”. Under that, they ask the question “Does this project help complete the light rail spine?”

        Nowhere in the document does this estimate the time savings over current transit options. It focuses on a strategy, without ever considering whether that strategy will actually meet the bigger goal. Like the French investing in the Maginot Line, it is not likely to work.

    2. “Im not convinced we need a 2nd tunnel down down for a long time.”

      FWIW, under ST3, it will take a long time (19 years), which is pushing another generation. An ST3 failure would at the very least delay it 4 years, although it’s hard to imagine that Seattle runs on one tunnel forever (even if it gets booted in a revised ST3).

      “The Ballard line should be driverless, elevated and end at westlake with a maint yard in interbay”

      Sounds like an expansion of the monorail to me then. I think driverless trains isn’t as big as a priority on short segments like Ballard-Downtown as it is on longer segments like downtown-Tacoma (where they already blew it with at-grade rail on MLK) or downtown-Everett (there’s still a chance), where the line is much longer. Also, Ballard-downtown runs through denser areas than long-haul Link, and for that it may be better to have a driver on-site should issues come up.

      “I think 55% no.”

      I’m not generally an optimistic guy, but I think it will probably be 55% yes. Remember in the second ST2 vote, it passed with 58% of the vote after failing. I think the combination of it being a general election year, ST3 checking nearly all of the boxes, the positive PR from the recent UW and Angle Lake station openings, plus general progress (remember that there was no light rail operating when ST2 passed, and it still got 58%. Also, by now Sound Transit basically recovered from the Sound Move troubles), I think it’s unlikely to fail.

      1. “remember that there was no light rail operating when ST2 passed”

        And it was two months after the second biggest economic crash in a hundred years.

    3. Re: a smaller package.

      The problem is the negative feedback they got was mostly about needing more and getting it done faster.

  6. Missing from the discussion is what ST3 means for the frequency and span of ST express routes in the 2019-2024 period. Sound Transit’s own service planning document (http://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/SIP2016_FinalDraft.pdf) indicates an unfunded need for a lot of new bus service by 2021. It would be nice if ST3 would allow the items in this list to become a reality, but I haven’t heard anything as to whether or not that is the case.

    For reference, here’s a few highlights of all-day service improvements on the “unfunded need” list:
    512 – operate every 20 minutes evenings and Sundays. Operate all trips with double-decker buses.
    522 – operate every 30 minutes evenings until 11:00 and every 20 minutes on Saturday during the daytime hours
    545 – a bunch of new weekday trips during the daytime hours, 20 minute service frequency Saturday, daytime
    550 – add 28 daily trips on weekdays (spread throughout the day, includes evenings), plus 8 new trips on Sundays

    This page does not seem to include potential U-link restructures of SR-520 service.

    1. I also have not heard anything about how frequently the I-405 BRT bus is expected to run. Every 30 minutes all-day? Every 15 minutes all-day? Rush hour only? I hope ST isn’t spending a ton of money on capital improvements, only to cheap out on the service hours to actually run the thing.

      1. The details PDF says “Peak headways” are 10 minutes. I don’t think running off-peak buses every 10 minutes is going to get you any passengers. Even every 20 may be pushing it.

      2. RapidRide has a 15-minute standard regardless of ridership. ST BRT will need a similar branding to distinguish it from ST Express. Also, you can’t build ridership without frequency because the waiting and uncertainty deter people from using it.

  7. Is there any talk about getting the 405 BRT partially up and running earlier? The north segment can basically run now, I can see doing the basic infrastructure investments and launching the service to coincide with Lynwood East Link opening, and then adding the Kirkland station a few years later once that gets built.

  8. Could I-5 BRT be turned into something like the BRISK proposal later on with some extra money to make it much more useful?

      1. Basically, yes. The BRT capital investments are all around freeway stations (upgrades & two new ones), so the ROW is flexible and stations can be added or deleted. Metro and Community Transit can use the same bus stations, and will likely overlay some service.

        Further, 405 BRT is a vertical route that is going to be intersected with multiple HCT line: SWIFT 2, 522 BRT, and East Link. No reason we can’t add more to that in the future, for example a CKC BRT that shuttles between Totem Lake and South Kirkland P&R. (this might be a good Metro project if ST isn’t interested), or something similar serving Renton’s core between the two Renton stations.

