Atomic Taco (Flickr)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking high speed rail from Dallas to Austin, rolling past Mesquite trees and into the Hill County at 200mph. I had the pleasure of doing this because Obama put $47 Billion for high speed rail in his 2013 budget.

Except that didn’t happen of course, because Presidential budgets are generally all smoke and no fire. If there is one thing you can count on from Congress in this polarized age, it’s the ability of habit and inertia to overpower the bluster of the Executive.

Trump’s recent budget was a disaster for transit and red meat to our Manhattanite President’s ironically anti-urbanist Republican base. It sought to zero out long-distance Amtrak funding, cut TIGER and New Starts grants, and even deny those projects in their last few months of project development, leaving projects with nothing after nearly a decade of work. Critically, it not only hung a cloud over ST3, but also threatened ST2 projects such as Lynnwood and Federal Way.

Yesterday, the outlook brightened a bit, with the plan for a Continuing Resolution floating around that would fund the government until September. Fearful of a government shutdown despite universal federal control, Republicans have been cutting deals and ignoring the President’s will. Amidst higher profile squabbles such as Trumpcare and the border wall, most other discretionary spending was retained in a business-as-usual sense. Funding is explicitly retained for Lynnwood Link, the Center City Connector, and SWIFT II. Lynnwood is further along in the New Starts process (Engineering) whereas Federal Way was not mentioned, as it is still technically in Project Development.

Amtrak also retains $1.5B in funding, including the long-distance network. TIGER is funded at $500m, and total transit spending sees a 5.5% boost. There’s no telling what 2018 holds, but for now we may pull back from the edge.

54 Replies to “Federal Funding Outlook Brightens”

  1. So, assuming this passes, it means the CCC is happening. Lynnwood Link is bigger news though. This should relieve some of the stress we may have otherwise seen on ST3 funds.

    1. Charles: no, we should not assume the CCC streetcar will happen. The budget under discussion is $50 of the targeted $75 million, leaving a $25 million hole in the capital budget. The City Council still must make major allocations: scores of millions in capital and millions in annual operating funds. It is still a dumb project connecting two other dumb projects. It is redundant to good downtown circulation service. It does not advance the SDOT objective to provide frequent service to more of Seattle’s population. Together with the WSCC-CPS deal, it creates a transit capacity issue in downtown Seattle in late 2018. The council may decide that the millions of capital and operating funds and the right of way on 1st Avenue could be used better. Consider the alternative way of spending the local and even federal capital funds: Mt. Baker, Rainier Beach, seven BRT lines, sidewalks, pavement management.

      1. @eddiew

        My understanding is the city already allocated its part of the funds for this project and the PSRC also kicked in some funds.

        Whatever you think about the project, it looks like its happening.

      2. Yeah, dumb project. Who would want a premium service with five-minute frequencies on dedicated ROW connecting SLU and Pioneer Square via First Avenue and all of its jobs, entertainment, retail, and housing?

        The $50 million is just through September, and not in any way an indication that the remaining $25 million won’t be secured in the next budget resolution.

      3. @Irving — It is a dumb project because it a streetcar. A streetcar no bigger than our buses. It should be a BRT project, and be integrated into our other BRT projects without worrying about all the unfortunate aspects of streetcars.

      4. Streetcars in dedicated ROW are a superior rider experience to any bus, including BRT. No one was taking a lane on First Avenue for BRT. And no BRT integrates seamlessly with our existing streetcar lines and drastically increases the utility of our existing streetcar lines, which aren’t going anywhere. The ridership gains for the cost in local dollars make this project a no-brainer.

      5. What mobility need does the CCC fill? Have people been crying out for a route from 8th & Jackson to 1st & Pike? The 7, 14, and 36 go to 3rd & Pike and are more frequent. If you’re going from Broadway to 1ST, RR G Wil be better. If you’re going from 8th & Jackson to SLU you’ll have to transfer streetcars and wait five minutes. The exclusive-lane part is a 10-minute walk? So who will ride the streetcar in great volume? Would we even have thought of this route if we didn’t have two existing streetcars where they are?

      6. >> No BRT integrates seamlessly with our existing streetcar lines and drastically increases the utility of our existing streetcar lines, which aren’t going anywhere.

        Which is exactly the problem! If we wanted to “drastically increase the utility of our existing streetcar lines”, we would move them. But doing so is ridiculously expensive. My guess is simply getting rid of that stupid button hook* would cost millions. Simply moving the streetcar a few feet for the Roosevelt HCT project will cost 7 million.

        It is silly to worry about increasing the utility of what will forever be under performing routes. We should put our limited resources into improving bus lines. The 7, for example, carries more than twice as many people as both streetcars combined. Investing our limited funds on improving routes like that (the so called Rapid Ride + corridors) makes way more sense.

        * If you are on Yesler, and want to go west towards downtown, take the streetcar east. Other than being really confusing, it means that every rider taking the thing from I. D. to Capitol Hill has to spend extra time stuck in traffic.

