tacomalink

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 third of a brief ST3 reference series (2019-2024 here, 2030-2036 here) about what’s in the package that we’ll vote on in November. Today, the two last projects in the delivery schedule, plus various mostly-small projects with indeterminate delivery time.

All costs are in 2014 dollars.

In 2039, ST delivers the Tacoma Link extension. The $478m project would extend the terminus westward by 3.5 miles to Tacoma Community College, at-grade except for an elevated crossing of SR16.  Unlike every other rail project in ST3, some stretches of this would mix with traffic, like elsewhere on the line. There would be six new stations, at TCC, Stevens, Union, Sprague, Pearl, and Hilltop. To support 6-minute peak headways, the project will double-track 0.9 miles of the existing line between Union Station and the Tacoma Dome.

issaquah_skAt the 25-year mark, 2041 sees the last element of the Sound Transit 3 program: Link from South Kirkland to Issaquah. The $1.9 billion, 11.75 mile, at-grade and elevated line would use three stations from East Link, and build four more. Central Issaquah (500 space garage) and Richards Rd/Factoria would be elevated, while Eastgate (230 net new spaces) and South Kirkland would be at grade. There is also an unfunded, elevated station at Lakemont. While the 23-minute end-to-end travel time is competitive with driving, the line is project to attract only 12,000-15,000 daily riders in 2040. This is a testament of the pitfalls of focusing on travel time and cheap implementation rather than serving high-demand areas well.

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Issaquah concludes the package at the 25-year mark. However, throughout those 25 years there are other projects where there is no ribbon-cutting, or ST cannot release a completion date at this time.

Most significantly, South Sounder improvements will support 10-car platforms and add additional round trips above the 12 (9 peak, 3 contra-peak) funded through ST1 and ST2. Unfortunately, details about additional trips are pending negotiation with BNSF. The total project is budgeted for $934m.

ST3 also funds up to 107,000 ST Express bus platform hours, not counting the service in I-405 and SR522 BRT that Zach described in Part I. That’s the equivalent of roughly 16 buses running 18 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Total annual ST bus service hours, including the BRT, ST1, ST2, and ST3, will peak at 800,000 in 2024 and decline to 660,000 in 2040 as light rail replaces many of the trips. Compare this to the end ST2 value of 490,000 hours 2024-30 and 355,000 beyond. The capital cost (mainly bus purchases) is $19m, but of course the real expense here is operations. We can guess this to be roughly $13m per year at current rates.

Finally, there are a bunch of items of less practical interest to future riders:

That wraps up the project list, which touches every corner of the Sound Transit District. Next time: how much all of this is really going to cost.

96 Replies to “Sound Transit 3: Final and Ongoing Projects (2039-2041)”

  1. There’s also the studies for future development of a light rail line extending to Renton. I don’t remember seeing that in these.

    (please ST, give Renton some Light Rail love. I live there and work near West Seattle, I’ll be a forever customer)

    1. Well I misread. It’s here, my bad Martin!

      It’s right there in HCT >.>

      I’m apparently blind.

      1. Renton does not even get a parking garage or low income housing from ST3. Renton has a population of 100,000 with no member on the Sound transit board. Dow Constitine appoints people to bring light rail to special areas, not Renton. Light Rail for Renton is a dream, until the people stand up. Best Regads, Dano

      2. Isn’t ST increasing the spaces at the P&R? And Rentonites will have more frequent BRT. Which they can drive to, and Renton doesn’t seem to consider that a problem.

        Renton had years to articulate what it wants and it never said anything. Then at the last minute it asked to move the transit center and complained that it wasn’t getting enough projects. Where is Renton’s transit master plan?

        Renton is also suffering relative priorities and limited money. East King’s top priorities are Bellevue/Redmond, and Issaquah and Kirkland. South King’s top priorities are Link to Federal Way and Sounder. The next priority in line is Burien to Renton. That would mostly be south King but Renton is in East King. South King is the poorest subarea and also has the largest population, and in King County the largest area. So it needs a lot of transit and has little money. That’s why the Burien-Renton line isn’t in ST3.

  2. So, just to confirm… was there no list of provisional projects?

    I didn’t even see Ballard to UW listed in the corridor study list…

    1. That would be the Northern Lake Washington crossing study. It’ll study Kirkland-to-Ballard and alternatives.

      1. Does the station at South Kirkland at 520 and Bellevue Way NE imply a line from Kirkland to UW via 520 and not Sandpoint? Are they forcing STs hand with this one?

      2. “They” are ST. Where are you seeing these stations? I’m just seeing vague crosshatched polygons for the study areas. The wording says, “This study would examine alternatives including and parallel to SR 522 and SR 520, as well as connections from Ballard to Kirkland, Sand Point to Kirkland, and Redmond and/or Bellevue”. So the Sand Point alternative is listed both explicitly and implied by “parallel to”.

  3. So the 107K ST Express hours refers to ST Express that will exist after all the “interim” ST buses are phased out?

    1. I think we’ll have to ask ST for clarification. I read the long description and assumptions and I’m still confused. There’s also the previous scenarios from January. It sounds like there’s an outline of routes and frequencies to base the “maintaining current service” and “until Link corridors open”. But what is the outline? Which routes does ST define as redundant with Link? Does maintaining current service mean the 578’s tail will remain 30-60 minutes with no hope of an increase? There’s also the 566 between Auburn and Renton. Making it more frequent help Kent use 405 BRT, and extending it to Federal Way Station would give it an HCT anchor at both ends (and improve Auburn-FW connections). Are these out because they’re more than current service? Has ST decided that that the 554, 577, and 594 are goners? Could it please tell Pierce and East King voters that before the vote, because it’s an essential piece of information to make an informed decision.

