SounderBruce (Flickr)
ytemounderBruce (Flickr)

Sound Transit 3 is far from a perfect package. For the technically-minded advocate, election seasons must be maddening in their necessary binary framing, with nowhere for the pro-transit ST3 skeptic to turn.  Such purists repeatedly cite particulars as a reason to reject the whole, seeing ‘undeserved’ rail lines outweighing the value of the indispensable ones, or waging modal wars in corridors for which Bus Rapid Transit could be superior if everything broke just our way.

Those of us who share these technical instincts but nonetheless support ST3 are not blind to its shortcomings. Instead, we value its strengths and have made our positive assessment in the context of what we judge as plausible political outcomes.

What would a technically perfect package look like? I could offer a dozen or so principles to which most Seattle urbanists would agree:

  • Maximize ridership with urban stop spacing
  • Maximize reliability with 100% grade separation
  • Maximize capacity with low headways
  • Maximize passenger turnover and balance loads by building many “short & fat” lines  rather than a few “long & thin” ones
  • Respond to present demand rather attempt to induce it
  • Allow differential subarea taxation to match demand with revenue
  • Adopt minimum station-area density requirements
  • Charge market rates for (a very limited amount of) parking
  • Expand the use of Categorical Exclusions to reduce delay related to environmental review
  • Allow transit agencies to develop for-profit housing as a revenue stream (like Hong Kong)

Getting a package with all of those principles intact would mean building new transit and land use governance from scratch, a luxury available in a political version of SIM City but in reality an impossibly high bar. Public agencies do not appear from thin air, but are the product of the minimum mutual viability of competing concerns. Our agencies and their tax authority are set by a state that will not have urban instincts within our lifetimes, and whose legislation is itself the product of endless compromise and favor-trading. Once formed, the agencies must then equitably represent the interests of their taxpayers, all of whom reasonably expect direct value for their money.

To vote “no” on ST3 expecting to remove these constraints is misguided. Human nature will dictate continued compromise, and legislation will continue to come burdened with compensatory goodies that dilute the purity of a package. Any alternative plan would rely on aggressively wresting highway capacity away from cars, a monumental (and likely futile) political task. Though we may wish to speed projects with reduced environmental review or neighborhood input, we have a way of valuing these things when push comes to shove. Some may fantasize about convincing a Tacoman to yield their Spine Destiny to pay for Seattle subways, but I can guarantee you would be shown the door with nothing for your efforts.

So within this pessimistic framing, let’s consider what a Yes vote buys us. Unlike almost any other American city, we will be getting new high quality transit, 100% grade separated, fast, and reliable. It will be built by an agency that, after much tribulation, has learned how to budget and build and keep its word. For roughly $4-5B (in current dollars) of new taxes, spread out over 25 years, Seattle will get a second subway, and will finally unite Queen Anne and South Lake Union as part of one Greater Downtown. After 3 tries, Northwest Seattle will finally have a reliable way of getting around. The masses of money being spent on downtown-oriented bus service will be systematically redeployed to feed Link and provide the crosstown bus service we’ve always wanted but rarely had. With the majority of transit riders arriving underground, our surface streets can have the breathing room for the urban placemaking we need: traffic calming, street narrowing, protected bike lanes, street cafes, and a plausible shot at achieving Vision Zero.

And when it comes to the suburban Link projects, we may wish they were more like commuter rail, or Paris RER, but its their money and I think it’d be wise to be bullish about their development prospects. From climate refugees in our temperate city to the continued boom of the knowledge economy, Seattle’s long-term future is very bright. Critically, however, there is zero indication that housing production in Seattle will keep pace with this growth.

For all their many merits, HALA and Seattle 2035 still treat housing as an impact to be mitigated rather than a social good to be welcomed at every turn. Outside of the UDistrict, our proposed upzones are anemic, bureaucratic red tape is only rising, and half the city is set to be ossified indefinitely as a Craftsman set piece. We’re doing far better than San Francisco when it comes to housing, but it’s still not nearly enough. In this context, radial commuting is here to stay, suburban housing production will necessarily boom and densify, and inter-suburb connectivity will matter ever more. If Seattle won’t welcome all who wish to work here, we need to support reliable, all-day, high capacity, bi-directional transit as a matter of justice.

In this context, ST3’s excesses are forgivable and its virtues are many. We can afford it, there are no other options on the table, and we likely wouldn’t like the options that would emerge if we roll the dice with a “No”. It isn’t perfect, but it’s good, and it deserves your vote.

214 Replies to “ST3 Isn’t Perfect, But It’s Good”

  1. Love this piece. I’m not so willing to give in to radial commuting, as we can absolutely protect against it by refusing to build more capacity outward which encourages people to move inward. But I will accept it in trade for a new subway in the core.

    1. In 1990 the suburban ring was Lynnwood-Kenmore-Bothell-Redmond-Somerset-Renton-Kent-Des Moines. Tacoma, Auburn, and Everett were a mostly separate job market from Seattle. It was really unusual to meet somebody who commuted from Auburn or Issaquah. An exception were Boeing workers who had to drive to whichever plant they were assigned to, and they were often reassigned between Renton and Everett and Lynnwood without much warning. At that time transit was minimal: long hourly milk runs and downtown peak expresses were the norm. In spite of this lack of regional transit, in the 1990s the suburban ring expanded to Everett, Lake Stevens, Canyon Park, Woodinville, Issaquah, Maple Valley, Auburn, Puyallup, etc, and the Seattle and Tacoma job markets merged.

      So no, blocking regional transit does not stop radial commuting. It just makes those areas more car-dependent and resistant to alternatives, and throws non-drivers under the bus.

    2. Refusing to build outward simply raises prices. Building more housing inward will encourage people to live in the center. The urban growth boundary is only a small piece of the puzzle.

      These days, most people move to the suburbs because of cost of housing. Quality of life and schools and whatnot matter, but many many more people would live in seattle, or near HCT to get into seattle, if they could afford to.

      1. Yes, and many would move outward to that cheap housing if the commute was better. There’s nothing wrong with that choice on the individual level, but it adds up to bulldozing lots of forest and farmland to make room for a whole lot of pavement. The amount of pavement added can be correlated with the number of people that can commute from out to in (where most of the jobs are).

        Housing in Seattle is expensive. And we need to make it less expensive by building more of it. Prices are an indication of how desirable it is to live in certain place – if there’s a limited supply, only the richest get that valuable supply. Yet at the same time we limit multifamily housing to only 13% of our land area while using 65% of it on single family homes. That’s a choice we’ve made that significantly limits who can live here (and increases prices accordingly), and is one we can change.

      2. “it adds up to bulldozing lots of forest and farmland to make room for a whole lot of pavement”

        That’s the exurbs! It’s not where Link is going. There’s no farmland in Lynnwood or Everett. The grassland there is either in the highway right of way or is vacant lots that will be infilled. The number of people who will drive from the exurbs to Link is not that many because the exurbs are intrinsically low population: that’s what non-density means.

    3. Matt;

      Radial commuting is just what it is. I really am disappointed that transit advocates want to deny others quality transit to control/influence our lives and a myriad of factors out of our control (housing affordability, quality schools, safe streets, relatives not wanting to live in Seattle or Mukilteo like I do, etcetera).

      1. I don’t believe in transit for transit’s sake. We’re building a city, and land use patterns matter. Transit is a way to build good (or bad!) land use patterns, just as good land use can build demand for good transit.

        I’m fine with people living in the far suburbs. Some of them. But we need to reduce incentives to sprawl, or there will be nothing left of our region that isn’t paved. If you can come up with a better way to do this than our transportation bottlenecks, then I’m all ears.

      2. Matt the Engineer;

        The way I see it ST3 is a response to bad land use patterns and replace them with transit-oriented development. It’ll encourage folks to live close to light rail stations, really improve economic mobility and more. Let’s remember Regional Prop 1 means according to Mass Transit Now:

        Sound Transit Proposition 1 is more than just providing new light rail, Sounder commuter rail, and bus rapid transit service. Proposition 1 also makes sure that all people can afford to live in the neighborhoods around the future light rail stations by:
        • Requiring 80 percent of surplussed land near future light rail stations to be prioritized for affordable housing development.
        • Dedicating $20 million to affordable housing projects.3

        If you want good development, Regional Prop 1 is the way to go. Otherwise we’ll just keep having diesel-powered buses for suburbia, light rail only for cities and a broken transit advocacy community.

        Want THAT on your head? Vote YES for Regional Prop 1 for Warp Speed!

      3. I’d agree with you if the light rail was proposed to Mount Vernon or North Bend. But Everett and Tacoma are populated now. The time to stop the outward growth was 30 years ago.

      4. I hate to argue this too much, because I am for ST3. The pluses beat the minuses.

        But I’d be a much stronger advocate if what you say was true. Unfortunately they’ve included far too much parking to get much TOD. Parking is the death of TOD. See BART’s further-out stations. They’re permanent car oriented transit, with big wide streets and a terrible pedestrian environment. And it’s been 40 years since they were built.

        Real TOD, built for bus connections, bicycles, and pedestrians, complete with good upzones, are something I’d get behind. Hoping for TOD after building parking garages built to last 50+ years, and providing a free parking spot for exurban commuters and a reason to build sprawling homes even further from the city, not so much.

      5. We can’t solve all the region’s problems in one step. Right now we’re dealing with regional transit, and there’s a window of opportunity where the suburbs are willing to do at least one thing right. There will be other times to try to shrink the parking lots and wide streets and to add TOD. Some of ST’s P&Rs are designed to be convertable to TOD when the time is right, by replacing one parking lot or garage at a time. The wide streets around them are a bigger issue that we can’t possibly address at this time.

      6. Matt the Engineer;

        As to;

        I hate to argue this too much, because I am for ST3. The pluses beat the minuses.

        Thanks for your support.

        But I’d be a much stronger advocate if what you say was true. Unfortunately they’ve included far too much parking to get much TOD. Parking is the death of TOD.

        Buddy, I made life hell for one of the chief opponents of ST3 by pointing out to her Arlington Russkie-Yankee eyeballs that she can park at a park and ride, then get on the transit. We can’t have door-to-door transit just yet without some serious federal & state regulatory reform. Lifestyle changes are had to make happen. TOD, a bit easier.

        Real TOD, built for bus connections, bicycles, and pedestrians, complete with good upzones, are something I’d get behind. Hoping for TOD after building parking garages built to last 50+ years, and providing a free parking spot for exurban commuters and a reason to build sprawling homes even further from the city, not so much.

        You and me both. Passing ST3 will be the easy part. The hard part will be protecting the ST3 Quarterback, the harder part will be getting open and catching Sound Transit Russell Wilson’s passes.

        Because the fight will no longer be online as much as in stuffy local government conference rooms and meeting chambers. The fight will have to be long, sustained and sustainable. But we are going to have to fight to use ST3 for good like you said in conclusion. I’m with you. I don’t want to live in a hellhole with bad local jobs and long commutes. Our parents’ generation gave us suburbia and now we have to fix it and undo it as equally appropriate.

        There’s my pep talk.

      7. I’m not too worried about parking remaining around the stations for too long. Washington’s land use laws are nothing like California’s. We have multiple suburban cities planning to change old strip mall districts into mid-rise and high-rise. Even pavement-hell backwaters like Fife.

  2. Great piece, Zach. I haven’t seen a serious attempt at a case against ST3 that takes political obstacles at all seriously in envisioning better alternatives. And thinking about policy while ignoring political obstacles isn’t really thinking about policy at all, it’s playing Simcity in your head.

  3. Good piece, but it still focuses a lot on the light rail investments.

    ST3 also provides funding for a lot of bus investments (Madison BRT and others) that are also important and will impact areas outside those getting light rail.

    It’s important to mention those because the ST3 map reaches beyond the light rail lines that everyone is up in arms about.

    1. Sure, but most of the money is spent on the light rail plans. For example, Madison BRT will happen, whether this passes or not. So will the station at Graham Street, and it is likely that will be the case with NE 130th as well. In other words, it is easy to argue that the best stuff is the cheap stuff, and the cheap stuff will be built either way.

      Bigger BRT projects (like I-405) likely won’t. In my opinion those projects suffer from the same sort of flaw that the rail lines do (putting improvements into the wrong area). Regardless, this is a complex set of proposals, and even if some of it does look like a great value, the bulk of the money is spent on rail service. Either you think that is a good set of projects or you don’t.

      1. Graham Street Station is already funded (as part of Seattle’s last transportation levy). You would need a similar levy (or transfer money) to fund the station at NE 130th. I know there is a “Plan B” for doing this (I’ve talked to an official about this) but no one will talk about it officially until ST3 fails (if it does fail).

      2. Graham is not funded by Move Seattle. It got $10m from Move Seattle to help get the ball rolling.

    2. Oh, come on, I live a block away from the proposed Madison BRT, and I wish there were some way to kill it, because the whole project is a waste of time and money. If that’s supposed to make me excited about ST3, it’s… uh… having the opposite effect, it just reinforces the impression that ST does not care about mobility within Seattle.

      The project will cripple Madison’s utility as an arterial but it’s not going to do anything to change the transit game – certainly nothing remotely similar to the effect the rail projects in ST3 would have, flawed and misdirected as so many of them are. I don’t care if Madison BRT has its own lane, it’s still just a bus, and it’s going to ride like the business end of a rock tumbler. In order to make transit preferable in that corridor, they’d have to dig out most of the length of that road and rebuild it from the foundation up. Or build a separate grade entirely. Perhaps it could be elevated, on pylons? Oh wait…. something seems familiar about this idea.

      1. Madison BRT is going to be pretty effective with its own lane, and will be done inside this decade. It’ll move a lot faster than the buses that have to constantly weave in and out of traffic to pick up passengers.

        The best chance the Madison St corridor has to get a light rail station is to get the midtown station moved up to First Hill.

        If you’re interested in seeing that happen, join those of us pushing for the station to get moved uphill after ST3 passes.

        For the record, Madison is a bit too steep for elevated rail. The only reasonable option is to go through the hill.

    3. Madison “BRT” will end up just being some new bus shelters. Dedicated lanes, full stations, and grade seperation will NEVER happen on Madison. It would be more suited to being called a “rapid bus” like Minneapolis does, reserving BRT for their dedicated busway lines.

      1. I hope you’re right. My fear is that they really will try to follow through with the high-investment BRT approach this time, instead of watering it down like usual, and we’ll end up with a Broadway-like mess taking the place of what is currently an important arterial.

    4. Just to interject some facts. They’re pretty far on design and the center transit lanes from around 8th to 12th are still there. And they decided early on not to put a cycletrack on Madison. The bike lanes will be on Union Street east of Broadway, and on another smaller street west of Broadway.

  4. I am glad to read your honest views on this. Other contributors are less willing to admit where ST problems are.

    There are several items on your list that can be addressed after a ST3 passage – but only if there is the will to do it.

  5. >> Northwest Seattle will finally have a reliable way of getting around.

    No, they won’t. From the Ballard station to the UW won’t be any more reliable. Nor will it be any easier to get from Ballard to Roosevelt, Northgate or Lynnwood. These are all areas that have stations. Getting from the Ballard station to Fremont, Phinney Ridge, Greenwood, Wallingford, Maple Leaf, Wedgewood or Lake City won’t be any easier either.

    Getting from Fremont, Phinney Ridge or Greenwood (what many would consider Northwest Seattle) to just about anywhere won’t be any easier. Interbay is the exception, of course (Fantastic!) and cutting over to the one stop in lower Queen Anne will be a bit faster.

    Most of the people in Ballard will have the chance to transfer to a train that connects to Interbay, lower Queen Anne and downtown. For many this transfer will be a significant improvement — for others it won’t. But for a lot of people (like those mentioned in that first paragraph) their trip will be as unreliable as ever.

    Unless, of course, improvements made by the city change that. But that has little to do with whether ST3 passes or not.

    1. I believe that ST3 will help the majority of trips to/from Ballard. The top destinations from Ballard are Downtown/SLU and U-District. Downtown trips are obviously improved, and U-district trips, taking approximately 23 minutes including a transfer, will not be subject to traffic congestion. Furthermore, construction of a Ballard-UW line politically necessitates the Ballard-downtown line first. The only way ST3 could build Ballard-UW line is in conjunction (ha, junction, get it?) with Ballard-downtown, and the disproportionate investment in NW Seattle would then mean more investment elsewhere in Seattle, and then the higher investment in Seattle would mean higher investment in the other subareas, with a much larger package that would be doomed to fail. The only way Ballard-UW will happen is with surplus/federal funds from ST3 or in ST4 after Ballard-downtown is built.

      1. 23 minutes is very optimistic. You have 22 minutes spent on the train. You also have time spent getting to and from the platforms. Unfortunately, this takes a while, because of the nature of our deep tunnels. Then you have walking between the stations (and ST doesn’t have a great record as far as that sort of thing). You also have wait time. Heading to the UW, you have 3 minute headways during rush hour. The other direction it maxes out at 6 minutes. Outside of rush hour, it may be as long as 10 minutes (as it is today). Altogether, I figure around five minutes spent getting to and from various platforms, plus anywhere from 90 seconds to 5 minutes average wait time. At best you are talking about 29 minutes.

