SounderBruce (Flickr)
SounderBruce (Flickr)

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.   

98 Replies to “What’s Next for Seattle Subway”

  1. One would think that building the 130th St. Station at the same time the construction crews are already out there building the track, and there is no existing service to disrupt, would be a no-brainer.

    1. Especially since it’s not like we’re asking for more money from the Feds (more or less) to build it.

      But then, having dealt with the “faster than a speeding glacier” processes of the FTA, I can understand ST’s great reluctance to attempt the 130th station at this stage.

      1. I think ST will attempt it. They didn’t put it in ST3 because they can’t promise it, but you can sure bet they will try.

    2. My understanding has always been that they delay on 130th is because of the nature of the Federal grant funding Lynnwood link, and a fear by ST that adding a new station could threaten this grant. It has nothing do to with engineering or construction management constraints.

      1. The FTA also approved changes to ST1, allowing Sound Transit to add the SODO station after the original funding plan. With luck and hard work, this goal is totally achievable.

    3. There were a few north Seattle-ites who showed at last night’s Lynnwood Link open house to listen in for clues. Since it was the 30% design open house, specific for 148th and 185th, its not as if 130th (at 0%)would be that hopelessly behind. Might even be an advantage as catching up might mean a clean basic station without a lot of fuss. ST staff mentioned the timeline at 2031 – not a surprise.

      I always thought that the fear was that adding a new station that the voters did not vote on in the original package could threaten the grant, rather than just the new station itself. I can’t imagine that anyone would be that picky that the stations were voted in in separate packages as it is another bead on the corridor and especially since the cost savings is not trivial.

  2. “1) Vote in 2018 to fund ST3 fully through bonds. This vote would NOT propose any new taxes or extend existing ST3 taxes”

    This doesn’t pass the sniff test. Look, i’m all in favor of speeding of the timeline and bonding sounds like a fantastic idea but the idea that no new taxes or extension of taxes would be needed is disingenuous. Bonding requires interest payments and interest payments on tens of billions of dollars is not an insignificant increase in cost. Perhaps you are arguing that time value of money will decrease the $54 billion price tag (as a result of decreasing the project timeframe), therefore trading construction costs for interest payments. Or perhaps there might very well be another valid reason you are saying it won’t require new taxes or new extension of taxes but I would recommend putting forth that argument in the same breath as the claim itself.

    1. Also, what makes us so confident that over 60% of voters will vote for this in 2018? Those against ST3 probably won’t be so quick to support Sound Transit again. From what we’ve seen, a lot of taxpayers are really stubborn when it comes to these initiatives. As much as I support decreasing the timeline, if Sound Transit only passed with 54%, how do we make sure this bill will pass too in 2018?

      1. It’s not worth predicting the outcome of an election before the fact, or being confident or unconfident. It depends on who votes and how they’re feeling that day, and they may change their mind at the last minute. We can simply make the proposal and see if it passes, and if it doesn’t then maybe try again in 2020.

    2. The overall package in 2014 dollars works out to ~$15 billion. The reason it’s marked at $54 billion is because (thanks to the principles of inflation) building something in 2035 is much more expensive than building something in 2014.

      By moving forward the timelines on every project and bonding at low interest rates by 5-10 years (possibly more), you’re actually cutting the overall cost of completion compared to the estimated total 25 year cost of the program.

      100% bonding would allow every single line that’s proposed to start the planning, EIS, construction of each line at the same time, and with concurrent construction and planning costs are drastically reduced in the form of avoiding inflationary costs.

      Leftover taxpayer money can then be (possibly) spent on Ballard-UW, Burien extensions and a much needed Renton line.

      1. Sean F. – Simply from a political standpoint, these facts should never be left out of any statement about adding bonding. It’s critically important to the argument.

        IMHO – the best way to get an initiative like this to pass would be to draft into the initiative that any leftover funds would result in ending the tax sooner than planned.

        I know the temptation will be there to push for 100% of what you guys want, but you could always go the ballot with a king county only initiative that adds the Ballard/UW and/or Renton in 2020 or 2022. Assuming a 2018 bonding initiative would need to be tri-county, your best chances of success would seem to me to couple any decrease in cost stemming from bonding with ending the tax early. At that point, there is very few reasons that the ST3 “No” voters would have to vote no again. It’s a win/win for everyone.

      2. This would have worked as little as a month ago. However, are you aware that 30 year Federal bond interest rates have gone up by a third since The Combover was elected? Deficits are suddenly recherche in Washington.

        This is another of the “hidden” costs of electing an all-Republican government: deficits only matter when Democrats might get credit for the pump-priming effect they have.

