ST3 Results by Precinct

Oran’s visualization of the pro-ST3 vote (go here to interrogate the results further) doesn’t teach us much that we didn’t already know from 2008’s ST2 results. In other words, the region’s most urban areas tend to vote for quality transit, with the actual locations of ST service outperforming by a few points.

To some extent, the projects that made it into the ST3 list are a result of “politics.” For some, this is a pejorative term that means “any projects supporting objectives I don’t agree with,” but here I mean to neutrally describe it as projects successful in winning votes on the Sound Transit Board or in the electorate.

It’s hard to definitively trace which projects swung a board vote, although it’s somewhat easier to see how the list affected endorsements from local politicians. Debora Juarez flipped her stance when ST brought 130th Street station, in her district, into the definitive list. More broadly, Eastside city councils with significant ST3 investments voted to endorse. Those without, didn’t.

There is almost certainly value in creating elite consensus. But how did that play out in the vote? To find out, I asked Oran to create a map showing how each precinct’s vote changed over the past 8 years. The original map was a sea of brown (lower yes votes), because the overall package fared 3.2% worse than ST2. The version you see below accounts for that secular change. The green precincts outperformed based on their 2008 vote and the overall downward trend. Oran also had to make various technical adjustments to reflect precinct boundary changes.

Change in pro-ST vote, 2008-2016 (normalized)

I won’t pretend to have any evidence to support a narrative beyond the map at right, but here some tentative conclusions.

The areas where ST3 projects appear to have positively swung votes across several precincts are the Paine Field area, downtown Redmond, West Seattle, and areas around downtown Tacoma, streetcar or light rail. West Seattle’s switch is broad enough to indicate that three stops can represent the entire segment of the city, at least as a down payment.

Ballard and greater downtown are already so massively pro-transit in the abstract that it is tough to discern any additional enthusiasm there.

Areas that have had high-quality Sound Transit service for years, the Rainier Valley and the South Sounder corridor, also solidified as pro-ST precincts. There are three four plausible explanations for this:

  • Modest local improvements (Graham St and South Sounder enhancements);
  • Useful connectivity to new places (e.g. South Lake Union);
  • Popularity of an agency that provides high-quality service; or
  • A self-sorting exercise, where over time people very excited about rail transit find their way to homes near rail stations.

And then there are the ST2 terminii. The vicinity of Highline CC and Lynnwood TC might either be excited about their upcoming service, interested in riding to Tacoma/Everett, more urban than they used to be, or simply concerned that a No vote might endanger the service they expect from ST2.

Regrettably, it’s hard to say that any of the ST3 BRT projects moved the needle much at all. The SR522 corridor was lukewarm, and I-405 BRT was, electorally, a total failure beyond some districts in Burien and Renton.

Where there is existing ST rail service, there aren’t any obvious cases of “I got mine,” with exception of Mercer Island. Islanders who can’t walk to the future station may be disillusioned with their city’s decision to limit the size of the Park and Ride when it was renovated. But with the very significant exception of the Kirkland/Issaquah line, it appears that voters set to receive a new rail station in Sound Transit 3 were pretty excited about it.

65 Replies to “ST3 Precinct Map, and More”

  1. I disagree in your reasoning for why people already well-served by ST would vote for ST3. In fact, they, more than anyone, are having their transit improved by the measure. They will eventually have connectivity to places like Ballard and Redmond they never dreamed of. And they know it works.

  2. The BRT projects didn’t move the needle because they aren’t anything new. The 522 BRT has some support because it actually improves the route (modestly). 405 BRT doesn’t do anything except decrease the number of stops and increase the number of buses. It’s hard to get people excited about that, especially if you’re taking service away. And the ETLs are becoming congested more and more, so who knows what will happen to them.

    Personally, what I find amusing is how mediocre the support is in Issaquah given how much money we’re spending on them. Which just goes to show that Issaquah Link was a mistake.

    1. I’m of two minds on Issaquah link. One is that it’s silly, and it would be better to build along I-405. But another thought is that although there certainly doesn’t seem to be sufficient transit demand for light rail there right now, by 2041 there probably will be, and by starting the process now, we are building the line that we may eventually need for as cheap as possible (recognizing inflation as not an actual increase in “cost”). What’s easier (and cheaper) than having to deal with NIMBYs? Getting MBYWNTs (my backyard was never there).

      1. Reiterating what Dan says below, but Issaquah Link is a basically a bet on the future, and it’s an investment made to channel growth to Issaquah because Issaquah’s government has volunteered to accept a bunch of growth that most other suburbs in the region don’t want.

