28244469943_9e231d33c9_z

This November we have a generational opportunity to build on Sound Transit’s recent successes, and extend a regional rapid transit network that is able to scale with a growing region. To understand why a yes vote is important, we’ll start from the beginning.

Why Transit?

Ped, Bus, Bike, Car
Ped, Bus, Bike, Car

The reasons to favor transit investment over cars are numerous. The immediate environmental benefits are well understood: well-used rail uses less energy per passenger than driving, and that energy comes from sources cleaner than gasoline. The public health benefit of reduced car volumes and the exercise inherent in walking to transit is less familiar. People unable to drive deserve a good way to get around, not just a lifeline. A city with good transit service can devote less land to parking and more land to worthwhile things.

But most importantly, transit scales with growth far better than autos, for the simple fact that each person takes up less space on a transit vehicle than in a personal vehicle. No breakthrough in electric or self-driving cars is going to change this fact of geometry. There is no plausible car-first future. The world’s great cities are dense, and they all realize that high-capacity, traffic-separated transit is the only thing that can work at those scales. Seattle has a chance to be one of those cities, if it doesn’t tie itself to the auto. The alternatives are stagnation, or strangulation by traffic. Even the most car-friendly Western cities — L.A. and Phoenix — have realized that cars don’t scale and are furiously racing to add rail capacity.

Why Rail?

There are significant bus investments in the Sound Transit 3 package, and these are important. Rail will never go everywhere, especially in the short term, and many needs are urgent. At the same time, ST3 is fundamentally a rail package, and it’s important to understand the rationale for that.

There are a few attributes of light rail that really are superior to buses, all else being equal, in particular the number of passengers per multi-car train. But the core of high-quality transit, frequency and reliability, can come on steel wheels or rubber tires. That said, in practice our region implements light rail with the understanding that it will never operate in mixed traffic, there will never be on-board payment, and with few exceptions the trains operate on elevated or underground guideways with no traffic interactions whatsoever. Even our finest new bus-rapid-transit lines are entirely at-grade, and there are zero plans to change this. More importantly, buses’ flexibility is often a bug not a feature, as citizens and governments can much more easily dilute their quality, saying, “do we really need to have a dedicated lane here?” The path to true reliability is always to take the right-of-way, or even better to create it. In our current political climate, that means light rail.

Rail detractors will say that buses are much cheaper than rail, and can be just as good. Both are true, but they are mutually exclusive. Rail is expensive because it has its own guideways, and buses with their own guideways would be similarly expensive.

There is one exception where bus guideways already exist: our freeway system. Unfortunately, these are mostly controlled by our state legislature, which has shown no interest in holding even one freeway lane open for transit. And thus our freeway “express” buses are mired in mixed traffic just as bad as some arterials, and getting worse. Furthermore, transit tied to freeways, while valuable for some applications, can neither serve nor induce the truly dense and walkable neighborhoods the region needs, without significant investment in station areas that is inconsistent with low-cost BRT.

Why this package?

st3mapEven if we need transit, and need rail transit, is this the right set of projects? The “right” project is, of course, subjective. But with a few exceptions, we believe the Sounder and light rail lines planned serve their respective cities, corridors, and neighborhoods as well as a rapid transit line can. Most of all, a new downtown tunnel serving Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, the downtown core, and possibly First Hill, is needed today, and any unnecessary delay is unacceptable.

Other segments — notably the stretch from Lynnwood to Everett — are not as well-executed, but they are also not doomed to be failures. The pull of rapid transit is strong, and if cities get out of the way and allow development, in most cases it will come. STB will keep busy for years fighting for good station implementations that allow this to happen as much as possible, even when freeways and parking garages constrict what can be done.

Moreover, although we most value projects that maximize ridership and support growth, there are many other valid interests. Projects that don’t maximize ridership aren’t there because of agency ignorance, but because they serve other goals, whether they avoid construction impacts, spread benefits around the region, or avoid hostile neighborhoods. We don’t have to fully support each of those goals to understand why they are there, and we acknowledge that their inclusion helps consolidate support for the must-haves.

Vote Yes

The package reflects the desires of the 3-county electorate and its representatives. Sound Transit critics are fond of fixating on 1996-2001, which were indeed so  troubled that the agency barely survived. But after a period of intense reform, ST consistently meets its schedule commitments. This includes election-year promises made in 2008’s ST2.

Clearly burned by its initial experience, if anything ST is being too conservative, and leaving votes on the table by under-promising. The timelines are long, but worthwhile infrastructure projects take a long time. Voting no will simply make delivery slower. Voting no will likely kill the second Downtown tunnel, as a second try at ST3 would undoubtedly be less ambitious and offer lower-quality projects.

If you’re young, vote yes for a carbon-neutral future in which you can live oblivious to traffic. If you’re old, vote yes to leave behind a better region for the next generation. But vote yes.

The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Zach Shaner, Dan Ryan, and Erica C. Barnett.

226 Replies to “Yes on Sound Transit 3”

  1. The “Ped, Bus, Bike, Car” image is really misleading. The implication is that the bus is better than all the other modes because it uses less space. It is only a valid comparison when all of the travelers are traveling the same route. Efficient use of space in transit corridors is important, but is not the only consideration in transit. Many people are on foot, bike, or in a car because they are going somewhere the bus does not go, or are going to multiple stops. I recommend not using this comparison anymore because of this inherently misleading apples-to-oranges approach. Different modes of transportation can have very different uses.

    1. So, a more appropriate image here would have been a thousand pedestrians on that street, and the caption “train not shown, as it is running in a tunnel below”.

      The point of using this comparison is that some opposing ST3 are making the comical claim that driverless cars will make transit obsolete.

    2. Also, the images aren’t trying to paint transit as better than pedestrians or bikes. They are trying to paint all three as far superior to giving all our right-of-way over to cars.

      Nobody is making the claim that sidewalks and bikeways will make transit obsolete.

      One could point out that there are more cars than people in the last picture, but I don’t think that negates the point that cars use way too much space.

    3. Scott – the comparison is apples to apples for a given corridor. No one here is arguing we should built LR everywhere. The picture illustrates that for a given HCT corridor, LR has geometric advantages over cars that driver-less technology simply will not eliminate.

      In a corridor where space is not at a premium, either due to lower volume of riders, minimal congestion, and/or ample ROW, then the advantages of LR dissipate and it certainly does make more sense to deliver transit with buses or smaller vehicles. Those corridors are your oranges.

    4. Enough people are going to the same place to fill a bus even if other people are simultaneously going elsewhere. The picture is apparently a two-way street judging from the unfamiliar markings, but the vehicles are arranged in a one-way illustration. This means that in real life half the cars couldn’t fit on the street, while each of the other modes could fit in a single lane. Lining both sides of the street are office buildings or stalinesque apartment buildings, so they could easily generate that much traffic. This street has less capacity than Aurora or 15th Ave W; it’s four lanes rather than six. On both of those streets at rush hour the buses are packed full and slowed down by traffic. That suggests that there’s latent demand for even more buses in faster transit lanes.

      On I-5 between Lynnwood and Seattle I read that a third of the travelers are already on transit. If you reverse that it means that without the buses there would be a third more cars, which obviously would cause huge backups. (Of course, the drivers would switch to side streets or not travel to avoid the huge backups, but the diversion would fill up the side streets, and the not traveling would harm the region’s economy/cultural life.) At the same time, a trip from Lynnwood to Seattle is fifteen miles, so longer than many bicyclists would care to travel. The optimal bike point where cycling can be maximized is trips of five miles or less. This wouldn’t matter in a combined bicycle highway like the Burke-Gilman Trail that has both long- and short-distance trips, but it does suggest that shorter bicycle corridors would also get heavy use.

      The bicycle footprint in the picture is not much larger than the bus footprint, so I don’t think it’s saying bikes are less space-efficient than buses. In real life the cyclists would like to space themselves out a bit more, while in a bus the space is fixed, but even then the bikes would only take somewhat more space than a bus, not hugely more space.

  2. As to;

    There is one exception where bus guideways already exist: our freeway system. Unfortunately, these are mostly controlled by our state legislature, which has shown no interest in holding even one freeway lane open for transit. And thus our freeway “express” buses are mired in mixed traffic just as bad as some arterials, and getting worse. Furthermore, transit tied to freeways, while valuable for some applications, can neither serve nor induce the truly dense and walkable neighborhoods the region needs, without significant investment in station areas that is inconsistent with low-cost BRT.

    Let me put it this way from the centre if not the centre right… read carefully:

    1) I want more high capacity transit faster.
    2) I want more high capacity transit cheaper.
    3) I want more high capacity transit more places.

    Double Tall BRT if it had state legislative support could do all of this. Which I’d support over light rail.

    But with a state legislature so damn ignorant about transit and with transit boards not directly elected; ST3 is our best and perhaps only bet to get high capacity transit done for Ballard, West Seattle, Everett & Tacoma. A lot can happen in four years – including no redo. Don’t risk it.

    1. Designing a package around rail protects the investment from BRT creep. Ultimately, the reason to prefer rail over BRT along most ST3 corridors has very little to do with the technical advantages of rail over bus.

      “.. in practice our region implements light rail with the understanding that it will never operate in mixed traffic, there will never be on-board payment, and with few exceptions the trains operate on elevated or underground guideways with no traffic interactions whatsoever. … The path to true reliability is always to take the right-of-way, or even better to create it. In our current political climate, that means light rail.”

      1. True that and as I remind my anti-ST3 friends I didn’t see any of them nor Washington Policy Center stand up and say, “I’d rather give up a lane of Interstate Highway for transit than have light rail.”

        ST3 is the consequence of the opposition since before 2012 choosing absolutism conservatism over pragmatic, collaborative conservatism. You can guess who I’m aiming this comment at and if you think Sir Rob McKenna plus certain current and former occupants of a SoDo office a 10-minute walk from the light rail across from a Burger King, you’d be right.

    2. Much of the legislature represents rural or exurban areas that while they should have transit improvements, it’s not to the level of cities or these pictures. As for elected transit boards, that wouldn’t help at all because the highways would still be under the legislature’s control, and the boards wouldn’t be able to raise taxes for transit without asking the legislature’s permission for each one — the same problem we have today.

      1. I wish ST had been more willing to consider other ideas. ST’s initial choice of light rail was based partly based on several assumptions that no longer apply. It anticipated a network with much more surface-running to keep capital costs low (e.g., Mt Baker to SeaTac), and it chose light rail because it’s capable of surface-running. But as each segment went through design, more and more people demanded elevated or underground (or in freeway ROW with no level crossings) and were willing to pay for it.

        But the more people you have agreeing on something, the more likely it is. ST and the cities and counties and legislature and much of the public have formed a large consensus on what to build. It took three decades to build that up. If you blow that apart because you want something better, you’ll have a much smaller consensus and it will be much harder to get anything approved.

    3. Politics is about making compromises, political debate is about fighting over minute details. If you’re on board with ST3, the details of your preferred dream system don’t bother me. Let’s get this thing passed!

      But that said…. this is a forum for debate, as not decision making ;-)

      I agree that the important thing is high capacity transit, and that the technical differences between bus and rail are much less important than the differences between a good and a bad rail system, or a good and bad bus system.

      But, I’d add one argument. When we’re on the surface, it probably makes sense to go for cost savings in most cases, and we should default to buses. But when we’re creating new roadway (tunneling + bridging), the cost of creating that ROW (and stations) dwarfs the cost difference between buses and trains, and so we should use our best, highest capacity technology so that we make best use of that large investment. That means rail.

      Caveats – buses can fan out after a tunnel, so if the tunnel is short and destinations are spread out on the other end, that’s the way to go (eg DSTT, 520). If you’ve already got a technology along a route, it makes more sense to continue with that tech than to force transfers or run redundant services and therefore have worse headways (eg CCC and ST3 north and south extension for rail, DSTT and 520 again for sticking to bus)

      Anyway, just picking nits. Yay ST3! Go grade separated transit!!!

      1. >> Caveats – buses can fan out after a tunnel, so if the tunnel is short and destinations are spread out on the other end, that’s the way to go (eg DSTT, 520). If you’ve already got a technology along a route, it makes more sense to continue with that tech than to force transfers or run redundant services and therefore have worse headways.

        Nailed it! Well said. Funny thing, though. ST decided not to consider buses in an area where fanning out and existing infrastructure are prevalent. West Seattle fans out to a huge degree, and Ballard does as well*. Both have existing roadways that can be leveraged for grade separation. In fact, the first proposal for Ballard light rail did exactly that, and ran the train on Elliot/15th (it has been modified slightly to run elevated). West Seattle, of course, has the West Seattle freeway which can be leveraged — a freeway, by the way, owned by Seattle that already has some grade separation.

        * A north south line from Ballard would fan out. An east-west line wouldn’t. You will notice that no one has every said that a bus tunnel from Ballard to the UW makes sense because the value of fanning out after the tunnel is minimal. Some areas make sense for rail, some for buses.

      2. RossB,
        To choose a bus tunnel downtown over a light rail tunnel downtown is a shortsighted investment that prioritizing giving a subset of Seattle 1-seat rides to downtown while capping capacity into downtown for the rest of the region. It’s a Seattle-only investment rather than a regional investment.
        Let’s walk through an example … given your preference for Bus service to Ballard and W Seattle, would you accept the following proposals:
        Option 1:
        Bus only lanes between W Seattle & SoDo (or ID). Bus only lanes down 15th Ave, including a new Ballard Bridge. Assuming the bus lanes are done right, this leverages the existing roadways you point out.
        Option 2:
        Option 1, plus New downtown tunnel and Link extension (as proposed in ST3) between Westlake and Smith Cove. Ballard buses can transfer at Smith Cove to avoid lack of (effective) bus lanes in Uptown, and E-line transfer at Harrison.
        Option 1 doesn’t fix the capacity issues with a single Link tunnel downtown, regardless if all these Seattle buses run on the surface or in a new bus tunnel. Option 2 does, while leveraging the existing roadways you are so eager to use.
        The way I view it, the downtown tunnel is a regional asset that meets a regional need & is paid for by the entire region. Separately, the 3 new stations in SLU and Uptown are to serve the expanding downtown, and fulfill the most important segment of any Metro 8 subway. (Smith Cove & Interbay stations are very much “well we’re on the way anyway” type stations).
        With this view, the difference between Option 2 and the actual ST3 proposal is the fact that we have so much North King money to burn, we might as well extend the two lines a bit to serve Ballard & West Seattle while we’re putting in the new Downtown tunnel & Uptown stations. Would you rather have Option 2 and a Ballard to UW tunnel vs. ST3? Maybe, but that’s a distinct argument from the bus tunnel.
        To cut out the rail tunnel misses the point that the tunnel is being built to serve a regional need, not a Ballard/West Seattle need. A bus tunnel will not meet this need, nor will a Ballard-UW tunnel.

      3. OK, to be honest, AJ, I’m confused with your comment. I tried reading it a few times, but I still am not sure which options you are proposing. Let me put it this way — I would do this:

        1) Build the WSTT — https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/02/18/westside-seattle-transit-tunnel/
        2) Fix West Seattle.access — https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/12/16/lrt-vs-brt-to-west-seattle-a-mapped-comparison/ or https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/08/03/build-real-brt-for-west-seattle/
        3) Add bus lanes to Elliot and 15th
        4) Build another Ballard bridge

        OK, at this point you actually have roughly the same amount of right of way as ST3. ST3 adds more in West Seattle proper, but that is about it. The bus plan adds a lot more access points (in West Seattle, Aurora and SoDo). Here are the trade-offs, from what I can see:

        Advantages of ST3:

        1) Higher capacity vehicles, and all the advantages that go with it –cheaper cost per rider if the vehicle is close to full, potentially greater overall capacity (although that gets complicated, too).
        2) Better service to the West Seattle Junction.

        Advantages of bus plan:

        1) Fewer forced transfers.
        2) Higher frequency in the core.
        3) Likely much cheaper to build, since you wouldn’t need to build a new West Seattle bridge, but make minor changes to it (or the Spokane Street Viaduct). You also save a bit by not laying rail (although a new Ballard bridge would be expensive either way).
        4) The possibility of building it piecemeal. Is the Ballard Bridge really the most important thing to build if you have built everything else? Maybe we put money into something else.
        5) Service to Aurora (this could be added later).
        6) It could serve a wider region. This is especially true of the south end. Buses that use the south end of SR 99 (from Burien or White Center) or even I-5 (Renton and Tacoma) could use the Sodo Busway and the tunnel. WSDOT even has a project on their list for a new ramp connecting the I-5 HOV lanes to the SoDo Busway (likely shelved because of ST3).

        To me, there aren’t enough advantages for this line for rail to make sense. Quite the contrary. This seems like a textbook example of where bus infrastructure makes sense. Less so on the north end for sure, but still. Keep in mind, the primary advantage of trains is their capacity, and our trains don’t have a huge capacity advantage over big buses. It depends on headways. The buses can get by with very small headways (assuming the same boarding style) especially if you become more interested in throughput versus reliability. Given the makeup of the system, I think almost everyone would. There is no advantage to reliability if you are forced to wait for a train (after getting off the bus). In other words, if a bus is delayed for a couple minutes because it is backed up in the tunnel, it is no different than if you had to wait three minutes for the train. Of course if your trip is within the tunnel exclusively, it is different. Except that for the most popular part of that trip (one end of downtown to the other) is already served by the other tunnel. Besides, put the two tunnels right next to each other – one with buses running constantly and the other with a bus running every three minutes — and most people will choose the bus.

        But I think that is wishful thinking anyway. There just aren’t enough riders to expect the capacity needs for this line to be the overwhelming issue. For this particular line, a bus tunnel just makes more sense.

      4. I meant Options 1 & 2 to be illustrative examples – I’m fully in support of ST3’s plan for the downtown core. My point was that replacing LR with BRT does make sense outside of the core – Ballard to Smith Cove, West Seattle to SoDo – but not inside the core. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

        I really don’t object to your (2), (3), and (4). I just firmly believe that we need LRT in the core, not another bus tunnel.

        My objections to a bus tunnel are threefold:

        1) Fails to serve the greater region, giving Seattle better one seat riders while not helping riders from outside of Seattle.
        — I don’t buy it helping Renton – those buses will likely truncate in RV or Boeing Access road, no?
        — If this was a Seattle funded project, a bus tunnel would make perfect sense, but ST wants to fund it regionally. If we switch to a bus tunnel, I’m not paying for that with East King money.

        2) Gives downtown better frequency but not better capacity. I’m not concerned about frequency – at peak, trains are coming every 3 minutes regardless. Anandakos makes a great point below about how high bus frequency doesn’t help riders going somewhere other than other stops in downtown.

        3) Doesn’t give the north half of downtown – SLU – the subway it deserves.

        … hopefully that is more coherent?

      5. That makes more sense, thanks. As to your points:

        1) I disagree completely. It is quite possible that a bus tunnel will only serve Seattle. But is pretty much guaranteed that a new train tunnel will only serve Seattle. The tunnel is being built to connect Ballard to West Seattle. You can shift things around all you want, but that is the only reason it is being built. Cancel Ballard light rail and West Seattle light rail and you don’t have a tunnel. There would be no need.

        Of course this could be extended, but you can say the same thing about the buses. I personally think it is highly unlikely that the train will extend to Burien. There just isn’t the density there to justify it. On the other hand, the WSTT (as proposed) would serve the 120, which does go to Burien now! In other words, the WSTT would serve an area outside Seattle the day it opened, even if you only served the buses shown on the proposal. For a light rail plan, you are talking about ST4 or ST5 or something 50 years down the road. You might as well build it as a bus tunnel, and then talk about retrofitting it for rail at the same time (if it actually made sense to run a line out that far, which I think is highly unlikely).

