Sounder Bruce (Flickr)

To date, I’ve been pretty disappointed in the public discussion of Sound Transit 3. Instead of discussing the transportation merits, we’ve been lost in hang-wringing over Sound Transit’s advertising expenditures (so much for “run government like a business!”), overambitious responses to public records requests, or other political minutiae. There has been the “multitasking fallacy”, in which SeattlePI’s Joel Connelly suggested halting ST3 until a single SDOT repaving project is done. There has been the forced outrage at the generous corporate contributions to the Mass Transit Now campaign, when if these businesses weren’t contributing the reciprocal headline would write itself: “Local Businesses Balking at Sound Transit Plan, Campaign Contributions Show.” And of course, there’s the always reliable process argument that if only we were slower and more deliberate, things would be better.

So what are we getting in Sound Transit 3? In what ways is it superior or inferior to existing options? And how does what’s proposed fit into the range of plausible political options? Let’s start with Everett.

There is no disputing that a West Seattle to Everett line would be long. At roughly 37 miles depending on final alignment choices, an Everett to West Seattle line would match some of the longest lines in the country, including Dallas’ Orange Line (37 Miles), Portland’s MAX Blue Line (33 miles), and Los Angeles’ Gold Line (31 miles). As STB’s endorsement of ST3 stated, there have been numerous political compromises along the way to the adoption of the System Plan, and particularly so in the Everett corridor.

One outcome of a federated board with subarea equity is that Seattle urbanists don’t get a say in what suburban jurisdictions choose to do with their money, and by choosing to push for Paine Field, Snohomish County has admittedly chosen a speculative play on future development over the reality of current needs. To their minds, a rail-served manufacturing and industrial center is the best possible play for a Snohomish County that doesn’t resign itself to industrial decline and permanent bedroom community status.

I would argue that to deny them light rail on these grounds would be to hold our area to unreasonably strict standards. While the analogies are far from perfect, it’s relatively common to use light rail as an inducement rather than response to development. Surrey and New Westminster were sleepy suburban hamlets before SkyTrain began coming their way in 1986, and suburban Virginia was exurban Virginia before Metro induced massive growth via the Orange (and now Silver) Line. And where we’re only building quality, most other cities just build trains whereever ROW is cheapest, with Denver insistent on building trains where nobody lives and paying Lyft to drive them there. And of course, historic if downtrodden cities like Everett are far more defensible termini than the Dublin/Pleasantons of the BART world. There are good bones in Everett, just a lot of brownfield in between.

Though transit purists may rightfully balk at this sort of comparative defense, it’s also worth considering the broader context with an open mind. Officials have power that you don’t, and they will never respond positively to “you don’t deserve it” lectures from Seattleities insisting they manage their suburban decline rather than attempt to reinvigorate it with their own money. Snohomish County has uniquely terrible traffic relative to the other subareas, with Everett to Seattle travel times wildly variable and often exceeding 90 minutes, and there is no amount of piddling edge work (shoulder-running buses, etc) that can possibly change this. We will not tear out subdivisions for new I-5 lanes, and there are zero indications that the legislature will compel WSDOT to provide exclusive transit right-of-way anytime in the coming decades. And lastly, if stung by a “no” vote on ST3, it is exceedingly unlikely that Sound Transit boardmembers will return with an aggressive Seattle-friendly package.


Transit travel times from Everett to Seattle, currently ranging from 55-90 minutes due to congestion, are projected to improve with ST2 down to 68 minutes during peak (assuming bus-rail transfer at Lynnwood), and ST3 buys another 8 minutes, for travel time of exactly an hour. Everett to UW would clock in as a one-seat, 53-minute ride, competitive by any measure.

In this context of plausible political alternatives, a 60-minute train to Everett looks pretty damn good. That’s a full 50% faster than Dallas’ Orange Line and 56% faster than Portland’s Blue Line. It would open up 300 unique destination pairs while being nearly as fast as a Sounder train that only stops thrice. It will do the work of Sound Transit 510, 511, and 512 while offering nearly wholesale replacement of Community Transit’s commuter bus network, providing a huge dividend of additional feeder service already envisioned in Community Transit’s long-range plan update. It will end the Seattle bias that only rewards peak-direction commuters with reliable bus commutes. It will replace hundreds of diesel buses every day, forever, with hydroelectric-powered trains. And that train will never, ever, ever get stuck in traffic.


I used to be a strong skeptic of suburban rail, and articles of mine making the negative case have languished in the STB queue for years. But after one too many times stuck on reverse peak I-5, any technocratic wonk instincts in me have succumbed to a pessimistic realism about our ability to manage our highway corridors, and concomitantly led me to believe that Link to Snohomish County will be a smashing success. It’s faster, more frequent, and more reliable than other American precedent. Perceived excesses like Paine Field are an unproven bet – paid with their own money – that could well pay off. And a lot can and will change in 20 years, and only in ways that will make the investment look better than it does today.

The value proposition to me is: what it would take to build equivalent new capacity to offer a reliable 1-hour trip in 2036?  To do so with buses or driverless cars would require either new lanes of I-5, aggressive taking of lanes from motorists, or truly punitive Express Toll Rates of $20 or more.  And if trains through low-slung warehouse districts of Snohomish County give you heartburn, you have the intervening generation before opening day to fight for zoning and land use changes to make it fully worth it. The good thing about brownfield development is that there are far fewer pitchforks to dodge.

But if for nothing else, it’s reasonable to build grade-separated transit to serve one of the largest inter-county flows of workers in the U.S, as fixing the peak travel times alone would likely require equivalent amounts of money if spent on highways. Once we’re talking billions, we may as well build rail.

208 Replies to “Why ST3 is Worth It, Part 1: Everett”

  1. I agree with you 90%
    I just wish there was express service, like most suburban rail of this scale found in Europe and Japan.
    29MPH av is already pretty impressive, but if we had even one train an hour that could make the trip at 40-45mph av, that would be attract even more riders, particularly off peak.
    But I think that ship has sailed, and that’s okay.

    1. I’m with you. Either a third set of tracks in the middle offering express service Southbound in the morning, and express service Northbound in the afternoon, or the usual two-track system with sidings at the stations for stopping trains would be awesome.

      1. Sidings don’t work. The expresses ruin the headways because they’re constantly passing the locals. New York learned long ago that they need their own set of tracks. And yes, it does have to be a set, not a single “express” track. The trains have to get back in the opposite direction and station dwell time limits headways.

        So there will be no “Express Link” unless it’s built on a new guideway.

      2. This isn’t the case in Japan which manages to have multiple stopping pattern services on mostly two-track lines with passing sidings at strategic locations. However, Japanese train operations/scheduling are highly disciplined to a degree Americans can only dream of.

      3. Japanese train operations/scheduling are highly disciplined to a degree Americans can only dream of.

        According to Japan Railway Journal, a show on NHK, the Tokyo Shin-Osaka Shinkansen average delay over it’s 50 year history is 12 seconds. Competing service of that caliber in the US would put the airlines out of business.

  2. Marginal changes in behavior could be a game changer, rather than shrug our shoulders to 60+ minute commutes on transit forever.
    Look at all the excess capacity on the green graph (autos) below 60 minutes. What-If the new normal were two shifts of workers from 4am to noon, and the swing shift getting off at 8pm. More marginal changes in HOV, Vanpool, neighborhood car/trip sharing are likely to all increase. More work at home or remote work sites could dramatically increase.
    I’m not prepared to throw in the towel, and say let’s run Link to brownfields like Paine Field because … It’s there. Why not Monroe? Maybe Link should wander over to the Kent Industrial area before heading up the hill?
    I for one don’t believe the ridership numbers coming from the PSRC model to generate the paulty ridership differences between Paine Field and other more direct routings.
    And for the record, it’s not Snohomish’ money to spend as they see fit. ST is one district and should focus on what’s best for the entire system, not just take a ‘don’t gore my ox’ approach to subarea planning.

    1. I’m not sure marginal changes are really going to do much. Whatever benefit they bring will just be swallowed by a growing population. At least Link from Everett to Seattle will be insulated from traffic.

      Some say that with driverless cars coming, we don’t need mass transit, but I would argue that the advent of driverless cars makes transit routes link the Everett extension all the more important, as the driverless cars will make traffic on I-5 all that much worse, as vehicles drive their owners one way, then drive empty the other way to avoid paying for parking.

      Another interesting perspective that the post does not mention is that travel time from Everett to Seattle on Sounder is today scheduled at 59 minutes. Considering that Link stops all over downtown, not just King St. Station, that would make Link indisputably faster than Sounder from Everett->Seattle trips, while running much more frequently and still be separated from traffic.

      1. You’re assuming a model where people own their driverless cars. The more likely model seems like a car as service model, which likely wouldn’t involve cars driving back home as you suggest. instead, when they get downtown, they’ll pick-up another rider and take them somewhere.

        That said, I see transit as an essential compliment to driver-less cars.

        Long trips on the train or bus. Last miles by driverless car. Perhaps you’ve heard about the suburb outside Orlando that has already started doing this in partnership with Uber (for better or worse).

        Here’s a long article about that, which I found very well done. http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/1/12735666/uber-altamonte-springs-fl-public-transportation-taxi-system

    2. “it’s not Snohomish’ money to spend as they see fit. ST is one district and should focus on what’s best for the entire system, not just take a ‘don’t gore my ox’ approach to subarea planning.”

      If you want it to actually *pass*, you have to act, to an extent, like it *is* Snohomish’s money. If you don’t give them something they see as valuable, they don’t vote for it, and they *need* to vote for it for it to pass.

      1. Exactly MD. Since Snohomish County leaders see value in it, they donate & get their buddies to donate, they go to rallies and bring their friends, and so on. It’s not the best ST3 alignment but Sound Transit Planning did what they could.

    3. So you are saying that instead of building a train everyone should just work from 4am to noon? To save 30 minutes on their commute and $169 a year in taxes?

      I wonder why this startling insight has never occurred to anyone in the history of the world before. To think, all I had to do this entire time to beat traffic was to wake up at 2am every day.

    4. “If things were different, they’d be different.”

      What magical public policy can we enact, mic, that would evenly distribute the hours worked throughout the day to maximize current road capacity, but not cause any sort of scheduling or planning conflicts, issues with schools and children and meetings, etc etc etc? Do you really think the social inconveniences associated with the abandonment of a common workday would be worth the tradeoff? (Not that it matters, even if it were worth it, there’s no magical way to make it happen!)

      I’ll hand it to you, you do find creative new reasons to be anti-transit.

    5. Mic it’s already happening. Lots of office workers shifting to more of a 7-3 shift, or a 10-6 shift, for example. The result? The rush hour merely lasts longer and eats up these people’s commutes.

      I once did Tacoma-Issaquah every day and I can assure you that even if you start at 6, you still get stuck. This meant leaving at 5, and few are willing to do earlier than that.

  3. I have been tempted to write (and encouraged by those managing this site) an article on how self-driving vehicles (SDV) will fit into all of this. I don’t have enough data to write the article I would like. But doing a 35 year plan without incorporating SDV is self-defeating.

    VOX is probably doing the best job on covering SDVs. Their recent article on why electrification of the energy economy is enlightening. Short summary, electrify everything possible – even if it temporarily requires more carbon sourcing, then improve electric production.

    From my own experience good transit service within a 5 minute walk is compelling. SDVs (think glorified golf carts, not Teslas) getting people to that transit can be transforming.

    1. RobLL:

      It’s a 25 year plan and does incorporate SDVs.