        As an aside, I’m newish to the Blog, so this is before my time, but reading up – as someone who commutes from Issaquah to Bellevue, I think the rail as proposed in ST3 is superior to any BRT proposal I’ve seen for that region… but the Issaquah TC can be a great anchor for better bus service to Issaquah, Sammamish, etc.

      2. AJ, so as an Issaquahite, what do you think of the Issaquah-Bellevue light rail line? Do you see other Issaquahites using it? All day? What kind of local transit does Issaquah need to make it more successful? Is the city of Issaquah thinking about these things and does it have a transit master plan? (Bellevue has an excellent TMP, although it hasn’t put any money or effort into implementing it, except street upgrades it’s building anyway.) Do you think an Issaquah-Bellevue-Redmond line might be more useful?

      3. Wow, yeah, BRISK is so much better than ST3 proposal for the east side. Amazing, really.

        The problem in general with the east side proposals (with the exception of extending Link in Redmond, which is really a given, and probably should have been part of ST2) is that they force too many bad transfers. Consider the Issaquah Highlands to downtown Seattle. With light rail, this is a three seat trip. First you take a bus to the Issaquah station, then a train to Bellevue, then a train to Seattle. The last train is really the only train that is likely to be frequent. BRISK would eliminate the most time consuming transfer. It also sets the stage for further improvements in the future. You could easily run an express from the Highlands that skips over the rest of Issaquah, and heads to Bellevue. Time it right, and such a bus would make sense even if you are headed to downtown Seattle (transfer at Eastgate and you would catch up with the other bus). If Richards Road is problematic — if traffic there is too bad — then spend money on that section building a busway. That could be leveraged by a bunch of different buses and by doing so negate the need for time consuming transfers.

        Another example is Totem Lake to the UW. If you try and make that trip right now, you have a couple choices. Either you take a bus that winds its way through Kirkland before finally getting on the freeway, or you transfer in Bellevue. The new I-405 BRT wouldn’t change that. It would only mean that first stop would be marginally faster (as folks would enter without paying). With BRISK you would still have that one seat ride through Kirkland, but the bus would go much faster, by using the ERC.

        I-405 BRT, the outer edges of the spine as well Issaquah light rail all suffer from the same problem. They serve too few destinations, while ignoring the fundamental geographic challenges of the area. By running next to the freeway, they cause extra transfers. There just aren’t enough people next to the freeway to pick up enough riders. They really don’t address the big challenges — the connections that are needed if the east side is to have a reasonably decent set of connecting bus service. What is needed from a capital improvement standpoint are a lot more busways and freeway stations. What is needed from a service standpoint are a lot more bus routes that leverage those. Bus routes that go through the communities, then access the busways, then go somewhere else. An interconnected web of those routes (similar to BRISK) would provide much better service than what Sound Transit has proposed, at a lot less cost.

      4. @RossB – I strongly disagree. Take you Totem Lake example – the BRT means you will get to Belleuve transit center via managed HOV lanes with only 1 stop (85th), never leaving the interstate. That’s going to be much faster than current bus routes on city streets, and it will be a quick transfer to East Link directly below the bus stop.
        Yes, there will be many 2, 3 seat rides, but these areas are simply not efficiently served by 1-seat networks. Transfers are not a problem if they are between frequent services, and both BRT and Link should maintain high enough headways
        And yes, more routes are needed … and I do hope Metro leverages this ST infrastructure. But 405 BRT frees up Metro from having to run a bunch of routes into Bellevue, and can truncate routes at other BRT stations, freeing up service hours for higher frequency on these local routes, generally running perpendicular to 405.
        And yes, more busways are needed … and the biggest capital outlay of 405 BRT is creating bus-only lanes on 85th street into downtown Kirkland … which is only being done because the busway on the ERC was shot down for political reasons.

        But I think your critique is much to Seattle focused, and much too commuter focused. How will an Issaquah Highlands to to Seattle express route help someone trying to get to school in Issaquah? To a doctor’s appointment in Bellevue? A job in Factoria? The light rail needs to serve destinations that are on the way, not simply get people from end point to end point. Ultimately, this is the same critique people on this blog has of of south King & Everett Link, that it’s “Not fast enough to Seattle” … that’s not the priority of the line.