        As far as Ballard is concerned, it is the same dynamic. If it gets extended, then it will go northeast, towards Northgate and Lake City. There are a lot of big challenges with that route (crossing I-5 would probably require a tunnel, and North Link is elevated) which again, is why I don’t think it will ever be built (ST5?). But if they did anything, that would be it. There would be no reason to leave the city. Meanwhile, with a bus tunnel, you have buses from the north end (outside the city) that would use it via Aurora. So from the north and the south this would serve more areas outside the city than the light rail line.

        2) Capacity concerns are overblown and the difference between our light rail and BRT are not that big. This isn’t BART. These are four car sets. That would be a lot of buses, sure. But with lower dwell times (off board payment, level boarding, lots of doors, but fewer than a train) it is quite reasonable to assume that the buses could serve it in a reasonable fashion. There won’t be that many stops (this isn’t like the other bus tunnel). I’m not saying it will be as smooth as a three minute train, but it is possible that you could actually have greater capacity (side note: I’ve tried to break down the numbers, but folks on either side of the “buses are better”/”trains are better” debate have written a lot of BS about capacity).

        In general I don’t see capacity as being the huge problem that folks suggest it is. The main line can carry huge numbers of people. There just isn’t enough value added to assume that the other line will be hugely popular. South Lake Union (along with the rest of it) will certainly get riders, but nothing like the main line. It really isn’t even close. The main line ties together most of downtown with Capitol Hill and the UW. That is by far the most productive line we could ever build. That is the one that will run every 3 minutes during rush hour, and justify turn backs at SoDo.

        But 3 minute peak for the Ballard line is not a crazy idea (it could happen). But what about off peak? Do you really think this will run every 5 minutes, all day long? Again, that might happen with the other line, but I don’t see it with this one. My guess is we are looking at 10 minutes, which is what the main line does now.

        In short, there is more than enough capacity with buses to serve that corridor (albeit at a higher cost) and during much of the day it will lead to better frequency.

        3) WSTT serves the north end of downtown better than ST3. Both have a station at Denny and Aurora (more or less). Both have a station in Lower Queen Anne. But the WSTT adds a station at Belltown, which is the highest density area in the city!

        The tunnel would also connect more of the north end of downtown to the city. Imagine you want to get from Phinney Ridge to South Lake Union. The train is pretty much pointless to you. Are you really going to take a bus south, then transfer to the 44, then take a train? Of course not. You will simply take the 5. With the tunnel, the 5 runs more often and more consistently, because it doesn’t get stuck slogging downtown. Same with the ‘E’.

        Oh, and SLU does deserve a subway, but it isn’t getting it. There will only be one stop, and it will be close to Denny, which isn’t really a great location (I know the WSTT has the same stop, and I’m not claiming it is a great stop there either — it is simply an entrance). Here is an example of why it really isn’t that great:

        Imagine your starting point is somewhere around Fairview and Republican. This is hardly a fringe case; that area is under crazy construction right now, and most would consider it well within the core rectangle that is SLU.

        Now imagine your destination is a restaurant on the 15th East strip — say, 15th E and Republican. Also a common gathering place, and as it happens, precisely 1 mile away along a perfectly straight line.

        Unfortunately, 15th & Republican is a full 13(!) minutes walk from Capitol Hill station. Kind of an eternity in the rain, if you ask me (or most people).

        So how would a Link-“enabled” trip like this simple, perfectly commonplace journey between two adjacent neighborhoods look?

        You would need to:
        1. Walk 10 minutes.
        2. Wait for the train.
        3. Go one stop.
        4. Indulge whatever laborious transfer pathway Sound Transit builds at Westlake. (Even the biggest ST fans would acknowledge that they haven’t been good at this sort of thing).
        5. Wait for the next train.
        6. Go one stop.
        7. Walk 13 more minutes.

        Of course, you could also add in a feeder bus or two. But now you’re waiting four times. Remember, this entire trip covers 1 mile as the crow flies!

        When all is said and done, Link hasn’t helped you one bit. It is dead to you. You go back to the slow as molasses 8 bus, still just as lousy decades on. Or you take a Lyft.

        So, yeah, South Lake Union deserves a good subway — but this isn’t a good subway for it. Now, a Metro 8 subway is a completely different matter. [By the way, notice how no one has ever proposed a Metro 8 bus tunnel, just as no one has ever proposed a Ballard to UW bus tunnel. Folks who proposed and champion a bus tunnel through downtown are not bus tunnel fanatics (OK, some of them are) but people who have looked at the geography and geometry, and concluded that it is simply a better solution.]

      6. I believe the service pattern ST is proposing is more of an X, with Ballard line served by trains coming from RV, and the West Seattle line will be served by trains coming from UW. A Ballard to West Seattle trip will require a transfer. My understanding is that will allow ST to maximize frequency between UW and Westlake and then split those trains between East Link & West Seattle. Ballard would get the 6 minutes headways that RV is capped out at.

        I agree it is unlikely for rail to be extended much beyond Ballard or Alaska Junction – unless land use patterns change significantly, both Ballard-Northgate/Lake City and West Seattle-Burien are probably best served by multiple bus routes.

        But I think the bus tunnel caps out how much frequency you can put into the bus system that feeds into downtown. If you want to boost frequency on, say, the 5, you then have to run all those extra buses the entire length of downtown – you can’t force a transfer onto another bus b/c that would kinda defeat the point of having a bus tunnel? And all those extra buses don’t help downtown riders because presumably those buses are full before they get downtown or you wouldn’t need to boost frequency

        Having buses truncate north & south of downtown means you can push higher frequency into the system without having to worry about how you are going to get all those buses through downtown.

        If we are only running major routes through the tunnel – C/D/E/5/120, etc. – then this could work. But does it make any sense for smaller routes? Are you going to make those buses run all the way through downtown, in which case the high frequency of major routes in the tunnel doesn’t help me get to my destination. Or do you force a transfer onto “major” routes so secondary routes can have good frequency outside of the core and let the major routes do the heavy lifting?

        Put another way, If I’m running 600 buses through downtown during peak, I have 600 drivers all driving the exact same route for about 20 minutes each in giant platoons. I’d rather cover that peak hour with Link trains passing through downtown every 5 minutes, and have those 600 buses busy driving their routes outside of downtown instead of duplicating service with each other.

      7. I believe the service pattern ST is proposing is more of an X, with Ballard line served by trains coming from RV, and the West Seattle line will be served by trains coming from UW.

        That is my understanding as well. This being the case, though, I doubt they will run trains to West Seattle every three minutes. There just isn’t the demand. There are turn back stations in SoDo, and they will be used (likely years before a West Seattle line could be built). But that is a side issue (and irrelevant to this discussion, really).

        I also think it is likely they will run them every two minutes, if capacity is a problem. This might mean investing in infrastructure improvements, or simply putting up with a bit of irregular service, but that is a small price to pay. But again, that is because UW to downtown is the main line. With all due respect to small parts of South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne or Ballard, that is where the bulk of our riders will ride.

        In any event, adding a second line really doesn’t improve the situation. It simply means that it is a better alternative (from a capacity standpoint) over some alternatives (sharing the same line through downtown).

        Put another way, If I’m running 600 buses through downtown during peak, I have 600 drivers all driving the exact same route for about 20 minutes each in giant platoons. I’d rather cover that peak hour with Link trains passing through downtown every 5 minutes, and have those 600 buses busy driving their routes outside of downtown instead of duplicating service with each other.

        Right, that is the trade-off. But keep in mind that we had a similar option for train only service within our core for years. It would have been trivial to run a train from Convention Place to SoDo. We could have kicked out the buses, and ask people to transfer. But no one wanted that, because no one wanted to make a transfer right before downtown, even if it meant better frequency outside it. Even today, very few buses do that. The ‘C’, the 120 and just about every bus that comes from West Seattle does not just turn around at SoDo, after dropping off its passengers. It slogs through downtown (by far the most time consuming part of the journey) because people would rather do that than transfer.

        As far as routes in the tunnel, what Seattle Subway proposed would be fine. There would be no reason to shuttle people onto the buses, just run the buses. The old bus tunnel was at about 50% capacity, and didn’t have level boarding (although it did have a bizarre form of off board payment). It covered a bigger area (including UW to downtown). Studies would have to be done, of course, but my guess is that you could fit all the buses shown in the WSTT pictures quite easily within the tunnel, once you added off board payment and level boarding. From what I can tell, just about all those buses (and many more) all converge onto the same street right now! This is on a surface street. Go look at the bus list for third and Virginia — it is quite impressive. Obviously we don’t want to mimic the problems with that bus stop, but simply by building the tunnel, you eliminate just about all of them. The ‘C’ and ‘D’ are once again linked, instead of overlapped. You take a subset of those buses and put them in a tunnel. If you look at that list you can see that while it is impressive from a user standpoint (wow, all those Aurora, Ballard and West Seattle buses would run in a tunnel) it is not overwhelming. It is still a very small subset of our overall bus system. If there is a bottleneck, then it will occur as Aurora buses mix with Ballard buses (a benefit that simply doesn’t exist with a train). Here are maximum headways (lowest frequency) for the buses:

        D – 5 minutes
        E – 5 minutes
        5 – 15 minutes
        5X – 10 minutes
        15 – 15 minutes
        17 – 15 minutes
        18 – 15 minutes
        26 – 15 minutes
        28 – 10 minutes

        That is less than one per minute. Even if you double frequency (and you likely would) that is not really a problem. Of course some buses get delayed a few seconds to merge, but in case you haven’t noticed, the dwell times on our trains aren’t exactly stellar. Once you add the requisite doors, the passing area (which exists with the old tunnel) the bus tunnel will function just fine, just as the old bus tunnel did, back when it had nothing but buses in it (and was part of the ride free zone). It will be quite similar to riding Link, really.

        Oh, and the net time saved for a train versus bus tunnel wouldn’t necessarily be as big as you suggest. Keep in mind, if we build the train (instead of the tunnel) we will still run a lot of the buses through downtown. This, according to the long range planning by Metro. That could change, of course, but I don’t see a huge amount of bus routes going away. Maybe in West Seattle, but I would guess that buses would still come from Ballard and serve Belltown (which is the plan according to Metro). Meanwhile, from a service standpoint, the Aurora corridor gets nothing. There is no way those buses turn around and don’t through downtown. Thus we actually lose some savings, while gaining others with a train system.

        But again, that isn’t my main point. Whatever operational savings exist (if any) are more than overwhelmed by both the capital cost and the inferior service. Of course a train is better than nothing — certainly better than what we have now. But for this particular line, you save more people more time by running buses through a tunnel.

      8. Aaach — sorry about the bold. I hate when that happens. I meant to highlight only the phrase “the main line”. As in UW to Ballard is the main line..

  3. Actually busses are not necessarily cheaper than rail in the long term. In terms of Initial investment, yes, but in terms of ongoing per passenger costs of busses vs. rail, bus systems spend about the same as rail, and on top of that they tend to have less fare recovery. Not to mention they need replacement more often than trains do. Also, to run BRT often involves removing two or more lanes of traffic/parking. The cost of the lower traffic and/or parking capacity needs to be taken into account, as well as the “opportunity cost” of not building rail and having lower ridership, hence lower total (car + transit) capacity. It’s kind of like buying vs renting–you have to put much more “skin in the game” at first, but in the long term you can actually end up ahead.

    1. A nice run-on paragraph. I’ll just say this much, as to “to run BRT often involves removing two or more lanes of traffic/parking” I 100% agree and the political will is just not there in the state legislature to have buses – perhaps automated – run up and down those I-5, I-405 and other thoroughfares every few minutes…

      I like to think I live in the real world. The WPC, “Smarter Transit” and the rest get to dream big dreams. We transit advocates don’t. Some of us even oppose electing ourselves to transit boards, but that’s bordering on off-topic.

    2. B – I think you are agreeing with the post, but I can’t tell?

      This is basically the point the editors are making. To create great transit does require more skin in the game. For BRT, that’s either taking away existing lanes from parking/GP (e.g. Madison BRT), or buildings new lanes (e.g. 405 HOT lanes). For LR, you are required to build new ROW.

      As Joe says, we live in the real world.

      1. You’re not required to build new ROW. The East Link tracks are going into the I-90 express lanes. That would be the same thing as putting trains in the left lane on 405. You’d just have to make sure the car exits don’t cross the tracks, and that the stations are designed so that pedestrians and bus riders from surrounding streets can get to them without crossing the car exits.

      2. Good clarification – you are required to have fully separate ROW. You can create that ROW by taking it from existing ROW,.

        Nonetheless, the safety requirements generally protect LR from BRT creep in ways that BRT can’t without strong political support.

    3. It gets a lot more complicated than that. There are places where trains can run more cheaply, but there are also places where trains simply can’t run. Madison is a good example. A train can’t run on the surface (or elevated). Run a train through a tunnel, add all the same stations, and you digging some really deep holes. Whatever service savings you make by running a less frequent train will likely be eaten up simply paying off the debt on the project. I could probably save a lot of money on my heat bills if I covered my house in solar panels and built a geothermal heat pump. Everyone could. But it won’t pay for itself ever. I am better off just putting the money in the bank (or not borrowing the money as the case may be) and just paying my bills.

      Oh, and did I mention that the savings come from running less frequently? Generally speaking, running a bus is just as cheap, if not cheaper than running a train. But a train carries way more people. So the savings come when you run the trains less frequently. For very crowded routes, the savings are worth it. There is no point in running buses every 30 seconds when you can run a train every couple minutes. But for less frequent routes, this is an issue. A train to Issaquah, West Seattle, Everett or Tacoma for example, is not likely to run every two minutes all day long. Typically, in similar systems, they run every 15-20 minutes. So instead of running a bus every five minutes (which is the case for Tacoma, for example) you would run a train every 15 or so. This is a clear degradation in service, but running empty trains is very expensive.

      1. Ironically, the train has enabled running a whole bunch of bus routes much more frequently. Perhaps you haven’t noticed.

      2. Yeah, the savings show up with bus truncation to feed a light rail core, rather than a BRT system with a trunk and branches. A new downtown tunnel would have superb frequency downtown due to the layering of all the routes feeding into downtown, but then you have to employ significantly more drivers for many buses rather than one train.

        A rail tunnel leverages cost/rider of light rail in the core to invest more capacity. The tradeoff is the forced transfer – a trunk & branches has more one seat rides to the trunk.

        In many ways, a bus tunnel is a compromise in between light rail ( one driver, a big vehicle) and cars (many drivers, many vehicles), though a bus platoon skews much closer to a train set than a car platoon.

      3. @Brent — Of course I noticed it. I also noticed that passing Prop one made a bigger difference. My point is that those savings are minimal compared to the capital costs (i. e. paying off the bonds). What I don’t understand is what is ironic about it.

        The primary value of U-Link is for the riders who use it, just as the primary value of a bus tunnel is for the riders that use the tunnel. Both have cost savings (huge cost savings). But in neither case are those savings significant enough to overwhelm the huge capital costs. If you simply wanted more frequency, in almost all cases it is cheaper to simply pay for it (paying for some capital projects such as bus lanes may pay for themselves, but I’ve never heard anyone make that case).

        @AJ — Exactly. Operating a bus tunnel is significantly more expensive than operating a similar train tunnel. But it also provides greater service. Both have significant operating savings (you could simply run the existing buses at the current service levels through a downtown bus tunnel and come out with a lot of savings).

      4. Ross,

        You’re conflating “service to many destinations” with “more frequent service”. Sure, for people traveling entirely within the bounds of a bus tunnel with many routes, the more frequent service is better. And there are lots of people making such a trip, at least during the lunch period.

        But, there are also some long distance operations on limited access roadways with few or no stops where routes to a general area overlap where there’s no benefit from running multiple bus routes because they in aggregate don’t provide more frequent service to the intervening area than would a train system with a similar stop pattern. That’s because a good number of the buses in your mooted tunnel go to different regions.

        And, most importantly, when you get out to the neighborhoods which those many bus routes serve, you’re back to the decades long Metro standard of once-every-thirty-minutes. Running somewhat less frequent service consisting of much larger vehicles in the, yes, “spine” of the system allows you to re-purpose many — not all because railcar costs per hour are considerably higher than bus costs per hour, but many — of those bus service hours in the tunnel and along shared freeway rights of way to neighborhood shuttle service. Then you have greater frequency in the neighborhoods.

        Now I’ve argued several times that, at least for the Northeast Seattle restructure, more off-peak local service is mostly wasted because there’s nobody home! Housing is so expensive northeast of UW that almost all households are two-full-time-income with relatively few children. And except for Lake City, there’s no place for students at the UW to rent. So there are few people present to ride those more frequent buses.

        Too bad, so sad. I think that the overall static Metro ridership in the Northeast quadrant since the restructure says this clearly.

        In other places in the region, increasing the neighborhood circulation would pay off in better overall ridership. That would be true especially in the Rainier Valley where the base period service on the 7 with base period service every ten minutes is sometimes overloaded at 1:00 in the afternoon. So Metro might want to have a little Socialism here and maybe chop some of the fairly empty Northeast Seattle buses back to 30 minutes and put the hours in the RV.

      5. Actually, it works both ways. In a tunnel, you would have more frequent service, for the reason mentioned. But in the more distant areas, it is highly likely that a bus would provide more frequent service as well. A single bus tends to be cheaper to operate than a single train. That is why, for example, it is pretty common for suburban locations (or a city like Tacoma) to have very frequent service to Seattle. But it is rare (practically unheard of) for low density suburbs (or low density density cities like Tacoma) to do so. In other words, it is far more likely that if ST3 is built, at some point Tacoma will see a reduction in frequency.

        But even in more proximate and slightly more dense (and much more popular) bus lines, the same dynamic applies. I believe Link said they will run West Seattle rail at most every ten minutes. The 120 runs more than that. It simply costs a huge amount of money to run a half empty train, whereas it is fairly cheap to run a half empty bus.

        I do agree with you though, that in no universe should we expect higher frequency service to very low density areas, because (as you mention) it doesn’t really lead to higher ridership. We have bigger fish to fry.

  4. I really want to like this but I really get stuck on the Everett and Tacoma extensions. There’s just not that many people on those corridors and with all those stops, it adds up and also delays corridors that aren’t served yet and have higher densities. Yes there’s subarea equity that’s the source, but I really wish they could have at least thought about Sounder right of way acquisition and build out as something that might be a better allocation of money for those counties.

    The point being, I just don’t buy this:

    “Other segments — notably the stretch from Lynnwood to Everett — are not as well-executed, but they are also not doomed to be failures. The pull of rapid transit is strong, and if cities get out of the way and allow development, in most cases it will come”

    I feel like there’s no proof it won’t be doomed to be a failure. This whole quote sells it as cities will get behind it, eventually. I don’t see the proof of this though. I really want to believe it, but it’s a huge gamble that uses up a ton of tax authority for it.

    I will probably end up voting yes but at the same time I feel like this ST3 process was another disappointment because we could have delivered LR where it matters 5-10 years sooner without going this big.

    1. “we could have delivered LR where it matters 5-10 years sooner without going this big.” – in the context of regional equity in funding, I don’t think this is true. Eliminating LR in Snohomish from ST3 would not have enabled faster LR construction in North King, and ST would have been obligated to find other uses for that money within Snohomish county.

      If you want to say Snohomish money would have been better spend on Sounder North & BRT projects, that’s a valid argument. However, arguing that the choice of Snohomish projects is hindering the delivery of projects elsewhere is not valid.

      As an Issaquah resident, I’m OK with the “Issaquah” line being at the end of the ST3. I get that other projects are a priority, and I’m happy to pay into ST3 to get those projects built faster, knowing that “my” project will come in due time.

      1. Fair enough, if your point is true about not saving time for other projects, I still feel that an equal investment into Sounder would have been a better choice. Point being if they can acquire the right of way for LR, they could get additional row for Sounder as well, at least a portion of the route.

        At the end of the day, LR is the wrong mode for those distances unless there’s density along the entire corridor. LR should not be seen as commuter rail since it’s really intercity rail.