        Support for transit in Issaquah should increase significantly over the time of the package for the reasons Martin highlights – people will start to actually use Link and decide they like it, and people will move to central Issaquah specifically to use the line.

        “What’s easier (and cheaper) than having to deal with NIMBYs? Getting MBYWNTs (my backyard was never there).” – that’s the beauty of Central Issaquah – it’s mostly low density commercial. There are very few Single Family household there to be upset when 8 story apartment buildings start popping up next door.

    2. Personally, what I find amusing is how mediocre the support is in Issaquah given how much money we’re spending on them. Which just goes to show that Issaquah Link was a mistake.

      Well, sorta, but to be a “mistake” you have to come up with a somewhat expensive alternative Eastside project that will be more electorally successful, which includes bringing along stakeholders from key cities. Maybe BRISK, or Totem Lake/Eastgate Link, would have been it, but I suspect forming an Eastside package is basically damage control rather than a huge opportunity.

      1. Issaquah-Kirkland Link was also an important project for Bellevue elites, who recognized it makes Bellevue TC the center of East King transit.

      2. The alternative ST tried was ERC Link to Totem Lake, but when that option had vocal opposition from Save Our Trail they quickly concluded there wasn’t political upside in that project. I think ST3 would have passed the same with or without ERC Link, but the ST Board understandably didn’t want to take that risk.

        BRISK would have had the same political support as 405 BRT. Until we have true BRT for the public to experience (Madison…?), I think most voters don’t see the difference between a BRT project and simply funding more bus hours.

      3. “Issaquah-Kirkland Link was also an important project for Bellevue elites, who recognized it makes Bellevue TC the center of East King transit.”

        Downtown Bellevue is the largest destination in the Eastside. It’s centrally located and has the highest commercial-residential density. That’s because Bellevue planned well in the 1980s: it embraced a big downtown rather than trying to keep everything 2-story. It’s not just the preference of elites, but the reality of travel patterns.

      4. @AJ
        “I think most voters don’t see the difference between a BRT project and simply funding more bus hours.”

        That’s because we haven’t had a BRT project in Seattle (closest is Swift in Snohomish County). Repainting buses and adding fancier stops isn’t BRT and most people aren’t fooled. It’s an improvement on basic bus service, but not a significant improvement.

      5. @Mike – I agree! I was just trying to articulate why the Board would have viewed Kirkland-Issaquah link as the best option to get political support from Bellevue.

        @Brad – agreed. Hopefully Madison BRT can be a demonstration. I would put Swift in the same category as RR+ and the ST BRTs

    3. I’m not sure how much 522 will really improve, if you drive it today, most of the area deemed for the bus lane, already have one, so it’s really just minor improvements to an already existing pretty decent corridor. I voted yes on ST3 and I live very close to 522, but I didn’t vote yes based on that project at all since it’s doesn’t make much of a difference. Same with 405 BRT for me. I don’t live quite as close but I drive it a few days a week and I find that the stops aren’t going to improve things for me. In the end my biggest problem that prevents me from using transit for work is the county line. A 10-15 minute drive is over an hour with 2 transfers thanks to Metro and CT not aligning to create routes that make sense. Most of the office space including where I work isn’t along 522 or 405 directly.

      So spoke routes and getting the counties to work with each other to take advantage of the speed they get from these highway improvements for buses are what’s needed to make these a success.

      1. About half of the 522 BRT capital budget will be spent on parking, so there’s that. I think most of the benefits for people who live on the line will come from the high frequency and span of service of BRT. The transfer at 145th should be easy and quick, and Connecting to Seattle should draw many commuters.

        Ultimately, is really just a RR+ line funded by ST, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I think people within the walkshed of the stops will love using it, and the P&Rs will be full.

      2. There’s some stretches of 522 missing bus lanes that can get a little bottlenecked when traffic is bad. They might not be long, but they are important. I didn’t vote based on any one project, but I do hope to get improved reliability out of that project.

    4. Issaquah Link is a bet on future Issaquah. It’s 25 years away and goes to a mostly uninhabited corner of the city. So any yes votes in Issaquah are generic pro-transit votes rather than anybody calculating that it’ll be useful in their particular circumstances.

      Other than downtown Redmond, I don’t see there was ever a potential project on the Eastside that could have captured the broader public imagination.

      As an electoral play, BRT to Issaquah couldn’t have done worse than rail (necessary caveat, Issaquah BRT had precisely zero elite support). Getting to where people live, and doing so in this generation, has to be worth something.