      7. Irving: look around Seattle: it proposes to give one-half the capacity of Madison Street to BRT; look at the red lanes on Wall and Battery streets; look at the restrictions on 3rd Avenue. Seattle could give ROW to bus and has. RossB is correct: routes 7, 14, and 36 have more trips per hour than the CCC is proposed to have.

      8. “What mobility need does the CCC fill?”

        I mean, no offense, but look at a map, or read the project documentation. There’s a reason this is one of the highest-rated New Starts projects in the country. You have a booming “second downtown” on one end (not to mention MOHAI/SLU Park, etc.), and all the dense housing, retail, and employment (Weyerhaeuser, anyone?) of Pioneer Square on the other end (not to mention CenturyLink Field, King Street Station, ID Station). Along the way you have a continuously dense corridor of jobs, housing, entertainment, and major cultural institutions. You’re connecting the endpoints and serving the corridor with a fast one-seat ride, a premium service at five-minute frequencies that also, let’s not forget, funds significant time-saving improvements to the existing segments (as much as 17 percent in one direction on the existing SLUS corridor).

        The need for a downtown people mover has been discussed and supported by council, SDOT, and even this blog for well over a decade. For years, the only skepticism on STB regarding a downtown streetcar — whether a 4th/5th couplet or 1st Ave. — was understandable doubt that SDOT would ever have the intestinal fortitude to take a lane, which it has in fact done, and even done with TSP.

        “Have people been crying out for a route from 8th & Jackson to 1st & Pike?”

        That is a weird segment to cherry pick. Of course not. But do people want a high-quality product serving everything along 1st between Pioneer Square and SLU, without having to deal with everything “special”about 3rd Avenue? Absolutely. The key corridor is clearly Occidental to SLU, and all the hop-on, hop-off opportunities in between. Anecdotally, as someone who lives in Upper Queen Anne and frequently works in Pioneer Square, I will absolutely hop off my 2, 3, 4, or 13 to take the streetcar to Jackson/Occidental.

        “So who will ride the streetcar in great volume?”

        See the first paragraph. Last numbers I saw estimated the CCC will raise total system ridership to between 20K and 24K. Onus isn’t on me to explain those numbers. I’d encourage you to dig into the project documentation and explain why the fine planners at SDOT and Nelson/Nygaard don’t know how to estimate ridership. Even if they were to end up pretty wildly overestimating, 12K-15K riders would be a tremendous bang for our local buck.

        “The exclusive-lane part is a 10-minute walk?”

        The new segment serves Westlake/5th to Jackson/Occidental in 10 minutes. If you can walk that in 10 minutes you are the Carl Lewis of walkers. On HGH. Using an FTL drive.

      9. @eddiew What? No, Ross is wrong. The 7, 14, and 36 are still buses, still on 3rd, they serve a different corridor, and they don’t connect SLU and Pioneer Square with a fast, smooth, one-seat ride.

        And come on: Of course Seattle can and has given ROW to buses. Who would argue otherwise? But no one was giving a lane on First Avenue to buses. If you don’t believe me talk to anyone on the downtown chamber of commerce. It was a political non-starter.

      10. Ross, as I’ve said before, it’s “just a streetcar” now. There is nothing stopping the city from lengthening the stations and buying five section trams instead of the current three section ones, at least for the section from the Cancer Center to Pioneer Square where the capacity is needed.

        Could buses do the same thing? Yes, if they got a lane and it was aggressively patrolled. Once a lane is allocated for the streetcar, it can be re-paved with rumble strips and other treatments to make driving in it an unpleasant experience.

      11. Have they committed to exclusive lanes between Pike Place and Westlake? That would make me feel better about the project. But I’ve only heard exclusive-lane commitments for 1st Avenue. Have they decided on an east-west alignment? The candidates were Pike, Pine, and Stewart, with Stewart in first place. That raises the question of whether it will be close enough to Pine Street pedestrians.

      12. When people talk about the biggest unmet transit needs in Seattle, they repeatedly mention the 44’s slowness, the 5’s hour-long trip from Broadview, the spotty service to Lake City, the practically nonexistent service between northeast Seattle and northwest Seattle north of 85th, the minimal service between Broadway and Rainier Valley, and overcrowding and unreliability on several high-volume routes. Never have I heard a priority for an SLU-1st Avenue corridor, or Little Saigon to 1st. the 7, 14 and 36 already cover the latter, and while it’s a steep hill between 1st and 3rd between James and University Streets, that’s where the least demand is. 1st Avenue has businesses but not as many as 2nd-to-5th, and they’re mostly tourist-focused rather than something Seattlites go to every day. So I’d say demand to 1st Avenue in particuar is moderate, a shuttle from 1st & Pike to 1st & Yesler is low priority especially for an expensive streetcar. If there’s no all-day one-seat ride from SLU to Pioneer Square (and the 26/28/131/132 aren’t close enough), we can easily fix that by rerouting a bus. So again, would we have given the CCC corridor top priority if there hadn’t been two legacy streetcars at each end? Or would we have done something involving 3rd Avenue instead?

