I-5 traffic

High-capacity grade-separated transit doesn’t make traffic jams go away. It just adds capacity and gets transit riders out of them. Photo by SounderBruce / flickr

On the eve of what is likely the most important election of this decade, expect one last really, really busy evening rush hour on the newly-expanded Link Light Rail system, as the Seahawks host the Buffalo Bills at 5:30 pm Pacific Standard Time. For this game, there are no shuttles and no special Sounder service. Expect more congestion than usual on the buses and jump on the third (rear) car of the train if there happens to be one (and there probably will be as Sound Transit will be running all 3-car trains all day, including the extra trains after the game, and a few 2-car trains during peak to maintain headway, per Bruce Gray at Sound Transit). There will also be extra ST Express 550 and 554 buses after the game to help clear the crowd.

Your ballot should be in the mail today to be postmarked tomorrow. If using the postal service, don’t forget the first-class postage of 47 cents, or 68 cents if returning the heavy Snohomish County ballot.

Lots of ballot drop boxes and a few walk-in voting sites including Union Station remain open until 8 pm Tuesday.

Once again, here are STB’s endorsements, and everything you need to know about Regional Transit Proposition 1 / Sound Transit 3, at the very end of the ballot, if you are still undecided.

25 Replies to “No Seahawks Shuttles Tonight; Vote by 8 PM Tuesday”

  1. A few final questions for the jury:

    1. Is it concern trolling when the opposition complains about the cost of building light rail, when several members of the opposition campaign were involved in lawsuits that drove up the cost of building light rail?

    2. Is it concern trolling when the opposition complains about how long it takes to build light rail, after several members of the opposition campaign did many things to slow down light rail construction, such as lawsuits and lobbying city councils not to work with ST?

    3. Does the opposition actually support BRT?

    4. If ST3 fails, do you seriously expect that more than just a couple members of the opposition will switch to campaigning for ST2.5 if such a proposition goes to the ballot four years down the road? Even if one of the two marginally pro-transit members of the No campaign gets to design the whole package?

    5. Does the opposition even have a plan that could be built faster, starting four years later, and do as much as ST3 will do? If they do, would they even campaign for their own plan?

    6. Is the opposition motivated by disagreement with the details of ST3, or with the notion of spending more money on public transit?

    1. 1-2. What is concern trolling? Repeatedly harping on something long after it has been decided? As to how much of the cost is due to opposition lawsuits and obstruction, that would be a year’s worth of planning in Bellevue, a half dozen or more extra EIS studies (the reason for the delay), and whatever cost or uncertainty was associated with Kemper’s lawsuit over I-90 (I assume small because it was most likely going to be denied). That’s probably a small fraction of the project cost compared to construction and buying trains.

      3. I’ll believe it when I see it.

      4. I would distinguish between those who usually support transit measures and those who never do. The latter is what I call the opposition. The former is an anomoly, and it’s unclear whether it’s ST3-specific or whether it’s the start of broader opposition. I also think it’s less than 10% of the objectors (or 1% for transit-knowledgeable objectors). Two things are particularly worth noting. One, behavior can be de facto anti-transit by playing into the never-transit’s hands (if it convinces others to vote no on this and other measures), even if that’s not the person’s intention or attitude. Two, some of the “pro-transit” objections to ST3, Move Seattle, Prop 1, the earlier Seattle Prop 1 that failed over streetcars, etc, was that they’re not pure enough: not urbanist enough, not enough transit lanes, etc. Since the city and voters aren’t mini Jarrett Walkers there’s a limit to how much purity we can expect. Will these pro-transit objectors support compromises that can actually get passed? People complain that ST3 is bad, Move Seattle is less than expected, Prop 1 didn’t solve everything, and they’re losing faith in SDOT and the agencies to accomplish things. That could lead to all No votes in the future. At that point I’d say they’re solidly in the anti-transit opposition, because we have to go with the agencies we have, not the ones we wish we had.