      1. “So any yes votes in Issaquah are generic pro-transit votes rather than anybody calculating that it’ll be useful in their particular circumstances.” – absolutely. I live within walking distance of one of the Issaquah stations, but the chances of me still living here in 25 years is very low. I’m a huge cheerleader for Issaquah Link, and it has little to do with my personal use of the line.

      2. Issaquah Link will incentivize urban redevelopment in the I-90 corridor east of the city — areas we want to preserve as rural. After light rail comes, it’s just a short(er) drive to a bigger Issaquah P&R to catch the train.

      3. It’s the job of the county to hold the line on the Urban Growth Boundary to preserve rural land.

        Issaquah can’t spread south or east because that is mostly park land owned by the county or state. The intent of the line is to support denser in-fill development in Factoria, Eastgate, and central Issaquah, which should help alleviate sprawl, not encourage it.

        If you don’t want to serve Issaquah because you are worried someone in Snoqualmie is going to drive to a P&R, then agitate for paid parking. Otherwise, your argument is no different than saying we shouldn’t boost frequency on Sounder because that will encourage people to live in Black Diamond and drive to Kent.

      4. Issaquah Link will incentivize urban redevelopment in the I-90 corridor east of the city

        The sprawl is incentivized by the housing prices where people actually want to live, and given wing by the freeway.

        They may drive to the park and ride, but they will also drive everywhere else. None of that would exist if it weren’t for the freeway that is already there.

    5. It’s hard to find anything better for East King. The low-lying fruit is along East Link. The rest of the Eastside is so dispersed that people are going every direction; it’s hard to find a concentrated corridor. The biggest demand that transit can serve is north-south along 405, and thaty’s what 405 BRT does. It’s not excellent because people live away from the freeway exits, bu it’s the best you can do given the Eastside’s sprawling everywhere-to-everywhere nature. And Claudia Balducci pointed out that Eastsiders travel more north-south than east-west now, so at l;east it matches the largest direction of trips. And suburbanites get a warm fuzzy feeling about transit that parallels freeway trips, because that’s where they think the biggest need and congestion and wisest investment are. Some people might say Bellevue-Kirkland rail would have been better, but that wouldn’t have addressed the whole corridor from Lynnwood to SeaTac, which really should be served. I wish ST had chosen the multi-line BRT option though, with overlapping branches to Kirkland and Bothell and others rather than a single line that bypasses their centers.

      “Personally, what I find amusing is how mediocre the support is in Issaquah given how much money we’re spending on them. Which just goes to show that Issaquah Link was a mistake.”

      There’s the factor of subarea equity. The size of ST3 was driven by Snohomish and North King. Snoho wanted Everett with Paine Field; North King wanted Ballard, West Seattle, and a second downtown tunnel. Given the rules on a uniform tax rate and subarea equity, and the Easiside’s affluence, that means a large budget for East King. Plus Issaquah really really wanted Link and zoned an urban center for it and Fred Butler is on the board. Nobody else on the Easiside wanted Link as strongly as Issaquah. And Kirkland and Renton blew their chances on getting something big in ST3. Kirkland’s council and activists pushed for opposite things. Renton never articulated a transit master plan or how ST could serve Renton beyond the P&R, and then it whined that ST didn’t do their thinking for them. And ST’s ridership[ projections show Bellevue-Renton is at the bottom of Eastside priority for rail. So Issaquah light rail has some modest points going for it in spite of the brown areal, and it’s hard to find another Eastside project that would have replaced it better.

      “I’m not sure how much 522 will really improve”

      Going from 30-60 minute frequency to 10-15 minute frequency is a really big deal. We need to make lower-cost areas accessible to people without cars. The 522 corridor has a lot of potential, and it actually has activist supporters who want transit. When south Kirkland said “Not in mt backyard”, the 522 corridor said “We want HCT now”. That’s the most resident-activist support outside Ballard and 130th Station. Everett and Paine were driven by the governments and the public was conspicuously silent. West Seattle wants Link supposedly but you never saw them demonstrating about it. Or as Mark Dublin would probably say, we don’t know what color T-shirts West Seattle demonstrator would wear because there haven’t been any yet as far as I know.

      1. Government input is important to the ST Board. They view them as a proxy for what people want since they are, you know, our directly elected representatives.

        You can see the influence of city governments all over ST3 – the Paine field diversion, 522 BRT, Issaquah Link, etc. Even the “misses” in Kirkland and Renton were primarily driven by city engagement with the board, or lack thereof in Renton’s case.

      2. If they could get rid of the 6 minute headway limit, a branch off the existing line to Renton could have interesting uses.

