Costs are rising for Lynnwood Link, due to both economic conditions and increasing scope. Sound Transit is choosing to delay its delivery by six months in an effort to limit those increases.

Until today’s board meeting, the plan for the line between Northgate and Lynnwood Transit Center cost $2.4 billion, including vehicles and part of the maintenance facility, and completed in December 2023. The $2.4 billion estimate was consistent with the initial, pre-ST2 cost estimate in 2005.

Several factors have inflated the cost to $2.9 billion, or by 21%:

  • The construction boom has increased the bids from contractors, and created skilled labor shortages, increasing estimates for construction costs by $190m.
  • A decision to use a single contractor rather splitting up design and build added $120m to up-front costs. This decision reduces risk and the necessary contingency funds. Indeed, this increase is basically offset by design and contingency funds coming in $113m under budget.
  • Increases in scope have added $190m. These include better bus transfer facilities; evolving codes and regulations in partner cities; tree replacement ($32m!); and temporary noise walls, traffic control, and parking to minimize construction disruption. While some of these things are good, they reflect the general tendency of cities to extract concessions in exchange for permits.
  • Right of way acquisition has increased by $101m, due to high real estate values. Values increased by 44% since 2014, well in excess of the expected 25%.

With new money from ST3, there’s no reasonable change in ST2 costs or revenues that can affect the schedule. However, ST CEO Peter Rogoff has ordered a six-month pause to value-engineer the line and recover some of the cost increases. This places the line’s opening in mid-2024. This delay will also allow chaos around federal funding to settle before signing contracts backed by those grants.

Risks remain: federal funding is uncertain, the construction market is still hot, and cities and agencies haven’t given final approval. The project is at 60% design.

Most other light rail projects are either done with design and construction bid considerations (Northgate, East Link) or way too early to worry about these questions (most of ST3). Exceptions include the Federal Way and Downtown Redmond extensions, funded in ST3 and scheduled for delivery at roughly the same time as Lynnwood Link. There is no news for these projects, but I wouldn’t be shocked to hear some when new estimates come out.

81 Replies to “First Cost Overruns, Delays for Lynnwood Link”

  1. >> Increases in scope have added $190m. These include better bus transfer facilities;

    So the original plan was to build crap. Then folks said, “Hey, don’t build crap, build something good.”. So now they are planning on building something good, but it turns out that costs more money. Which begs the question — why on earth did they plan on building crap in the first place?

    OK, maybe better bus transfer facilities is only a small part of the additional cost, but still. That should be the priority for every station north of Northgate (if not south of there) and failing to consider it is just sloppy.

    Anyway, it won’t matter. In a few years, they’ll revise the cost and time estimates. Then when the work is done for less than those revised estimates, ST will brag about how they built it “ahead of schedule and under budget” just in time for the vote for ST4.

    1. When the project was originally designed, Metro’s LRP didn’t exist. And ST3 BRT hadn’t passed yet, requiring a rethink of both 145th and Lynwood as BRT termini. You can dislike the prior planning, but there are definitely new elements at play.

      1. That is exactly the lack of foresight I’m talking about. It is the thought process that lead to the omission of a stop at NE 130th. It is the ridiculous idea that bus to rail service doesn’t matter in an area that is completely dependent on it. The idea of making a connection between buses on the 522 corridor and a stop at 145th is not new. It is the main reason we added the stop! Seriously, why else would you add a stop between a golf course and the freeway?

        Besides, what special compensation for the BRT bus has been made there? From what I can tell, the stop is much worse from a bus integration standpoint than if they simply added it at 145th. The plan, from the beginning, should have been to add a station straddling 145th, with no additional parking.

        As for Lynnwood, again, what has changed? The main value there is, of course, the excellent ramps that serve the transit center. Unlike Northgate TC, these ramps head north! This means that express buses can serve it extremely well, with nothing special needed. This was the case when ST2 was being planned, and is the case now.

        Nothing changed, except that maybe the board finally, after public pressure was put on them, started to figure out what is important when it comes to building a light rail line. It isn’t art work, or park and ride lots, it is building an integrated transit network.