      Sound Transit 3’s Innovation and Technology Fund invests $75 million (2014$)
      in research and development of programs and technologies to:
      §§ Deliver real-time service availability and travel option information
      to customers where and when they need it;
      §§ Ensure transit accessibility and ease of use for riders
      of all ages, abilities and income levels;
      §§ Make fare payment fast and convenient;
      §§ Understand and meet the needs of employers and bulkpurchasers
      of transportation services;
      §§ Better manage vehicle and bicycle parking for transit customers;
      §§ Identify ways of improving the connectivity between transit
      facilities and the communities they serve;
      §§ Partner with other public and private mobility providers including ferry, local transit,
      bikeshare, carshare, rideshare, shuttle and mobility-on-demand services;
      §§ Identify and adopt best and emerging practices to better serve customers and enhance
      the environmental, social equity and economic benefits of high capacity transit;
      §§ Maximize the ability of future transportation technologies such as driverless
      cars to complement and expand the reach of high-capacity transit;
      §§ Evaluate and implement other technologies to improve
      rider experience and/or save operating costs.


      1. $75M is way too little for a reasonable driverless vehicle investment, especially since the same pot goes for other things.

      2. Exactly. At times it seems like any plan that does not pretend Autonomous vehicles can be the mass/trunk portion of the system is “not incorporating” them. ST is … as the last mile solution they are best suited for.

        Like Denver, we can begin talking about setting up PRT systems in the burbs to shuttle riders to Link stations …. either as a complement to feeder busses, or even as a replacement in some specific contexts.

        One advantage of course would be that a PRT would require MUCH LESS PARKING at the station freeing up space for TOD.

        Finally, to reverse RobLL’s point — any plan that would assume that in 25 years the modal transport choice in the area somehow will not be a non-autonomous individually-owned car is foolish.

        Tech penetrates quickly on the fringes, but not in the mass market.

      3. Igor, spot on. Less parking at the stations means more TOD — although in truth, it would be expensive but it is POSSIBLE to build above the parking lots. It just doesn’t happen anywhere except DC Metro.

    2. We can’t incorporate SDVs until we find out what they will do. Will the public adopt them? Will they create more traffic as asdf2 alluded to above? Will they be as inexpensive as current transit? (They’ll probably cost two or three times as much judging from Uber, and thus be inaccessible tg the bottom half of the population.) If we bet on something and it doesn’t happen we’ll end up with an orphan, like that guy who wanted to replace California high-speed rail with hyperloop.

      Making everything electric doesn’t require SDVs. Light rail and trolleybuses are already electric.

      1. asdf2 isn’t the only person I’ve heard mention that SDVs may actually increase traffic as people send them back home to avoid having to pay for parking. I’ve also heard from transportation planners that most people don’t replace a vehicle until it’s 10-11 years old, so even if SDV technology was mature enough to use now it would take 10-15 years to get most of the non-SDVs off the road. My guess is that it would take longer because I doubt politicians will be in a hurry to force people to buy a new car.

  4. How much room is there for Paine Field to grow as a second commercial airport? The plan for commercial flights has been set in motion, and SeaTac will only keep getting more crowded, so will Paine field be the answer?

    1. My position on the Paine Field deviation at this point is entirely dependent on whether Paine Field becomes a second regional commercial airport. If not, I am 100% against it, and it forever delays travel and provides no value for everyone not using the line weekdays between 6-9 am and 3-6pm.

      If, however, the destination becomes a major commercial airport like SeaTac, then it makes a ton of sense, and it will be a major transit destination all day, 7 days a week. It will also provide all of the long-haul lines with a major airport as a destination (SeaTac for the Red line, and Paine Field for the Blue and Green line, assuming they don’t do the sensible thing by truncating the Blue line at Northgate).

      1. Well, unless you live in Sno Co, your opinion does not matter — they choose their alignment. Just like Seattle pressed for its alignments.

      2. “Well, unless you live in Sno Co, your opinion does not matter”

        This sort of attitude worries me. On the one hand, people are claiming this is a regional transportation solution so we should vote on the whole package. On the other hand, there’s the attitude that each subarea decides its priorities on its own, so vote based only on your own sub-area.

        Maybe what ST needs is to let everyone vote per sub-area. Then add votes (and payment) in a fractional way based on expected use in each sub-area. For example, suppose 5% of North King capacity was going to be used by East King residents. Then East King would pay 5% of the costs and have 5% of the say in building those projects. Of course, coming up with those percentages would be tricky, but probably doable based on current transportation patterns (which they study anyway when coming up with proposals). This would have the advantage of allowing lower taxes/fewer projects in areas that don’t need them and probably providing more funding to North King from the other sub-areas.

      3. David …

        maybe I was playing a bit fast and loose with words. My thought is that … Within general parameters ~60minute ride to Everett, the specific choice of alignment is up to local input. Seattle got to stomp its feet and get elevated rail to Ballard — Sno Co go to stomp their feet and get Link to Boeing.

        If we being second guessing the local control the whole idea of ST falls apart. There are demographic, political, and financial repercussions in play that are internal to SnoCo … and Seattlites coming in saying no no no .. .you need to run it along SR99 and skip Pierce … it will just not work …

        I agree there could have been better alignments, but especially towards the tails, it becomes more and more subject to the nuance local preferences.

      4. It’s a single tax district so a single vote with the same tax rate throughout. Multiple tax districts would probably require restructuring by the legislature, and may also require splitting the ST board (i.e., splitting ST into multiple entities). Subarea equity was added only because the suburbs insisted on it; they were afraid their money would go to Seattle lines otherwise. ST’s obligation is to report on how much of each subarea’s money benefits the subarea. The second downtown tunnel is being allocated to every subarea based on its percentage of riders in either tunnel in ST3.

        It’s a single vote and has to pass everywhere, but at the same time there’s a reason to give Snoho autonomy in deciding what to spend its own money on, so that King County can demand the same thing. Otherwise you’d be having Pierce and Snohomish micromanaging Seattle lines and saying “That doesn’t make sense to me” for a suburban reason (i.e., not applicable in Seattle’s context).

      5. Igor,

        Actually, “toward the tails” is where you’d really like to “let LRT be LRT”. Since every station farther from the core means that fewer “through riders” are delayed, there should be LOTS of stations by the periphery.

        But Sound Transit didn’t even route through South Everett! It’s a real city with the possibility, nay probability that it could become a TOD neighborhood. They didn’t even site a station at SR99 and Casino Road where Swift crosses (it’s “provisional”). These people are amateurs drawing lines that they think will sucker people into paying for a huge construction project they can put their names on.

      6. Looking at the low ridership at Oakland International Airport’s new connector (about 3,000 a day getting on and off) with that airport having about 30 active gates and about 180 daily flight departures, I highly doubt that turning Paine Field into a commercial airport will generate much additional Link ridership. I don’t see Paine Field getting even half of this activity — and let’s be clear that it’s not cheap to park at or near Oakland International Airport (Off-site economy parking is $16)..

        I think that the bigger impact will be what kinds of employment and other activity occur near the stop, assuming some denser development. If it’s mostly on the hope of commercial activity, it’s a boondoggle.

      7. It’s not ST who’s pushing it. It’s Snohomish County. ST just went along with what Snoho wanted. As for the provisional station, that means it couldn’t fit into the budget but it will be built if enough leftover money becomes available. As for “amateurs drawing lines”, the alignment reflects Snoho’s priorities: the Paine Field detour, a less expensive route to Everett (in order to afford that Paine Field detour), and not putting Link on Evergreen Way which Everett objected to.

      8. Mike, you have the cardinality backward. If “Everett objected to” putting Link on Evergreen Way, ipso facto the city leaders of Everett were “amateurs drawing lines”. One would expect that the municipal leaders of Everett would be interested in development within their own city, but putting the line along the freeway in what is largely a cut means that the part of Everett between Everett Station and Casino Road will forever be a bypassed cul-de-sac when it could have been redeveloped into a destination in its own right.

        Everett Station is not located well enough to be a bus intercept for lines from north Snohomish County. It’s nearly a dozen city blocks from the very congested interchange at Everett Avenue and would require a complicated double-back with several sharp turns from 41st Street.

        With the dogleg to Paine Field and no commitment to a Casino Road station, the upshot is that commuter buses from northern Snohomish County are going to have to continue south to 128th to make their transfer to Everett Link. That won’t be that much of a saving over the transfer at Lynwood which ST2 will provide.

        The bottom line is that by rejecting the SR99 right of way because it might temporarily inconvenience some incumbent businesses, there is almost no value in Link to Everett unless the enormous Put gamble on Paine Field pays off. And they won’t even be maximizing the possible value of that payoff within the City of Everett because they won’t have any stations to serve it!

        The chance that Link will be extended into North Everett any time before 2060 is pretty slim, so the only ridership that the system will generate north of Casino Road if it’s built will be at Everett Station which is, at least at this time, completely surrounded by parking lots.

        Sure, those parking lots are valuable at the rush hour, but the rest of the day they are a giant barbed-wire necklace strangling walk-up access to the station.

        Link should come down off the stilts at Casino and go right down Evergreen Way at grade like MLK, with at least three stations along the way. People who work at Boeing could live in clusters around those stations and have gotten to work in ten minutes. People who might work in a revitalized downtown Everett could also live in those clusters and have gotten to work in five minutes. At the “away” ends of lines “let LRT be LRT”.

        If at some time far in the future downtown Everett does become a major commuting destination, it might then be appropriate to build a line along I-5 to bypass those stations in South Everett for longer-distance commuters. But if that happens, it’d probably start at 128th, not Casino Road.

        The truth is that the only reason Link will be built into Everett using the current plan is to give construction workers jobs. It will be empty most of the time when it could have been a great city shaper.

      9. Anandakos,

        I could not disagree more with your assessment Light Rail to Everett is a bad idea. Right now, Everett Station includes a substantial parking lot of folks who drive there to get on the Sound Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit & Skagit Transit buses + Sounder North to continue their commute. Everett Station has become a natural transit hub for North by Northwesteners to transfer, with a small BBQ close by and a coffee shop within. There are a large # of North by Northwesteners who would gladly take a bus to Everett Station to get on light rail – not just Joe here.

        Oh and the most packed Spring Sound Transit ST3 meeting, so packed they had to send a partner transit agency planner into an overflow room? Everett.

        There you go.

    2. No. There’s no good reason to think a relief airport will be viable in this market, especially with very view significant destinations in regional jet range. (Particularly with Bellingham providing competition to the North.) This is a pipe dream of grandiose local politicians.

      1. Other reasons for a Paine Field alignment include the industrial centers and the museums. One of which gets around 800 folks A DAY mean average. It’s a good alignment, if not the best.

        Guys, at the end of the day do you support light rail expansion or not?

      2. 800 visitors a day? That’s about equal to one average Link station’s boardings back in 2010, assuming every single person there takes Link. And they won’t – only a tiny fraction of the region is served by the train, even ignoring the people who’ll choose to drive anyway. That’s why good bus service to a variety of destinations would be far better for Paine Field.

      3. Future of Flight is only one reason why light rail to Paine Field. Yes, buses there will happen – in 2018. But it’s only one reason – and a good reason at that. Tourism is an important part of the economy, and worthy of some transit investment.

    3. Airports are a good driver of occasional use, but not a good driver of regular use. A lot of people can see themselves using LRT to get to the airport, but the actual volume isn’t significant .

  5. Excuse the math ADHD, but does “300 new unique destination pairs” mean the Everett line will have 25 new stations, or the line with the addition of Everett will have 25 stations?

    1. The latter. With ST2 the Red Line has ~200 destination pairs. Adding the 6-7 new stations to Everett adds another hundred.

  6. so much depends

    sensible zoning

    and clean electric

    bestride interstate

  7. “It will replace hundreds of diesel buses every day, forever, with hydroelectric-powered trains.”