      3. “The biggest demand that transit can serve is north-south along 405, and thaty’s what 405 BRT does.”

        The problem is it doesn’t – at least not for the northern part (which is where I live and know best). This is not BRT – this is fancy signs and fancy buses that will be stuck in traffic just like today’s 532/535. Yes, the buses will use the ETLs from 160th St to Bellevue. But north of there they won’t be able to and that’s where most of the traffic is. Even where they can use the ETLs, there’s only so much time before either the ETLs are jammed every day (there are slow downs most days and the maximum toll has not been increased yet) or before the whole program gets killed off.

        Is there a solution? Probably not a cheap one. You’d need to build direct access ramps for the current stops (405->5, Canyon Park, 195th St, and 160th St) and expand 405 north of 160th St. And you’d probably need a branched BRT system rather than a single line. I’m biased, of course, but personally I think putting the money spent on Issaquah into 405 transit could have actually accomplished more than building a line to a possibly dense future Issaquah.

      4. The weak points in I-405 BRT, though, are at the north end of 405. That’s not east subarea anymore: it’s mostly Snohomish.

        Snohomish put almost no money into I-405 BRT, basically a contribution to operations IIRC. The Eastside contributed a lot. Whether NE 85th or North Renton are useful or not, they’re not cheap. That’s over half a billion in capital for just those two stops.

        Several of the Eastside cities on I-405 wanted more money in the corridor, notably Bellevue. But their appetite didn’t extend to bailing out Snohomish’s choices. For Snohomish, the over-arching priority was to build rail to Paine Field and Everett.

      5. Mike, I think I made that observation in connection with the the average person’s reaction to automobile travel becoming steadily easier than transit travel. I don’t think the police had to turn water cannons on anybody who was demanding anything about transit.

        Except maybe the right not to be forced to ride in the back of it. There are always at least small demonstrations demanding that something not be done. But the way I see transit coming to West Seattle is, as usual, when someone makes its advent part of their business plan.

        Given current increase in population and employment city, county, and regionwide, West Seattle-oriented permits and papers are likely in process with this comment’s every keystroke.

        Major timing factor also sense of how soon another transit line will be built perhaps not to West Seattle itself, but offering a possible connection.

        But based on present trends, it’s very likely some young people in T-shirts, along with polo shirts equally black, or hoodies with Google logos are already working out all the logistics for something else IT-related.

        When the Connector can take a southern extension, and the boring machine breaks DSTT-2 out of its south portal, no reason South Lake Union can’t share a Chamber of Commerce with West Seattle.

        With a suitably-dense-number-of-floors skyscraper at each end, with a terminal station of the Union of South West Seattle Lake Transit District in their basements.

        Incidentally, business reference completely non-ideological. Worker-owned cooperatives are also private business. Why don’t we see more cooperative corporations demanding transit region-wide including West Seattle? See Mike’s question of why we don’t yet know their T-shirt colors.

        Somebody once said, “Socialism Takes Too Many Evenings”. Or as pro-union radical Joe Hill once said just before they shot him: “Workers of the World arise, you have nothing to lose but your chairs!” History sadly proves how many people just can’t afford the loss.


      6. Glenn,

        You’re talking about the “Green Line” somewhere south of Rainier Beach Station, right?

        I agree; it’s the obvious next extension for Link, much better than that Burien business. The way to handle it is to do those over- or underpasses and fence the right of way on MLK, so that trains can run 50 mph along there.

        OR, spend a billion on a minimalist “bypass” on the ground by taking one lane from Airport Way and use the interchange loop at the Maintenance Facility to link back into the main line, bypassing the RV. Then run trains every twelve minutes to the airport and every twelve minutes to Renton (and maybe eventually the Kent Highlands) down Rainier. Have “local” trains leave the airport a couple of minutes after the “expresses” from Tacoma so that people can make the South King-RV trip fairly seamlessly.

      7. When I rode the trams in Potsdam, I noticed that most routes were running every 3 minutes, and with most lines having at least two routes on them, there were times that trams were coming through the core of downtown every 15 seconds.

        There wasn’t too much interference with auto traffic because auto traffic seems to have learned to go elsewhere.

        Think about the implication of what is being asked for on ML King: a train with the capacity for 400 people can’t run there because several people need to be kept from being delayed from making left turns. Or maybe because it is because several people need to not be delayed in getting from Rainier to Interstate 5?

        Does this mean that as the Rainier Valley grows there will be increasing pressure to reduce Link frequencies to every 10 minutes so that more auto traffic can get through ML King? After all, the increase in traffic will probably result in drivers being delayed too.