      3. “The overall package in 2014 dollars works out to ~$15 billion. The reason it’s marked at $54 billion is because (thanks to the principles of inflation) building something in 2035 is much more expensive than building something in 2014.”

        The $54 billion was just a detail until the media and opponents started shouting it as the main figure to be concerned about. To me what’s important is 2016 dollars, because that’s how we can compare it to other things whose prices we’re familiar with now.

    3. It’s $54 billion in year-of-completion dollars. Get the money earlier and get it done earlier and you won’t have inflation increasing the cost as much.

  3. Has Donald Trump said ANYTHING about funding local transit? All we’ve heard from him is his goal to make roads, bridges and airports the best in the world.

    1. He’s talked about funding transit, both in a statement made on his MAGA site on the 9th, and earlier on in the election.

      It’s the Republicans in congress that are allergic to transit.

    2. Curious what the opinion would be of an All Aboard Florida/Brightline type of project, all private money and development focused. Either way many eyes are watching this project, if it can work in Florida, it can work anywhere.

  4. (1) seems delusional, given the margin from this election. Everything else sounds awesome.

    I wouldn’t give up on the federal side just yet. I could imagine a Republican retread of the (Republican-loathed) Obama ARRA. Shovel-ready suburban rail extensions down freeway corridors might come out OK in the sausage-making process.

    1. Just need to pick up a 5% increase in yes votes.

      The “sell” would be every project being built up to 10 years faster than current timelines allow, meaning the cost of the plan in real dollars would be less than the approved amount of $54 billion. Over 50% of the cost is due to cost inflation over time.

    2. Based on many months of readily available transcripts, why would anybody pay any attention to what the reality-show host named here says about anything?

      For anybody planning to spend the next several Presidential terms repairing a great country in same condition as a great transit system, BART or DC Metro, your choice- first grand-scale order of business is to get the US Congress back. And every State legislature we can get.

      Based on recent Presidential precedent, two years should be plenty of time to limit the damage from next First Office-holder to half a term as well. There are also two potentially great political parties in worse condition as above transit systems available well below Market. But that’s what mops and lysol are for.

      Anybody know why there wasn’t any public process on the new trains. Though was there any for present fleet? But on subject of an informed public, one more thing:

      For public record on any matter where I want to be trusted, the more critical the issue, the more consistently and completely I sign my name. Any group I’m part of, we can pick an individual spokesperson. And expect same from anybody asking for attention, support, or money.

      However: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_G2iTOVOAg&feature=player_embedded. Can’t overturn forty years of precedent. You gotta admit all the levels on which linked music is exactly what’s missing in just about everything public about Seattle. Go for it!

      Will settle for your autograph next STB meet-up.

      Mark Dublin

    3. Bruce, one reason we’ll definitely see some Federal money. The “Sequester” has served its purpose of taking out a President six years early. So its sponsors’ constituents want their own Federal projects going again. Not all hostile to ours.

      But I think voters’ decision on borrowing money in 2018 for shorter delivery schedule will depend on how completely our freeway system will have become unusable to the point of rendering its users unemployable. And how fast we can rescue the helpless.

      Last week’s election mercifully ended the decades-old delusions besetting our country’s two major political parties and all their leaders. Leaving one thing non-delusional. The dead-accurate world-view held by next January’s Chief Executive of the United States. And his Russian friend and counterpart. And just about everybody under thirty outside our borders.

      To all of them, the world has been over the twentieth century for twenty years, and the younger people are, the less they miss it. Leaving us the reality of building a transit system after thirty years’ land use planning just got blown all over our region. By forces stretching all the way around the globe. Conspiracy? I don’t think they work with temps.

      “Shovel ready” covers a lot of hardware.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRIifT_h8yw

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbaD2-2Ktwc

      But “shovel” could also mean sending freight traffic, both road and rail, east of the mountains. And maybe following the next Nisqually-level earthquake, a Federal emergency order that one or two lanes will be permanently reserved for buses and trucks at peak hours.

      However, here’s my favorite little garden trowel:

      https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-mozilla-003&hsimp=yhs-003&hspart=mozilla&p=swedish+electric+trucks+youtube#id=13&vid=5b07098bcd48c300a078ef894c2de732&action=view

      Since this is Swedish, Norway wouldn’t stand for giving it to Ballard. But on condition I get to pick this work full-time, I’d fight for this alternative for Bothell to Redmond to Issaquah to Spokane.

      Which by then could have a subway. Does Metro still give trainees to regular drivers? “Good, John. Let Maggie drive. That’s right, the silver switch. Pantograph up. Don’t have to go five miles an hour through switches. And when we get to Moses Lake, Donald gets to drive. Vladimir can drive the Route 7 trolleybus to Ellensburg tomorrow.”