      1. My reading of the document is that, without ST3, the total budget for available bus service hours would decrease in 2023, but with ST3, additional funding would be available to allow the total number of hours to remain the same. But, since “ST express” service hours is explicitly stated to not include the SR-522 or I-405 BRT routes (which appear to be funded separately), the total number of buses on the road should increase significantly.

        Presumably, these hours would still be redeployed as Link extensions open – for instance, I would be shocked if the 512 and 550 continued after 2023, with or without ST3. It looks like total bus service hours would still decrease in 2040, after all the light rail extensions open, but only to about the present service level. The details appear to be undetermined, as the ST board appears to understand that trying to set bus service patterns for 2040 back in 2016 would be futile.

        As to what happens to the 594, I don’t think anything has been decided yet, but it seems like, at a minimum, waiting for the BNSF negotiations to conclude (which determine what level of service Sounder will be able to provide) before making that decision seems prudent. (Although, personally, I believe the likelihood of BNSF agreeing to enough Sounder service to seriously replace the 594 extermely remote – even hourly, all-day Sounder service would still be a significant regression over a 594 that runs every 30 minutes).

  4. Martin throwing some shade at the Issaquah line alignment, but I don’t see how else you would have built this line, give the three destinations of worth on this corridor – Factoria, Eastgate TC, and Issaquah TC – are all along the freeway.

    The alternative is to not invest in light rail and continue running buses along I90, which will just get caught in traffic as I90 fills up (and especially trying to merge onto 405.) To fix that, you can have a project that is basically the 405 BRT capital improvements*. If you want to argue for BRT over LRT, fine. but if you think rail is better than BRT, I think you have to support this line.

    *building direct access HOV ramps between 4-05 & I90 costs $0.5B alone ($0.25B if only toward Bellevue), plus you’ll need either bus or tolled lanes along I90.

    1. If you take it as a given that you have to build a rail line to Issaquah, this’s close to the best alignment. (The best, in my mind, would have an additional Eastgate station at 156th, dip south of 90 to serve Factoria, and then cross Mercer Slough to inline at South Bellevue – but we’ve discussed that before.)

      But, BRT here actually has some advantages over LRT. Ross points out that most Issaquah riders will already be transferring from local buses or driving to the station; why not let those local buses continue as expresses to Bellevue? Or, since now we’ve got buses, why not let them actually connect to South Bellevue or even (in peaks) Mercer Island?

      And finally, should we be investing so much in this one corridor when there’re so many other valuable corridors even on the Eastside, let alone in the rest of the ST area?

      1. What would be the other valuable corridors on the Eastside? We have 405 BRT, and East Link being extended about as far as reasonably done. Kirkland HCT got bogged down in political issues, and the North Washington crossing is specifically punted to the new packages (with a slight down payment with South Kirkland)

        As for Ross’s point, I think there is merit there. An I90 BRT system would allow buses to branch, concentrating frequency between Eastgate & Bellevue TCs and branches coming in from Sammamish, Issaquah town center, Issaquah Highlands, etc. But to do that right, you need dedicated ROW between Eastgate & Bellevue downtown. Could we do that with bus lanes? Technically, yes, but politically I’d rather have the LRT to protect me from BRT creep, and then accept that I’m going to truncate all my “far east” King bus service at Issaquah TC.

        This is similar to the truncation issues with Snohomish & South King commuters to Seattle, who are giving up 1-seat express buses to transfer to Link. Would commuters rather have a 1-seat bus ride to downtown? Maybe. But transferring to Link means a more reliable route, faster times at peak of peak, and higher capacity for peak ridership.

      2. Sam – “this’s” is a grammatically correct contraction for “this is.” The six other languages you know must’ve made you forget English grammar.

        AJ – I’d list real Issaquah BRT, upgrading 520 to full BRT, a 520-405 transfer station, some connection to Factoria if the Issaquah BRT doesn’t end up going there, and Renton – Rainier Beach BRT. Aside from that, we could just invest in Metro’s hoped-for frequent route structure.

      3. William – I like that plan, as you are basically crisscrossing east king with BRT lines [BRISK!], but I still think I’d rather use my $50B package to build out a partial rail network and fill in the gaps later. A ST BRT network would be at the mercy of WSDOT on all the highways, and I don’t think WSDOT will delivery the level of service needed for BRT to be successful. If we had a regional agency that combined ST & WSDOT, sure, but unfortunately ST and WSDOT don’t always cooperate well

      4. The problem with LRT to Issaquah TC is that you don’t actually get anywhere close to a walkable area. The whole area around the TC is strip malls or big box stores, not even residential. What’s the point of spending all this money to get there? At least the current bus services more of Issaquah.

      5. Issaquah has zoned for a new urban center around the TC. Otherwise it wouldn’t be getting Link.

      6. Central Issaquah has a commercial center, with some homes nearby. There is actual stuff there.

        For me, when I visit Issaquah, it’s mostly as a gateway to the outdoors. Central Issaquah has access points to Squak Mountain and Tiger Mountain, while Issaquah TC has an access point to Cougar Mountain not too far away. In addition, lots of groups meet at Issaquah Transit Center for carpooling further into the mountains, so transit options to Issaquah are useful for getting to the carpool spot.