      2. “why else would you add a stop between a golf course and the freeway?”

        Because there’s an existing P&R there. Because 145th is a 4-lane highway so a lot of cars can get to the train.

      3. @Mike — Right, but that is exactly the kind of idiotic thinking I’m talking about. Spending money on a billion dollar light rail line and building stops so that “a lot of cars can get to the train” is a recipe for a poorly performing waste of a project. It doesn’t scale. You would have to spend a huge amount of money — more than they are spending now — on a gigantic park and ride lot just to have decent ridership. Even then, the cars would be stuck in traffic, getting to the station (which is also right next to the freeway). The only way this project could be successful — the only way it could be even close to being worth the money — is if you have very good bus to rail connections. A failure to plan for that shows either a profound ignorance of how transit works, or a willful attempt to ignore it, just so that you can pass the proposal.

      4. Sounds like RossB is advocating ST stations away from traffic areas or where people drive and put them away from easy access via car but put the ST stations in areas accessible by buses not cars. So we need ST stations accessible mainly by transit? Not sure if this strategy would actually work for Seattle. Who wants to wait for buses, possibly transfer to another bus, to get to light rail when they could drive 10 minutes, park, and hop on?

      5. Meanwhile, in the real world where park-and-ride lots are expensive to build and fill up before 7 AM leaving no one else able to park and hop on…

      6. ST should have started on the 1990s with making a comprehensive regional+local transit plan like Germany does. It doesn’t have authority over the local agencies and cities so it would have to ask them to cooperate, but a visionary board/CEO could encourage it by bully pulpit. The state could have given it the authority, and ST# money could have funded the local/city planning so there would be no money excuse. Then we could have had the opportunity for a German/Vancouver-like plan.

        But not guaranteed. The current round of Metro, CT, Seattle, Bellevue, and other transit master plans is a huge step forward, with 10-15 minute service I. Most inner neighborhoods and outer arterials all day and evening, and a generally feeder/crosstown approach. But would we have gotten that in the 1990s? The risks would have been not just the newness of the approach but the mentality if the era and the different environment then. Housing was cheap, the population and distances and driving time and gas were less, and it was closer to the postwar generational mandate of driving and sprawl and white flight. ThT’s why ST and the cities and public pressure assumed that Northgatr TC and 145th P&R were the best places for stations, and once that momentum was set it was hard to change. I fear a 1990s comprehensive plan would have been worse than what we’re getting now. The current plans are influenced by the GenX/millennial rejection of the car-dependent environment they grew up in, and by everybody’s concerns of rising housing prices and worsening traffic and the number of elderly non-drivers, and feeling like we must take HCT/feeders seriously now or the rest of our lives will be hell. That urgent y did not exist in the 1990s, and it was less strong in the 2000s during Lynnwood Link’s early planning. Most people completely missed the utility of serving Lake City and more Seattle stations until late in the game for instance.

      7. Yes, that is exactly what I’m advocating, Jim. Call it best practices, if you will.

        As to your question: “Who wants to wait for buses, possibly transfer to another bus, to get to light rail when they could drive 10 minutes, park, and hop on?”

        The vast majority of users. You really can’t build a system that works, otherwise. Again, you would have to have enormous park and ride lots, and even then, driving to the lot is extremely difficult. Imagine a lot with 5,000 spaces. You drive through heavy traffic, competing with people who are headed to the same space, or the freeway ramps right next to the station. When you get there, you circle around and around, looking for a spot. Finally you find one, and walk for five minutes to the train.

        Now imagine the alternative. There is no park and ride, and the station is not next to an on-ramp, so traffic is light. Or (like 145th) you have a bus lane, ensuring that the bus runs much faster than driving. Instead of driving to the station (which takes 10 minutes without traffic, and 20 minutes with) you drive 5 minutes to the nearest bus stop and catch a bus. The bus picks you up within a couple minutes (you have it well timed) and lets you off right next to the station. That is how it works in plenty of places.