      Mark

    4. Then again what did trump gain targeting improving conditions for “the blacks” and “inner cities” as he put it, if there is one group of voters in particular that really don’t vote GOP it’s the African American community. Ryan and Trump do want to target new auduences, though its obvious they aren’t doing a stellar job to put it nicely.

  5. Are there legal issues that would cause increased ST bonding to have opportunity costs in other areas of government (e.g. less “bond capacity” available for roads, schools, police stations, etc.)?

  6. The bond plan makes sense financially. The cost of construction labor and materials will continue to increase. While it may, at some point, stabilize, it will always continue to increase, even if it is at a slower pace. Bonding to get it built sooner is a good investment. What is better is that Puget Sound families can start capitalizing on the benefits of the system sooner, as well.

  7. For better or worse the voters have sent Patty Murray back to the Senate and she is now a very senior Senator and assistant leader. This should give her the clout to push additional transit funds toward ST3 and she has been helpful in the past. I’m not a fan of this sort of influence, but it’s the way it is. If anything or anyone gets these projects sped up, it will be she.

  8. I firmly think any major expansion of the ST – Ballard-UW, WS-Burien – should go back to the voters for approval, even if there are no incremental taxes required. Even a straightforward extension like Ballard to 65th should require voter approval because it wasn’t in the ST3 package.

    The ST Board – and advocacy groups – will have their hands full managing the existing backlog. I would fully support a “ST4” in 2020 or 2024 to fund the next wave of projects, but I’m deeply skeptical of any attempt to squeeze in extra projects into ST3 just because there may be extra money lying around.

      1. No Zach, I’m very certain you are wrong – these lines are future investment studies. The only projects that are provisional are a few stations.

        I’m fine with spending ST3 money to kick off the EIS process to speed things up. I just think it’s an important part of the democratic process for ST to go back to the voters to continue to build out the system. There needs to be a regional discussion on these things.

      1. Why not? Why do you oppose building rail to Wallingford, the Central District, Lake City, Renton, etc. so much that you think the possibility shouldn’t even be mentioned?

        Remember how we just passed ST3 before any of ST2 was built out.

      2. I don’t support any talk of more highways until all the current highway projects are deleted. Get the analogy? ST1 isn’t complete, and yet we just passed ST3. It’s called a project pipeline, same as is with done with highways. Having a project layoff cycle between CIPs would mean we coulnd’t hold onto the staff who know how to do stuff.

        But the notion of growing from 54% support in a presidential election year to 60% in an off-year is crazy.

      3. Because I think our tax burden and our ability to get stuff done is at capacity. ST1 is pretty much done. ST2 is nowhere near done. We are right now plotting a course to build ST3…

        I’m sorry to be such a downer in advance but with local- & county-level transit agencies in the North by Northwest the next two years attempting to plan to respond to ST3 victory I’m just not ready to start talking about ST4. Any ST4 to me should have different subarea taxation levels and require each subarea approve its projects so that Seattle Subway can build out while likely Pierce & Snohomish take a break.

        I don’t think we’re going to lose Karen or Ric or anybody from Enviroissues just because we put the brakes on ST4 to catch our breath and let the local agencies (e.g. Community Transit, Skagit Transit, Everett Transit) catch up. No, I need Karen, Ric & crew in ST Planning to focus on ST3 and the fans who delivered the votes for ST3.

        Folks, we have a mandate to be at our best at our boldest within ST3 confines. Don’t screw this up.

      4. You have to be kidding me. ST2 is nowhere near being complete, and we needed ST3. We just had to have it — now! But build something that could actually transform an entire region — just about every trip in Seattle north of the ship canal would be faster — and now you want to “tap the breaks”.

        Here is the problem. When ST3 is done, we are nowhere near “done”. Most of the trips in the city — and by extension, most that involve the suburbs — will involve driving. Of course they will. It just takes too long to get anywhere. Link covers way too few of the places necessary — and provides way too few of the connections — to change that. Build Ballard to UW light rail and we get that. Suddenly there are a lot of trips that are faster than driving, and many of them involve places miles away from a station. Lake City to Ballard, Greenwood to the UW, even Phinney Ridge to First Hill, which would require two buses and two trains (because, well, you know) would be very fast.

        Of course we aren’t even talking about something to improve that last trip (a Metro 8 subway) because, well, you know.

      5. Sorry Joe strongly against you on this. ST3 isn’t going to hinder ST2 projects. I don’t see why a ST4 package – either regionally or Seattle-centric – would hinder ST3.