      13. Have they committed to exclusive lanes between Pike Place and Westlake? That would make me feel better about the project. But I’ve only heard exclusive-lane commitments for 1st Avenue.

        This is the key. Obviously, our two current streetcars are poster children for the fundamental stupidity of the 21st century; emblematic of developers and politicians who care about treat transit as a mascot for urban redevelopment, and don’t seem to care much about trivial details like making it easier for actual humans to get where they need to go. If we were talking about our own money I’d fight CCC tooth and nail, it’s just throwing good money after bad. But: if we can get an exclusive lane and TSP, and the Feds pay for most of it, it’s probably middling use of scarce transit dollars, all things considered. It would actually improve downtown mobility (one hope I would have for it is, once all the buses are on 3rd, it might take some of the short-hop intra-downtown trips away from those buses, which might increase speed and reliability getting through downtown), and it would make the two existing lines marginally less ridiculous. It pobably is true as a matter of local politics that the streetcar is the only way to get a lane. But unless we get serious exclusive transit the whole way though, forget it. It’s a very marginal potential yes under the best of circumstances.

        An argument against it (other than the obvious ones) is that it would embolden the streetcar fanatics, who might then look to fund more such projects.

      14. “Exclusive lanes”

        The SLUT has an “exclusive” lane on Terry, approaching Mercer. Every light cycle, there’s at least one car sitting in the “exclusive” lane, causing the SLUT to miss its signal. When it finally is at the front of its “exclusive” lane, inevitably, there will be cross traffic on Mercer blocking its “exclusive” lane.

        Now multiply that delay by ten additional intersections on 1st Ave, add the delays experienced by the FHSC and you have an experience that’s likely slower than walking.

        Sure you can eliminate cars using the “exclusive” lane by physical means, but you’re never going to eliminate cross traffic blocking the CCC. Not unless SPD ever takes an interest in enforcing traffic laws in our City.

        Spend the $50 on something more useful. I don’t think many pro-Move Seattle people will care.

      15. @Richard — Sure, we could run multi-car streetcars — but at great cost. The bus stops would have to be expanded, and that isn’t cheap. There is no evidence that it will ever make sense to do that. Do you really think these will be full of people if they run every couple minutes? Of course not. You could, of course, save operating money by running the streetcars less often, but then they are not as good! The Madison BRT will run every six minutes — do you think it would be better if we ran a streetcar every 12 minutes instead? Even if it was physically possible, it would be worse for riders. It would also be a stupid financial move to spend so much extra capital to save some operations money, while providing *less* service to riders.

        >> The 7, 14, and 36 are still buses, still on 3rd, they serve a different corridor, and they don’t connect SLU and Pioneer Square with a fast, smooth, one-seat ride.

        Of course they are buses — that Is the point! They are buses that extend much farther into neighborhoods, providing way more one seat rides.

        Look, here are the “RapidRide+” corridors: https://www.seattletransitblog.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/. Some parts of the corridors will be transit only, some won’t. They will all have off board payment, level boarding and some signal priority. From a functional standpoint, they will be exactly like the streetcar.

        Now take a look at the Corridor 3 project, which is very similar to the current Metro 7 bus.
        If you look at the left side of the diagram, you will notice that the bus ends at the South Lake Union waterfront (Fairview and Valley). So, basically, you are wrong. These will definitely “connect SLU and Pioneer Square with a fast, smooth, one-seat ride”.

        But there is more. On the left side of the diagram, there is also a dotted line headed to Fairview, with a caption that reads “Engage King County Metro to evaluate a route extension from South Lake Union to the University District via Eastlake Avenue”. The Roosevelt HCT (corridor 7) does exactly that.

        This means that these projects (Corridor 3 and 7) will do everything the streetcar does — and more. They will connect Eastlake with Pioneer Square, or Rainier Valley with downtown. That is because these will be much longer routes.

        There is no reason these buses couldn’t use 1st instead. There is no reason other RapidRide buses (C, D and E) couldn’t as well. Speaking of the E, it is the most popular bus, and giving it more in the way of transit only lanes downtown would be a wonderful thing. That doesn’t mean it would only run in transit lanes, but like the streetcar, it would be a mix. But it would simply be a much better route, and have the flexibility to be even better. Maybe a few years from now, instead of ending at Aurora Village, it makes one last (express stop) at a north end Link station. This is a trivial change for a bus, but a very expensive project for a streetcar (and really absurd, when you think about it).

        That really is the essence of why streetcars don’t make sense in a city like Seattle. We don’t have existing rail infrastructure to leverage. With a BRT you have to add right of way, bus stops and pay for vehicles. With streetcars you have to do all of that AND lay rail. You also have to deal with all of the additional problems in doing that. It greatly limits your options in several ways. You can’t go up hills, which is rather important in a city like this. They are a major hazard for bicycles, which also limits route options. There will be pressure to move the transit lanes, or otherwise compensate bike riders just because it is rail. They get stuck by the smallest of obstacles (a car sticking out a few feet) but most of all, they are really expensive. We only have a limited amount of money. The Madison BRT and Roosevelt HCT projects aren’t as good as they could be because we have limited funds. It is crazy to spend what little we have on laying rail when you can accomplish exactly the same thing with buses.

