Looking south

The worst case scenario has occurred. Regional voters have turned away from the generational opportunity to expand traffic-separated transit, listening instead to a series of micro-objections about marketing budgets and email address management. Or perhaps they blanched at a $54 billion price tag that didn’t really mean anything. And at least a few voters thought that if they voted this down, they’d get something better, something more focused on their interests in particular. What now?

When confronted with this hypothetical, ST CEO Peter Rogoff said that “there is no plan B.” ST would, of course, “complete our commitments already made to voters” in ST2. “The Board would reflect on why it failed,” but cautioned that “it would be exceedingly hard to serve as wide a series of interests… while being different” from what voters just rejected. Mr. Rogoff hadn’t heard other Board Members talking about what would come next, and once again he thought it inappropriate to speculate.

But we can speculate!

Ultimately, the shape of an ST3 retry depends on the narrative on why it had failed. If most people say it was too big, the next package will be smaller. It might be smaller in scope, with light rail but less of it; or smaller in quality, with lots of BRT on the cheap (and/or surface light rail) in order to serve the same range of communities as the 2016 measure.

Or perhaps precinct maps will reveal the right places to economize. If Issaquah or Tacoma or Ballard don’t turn out to vote for ST3 in spite of substantial investment in those areas, the Board may conclude that projects in those places don’t enhance the possibility of passage, and building elsewhere would be more profitable.

Regardless, it seems that ST has learned the lesson that presidential election years offer the best chance of success. A 2020 election would result in “only” four years of project delay and cost inflation. But unless the narrative is that something fluky happened in 2016, waiting till 2024 would give the opportunity of delivering all the ST2 projects before going to the vote.

There are also wilder possibilities. Just as a future ST4 would likely include some changes to the district framework, a second swing at ST3 might do the same. If the measure earned a supermajority in Seattle but lost everywhere else, that might inspire a replay of the last Metro measure: a Seattle-only measure using old Monorail funding authority to get something going, or finding enough support in Olympia to allow Seattle to levy proportionally higher taxes for Sound Transit projects. Let’s just hope we can avoid a directly elected board.

If Sound Transit 3 loses, the same interests and demands will be there, with less money and higher costs with which to deliver to them. The position of having to craft a second try is an unenviable one, and I hope that we don’t have a chance to test my predictions here.

147 Replies to “Life After ST3: If It Loses”

  1. >. If Issaquah or Tacoma or Ballard don’t turn out to vote for ST3 in spite of substantial investment in those areas, the Board may conclude that projects in those places don’t enhance the possibility of passage, and building elsewhere would be more profitable.

    I love* how you imply Ballard should be punished for voting No on an initiative that prioritizes investment pretty much everywhere else. As if any future ST initiative in the North King us area can be voted on and passed without re-consulting the residents of Ballard.

    1. The Ballard line is a signature project of ST3. You can object to the alignment or the timing of the project, but you can’t argue that Ballard is being underinvested by ST3.

      Martin is just observing that if putting a light rail station in a neighborhood fails to yield a strong yes vote, that reduces the chance it will get grade separated rail in the future.
      A light rail station in Ballard is not necessary. A ST3 try 2 could, say, truncate at Smith Cove to save money in a smaller package. Or, if the idea of a 2nd tunnel is killed, ST might leave Ballard to be better served by SDOT.

      Basically, voting no when grade separated HCT service to a neighborhood isn’t good enough, you are going to be hard pressed get political support for better HCT to that neighborhood in future packages.

      1. And by the same logic, if (for example) West Seattle voted heavily “No” and ST3 fails, it would reduce the chances a West Seattle line is included in a retry.

        But as Martin took pains to point out, there are many reasons why ST3 could fail and many things to consider in that event, and precinct-level results are just one of those considerations when mulling an ST3 retry.

      2. Please keep in mind that I believe Ballard deserves light rail and sincerely hope that it gets LRT in ST3 or any future package. I get that the proposed project isn’t perfect for many people, but I’m genuinely baffled by people who think rejecting ST3 will ensure a better Ballard project in the future. Best case is a similar project 4 years later

      3. Similar to Jason, if West Seattle (where we are constantly reminded they are a large voting bloc) does not overwhemingly turn out in force and vote yes (not just 51-49 but more like (to pick a number out of the air) 80-20 given the political machinations made to provide it), can West Seattle be blamed?

        If if fails, can we also blame Boeing and Amazon (who other than some minor campaign contributions (for corporations), have not been vocal for ST3 (although they are the major beneficiaries of the Ballard line and Paine Field)? No threats to move out of Seattle if it fails would be a pretty powerful tool.

        I speak as a reluctant yes voter (even though a proposed stop is a block or two from my home and I work near University St. station).

      4. “Blame” is irrelevant. Identifying a package that can win, if this one were to fail, is very relevant.

        This is not about moral validation of your choices and those of other people.

      5. >> you can’t argue that Ballard is being underinvested by ST3

        Sure you can, it is actually very easy. Ballard to UW is better for Ballard, and a much more cost effective plan for the region than what is proposed. That is the short version. Here is the long version:

        For less than the cost of Ballard to West Seattle, you can build Ballard to UW with two stops in Ballard (15th and 24th) or three if you count 8th NW (where exactly does Ballard end, anyway?).

        Now for the trade-offs. For those headed downtown, going via the UW costs a couple minutes. But that is only if you start at 15th. Those closer to 24th would likely save more than two minutes by using that stop. If more than half the riders use that stop (or 8th NW) then that route is better for Ballard folks headed downtown. But I would imagine it is close, so let’s call it a wash.

        The advantage of the ST3 routing is that it would connect folks in Ballard to Interbay, lower Queen Anne, and northern downtown (i. e. South Lake Union). Fair enough.

        In contrast, Ballard to UW would connect people to the UW, Fremont, Wallingford as well as within Ballard (e. g. 24th to 8th). The UW is one of the biggest destinations in the state, and likely to grow dramatically soon (as the city up-zones the area). Again, I would call this roughly a wash.

        But of course, not everyone walks to the train, or walks from the train. For Ballard to West Seattle, you have connecting buses from Queen Anne and Magnolia, but that is about it. The trip to upper Queen Anne would not be very fast — it is quite likely that it would require going around the hill first (to lower Queen Anne).

        In contrast, Every stop along the Ballard to UW corridor has a major connecting transit route. These buses travel at relatively high speeds. Thus the connections to Greenwood, Phinney Ridge, Green Lake, or Aurora would be very very popular.

        At this point, the edge goes to Ballard to UW. But I haven’t mentioned connecting train trips. Ballard to West Seattle adds West Seattle. The bus isn’t exactly slow, so the time savings are minimal (likely only for the junction, not the vast majority of West Seattle). On the other hand, the UW to Ballard train would enable much faster connections to areas in the north end. Direct connections to Roosevelt, Northgate, Shoreline and Lynnwood, along with indirect connections to Lake City, the north end of Lake Washington (Kenmore, Bothell, etc.) and most of Snohomish County.

        Thus Ballard to UW is a better plan for Ballard. I would argue that the rail line is also more cost effective. Thus Ballard is, like so many areas, being short changed with ST3.

      6. So, for Ballard to UW – do you –
        1) Force everyone to transfer at U District?
        2) Interline it with the U-Westlake-International tunnel?
        2) Build the second downtown tunnel from International to U District, instead of just to Westlake?

        Option 1 makes a Ballard-UW line clearly inferior. Option 2 breaks down the entire metro system due to capacity problems. Option 3 makes it clearly more expensive.

        You assertion of better option for same price is clearly wrong.

      7. The primary purpose of Ballard – UW is to give people along that corridor something better than the 44.

        As such, it would connect to a large number of north-south routes in many locations. They feed it. It feeds them. UW station is just one of many locations on this corridor.

      8. @Donde — Capacity and connection issues are dealt with here: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/03/23/ballard-uw-downtown-link/. There is nothing to worry about as far as capacity is concerned and even if a transfer is required, it can be timed (since the UW is the terminus of the line). As Glenn said, lots of people get on and off at each stop, so it shouldn’t be seen as just a way to get downtown. Thus even if there is a transfer, it is superior overall.

        Personally I would just go with a simple interline before the station (probably the cheapest option). This means six minute headways on each line, with three minute headways on the most important segment (downtown to the UW). As the referenced article points out, with an investment in traction power substations, those headway limits could be reduced to 4 minutes and 2 minutes, which is really extraordinary (and likely will never be needed).

    2. “I love* how you imply Ballard should be punished for voting No”

      “Punishment” doesn’t enter into it. Rational decisionmakers will have to craft, in 2020 or 2024, a package that can pass, and do so with less resources. If it’s clear that Ballard will net very few votes unless the investment is even larger, while (in this hypothetical) West Seattle offers great return on investment in terms of votes, they would be nuts to pour money into Ballard once again.

      I actually happen to think that Ballard will vote yes for ST3 quite heavily, in excess of just about any other sector of the region. But in the case it didn’t, the chances of it getting good treatment in the next round are slim.

      1. Exactly. Which is why Kirkland got squat in this round. Because a couple dozen people in green shirts made a lot of noise and Kirkland City Council, Mayor Amy Walen and Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold all blinked and made it clear to the ST Board that the city was not strongly in support of the proposed ST3 package. So while Kirkland City Council shuffled their deck chairs after the ship was already under water apparently believing they would actually get something out of ST3, the train moved forward to Issaquah.

        While my kids live in Kirkland and I really wanted Kirkland to get good HCT, I can completely understand the board’s decision to stiff Kirkland (the only thing Kirkland got was a fwy interchange and a Link station that is actually in Bellevue and really only serves commuters from farther east going to Seattle). You propose investment in the places that you think will help pass it.

      2. A revised ST3.1 of West Seattle light rail and nothing for Ballard would be as popular as the original ST3 streetcar proposal for Ballard as well –DOA (with Seattle Subway leading with torches and pitchforks).

      3. I agree that a smaller package is less likely to pass, which is why I think it’s ST3 or nothing. But our evidence that something else is “DOA” is based on comments from highly committed people, and may not reflect the electorate at large.

      4. Martin, I think you’re right to take this discussion beyond present local divisions, and their politics. Because the driving force for just about every change in the Sound Transit service area is an economic situation forcing so many people to move.

        For me, Ballard’s maritime industrial area now loads logs on ocean-going freighters, and its boundaries include the State Capitol (sort of a containment dome, like Chernobyl) and the Thurston County Courthouse.

        So it might be time to do some research on how many voting districts outside the service area are getting increasingly populated by former residents of places similar to Ballard. Which my rear view mirrors indicated was a completely different voting district from my last reserved parking space.

        One effect of this unprecedented dynamic situation throughout its entire lifetime is that politics will become a lot more complicated and fluid than for any previous transit effort. For unforeseen difficulties and opportunities both.

        Meaning, though, that engineering considerations might dictate the framework of the system. As has really been the unacknowledged case for a very long time.

        Glen, this last summer I walked the “No Man’s Trail” several times from Kirkland Library south, with the last two walks to Bellevue, one down Bellevue Way and the other along its still- freight tracks eastward and then southward from South Kirkland Park and Ride.

        I’ve read that for grades and curves, bicycles and trains “look at” the land the same way. With some serious landscape architecture, we can create a rail line that will improve the value of every property it passes. But trains will have to be size and speed of the South Lake Union streetcars.

        I’m not sure the trains were ever double-tracked past the now-disputed properties. But whatever the car size, the real problem starts at the Park and Ride- meaning several stories above it. I think a passenger elevator to the trail is already in the works.

        Following the freight tracks could put a train in Downtown Bellevue in three minutes. But no place worthy of a station between. And turning south would possibly require a cliff-side elevator for the trains- often done in mining country.

        Or a very neighborhood-unobtrusive ramp either over the freeway intersection to 112th, for street running into Bellevue. Best ridership might be reserved center lane on Bellevue Way itself. But that trail will never fit any transit called “Rapid.”

        What you can have is a streetcar in no way hostile to bikes. Of which it could easily pull a flatcar full of racks. Kirkland will have the kind of streetcar line often seen in Europe. Park-setting service the locals will enjoy riding. And will also make Kirkland a travel destination.

        This project’s length of time is on its own side. House-front signs have been known to change content when a house changes inter-generational ownership. And like a large sailing craft, strong headwinds and currents can improve handling and increase speed. Don’t give up on this one, Glen.

        Mark

      5. @Glen: The Kirkland City Council was behind a BRT plan. Sound Transit wanted only LRT. Hence why the council did not back the ST plan. As has been discussed here many times, there are substantial issues with a CKC-only LRT. Even LRT with a deviation into DT Kirkland has issues, namely dealing with the sprawl of Kirkland.

        Yes, if the Save Our Trail group hadn’t been around maybe ST would have listened. But it was the fault of everyone, not just the council

      6. David, that is not completely true. Yes KCC was in favor of BRT. But it was pretty clear to everyone (even this blog I believe, or perhaps it was Seattle Subway) that saying no to LRT meant ST Board would be unlikely to invest much,if anything. And there were a heck of a lot more people in Kirkland who wanted LRT than who wanted BRT. It’s just that the ones who were against LRT had green shirts and were sitting on the dais in city hall council chambers (the latter seemed to be influenced almost completely by the former). So as a result the whole city of Kirkland got the predicted middle finger while Issaquah, which is much harder to defend for LRT investment, gets LRT.