    Electricity around here is indeed pretty green, but be careful assuming it’s always Hydro. At 85% wind/hydro, Snohomish County PUD’s current fuel mix is relatively carbon free (tack on another 8% of carbon free, though potentially problematic Nuclear power), much more so than East Link would be today with Puget Sound Energy’s relatively dirty fuel mix (Only ~%40 Carbon free sources). With today’s generation assets, any low snow years will likely to result in increased Natural Gas generation and more carbon emissions.

    1. Maybe the dynamics of self-defense techniques like judo and aikido, using your opponent’s own strength against him, can let urban/suburban wind turbines use airborne fuel-waste to defeat its sources. Build intakes into the blades, and re-burn the pollution to generate more and cleaner power.

      Since Boeing already knows how to make wings the size of turbine blades and jet engines, good chance that by making our new generators, they can also pay for LINK to Payne Field. Leaving the Feds with enough money to pay bonuses to the bankers who cause the Crash of 2018.


  8. You’re right that it’s “worth it” to go to Everett, and the mistakes of ST2 (the I-5 routing and station placements) are baked in, but the paschas of Snohomish County didn’t have to repeat Shoreline’s error by following I-5 on north. Alas they have, and the result will be more Uber and Lyft subsidies instead of walk-up transit along SR99.

    1. This. If Snohomish County has “chosen a speculative play on future development over the reality of current needs” as Zach says, they would have chosen a 99 alignment.

    2. A lot of people in SnoCo live East of I-5, and that’s only going to grow, whereas there isn’t really room for more between SR99 and the water. With limited ways to get across I-5 to 99, the appeal of a SR99 alignment is greatly reduced. As much as we’d all love to believe feeder buses are the answer, the simply reality is a lot of people aren’t going to do it, but *would* drive to a park and ride and get on the train there. Where exactly will be put a park & ride along SR99? Since Link will mostly replace ST Express buses, the park & rides that currently serve those routes would instead serve Link, on an I-5 alignment. Makes sense to me…

      1. The point is that a 99 alignment means that BIG things can be built around the stations. That will never happen along I-5 because there isn’t all the old stuff to tear down there is along 99.

        You are assuming that walk up transit is off the table.

        Also, the park and ride lots will not provide nearly enough capacity to absorb the growth in population that will occur in Snohomish County. It’s either nodes of high density or sprawl. And an I-5 alignment means “Sprawlegation tuhday. Sprawlegation tuhmorrah. Sprawlegation foevah!”

      2. Big things can happen if the cities allow them to. But Lynnwood’s idea of urban villages around Swift stations is more like, oh, one or two buildings like The Landing rather than new Ballards or Wallingfords.

      3. There is plenty of old stuff east of the MLT transit center to tear down that is an easy feeder ride to the transit center. I’m hearing regular buzz on Nextdoor of properties being torn down and redeveloped for new apartments and town homes.

      4. Engineer can you give one example (in America) of LRT nestled in the ROW of a 10 lane highway surrounded by massive P&Rs that people generally want to live adjacent to?

      5. If you look at the planned station locations along I-5 there is development right up to the right of way in all three instances. If the guideway were deviated even a tenth of a mile away from the freeway so that the station and buildings around it were buffered, like Northgate, it would make a difference. But every design for stations that I’ve seen have the platforms squeezed against the roadway in an effort to save money on property acquisition.

        Penny wise, pound foolish.

      6. Mike

        That is one thing that has baffled me and I have a friend that lives there. Having freeway stations loses a serious chunk of the walkshed unless you build an expensive lid over the freeway. That being said, most of the real estate along SR 99 is cheap which makes it easier to start a small business versus within a brand new building. If there was a successful way to accommodate those businesses without having to increase rents through the roof that would help quite a bit with successful TOD.

      7. barman: Green Lake/Roosevelt. 11 lanes of I-5. Sprawling parking lot under the freeway with homeless encampments flanking the ends of it. Circa Green Lake Apartments about a block from the freeway are renting for $1500 to $3300 per month. Clearly proximity to an 11 lane freeway and park and ride aren’t huge deterrents.

        You won’t get developments on the same scale as Ballard and Wallingford in a suburb like Lynnwood until the jobs are there to support it. Not along SR99. Not along I-5. Not along some sleepy residential street with a number (974th Pl NE?) that nobody has ever heard of. Right next to Boeing, possibly, but only if the amenities are there to make it attractive. The people arguing against putting Link along I-5 are the same ones arguing against supporting transit to a potential jobs center like Paine Field. SnoCo pays into ST. They deserve to get transit. They want to build something that’s sustainable. Being a bedroom community for industry in Seattle is not sustainable from an environmental, time management, or tax base standpoint.

      8. Engineer;

        As to;

        The people arguing against putting Link along I-5 are the same ones arguing against supporting transit to a potential jobs center like Paine Field. SnoCo pays into ST. They deserve to get transit. They want to build something that’s sustainable. Being a bedroom community for industry in Seattle is not sustainable from an environmental, time management, or tax base standpoint.

        Exactly. Snohomish County’s (and arguably Skagit & Island Counties’) money, enthusiasm and donors into the ST3 campaign aren’t being done just for Seattle – but for the North by Northwest to get some rewards out of Sound Transit in return for our continued patience & support.

        It’s time this hurtful sniping by some of the [ah] posting here please come to a halt. This sniping is hurtful to us in the North by Northwest because we certainly aren’t sitting up here demanding no light rail to West Seattle with a West Seattle Water Taxi in financial trouble or no light rail spine to Tacoma… and nor should we realistically, seriously do so.

        Paine Field to us in the North by Northwest is the equivalent of Seattle’s South Lake Union. Both will or already have limited commercial service airports, but both are mainly job sites. I don’t think I can make the case clearer to the STB commentariat than that.

      9. Joe, nobody here is sniping at SnoCo transit (others elsewhere, maybe). But there are a diversity of opinions as to whether rail north of Lynnwood is SnoCo’s best opportunity and, if so, whether it should be going around Paine Field or up I-5.

        Everybody wishes SnoCo the best. Paine Field too. Don’t take it as sniping if people have different views of what that means. And ease up on the ad homs.

      10. A freeway station limits the potential for walk-up riders because the freeway itself takes up space and limits the number of crossings. We can see this with the station at 145th. The station will actually be at 148th, just east of the freeway. Draw a circle around the area, and go out quarter mile or even a half mile and it is obvious that the freeway itself takes up a lot of land. Furthermore, there are places that are close as the crow flies, but getting there is very difficult. Unless they build a bridge over 148th (which is unlikely) getting from 1st Ave NE and 148th (about a quarter mile away as the crow flies) is actually a pretty long walk (over half a mile). Obviously this varies station by station, but in general, it is a problem. Unless you pick the details of the station itself very carefully (which ST really has never done) it will be difficult to get a substantial number of walk-up riders even if development occurs nearby.

        This is a trade-off, of course. Freeway stations and freeway alignments tend to be popular because they are cheap. We could build a better system, but it would cost more.

      11. The people arguing against putting Link along I-5 are the same ones arguing against supporting transit to a potential jobs center like Paine Field.

        WTF? That’s nothing but a flaming straw man. An SR99 alignment actually makes the Paine Field deviation less of a time penalty because the dogleg is shorter, and it provides nearby opportunities for development for workers in the Paine Field complex should it really take off (no pun intended)…..

        Yes, if those opportunities were taken the overall travel time from Everett to Seattle would rise. More stations mean more dwell time and less time spent at full track speed. But as I mentioned upthread, Everett Station is a lousy bus intercept. It has all the problems of Northgate multiplied by many more blocks of street running.

        So buses from Marysville, Smokey Point and beyond will be traveling at least as far as Casino Road, and if their riders have any say about it, 128th so they can avoid the dogleg.

        Even if the Casino Road station is built, unless Casino Corner itself is redeveloped — not a slam dunk since it is a pedestrian nightmare — there will be essentially no walk-up transit north of 128th. None. Nada.

        This is crazy.

  9. The room to grow at Paine Field question is an important one. Without a relief valve for air travel demand at SEA the region eventually runs the risk of pricing pressure. Quasi-monopolies exacerbate this (see anecdotes of Delta threatening to move their HQ any time Atlanta suggests new capacity) but no matter the number of competing airlines within a passenger catchment, when overall demand outstrips supply, prices go up. Hedges against this require lots of foresight (mutli-decade) and light rail access preserves the optionality of growing air capacity. One could imagine a future where the aggregate airfare savings would outweigh the benefit of routing rail to more (currently) populated places.

    1. One could imagine a future where the aggregate airfare savings would outweigh the benefit of routing rail to more (currently) populated places.

      That is a ludicrous assertion. That you could preference the couple of times per year on average that a given person might take an airline trip to providing a reliable means of daily travel around the region is silly. Just silly.

    2. Aggregate airfare savings for people who frequently fly. This is kind of like saying everyone can use OBA on smartphones or summon an Uber car. There are people who don’t have smartphones or don’t want to buy into the wireless carriers’ ripoff data plans, and people who rarely or never fly. They wouldn’t see any benefits from airline ticket prices.

      To avoid monopolies, you have to avoid giving one airline the majority of gates. Cities where 70% of the gates are one airline have high prices. SeaTac is doing pretty well; Alaska is big but it’s not overwhelmingly big.

  10. For a long time I was skeptical of Paine Field train service for the simple reason that Boeing could decide to pack up and move out at any time, in the name of cheaper labor costs. However, I’ve now come around to the opinion that if Boeing were to move out, somebody else would eventually move in. I don’t think the station would sit idle for the next 50 years, nor do I think that commercial air service at Paine Field will have much of impact on the station ridership.

    The Paine Field station could also be used as an access point for Mukilteo, with a bus shuttle. Paine Field to the Mukilteo Ferry terminal is only 3 miles or so, which could easily be served by a frequent, all-day shuttle bus, even if no such route exists today (since, without the Link Station, such a route would be pointless). Ideally, there would also be a bike trail constructed along SR-526 to allow for non-motorized connections between the station and Mukilteo, although I haven’t heard of any proposals to actually do this.

    1. Famously US transportation modes to not connect. This would be a great example of connecting the formerly unconnectable.

    2. Paine Field interests me more as a place for Boeing and future industrial companies than as an airport. Maybe an airport will happen but it will be only a couple regional airlines charging more than SeaTac. Connecting passengers won’t want to fly into their if their other segment is at SeaTac. Locals will be more concerned about the limited schedule and high prices of a satellite airport. Maybe in the very long term it will have more flights, enough to entice people from outside the north end go to it, but maybe not.

      1. I’m also skeptical of Paine Field becoming a commercial airport but if it does it will be with low-cost airlines like Allegiant or Southwest – they’ve already toyed with the idea. It won’t be for high cost charter or regional flights. That’s what Boeing Field is for.

    3. Just out of curiosity, how many of you work in manufacturing, or have a close friend of relative that does? If the latter, not the former, I suggest you visit them at work. While you are it, compare that to your friend or relative who works at a hospital. As it turns out, I have both. My wife used to work in a hospital, and my brother works in a manufacturing plant in Mukilteo. In short, modern manufacturing is very low density. If you deal with steel (or aluminum) you want lots of space. Trucks move in and out, forklifts move things around inside. Large, expensive machines take up a lot of room. There are offices, to be sure, but a typical tour of the plant involves lots of walking, without encountering that many people. As more and more processes are automated, you have more and more space per worker.

      This is in great contrast to a hospital, where space is tight. Rooms are relatively small, with patients in each one, and dozens of nurses and doctors move around between them. A hospital environment resembles an office environment, in that you have lots of people interacting with other people. A manufacturing environment doesn’t work that way.