      5. @Mike Orr – I’m very excited. I-90 is already getting congested, and slows to a crawl a both Eastgate & the 405 interchange. The HOV (which I get to drive in sometimes) is faster but it’s free. It’s only a matter of time that the HOV lanes get gummed up as the Highlands & Snoqualmie keep building, killing the bus routes that depends on I-90.

        RossB makes the argument “If Richards Road is problematic — if traffic there is too bad — then spend money on that section building a busway.” To which I simply say BRT CREEP. Yes, that might be the cheaper, superior engineering solution, but I don’t think it’s politically feasible, so I’d rather get the ROW via light rail. For example, if I was king, I’d add a lane & give I90 the same 2-lane managed toll lanes that 405 has …. but if that idea isn’t achievable, I’ll take ST3.

        As to the specifics:
        1) I think a Issaquah-Bellevue-Redmond routing is preferable, b/c I’m convinced most traffic will be intra-East King. Going to South Kirkland only make sense if it eventually extends to UW. But if there is East Main to Willburton interlining of the service, it shouldn’t matter because people will be doing same-directly transfers.

        2) I’d prefer connecting at South Bellevue for people transferring to Seattle … but East Main is only a slight penalty. There will be zero buses going across the lake on I90 when East Link opens, so Issaquahites will have a two-seat ride to Seattle before and after ST3.

        3) I’m unaware of an Issaquah TMP, but one should be built (cooperating with Sammamish) that uses the Issqauah transit center as the west anchor of all local lines. That will allow local routes to be local – focused on frequent stop spacing, short routes, high frequency, etc – and leave all inter-city travel to be done by ST via transfer at Link. Ideally, I like to see two BRT-ish lines:
        a) south Issaquah via Front street, turn on Gillman and terminate at the TC
        a) Issaquah highlands via Sunset way, turn on Newport Way NW and terminate at the TC

        That gives good coverage for the city, a strong intersection in the historical core at Front & Sunset, and two feeders routes for the TC. Perhaps for commuters, you have some express routes between the highlands & the TC during peak hours, but otherwise these lines would focus on serving all day traffic.

        There would obviously be other routes, like Metro’s 271 and something along SR900, but you get the idea?

      6. **typos
        1) the I90 HOV lands “are frequently congested during rush hour and already can slow to ~20mph at stretches,” not “are free”
        2) Presumably my two Issaquah BRT lines will be A & B, not A & A…

  9. Pierce Transit 1 takes a total of three hours to complete a round trip (Spanaway to TCC and back to Spanaway). In addition to the obvious benefit to riders from speeding things up, let’s not forget that it could allow PT to increase mid-day frequencies to 15 minutes without hiring any more drivers.

    1. We should also remove the street parking on 6th Avenue to make room for BRT lanes there too, to speed up Route 1 even faster.

  10. I’ve heard Folgers is making some stronger blends these days, so it might not be all bad.

  11. You removed the whole section about the 2023 largest Link station opening in history? Oh come on that was the best part!

    1. It was fun, but I wanted to use that space for new information instead of Times snark.

  12. 405 BRT diagram is incorrect, it is missing Brickyard (outside flyer) and NE 44th (inline direct access) stations.

    1. I’m sorry, Brickyard is there. But the new NE 44th station they added at the last minute needs to be added.

  13. There needs to be a dose of reality for the 522 BRT 145th connection. Transit money is going to widen a highway (145th), 145th Link Station is not designed for an efficient BRT interface. It looks great on paper but I’m not so sure that the reality of poor design has sunk in.

    1. It’s actually horrible design for a 522 that operates as it should (so long as it’s going to cut Lake City/Seattle out completely, which it is). That bus should have been extended into Shoreline, which would have in part alleviated the lack of Link on 99, but the map above shows it terminating at the station which is what the station was designed for. Once again bad design leads to a forced bad result (no Shoreline 522 service) elsewhere. It’s a poorly sited station anyway, forcing the bus to go through two signalized intersections to reach it; see my comments on it here https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/04/20/st3-parking-661m-at-80k-per-space/#comment-718342 for more in-depth discussion of its badness.

      Running the 522 straight through on 145th using stops at the street with direct connections to the station would have been ideal…we didn’t get that here since the station is actually at 147th, not 145th. With some irony the now-added station at 130th will have a much better interface with a likely crosstown Lake City-Bitter Lake frequent bus route. People west of I-5 will have far better transit access to Link there than at 145th.