      16. Ross, you’re right in that streetcars are a terrible idea and that frequent buses are superior from a transportation standpoint.

        However, to the general public, streetcars are sexier because they’re trains, and have more political capital behind them. Business owners seem to like them more. As has been stated multiple times in this thread, there is no appetite for a dedicated bus lane, because buses aren’t sexy and the prevailing image is that only poor people ride them. That’s literally it.

      17. @rapidrider

        “Sure you can eliminate cars using the “exclusive” lane by physical means…”

        That is what they are doing. The transitway runs at a different grade than the general transit lane, and as of 60% design looks to have curb separation through at least some segments. Transit advocates should certainly be vocal to ensure nothing is watered down in the home stretch, as so often happens with BRT.

        “Now multiply that delay by ten additional intersections on 1st Ave, add the delays experienced by the FHSC and you have an experience that’s likely slower than walking.”

        I have seriously never seen a more stubborn refusal on STB to have a fact-based discussion. The trip estimates are speedy 10 minutes from Westlake to Pioneer Square. Please review the project documents and explain why your back-of-napkin guesstimates are better than the years of quantitative corridor and intersection analysis done by the planners at SDOT and Nelson/Nygaard. Link to a page and break down precisely where and how the math is wrong.

        “Spend the $50 on something more useful.”

        How high a bar you suddenly set for transit! Forget mode: By what standard, exactly, is a 14K-17K ridership boost that creates a newly dedicated, grade-separated transitway through the heart of downtown for a mere 60 million local dollars not “useful”?

        “I don’t think many pro-Move Seattle people will care.”

        Based on what? I know many people who would care a great deal, but neither of us has any basis to draw a conclusion about a Seattle-sized electorate one way or the other.

      18. @Rossb

        “From a functional standpoint, they will be exactly like the streetcar.”

        No, they won’t. They will be buses, not trains. A train is a superior rider experience. A train has the political capital to take a lane on First Avenue. A train turns our minimally useful existing streetcar into highly practical transit.

        I’ll admit I didn’t read your full post, but here’s the real nut, Ross. Forget mode: Imagine a ballot measure with no detail, that simply read: “$60 million to serve an estimated 14K-17K transit riders and to provide newly dedicated transitway in downtown Seattle, taking a lane and 200 parking spots along First Avenue from Stewart to Cherry.”

        As a transit advocate, do you vote no, or do you vote yes?

      19. “It does not advance the SDOT objective to provide frequent service to more of Seattle’s population.”

        So what? SDOT has more than one objective, and a center city circulator is absolutely a major objective in SDOT’s transit master plan.

      20. @Mike Orr

        “So again, would we have given the CCC corridor top priority if there hadn’t been two legacy streetcars at each end? Or would we have done something involving 3rd Avenue instead?”

        Third Avenue was considered. Ruled out for interfering with other transit services and for being further from the waterfront. The fact that there is no longer continuous transit service on First or Alaska was seen as a mobility weakness the CCC could address.

      21. That still isn’t what I mean. Let’s try again. If the SLU streetcar and the First Hill streetcar didn’t exist, if they had never been thought of, would we propose a train or bus of any sort from SLU to Westlake, 1st Avenue, Jackson Street, and up Broadway? Would it have been among the top ten transit needs? I’d say now. There is perhaps transit underservice on 1st Avenue, but does it need to be connected to a Jackson Street route and an SLU route as opposed to doing something else? Something else that might involve continuing north through Belltown to Uptown for all those highrises on the Western and Elliott hillside that have no transit. The biggest thing that bothers me about the CCC besides the cost of the streetcar is how out-of-the-way the route is: detour from 5th to 1st to get back to 5th. The biggest thing that would make me happier is if the northern east-west segment has exclusive lanes.

      22. @IrvingParkBrownLine

        “Please review the project documents and explain why your back-of-napkin guesstimates are better than the years of quantitative corridor and intersection analysis done by the planners at SDOT and Nelson/Nygaard. Link to a page and break down precisely where and how the math is wrong.”

        Every day, I run and bike through the Terry and Mercer intersection during the rush hours. Every day, Mercer cross traffic inevitably blocks the street car (afternoons way more than mornings). So my assumptions are based on anecdotal evidence, provided by first hand accounts. And again, that’s just ONE intersection; I see similar, but less frequents blockages at Westlake and Denny.

        So unless SDOT and Nelson/Nygaard have something up their sleeve to prevent inevitable cars turning to/from 1st from blocking the streetcar, their 10 minute estimate is based on unicorns and rainbows. I’ve read the project documents. I’ve also been involved in preliminary documents for very similar projects. Cost, ridership, headway, travel times and reliability of service are typically shown to be positive, because the project team WANTS the project to be seen as a benefit, because they’re likely to continue to get additional work from it when the project moves forward into design. That’s life in the consulting business.