        Now imagine which one will scale? Or to put it another way, which one could handle 6,000 riders? The first one can’t — it is dependent on the parking lot, and the lot (even though it is huge) can only handle 5,000 cars. Meanwhile, the sky is the limit with the other approach. If the feeder buses get crowded, they run more of them. Now someone who parks by (or walks to) the bus stop doesn’t even have to time it. The bus comes so often it doesn’t matter. Or they add more bus routes, meaning that a lot of riders no longer need to drive to get to the train. It also means that you have built a network, so that people can get to places other than just the train stop. This will likely happen in Lynnwood. Getting from various parts of Lynnwood to Edmonds, for example, will be easier than ever, just because they added a train stop. It would certainly happen with NE 130th, which is why advocates have pushed for a stop there (and don’t want a park and ride lot).

        Maybe this is unrealistic, but it is the only way that this could possibly pay for itself. There is simply no way you are going to get huge ridership with a park and ride based system. If we are dependent on those riders, then we are spending enormous sums for very low ridership.

        This is all pretty basic stuff that every expert in the field knows. I would like to think that the people planning ST knew this. If not, then it means we have people in charge that don’t understand transit fundamentals. If they knew but didn’t plan for it, then they were comfortable misleading the public.

      8. “Not sure if this strategy would actually work for Seattle” – seems to work great in the current Seattle Link stations, none of which have P&Rs

        ” It doesn’t have authority over the local agencies and cities so it would have to ask them to cooperate” – No, it’s the other way around: the agencies & cities have authority over ST. ST is an extension of the 3 counties (and therefore their transportation & transit agencies) and the member cities. The Sound Transit board is the very mechanism by which the counties, cities, and WSDOT all communicate and cooperate to plan, build, and operate a regional transit system.

        ST isn’t something that should for forced upon our local city leaders – it’s an extension of our local political bodies to solve region problems.

      9. AJ: ST doesn’t have the authority to rewrite local transit agencies’ and cities’ Transit Master Plans and make those agencies provide any particular routes or level of service. That’s where it would have to ask for their voluntary cooperation. The problem is that everybody has looked at Sound Transit as providing regional transit divorced from local transit. That’s partly ST’s fault, but it’s partly the fault of the cities and states and public that made that ST’s narrow mission and mandate. Everyone is to blame: ST and the cities/counties who influenced ST’s creation, and voters who have certain expectations of ST that don’t always coincide with this vision. The past few years ST has backed into being more insistent that the agencies/cities have robust local-transit complements to Link, and it has also gone from being density neutral to avoid being caught up in nimby wars, to being pro-density and dedicating its surplus land to low-income housing because it has realized that station-area density is key to Link’s maximum effectiveness and ridership. But that’s only in the past few years, and ST had to swim against the tide and contradict the previous expectations of it in order to make that happen. If only it had done so a decade or two earlier.

        RossB is advocating that 522 BRT and all other east-west buses have a station pair right on 145th Street with a direct entrance to the station somehow. This does not affect the P&R: the P&R can remain in the same location as a starting point. The impact on cars would be that the outer lanes ideally would be transit/BAT lanes, or that the buses would stop in-line and cars would have to wait behind them. But cars would still turn into the P&R and use it the same way, although we could review that as a second step.

        It’s a simple fact that cars need a lot of space, and that for the entire population to drive to the P&R and park there would require a P&R several times larger, and at $30,000-70,000 per parking space it would be ultra-expensive, not to mention the traffic of getting cars to it. It’s like the auto ferries: they have limited space for cars and practically unlimited space for walk-ons. In this case the walk-ons arrive by bus, bike, and foot, and they could scale up practically unlimited — to the size of the local population making north-south trips — with much less impact than a car-based solution would require. Again, we’ve already decided to have a P&R at its planned size, but this is about additional people beyond that.

      10. Jim,

        Park ‘N’ Ride works for you. It works for a lot of people. But it doesn’t “scale”, You simply can’t build enough garages to handle all the folks who want to commute and make nodes of high density around the stations. And that’s what makes “all-day” transit possible.