      7. @Mike: I didn’t realize it was being re-zone as an urban center. Mostly because I didn’t realize there was any space there. The only non-park walking area sites is north/northeast (and a bit of the Talus development to the southwest), but 90 is 2-3 blocks north of the transit center. I guess you could get some development in there, but it barely looks like its worthwhile.

        @asdf2: Agreed that it’s a good gateway to the mountains, but most people will do that on weekends when there’s no traffic. Run more buses on weekends if that helps – that would still be much cheaper than building LRT.

      8. If the purpose of light rail were to maximize the riders carried per dollar spent, we would be focusing almost entirely on Seattle neighborhoods, and leave the rest of the region with nothing but bus service. The problem is that the cities outside of Seattle will not vote to use their tax dollars to fund Seattle projects. So, what we get is about giving everybody something, rather than building the most efficient network possible. It’s not ideal, but I think it’s also important to be pragmatic and not hold out for the perfect plan, while ending up with nothing.

        That said, I can at least say two things in defense of the Issaquah line:
        1) There will be some amount of “If you build it, they will come”.
        2) 2041 is a long time away, so you have to consider the line in terms of what Bellevue and Issaquah will look like in 2041 (or even 2071), not what they look like today, in 2016. By the time this thing finally opens, there will probably be a lot more development in both Issaquah and Bellevue than there is today. And, traffic along I-90, I-405, and the I-90/I-405 interchange will likely get a lot worse. Even in 2016, I observed I-405 as a parking lot between Bellevue and I-90, and this was on a Saturday. Combine this with the fact that parking in downtown Bellevue will inevitably get more difficult and expensive over the next 25 years (don’t assume that just because parking is mostly free there today that it always will be), there will be people who would be willing to ride the train then that wouldn’t now.

      9. Thanks William, that is quite flattering. But like a lot of things, I’m sure I’m not the first to figure this out. I certainly wasn’t the first to come up with the Metro 8 subway, nor the Ballard to UW light rail line (although for a while, my post was the first to appear if you searched for that phrase). All of these ideas make sense if you pay attention, and try to learn and discern the basic transit methodologies as often explained in this very blog. At the same time, you reach conclusions, as David has — that some things just don’t make sense. ST3 is full of such examples.

        Just a review here. Generally speaking, light rail is very expensive, and very expensive per mile. This means it only makes sense when:

        1) There are lots of stops along the way, ideally no more than a half mile apart.
        2) There are no fast alternatives for travel along that corridor. In short, it should be faster to travel that section at subway speeds (roughly 20 MPH, with all the stops) all day long.

        Issaquah light rail fails on both points, and just about any point imaginable. For many (and likely, most) in the area, it would require a three seat ride to downtown Seattle, and a four (or five) seat ride to much of the city. As someone who routinely drives right by beautiful Issaquah at 65 MPH, I have a hard time believing that tens of thousands of people will avail themselves of this wondrous opportunity. If it 3:00 PM, and you want to go from Issaquah to, say, Wallingford — are you really going to take a bus, then a train, then another train, then a bus? I doubt it. You will drive, and I will see you on my way back from the mountains.

        Of course, if a bus is available, that would be nice, too. There actually is a bus that would be quite helpful in that regard. Three of them, actually. All together, the buses that go to downtown Bellevue and Northgate, along with the more popular bus that goes to downtown Seattle, carry less than 3,000 people one way. So, essentially, you have buses that would be faster to those areas, connect to a lot more places, yet carry only a handful of people. But supposedly a train will be extremely popular — and thus run all the time — because … well it’s a train.

        It’s absurd. It really is. If you rank the congestion problems in the city, the section between Eastgate and Issaquah ranks towards the bottom. The number of people who suffer from the stupid HOV 2 along this corridor is minimal compared to the tens of thousand who suffer with — I don’t know — 15th Avenue (east or west).

        Which is not to say that there isn’t congestion between Factoria and I-405. Probably not top ten congestion, but congestion nonetheless. What is absurd is the assumption that the only way to solve that congestion is to build a light rail line. It is even more absurd to think that you should spend billions more extending that line all the way out to a transit center in Issaquah, that David rightly points out, is nothing more than strip malls and big box stores.

        If you really want to improve things, build a busway. Build a busway from Eastgate to downtown Bellevue. It shouldn’t be that hard. I would guess that it would, in fact, be much easier, and much cheaper, than building a brand new light rail line. It could — this is crazy now — take advantage of the existing infrastructure that (believe it or not) was built around the automobile. That would then allow buses from all over the region to get to downtown Bellevue very quickly.

        Meanwhile, you would also send buses to Mercer Island, or South Bellevue (as William said), thus turning a very infrequent, slow three seat ride into a more frequent, more direct (and faster) two seat one.

      10. “For many (and likely, most) in the area, it would require a three seat ride to downtown Seattle, and a four (or five) seat ride to much of the city. As someone who routinely drives right by beautiful Issaquah at 65 MPH, I have a hard time believing that tens of thousands of people will avail themselves of this wondrous opportunity. If it 3:00 PM, and you want to go from Issaquah to, say, Wallingford”

        You’re being Seattle-centric. The future of the Eastside is for most people to live, work, and recreate in the Eastside, as most of them already do. The cross-lake line is not for the majority, it’s because even the minority is large. Issaquah is on the other side of Bellevue and Redmond. That means more Bellevuites are more likely to go to Seattle, and more Issaquahites are likely to go to Bellevue, or they would not have moved to Issaquah in the first place. The primary transit markets for Link are Ballard to downtown, downtown to Bellevue, Bellevue to Redmond, and Bellevue to Issaquah. The fact that it all interconnects for longer trips is the wonders of a subway: it can do both simultaneously.