        As bad as the 44 is, 29 minutes is an eternity for Ballard to UW. It’s only three miles. At 7 MPH, a bus is three minutes faster. It stands to reason that a bus will be capable of achieving that speed by the time construction on the tunnel starts (Corridor 5 as shown here: But even now it will be faster to take the bus most of the time. There is no escaping the basic geography.

        As for needing to build this line before Ballard to UW, that is a myth. Ballard to UW is what we should build next — it is by far the best value of any proposed line. Nor is there any practical reason to not add the other line:

      2. @Seattleite — Sure they will, but both will require walking a way. Hell, IDS won’t even be a center platform. This means that even if they share the exact same platform, riders will have to go up and over to get where they want to go. My point being Sound Transit has a terrible record for this. The fact they couldn’t get that one piece right suggests that it isn’t a high priority.

        As for the stations themselves, my guess is IDS will be OK (not much different than the transfer I suggested). Westlake, on the hand, could be bigger pain. But let’s say it takes a minute to get from one platform to the other, and two minutes to get down or up from platform from the street. That is still five minutes. But let’s say you hustle down the stairs, and do each segment in one minute. The bus (averaging 7 MPH) is still faster (although only by a minute).

        Keep in mind, this is all by the one, single station in Ballard. In contrast, the 44 has several stops in Ballard. So even if it takes exactly the same amount of time to take the train (round the horn) very few people will do it. For most people in Ballard, it will be faster to take (or stay on) the bus.

      3. I believe the project for the second International District station includes redesigning the first station and center platforms are a possibility. That could be ST downplaying what it wants to do (a center platform) to avoid overpromising when the studies are still early. RossB would say ST has a bad track record with station transfers and this one will probably be the same. I prefer to look at positives as long as they remain a reasonable possibility, so I see a cup half full.

    2. I would argue that Seattle doesn’t need to wait for ST4 to get grade separated transit between Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, U District, Childrens Hospital, and Magnuson Park.

      The Burke-Gilman trail right of way could be used for this. However, a few things would have to happen first.

      1. SDOT completes the Downtown Connector, and takes lessons learned from the experience of carving out a dedicated ROW from general purpose lanes.

      2. The pedestrian and cycling communities overwhelmingly agree to share (not give away) their trail with high capacity transit. This means that in some places the Burke is widened to accommodate multiple modes, some property adjacent to the trail is taken for rail, and the city would need to acquire parcels for a maintenance barn. In other words, we vote YES on a tax increase to pay for it.

      3. Wherever the Burke train could not use the trail right of way, it would have to run on adjacent streets. We’d need to decide if that was dedicated as well.

      If successful, within 10 years I believe there could be a cross-town streetcar that connects Ballard to Link (at Husky), and puts Fremont, Ravenna, Bryant, and Magnuson Park on the rapid transit map decades ahead of anything ST could fund and build.

      1. Burke Gilman is very narrow in parts.

        ST already tried to do this in Kirkland and it died a fiery death. I don’t see why seattle homeowners would be any different than South Kirkland homeowners.

      2. That is a compelling idea, but it would never get past the bicycle lobby. Although they’d probably use it a lot (I see a lot of bikes now on the train, even on beautiful days).

      3. Seattle residents are different because we have a unique intercity east-west mobility problem. I think Seattle residents are not driven by fear, and genuinely look for good transition solutions.

        The Burke is narrow in places, so in these areas the ROW is widened or transitions to the street.

      4. Um how bout not taking Seattle’s only good bike lane away and take one (just one) street away and make it into a signal priority bus corridor. I’m still not sure why the #44 doesn’t have signal priority, we should kick cars off of 45th.

      5. Nope, Burke Gilman isn’t very well placed for rail transit. Most of it sits in Industrial land and right on the canal, so the immediate walk shed isn’t very nice. Almost any other street north or south of it would be a far better choice for a route.

        Market/65th/45th is so much more attractive as a route because it cuts almost a straight line through the more densely populated corridors while also crossing most major north end bus lines.

        Gilman skips every major bus line by running under bridges.

        If we’re going to build east-west north of the canal, the Ballard to UW subway is really the way to go.

      6. What Charles B said. It is an intriguing idea, but it just won’t work. It is an inferior alignment.

        It is also likely to be a lot more expensive than you suggest. The Burke actually cuts through private land (around the Fremont bridge) which would add to the expense. Speaking of which, getting under there wouldn’t be easy, nor would getting around the pylons of the Aurora Bridge (a train won’t fit through here: or here I just don’t see it being cheap, unfortunately (if it was, then I would sacrifice the alignment).

  6. There are a few goals missing from the list that for me are very important in assessing ST3:

    – ensuring that the system is faster than options available today (driving, buses)
    – a technologically up to date system that minimizes future operating costs

    On point 1, for me the routing is too ciruituous in certain areas and too slow. I’m talking specifically about Paine Field, the awkward connection of the Issaquah line in downtown rather than South Bellevue, etc. These are long term planning errors that will be regretted.

    On point 2, it seems incomprehensible to me that we’re digging miles of tunnel through Seattle but still plan to use low capacity tram vehicles that are more suited to low capacity systems. Further, these tram vehicles will require drivers, which makes no sense today given that there are so many automated systems around the world. The entire Ballard/West Seattle/5th Ave Tunnel should use driverlesshigh-floor metro technology and not double down on low-floor, low capacity trams.

    Some of the past planning mistakes we are stuck with, and others can be fixed. ST continues to show a conservative penny-wise, pound foolish approach to lots of their decisions (for example, the recent vehicle order that includes unnecessary dual-operator cabs in each vehicle). You can talk about reliability, but the whole system will continue to be handcuffed by the grade running along MLK. The problem for me is that for this astronomical cost we are not getting the heavy-rail style metro that we need, but more pokey, slow light rail in tiny cabs and at a relatively slower speed. It’s time to think bigger and demand more innovation/value of what is being proposed.

    1. The way they’re splitting the spine, the entire Red and Blue lines could be automated someday, as long as the short at-grade section in Bel-Red doesn’t prohibit it. But MLK will likely leave the Green Line with operators indefinitely.

      1. It would certainly require policy change, but I’m with Glenn – self-drive technology will likely mature enough in ~20 years that the RV can be automated without needing to rebuild the line to remove the at grade intersections.

      2. For what it carries and where it goes, I think that with undercutting the major grade-crossings and closing the rest to cross traffic will work just fine with drivers for the rest of ST-3.

        Really do wish that the furor about blanket automation would “chill” until we know enough about any brand new technology to send it across level street crossings. I get the sense of another new industry where the marketing department is better funded than research and engineering.

        ST-3 will give us other lines to try it out on.


      3. Mark Dublin – “For what it carries and where it goes, I think that with undercutting the major grade-crossings and closing the rest to cross traffic will work just fine with drivers for the rest of ST-3.”

        This would be a supremely bad idea, as you are effectively cutting off the east and west sides of MLK from each other. It wasn’t an especially good idea when the Interstates were run right through neighborhoods, and it’s an even worse idea for Link.

    2. Automated systems aren’t necessarily cheaper. They are cheaper past a certain passenger volume.

      Vancouver SkyTrain starts operating at 7 am on Sundays/ Holidays as they don’t have sufficient passengers for it to be worthwhile before then.

    3. Switching from human-operated trains to self-driving is an operations costs, not a capital cost. It has nothing to do with ST3, except that ST3 would give these self-driving trains somewhere to go.

      1. There are significant hardware and computer system investments needed as well for automated operations. I think those would fall under capital costs. It would be interesting to see if operations cost security and supervision personnel would be less than current costs. Paris Metro has converted some of their subway lines to automated operations – maybe some data is available.

      2. If the trains use the same technology as automated cars are promising, no infrastructure would be necessary, just like automated car developers are planning on running them on the existing roads we have.

        Sure, current technology would require infrastructure. Future technology might not.

  7. I have voted yes on every ST and Seattle Monorail proposal. I will be voting no on ST3. The package is too big and takes too long. ST needs reform and needs to revise the sub area equity process. We do not need a second downtown transit tunnel. Ballard can run elevated and end at westlake (maintance yard in interbay). West seattle can end at sodo. The rest of the region needs BRT, HOV lanes and nothing more.

    1. Everytime I hear someone say they’re going to vote no on ST3 because it’s too expensive and takes to long I scratch my head.

      It’s like having a terrible stomach pain. You could go to the emergency room immediately, but that’s going to cost you $$$$$$. You call your doctor, who says he can get you in 3 days from now, and it’s going to cost you $$$; meanwhile you could buy some OTC medicine to lessen the pain. You balk at both of these, because you’ve convinced yourself that you can a diagnosis and treatment sooner for $, despite no medical knowledge whatsoever. In the end, you die after two weeks due to taking no action, because there are no quicker, cheaper alternates.

      That is Puget Sound if ST3 loses. There is no cheaper, faster alternate (at least no anti-ST3 people have offered one) and we will end up drowning in an ever increasing traffic nightmare.

      1. Well, if it gets bad enough, maybe people will be willing to give up freeway lanes for transit improvements.

      2. >> There is no cheaper, faster alternate (at least no anti-ST3 people have offered one) and we will end up drowning in an ever increasing traffic nightmare.

        I’ve offered several. Vic Bishop, a member of the main opposition group, said ““We would agree Seattle needs another tunnel. It should be for buses, not for trains.”

        I think the focus or their group — the insistence that buses are always the answer — is just about as stupid as saying rail is always the answer. But in this case, it would be a much better value. That is a pretty straightforward alternative, even if you disagree with it.

        Build the WSTT, which not only improves things for Ballard and West Seattle, but the Aurora corridor as well (with buses that carry about half of what Link currently does). The whole thing could be built in ten years.

        With the extra money, pay for all the RapidRide+ projects (not just Madison BRT) along with the stations. For the suburbs, put money into bus improvements (overpasses, new busways) and new service (both new routes, and much needed service to existing routes). Add some money for South Sounder and you’re done.

        The whole thing could be build far sooner than this mess. The main reason this takes so long is not because of our “values”, but because of the funding mechanism. We can’t spend a huge amount of money on something like Ballard to downtown, because the tunnel (and the new bridge) cost too much.

        This means that a smaller, more effective package could actually be built sooner. Is that politically possible? Of course it is.

      3. You have no clue what this region needs. We have to accept that this is an extremely desirable place to live. The cat is finally out of the bag. With over 1MM more people joining us by 2040, our transit strategy needs to be robust.

      4. @RossB: Once you build all of the infrastructure to bring buses up the same speed and capacity levels as rail, how much savings is there really? You’re still going to need extra maintenance yards for the new buses. You’re still going to need grade separated bus paths to make it worthwhile. And same as rail, once you start building transit infrastructure, the jurisdictions are going to be standing there holding their hands out. Now we’re back to a slower timeline to design and pay for it all, unless you do some eighth-assed solution where you throw a bunch of buses out there with a couple token infrastructure improvements that does nothing to move people.

        And then you have the voter’s mental aspect. Let’s say you reduce the scope with buses to $25 billion (good luck with that). I can’t see voters even coming close to wanting to spend $25 billion on buses. Buses aren’t sexy, I don’t care how great of a plan you come up with.

        Your solution in my analogy is calling a nurse-on-call through your health insurance for $ and hope they can diagnose your stomach pains over the phone. Hint: they probably won’t be able to.

      5. Ross,

        Who will be paying for this alternative that can be built in 10 years?

        The fastest it could go on the ballot and have a realistic chance is four years from now. That leaves six years to build it.

        Or are you talking about 10 years after ST2 is complete, making it open in 2035, just like ST3? Only carrying less capacity, moving slower, and costing more to operate.

      6. @RapidRider — WSTT has several benefits over the Ballard to West Seattle rail line:

        1) It allows riders from various parts of West Seattle and Ballard to avoid a transfer.
        2) It would have higher frequency in the core (SoDo to Belltown).
        3) It would serve the Aurora corridor. This is huge.
        4) It would be much cheaper to build. The reason it would be much cheaper to build is because you wouldn’t need new bridges. At worst this means it doesn’t operate at the same speed from the West Seattle junction to 15th and Market as a fully grade separated line would. In other words, rather than taking 13 minutes, a trip takes 15 minutes. Big deal. The lack of transfer would more than make up for that speed difference. Besides, the core area (Stadium to either South Lake Union or Lower Queen Anne) would be 100% grade separated, and thus just as fast. When you consider the much better headways, the actual time spent getting from one place to another would be less.

        The advantage of a train is that it carries more people. In this case, we don’t need it. Even Sound Transit, with its ridiculously high estimates for ST3 (surpassing BART) has plans for running the trains every six minutes max to Ballard. You can run a lot of buses through a tunnel every six minutes, especially if there are only a handful of stops (6 for the shared corridor).

        If it was a completely closed system, or it if involved a spur, then it would make sense to build as a rail system (you’ll notice I never proposed a Ballard to UW bus tunnel). But it is simply a separate line, with connection points to the other rail line.

        I can’t see voters even coming close to wanting to spend $25 billion on buses.

        Why not? The only reason ST1 passed is because it had a substantial investment in bus service in the suburbs. Voters rejected the first proposal (which was mostly rail) and then supported a more bus heavy one. Supporters of the measure essentially said it had enough rail for the city, and enough bus service for the suburbs to pass (

        It is pretty common to see voters reject a big proposal, and then come back and support a smaller one. It is especially common if the second proposal not only has a smaller price tag, but is seen as a better value. Talk to folks who have passed school levies. Back in the day Seattle had trouble with this. There were several failed levies, and they decided to try and pass a smaller one. It has an ad campaign that featured “cutting the fat”. It passed overwhelmingly.

      7. ST1 didn’t fail for having too much, but for having too little. It’s light rail didn’t extend far enough to get support. The proposal that did pass offered the buses so these far-flung communities could get something for their money with the full understanding that light rail would come later.

        Ross’s proposal is essentially to stab all these people in the back.

      8. Donde;

        Yeah buses that get stuck in congestion… like mine yesterday:

        Uh folks, the RossB Caucus and Mars trying to dole out The Bern around here may mean well through their Urbanist glasses. But for those of us stuck in this “radial commuting”, for those of us with disabilities, and for those of us in a car-free lifestyle we have together earned the right to ST3. Please join us in bypassing congestion.


      9. @Brett — You could have a vote in two years and build it in eight. It could be built in pieces, of course (first the Ballard to West Seattle section). Add the Aurora spur later. The ramp to SoDo could be built very quickly (just as the above ground part of the viaduct replacement project was) along with the Dravus station (the latter would have immediate benefit). Speaking of the SR 99 project, even with all the delays, that thing will be done (start to finish) in less than eight years. Obviously this is more involved (station placement is an issue) but not that involved. Five stations initially, along with a tunnel roughly the same size. Again, it is the bonding authority, not the nature of big projects, that is responsible for the big delay to Ballard. By building smaller you can build it faster, and a delayed start doesn’t delay you much (more money will be available when you start construction).

        Passing a smaller package in a congressional election year shouldn’t be that difficult. Seattle passed a big tax levy (opposed by the Seattle Times, the The League of Women Voters and the Municipal League) in a special election. It wasn’t even a primary or general election, yet it passed overwhelmingly.

      10. @RossB: You’re missing the key part that makes the rail plan better than your bus plan: grade separation. That’s fantastic that once the buses get to the tunnel, they can zip around underground at 30 MPH (again unless you make a bigger tunnel). And honestly, during rush hours, those buses from Ballard, West Seattle and Aurora do just fine on 3rd Ave.

        Really, all the WSTT does is bypass the force field of downtown bound traffic, which is Denny, Mercer and Jackson (?). Outside of downtown, you still have the same problems you do now. Traffic sucks and is getting worse. Sure there’s some token bus lanes coming from Ballard, Aurora and West Seattle, but they can only do so much. You need grade separation to have any hope of reliability.

        “The reason it would be much cheaper to build is because you wouldn’t need new bridges.”

        Yeah, and therefore the cheaper option will be terrible at moving people around in 10, 20, 50 years. You absolutely need new bridges for Ballard, West Seattle and Aurora. Have you driven or buses on the routes that take those bridges? And again, it’s only going to get worse, barring a plague or natural disaster.

        So once you grade separate and build bridges for your BRT system, it’s still probably a little cheaper than rail, but less capacity and slower than rail.

        And finally, the reason that ST 1.0 (all light rail; suburban service non-existent) failed and ST 1.1 passed was because ST 1.1 offered services almost immediately on EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE, via express buses, were service didn’t really exist and commuter rail, which could begin within 4 years, also providing services where service didn’t exist. Fast forward to ST3, where there’s not really any new areas to expand to. ST3 is basically proposing to begin to replace those express buses, which were never meant to be around forever and are becoming less and less reliable, with light rail.

        People aren’t going to want to vote on replacing buses with buses, I don’t care how fantastic your proposal is. Buses aren’t sexy.

    2. Fil, two good long-term general lessons from the last monorail project. Don’t put a multi-billion dollar engineering project in the hands of a cult. But more important, don’t so long and stubbornly ignore a legitimate need that people are willing to do damage to get attention. We don’t do that in a Presidential election, do we?

      But two questions for you. For the transit system we need, how much size and time are excessive? As we speak, the Greater Puget Sound Region is not just expanding, but with increasing speed. In the proposed ST-3 time-frame, there’s no end in sight.