      There are exceptions. Textile work is sometimes a bit crowded, but for the most part, that isn’t the work they do in Everett. Land is relatively cheap in Everett — the businesses located there and operate there because it is cheap and because it is cheap and easy to move very heavy goods. If they needed a densely populated work environment, then they wouldn’t be there. Things could change, of course. Office towers might arise, and you could have something similar to SoDo (a mix of office, industrial and textile work). But SoDo, despite being on the edge of town, with very challenging alternatives and a major headquarters nearby, is one of our lowest performing stations, at less than 2,000 per day. I have a hard time seeing how this will surpass it. Spending billions on around 2,000 riders per station just doesn’t sound like a good value to me.

      1. Your Paine Field numbers are low… there are between 10,000 and 25,000 people working for Boeing alone at that facility. The likelihood of only 10-20% using rail transit is also unrealistic.

      2. But where are those tens of thousands of employees commuting from? How few live in Seattle, Lynnwood, or Everett where Link might actually be useful to them? IMO, 10-20% is a good guess.

      3. “Your Paine Field numbers are low… there are between 10,000 and 25,000 people working for Boeing alone at that facility. The likelihood of only 10-20% using rail transit is also unrealistic.”

        That’s way too high. Transit mode share will be in the very low single digits unless/until Paine Field looks very different from today. All the reasons people cite, shift work, workers commuting from residential communities to sprawly manufacturing facilities.

        There is a colorable case to be made that future Paine will be different, as the nature of tech manufacturing shifts away from shop floor jobs. Maybe a bunch of denser buildings at the edge of the field. There are plans, and maybe they will work out. But you need to believe the market will support a transformation of local land use to generate any meaningful ridership numbers.

      4. Well folks, with all due respect shift work doesn’t mean mode share will be the same. What is 9 to 5 office work? Shift work.

        Guys, will you please quit the sniping at Paine Field? It seems to be a constant with the STB Commentariat that anytime anybody says more transit for the #1 job center of Snohomish County plus the #1 tourism destination for Paine Field some of you supposed transit enthusiasts have to come out against it?

        So you folks mind please exercising some self-restraint and realize how hurtful it is for instance to be somebody who goes to a destination and read other transit enthusiasts want to deny quality transit there? Thank you.

      5. Where do the workers come from is a good question. Did anyone do a study?

        I’m going to make an average intelligence guess and say that workers at Paine Field are coming from: N. Seattle/Shoreline/Edmonds, Bothel, Marysville, various locations south of Seattle (look at southbound traffic from 3-6pm into Seattle on weekdays that aren’t game days). Of these, everyone living south of Seattle would likely feel their time was wasted on Link. North Seattle/South Shoreline folks don’t get a lot of resistance until the 145th exit. Shoreline and Edmonds proper only really gets resistance at the Rt 104 exit.

        So, yeah, 20% of 25,000 workers is a stretch.

        Having the alternative to take LRT is valuable, though, and it’s likely that Boeing will be paying into the system for anyone who thinks about taking it. That’s more money into a system that needs it.

      6. Joe,

        Nobody wants to “deny quality transit there”. What people want is a little realism among the vapors from the bong. Not since World War II has there been significant transit usage by industrial workers. As Ross pointed out, manufacturing today is VERY LOW DENSITY. It takes enormous amounts of room for one worker to do her or his job. Since it requires lots of land per worker, adding on abundant parking for those few workers costs almost nothing more than building the factory. So of course manufacturers do it.

        And of course their workers use it, because it’s FREE! and there are lots of streets serving the large mostly empty buildings with FEW CARS on them! So they drive.

        Unless and until the assembly of electronic components returns to North America manufacturing employment will not generate transit ridership.

      7. Yeah and… a lot of people, tens of thousands work at Paine Field.

        Let me repeat myself: It seems to be a constant with the STB Commentariat that anytime anybody says more transit for the #1 job center of Snohomish County plus the #1 tourism destination of Snohomish County in Paine Field that some of you supposed transit enthusiasts have to come out and rail against it?

        You mind please exercising some self-restraint please and realize how hurtful it is for instance to be somebody who goes to a destination and read other transit enthusiasts want to deny quality transit there? Thank you, because it IS hurtful. It comes off as mean-spirited and makes me wonder if some of the commentators at the Everett ST3 meeting last April had a point about making Seattle wait…

        Basically, mind your own subarea. Thanks.

      8. My wife, who has worked at several companies near Paine field including Boeing, absolutely would take LRT and many engineers/professional staff would as well. Why you may ask? Because if you get there later than 7 am you have over a mile walk or a 10 minute wait for a shuttle bus that rings the campus. There are many employees not on the strict shift scheduling (engineers can show up whenever within reason) that would love to show up a bit later, and LRT provides that flexibility. We live down near Ballard, so the more difficult part would be getting to a station (Northgate should be easiest with Move Seattle converting the 40 to a RR+).

      9. “Where do the workers come from is a good question. Did anyone do a study?”

        I’ve asked that several times but neither Boeing nor the county have published anything I’ve seen. I’d assume the largest percent of workers live straight east of the plant. The county seems to think Swift II will reach a lot of them. But both of those are perpendicular to Link. The largest Link-ridership market would be those living in Lynnwood and further south, those coming from the north and parking or transfering at Everett Station, and maybe a few from downtown Everett.

        If Boeing Everett has 30,000 workers, that’s as many as UW’s students, and UW has a must-serve Link station and several express buses from three counties, more than anywhere except downtown Seattle. If we assume the rest of Paine Field’s day population (other companies and museum visitors) is 20,000, that corresponds to UW’s faculty and staff, making a total of 50,000.

        So if we start with that 30,000 worker figure, at least five or seven thousand of them must be coming from Lynnwood or King County. Downtown Everett I’m more skeptical about since the denser part is west, further from Everett Station and closer to Swift. And those driving from the north, I’ve heard that part of the reason for the extension is to entice them to park at Everett Station and take Link to Boeing. Why that’s a priority I don’t understand. To reduce congestion on the in-between highways? Why are those highways more important than others? What about the congestion in north Everett and the slough viaduct and around the Everett Station P&R; isn’t that just as important?

        “everyone living south of Seattle would likely feel their time was wasted on Link.”

        Because something else would be faster? Taking Sounder to Everett Station and backtracking? But Sounder North only goes south in the AM, and it’s not slated for expansion.

      10. ““everyone living south of Seattle [and commuting to Paine Field] would likely feel their time was wasted on Link.”

        Because something else would be faster? ”

        If driving is variably an hour to an hour and a half yet driving to a station and taking Link would likely take in the neighborhood of 90 minutes or more (see outline below), I’d bet the hassle of driving seems less significant than the whole ordeal I just outlined. Times on paper aren’t everything. The psychological impact and the perception of inconvenience is huge!

        car-> 5-25? (15)
        Station park/wait-> 5-15? (10)
        train-> 6-20? (12)
        transfer wait-> 2-10? (6)
        train-> 42 (45)
        arrive to catch a bus to work building-> 10? (10)

        The times in parenthesis are as reasonable a guess as any: 98 minutes

      11. Why does it matter if Link is not competitive for trips from south of Seattle to Paine Field? Every mode has a certain window of trip distances it’s competitive in. The line split downtown reflects that Link is not primarily for trips from north of Seattle to south of Seattle.

  11. TGC, I think train between stations are calculated by including dwell time at stops, and also speeds while accelerating and braking. It’s likely that by the time present plans are built out, our region will have become as dense as places in Europe.

    And there’ll be plans underway that will make LINK an intermediate system, with much faster trains doing longer-distance service. As in more crowded countries now. And as I-5 became in the ’60’s, and as SR99 was ’til then.

    RobLL, it’s probably a little early to write self-driving cars into a transit plan, since we’ve only just started even testing the technology. I’m not sure there’s even any proof yet that a golf cart driven by a robot fits into transit any better than a human-driven one. But no harm watching and learning.

    Mic, you’re right about probable changes in living arrangements and work hours. However, I don’t think I-5 or our other freeways will be any less-traveled corridors. Not exactly eliminating “subarea” concept, but expanding definition of the “sub” part. Washington State west of the Cascades could become one while The Times is ragging on expense of Payne Field opening ceremony.

    And Zach, as far as (so much for “run government like a business!”) goes….every weekday PM rush hour, DSTT operations already do. Where’s our bailout? However, since every bike rental establishment I’ve ever seen really is run like a business, only way to get your share is to run it like DSTT joint ops.


    1. 4 times a day, and only serves two intermediate stations. Everett Link would take 65 mins to King Street/IDS while serving 20 stations in between. Infinitely more useful except for those who live near the Edmonds and Mukikteo ferry docks with traditional 9-5 commutes.

      1. I guess I’m just skeptical that a train making 20 stops is going to take about the same amount of time as one making 2. What dwell times are they expecting?

      2. Sounder loses time with a circuitous route and low speeds. And think again about the stations in between. Most people going downtown are going to midtown, not the International District. And a lot of people go to UW which Sounder doesn’t serve at all. And others go to other parts of Seattle, especially north Seattle.

    2. Sounder north operates on congested freight tracks, following a slow, winding shoreline path. It only makes a few trips each day, with those trips at peak-time and in peak-direction. Track time for each trip has to be purchased from the track owners, and is very expensive due to freight demand for the same tracks. It is extremely unlikely that any additional trips will ever be added due to the high cost of track time – per passenger, I believe it is the most expensive transit service in the state. Ridership isn’t even all that good, largely due to it’s goofy routing and inconvenient station locations, each trip having only a fraction of the riders that Sounder South gets.

      Transit advocates have been calling for Sounder North to be euthanized for quite some time, so the money can be reinvested is more productive Snohomish County services. Perhaps when Link service to Everett is in operation, cancelling Sounder North will finally be politically viable.

  12. “Snohomish County has admittedly chosen…” Have they though? If more Snohomish County residents vote against the measure than for it then they decidedly didn’t choose it.

    I also think Snohomish County has every right and indeed should be more than a bedroom community for Seattle and I am hopeful to see Lynwood become a satellite downtown and Everett revitalized. However, I don’t think ST3 does a good job of achieving that goal.

    1. Snohomans had plenty of opportunities to give feedback as the plan was being developed, and the overwhelming majority, almost all of it, was for Link to Everett with Paine field. The opposition was almost all don’t build any transit, build roads or nothing.

      1. Mike;

        As somebody who was quite present at the Snohomish County ST3 meetings (e.g. https://www.flickr.com/photos/avgeekjoe/albums/72157667602566855 ), I was a tiny minority calling for something else than light rail to Paine Field. It became blatantly obvious for ST3 to enjoy the support of the Snohomish County business community – not just Boeing, ST3 had to serve Paine Field. Without the Snohomish County business community’s support, ST3 will die. That’s not good for Seattle, that’s not good for Pierce County and it certainly dims the prospects for future transit expansion around not just Paine Field but Snohomish County.

        The onus is now on Everett Transit & Community Transit to serve more of Paine Field, more often. Rightly so.

      2. Those are facts Mike but I don’t see their relevance. I think Zach’s argument is that it’s elitist, patronizing and wrong for Seattlites to deny the desires of Snohomish county on the grounds that “it’s bad for you.” But if, as I expect*, ST3 fails within Sno County than this patronizing argument goes out the window because ST3 would not be what those voters want. At that point the only question is whether the plan accross the five subareas is worth it or not.

      3. The counterargument is that Snohomans will vote for ST3 because it is what they want. That’s just as likely as your argument. As I said, a lot of people in Snohomish County want this ST3, and a lot of others don’t want anything. We haven’t found any Snoho resident who wants a “more urbanist” ST3 alternative instead. So where are the hundreds of thousands of people who will vote that way?