        I do think the reason needs to pause and work through the existing backlog for 4~8 year – plenty of advocacy to do with ST, SDOT, Metro, etc. in the meantime. But I see no reason why ST can’t go to the voters for another round of projects in the 2020s.

        If Snohomish is worried about their tax burden, then the politicians can figure out how to a Seattle-only ST4.

      6. Ross has a good point.

        Joe, it’s suspicious how you’ve been saying all along how everyone needs to pitch into the individual ST3 projects for the good of the region rather than demanding lines for their specific trips – and now, as soon as you’ve got Link to Paine Field and Everett, you start putting the breaks on even talking of any other lines.

      7. AJ, I am all for a Seattle-only “ST4”. There you go, no reason for us to be against each other.

        Let’s focus the other subareas on improving bus connections to ST3 light rail. Let’s not risk a ST4 defeat, Pierce voted no & Snohomish almost did.

      8. We can can ST4 until the early 2020s. We’ve got a lot to digest, a big chunk of lines just approved, and lots of upcoming work to watchdog the designs. 2021 will be a good time to start talking about ST4, if we’re aiming for an early vote in 2024.

      9. Oh and I don’t oppose light rail to Renton. Forgot to mention that – Renton has a Boeing factory & a sizable diversified economy. Get that done too in ST4.

        Otherwise, listen guys I don’t think we’re ready to even start the ST4 conversation. Slow down and foot off the gas pedal. Let’s see how ST3 plays out.

        Right now the ST Planning Staff is at the bucket limit. Second-string, third-string guys doing some of the Lynnwood Link outreach. Not good timing to open this ST4 up.

        Now if/when I hear Seattle Subway wants a just-for-Seattle package with a link for Renton and SDOT folks leading the way on the planning for that instead of max’d Sound Transit, deal me in.

        Clear?

      10. Ah – yes, Joe, I agree with that. But that’s different from “I don’t support talk of ST4 until ST3 is mostly built out”; it’s “I don’t support proposing an ST4 until Sound Transit’s enabling legislation is changed.” There’s a huge difference there: one’s trying to put on the breaks; the other’s sending the talk down a better track.

      11. Thanks William C, I’m trying to take a position that’s listening to folks. I support a ST4 that has different Sound Transit enabling legislation. In return for a Sound Transit directly elected board, each subarea gets its own construction taxation level.

        I do think though 2024 is when we can start discussing a ST4 campaign. The amount of work ahead is immense in ST3. I mean some of the stars of ST3 have put their families on hold and are happy the election is over to take ’em off.

        Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here. It’s what 17 November, we haven’t even had a single full Sound Transit Board Meeting yet – much less the local agencies draw up strategic plans to respond to ST3 and you wanna talk about ST4 now? Now? Good gawd, do you realize how some of you sound like to general taxpayers, Middle America/silent majority and those outside Seattle?

        Build out Seattle Subway and serve Renton. That’s what needs to be next.

      12. But that’s different from “I don’t support talk of ST4 until ST3 is mostly built out”;

        That implies the late 2030s.

        it’s “I don’t support proposing an ST4 until Sound Transit’s enabling legislation is changed.”

        That implies some unkown time which could be never. We could say late 2030s if we assume the next generation of legislators will inevitably have much different attitudes then the current set, but that’s still not a guarantee.

        Or we can say early 2020s, just cuz we want it then.

      13. Mike (and everybody);

        Right now I’m just so gassed after ST3 I can’t think straight. I know and see frontline Sound Transit & Enviroissues staff being taxed to the max with Lynnwood Link, Federal Way Link, & ST3 work. I know I want Seattle to have the opportunity to build out the Seattle Subway – and since Sound Transit is the only success since 1962 for truly high capacity transit in this state; we’ll have to change the Sound Transit enabling legislation.

        I would prefer we wait until the 2030s. I doubt seriously this crowd is going to be receptive to that long of a wait.

        I can handle only putting on the brakes to even start this reckless talk of ST4 until 2021. I mean if you only saw the angst about ST3 taxes – especially in Pierce. One of the closing arguments of the anti-ST3 folks was the threat of a ST4 tax increase on top of ST1, ST2 & ST3 taxes. Maybe

        Well this reckless talk so insensitively soon just blew me away. I mean we have not even had one whole Sound Transit Board Meeting, one true victory parade, or even got through one day of total Republican control of DC and we’re talking ST4. Whoa, let’s focus on getting ST3 planned, permitted, supported by local transit agencies, and ST3 building up.

        I hope now understand my position and why I’m taken aback. I’m for more Sound Transit, more places and ST3 faster with an eventual ST4 that’s focused on Seattle. But wow….