        “By what standard, exactly, is a 14K-17K ridership boost that creates a newly dedicated, grade-separated transitway through the heart of downtown for a mere 60 million local dollars not “useful”?”

        Other than the very obvious fact that there are major bus trunk lines 1, 2, 3 and 4 blocks away, so we’re spending $60 million to duplicate service, albeit slower? Spend a pittance of the $60M to bring back and beef up the 99 shuttle, which historically ran down 1st at one time, but didn’t have very good ridership (mostly due to headways and limited hours). Spend the rest to speed up the roll out of SDOT’s ambitious RapidRide+ master plan.

        And I don’t think anyone believes that 14K to 17K ridership number and regardless, we need to remember that those would NOT be 14K to 17K NEW riders. You’ll probably pickup a few tourists on 1st, but the CCC is not going to serve the waterfront, it’s too far, too steep and requires crossing major arterial(s); you’d mostly be picking up some existing transit users along 1st that don’t want to make the walk to 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th.

        As for the ridership numbers: the SLUT carries ~3,000 people per day, through the very dense and vibrant SLU neighborhood and the FHSC carries ~3,000 people through many dense and vibrant neighborhoods (Capitol Hill, Central District and International District). Even if you include that 6,000 in the total ridership for the CCC line (you’ll likely get a decent amount continuing from the existing lines, deeper into downtown) I would doubt ridership would get anywhere near 14K.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m very pro rail. However, the CCC is nothing more than $135 million worth of lipstick (after assumed federal grants kick in) on a pig (the pig being a bus), after you’ve broken 2 of that pig’s legs. But worry not, the CCC will still happen nonetheless, it’s a gap in infrastructure, however useless, that wants to be closed.

      23. @rapidrider

        So your guesstimates are better than professional quantitative analysis because, “Trust me, consulting is a racket,” and a repeat of an anecdote about a different line with different signal and roadway treatments crossing a uniquely horrific street.

        “So unless SDOT and Nelson/Nygaard have something up their sleeve to prevent inevitable cars turning to/from 1st from blocking the streetcar, their 10 minute estimate is based on unicorns and rainbows.”

        Like this (from the EIS)? “The LPA would eliminate six existing left-hand turns along First Avenue: four for northbound vehicles turning west toward Elliot Bay at Columbia, Union, Pine, and Stewart Streets and two for southbound vehicles turning east at Marion and Cherry Streets. Vehicles turning left at Pike, University, Spring, Madison and S Jackson Streets would receive a unique turn-signal cycle to avoid crossing in front of a moving streetcar.”

        That is not to mention additional intersections with TSP and a roadway treatment far more robust than the few splashes of paint the SLUS received for its exclusive lane.

        “Other than the very obvious fact that there are major bus trunk lines 1, 2, 3 and 4 blocks away, so we’re spending $60 million to duplicate service…”

        But it’s not duplicate. The TMP identified the lack of high-quality, highly-frequent, highly-visible, highly-legible, highly-identifiable service geared specifically to the center city market as a significant shortcoming in our transit service. It is intended to be a circulator that Seattleites and visitors alike can use for hop-on, hop-off trips and last-mile connections within downtown and between downtown and immediately adjacent neighborhoods. It is intended to be something they can identify from blocks away without worrying about route numbers, bus colors, or where they’ll end up if they miss a stop. It is intended to attract both tourists and local choice riders. And no, no revived circulator bus was going to accomplish all that, let alone transform our existing streetcar lines into part of something worthwhile.

        “the CCC is not going to serve the waterfront”

        What? Of course it will. You don’t need to do pedestrian counts to see the steady stream of tourists and locals heading up the stairs to Pike Place or using Harbor Steps. If you’re then ready to visit MOHAI, have dinner in Pioneer Square, and explore Uwajimaya, why would you head two more blocks to 3rd to learn about bus routes — and the difference between purple buses and red buses and white/blue/green buses — when you have a streetcar with five-minute frequencies connecting all three literally right in front of you?

        “And I don’t think anyone believes that 14K to 17K ridership number…”

        Because planning is a scam, I guess.

        “We need to remember that those would NOT be 14K to 17K NEW riders..Even if you include that 6,000 in the total ridership for the CCC line (you’ll likely get a decent amount continuing from the existing lines, deeper into downtown) I would doubt ridership would get anywhere near 14K.”

        Existing ridership is actually 7,000/day, not 6,000/day, and I already subtracted that. First service-year ridership is estimated at 20K-24K/day. As I mentioned in an earlier post above, even if they are pretty wildly off that is still tremendous value for $60 million and new dedicated transitway through the heart of downtown.

      24. @Mike Orr,

        Well, if you accept the need identified in the TMP for a service specifically geared to short trips within the downtown market, I think the answer is a qualified yes.

        South Lake Union (and MOHAI, Lake Union Park, etc.) and Pioneer Square make pretty logical northern and southern endpoints in terms of our densest collection of jobs and cultural, shopping, and tourist destinations. It’s easy to imagine that we might have ended up there without existing streetcar lines.