      4. So I actually got around to looking this up today. ST2 passed 58 to 42 overall and within Snohomish County won 55% to 45%. I had been under the impression the ST’s success relied on it being carried by North King County, which isn’t the case at all. While ST2 and ST3 are obviously different, at this point I’d posit that ST3 will probably get >50% of the vote in Snohomish County and maybe >50% vote in the other three non-North King subareas.

        There was also supposedly a poll in from the summer in which 58% of voters said they strongly support ST3, which is further evidence that the outcomes will be at least similar to ST2.

        Links: http://old.seattletimes.com/flatpages/nationworld/politics/election2008completeresultsballotmeasures.html


    2. Well, again .. this is not ST3’s problem. This is local governance asking for rail by the interstate rather than downtown.
      The same local governance will likely continue to stifle the urbanization of these areas the way you describe it. The opinions on livable cities and on rail transit by the interstate tend to go hand in hand.

      Again .. Sno Co gets the alignment they elected (directly and indirectly).

    3. Alex Bailey “…I am hopeful to see Lynwood become a satellite downtown and Everett revitalized. However, I don’t think ST3 does a good job of achieving that goal.”

      I respectfully disagree.

      There are dozens of cranes in Seattle erecting new office towers. They could buy vast swaths of downtown Everett for what they pay for one parcel in Downtown Seattle. So why pay so dearly when nearby they could buy so cheap? Because Seattle is central to where the highly sought after employees dwell. Without them, you cannot have a white collar employment hub.

      I am a Seattleite. I used to work in Downtown Everett. I loved, loved, loved that job. View of the Sound. Could see the aircraft carrier coming in. But I peaced out after only one year because of the commute.

      A rail line to SnoCo suddenly makes SnoCo closer to all of those highly desired workers throughout the whole region. Remember, rail, according to studies, rates as the second most satisfying form of commute behind only walking – and commute satisfaction rates as the highest correlation to overall life satisfaction in terms of sheer numbers of any other factor. Employers know this. Build it they will come.

      We may not see the full dividends of ST3 for SnoCo for two generations, but I imagine in 40 years downtown Everett and 30 years new-downtown Lynwood will be like downtown Bellevue is now. http://imgur.com/a/SHN73

      I would bet my house SnoCo benefits the most out of all the ST regions from ST3.

      1. Well said, but only if the county and city leaders take advantage of the opportunity you laid out.

      2. I think those opportunities will also be there regardless. High capacity transit plays only a small role compared to land use and Snohomish County can push for and implement fast transit between Everett and Lynnwood (and Paine Field and Lynnwood) with or without ST3.

      3. “I am a Seattleite. I used to work in Downtown Everett. I loved, loved, loved that job…. But I peaced out after only one year because of the commute.”

        There are also Snohomishites: people who grew up there and want to stay there and have children there. The friend I alluded to who used to take ST Express to Bellevue but now drives to north Seattle but would take Link+feeder, grew up in Everett and now lives near 164th. He works in north Seattle but others might work in Snohomish County. The county has a majority outflow of workers (and a majority of inflow) so it’s a “bedroom community” now but hopefully that will change over time and become more balanced as the cities hope to do. Meanwhile somebody in Lynnwood or Mountlake Terrace might want to take Link to Everett and vice-versa, and certainly they want to go to north Seattle.

      4. >Alex Bailey: I think those opportunities will also be there regardless.

        If that were true, why haven’t we seen any hint of it? Did you follow my explanation of why employers pay through the the nose to be in Seattle when Everett is right there at 1/20th or less of the price?

        SnoCo lacks sufficient numbers of highly skilled employees to support a Google branch or a start up.

        Don’t take my word for it. Take the State’s; according to the WA Employment Security Department Sept 2015 study: “There were proportionally fewer Snohomish County residents with four-year college degrees than statewide.”


        The growth of new highly skilled employees is occurring overwhelmingly in KingCo and particularly the City of Seattle.

        Light rail might change that sending more of us to the new urban centers around rail stations (like DC’s metro did there). But buses and cars sure haven’t made a dent in the employment patterns so far (like they didn’t in DC in areas before rail or where rail never went).

        Without light rail to the places where the college educated live, Everett will remain a sleepy, rust belt-type community. Period.

        Penny wise, pound foolish to vote ST3 down in SnoCo.

  13. “And lastly, if stung by a “no” vote on ST3, it is exceedingly unlikely that Sound Transit boardmembers will return with an aggressive Seattle-friendly package.”

    Playing Devil’s Advocate, didn’t that “exceedingly unlikely” scenario already happen? A deeper analysis of a “no” vote leading to a more transit purist-friendly package?

    That scenario was how Sound Transit was created in the first place.

    A rail/highway transportation measure failed; they performed analysis as to why; concluded that the voters rejected the highway portion; they came back with Sound Move 2 with only the rail portion.

    Is there a reason this situation wouldn’t have the same depth of analysis (“they aren’t rejecting rail; they are rejecting crumby rail”)?

    1. Having said that, I do not think this plan is crumby.

      I have grown on building the lines to the low density burbs. Proximity and ease of connections to other people have a correlation to politics (red state/blue state).

      I think that ST3, more than any other factor, will turn our suburbs from “purple state” politics to “blue state” politics. And as it pertains to transit, that is a very good thing.

    2. But that is Rail and Roads, not suburbs and the city.

      Ultimately, ST will never be able to build a Seattle Subway directly. The City of Seattle and King County can pass additional taxes or bonds to fund more things in Seattle, but ST has its mission set in Olympia and changing that will be a slog … especially because only roughly 16% of Puget Sound actually lives in Seattle. (600k out of 4M)

      1. Igor,

        Seattle is forbidden from taxing itself enough to build its own system. The State is afraid it will have to “bail out” the City if it taxes itself into penury. Or at least that’s the claim. The reality is that the rest of the State is green with envy at Seattle’s success and wants to tie it down so the superiority of its economic model is not so glaringly obvious.

        “Seattle” in the previous sentence essentially means the North and East King subareas, specifically including technologically advanced and increasingly “urban” Bellevue and Redmond.

    3. They were voting against highways. This is not highways. This has the support of most people who want some transit infrastructure not dependent on highways. They don’t want less; they were the ones who pushed it from a 15-year plan to a 25-year plan in the first place.

    4. @Igor and Mike — Sure, but let’s not forget that the first Sound Transit vote failed, and ti was all about the spine. They then came back with a proposal that had more bus service for the suburbs, but rail for the city (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19961106&slug=2358535). I think it is pretty easy to make the case that such a plan (if repeated) would be a better value. There is diminishing returns with light rail as it extends farther and farther out. Issaquah light rail is a ridiculous idea. That basically leaves the Redmond extension as the only piece of rail outside the city that is worth building (and that is relatively cheap and obvious). For the suburbs, anyway, a more bus centered approach — acknowledging that the termini in the suburbs are out far enough (except for Redmond) and now we need to focus on getting people to Link or other destinations — could easily be a better value and thus be more popular (and likely proposed).

  14. I think ST3 is the only plan that is fair and equitable to the #1 economic center for Snohomish County: Paine Field. Paine Field back in 2014 was flagged by me as needing more transit: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/08/15/north-by-northwest-kpae-transit/

    There is quite frankly a sense up here in the North by Northwest that Seattle progressives’ angst at giving Paine Field light rail is based on a) animosity towards Boeing corporate, b) paranoia Boeing is going to leave, and c) An allegation Seattle will be paying for Snohomish County’s light rail expansion. All three are misplaced at best. Boeing is going to stay for a very long time at Paine Field, and Snohomish County will pay out of its own subarea directly and possibly through loans for it.

    Meanwhile the North by Northwest area is going to be paying for Sound Transit 1 & Sound Transit 2 for a very long time. It’s only equitable we get light rail. The light rail alignment debate is over (and I wanted a different alignment).

    A vote against ST3 is a vote not just against the North by Northwest region – not just the Snohomish County subarea, but a vote against ALL of Sound Transit. I hope nobody here wants to make Todd E. Herman’s day…. and (I believe unintentionally) help make the case for Boeing to leave the Puget Sound.

    1. Nope, none of those arguments are why I think Paine Field is a bad idea. It is more like:

      D) The Paine Field area, like most of Everett, has low density employment and low density housing, thus making it inappropriate for the huge expense involved with light rail. We would be way better off with improved bus service (express, Swift, etc.).

      1. Except RossB, the #1 job center is Paine Field. Buses – including private Boeing Corporation bus shuttles – will take folks from the light rail stop to their factory places. Buses will also offload folks going to the Future of Flight and onward to Mukilteo.

        Nice try. I wanted a BRT loop to Paine Field last spring, didn’t get it.

      2. Joe, where are those private buses? Why, if Boeing is such a transit advocate, does the company not emulate the Peninsula tech companies and run bus service from various places in Snohomish County? They could use church parking lots for almost no cost except the buses and their drivers.

        Well, I’ll answer my rhetorical question with, “Because nobody would ride them”. How many Boeing workers even carpool? If there is any work schedule that can be said to be amenable to carpooling, it’s the work schedules of highly paid unionized airplane assemblers. There are no “surges” in the production of airplanes, at least not the sort which require “on the spot” overtime. Work schedules are planned months in advance.

        So, why wouldn’t a group of three or four workers from Martha Lake carpool? Because it doesn’t cost that much to drive and nobody has to run around and pick up the others in the carpool. There might be pools from Monroe or from north of Marysville, but that’s not where most workers live.

        So while Paine Field may be the #1 job center in Snohomish County, it’s not the sort of “job center” that is easy, efficient, cost-effective or wise to serve with high-capacity transit.

      3. How many workers at Boeing carpool? There are quite a few vanpools. I often see one going north from Woodinville. I knew a person who took one from Camano Island. There are even a few who take them from places like Auburn or such.

      4. Not to mention quite a few Skagit Transit vanpools… ;-).

        There’s also quite the “Going to Boeing” transit advocacy integrated effort these days. I have it on good authority some of you in the comment threads raising a stink have something to do with that. ;-).

        That said, that said let’s band together and push Regional Prop 1 through to the finish line so ALL Sound Transit subareas benefit.

  15. The big advantage to the line is with the opportunity to build around future stations. That opportunity is only possible with local government and state government commitments. I’m curious if any governments are floating ideas.

    One specific proposal that needs consideration is the UW North Sound campus site. Is there any willingness to get UW to endorse a Link location for the campus?


      1. Didn’t the Everett Transit Center have a university branch occupying most of its building? If so, what happened to it, why, and is there any chance to bring it back?


      2. Somewhere I read a couple days ago that the state was looking at two sites for a UW campus “north of Lynnwood and south of Arlington”, and that the two sites were Everett Station and somewhere near Smokey Point. But that was canceled or got put on the back burner or such.

  16. Eric, take a train ride along the shore from Seattle north. Maybe a day in Vancouver. And notice the stretch between Edmonds and Everett. It’s pretty, and usually no unscheduled stops. But for most of the route, the tracks run more or less on the beach, with a bluff on the east side of the right of way.

    Any day in the rainy months, the line can be blocked by a mudslide. Which can take a couple of days to clear. Replaced with worse bus ride than usual. Like with Sounder Southline, main reason ST chose that route was that there was a fully operating railroad already there.

    Downside is that since it’s not our railroad, Burlington Northern is really doing us a favor letting us be there at all. And limiting our say over freight trains, which are every private railroad’s living. But like every alley in the region, still reliably much faster than I-5. Every single working day.

    Also has toilets, serious consideration considering that a fender bender can jam any mile of I-5 between Everett and Olympia with no warning at all. ST’s online bulletin always notes delays and estimated time stuck. If not every day, just about.

    So really suggest a satellite map onscreen while you’re reading the bulletins, instead of trusting lines and dots on usual route maps. Though I really hope that when we finally get First World transit, there’ll be excursion trains along the shore from at least Bellingham to Olympia. With natural gas steam locomotives.