      Whatever is fair distribution, the definition of a Subarea will have to change. Which nothing in ST-3 will prevent. Easy change of meaning would be to apportion by corridor, not municipal boundary. Because, as is already rapidly happening, no one really knows where they’ll have to, or maybe want to, change both residence and workplace.

      Both Westlake and SODO stations are terrible places for terminals and turnbacks. Westlake because there’s no room whatever for either platforms or turnbacks, underground, surfaced, or elevated. SODO because, given it’s built on a filled lagoon in an earthquake zone and very unlikely to become a major populated area.

      For regional rail, LINK operations have just barely begun. The Rainier Valley/Airport line was built first because it was easiest. And by itself, not expected to carry large percentage of passengers. That is, before it could get trains under the Ship Canal. Which was, as expected, like opening a faucet. With flow increasing with every single additional station in the system, over decades. Transit or plumbing, a pipe will only carry so much.

      Finally, the best graded, curved, and reserved right of way still leaves buses’ worst weakness for heavy line-haul transit. Without altering the frame, undercarriage, and steering rendering the vehicle more expensive than a railcar, buses cannot be coupled.

      Meaning that as the speed of a line of buses increases, for safety’s sake so must the distance between them. Not only slowing the vehicles as loads increase, but also leaving spaces of air between them that could carry at least a hundred passengers each.

      The system you’ve got in mind has worked very well for us these last 26 years. But the opening of UW station took it into the much larger system that we always intended.

      Mark Dublin

    3. But Fil, to be fair, I think that the bus transit you’re advocating has a very important place in the thirty years of regional rail development. While I’m very proud of the transit mode with which Metro and Sound Transit began our regional rail system, I also think the most important thing about it was its application to our next step.

      If we’re asking people to pay for rail service that won’t reach their neighborhoods, which may not be their homes, in thirty years, we should see to it that their money very early on buys them transit they can use in the mean time.

      And deliberately designed to phase over into the rail system when the time comes. I’m not sure how much study has been done in this direction. It’s very likely that in general, building track way paved for rubber tired vehicles as well as trains, may be more expensive that tracks-only.

      I also think an honest effort will gain a lot of good will for the project. For much route length, paint stripes and temporary dividers could be sufficient. The long overdue addition of southbound transit lanes between Northgate and the CBD would be a legitimate part of eventual Lynnwood and Everett rail service.

      But looking back over the last thirty years, which has included three wars, a 3000-casualty attack on a US city, and a major economic Depression, this project’s most critical underlying idea is that we’ll be working both toward and through years of constant change.

      Mark Dublin

  8. This is a great write up of why “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” In the same vein, the transit improvements that are 80 percent good and 20 percent bad are way better than no transit improvements at all.

      1. That’s an irrelevant question, isn’t it? You count only count ST3 as 20% good if you think Everett and Tacoma are worthless garbage who deserve to have all their money sucked to Seattle.

      2. I’ll take Ross at face value. If he thinks 80% of the projects are bad – no rail to everett, tacoma, west seattle, or Issaquah, no 405 BRT, and no rail in the new downtown tunnel, then sure, vote against ST3.

        Zach is arguing that the plan is 80% good, if not better. Ross disagrees, and he’s entitled to his opinion.

      3. Ross’s determinations about who deserves grade-separated transit to escape freeway gridlock are his own.

        Ross’s claim that his inferior alternative plan can be done in 10 years is a claim of fact, and one I don’t think he can back up. He is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own set of facts.

      4. Good summary of my position, AJ.

        @Brent — You are correct, my suggestion that the proposals I have in mind can be built in ten years is not a fact. You don’t know how long it takes to build something until people start working on it. The SR 99 tunnel project was supposed to be done this year, but it won’t be. So if you claimed that it was a fact that the thing could be built by 2016, you would be wrong.

        But when Sound Transit claims these projects can take a long time, I believe them. There are issues with the bonding authority that delay construction (that is a fact). Notice how everything got a bit faster when they upped the price tag? That shorter timeline had nothing to do with “our values” or the time it takes to build something big, but had everything to do with money. Likewise with my proposal. Cheaper projects, shorter timeline. So my speculation as to the time it should take to build things is based on the facts, although you are correct, it is just speculation (and I haven’t said anything different).

      5. You count only count ST3 as 20% good if you think Everett and Tacoma are worthless garbage who deserve to have all their money sucked to Seattle.

        When did I say that? What bullshit. I never proposed that Tacoma or Everett pay for Seattle projects. Yet ST3 does exactly that!

        As for “Everett and Tacoma being worthless garbage”, who the fuck are you to tell me what I think. You assume I have no fucking idea what it is like to live in a place like Everett or Tacoma. Let me give you a little taste of it: You are trying to raise three kids in a two bedroom apartment. Your wife works as a nurses aid and you work in a movie theater. You can’t afford a car, so you take the bus everywhere. At times you hitchhike on 99, because the bus takes too long. Sometimes you get a ride, sometimes you don’t (and sometimes the guy that pick you up assumes are looking to make a few bucks and service them — flattering, but you hate to be a tease). Your wife manages to take the bus to her job, but she gets off work at night. She feels scared walking the streets at night, even though it is only a few miles away. So you buy a wagon, put your kids in it (they won’t fit in strollers) and drag them through the streets and walk your wife home.*

        The last thing you need is a slow train to Seattle. In fact Seattle is irrelevant to you. If you do manage to get a car, you will drive I-5 like so many others, but not all the way to Seattle. A few miles, then onto a some other highway or street. Or, as I said, maybe you go 99. What you need is bus service. More bus service to more areas so it doesn’t take that long to get to your working class job.

        Who the hell is going to spend three hours a day commuting from Tacoma to downtown Seattle? Only a handful, which is why it is really bad idea. Brent is right. I don’t think Tacoma or Everett “deserve” extremely expensive, largely useless rail. They deserve better. If you are going to ask someone to pay a bit extra every time they buy their kid a new pair of clothes, you want your money’s worth. You want better, faster bus service.

        * That happened to me, but if you are fact checking my ass, it wasn’t Tacoma or Everett. It was Lynnwood (a while ago). The fact that Seattle was irrelevant to me living in Lynnwood then suggests that folks in Tacoma and Everett feel the same way about Seattle now. The people I do know who live in Tacoma (I know a lot) won’t work their way over to the Tacoma Dome and take a 75 minute ride to Seattle. The people I know in Everett (far fewer) won’t gain anything by the extension, because like most of Everett, they don’t live anywhere near the stations. They will need to take the bus to a station, and would be better off if that bus just went directly to Lynnwood (as it will in a few years).

      6. RossB;

        Nice story bro. But at the end of the day, the political reality is for light rail to expand, it must go through Paine Field.

        Either that or we blow up the whole Sound Transit framework. Snohomish County leaders are insisting light rail to Paine Field where there’s the most jobs for Snohomish County residents and now housing density starting to go around there.

        Replace Sound Transit with what exactly? Seattle going it alone – the state legislature will want to drag Seattle kicking and screaming back to the Sound Transit Boardroom and Seattle if it could get the OK to would have to pay 100% of the costs of light rail to Ballard & West Seattle. That includes the 2nd downtown rail tunnel.

        Guys, Sound Transit doesn’t do local buses. RossB, I would highly encourage you to get involved with Community Transit & Everett Transit since that’s your fire-in-the-belly.

  9. >> Any alternative plan would rely on aggressively wresting highway capacity away from cars, a monumental (and likely futile) political task.

    No it doesn’t. A lot depends on how much money we want to spend, and what we want to spend it on. Sometimes it is a matter of making compromises, and spreading the improvements around to more areas.

    For example, let’s say we wanted to build a busway from Lynnwood to the Everett station. Some of this is already done. But adding a lane the entire way would probably be extremely expensive. You have multiple interchanges to deal with, which means that if you really want 100% grade separation, it will cost a bundle.

    But what if you don’t? What if you can live with some mixing (with HOV2) and some bus-only lanes. As it turns out, much of the median isn’t used, so building additional lanes isn’t expensive. From Lynnwood to South Everett, I only see a handful of obstacles. So just avoid them. Build bus lanes next to the HOV lanes with would operate as jump ahead lanes. When traffic on the HOV lane is fast enough (90% of the time) they would just be ignored. But at other times, buses get a huge boost by going into and out of them. There are only a couple sections that are a problem. It looks really messy north of South Everett station. Close to Lynnwood it also looks problematic. Alderwood Mall Parkway is narrow, with big pylons in the way. I-405 is also out of space; it isn’t worth the expense. But the rest of it — from Lynnwood to South Everett, involves simply paving the median and leveraging what is already there (some bus only lanes and ramps). This would enable faster service on both express routes (e. g. 128th SW to Lynnwood) as well as a local connector (a bus that stops at every park and ride on the way to Lynnwood).

    This means that for very little money, you give South Everett and all the stations between there and Lynnwood about 90% bus lanes, and 10% HOV 2 lanes. Even the trip from Everett Station would be about 50% bus lanes (and only the small segment on Broadway would be general purpose traffic). You lose out on a couple stations, but gain back a few. Compared to ST3, it is more or less a wash, but you’ve saved a huge amount of money.

    So what do you do with the money? Make similar improvements all over town and add service. Hell, Swift only runs every 12 minutes! At a minimum, we should put money into it so that it operate every six minutes. But other bus lines all over town need service. Not everyone in Everett is headed to Seattle. A lot of them are trying to get from one part of town to the other or headed to destinations like Bellevue.

    What is true of the suburbs is true of Seattle. Build the WSTT. We’ve built a bus tunnel before, just do it again. Build it so that (like the other one) it can be converted to rail someday. Add a ramp from the West Seattle freeway to the SoDo busway. Build a stop at Dravus so that the buses don’t have to exit. Make every stop inside the tunnel off board and design the stops so that there is level boarding. But let’s say we don’t a new Ballard bridge, but live with a jump ahead lane. Not perfect, by any means, but pretty much a wash, from what I can tell. Some riders spend a bit more time waiting for the merge, while a lot of riders avoid a transfer. At that point, you don’t build a new bridge, you put the money into other projects, that obviously need more funding. It is obvious that the RapidRide+ corridors suffer not from lack of political will, but from lack of funding. The problems with the Roosevelt BRT could be solved by building a big bicycle bypass, but that would pretty much blow the budget on just that one corridor. Hell, there are areas (like Lake City) have don’t even have money assigned to them. Of course I would prefer that ST3 focus on building the most cost effective rail projects in the city, but if they can’t, then at least build a great (and relatively cheap) busway. We cam take the savings and apply it to bus service, if not improvements.

    1. The segment north of South Everett has a steep cliff in the median, so adding lanes would be enormously difficult and expensive. And that area happens to be one of the most congested at peak periods.

      Moreover, the “empty” median is already used for drainage and runoff, something very critical to control flow in the area. Closing up the median with more concrete would require mitigation off to the sides, where it’s already been developed. Add more costs for that and we have a project that looks highly undesirable.

    2. Ross, Nearly busted a gut reading your comment starting with “Sometimes it is a matter of making compromises, and spreading the improvements around to more areas.”

      This is pretty much the exact thing you consistently refuse to do with people who actually disagree with your ideas. How do you think this whole plan got made? It was a lot of that.

      1. Exactly Jon.

        Let me kinda quote me here folks, because I gotta say I wanted a different ST3 alignment.

        Here’s what I wrote the Everett Herald and was published last 31 March:

        I’m an aviation photographer who occasionally visits Paine Field. I do not believe the best solution for Paine Field is light rail to Paine Field, nor do many transit advocates who are quite capable of speaking up.

        Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick is right (March 26, “Leaders fume over Sound Transit’s 2041 Everett timeline”) that bus rapid transit to Paine Field from the Sound Transit spine is the best solution for Paine Field. Paine Field lacks the density to truly support light rail without a bus feeder network; but is very economically diverse and needs quality transit to most if not all of its destinations such as manufacturing, museums, general aviation hangars and flight schools now.

        Although I will not get to vote for ST3; I find it hard as a transit advocate to champion a ST3 that is slow in serving the Future of Flight with over 300,000 visits last year and does not connect Sound Transit’s spine destiny to Mukilteo. There is also the sensitive matter of traffic mitigation for any commercial terminal at Paine Field seemingly absent from public discussion.

        Since then:

        a) BRT for Paine was poo-poo’d by the Snohomish County Economic Alliance staff & membership. Without them, no ST3. Period.

        b) BRT for Paine had little enthusiasm other than me, even from STB commentators (which I can assure you are read by ST Boardmembers & Staff)

        c) I have gotten back channel reassurances the bus net around & to Paine is being worked on.

        d) I have successfully lobbied Everett Transit to directly intervene & negotiate with Paine Field Commercial Terminal proponents to make damn sure that terminal can handle transit.

        Folks, a lot’s changed since March already. I’m sure once ST3 wins and Sound Transit’s Russell Wilson gets her football back, it is gonna be a fast paced winter. As fast as Russelin’ gets because they “get it” in Sound Transit Planning to a soul a sense of urgency to hit the ground running and use this supercharged public opinion for transit to its utmost.

      2. “I have gotten back channel reassurances the bus net around & to Paine is being worked on.”

        I would hardly call Swift 2 “back-channel”

      3. @Jon — What? This plans doesn’t spread around anything. It picks a handful of corridors, and provides benefit largely for people who can walk or drive to the stations. In contrast, the so called peanut butter plan would do exactly that. That is why it is called peanut butter (it spreads around the benefit) —

        But just look at one of those ideas — the WSTT — versus Ballard to West Seattle rail. With Ballard to West Seattle, it is probably better if you are at the West Seattle Junction or at 15th and Market. If you are trying to get from Lower Queen Anne to downtown, the WSTT is better (more frequent service). If you are in some other area of Ballard or West Seattle, then the WSTT is better (no transfer). If you on the Aurora corridor, it is much better (much faster and more reliable service). Basically, only a handful of people come out ahead with the subway. Way more come out ahead with the WSTT. That is spreading it around.

        That is just with one project — the WSTT. With extra money we fund the heck out of the RapidRide+ corridors, and add some more improvements to other areas (e. g. Lake City).

        What is true for Seattle is true for every area. BRISK ( provides a lot more service to a lot more areas. Ever wonder why Sammamish isn’t thrilled with the light rail that includes a stop “serving” it? Because it does so little for them. To get to downtown you take a bus, transfer to a train, then transfer to a different train. No thanks. In contrast, It would be trivial to extend BRISK to Sammamish. Just run one of the buses from Mercer Island headed to Issaquah to Sammamish (adding frequency on the more important Eastgate section). What is true for Sammamish is true for most of the east side — they would get a lot more out of something like BRISK

        With the north and south end it is similar. Add a lot more buses like this. Add service and eliminate the biggest bottlenecks. Sometimes that means doing what you can to the freeway, but sometimes it means living with the current HOV 2 (while we wait to add or convert to HOV3 or HOT). For a lot of riders, the freeway part is not the worst part of their ride and this will become increasingly true as the system gets built out. Someone in Edgewood doesn’t need a new station in Fife (or even South Federal Way) they need more bus service to Link in Federal Way (or service to parts of Kent, Auburn or Seattle). What is true of Edgewood is certainly true for areas like Kent, Auburn and Renton. People are spread out (and nowhere near the stations) — they need to have the service spread out as well.

      4. “This plans doesn’t spread around anything. It picks a handful of corridors, and provides benefit largely for people who can walk or drive to the stations.”

        Those handful of corridors are are between the largest cities in the area. You know, where transit is supposed to go, where the most people travel. Kirkland is the most conspicuous missing piece but that’s because it buzzed off ST with contradictory demands from the city council and Save Our Trails. And arguably ST should have given more priority to Renton and Kent. But other than that it goes between the largest places that people and bus routes go.

      5. >> Those handful of corridors are are between the largest cities in the area.

        So what? Cities have arbitrary borders. Some cities have a huge amount of land, others don’t. In terms of population, Hoboken is pretty small, only 50,000 people (smaller than Everett or Tacoma). But Hoboken has very high population density. Ten times Tacoma, and almost twenty times Everett. Besides, just because you add a stop or two in a city of over fifty square miles doesn’t mean it helps very many people in that city. If you look at a census map, it is obvious that the lines aren’t anything special. It is absurd to think that the corridors they chose represent the bulk of the people in the city, let alone the region.

        Do you really think they looked at a map and said “OK, this is the best thing we can do for the region”. Of course not. They thought “OK, let’s try and complete the spine. Let’s add some more rail for the east side. Where will it go — OK, how about Issaquah. Adding miles is what is important”. It is completely backwards. If you look at a census map and the region, then the only place outside Seattle that could justify that sort of investment is the one small extension in Redmond. But if you start with the assumption that we should build more rail everywhere, then you are bound to come up with something that will benefit only a tiny portion of the population. Just adding bus service — with no infrastructure improvements at all — would benefit more people.

        Maybe they figured that if you can convince enough people that quantity of rail equals quality, or that by building rail close to the freeway you can eliminate traffic, then the proposal will pass. So far so good I guess.

      6. By cities I meant concentrations of people, not muniicipal boundaries. Concentrations of people are multifamily areas and downtowns.

        “Hoboken has very high population density”

        We need a transit network that works for the people in this area. Hoboken is irrelevant. Even if they’re not packed together as much as in Hoboken, they’re still a million people, and an increasing number of them will live in the growing multifamily areas in the Eastside. Not growing single-family areas, because between Kirkland, Redmond, west Lake Sammamish, and Bellevue College there is no empty single-family land left. Between Bellevuie College and Issaquah, I don’t know how much of the apparently remaining spaces is developable.