        Garages and walkable nodes are simply not compatible. That’s all there is too it. Angle Lake is an excellent location for a big garage. It will never be an urban village because the planes fly too low there. One hundred and eighty-fifth, though, is a terrible place for a big garage. There’s no interchange so people will actually be able to walk to the station from the surrounding high-density node. Many more people will walk to that station per day by 2035 than will drive to a garage at 145th. Many.

        I recognize that shuttles to Link are not as convenient as driving to it; they simply take longer because they stop for other riders. But that is going to be the primary option for getting to Link if you don’t living in walking distance and can’t kiss-n-ride.

        You and other suburbanites need to understand that.

      11. I would have to disagree that park-and-ride and high density development can’t both exist. The examples in our region merely lack creativity.

        For example, look at DCMetro station areas. In some, exiting in one direction is parking and one is high-density development; in many cases, ST stations have exits in only one direction. At Judkins Park, there will be two and that will broaden development options around that station. Notably, ST and the local communities have not proposed a barbell station area approach with exits at either end here.

        There are also great examples of station area parking garages with small footprints above ground-floor retail and restaurants in the DC area.

        Many of these parking areas merely charge for parking, at least at peak hours. Merchants need assurances that some parking will be available during business hours at the very least.

        It may require better station designers and working with developers, but it can be done.

  2. I have a bad feeling about this. Public opinion is already low due to the car tabs increase. If ST3 gets somehow reversed by an Eyman Initiative, there will be hell to pay.

    1. Only by people who hate Link already. Others will realize that all projects have the potential for overruns or underruns and won’t be surprised. These costs aren’t committed yet; they’re estimates of future prices. Maybe the net overrun will be small.

      If the initiative passes and forces cancellation of Lynnwood Link, then we’ll continue muddling along like we’re doing now. The people who would be most harmed are those who live north of Northgate, and that’s also where the most yes vote would come from, so in a sense they’d be getting what they asked for. (Although Pierce would have a higher yes percentage than Snohomish.) In that scenario ST would presumably reevaluate truncating buses at Northgate and send at least the 512 there. The peak expresses might continue to downtown because there’s not enough street capacity or layover space for all of them in Northgate, but they would get progressively less reliable as traffic worsens. But if that’s what the voters want….

      1. I would assume they would just shift ST3 money to ST2 projects. That means that Link would get to Lynnwood, just not Everett.

        It is a bit ironic. The writer who goes by “d.p.” once commented that Snohomish county voters supported ST3 without realizing that if they voted no, Link would still serve Lynnwood. As it turns out, maybe by voting for ST3, they ensure that they will actually get ST2 projects.

      2. Ross, you are mistaken. Snohomish county passed ST3, though not by the same margins are Seattle. I can tell you plenty of people are excited about it among those who live reasonably close to a station.

        The reason Tim Eyman’s initiative might pass is because:
        1. It is a state level initiative, so people outside the sound transit district are voting on it.
        2. It’s not during a presidential election, so turnout will be lower.

        Also, it’s not Lynnwood link that would primarily be effected, which is part of ST2. It’s the ST3 stuff which is so reliant car tabs, which would be hurt by the Tim Eyman initiative. We would likely see things like the second downtown transit tunnel axed.

      3. Lynnwood Link is an ST2 project that as sold to voters in 2008 included 4 stations in Snohomish County ending at the Ash Way P&R. The project then was budgeted at about $1.4 billion which included the subarea’s contribution toward a maintenance facility and fleet additions. Let’s not conflate the two ballot measures.