      2. Outside of Everett Station to King Station trips, I don’t see much overlap between Sounder and Link. Same for Tacoma Dome to King Station. They are entirely different corridors that simply intersect at their endpoints and at King County (which actually makes for a more superior network than the Sounder & Link operating separately).

        South Sounder is getting a lot of love in ST3. North Sounder is not, which is too bad – I think there is opportunity to greatly improve ridership, whether it’s extending the line north of Everett Station or adding infill stations, or simply boosting frequency and improving TOD & transfer service at existing stations.

        Nonetheless, these investments would be serving very different parts of Snohomish County that what Link is. The Paine Field diversion is NOT commuter rail to Seattle – Snohomish leaders want Link to get people to jobs within Snohomish. I don’t think anyone on the ST board views Link as primarily a commuter rail.

        People commuting from north Snohomish County to downtown Seattle will continue to be better served by Sounder, though I’m sure some people will use it, especially if they are commuting to someplace like UW, and Link will be a good alternate to people who have a trips that don’t align with Sounder’s schedule.

        As to density around stations, that’s a chicken & egg problem. Cities like Lynnwood & Everett won’t be keen for significant increases in density unless they know HCT is on the way. I’m very optimistic about what Lynnwood is planning with TOD in their “downtown.” Everett will have plenty of time to plan accordingly if ST3 passes.

      3. Sounder North would need a new right of way near I-5 where the bulk of the population lives to be as useful as Sounder South. We’re building that right of way, as part of Link. Link’s travel time in the north end will be comparable to Sounder and ST Express so it’s one-half dozen to the other. (But Link is more frequent and makes more intermediate stops.) Theoretically Sounder’s speed in a new ROW could be 33% faster than it is, but that would cost significantly more than just moving Sounder.

      4. The ST district ends at Everett. Marysville would have to be annexed or make a bilateral agreement with ST to pay for the extension. There is an imbalance in the ST district, with Marysville and Snohomish out, Covington and Maple Valley out, but Bonney Lake and Orting and Dupont in. Given the growth in Marysville and Smokey Point it may be sensible to annex them at some point, but that’s beyond the scope of ST3.

        The state has studied commuter rail from Bellingham to Everett, and from Maple Valley to Auburn, but there hasn’t been enough interest in the cities and counties to pay for it.

      5. >> At the end of the day, LR is the wrong mode for those distances unless there’s density along the entire corridor. LR should not be seen as commuter rail since it’s really intercity rail.

        Yep. Even if there was density along there, it would be the wrong mode. We are essentially building a subway line from Tacoma to Everett. Has anyone built a line like long? New York, Tokyo, London, Paris? Anyone? I honestly don’t know, but I can’t of anyone that has built a subway that extends that far from the city center.

        Usually cities that are trying to solve intercity problems like this invest in existing train service (building commuter rail on top of it) or bus service. Neither is perfect, but both are much better values than extending your subway out this far. We are essentially building brand new, very expensive commuter rail (with lots of stops to boot). I don’t think anyone has done that, and those that have done similar things haven’t been that successful.

      6. “Usually cities that are trying to solve intercity problems like this invest in existing train service (building commuter rail on top of it)”

        They have existing right of way and in many cases existing tracks in the right places. We don’t, especially in the north corridor. The population, housing, and jobs are centered around Lynnwood, but the BNSF track is way off on the coast. MAX Blue was built in large part in existing rail right of way, and MAX Green had highway right of way reserved for it like the I-90 bridge. We should have reserved rail rights of way when we built up the suburbs in the 1960s but we didn’t, and in Seattle in the 1920s but we didn’t, so we have to retrofit high-capacity transit into them now.

        “I can’t of anyone that has built a subway that extends that far from the city center.”

        You’ve mentioned BART several times, and the DC Metro has some similarities. Like Link they’re a hybrid system that tries to be both a subway in the inner city and commuter rail in the suburbs. As such they’re in the middle, and not perfect examples of either type. But they get a lot of people around anyway and can credibly claim to be the backbone of their cities’ transit, the thing people use when they want the most reliability or there’s an extraordinary traffic jam or public gathering. The reason they’re hybrid systems is the decision-makers and voters weren’t willing to put in enough money to build two separate train networks as Germany does: a subway for city neighborhoods and commuter rail for everything around them. They didn’t want to build a superior regional commuter rail and a city subway, so instead they built hybrid rail and put cheap Sounder where tracks existed. ST was much more worried in 1996 about voters rejecting something with high capital costs than the are now, because the number of people begging them to build more and more grade-separate didn’t exist then. If we’d had the current political climate in the 1980s and 1990s we’d have a better system than we did.

      7. @Mike — Dude, you didn’t copy my entire sentence. I said

        “Usually cities that are trying to solve intercity problems like this invest in existing train service (building commuter rail on top of it) or bus service.”

        In our case, since (as you rightly point out) our train lines are poor for the north end, it makes sense to invest in bus service. Given the fact that Everett is very low density and we will be building a line to Lynnwood (which already has bus lanes to it) improved bus service is an excellent choice. Change the bus routes so that instead of stopping along the way (Everett to South Everett to Ash Way to Lynnwood) you just run direct service along all those corridors (Everett downtown area to Lynnwood, south Everett neighborhood to South Everett freeway station to Lynnwood, 164th to Ash Way Park and Ride to Lynnwood). In all those cases, the trade-off is that you don’t have connecting service. Someone trying to get from Everett to Ash Way has to find a different way to get there (at worst transferring in Lynnwood). But the number of riders who make that trip is minimal. We see that now — it is less than 50 a day.

        That is the big difference between a commuter rail pattern and a Metro rail pattern. I’m sure there are folks who will miss taking the old 41 during commute time. It gets you downtown really fast, without bothering to stop at Roosevelt, UW (twice) and Capitol Hill. But the thing is, there will be huge numbers of people who will get off at those stops. I for one am really looking forward to very fast service to the UW and Capitol Hill. Those that ride from Everett to Ash Way already have very fast service and only a handful use it.

        You’ve mentioned BART several times, and the DC Metro has some similarities. Like Link they’re a hybrid system that tries to be both a subway in the inner city and commuter rail in the suburbs.

        If BART is trying to a subway in the inner city it has failed. That is my point. There simply aren’t enough stops in the San Fransisco, Oakland or Berkeley (the core city). These are the highly dense, proximate areas that should be served by a well functioning metro. DC Metro, of course, does precisely that. Inside the core city, DC Metro looks like the New York Subway. Inside the core city, BART does not. Not only does BART not have enough lines (in Oakland or San Fransisco) but they skipped obvious stations! It is about 3 miles from Fruitvale station to Lake Merritt station. Three miles! In between you have frequent buses running perpendicular to the train, and intersection it, with no station. These are areas with density higher than most of Capitol Hill (which is higher than most of Seattle). That’s just Oakland! San Fransisco has extremely high density everywhere, and folks have to rely on an aging, often slow as molasses Muni or bus system, because BART has only one line through the city. One!

        Don’t get me wrong. BART is wonderful for crossing the bay. That part they did really well. But it is nothing like DC Metro in terms of connecting just about all of the core of the city, which explains why ridership is lower (even though it is a much more populous area). To mimic DC Metro, they would have a lot more lines (and a lot more stops within Oakland/San Fransisco and Berkeley).

        ST3 won’t do what DC Metro did for it, because there aren’t enough lines. Not that I expect it to do that. DC Metro was really expensive. To cover all of the city would be really expensive (tunnels under Queen Anne, etc.). What makes more sense for a city like this is what Vancouver built. A lot less rail, but with strategically placed stops (including some in the suburbs). Ballard to UW rail, Metro 8 rail, WSTT and that is about it (along with everything we are building already). BRISK bus service improvements (along with the Link extension into Redmond) along with lots of surface bus improvements in the suburbs and you have a much, much better system. I really don’t see us getting that, if ST3 passes. I see a system that, when it is all built, won’t really deliver what people wish it did, followed by much hand wringing, and living with the (very expensive) poorly designed mess.

    2. I am also in the lean yes camp, in part because the anti-ST3 folks are generally the same folks who want us all to sit in traffic in our cars and have no real alternatives for a scaled-down more effective ST3 (e.g., see the peanut butter plan). I would have been more “yes” if they had built Ballard to UW first, but whatever. (The idea that Ballard to UW with other provisional projects could still be built if there is money available has never been confirmed officially by anyone except Seattle Subway).

      1. >> I am also in the lean yes camp, in part because the anti-ST3 folks are generally the same folks who want us all to sit in traffic in our cars and have no real alternatives for a scaled-down more effective ST3 (e.g., see the peanut butter plan)

        I have been a long time poster and transit advocate. I helped come up with “the peanut butter plan”. I actually begged Frank to write it. I had previously written a very similar plan on Page 2 (linked on that page) but had trouble getting it to the main page, so I asked a better writer — Frank — to do that. Troy Serad has written something on Page 2 as well. I’m sure if you peruse the twitter world you will find many transit advocates who find themselves in a similar and strange position — opposing a major transit proposal.

        Much of the leadership for ST3-No are bus advocates. I don’t agree with their philosophy (buses aren’t always the answer) anymore than I think ST3 is a good plan (it matters where you put the rail). But at least one of their leadership is on record as favoring the WSTT. As much as I disagree with much of what they have said, they aren’t a group that only supports better bus service when rail proposals come along. They have long since advocated for improved busways and so called BRT improvements.

        I do think they have a point as far as it applies to the suburbs. It is hard to see spending this kind of money on improved bus service and not getting a better system there. It is in the city where the big disagreement exists. That being said, ST3 is so bad — even in the city — that I think simply spending similar money on bus improvements (starting with the WSTT) would probably get us a better system (even though it would be less than ideal).

      2. “many transit advocates”

        You’ve named one guy Troy Serad, that takes transit who is involved with the opposition to ST3. And even then I haven’t seen him in the last couple of months. I think he finally figured out that the ‘smarter’ in Smarter Transit was simply code for ‘less’.

      3. @Seattleite — Ah, guilt by association. Always a nice political strategy. Ignore the arguments against it, but focus on some of the people that oppose it. At the same time ignore all the people (on this very blog) who have raised doubts or have stated their opposition to ST3 as well. Oh, and suggest that someone else — who actually has writing privileges on this blog — is now a supporter because he hasn’t bothered with a blog that has clearly seen better days.

        What a silly argument, based on paranoia. Look, a lot of people — including people who know a hell of lot more about transit than anyone on this blog — think that much, if not most of ST3 is silly. Even many of the leaders on blog have raised some very serious concerns with the record breaking (and budget busting) suburban light rail fantasy trip. But that isn’t the point. Who cares what “Smarter Transit” thinks. That isn’t the issue. The issue is whether ST3 is worth the money, and in my opinion (and the opinion of a lot of other people) it isn’t.

    3. Sounder is in the package. Moreover, Sounder does not address the coastal cities of South King County, or airport access for Tacoma. These are the issues that are driving Link extension to Tacoma.

      I agree there is no guarantee that all of these segments will be successful. If regional growth stops or NIMBYs take over the station areas, there will not be anything to deliver riders to the train. But it’s worth pointing out that the Everett segment has the highest ridership projections of all the ST3 suburban segments, almost as many people as use Link today.

      1. Agree – the success [as measured by ridership] of any proposed line will be driven more my land use policies that the particulars of the alignment. If Federal Way, Fife, and Tacoma get gungho about TOD, and Metro & Pierce Transit prioritize bus service to stations, then the Tacoma extension should be a success. If they don’t, then the extension will have poor ridership.

      2. And not to mention, I’m not terribly optimistic about Seattle’s ability to grow itself. Seattle 2035 and HALA, for all their partial merits, still encase most of the city in amber. That helps make a social justice case for suburban rail that might otherwise be opposable on efficiency grounds. If we can’t house our workforce population, they at least deserve a 90% reliable way to get here.

      3. Well said Zach, well said. Oh and a good chance to get to all the good paying jobs at Paine Field, the shopping malls, a quick bus connection to all the good jobs at Boeing Field & Renton Airport, and more.

      4. “But it’s worth pointing out that the Everett segment has the highest ridership projections of all the ST3 suburban segments, almost as many people as use Link today.”

        I wonder if, someday, someone, somewhere might dig in and examine the obvious nonsense behind this ridership projection. Like, maybe someone who’s job or avocation it is to advocate for better transit, could look at ST’s ridership projection for this line, and look at PSRC’s nonsensical population estimates, and see if the math could remotely add up? Is there like a transit-related blog somewhere where some writers could do that, maybe? Can someone link me?

      5. “Someone please tell me when there’s a study that confirms what I know in my heart to be true”

        There are problems with all models. But a systematic method has come up with these numbers, and you just have your instincts.

        I would love estimates that come from an alternate method, for comparison. Despite your eagerness to assign that task to us, we’re not going to be doing that.

      6. “Someone please tell me when there’s a study that confirms what I know in my heart to be true.”

        Well, I’d be in good company if I felt that way, wouldn’t I, Martin?

        If, on the other hand, I demanded to know details of these studies that so conveniently align with the political priorities of decision makers, or if I used my transit expertise to try to model those studies (since of course the decision makers aren’t about to show their hand), I might consider myself an advocate. As opposed to a stenographer.

        This demand for details is literally why I’ve been sending STB money each month. I want to know which parts of what our transit agencies are saying are solid and backed up by realistic data, and which are complete bullshit. Why don’t you?

      7. >> But it’s worth pointing out that the Everett segment has the highest ridership projections of all the ST3 suburban segments, almost as many people as use Link today.

        Yes, and the Trump campaign says that the Trump economic plan will boost productivity to 4% a year. So, like the ST ridership numbers, that makes them fact.

        There are many, many people who find the ridership projections for Everett to be ridiculous. But more importantly, they have never opened them up for an independent audit. How exactly do you add more riders than ride the entire Snohomish County bus system? Huge growth, maybe? When Everett is barely growing despite the biggest boom in Puget Sound since the end of WWII? Oh, and in case anyone hasn’t noticed, Boeing is slowly moving out of here, while manufacturing in general (always low density) continues to automate. But tech companies love old timber towns that lack major universities, urban lifestyle or an existing knowledgeable workforce, so they will soon be flocking there.

        Oh, but wait. Sprawl is now the answer to affordability, because HALA has hit a bump in the road. Never mind the fact that Seattle — in absolute number! — is growing much faster than the surrounding cities and suburbs. No, that will all reverse itself very soon, and people will once again flock to the suburbs. This time not to live in their nice little picket fence homes, but to live in suburban high density slums, apparently. Because Seattle will never, ever consider changing the density rules and that is all they can afford. Oh, and places in Seattle that will always have better transit (e. g. Rainier Beach and Bitter Lake) will never add apartments, because old car lots are always a good value for land like that.

        Think that is all absurd? Don’t worry, you just have to trust your instincts.

      8. For someone concerned about false associations with Tim Eyman, you’re sure ready to tie in ST with the Trump policy shop.

        It is a fact that ST applied a systematic method to its ridership estimates and came out with these numbers. All models include some factors and exclude others, and this is no different. But all you have is hand-waving arguments about how no one wants to live in Everett.

        And maybe they don’t. But these assumptions cut both ways. If PSRC planning decisions don’t matter and demonstrated development demand does, then the ridership estimates for Ballard and Interbay and West Seattle and the Eastside are too low. Squeeze the ridership modeling balloon too tightly, and the people just move somewhere else and create demand there.

      9. Martin;

        Good stuff. Listen I got really mad and well beyond the boundaries – which I again support so whining bro – of commenting here so I decided to dial it back. Some even wanted to argue with me and make me feel bad for threatening turnabout for all the subarea sniping at us North by Northwesters.

        I would simply add regarding light rail to Everett this: There is a reason why Skagitonia’s #1 transit advocate remains supportive. It’s because he pays Sound Transit sales tax from Everett to Mukilteo to Seattle. It’s because the light rail trunk line will service folks who may reside outside the Sound Transit service district but will pay Sound Transit taxes directly & indirectly.

        Now I have many misgivings about ST3. I have a nagging concern about Sound Transit HQ Culture – ORCA data leaks and some other things can do that. But ST3 is the best of the remaining options for high capacity transit in our lifetimes. 2020 is a huge gamble and too much in flux to risk it – hell a 2020 redo vote may not happen.

        It’s only fair we in the North by Northwest get what’s ours. We’ve paid into the system, we’ve championed light rail, we’ve got a campaign aided by the Snohomish County Economic Alliance. Now light rail please? Thanks.

      10. @Mike — Dude, it is an analogy. I am not saying Trump = Sound Transit. I am saying that when an organization makes a claim and it sounds absurd, you have to look at the motivation of that organization. If I tell you that having the 73 run every five minutes will bump ridership 200%, don’t you think that such a claim is suspect? When I fail to come up with an independent analysis to back up that claim (or even a thorough explanation of how I come up with that number) shouldn’t you be a little worried that either I:

        1) Don’t know what I am doing
        2) Are exaggerating the numbers for my own benefit

        If PSRC planning decisions don’t matter and demonstrated development demand does, then the ridership estimates for Ballard and Interbay and West Seattle and the Eastside are too low. Squeeze the ridership modeling balloon too tightly, and the people just move somewhere else and create demand there.

        Right, except this won’t deliver good transit to those areas, which is my point. Ballard will grow, and a lot of those people will want to go the UW. In fact, the whole Ballard to UW corridor is growing quite rapidly, and will continue to grow (check out Stone Way some time). But this doesn’t serve it. Bitter Lake is a freakin’ urban village — one of the few areas which are allowed to grow, and this does little for it (beyond adding the dirt cheap NE 130th station years after it should). Nor does it serve West Seattle well. If West Seattle grows, it is quite likely it will grow in the single family neighborhoods, since they dominate the area (and have enormous potential for growth). Liberalize the ADU rules, allow low rise development like row houses and short apartments, and you can fit a huge number of people in the area at a very affordable price.

        These are all areas that would be much better served by the so called peanut butter plan. Nor does this get us closer to serving the Central Area or the heart of South Lake Union (like a Metro 8 subway). Do you really think that we will have a ST4 that includes a Metro 8 subway when ST doesn’t even want to study it?

    4. This morning’s commute from Everett to Seattle was at 86 minutes as late as 8 am. Riders will put up with a few extra stops in exchange for the reliability thar rail brings.

      As for success, I think the current bus ridership on the corridor shows that there is a strong transit market and one that will be forced to switch to Link when buses get truncated.

      1. But all of that will happen when Link gets to Lynnwood. You eliminate the worst congestion (Lynnwood to Seattle). You eliminate the extra stops (there should be enough ridership from Everett directly to Lynnwood without stopping at Ash Way if you are correct in your optimistic ridership assessment). That means that a direct connection is faster just about all the time. Fewer stops and no detour. It certainly is faster in the middle of the day. All of that assumes, of course, that WSDOT doesn’t bother with changing the HOV 2+ to HOV 3+ in the next twenty years. Given the increasingly liberal nature of our state, that seems likely.

        As much as I think the “Smarter Transit” folks are wrong about buses solving all the problems, it is a good bet that they will push hard for bus improvements (including at a minimum a study of the HOV 3 versus HOV 2 issue) if ST3 fails. You can bet your ass I personally will hold their feet to the fire. It isn’t too much of a stretch to think that a second term Inslee, working with a Democratic legislature, will do all that.

        Folks will probably lose their one seat ride from Everett to Ash Way park and ride, but given that only a handful of people actually use it, I don’t see this as being a great loss.

    5. Well Jon, good to see you as a YES vote. My enthusiasm has gone from a 12 to a 3, but it’s still there.

      I have to say as a north by northwest guy we truly do need light rail. Our 510/512 buses get congested. For the first half of 2016 those Sound Transit routes have had 950,948 boardings.

    6. What’s the criteria for success or failure? North Link will have at least as many riders as the current buses, because Link’s travel time will be the midpoint of them (faster than rush hour, slower than Sunday morning). On top of that Link is more reliable and frequent all day. That will make the existing riders’ trips better, and it really brings them up to the minimum standard we should have in corridors that size. Plus Link goes to more places than the buses (Northgate, Roosevelt, Capitol Hill, SeaTac, etc); that will bring in people who can’t find an acceptable bus alternative now.