  5. Any ideas as to when the ST3-funded additional Sounder trips would start? Is that something where negotiations would begin as soon as the measure passed?

    1. The negotiations have been ongoing for several months, and CEO Rogoff said it’s not clear whether they’ll be finished by the election. ST is asking for a total package price to complete the third passenger track and have hourly service into the evening and some weekend service; then it can choose which of those options to exercise and when. ST is keeping quiet about how much it has to spend or could budget so that BNSF doesn’t say, “Well take that, thanks” rather than negotiating a lower price. ST has threatened to walk away and do something else instead if BNSF’s price is unreasonably high. But all that is up in the air.

      ST has all the vehicles for the ST2 upgrades (two peak and one midday round trips starting in the next year or two I think). So I guess that’s enough for hourly service off-peak, but I don’t know the ins and outs of dispatching trains and making sure there’s one at the terminus when its run starts. If ST does have to order trains, it would take several months or a couple years to have them made and delivered, unless it can buy some surplus idle ones from some agency.

      1. Hourly service between Seattle and Tacoma would require 3 trainsets and creating at a string line chart shows that the Seattle to Tukwila segment would need double tracking and the Tacoma to Sumner segment would also have to be double tracked. Sumner to Tukwila could be run with a single passenger track. Tukwila Station might be a problem if both Sounder trains are at the station at the same time. BNSF would surely want a track free for freight trains, so there may need to be a 3rd main at Tukwila to allow free movement for passenger trains.

  6. Riders from Issaquah to downtown Seattle will be asked to transfer from their local shuttle to trains already full with Redmond and Bellevue riders. Rule of thumb for transit planners is don’t force transfers at the receiving route’s peak load point.

    1. Riders from Issaquah may not be the majority of riders on the train. There are quite a few pointers in the earlier studies that the “Issaquah line” is mostly a Bellevue line, with ridership concentrated between DT Bellevue and Eastgate. The current line configuration suits those users fine.

    2. “Already full” remains to be seen. ST expects a certain number of riders between Redmond and Intl Dist, and twice as many between Intl Dist and Lynnwood. Some at ST have been concerned that the latter might get overcrowded even with two lines, by the target planning date of 2040. I haven’t heard anything like that for the Eastside. Maybe Issaquahites will have to stand peak hours. But that’s kind of normal, and they could go two more stations to Wilburton to maximize their chance of getting a seat.

    3. Hopefully people disembarking at Bellevue (a job destination) will help offset people hoping on to go to Seattle. If the transfer was at Wilburton is would be a much bigger problem.

      And remember, riders from Issaquah will be transfers to East Link regardless of what ST3 looks like. With no ST3, they will have a bus transfer at Mercer or South Bellevue.

    4. Also keep in mind, if the grand vision is two east-west lines, and the Issaquah line is extended all the way to Ballard, Bellevue is the best spot for those lines to intersect. There will always be some transfers (BallardRedmond, IssaquahSeattle) because you can’t give everyone a 1-seat ride.

      Seen this way, this line is a less important extension of a much bigger Lake Washington crossing. It is being built 1st b/c East King has money to burn & North King is spending money elsewhere.

    5. Why would anyone ride from Issaquah to Seattle with this routing? It’s totally out of the way to transfer in Downtown Bellevue. Quite short sighted in my view – the transfer should be at South Bellevue.

      1. A direct Issaquah- Downtown Seattle- Ballard line would also solve that problem. Another option would be to have the tracks from Issaquah stop in the opposite directions of the main East Link line to allow for quick cross-platform transfers without changing elevations.

      2. I would prefer a transfer at South Bellevue, but the time penalty isn’t terrible, and it will still be competitive over driving during peak.

    6. I just observed also that Issaquah riders destined to the Airport will have to transfer twice. Not fun with luggage, especially when it’s not a cross-platform transfer.

      1. That’s really not much of a downgrade from today’s system. Plus they’ll probably be more likely to use transit when Link provides a reliable trip time to the airport. If you’re taking transit to the airport you want a reliable trip time above all, and Link provides that.

      2. Another big thing lacking in today’s Issaquah bus service is frequency. The 554 is down to hourly sometime around 8 PM.

      3. @asdf2 — Right, the train will run more frequently, because running trains is much cheaper than running buses. Oh wait, no it isn’t. It’s the other way around.

      4. And they’ll have to wait until the second tunnel and Intl Dist station reconfiguration to not have to go up to the surface and back down the opposite direction to get to the airport. Remember to include enough time to wait for two elevators, and hope that they’ll be working.

        It’s possible Metro will have a route from Issaquah to South Bellevue when ST deletes the 554. Metro’s long-range plan has an Express route from downtown to Federal Way, and the definition of Express is “30 minutes minimum all day”. It might be downgraded to peak only (i.e., the status quo), but it looks like Metro is aspiring to all day. If Metro can do that for Federal Way, why can’t it do something similar for Issaquah.

    7. Issaquah to Seattle riders could transfer to East Link from fast bus at the Mercer Island station. The Issaquah Link line may be for another market.