      7. Glen, I don’t know if more people were in favor of LRT (I’m guessing most people said “ooh, shiny trains!” as opposed to having a reasonable debate), but I feel like ST3 has been a long process of “we know this proposal is bad, but it’s better than nothing so full speed ahead”. Here you’re applying it to the KCC. If anyone should be able to influence the decision it would be them, but you’re just saying they should have rolled over and gone with whatever ST wanted. That’s not the way this process should have worked and it’s a big reason why I’m against it. If we’re going to spend all this money, it should be done right, not because trains are shiny or because someone on the board lives in a certain part of town.

      8. Explain “done right” OK?

        A lot of people have jobs at Paine Field. A lot of people board transit at Everett Station.

        A lot of people have jobs & homes between Tacoma and Seattle.

        A lot of people have jobs & homes in the Eastside.

        So tell us what “done right” is. Go ahead, floor’s yours.

      9. Joe, for “done right” my primary concern is East King. That’s where I live (near Brickyard) and where I work (Redmond). There are 4 projects here. 522 BRT is a good, cheap project. But it’s cheap and it’ll eventually get done even if ST3 doesn’t pass (especially since the cities have already done huge parts of it). The extension to Redmond downtown is good. DT Redmond actually looks like a walkable city and they don’t even have light rail yet. Plus it’s likely to get done with ST2 funds anyway. Those two projects account for 1/3 of the cost.

        Then there’s 405 BRT. That’s the project I’d actually use most of all, yet I see no value here. We get more P&Rs (which will never drive the demand that is needed), we get fancy signs and waiting areas, and we get off-board payment that’ll save a few minutes at every stop. What we don’t get is access to downtown Kirkland or any even semi-dedicated ROW north of Totem Lake.

        Lastly, there’s Issaquah Link. Yes, some of its stops might be good (the ones in Bellevue). But Issaquah has a smaller population than the projected daily ridership of the Ballard-DT line. The area that will be served is currently a collection of strip malls. Yes, it might get redeveloped. But it’s equally likely that development will be sporadic. Just take a look at Totem Lake. So, please explain to me why we are spending $1.8B on this.

        What could actually be done? RossB has done a lot of work on this, but basically investing in BRT with fully dedicated ROW where needed would serve more people and have higher ridership than the current projects. Heck, even LRT on the CKC would have made more sense than Issquah LRT. The current projects cost too much for too few riders. I can’t vote for a design where 2/3 of my money is being spent on bad projects.

      10. Thanks David, because I know absolutely nothing about “East King”. My vigor, my passion is in finally seeing more transit around Paine Field – and hopefully better transit for those Everett Station to Seattle & Sea-Tac runs I have to make.

        You got me. Good. Congrats.


      11. “I love* how you imply Ballard should be punished for voting No”

        “Punishment” doesn’t enter into it. Rational decision makers will have to craft, in 2020 or 2024, a package that can pass, and do so with less resources. If it’s clear that Ballard will net very few votes unless the investment is even larger, while (in this hypothetical) West Seattle offers great return on investment in terms of votes, they would be nuts to pour money into Ballard once again.

        I actually happen to think that Ballard will vote yes for ST3 quite heavily, in excess of just about any other sector of the region. But in the case it didn’t, the chances of it getting good treatment in the next round are slim.

        Kyle has a point. You imply that if an area doesn’t enthusiastically support a project, then the area simply doesn’t want that project. That is absurd. It is quite possible that the area has looked at the package a whole, and decided it isn’t very good.

        For example, I have fought hard for a station at NE 130th. This station will benefit me, and the people who live near me immensely. But I will vote against ST3 because I believe the overall proposal is very bad. If many of my neighbors come to the same conclusion, should ST remove the station? Of course not. It just means that a lot of people around here think the project isn’t worth the money. It means we are going against our own self interest, and voting our conscience. This is what we, as citizens, should do.

        Do you really think that people will vote their self interest with ST3? It won’t reduce traffic (as everyone knows) and very few people will actually see an improvement in transit outcomes. My guess is the only way it passes is if overall support for transit is high and people think this is a good package. Simply moving around the lines won’t help that formula in the least. But suggesting something that is more cost effective could.

      12. If not their specific self interest, then the interest of their immediate community. We’ve seen this in endorsements by various city councils, including Deborah Juarez: if there’s a big rail project there, they’re for it. If not, they’re against.

        I like 130th st, but if they’re scrambling to find the votes to build something, and 130th can be sacrificed for something that will get people to vote yes, then it isn’t so important that I’d hesitate to do so.

    3. “If Issaquah or Tacoma or Ballard don’t turn out to vote for ST3” … “I love* how you imply Ballard should be punished for voting No on an initiative that prioritizes investment pretty much everywhere else.”

      It’s just rhetorical balancing. When I’m saying something I sometimes say two lukewarm and one pro area. Of course Ballard will vote yes heavily, it has been demanding rail since at least 2000, and there are tons of people in both Ballard-Fremont and the 45th corridor who think cities should have high-capacity transit, preferably in their area, but at least in some areas. The idea that more than a tiny fraction of them will vote against ST3 because it runs Ballard-downtown rather than Ballard-UW is absurd. People in Wallingford are closer to U-District Station so it’s less critical for them than it is for Ballard, and they’re a distant third in population anyway.

    4. Remember that Ballard and West Seattle were the two areas that were expecting the monorail, and they’re also the west half of the city. The momentum from the monorail is IMO the main reason those two were chosen. West Seattle’s political advantage comes in more if they have to choose one or the other. An earlier draft had West Seattle light rail and a Ballard streetcar, that’s when STB blew up and some five hundred comments said that’s unacceptable. But if the budget is smaller and they have to choose one or the other, the fact that so many current and former councilmembers and mayors live in West Seattle will still be a factor, even if West Seattlieites don’t show up to vote for it. If you want a “better” network, there’s the initiative process. Wait, that didn’t work so well last time. Or the time after that (Monorail II).

  2. I’ve posted about this before, but the heavy regressive taxing isn’t necessary (the peers build out light rail without it), and expansions of lines (hello TriMet’s Orange line!) don’t require sales taxes, car taxes, or property taxes. Any ST3.v2 should focus more on fare-revenue backed bonds (the ridership already exists, and TIFIA loans backed by that security could be used), state and federal grants (including grant anticipation notes), and LID financing (let those who benefit from nearby stations help finance it) all could be used. None of this is unusual — the heavy regressive taxing for transit here is what is unusual.

    1. – “The peers” have legislatures that have given them better funding tools
      – More bonding would require a 60% supermajority to pass thanks to our state constitution. There is no way that a different tax structure will make up the 10% of extra votes needed for such a package to pass.
      – The plan already assumes federal grants. As for state grants, it is in fact the policy of the Washington State Legislature to extract as much money as possible from Sound Transit, rather than to give it grants.
      – Property tax is not regressive.

      1. Martin: The state legislature already has provided Sound Transit with authority to create LID’s (local improvement districts) and issue bonds secured by the assessments, and issue fare-revenue-backed bonds. No new statutory authority would be needed, and there wouldn’t be any “supermajority” vote required for the board to use either of those funding sources. The fact is that Sound Transit’s board never asked the state legislature for state grants, and given how the power in Olympia rests with Puget Sound area democrats that shouldn’t be a tough ask for it. Property taxes only are small part of the financing picture, but they do impact homeowners of modest means more than corporations — corporations simply pass along the tax costs to customers, something households can’t do.

      2. Power rests with Puget Sound Democrats? I must’ve accidently transited in from a timeline where turncoat rural conservadems have held the reins forever.

      3. Exactly. Loyal state Democrats (minus the DINOs) haven’t been as pro-transit as we’d wish because they still believe in highways, but they’d get a lot of other things done if they were the majority in both houses.

    2. Peers building light rail without ST level taxing are getting significant subsidies from their various state government budgets. ST doesn’t get any support from the state budget, and probably never will. Others also aren’t building our level of grade separation, or our level of capacity (i.e. 4-car trains).

      As for regressivity, the funding sources ST is using are the funding sources the state legislature has deigned to allow them access to. Until the legislature allows them a more progressive funding method (i.e. never), they will use the only tools they have.

      1. “the funding sources ST is using are the funding sources the state legislature has deigned to allow them access to”

        Not true: see my comment above for examples of other existing funding sources the board has chosen not to use, which are progressive. To that list you can add the employer tax which the board also has so far refused to utilize.

      2. Honestly, looking at some transit projects from other states, the fact that the state could care less about our transit is a feature, not a bug

      3. There is that. The state created Sound Transit so that it wouldn’t have to get involved in deciding on and providing Pugetopolis regional transit itself. What would a regional transit network approved by the legislature look like? The spine and only the spine. If they went cheap it would just be Sounder, and for the Eastside push Sounder around the lake via Renton. If they went more expensive it might be another heavy rail network but bypassing the “minor” neighborhoods — Capitol Hill, Rainier Valley, Roosevelt, and Ballard, where “not many commuters live or work”. Shoreline might get a station because it’s a separate city.

      4. Mike;

        With that general view, I don’t want the state legislature trying its hand at transit planning. Their transit grants are only intended to link counties to counties. The ideal of more Sounder really isn’t cool to me – there’s a large cost per rider plus no real attempt through concessions to reduce that subsidy (unlike Amtrak Cascades).

        Joe

    3. “As for state grants, it is in fact the policy of the Washington State Legislature to extract as much money as possible from Sound Transit”

      Case in point, ST3 has an anti-grant.

      Washington is one of few states that don’t give any state funding to local and regional transit agencies. The grants are a way to fill some of that gap, but it’s only a tiny fraction, ant it lets the state pick winners and losers on projects. And if the state picks winners and losers, it means exurban and rural areas get more than their share of benefits. I don’t remember the details but it was something about transit projects and their sales tax exemption, which was seen as making the gas tax unconstitutionally fund transit, and the correction blew a hole in the education budget, so the state raided a chunk of the ST3 tax revenue to fill the hole in the education budget. So most of your ST3 taxes will go to transit but a bit will go to education.

      1. “more than their share of benefits. I don’t remember the details”

        There’s a sentence missing there. The first part is about Washington vs other states. The second part is about the anti-grant.

    4. TriMet Orange Line used as an example:

      Oregon has a Public Transit division at the state level. This helps with certain things.

      At the same time, they didn’t provide that much support for the Orange Line. It was an assortment of funds from an assortment of sources. Two counties, two cities, state, and various other sources. It all adds up.

      The Orange Line could have been built 10 years ago if it had passed at the ballot box 10 years ago, rather than the tangle that was needed to ultimately get it built.

      1. Yeah and I gotta say speaking of the Trimet MAX Orange Line having walked across the Tillikum Bridge recently ( https://www.flickr.com/groups/tilikumcrossing/pool/ ), it’s an awesome piece of kit. Frankly Trimet needs another such bridge.

        That said, considering Trimet’s problems – like too much rail transit at-grade – I kinda like how Sound Transit has silo’d itself from too much pressure from outside the Sound Transit district. Also I think after many STB comment threads it would be impossible to otherwise cobble together the funding for light rail considering so many Seattle-firsters versus the rest of the Everett-Seattle-Tacoma megalopolis.

      2. Too much rail transit with grade separation is never enough grade separation.

        (Early this morning some drunk managed to get their car stuck on the MAX line along Interstate 84 at the 82nd Avenue bridge. Everything got disrupted for hours.)

    5. I can imagine no funding scheme more regressive than depending on farebox revenue.

      Regardless, since farebox revenue comes in well short of 100% recovery on operating costs, that doesn’t leave much to cover capital costs.

  3. After the 2020 Census, reapportionment will shift power to Puget Sound more. A redo in some form would be very likely if ST3 loses, especially after 2021.

    Given the growing multi-operator funding trends already shown in ST3 and operating coordination needs and inconsistencies between some cities and different operators – along with fiscal watchdog issues, I think that a separate transit funding agency is inevitable. An ST3 failure would speed up that inevitability.

  4. I’m voting “no” because of the proposed timeline, that’s a pretty macro-objection, and I think one that will have significantly more impact on the results than any “marketing budgets and email address management.” Seems pretty shortsighted of ST not to have a plan B

    1. If you’re voting no because of the proposed timeline, then you are voting *for a longer timeline.* There is no possible way that you get any single one of the ST3 projects more quickly if this proposal fails. But if it passes, that opens up the chance that we get federal money and city planning rule changes to accelerate project delivery by several years.

      1. This. A “NO” vote is a vote for 4-8 years of delay. Rest assured that if ST has to go back to the voters in 2020 or 2024, your personal pet project will not be delivered any faster.

      2. Exactly guys. When I heard BRT for Paine Field went down in flames, I had a sleepless night. I had to decide whether or not I was going to support ST3.

        For me, it came down to having high-capacity transit or the status quo. Being I’ve made no secret of my angst and upset at the status quo, I decided to back ST3. Besides, I like light rail – I just want light rail to work out.

        Guys, ST3 isn’t a perfect deal here. The Sound Transit Planning Staff and contractors have done an incredible job with what they got. But when we have professional politicians on the Sound Transit Board and not transit advocates on the Sound Transit Board, what do you expect? Take the deal, it’s the best one available and a lot more light rail – oooohhh lllaaaa!