        As to the corridor connecting those two points, Third Avenue was ruled out for reasons mentioned above. The Fourth/Fifth couplet is even farther from the waterfront, interfered with Sound Transit buses, posed more technical challenges for exclusive lanes, and lacked the same support from adjacent businesses. First Avenue had business support, extremely high visibility, space to take a lane, no existing transit service, and tons of destinations.

        None of these factors have anything to do with whether you’re connecting to existing lines or considering a downtown circulator from scratch.

        The obvious question is whether you would have continued through Belltown and perhaps on to Seattle Center. Historically the argument would obviously be yes, but as SLU functions more and more as a second downtown with no signs of slowing I think you could probably make a good argument for it.

        Yes, I wish there were exclusive lanes on Stewart as well. But 10 minutes is a swift trip from Westlake to Pioneer Square regardless of how they get it done. And jogging back and forth from Fifth isn’t much of an issue to me on a line designed for short jaunts.

      25. @Mike Orr,

        I certainly agree that the CCC should have service continuing on up First Avenue, probably even across Denny to 1st North and Republican at the “dent” in Seattle Center.

        But the southern end has to be built before the northern end can be considered.

      26. @IrvingParkBrownLine:

        Sorry if I didn’t make it clear, but I am a consultant that performs these preliminary studies. Consulting is not racket, but if you know how these preliminary studies work, the consultant is likely to get the design contract if the project moves forward. They aren’t going to lie or cheat, because they wouldn’t be in this line of work long. But they are going to present a very positive report, even if the numbers they present are at the upper echelon of reality.

        Again with the blocking traffic: They eliminated the left turn from Terry onto Mercer. Traffic still blocks the train, because left turns are one of a few conflicting movements. Oh and the SLUT also has it’s own signal to cross Mercer.

        If you want a hop on-hop off style transit method for tourists, bring back the trolley wrapped route 99 and call it the Waterfront route or something obvious. I get that a streetcar is pretty, but at some point, we need to draw the line at spending millions to transport those few lost tourists who want to go from the ID to MOHAI via the waterfront.

        And thanks for clarifying the 14K to 17K is all brand new riders and doesn’t include the 6K to 7K from the SLUT/FHSC. But that furthers my statement of “rainbows and unicorns” ridership models.

      27. “But they are going to present a very positive report, even if the numbers they present are at the upper echelon of reality.”

        Yeah, this plainly doesn’t remotely comport with reality. Humble though the numbers are, both streetcars are handily exceeding ridership predictions. The FHS wasn’t supposed to be hitting these numbers until 2030. Link exceeds ridership predictions. And look around the country at completed projects and you simply cannot, with a straight face, make an argument that NN has a habit of making ridership or trip-time predictions at “the upper echelon of reality.” If anything they tend to underestimate ridership.

        So, again, you choose not to believe ridership predictions without any real argument, and choose not to believe estimated trip times without any real argument. And the feds gave the CCC the best New Starts project rating in the country for giggles, not because the project pencils out beautifully.

        “If you want a hop on-hop off style transit method for tourists, bring back the trolley wrapped route 99 and call it the Waterfront route or something obvious. I get that a streetcar is pretty, but at some point, we need to draw the line at spending millions to transport those few lost tourists who want to go from the ID to MOHAI via the waterfront.”

        For the thousandth time: No bus had the political capital to take a lane and 200 parking spots on First Avenue. If you disagree with the TMP’s recommendation that we provide a high-quality, highly-visible service geared to the downtown market, more power to you. If not, 14K-17K riders for $60 million while drastically improving the utility of our existing streetcars very nicely checks that box off our TMP to-do list.

      28. @IrvingParkBrownLine: Just a little comparison for reality’s sake: The D line, which winds 8.5 miles, every 6 to 15 minutes, through dense neighborhoods, to south downtown, carried 14K/day as of the 2015 ridership report (17K if you include the 15X, 17X and 18X). The D also doesn’t have much competition until it hits LQA.

        The CCC will have a lot of competition. About the best one can hope for are some good initial numbers from SLU->Downtown, until people realize that the C line and route 40 are still more frequent, faster and much more convenient to transferring to other routes. I just have a hard time believing that not even 2 miles of new streetcar is going to attract 14K to 17K additional riders on Day 1. If you told me 10K, including current SLUT and FHSC riders, I’d believe that.

        “If you disagree with the TMP’s recommendation that we provide a high-quality, highly-visible service geared to the downtown market, more power to you.”

        You’re putting words in my mouth. Just because I disagree on the City’s method of providing “high-quality, highly-visible service geared to the downtown market”, doesn’t mean I disagree with the need for it. You could throw a throng of horse drawn carriages on 1st and it’d fit the definition of “high-quality, highly-visible service geared to the downtown market”. The issue is that “high-quality” doesn’t necessarily mean frequent, reliable or convenient.