      1. I’m going to venture to guess that there will exist Issaquah->Mercer Island express bus service, but that it will be peak-only, and all-day service will require the train->train transfer at East Main St.

      2. @asdf2 — So, the only time when taking a train could possibly be competitive with the bus (during rush hour, if there is an accident in the carpool lane) they will be running the buses. But when a bus is much faster, they will run the train. So, basically, if you are trying to get from the Highlands to, say, downtown Seattle at noon, you will take a bus, then a train, then another train. That will be ridiculously slow, even if you manage to time it just right. I really doubt you will find all but a handful of people willing to do that. They will drive, right past the big park and ride in Issaquah, and go to the big park and ride at South Bellevue (or the one in Mercer Island).

        Which means a couple things. First, frequency on this train in the middle of the day will be really bad. ST will lose a ton of money if they run this every half hour, but they probably will. Second, RDPence has nothing to worry about. Only a handful of people will ever ride the train and transfer.

    8. @RDPence — You have nothing to worry about. Very few people will take this train. Even fewer will transfer.

  7. Martin, I’m especially curious about the Kirkland to Issaquah line. I’ve walked the corridor between Kirkland Transit Center and South Kirkland Park and Ride twice.

    And from the Park and Ride to Downtown Bellevue twice, once via Bellevue Way, and once following the rail right-of-way down the east side of I-405.

    First segment: If it ever was in any Danger, the sign-raisers’ Trail is Saved by the Planet. A mile of two lane streets uphill from the Kirkland Library. A right of way I’m not sure was ever double tracked.

    And a cliff several stories high between the trail and South Kirkland P&R. Which, for a terminal in any direction, I wouldn’t want to have to defend in public in front of a satellite image. Even less than for the rest of the route.

    Between there and southward to, or past, Bellevue, you’re right about the trade-off. Existing railway, probably three minute ride to Richards Road, with closest pass to Bellevue Transit Center across 405. With no place a passenger station would make any sense. Though at their height, the interurbans did carry freight. Which I’d gladly defend.

    Now, am I right that the high demand corridor would run along the west side of 405 to Bellevue Transit Center before turning east? Because nothing billed “High Demand” can miss it. Anything elevated down either Bellevue Way or 112th Avenue will face richer trail-savers than their northern neighbors.

    So, I-405 is fastest and easiest. Tracks east of South Kirkland will permit elevated curve across SR 520. Probably only corridor that makes any sense at all. Expense and all. Including everything running north from South Kirkland, which can’t terminate a line like this.

    The best thing going for this project is the 24 years between now and 2040. Considering stability of current housing market, the Trail’s present neighbors could be so powerfully priced out of their homes they’ll be pleading for Sound Transit’s money. And the east side of 405 could become densely residentially transit oriented, interurban freight or not.

    But right now, only worthwhile meeting venue to discuss this line needs hiking boots. Come walk it with me. You name the day and time.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The Trail’s present neighbors have built McMansions over what used to be small 1960s and older bungalows, so they apparently have plenty of money for future property taxes.

      1. If only property taxes were all they had to worry about, Mike. Because the only way a certain developer’s current political campaign makes sense is as a diversion from the combination hotel and casino that he’s planning to privatize the whole EastLINK service area into.

        Who needs property taxes when they’ve got Eminent Domain? And based on his record, will sue anybody who makes fun of him in blog comments for three hundred trillion dollars. Take my whole account, Donald. Along with the identity of the Medellin informer whose identity I stole.

        Mark

    2. Mark, Issaquah-South Kirkland LRT will interline with East Link from Wilburton to East Main, sharing three stations. There is no need for a “railroad station” across I-405. Look at the map.

  8. All reading this does is give me angst regarding my own mortality.

    You should post actuarial life tables in conjunction with any project beyond 2040.

    1. My 73 year old Mother in Law just moved to Olympia and asked me when Sounder would be extended to Lacey. It isn’t looking too good for her lifetime.

      1. biliruben, your kitchen knife slips, you could have five minutes left. Blocked airway, a lot less. Salmonella gets through your immune system, before you hit the ground. Gravity. Acceleration. Sudden concrete related stop. Driving. With or without a crash.

        Why waste a second of reading life on anything out of the insurance industry? Aren’t their bills bad enough? The actuary that created that minute’s tables could also be dead before the last decimal point hits the printout.

        BillN, a few months more trackwork and probably some new switches along the north bank of the Nisqually River, and every Amtrak schedule south of Tacoma Dome could have three Sounder cars coupled to the rear locomotive.

        So if in five years your mother-in-law doesn’t show up for our weekly late afternoon train ride from Lacey to Portland, I’ll spend the rest of my 24 actuarial years tracking you down.

        Though by today’s news, and criminal M.O. trends, the Law at this nanosecond is already archiving your confession, I mean comment, off of Facebook. Where you’ve already been elbowed out by whoever just killed ISIS and took over their franchise. Or are going to do it.

        So please. Don’t make me celebrate my 94th birthday riding through the Save Our Trails historic neighborhood by myself.

        Mark

  9. This is so far away that I can’t help but wonder if different operational issues may change these concepts, or even that an unforeseen operational problem would be a better use of ST3 funds. At some point, the region has to politically shift from building rail to operating productive rail and I expect this to be happening by 2030 if not sooner.