        It just annoys me that the huge expense of building a second line or rebuilding the existing one basically just boils down to the same stuff as the HOT lanes on I-405: got to move more cars through, and that means transit has to take a hit.

      8. No left turns would cut off eastern Rainier Valley from the rest of the city except at the narrow north end. Fencing off the train line would make the neighborhood look like an industrial site. When I-5 was put through First Hill, that was considered a bad thing.

        They should just sink the line and put underpasses. (It’s too late for a tunnel because you can’t push the buildings closer together to avoid all that empty space, and minimum lot sizes wouldn’t allow houses where the tracks are.

        Adding a second line to MLK and making it grade-separated really hasn’t been discussed, it’s not that it has been rejected. East King and South King have had higher priorities to do first. It would take a large package like ST4, but Seattle still wants the 45th line and there’s still the Lake City line. A Renton line would also have to go to the eastern neighborhoods or down to Kent to get the most ridership. Otherwise it would have the same problem as Renton’s current trunk transit: you have to get to downtown somehow Renton to use it.

      9. I’m not suggesting no left turns. I’m just suggesting that maybe a street level street needs to factor in other uses than auto throughput, especially when it is undergoing transformation into a more densely populated area. Sometimes, that might mean having to wait at a traffic light longer than what maximizes auto throughput.

      10. “The weak points in I-405 BRT, though, are at the north end of 405. That’s not east subarea anymore: it’s mostly Snohomish.”

        @Dan: I agree, but my understanding is that the stop at South Renton P&R will require getting off 405 and then back on, and without ETLs until 518. I remain skeptical that this will work perfectly.

        As for Snohomish, hopefully the increased frequency will mitigate some of the problems (though this whole thing just points to one more problem with subareas). However, my worry is that ST will run 10 minute frequency only at peak of peak, while bus delays often run until 10 AM. Heck, the last departure for the 311 from Woodinville (which is peak-only) is around 8:15 AM and it’s usually packed, but for whatever reason they haven’t added a few more buses towards the end of peak when I’m sure people would take it.

      11. RE: Renton branch and “that Burien business” – I think there are two separate ways to serve Renton, and frankly I think both could be included . One would branch at Rainier beach and serve Renton via Skyway (maybe leverage the utility ROW along chief Sealth trail?), while the other would be a new line from Burien to Renton interlining at TIBs, as outlined by ST. Unless you are literally in downtown Renton, those two projects serve completely different trip pairs.

        The first would be a North & East King project. The second would be a South & East King project. I’d love to see either or both in a ST4 package.

      12. It is possible to ban left turns across the tracks through Rainier Valley. Anyone who needs to take a left will have to swing around the block and head straight across instead. It’s a pain in the neck, but I’ve experienced it in several different cities. I can think of examples in Portland, San Francisco, and Boston. Not easy for a driver who isn’t familiar with the area, but drivers who are figure out their routes.

    6. “In the end my biggest problem that prevents me from using transit for work is the county line. A 10-15 minute drive is over an hour with 2 transfers thanks to Metro and CT not aligning to create routes that make sense.”

      +1 ! Last summer I took the 372 to UW Bothell and CT 105 to Canyon Park and Everett to check on the Swift II coerridor potential. “Bothell” goes way the heck north, maybe all the way to Mill Creek. But north-south transit across Bothell is pretty fragmented. The 105 makes only one stop between UW Bothell and the border, yet still it takes a long time to crawl through. And there doesn’t seem to be a good transfer to the 522 or 372 without going east to UW Bothell and backtracking.

    7. Kevin Wallace knows what 405 BRT needs. In an article ($) about ST’s second low-interest loan from the FTA linked in the Facebook page, “Wallace [a Bellevue city councilmember] says he’ll prod transit-board members, especially Claudia Balducci of Bellevue, to improve the Eastside’s I-405 bus-rapid transit program, which he said deserves more stations and parking.”

      Oh. I thought it needed more speed and reliability. I guess I was wrong; it needs more P&Rs.

      1. More stations would be good though. Preferably upgrade the ones we have to direct access ramps. But if not, then you could also add a station at 70th, the 520 interchange, and probably some others to the south. Parking won’t be as helpful, but adding a 520 station would, for example, vastly improve network connectivity on the Eastside and to Seattle.

  3. I think that the context and content of ST3 are probably too different to make much of a meaningful judgement on the success of projects based on it. For example, there was no Central Link operating during the ST2 vote, ST3 is much more massive, and a lot of the “big ticket items” (Seattle to Bellevue to Microsoft) were done in ST2. As a result, ST3 is likely perceived as “extra,” making direct offerings to more and smaller neighborhoods. So this may be causing even neighborhoods who are getting a good deal with BRT to say “why is Fife getting light rail and not us?”