      South Link is similar except we have to subtract for Link’s longer travel time. That may lose a few riders but they’ll probably be made up over time; the growth just won’t be as significant as the north end.

      So if this is not success, what would success be?

    7. I feel like there’s no proof it won’t be doomed to be a failure.

      This is true of every public policy, ever.

  5. There is one exception where bus guideways already exist: our freeway system.

    Ha — you are kidding right? One exception. Only one. Yep, our freeways are the only one place in America where buses run just like our rail does (in its own right of way). Nowhere else in this country — certainly not around here — do they run unimpeded by traffic, slowing down only to pick up passengers.

    Holy cow, you guys write for a Seattle transit blog and yet you have forgotten the most important transit project ever built. With all due respect to everything else that came after it, the rail line would be a lot less useful if not for the Downtown Seattle Bus Tunnel (now renamed the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel).

    Even our finest new bus-rapid-transit lines are entirely at-grade, and there are zero plans to change this.

    This is because the only agency with the budget to do so refused to study that option! You understand that, right? Seattle doesn’t have the budget (even with Move Seattle) to build a billion dollar tunnel. Sound Transit never studied a bus tunnel. Despite the letters, despite the fact that a new bus tunnel was featured by the Seattle Times, despite the fact that the most pro-rail organization in Seattle (Seattle Subway) proposed it, and despite the fact that we have already built one, a tunnel for buses was never considered. Sound Transit’s only proposal for “BRT” had all the flaws you write are inevitable. What crazy circular logic. This is the best possible thing that can be built because it is the only possible thing that can be proposed.

    Even our finest new bus-rapid-transit lines are entirely at-grade, and there are zero plans to change this.

    Our finest new bus-rapid-transit line is clearly Madison BRT. You consider it a flaw that it is at-grade. You are suggesting that a Link style train would be better. Fair enough. What would that look like? Most likely there would be very few stops (far fewer than the BRT line). But assume, for the sake of argument, we had the budget and the sudden (unprecedented for Sound Transit) will to build just as many stations. How deep will they be? In a word, very. Whatever tiny amount of time savings will occur between stations will be eaten up by the time spent getting to and from the platform. It wouldn’t be even close, actually. A bus would be faster every time, when you consider the full end to end trip.

    Perhaps elevated is the answer? Maybe you can run an ‘L’, like in Chicago (or even the southern end of own light rail line). Except you can’t. You ignored one of the fundamental advantages of rubber tired service over rail — buses can climb steep hills.

    More importantly, buses’ flexibility is often a bug not a feature, as citizens and governments can much more easily dilute their quality,

    You ignore the fact that rail lines — our existing rail line — has been degraded frequently. Why just the other day, you wrote a story about the station at NE 145th moving to 148th. This will, in the words of the author, mean that “all through-routed buses would incur a permanent 2-3 minute time penalty on every run”. This implies a 90 second time penalty for non-through routed buses. If a BRT project incurred a similar delay for the most important connection you would scream “BRT Creep!”. I see no difference. This is just an agency chopping away at functionality, making many a trip longer. Even trips that seem obscure and way too far to be effected by this decision will be permanently degraded (or have their quality diluted, as you put it). Ballard High School to Bothell for example, would likely involve going via 145th. Now such a ride will be slower (and personally I think 3 minutes is being optimistic). Despite the fact that Sound Transit is prepared to spend hundreds of millions improving the bus corridor, and SDOT is planning on spending what little they have doing the same, this trip will forever be slower because Sound Transit either doesn’t care, or has other priorities.

    Sound Transit is broken. They refuse to study alternatives that are obvious, focusing instead on symbolic gestures. I’m not just talking about a bus tunnel, I’m talking about building a brand new bridge next to the West Seattle freeway (which is owned by the city, by the way) along with an elevated line through the most historic part of West Seattle before building a Metro 8 subway. How exactly is that station in the West Seattle Junction supposed to work, anyway? The assumption is that buses will serve it, but how will the buses get there, if the streets are narrowed to put up the pylons for the rail? This will be yet another “we’ll figure it out later” moment, which results in yet another failure to provide fundamentally fast transit service to the area. The bus lanes will go away, and simply getting to the station will take longer than accessing the nearby freeway.

    From West Seattle to Issaquah, Ballard to South Lake Union, Sound Transit is more concerned with symbolic gestures — claiming the area is “served” — than providing solid, high value transit improvements. It honestly pains me to say it, but I see no reason to support them in their latest, horribly flawed endeavor. I am an old school tax and spend liberal. I cut politicians a lot of slack (my mom was one). I don’t expect perfection. But I don’t see the point in supporting an agency that is fundamentally broken, and fails repeatedly to even consider transit solutions that are a better value.

    1. Wow, it sounds like you haven’t ridden through the DSTT lately. It is no faster than the surface streets during rush hour. It will be when it is train-only.

      You also got your blessed 130th St Station, no thanks to any of your anti-transit pals in the No camp.

      1. If RossB’s opposition to ST3 implies that he is anti-transit then the STB editorial board could have just written: “Transit is good. Vote yes.” Obviously they didn’t just write that because there is more nuance than your boarderline ad-hominem suggests.

      2. Brent’s point is that there is no one in the organized No campaign with any interest in good transit outcomes. For that reason, the likely conclusion from a No Vote is that the region’s appetite for good transit is limited, not that they should build projects that optimize Ross’s preferred planning objective.

      3. Yes, isn’t it shrewd of ST to maneuver us into that position by choosing Eyman to write the anti-ST3 essay?

        But when transit advocates themselves are hotly divided on the ballot measure – granted, my view might be myopic, but I think ST can see that – it seems like that message might be a little more mixed than you say. And in the end, if ST comes back with a more-cost-sensitive package that builds only the more necessary lines to satisfy the region’s allegedly limited appetite, I would probably view that as better than the current ST3.

      4. Quite aside from the essay, there are no organized pro-transit groups that have come out against it.

        If your position is that we should just spend less, and only on the highest priority segments, to save a bit of taxes, I can respect that view. But that’s a straightforward argument to deliver fewer resources to transit than ST3. It’s not anti-transit to want a smaller increase in resources, but it’s, uh, less pro-transit.

      5. Well said Martin, well said. Yes, some of us are worried about how much money it will take to finish out Spine Destiny. But some of us – me included – think Reuven Caryle needs to realize we think the educational industrial complex can’t spend it to create a quality product on par with ST3.

      6. Eyman can probably do less damage writing the opposition statement than running initiatives. The opposition was always going to say “No taxes for transit, ST does nothing useful, buses are just as effective as trains” in any case.

      7. Martin – I’d be glad to spend $50 billion on high-quality lines. ST3 spends a lot of it on mediocre lines, which (IMO) makes it less likely the high-quality lines will be built in the future.

        Is it still worth it? Maybe, but the unnecessarily shrill arguments of supporters who lump me in with Eyman as “less pro-transit” aren’t doing much to convince me.

      8. No one’s lumping you in with Eyman, though voting no on ST3 will likely advance his goals more than yours. The words “high quality” do a lot of work. If you think most of the lines are counterproductive, than sure, vote against it, because doing nothing is better.

        But if you think a lot of the projects will make things substantially better, as I do, I advise you to vote yes. Don’t assume a no vote will bring the region to your policy preferences, unless you are prepared to wait a long time.

      9. Martin on Brent’s comment. I see your point in so far as “pals” ostensibly refers to the common association of the no camp not the common association of anti-transit. But pals still implies a comraderie that seemingly isn’t there. Are folks like Bill McKibbon and the Sierra Club “pals” with the oil industry just because they are in the no camp on I-732? Of course not. Even if I disagree with their position on that initiative it’s absurd to make that claim due to their extensive record advocating for better climate policy.

        Similarly, based on RossB’s record on the blog, it is also absurd and offensive to his integrity to claim that he is pals with anti-transit people.

      10. Alex;

        I too think RossB deserves better. ST3 is high capacity transit, not basic transit (that easily gets stuck in traffic) transit.

        It’s the playing one region off another that’s gotta cease and desist too on this thread. Equally.

      11. “Quite aside from the essay, there are no organized pro-transit groups that have come out against it.”

        My impression is that most pro-transit groups are primarily interested in Seattle. And the plan in Seattle is relatively good. It’s not perfect, but regardless of the faults you can’t argue that ridership will be poor or that current bus service is enough. It’s not. Moreover, light rail even makes sense within Seattle (as opposed to something like commuter rail). So Seattle-based transit groups are going to ignore everything else and just say vote for it just in case nothing else comes out after a failure. Which is understandable but unfortunate for the other sub-areas, as the plans there are generally much worse, in areas where there’s generally less support.

      12. I agree that that the suburban plans are “worse” in the sense that their potential for transit is much lower. But they’re also not far off from the best you can do in those subareas. There are changes I’d make, but significant portions of those projects are what I’d recommend given the available budget and the way that WSDOT manages highways.

      13. David;

        As to,

        Seattle-based transit groups are going to ignore everything else and just say vote for it just in case nothing else comes out after a failure. Which is understandable but unfortunate for the other sub-areas, as the plans there are generally much worse, in areas where there’s generally less support.

        Well there in lies the rub. We need transit groups all up and down Puget Sound – not just Seattle-centric Transportation Choices and King County-centric + Spokane-centric Washington Policy Center. We need to really truly realize ST3 is imperfect, but ST3’s imperfections come from grassroots transit advocates having less engagement versus say the Snohomish County Economic Alliance

        I have said this before, I will say it again differently this time and well within STB comment policy I hope, fingers crossed but here I go at support level 10 – just a bit of afterburner:

        IF you want a better Sound Transit 3 package, that ship has sailed. Sorry but we had our chances. Some of us didn’t speak up directly to Sound Transit. Some of us should have spoken much more louder last year like I.

        IF you want to dramatically reform Sound Transit, ST3 failure in Regional Proposition 1 won’t do that for you. Peter Rogoff, Sound Transit CEO has promised ST3 will bring about structural reform to speed up projects. We can hold Peter to his word; and when the ORCA leak happened Peter acted quickly to FIRE those responsible AND reform Sound Transit policy. So we can trust CEO Peter Rogoff and staff.

        IF you want to end subarea equity, you are 20 years too late. Sorry. Get over it. Nobody in Seattle or Bellevue or Tacoma is going to be worse off because a light rail train services Paine Field or Everett – quite the contrary. No, people of low income need a quality, safe and low-cost commute since nowhere near everybody can live in the city for a long list of reasons – housing costs, food costs, school quality, medical services, the list goes on.

        IF you want an elected Sound Transit Board like I do, well then talk to your state legislator. If the Sound Transit staff had to report to some of us in the comment threads we’d have a transit future those of us who don’t actively snipe at other subareas would stand behind.

        If you don’t like spine destiny, well then tough luck. The north wants in. The north is not coming for you Seattle unless you sufficiently provoke us, so don’t. Just let us have what is ours and you can have what’s rightfully yours. Thanks.

        There you go.

      14. “We need transit groups all up and down Puget Sound”

        We looked far and wide for any Snohomish or Pierce County activists or groups willing to promote a RossB type network (meaning robust BRT from Lynnwood and Des Moines instead of Link extensions), or canceling Sounder North, or anything similar, and we couldn’t find any. The only movements we can find in those counties are “ST3 or Bust”, “Highways not Transit”, and “No Taxes for Aything”.

      15. Honestly Joe if you think that the: “playing one region off another that’s gotta cease and desist too on this thread” then you should consider doing your part and taking a hard look at some of your own comments. I’ve seen a number of comments where you’re the one who has initiated the geographical us and them narrative and frankly it makes it difficult to read the rest of what you have to say. I think very few if any people in the no or begrudgingly yes camps on this thread actually don’t care about the suburbs. Rather, what they believe is that what’s proposed for the suburbs is bad for the suburbs. Obviously you disagree with that assessment of the merits of the suburban ST3 segments. But that should be different than believing that people here think Snohomish County doesn’t matter.

      16. Alex;

        I just wanted to give the snipers a taste of their own damn medicine… I’ve had enough.

        Either you support high capacity transit for everybody and that includes the so-called suburbs (some of which have become cities in their own right with their own job centers like Everett-Mukilteo-Paine Field) or you don’t. I personally think BRT was worth considering but I lost the fight, I got over it. Time others did as well… long ago.

        I’m going to hold this view that if you want to justify any NO vote on ST3 due to ST3 serving Paine Field, well then the blowback if the NO votes win is gonna hurt everybody. It won’t be just me seeing that retaliation happens from us North by Northwesteners.

        So if some are going to campaign here for the NO ON ST3 side; find a better reason than light rail service to North by Northwesteners who have paid into the Sound Transit District directly & indirectly. The Washington Policy Center makes a damn good list of logical reasons in my opinion… OK?

      17. “We need to really truly realize ST3 is imperfect, but ST3’s imperfections come from grassroots transit advocates having less engagement versus say the Snohomish County Economic Alliance”

        @Joe: Unfortunately, East King is where grassroots movements actually pushed ST3 in the wrong direction with the CKC. I’ve argued against the CKC in the past, but compared to something like Issaquah or 405 BRT it actually would do something useful.

        Moreover, I have to blame ST with respect to the CKC. ST was against making any real effort to build BRT on the CKC which the Kirkland City Council and many transit advocates wanted. It wasn’t perfect, but it would have been something decent and it could have served many areas LRT did not serve. Instead, they pushed for LRT on the CKC, which the city council didn’t want. And the Save our Trail group was against everything and anything. So now we’re stuck with an expensive “station” at 85th St and upgraded signs for a route they call 405 BRT. Which, for most of its route, won’t be BRT because there won’t be any direct access ramps from the ETLs.

        As for Snohomish, I honestly don’t care that much what service is built there. I don’t consider it a wise use of money, but it’s not my money and I rarely go there. My primary concern is East King (where I live) and (secondarily) North King. I can live with the ST3 projects in North King, but not with wasting my money in East King.

      18. Joe:

        You state: “I just wanted to give the snipers a taste of their own damn medicine… I’ve had enough.” But I think in most cases you weren’t giving “snipers a taste of their own damn medicine” but rather putting words into people’s mouth and then attacking them for it. Imagining snipers where none existed if you will.

        It’s extremely unfair to treat every criticism of ST3 that includes criticism of subarea equity or the Paine Field deviation as a form of hating on Snohomish County. Indeed, I think plenty of reasonable Snohomish County residents will vote down ST3 because they think the benefits to them and their follow Snohomish County residents aren’t worth the costs. Should we consider these people traitors to their subarea?

      19. As to;

        I think plenty of reasonable Snohomish County residents will vote down ST3 because they think the benefits to them and their follow Snohomish County residents aren’t worth the costs. Should we consider these people traitors to their subarea?

        I think plenty of Snohomish County residents will realize ST3 will improve economic throughput, transportation net throughput, will allow Community Transit to redeploy bus service hours away from serving commuters towards serving neighborhoods, and will help keep Boeing at Paine Field. A few hundred bucks a year is rather cheap for all of these outcomes.

        Traitors? Well I save that for people who want to close down OLF Coupeville, not folks who want to deny high capacity transit.

        I suspect based on the comments most of the folks who want to deny high capacity transit to Paine Field are from Seattle and are mean-spirited, jealous folk who are right now in this comment thread finally got a dosage of their own medicine. I dealt with their… obstructionism when the debate to get Community Transit to serve the Future of Flight was full on.

        So I just felt a rude awakening of how that line of attack could very well end. Of outcomes Joe and most STB commentators could never support otherwise. I love the West Seattle Water Taxi, I’d so hate to see it gone… it was just a blatantly easy example of how subarea sniping plays out.

        So stop the subarea sniping. It’s just not on. Thanks.

      20. “I think plenty of reasonable Snohomish County residents will vote down ST3 because they think the benefits to them and their follow Snohomish County residents aren’t worth the costs. Should we consider these people traitors to their subarea?”

        No but we can observe that they should have spoken up when alternatives were being considered and decisions being made.

      21. Mike;

        As to:

        We can observe that they should have spoken up when alternatives were being considered and decisions being made.

        I agree. There was a gold plated BRT plan for Paine Field put on the table last spring. Would have sped up light rail to Everett by 4-5 years. I hear only one Joe backed that plan publicly, tenaciously versus the Snohomish County Economic Alliance who is “Light rail to Paine Field, then Everett Station OR BUST”. They’re now backing in earnest Sound Transit, and I appreciate this very much.

        I have to say I am disappointed in the lack of engagement by transit advocates when transit agencies reach out. Not many comments to Transit Development Plans, not many comments to the Sound Transit Board, not much support for electing transit boards. This disengagement results in things like ST3, things like transit planner geeks doing their own thing and I’ll stop there, and elite interests doing the transit planning.

        Right now there are some open seats on the Sound Transit Citizen’s Overisght Panel. It’s a panel that goes very in-depth about Sound Transit issues & accountability. It would behoove STB commentators to please send in an application and quit poo-pooing from the keyboard kommando sidelines.

        Thanks;

        Joe

      22. @Mike
        For any particular Snohomish county resident we might observe that. But plenty of people did speak up for better alternatives including the I-5 alignment and the late in the game Paine Field spur. Just because those voices lost doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.

        @Joe
        The irony in your suspicion is that ST3 would be a clear cut yes for many of the Seattlites you are so annoyed except that they actual think that all the subareas matter not just North King.

        But even if that were not the case it, makes the blog a better place if you attempt to presume good intent instead of acting vindictively based on what you “suspect.”

      23. “But plenty of people did speak up for better alternatives including the I-5 alignment and the late in the game Paine Field spur.”

        Did plenty of Snohomish County residents speak up for that, or was it almost all King County residents?

      24. Good point Mike.

        I know SounderBruce of Snohomish and a certain Joe from Skagit spoke up for BRT to Paine Field or a spur, but when you got the Snohomish County Economic Alliance flying sortie after sortie through Sound Transit Public Comment demanding light rail to Paine Field… well then.

        I would expect the same dynamic in 2020 folks. Folks please don’t use light rail to Paine Field to justify a NO vote on ST3 – unless you pay taxes in the Snohomish County subarea either having a job there, visiting there regularly or live there – not your problem. Let us have what we want and arguably need up here in the North by Northwest to keep Boeing here and therefore a big part of the tax base here please, thanks.

      25. Wow, what a long and an interesting comment thread. I guess it deserves a very long (and hopefully interesting) response.

        First of all, thanks to folks for standing up for me. I am pro-transit (of course). I have given plenty of money, and spent a huge amount of my time fighting for good transit (including donations to this blog, which will continue despite my being at odds over this issue). I am also not a perfectionist. I know that you can’t build the perfect system.

        But William really nailed the argument for me.

        And in the end, if ST comes back with a more-cost-sensitive package that builds only the more necessary lines to satisfy the region’s allegedly limited appetite, I would probably view that as better than the current ST3.

        along with

        I’d be glad to spend $50 billion on high-quality lines. ST3 spends a lot of it on mediocre lines, which (IMO) makes it less likely the high-quality lines will be built in the future.

        That really is the crux for me. I think this does make it less likely that we get the transit improvements we really need.

        And if “Brent [believes] that there is no one in the organized No campaign with any interest in good transit outcomes”, then Brent is wrong. In fact, the folks who are spearheading the campaign are transit advocates. For all their faults (such as thinking we shouldn’t have any trains in the area) Smarter Transit are transit advocates. They want more bus service — a lot more. John Miles (who I disagree with a lot) is on record as saying we should build another bus tunnel. I agree.

        Now let’s put all three of these ideas together. Imagine this: ST3 fails, and fails miserably in part because of pro-transit opposition. Maggie Fimia, John Niles and company are thrilled. They point out that this was not an anti-transit vote, but a vote for smarter transit. A handful of people who have actively opposed it (folks like me) also point out that unlike Maggie and John, we believe light rail has its place. But the worst fears of this blog are realized, and only the organized opposition — the buses-are-always-the-answer folks — drive the conversation, and the next proposal. It is, as feared, watered down. So what is it, exactly?