      3. The timeline is not really a big problem for me, but it does factor in to whether I can overlook the deficiencies in ST3. My main issue with ST3 is that there is no project that is very exciting to me, a few (mostly cheap ones) that are somewhat exciting, and a most of them I simply don’t like. If the ST3 timeline was 15 years, then I could reasonably expect ST4 in 8 years or so and would perhaps be willing to overlook what I don’t like about this plan. It’s only a 4 year delay over sending ST3 back to the drawing board. But with ST3 being 25 years, ST4 won’t happen for another 16 years most likely. I’m willing to risk sending ST3 back to the drawing board and getting a better plan in 4 years rather than waiting 16 years.

      4. David,

        What are these other projects that would excite you, and why would you expect them to leapfrog ahead of the current project list if there were an ST 2.5?

        If you keep your better project list a secret, ST certainly won’t know what you want.

    2. There’s no hurry for a plan B. It’s not like it has to be decided in 2017. Even if ST starts from scratch after the election (i.e., going back to the 2014 corridor studies) there’s still time to put something together by 2020. (And there’s no point in running it before then, until liberals start voting in non-presidential elections, because that’s an automatic 10-20 point loss right there.)

    3. Voting no because of the timeline is the silliest reason to vote no. In addition to what Robert said, there’s really nothing realistic about getting significantly faster than ST3 anyway. People like to make ST3 seem like a big train line that won’t open until 2041, and that’s simply not true. While it is true that every project won’t be complete until 2041, that’s only if you live in Issaquah (and if you do live in Issaquah, you are kind of lucky to even be getting a light rail line at all, and voting “no” won’t magically reprioritize Issaquah higher.) If you live in Federal Way, you get light rail in 8 years, not 25. If you live in Tacoma or West Seattle, you get light rail in 14 years, not 25. Ballard takes longer because building a second tunnel and good grade-separated transit through dense parts of Seattle just takes a long time. There’s nothing unreasonable about the time to Ballard (which ST did its best to reduce in subsequent drafts of ST3), it’s just the reality of the situation.

      And by having ST3 now, Sound Transit is saying that they can get these projects built as quickly as humanly possible if they can start next year. If you want these projects to be built faster, then I encourage you to vote yes on ST3! Because physics, engineering, costs vs. quality, and relative project priorities are not going to get any better if you vote no.

      1. Also, if you aren’t excited about the current project list, the sooner they get built, the sooner ST can move on to the projects that do excite those making the better-project-list argument (without having actually produced a better project list).

      2. Hey, please stop bashing us for not producing a better project list. Numerous better lists have been produced, posted on this blog, and discussed in great detail.

    4. If you assume that this is the best possible plan for the region, then voting against this proposal because of the long timeline does seem silly. But if you believe that something cheaper could be just as effective (or most effective) than the timeline is perfectly valid reason to reject this. Keep in mind, one reason the timeline is so long is because of the size of the projects and the bonding authority. As the bonds get paid off, more money becomes available, and projects can be built faster. This explains why the best, most important project (Ballard to downtown) is built after other projects. It is more expensive, and we need to wait for the bonds to be paid off.

      Which means that is it quite likely that we can build something better, sooner, if this fails. For example, Ballard to UW is without a doubt cheaper, and arguably better. Same with the WSTT. Either could be built sooner if we passed another proposal in a couple years.

      1. “This explains why the best, most important project (Ballard to downtown) is built after other projects. It is more expensive, and we need to wait for the bonds to be paid off.”

        True but not the whole truth. Ballard depends on the second downtown tunnel, which is another expensive project., West Seattle can terminate on the surface in SODO until its tunnel is ready. But Ballard would have to terminate at Interbay, and that would be uselless because people would have to transfer to the D and that’s where the D bogs down.

      2. I agree, Mike. To be more precise I should have said “Ballard to SoDo” instead of “Ballard to downtown”. Either way that is the best project we have, but it will be done after cheaper projects (because of the bond situation). If we had other, better, “cheap” projects (instead of West Seattle to SoDo rail) than those could be done before either.

  5. Here is what will happen if ST3 fails:

    1. No new package until 2024 at the soonest. The state legislature will be focused on McCleary K-12 public education funding for the next two years. Given the tax increases needed to achieve that, they will be much less inclined to put another proposal to Puget Sound region voters so soon after that – and so soon after ST3 failed. So that means 2024 is the next realistic window, and that means it’s going to be hard to see any new rail lines in the Seattle area before 2040 or so.

    2. Only one new line in Seattle – if that. The ST board is made up of suburban elected officials. They put Ballard and West Seattle into the package on the belief that it would attract Seattle votes to help pass the package. If that doesn’t happen, then it is very unlikely that a future package would include rail to both Ballard and to West Seattle, as there would be pressure to put more money in the suburbs, even if that package is delayed to 2024.

    3. Much less grade separation. There will be a desire to scale back costs and that means more BRT. And you’ll then see BRT creep, as you always do, which means fewer dedicated rights of way. This is true even if the package is delayed to 2024.

    Basically, ST3 is the only chance we will have for the next ten years to build a major expansion of rail in our city and our region. There’s no second plan waiting in the wings that addresses everyone’s minor quibbles. It’s win or go home. So we have to win, and then if we want improvements to ST3, we pursue that after we’ve helped deliver it to victory.

    1. 1. It’s not that far out. ST2 is a 15-year program, meaning some projects finish in five or ten years and the last one finishes in fifteen years. With ST2 finished to KDM, Federal Way would come really quick because the EIS is almost done. Downtown Redmond is also short. Tacoma is an inexpensive elevated extension on highways and Pierce has already saved up substantially for it. It’s more that Seattle won’t be quick because everything requires tunnels. I’m assuming Everett would be truncated to 164th or 128th and East King would be rethought.

      2. That’s a serious risk. ST might go even more suburban-heavy. The budget was raised from 15 to 25 years because Snoho insisted on Everett with Paine and North King insisted on both West Seattle and Ballard. The others could have gotten their top priorities within the 15-year budget. So if ST scales back to 15 years, that’s what we’ll likely see again. If voters see it as “it’s $54 billion because of Ballard and West Seattle”, then that will be bad.

      3. More BRT is likely. If ST can’t reach Everett and Tacoma and Issaquah with Link, it will have to use BRT for them. But I don’t see more surface light rail. It died because everyone hated it when they were designing the segments: they want 55 mph not 35 to be competitive with cars. The only way it might resurface is that Westlake-Fremont-Ballard streetcar.

  6. Well against my counsel you’ve done it Martin, you’ve opened up the ultimate “What If”. I’m sure you’re going to like my response as much as I like this article.

    First, I think Abigaileak – “email address management” – is a serious issue to any civil libertarian. It’s not reason to vote down ST3, but it’s a serious issue to those demanding to inquire if we can trust Sound Transit. Just wanted to clear that up.

    Second, I think ST3 v 2.0 is going to mean a lot of great staff – and I acknowledge STB Comment Policy here – are going to be gone. Some transit idols of mine, to be quite honest, are going to leave – and there will always be this doubt if it was voluntary or a firing. Yeah, this is a confidence vote in Sound Transit – and you can thank Todd E Herman for leading it that way.

    Third, I am concerned that the state legislature has made the implied threat and one state legislator came out and said it – Rep Jesse Young – that if ST3 fails this fall, ST3 taxing authority might be hijacked for education (or as I prefer the educational industrial complex). We have to get ST3 passed to stop this. This is as they say in sports “do or die” or as I prefer “play-offs”. Whether we like it or not, most of the anti-ST3 folks have latched onto this myth that ST3 is a threat to education funding. Well the reality is as per Washington Policy Center’s Liv Finne, “Justice Owens pointed out the weakness of the court’s position. If the justices try to close the schools, said Justice Owens, the legislature would simply re-open them. If the justices order tax increases, the legislature would simply restore lower rates. The most revealing statement came when she said the legislature could even change the education plan “from being a Cadillac plan to a Ford plan.” She meant the legislature could simply change the state meaning of “basic” education and fund it at an appropriate level thus, by definition, fulfilling the court’s McCleary standard. … The justices know that if the legislature decides to change its education funding plan, the court must accept the new plan.” Basically folks, the state legislature can do whatever it wants in regards to education funding…

    Fourth, as to an elected Sound Transit Board – I have made clear to all, including Mrs. Frost in person that if there is talk of electing a Sound Transit Board, then all transit boards should be elected. All. I agree with Mrs. Frost that, “In fact, a majority of the members are picked by the Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive, Dow Constantine. This structure of appointment versus popular election shields the Board and the Sound Transit staff from direct public accountability.. … Individual taxpayers should have a voice in electing and holding Board members, like legislators, directly accountable for how they spend our money.” The problem to me is that every transit board is like this. To serve on a transit board, you also have to have a desire to work on utilities issues, land use issues, First Responder issues, et al. I think too many of us in the STB Commentariat aren’t up for that – me included. I also think most of us in the STB Commentariat are against anything that picks on Sound Transit.

    Martin, I’ve said a lot. I truly hope I was within STB comment policy.

    1. Joe,
      I think you’re generally focusing on the wrong things here. The email screwup probably didn’t change anyone’s mind about ST3, and the other stuff is possible consequences, of which only the education issue appears to be something that we should really be concerned about.

      1) While the email thing was a screwup, the state Public Records Act is heavily biased towards disclosure with very narrow exemptions, and government agencies (obviously) tend to disclose when in doubt. This was a screwup, but nowhere near a “fire a bunch of people” event. I would gently recommend that you read up on the implementation of PRA by agencies and relevant court cases before excoriating ST. The issue is the PRA itself, not ST.
      As I said above, this probably didn’t change anyone’s mind. Those who support ST3, strongly or not, don’t care because it doesn’t matter to the plan and execution. Those who don’t support ST3 either already don’t like ST anyway, or think the plan is a bad one and an administrative thing is irrelevant to the faults of the plan.
      2) Yes this is true, but there are a lot of talented people out there. Don’t get too myopically focused on any one or five people on staff. This is true even at the CEO level; Joni Earl justifiably received many kudos for her tenure, but Mike Harbour was a good interim CEO, and Peter Rogoff so far appears to be very good too.
      Also, nobody on staff is going to get fired if ST3 fails. Government agencies don’t work that way. The ST3 plan is fundamentally a political one, not a technical exercise by staff.
      3) You’re giving the Washington Policy Center way too much credit. They’re not the only group lobbying the legislature on education, transportation, and other issues.
      Justice Owens is one of nine justices, and lines of questioning during oral argument don’t necessarily reveal what a particular justice does or doesn’t think. In fact we have no real idea what any of the justices think beyond what’s written in the opinions and orders.
      4) Direct election of ST Board members doesn’t solve any particular issue; it just results in a directly elected ST Board.

    2. Thanks for letting us know Jesse Young wouldn’t try to yank ST3 tax authority if it passes; your last comments implied he would try to do so either way.

      Also, I doubt the legislators can just define basic education out of existsnce. The law would probably go with how a reasonable person in this era would understand the constitutional mandate, not what the state says. It’s up the state to show its definition is constitutional. The original standard was in our terms elementary school, but if the legislature tried to say it’ll fund only K-5 now that wouldn’t fly. But you’re right that the legislature is in a perfect position to say, “What’re you gonna do about it?” I wonder if the federal courts would get involved in defending a state constitution against its legislature. Because as my Canadian friend told me, “If the Prime Minister were to declare a dictatorship, the Queen’s army would come and clean house.”

      1. “I wonder if the federal courts would get involved in defending a state constitution against its legislature.”

        Nope – for better or for worse, federal courts have always deferred to state courts on the meaning of the state constitution and state laws.

      2. Mike, British historians will likely divide almost evenly.

        Was the removal of Steven Harper sacrificed to England’s participation in Middle Eastern affairs at the time?

        Or did The Crown’s lingering memory of some unfortunate nineteenth century Afghan experience lead Her Majesty to send British soldiers into the jaws of an enemy who for budgetary reasons wouldn’t bother to send back the only survivor to tell what happened to his mates?

        Because:

        “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
        And the women come out to cut up what remains,
        Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
        An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.”

        Respect for Rudyard Kipling forbids changing the place name to Alberta.

        Mark

  7. One possibility: it fails for the same reason the first ST2 failed: the region doesn’t want to pay for sprawl-creating infrastructure. If that happens in ST3, we’ll have to look closely at what we get with far-suburban rail. Will our region be better with easy access to the far suburbs, or worse? What will this do to land use, VMT, carbon emissions, deforestation, impervious surface area, consumption, and energy use?

    I’m purely voting for ST3 for the positive land use impacts of a second in-city line, while holding my nose at the parking-heavy Link extension and its increased capacity to move people out of the city. If others in large numbers can’t stomach this effect then this could lead us in another direction for what comes next.

    Could the next Seattle Subway be built without extending the existing line? If not maybe a network of gondolas using Monorail funding (built much faster than anything in ST3).

    1. the region doesn’t want to pay for sprawl-creating infrastructure

      That has been such a negligible part of the public debate so far that I doubt anyone would draw this conclusion. At the very least, you would have need environmental organizations pushing back against ST3, which they have not done.