      14. “let’s focus on getting ST3 planned, permitted, supported by local transit agencies, and ST3 building up.”

        OK, if you mean wait until planning is mostly finished, that’s much different from saying wait until construction is mostly finished, which is what you originally said (perhaps unintentionally: “until most of ST3 is built out”). The question then is whether all planning goes full steam ahead now or whether planning the later projects is delayed. Since planning is not dependent on grants, and planning costs much less than construction, maybe it can all be planned now. Or maybe that’s too many teams and contractors planning simultaneously to manage or afford. But if we assume that the last “major” and “high demand” project is Everett Link, then the ones after it could be left to plan later (Issaquah Link, and Tacoma 19th Street).

      15. Thanks Mike, I’ve moderated my views to “wait until planning is mostly finished” as “all planning goes full steam ahead now” should be the priority as I think we have “too many teams and contractors planning simultaneously to manage or afford”.

        My support for Seattle Subway and a Seattle-centric project using SDOT resources to help Sound Transit and connect urban villages is always ON.

      16. “all planning goes full steam ahead now” should be the priority as I think we have “too many teams and contractors planning simultaneously to manage or afford”.

        Those are contradictory. If it’s full steam ahead, that means scaling up planning. If there are too many teams and contractors planning simultaneously to manage and afford, that means scale down planning and postpone more things. I don’t think there are too many teams now because ST has been doing just a few things at a time. It’s a theoretical problem that might happen if ST tries to plan all projects simultaneously.

    1. How about something practical like 2028? Assuming that the expected tidal wave of climate refugees is peaking about then — and Washington has had the foresigth to pass a law saying that nobody who moves here can vote in statewide and lower elections for ten years so the environmental consensus isn’t shredded — there should be plenty of money for new lines by then.

      1. Good thinking. 2028 works for me. Let’s calm down folks and focus on ST3 implementation. We got a ton of work ahead and any serious talk of ST4 is reckless for some time.

        I’ve just laid my markers of my support and vision for a ST4 (basically Seattle Subway + Renton).

      2. I don’t even want to schedule projects or think about the size of ST4 at this point. I just have some long-term priorities for sometime, mainly the 45th line, Lake City-Bothell Link (which ST’s LRP assumes will start at Northgate), and the Metro 8 line. The latter we’ll have to get into ST’s long-range plan before we can do anything else with it. But it’s also worth seeing how well 522 BRT addresses the needs in that corridor, and how well Metro makes up for ST abandoning Lake City. As for south King, I want Kent to get more attention. I’m not urgent on the Burien-Renton line, especially given RapidRide F’s ridership east of Southcenter. In East King I have no idea; it’s difficult to design anything because the trip patterns are so every-which-way. Pierce would do well with more Tacoma Link lines. Snoho has that Everett CC extension, and I think it should focus more on the remaining Swift lines. So those are my long-term priorities, but I’m not about to think about ST4’s size or timing at this time.

      3. Yeah I think it will be important to see how routes like the 405 & 522 BRT preform before we know where the next projects are.

        East Kings money can be put into whatever lake Washington crossing make the most sense. Otherwise, there’s a 2 or 3 station extension into Kirkland and 1 station extension in Issaquah, and maybe an infill station here or there . As an East King advocate, i admit it’s pretty limited unless there’s a giant project like Renton to Bothell rail. That’s why Burien-Renton is tempting under the current structure, bc half of that can be assigned to East King.

        That’s why I’d like to see the next project abandon intra-county subarea equity – I think there’s a compelling argument to be made for a King County only package that doesn’t worry about subareas.

      4. I don’t want to see money wasted on a new lake crossing or a 520 alignment (which is the middle of nowhere: practically nobody uses Yarrow Point Station). The LRP has a potential Kirkland-Bothell line, possibly wrapping around the lake to Northgate. That would seem more cost-effective than a new lake crossing. The Ballard-Redmond study showed high cost, mediocre ridership, and cannibalizing East Link riders for the east-of-UW segment.

      5. For sure – if the Lake Washington crossing numbers don’t pencil out – i.e. the bus lanes on 520 are adequate for transit needs – then spend the money elsewhere. My hunch is after another decade of growth it will pencil out, but if not I’m cool with that.

        Final thought – if there is any concerns that a subarea won’t have “enough” good projects to spend it’s share on, there are always bus improvements to throw money at.

    1. I would think Alaska Junction-Burien would have to take place first. Otherwise you have an isolated rail line with no way to get the cars to the maintenance facility, and no yard for overnight storage. Once Alaska Junction-Burien is completed, then a Burien-Renton extension of that line is a possibility.