        Quite likely, a scaled down, more bus centric solution. Sound Transit goes back to the drawing board (after the inevitable and long overdue shakeup) and actually studies a bus tunnel. They find that it performs a lot better than the surface bus option they originally studied (the only bus option they studied). In fact it performs quite well. So that is their plan for the city. They do the same for the suburbs. There already is some BRT in there, so that is kept. But something like BRISK is proposed for the east side. They do the hard work and start looking at a whole range of improvements for the north and south end. Not single corridor based work, but more wide spread, even if a bit less than ideal (somewhere between Madison BRT and Roosevelt BRT). Since this delivers more time savings overall for less money, and spreads those savings over a wider area, it passes overwhelmingly.

        Then what? People haven’t forgotten about Ballard to UW rail, nor have they forgotten about the Metro 8 subway. Those are suddenly the highest priority transit projects. Running trains in the new bus tunnel is always an option, but low priority, given the fact that freeway improvements are slated for West Seattle (and the bus tunnel will be built first). By then, many of the bus improvements have already occurred in the suburbs, and there is little enthusiasm for extending the spine. Folks from Everett, for example, have fast, frequent bus service from there to Lynnwood.

        So Seattle will still want new rail (Ballard to UW and/or Metro 8) while the suburbs in general are fairly happy (and ST would remain gun shy of proposing more spine type investments on top of the bus improvements just passed). At this point, Seattle will want to go it alone.

        The legislature finally allows Seattle (and other cities) the right to pass sufficient bond issues on their own. Such a bond issue will have to compete, of course, with plenty of other tax proposals (fully funded day care, health and human services, more police, etc.). But a city only proposal will win.

        That really sounds plausible to me. Most of these things will happen either way, but just to review the things that I think will happen if ST3 fails:

        1) There is a shakeup at Sound Transit. This is quite common when you have a failure like this. The organized opposition (Smarter Transit) will make it one of their goals.

        2) A new ST, run by folks less obsessed with the spine, propose cheaper, bus based solutions. Maybe not much cheaper (a tunnel downtown is still expensive) but still cheaper. Fixing the West Seattle freeway is relatively cheap, and if you can put up with the Ballard Bridge, improvements there are fairly cheap. Signal priority on streets with very few people on them and making 15th/Elliot bus only 24/7 is very cheap. Creating a new stop at Interbay (so that the bus doesn’t have to exit there) would cost a bit more, but still pretty darn cheap.

        3) It passes. Again, quite plausible. The anti-tax people will be happy if it is cheaper, even if it isn’t much cheaper. There will be no opposition from Smarter Transit, the main opposition to ST3. This means having Eyman write the opposition will actually be appropriate, and not an underhanded political ploy. By and large, only anti-transit, or anti-tax people will oppose this. Many will say we should have built something else, or it doesn’t go far enough, but like everyone who said the same thing about Move Seattle, they will vote for it anyway.

        4) The legislature finally gives Seattle the right to build their own thing. This is probably the biggest stretch. But times change. People are moving to the city, and the political changes that come with that favor this approach. Bellevue, for example, may want to make some big expensive changes, even if it doesn’t involve rail.

        5) The city proposes a Ballard to UW rail line and/or a Metro 8 rail line. I think this is highly likely, given the obvious priority (once we are in the process of building a new bus tunnel).

        6) The city passes it. Again, this seems highly likely. Smarter Transit would oppose it, but even they will acknowledge that light rail in more proximate, densely populated areas makes more sense than light rail in distant, less densely populated areas. Besides, this would be a Seattle only proposal, which means it is highly likely it passes.

        This may seem like a big stretch to some, but I think it is quite likely, and frankly, more likely than believing that ST3 will fundamentally transform transit in the region and be worth the money.

    2. ST wants the 2nd tunnel to handle extra capacity for the entire system. A new bus tunnel greatly improves downtown access for bus riders rider the C, D, E, and a few other lines (Georgetown, etc), but it does nothing to help alleviate capacity issues in the existing tunnel as Link extends north, east, and south.

      The 2nd tunnel is a regional project, not a North King project, and is funded accordingly.

      If ST3 fails and King County or Seattle goes alone on a transit package. a new bus tunnel will most likely be the signature project. But in the context of a regional package, the tunnel makes more sense.

      1. As I said above, I think capacity concerns are way overblown. As folks on this very blog have pointed out, the trains can handle huge numbers of people, and if that really is a problem, steps can be taken to make them run even more often.

        But assuming you are correct, where exactly will the bottleneck appear? In the opinion of many, it will occur between Capitol Hill and Westlake. Generally speaking, on any system, you get the peak ridership in the evening. Folks are heading home, while other people are heading out (to dinner, a movie, ball game, etc.). So imagine this. It is 6:00, and the train leaves SoDo, heading north. At every stop, people get on and people get off. But for the most part, people get on. This is the primary business district, after all.

        If ST3 is built, it might actually increase the net number of people getting on at Westlake. No one takes (or will take) U-Link to Ballard. But plenty will “round the horn” and take the bus from Lower Queen or especially South Lake Union, on their way to Capitol Hill, the UW or places north. A few may do the opposite, but few of them take Link now. It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to go down into the tunnel, then ride a very crowded train a few stops, then go back up the tunnel, then transfer to a bus headed to South Lake Union, when there will likely be a decent, grade separated bus line that connects you right there. A new line would certainly improve that connection, but it wouldn’t substantially shift people to it (those people aren’t riding Link now).

        So again, ridership keeps getting higher, until it peaks at Westlake. Then it starts going down (even though plenty of people get on at Capitol Hill and UW). In short, there is your mess. Lots of people headed to Capitol Hill, UW or places north because they live there or want to go out for the evening. The new line will do nothing for them.

        To be clear, in terms of overall ridership, service within downtown will be high. But at peak, not so much. The south end of downtown — even with some of the growth in Pioneer Square apartments — is primarily a business district. Going from one end of downtown to the other for business (or just on your lunch hour) is quite common. All day long you have a decent number of trips like this. But in terms of peak, you are likely to find the biggest spike from Westlake to Capitol Hill.

        But then again, maybe you will see it at the UW. Northgate, Lake City, Bitter Lake are all growing, or poised to grow. The 522 corridor is likely to grow as well (especially as BRT is added). Lynnwood, with all the connecting bus service (from areas like Everett) will be no slouch. Meanwhile, the UW is likely to see a huge increase in businesses in the coming years, as Seattle allows for more Safeco style towers. My money is still on the section between Westlake and Capitol Hill, but if there is enough growth at the UW, the section between it and Roosevelt might be the big one.

    3. Separately, ST3 is giving SLU and Uptown underground rail with 3 stations – delivering the most valuable part of any Metro 8 line. Combined with Madison BRT, I find any Metro 8 line completely unnecessary after ST3 – east central Seattle simply won’t have the density along 23rd Ave to merit light rail.

      1. Yes, I am continually perplexed by those that slag ST3 for not having a Metro 8 subway when the new tunnel handles the most important part of Route 8!

      2. What is most troubling is that Sound Transit completely ignored the central area, including the 23rd ave corridor by not even studying the merits of a Metro 8 line. We lack the hard data to you are assuming, but the density maps that RossB has circulated repeatedly suggests that the Metro 8 line would be a great investment.

        Also remember that connectivity is crucial for a successful system.

        And why do people continue to ignore the hills?! The new tunnel is no substitute for a full Metro 8

      3. “What is most troubling is that Sound Transit completely ignored the central area”

        We can pinpoint when that fault was. It was the 2013 update to ST’s Long-Term Plan, and the previous updates before ST2 and ST1. Somebody did propose a corridor, from West Seattle to Jackson Street, 23rd, Denny Way, and Uptown. The board couldn’t figure out why anybody would want such a U-shaped corridor, and nobody from the public stepped up to defend it until the last week when the board was finalizing which amendments to carry forward, and by then it was already being removed from the list.

      4. Wow, OK. Where to start. Oh, I know, how about a census map. This one should be centered right on the Central Area: https://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=a18f489521ba4a589762628893be0c13&extent=-122.4222,47.5605,-122.1899,47.6592

        The darker the rectangles, the more densely populated the area. I encourage you to explore beyond the Central Area, and pick out the stations proposed for service with ST3. Snohomish County, Pierce County and even West Seattle lack the kind of density you find in the Central Area. Of course, census maps aren’t 100% accurate. The Central Area, despite its gentrification, still has higher numbers of people of color than most of the city. Census figures tend to overestimate people of color. Oh, wait — it is the opposite.

        It is absurd to think that “east central Seattle simply won’t have the density along 23rd Ave to merit light rail” yet areas like Fife and Ash Way do. Oh, and density isn’t the only key to success with a subway. Proximity as well as a lack of high speed alternatives (e. g. a nearby freeway) also play a big part. Guess what? A Metro 8 subway has that, while most of ST3 doesn’t.

        Meanwhile, as is often the case with ST3 proposals, you are succumbing to the “serve the area” fallacy. It matters where you put the station, and where you run the line. One station (or in this case, two) isn’t enough. Here is an example that I will copy from up above.

        Imagine your starting point is somewhere around Fairview and Republican. This is hardly a fringe case; that area is under crazy construction right now, and most would consider it well within the core rectangle that is SLU.

        Now imagine your destination is a restaurant on the 15th East strip — say, 15th E and Republican. Also a common gathering place, and as it happens, precisely 1 mile away along a perfectly straight line.

        So how would a Link-“enabled” trip like this simple, perfectly commonplace journey between two adjacent neighborhoods look?

        You would need to:
        1. Walk 10 minutes.
        2. Wait for the train.
        3. Go one stop.
        4. Indulge whatever laborious transfer pathway Sound Transit builds at Westlake. (Even the biggest ST fans would acknowledge that they haven’t been good at this sort of thing).
        5. Wait for the next train.
        6. Go one stop.
        7. Walk 13 more minutes.

        So how would this look with Madison BRT:

        1. Walk 10 minutes.
        2. Wait for the train.
        3. Head south (to Madison).
        4. Take the BRT
        5. Walk 10 more minutes.

        Of course, you could also add in a feeder bus or two. But now you’re waiting four times. Remember, this entire trip covers 1 mile as the crow flies!

        A Metro 8 subway, of course, would change this. No one (not me, certainly) has ever come up with an obvious route for it. Like the Ballard to UW subway (which could serve upper or lower Fremont) there are trade-offs, and all have their advantages. Here is one route I came up with a while ago, based on the construction of the WSTT first: https://drive.google.com/open?id=13D-0dGpWZ_HPYbNXp0dWUtF1DAc&usp=sharing

        The map is a bit messy, but the blue line is the proposed Metro 8 subway, the green lines are BRT routes (although given what SDOT has done so far with the Roosevelt line, maybe I should remove it as being irrelevant) and the black line is Link. For this purpose, the main thing to focus on is the blue line (Metro 8 subway). So, what would this trip look like:

        1) One minute walk to the subway.
        2) Ride two stops
        3) Ten minute walk (or connect to a bus).

        I swear I didn’t doctor this example. The maps were drawn a long time ago, for a Page 2 post that I still haven’t gotten around to writing (too many variables for me to happy with a presentation). The example (one mile as the crow flies) is not one I actually came up with, but was sent to me by someone who is into transit. Yet this is a great example of why station placement matters, and direction matters.

        It is no different with Ballard to UW rail versus Ballard to downtown rail. Of course Ballard to downtown rail adds value — this is by far the best thing proposed for ST3. But Ballard to UW rail adds a lot more value, because it pulls in more neighborhoods. Build Ballard to UW rail, and the fastest way to take a lot of trips is to take a bus that connects to the train. Faster than driving — even at noon! But Ballard to downtown rail really won’t do that. Upper Queen Anne to downtown is about it. No one will take a bus from Fremont to Ballard to downtown, for example, despite the fact that Fremont is adjacent to Ballard.

        As Sara said, connectivity is crucial. Even the best parts of ST3 really don’t add much. She is right — the new tunnel is no substitute for a full Metro 8.

      5. @Mike — I always appreciate your “behind the scenes” look at the goings on at Sound Transit. I know I am beating a dead horse here, but this is just one more example of an agency that doesn’t know what it is doing. Lots of people who don’t get paid one dime for consulting have come up with the Metro 8 idea independently. It just makes sense when you look at the various maps (road, density, employment, etc.). It complements the existing system quite well, adding much needed connectivity. But Sound Transit failed to even study the idea because no one thought of it, or could figure it out. That is terrible. That suggests a complete lack of imagination or even basic competence when it comes to building a transit system.

        It also explains a lot. It explains why no one proposed a station with U-Link at SR 520. It explains why no one proposed a station at NE 130th or why the first Ballard to UW rail line had so few stations. These sorts of ideas shouldn’t have to come from the general public. The general public should weigh in on color choices or station names. At most they should decide (via their representatives) between two very good, but competing plans (e. g. Lower Fremont or Upper Fremont on a Ballard to UW subway). But they shouldn’t have to come up with ideas for stations (or complete subway lines) that are rather obvious.

    4. The list of projects in Seattle match exactly with those mentioned in the SDOT letter to Sound Transit Board. The additional requests for funding for Madison BRT and 130th and Graham Station were both accepted in the final draft.
      If ST3 were to fail and Legislature somehow was to grant Seattle the same proportional taxing authority, there is no evidence that SDOT would prioritize other better projects before the ones proposed in ST3. I completely agree that Ballard – UW and Metro 8 subway projects might work out better than some of ST3 projects. But unfortunately no political agency – Sound Transit or SDOT – is going to prioritize them over West Seattle LRT.

      We are not going to get a better solution just by changing the authority from Sound Transit to SDOT. A No on ST3 will mean we get the same set of projects but with 2-4 years delay.

      1. SDOT was simply operating within the confines given to it by Sound Transit. A Metro 8 subway was never studied. A WSTT was never studied. Ballard to UW was studied, but was put on the back burner. Basically, ST said “We are going from Ballard to West Seattle, what do you think?”. SDOT basically came back and said “put the stations here”. I personally think they did a very good job (working within those parameters). If I had to choose stations for those lines, that is exactly where I choose them.

        But that doesn’t mean that I would pick those from scratch, nor does it mean that SDOT would either. At a minimum, we would do more study, especially a study of WSTT, along with improvements to the West Seattle freeway and some spots heading towards Ballard (Dravus station being the big one). Just about everyone (including the detractors) assumes that would be significantly less expensive than what ST3 proposed. It would (in the opinion of many) provide comparable, if not better service. The financial savings might be enough to pay for Ballard to UW, or at least the first stage (15th and Market to the Brooklyn station). Likewise it might be enough to pay for the first stage (a much smaller first stage) of a Metro 8 subway (e. g. Lower Queen Anne to Capitol Hill).

    5. Ross,

      1) Is the DSTT a “new” rapid transit line? The DSTT was always intended, and partially justified, as a rail precursor.

      2) If you can’t understand why a new bus tunnel got zero traction, you can’t understand how to get it into serious consideration. How long are you willing to wait? For starters, there were no voices from West Seattle or at the City of Seattle interested in settling for buses.

      3) I am very comfortable in saying that a tunnel under Madison would be far superior, from the reliability gains alone.

      4) ST’s downgrades in scope are almost entirely in quantity, not quality. There are pros and cons to moving the station.

      You really dislike the Seattle ST3 projects, which I find really perplexing. But you should vote no given that you think these projects have little value.

      1. “ST’s downgrades in scope are almost entirely in quantity, not quality. There are pros and cons to moving the station.”

        Great joke!

        Or are you serious? How can you possibly say that as you wait to cross the street at Mount Baker, wait for the delayed mixed-traffic First Hill Streetcrawler, walk the long walk from Stevens Way to Husky Stadium Dead Plaza Station, or search around for the still-near-unmarked entrances for the DSTT? Sure, there’re excuses for most of these, but they’re definite downgrades in quality.

        And I haven’t even mentioned the also-inexcusable downgrades coming up – like the late-opening 130th St Station, the lack of a Leary Way station, the lack of a 51st St Station, or the 130th St Station still only having entrances on one side of the street!

      2. Those are annoyances. I agree that ST generally sucks at station design, in particular in the ST1 round. But a much bigger deal to me, given all the budget crises, is: zero mixed-traffic segments, zero on-board payment. That is not the record of local BRT, despite my best efforts.

      3. Martin;

        Yes, and that’s the reality. Between a Sound Transit Board with group think and a State Legislature who didn’t challenge the Group Think this is what we got – grade separated light rail.to the suburbs. It’s going to be costly, but it’s 100% necessary long term to have high capacity transit out to Everett & Tacoma.

      4. Yes, I agree that the most important piece of quality has been kept (except for the First Hill Streetcrawler). But, despite that, there have been many compromises in quality which have significantly downgraded utility.

        Was it still worth it to build U-Link? Definitely. Will it be worth it to build Ballard Link, with similar compromises? Probably. Should we be cheering for Sound Transit as having no downgrades in quality? Certainly not.

      5. OK, off the top of my head, here is a quick run down of so called annoyances, all related to poor station design, placement or simply omission:

        1) Mount Baker Station. If you look on a transit map, you will see that this station sits at the intersection between Link and the Metro 7 bus. The 7 is one of the most popular buses in the state, ranking 3rd in our system (the top two are RapidRide routes). It also is the end point of both the 8 and 48, which are also popular buses, and serve different areas. One would assume, therefore, that the station is very popular. Except that while everything looks great on the map, the station is so poorly designed that very few make the transfer. Mount Baker is not a very high performing station, despite being at a major transit intersection. You will notice that theme a lot with Sound Transit — looks great on a map, but doesn’t quite work in practice.

        2) First Hill Station — This doesn’t exist, and as a result, a substantial portion of transit riders don’t use Link, or spend a very long time getting to it.

        3) Madison and 23rd Station — Another one that doesn’t exist. This was proposed by Forward Thrust, but Sound Transit never bothered considering it. While a station here would be in a neighborhood far more populous than most of the Sound Transit stations (built or proposed) the biggest gain from a station here would be in improving the bus network. As of this date, Metro has struggled with designing an adequate network in the Capitol Hill/Central Area in large part due to the lack of stations in the area. As good as the one station is in the area (from a direct pedestrian standpoint ) it is only one station, and is not good at all from a bus network standpoint.

        4) SR 520 station. — Another station that doesn’t exist. As a result, a lot of riders who ride the bus along 520 haven’t seen a change, despite the fact that a billion dollar light rail line was built literally right under their bus route.

        5) Husky Stadium Station — The general location of this station is fine, given some of the constraints. But the specific location of the station makes it very difficult to serve the primary audience: those heading to campus, and those heading to the hospital. It is especially bizarre that there is an elevated walkway to the station, when the platform itself is underground. A station in the triangle itself would have solved all these problems. An underground pathway exists from there (the parking garage) and the hospital. A pathway would simply have to be built from there to the campus.

        This list is by no means complete. I don’t include stations that haven’t been built yet. Some of these flaws are minor inconveniences — costing riders only a couple minutes each way. But many of them are much worse, and cost riders a substantial amount of time. So much so that riders find other ways to get there. Some of them take other buses (or stay on other buses instead of making a transfer) while others drive.

        The same would be true if our system lacked the speed between stations and consistency you feel is vital. Imagine if the New York subway system had occasional slowdowns, or even outages on a particular train. It still functions very well because it has stations that serve it. Of course, you don’t have to imagine it — this is the way it runs.

        Likewise, people have complained about ST’s really long dwell times. I can understand the complaint, but this is no different than if the trains were running slower. Either way it delays the time it takes to reach your destination. But again, dwell times, or a slower running train aren’t any worse than a station that forces a five (or fifteen) minute transfer.