      4. That’s not correct. Some of this confusion derives from how the North Corridor HCT plan, as it was then known, was divided and ultimately scaled back soon after ST2 was approved by the board and then passed by voters in Nov 2008. Alderwood and Ash Way P&R were included in the proposal as submitted to voters. From Appendix A detailing Snohomish County and North King County subarea project detail:

        Snohomish County-

        Link light rail
        • Extension from N 185th St. in Shoreline to 164th/Ash Way,
        with stations at Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood Transit Center,
        Alderwood and 164th/Ash Way
        • Contribution to system maintenance capacity, fleet and annual
        operation
        Capital/O&M/Total
        Total costs 1,372/60/1,432

        (all figures in millions of 2006$)

        North King County-

        Link light rail
        • Extension from University of Washington Station to N 185th St.
        with stations at Brooklyn, Roosevelt, Northgate, Jackson Park
        and Shoreline
        • Rainier Ave./I-90 station
        • Contribution to system maintenance capacity, fleet and annual
        operation
        • International District – First Hill – North Capitol Hill streetcar
        Capital/O&M/Total
        Total Costs 2,465/202/2,667

        Ultimately the North Corridor HCT proposal was broken into two scaled back projects, N06, what became known as Northgate Link, and N39, what became known as Lynnwood Link. Here’s the link to the archived documents. Dollars given are in millions of 2007$.

        https://m.soundtransit.org/About-Sound-Transit/News-and-events/Reports/ST2-project-details

      5. All the other figures we’re talking about today are YOE. Seems the lower number you’re citing might just be the 2006$ equivalent of the $2.4b in YOE dollars.

      6. That’s not correct either. I believe the $2.346 billion figure you’re citing is what was included in the FTA New Starts grant application for which ST is seeking some $1.173 billion for Lynnwood Link, a total YOE cost estimation that frankly adds a bunch of additional system costs (“The Project includes construction of stations and a vehicle operation, maintenance, and storage facility as well as the purchase of 34 vehicles.”) including the financing charges of about $194 million.

        Setting aside the bond financing costs, the other system costs seemed to be included in both the Appendix A project detail that accompanied the 2008 ST3 proposal (“Contribution to system maintenance capacity, fleet and annual operation”) as well as the initial N06 and N39 project cost estimates, with an accompanying footnote indicating these system costs would be included in a system-wide project number (“Included in LRT maintenance base, vehicles and operations project (SYS-LRT)”).

        One final ST document that needs to be brought into the discussion here is the agency’s annual TIP report. The report always gives adjusted cost estimates in the current year dollars. For example, the Lynnwood Link (project 4X115) shows the following in the 2017 approved TIP:

        (all figures in millions of 2016$)
        2008 cost est. $1,769
        2016 cost est. $1,508
        2017 cost est. $1,508

        This would actually indicate that the original 2008 ST2 proposal estimate was actually high. Thus, since construction for this project was set to take place between 2018 and 2023, YOE$ of $2.4 billion would mean either an exceptionally high inflationary trend or a complete miss by ST on their most recent cost estimates.

      7. Yes, that is “what the voters want…” The voters who voted against ST3, and people like me, who voted for it in November, only to be told before even a year had passed that opponents were right! That Sound Transit either lied or is so incompetent at budget forecasting that the people handling this budget should all be fired. Voters make a contract with the government to part with their tax dollars in exchange for a service. When government violates that contract, the voters will probably choose to cancel that contract at some point in the future. If this happens, then it will be Sound Transit’s fault, not Tim Eyman’s. Of course we knew that there would be cost overruns, but this soon? If there’s a 17% cost overrun at this point, imagine how high it will be by the time the project is finished. And please, go look in the mirror and try to say with a straight face that this project will come in under budget. The governor should appoint a commission to determine how Sound Transit spends its money and plans its projects, before additional revenue is appropriated for this project.

      8. @Brendan — How do you know I’m mistaken? I know very well that Snohomish County voters voted for ST3. I also know that in the literature for the pro-ST3 campaign, they kept talking about “Everett to Seattle”, not “Everett to Lynnwood”. Given the support for ST3 *in Lynnwood and Edmonds* I think it stands to reason that a lot of voters there simply assumed that ST3 needed to pass to deliver Lynnwood Link. There can’t possibly be that many people who will benefit from service from Lynnwood to Everett, especially given the fact that it would be faster to take the bus (the reverse commute for that stretch is pretty much non-existent). It is possible that lots of people didn’t vote their self interest, but given the past record on tax issues, that seems unlikely. I think it is quite possible that they looked at the campaign and assumed they needed to vote yes to get Link up to Lynnwood. As it turns out, they may have been right.