      1. In fact environmental organizations have gone out of their way to SUPPORT ST3. Here is a list of community organizations backing ST3:

        Community Organizations
        Transportation Choices Coalition
        Cascade Bicycle Club
        FeetFirst
        Futurewise
        Forterra
        Housing Development Consortium of Seattle/King County
        Seattle Subway
        Sierra Club
        OneAmerica Votes
        Puget Sound Sage

        AIA Seattle
        Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy
        Blue Green Alliance
        Climate Solutions
        Citizens for a Healthy Bay
        Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light

        Fair Housing Center of Washington
        Got Green
        Low Income Housing Institute
        Rainbow Center
        Seattle 2030 District
        Imagine Housing

        Tacoma: Downtown on the Go
        Transit Riders Union
        Transportation for Washington
        Washington Bikes

        Washington Conservation Voters
        the Washington Businesses for Climate Action
        Washington Environmental Council
        West Seattle Transportation Coalition

      2. Wouldn’t they have not pushed back for the same reason I haven’t pushed back (when I can control myself)? That the benefits of in-city transit outweigh the costs imposed by sprawl rail?

        It seems to me like the ST2 failure was indeed ascribed to not wanting sprawl-inducing roads. Yet I don’t recall Seattle Transit Blog or any environmental groups fighting it (though it was a long time ago and I could be mistaken).

      3. Matt;

        I take offense to that term “sprawl rail”. Whether you guys like it or not, Seattle isn’t the only place that needs rail. Sound Transit is the only vehicle that has gotten Seattle any grade-separated rail.

        Now if you want to just see more streetcars – aka rail-stuck-in-traffic – please, by all means, take that position.

        Rail to Everett & Tacoma is simply strengthening a megalopolis or “a chain of roughly adjacent metropolitan areas”. That’s Everett-Seattle-Tacoma. The housing is already there, ok?

      4. It wasn’t helpful language, and I apologize. We should debate at some point about whether increasing the capacity of bringing people in and out of our largest employment center has strong sprawl-creating effects, but this probably isn’t the right thread for it.

        Also, it looks like at least the Sierra Club ran an anti campaign against the 2007 plan.

      5. “It seems to me like the ST2 failure was indeed ascribed to not wanting sprawl-inducing roads.”

        It was. ST3 has no sprawl-inducing roads. The number of people who drive dwarf the number of people who take Link and Sounder in the outer areas, and they move there regardless of whether there’s high-capacity transit or not. A lot of them are driving suburb-to-suburb not in Link’s corridor, so they couldn’t take Link even if they wanted to. The furthest Link goes is to the major cities, not out to the boonies. The decision to turn them into major cities and part of the Seattle-Bellevue commute market was made in the 1990s. Now we have to do something sensible with the monster that exists when hundreds of thousands of people live in the outer areas. All-day bidirectional grade-separated transit between the largest cities is one reasonable solution. We also have to remember the people getting priced out of Seattle because of the city’s housing policies. It’s cruel and wrong to force them to the suburbs and make them pay for cars or suffer infrequent, congestion-prone buses in those areas — and then tell them climate change is their fault! If they do their part to get to a major city center, we should do our part in providing high-capacity transit from there. And no handwaving about heavy rail or commuter rail instead; that’s not on the ballot and is politically unfeasable.

      6. There shouldn’t be such a megalopolis, and we shouldn’t be investing in worsening it. To the degree that we do invest in creating such a problem for ourselves, we are not only wasting money, but aggravating our long-term environmental and infrastructural problems. Why are we subsidizing the suburbs by connecting them to our services? Why are we making the suburbs more desirable by making them more accessible? Let them deal with traffic! That’s the cost of living far away. If we leave that cost intact, it’ll help encourage people to live closer to city centers instead, where we actually have a reasonable chance of doing useful things with transit service.

      7. So Mars you would condemn the so-called suburbs of Everett, Mukilteo, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Shoreline, Redmond, Federal Way and Fife – for starters – to less transit service.

        You are a Seattle-Firster and that’s fine. But Sound Transit was based on the hope that the Seattle-centric megalopolis would come together and build a transit net.

        This is a conversation yes we should have had in the 60s-80s. Too late now. Way too late.

      8. I hope that those cities will build themselves lots of transit infrastructure. I think every city should invest heavily in building itself a high-quality urban transit network. I can’t see how else we’re going to make any serious attempt at dealing with climate change.

        I’m sure the regional transit model did seem to make lots of sense in the 60s-80s, back when the suburbs were rising, urban cores were dying, environmental awareness was only starting to take off, and sprawl didn’t seem like such a bad thing. That was then; we have different needs now. Sprawl is very much a problem, and urban density is the solution. Urban cores are redeveloping; the suburban dominance we’ve been used to is on its way out.

        Are we going to keep on building the transit network our parents imagined, or are we going to think ahead, toward the post-petroleum future, and start building the infrastructure our children will need?

      9. Mars;

        Electrified transit – especially electric trains and electric buses to feed the rail lines – are a means towards a “post-petroleum future”.

        Thanks. Please support ST3 for our “post-petroleum future”.

        Joe

      10. Count me as part of the pro-sprawl faction of STB’s readership. As a potential future resident of Seattle proper, I understand the Seattle affordability crisis, and I believe that while making Seattle affordable for all is a worthy aspirational goal, it’s an uphill battle.
        I view sprawl as a solution to this problem. Housing tends to get cheaper the father out into the suburbs you get. And due to the geography of the region, the sprawl is heavily north-south oriented, creating the Tacoma-Everett corridor and making commutes over 30 miles in length commonplace. Right now we have a hybrid system of sorts, with direct service to Seattle as well as local service. I think ST’s direction makes sense. This is actually helped by the geography of the region, since a bus (or train) coming from Everett can efficiency hit other suburbs like Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace on the way.

        Point being, I don’t think sprawl is the evil beast that many say it is. Maybe I’ll do a Page 2 post about it.

      11. Metropolitan areas have a lot of people that travel throughout them. It would be great if Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, and Lynnwood could all build excellent city transit systems. But the can’t all be islands because that won’t meet people’s needs. And the state-given tax structures do not allow Metro, Pierce Transit, and Community Transit to build this high-quality urban transit network. Cutting off people who don’t live within your standards of the urbanist area is not right, and it’s impractical when it’s hundreds of thousands of people. Especailly since many of them can’t help it: they can’t afford to live in the urbanist area, their job requires crossing the boundary, their spouse works in the other direction, they’re devoted to a church that’s in one location, etc. Ultimately the cities need to upzone, and not concentrating on 30-story towers, but on lowrise across a large currently-single-family area. That would convert the sprawl to non-sprawl. But we can’t force them to do it, and in the meantime we shouldn’t punish people who live in it. The peak-expresses to single-family neighborhoods are almost all gone: now the suburban transit is mostly focused on downtowns and urban centers and collection points (i.e., P&Rs). That’s the interim step you’d expect on the way to density.

      12. “Count me as part of the pro-sprawl faction of STB’s readership.”

        Let’s get the definition of sprawl right. A chain of walkable towns along an interurban is not sprawl. A metropolitan area of 3.2 million people where three cities in a 60-mile line have fused into a single job market does not make those outer cities sprawl. Sprawl is low-density single-family neighborhoods and strip malls and cul-de-sacs and isolated office parks. Factoria is sprawl. Much of south King County and Lynnwood is sprawl. Canyon Park is kind of sprawl but it shows some progress: the five-story apartment buildings are surprising density for suburbia but their surroundings are not yet walkable.

        Connecting the largest job centers and most walkable urban areas is a sensible thing to do: it gives a core for the rest to grow on. But we mustn’t equate distance with sprawl. They’re related but they’re not the same thing. Sprawl is essentially a car-dependent area.

        Pugetopolis is pushed further north-south than it would otherwise be because of the Sound and Lake Washington. That in itself is not sprawl; it’s a geographic constraint. That doesn’t say where the natural end of the urbanized area should be, but it implies it’s further than it would be in an area without these constraints. Similarly for the Eastside; it would be closer to Seattle if Lake Washington weren’t there. in fact, if we assume the redlined area would not have been much larger than it was (because the minority population would have been the same size), then Bellevue would not have been much further than Madison Park.

        The economic factor transcends this somewhat. All levels of society built the car-dependent areas, and located jobs without regard to transit access. So people have to cross low-density areas to get to work. The rich can live in dense or sparse neighborhoods as they wish, while the working poor have to live wherever they can find something affordable, which nowadays often means sprawl because the well-off have filled up the dense areas.

      13. Sprawl is when the highway towers over the building.

        Not a perfect definition, but it works most of the time.

      14. The question is: will ST3 increase this car-dependent single family home suburban (and exurban) sprawl or decrease it? I think your vision of walkable cities connected by transit is noble and I support it. But the number of parking spaces being built shows that’s not the actual goal. The goal is ridership. And in a NIMBY world where growing real TOD is tough, ST has settled for attracting drivers to fuel this ridership. In the end you get a larger number of people being able to travel through a congested corridor, which expands how far they can live from work. And forests, fields, and farms are bulldozed to make room for more pavement.

        Anyway, as I said this is a topic for another time. I support the urban piece of this, and some bits of the suburban piece, and I think the positives outweigh the negatives. But let’s not pretend we’re building walkable nodes in the Link expansion. With some exceptions we’re building BART style park-and-rides connected by rail.

      15. Regarding Sprawl:

        Even in ST3, Link is not being built in undeveloped places. Tacona to Everett is already a sea of houses, roads and strip malls. Issaquah is hardly vacant.

        The time to worry about ST3 causing sprawl was 30 years ago. The highways have already thrown development far and wide. The buses can no longer cope with such sprawl as the roads are full of autos.

      16. Wouldn’t they have not pushed back for the same reason I haven’t pushed back (when I can control myself)? That the benefits of in-city transit outweigh the costs imposed by sprawl rail?

        Precisely right. I was talking to someone from the Sierra Club, and he said this exact thing. He thinks most of the suburban lines are a joke, but he figures it is worth it to get Ballard light rail. In other words, he doesn’t think this will cause sprawl, because very few will use this. He isn’t bothered that a region would waste their money on ineffective or inappropriate transit projects (or at the very least, he isn’t bothered so much that it gets him to vote against this).

      17. I don’t mean to pick on you RossB, but rather this argument that ST3 = sprawl.

        According to Wikipedia, “Urban sprawl or suburban sprawl describes the expansion of human populations away from central urban areas into low-density, monofunctional and usually car-dependent communities, in a process called suburbanization. In addition to describing a particular form of urbanization, the term also relates to the social and environmental consequences associated with this development.” Or basically pushing housing to the hinterlands.

        Uh, is Edmonds, Mukilteo or Everett hinterlands? NO.

        Uh, is Redmond or Kent or Tacoma hinterlands? NO.

        Not everybody wants to or even can live in Seattle. Whether you anti-sprawl people like it or not, the place to have this argument is whether or not places like Snoqualmie and Snohomish and Marysville and Sumner should continue to have housing growth – not the Sound Transit district. Geezus.

      18. @Glenn — Sprawl is still happening, and really good suburban commuter rail could increase it. Imagine if instead of a light rail line to Issaquah, there was an express train from downtown Seattle to Issaquah. Now imagine a huge park and ride in Issaquah. Suddenly places ten, even twenty miles up the road become attractive. Preston and North Bend become hot suburban communities (just minutes from the express train to Seattle) along with plenty of places to the north and south.

        None of this strikes me as sprawl inducing rail, because none of this will be very effective. It will still take a very long time to get from Issaquah to downtown Seattle, and the train won’t be running very often anyway. Other places are just a lot farther away.

      19. Zoning and highways don far more to induce sprawl than the ST3 light rail lines will. Snowualmie already has huge housing tracts between the freeway and downtown.

        Sure, the line to Issaquah might make areas further afield more attractive, but the real vital piece is what does Issaquah do with that nice walksble downtown area they already have? Good use of that around their light rail line could actually decrease the tendency for sprawl.

        I’m not too optimistic about it though.

        Walkable neighborhoods don’t tend to spring up around highways though. Light rail is arriving so late on the field that the worst it could do is slightly encourage better density around the sprawl that is already there.

    2. The first ST2? Do you mean the roads and transit measure in 2007? Cause the roads proposed sure would have been sprawl creating infrastructure. ST2 has none of that.

  8. Ultimately, the shape of an ST3 retry depends on the narrative on why it had failed. If most people say it was too big, the next package will be smaller. It might be smaller in scope, with light rail but less of it; or smaller in quality, with lots of BRT on the cheap (and/or surface light rail) in order to serve the same range of communities as the 2016 measure.

    As I said in the “If It Wins” post of two days ago, if ST3 loses it’s not the end of the world. Or even the region. There will still be a Lynnwood-Des Moines Spine connecting the three biggest trip generators west of Lake Washington with a long branch to Overlake via Downtown Bellevue.

    The biggest losers will be South King and Pierce. Neither Tacoma nor Federal Way will get a single-seat ride to downtown Seattle and the airport and further improvements to Sounder won’t be forthcoming for the BNSF corridor cities.

    But the biggest “No” vote will doubtless come from South King and Pierce, so it will be “you made your bed”.

    The most serious question is, what can Seattle do to serve South Lake Union more adequately? There are four things.