      5. No. The never-transit opposition just wants to stop everything, or at most put more buses on freeways where they’ll continue being inadequate. The usually-pro-transit opponents have put forth two alternatives: massively increase Sounder, or frequent feeders from ST2 Link’s termini. Well, that’s for the suburbs. In Seattle they’ve proposed a downtown bus tunnel or two inner-city rail lines (45th and Metro 8). These are actually good ideas. The problem is how do you get the politicians and voters to accept them? One route would be an initiative, but we saw what happened with the monorail when they bypassed professional planners, finance experts, and parts of the community (the us-vs-them and anti-light rail campaign). We don’t want to do that again.

      6. The never-transit opposition is opposed to the very notion of taxes being raised or going to socialist/unionized transit, or distracting from building highways. The usually-pro-transit opposition is motivated by the details of ST3.

    2. “Since the city and voters aren’t mini Jarrett Walkers there’s a limit to how much purity we can expect. Will these pro-transit objectors support compromises that can actually get passed?”
      I just remembered, it requires more than just passing transit measures. If you want a BRT solution that approaches the effectiveness of trains or European-style trams, you have to give them transit lanes. That requires not only passing a transit measure, but DOTs and drivers allowing lanes to be converted to transit lanes (or at least HOV 3+, BAT, or 45 mph HOT). That’s where BRT inevitably gets watered down in this region: viz. Aurora, 405, and probably 45th. The legislature has effectively said no to full BRT on 405 by allowing SOVs in evenings and weekends, 2-person HOVs in the daytime, and a cap on peak tolls even if the speed goes below 45 mph. On Aurora, Seattle just has to convert the outer lanes to full-time BAT as Shoreline, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Des Moines, and Federal Way have already done.

    3. 3. Some do, some don’t. The “Smarter Transit” folks sure do. To a ridiculous level, in my opinion. They are almost as bad as the folks that believe rail will solve all our problems. They really don’t think that any rail project makes sense for this region (we lack the density).

      4. Maybe, it depends on the project. If Sound Transit proposes a bus only solution, my guess is those folks support it enthusiastically. Where it gets tricky is if there is a bit of rail, along with mostly bus service. For example, an extension to Ash Way, or the train extension into Redmond along with greatly improved bus service in the suburbs. I can’t help but think those people would still oppose a mix like that. I have no idea if they would support a package that wasn’t 100% bus only. I know I would, as I came to my opposition to this proposal reluctantly (as I wrote on Page 2).

      5. I do. I have mentioned it repeatedly. For the city it is peanut butter. If there isn’t enough money (if Sound Transit goes small) then go with WSTT alone. BRISK for the East Side. More Swift for the north end. The south end just needs a good terminus. Somewhere around Federal Way (if not farther north) add a very good station that is similar to Mountlake Terrace. Buses from the south would be able to stop on their way towards downtown. This enables good service to Federal Way, Kent and SeaTac from Tacoma/Lakewood while still maintaining the speed advantage of an express bus. At the same time, of course, add some money for Sounder. Yes, this could be built faster even if built four years later due to the smaller scope. Not only can smaller projects be built faster, but this helps with our funding situation (we have to wait for the old bonds to mature).

      It would also do as much as ST3 does. For the suburbs, the combination of buses serve a much broader area than ST3. For Seattle the WSTT comes out ahead, mostly because it serves the Aurora corridor (where our most popular bus runs). So not only do you get more direct service for most of West Seattle, you add another essential corridor. Folks in Ballard get a slower ride into town, but mostly those are right by the station (and there is only one station in Ballard). The number of riders that would benefit from fast and reliable service from the Aurora corridor outnumber those that would be hurt by the Ballard bridge crossing. Both would avoid the hell whole that is Queen Anne to SoDo service.

      Of course I would campaign for it. The big thing that people will push for is not specifics (although I will) but accountability. Lots of people believe the process is broken. The folks in charge need to hand it over to experts to come up with the ideas from scratch, as opposed to the way things are done now. Bus based solutions, or obvious rail routes should be studied.

      6. It’s a mix. For me its the details. I would support a sensible set of alternatives, including a mix of rail and bus service. This really had to be terrible for me to oppose it. I’m not a perfectionist. I would support everything that Sound Transit has built so far despite some really, really bad decisions (no station on First Hill, really bad stations, etc.). But this is 80% bad, 20% good, and that ratio is just too bad for me to accept. As I said above, the main organized opposition wants two things: accountability and bus improvements. It is hard to say what happens if those conflict. For example, If Sound Transit hired independent consultants and they found that Ballard to light rail really is a great value (compared to other, fairly considered alternatives) then I have no idea what they would say. They might put aside their opposition to all things rail (in this region) or they might accept the findings. I have no idea.