      6. 1) Is the DSTT a “new” rapid transit line? The DSTT was always intended, and partially justified, as a rail precursor.

        As it would be with the WSTT. You are simply building it in two steps. Build the most important piece first, then add the rail line second. In the mean time, build more important things between (UW to Ballard and Metro 8 subway). If, after all that, it makes sense to convert it to a train line, then fine. My guess is it wouldn’t.

        2) If you can’t understand why a new bus tunnel got zero traction, you can’t understand how to get it into serious consideration. How long are you willing to wait? For starters, there were no voices from West Seattle or at the City of Seattle interested in settling for buses.

        Because it wasn’t studied! That is one of my key points. Look, this is what happened. The idea of a WSTT was suggested on this blog by many of the commenters. Seattle Subway (a pro-transit and pro-rail group) proposed it. The idea got coverage by the Seattle Times (a front page article if I’m not mistaken). That is traction.

        Then what? Then Sound Transit never bothered to study it. They proposed — instead — a watered down version of “BRT” that suffers from every failing ever mentioned by its opponents. Although instead of a creeping deterioration, it was terrible to begin with. It didn’t include a tunnel and suffered with terrible travel times (because — of course — no tunnel). Whether intentionally or not, they cooked the books in favor of rail. Of course people preferred the rail option. It was faster! Even with the time spent for a transfer (which, by the way, is conveniently left out of any study) it is probably faster (for a few minutes out of the day, anyway) to take the train. No wonder everyone preferred that approach, it was the only realistic option!

        I think it is nuts when people criticize opponents by saying things like we lack a vision for an alternative. Or that we failed to organize and suggest alternatives. Why is that our job? I can’t commission a freakin’ study! Doing that kind of work costs thousands if not millions of dollars. But when we, as citizens, organize, send letters and otherwise ask our representatives to study the option — just study it for heaven’s sake — why is it our fault when they don’t? Hell, the Kirkland city council — the city council! — proposed running buses on the ERC. They even hired someone to study it. But Sound Transit rejected that idea and again, didn’t list it as one of the alternatives. Holy cow, man, we did our job. Sound Transit didn’t.

        3) I am very comfortable in saying that a tunnel under Madison would be far superior, from the reliability gains alone.

        What, really? Seriously — any tunnel under Madison would be better. Wow, talk about rail bias. OK, imagine a typical ST light rail project for Madison. Distance is the most important thing, so it would go all the way out to Madison Park. Given typical ST stop spacing, put a station at 3rd, Boren, 23rd and 43rd. A train like that could carry a lot of people, so no need to run it that often. Every ten minutes should do it (with plenty of room for passengers). OK, so a trip from First Hill (Boren) to downtown takes longer, given the distance needed to get to the surface. A trip to various places along the way takes a lot longer, because there are fewer stops. A trip to 23rd from 3rd might be faster and a trip to Madison Park certainly would, although less frequent. Congratulations, you have a system that is more reliable, but a hell of lot less functional. Why you think reliability is more important than functionality is beyond me. The NYC subway is not the most reliable subway in North America, but is the best, because it is the most functional.

        >> You really dislike the Seattle ST3 projects, which I find really perplexing.

        It shouldn’t be, given what I’ve written. The Ballard line is OK, just not the enormous improvement that folks say it is. Great for Lower Queen Anne, much worse for Ballard than Ballard to UW rail, and greatly overrated for South Lake Union. That is by far the best project. West Seattle rail does little to nothing for the bulk of riders to and from West Seattle (riding a bus will be much faster most of the day). Everett, Tacoma and Issaquah rail are all absurd — no one runs a rail line out to distant, low density cities and suburbs like that. It just doesn’t make sense.

        But the big problem I have is that it endangers the key pieces we need to build. I really don’t think we are going to pass a “Ballard to UW/Metro 8 rail” package any time soon if this passes. This is a huge amount of money, and folks are likely to just say “wait a second, let’s not build anything for a while. Besides, didn’t Ballard just get rail — we want rail”. Just look at Vancouver. It has obviously built something far more successful than our system, and plans on expanding it. The expansion plans are obvious and warranted. Extend a rail line to connect to the other rail line and replace one of the most ridden bus lines in the world (over 50,000 a day). But it failed, and they are left with that segment undone. This sucks and just shows how fragile even obvious, highly useful proposals are. I fear that ST3 passes we simply won’t have the political will to build the most important pieces. I wouldn’t say that if it fails we are guaranteed that, but I think we have a very good shot (as explained above).

      7. >> But a much bigger deal to me, given all the budget crises, is: zero mixed-traffic segments, zero on-board payment. That is not the record of local BRT, despite my best efforts.

        Madison BRT will be zero on-board payment, as well as level boarding. It will only be in mixed traffic where it doesn’t matter.

        In general, the 100% or bust mentality is baffling. Consider this: Back in the day, before we did the hard work building a tunnel through Beacon Hill, we could have easily just ran a bus exclusively through the tunnel. In fact, you could have run a train from say, SoDo to Convention Place. But let’s assume it was a bus covering just that route. Now change the curbs a bit, so that the buses all have level boarding. Include SoDo in the mix and guess what? We have a 100% grade separated, off board payment, level bo!rding BRT! Yippee, prepare to get the medal from ITDP.

        Is that really any better than what we had? Of course not. Of course you want what New York and DC have — miles and miles of grade separated mass transit. But it is just as important that it actually go somewhere. More to the point, if you can’t afford that, then what? Build arbitrary lines to nowhere, but keep them all 100% grade separated? Or build a compromise system, with the worst bottlenecks eliminated. To me the second option is much better. Build the WSTT, fix the ramps and eliminate the bus lane weave on the West Seattle bridge and you have done precisely that (even if the buses (outside that area) have to wait for a traffic light or two). Again, would you then truncate them all, right by the ramp, to achieve your 100% figure? Of course not.

    6. “If ST3 fails and King County or Seattle goes alone on a transit package. a new bus tunnel will most likely be the signature project.”

      What makes you think that? First, a King County package is unlikely given how Metro Prop 1 failed at the county level but succeeded at the city Level and then Move Seattle on top of that. Second, there has been no citywide discussion of what a non-ST package might include. I like the ideas of a second bus tunnel, the 45th light rail and the “Metro 8” light rail, but a few people philosophizing on a transit blog is only 0.01% of the city, and it doesn’t include the city council or SDOT. At most they know what our ideas are, but that doesn’t say whether they agree with them. Beyond that we’d have to ask the legislature’s permission for such a large tax, and it may or may not give us something smaller. There is the monorail authority but the legality of tapping it for a bus tunnel or a not-light-rail-in-name uncertain, and it would only be enough for one smallish project.

      1. Martin points out the SDOT & City Council prefer a rail tunnel, so I may be entirely wrong, but I’m guessing a Seattle only package would start with a bus-only tunnel simply on basis of cost, with the tunnel able to be upgraded to rail in the future.

        The tunnel itself wouldn’t be cheaper, but buses would generally switch immediately to existing roads when existing the tunnel, saving $ vs. having to extend rail all the way to West Seattle, Interbay, etc.

      2. I can confirm that Seattle Subway will continue in the case of a failed ST3 vote and that a bus tunnel isnt part of the discussion of that “what if.”

        We threw the WSTT up against a wall and it didnt stick. There is no institutional or organized transit group I know of that is pushing for it.

        I have a high level of confidence that ST3’s list of “what-ifs” are all things that you would make you wish ST3 had passed.

      3. I too hold the view a failure of ST3 is going to have consequences a lot worse than too much light rail…

        I can see state legislators turning on the local transit agencies (e.g. Skagit Transit, King County Metro).

        I can see Sound Transit stopped when ST2 is done.

        I can see my backup plan of taking a lane of I-5 & I-405 for Double Talls only going only so far…

        Let’s buck up and win this thing!

      4. “I have a high level of confidence that ST3’s list of “what-ifs” are all things that you would make you wish ST3 had passed.”

        As a guessing game, what might these projects be? If we’re comparing ST3 Link to a hypothetical more-urban network and people are actually voting no because it’s not that, then we should also look at hypotheticals on the other side that have a chance of being approved. One of ST’s earlier alternatives was a lower-budget more spine-centric network with a notorious surface Ballard line. Is that the kind of thing that might come back?

  6. So no defense/celebration of the $54B pricetag? Is the cost of the system to the taxpayers irrelevant to the STB Board? Let’s say the price was $154B – still a yes?

    I’m most likely voting “yes”, but I think the main issue is value – does the price match what we are getting. Is that not a concern for anyone else?

      1. I use 520, so I personally I’m getting very little in ST3, but yes the Eastside is getting a lot of probably not-worth-it rail in ST3. I am looking forward to the ST2 Eastside lines though! Even if I won’t use it often, the Bellevue-Seattle Link should be very beneficial to many people.

    1. $54 billion is in year-of-expenditure dollars adjusted for future inflation. It’s something like $18 billion or $23 billion in current dollars. And taxpayers aren’t paying all of that. Part of it is a down payment saved from ST2, savings in subarea accounts (especially Pierce which has been saving up for the Link extension since ST1), grants, etc. There’s also other potential cost reductions if the zoning/permitting negotiations with the cities go well, and in the EIS processl. Redmond has given light rail blanket zoning permission, and Murray has promised to propose the same in Seattle this summer. The EIS cost depends on the number of alternatives the community demands be studied. If it’s only the minimum number (ST’s preferred, no-build, and one other), then the EIS cost and timeline would be reduced. East Link in south Bellevue had a dozen alternatives, and each of those takes a few months and money to study. ST’s official budget is based on the experience with ST1 and 2, so it doesn’t include these potential discounts.

      1. As Mike said, the real price tag is about $20 billion. For a $154 billion package, or whatever, it would have to depend on what we got it. If it were the same projects at that cost, then that would imply costs per mile way out of line with the norm, and we’d have to understand why.

        If it got a bunch more projects, we’d have to look at what those projects were.

      2. The $22b cost estimate was in 2014 dollars, so the real cost of projects will occur nearer the top of the estimate of $54, as most of the heavy spending will occur 10-20 years from now, not in 2014.

      3. But Mic, do you care about nominal dollars or the tax burden? If people are comparing it to their current income and taxes and expenses, they need the level in terms of current dollars.

    2. To be honest, no, I’m not terribly price-sensitive about building transit. Two reasons.

      First, the alternative is not really acceptable, in my opinion. Traffic is already a major quality of life and economic problem in the city, and only going to get worse (unless it’s so bad that the economy stalls – Detroit seems to be the worst of all solutions to traffic problems, though). And from a social justice perspective, there are so few housing units within a reasonable commute of job centers that all but he wealthy are driven out. The poor and middle class end up with huge commutes, reduced access to good jobs, less time spent with family and kids, etc.

      So I’m not particularly price sensitive with transit. It’s kind of like healthcare. I might not like the price, but if I need it the medicine and have the money, I’m going to buy it. I’ll take the generic pill or go to a different hospital to save money, but I’m not going to choose “no medicine” because I think I should be able to get the same thing for 30% less. Transit isn’t quite as dire, but given how “sick” our city currently is in land and transportation, I’m more concerned with how effective it is than how much it costs.

      The second reason is that the price is pretty darned reasonable. Less than $200/year is nothing compared to what I spend on my car – I just spent $70 to have somebody listen for the weird noise it’s been making and tell me he couldn’t hear it! And it’s nothing compared to what I spend on housing, where, of course, I’m paying for a short commute every bit as much as I’m paying for square footage or quality craftsmanship. If ST3 passes, I expect to save more than 200/year on vehicle expenses, more than 200/year on housing by having more options within a given reliable commuting time, AND to make more than 200/year more at my job because of the economic benefit of having more customers and talent accessible within a given amount of time.

      Yesterday’s NY Times had an article about housing prices as a function of length of subway commute, finding that across the boroughs, people pay $51/month for each minute of subway commute saved. Seattle is no NYC, but if New Yorkers are paying an extra $3,000/year for five minutes of savings, then Seattlites would surely pay $200/year in rent for the kind of time savings ST3 promises.

      So, yeah. I’m voting for.

  7. I think this blog is overly critical of the everett extension, and reflects the views of people who live in Seattle, but don’t know the rest of the puget sound region that well. Believe it or not, most people in puget sound don’t live in Seattle, but other places along the I-5 corridor. They commute both to Seattle, but also other places like Lynnwood and Paine Field. This extension is immensely useful to them.

    A couple of more detailed points:
    1. A lot of noise has been made about the Paine Field extension extending travel times. Already, lots of people commute to Seattle from Everett via car or bus, and those trips take well over an hour during rush hour. Even with the Paine Field extension, travel times via light rail won’t exceed 60 minutes, so people will still prefer this to driving.
    2. The other intermediary stops are useful. However, freeway stops will never be ideal “transit oriented development,” both because the freeway is an obstacle to pedestrians, and because people just don’t like living right next to a freeway onramp. What will make those stops succeed or fail is whether there are good bus connections to the light rail, which there currently are not. This point is never discussed on this blog, but the TOD issue is harped on endlessly.

    Finally, I think this blog just massively underestimates how much time people out in the burbs sit in traffic. Believe it or not, there are lots of low income people who live in cheaper outlying areas who commute a solid 2 hours to work in Seattle *each way*. These i-5 extensions will make their lives significantly better.

    1. The ed board is supportive of the Everett extension, but generally critical of the I-5 alignment AND the Paine deviation, which is the worst of both worlds. Martin is more sanguine on Paine than I am, FWIW. SR 99 presented an enormous missed opportunity to reinvigorate a blighted commercial corridor, an option that was barely considered. Meanwhile, the admitted crush of people coming from Everett into Seattle will take an industrial tour twice a day to serve a job center dependent on shift work without all-day demand. As you said, it’s still far better than the frequent 100-minute driving times we will see indefinitely into the future, and it deserves support anyway.

      1. Thank you Zach.

        I would just add publicly there are efforts by Community Transit & Everett Transit right now to get more bus ridership out of the Boeing Factory. I have also made clear to both agencies’ leadership the need to feed the rail stations with service from other current & potential Paine Field tenants.

        For Snohomish County, it was either serve Paine Field with light rail or lose the whole ST3 project. When you don’t have an elected Sound Transit Board of transit advocates that’s what you get. I would happily have supported gold standard BRT to Paine Field to get light rail to Everett Station four years faster but nobody else had the moxie and I daresay the integrity to go in front of the Sound Transit Board & the Sound Transit planner geeks and demand it. Type-type-type-send only goes so far…

        So yes, support ST3 light rail to Everett. Snohomish County subarea has paid up for it. It’s important to respect us in the North, we rightfully came down and celebrated Seattle’s spine. We the North want high capacity transit too – and remember if you want to shrink us, you shrink Seattle & the South too. OK?

        GO SOUND TRANSIT!

      2. Why does “the North” deserve any respect for celebrating a light rail line which has been built to your specifications at the cost of serving Seattle, even though it’s paid for 100% by Seattle dollars?

        And remind me, were the charges that East King dollars are being poured into ST3’s Paine Field boondoggle ever answered? Admittedly, the Issaquah sinkhole is hardly better…

      3. Because pal, the North keeps Boeing and a big part of the tax base here. The North is a FULL partner with Sound Transit, as much as Seattle.

        Paine Field is NOT a boondoggle, it’s vital to us northeners. Gee, you want to play this game after West cough Sea cough ttle when that area has a fast passenger-only water taxi? I don’t think so, and I don’t want to.

        The North has been drug into this whole Sound Transit district. If some of us had our way… against my objections we’d never be in Sound Transit.

        I ask you support us as we’ve supported you/Seattle please. That will be all.

        Now my support for ST3 is at a 6.

      4. I’m not pushing for West Seattle at all; ST3 has “meh” lines (or worse) everywhere. And if I saw any North line that’s half as valuable as Ballard-SLU-Westlake or even Redmond-Overlake, I’d be supporting it – like, probably, an Everett line along SR99.

        Meanwhile, I note that you’re ignoring my points about where the money’s coming from…

      5. William C, well you can be petulant and vote NO to high capacity transit expansion. Heck I invite you to check out “Smarter Transit” if you’d like…

        Or you can be part of the solution. Realize compromise means transit dollars going lots of places for more transit, more places, more often.

        I too have many gripes with ST3 and would have drawn a very different package to empathize speed of delivery of high capacity transit. But nobody can move into the Sound Transit District and run for election to the Board.

        Up to you.

      6. Sure, compromise! Spend a million on a Magnolia-Bainbridge express, another billion on frequent nonstop service between Point Wells and Snoqualmie, and millions more for everyone else…

        … or actually look at what you’re getting. I see exactly two lines in ST3 that’re worth it, and two more that I could possibly, maybe be convinced to support. Are those worth paying for the rest and (as Ross points out) foreclosing the chance of using that money for a possibly better package later? Maybe – but I don’t know, and I want to see debate on that issue. But the actual ST3 supporters’ arguments of “either you’re with us every step of the Spine Destiny, or you’re against transit” and “build more expensive rail everywhere” are turning me against them.

      7. William, I agree with you. But both you and Joe point out something interesting. The organized pro-ST3 camp says “This plan is meh, but it’s better than nothing, so vote yes unless you’re against transit!” And the organized anti-ST3 camp basically says “Transit is a waste of money and we should never invest in it. Vote no!” So if you’re anti-ST3 it’s very easy to get lumped in with that crowd (at least by the politicians).

        This is unfortunate, because if politicians use a no vote at the ballots to say “See, people don’t want transit” and kill off any future bills, that’s going to be a problem for those who support transit but don’t support many ST3 projects.

      8. As to:

        if politicians use a no vote at the ballots to say “See, people don’t want transit” and kill off any future bills, that’s going to be a problem for those who support transit but don’t support many ST3 projects.

        Well then don’t you think better to vote yes, then?

        Then work to reform Sound Transit so ST4 makes more sense to most STB commentators?

      9. William C-
        ” I see exactly two lines in ST3 that’re worth it, and two more that I could possibly, maybe be convinced to support.”

        Those are probably the two lines that go near where you live. Of course you think those are worthwhile…

        But mostly every region is paying for it’s own stuff, so you have no right to complain. It’s like voting to prevent your neighbor to buy an expensive car with his own money, because you think he would be better off driving around in a Corolla. It’s none of your business, and it’s a little weird you are so obsessed over it.

      10. Brendan – Not at all. I live on the Eastside, and the Issaquah line and the South Kirkland stub are among the least worthwhile in my mind. (405 BRT is also bad.) Granted, I do think the Redmond extension is worth it, but that’s for the same reasons it was already in ST2: Redmond’s a vibrant city, and we don’t want to put a major P&R right by the Microsoft campus.

        (The other line that I approve of is Ballard-Downtown, which goes nowhere near anywhere I go regularly.)

      11. What William said. Ballard to downtown has merit (although it is far inferior to Ballard to UW in my book) and the extension to Redmond is warranted. 522 BRT is OK (although maybe overpriced), even though I wouldn’t use it. Just about everything else is somewhere between bad and really, really bad. None of it is anywhere near where I go regularly.

    2. The Everett line can be made useful with 2 SR 99 stops (at the south and north of the Paine Field loop) with zero, zero, zero parking and great transfer to Swift. I think Snohomish and the cities should push for that and upzone the hell out of these two parts of SR 99

      1. Twin SR 99 stations with a SWIFT running between them is almost better for TOD that a LR running along SR 99 given the closer stop spacing of SWIFT?
        SWIFT would serve a long, narrow upzone along SR99 better than a few LR stations fighting to upzone east and west into SF housing.

      2. Sure, a provisional stop. In other words, it’s being held hostage for when ST needs votes for their next boondoggle, just like 130th St.

      3. Or if the overly conservative projections for the cost of ST3 are just that, overly conservative.

        Wiliam C, I don’t think you’re anti-transit. I do think you’re anti-Spine Destiny and want to make fundamental changes outside of the ST3 ballot question scope. Newsflash – so do I.