    First, buy out the shortsighted profiteers who run the Monorail, add a station between Battery and Bell, and integrate the Monorail into the transit system with normal ORCA transfers. Run trains as often as is physically possible and get new ones.

    Second, give the SLU Streetcar/C Line RapidRide exclusive lanes on Westlake south of Denny, and if possible, move the tracks to the center in order to solve the right-turn problem at Denny Way. Close at least one block of Westlake somewhere south of Amazon to make a “transit mall” in order to remove Westlake as a “through” route for non-transit vehicles. I’d suggest the “block” between 7th Avenue and Lenora. Yes, keep one GP lane for “business access” to and from the alley in the middle of the block, but require a right turn onto Lenora at the end of it.

    Give transit signal priority where it won’t destroy the north-south arterial flows.

    As Ross has proposed, establish a “real” BRT line on Thomas across Seattle Center and through SLU at least to Fairview and then jog over to Denny for the run to Capitol Hill Station. Start it at Smith Cove, but instead of going up Mercer Place, use Harrison up to Queen Anne/First North. Give it exclusive lanes on Thomas from Fifth North all the way through the body of SLU and on Fairview, which is already planned for Roosevelt BRT; there should be no difficulty with lanes on Thomas because it’s not a through street today.

    Finally, to complete a “grid” in SLU, put RapidRide semi-BRT on Mercer Place and then Roy/Valley, again starting at Smith Cove or even possibly at the business district in Magnolia and add a single-lane signal-controlled bus-only overpass or underpass at Aurora. A “single-track” section of one block should not destroy reliability but this keeps the bus out of the Mercer Mess east of Queen Anne/First Avenue North. Continue the line on to U-District Station using Campus Parkway, 15th and 43rd. This would give quick single-seat service between Expedia/Lower Queen Anne/North SLU and the U-District.

    Then, too, there are the “Ballard-West Seattle” trunks that will not get LRT.

    At the north end there are already peak hour Bus-Only lanes on 15th West for most of its length and Elliott between the curve from 15th to Mercer Place. Extend them to Harrison, have the buses go up Harrison to Queen Anne/First North and put lanes on those streets. Ban private-vehicle left or right turns onto eastbound Harrison from Elliott and westbound Harrison from Third West. Then, require cars headed west on Harrison approaching Third West to turn right onto Third West using a narrow right-turn-only lane freed by banning parking in the northside half block to the east of Third West. Make the right hand westbound lane between Fourth West and Elliott bus only so that cars which are heading west on Harrison have to turn left onto or continue across Elliott

    This should discourage auto traffic on this important bypass without having to reserve lanes and get the buses around the lines at the Elliott/Western divide and make the eastbound bus lane on Denny more effective.

    So far as West Seattle is concerned, the City, not WSDOT, owns the West Seattle Bridge and Freeway. It can do as it pleases so far as bus priority is concerned. Eastbound is the only problem, and currently there is a bus lane from about three blocks east of the start of the Avalon Way on-ramp which continues until the Delridge Way ramp merges with it. It resumes about four blocks later over the West Waterway and continues in the second lane from the right over the East Waterway to the point at which the on-ramp from the “Low Bridge” merges with it. At this point it is the right-most lane on the structure because the previous right-hand lane has broken off to become the flying junction to SR99 northbound.

    Soon after the low bridge on-ramp merges the First Avenue South off-ramp branches to the right; this off-ramp was traditionally used by several local-service buses but today is only served by the 21 and 50 plus four peak hour-only expresses. Most CBD bound routes use SR99.

    So, the issues with West Seattle bus service stem mostly from the transition between SR99 and the surface streets of downtown Seattle and the crowded flyover between the eastbound West Seattle Freeway and northbound SR99.

    If ST3 wins most of the non-peak service in the corridor will be handled by LRT, which is scheduled to operate only to Stadium Station for four years initially. Most riders will face a three-seat ride to downtown Seattle, which would drop to two seats once the new downtown tunnel is completed.

    Well, if ST3 fails a two-seat ride to downtown Seattle and use of the transit tunnel to the U-District can still be possible by using the Fourth Street off-ramp from the West Seattle Freeway. The two West Seattle RapidRide lines would continue to use SR99 to the Pioneer Square area and go up Third Avenue. However, the non-RapidRide lines which would have connected to LRT at the Junction or Delridge stations would continue across the West Seattle Bridge to Fourth Avenue, use the off ramp into a short right-hand bus only lane on Fourth Avenue, take a signal jump right turn into the center of Spokane Street then turn left into the E3 busway, drop and pickup riders at the Lander Street stop then U-turn using a new lane to pause in just north of the LRT station west platform. The buses would then turn right at Lander to use the new overpass and use the First Avenue South on-ramp to the West Seattle Freeway.

    Once non-Metro buses are mostly removed from Downtown Seattle, it’s reasonable to put all the non-RapidRide/BRT buses which aren’t trolleys on Second and Fourth and make Third transit and one block only access all the time.

  9. If ST3 fails, then the majority of voters have voiced their opinion. The costs and taxes are too large, the timeline is too long, and the proposed routing and stations are inadequate. The final ST3 package was the result of multiple compromises on routing and station placement. Most of it directed by cities and neighborhood looking out for what they thought were their best interest. Proposed ST3 package would not even make the top 10 choices if other options were presented. Some want any light rail they can get, and will vote yes. Some will vote no, wanting a better light rail solution for the area. A no vote does not mean light rail has no future in the area, it means ST3 is dead.

    1. You’re assuming too much. “The costs and taxes are too large, the timeline is too long, and the proposed routing and stations are inadequate.” Those may have been factors in a lot of people’s minds but maybe not. That’s where an accurate reading of the electrorate comes in, and that’s an imperfect science. But for each person it’s more likely one of these things rather than all of them. Some of them are contradictory: “The costs and taxes are too large, the timeline is too long.” A shorter timeline would cost more, not less. “the proposed routing and stations are inadequate”: that covers at least three or four different opinions. Inadequate as in not enough, or serving the wrong places? Those are two different things.

    2. Case in point: why do people vote for initiatives to reduce class sizes but against taxes for teacher funding? It may be that they want something for nothing and don’t see how the two are connected. But more likely it’s that some people are strongly motivated to vote for schools and show up at one election, and other people are strongly motivated to vote against tax increases and show up at different elections. Even if they’re on the same ballot there tends to be an imbalance: their counterparts who vote against smaller class sizes or for tax increases aren’t as motivated and don’t show up as much.

    3. ” The costs and taxes are too large, the timeline is too long, and the proposed routing and stations are inadequate.”

      Does anyone actually believe that it is possible to build a more adequate system faster with lower taxes?

      1. Well, yes: e.g. move the Issaquah line’s money to the Central District, Lake City, or Fremont. I’d say we could probably improve things even with subarea equity – move the West Seattle line to any of those places.

        The question, sadly, is whether our lords and masters in Sound Transit will deign to give us such improvements.

      2. The question was one of construction efficiency; the answer was one of moving lines. There’s no evidence that another American agency could have built the same miles of track for less. No handwaving about Vancouver: it’s a different country with different regulations, different government support for transit, and a different dollar with a different value. Moving the tracks might make them more useful but it wouldn’t make them less expensive unless it eliminated tunnels. But moving the Issaquah line to Fremont or the CD would require a lot more tunnels.

      3. It to mention that Issaquah is hardly going to let its tax money go to building lines in Seattle.

      4. “Does anyone actually believe that it is possible to build a more adequate system faster with lower taxes?”

        It’s the familiar question. Fast, cheap, good, pick two.

        It’s possible to build a more expansive map, and faster and cheaper, with low-grade BRT. Put a bunch of buses in HOV lanes and call it done. So it’s a policy judgment how much one values ‘solving traffic’ today vs building infrastructure that will last.

      5. Back when I was in the defense industry, I thought that with public procurement projects you really only got to pick one of “fast, cheap, good.” I like to think that ST picked good. It’s certainly high quality transit, even if some people don’t like where it goes.

      6. You guys have probably never bought a used car. Believe or not, cost does not necessarily equal quality.

        William is right, but even if we continue with the subarea silliness, it is pretty easy to come up with plans that are better, yet cheaper.

        East Side — Keep the East Link extension to Bellevue, but kill the rest of it. Put that money into BRISK, or BRISK style improvements. Add bus infrastructure as well as bus service.

        North and South End — Very similar. Keep the Sounder investments and put the money into bus improvements.

        Seattle — A little trickier, because Seattle is the one remaining area where density makes rail investments worthwhile. But since ST3 managed to screw up the routing really bad, it is quite possible. WSTT and assorted bus improvements would probably do it. Just that, alone, is better overall (yet quite a bit cheaper).

        Or Ballard to UW rail along with Metro 8 rail (assuming that is cheaper). If it isn’t, start with Ballard to UW rail and start building out the Metro 8 line (from Capitol Hill west). So that means a stop in the heart of South Lake Union (Terry and Harrison) instead of the outskirts (Denny and Westlake). The station would not poach riders from Westlake (and thus be worth the transfer). Another stop at 99 (the same as the ST3 stop) and then you get to lower Queen Anne. That combo right there (Ballard to UW and half of the Metro 8) is likely cheaper, and likely way more effective than what has been proposed. Extending both become very good, very strong future projects. In the case of Ballard to UW, that means extending it west (to 24th NW) and adding 8th NW if that wasn’t done initially (8th is the least important). For Metro 8 it means the C. D. part, which gives you a stop on Madison, at least one stop on 23rd, and a connection to East Link and Mount Baker. Now you have a real network, with crisscrossing rail lines, like a real subway. Bus improvements to the rest of the city fill in the gaps (it would be great to replace the 7 with a train since it is one of our most popular bus lines, but I doubt it will ever happen, likewise with running rail on Aurora).

        When Chuck says ST3 is inadequate, he means buying a rusty, oil burning old Cadillac is inadequate if you want to drive across the country. It might cost more than a tiny old Honda Civic, but it is inadequate. Buy the Honda.

        But prove me wrong. Prove to me, and everyone else that ST3 is the best option. Start from scratch, hire an independent transit agency and run the numbers. My guess is Chuck is right — what ST3 proposed wouldn’t make the top 10. I’m confident the ideas I proposed would.

      7. RossB;

        I think we’ve been talking past each other for a long time when you say for the North keep the Sounder. No, no, no – Sounder North is still a mess. It’s still going by unstable slopes. It’s still got reliability problems. It’s still costly per-rider.

        Light rail will serve vastly more people and I, for one, want Sounder North gone. I want a better alternative. I will take bus over a streetcar and BRT over ST3 any day. It’s how do we erect BRT in the place of ST3 that I don’t hear from people. The entire Sound Transit Board voted unanimously for ST3 and the ST Staff can deliver ST3 I believe. So how you will downshift from ST3 to double-tall BRT is beyond me.

        Respectfully;

        Joe

      8. “Hire an agency and run the numbers”

        What “numbers”? What objective are you optimizing for? Because there’s no single figure of merit for transit projects.

      9. This independent consultant you suggest would immediately look at the history of Sound Transit and notice that the entire point of creating the district in the first place was to connect the big four of Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Everett, so the lines north and south would still be there. They’d look at Ballard-UW and notice that the 100% underground line would cost more than Westlake-Ballard’s mostly overhead line, and the Ballard-UW line would require the second downtown tunnel to be twice as long, going to U District instead of just Westlake. They’d notice that the Ballard line combined with the UW line connects Capital Hill to Lake Union pretty darn well, and a Metro 8 line doesn’t improve the travel time all that much.

        The independent consultant would also notice that the measure needs to actually pass at the ballot box, and would notice that the measure that failed in 1994 was mostly because places like Everett got nothing out of them. They’d survey the public who would universally agree that only getting bus lines is the exact same thing to them as getting nothing. It doesn’t matter how good these bus lines are, the public is apparently smarter than Ross and they understand BRT creep, even if they don’t know the word for it.

        In the end, this independent consultant might omit Paine Field to serve North Everett, build some other eastside project rather than Issaquah maybe Renton, build something other than West Seattle, and use slightly different routing elsewhere (aka 99 instead of 5), but mostly the independent consultant’s proposal would be the same. That’s the simple reality, this proposal actually is based on the various needs of the entire region. Unlike Ross, ST isn’t content to give crap to everywhere outside Seattle.

      10. Martin;

        I think as to:

        …I thought that with public procurement projects you really only got to pick one of “fast, cheap, good.” I like to think that ST picked good. It’s certainly high quality transit, even if some people don’t like where it goes.

        I think ST picked good too. I think ST picked imperfect, expensive and glossy in ST3.

        I think you can do fast & cheap with BRT and taking away a lane of road. Even Todd E Herman said today on the 4 o’clock hour of his show he’d go for that at this point – no small victory. But I doubt ST3 critics with BRT could recruit as many people to mode shift and you will not incubate very much in the way of housing & shopping density.

        At the end of the day, the high price of N where N is ST3 now makes a lot of people rally behind “N-1”.

        Joe

      11. Todd E Herman will never vote to give up car lanes for BRT. All the anti-transit folks say that about BRT when they are arguing against LRT. But if LRT fails and we come back with real BRT, they will be against that too because it takes lanes from cars.