      1. Great point. As an Issaquah resident, I’d be happy to vote to replace the Issquah line with top notch BRT, especially if it made sense as a part of a bigger package reallocating spend elsewhere. Same for replacing the Paine Field deviation with a BRT loop.

      2. Would only a local vote or council action be needed, or would ST3 directives have to be followed to use the funding unless a regional modification is voted on?

      3. The vote would have to be regional. The subareas are only accounting budgets, not tax districts. If they were separate tax districts we could have single-subarea votes. So the measure would say something like, “Modifications in Pierce and East King. No change in North King projects.”

    1. Good point, I agree.

      I think one of the big challenges is the terminology. In this region, people associate light rail with fast, grade separated light rail. From a political standpoint, this is huge. People get this, and think light rail will solve all our transit problems and is the only way to solve our transit problems. Understanding station placement is a lot more complicated. I didn’t understand its importance (as well as I do now) until I got on this blog, and started reading about transit issues in general. It is also inherently more complicated, with a lot more trade-offs.

      On the other hand, BRT means different things to different people. The only two examples we have in the region are RapidRide and Swift. We are about to add Madison BRT. While the last one is by far the highest quality — the closest thing to our light rail line of any bus line — it is not 100% grade separated either. There are sections that are as grade separated as our light rail line (intersections, but exclusive lanes) but there are other sections — sections in the heart of the line, downtown — where it shares space with cars (although not that many, as it will at least be BAT lanes). All of this makes pushing for BRT very difficult. Do you want something like RapidRide, which is BRT in name only, or do you want something like Madison BRT, which is largely separated from traffic? Or do you want something with even more separation?

      I forget who suggested it, but I think (politically) the big thing to push for is busways. A busway means a certain thing. It means a lane that only buses can travel in. That, to me, is the big appeal to the WSTT. You build that and you know that the central part of your system is covered. Even if nothing is done outside it (which seems unlikely) you would still have good speeds (and good frequency) through your core. Other things — like off board payment, level boarding, or buses with dual sided doors — already exist, or will exist shortly, so that part is easy to understand. I think if you promised West Seattle a busway from the major entrances to the freeway all the way to (and through) the tunnel, I think people would support it. They would certainly support it over “BRT”. The same is true for areas of the east side (e. g. Eastgate to downtown Bellevue).

      I could easily see, as you put it so well, shifting from building rail to operating productive rail I could also see us focusing on building busways, as opposed to simply calling something BRT. The former means focusing rail on areas where they make sense. But both are focused on building, not operating. Of course you need money for operations, but that really is dirt cheap, compared to the construction costs. Buying, maintaining, and running the buses costs millions, not billions. Build the WSTT, for example, and Metro just runs RapidRide buses through there (running in off board mode through the tunnel). They would save a fortune, just with the current schedules. Which means, of course, that you could easily meet demand by increasing frequency (at no extra cost).

      I do think it is possible that people will come to this realization before 2030, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It would take political will, and so far I’ve yet to see anyone with any political power say that the emperor has no clothes. They do behind closed doors, of course. They point out how ridiculous extending the spine is, while wondering why no one seriously considered building the Ballard to UW line. But no one has the guts to stand on record and point out the shortcomings of this proposal. They like bits and pieces (I do too) but they rarely focus on the weaknesses, which dominate the spending. I think it is highly unlikely that there will be a movement to stop the construction if this passes. It would require legal action, or another vote. Neither seems likely.

      My guess is that people need to see things before they accept them. We have a great example of a great busway, but in a few years it will only carry a train, and people will soon forget how it used to carry so many buses. Meanwhile, the train extensions we are about to build *will be* really nice. East Link and Northgate Link will be great. Lynnwood Link goes a bit farther than it needs to, but it too should be a big improvement (Northgate makes a terrible terminus). About the only area where folks are likely to doubt the effectiveness of rail is down south. In 2024, Federal Way will have light rail, and a lot of people down there will miss their (faster) buses. Others will wonder why we spent so much money when so few people ride the train. Seattle will have several “BRT” projects by then, and ST will have its first one (of any substance) which is 145th BRT. Attitudes might start to change then.

      But mainly in the south end. Areas to the north and east will be excited (for good reason) about the rail they just built, so I wouldn’t blame them for thinking the more the better (regardless of location). I doubt you will be able to stop West Seattle rail by then, as folks will point out the differences (and there are plenty) as opposed to the bigger theme (rail isn’t always the best choice). It would be silly to try and stop Ballard to downtown, the best project for ST3. But I could see other projects getting some blow back. But I see a couple problems. First, Tacoma and Everett feel like they “deserve it”, and that probably won’t change. Despite low ridership from Federal Way, they will feel they are different (just as West Seattle does). They aren’t suburbs, after all, they are cities. Construction may have already started anyway (although I don’t know the schedule).

      Which means that the Issaquah project may be the only one that gets axed. I still doubt it though. If ST3 passes, we are likely to build everything, even if alternatives would be much better.

      1. “My guess is that people need to see things before they accept them.”