    3. A well-executed Everett extension would run up SR99 and have a rail spur to serve Paine Field, with zero transfers. And less parking!

      I have no problem with light rail to Everett in the abstract.

      1. Not just a “scenic detour” but a major jobs + tourism center for the North by Northwest area. Only fair a stop at Paine Field.

        You know, you people maybe we North by Northwesters should start sniping at stops between North Seattle and Tacoma? I’d rather not. I don’t think it’s helpful to the debate this regional sniping back & forth. Time to get over it and either back high capacity transit or not, and yeah I got a list of gripes too.

      2. Or bus spur.

        SWIFT2 intersecting with Link at SR99 better serves the Paine Field area that either a Paine Deviation or a Paine spur, and frees up money for ST to extend Link a station or two north of Everett Station and/or pour ST3 money into the SWIFT network.

      3. Chill Joe, just a flippant comment regarding the circuitous nature of the route and time added to the total trip. I know there’s stuff there.

    4. 1. A lot of noise has been made about the Paine Field extension extending travel times. Already, lots of people commute to Seattle from Everett via car or bus, and those trips take well over an hour during rush hour. Even with the Paine Field extension, travel times via light rail won’t exceed 60 minutes, so people will still prefer this to driving.

      I’m solidly in the YES camp, but this excuse for the Paine field diversion would really rankle if I were likely to be a future Everett–Seattle Link rider. The political elites of Snohomish county have decided to waste a considerable amount of the time and money of their residents to indulge in some implausible fantasies about the future of Paine field. That’s a terrible approach to making transit investments and a terrible way to treat your transit-dependent citizens and choice riders alike. That the freeway is a disaster is no excuse for wasting riders’ time with this ridiculous routing.

      1. So I guess it’s “ridiculous routing” to service Snohomish County’s #1 job center with a ton of folks from King County going up to Paine Field, home of many industrial jobs & museums and a quick bus connection from Mukilteo & the ferry terminal to Whidbey Island where many from Whidbey Island make transit connections to Paine Field and points beyond?

        OK, [ah] and I’m not picking on you DJW but the concept of sniping at Paine Field. How about let’s scrap the West Seattle diversion. What the heck is there but elitist beach and hills?

        [ ot]

        I doubted any of you truly want this conversation. I hope I’m right and the sniping stops. So what if Paine Field gets light rail? Paine Field creates good paying jobs and is a community hub. Paine Field might even against my concerns get a commercial terminal, maybe.

        Thanks for understanding guys.

      2. I don’t understand why there is so much concern for the mythological Everett to Seattle commuter. Sounder North serves that exact trip, so the Link alignment is irrelevant for those commuters.

        Link’s routing in Snohomish north of Lynwood is designed first to serve trips within Snohomish, secondarily trips into King County.

        Complaining about the long time to get from Everett to Seattle on Link is like complaining about how slow RV is when trying to get to the airport.

  8. Has ST or Metro explained what the proposed ST3 funding for RapidRide C and D “transit priority improvements” would buy? I’m curious about this because

    a) after Northgate Link opens in 2021, there won’t be major Link expansion in Seattle for at least about 9 years- most of our transit improvements will have to come from upping the speed/frequency/span of the bus system

    b) we basically know what the city is aiming for with Madison BRT, but I can’t recall seeing any plans for capital upgrades for RR C and D

    1. Probably a bit naive of me, but I have moderate hopes for the Center City Connector. Not just for the new line itself, but hopefully it will be leveraged to make improvements to the SLU and FH streetcars.

  9. I think ST3 is very exciting and am very much in support of it. I think the important thing is to get the plan in place and then to work to improve it over the coming decades. There will be ample opportunity for input from the community, for reactions to changing conditions or new technologies, and even for savings if grant money comes available. Comparing the state of Link today to the original ST shows us how much plans can change, or even be delayed, but it also shows us that real progress is possible. Without a yes vote we can’t get started on making the plans in ST3 a reality and will instead spend another decade in the weeds rueing what might have been. And I’m enough of an optimist to look at how well Sound Transit is executing plans today and hope that they can deliver on ST3 faster than is being promised.

    1. I agree. You can expect a lot more community meetings and full Environmental Impact Statement processes.

      I do think somebody should ask why the ST3 vote before the Environmental Impact Statement processes? I wish I heard or had an answer but support ST3 anyway.

      I just think we need high capacity, grade separated transit from Everett to Tacoma, period. The ridership’s already there for that spine.

      1. Time & Budget. During the EIS taxes are collected to bank up enough money to build the actual project. Without taxes in place, you can’t do an EIS b/c you don’t know how much money you have to work with on a corridor.

        Further, ST does include money to study several corridors without committing any engineering & construction. Presumably projects in those corridors will be funded by later measures.

  10. I live on the Eastside and I can’t vote for ST3. Not with the amount of money that is being spent on useless projects here.

    First, there’s light rail to the western edge of Issaquah where practically no one lives anyway and has nothing more than strip malls right now. No one has quite explained why it’s worthwhile to build there besides some vague promises of increased zoning. Maybe building through Issaquah might be useful, but not just to the edge.

    Second there’s 405 BRT. I live next to the 405 and use buses on it. All I see with this project is prettier stops and more P&R lots. Actual service improvements (like direct access ramps) are missing. Yes, it adds an 85th St stop. Which has zero walkshed and will rely on feeder service from DT Kirkland. Some will take it, but many won’t.

    Lastly, outside of the Eastside, I still can’t support spending billions on the spine when there are many worthwhile projects outside of the spine. Rail is needed inside of Seattle, not just to spend money elsewhere.

    There are many worthwhile projects in ST3. Just on the Eastside, extending to Redmond is worthwhile. 522 BRT is a cheap, relatively high rewards project. Outside, DT Seattle to Ballard (despite its issues) is worthwhile (others are as well, I just don’t follow them as much). But there are just too many missing projects and too much fluff for me to be willing to spend this much money. And too little work from ST to better understand where money should be invested (e.g., serving DT Kirkland).

    1. As to;

      Lastly, outside of the Eastside, I still can’t support spending billions on the spine when there are many worthwhile projects outside of the spine. Rail is needed inside of Seattle, not just to spend money elsewhere.

      The spine is paid for by subarea equity. IT’s also something promised in Sound Transits 1 & 2. Just saying…

      1. Agreed (at least, theoretically they claim sub-area equity and I won’t argue that here). But I look at it from an East King perspective first, whole area perspective second. If East King was bad, but the projects elsewhere were amazing, I’d probably vote for it. But there’s too much bad everywhere for me to convince me.

        As for being promised in ST1/2, politicians have promised many things over the last 20 years. Many weren’t delivered. Doesn’t mean we need to stick with those promises if other things are more important now. Plus I didn’t live here 20 years ago, so no one made any promises to me.

      2. People paid ST1&2 taxes believing they were going toward a gradual spine buildiout. That was the #1 reason Sound Transit was created, to connect Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Bellevue/Redmond. If you then tell them, “We won’t be doing any more spine projects, but here’s some non-spine projects”, then they can argue that they were misled. In any case, four of ST’s five subareas want the spine, and made it their far highest priority.

      3. “That was the #1 reason Sound Transit was created, to connect Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Bellevue/Redmond.”

        If you remember, the failed 1972 subway went between Lake City and Renton because that’s where the population was at the time. Kent was just starting its conversion from farmland, Northgate wasn’t a big deal yet, the few commuters from Lynnwood way in the outskirts, and Boeing workers had to drive anyway because they were being reassigned to different plants without warning regardless of where they lived.

        In the 1980s King County built the downtown transit tunnel for county-based routes. Regardless of whether that was the right scope for it, they couldn’t have done anything different because all transit agencies and funding were county-based then (or city-based in Everett’s case). Inter-county service slowly increased but it lagged because the agencies were answerable to county-based taxpayers who wanted to prioritize e.g., downtown to Maple Leaf and downtown to Kingsgate. The counties and agencies decided that this structure couldn’t adequately address regional transit needs because they would be perpetually be deprioritized behind local requests. So they went to the state and asked for a regional transit agency to take care of it. The state realized that without it, the state would have to get directly involved in providing Puget Sound regional transit, and it didn’t want that. So it created Sound Transit to delegate that responsibility. So ST’s structural focus is on inter-county service, service between the King County subareas, and between nodes of regional significance (now mostly synonomous with urban centers). So its mandate isn’t to build an “urban” high-density network, but to connect the regional nodes. And it’s reinforced because most people/taxpayers/voters live in the suburbs near those suburban nodes, and their #1 priority is an alternative to freeway congestion.

    2. “There’s light rail to the western edge of Issaquah where practically no one lives anyway and has nothing more than strip malls right now. No one has quite explained why it’s worthwhile to build there besides some vague promises of increased zoning. Maybe building through Issaquah might be useful, but not just to the edge.”

      The project would start around 2031 and end in 2041. That’s 25 years from now. If you go back 25 years to 1991, downtown Bellevue and Redmond were a lot smaller. Central Issaquah itself didn’t have the tons of apartments it has now. So a lot can happen in twenty-five years, especially with the population increasing as fast as it’s doing. Issaquah was eager to upzone this area and other parts of town; the same can’t be said for other suburbs. Or even 2/3 of Seattle. If Issaquah hadn’t zoned that urban center it wouldn’t have qualified for light rail. All of this may not completely justify a light rail line but it gives a relative reason for it in a way that Kirkland and Renton don’t have.

      1. It’s PSRC growth area. Base case, it turns into downtown Redmond or Overlake, with several blocks of 7-story buildings. Best case, it’s the next Lynnwood with a smattering of 30 story buildings around the TC.

        Kirkland’s PSRC growth area is in Totem Lake, which is why TL gets BRT and downtown Kirkland gets nothing.

        Renton’s downtown is a PSRC growth area, and frankly they could be another Bellevue (in terms of downtown density), but Tukwilla and Kent both seem more ambitious to be the center of gravity in South King. Renton is only getting park & rides because that’s all the city asked for … only at the last minute did they realize they should have been asking for rail, which is why Burien-Renton light rail made it in as a HCT study

      2. I agree a lot may change in 20 years. But there’s two things that still make me not like this.

        First, rail or BRT through Kirkland could hit both Totem Lake (the growth area that’s not really growing) and DT Kirkland (the area that’s not supposed to grow but practically speaking is). I sincerely doubt Issaquah will overtake Kirkland in the next 20 years density-wise.

        Second, and more importantly, let’s suppose Issaquah becomes the next DT Seattle. The light rail station is on the southwest corner of the growth area. There is no expansion to the southwest because it’s a big hill. Two blocks north is I-90, which cuts the growth zone in half. The only crossing is a busy, 6 lane road with a sidewalk only on one side that I don’t know how many people even want to cross. Short of re-building everything there, you’re not going to get much growth. Totem Lake is bad enough, but at least you can cross 405 at Totem Lake via a much less busy street.

      3. Totem Lake is far from downtown Kirkland across a sea of large-lot houses. Issaquah’s urban center is a mile’s easy walk from City Hall with multifamily housing and businesses in between and the potential for more. Renton, this is the first time I’ve heard its downtown called an urban center. Where will its urban center residents live and work? It’s almost all big-box stores on superblocks. There’s a start in fhe few blocks around the transit center (the transit center it wants to move away from), but it’s only a few blocks. I wish Renton would upzone; it would be a great place for low-cost housing, but it has not done anythijng except a tiny bit around the transit center and at The Landing.

      4. @Mike: I agree that Totem Lake is not the best growth center. But serving DT Kirkland is important, and the solution for ST3 is basically useless. Plus, it sounds like Kirkland wants to upzone the Houghton area for greater density (68th St and 6th St, around Google). If that happens (there’s now a survey out for public comment, though you can see the results at the end and they’re not exactly encouraging), then you will need more transit there, and the CKC becomes even more useful.

        As for Issaquah, yes, City Hall is a mile from the edge of the boundary. But it’s 2 miles from the TC, which Google claims to be a 35 minute walk. That’s too far to ask most people to walk just to get to the train. It will be interesting to see how fast Issaquah grows in that area.

      5. If you look at the map, the light rail would actually go to central Issaquah, not just Issaquah Transit Center. Exactly where the stop would be, I’m not sure (maybe, turn the railroad museum back into a real train station again :)?)

      6. “City Hall is a mile from the edge of the boundary. But it’s 2 miles from the TC, which Google claims to be a 35 minute walk. That’s too far to ask most people to walk just to get to the train.”

        Yes but we’re not expecting people to walk from City Hall to the train. There will be a bus for that. The urban center is a several-block area with the TC at the far side. Between the urban center and City Hall are commercial blocks that could become denser than they are. So we’re expecting people to walk a shorter distance from City Hall to the commercial district, from there to the urban center, and from there to the station, and overlapping longer and shorter walks. City Hall itself is a one-story historic block, and north and south of it is a linear park along a historic rail line, and two blocks south of it is the center of Issaquah’s trail system with a statue of one of the trail founders. So there will be a stream of pedestrians between the station to city hall and the trails, even if it’s overlapping short trips rather than going the entire way. That’s why I’m bullish for modest success in Issaquah, that and Issaquah’s greater commitment to upzones than other burbs.

        Contrast Kirkland. The distance from downtown to Totem Lake is similar, but the area between is vastly different. Much less friendly to walk (boring houses that take a frustratingly long time to walk past), and much fewer destinations in between (fewer opportunities for overlapping short-distance walks). The brightest side for Kirkland may be the pleasantness of the forested trail between downtown and Totem Lake. (I haven’t seen the trail north of Kirkland Ave, and I’ve heard part of it goes behind warehouses, but hypothetically it could be forested like the south part.) But people would not walk from downtown Kirkland to Totem Lake to take 405 BRT or hypothetical rail; they would take RapidRide on transit lanes to 85th Station, or walk to the station.

      7. @asdf2 – sorry but all the documents I’ve seen show the line terminating at the TC.

        Mike is right – the areas in Totem Lake & Issaquah TC are very re-developable. Downtown Kirkland is not, but can be easily connected to the TC with bus service.

        This is what makes light rail to Malls (Northgate, Totem Lake, Factoria, etc.) so desirable. It’s a large block of land that developers can build up significantly. Kirkland, like most of Seattle, is already divided up into SF lots and will therefore be very difficult to build up any further.

      8. Downtown Kirkland is redevelopable but the city council refuses to upzone it.

        Kirkland was the first suburb to densify its downtown and waterfront in the 1980s. It was a model to other suburbs. Now it’s going the opposite direction and refuses to switch from 2-3 stories to a small-city friendly 4-6 stories.

      9. Reading the documents a bit more closely, they have one station east of Eastgate labeled “Central Issaquah”, but they don’t say where, exactly, “Central Issaquah” is. Considering the location of growth area and the planned bridge over I-90, the station will probably a couple blocks east and a block north of the current transit center, right in the middle of what’s now a giant strip-mall parking lot. The walk to the real central Issaquah looks like about a mile and and a half. There will probably be a bus, but if the bus only runs every half hour, with a schedule that isn’t coordinated with a train that also runs only every half hour, it could very well be faster to just walk. On the other hand, the route is flat, and already has decent bike lanes, so the bike option is best.

        There’s also the question of what happens to the Issaquah Transit Center parking garage that’s already built, if it’s a block and a half away from the train station, and ST intends to build another garage that’s closer to the new site. I guess the current garage will remain as overflow parking.

    3. It’s a shame ST is spending so much money on the 85th station, especially with buying ROW for bus lanes. It’s a sop to Kirkland for killing them on CKC rail.

      I would have much rather have seen that money spent on converting some of the other 405 stations into proper in-line stations to better leverage the HOT lanes.

      1. I guess so. It just doesn’t strike me as a growth destination, so I think they are getting more than their fair share of the money spent along 405.

      2. Lots of existing people go to downtown Kirkland to shop or eat or go to the regional library or walk the promenade. Workers go to the restaurants and Google.

  11. While I am generally happy with the overall concept of ST3 corridors, there are a few things that really bother me.

    1. ST summarily ignored DMU technologies as well as short cable-pulled connection systems in their planning for most of the corridors. ST did not look at how they could deliver a similar amount of coverage at a lower cost for some of the route extremities or how some connections could be built without a full-on light rail system and all of its more costly rail bed/support and electrical infrastructure..It was only bus or light rail only that was studied for most corridors.
    2. ST has not been forthcoming about the net new system riders, and only gives out ridership by corridor. How many Everett riders were already on the train in Lynnwood, for example? It suggests that ST could be hiding something. I keep seeing this 400K+ number thrown around, but it appears that this is just adding up the riders on each corridor and that is double-counting when they will already be on the system after ST2.
    3. ST included several fund transfers to other transit operators, yet did not present a process in place for good oversight or even a choice of which operator should would provide the most cost-effective service. It appears to be merely a check given to other operators. This kind of capital funding confusion puts ST in a position of being the fund contributor to other systems but without any significant oversight to how those other operators spend the ST taxpayer money.
    4. The ST3 package did not specifically propose remedies to possible segment overcrowding (the maximum load segment is between Capitol Hill and Westlake); ST3 has nothing to ease that. There was also no load analysis presented at any Board meeting when discussing ST3 projects. It’s as if the entire plan was done without talking about train overcrowding issues — even though the ST2 documentation identified it as an issue. It has taken the U-Link opening to illustrate why this is an important consideration and to create a real-time awareness of where the most crowded segment is (even though it’s been in the study data for years).

    It will be curious if some of these things get highlighted in the campaign by either side. Just saying to vote yes or no is simply not enough for an informed and inquiring voter.

    1. 1. DMUs are one thing I wish ST had considered. If only the feds had allowed them on mainline tracks in the 1990s when the decisions were made, and if there were now a national and local push for more DMU routes to help convince ST.
      2. You can subtract the riders in the ST2 projection and on the current buses if you wish. To me that’s beside the point because the existing ridership is enough to justify high-capacity transit and new riders are just extra. The opportunity to truncate hundreds of buses is a major deal.
      3. ST initially went with the county agencies serving the route’s area. Since then it has started using Pierce Transit more heavily because it’s lower-cost. But ST also needs good relations with Metro and King County, so it has to balance cost vs goodwill.
      4. I don’t know. But U-Link is not the full buildout; it’s an interim step. Nobody knew if ridership would be higher or lower than projections until it opened, because there’s no comparable segment in Pugetopolis to say it’ll be similar to that. Some of the riders themselves didn’t know whether they would take Link, it depended on how well it works for them when it opens.So ST underestimated the number of cars it would need. But if it had overestimated the number of cars, then people would complain that it was spending too much money too soon and being overoptimistic.

    2. 1. *Where* do you think DMUs would make sense relative to BRT or light rail? Generally they only make sense places where the tracks are already in place, and Sounder trains can go from the BNSF line to the ST-owned portion rather than forcing a transfer. It’s hard for me to imagine any kind of frequent service being served by DMUs that generally don’t have level boarding.
      2. Something like what you’re looking for is in the plan. But there is a benefit to a reliable rail trip vs. being stuck on an I-5 bus, no? Existing bus riders like me would have time savings as a benefit – the FTA doesn’t even measure “new riders” any more because it ignores those benefits.
      4. the new downtown tunnel in ST3 is to prevent overcrowding. By Northgate opening there will already be 4-car trains in the existing tunnel.

      1. James: A few notes.

        1. EBART is DMU on new tracks. Denver has built miles of DMU track to reach DIA. It has made sense in the US. DMU could have provided enough savings to either build ST3 corridors cheaper or faster, or enabled longer lines.

        2. There is no indication of total Link system boardings for the build and no build. There is total transit boardings and total segment boardings but not any for Link as a system. It’s true that there could be a time savings – but is there really a savings to/ from Issaquah because of the required diversion and transfer, or a savings between Everett and Lynnwood as a result of the Paine Field diversion?

        4. The overcrowding is north of Downtown. The second tunnel will encourage users from South Lake Union to go south to Westlake and transfer to go north. That means that ST3 will increase overcrowding on the most crowded segment between Westlake and Capitol Hill.