      12. GlenBikes, I kinda sorta agree with you. Notice how even though ST3 has had public meetings since at least last summer there is no alternative, BRT plan.

        My view: I will support ST3 until victory, unless, unless all the sudden state legislators line up behind a plan for massive BRT up and down the Sound Transit district. I ain’t holding my breath and trusting Sound Transit a lot more than legishitters.

      13. What are the chances cities like Bellevue, Kirkland would give up car lanes for BRT. Pretty much zero.

      14. GlenBikes, you needn’t worry about my support for ST3. Because we both know the truth:

        ZERO

        This is N-1 stalking by ST3 opponents seeing they are about to lose that is easy to say & easier to type, harder to come up with even a 30 page white paper on how to get from ST3 defeat to implementation.

      15. GlenBikes;

        The Seattle Transit Blog writers shouldn’t or can’t quote themselves or their colleagues, but I can. So here goes with my emphasis:

        There is a certain type of anti-transit writer whose perspective can be summarized as: “For every agency proposal n, the agency should instead do n-1.” When rail proposals are on the table, such writers often make substantive and seemingly pro-transit arguments for bus rapid transit (BRT) as a superior alternative for less capital cost. When BRT proposals are advanced, their arguments generally shift to either a defense of the sufficiency of traditional bus service, or to a more transparently anti-transit stance that focuses on impacts to general traffic.

        Source: https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/05/19/for-anti-transit-writers-the-answer-is-always-less-spokane-edition/

        Oh and GREAT writing Zach! Yeah, I shouldn’t keep waiting for that BRT proposal with a Kevin Wallace endorsement!

      16. Joe – Please stop slandering us. We ST3 opponents speaking up here have repeatedly gone to bat for Real BRT and rail both. We oppose it not because we oppose transit, but because we support transit and think this will cause a regional loss of appetite for real transit. Ross has presented a coordinated vision of how ST3 defeat might cause ST to reform itself and bring forth a better project. It’s a vision, and definitely not inevitable, but a start to exactly that white paper you’re talking about.

      17. @Joe — For the sake of brevity, I lumped the north and south end together when I said “Sounder and bus improvements”. I should have just specified “South Sounder and bus improvements”, because I agree with you about North Sounder — it isn’t worth investing in.

        But once Link gets to Lynnwood, investing in improved bus service is. Not necessarily BRT (a loaded term for sure) but simply bus improvements. Buses running through the neighborhoods, close to where people live, connecting them to other neighborhoods as well as Link. Ultimately this would lead to better end to end transit times than extending Link.

        Let me give you an example: Let’s say I live on the east side of Silver Lake, along 116th. This is typical Everett/Snohomish County, a mix of apartments and houses on big lots. Now imagine ST3 passes. There is no bus service along 116th, so if you live out there, you are out of luck. But there is bus service that runs every 45 minutes, looping around the side of Silver Lake. This serves serves the South Everett freeway station, not Mariner. So, if nothing is done, even if you live close to that bus line, you have to wait for a bus that runs every 45 minutes, and then transfer again to get to Link. Realistically, you just drive.

        Now how about instead we run a bus along 116th every 20 minutes. It connects to the east side of Silver Lake, but then heads to the freeway and gets to Lynnwood fairly quickly. Keep the other bus route as is, since it connects riders to the mall, but double frequency as well. This provides much faster service for people.

        Of course you could do the same sort of thing if ST3 passes. The bus could connect at Mariner instead of Lynnwood. Except that Mariner is harder to get to (there is no bus only ramp). A bus has to work its way over from the bus lane to the exit lane, then wait through a couple lights. Ash Way isn’t any better, as it only had bus lanes to the south, not the north. I believe Alderwood Mall is no better either. It just makes sense to skip those three stops, and connect directly to Lynnwood. Even if traffic is very heavy along the express lanes, it will be faster.

        But the big problem is money. Light rail is extremely expensive, and can pay for a lot of service as well as infrastructure improvements. For the cost of extending that rail, you can pay for the sort of frequency and additional runs I mentioned. You can also clean up the worst messes that have little to do with running on the freeway. For example, 112th doesn’t have bus lanes. Maybe this isn’t a problem (there are no freeway ramps nearby) but maybe it needs them. There are likely places all over Snohomish County than can use bus lanes and ramps. Instead of spending money on extending rail, we should spend money on that along with more service.


      18. “Hire an agency and run the numbers”

        What “numbers”? What objective are you optimizing for? Because there’s no single figure of merit for transit projects.

        No, of course not. But I would go with what the government used to require for public funding: How much overall time you save versus how much you want to spend (http://www.apta.com/gap/fedreg/Documents/fta_cost_effectivenessbreakpointpaper.pdf): The biggest drawback to using this metric is that it tends to favor suburban projects over urban ones. Someone with a 45 minute commute saves ten minutes, whereas someone with a twenty minute commute saves five. But given the nature of subarea equity as well as the possible projects, I really can’t imagine that metric being flawed for our system. If nothing else, it would give us a good look at how the various projects compare.

      19. “But I would go with what the government used to require for public funding: How much overall time you save versus how much you want to spend”

        Now we’re getting somewhere. I agree that that is an interesting metric, and one that yields some information. But do you think that’s sufficient to cover the breadth of interests in the region?

        One objection I have to it, which is at the core of most of our disagreements about transit, is that it involves average transportation times. One of the benefits of rail that I find most important, and you don’t, is reliability that makes rail much better at 90th, 95th, and 99th percentiles of travel time.

        As BRT, including all BRT options you’ve proposed as an alternative to ST3, generally involves compromises where dedicated ROW isn’t that important, it will obviously come out a bit better in an average-based analysis than a plausible-worst-case one. This is a genuine and legitimate value disagreement that we can’t resolve using rational argument.

        As someone who believes that most ST3 projects are counterproductive, you should probably vote against it. I just want to free you of the idea that Ballard/UW and or Metro 8, is going to emerge from the wreckage as the new vision, unless the precinct maps fit a fairly improbable template and a bunch of other stuff happens.

      20. What are the chances cities like Bellevue, Kirkland would give up car lanes for BRT. Pretty much zero.

        So build new bus lanes along with adding new service. Don’t worry about whether it is BRT or not. Look, here is an example: I have a good friend that lives in Totem Lake. Like a lot of people in the suburbs, he wants to visit Seattle in the evening. Traffic is terrible along 520, and thus he would gladly take a bus. All he really needs to do is get across the bridge. He can transfer in Montlake. Unfortunately, despite being right next to the park and ride and a major focus for transit, he gets nothing out of ST3. He gets “BRT” along I-405, but that is meaningless to him. When he wants to get to downtown Bellevue, it is trivially easy. But he doesn’t want to have to go there just to get to the north end of Seattle. nor does he want to ride all the way through Kirkland on the way there (the current alternatives). Just a direct bus would be great.

        Of course a direct bus (using I-405) would experience some congestion. There is no flyover HOV ramp from I-405 to 520. So build it. Better yet, go with what Kirkland wanted, and add buses on the CKC. Who cares if the bus is BRT or not, it really won’t have many stops, and it will be much faster than the current option.

        Same with Issaquah. Don’t build a railway all the way to Issaquah. Build a busway from Eastlake to I-405. Fix the mess around Bellevue college. All of that would likely be cheaper than what has been proposed, and would save way more people way more time. Leverage what we have (lots of freeways with existing HOV lanes) and add service along with removing the biggest bottlenecks. This would be a way better value for the area.

      21. Both Issaquah and Totem Lake already have direct buses to Seattle, and Totem Lake’s has frequent service.

      22. @Donde — This independent consultant you suggest would immediately look at the history of Sound Transit and notice that the entire point of creating the district in the first place was to connect the big four of Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Everett, so the lines north and south would still be there.

        The independent consultant would also notice that the measure needs to actually pass at the ballot box, and would notice that the measure that failed in 1994 was mostly because places like Everett got nothing out of them. They’d survey the public who would universally agree that only getting bus lines is the exact same thing to them as getting nothing. It doesn’t matter how good these bus lines are, the public is apparently smarter than Ross and they understand BRT creep, even if they don’t know the word for it.

        Nonsense. The first measure failed, even though it had rail to Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and Lynnwood. It failed in every suburb and the numbers for South King and Tacoma were terrible. In contrast, the second proposal had a lot of express bus service for the suburbs, and rail in the city. To paraphrase the team that put together the second proposal, the only reason it passed is because it had lots of bus service in the suburbs, but just enough rail service in the city.

        Look, ST2 serves every region. It connects all the cities. It just doesn’t connect them all with a subway. Building a subway out that far is ridiculous and largely unprecedented (those that have built similar systems have failed to make a dent in transit ridership). The difference between ST3 and ST2 in terms of rail in the suburbs is trivial, even for the cities involved. Very few people in Everett live close to the stations and even fewer live close to the one station in Tacoma. The answer for the suburbs is improved bus service and commuter rail (South Sounder). It doesn’t have to be BRT, just extra service (ST bus service is extremely popular).

        But again, these things can be measured. Do you really think that if they put money into extra service and eliminating bottlenecks that such a system would perform worse (in terms of saving time) than ST3? Seriously? Hell, I could run express bus service from neighborhoods in Kent, even without any of the much needed bus lane improvements,and it would perform better than ST3. There just aren’t many people who live close to the freeway. People will spend more time getting there than they save by spending billions on a subway. Nor are there that many people who go from some park and ride in Fife to some park and ride in Federal Way. It is a commuter pattern, making it a ridiculous choice for a subway.

        they’d look at Ballard-UW and notice that the 100% underground line would cost more than Westlake-Ballard’s mostly overhead line

        What? Are you serious? No one has said that Ballard to UW is more expensive than Ballard to West Seattle, because Ballard to West Seattle requires a lot of tunneling and two new bridges.

        and the Ballard-UW line would require the second downtown tunnel to be twice as long, going to U District instead of just Westlake.

        What are you talking about? Who is proposing a second downtown tunnel to the U-District? That is nonsense.

        They’d notice that the Ballard line combined with the UW line connects Capital Hill to Lake Union pretty darn well, and a Metro 8 line doesn’t improve the travel time all that much.

        Not really (a stop where I described would be much better) but that misses the point. For roughly the same amount of money as West Seattle to Ballard, you get Ballard to UW and at least part (if not all) of a Metro 8 subway. But again, it sets you up for the future, where the Metro 8 line could be completed. Hell, for all we know, the Metro 8 line is the most cost effective line that we could build now. In terms of density per mile, it certainly is (it just doesn’t have the geographic bus connectivity advantages of Ballard to UW). That again is why this needs to be studied and measured. Despite the fact that it is a pretty obvious route, the Metro 8 subway isn’t even slated to be studied, and there is no measurement on any of the lines. We propose a subway line to one part of West Seattle instead. Absolute nonsense.

        Unlike Ross, ST isn’t content to give crap to everywhere outside Seattle.

        ST3 is crap outside Seattle! It is crap to West Seattle! Both areas would be screwed by ST3. The only project that has even the slightest merit is Ballard to downtown, and it simply isn’t as good as the alternatives. Issaquah to Bellevue is crap, compared to spending the money on bus service, let alone bus service combined with bus infrastructure. Likewise with the extension to Everett and Tacoma. A subway line that very few ride is crap. it doesn’t come close to solving the big transit problems for any of those regions, which is not that the bus goes too slow on the freeway, but that connecting bus service (and bus service in general) is too slow, too infrequent, and too far away.

      23. The 1994 measure failed in large part because it didn’t go to Everett. If you don’t go to Everett, you are not serving Snohomish County, period. You then say ST2 serves all regions, apparently with a straight face, when ST2 will have exactly 0 miles of light rail in Pierce County.

      24. ST2 serves Pierce County by bus and peak-hour heavy rail. It might not be as good as light rail, depending on how traffic is, but how can you say with a straight face that it’s zero service?

        And despite your claims, there are many places in Snohomish County besides Everett – including some very significant cities south of Everett which will most definitely be served by ST2.

      25. Sound Transit 101: If there ain’t light rail to a region, there simply ain’t service. Buses and trains that run 5 times a day are a pathetic alternative, that is so drastically inferior as to reasonably compare it with nothing.

        There will be zero light rail in Pierce County at the end of ST2. Pierce County will get nothing without ST3 and will also get nothing is the spoiled Seattle brats, not content to get the two biggest projects in the package, demand cutting of Tacoma so they can get more. ST3 gets Tacoma on board.

        Everett is Snohomish County’s biggest city, by far. You don’t cover Everett, you don’t cover Snohomish County. Lynnwood is only worth consideration because it’s on the way to Everett.

      26. Thank you Donde.

        I am really hurt as a North by Northwestern guy who likes light rail, who donates time & money to transit causes at all of this Seattle snoot-ery towards us. It’s this us-versus-them that allows lowlifes like Donald J. Trump and Tim Eyman to rise to power, hurting ALL of us.

        But then again, when a key NoST3 spokesman spouts so much hate & Trump endorsements, I can’t be surprised where some of these folks are coming from. For example, https://youtu.be/ipSzI5Qep2I . I think it’s about time Maggie Firmia and her people said out and outright that Alex Tsimerman has no authority to speak for or from them… or face the whirlwind.