      The Tim Eyman’s of the world, of course, will oppose any transit project.

      1. Concern trolling is pretending to be an ally in order to bring up some problem as a “concerned” friend when all they really want to do is undermine their position.

  2. “High-capacity grade-separated transit doesn’t make traffic jams go away. It just adds capacity and gets transit riders out of them.”

    So why should anyone who won’t use the transit in ST3 vote to raise their taxes to subsidize the tiny minority of transit users who would use it?

    Even if ST3 is built only a very small percentage of trips in the ST districts will be on transit. But everyone will be paying very high taxes to subsidize that very small percentage of trips. What is the incentive for the vast majority of people who will still be stuck in traffic jams to pay for transit for others?

    1. Here’s one incentive: The traffic jams could get much worse, and over longer portions of the day. Adding separate capacity will ameliorate the jams, instead of forcing would-be transit riders into the jam. The opposition claims that Sound Transit claims that ST3 will reduce gridlock. It does, depending on your definition of “reduces”.

      Many who don’t take transit now will in the future because it will be faster than driving for some key trips.

      As for the argument that transit carries only a tiny fraction of trips, when the opposition makes that claim, they are showing they don’t really believe in transit. But taken at face value, ST3 will move more people than several SR 520 cross-lake bridges. Should we have not rebuilt SR 520?

      1. As for the argument that transit carries only a tiny fraction of trips, when the opposition makes that claim, they are showing they don’t really believe in transit.

        Opponents who make this claim are focused on ST3, not transit in general. Light rail lines like Everett to Lynnwood, Issaquah to Bellevue or Tacoma to Federal Way will never carry that many people. No lines like that ever have. Nor are there that many people who take transit from those areas today, even though in many cases, the trips are faster. Sounder from Tacoma carries around 1,000 people a day. The bus carries about 2,500. The bus will be faster than Link most of the day, while Sounder will be faster than Link every time. We aren’t a special snowflake. Density plus proximity equals high ridership. ST3 has neither.

        It doesn’t make sense to make a huge transit investment in projects that only benefit a handful. It makes way more sense to add a lot more cost effective transit service.

    2. At the very least, it keeps things relatively stable. That is a boring, but noteworthy outcome when considering the crazy number of people expected to make the move to our region over the next few decades. However, I do agree that reducing cray-cray traffic isn’t really the goal, nor should it be. It would create a secondary system that is independent from highways, and would permanently engrave entirely predictable travel times for the majority of residents.

      Oh man, I hope this thing passes. I don’t want our generation to look as foolish as the Forward Thrust naysayers.

      1. This is not Forward Thrust. It was night and day better than ST3. Here are some highlights:

        1) Three stops between the UW and downtown (instead of the one). This would have meant a great connection to buses on 23rd as well as the Madison BRT.
        2) Bus Rapid Transit to West Seattle (seriously — they even called it that, way back then).
        3) Service to Lake City.

        About the only thing they have in common is the line to Ballard, ST3 is not “the big one”. That was ST2. Most of what is in ST3 is fluff. Ballard to downtown is nice, but that is about it. If ST3 fails, folks won’t regret it any more than they regret the first Sound Transit failure (which everyone seems to forget). Hint: It was going to build a spine.

      2. In Forward Thrust’s day the vast majority of the population lived between Lake City and Renton; there was a lot of farmland beyond that; and Seattle’s, Tacoma/Auburn’s, and Everett’s job markets were almost completely separate (except for Boeing workers who had to drive to any plant they were assigned to or transfered to). So those three stations on Capitol Hill would have served a greater percentage of the population then.

      3. So what? Either way they would have serve way more riders. Proximity plus density equals ridership.

    3. So why should anyone who won’t use the transit in ST3 vote to raise their taxes to subsidize the tiny minority of transit users who would use it?