      1. Now that there will be a (better) station at 130th, win-win. Unless your destination is actually Lake City — which by then may actually be a destination; it’s starting to go that way now — the primary “losers” in this are Lake City residents traveling to UW Bothell. To everywhere south of Lake City (Roosevelt and UW), Bothellites and Kenmorians/Kenmorites (no idea, even though my Dad grew up there!) will just transfer to Link.

        The schadenfreude part (and knowing your comment was tongue-in-cheek) is that due to the bad station location at 145th and the fact that traffic will always be worse on 145th and its surroundings–bus improvements and all–because of the access to both directions of I-5, the time may be somewhat of a wash.

        I do wish ST had considered Shoreline through-service on the 522, however, rather than the termination at Link. Now there will either need to be a redundant crosstown route there or a route from the Shoreline side that also terminates at Link, meaning you’d have to transfer to get from, say, Shoreline College to anywhere east of I-5. Perhaps Shoreline and Seattle can figure out a way to access Roosevelt Way near 145th and run buses on that diagonal directly to 130th Station…perhaps even running alternate service crosstown from Lake City to Bitter Lake/Shoreline College.

        If Seattle makes adequate investments on 125th/130th as well as along the entire length of Lake City Way from 145th to Roosevelt Station, LC will actually have as good a transit service as can be expected before an ST4 brings the rail service they should have had from the 1968 vote.

      2. The bus situation at 145th sounds very disappointing. It is mind boggling, really. I have to wonder if Sound Transit ever does an audit, or otherwise focuses on what is obviously a key element in just about every subway system. To a certain extent the failure (or as Martin put it, the awfulness) of Mount Baker station is understandable. Like First Hill, they just wanted to prove that they could build something. Never mind the particulars (whether it will actually do a good job) as long as they built it and the trains ran smoothly, they could advance forward.

        But 145th is where they should advance. What else is this station for, if not bus to rail interaction? I guess they answered it by saying “park and ride” and called it a day. Absolute incompetence.

        Anyway, in general, unlike a lot of folks in Lake City, I don’t see skipping the most urban part of the route as being that big of a deal. I think the two lines could easily complement each other. With the exception of Bothell (and the college in it) the corridor is very suburban. I don’t see much demand outside of rush hour. The distances are just too long and the destinations along the way too marginal to really work as an all day, high demand area. I would also guess that a high percentage of folks have cars. This means it mostly works as a park and ride thing (and quite well for that). But there are other options, especially in the middle of the day. There are other bus routes (much closer) or folks will just drive to their destination (assuming parking isn’t too bad).

        On the hand, while Bitter Lake, Pinehurst and Lake City aren’t exactly big as far as destinations go, they are at least close to each other. Like you, I see Lake City becoming more of a destination in the future. It isn’t quite there yet. The restaurants and bars are fine, but there aren’t any clubs or other big activities. Ballard or Fremont it ain’t. But that could easily change. The area already has plenty of people (more than Fremont) and is growing at a steady clip. I wouldn’t count out Bitter Lake, either. Other than maybe Rainier Beach, I can’t think of any place that has the potential for a huge increase in population. The new police station should actually help quite a bit. This will scare off the street walkers and drug dealers, which is one of the more common complaints about living in the area. It will also add a bunch of new customers to the shops nearby. Unfortunately, Aurora is Aurora, and unlike Lake City way, won’t go through any sort of road diet any time soon.

        Even without huge growth, I see a crosstown line as being popular all day long. It has the big advantage of just not being that far. Someone in Bitter Lake that wants to visit a brewery in Lake City has about a ten minute drive, which (if you do things right) means a ten minute bus ride as well. But more than anything, it connects the two sides of the city. The 522 BRT doesn’t do that. It is essentially just a suburban spur. I really don’t see much in way of trips taken to connect to other buses (except maybe at the ends). On the other hand, a bus that goes from Lake City to Bitter Lake not only crosses Link, but crosses our most popular bus line — the E, on Aurora. It is the only connection for a very long distance as well. As tempting as it is to straighten out the 40, and have it keep going along Northgate Way, I don’t see that happening. I think the gravitational pull of the Northgate Transit Center is too large. This means that the only fast cross town trip north of 85th will be on this very bus. When you consider that areas like Sand Point Way and 35th converge on Lake City (it is “on the way”) that is a very large area served by only one bus. I expect fairly good all day headways, and the ridership to justify it.