    1. Silly question. Fife is getting light rail for the same reason Mercer Island is – There’s a much more important place beyond and you can’t get there without passing through here.

      1. Right, but it’s more a rhetorical question. Also, Fife could have been skipped, but that would have been mean.

    2. Alex, you’ve touched on a hundred percent point in transit politics. Best way to get a negative area to go positive on transit is to say you’re going to give it to somebody else. The closer-by, the better,

    3. The overall context of ST3 vs. ST2 accounts for the overall decline in votes. It doesn’t explain why some neighborhoods exceeded expectations and others didn’t.

      1. I would think the fact that central Link was in operation during the ST3 vote (right after the opening of three new stations) versus no Central Link during the ST2 vote would cause ST3 approval to be better than ST2.

      2. I thought that too, but it turns out other large-scale factors were more important. Perhaps it was progressive turnout for Obama vs. Clinton, having three taxes instead of one, or the fact that the ST3 lines, quite understandably, are generally less obviously good than the ST2 lines.

        Or perhaps because it didn’t fail once already, there was no larger “bid” that makes $54 billion seem like a reasonable compromise.

  4. Shocked that 405 BRT wasn’t more popular /s

    Should’ve gone all out. Run a line from Kent/Des Moines Station through the entire 405 corridor, connecting in Lynnwood.

    Have it be a 3/4 phase project. Kent/Des Moines to the Landing, then Lynnwood to Kirkland, then the last 1/2 phases is connecting those 2 to Downtown Bellevue.

    Maybe next century -.-

  5. From what I’ve seen of California transit tax votes, the underlying political character of an area is more important than the projects it is promised. Maybe the same effect is playing out in the Seattle area.

    This was demonstrated in Alameda County’s (East Bay, San Francisco Bay Area) 2014 vote on the Measure BB sales tax. The single city that had the clearest, largest promised project was Livermore. $400 million was committed in the measure towards BART or other rapid transit. Yet Livermore, a highly suburban, fairly affluent community on the edge of the Bay Area, was the only one of 14 cities in Alameda County where an absolute majority of votes were against the measure.

    1. The underlying political character is the main factor., Local benefit is a secondary factor. The 45th corridor believes transit is good and we seriously need to upgrade our transit infrastructure everywhere. Issaquah has a lot of people for whom transit is irrelevant no matter what it is, so they drag the average down.

      1. We’re talking at least decades in the future- is it two, three, or four? Forty years before I-90 arrived, I wonder how what’s now Issaquah would have polled? Moo? Or cluck cluck cluck?


  6. “Popularity of an agency that provides high-quality service” – I think that’s a compelling reason why the support for ST is higher in, say, Kent vs Edmonds. South Sounder has been executed well, and North Sounder has not. Voters have responded accordingly.

    As long as Link & South Sounder don’t have any significant operational issues in the future, support for transit should steadily increase as the network is built out.

  7. Ever wonder why more people say “BRT” than “LRT”? It could be because, however valid the idea in theory, term “Rapid” doesn’t and can’t apply to bus transit invariably given pavement, traffic conditions, and signalling that are barely passable for cars. And everybody that rides it knows it.

    Buses that look like rocket-ships don’t even impress five-year olds, though from observation trains do, a hundred percent. Would believe wind-tunnel test results either way. But here’s an experiment that would tell the first-world transit industry a lot. Including as an example of all the emergency measures that if anybody’s working on, they’re classified.

    Run ordinary buses on the most-intensively maintained gravel road possible alongside average rush-hour-paralyzed stretch of I-5, HOV lanes or not, any ten-mile distance between Everett and Olympia. Graders and water-trucks constantly in action, staged to stay out of buses’ way. Along with everything else on Earth.

    Best if curved, graded, and structured as high speed rail roadbed. But even pavement optional, if “blocked out” for rail- as was considered for DSTT. But beside the point. My bet is that a traffic-free gravel road will out-haul, and out-poll, buses stuck in the rush hour traffic alongside us, for however many years it would to even build them HOV lanes.

    Daily sight of a big white tectonic marker on one side of I-5, and military miles on the other make it uncomfortably easy to think that at least a plan is in order. If somebody doesn’t already have one the public can see. And meantime to prove my point that for regional transit to be usable, and elections reliably winnable, absolutely reserved right-of-way isn’t the most desirable option. It’s everything.