        “how about Issaquah. Adding miles is what is important”

        No, adding miles is not important. What’s important is reaching the cities (concentrations of people) where they are. I don’t think Issaquah is a great line; it’s the most throwaway project in ST3. But it’s not worth rejecting the entire package over.

  10. I am going to vote No on ST3 because:

    Seattle has no use for any more spine,
    the suburbs will only vote for Seattle projects if they get their boondoggles,
    so Seattle should just opt-out of future ST projects and vote to fund the projects that Seattle needs and wants.

    The only possible reason for a Seattleite to swallow the cost of ST3 is if he/she lives in west Seattle or NW Seattle AND thinks the cost of ST3 will be cheaper than the cost of a Seattle-funded and Seattle-oriented development plan would be.

    1. All Seattle projects are funded with Seattle money. All Seattle money goes to Seattle projects. If Seattle took a go-it-alone approach, they would have the exact same taxes and the exact same projects.

      Of course, Seattle doesn’t have the legal authority to go it alone, and the state isn’t likely to give them that. And the state certainly won’t if ST3 fails.

    2. A Seattle only plan would certainly be more expensive. And it doesn’t exist!! So yes, ST3 is cheaper.

    3. If Seattle goes it alone to pay for a new downtown transit tunnel, Seattle will be spending billions more than it will under ST3, to get lesser connectivity.

      ST3 has other subareas helping to pay for the second transit tunnel, since they will benefit from it.

      1. Well said Brent. These left-wing “urbanists” are about to chop Seattle’s future down for what exactly?

        To screw the suffering suburbs?

        To make Washington Policy Center happy?

        To make joy for Alex Tsimerman, the local Donald J. Trump campaign spokesman also speaking for No on ST3?

        GET A F-ING CLUE PEOPLE. Do you want more transit more places more often or WHAT EXACTLY? Oh and what exactly do you tell transit advocates outside of the Sound Transit district?

      2. Other areas will not benefit from an improved downtown Seattle. Residents need jobs in their own communities, not in some far-off, too-expensive-to-afford big city. There should be at least 100,000 jobs in South King County for the local residents to fill. Nope, let’s just perpetuate commuting. We can’t all afford Seattle, and this pattern of long commutes isn’t sustainable.

      3. If Seattle goes it alone to pay for a new downtown transit tunnel, Seattle will be spending billions more than it will under ST3, to get lesser connectivity.

        Really, is that a fact?

        Sorry, but it isn’t. No one knows what Seattle will propose if ST3 fails. I’ve suggested either Ballard to UW rail or the WSTT. By my estimation, the WSTT would have more connectivity as it would serve more areas of West Seattle as well as more areas of Ballard. It would also improve the Aurora corridor (which Ballard to West Seattle rail does not) which has our most popular bus (the buses from that corridor that would use the WSTT have about half the ridership of Link). Thus a trip from say, Delridge to Greenwood would be much faster. Instead of a three seat ride and the Aurora bus being ten minutes late (because of a slowdown downtown) it would be a two seat ride with the transfer being on the exact same exact platform. Better connectivity.

        Ballard to UW is a tougher call. Ballard would come out ahead. The rest of the north end (basically everything north of the ship canal and west of I-5) would come out way ahead, as it would enable much faster speeds (directly or indirectly) to the UW, Capitol Hill and everything to the north (Roosevelt, Northgate, Lake City, Lynnwood, etc.). But lower Queen Anne and a couple of spots close to South Lake Union would come out behind. West Seattle would get nothing. Unlike the other comparison, there is no overlap, so it is extremely difficult to speculate on which would be better.

      4. ST3 failure = undoing the state legislative and Sound Transit compromises to get here.

        What happens the day after is a risk not worth taking.

        Vote YES on ST3. It’s the best way to give MORE people MORE Sound Transit. Isn’t THAT a good thing?

      5. “Residents need jobs in their own communities, not in some far-off, too-expensive-to-afford big city.”

        Light rail has many stops; it’s not just for downtown. There are people in Lynnwood and Everett who work all over north Seattle. There are probably people in Everett who want to go to Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, and who live close enough to the train that that’s a feasable option. In the south end there’s the residents and future jobs in south King County, and Tacoma is trying to attract those people to come to Tacoma and others will go the other way. If the job boom continues it will gradually spread out from Seattle and Bellevue as sites get filled up and employers want a wider variety of options, both cost-wise and other factors. South King County has horrible land use now but that can gradually be improved, and the emerging urban villages in Burien, Southcenter, downtown Kent, and west Kent are a start. So there’s a reasonable chance we can grow into the ST3 Link infrastructure throughout the region, not just within Seattle or to go to Seattle. There’s a possibility people might look back and say they’re glad it’s there; how could they live without it. If I didn’t think that was reasonably likely, I wouldn’t support ST3. But I do think it has a reasonable possibility. Of course, Everett and Lynnwood need lots more local buses going in directions Link will never go.

        But that doesn’t mean that nobody goes north-south to locations approximating the Link stations. That will increase in the future. It logically has to with the population increasing and the cities setting denser downtown goals: there will be more people going those directions. A working-class Everett person may not be able to afford the fare to Seattle and may have no desire to go there, but they can certainly afford the lower fare to Lynnwood or Alderwood Mall and may have more reason to go there, for work or social reasons. And there’s not just two categories of people: well-off people who work in Seattle and working-class people who never go there. The “ride until you qualify or the rent is low enough” phenomenon means there will be an increasing number of people who can’t afford to live in Seattle but still have ties there and in the first-ring burbs, and will travel to them on Link radially if it’s available, and they’ll be glad they’re not caught in traffic or the every-three-week road accidents.

      6. @RossB –
        >If Seattle goes it alone to pay for a new downtown transit tunnel, Seattle will be spending billions more than it will under ST3, to get lesser connectivity.

        >Really, is that a fact?

        >Sorry, but it isn’t.

        I think what was meant is if Seattle builds the Seattle projects proposed in ST3 by themselves, which would transfer the whole cost of the downtown tunnel to Seattle’s plate. Sure something else could/would be proposed, but it isn’t untruthful to say if the exact same Seattle ST3 projects are proposed for a Seattle only proposal that it would cost more for Seattle residents due to other subareas not contributing.

      7. If Seattle builds the same projects as ST3, they would cost more, and the bond interest rate would be higher because Seattle is a smaller tax base. If Seattle builds just a bus tunnel, then of course it would be less expensive, but it would also be less transit.

    4. I wish the pro ST-3 campaign could afford flights from Boeing field, taking voters from Tacoma and Everett, to see first-hand the present state of the region, and its almost certain future. Definitely at rush hour, so as to also see its fate.

      I think these discussions are still missing what be most critical factor. Not only where people be forced to travel, but where will they want to go by their own choice. Key words “want” and “choice.” Because so life and work are changing so as to make voluntary choice transits most critical factor.

      By the corporate economy’s own wishes, the term “Employer” has become a Title of Nobility, which the US Constitution forbids. Workers’ wages- forget benefits and pensions- are now a hundred percent in the debit column. But the term “Independent Contractor” need mean: “Hired, paid, and fired by the minute.”

      In addition to job-killing automation on the very large scale, technology can also create work that individuals can indeed do on a contract basis. Personal experience tells me that this arrangement could make it possible for people to keep cheerfully paying into Social Security to the end of their lives.

      It’s well known that much past age forty, if that long, even people of skill and talent become, by corporate standards, unemployable. Exactly same time of life, we absolutely can’t stand to work for anybody else. But this keyboard will write machine code as well as comments.

      Tell me the Defense Department alone doesn’t already put more work out for contract than would employ my whole generation! With public health care, technical education and above all good transportation, society would once again start to become partly our burden.

      So for a lot of us, ST-3 will not only carry us, but also pay us to design and build it. There’s a wondefule open-cockpit biplane at Boeing Field. Where do we chip in to buy No-Votes their seats?

      Mark Dublin

    5. Kevin, how do you know where you are going to live and work ten years from now? Or less? Because given present trends, what ST-3 has planned will make possible a life you’ll appreciate.

      And as for “spines” – which I think mean long linear main corridors- many of us wish there wasn’t so much demand for them.


    6. Kevin22;

      So if you vote that way:

      *ST3 authority will be stripped. Count on it.
      *A second Seattle tunnel will be paid for by Seattle
      *Washington State transit advocates will not again be able to work as one for a long time…
      *When Seattle has needed help for transit, most of the time Seattle has had to ask out-of-Seattle politicians for help. The deal ended up being Sound Transit to get Seattle reliable rail transit. Can’t stop now…

      Because buddy, if you see Sound Transit as the Seattle Seahawks this is what you gonna get:

      Buddy, greatness in transit is so, so close. Gotta keep the faith.

      1. Wouldn’t Inslee have to sign off on stripping ST3 funding authority? If so, do you really think he would do that or do you think he will lose reelection? Both seem ridiculous. As before, if ST3 fails, they will simply come back with another proposal.

      2. Well vetoes can be overrideen and quite frankly RossB with the property tax issue, we’re risking a lot on a NO vote.

        Guys like you can vote NO, sure.

        But a NO vote means the end of Sound Transit hope and optimism as we know it.

  11. Great piece. And I think ST has done a very poor job of segmenting the “NO” vote, assuming most or all “NOs” will be coming from the anti-transit, anti-tax ranks. Just not true, and this article is the first serious attempt by STB to convince the urban/rail purist camp (the endorsement article here directed about a paragraph of lip service to us) to support ST3.

    Let me add that I and many of my friends aren’t concerned with timeline or cost (yes, I’m a homeowner x2 and willing to pay for quality), rather getting mass transit right for my kids and grandkids and ensuring that at least the Seattle lines adhere to our principles.

    Saying that ST3 deserves our votes because it’s the best we can do is unfortunate, I think. Maybe, maybe not. I can’t predict the future, and many people are willing to wait years for the right set of projects because they believe the electorate will come around. If we yelled loud enough, if Seattle Subway had longer to poke the bear (and really, all they demanded was grade separation to Ballard), why can’t we do better?

    Here are just a few of the inexcusable flaws I see:

    ST3 triples down on the wrong technology and is inappropriate for these distances, not to mention future capacity.

    A horrific set of projects:
    Light rail to West Seattle? Are you kidding me?
    Bypassing an urban village for an Interbay alignment because you are afraid to dig? Cowardice.
    Building rail to Ballard and not even going near the urban center? Stupid.
    Building a retractable bridge? REALLY STUPID.
    Ignoring the highest ridership corridors? No it’s cool, Dow lives in West Seattle so let’s prioritize that.

    Add to this the continued failure to offer a comprehensive system plan, and ST3 continues a legacy of Frankenrail.

    Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

    1. Afraid to dig? A tunnel under Queen Anne would be much easier than what they are proposing to dig downtown.

      I lived in Queen Anne. The top of the hill is lovely. It’s also never going to grow. Interbay is a much, much better place for station, in terms of both TOD and bus transfers from magnolia and northern Queens anne.

      Unless you are talking about Fremont. Fremont does deserve HCT, but the choice was between Fremont and Uptown, and I’d rather serve uptown.

      1. Careful with that word “never”. Sure, there are rich NIMBYs on the hill. But ignore politics and current preferences and take a long view:
        1. Tops of hills are amazing places for density. You don’t get the pushback from existing homeowners from taking their view, yet you end up with amazing views.
        2. Upper QA is walkable from SLU, and would be an amazingly short commute to downtown. This is where we need to put people – a very close distance to jobs.
        3. There’s benefits from both directions. Seattle would have access to a pool, a library, a community center, schools, parks, and playgrounds.
        4. On the schools note, QA has no high school and every teenager has to get on buses to get to Ballard (have you bused from upper QA to Ballard? In the opposite direction as the 29? Not easy). That would be some good counterflow ridership.

        People on the hill are mostly afraid of density because of traffic. Add a station and you remove that fear.

      2. The Upper Queen Anne Station would have been at the Counterbalance, since most Queen Anners would be getting on light rail to go downtown or transfer, and there really is no other density on the hill. Someone trying to take it to Ballard would have had to backtrack to the Counterbalance. Most, faced with that nuisance, would just drive or bike the much shorter distance to Ballard.

        Now, a Queen Anne Gondola … that would be just lovely!

    2. Did you just say that Seattle Subway’s only demand was grade-separation in Ballard? Are you kidding me?

      It was Seattle Subway’s idea to make this a 25-year package in the first place. That was their demand. It was a HUGE demand. And they got it.

      Don’t say Seattle Subway hasn’t advocated. They are basically the reason we’re getting Ballard at all.

      1. Incorrect. The only line in the sand they drew was grade separation to Ballard. Not a tunnel, not UW/Ballard, not Metro 8.

        And BTW, the routes these lines take are just as important as their destination. Could have demanded routing through either urban village in Upper Queen Anne or Fremont, but instead we are getting… Interbay. Congratulations everyone.

      2. Seattle Subway was the first to float the 25-year idea and to promote Ballard light rail. You have to separate their “Make it bigger” message from their “We’ll vote against it unless…” message. Originally everybody thought Ballard light rail and the entire Seattle Subway network were unrealistic because people wouldn’t pay that much taxes or in large chunks and transit didn’t have that much support. Seattle Subway said “Yes, it’s possible and people will vote for it,” and started talking it up at the Ballard farmers’ market and other places. That grew into a solid base of public support, most visible in the 45th corridor. Then McGinn got on the bandwagon for Ballard-downtown light rail, which he mixed with his streetcar-network idea.

        ST2 had six corridor studies to prepare for ST3, including Ballard-downtown and Ballard-Redmond. McGinn got the city to pay ST to accelerate the Ballard-downtown study and make it more extensive and simultaneously study a streetcar route (Westlake). The other boardmembers said, “Hey, we want to accelerate our areas’ studies too.” That accelerated the studies and Long-Range Plan update to 2013.

        ST prepared a 15-year ST3 package, the same size as ST1 and 2. It believed voters were comfortable with that level but wouldn’t want to go higher. So it made a 15-year draft system plan. In the months leading up to that, Seattle Subway pushed for ST to “Go big” and do “ST3 and 4” in one step — a 30-year plan. Seattle Subway thought that would be enough for the entire Seattle Subway network. At the time Seattle Subway was the only one pushing for this.

        Earlier this year ST released a pre-draft outline of a 15-year system plan, the lowest being spine only and the highest having West Seattle light rail and a Ballard streetcar. STB and the commentariat exploded, and Seattle Subway said they would not vote for a proposal that didn’t have a grade-separated Ballard line. Much of the commentariat concurred. The other subareas said, “Hey, we want our Everett Station and Paine Field and Tacoma Dome now, they must be in ST3, so go ahead with that ‘Go big’ idea.” That led to the 25-year plan we have now. It turned out that 25 years is still not enough for the entire Seattle Subway network, or for Everett Community College or Tacoma Mall, or for both Ballard-downtown and Ballard-UW, so those didn’t make it in. But the 25-year plan gets most of what the subareas want.

        Seattle Subway also pushed for 130th Station.

        So they have done a lot to make ST3 as big and as urban as it is. Far more than any other organization has done outside ST itself and the city governments.

      3. “Don’t say Seattle Subway hasn’t advocated. They are basically the reason we’re getting Ballard at all.”

        Seattle Subway’s advocacy is basically the reason ST3 is on the ballot at all. Outside of the parade of elected officials, they *were* the lobby effort in Olympia.

        If you think you have a better plan, and hope someone will work to get it passed, I suggest you go talk to Seattle Subway about whether they are interested in your alternative.

        If they aren’t, you really are playing SimCity. And losing.

      4. Ok, ok, I appreciate Mike’s and other’s feedback that Seattle Subway has done a lot. But simply laying track to Ballard through hinterlands and getting Sound Transit to “go big” aren’t exactly wins in my opinion. Go Big does not equal Go Quality, which we need more than 130 miles of light rail. We need 80 miles of Quality, because it will be damn near impossible to right many of the wrongs we are going to bake into this system.

        Anyway, if you guys want to focus only on my criticism of Seattle Subway, which I am man enough to admit to being wrong about, feel free. But no one has challenged my statements about these being great projects, the best our leaders can come up with. No one has said its ideal to operate without a master system plan. No one has said going through Interbay makes more sense than tunneling under Queen Anne for x reasons. It is cheaper and easier at the expense of higher ridership and better connected neighborhoods. Tell me why light rail to West Seattle is a more meritorious project than Ballard to UW or Metro 8. Use data where possible. But please don’t tell me they are getting light rail because they yelled louder. Can we be better than that, please?

      5. Donde, Seattle Subway is awesome. I also think the many comments – including from North by Northwest’s team captain which would be ME – demanding light rail to Ballard here helped.

        Trust me, Sound Transit staff read this blog. For the comments.

      6. @huskytbone,

        “But no one has challenged my statements about these being great projects, the best our leaders can come up with. No one has said its ideal to operate without a master system plan. No one has said going through Interbay makes more sense than tunneling under Queen Anne for x reasons. It is cheaper and easier at the expense of higher ridership and better connected neighborhoods. Tell me why light rail to West Seattle is a more meritorious project than Ballard to UW or Metro 8. Use data where possible. But please don’t tell me they are getting light rail because they yelled louder. Can we be better than that, please?”