      9. Charles, if you insist on an ironclad no-overrun guarantee on every infrastructure project, then there won’t be any infrastructure projects at all. It’s not like ordering a pizza. These are long-term, complex projects, with moving parts outside the control of the agencies, and prices that aren’t 100% known at the outset, and future engineering work and population patterns and travel patterns that can cause future construction problems or ridership impacts. And part of it is based on federal grants which are uncertain. If the grants don’t come through, you can’t sue ST for not delivering it for the predetermined about because ST didn’t get that amount, so it has to extend the timeline or find other funding or scale down the project… or maybe tax revenues will come in higher than expected and make up the difference, because tax revenues are based on the volatile economy which is unpredictible. ST’s estimates have been conservative since the early 2000s, so it tires to include all potential contingencies in the budget. That gives it a cushion but it’s not possible to foresee everything, especially what real estate prices will be and what demands the cities will make or what laws they will pass.

    2. You should have a bad feeling about it. Pierce County is screwed. Half the county will be dead before they see anything fro ST. Cost overruns will drain the coffers and leave Pierce holding the bag with nothing to show for it. Boondoggle.

      1. Actually, with stuff like BRT funding, Sounder, and bus service, much of the county will see something in the next decade. And we’ve been saving up money for this since ST2 plus thanks to subarea equity, out tax money stays in Pierce. We’ll get all of it.

  3. Redmond’s alignment revision – going through Marymoor at-grade – put $70-90m in cost savings in the bank. With all the planning they had done, I doubt there’s any material scope creep yet to be accommodated. That should buy them a good cushion against any bid over-runs.

    1. In other words, you’re recommending transferring money from East King to Snohomish? (Maybe technically to North King, but we all know this line’s only going where it is because of Snohomish?)

      As an East King resident, I would start complaining on behalf of subarea equity.

      1. No, just responding to the comment in Martin’s last paragraph that we don’t know where Redmond costs will land. (Though I’m not going to get exercised either way about a money battle between Issaquah Link vs Paine Field).

  4. How about we suggest that ST just eliminate the 145th garage and guaranteed-traffic-mass access circles from the budget for Lynnwood Link, and have the 522 project in ST3 redesign and fund the 145th station? That would probably eliminate about $200M-$400M from these cost overruns. We could simply build a platform and maybe a walk-only station out of ST2 funds, like what we have along MLK (no garage, no elaborate bus transfer facilities, no tight drop-off circle).

    Maybe then we could even continue working to get a better design created for the bus facilities, parking access, pedestrian access and drop-off/pick-up. The current site plan is such an expensive disaster waiting to happen!

    1. I agree. I would really like to see a station design that was simpler, but closer to 145th. The BRT buses would have to continue (over the freeway) which means they could eventually go all the way to Aurora (if not Greenwood). Scale back the parking (here and other places) and my guess is you would not only have a system that is cheaper, but better.

  5. How about remove the $32M for tree replacement, and instead set up a volunteer network. People will happily volunteer to plant trees. With 10 minutes of training, volunteers can successfully plant waist-high trees that are super cheap (I know this…I have done this). 5 years later they will be plenty tall.

  6. I got a chuckle out of “bus transfer facilities”. That’s really something that should have been baked in to the project from day one. Of course this is an issue that goes back to the early days of ST, where each silo delivered their project without a lot in the way of considering other modes, and with the early rail projects transfer facilities seemed to be more of an oversight and something got tacked on at the end instead of being a key feature from day 1. I think some of the proposals for ST 3 projects are finally starting to get the idea however.

    1. Yeah hopefully the increase in cost is driven by ST & Metro learning from existing facilities and designing better facilities accordingly.