        One of the big challenges with both of these lines (assuming both have off board payment) is how to mix in other bus routes. A BRT line that starts at 145th and Lake City Way and ends in Bitter Lake is actually pretty easy to manage. You can easily “kick off” the other bus routes along that corridor. For Lake City Way, there is an alternative which is used by the 65 and 64 now, and that is 30th. For 145th you have a number of options (extra bus stops or an express to the 145th station). Thus a 65 might not make any stops along 145th, but make a beeline to the station. Likewise with buses like the 373. My guess is they wouldn’t be that extreme — the 522 BRT only runs every ten minutes, and if it needs to pass a stopped regular bus, it will (there won’t be that many stops along 145th either way).

        All of this means that a trip from Shoreline College to Bothell is a two seat ride. It is now, so no great loss. From most areas to Bothell will also remain a two seat ride. An exception would be Sand Point to the UW, which would be a three seat ride (unless they send the 75 to the same route as the 65, which seems silly). The big loss is Lake City to Bothell. That will be a two seat ride, although the transfer shouldn’t be too bad (both buses should run fairly frequently).

        Of course one of the big advantages of bus improvements is that they can be repurposed fairly easily. I could easily see a mix of runs in here. During rush hour, the 522 BRT goes to 145th. But outside of rush hour, half the trips (if not all of them) head towards Lake City and Bitter Lake. In both cases all the bus stops are off board. Even if the Lake City to Bitter Lake route doesn’t have the same treatment — even if there aren’t 100% bus lanes the whole way — it will still likely be faster. There really is a surprisingly small amount of traffic along NE 130th, even during rush hour (I crossed there just last night at 5:00 PM sharp and never encountered any congestion). Just RapidRide treatment (level boarding, off board payment and maybe some signal priority) would be adequate almost all day long. Meanwhile, the stretch along 145th could be served by the 65. In general I think spending so much money and effort on 145th, as well as areas north of it is misplaced — like much of what we are building it focuses too much on the suburban areas and not enough on the urban ones — but it will still be a nice line. It can easily complement, or be repurposed, to be serve a much bigger area.

      3. If 522 BRT has only nine stations then it will be like Swift and it will need a local shadow like the 372.

      4. The 372 already serves several stops along Bothell Way that the 522 skips. The problem is that on weekends, the 372 doesn’t run along Bothell Way at all, leaving whatever stops are not served by the 522 simply without service. If the 372 operated 7 days a week, it should be possible to allow the 522 to skip some of the stops it currently serves, allowing for faster service. For instance, perhaps the route 522 stops could be limited to P&R’s, transfer points, and major destinations (e.g. UW Bothell) only.

        A route 522 reroute to 145th would also increase the importance of a 7-day 372 to Bothell, since that would be the only route maintaining the connection between the SR-522 corridor and Lake City.

      5. “The problem is that on weekends, the 372 doesn’t run along Bothell Way at all, leaving whatever stops are not served by the 522 simply without service.”

        It doesn’t now. What it might do when 522 BRT opens is a different question.

        I suspect that in a world with 145th Station and 522 BRT, maybe the 372 should be split at Lake City, because nobody is going to travel from Bothell to UW that way, and to separate the northern part from campus congestion. I’m not sure exactly how the routes should go but I see three needs: Lake City to Bothell, Lake City to U-Village and UW (25th), and Lake City to the U-District (15th). Perhaps the Bothell route could do like the 522 does to 15th and then go south to the U-District? One of the routes could serve 130th Station and Bitter Lake, although the 75 is probably best situated to do it.

  14. I saw the following as a cheap shot: “At press time, STB couldn’t confirm rumors that the Seattle Times will sponsor the opening party with kazoos and Folgers coffee, as befits an opening ceremony using public funds.” If a serious statement, that would confirm that STB apparently has no regard for how public money is spent. The $858,000 that ST spent on publicity for the opening of U-Link was equivalent to providing 5,000 – 7,000 hours of bus service, which is far more valuable to this reader than some trinkets that have likely made it to the trash can by now. A more-modest PR expenditure, perhaps ¼ of the $858,000, would have sufficed, for radio, TV, and STB were providing free publicity for the event. Fortunately, the politicians in the Angle Lake area immediately recognized the need to be more restrained and called on ST to do so, for – obviously – common sense is in short supply at the agency.