        Yes. Originally Link was going to have a lot more surface routing (Mt Baker to SeaTac and beyond). The highest priority was low capital costs like other American light rail systems, believing that people wouldn’t vote for anything more expensive. But one by one the neighborhoods asked for grade separation and some of them got it. When Link started its signal priority in MLK was pretty bad, but that was ironed out in the first year and now I’d say MLK is performing better than I expected. As people saw and rode the train, they started thinking of it as a possibility in their community. As McGinn said when he was in office, the biggest question he got is, “When’s it coming to my neighborhood?” With ST2 and 3, support for grade separation is so strong it has become the norm. (By separation I mean no level crossings. Technically it’s at-grade in Shoreline and south King County because it’s on the ground, but because there are underpasses it doesn’t matter.) If we’d had this level of public support for quality at the beginning, things would have been designed differently. Just like if ST had been so TOD minded then as it is now, the first phase station areas would have been different. As Rainier Valley shows, being first often means getting the worst.

        “Construction may have already started anyway (although I don’t know the schedule).”

        Only the conceptual corridors have been chosen, basically the must-serve areas. They still have to go through an EIS which will take a few years, and the alignment might change then. Also, there has been no money or authorization for construction in Tacoma or Everett yet.

  10. I had occasion Saturday when I would have used Issaquah Link, had it existed. I was hiking Tiger Mountain and traveling to Issaquah from Bellevue Transit Center. As it was, I ended up riding Lyft to Eastgate Freeway Station and hopping on the 554 from there (since the route 240 connection would have required a 25 minute wait).

    I even had a brief period several years ago where I would have used the provisional Lakemont Station to commute to work. There actually are a fair number of apartments in the area, plus the Mountains to Sound Greenway for bike access.

    Of course, the real test for the usability of this line is going to be how frequently it runs. I don’t think it will be rush hour only because the 554, today, is not rush hour only. The question is, will it run all-day every 10 minutes or every 30 minutes? And, will it run late enough in the evening to allow someone attending a 7 PM Mariners game to get home without having to leave early (or drive to South Bellevue)?

    1. The last time I went to the Issaquah Highlands to explore the new urbanism, afterward I wanted to go to mid Bellevue (east of the TC) and I had a time constraint (about an hour). With the long ride from the Highlands to Issaquah TC, the long wait for the hourly 271, and the 45 minutes it takes to crawl to Bellevue TC, it was faster and more frequent to take the 554 to Mercer Island and backtrack on the 550 to Bellevue. That reminded me of high school when I lived on Somerset for a year and found it was sometimes quicker to take the 210 to Mercer Island and transfer to the 226/235 to go back to Bellevue high school rather than taking the 252 which was a one-seat ride (with a longer walk). So the current bus structure is really not set up for going from Issaquah to Bellevue or Crossroads; it inventivizes you to transfer at Mercer Island.

    2. As others have said, it’s a combination of topography and trying to string together a number of dense and/or developable areas. That upside-down U s a ridership killer.

      I wonder if mainline Link could be extended some day to the other side of that Tacoma Link U? It would make the western arm of the U, and the line beyond that, vastly more useful.

    3. Bus service is not that great to Issaquah because ridership is not that great. The 555 and 556 combined get about 150 people a day from the main Issaquah stop and about 125 from the Highlands. Most get off in downtown Bellevue but about a third keep riding (to the U-District). Issaquah to Seattle is better, but still very low. About 500 people a day from the main Issaquah stop, and about 200 before then (mostly the Highlands).

      With that kind of ridership, if it was a Metro run, I think these buses would be on the chopping block (or at least be a candidate for truncation at Eastgate). The subsidy is very high. I think half hour runs are a given, and ST would be losing a lot of money even doing that.

  11. What is the Tacoma Link extension trying to accomplish, exactly? The routing for anyone headed to downtown Tacoma is totally ridiculous. And the routing is mostly in traffic… at a cost of approx $500M. Is this really the best we can do?

    1. It’s hard to say. I look at it and think, “Wouldn’t I just take a 12th Street bus over the hill?” The map also looks incorrect because ST3 is funding it all the way to the current terminus, unless the Stadium/MLK segment was advanced into ST2’s budget. The reason for the line seems to be (1) Tacoma wants a branched Link network so the Stadium segment will eventually be used by multiple lines, (2) light rail can’t climb hills so it has to go around the downtown Tacoma hill, and (3) it will bring investment to MLK which is a low-income area like Rainier Valley was.

      1. That assumes that the Tacoma Dome is downtown. It’s actually a parking structure. Downtown Tacoma is the top end of the loop.

      2. Stadium and MLK are part of ST2 and will be done around 2019, I think.

        As far as why that routing, not 1 (anytime soon), but definitively 2 and 3.

        As far as a 12th St bus, got an hour to wait?

      3. Downtown Tacoma to me is South 9th to 19th Streets, so you’d have to go all the way around the loop and further to get to the offices and UW Tacoma. But maybe we can say that ten blocks of backtracking is not enough to worry about.

      4. “As far as a 12th St bus, got an hour to wait?”

        When I was in Tacoma one summer, the 6th Ave and 19th Street buses were half-hourly and the 12th Street buses were 15 minutes. That may have changed now but that’s why I assumed 12th. I was about to say 19th, where it would be even more advantageous to skip the U, but the 19th Avenue bus might be deleted when Link opens.