      1. Glenn, the existing line would be too far north by the time it got low enough to cross I-5 in a cost-effective manner. There is quite an elevation difference between TIBS and the I-5/I-405/SR 518 interchange. A Burien-Renton line would almost certainly cross 518 just east of the station (and would probably not be able to share platforms) and swing to the south at I-5, crossing the highway and passing on the south side of Southcenter Mall, somewhere around Strander Boulevard.

        That’s actually a much better place for a station than the “front” side of the Mall, which faces I-405 and has no walkshed.

      2. ST has already looked at this. Document says the constraint would be # of cars in the OMF station.

        http://m.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/projects/seis/s.5_railburien-renton.pdf

        My point was that connecting Renton to Link & Sounder seems much more of a regional priority than the smaller communities between Alaska Junction and Burien.

        If it’s a Seattle-only package? Then sure, extend the line a few station south towards Burien. But looking at it regionally, West Seattle-Burien should be very low priority.

      3. There was a Burien-Renton study, and I think both ST and Tukwila are assuming a station at the current Southcenter transit center at Baker Blvd on the east side of the mall. An urban village is under construction on Baker Blvd, and Tukwila has touted it as being within walking distance of the Sounder station via a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks.

  9. With our State laws, and a State Legislature that is loathe to support anything transit, or that would help the Seattle Metropolitan area, do we know that we can even put forward a bonding proposition without the legislature’s blessing?

    1. ST can put forth such a measure, as the legal authority exists and has existed since 1992, prior to Sound Move/ST1. See RCW 82.112.130.

    2. Interest rates are low, but not so low that bonding is free money (cheap, and probably worth it, but not free).

      Mike Lindblom reported last week that the ST3 plan assumes 5.3% interest rates, and current market rates are about 3.5%. Sound Transit would likely face somewhat higher rates with more bonding because there is some added risk with a higher debt load.

      Those are all positive real rates (above inflation). So there is a real cost there that’s not just an inflation illusion.

      Also, delivering projects earlier accelerates the operating costs. Every year of accelerated delivery is another year of added operational expense.

      Finally, there’s an optical problem with respect to the headline 25-year number. The $54B included $6B of debt maintenance, mostly bond repayments. It’s mostly double-counting (a capital investment contributes to the headline package cost once when it’s built, and again when a repayment is made on a bond within the 25-year window). But accelerate timelines via bonding, and the double-counted debt-financed investments escalate. That effect is just optics, not a real economic cost, but don’t be naive that you won’t hear about it in a campaign.

    3. Oh please do ask the State Legislature for help. You can end up on the Sound Transit Board! Oh voy! Oh yeah! Oh yeah baby, you get to tell Peter & Karen & Ric and all the other transit ALL-STARS what to do! Oh yyyeaaaaaahhh!!!!!

    4. It was always going to be bonded anyway. Paying cash for everything would extend the project completion dates out to the 2060s. The question is whether to raise all the bonds now or raise most of them in the late 2020s and 2030s. So the difference is the interest cost between selling them now vs in the future, not selling them now vs zero. The only other way to accelerate funding without front-loading bonds is for the state to give ST money or allow the tax rates to go higher, neither of which is likely. There is a risk in raising bonds now: it lowers ST’s asset-to-debt ratio, which makes the bonds riskier to investors, which makes the interest rate higher. But that interest premium might be less than the effect of inflation on projects currently scheduled for the 2030s, and there’s also the benefit to riders and the region’s economy if they open sooner. ST has held to a very conservative bonding ratio, stricter than the state requires, so that even if a recession like 2008 happens or cost overruns equal that amount, ST would still be able to pay off bondholders without going bankrupt. Front-loading the bonds increases the risk that ST can’t pay bondholders if something bad happens. That’s the biggest problem with doing this. But it’s worth at least seeing how much time it could shave off, how much it could reduce the total price, and how much worse the asset-to-debt ratio would have to be.

    5. “the ST3 plan assumes 5.3% interest rates, and current market rates are about 3.5%. Sound Transit would likely face somewhat higher rates with more bonding because there is some added risk with a higher debt load.”

      I was going to mention, we don’t know what future interest rates would be. It’s (3.5 + risk premium) now vs (unknown) in the late 2020s and 2030s. The general belief is that interest rates are extraordinarily low now and the dollar is extraordinarily strong, so they will inevitably rise in the next ten years, but we don’t know how much, whether to a normal 5% or an abnormal 10% or higher. In that case it might be worth locking in these low rates now.

  10. Yes, cut the f-ing process. Just for Lynnwood Link five years to build… and eight years of process: https://flic.kr/p/ANwrrw . That’s at least five years too long. Just build.