    We should all be interested in how public money is spent! Without checks and balances in the form of an independent, comprehensive performance audit that two of their now-ex (ironically) councilmembers had to initiate, King County Metro may have cut the other few hundred thousand hours of bus service that they were planning to not so long ago. Altogether, the number of hours that they were proposing to cut was more than that provided by the entire transit agency of “pick any adjacent county to Metro”! With the performance audit uncovering millions of dollars of savings, Metro proved their good-faith and tangible interest in watching their costs enough to solely receive the legislative approval for a temporary $20 vehicle tab increase, which allowed them to tread water for a couple of years. The others, who made so similar effort, just expected the blank check to be written.

    1. Much of the cost of the opening was crowd management. It would have had to be spent for the opening day crowds, no matter what else was done.

      The only alternative would be to just not announce it and start running trains, like the First Hill Streetcar did.

    2. And ST got the message and will have more modest openings in the future, sfarting with S 200th in September.

  15. Aaarghh. Very disappointed they haven’t enumerated the detailed plans for early improvements to RapidRide C and D. This can only mean the improvements will be virtually useless; if they’re actually helpful, they’d want to let us all know.

    I’ve got a solution to improve bus service for all West Seattle buses that use 99 to get to downtown: install a gate at the NB SR-99 ramp on the Spokane Street Viaduct and a gate on the NB 99 ramp up from Spokane itself, which will almost always be open, but in the morning rush hour close when a bus is 3 minutes away. This will let the queue of cars (usually about 25 by my count) who are stop-starting their way up the 270* ramp mostly/all clear out, and the bus can zoom right up from the Spokane Street Viaduct/WSB bus lane to the NB SR-99 bus lane.

    It will delay those ~25 car drivers maybe 5 or 10 seconds (since they’d be free to follow the bus up the ramp, just about catching right up to their former place in line), and save the 50-75 bus riders about 3-5 minutes. So the minimum benefit-cost ratio is 36 person-minutes of bus riders’ time per 1 person-minute of car drivers’ time, or maybe as high as 180 to 1. So if we think bus riders’ time is equally valuable, or 1/2 as valuable, or even only 1/10 or 1/20th as valuable as that of car drivers, this seems like a no-brainer.

    1. Rumor has it ST plans to purchase 2,000 autonomous cars with the $65m and leave half in W.Seattle and the other half in Ballard with the keys in them. What could go wrong?

  16. A little less enthusiasm. please, about the idea of using shoulders for bus lanes. I wouldn’t call a return to a bad practice of 30 years ago progress for same amount of time in the future. Can’t claim impartiality. My first accident was a scratch on the right side of my artic’s trailer when a truck nudged me against a guard-rail, westbound on 520 near 92nd.

    Ruled non-preventable on my part. But definitely preventable by WSDOT. Making future use criminally negligent. Think about it. On SR520, shoulder lane was on the right. Am I wrong that’s where this plan will have them?

    Meaning that at every exit, I’d have to be ready for traffic crossing my lane to exit. Slowing buses and cars both. And also, part of a shoulder’s purpose is for taking a damaged or defective vehicle off the highway. Which, without a shoulder, go…where?

    In these strained times, at least have consideration for our State Police. When he said the same thing I just did, he had no idea I was going to say it to. These brave officers don’t deserve to be involuntarily associated with me.

    You can help by telling your legislators just to add transit lanes the right way in the first place. As a regular ST Express passenger, I don’t think 2030 ought to include a ribbon cutting on a 1980 measure that scratched my bus. And worth however much ST3 money it will cost to get the highway right.

    Mark Dublin

    1. That’s what concerns me. The shoulders are for breakdowns and safety. On 520 the shoulder lanes were converted to HOV because of the extreme lack of space for any other alternative, but is that something we really want to do on a larger scale? For right-side shoulder lanes there’s also the problem that the fastest traffic (HOVs) is being crossed by the slowest traffic (cars entering and exiting).

  17. BTW, Chief of the State Police, I’m pretty sure. Last year I invited legislative committee-members to have Metro give me a bus, and the highway patrol to run interference, and sit where they could look out the windshield at freeway-speed shoulder driving. They never got back to me.

    Mark

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