    Mark Dublin

  8. the fourth bullet, self sorting, probably happened before ST; it has to do with choosing to live in an urban place with a walkable tight street grid in close proximity to other people.

    1. There are people who were specifically looking for reliable, frequent transit, which around here means rail. I’m one of them!

  9. One important new factor since planning began for ST-3: Very recent explosion of home prices, with people and cars literally scattered like shrapnel, has blown thirty years of regional planning all the way to California.

    Not making any prediction of relevance the political scene, State or National, will have for the transit under discussion in time frame we’re talking about. Except period of widespread stress and uncertainty is going to make anything major, harder.

    My take on whole situation- whole point in my comment on extreme emergency bus lanes (which we really should try just for road-grader practice)- was that whether large sudden disruption is natural or political, we transit-builders ought to have as many fast practical plans as possible worked out.

    Which ought to be as simple, flexible, and fast to implement as possible. Because coup, civil war, earthquake, local-Bhopal (Damn! That’s going viral. Probably a rap number, or musician, before I hit “Send”..Good thing I don’t see a 12-year-old girl with a smart-phone anywhere!) we could suddenly be on our own resources for awhile.

    Who knows? Kenworth/Boeing jet-engined road grader could get spectrum-wide support politically. Choice of paint schemes: Yellow, Metro Easter Egg, or organic leafy green pattern if it’s either bio-fueled or paid for by the marijuana industry. Exhaust could make whole region mellow and cooperative with any form of transportation.


  10. What is striking to me is how little the voting corresponds with the specific projects. With a handful of exceptions, you really can’t guess what they are going to build; look at the voting results and you would assume that the Ballard to UW and Metro 8 subway are on their way. There are parts of the Central Area, Fremont and Wallingford that voted in favor by over 80%, yet not a single precinct in West Seattle did. I would bet that if you simply skipped on the specific planning and said “We are going to build a bunch of rail” that you would get remarkably similar results.

    The general voting population probably spent as much time studying the details of the proposals as they did reading the policy papers of the two people trying to become the leader of the free world (very little). People voted by gut. Since ST is building things “on time and under budget” and since they finally built the most important section (and it is — surprise, surprise — very popular) and since the leading urban weekly was gaga about this and the leading daily has lost all credibility, it stands to reason that folks would just assume that the best thing we can do is trust Sound Transit to build us some train lines. Oh, and traffic sucks.

    There are exceptions, of course. From a political standpoint, the key was not to piss off the politicians. For the most part the voting simply followed population density (see that section in Juanita that voted in favor — that is the most densely populated part of Kirkland). But other parts of Kirkland — which really aren’t very different — voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the measure. I can’t help but think that was because they felt ripped off by the process. Similarly, folks in Issaquah — especially in the Highlands — voted overwhelmingly in favor. I don’t want to break it to them, but my guess is that most don’t understand that an infrequent three seat ride to Seattle really isn’t that wonderful.

    Which is why I find it funny that Snohomish County (which doesn’t have light rail) voted in favor, but areas to the south voted in opposition. Maybe those that have actually experienced light rail realize it isn’t a magic carpet (it makes stops) while those up north still have visions of light rail dancing in their heads.

    I guess that is the takeaway here, from a political perspective. It really doesn’t matter what you propose. Simply choose a general election year (to get all the liberals off their ass to vote) and make sure the politicians are happy, and chances are any proposal will win.

    1. “Which is why I find it funny that Snohomish County (which doesn’t have light rail) voted in favor, but areas to the south voted in opposition. Maybe those that have actually experienced light rail realize it isn’t a magic carpet (it makes stops) while those up north still have visions of light rail dancing in their heads.”

      What? Areas near existing Central Link stations mostly voted in favor. There even appears to be a (narrow) corridor of favorable precincts along the Sounder route, and there’s a favorable precinct in a sea of red near the Puyallup station. It looks like there’s a lot of deep opposition in Tukwila, but if you look closely those areas are big, mostly-non-residential precincts — there are pockets of support near STAS and TIBS, at least in places that aren’t stuck on the wrong side of the freeway (STAS has no commuter parking and TIBS’ parking is notoriously hard-to-get, so I wouldn’t expect driveshed-sized support there).

      It looks like areas to the south in general voted against more than areas to the north, but the ST district is shaped quite differently to the south than to the north. To the south it includes a lot of super-exurban areas with little or no local transit service, whose only way to benefit from ST would be at a Sounder P&R. Similar areas north and east of Everett aren’t in the ST district even though some of them get better service into Everett from CT than the areas to the south get from PT. Even if you chop those areas out the south supported ST3 somewhat less than the north. I’d put that down to a few things:

      1. Population density generally drops off faster to the south than to the north. This is true within the city of Seattle, too (the north end has more walkable commercial and job centers), and makes the level of support near Central Link pretty impressive in my book.