    Bill Bryant and I agree transit projects shouldn’t take more than 8-10 years. Get building!

    I keep telling people something to the effect of we have a mandate to be at our best at our boldest. Don’t screw this up.

      1. Here’s the AMA. Note that a lot of his answers were downvoted so they don’t show up by default; you can find them all on his userpage here.

        Bryant is not anti-rail – or if he is, he definitely didn’t say so there. His one transit-related answer could definitely be improved, but doesn’t oppose rail per se:

        Having a public transit system that people use, because it works, is essential to building an efficient transportation system.

        I use four criteria to evaluate a public transit project: 1. Does it move people from where they live to where they work? 2. What is the cost per passenger per mile? 3. Does it move people out of cars and into public transit or does it move people from one mode of public transit to another mode of public transit? 4. Can it be delivered in 6-8 years?

        ST3 fails to meet any of these criteria.

      2. I think ST3 can be modified to deliver in 6-8 years a lot. But that means we better get jacked up.

        I disagree with BB about 3. I think 1 is a YES, ST3 will. 2, not so sure. BRT also requires right of way purchase, not cheap.

    1. 1. The EIS process is required for federal grants. Talk to Mr Trump about cutting those regulations.
      2. Permitting is controlled by the city governments. Talk to them about speeding it up.
      3. Six years for elevated construction. Is that bad?
      4. How much of the timeline is due to waiting for revenue to trickle in, and the staff busy on other ST2 projects?

      1. Strongly agree on #2. It’s not sexy, but Seattle Subway needs to shift their primary focus for the next 2~4 years on city government if they want to shorten the timelines.

  11. Good job advocating for transit Seattle Subway! I think people are totally underestimating the remarkable success of ST3 and how it will now shape our urban growth for the next 100 years! Way to go!

  12. Congrats on the win.

    WS residents are going to call for a tunnel. The area has taken a beating on upzoning and development and people are fed up with new density done cheap. You can see that the lowest Seattle voter approval rates on ST3 were in WS. I assume a tunnel will be more expensive, so if there is financing pressure the people here are going to bail on ST3 quickly.

    The easiest way to secure WS support is to figure out a tunnel alignment. The easiest way to lose it is a plan to bulldoze more blocks for stations and close streets for elevated rail construction.

      1. LOL all you want but WS generally thinks buses are fine.

        You can sell ST3 to the region but I doubt you can drop an elevated rail line onto Alaska street and get it past the actual residents of the area.

    1. West Seattle had low numbers because they are consistently anti-transit voters (by Seattle standards.).

      The WSTC did a pretty large poll of WS and found out that extending the line was favored by 2/1 over terminating af the line at the Junction as tunnel – should extra money become available.

    2. “The area has taken a beating on upzoning and development”

      A beating? West Seattle is still less dense than the U-District or Capitol Hill or probably even Ballard.

      “and people are fed up with new density done cheap.”

      What does that mean? What would be better density? And what does transit have to do with building styles and layouts? And if the better density is not “done cheap”, how much more expensive will it be and what smaller fraction of the population will be able to afford it? And if it means more parking should be required, that’s a whole other topic about driving up costs and making it less pedestrian-friendly (because people have to walk further past the spaces the garages take up).

      1. Yes you have a part of the picture. WS is not as dense as cap hill or u district – where the line is underground. But the zoning is for much more density than is in place now and comparable to those you mention. A series of three consecutive upzones, now including HALA, have not been absorbed well by the community. They are all short-term patches instead of a long term vision for the area.

        The pace of the infill is alarming the residents; design standards are low; the transit solutions are ineffective because the area is too big to be serviced by a C bus line that will effectively overlap with the rail path. WS will benefit from a solution that matches the denisity of its future and not yet another present-day patch.

    3. The budget is the budget. ST3 has a certain amount of money for West Seattle, so whatever they build will have to fit into that. That’s why it’s important to get the budget high enough beforehand for whatever tunnels you want. Because the final design doesn’t have to cost the budget’s limit but it can’t go higher.

      1. I’m saying that I think WS will reject the as-budgeted plan. It will not move forward. I say this based on my experience participating in adversarial development project reviews that are laughably minor by comparison.

        Like I said above, ST3 was a regional plan but each neighborhood will still have to buy into its part.

        The ironically named “subway” can help build the case for the tunnel alignment or risks losing the extension.

      2. Um, West Seattle can’t reject it. It just voted for it. ST listens mostly to city governments, and cities have the power to deny permits (although ST can eminent-domain them since it’s a regional entity), but West Seattle isn’t a city. There will be the usual public hearings but ST isn’t going to submit it to a neighborhood design review board and walk away if the board rejects it.