  2. I’m kind of amazed by just how much the Republicans folded on this CR, so much so that I remain unconvinced it’s actually going to pass. It’s difficult for me to comprehend such an unambiguous victory for the party that holds no actual branch of government.

    1. It’s probably something to do with the fact that after griping and shutting down government for years, as the “Party of No”, they now have essentially complete control of all branches of government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial), with threat of filibuster in the senate the only thing holding them back. The 2018 election will not be kind to them if they have nothing to show after two years of essentially complete control. They’re already nervous about backlash in the 2018 for how Donald Trump was elected in 2016: lost popular vote by the largest margin ever, won due to our quirky electoral college, yet has no interest in catering to the majority that voted against him.

      Because the federal budget is probably the single most important piece of legislation, they want to get it passed and out of the way so they can go back to catering to their real bosses: lobbyists.

    2. The governing segment of the GOP delegation simply doesn’t have the votes to pass on CR on it’s own.

    3. The bigger the majority in the house and senate, the more members you have from swing or normally-opposing districts. Their constituents don’t want anything radical. That creates a divided party as the non-radical faction approaches equal power with the radical faction. That’s what we saw in the Obamacare repeal: the factions opposing it were large enough to erase the majority advantage the party has. So it could only pass with additional votes from the opposition party. But the opposition party said “Hell no!” and it failed. In the budget bill the opposite is happening: it’s getting votes from non-radical Republicans and a lot of Democrats, which puts it in the majority.

      Historically that was how divided Congresses always worked: if the radical faction was obstructionist, the speaker would make a deal between the moderate faction and the minority party and pass the thing. That was called “getting things done”, “governing responsibly”, and “statesmanlike”. Then came a Republican tradition starting with, I think it was later than Gingrich but I don’t remember who, that only things that had the support of the majority of the majority party would be brought to the floor: there would be no more small-R-faction-plus-all-D-support deals. That’s what led to the “do-nothing Congress” we’ve seen for the past several years. (That and the loss of earmarks to gain additional votes.) That obstructionism reached its pinnacle with the last shutdown, and since they they’ve gotten slightly more responsible in fits and starts.

      1. “Historically that was how divided Congresses always worked”

        Well, “always” since WWII. I can’t say about the early 1900s or 1800s. The Depression and war caused an overwhelming wave of bipartisan pragmatism.

      2. The differences between the parties narrowed too between 1945 and 1980, to the point that many people felt they were the same and neither one was more conservative than the other. Ike was pragmatic and warned against the military-industrial complex. Congress passed Medicare. Even Nixon imposed price controls to mitigate inflation, and considered a universal basic income to put a cap on poverty and inequality.

      3. OK. So the first political period in the US was Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans. Then in 1800 Jefferson swept the field with the biggest supermajority in American history, destroyed the Federalists permanently, and ushered in the “Era of Good Feeling”, a 28-year period of unfettered one-party supermajority rule by the Democratic-Republicans. (Bet you didn’t know about that.)

        After that, starting in 1830, the country divided between the “Jackson men”, who became Democrats, and “anti-Jackson men”, who became Whigs. Both parties tried to have it both ways on the major issue of the day — slavery. During the 1830-1860 period it was hard to pass anything and there was actually violence on the Senate floor. The system kept functioning largely by a general agreement to steal Native American land, which a supermajority could agree on. The system fell apart completely in the 1850s, with the Whigs disappearing entirely and the Democrats degenerating into a pro-slavery southern party. The Republicans appeared and won a narrow victory on a moderate platform. The slaveholders, being fanatics, attacked the US government by firing on Fort Sumter, and the Civil War happened.

        1865-1874 started optimistically and ended with white terrorists overthrowing the democratically elected governments in the South in favor of unelected Jim Crow government, and the Republicans giving up on defending democracy.

        During 1876-1912 period, patronage pork outweighed almost all other matters; the parties could always find agreement by “log rolling” and making deals on local district earmarks. There was a disgraceful bipartisan consensus in favor of elitism and the 0.1% — this is known as the “gilded age” for a reason. This caused a lot of conflict and the rise of third parties and organizations calling for the overthrow of the government. Trade unions were banned and people were thrown in prison for organizing them; they, of course, boomed in membership. The country was a powderkeg, with very real chances of communist revolution.

        Some progress was made on this conflict between the bipartisan consensus and *everyone else* when McKinley was assassinated and Teddy Roosevelt took his place, but this wasn’t really defused until Woodrow Wilson introduced the income tax and raised it high, and Carrie Chapman Catt made the government give women the right to vote by organizing the most successful nonviolent mass political movement in history.

        The Republicans by now were the party of big business. But during the 1920s (when they won all the elections) they didn’t push their agenda too hard (they kept the income tax), and log-rolling was still the order of the day. Then they got into the Depression and FDR won a supermajority. The Republicans backed off even further (having been disgraced). This brings us into the period already described.