      2. There are more major industrial corridors and industrial job sites on the south end generally (from SODO to Puyallup). These sites mostly aren’t being served by ST (often not served much by transit generally), people are more likely than not to live in the same side of the region as they work, and so there are lots of people living in South King and Pierce that won’t benefit much from ST because of where they work.

      3. The South King subarea in particular has seen ST projects deferred due to sales tax receipts not meeting projections. That might cause people to distrust ST. OTOH, I’d then expect to see areas in the Link corridor showing up bright red in the “diff” map, and I’m not seeing that (outside of some big, low-population precincts covering Southcenter and the airport).

      I wouldn’t put it down to disillusionment with existing light-rail service. If anything, I think the maps are directly contrary to that. I’d guess that people largely voted their sentiments about transit generally, with extra support in many areas with something to gain… and if that’s the case, sentiments about transit generally seem pretty decent along Link.

  11. ST should shrink the service area to exclude the bright red precincts to the south. I can’t imagine that the sales taxes they directly contribute can be meaningful, and they are a threat every election.

    They’d clearly like to be out, so let them go.

    1. That’s a long-term possibility I’ve suggested. However, it would probably take a district-wide referendum. We don’t know that the area would vote to leave the district; that’s what a referendum would find out. They may be satisfied with their existing services; they just instinctually vote against “more taxes”. When the PT service area shrunk, Sumner’s mayor was a propnenmt of it, then got mad when PT;s bus service was deleted. The area was so upset at losing bus service that ST took over a PT route, a Sounder feeder from Bonney Lake. So it’s not as cut-and-dried assaying they’re consistent libertarians.

      There’s another factor that I think doesn’t get enough attention. People aren’t monolithic in voting districts. Different people have different priorities, Why do people vote for smaller class sizes but against the taxes to pay for them? Because it’s different people. Some people are really motivated about educational quality and spectifically vote for that reason. They don’t care as much about taxes so they don’t vote that election or they leave that question blank. But somebody else who’s incensed about taxes is theft does vote that election. There’s also the tendency for liberals to vote only in presidential elections while conservatives vote in every election, which is the biggest factor in what passes.

      The ST board would probably see excluding southeast Pierce as a lot of work to prepare it and a distraction. The Pierce boardmembers and cities might object to it; that’s more likely than not.

      Also, it would leave Pierce County with a mess on its hands: it would have all that sprawl on its hands not even a long-term plan and not even a long-term plan for addressing its transit. The state might say that violates the Growth Management Act.

      Although why Pierce has exurban sprawl within the ST district while Snohomish and King don’t has still not been addressed. The answer seems to be that Snoho ostensibly tries to put a lid on it and is ineffective, while Pierce s gung-ho. But now that Pierce has been gung-ho for a quarter century, can you really put the cat back into the bag? Woodinville has these ugly quarter-acre lots that predate the growth management act, but that’s a tiny tiny area compared compared to Spanaway and Bonney Lake and the area around them.

      Ahem, Puyallup and Sumner are in the same situation. But if they leave the ST district too, what happens to Sounder going through them? Or if the same people keep riding Sounder but now no longer pay its underlying tax? Would it make Sounder in Pierce unviable? What about those in Tacoma who use it? What about the fact that they just voted to significantly expand it?

      1. Excellent, Mike. Would only add one point. Increasingly, population displaced by rent increases could very well give previously hostile districts a lot of precincts full of people who are going to miss decent transit more than anything else they’re going to lose.

        Especially work trips that don’t consist of being parked but unable to leave their cars in the lot with all those Federal shields on its green signs.


  12. Does anyone know where to get the raw data behind these maps? I’m interested in trying some other stuff with the visualizations to represent the real density of votes considering the widely varying population densities between precincts (in particular some very large precincts with mostly non-residential land use)… in addition to vote counts for each precinct I guess I’d need a source for the geometry of each precinct?

    1. The precinct shapes are available publicly from each counties’ GIS department, though Snohomish’s is the trickiest to get. The election results you can extract from the final results files and join them with the shapes.

      As for visualizing vote density, one way to do that is with a cartogram. I’ve prepared a few: by total votes, by yes votes, by no votes. I haven’t posted them yet but you’ll see the dark blue central Seattle balloon to a few times its actual size.

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