        These are pretty darn close to the best our leaders can come up with, under the political reality we live in, and pave the way to the best projects that are not in ST3. Sound Transit has a long range plan, which resulted from staff work, public input, and board approval.

        Going through Interbay makes more sense than tunneling under Queen Anne because Interbay is more of a tabula rasa (or SegundoSeattle, as someone else who has probably not spent much time in swanky El Segundo referred to it) in which a whole new city of TOD can be built. It is cheaper and easier and will get higher ridership by serving denser neighborhoods than Upper Queen Anne, which is part of Seattle’s single-family protected diaspora. It will also likely get a better connection to Seattle Pacific University and Pacific Lutheran University, which a Queen Anne subway would jump right over after its only station at the opposite end of the hill.

        Part of why West Seattle is getting light rail is because the neighborhoods were united in asking for it, while north end neighborhoods dithered in internal argumentation. West Seattle and Ballard have historically been in the queue because of the monorail. But West Seattle has also accepted a lot of densification around where future light rail stations would be. Moreover, West Seattle light rail is a clear solution for the clear problem of the bottleneck getting in and out of West Seattle that is the West Seattle Bridge.

        I’m still not sure what problem the Metro 8 Subway is supposed to solve. I can see what the problem Ballard-UW solves, and ST3 would get that study in the queue if it passes. Part of the political resistance to UW-Ballard is Wallingford NIMBYism. ST is risk averse having to go toe-to-toe with the loudest shouters in Wallingford. Erica did some great coverage about how the didn’t even let their city rep speak at one forum, and then demanded to dominate a city council hearing at which they were in the clear minority. Think Save Our Trail, but north of Gas Works Park.

    3. I feel like a broken record on this but your assertion that a movable bridge is REALLY STUPID could be describing itself. The amount of vessels going through Salmon Bay that would require a 70′ span to lift is negligible. You’re suggesting spending hundreds of millions of dollars to cut a few minutes of delay for a few off peak trains a week. Talk about a waste of money.

      1. Depends on how much you value reliability. Depends on how much you value having a subterranean subway station in Ballard. I’m assuming you do not value these things, but urbanists do.

      2. If you define reliability as trips that arrive within 5 minutes of their scheduled time, which would be a massive improvement over the D line and the 15X, you have exactly zero reliability difference between an elevated and underground solution. And that 5 minutes of delay is only for a few off peak runs a week.

        With respect to the underground station for Ballard there will be one, but it makes a lot more sense as part of the crosstown line than the radial line, which has a straight elevated shot to Crown Hill and eventually Northgate. Besides, the commerical heart of Ballard has been shifting east for a decade or more, and by the time the 15th/Market station opens it’ll be well situated for the bulk of the neighborhood.

      3. Urbanists say a tunnel or 130′ bridge is better. But everyone has a different threshold for the minimum acceptable, and many urbanists including myself are willing to accept a 70′ bridge tradeoff, because as Ron Swanson says it wouldn’t open much. It would open less than the existing bridges, which are lower. And you have to weigh the cost of the tunnel against other transit needs and the total ST3 price. If we built a Ballard tunnel there would be less money for the downtown tunnel or West Seattle, or the total ST3 cost would have to go up. The opposition is already complaining about “$54 billion”.

  12. Despite all my criticism I still think ST3 is worth it. I wish it were better, especially outside the city limits, but the suburbs can cut off their nose despite their face if they so please.

    I find it frustrating how ST is willing to bend over backwards so eagerly to accommodate the horrific planning decisions of the suburbs. If ST doesn’t have the power to push better planning, they need to be given more power. Plain and simple. South Link should run on Pacific Hwy South, future generations will wonder why it doesn’t, all because a few old and crusty politicians weren’t forward thinking enough.

    I won’t ride Link north of 130th or south of SeaTac enough to really be affected by this but damn if it isn’t stupid to watch.

    1. ST is the suburbs. Its board is the same people who designed those areas and decide on any zoning changes. The majority of voters live in the suburbs, so the majority of boardmembers are suburban.

  13. What do you say to five-year Seattle homeowner whose assessment has grown 40 percent but whose property taxes have grown 80 percent in that same period? The tax burden issue is going to be a factor.

    1. Maybe higher quality infrastructure than what we have now requires higher costs (taxes) than what we have now? “Give us more for the same price” is a pretty tough demand to meet.

    2. Seattle loves tax levies. Whether they are well spent is of course a matter of opinion. I can’t believe I have voted against transit but after seeing some of the “works” coming out of SDOT my pocketbook is starting to close. That said, I am voting for ST3, because frankly for this area this is about as good as it gets. Seattle won’t want to increase its taxes for an in-city rail system unless somehow Kubly is part owner of a train builder.

      1. We are paying higher taxes because of my parents generation and my generation’s stupidity in 1968 and 1970. We happily voted yes for so many of the Forward Thrust proposals, but too few of us voted yes on transit then.

    3. It seems to me those taxes will rise anyway. The problem is assessed value, which is being forced by a limited supply of housing.

      ST3 might help that a bit as commuters might have an easier trip, and thus desirable areas my be somewhat less limited.

      Zoning changes are really the only way to solve it in the end.

      1. I don’t see assessed value increases as a problem. The problem is that taxes on higher assessments are already bringing in lots of new revenue – and yet the new levies have already doubled the rate of increase. What person has seen an 80 percent five-year annual increase in salary? Some – but not many.

        This rate of tax increase is just not politically sustainable. The voters will reach a tipping point. Is it ST3?

      2. The problem is that our infrastructure and social safety net has not kept up with the population increase, technological innovations, and the evolution of civilization. When the problem is underinvestment, you need more investment, and that means higher taxes. It’s making up the backlog. The end goal is a Scandinavian-like physical and social infrastructure, but at this point we’re just dealing with the regional transit issue, and making a limited investment to address some of the worst problems, and also limited as a compromise with those who don’t want to go larger at this time. I sympathize with not being able to afford taxes, but we need to look at what’s best for the largest cross-section of the region, not just a few people who are at their tax affordability limit. Washington’s taxes are half those of most other states, because of the lack of income tax and limits on the other taxes. So when people say they can’t afford a Washington tax increase, you really wonder what their counterparts in other states are doing, they would be way under water apparently, so they’re getting a great deal in Washington, and that’s helping them to survive.

    4. What would be your state income taxes if you lived elsewhere? If I still lived in California, I would be paying more than 10k to the state, similar amounts of sales tax, and property taxes would be the same levy rate (which means more taxes than WA since their homes are worth more). My parents in Illinois pay almost 9k in property taxes for a home half the value of mine (plus have the same sales taxes and have income taxes). The fact that most Seattle homeowners pay about 5k in property taxes and still have the gall to complain about high taxation is pretty laughable. This low taxation shows greatly in our poor infrastructure.

    5. In Washington State, the increase in property tax levies annually is bounded. Each year’s levy may be increased by no more than 1%.

      Existing owners of properties near light rail stations likely disproportionally benefit from it.

  14. Zach, I really appreciate you writing this article and actually taking the time to engage fairly with points of view like mine. I’m not sure whether I’m going to follow you to the conclusions you’ve drawn here, but I’m going to think seriously about your argument.

    If we’re really as thoroughly fucked as you’re making us out to be, I should probably find somewhere else to live, or at least try to stop caring about transit or land use issues or giving any attention to city politics. But I love Seattle, and it’s hard to imagine completely giving up hope. The long-term trends are moving toward urbanism. There’s a big cultural shift in the works. I still hope we have time to pull this together before the climate is already so hosed it won’t make any difference anymore.

    1. Mars,

      The coastal Northwest is calculated to be the least effected parts of the United States, which is why we MUST preserve as much of the Puget Willamette lowland as is possible, as an inadequate but essential partial replacement for the Central Valley of California, which will burn up. Tragically it’s only about 1/8 as large and the soil isn’t as good, but it’s something on which to grow essential food in the very near future.

      You can say goodbye to most tree fruits other than apples, cherries and pears in a few years, and of course those will be enormously expensive. The peach will easily cost $20 in today’s money.

      Millions of people will want to come here for shelter and they will bring their destructive political views with them. Orange Countians have already ruined Clark County and are moving northward rapidly. Thurston will turn “Red” shortly.

      It’s really over folks. The stranglehold on the Senate that small states wield — all of which except three New England ones and Hawaii are increasingly Confederate — guarantees that no truly meaningful legislation that would make climate amelioration sustainable will be passed. One Presidential election in which they Republicans nominate someone who can keep his or her Id in check means that all of President Obama’s executive actions will immediately be swept away.

      Those millions of people are indeed coming, but they won’t be “Urbanists”; they’ll be David Madore and Christofascists like him.

      1. So more F350 diesels with glass packs then. Lets build this damn transit system then before the H2O rush reaches its climax.

      2. For a little encouragement, Anandakos, the same thing happened in Kansas territory in the mid-1850’s prior to statehood. Congress had decreed that after statehood, citizens themselves would vote whether Kansas was to forbid or allow slavery.

        Naturally, the territory was immediately invaded by militias from Missouri, the slave state next door. However, the anti-slavery northeastern states sent militias of their own. Most famous northern fighter was John Brown, whose one fault as a commander is he was crazy as a loon.

        But in spite of that the Free State side won. So our path is clear. Since King County has a lot more people than Thurston County, and closer I expect to see a lot of people with ORCA cards in the brims of their broad-brimmed hats camping on the lawn at Evergreen College, and also Sylvester Park in Downtown Olympia.

        If we conduct ourselves in an orderly manner and keep our camp looking soldierly- the pro-slavery side always spat tobacco all over the place- the locals might appreciate the police foot patrol that Olympia presently can’t afford. There’s also a statue that should rally noble sentiments in everybody liberal.

        Populist Governor John Rankin Rogers stands solemnly above a plaque with this great quote:

        “I would make it impossible for the covetous and the avaricious to totally impoverish the poor. The rich can take care of themselves!”

        Anybody who can make the Washington State Democratic Party put that in their platform, all us Union troops will put in for the Congressional.


      3. We interrupt this partisan diatribe to point out that Washington voters have a chance to do something about climate change (in addition to voting for Regional Proposition 1):

        Vote Yes on I-732. It’s in our hands, fellow Washingtonians.

    2. Mars;

      This is it man. This really is. There IS no Plan B. You and others had your chance to speak over the past 18 months.

      As to;

      The long-term trends are moving toward urbanism. There’s a big cultural shift in the works. I still hope we have time to pull this together before the climate is already so hosed it won’t make any difference anymore.

      Well partner, the reality is that the rural areas are hosed. Without quality transit, the kids growing up & the disabled are going to end up on drugs and/or government benefit. Consider this reality around the country and in parts of Skagit County and frankly all parts of Island County not the shipyard or US Navy:

      If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called “Cost of Living.” Let’s say you’re a smart kid making $8 an hour at Walgreen’s and aspire to greater things. Fine, get ready to move yourself and your new baby into a 700-square-foot apartment for $1,200 a month, and to then pay double what you’re paying now for utilities, groceries, and babysitters. …
      . . .
      In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams. In a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.

      I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

      And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this with a comment saying, “You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!” Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. Shit, at least politicians act like they care about the inner cities.

      Taking light rail deep into King County, taking light rail through South Pierce County, taking light rail up to Everett is going to really alleviate the economic shift the Great Recession has culminated in. I hate to make folks in Seattle feel sorry for us out here in Skagitonia, my parents’ generations of leaders sure dug our own holes. Then there’s the undisputable fact rural Washingtonians get subsidies from Seattle – and then turn around and have obstructed pro-transit efforts in the state legislature.

      ST3 will really start the healing process. ST3 will kick-start transit oriented development efforts across the region. ST3 will inspire Skagitonians and Island County residents and so many more including I daresay (sorry Glenn) Portlandia.

      I’m not saying YOU Mars are the “liberal elite” picking at us. But I swear the vendetta I am gonna have if ST3 goes down is going to be twice as much on the political left than at the whack jobs like Tsimerman, Firmia and Freeman.

      1. Were you quoting a post you made in another venue, Joe? Or was it something you came across? I ask because it deserves to be quoted and posted far and wide. It’s true; small towns are wonderful places to grow up until one is about fifteen and looking for a future place in life.

        I really don’t know why Washington State only subsidizes Amtrak for rural transit. I guess trains have a vocal and relatively prosperous group of advocates. But certainly there should be an hourly backbone from Centralia to Bellingham run by the State. And the State should help out the small cities along the way to improve their local transit to feed the backbone.

        Also, “Thank you” for admitting that Sprawlsville didn’t have to be as bad as it is. With some more far-sighted leadership town centers could still be vibrant. It’s hard for the local officials to say “No” to Wal-Mart and all the sales taxes it will suck in from the area surrounding the city limits.

      2. Thanks for the perspective on the viewpoint from many rural areas. But there are also other factors that are making the situation the way it is. Jane Jacobs says that cities’ economies grow by replacing imports: by developing more homegrown industries that replace things formerly imported, that create new kinds of things, and create new kinds of exports. That doesn’t just mean large cities and physical things, it’s just that English is a noun-based language so it’s easiest to refer to things. But those “things” can be education (a university), tourism (historic attractions), health (medical services and research), etc — as well as food and video games and plastic doohickeys. A small city like Spokane or Missoula or Wenatchee can benefit from this process in the same way as a large city, although it will be smaller scale. But the ingredients to create this are, in part, a place where a variety of people interact (e.g., a walkable town center, a good transit network), can have intentional meetings with peers, and accidental meetings with acquaintances and strangers and let random ideas spread among them. Somebody will have an idea, that will inspire someone else to a better idea, and then someone with business sense comes along and does the logistical part. That’s the genesis of a startup company, and they can develop from there, and meanwhile other ideas are spreading. Seattle is currently benefiting from this in a big way.

        At the opposite end are one-company towns, where the company manipulates the town for its own benefit. Mark Dublin has talked about how in the pre-automobile days people in these towns used to have to shop at company stores that charged inflated prices, so they were kind of like a colony. Then the company moves or goes out of business and the jobs disappear and the town is devastated, and it doesn’t have this fallback of idea-mixing, startup-generating to transform itself. The town may have the wrong landscape (fragmented, car-dependent, few meeting places), the wrong mindset (not used to chance meetings and sharing ideas, or fear of the unknown or new ways), or not enough money (it takes money to start a business or pursue a vision).

        I’ve read that this was Detroit’s problem: it was a kind of one-company town, dependent on the Big Three carmakers, and when they faltered there was not enough to fall back on. Other factors play a part of course: white flight; political attitudes in the city, suburbs, and state; neighborhood-destroying freeways; etc. But the dependence on a few companies seems to be the biggest factor.

        The small towns in western Washington like Aberdeen have a similar problem: they were dependent on timber, and when the timber jobs went away they haven’t found something to replace them with. Of course, not every town made sense or can be viable: the railroad towns were built because the railroads needed a town every hundred miles for services, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a town there was a generally good idea. So some towns will naturally have to fold. But in other towns there may be the possibility of jump-starting this economic cycle.

        Another issue is the social safety net and universal services. This is what the Scandinavian countries have gotten really well. With things like universal daycare, free college, affordable healthy insurance, sufficient public housing, longer unemployment support or experiments toward a basic income, comprehensive public transit, etc. It allows people to be free from dependency on wealthier relatives and parents, to pursue their creative ideas, and to start businesses without being desperate that they don’t have sufficient fallback if it fails. The US started from the Gilded Age in the late 1800s which was the opposite of this. Then after the Depression and world wars we started reducing inequality and building up the safety net, but since the 1980s that has all been reversed and we’re back to the Gilded Age, only with a more active Federal Reserve and some remnants of social programs and medical insurance. Yet at the same time, many of the areas that are worst off choose to dig themselves even deeper, by gutting social programs, slashing taxes for the rich, not investing in infrastructre even to maintain what their (grand)parents built, rejecting unions, and focusing on culture-war issues rather than on things that could improve their community’s quality of life. So there’s that too.

    3. Mars,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Ever since I’ve known something about how politics-people think, I’ve heard the believed-to-be-truism, “Homeowners vote, renters don’t vote.” And, like most “truisms” among such people, there has been much truth in it – especially in non-Presidential elections.

      For example, I suspect that, if the entire original HALA program were on the ballot this November, it would stand a reasonable chance of being approved. It would probably go down in flames in any other election before 2020. If all the renters in town took a little time to learn what the issue actually was, and then voted, it would pass easily (especially since at least a significant minority of Seattle homeowners are not hard-core NIMBYs). But, in the past, persuading most renters to vote, after paying attention, has been very challenging.

      Actually living in a minimally-well-designed urban area can turn many (but far from all) people into “urbanists”.

      The only way Seattle is going to get out from under the shackles placed upon it by the legislature is to have more representation in it.

      The political key is more population in Seattle (though good “urbanization” of some inner-ring suburbs like Bellevue could also help). That means more housing capacity in Seattle. That requires political support from people who are known to actually vote, ASAP. The people who pretty much have everything to gain and nothing to lose from this are renters (assuming it’s done anywhere near right).

      But a Seattle population increase will only trigger more legislative representation after decennial censuses. The next two are in 2020 and 2030. Given all the delays in making progress toward increasing the potential housing stock in Seattle, population growth effects by 2020 (effectively 3 1/2 years away) may be limited.