        So this is the odd history we have. The last time we had rigid, divergent parties which fought each other hard led to the Civil War. The time before that, it led to the Era of Good Feeling, when the right-wing party failed completely and absolutely. I’m kind of hoping for a repeat of the latter…

    4. There are two additional factors influencing things: the trend of the default option, and the reaction to the last shutdown. If Congress does nothing the budget will expire and the government will shut down. The last shutdown in 2012 burned Republicans worse than anything else has. Ted Cruz said parts of the public would welcome it, or realize that the a shutdown doesn’t affect their lives much at all, so therefore most of the government is useless or destructive. But after the shutdown started, nobody except Cruz and his team pals supported. Imagine going to the airport and finding that your flight is canceled, not because of a random snowstorm, but because sllvthe airline’s flights are cancelled because the board didn’t bother to pass an annual budget. Imagine further that grandma’s social security check stops coming and her rent is due. Nobody likes to see basic things stop functioning, and they blame it on the party in power, even if they have Ayn Rand in their pocket.

      1. Come on, Mike, give our “Atlas Shrugged” girl a little credit for being pro-rail. “Dagny Taggart” never got into highways or airlines. Memory serves, I don’t think she had a car.

        And “Hank Rearden’s” static-electricity pantograph could power The Taggart Comet (in Ayn’s day, Comets were the only thing faster than Greyhounds!) without an inch of catenary. Would de-combust every Route 4 in the world.

        Also letting the planet’s whole trucking industry go electric like that new line in Sweden, but without ever having to “drop pans” and go to auxiliary.

        Without a single trucker having to radio his compatriots and warn them: “Breaker, breaker good buddies, there’s a supervisor with a radar-reader on the trail-in at North Bend!”

        Whole infraction gone from The Book. Can’t pull down even one thundercloud no matter how fast your trolley-poles hit that lightning!

        Leaving Texas no “out” except to brag that they got diesels that can suck a whole oil-field dry with the “drag” of one of their semi’s. (Aerodynamics, not men’s fashions.)

        But her own ironclad philosophy, expounded in a speech by John Galt long enough to fill a telephone directory, would never have permitted Alyssa Rosenbaum to associate with a party that considers Logic to be Fake News.

        Though she absolutely could not have resisted naming our current Chief of State with his dad’s real last name. Even better name for an arrogant, ugly, loathsome, incompetent administrator than “Wesley Mouch!”

        Wonder, though: How does Ayn’s home country remember her? Did Vladimir Putin ever get a signed copy of her book? Also, is that his real name?

        Mark

    5. Well, your perspective changes depending on your point of view. Slash and burn looked great to some lawmakers for awhile, but now they’re the ones entrusted by the public to govern — making sure the paychecks for federal employees are paid, making sure the social security payments are made, etc., etc., etc.

      Ideology is great until it’s time to do what works.

  3. Donald Trump is turning out to be so bad at deals that I’m excited for the Wall Funding Showdown II. Maybe Seattle can get a couple more rail lines and a free new arena out of it.

  4. “it’s the ability of habit and inertia to overpower the bluster of the Executive.”

    Amen. This CR is, more than anything else, the triumph of inertia and the status quo

    1. First Shinkansen: approved in 1958 and opened 320 miles in 1964.

      Austin to Dallas is only 195 miles. The terrain has a few hills, but doesn’t look particularly difficult compared to Osaka – Tokyo.

  5. Maybe our best approach is to turn our stalled political system into a major civil defense emergency drill. Practice for a real earthquake, accompanied by an epidemic of combined vomiting and dysentery.

    Like if next time the sewage floods into a non-tidal waterway. Main point is to get as much done as we can when State and Federal Governments fail in the exact same way as the West Point plant.

    Since it’s mostly a matter of clearing pavement that’s already there, a whole regional network of signal-pre-empted transit lanes should leave us with an excellent substructure to feed what’s still got to be elevated and excavated.

    May also be places where we can stage a corridor like we did with DSTT: critical bridges and tunnels operated with buses ’til it’s time to convert to rail. Or similar short-to-long-term progression.

    Pretty much like that physical law of motion: It’s easier to accelerate something that’s already moving, however slowly, than to get off a dead stop.

    Mark Dublin

  6. Pic’s got me curious. Anybody with structural engineering experience: if we HAD the money, or could borrow it, when could first train arrive in Tacoma?

    Because I think that the faster something like that can be finished, the likelier people will be persuaded to vote for it at all,

    Mark

  7. If Federal Way gets devastated by the Trump budget, but ST3 projects that build off of it remain mostly intact, would Sound Transit be able to roll ST3 funds for Tacoma into Federal Way and delay Tacoma? And would Federal Way still open in 2024?

    1. Tacoma has been saving up since ST1 because Federal Way wasn’t completed yet, so it will probably wait longer. Pierce could lend South King money temporarily to get the missing middle built, but a situation where ST3 ends with Pierce giving South King money for Federal Way and getting nothing south of it is hard to imagine. I could see it only if ST4 is already passed and South King will definitely pay Pierce back in it. But that’s risky for Pierce because if ST4 passes but then a recession vaporizes South King’s tax base after Federal Way is finished, Pierce wouldn’t get its money back.

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