      1. How is wanting BRT and HOV anti transit? There is a time and a place for more light rail in sno co and this not it.

        Id prefer a smaller package that can be implemented faster and develop a ST4 10 years from now.

      2. Fil;

        As I’m sure you’ve had a FILL of, Sound Transit 3 is intended to pick up right where Sound Transit 2 is leaving off. First the planning, then the building. We need this stuff sooner, not later like you wanna FILL us up with your FILibustering. Go back to KTTH-Land, AbigaiLeak, blatant lies & misinformation, and the rest of it.

        My bucket is full with Beyond Stupid today.

      3. Fil,

        because it’s all part of the same N-1 criticism of any transit project. No BRT will come, neither will HOV, because the state controls I5 and refuses to budge. I am skeptical that even the I405 BRT will survive undilluted.

        Is WSDOT cared about transit and funded it on state level (like they do with car infrastructure) we would have WAY more options. But there is no political will to have transit be considered in Olympia and every time the region tried to build something inside the interstate system for HOV of busses it got eroded into nothing — by the state.

        So the only viable option — build infrastructure that cannot be usurped back by WSDOT for cars / SOV.

        And the people currently seemingly agreeing with you on “BRT means more” are almost definitely gonna switch the “BRT is war on cars” if ST relents, and then when the busses are stuck in traffic, they will argue the busses are a waste of money …. it’s the N-1 attack on transit.

      4. Some consider Swift BRT, and the state hasn’t killed it yet. But obsessing over whether something is BRT or not misses the point. Replace the phrase “BRT” with bus improvements and Fil’s statement is absolutely correct. As it is, Seattle barely has enough density to justify light rail, and only then in a handful of spots. Snohomish County north of Everett is a lot less densely populated (with less employment density as well). A major investment in bus service and bus infrastructure improvements would provide a much better value. Link is coming to Lynnwood — we need to improve the bus system so that people can get there from all over the county, not obsess about extending it. We also need to remember that not everyone in Everett is headed to Seattle in the morning, and make similar improvements elsewhere (just adding service to Swift so it runs twice as often would be a much better value).

      5. As to;

        We also need to remember that not everyone in Everett is headed to Seattle in the morning, and make similar improvements elsewhere (just adding service to Swift so it runs twice as often would be a much better value).

        True. That’s why light rail in ST3 has many stops. Also the northern terminus in Everett will serve all those north of Everett seeking access to a high quality spine from Everett to Paine Field to Downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac to Tacoma… and all the stops & transfer points in between those five key destinations.

    1. Fil, would you settle for transitway built to railroad specifications, but operated with buses until passenger loads made coupled vehicles necessary? Pretty much like the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, but with thirty years worth of lessons learned?

      Because most tightly policed and well-ramped freeway HOV lines spend a lot of time blocked by accidents or other emergencies. And weight of buses puts wear on pavement, closing lanes until job is done. And until the pavement gets worn enough for a work order, or budget for one, ride quality can be bad for years.

      For regional express speed, buses need pretty much same grade and curve requirements as trains. And if you don’t mechanically guide the steering, the lanes have to be somewhat wider. If you do, mechanism adds weight and complexity for unguided running.

      One thing I’d like to see in these discussions, for and against, is the idea of bus service deliberately designed to transition smoothly into rail. Or, if possible following the DSTT progression, hardest and most complicated parts of a railroad, connected with busways over distances between.

      Not so much a busway built with rail in mind, but the opposite. A railway operated with buses as long as necessary. A lot of “if” and “wherever” conditions. DSTT location and time-period picked itself. But out of both that project and the interurbans I really rode on long before , I’m more flexible on general operations than average LRT supporter.

      Both our Tunnel buses and the interurbans, powerful high-speed rural-capable streetcars, often ran part of their routes in mixed traffic for years. My main intention is that we start giving passengers fastest service possible on corridors that’ll eventually be rail.

      Considering that ST-3 will probably will has same number of years ahead as the last two combined, good to keep in mind that we’ve kept a lot of non-Seattlites paying taxes and bus fares until the trains they’ve been promised finally arrive.

      HOWEVER: As a proud Ballard resident in exile until we can loot and burn the Speculators’ offices and have their women stow away on our long-ships (as generally really
      happened): Be careful about classing people wrong about transit as Trolls.

      Until you’ve personally eaten a whole VW for breakfast under a bridge till the ketchup arrived, and not turned into a rock when the sun comes up. Norwegian Homeland Security has been detecting Trolls since before we started cutting up logs for wheels.


    2. It needs HOV lanes that become bus-only at peak in both directions. And harsh enforcement of said lanes.

      It needs reliable transit that isn’t oriented towards Seattle 9-5’ers but rather to intermediate trip pairs…which Link would provide. BRT would not be able to do the same, being shackled 100% to Interstate 5 and very limited places to exit off and serve flyer stops (which are terrible to wait at).

      1. Swift has one line, and is adding a second one. Many consider it BRT. Neither line will run on I-5.

        But as i said above (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/09/20/st3-worth-it-1-everett/#comment-755133) there really is no need to obsess over whether something is BRT or not. The key here is that bus based improvements (whether on the ground or with added service) are simply a much better value than extending this in one (relatively arbitrary) direction.

        >> It needs reliable transit that isn’t oriented towards Seattle 9-5’ers but rather to intermediate trip pairs

        Exactly, like Swift. Or like bus service in various neighborhoods. This is something that Link in Snohomish County — for ST3 — simply doesn’t provide. The only time a train from Lynnwood to Everett is even close to being as fast as a bus from Lynnwood to Everett is during rush hour. Traffic has to be really horrendous for the train to be faster. Even then, there simply aren’t enough people making that trip to justify the expense — not everyone in Everett is headed to the destinations that make Link competitive during rush hour, let alone the rest of the day .Anyone notice that the most popular bus in Community Transit doesn’t even go to Seattle? The money would be better spent on other projects than a train from Lynnwood to Everett.

  17. I think purists hoping that a failure of ST3 at the ballot box will lead to a more ‘rational’ outcome are deluding themselves.

    What is the likely breakdown in the event it fails? Seattle votes strongly for it, but not enough to overcome a middling response in suburban King and negative vote in exurban Pierce and Snohomish counties.

    What is the likely response? I foresee the analysis would be that the plan was too big, didn’t do enough for the exurbs, and was too heavily weighted to urban Seattle. The emphasis would be on coming back with cheap, quick deliverables and those are going to be elevated suburban rail in freeway medians and paying for WSDOT to build HOV infrastructure, not central city rail tunnels.

    1. Ron, such a “return” would lose in Seattle by huge margins.

      In any case, ST3 is mostly “elevated surburban rail” though it is only alongside not in the median of, the freeways. I guess we can be somewhat thankful for that.

      1. Anandakos,

        most of the distance is in the suburbs, but that is cheap building. Seattle is getting a lot of service and two major water crossings.

        This is not an unbalance plan.. not at all

      2. I didn’t say it is unbalanced. In fact, because of sub-area equity it’s the fairest plan possible that meets urban needs. The legislature will have to toss out SA equity in order to do your cheap all suburban plan, because North King would get nothing in that.

    2. What Anandakos said — the plan is for freeway based rail anyway. The one deviation is to Paine Field. If you want to go out that far, that is the cheapest way to do it. All the corners have been cut.

      With a failed ST3, I see a couple options for the suburbs. One is that they come back with a more bus based alternative. Not necessarily BRT (which is a debatable term anyway) but more express bus service, which tends to be very popular in the suburbs. This is basically how they got the first Sound Transit plan passed after the initial plan failed (trains for Seattle and lots of bus service for the suburbs). Just about any independent transit team would suggest this as the best value for the area. Lynnwood is a fine terminus — many would say overkill, really (it didn’t need to be out that far). So now you can focus on improving service to Lynnwood (which is basically the center of Community Transit right now) as well as improving service that is largely independent of Link (and quite popular).

      The other alternative is that they might just not go out that far. Since Link is now playing a game of diminishing returns as far as “the spine” is concerned, the less rail you have the better the value. My guess is would be a combination of projects at worse, as folks in Everett will want some sort of compensation (i. e. good bus service) if rail doesn’t go that far. The result is a package that actually saves more people more time despite costing less money.

      With Seattle it gets more complicated, but you have a similar dynamic. The WSTT is better (overall) than Ballard to West Seattle rail. It would save more people more time for more trips. But if they don’t build that (as a down payment for future rail) then I assume they would build Ballard to UW rail, which is certainly a better value, although perhaps not as big an improvement overall. Sometimes baby steps are much better, as it prevents you from going the wrong direction.

  18. “Tech penetrates quickly on the fringes, but not in the mass market.”

    While I have fond memories of great uncle horse farming in the mid 40s, by that time horses as major transportation were about 20 years in the past – and the Model T, which ushered in the auto age, debuted about 15 years previous to that. SDV may debut in as few as 5 years, and I don’t think it will take more than 15 years to predominate. Pure electric cars re-debuted only about 5 years ago, they will be major players far faster than nay-sayers imagine.

    1. And? You do realize that self-driving cars really won’t increase rush hour capacity of the freeways, right? Oh maybe 3-4% because they’ll be better at not accordioning. But if you haven’t noticed you should check out the percentage of drivers who egregiously violate safe following distances. There won’t be that many more vehicles passing a given point at 40 mph than there are now.

      Plus, if people send them elsewhere to park’n’hide as has been widely suggested, the peaks will become two-way fusterclucks.

      They’d be GREAT if people would use them to ferry to Link stations and then go home and park in their own driveway until evening. That would be a very good use of autonomous vehicles. It would use more energy, but it’s electrical energy and will largely be provided by the sun and wind.

  19. Am I understanding this post correctly? Getting from Everett to Seattle a few minutes quicker is worth $54 billion dollars?

    1. Pretty close, Sam. Right now, getting from Everett to the next freeway exit is worth $54 billion and fifty cents.


    2. Am I understanding this post correctly? Of course you are not understanding this post correctly. Getting from Everett to Seattle a few minutes quicker costs $2.8b in 2014 dollars., only half of which is likely to come from local taxes. Everyone screaming about $54B in YOE dollars is like someone from 1990 saying, “Median income is $80,000?!? In the future everyone’s rich!”

      1. To quote Zach from the article above, it would also “open up 300 unique destination pairs while being nearly as fast as a Sounder train that only stops thrice”.

    3. $54B is for the entire package. Everett link is more like $2B (not including lynnwood link as that has already been funded). And some of that will come from bonds and federal grants so the actual cost to the taxpayers will be closer to $1.5B.

      It’s also not “a few minutes quicker”. Link to Everett is faster than buses nearly 24/7 and faster than cars during rush hour.

      1. So if ST3 passes, there will be no Lynnwood Link? Bummer. I didn’t know that. Here I was thinking that Lynnwood Link solved the biggest congestion problem for both drivers and bus riders, enabling new express service from areas like Everett (no reason to stop at Ash Way and similar stops — you have enough ridership to justify a straight shot). Too bad, That would have been really nice.

  20. Can someone remind me how much travel time that stipid diversion to Paine Field ended up costing. Wasn’t it like 13 minutes? Imagine being able to make that trip in a reliable 47 minutes.

    And I assume the graph is Westlake to Everett, nit Everett to Westlake. What with the longer times being afternoon.

      1. No one has answered my question. How much travel time is being added because of the stupid diversion? I seem to remember originally it was to be 13 minutes (each way). But then I think the changed the routing slightly so it’s not quite as much? Or am I misremembering?

    1. Joe, we know what the Snohomish County leadership thinks. The doubters are wondering whether the Snohomish County voters will agree.