        Also I know some of you in these comment threads are speaking from legitimate nervousness about what light rail expansion is going do to Snohomish & Pierce Counties. Unless you ask me otherwise, you’re the RossB Caucus going forward. We’re not talking about light rail to Marysville or Lakewood. We’re talking about bypassing I-5 congestion. We have serious problems and for CT to provide more service as some of you “RossB Caucus” folks desire, it’s got to get out of most of the highly expensive 400, 500 & 800 series routes. You can see where these routes go to get to Seattle at http://www.communitytransit.org/busservice/schedules

        Oh and for further Snohomish County political & financial support for Sound Transit, the housing & job density around Paine Field had to be served. Period.

        I will say however the fact TOD was amended into ST3 is also worth noting. That was a win for the genuine transit activists, folks like these ST3 skeptics. We’ll get more people riding transit and that’s a good thing, yes RossB Caucus?

        I’m asking politely: Seattleites, your best interest is keep these chrome train going. Vote YES for Regional Prop 1. Please.

      27. @Donde —


        Both Issaquah and Totem Lake already have direct buses to Seattle, and Totem Lake’s has frequent service.

        Sound Transit 101: If there ain’t light rail to a region, there simply ain’t service.

        Thank you for encapsulating the ridiculous thought process that goes into failed transit projects. Let me just break it down:

        1) An arbitrarily defined region is “served” when a station is within it’s region.

        2) Average speed and direction don’t matter.

        3) The time it takes to actually get to the station doesn’t matter.

        As I said before, there are very few transit agencies in the world that operate this way (if any). Those that come close (e. g. Dallas) have systems that stretch for miles, yet carry very few people. Because, believe it or not, the time it takes to actually get from one place to the other is important.

        So, to repeat my example, imagine it is 8:30 in the morning, and you want to get from Totem Lake to the U-District. Lucky you, there is a bus (the 311) that does not go through Kirkland, but goes directly onto I-405, then onto 520. Despite the congestion at the interchange, that bus will likely get you to the UW faster than if you drove. Now imagine it is 6:00 PM and you want to make that same trip. The 311 has quit for the day, so it isn’t an option. You can take the 255, but it winds through Kirkland, and thus takes a very long time to get to the freeway, let alone Seattle. You can take an express to Bellevue, then another bus from there, but that involves some backtracking. In short, you are better off driving, even if the bus manages to leave right when you want to leave.

        But wait — help is on the way. ST3 passes, and now Kirkland has light rail. You live in Kirkland, so of course, this will solve your problem.

        Sorry, no. The rail is irrelevant to you, just as the rail to Tacoma and Everett will be irrelevant to the vast majority of people who live in those cities. The stations aren’t where people live, in many cases, they aren’t even where people are headed. Even when it is, it isn’t particularly fast. Here is one of my favorite examples: Imagine you are dropping off your honey at the Everett Station, where she will take a train into Seattle for an important meeting. The train runs every 15 minutes, and she can’t afford to be late. Unfortunately, you encounter a lot of traffic on the way to the station, and arrive just as the train takes off. No problem, you get on the HOV lanes (still 2+) and head to Lynnwood. You arrive in plenty of time. In fact, you arrive in time for one of the other trains (that layover in Lynnwood) and she arrives early for the meeting.

        No one has ever built a system that extends deep into low density suburbs (or even high density distant cities) and had it even come close to the ridership of urban subways. If built, ST3 will provide a marginal benefit for a handful of people. Even when the trains are extremely fast and make very few stops (e. g. BART) the end to end time is just too slow. It takes too long to get to the station, and too long to get from the station. Folks drive.

        Now consider the opposite. Imagine the 311 running all day long, and at frequent intervals during the morning and evening. Imagine an HOV flyover ramp or the use of the CKC which would speed up the trip considerably. Now add frequent bus service from various Everett neighborhoods right to Lynnwood. No stopping along they way — just directly there. My friend in Totem Lake takes the bus in the evening and so does the woman who has the important meeting in downtown Seattle. Speed, direction, frequency and coverage all matter a lot more than choosing an arbitrarily designated region and saying it is “served” by light rail.

      28. Everett is Snohomish County’s biggest city, by far. You don’t cover Everett, you don’t cover Snohomish County. Lynnwood is only worth consideration because it’s on the way to Everett.

        Lynnwood has about twice the population density per square mile than Everett. So do Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. The only reason Everett has more people is because they drew the lines around the city differently. Are you really arguing that matters?.

        Rail to Lynnwood benefits more people in Everett than the extension to Everett will. It removes the biggest congestion point. It means that buses that go from Everett neighborhoods will be able to quickly get people to Seattle (indirectly via Lynnwood). The extension to Everett will only benefit a handful of people in Everett — most would be better off with the express to Lynnwood.

      29. An Everett neighborhood bus will get to a station in Everett a lot faster than one in Lynnwood. This means more hours available to have more of these neighborhood buses, and overall faster travel times for Everett, since more will be on the train.

      30. “No one has ever built a system that extends deep into low density suburbs (or even high density distant cities) and had it even come close to the ridership of urban subways.”

        That’s exactly how the current urban subways were built.

        Built by private companies to serve more affluent customers as a way to get away from the maddening crowds.

        Read the history of the NYC Subways.

        “To ease New York City’s demand for rapid transit, city authorities determined to build a subway that would meet two objectives. First, it would quickly and efficiently move people about in crowded Manhattan. Secondly, it would move them out of crowded Manhattan. Subway lines would extend out to vast tracts of undeveloped land, where new neighborhoods could be created, helping to turn a cramped island city into a sprawling metropolitan area.”

    4. Aaach — I failed to close the italics. Let me try again (ignore that comment)


      “But I would go with what the government used to require for public funding: How much overall time you save versus how much you want to spend”

      Now we’re getting somewhere. I agree that that is an interesting metric, and one that yields some information. But do you think that’s sufficient to cover the breadth of interests in the region?

      One objection I have to it, which is at the core of most of our disagreements about transit, is that it involves average transportation times. One of the benefits of rail that I find most important, and you don’t, is reliability that makes rail much better at 90th, 95th, and 99th percentiles of travel time.

      As someone who believes that most ST3 projects are counterproductive, you should probably vote against it. I just want to free you of the idea that Ballard/UW and or Metro 8, is going to emerge from the wreckage as the new vision, unless the precinct maps fit a fairly improbable template and a bunch of other stuff happens.

      The metric should not be the only criteria by which we judge these projects, but at a very minimum, we should know which ones show up best in that regard. For example, if you tell me that Metro 8 comes up just a little bit short of Ballard to UW rail, then maybe we still go with Metro 8 for some other reason (e. g. to support the businesses along that stretch). I could live with that. What I don’t like is the nonsense we have now — arbitrary projects chosen without alternatives studied even along the same corridors, let alone different areas. No metrics whatsoever. It worked OK when the choices were pretty obvious (Northgate to downtown, Bellevue to downtown, etc.). They aren’t now, and the lack of study is killing us.

      As BRT, including all BRT options you’ve proposed as an alternative to ST3, generally involves compromises where dedicated ROW isn’t that important, it will obviously come out a bit better in an average-based analysis than a plausible-worst-case one. This is a genuine and legitimate value disagreement that we can’t resolve using rational argument.

      The BRT plans I propose would have dedicated ROW from the West Seattle Freeway to the Ballard bridge. If you can build a new bridge cheaply, then you could add that, meaning it has just as much dedicated ROW as the rail plan. The main difference is that buses would use it, not trains.

      The other difference (which may be what you are getting at) is that the the trains would run elevated, while the bus runs on the surface. This makes the BRT plan similar to the train on Rainier Valley. Which begs the question:

      Do you think burying the line in Rainier Valley should be a priority? We could, of course, and it would have some benefit. You would no longer worry about the occasional accident. Trains would run a bit faster and perhaps more frequently (if it made sense to). But do you really think it is worth the money?

      The same is true for this line. Assume for a second that instead of the train being elevated on 15th and Elliot that it was on the surface (as was originally proposed). Now assume it costs a couple billion (not a few million) to elevate it. Would you really pay that kind of money to gold plate that line instead of adding improvements elsewhere? That just seems silly to me.

      1. arbitrary projects chosen without alternatives studied even along the same corridors, let alone different areas. No metrics whatsoever.

        No metrics? There were about a dozen metrics – ridership, low income & minority populations served, travel time, TOD potential, greenhouse gas reduction, etc. Travel time savings is baked into ridership models, so it’s there even if it’s not a line-item in the studies.

        The BRT plans I propose would have dedicated ROW from the West Seattle Freeway to the Ballard bridge.

        Now we’re playing Calvinball. Back when we were arguing about West Seattle BRT vs. Rail, you specifically didn’t sweat the lack of priority on the Downtown-to-Junction run. Which is fine, but is far from full traffic separation.

        Do you think burying the line in Rainier Valley should be a priority?

        I think there’s a world of difference between what’s on MLK and a typical bus lane implementation. MLK is reliable and unimpeded something like 99% of the time, and that will continue to be true as the area develops. Bus lanes are frequent victims of turning vehicles, straight-up violations, and the local agency saying “to heck with it” when it gets too hard.

        That said, I would happily vote for a measure that fenced off the Rainier Valley tracks and turned the road crossings into overpasses and underpasses, which I imagine would be easier than burying the whole line. It’s not a terribly high priority given how many dense areas of the city are still waiting for decent transit, and Central Link is leaps and bounds better than everything but U-Link.

  10. Guess we all order our nightmares differently, Martin. Mine is a 9.0 on the Richter scale under a freeway full of jammed traffic when every single pillar fails between Ravenna and Boeing Field. While the Lacey Morrow rolls over and goes down with all hands before anybody can cue “Nearer My God to Thee!”

    An election result I don’t like? Would like best to be thinking about it behind a steering wheel or in a control cab, but this isn’t the only area of real life I’ve had to trade in for a laptop keyboard. Reason I know the alphabet has 24 plan-designators after “B.”

    The one instrument I’ve got to help turn in the transit system we already have into the one we’ll definitely need. Very good chance that joint operations in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel might overnight become long-term enough to be worth making work. Along with a lot of other things in place but not yet turned on.

    And doing whatever I can for the skilled workforce whose every shift puts them in direct contact with enough voters to swing a transit vote. And who belong to a union local able to concentrate their efforts. Reason I go out of my way to aggravate my former colleagues here. I can’t write for the News Review anymore.

    Mark

  11. ST3 seems far short of a generational opportunity. History says we will have other opportunities. Forward Thrust, a King County only heavy rail system, got a simple majority twice (1968 and 70) but failed to achieve the 60 percent majority needed for bonds. It was closely followed by a 1972 vote to form Metro, merge with Seattle Transit, and had a large tax increase Service and capital expanded. After the state provided high capacity transit to a new three-county federated government RTA-> ST, a failed vote in 1995 was closely followed by 1996 approval. When ST2 was shackled with RTID, it was defeated in 2007; it passed in 2008. Both the 1995 and 2007 failures had two similarities: they were on non presidential election years, so had lower turnout; and, they included the weak south Link spine. So, I expect we will vote again. Metro achieved several tax increases. CT is at its maximum tax rate.

    With Sound Move and ST2, there will be a good network. It could be better. It is not surprising there is not a public plan B today. There will be time. There are many projects to work on: the Metro local option to provide service frequency and capacity between today and 2030; improved service to South King County, whose riders need better service today, not in 2030. ST will still have its enabling legislation and taxing authority. Transportation Benefit Districts with different boundaries could be formed. Plans could be improved.

    The statewide package that included the ST3 enabling taxing authority also funded a large expansion of limited access highways in central Puget Sound: SR-520, I-405, SR-509, etc. the freeways are coming; they already won their piece of the transportation pie. One project we could work on is to open those new projects with variable tolling and extend variable tolling to the entire network. Seattle has within its power the ability to provide more exclusive rights of way to transit and not just to short bobby-pin shaped streetcars. Seattle owns the high level West Seattle bridge.

    1. “ST3 seems far short of a generational opportunity. ”

      Did you have too many cocktails at the civic cocktail tonight?

      Otherwise you mind explaining why you believe “ST3 seems far short of a generational opportunity. ”

      Quite frankly more sexy light rail chrome trains to more places racing past congestion is a generational opportunity.

    2. Metro in 1972 was not even near the level of service that failed in 1970. That level of service did not get a vote until twenty-four years later, and it was thirty-six years later before people could ride anything. And even that, some argue convincingly, is not as well designed as the Forward Thrust subway would have been in terms of alignment and stations. If we had built Forward Thrust in the 1970s we could have added lines to Lynnwood and Kent and Sea-Tac at any time, and they would have opened in say the 1990s. Metro in 1972 was probably the same level of transit as the agencies it absorbed. In 1980 when I started riding it, it was very skeletal and milk-runny. Seattle service was less than south King County is now, and south King County was less than Community Transit is now. The population had to live with this level of service, or in most cases they ignored it and drove.

      We do have a fallback that’s better than today. ST2 Link will significantly improve things, and Metro and CT have good long-term plans. However, remember that Metro’s 2040 plan depends on ST3, so if that’s not happening it will have to stick with the 2025 plan which is significantly less.