      In brief, if there is a shorter-term key to putting Seattle on what we regard as the right track, it is to find a way to get the large renter population to vote, intelligently in their own (as well as Seattle’s) interests. As soon as the electeds are convinced that renters will have their political backs, things will start happening.

      Unfortunately, there isn’t much time for this to occur before 2020. So, regrettably, it may be 2033 (when we get the first legislature elected under the post-2030 reapportionment) that we would reap the full benefit (though there would likely be some additional bargaining power as the date approaches and the reapportionment becomes evidently certain).

      So, don’t get uninvolved. See if we can figure out how to motivate renters. And, unfortunately, given the political calendar, we still may have to be patient.

      1. I’ll let you in on a little secret about politics-people: At one volunteer training session years ago, the trainer said to skip apartments and just doorbell houses, because that is who votes.

        One of the volunteers asked if all the renters in the room could raise their hands. Every hand went up.

      2. Indeed. It is a common property of campaigns. Brutally oversimplifying, the “homeowners” (older, wealthier, more upper-middle-classish) working on a campaign are mostly used to schmooze with people more-or-less like themselves in hopes of raising money through personal contact. They may also be used on phone banks, mostly calling people rather like themselves.

        The younger people working on a campaign, assumed to have more energy, less poise, and less rigidified schedules, are mostly used for doorbelling, for attending public occasions like festivals and handing out literature / registering people / etc., for waving signs while smiling at rush-hour traffic, etc. They may also be used on phone banks (which can absorb multitudes), often with rather scripted appeals.

        At least on Democratic-leaning campaigns, those younger people are almost all renters (or sometimes live-at-homes – but not homeowners).

        For a recent example of why pols think as they do … I remember reading posts from STB commenters who looked at the statistics from the recent county Prop. 1 to fund Metro (the one that lost) and were struck by the terrible turnout in the renter-heavy precincts around UofW, mainly populated by transit-users with much to gain from the success of the proposition.

        I can understand why pols don’t want to waste their limited resources on non-voters, but (on the “Democratic side”), I would tend to agree with what I think you imply – that they may be missing out on some real possibilities. Persuading non-voting renters to actually vote may actually be about as useful as persuading frequent-voting homeowners to vote your way.

        I still stand by the point that, to get pro-urbanist policies like HALA approved by elected officials, it will be at least immensely easier, if not absolutely necessary, to convince them that renters will vote (and vote for their own interests, especially when they correspond with the common interest). And they won’t be convinced that renters will vote until they actually do so in significant numbers. Thus, rather than get discouraged and give up, we need to find a way to make that happen.

        And densifying Seattle may well be a political prerequisite to getting lots of other things done that need to be done, very much including adequate and intelligently conceived transit

      3. “At least on Democratic-leaning campaigns, those younger people are almost all renters”

        This will become less so over time. First, homeowners are those who bought when prices were reasonable; so before 2004. So at minimum they’re twelve years older than that now. Second, when condos were introduced in the 80s they much were less expensive than houses and were seen as starter homes. Now condos cost as much as houses did a few years ago and some are more expensive than current houses. So that option is not as available as it used to be.

        Third, there are no empty single-family lots left in Seattle. The population increases but the number of houses is fixed, and most of those residents don’t want to move, and they die only every seventy years. So future middle-aged people will have to live in apartments or condos or move to the suburbs. The only housing growth in Seattle is multifamily or at minimum townhouses. (The large SHA redevelopments have some houses but, they’re “almost” townhouses for our purposes.) McMansions are a 1:1 replacement so essentially nothing is changed. So over time the percentage of renters and multifamily homeowners will increase.

      4. I would agree, Mike.

        I think what you are saying (perhaps oversimplified) is that, barring some major changes, the “older, wealthier, more upper-middle-classish” group will gradually include more renters and multifamily/townhouse owners, while the “younger” group will continue to be predominantly renters plus (maybe a larger proportion of) live-at-homes.

        Politically, that would probably lift the voter participation of renters-as-a-group at least somewhat.

        Our chances of getting the urban condo/townhouse/apartment supply improved, and consequently the price rises decelerated or stopped, greatly increase if the electeds could feel assured that renters would actually vote and support them if they allowed (or better, encouraged) this.

      5. The proportion of Seattle renters just went above 50% this year. It will take several years for the reality to manifest itself, and several more years before people’s perceptions change. In the meantime there have been some positive signs, such as north Seattle choosing more density-friendly councilmembers than their mostly-single-family status would suggest.

  15. The term “Independent Contractor” need NOT mean: “Hired, underpaid, and fired by the minute.” When the Emperor asked him his first measure for repairing society, Confucius said: “Reform language!” Translated as “Whatever the Chinese characters are for ‘One Euphemism, No Head!'”


    1. Usually I can half-understand the point Mark is trying to make underneath his obfuscation, but this time I haven’t a sliver of a clue.

      1. Thanks for demanding clarification, Steve. Point was this. It’s common for corporations now to avoid paying the benefits that employees used to expect by saying that they don’t work for the company, but are simply being paid for one piece of work.

        Which gets shorter with time. I’ve read that people are starting to be on call at home to work at one task for far less than an hour. “Independent Contractor” used to connote someone in a fairer relationship.

        “Collateral Damage” is another example, probably not appreciated by those to whom it’s applied. Also “Enhanced Sentence” meaning you get no time off your sentence for good behavior. Or Interrogation, which differs from torture because for the CIA, a black hood and greasy black tights are Out of Uniform.

        Would be good now if every office had someone senior with enough stature to, like Confucius, be able to correct this rhetorical habit without having anybody do anything either Enhanced or Collateral to him.


      2. If you half-understand Mark’s points that’s better than me. I used to understand them but several months ago it got more difficult.

  16. The list didn’t include much about integrating bus-to-rail design. Crossing the county comfortably on rail still leaves riders with an uncertain bus ride to final destinations. Transit-oriented development won’t occur where Link stations are dedicated to parking and where noisy polluted bus line connections don’t come often enough. Rejecting ST3 would be a wake up call that might stir Metro and ST to work together after years of drunken confidentiality leading the Seattle region down. Transit aficionados still hanging onto the notion that faster is better are watching the road there lengthened. You’re all a pack of incompetent boneheads repeating a corporate mandate to sell cars, soon to be self-driving, another corporate lie. Vote ST3 down.

    1. Three questions: Is slower better, or equal to? Also, doesn’t being drunk make confidentiality problematic? And three, didn’t I tell the Desk Clerk I wanted my wake-up call at 7:23 in the MORNING? Sheesh.


      1. ad hom my foot. Let me try again to prove faster is NOT better.
        Express transit creates a demand for long-distance travel that it can’t meet. It allows the current development paradigm of suburban housing compounds that require cross-county commuting that creates more traffic than it removes from streets and highways. Light rail has the capacity to fill seats in both directions of travel around the clock which it can’t fill as long as express bus and fast subways leave too few neighborhoods without the least mandate to direct transit-oriented development whereby more occupations are built closer to home. Go ahead, Seattlers, make the most investment in transit that requires long-distance travel and see how that goes. My guess is that it’ll be little more than what’s already a proven failure, seemingly exactly what business interests and city planners intend.

      2. Wells (and others);

        ST3 will connect job sites all over the Sound Transit district – and housing too. It’s meant to be a vehicle of economic mobility, not just commute trip reduction.

        The sad reality is that as Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said,

        The next step is to complete light rail to Kent/Des Moines, Lynnwood, and Bellevue and Overlake and toward Redmond. And that will be the end of our capital program. It’s ironic. Some have criticized the agency with this banner of being Seattle-centric. There is an argument to be made that if our light rail network stops at the end of the ST2 program, at least the light rail network will be Seattle-centric. If it fails, we finish building the system we’ve been authorized to build. There is no secret plan B sitting in a file drawer here.

        Oh and I’ll add NO light rail to Ballard, NO light rail to West Seattle, NO light rail to Paine Field, NO light rail to Tacoma and NO light rail to Everett. Does that make you happy? Are you a Trump-Tsimerman supporter?

  17. As an Eastside resident, I will be voting no on ST3. Not because the Seattle projects are bad, since they aren’t, but because the Eastside projects are pretty terrible. As a daily rider of the 255 from the South Kirkland P&R, I can assure you that the light rail extension to the South Kirkland P&R is a huge waste of money. Any route which only has enough service to justify a not very full, non-articulated bus every 15 minutes is definitely not worthy of light rail. That money could be far better to use simply putting more buses in service during the peak hour 255 routes, or on simply increasing the frequency of other Eastside Bus Routes. Issaquah also has nowhere near the density or bus ridership to support a light rail line.

    1. Yeah. It’s worth noting that if ST3 loses it will probably be because it loses in Pierce County, South King and particularly East King, which really does have abysmal projects. In that instance the argument of so what “its their money” becomes a bit more tenuous. As a Seattlite it’s not clear to me, with or without subarea equity, why I should ignore the mostly wasteful suburban projects and only care about the nice urban projects.

      1. I can see why voters in Kirkland wouldn’t be impressed. The opportunity to get light rail to downtown Kirkland got NIMBYed. That wasn’t even driven by Kirkland’s elected officials. The ST Board cowered to a group of organized wealthy homeowners who are trying to privatize a public right-of-way to their use. That that group won, and is still urging the rest of Kirkland to vote No, is quixotic. If there is an ST 2.5, it could end up including a light rail connection between downtown Kirkland and downtown Bellevue. That’s the one weird case I can come up with where locals might get a better transit outcome by voting No on ST3, but it is a stretch, I suppose.

        Snohomish County has an armada of peak-only buses that throttle downtown Seattle every rush hour. They come from all parts of the county, mostly north of Lynnwood Transit Center. The justification for Everett Link isn’t just the bus ridership, but also the congested state of I-5 north of Lynnwood. Route 512 is getting really good ridership all day.

        I still am not terribly happy with the swervy preferred path of Link through south King County, just to avoid towns where the city council is antagonistic. Yes, it belongs on Highway 99. But it does belong in South King County and serving downtown Tacoma. The space between Seattle and Tacoma is hardly rural, and will absorb a lot of the region’s growth in the coming decades.

        The other really important project not being funded just by the North King subarea is the second downtown transit tunnel. I see it as totally appropriate that other subareas help fund that. It is where riders from all the subareas connect, and without it, light rail is going to run out of capacity for riders from the suburbs. As a Seattleite, I’m voting Yes not just because I think suburbanites also deserve a way to get out of gridlock, but because Seattle can’t afford to build the second downtown transit tunnel, key to making Ballard and West Seattle light rail feasible, by itself.

      2. @Brent — The Kirkland corridor fiasco was a bit more complicated than that. The Kirkland city council wanted to use the Cross Kirkland Corridor as a busway. This makes sense given the region (it is a corridor without huge destinations along the way, but serves as a great way to avoid traffic while picking up some riders). Sound Transit wanted rail, and the “save our trail” folks wanted neither. ST didn’t want to go with bus service, and they didn’t want to go against both the city council (that was adamantly opposed to rail on the CKC) and the local preservationists, so they punted. It is possible that even if ST had supported Kirkland’s proposal, ST might have chickened out anyway, but we’ll never know.

      3. There’s also the fact that the busway would have been express, and that’s not useful in that corridor. It would either be redundant with the 255 or replace it. It can’t run 55 mph because of the trail and adjacent pedestrians. So it would run at arterial speed. 108th has some congestion but not that much. Duplicating the 255 would be redundant. Replacing it would lose the in-between stops, which are low-volume but the only bus service in that area.

    2. Well Nigel, maybe you might not need it but your kids and grandkids might to get to a good job. High quality transit means economic mobility. Radial commuting is sadly America today. From an article I just read trying to explain the Trump phenomenon:

      Step outside of the city, and the suicide rate among young people fucking doubles. The recession pounded rural communities, but all the recovery went to the cities. The rate of new businesses opening in rural areas has utterly collapsed.
      . . .
      See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been. The roof of our high school leaked when it rained. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

      If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called “Cost of Living.” Let’s say you’re a smart kid making $8 an hour at Walgreen’s and aspire to greater things. Fine, get ready to move yourself and your new baby into a 700-square-foot apartment for $1,200 a month, and to then pay double what you’re paying now for utilities, groceries, and babysitters.
      . . .
      In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams. In a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.

      I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

      And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this with a comment saying, “You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!” Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets.

      Well folks, that’s a good slice of my Skagitonia. I am telling you straight up – you need to find a way to realize there is better transit and then there is rolling the dice and likely getting worse than the status quo. Vote for better transit. Vote for a better life. Vote YES on Regional Prop 1!

      1. AvGeek Joe,
        I completely agree with you about the benefits of high quality transit. However, I disagree that the Eastside projects are high quality transit. Neither light rail to Issaquah nor South Kirkland will improve regional mobility significantly, and both projects use up huge amounts of money that could be better spent elsewhere. As an Eastside resident, I would rather pay for useful projects in Seattle, like the Metro 8 Subway, than pay for a useless line to Issaquah.

      2. Nigel;

        Your problem is real simple – there is no Plan B to redirect that money to more true BRT.

        I would look at it as connecting more communities to quality transit, and creating more building opportunities for transit oriented development. Not something to turn down and then hope for the best…

      3. Nigel,

        As an eastside taxpayer, you will be helping to pay for a useful project in Seattle: the second transit tunnel.

        If S. Kirkland to Issaquah is so unpopular, then there is a lot of time between now and 2041 to come back to the voters, and divert the money to better projects. I’ll be there with you to help do that, if ST3 passes, whether it be for the region to help build another subway line in Seattle, or BRISK on the eastside (if the served neighborhoods want it).

      4. “Radial commuting is sadly America today.”

        Well, yes, and it is sad, so why on earth would we choose to continue reifying the last century’s mistakes by investing in more resources for radial commuting when we could be changing direction and building something better? How are things ever going to change if we don’t start changing them? When are we going to start making changes if not now?

      5. Mars;

        As to,

        Well, yes, and it is sad, so why on earth would we choose to continue reifying the last century’s mistakes by investing in more resources for radial commuting when we could be changing direction and building something better? How are things ever going to change if we don’t start changing them? When are we going to start making changes if not now?

        ST3 will be a big change. More light rail for Seattle. More focus on housing supply close to reliable mass transit.

        Mars, I’m asking you to be a little more optimistic and go ahead and back ST3. I’m not asking you to volunteer or give money to help guys like I who are disabled. I’m just asking you to come around to supporting ST3 online and at the ballot because, after housing a vehicle is a family’s second largest expense. YES on Sound Transit Proposition 1 is the most cost effective way to expand transit, and helps vulnerable people get where they need to go.

        Thanks. Please listen, post-St3, we gotta meet up and team up on the land use issue. I hear ya… we need more jobs in the suburbs, we need more housing close to jobs, oh and we need less cars on the roads. ST3 is a big leap for all three.


      6. I’m glad you can afford to live comfortably wherever you want so that you can avoid all that radial commuting and walking across soul-killing suburban freeways. But not everybody can; in fact, a majority of the 3 million people in the region can’t. So yes we need to turn around the urban areas and make them more like Chicago and Boston so that they can absorb the population they’re capable of. But that requires convincing the Powers That Be, and even if we succeeded today it would take twenty or forty years to build all that out. Rejecting the radial Link lines means cutting off those people from high-capacity transit during the gap when all of new this housing in Seattle is not yet built or available. I’m concerned about the gap; I’m concerned about unintended consequences. That’s why I’m not depending on Seattle passing SuperHALA++ tomorrow and building it all in the next five years. They should pass it, and the builders should build it as quickly as they can. But we can’t hold our breath waiting for it and depending on it, with no contingencies or interim mitigations.

      7. Joe – I’m glad to find some common ground; I agree that the effectively mandatory nature of car ownership for most Americans is a serious problem. I think we’re measuring success differently, though: it seems like you primarily want to extend service out to people who aren’t currently using transit at all, while I’m focused on enabling people to ditch their cars and go transit-only.

      8. “I think we’re measuring success differently, though: it seems like you primarily want to extend service out to people who aren’t currently using transit at all, while I’m focused on enabling people to ditch their cars and go transit-only.”

        Thank you. That is the general direction of our viewpoints and our conflict. But for my part I’m not just interested in extending transit to those who aren’t currently using it. I want to improve everybody’s trips who currently face 1-2 hour unreliable bus rides. That level of service is a significant hinderance to getting around or choosing transit for it. It makes people endure things that you wouldn’t wish on your enemy.

        And as for enabling people to ditch their cars and go transit-only, I’m pushing for that too, and I assume Joe is. It’s not an either-or, and we need a wholistic multi-faceted solution that works for everybody. ST3 is just one part of it. Metro’s, Community Transit’s, and Pierce Transit’s long-range plans are another part. (I’ve seen Metro’s, CT’s, Bellevue’s, and Marysville’s long-term transit plans and they’re all very good. I’ve heard PT’s is also good although I haven’t seen it. Seattle’s I have some doubts about, but let’s get at least a frequent bus plan on the ground. If I can mostly ride RapidRide throughout Seattle the way New Yorkers ride subways and rarely have to use a lower-level bus, that will be something.)