      2. 1. Denver’s new rail lines are electric commuter rail (same rolling stock as SEPTA regional rail), not DMU.

        4. Isn’t anyone from South Lake Union going to the north already going to Westlake and taking a bus/train?

      3. We could have thrown cheap DMUs on everything that looks like a track. In the ST district there’s Seattle-Renton-Bellevue, Renton-Woodinville, Redmond-Woodinville, Orting, and probably other tracks I don’t know about. Outside the ST district there’s Bellingham to Everett, Olympia to Seattle, Redmond to Snohomish (and Everett?), Maple Valley to Auburn, maybe something around Tacoma.

      4. I would suggest that we don’t yet know who from SLU will be on Link north of Downtown. It only goes to UW.

        Even at the end of ST2, good SLU connections will include Route 8 to Cap Hill Station or Roosevelt BRT.

        ST3 will provide fast, frequent service to Westlake so a rider would be more likely to shift to making transfers at Westlake – if they can squeeze onto a train!

  12. I’m voting no. ST can and will do better. Sub area equity has run its course and needs to be retired. The exurbs need BRT not Light rail. Our freeway system needs more HOV/HOT lanes. The state transportation package should have been twice as large and included several billion $s of Federal money…

    1. FIL;

      People with your worldview will wreck Sound Transit as much as if Tim Eyman had his wildest political fantasy… the kind of fantasy I can have Hope Solo describe. But I don’t want a six-month suspension with no guarantee of comeback to Seattle Transit Blog comment threads.

      I’ve had a FILL of losers like FIL telling us North by Northwesteners (Snohomish-Island-Skagit) people who pay Sound Transit sales tax when we shop & do business & hold jobs in the Sound Transit district and quite arguably a lot more how to live and how we’re supposed to lick the chrome of Seattle light rail. “Sub area equity has run its course and needs to be retired”.

      Yeah, well NO. 20 years too late.

      [ ah]. Either way, I got a real problem with you snipers trying to take away what we the North by Northwest won in battle for what exactly? For what? Because you think there might be an empty seat or two?

      OK let’s get something straight with straight math. First half of 2016: 510 & 512 Everett-Seattle bus route: 950,948 boardings. That’s before the other bus routes – including from Community Transit – doing commuter runs towards Paine Field & Seattle.

      The North by Northwest wants light rail. We had the biggest ST3 review meeting – so big we had an overflow room. Flowers were even brought for the staff on 25 April: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avgeekjoe/albums/72157667602566855 . Don’t you feel a little… Trumper?

      I’m going to stop there. My support for ST3 just goes up when I hear you people whine, moan, cry a river that finally light rail will go to Everett! YEEEAAAHHH!!! DEMOCRATIZE LIGHT RAIL!!! GO SOUND TRANSIT!!! BEAT THE FOURTY WHINERS!!!

    2. FIL;

      People with your worldview will wreck Sound Transit as much as if Tim Eyman had his wildest political fantasy… the kind of fantasy I can have Hope Solo describe. But I don’t want a six-month suspension with no guarantee of comeback to Seattle Transit Blog comment threads.

      I’ve had a FILL of whiners like FIL telling us North by Northwesteners (Snohomish-Island-Skagit) people who pay Sound Transit sales tax when we shop & do business & hold jobs in the Sound Transit district and quite arguably a lot more how to live and how we’re supposed to lick the chrome of Seattle light rail. “Sub area equity has run its course and needs to be retired”.

      Yeah, well NO. 20 years too late.

      I’m being sarcastic not trying to out commentors, ok but for all I know you’re writing this comment standing with Trumpers in the Xfinity Arena. Or from jealous Trimet HQ in Portland. Either way, I got a real problem with you snipers trying to take away what we the North by Northwest won in battle for what exactly? For what? Because you think there might be an empty seat or two?

      OK let’s get something straight with straight math. First half of 2016: 510 & 512 Everett-Seattle bus route: 950,948 boardings. That’s before the other bus routes – including from Community Transit – doing commuter runs towards Paine Field & Seattle.

      The North by Northwest wants light rail. We had the biggest ST3 review meeting – so big we had an overflow room. Flowers were even brought for the staff on 25 April: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avgeekjoe/albums/72157667602566855 . Don’t you feel a little… Trumper?

      I’m going to stop there. My support for ST3 just goes up when I hear you people whine, moan, cry a river that finally light rail will go to Everett! YEEEAAAHHH!!! DEMOCRATIZE LIGHT RAIL!!! GO SOUND TRANSIT!!! BEAT THE FOURTY WHINERS!!!

      1. PS If I violated STB Comment Policy, well my apologies but I’m feeling we North by Northwesteners are being bullied here in the comments. Like we’re the bad guys for asking for light rail to Everett Station via Paine Field.

        Well if so, then are Seattle neighborhoods like Ballard bad guys too? I don’t think so.

        Is Tacoma a bad guy for demanding a light rail spine AND more Sounder South services in ST3? I don’t think so.

        We just want what’s ours and the sniping to cease, desist and stop immediately. OK?

    3. I believe the package does includes Billions of Federal dollars in its funding assumptions?

      ST depends on WSDOT to maintain good LOS on highways that carry buses, but ST has no ability to create HOV or HOT lanes, they can simply contribute to other agencies that built those.

      Completing the 405-167 master plan, with Billions spent on new HOTs lanes, is another critical component of improving our regional transportation network … but that’s a WSDOT project, not a ST project. We’ll need both.

  13. I’m a yes for ST3. The project that I really want to have happen, 130th Seattle, is a part of it. ST3 is a political document and only sets the basic stage. I have to think locally for the project that most affects me and trust that others will vote yes or no depending on their local projects.

    But believe me, ST, I’m not a hot yes. I’m a yes I did my part and now as a voter I’m holding your feet to the fire yes.

  14. I agree with “there is no plausible car-first future” as asserted in a bold font in the opening essay, considering cars as we know them today, and going out far enough into the future.

    But cars will change over the next 25 to 50 years, probably. Maybe change a lot, because of many areas of technology application. Cars may become smaller, more fuel efficient, more comfortable and safe to drive, platooning more and colliding less.

    I think voting yes on ST3 is a bet that cars (along with buses and trucks) won’t change very much, that Jarrett Walker’s laws of geometry are static limits, not able to change much.

    In that regard, the computer modeling of ST3 impacts does NOT seem to show that in the 2040s the region would be significantly less car-dependent than now, despite spending billions on rail transit. I’m referring to the transit ridership statistics and car flows described in the existing PSRC transportation plans, which do assume a lot of new rail beyond ST2. Approved plans show lots of future car use for as far as the modelers can see.

    The ST3 plan FAQ about congestion on line states “Light rail expansions will increase the people-moving capacity of our transportation system. Every rider is someone who does not contribute to rising congestion, helping to ease the movement of drivers and freight on our roads.”

    ST3 continues, “However, when additional road space becomes available, whether by building new highway lanes or move people out of cars into transit, freed up capacity quickly fills with cars, a phenomenon known as induced demand.”

    ST3 concludes on the topic of congestion, “Congestion will very seldom reduce from today’s levels, but without mass transit, it would be worse. Light rail offers an alternative to driving that also helps promote a vibrant and dense urban development where people rely less on cars, benefitting (sic) all travelers as well as our environment.”

    OK. Now…

    Would anybody care to speculate beyond the ST rhetoric quoted just how the proposed ST3 rail lines MIGHT make the region less car-dependent than the modeling results indicate? Could ST’s and PSRC’s ridership forecasts be seriously too small? Assume ST management will deploy enough rail cars to keep crowding from becoming a barrier to ridership growth.

    1. As far as speculating is concerned, we are trying to model 1M individual daily human decisions that boil down to “do I drive today or do I take transit?”

      Who can predict human fashion? Whether car yes or car no? 40 years ago, if you had said to someone that now fewer than 1 in 5 people smoke that someone would have thought you were kidding.

      If ST builds it, will they come? Some will. If ST doesn’t build it, they can’t come.

      1. I can predict human fasion when transit would take twice as long as a car would. Fashion would obviously favor the car. According to ST3 plan documents Link would take twice as long as driving now does from Tacoma or Everett to Seattle in normal non-rush traffic. If AV technology makes I-5 traffic flow better then those new ST3 lines would be empty and useless.

        You may think that AV technology can never cut congestion, but in 2000 nobody thought that smartphones would become ubiquitous and displace computers as they have.

      2. Highway capacity is highly limited by basic physics though. There has to be a certain following distance to allow lane changes and emergency stopping.

      3. @Glenn in Portland

        Agreed. In an AV Car photo, you could take 100 Smart Cars, park them each 2 inches from each other and the geometry would still be horrific.

        There is no Moore’s Law for a physical car, whether you or Google takes the wheel.

        @e_gow – You are assuming that now driving times will flatten using AV technology. I’m not as confident, and I’m not confident that AV is ever going to be ready. I think we will see a continuation of trend where the I-5 commute increases by 1 min every 3 months. I’m also willing to bet that someone has done the study where the Seattle rush period increases by some amount of time so the Seattle non rush time decreases by some amount of time.

  15. Sorry to interrupt this vibrant conversation, I usually don’t comment on issues like this, but I’m a little frustrated with the plan’s shortcomings. I am voting no because while I am pro-rail I am not pleased with the plan that is being presented. To get my vote the criteria is simple:

    1. Is the timeline reasonable? No. If it were 10 years, I’d consider it. Sorry for $54B the plan needs to figure this out.

    2. Does the plan cover my daily commute? No. My area on the east side isn’t getting any benefit from rail whatsoever (since this is a discussion mostly about LRT). Indeed the plan promises (but only conditionally) that the I405 corridor will get BRT bus service. The conditions depend upon a completely separate plan/schedule/organization completing the i405 master plan (of which I have doubts). To me the ‘master plan’ could have figured out how to lay rail along the entire i405 corridor to support rail transit–but that’s a different discussion.

    3. Does the plan shorten the time it takes my daily commute? No. Even with traffic as it is right now I can still drive 11miles I405N in the morning in 15min and 30min back S in the evening. Indeed based upon all the documentation I’ve read about the plan from the ST3 site, my commute time will increase to at least 1h either way – and I’d still have to drive my car the final set of miles. I could walk, which I don’t mind, but my point is that my overall commute then goes to 1.5h both ways (projected).

    4. Does the plan cover non-daily\weekend commute needs? No (unless one needs to go into Seattle itself). But I’d still have to drive to get on rail in the first place–kinda’ defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

    5. Does the plan help my children as they enter college in 6-10 years? No (see #2). Moreover, once they get to this age they too will have to start paying for this proposed system when they (the next generation) get no benefit.

    6. Security. The plan offers no insight into transit security/safety of the commuters. I’ve been on many rail systems and have had some ‘interesting’ experiences (most recently in Chicago). For $54B I’d expect a complete plan for staffing, training, etc. to be included. If someone can point me to the docs that cover this subject, I’d appreciate.

    Again, I am all for rail as a transit option. I just don’t see how the proposed plan meets the needs.

    1. 2-4. What kinds of trips would a better system serve? I assume you acknowledge that high-capacity transit can’t come to every cul-de-sac and strip mall, so users have some responsibility to live in or near multifamily areas, work in transit-accessible locations, use P&Rs moderately, or provide their own last-mile transportation. From what you’ve said, your commute might be similar to a Kirkland to Canyon Park trip? And where do you and others want to go off-hours that BRT or rail could reasonably be capable of serving?

      6. ST’s existing security practice is also a data point. With no detailed plan, we can assume security will be similar to existing rather than zero. I can’t recall hardly any security problems outside Rainier Valley, and to a lesser extent the downtown tunnel. If you stay in the Eastside security is unlikely to be an issue. But again, do you see gaps in ST’s current practice?

      1. Mike, thanks for taking the time to converse. My points are few–and only concern rail. Again I’m a fan of rail transit, just not this particular plan.

        For $54B you’d expect at least a level of service across the region that is paying for it. Instead, we get the entire region paying for a [very] few lucky clusters of population. This is my biggest gripe. No I don’t expect door to door service–as a matter of fact I did mention that I am willing to walk to a nearby rail station if necessary. However, one cannot (realistically) walk from Newcastle to Bellevue just to catch the final leg of the light rail to Redmond–because by golly the entire south (of BTC) I405 corridor gets no rail at all. Instead, we get a conditionally promised BRT which will almost assuredly get stuck in the same traffic the cars are currently (e.g. not a solution).

        Security: Really? For $54B we’ll just assume. Do you think that’s a reasonable approach for that amount of money? P&R security is a nightmare. I have had my P&R parked vehicle broken into or vandalized 3 times — even when one P&R was just down the street from the previous location of the Bellevue City hall/police station. I see no evidence that this has changed, so why should I buy-into commuting the (currently) 3 miles to the nearest P&R to risk yet another incident? There’s also no evidence of security at the stations or on board. If that’s the current plan this does not promote use. Would I ride any of the current (or planned) system alone or let my daughters do the same? That’s the real litmus test. Not without security in evidence. For $54B you’d think someone could set this up.

        Again, I’m not against rail transit (I’m actually a big fan). I am wary of the current proposed plan as it does not seem to be a solution to all the stakeholders. The system should have been designed like a ladder running rail up and down the major commute corridor with transfers at every major intersection. Add additional stops at specific communities (maybe if a community wanted a stop they would have to foot the bill to plug into the system). Instead we get the paltry splatter of inconsistent paths which don’t really cover a good percentage of the potential commuters.

        Personally if rail serviced me I’d use it. Since its not planned to be a comprehensive system in neither my lifetime nor my children’s I simply think we need to take another look at different designs.

      2. Tacoma Dome has the big SoundTransit parking structure, and several small pay lots nearby. None of the pay lots seem to have any cameras or security stuff, other than someone that apparently stops by to check to see if everyone has used the self service pay box.

        So ST already seems to be doing more than the private lots in the same location that charge for parking, at least in some cases.

      3. “My points are few–and only concern rail…. For $54B you’d expect at least a level of service across the region that is paying for it. Instead, we get the entire region paying for a [very] few lucky clusters of population. This is my biggest gripe.”

        Well, you can start with the cost of the Ballard-Westlake segment, at around $1 billion for a tunnel under SLU, surface on 15th Ave W, and a new bridge. And the Lynnwood-Everett segment at around $4 billion without the Paine Field detour. Those are from memory of the 2014 corridor studies that led to ST3 and are in 2014 dollars. The $54 billion in 2014 dollars is $22 billion according to Martin and mic above. Subtract a budget for the Sounder, ST Express, maintenance, and ST4 planning projects, at maybe 25% of the total. Now you have $16 billion, enough for three Everett extensions or sixteen Ballard lines. Now reallocate that to your favorite corridors, remembering that ST would never agree to delete Everett and Tacoma, and Tacoma depends on Federal Way. So 1 1/2 Everett lines are obligatory, leaving 1 1/2 Everett lines to allocate. And Seattle is very insistent on Ballard and West Seattle. So what would you do in the Eastside? And there’s subarea equity, so an Eastside reallocation would really have to be cost-neutral. There really isn’t money for more light rail lines unless you significantly increase the budget, or get western Washington transfered to Canada where costs may be lower, regulations more streamlined, and the government more supportive of transit and less supportive of low gas taxes.

  16. I will vote no. If a publicly financed organization does something well then you let them continue to grow and thrive. If they do it badly then you look for other alternatives. A person cannot use transit in Seattle to reliably get around. My bus just doesn’t show up occasionally. I can leave work early to spend a little extra time at home and spend it standing at a stop waiting for a bus that never shows up. On-time measurements are under 80%. I think we need to look for alternatives before throwing billions into a service that is on time less than 80% of the time. If they had a graph that showed buses that were cancelled or just didn’t show, I think the decision would be even more obvious.

    1. Ray;

      As to;

      A person cannot use transit in Seattle to reliably get around. My bus just doesn’t show up occasionally. I can leave work early to spend a little extra time at home and spend it standing at a stop waiting for a bus that never shows up. On-time measurements are under 80%. I think we need to look for alternatives before throwing billions into a service that is on time less than 80% of the time. If they had a graph that showed buses that were cancelled or just didn’t show

      This is about replacing buses with rail. A NO vote on ST3 perpetuates the broken status quo.

      1. “…perpetuates the broken status quo.”

        Actually a No vote does nothing of the sort. Its simple. A no vote simply says ‘I do not support the bill that is put forward.’ Analysis of the ‘why’ comes later. If the bill’s authors are serious about the issue they will carefully analyze the ‘why’ and come up with a different [more agreeable?] proposal. It is only if the bill’s authors are not actually serious about the issue that the status quo perpetuates–indeed if this were the case it would have been the correct decision to vote ‘No’ since that is not the type of organization that should be handling $54B (or whatever the $ actually is).

      2. So jimr as to:

        A no vote simply says ‘I do not support the bill that is put forward.’ Analysis of the ‘why’ comes later. If the bill’s authors are serious about the issue they will carefully analyze the ‘why’ and come up with a different [more agreeable?] proposal.

        Well here’s the problem… it’s publicly leaked that it’ll be a 2020 redo if at all. I’m not going to roll the dice and nor should you. This is a B-grade proposal. This is a proposal with both political & transit long-term strategy in mind. This is a proposal to give light rail to all subareas, not just Seattle/North King.

        I’m not going to roll the dice. I ask you don’t either please.

      3. Joe

        “…This is a proposal to give light rail to all subareas, not just Seattle/North King…”

        Wow, really? So I can expect light rail from Renton to Newcastle to Bellevue? Cool! Someone please show me where this is going to happen in my lifetime and sign me up.

        Not all but a handful of subareas are served. The rest of us who are paying the majority of the bill get nothing but more traffic and buses that will still be stuck in said traffic. In the case of my ‘subarea’ we’re only conditionally promised anything (i405 BRT) since the entire plan relies upon yet another organization to deliver first. If history says anything it’ll never happen and/or it’ll be completely watered down to the point of not being worth it.

    2. You have a right to vote based on your personal experience, but you are comparing apples to oranges. ST is a different agency with different kinds of routes, and they have different good and bad points compared to routes that “get you around Seattle” like the 5 and 44. Voting for or against ST3 will not teach Metro a lesson or make any difference in the local routes’ reliability, but it will preclude the Ballard and West Seattle lines that would give some people an alternative to those unreliable buses. I also wonder if you’ve ridden the existing Seattle light rail. Do you have any problems with its level of service or reliability? If the new lines are “more of the same” (and probably moderately better than the one designed in the 1990s), is that not a plus for Seattle? Maybe you think not, and you mostly travel where Link won’t have a presence. But you could stop to ponder that your problems might have never occurred if the 1972 subway had been built and a 45th line added later. Even if it wouldn’t have helped your problems, it would have helped a lot of people’s similar problems.

    3. Will someone please explain to me the financial logic about this type of thing that has been happening these last few years?

      In the 1910s this would have been:
      “Dirt roads suck so we shouldn’t spend any money to pave them. Public agencies need to spend their money better.”

  17. Uh folks… there’s a new poll in the field for ST3

    No on ST3 folks just sent out an e-mail blast telling their people to vote at http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/pulse/poll/do-you-support-sound-transits-54-billion-transit-expansion-plan/20489772

    Vote went from 70 YES to…. 67 YES PASS ME THE TRANSIT PLEASE!

    YES! YES! YES!

    But we gotta vote to keep it at historic euphoric highs for transit.

    I’m now at Volume 11 for ST3… it ain’t over yet but it’s getting there.

    1. I wouldn’t panic so much about that. There’s lots of time to make the case for or against.

      The real issue I think is going to be voter turnout. They ran this in a presidential year because voter turnout tends to be better. However, that thinking didn’t anticipate two exceptionally unpopular candidates running for that office.

  18. I’m voting for it because we’re moving out next year. I consider the enormous tax burden for minimal benefit my best revenge. Enjoy it, Seattle. You will pay. And pay and pay and pay.

Comments are closed.