    2. Paraphrasing Jarrett Walker: The choo-choo people finally realizing that they have to talk to the bus people.

  7. The real questions here are “How much of this overrun did ST know about last fall?” and “How much should they have known?”. They spent the entire campaign assuring us that everything was on time and in der budget. Are we to believe that these costs all materialized in the last nine months?

    1. I agree. This is another reason why many of us wanted to delay the vote on ST3, at least until the SAO could perform a full scale performance audit. There’s only ever been one complete performance audit done in ST’s existence, way back in 2007 I believe. (ST to this day is not in compliance with all of that report’s recommendations, contrary to the agency’s claims.)

    2. From what I’ve heard, very little of it was known by ST.

      Delaying it would be bad, as it pushes project schedules at least four years into the future. We need a transit network that doesn’t get stuck in transit congestion.

  8. Isn’t it a shade early to declare disaster by malfeasance on this project? Huge amount of work on huge things. Rapidly changing conditions. Four years ago I could afford to live in Ballard, and our freeways were still barely usable.

    Also, some double edged swords cut equally beneficially in either direction. Rising wages and demand for workers might make costs rise on this project, but also do wonders for affordability by letting more people afford things.

    And with climate change for the hotter definitely in action (and guilty industries, especially the ones now running EPA know it, and are doubtless investing accordingly, however many regulations their lobbyists gut when they get appointed to agencies) trees should pay back their cost at least.+

    But anybody about twenty reading this…good chance you’ll end up Chief Administrator on ST to the nth Power. Not only could you end up on YouTube next click from Sonny Bono (damn! google him before it’s too late!) but somebody will be able to incorporate you into video dancing Disco with Tim Eyman!

    What goes around…..better be sure there are a lot of trees to climb when your fans have you cornered!

  9. Tacoma is still waiting for its 2.4 mile at-grade streetcar extension.

    Where’s the complexity there?

    Engineering on this project should have been complete at least a year ago and a funding agreement with the FTA inked before the change in Administration.

    1. Then after that opens, another 17 years (after opening day of the previous extension!) until another 4.4 miles of track open, which you had better hope is fast because if you want to ride from TCC to TDS, you need to ride a 9-mile line end-to-end to go a distance of 5 miles, because apparently the best they could think of is just to keep extending the future extension (which is already silly because it’s U-shaped and not very directional) instead of filling a half-mile gap and making TCC link truly direct.

      And if you want to go to Seattle, well then… I hope you don’t mind sitting on a train for 2.5 hours each way, and don’t have a lot that you need to do in Seattle.

      1. Yes; the hill is way too steep for modern streetcars. Pierce Transit could continue running a bus on 19th if it wanted. I can’t speak for Tacoma or its wisdom, but it may think that 19th to the hospital district is a viable route; the hospital district to downtown and Tacoma Dome is a viable route; and why not string them together for trips that span wherever it would have been divided; and some people will think 19th to downtown or Tacoma Dome is fast enough and not too much of a detour.

  10. The station ST didn’t need to add is 185th, it is very close to the MLT station and the 145th station, it was not included in the preliminary planning and added later.

    The 145th station will have direct bus service from Shoreline, Lake City and Lake Forest Park to the east, from the west it will have bus service from Bitter Lake and Shoreline.

    At 185th there are no local arterials or state highways (which is what 145th is, SR 523), not to mention there are no bus routes to promote inter-modal transit. Nevertheless, they have a very large parking garage planned for that station when that location is very similar to 130th.

    1. Good point. There is no density there, or anywhere, really, in Shoreline. That could change, just as it is likely that they will add bus service on 185th. While it isn’t a highway (or major arterial) that actually has its advantages. It means that buses can get there, without worrying about freeway traffic (unlike 175th or 145th). But I think it would make more sense to have 185th be an optional station (for the future) instead of 130th.

      I would say just built it, but cut down on the parking garage. Same with all of this really. If we need to cut costs, that is where to cut them. It is crazy to add parking garages all along the light rail line. Build smaller, cheaper garages outside it, and then run shuttle buses that connect the parking garages (and people who live along the way) to the stations.