      1) Out of the goodness or their heart. Don’t laugh, but I’m sure a lot of people will vote yes because they assume this is a good proposal, even though they will never use any of it. It is easy to assume that as an individual, you are different. Your commute is unusual, since you go to Fremont, Ballard, Lake City or dozens of other places. Most of the city is heading into downtown Seattle and they will all benefit from ST3. You don’t have time to dig into the details. I’m sure a lot of people don’t realize that ST2 will give them most of what the proponents promise (notice how the ads talk about the time from Everett to Seattle, not Everett to Lynnwood). Basically, people will vote yes because they like transit and figure Sound Transit is doing a great job. With talk about building things on time, and hugely popular stations (UW, Capitol Hill) you can’t blame people for assuming that what works for the UW will work for Fife. There will be plenty of people who vote yes because they like transit. They vote that way because that is what The Stranger recommends (The Seattle Times jumped the shark a long time ago).

      2) You never got the memo about the traffic issue. If you look at the ads, as well as what guys like Dow Constantine say, they talk mostly about traffic. But they speak carefully, implying, but not explicitly saying that this will improve traffic. It is pretty clever, really. Traffic is terrible. A train carries way more people than another lane on the freeway. Therefore, vote yes on ST3. So the guy who thinks this will clear the way for a faster drive into town — the guy who thinks he is unusual — will vote yes as well.

    4. So why should anyone who won’t use the transit in ST3 vote to raise their taxes to subsidize the tiny minority of transit users who would use it?

      My kids are in private school. Why should I vote for school levies?

      1. Exactly. Well, not exactly, my kids went to public school, but the analogy is a good one. Vote for this if you think it is a good package. Vote against it if not.

    5. You have no idea what the future will bring to you. Ten years ago I would’ve said with complete certainty that no one in my family would ever use Sound Transit services, but now we use it daily.

    6. “So why should anyone who won’t use the transit in ST3 vote to raise their taxes to subsidize the tiny minority of transit users who would use it?”

      Because it’s the biggest bottlenecks. It’s what mass transit can most effectively do: get large numbers of pedestrians through high-volume corridors. Transit can’t go to every isolated house and strip mall but it can handle these high-volume corridors. You vote for the good of the region, for the project that can help the largest number of people at once. You realize that even if it doesn’t help you now, in the future you may live in or go to places it does help, or your children might. And if you’re especially enlightened you’ll realize that in forty years average density will be higher and more people will be living closer to the transit stations so they’ll be able to use them, and with the rising population they’ll want them all the more and will be glad they decided twenty years earlier to build them.

      The public also has a highway bias that colors which corridors they think are most critical. That viewpoint was built up over decades and it’s not going to be destroyed tomorrow; it’s what two million people believe, the majority of the region’s population. That’s why Link has a highway/suburban bias, because highways are where people get most frustrated with traffic.

      1. >> Because it’s the biggest bottlenecks.

        No its not. The biggest bottleneck was fixed with ST2. Even then it didn’t fix all of them. Our most popular bus (the E) has to deal with really bad congestion downtown. That won’t be fixed with ST3 either (but West Seattle gets a new bridge).

        Besides, focusing on bottlenecks implies that this will be faster, end to end, for the bulk of riders. This simply isn’t the case, nor is it the case with any subway anywhere. Express commuter rail, sure, but not a subway. It just takes too long waiting for stop after stop. Traffic might be bad from Tacoma, but taking Link will rarely be faster than a bus, and never faster than Sounder. That’s into downtown Seattle, of course. Door to door trips depend largely on the transit system as a whole, which Sound Transit has spent very little effort improving. Everett to Ballard transit is no faster with ST3 despite several stops in the (very large) city of Everett and the stop in Ballard. Some will take transit once Lynnwood Link improves the worst of it, but some will just keep driving. If you live in Silver Lake and work at Swedish, how, exactly, does ST3 make your life any better despite the construction of rail from your city to your workplace?