        By the way, Joe lives in Mt Vernon, and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying so but I think he doesn’t drive due to a disability. The bus from Mt Vernon to Everett is unidirectional peak only. Beyond that there’s only the occasional Amtrak Cascades and Greyhound. I don’t know how he manages to get to all the weekend things he goes to in Snohomish and King County. We don’t need to dwell on the Skagit situation; that’s far beyond ST’s responsibility. I bring it up to show the kinds of trips real people make, Hundreds of thousands of people don’t go to Skagit County but they do make all kinds of trips within the three-county area. The more they can do that on transit without unreasonable hardships, the better.

        I don’t have a car and have never wanted one, and I like living in places like Broadway, Summit, University Way, and 45th. But I also grew up in the suburbs and know what it’s like to have hourly buses, and I know lots of people who work in the suburbs and have slightly different attitudes than we do, or they live where their parents chose or near elderly relatives or they can’t afford to move to the city even though they’d like to. They suburbanites are 2/3 of the region’s population. And some of them will ride transit if it’s reasonably reliable and straightforward like the Link backbone is, and they’ll transfer to a bus at both ends if it’s frequent enough and doesn’t have undue slowdowns. So I’m thinking both of urbanites who will go carless under the right conditions, and suburbanites who will go carless with a little more effort, and people who will drive just occasionally — if we have a seamless transit network throughout the region, and one that doesn’t impose unreasonable hardships on people.

      9. Re all the other things of getting to a walkable city and a walkable inner metropolis: those are important too. But we can’t do everything all at once or in one step. The United States turned fundamentally away from walkability and transit after WWII. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the 1970s oil crisis was also a turning point. After it Europe turned toward transit and walkability again to be less dependent on mideast oil, and now to be more resilient in the face of climate change and recessions. If a recession occurs or you’re unemployed but you can still take trains and buses everywhere so you don’t need a car, you’re not that badly off. But the US went in the opposite direction after the 1970s crisis: under Reagan we doubled down on car dependency. And in the 90s and 00s was this exurban explosion that brought in Canyon Park and Lake Stevens and Maple Valley and merged the Seattle and Tacoma job markets, ugh. We have to turn our country around, and our region’s attitudes. But it’s a long-term project. In the meantime, blaming the people who can only find a place to live in Kent or Ash Way, or cutting them off from high-capacity transit, is just wrong, especially when it’s 2 million people and 2/3 of the population. (Or maybe 3/4, but I don’t want to overestimate it.) And you can’t contradict the majority in a democracy, you can only try to convince them to change their mind. (Well, you can maybe override them with gerrymandering and race-bating and voter-suppression and culture-war issues, but we don’t want to do that.)

      10. I would love to see the creation of a walkable metropolis too.

        The extent of single family zoning close in means places like Lake City get pushed to the edges. Stuff like that makes it difficult to turn into reality.

      11. “How are things ever going to change if we don’t start changing them? When are we going to start making changes if not now?”

        Things are happening. They’re just going more slowly and less conspicuously than some people would like. First there was the urban growth boundary. Then there’s Metro’s and CT’s and Bellevue’s long-term transit plans: they’re all more or less Walkeresque, and if they have some flaws they’re certainly better than Metro’s philosophy in the 80s and the county council’s micromanaging in the 90s. 2012 was a wake-up call for the council; they realized they could no longer prop up a route because one constituent wanted to keep it. That led to Metro’s performance metrics and its proposals since then. As well as dropping the Free Ride Area which wasn’t going away any other way, and which continually confused people by causing Pay As You Leave — especially when PYAL was dropped after 7pm meaning they payment position changed depending on the time of day. There’s the densification of downtown Bellevue, the Spring District plan, the minor densifications in Burien and The Landing, the promised densification in Southcenter and downtown Kent. These breadbox buildings aren’t as walkable as we’d like but they’re a start — and they’ve gotten the governments to start thinking about frequent transit, walkability, and vehicle miles driven. Over time it will become clearer to them which designs work better. Climate change is becoming more important in people’s minds. Autonomous cars have started people thinking about someday taking universal taxis rather than owning cars — that’s quite a leap for Americans.

        ST3 Link may only address a medium-term need: the gap until a larger share of the population moves closer in and the inner areas upzone. Maybe Chicago and Boston is Seattle’s future, even though it looks unlikely now. But the point is that the gap is important too. People are cursing ST and Metro and the convention center for not doing more about mobility in the gap until 2021 when North Link opens: the buses in the DSTT, the long transfer from UW Station to the 75 and 372, etc. The agencies and governments just want to ride it out rather than making expensive temporary changes. ST3 Link is the flip side of that — something to fill the gap until Mars’s future is realized. But we don’t know if Mars’s future will come, or when. In order for it to happen, you have to convince the majority of society and government officials. Or you have to run for government and get your people as the majority of decision-makers. Pugetopolans are not ready to forego parking and cars yet. But bit by bit they’re more willing to allow an infrastucture so that those who don’t want to drive can do so, and to start to think that maybe in the future more people will want to live in mixed-use neighborhoods and not drive. Or realizing that mixed-use neighborhoods are what our traditional American towns and cities were, and that designing them for walking is only logical and sensible.

    3. The marginal cost of extending the Issaquah->Bellevue line to Kirkland really isn’t that much. It’s only two miles along a flat right-of-way that’s already there, about half of which will be immediately adjacent to an O&M facility that Sound Transit is building anyway for ST2.

    4. The line to Issaquah is not a bad investment because:

      1) It connects Bellevue College to other areas. Bellevue College is expanding. It will serve many students who don’t drive and many adults who work in downtown Bellevue and Redmond to take evening classes without driving. Light rail can provide frequent and reliable services all day cost effectively, but buses are not reliable and can either be frequent or low cost but not both.

      2) Issaquah residents face significant traffics on I-90 during peak hours. With good local connection buses to the future light rail station, it will give the residents good option to avoid traffics.

      3) There are good trails near Issaquah. People can take their bikes on light rails and visit the trails without cars in weekends. Light rail has frequent and reliable services even on weekends.

      4) The Issaquah line costs about 50% of the East king budget. The rest of the East king budget goes to the Redmond line (about 25%), i405 BRT (about 25%). The projected ridership of the Issaquah line is comparable to that of the i405 BRT and about 70% more than that of the Redmond line. The average cost of the Issaquah line is about $162m/mile. It is one of the lowest among all the light rail lines (second only to the Tacoma extension line) in ST3. It provides good values to East King region.

    5. @Nigel (original comment) and Alex (first followup comment):

      Sounds about right. The one thing I would add is that the Seattle projects aren’t that great. Ballard to downtown is better than average, but even that isn’t as good as people make it out to be. Like a lot of our system, when you actually break it down stop by stop and look at door to door travel, it falls short. But it is, by far, the best part of the proposal (which is really sad). It makes it completely different than ST2. There were only three major projects, and two of them were fantastic (UW to Lynnwood and a train to the East Side). Like downtown to the UW, it is hard to argue that investing in buses or bus infrastructure makes more sense. Lynnwood is an excellent terminus (arguably overkill) but it is already accessible via bus lanes and is the center of Community Transit bus service. Extending that far makes sense — it isn’t like this is a brand new line.

      These projects are the opposite. It is very easy to come up with bus based alternatives. A busway from Eastgate to downtown Bellevue accomplishes just about everything this does (and then some). The HOV lanes from Eastgate to Issaquah are fine (, unlike so many other areas. This would enable more direct service from various areas (Sammamish to Eastgate, or the Issaquah Highlands to Mercer Island). Of course the main benefit of building a busway like this is that it is a lot cheaper, which allows you to spend money on other things and thus spread around the benefit (i. e. build BRISK —

      What is true for the East Side is true for the north and south end. In every case the idea with ST3 is that building a train line in the general vicinity solves the transit mobility problems for the entire region. It doesn’t. Even if you are talking about a radial commute pattern, this fails and fails miserably. If I live in Edgewood, I’m supposed to take a bus to South Federal Way or Fife, then spend an hour on a train to get to Seattle. No thanks, I’ll take the express bus. But wait a second, their isn’t one. That’s because they sunk all their money into a subway that extends farther out than the ones in London, New York or Paris. I guess I’ll drive.

      Of course this also ignores the fact that a lot of people in Edgewood aren’t working in downtown Seattle. They work in Auburn, Puyallup or Kent. This does nothing for them either. Oh, and doesn’t it stand to reason that this is why they are living there in the first place? Either they work close by, or simply can’t afford to move closer (or most likely both). Jobs in a downtown office tower usually pay really well, jobs in the hospitals and the strip malls of the suburbs do not.

      What is true of the suburbs is actually true of Seattle. It is easy to argue that an investment in bus infrastructure — specifically the WSTT — is better. Not only is it a lot cheaper (no need for a new bridge to West Seattle, just build a ramp and use the existing bus lanes) but it serves more areas. Not only more parts of West Seattle and Ballard, but the Aurora Corridor, which serves buses that carry about half of what Link carries right now. Way more people save way more time, even before you’ve started spreading the money around on other improvements.

  18. Zach writes: “To vote “no” on ST3 expecting to remove these [10 urbanist] constraints is misguided.” This seems like a bit of a strawman though. ST2 followed at best one of these principals, and yet it was a great package because it built an exceptionally valuable line between Husky Stadium and Lynnwood and marginally valuable lines to Bellevue/Overlake and Highline CC. ST3 by contrast has one strong line (Ballard/SLU/Downtown) a couple of marginal lines in the Everett, Tacoma and West Seattle extensions and two abysmal light rail projects on the Eastside. And within those broad categories, I think that the marginal ST2 projects were better than the marginal ST3 projects. In this way, unlike a ST2 no vote, this isn’t really a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good at least as I see it.

    1. I would see it as fulfilling the promise of Sound Transit to its own district. Of spreading the goodness of light rail around. Of really creating new places for transit oriented development.

      Need me to go on?

    2. There are hundred of thousands of people commuting from Snohomish county and Pierce county to King county for works daily. This is reflected in the projected riderships of the lines:

      1) Everett line: 37000-45000
      2) Main Tacoma line: 32000-37000

      The numbers are comparable to the Ballard and West Seattle line:

      3) Ballard line: 47000-57000
      4) West Seattle line: 32000-37000

      If the Ballard line is strong, the Everett, main Tacoma and West Seattle lines are also strong.

      Although the Eastside lines are weaker comparing to other lines, due to the subarea equatable policy, the tax collected from the Eastside must be spent on the Eastside. This is the political reality discussed in the article. Also, if you look closely, the lines serve population centers where traffics are heavy during peak hours. They provide the necessary new capacity.

    3. Exactly, Alex, well said. Most of ST2 was good, even if there were plenty of flaws. ST3 is the opposite.

      @pilot38-byte — Those numbers are ridiculous. You would be hard pressed to find any suburban line anywhere with those sorts of numbers, let alone one with nothing in the way of midway trip to trip pairs, all day demand, population density or even significant overall door to door speed to the bigger city. Forgive me if I’m skeptical of an agency delivering on those sorts of numbers when it has no record of success when it comes to estimating ridership (greatly exaggerating suburban popularity, while greatly underestimating it in urban areas).

      But even if you do get numbers like that, it doesn’t mean that you’ve saved anyone any time. For a lot of people, you would be better off having fast, frequent, more direct service to the current nearest Link station (Lynnwood, for example) or just better bus service in the region (e. g. double frequency on Swift to six minutes). There just aren’t that many people who live near the Ash Way or Fife park and ride. Folks will have to take buses, and for just about everyone, the frequency and route of those buses will determine the popularity of the suburban lines. We are better off putting money into that, than extending this farther than just about any city ever has.

      1. The numbers are reasonable. Most of the jobs in King county are in Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond.

        In 2014, about 29% of employees living in Pierce county commuted to King County for work. There are 372,670 employees living in Pierce county. This translates to 108,074 people.

        In 2014, about 40% of employees living in Snohomish county commuted to King County for work. There are 379,269 employees living in Snohomish county. This translates to 151707 people.

        As for the travel time, light rail is very competitive because:

        1) It is reliable all day, and this saves many transit riders time. The biggest problem with buses is not frequency, but reliability. It is frustrating to have to wait for over 45min and have a few buses arriving at the same time due to congestions. This is a common occurrence during peak hours. For example, for Everett to Seattle, the time to ensure 95% on-time arrival is 76 min, even though the time at posted speeds is 24 min. With ST3, it will be reliably 53 min.

        2) It is frequent all day. Another problem with buses is that they are infrequent after peak hours. People may go to work during peak hours and leave work outside peak hours.

        3) It is as affordable as buses to commuters.

        1) 29% and 40%:
        2) Employee numbers: datausa and search for Pierce county and Snohomish county
        3) Employment data: or
        4) 95% on-time travel:

      2. Thank you. Happy to rejoin this comment thread here (sorry Mars Saxman we drifted apart from our debate, 100% on me).

        My passion for light rail to Everett Station is the reliability issue. Right now, either I arrange to take the Sounder North – expensive, unsafe and early – or schedule all Seattle appointments for 11 AM or later. That’s because it takes 90-120 minutes for the bus to get from Everett Station to Seattle.

        Buses just aren’t working. The backups are before Lynnwood now.

      3. It also works both directions, unlike Sounder. The express buses kind of work both directions, but the single direction nature of the express lanes makes them not work too well.

        Downtown to downtown is slower. It makes up for it by serving more intermediate stations and thus reaches more places than the express buses do.

  19. To all you ST3 opponents from the left I got two very personal questions for you:

    1) Are you so into screwing the suffering suburbs that you would deny yourself massive amounts of new in-Seattle light rail?

    2) What exactly do you tell transit advocates outside of the Sound Transit district?

    OK, no seriously. I want to hear your answers.

    1. I’m in those suburbs – East King. ST3 doesn’t help me. 405 BRT doesn’t go anywhere near anywhere I want to go except downtown Bellevue itself. The Issaquah line is pretty useless: the I-90 HOV lanes are still good, buses can get to Issaquah faster, and buses can go more places besides a TC in the middle of strip malls and vague promises of future TOD. The Redmond extension is good, but is that really enough? What about all the rest of East King, as well? What we really need is something like BRISK.

      And despite all this, I’d still vote for ST3 if it was really good for the other subareas and Seattle… but I’m not seeing it there either.

      1. I haven’t heard people in Snohomish County complain about what their subarea is getting. I’ve only heard them complain that light rail to Ballard is waste. I’ve heard the exact opposite from people in Ballard. Everyone outside of the east subarea seems pretty happy with what they’re getting, if they want transit at all, but not happy that other areas are getting something too.

        To get BRISK, you have to get the served neighborhoods to want it. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Nor do I see how another vote would get NIMBY’s to change their minds and open their arms to BRISK.

      2. Right Brent and I would simply say this: ST3 is heavily about keeping subarea money in the subarea. It’s why it takes so damn long to finish the I-5 primary spine. I really think Mass Transit Now has got a lot of stuff to walk back and educate the public about. Oh and very little time to do it…..

      3. The lines to Everett and Tacoma are good in term of riderships. The projected riderships are comparable to those in Ballard and West Seattle.

        The lines in the Eastside are not as good in term of riderships, but the lines serve some of the major Eastside population centers where traffics are heavy during peak hours. They provide the necessary new capacity. If the connecting buses are good, it will be a good investment.

      4. At the risk of promoting RossB’s point, if a fifteen-mile segment has equal ridership to a three-mile segment, that’s not excellent news for the fifteen-mile segment.

      5. “ST3 is heavily about keeping subarea money in the subarea. It’s why it takes so damn long to finish the I-5 primary spine.”

        Er, no. The reason it has taken so long since 1995 is that (1) The ST1 projection was overoptimistic and that led to a fiscal crisis in the early 2000s and it took five years for ST to recover enough to offer ST2, and (2) the small sizes of ST1 and 2 and the long time until the ST3 vote. These were caused by external factors: ST’s perception that voters didn’t want larger phases or more closely-spaced phases, and the Legislature’s tax caps and restricted revenue sources on ST.

        “I really think Mass Transit Now has got a lot of stuff to walk back and educate the public about.”

        I don’t know what that means. If you mean that the public generally doesn’t have a concept of what kind of transit is most effective, that’s a bigger problem than any Mass Transit Now campaign can address. It would require something like everybody reading Human Transit in school as part of their basic education, and a couple decades for the ideas to filter out into the majority of the population.

      6. The delay has had some advantages. The public is more interested in city lines, grade separation, closer stop spacing, and walkable station areas than it was in the 1990s. Each phase is better than the previous one, now that people have experienced Link on the ground and started thinking more about what they really want. Some people don’t believe it’s getting better because they see the outer areas being worse-designed than in the first phase, but that’s because they’re outer areas: their location partly cancels out the effect of the changes. The point is that the outer segments are better-designed now than they would have been in the 1990s.

      7. > At the risk of promoting RossB’s point, if a fifteen-mile segment has equal ridership to a three-mile segment, that’s not excellent news for the fifteen-mile segment.

        It is true that the Issaquah line has lower ridership than the Ballard and West Seattle line, but does it prove that the Issaquah is not a right investment?

        1) Even though the Issaquah line is longer, it is actually cheaper than the Ballard line
        2) The ridership number is sizable for Eastside.
        3) Issaquah residences doesn’t have reliable transits due to insufficient capacity of I-90 and I-405.
        4) Combining with the high capacity, high reliability and low operating cost of light rail, its benefits can outweigh the costs. Granted, it may not outweigh as much as Ballard line and West Seattle line, but that’s not the reason to reject it. Otherwise, people would reject all the light rails in Seattle because it is not the Tokyo level of ridership.