      1. Fair point. I think considering Snohomish County voters haven’t really revolted against this alignment, it’s best to let this debate be tabled until after the postmartum into the election. I think frankly this is the best, deal with the Sound Transit Board we have – not a Board of directly elected transit advocates.

        This is coming from the Joe who wanted BRT to Paine Field…

    2. Look at the map, the Paine Field Diversion adds about 5 extra miles and one stop, so you can figure about 7-8 minutes of additional travel time. Of course, Paine Field Diversion and all, Everett to Seattle is faster than the 512 and a virtual tie with Sounder from Everett to the International District.

      1. Um, I don’t know if people realize this (and I don’t blame them because the post suggest otherwise). But if ST3 fails, Link will still run to Lynnwood. So, basically, you aren’t racing a bus from Everett to Seattle, but a bus from Everett to Lynnwood. Now imagine that bus is an express (no stops between Everett and Lynnwood, unlike the existing 512). How often do you think the train beats the bus? Once or twice a month is my guess.

        Meanwhile, Swift — the most popular bus to serve Snohomish County — runs only every 12 minutes, and who knows when Swift 3, 4 or just adequate bus routs are added.

  21. Someone tell me why we aren’t building these new exurban corridors as heavy rail with stops in each city, connecting to light rail service in Northgate.

    1. Why is heavy rail allegedly better? Do you just want double-decker cars, or is there more to it than that?

      1. Well, the main argument given against it is mostly regarding vehicle speed. It is possible for ST to in the future simply buy faster vehicles. There are 1500VDC trains running 70+ MPH in other countries, nothing stopping us from ordering some, and letting them stretch their legs on the I-5 portions of the ST3 route. It’s not the 87 mph quoted in the other post, but it’s getting closer.

        Or (from the optimists perspective) we can hope that infill development will be a big thing, and average passenger trips will grow shorter over time.

      2. For long distances between stations like Sounder South. The end to end travel time from one end of the line to the other could be around 45 minutes with a few improvements here and there.

        People will make trips for a certain amount of travel time but once it exceeds about an hour people will not likely make those trips. The long travel times make people squeemish to support it in Tacoma. Everett would have been paletable at a 60 minute travel time.

    2. Because ST chose light rail early in the process in the 1990s. It did that because light rail can run on the surface as well as elevated and underground, and the original plans had a lot more surface segments to keep capital costs down to previous cities’ light rails. But as the segments went through further design one by one, the neigborhoods and public asked for more grade separation and stated a willingness to pay for it. So we backed into a mostly-grade-separated light rail system.

      1. Mike, get the historical reasons for light rail selection. But this segment has always been drawn up to be grade separated. And we are talking about really lengthy distances that really no one would choose light rail for if starting from scratch (which we kind of are heading North from Northgate or Lynnwood). These are distances much greater than anyone conceived of in 1990’s.

        Why wasn’t heavy rail at least considered for say, Tacoma to Federal Way or SeaTac and Lynnwood to points North?

      2. Even Toronto which has a subway picked LRT for most of the new rapid transit lines it’s building. That said, they have a lot of commuter rail lines that they’re upgrading to frequent all day electric train service.

      3. Sound Transit was created to address inter-county and regional transit, which the county-based agencies weren’t able to do very well because local routes and peak expresses always end up being higher priorities. The original ST vision was to link Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Bellevue/Redmond, and when light rail was chosen as the mode, it was expected that the starter line would eventually be extended to all those places. That may have been a poor mode choice but it’s what everybody involved expected.

  22. This may be an echo to another comment (and well worth it either way):

    I’m astonished that there has been little political discussion of rail straight from Lynnwood to Everett, with a spur from Paine to Canyon Park. With the latter being a Boeing park, and a major residential area, this makes tons of sense to me. The Everett-Lynnwood trip would be shorter and Paine field would be serviced. Of course this spur would be a shoe-in for Lynnwood to Bellevue. Let’s face it, Texas is the only place benefiting from the tolls and traffic to Bellevue isn’t going to magically get better in 20 years.

    Drop the transfer station under Alderwood mall and you’ve got a wicked money synergy going.

    Boeing can afford to fork over some cash for this alignment (just like Microsoft and Amazon should be forking over some serious dough). (Yeah, I know that’s not how this works… We all would be paying for this alignment and they’d benefit.)

    1. It seems apparent that BNSF is ramping up capital improvements… Which would improve Sounder travel times from Everett to Seattle.

      So, here is an idea…: stop ST3 at Paine and put the rest of the money that would have gone into connecting E to P, into Alderwood to Canyon Park.

      Problem solved.

    2. It’s an interesting idea and the first I’ve heard of it. The “Paine Field spur” has always been positioned as a way to avoid the detour while serving Paine, but never anything beyond that. A Paine – Canyon Park line would replace Swift II, which Community Transit is about to start building and the state gave a grant for. Sure, it may be an ideal but it hits an immovable wall of Everett’s stance and Snohomish’s stance — they want the ST3 alignment and nothing else.

      Joe, yareunot didn’t say he’d vote against ST3. He just raised this as a more logical alternative, and wondered why others hadn’t considered it. Similar to your preference for a Paine BRT loop.

      1. Paine BRT loop also makes sense and would be considerably cheaper. Gain relief and set up for spur action.

        The region needs ST3. I’m not myopic. I do think that if we really want to take a step forward, though, we should consider a Trolly network in addition to commuter transit. Unfortunately, most of the suburban neighborhoods built in the last 30-40 years are not designed for good conversion.

      2. I’ll see your paine field–canyon park spur; and raise you a . . . .

        conceptually, I’ve always thought Paine Field should be served by
        (wait for it…)

        EastLink !

        Instead of that line ending in Redmond (as currently planned), it could/would continue NNW — Woodinville and/or Bothell; Canyon Park; Connect to the main LINK spine in Lynnwood; then Paine Field; and end in Mukilteo with connections to the ferry and Amtrak there.

        if you’ve ever wound up in the afternoon traffic out of the Boeing “campus” you’ve seen that while some of that traffic gets on I-5, an awful lot of it stays on I-405 and heads for the eastside…..

        and yes, I do realize that I am blithely suggesting what would amount to an additional 25 miles of light rail — so file this in the “if money were no object”/fantasy category…..

  23. I’m a Seattleite who works in the Paine Field area. Current bus service from Seattle to Paine Field is almost 2 hours, which is not a viable option. So the Paine Field Link stop is the best part of this plan. Sure my morning commute (25mins by car) would be longer but in the afternoon I rather be in a train for 60mins reading a book or daydreaming than 60mins stuck in the chaos that is I-5 :)

    1. Well said Iggy. I’d add as well there’s a lot of museums & Mukilteo within what will become an easy bus transfer from the ST3 light rail station. So this isn’t just a “diversion” to/for Boeing & the Boeing Factory Tour… this alignment is being fair and equitable to what makes Snohomish County tick economically. Especially since Everett has lost its sawmills, lost out on recruiting major dot-com startups to Everett and the Everett Homeport only brings in so many sailors….

    2. Fun fact: 164th to north Seattle locations not on the 512+44 combination also take 1-2 hours each way. That’s a clear case of Link increasing ridership because the existing express buses don’t address it at all. Not Northgate, not Greenwood, not Loyal Heights, not Sand Point. And yes, there was a company in Loyal Heights that a colleague from Everett commuted to.

    3. Just because you have a transit problem doesn’t mean you need to throw light rail at it.

      Lynnwood Link is coming, and you can add service then. It is hard to see why connecting service from Lynnwood isn’t going to work or be justified, but light rail to that area will.

      1. Lynnwood Link is vital, it’s part of the solution but there is still congestion & many unmet needs north of Lynnwood. I know you want to vote down ST3 and end the spine, that’s a valid position and you’ve argued it quite well.

        The problem is: Buses – even double-tall buses – can only do much. Only grade separated transit gives folks an option to bypass or even reduce congestion.

      2. It’s insurance in case the bus solutions can’t keep up or Snohomish’s population and density surpass the skeptics’ predictions. We got into this hole by underbuilding transit infrastructure for decades. If we overbuild it a little, that’s not a big deal.

      3. Well said Mike. I’d rather we overbuilt some transit net than kept under-building, under-funding and under-appreciating.

        I’d rather just see support from transit advocates for more transit more places more often and I’ll leave it at that. For now.

  24. If Link as LRT is provided exclusive ROW, it becomes lite Metro. The ST3 segments are proposed as such. The MLK Jr. Way South alignment of the initial segment and the Bel-Red of ST2 will have surface operation.

    Link alignments in freeway envelopes have less TOD potential, as the freeway acts a barrier to pedestrians and produces noise for residences. Freeway interchanges attract traffic that slows local transit that must carry most of the riders to and from Link. Park-and-rides do not scale; they use too much funding and land that are better used, respectively, for service hours and housing. These alignments were the disappointing choices of the board and many jurisdictions. Good TOD is POD, or pedestrian oriented.

    It is clear that ST provided what the boardmembers of the respective subareas wanted in the ST3 proposal. In such efforts, there may be arc between the optimal technical answer and the political answer. There are multiple political hurdles, the legislature, the board, the jurisdictions, and now the district voters. Sometimes the political and the technical are aligned, as with the Roosevelt station location.

    Now we voters face an all or nothing choice, yes or no.

    Zach posed the question of ST3 v. existing. Note the latter includes ST2. We may also weigh what could have been done with ST3 funds and how far from ideal that seems. Consider Lynnwood to Everett. While true, ST3 it is the board and Snohomish County choice, they did not study improving three or even more lines with a less costly mode, say Paine Field, SR-99, and I-5. They only studied one line. Likewise in South King County, only the South spine was studied, not a robust bus network or all-day Sounder.

    1. There’s still hope that the MLK segment will be buried or put in a trench someday. The NYC subway was elevated before it was underground.

      P&Rs are poor but they’re a necessary component of car-dependent areas that can’t have a bus to every residential neighborhood. People say Link in the outer suburbs is wasteful, but the suburbs themselves are wasteful; Link is only a small part of it and is more efficient than building another freeway. In the long term we can hopefully convince the suburbs to build more walkable neighborhoods. Some of ST’s P&Rs are designed to be convertible to TOD when the public is ready for it. I think South Bellevue and TIB are intended for that, and one of the parking lots at Angle Lake is leased for short-term use until Federal Way opens. ST also changed its policy in 2014 to advocate for TOD in station areas (previously it was neutral) and to convert its own surplus parcels to affordable housing after construction; I believe that’s in the plans for the South King County stations.

      1. I’ve heard that tunnel construction is about 8-10 times higher than at-grade. With costs like that (and having 17 stops between IDS and Tacoma), a Duwamish express track could easily be more cost-effective. It could also enable a Renton spur if the Rainier Valley segment is extended to provide it and the express tracks are used to reach SeaTac and Tacoma.

        In terms of when, Brookline MA is in no hurry to put their median light rail lines (operating well over 100 years) underground. I see MLK ending up similarly, with short grade separations at best but not with a fully underground subway.

    2. Good summary, Eddie. Basically, the process is broken. They got lucky initially, as the options were pretty obvious (e. g. a line to the UW or a line to the east side). But now the easy fruit has been picked, and folks need to really do their homework to figure out if extending Link beyond Lynnwood makes sense (the answer is obviously “No”).

      Al had a great description of the broken process, and what we should do about it here: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/09/19/whatever-its-merits-peanut-butter-doesnt-save-any-money/#comment-754758. I personally think that nothing will change unless ST3 is defeated, and people demand independent, region wide planning.