      2. RossB, that is pretty delusional to believe that Link would rarely be faster when I see it being a whole heck of a lot faster compared to the buses, which get stuck in traffic and are not inherently faster than a car. And there’s a decent amount of traffic still happening throughout most of the day, so you saying that buses are faster is moot point in my opinion and will become even more as more people move the reigon and our highways are clogged with more traffic throughout the day.
        I’ll also add, that you should stop focusing on speed only like you seem to have been doing, a lot in and also look at frequency and reliability. ST Express from Tacoma is not as frequent or reliable as you seem to think it is. It’s slow, unreliable, and infrequent most of the day from what I rode of it in my couple of years riding from TDS up north. It’s why I moved to South King to have a more tolerable commute to where I go.

      3. “ST Express from Tacoma is not as frequent or reliable as you seem to think it is.”

        And it will get worse over time as traffic increases. Just this week ST published its 2017 operations report and it’s adding hours to ST Express to compensate for increasing congestion. That’s not more runs or better reliability: it’s money thrown down the drain to keep reliability from getting worse.

    7. “So why should anyone who won’t use the transit in ST3 vote to raise their taxes to subsidize the tiny minority of transit users who would use it?”

      Because transit ridership at rush hour — when capacity in the overall grid is most scarce and unable to handle all the trips being made — is at 50% today and getting bigger all the time, so the more transit capacity we provide, the less the roads will suck.

      If that’s not enough, then because most rush hour trips on Link will be faster than driving, so you might even – gasp – find yourself trying it for at least part of your trip.

      Finally, because dollar for dollar it’s a better deal than roads. One freeway lane at @ $200 million a mile carries 2000 cars in one direction per hour, whereas one mile of subway tunnel at about $400 million a mile carries 16,000 people per hour — IN BOTH DIRECTIONS.

      1. It only carries 16,000 people per hour if it works for 16,000 people per hour. This doesn’t, for most of what will be built.

    8. I think the ambiguous part to all this is how many people is that tiny amount of riders. From discussing with coworkers who live up in Bothell, Mill Creek, Woodenville, and Kirkland, this is a no vote from all of them. Their reasoning is simple, it does almost nothing whatsoever for the entire northern part of the Eastside and south Snohomish county.

      Think about it, yes they extend to Redmond but that’s not any better than Overlake and the extension primarily helps Microsoft and a few other employers just in that city. The 522 lane isn’t that big a deal since there’s already exclusive lanes in some portions and queue jumps at lights. The 405 BRT is more a service level change than infrastructure. The HOT lanes exist today and at best it adds some quicker access ramps on the portion north of Bellevue, but hardly enough to vote yes on.

      I know that a lot of people can see the value in service to their area as a whole even if they don’t use it, but ST3 does absolutely nothing for large portions of the taxing district, which wouldn’t be a huge deal except that if it passes, large areas will never get anything new for decades to come. I’m starting to see where the opposition is coming from when they say, why not more BRT in areas it makes more sense and let LR handle more of the actual city and not the suburbs where it will never be utilized to the extend required.

      For instance the line for Issaquah is a complete joke. Rich people in that suburb which is one of the sparsest are going to transfer in Bellevue to get to Seattle? The bottle neck is at I-90 so they could just drive there and take a train into Seattle at the South Bellevue P&R. Meanwhile the whole city of Kirkland which is much closer and much more dense than Issaquah gets nothing from this besides more buses at their existing on-ramps to 405 and a terminus at the south edge. No bus service increases to feed anything remember.

      I still voted yes because I feel something is better than nothing and I’m a true believer overall, yet I can see even rational minds think this whole initiative isn’t a good thing, even if they like transit. Oh well, I guess we’ll see on Tuesday the outcome, I know I’ll be stuck riding a bike or driving my SOV regardless. Since my 15 minute by car, 25 minute by bike commute, will still be 1.5 hours by bus with 45 of those minutes spent walking, 30 minutes spent transferring between 3 low frequency buses.

      1. “The 522 lane isn’t that big a deal since there’s already exclusive lanes in some portions and queue jumps at lights. The 405 BRT is more a service level change than infrastructure.”

        It adds a lot more frequency. The 522 is half-hourly midday and hourly evenings. The 535 is half-hourly weekdays, hourly Saturdays, and not at all Sundays. BRT-level transit will be at least 10 minutes peak and probably midday, and 15 minutes evenings or at worst 30 minutes. That in turn will make it feasable for trips that the existing routes aren’t, and feasable to transfer between the BRT lines or from Link to them and then to another bus.

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