    3. I agree. ST2 was far more important. So was ST1 for that matter. It isn’t even close. Consider the various pieces that make up a theoretical built out system. Here is how I would rank them:

      1) UW to downtown. Always the most important segment. No surprise ridership is way up when this was added (it was what we should have built first). Nothing else in the state has the combination of high density, high destination, no fast alternative trip combinations than this.

      2) Metro 8 subway. More density per mile than everything but UW to downtown. No fast alternative (no nearby freeway) thus making the trip faster all day long than driving.

      3) Ballard to UW. Serves the entire north end directly or indirectly (via bus). Like the Metro 8 subway, faster all day long than driving. All this with a connection to the second most popular spot in the state (and the rest of the network).

      4) Bellevue to downtown. Enough density and employment to keep the trains busy. If not for the alternative (the freeway) it would rank higher.

      5) UW to Lynnwood. There are plenty of all day trips from Northgate, Roosevelt and Lake City to justify this extension. By extending to Lynnwood, you serve every bus north of there (and east and west) thus serving the northern suburbs about as well as possible.

      6) Rainier Valley. This gets you Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley. Rainier Valley is not the most densely populated part of town and there are alternatives (the 7 remains very popular) but it is still close enough to make for good trip times and was relatively cheap to build.

      7) Airport and southern terminus. The airport is a decent destination, but given the distance, not great. Unlike the north end, there still is no great, obvious transit center southern terminus to serve suburban bus riders. The end result is that Link in the south end will probably always struggle as travel times are only competitive when traffic is horrible.

      8) Ballard to downtown. Not essential at this point, really. A clear step down from the top seven. It would however, provide a nice connection from Ballard to Queen Anne, as well as a quicker connection to the west end of the Metro 8 subway. Interbay comes along for the ride.

      9) West Seattle light rail. Hard to imagine this will ever make sense, as doing it right will mean committing a huge amount of money (for a branching set of lines extending deep into West Seattle). But better than the rest of the list.

      10) Tacoma extension. Slower than Sounder, and a lot slower most of the day than bus service. Likely less frequent than the latter as well. Not that it matters too much. There simply aren’t that many people who want to take trips that take that long, nor are there any intermediate stops worth serving, other than the airport. Spending billions for a station on the outskirts of a low density city to an airport is very hard to justify no matter how great the “bones” are of Tacoma.

      11) Everett extension. Everett is simply too far away, and too sparsely populated to serve well with a subway. Almost all trips will require an additional drive or bus ride. The first will limit the number of people who can take this, while the second will mean that simply connecting buses to Lynnwood is a better (and faster) option.

      That’s how I see it, although I think two through five could be swapped around (they are all about the same). Of course, I wouldn’t build all this rail — I would add busways and other bus improvements before much of it. But if you have to prioritize, and assume a “full build out” of everything ST (and others) have talked about, this is it. The point being that ST3 will pay for the least important set of projects. It doesn’t pay for Lynnwood to the airport. Nor does it pay for Bellevue to downtown. Ballard to UW is still off the table and the Metro 8 hasn’t even been studied yet. When ST2 is fully built out, it will make a huge dent in transit mobility. ST3, for the most part, will be a minor change, largely not noticed except that Ballard and Queen Anne get something, even though neither will get what they really could use (Ballard to UW and Metro 8 subway respectively).

      1. Having suffered through the 44 and 8 a few too many times, I would agree that those are important.

        However, I have also been stuck a few too many times on buses that took far too long to get from Everett to Seattle at walking speed on I-5 as well. There doesn’t seem to be the political will to solve that particular issue, and in fact it seems likely to get far worse with the mess that happened over on I-5 with the HOT lanes.

        You could throw money at almost anything in the Puget Sound region and get decent ridership (OK, the Flying Ortinger proposal is a bit of a stretch – but I’ve been stuck in some pretty massive traffic jams out that way too.).

      2. Everett to Seattle is very slow, but ST2 will make it much faster. The biggest bottlenecks occur between Lynnwood and Seattle, not Lynnwood and Everett. There are also a lot more people making the trip from around Lynnwood than make the trip around Everett. This is true for all cities, everywhere. There aren’t that many people willing to spend an hour on a train, even if it is a bit faster than the alternative. You still have to get to the train, wait for the train, and then get from the train to where you want to go, making a typical round trip of 3 hours. For many, driving either to their destination or to Lynnwood would be faster. For many others, they simply wait until traffic has died down and drive then (making it from Everett to Seattle in half the time of a train).

        It is a shame that North Sounder is as flawed as it is. Some of that is just bad luck. The rail lines were forced to wiggle back and forth to avoid hills, and the result is that it not exactly a straight shot. It will take about as long on either train, despite the fact that Sounder makes a lot fewer stops. If we built high speed rail (and added a stop in Everett) then it would change things. But until then, adding much needed bus service and bus improvements to Snohomish County is the best value for the area.

        As for as HOV lanes are concerned, things could change. The problem with the HOT lanes had as much to do with the promises and implementation as anything. Traffic problems shifted, and when they shift into your area, you scream about it. But at this point, they remain in operation when they matter most. The Democratic governor will win reelection (easily) and it is only a matter of time before the legislature switches back to Democratic hands. ST3 would extend to Everett in 25 years — that is a long time to make similar changes to I-5. Lynnwood to Seattle will remain HOV2 and I think that is fine — once Link gets to Lynnwood, buses won’t go there. I could easily see Lynnwood to Everett extend to HOV3 or HOT. It is rare that the lanes change, but if there really are lots of people willing to take Link, then they will demand it. If not, then maybe it isn’t as big an issue as we think.

        As with all these issues, the first thing to do is study it. How many people ride the buses and 3+ carpools as opposed to the 2+ carpools? Would that change much if the trip was faster?

        Of course there is always the possibility that the state adds new bus lanes, or bus lane skip ahead sections. You have these now, but they are used so that buses can get on and off the freeway. It is pretty easy to see how these could be extended cheaply for miles and then merge back into the main HOV lane. For example, there is one that starts south of 164th, and provides bus only service to Ash Way Park and ride (https://goo.gl/maps/iM95XZFcaTn). Now take that stub end piece (https://goo.gl/maps/Ejn1Bi3s99C2) but extend it north along the center right of way to the next bridge (at 128th). All together, that is about three miles, or a very substantial distance. With only a minor bit of work you can basically have a major busway that enables either an express (skipping by Ash Way) or a local (stopping off along the way). From what I can tell, you could extend that further, under the bridge. If that is the case, it would be fairly cheap to just add an extra lane in the median from Ash Way to South Everett. This could be extended farther south as well (to close to I-405). Basically, most of the bus trip from the Everett to Lynnwood would be in a bus lane, enabling fast connecting or express service without spending a lot of money (just adding lanes in the median). Extending further (to Everett Station) would be more expensive, but that’s a trade-off I would accept. My guess is that for most of the people along that corridor, having good bus service that takes advantage of the bus lanes would result in faster overall times than would the train extension. There just aren’t huge numbers of people close to the stations and for many the closest station is actually the wrong direction.

  12. Frankly somebody needs to dial 9-1-1 and protect the Seattle Channel and Nicole Brand from booze & clowns.

    This is tonight’s civic cocktail:

    #1 Audience question at #civiccocktail, would #ST3 opponents kick out two person carpools to make room for bus mobility…. Maggie F said track performance at 2+ then adapt; more HOV ramps, more lane separation; bus moves most people/veh.

    #2 #st3 opponent Maggie Fimia raises new angle – today’s express buses in HOV slow down passing stopped cars in general lanes. #civiccocktail

    #3 Shefali Ranganathan wins applause by arguing Issaquah deserves quality rail transit.

    Yeah, I think I know who won tonight. Hint: Not the Seattle-firsters and not the “No On ST3” buffoon parade.

  13. Joe: there will be several presidential election years in the generation. It is not sufficient for grade separated transit to pass by congested roadways; the high capacity transit should connect pedestrian centers with development potential. Stations are on alignments; alignments next to freeways mean pedestrians face a huge barrier to movement and development faces noise and local transit faces congestion. Instead of maximizing the Link spine, we should maximize ridership.

    1. EddieW;

      Good points on transit-oriented development. To that, I would say:

      a) So you’d be willing to risk NO ST expansion past ST2?

      b) So you want a different alignment with even more expensive eminent domain?

      c) So apparently buses that can feed the light rail spine(s) don’t matter?

      1. Joe,
        a. The ST2 will be to Lynnwood, Overlake, and Kent Des Moines, or quite large. ST express buses in East and Snohomish County could be redeployed; for example, the service between Everett and both Lynnwood and Bellevue could be much more frequent. I expect another vote.
        b. no.
        c. Yes, they matter; that is one reason stations in freeway interchanges are poor. Buses could serve as part of the spine. ST has already provided center access ramps at Federal Way, Bellevue, Lynnwood, Eastgate, and Mercer Island.

  14. Looking through the comments here and thinking about it some more, I can think of several possibilities if ST3 fails — some of them I would consider good and some of them I would consider bad. What I find interesting is that I see very little that I would consider bad. Here they are, grouped together:

    1) It causes a shakeup in Sound Transit or Sound Transit’s planning. This could range from the demise of Sound Transit (https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/10/05/life-after-st3-if-it-loses/#comment-757427) to simply hiring better planners or having the existing planners start from scratch and measure various proposals (https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/10/05/life-after-st3-if-it-loses/#comment-757808). If you feel like Seattle won’t get the transit it needs from ST3, then a collapse of the agency sooner rather than later is probably a good thing. In other words, it gets us Ballard to UW or Metro 8 subway sooner. If you feel like Sound Transit can provide high quality transit within the subarea equity framework, then a shakeup in the planning would be most welcome. If you think ST is doing the best possible job and managed to come up with the best possible set of projects, then any of these possibilities would be bad.

    2. Sound Transit comes back with the same proposal a couple years later. I think this is unlikely.

    3. Sound Transit comes back with a smaller proposal. There are a bunch of possibilities, some rail centric, some not. Here are some ideas, region by region:

    North End — Rail could extend up to Ash Way. Ash Way lacks the bus ramps connecting it to the north that are found in Lynnwood, but adding those are relatively cheap (since it already has ramps connecting south) and there appears to be plenty of room in the median. It even looks to me like you could add a bus lane from South Everett all the way to Ash Way (and beyond) fairly cheaply. You would want to add bus ramps to Mariner as well, but that wouldn’t cost a fortune. As with all the suburban areas, simply investing in extra bus service and bus infrastructure would pay off. For example, you could do all the busway work I mentioned, but not extend Link to Ash Way.

    East Side – Extend Link out to Redmond. Add a busway from downtown Bellevue to Eastlake or on the CKC. Add additional service to provide something like BRISK.

    South End — Extending Link much farther but not going to Tacoma seems silly. I would guess that people would want to put money into Sounder and bus improvements.

    Seattle — The trickiest area. Slow surface rail is a non-starter. Prioritizing West Seattle over Ballard is a deal killer as well. That only leaves a few possibilities. One would be Ballard to UW rail, another would be the Ballard to downtown rail section. Assuming the latter includes a tunnel to SoDo, it is significantly more expensive. Both might lose votes from West Seattle, as they would get nothing out of the deal (in the short term) although the latter could be seen as a first step towards rail to West Seattle.

    Another alternative, of course, is the WSTT, which would benefit people from a wider area of the city (West Seattle, Ballard and the Aurora corridor) and likely save more riders more time. It also could be seen as the first step towards rail in that corridor. We’ve done that before (of course) and Ottawa is considering that as well. My guess is that like Brisbane, we will find that buses work out just fine for that corridor (http://humantransit.org/2009/11/brisbane-bus-rapid-transit-soars.html). But either way, the option is always available and rail proponents would likely support this as long as it is emphasizes grade separated busways the way that Link has emphasized grade separated railways.

    4. Converting HOV 2 to HOV 3 or HOT lanes emerges as a serious solution. Right now, Link is seen as the alternative. Rather than a 35 minute bus ride from Tacoma to Seattle, a 75 minute train ride is seen as the solution (“let them ride rail”). Without a slow train ride to Tacoma or Everett being seen as the great alternative, folks who are stuck trying to get from one city to the next will exert more pressure to improve the situation. At a minimum, the issue should be studied. How many people ride in two person cars versus ride the bus? Would that change if it was changed to HOV 3 or HOT?

    If I had to guess, I would say a loss would result in another proposal in a couple years or by the next presidential election. My guess is a more bus centric solution (which resulted in the first Sound Transit proposal to pass — http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19961106&slug=2358535) is likely, but it would probably include some rail (e. g. to Redmond). Bus lanes and additional bus service seems likely and will certainly be what the “Smarter Transit” folks will push for. Most of these folks are extremists (opposed to any rail) so even something with a bit of rail is likely to get their opposition (again). But it is far more likely to get my vote.

    1. It seems to me that if it fails, one disconnect it shows is between the local governments that told ST what they wanted and the voters that live in those places. Maybe ST moves to a model that gets better direct feedback from the voters?

      1. Glenn;

        Good point. I will say there were a fair # of public hearings in Seattle and around the ST District – including one overflow one in Everett I attended – about ST3.

        That said; I agree. I think the next step would be 101 public meetings and a directly elected ST Board. But because I equally want to serve on a transit board plus don’t want to pick on (awesome) Sound Transit, make ALL transit boards elected.

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