      3. I think you have no particular understanding of WS topography, land prices, development, recent growth, and current/proposed zoning. The implementation of elevated rail and stations as described in ST3 will be extremely challenging. ST3 will collect revenue, but can also determine that it is infeasible to complete a part of the project, in full or as proposed. That’s what I think will happen.

        You won’t find any details about possible station locations in WS. I mean specifically, not “somewhere near Avalon”. The work to find specific sites and railways hasn’t reached that point yet. When it does, you’ll see what I mean.

        I own income property in the Junction area that stands to gain $500K-$1,000K or more in value, I believe, if it can be zoned for higher density via an SAO. If we screw this up there will be no train to the Junction. It will go down Delridge or it will be set aside for another phase. That would be a big loss for the area.

        Maybe it’s inevitable, as the prospect of a tunnel may not be any easier. Shame.

      4. Mike, I don’t there is a budget. Just cost estimates. If the ST Board decides to build a tunnel, then the project will cost more and it will take longer to pay off the bonds.

        Personally, I’d rather gold plate the line than cut corners to fit a “budget” put together before EIS even started. Presumably, a tunnel will be built to last 100 years – seems like a good investment to me.

      5. @Guy, I can believe ST might find West Seattle more challenging than expected and it might downscale the plan. I can’t believe that a group of West Seattle residents could have an effective veto over whatever ST decides.

        @AJ, ST3 sets a 25-year tax ceiling and timeline. ST could go beyond it but I doubt it will. ST1 ran into unrealistic cost estimates and the timeline was extended for the non-deferred part. ST2 experienced the Great Recession and revenue vanished in South King, so ST deferred the Federal Way extension and then re-extended it partway, and North Link and East Link were extended a year (but still within the 2023 endpoint). ST was not willing to extend ST2 past 2023 so it deferred things instead. That’s why I think it will not extend ST3 beyond the 2041 cutoff but instead defer anything that can’t fit into it. Of course, West Seattle could be extended by many years without hitting the 2041 cutoff, but North King’s budget ceiling is part of ST3’s “$54 billion”. ST could go beyond it but I doubt it would be willing to go very far. It’s trying to show that it honors its promised tax sunsets and keep under budget. Of course, the local economy and federal grants are wildcards, as is the behavior of cities and stakeholders. If all those go well maybe there will be a windfall of extra money to make the system better, if it comes within the 25-year window. ST also wants to offer carrots in ST4: that’s one reason why it rolled 130th Station into ST3. In 2014 it decided to roll all uncommitted enhancements into ST3 even if it could have squeezed them into ST2, to give people another reason to vote for ST3. The same reasoning will probably reoccur in ST4.

        I don’t know how all that applies to the West Seattle alignment. Since I don’t live in West Seattle and don’t have a car, I have only limited understanding of the hilly geography outside the bus. I know the Junction area and Delridge and Lincoln Park and Admiral and Alki and 35th and I’ve seen 16th, but I don’t have a good understanding of the north-south barriers between them or how to keep a rail line flat. So maybe ST will have to change its plan significantly. At the same time, the Junction is a major goal, and stopping short at Delridge or 35th wouldn’t fly very easily. So it pretty much has to get to the Junction, and if the elevated segments aren’t feasible then it will have to tunnel. And if tunneling is expensive then it will have to raise the budget and extend the timeline, or fall back to a bus alternative which is really unlikely (and it would throw the second downtown tunnel’s plans into disarray).

  13. There are some huge — HUGE — station issues coming up with ST3! There are new transfer stations and station entrances in complicated urban areas. There are bus transfer logistics that need to be discussed and coordinated at every station. There are issues about escalators and elevators at every station. There is a need to update the DSTT stations that are will soon be 30 years old. There seems to be a fairly obvious attitude at ST that people don’t use cell phones or Uber to get rides to and from stations when it’s clear that this is going on and increasing.

    I hope that Seattle Subway turns their attention to how the system will OPERATE rather merely discuss where the system will EXTEND. That includes how people will move in and out and through stations. It’s clear that without an interest group speaking up, we’ll get more Mt. Baker Station disasters (the 145th Station is a prime example of how station layouts can radically change). Even after a completely new station design, all ST was seeming to want seem geared to station naming and shrub planing — not whether the never-bef-re-shown new major station redesign at 145th was worthy of discussion.

    1. Al – Most definitely. We are actively discussing how we might divide our org into two entities with different primary goals. One for expansion, one for operations.

      We are putting together a long list of current/future issues. We’ll certainly have a future article looking for input past what we can come up with.

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