  25. As Link continues to march northward, I wonder about the merits of truncating some of Seattle->Vancouver inter-city buses at a Snohomish County Link Station, rather than send the buses all the way downtown, getting stuck in traffic. Living in the U-district, I would definitely prefer to ride Link to Lynnwood and catch a bus to Vancouver there vs. ride Link downtown and backtrack on unpredictable freeway traffic. For those living in Lynnwood, inter-city bus service to Vancouver is almost unusable due to the hour and a half wasted going downtown and back north again. Furthermore, in theory, the reduction in service hours for each trip should allow for slightly cheaper fares.

    That said, in a post-ST3 world, I would still argue for Lynnwood as a truncation point, as opposed to Everett, unless I-5 traffic gets a whole lot worse than it is today. Partly because of the Paine Field Deviation, and partly because Lynnwood Station can be reached so much more quickly from I-5 north (via the HOV ramp, just as the 512 bus does today) than Everett Station (which would require slogging through a bunch of stoplights around Everett).

    1. Tapping into the Lake Stevens neighborhoods with a loop through S. Marysville would be a great ST4 proposal. Keep the stop-light slog to a minimum that way.

      As for your intra-city and “travel” bus proposal, you and I agree that taking rails north to catch one to Vancouver is a great idea. Maybe if enough people do that, they will add “travel” bus starts from the North side (not likely, though; here’s why). That said, it’s not advisable for those companies to limit the Seattle exposure as many of the intra-city buses don’t terminate their trips in Seattle. They’re stopping through. There are plenty of other socioeconomic reasons not to decrease “travel” bus exposure to Seattle that don’t affect this conversation.

    2. I could see doing both. Stop off at the Lynnwood station, but then keep going. Eventually, the agencies or companies involved will figure out whether it makes sense to just truncate on the outskirts of town.

  26. Guys, will some of you please quit the sniping at Paine Field? It seems to be a constant with the STB Commentariat that anytime anybody says more transit for the #1 job center of Snohomish County plus the #1 tourism destination of Snohomish County in Paine Field that some of you supposed transit enthusiasts have to come out and rail against it?

    You folks mind please exercising some self-restraint please and realize how hurtful it is for instance to be somebody who goes to a destination and read other transit enthusiasts want to deny quality transit there? Thank you, because it IS hurtful. It comes off as mean-spirited and makes me wonder if some of the commentators at the Everett ST3 meeting last April had a point about making Seattle wait…

    Think about that before you type here again folks. Please.

    1. If I’ve ever given the impression that the route through Paine Field is much worse than a more direct route to Everett station, I apologize. Both light rail lines are silly. There just isn’t enough population density, employment density or proximity to either to justify the high cost of light rail to that one region (either one). If that comes off as some sort of insult to Paine Field, it wasn’t meant to be. What I think is best for Paine Field is what I think is best for all of Snohomish County post ST2: Improved bus service.

      1. Thanks RossB, I’ve understood that from you particularly throughout the ST3 debate that you think if we just expand bus service past Lynnwood Link & south of Angle Lake all will be good. It’s the ignorance from others I got a problem with.

      2. Both lines (Paine Field & Everett) are indeed $illy. There is one major difference. Paine Field is an attempt at “to” whereas Everett (and Tacoma) are looking at light rail as a “from”. I think it’s the height of silliness to be promoting such an expensive and generational project instead of these cities and their suburbs putting local tax money toward transit that focuses on making their own cities “great again”. What’s telling is how transit advocates that have previously pointed at BART as how to build rail wrong are now shilling for something based on the same principle (shuttle bodies in from the suburbs).

  27. To date, I’ve been pretty disappointed in the public discussion of Sound Transit 3.

    You and me both, brother.

    Snohomish County has uniquely terrible traffic relative to the other subareas, with Everett to Seattle travel times wildly variable and often exceeding 90 minutes, and there is no amount of piddling edge work (shoulder-running buses, etc) that can possibly change this. We will not tear out subdivisions for new I-5 lanes, and there are zero indications that the legislature will compel WSDOT to provide exclusive transit right-of-way anytime in the coming decades.

    You do realize that even if ST3 passes, Link will make it to Lynnwood. It is rather disingenuous to suggest otherwise. No one is questioning whether it makes sense to build a line from Everett to Seattle, but rather, a line from Everett to Lynnwood.

    When you consider a trip from Everett station to Lynnwood, it isn’t easy to see why a bus would be faster. A bus travels in HOV lanes, which while sometimes congested, aren’t nearly as bad as the average times you cite (which include Lynnwood to Seattle, by far the worst section). Unlike the current “express” service, it is likely these buses will operate as a pure express. In other words, once the bus leaves the Everett station (to cite one example) it won’t stop until it reaches Lynnwood. When you consider the more direct path of a bus, along with fewer stops, it is easy to see that a bus will beat the train almost every time.

    There is also a distinct possibility (if not probability) that in the next twenty years, HOV or HOT lanes will be built (or the existing ones modified). Politics change. Twenty years before gay marriage and weed were legalized, the ideas seems highly unlikely. But here we are — sometimes things get better.

    But even without that — even with relatively slow speeds, in just about every case the bus is competitive or faster to Lynnwood. There is also the possibility that the lanes will be much faster once Lynnwood Link opens. As overwhelming numbers of car pool riders abandon their cars and move towards Link, the HOV lanes will be a lot less crowded. Gone will be the buses, south of Lynnwood (a given) but gone will be most of the drivers too. No reason to drive, when you have Link. From the north end, taking the bus will of course be a better choice, as not only is it faster (since it uses bus lanes to access the Lynnwood station) but there would be no worry about parking at the station (which is obviously limited). If Lynnwood Link really is the all encompassing, ground breaking replacement for driving that folks think it will be, then buses will run at close to 60 MPH all day long.

    If not, then spending so much money on one corridor is a waste. It means doing what every agency which has done a similar thing has done. It looks good on paper (traffic is bad) but spending a huge amount amount of money to marginally improve the situation doesn’t work out. The stations will still be hard to get to, unless other improvements are made. Since none of the the stations are close to where people can walk to work or their home, this is an essential problem that is simply ignored, while huge amounts of money are spent extending rail. So someone in say, Mill Creek still struggles with a very slow bus to the freeway, but simply gets off the bus sooner. Nothing is done about the slowest (or least frequent) part of the ride, while way too much money is spent on something that worked pretty well to begin with. These are for the folks headed to Link.

    Of course, there are other people in Snohomish County, that suffer from much worse transit, to areas that are just about as popular. Swift is the most popular bus in Community Transit’s fleet, and it doesn’t come anywhere near I-5. So while the Link extension might be nice for someone who lives in a nice big house with a big lawn in Snohomish (who manages to get a parking space in time for his job in downtown Seattle) it doesn’t do a thing for the guy who works at the McDonald’s or 7-11. The people who need transit the most get little to nothing out of this.

    Surrey and New Westminster were sleepy suburban hamlets before SkyTrain began coming their way in 1986, and suburban Virginia was exurban Virginia before Metro induced massive growth via the Orange (and now Silver) Line

    Surrey to downtown Vancouver (the far end of the line) — 15 miles. Oh, and most of Surrey is served with BRT that connects to it (hmmmm — interesting concept — good terminus with good bus service to it). New Westminster is closer. The farthest reaches of the DC Metro are about 15 miles away from the center of town. The end of the Orange Line (in DC) is closer and even the end of the silver line is 17 miles away. Everett is about 27 miles away, roughly double most of your examples. Proximity matters. There simply aren’t that many people willing to make an hour (or more) commute.

    Officials have power that you don’t, and they will never respond positively to “you don’t deserve it” lectures from Seattleities insisting they manage their suburban decline rather than attempt to reinvigorate it with their own money.

    Snohomish County doesn’t deserve this — they deserve better. They deserve a system that works for more people and doesn’t follow the distant subway myth that has failed repeatedly in other cites. They deserve a system that leverages the existing roads, makes improvements in a lot more of them, and adds improved bus service to more areas.

    1. A trolley service grid along with two rail corridors (one on 99 and one along rt 527 or 35th ave on the east side of I-5) would go a long way to serving the needs you describe. Alas, that doesn’t spoke/hub to Lynnwood LRT very well (and I’d rather spend the 2.1b to demolish most of the used car lots on 99 and replace them with parks to fly kites in (and apartments, I can compromise) but lets get real).

      So, where does this leave us? Kill a whole package because 10% of it could be a mistake? Nah. You’re suggesting we kill BRT and Bus services to many more places than Paine Field. Let’s move on. What are the chances we approve it and then work to change Lynnwood/Everett part of the plan?

      To be perfectly honest, taking a spine-helix (or star/hub) approach would likely have served us better from the start yet we went political and settled for skipping stones down to the airport. The economic impact of that decision is finally moving positive along MLK way, it seems.

  28. A little “on the ground POV” as well as some field of dreams reference here on the front range in Colorado. You guys harp on building transit to where the populations centers ARE but don’t exactly evaluate the differences in community and what each can build for. Mostly referring to the rabbit/hare article… and you are totally right, you are building the good shit but…. In Seattle, thanks to the Urban Villages plan from the 90s, you now have population hubs and density (and in the words of the grand cheeto himself, they are beautiful) where you can direct the rail to go to grab more folks. Denver doesn’t have super dense areas like that (yet). In terms of hip dense-ish areas you’ve got the Highlands and Cap Hill, and neither of those comes close to mimicking the density of greenlake, fremont, ballard, etc. Denver is just vast sprawl and SFH and asphalt parking lot oceans with occasional pockets of slightly denser areas. Where seattle built the density first and then is trying to accommodate it with transit later, Denver is simply going about it vice versa and utilizing the rail corridors for it. Under the guise of “build it and they will come” you are seeing increasing density pop up at the close in stations. It’s not good yet but you can see that the trajectory is on the right path. Would love for the Denver area to adopt a Urban Village plan that was centered around all rail transit and to then drive employers to locate around stations as well.

    TL;DR – there’s really no focal point for where denver should put it’s rail lines so it’s a free for all that will let TOD follow. Which raises a great question for this blog to potentially dive into. What comes first, development, or transit?

  29. There is/are reasons why Paine Field was “in” and nothing else would be listened to, but rather than disclose what they had in mind, public officials refused to be transparent and disclose what their plans are. Instead, they refused to listen to a BRT loop idea that could be open by 2020 – before Northgate Link – and at a fraction of the cost while still having an Everett light rail line, direct via I-5 – for $1 billion less and opened at least 5 years earlier. As a bonus, riders to/from Everett north would reportedly have a lower fare due to the shorter distance and wouldn’t have to spend the equivalent of an extra 2 weeks per year taking a tour of southwest Everett 24/7/365, an area where transit service was slashed in 2003 and 2010 and which has never come close to recovering due to, plain and simple, a lack of demand. By tacking on the extra 5 or so years to serve this area, public officials tell us they don’t care about today’s commuters, and traffic will only get worse in those 5 or so extra years. A similar argument could be made for their choosing an Issaquah line that goes to South Kirkland rather than to Renton (connecting with East Link in Bellevue), a commute that local officials have said has seen a 95% increase in of late and which would have connected to the popular Sounder South heavy rail line.

    If I was a Seattle resident, I might vote yes, especially if a University-Ballard line had been in the plan vs. “in planning,” as that corridor’s been a nightmare for decades, and east/west would offer faster ways to go north from along that line, e.g. to Everett. Conversely, for Everett and Issaquah residents, they’re told to trust us and wait 20-25 years, with today’s commuters getting nothing. This, along with the variety of ethically-challenged tactics that have been employed that fail to recognize that they’re a quasi-public, not private, agency, make this in need of a message being sent, which only a “no” will do.

    1. OK…

      As to,

      There is/are reasons why Paine Field was “in” and nothing else would be listened to, but rather than disclose what they had in mind, public officials refused to be transparent and disclose what their plans are.

      State those reasons and plans you allege. Please.

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