BY SEATTLE SUBWAY
Unless you have been living under an automobile for the last nine days you are probably aware that last Tuesday, ST3 passed. It’s been a long, winding road to get here, and we have yet to summit the mountaintop, but at the moment the view is great. ST3 is a huge win, but it is just the next step in moving towards Seattle Subway’s ultimate goal (hint: It’s our name.) There is still a lot of work to do to make sure ST3 is as big and awesome as it can be, arrives as quickly as possible, and that Sound Transit deliver the high quality service in the process.
Our hopes for getting lines like Ballard-UW and Alaska Junction-Burien as part of ST3 have always hinged on additional federal funding. We will set that aside for now as the future of funding transit at the federal level is now extremely murky. On the positive side – the federal process is so extensive that the incoming administration could be long gone before it matters for ST3 projects.
There are still three ways we know of to very significantly speed up the timelines for ST3 projects, and this is where our attention will be focused:
1) Vote in 2018 to fund ST3 fully through bonds. This vote would NOT propose any new taxes or extend existing ST3 taxes. Instead, it will essentially ask voters “Do you want it faster?” By allowing Sound Transit to bond against future tax collection for 100% of project cost, it would speed up project timelines by years. Such a vote requires 60% approval, but we expect that “years faster for the same money” is a winning proposition.
2) Cut the process. If Seattle does everything it can to speed this up, we will get lines to Ballard and West Seattle years faster. It will be a very heavy lift to make sure that organizations that either opposed or were silent on ST3 don’t end up taking center stage in the planning phase. Arguments over alignments are valid (tunnel or elevated into West Seattle? Salmon Bay tunnel or elevated to Ballard?), but we need to argue early and quickly, presenting a unified front as soon as possible.
3) 130th Station should be built as part of ST2 and open in 2023 with Lynnwood Link. Waiting until 2031 to build 130th station will, beyond taking 8 years longer, cost $25 million more. We are hopeful that, with further negotiations now that ST3 passed, the FTA will be amenable to this change and it will not impact the the ST2 Lynnwood grants.
There are immediate issues that will have long term impacts on Sound Transit service and, as with past packages, there will be public process that will either improve the outcomes for transit riders or worsen project quality, as the process has tended to do in the past. Seattle Subway intends to stay engaged in both contexts.
The most immediate issue we are paying attention to: ST2 trains have been ordered without public process. We’re hoping that it’s not too late to make sure those trains are a substantial upgrade from the first round of trains. There are some key features that we would like to weigh in on.
- There is no longer a need to have two cabs on each car. Sound Transit will never run single car trains again — dual cabs are a complete waste of space and money. As currently planned, our 4-car trains will have 8 operator cabs, wasting precious platform space that should be boosting capacity.
- Relatedly, we have been told that these trains will not have open gangways due to compatibility issues with the current Sound Transit Operations & Maintenance Facility (OMF). We want to be sure that the new OMF allows for open gangway trains as future ST3 ridership will demand the highest capacity possible.
As Seattle Subway moves into our next phase as an organization, we would like to invite you to come out and get involved with us, or just come celebrate the ST3 victory with us. We’ll be at Fado this Saturday (11/19) at 7:30 pm. RSVP here.
Thank you to everyone who supported Seattle Subway over the last 5 years – ST3 is a huge win. Let’s take a night to celebrate it. Then let’s get to work to make sure it’s great.