    2. Topography is a major challenge in Tacoma. The routing hits up both major hospitals (the TG/Mary Bridge/Group Health campus and almost-as-big St. Joe). That circuitous loop traverses the steep hill gradually, at a rate that can be accommodated by rail, via Stadium District, where it also picks up Stadium HS and a high-density and growing neighborhood (by Tacoma standards). If you were to short-circuit that loop, it would be like taking light rail straight down James Street or Queen Anne Ave in Seattle, for example. Not feasible. Also, the loop provides connections throughout the downtown core, similar to the tunnel in downtown Seattle. Now, let’s say they just went straight west from the top of the loop down Division/6th Ave. The corridor is so narrow and built-up, that they would literally be condemning dozens if not hundreds of businesses to build it. Not feasible. The 19th corridor allows the alignment to hit up St. Joe hospital and run down the much wider and much less developed 19th St. 19th St is rip for redevelopment, lots of run-down homes. There’s also the Tacoma Central shopping center, Allenmore Hospital, Tacoma Community College, and lots of multi-family housing along 19th. So, it was a balance of choosing the better, lower-cost corridor, traversing the hill, and hitting as many large traffic generators as possible. 19th being under-developed is a bonus, like running light rail down MLK in Seattle. I’m not in the loop as part of the decision making in any capacity, but as a Tacoma commuter and engineer, these are my speculations as to why they chose that alignment. It really makes sense, in my opinion.

      1. it would be like taking light rail straight down James Street or Queen Anne Ave in Seattle, for example

        More like descending Queen Anne Hill on Dravus. It gets you don’t the hill faster, but it doesn’t get you want you want. It gets you to the industrial center of Interbay, and a not-half-bad Irish style pub, but not much for a transit base is really there.

        If you go straight up the hill on 19th, you get quite a lot of not much while making the loop further north gives you lots of stuff that isn’t further south.

      2. For Sixth Ave, a better solution might be to remove street parking to extend Pacific Avenue BRT to the rest of Route 1

      3. Bob, removing street parking on 6th Ave is completely unrealistic. Most of Tacoma does not have transit, period, let alone the rest of Pierce County. If ST and PT were working in concert with each other, it could be a possibility, but since PC voters can’t seem to pass a transit bond, right now that isn’t realistic. Removing the street parking would kill the business district. A much higher need right now is to simply get transit in Tacoma. You know, something more than a bus every 90 minutes on a two- or three-mile grid.

      4. 6th Ave BRT – Convert parallel residential streets to bus corridors, only allowing buses and local traffic:
        Run a BRT on S 9th for downtown/Hilltop (only 3 blocks away from 6th, with areas north covered by Link)
        Then on S 8th as far as Pine (2 blocks away)
        Then on S 7th all the way to Orchard (1 block away, the gaps on this street are all on city-owned property)
        West of Orchard, 6th has enough width for bus lanes.

    3. They can’t go straight up the hill, that would be like climbing Queen Anne, not possible with light rail. Also, hits up three hospitals (TG/Allenmore/St Joe), Stadium HS, TCC, Tacoma Central Shopping Center. 19th St is a good pick because it is straight, wide, and somewhat underdeveloped, so there won’t be a need for tons of condemnations.

      1. It’s not as high, so they might be able to do a more gradual tunnel or something.

    4. It hits lots of destinations: 3 hospitals, a huge high school, Stadium District, the entire downtown, and two colleges. 19th is a good road – very wide with few obstructions, so little right of way take. Also, they couldn’t have run straight up the hill, that would have been like going straight up Queen Anne.

    5. The United States is the only country in the world still building new streetcar lines (and that’s what Tacoma LINK is, a streetcar line) in mixed-use traffic. Is there something great about that the rest of the world doesn’t know?

      1. Chris, I agree, streetcars are far inferior to true rapid transit (i.e. grade separated light rail). Right now Tacoma doesn’t even have decent bus service, which almost every major city in the world does have. It is quite pathetic. A streetcar/light rail extension for Tacoma (beyond downtown and into a residential area) would be a huge win and would, hopefully, induce enough ridership to garner support for transit levies down here.

  12. South Sounder question – how is the measure legally worded regarding South Sounder. Does ST have authority to divert the platform extensions to other improvements? After all, with enough trains, you won’t need the platform expansions at all.

    1. It’s commuter rail, so you’d never see something like trains every 10 minutes like you would light rail. Even with frequent trains, you’d want the long trains for special events and peak-of-peak service, like a train leaving King station at 5.30pm.

      1. Toronto’s commuter rail is going to be running every 15 minutes both directions all-day in under a decade. It’s not quite every 10 minutes, but it’s close.

      2. Fair enough, and that would be great, but I think ST is working under a vision of trains every ~30 minutes, in which case you want bigger trains.

      3. Why frequent service on Sounder wouldn’t work: “Rider Alert: Southline train 1510 (6:46 am Lakewood departure) is being delayed approximately 10 -15 minutes north of Tukwila due to freight interference. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

        This is a daily occurrence. They would have to triple or quadruple track the entire line shared with BNSF.

      4. ST’s goal is hourly, said Rogoff at the early June board meeting. That’s the best they’re hoping for now. Others like myself have suggested 30-minute service to really transform how south-central King County gets around, but ST has never officially acknowledged that idea.

      5. Would be nice if a lot of the freight could be re-routed onto the parallel rail line that runs from Tacoma Dome to South Center Mall where it links in with the BNSF main line. That other line bypasses a lot of the small downtowns too. Maybe Sound Transit should fix up that other line to get much of the freight out of the way?

      6. That would be nice but it’s owned by Union Pacific so BNSF probably doesn’t want to lose the freight revenue. There have been unofficial suggestions that the state should buy the BNSF line outright and shift most freight to the UP line, but the state hasn’t shown any interest, nor is there evidence that BNSF is willing to sell or would charge an affordable price. But it would be good if the state tried it.

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