      8. “It is true that the Issaquah line has lower ridership than the Ballard and West Seattle line, but does it prove that the Issaquah is not a right investment?”

        I was comparing the Tacoma and Everett segments with the Ballard segment.

        The Issaquah line is clearly the least-justified line in any ST package so far. It’s not only the lowest-ridership globally but a marginal benefit to the Eastside. I’ll admit I don’t know a lot about congestion on I-90 east of 405 but I assume it’s much less than west of it or on 405. The largest cities in the Eastside are Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, and Renton, not Issaquah. Issquah is a far outlier geographically from the Bellevue-Redmond-Kirkland trio, with farmland right behind it so no possibility of urban growth. Issaquah is getting Link only because it was more willing than other cities to zone and urban center and upzone central Issaquah, it was the most vocally supportive of Link since 2008 or earlier, and its mayor is on the ST board which gives it clout. And you’re right that elevated construction in public right of way is relatively inexpensive and fast to build. I’m willing to allow a throwaway line for the sake of the larger deal, but that doesn’t change my impression that Link seems a bit overkill for Issaquah, and the money could have gone a long way toward an Eastside BRT network.

        But at the same time I’m not intrinsically opposed to a possibly-overbuilt light rail network like some other people are. We got into this hole because we underbuilt transit for decades. Possibly overshooting it now would be a solid antidote to it, and give non-drivers seamless access to most of the region via one-seat rides or train-to-train transfers for however much they go to all the cities, and future-proofs us in case a big wave of population, densification, and/or car-downsizing does hit eventually.

    2. The suburbs will always suffer; the suburbs are defined by suffering. Suburban houses are cheap because they are remote and inconvenient. People buy them because they are willing to trade time for money; they accept a lifestyle which involves a lot of driving around and sitting in traffic in order to get a bigger house.

      The suburban fringe exists at the point where land becomes so remote and so inconvenient that there are no longer enough people willing to make the trade that home development there would be profitable.

      Of course the commute is horrible. The commute is always going to be horrible, because that’s what defines the limit of development.

      We all know what happens if we build a new freeway: for the first decade or two it’s great, yay, congestion disappeared. But the freeway opens up more area to convenient living, so what happens? People go buy houses there. The area fills up. Pretty soon it’s all congested again, and the commutes are horrible. All we’ve done is pushed the edge of horribleness further out along the line the freeway travels.

      Why should we expect anything different with a train system? If we make the suburbs more convenient, by making the commute less horrible, that will simply make them a better financial bargain. The land will become more desirable. People will move in. Prices will go up. Bargain-hunters will move even further away. A generation later, we will be right back at the same equilibrium we have today, with a new group of even-further suburbs complaining about how badly they are suffering and how much they would like to have a better highway and their own stop on this ever-sprawling commuter transit network.

      20th century overinvestment in freeways already pushed the suburban fringe out to an unsustainable distance. We don’t need to make it easier to live in the suburbs – we need to make it easier to live in the urban core. We need to pull our far-flung population back together so we can stop wasting so much energy moving people and goods around, and we need to increase the portion of the population living in dense enough neighborhoods that good public services like subway lines become cost-effective.

      We won’t solve suburban sprawl by accommodating it and building long, noodly inter-urban commuter lines; we’ll solve suburban sprawl by fixing our insanely conservative zoning codes, thereby allowing people to move in where the resources are, instead of committing ourselves to an endless treadmill where we stretch ourselves thin trying to spread those resources out all over the western half of the state.

      1. Mars;

        Well let’s get something straight – undoing Sound Transit’s network of compromises to make it easy to live in the urban core with more Seattle light rail (Ballard! West Seattle! Infill stations!) isn’t going to get your goal across.

        Let’s also understand something – there are disabled children & disabled adult children trapped in the suburbs & exurbs who need quality transit. Yes, trapped. ST3 is that hope for us.

        As to our shared desire to,

        We won’t solve suburban sprawl by accommodating it and building long, noodly inter-urban commuter lines; we’ll solve suburban sprawl by fixing our insanely conservative zoning codes, thereby allowing people to move in where the resources are…

        Uh buddy, Sound Transit 3 isn’t going to hinder “fixing our insanely conservative zoning codes”. Sound Transit 3 is going to enable a lot more transit oriented development to encourage housing density close to transit – and not just rail transit, but buses that feed the light rail.

        I really hope you can please have a change of heart. I too want to live closer to Seattle.

      2. “If we make the suburbs more convenient, by making the commute less horrible, that will simply make them a better financial bargain. The land will become more desirable. People will move in. Prices will go up. Bargain-hunters will move even further away.”

        You’re assuming that hundreds of thousands of people will move to the suburbs because the train is there. They’re moving to the suburbs already! They’ll move whether there’s a train or not! The purpose of a train is to make their lives more bearable and to get them to drive less. As for bargain hunters, you don’t seem to understand the difference between affluent people looking for a bargain and non-affluent people who flat-out can’t afford to live Mars-approved urban area. Of course more people going to the suburbs would tend to increase prices there, but the effect is diluted because it’s such a large area and there are so many choices. The reason rents are going through the roof in Capitol Hill, the U-District, and 45th is it’s a small area and a huge number of people want to live there, and transit/walkability falls off a cliff outside it. But if you make a larger area accessible to people via transit, the impact of their housing searches is diluted because more units are competing for their residence. At a certain point it’s so diluted the impact on housing prices will be negligible. That’s the goal: enough transit-accessible housing for the population size. ST Express tries to make its area accessible but it can’t keep up due to limited seats and traffic and the forced detours of the road network; that’s why we’re proposing trains.

        So Seattle has a large acceleration of rents, south King County has a small acceleration, and I’m assuming that when the acceleration reaches Everett and Tacoma it will be weak enough to be almost negligible. Lynnwood might be negligible too, except for the fact that it’s the only lower-price suburb with two-line frequency, so that could create a bottleneck of people concentrating there because it’s more convenient than south King County or other places. That again comes back to the wish that there were more Seattle stations and more good closer-in station areas for these people to go to.

        “we’ll solve suburban sprawl by fixing our insanely conservative zoning codes”

        We’re trying to do that as hard as we can. It’s not like Link is occurring in a vacuum. But in order to achieve it we have to convince the city council and the neighborhoods to relax the zoning, and so far we’ve had limited success. We can’t just hold our breaths and hope a long shot will go through and there will be a major zoning relaxation in the next five or ten years. Because if it doesn’t happen then we’ll be stuck, and people will be stuck in Lynnwood and Federal Way and Everett and Tacoma with spotty transit. So let’s roll out some reliable transit and at least get that part of the infrastructure done, while we simultaneously work on improving the zoning. It’s not like the suburbs are going to empty out if we get the zoning perfect: there are 3.2 million people in the region going on 4.2, and even if Seattle goes up to a million people or 1.2 million it still won’t fit all of them, so the others need something too.

    3. 1) Are you so into screwing the suffering suburbs that you would deny yourself massive amounts of new in-Seattle light rail?

      I don’t want to screw anyone, which is why I’m voting no. I think ST3 screws over the suburbs more than anyone. They don’t get the service they need. For example, let’s say a couple years after this passes, Snohomish County wants to improve Swift service, and add a lot more bus routes through town. My guess it doesn’t pass, because people say, essentially, “enough already — we just paid for a bunch of transit”. Meanwhile, folks are paying more in taxes, so things that are arguably more important than transit (education, mental health services, help for the homeless or drug addicted, day care, police) get short changed.

      Seattle is different, in that it would probably pay for anything. But that doesn’t mean we should just allow the suburbs to get screwed so that we can get ours. Especially since “ours” is so flawed. It would be one thing if Seattle was building something wonderful, that would make a huge impact on the transit experience of everyone in town (as well as many in the suburbs that come to visit) but that won’t be the case. I’ve used this example before (so sorry for the repeat, Joe) but imagine someone who commutes from South Everett to Ballard. ST2 is huge to them. Suddenly one of the worst sections (Lynnwood to the U-District) is made much faster. But ST3 does nothing, really. At best you transfer to a station a little bit up the road, making a couple stops wondering if the old express to Lynnwood was faster. But the main head-slapper is that despite the subway station being really close to your work in Ballard, it is useless to you. Instead you applaud the folks who voted for Move Seattle, since they actually did something to the 44 route (making it a bit faster). My point being that if this really was great for the city, then it would likely be good for the suburbs, and I could live with the trade-off. But it isn’t that good for the city, so I see it as being simply bad for the suburbs.

      2) What exactly do you tell transit advocates outside of the Sound Transit district?

      I tell them this is crap. I often bore people with a more detailed explanation, but that is basically it. I supported ST2, and think it was flawed, but I would vote for it again. It will make a huge difference for a lot of folks in the north end, for example. But this won’t. Only a handful will see a meaningful benefit, because subways don’t work that way. It only makes sense to spend the huge (and I do mean huge) sums of money on a subway when you have the all day, door to door benefit that a line can provide (e. g. UW to downtown, Northgate to Capitol Hill). This simply doesn’t do that.

      1. RossB;

        Good comments.

        I do think it will be a substantial amount of time before Community Transit seeks new sales tax authority – at least 10 years. State legislative had to lift the lid just for them, but attempt at a good point. Perhaps Everett Transit may have this problem in the early 2020s.

        I do see ST3 as uniting the Puget Sound transit advocacy community, getting & enabling more TOD, allowing us to bypass the I-5 mess I experienced last Thursday, and allowing us to pivot towards solving our local transit agency issues. Of which they have quite a few… but we are going to have to have a foundation of trust & respect to put regional differences aside and work together. Let’s remember: Transit boards aren’t directly elected and the state legislature doesn’t have many transit advocates.

      2. CT’s next round of expansions is based on existing revenue. Building out the complete long-term plan may require more revenue, but saying that people won’t vote for it because they already voted for ST3 is just a speculation, and to me a weak one. The people who would ride it know the difference between having more local bus service and not having it; they know Link won’t replace it. The people who won’t ride it have no concept of transit; they may be persuaded by that position or they may be persuaded by the opposite. If the cities do a good job in marketing the benefits of a better CT network and how it would improve the economy and bring more jobs [1], and how would make people drive less, than Snohomans might vote for it.

        [1] More jobs because companies would be more willing to locate in Snoho if their employees and customers had more access to transit to get to them.

      3. Of course, with ST3, CT would no longer need to be in the business of running buses to Seattle (mostly) and could redeploy buses to other areas of Snohomish County. This better use of existing resources would drastically improve local service in Snohomish County. Same is true, to a less extent, for Pierce and King Counties.

      4. “Of course, with ST3, CT would no longer need to be in the business of running buses to Seattle”

        Psst, with ST2 CT will no longer be in the business of running buses to Seattle. So 2023 is your year. The merits of ST3 in Snoho revolve around the incremental benefit of extending Link to Everett and Paine Field rather than having buses meet it at Lynnwood Station. People have differing opinions on how worthwhile that is, but Lynnwood Station is the biggest game-changer in Snohomish County.

      5. I suspect that CT will keep a lot of their Seattle routes to give outliers one-seat rides, places like Lake Stevens and Marysville. Other places, of course, are not affected by link at all due to geography, like Snohomish and Monroe.

  20. Just for all you hand-wringing folks to the left of me….

    Everyone deserves the opportunity to get where they need to go — whether it’s to work, school, the doctor, or more.
    Unfortunately, the lack of access to reliable transportation is a barrier for many. In fact, according to a Harvard study, for low income families, the biggest barrier to improving their lives is the lack of reliable transportation.1
    That’s why a growing number of social justice and affordable housing organizations — from OneAmerica to the Low Income Housing Institute — support Sound Transit Proposition 1. Proposition 1 breaks down the barriers to accessing opportunity by connecting the region with mass transit and investing in affordable housing at the future light rail stations.
    With new light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit connecting communities from Everett to Tacoma and Bothell to Renton, commuters will be able to escape congestion with reliable and affordable transportation options. With the passage of Sound Transit Proposition 1, 93 percent of the region’s jobs and nearly major educational institutions will be connected by light rail.2
    Sound Transit Proposition 1 is more than just providing new light rail, Sounder commuter rail, and bus rapid transit service. Proposition 1 also makes sure that all people can afford to live in the neighborhoods around the future light rail stations by:
    • Requiring 80 percent of surplussed land near future light rail stations to be prioritized for affordable housing development.
    • Dedicating $20 million to affordable housing projects.3
    This targeted approach toward providing access to economic opportunity and building affordable housing is why so many organizations support Sound Transit Proposition 1, including:
    • El Centro de la Raza
    • Enterprise Community Partners
    • Fair Housing Center of Washington
    • Forterra
    • Futurewise
    • Got Green
    • Homestead Community Land Trust
    • Housing Development Consortium of Seattle/King County
    • Imagine Housing
    • Low Income Housing Institute
    • Mercy Housing Northwest
    • OneAmerica
    • Puget Sound Sage
    • Rainbow Center
    • Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness
    • Transit Riders Union
    • Transportation Choices Coalition
    • Washington Bus

    Just thought you should see the latest, greatest Mass Transit Now missive… something to give you pause, eh?

    1. That’s not really a missive or list of demands. It’s bragging about policies that Sound Transit has passed that these groups expect will enable lots of affordable housing around light rail stations. I happen to like these policies, but remain of the belief that the main policy to enable people to be able to afford to live near light rail is major upzones, and some upzones elsewhere so that those who don’t want to live near train stations aren’t forced to.

      Some will complain that new construction will displace some renters. (Homeowners who don’t want to move get to tell developers No.) I’m here to tell you: That construction is coming. The real displacement is if thousands of new units don’t get built because of zoning, causing thousands of people to move to the cul-de-sacs at the far end of suburgatory. Seattle also requires property owners who empty out their rental housing to pay moving assistance, separately from anything ST is doing. I’ve actually been the beneficiary of moving assistance when my Lake City apartment got condoized. I moved into a cheaper apartment nearby. Easy, breezy.

  21. My main objection to ST3, and the chief reason I am voting against it, is that it does so little for north Seattle. I mean the part of Seattle that is north of the ship canal. This is also known as the north half of the “North King County subarea,” and it has denser population than nearly all areas ST3 is planning to serve with new light rail service. Three of the seven Seattle city council districts are wholly in north Seattle. The population is somewhere in the range 250,000-300,000.

    Exactly one light rail station (Ballard) is planned for this area in ST3, in the far southwest corner. The south half of the “North King County subarea” gets an amazing amount of new stuff in ST3–the whole WSTT, and every single station but one on the Ballard-to-West-Seattle light rail. Sure, the 522 bus will turn onto NE 145th St, big deal, and there will be a fill-in station on the by then existing ST2 light rail line, but the only really new transit opportunity will be the single station in Ballard.

    Does the ST board just assume people in north Seattle will vote for this turkey regardless? They may be right–half the voters probably think the Northgate to Lynnwood extension is part of ST3 instead of the already approved ST2. But I’m not buying it.

    The UW-Ballard spur is clearly the single best investment the region could make. Also good would be something like Ballard-Northgate, then Northgate-Lake City, and on to Bothell. Crossing the LFP-Kenmore boundary would involve the “East King County subarea,” in case anyone is keeping track.

    It is ludicrous that ST3 plans a light rail to Issaquah, at the far east edge of the ST taxing district, while doing so little for north Seattle. They may as well try to build light rail to Orting. The plan for light rail to Tacoma, when there is a perfectly good, and heavily used, heavy rail line between Tacoma and Seattle also is a giant waste of money. In north Seattle, I live in an urban environment, I pay urban taxes, so give me some urban transit, not endless radial lines to the exurbs.

    1. Christopher;

      May I clear some stuff up for you?

      #1. A No vote on ST3 means NO light rail to Ballard.

      #2. A NO vote on ST3 means NO light rail to the Suburbs AND NO light rail expansion for Seattle. That’s how Sound Transit has worked and will continue to work. Please join the team. You need a sense of we’re all in this together.

      #3. A YES vote on ST3 will get you all of this:

      The ST3 Plan would also:

      Provide contributions to Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit and to RapidRide C and D line improvements to speed service to Ballard and West Seattle while light rail is under construction.
      Contribute to Madison Street BRT service connecting downtown light rail and neighborhoods such as First Hill and Capitol Hill.
      Add pedestrian and bike path improvements as well as better bus transfer facilities to connect residents to light rail and Sounder stations.

      You didn’t get UW to Ballard because it wasn’t appropriate in this phase of Sound Transit. However, there is nothing saying Seattle couldn’t rejigger transit priorities (dump streetcar expansion, repurpose monorail taxes) to fund it. But you need ST3 to do this…

  22. Joe, you probably think that is a clever response. It is not. I know exactly what I am voting against, and I’m fairly confident another, better proposal will come along in a few years, just like with ST1 and ST2. The increasingly frantic argument that if ST3 goes down we will never get another chance is just empty, and ineffective, rhetoric.

    1. Well Christopher…

      I rather think you’re risking a lot on a NO vote for the wrong kind of principles. With ST3 you can get from Ballard to UofW in 25 minutes.

      With ST3 you can get around Seattle a lot easier.

      With ST3 you will help unify the Puget Sound transit coalition, not help fracture it.

      Up to you.

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