    2. It is my understanding that ST2 as presented to voters back in 2008 included 185th as the northern terminus of this section of the North King County extension (which eventually was scaled back and became the Northgate Link project).

      From Appendix A of Sound Transit 2:
      “Link light rail
      • Extension from University of Washington Station to N 185th St. with stations at Brooklyn, Roosevelt, Northgate, Jackson Park
      and Shoreline”

      1. I live in Shoreline, N 185th was left out until about 5 years ago in their planning.

        N 130th was also included in ST2 and ultimately left out yet it doesn’t concern you?

        N 145th is considered to be Shoreline, not Seattle.

        Additionally, the issues I made against N 185th still stand.

    3. 185th is the planned terminus for SWIFT 1, so I’m expecting it to be a reasonably high ridership station simply because of the high volume of bus-rail transfers. 185th has the advantage of being the only station in Lynwood Link that doesn’t do double-duty as an I5 on/off ramp, so as Ross says the lack of I5 congestion should make for a solid transfer environment.

      As for the lack of “there” there, remember Shoreline has already up-zoned around both station.
      https://www.theurbanist.org/2015/03/27/shoreline-rezones-185th-street-but-holds-off-on-145th-street/

      1. Metro is considering moving the Aurora Village Transit Center from Aurora Village to a park & ride at 190th, but it isn’t anywhere close to 185th. At the present time Metro has no plans to begin construction on a move, not to mention there is no where to put a new transit center near 185th in terms of land. SWIFT doesn’t dictate where a new station is to be located, Metro does.

        I live in Shoreline, do you? The upzone around BOTH 145th and 185th have been painful to a community with no major employer. Do you even know what services like grocery stores are around those stations? Obviously you don’t, so I will let you know – none. All services are on Aurora Ave. N. Nothing nearby means it isn’t walkable and in all likelihood it will never be walkable.

        There are no advantages whatsoever at 185th – ST has told the Shoreline City Council that ridership will take at least 25 YEARS to show significant use, it would have been better to not build it and plan for it later like 130th.

        Ridership from Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace will use the 205th and northward ST stations, so it will take forever for 185th to even reach breakeven usage.

      2. Swift could adjust, and use a different station. Mountlake Terrace would work, although it would involve backtracking. Making matter worse, you can’t take the freeway from 244th to 236th, meaning the fastest route is to just turn around on 99 (https://goo.gl/maps/3Lt2rFZ7oWT2). You are better off just keeping Swift as is, and sending another bus over there.

        Better yet, extend Swift to 145th. Use the same stops as the E. This would require cooperation with Metro (King County should give a little money for the service provided on Aurora). But doing so would be great for riders. You would have a two seat ride from that bus to the 522 corridor. Getting from the north end of Aurora to Snohomish County on SR 99 becomes a fast one seat ride. Getting from Link to the north end of Aurora is a fast one seat ride. If anything, it is a more logical terminus, given the density at Bitter Lake, and the geographic advantages of serving the 522 corridor. The only drawback is political, as it would mean having Swift go deep into King County.

    4. 185th is is the closest thing Shoreline has to a “center”. The community center with redevelopment potential is right there, and it’s an easy shot for feeder buses to get to 185th & Aurora and the library. City Hall is unfortunately ten blocks south at 175th & Aurora but that’s the city’s fault for not planning a single centralized city center. So 185th is a good station, within the expectations of a suburban-density city.

      145th is the odd man out: it’s in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of Shoreline and at the periphery of three Seattle neighborhoods. It was sited because there’s an existing P&R and state highway and a fast intercept for the 522.

      Some people are talking about very early planning before the scope of ST2 was decided and the ballot map made. The ballot map had 145th and 185th as I recall. Afterward in the alternatives analysis there were debates on whether 185th Station should be moved to 175th, and whether 145th Station should be moved to 155th or 130th or 120th or another station added. This was inspired by an ST alternative on Aurora that had an extra 130th station. I did not hear of any 130th station on I-5 earlier than that, nor of skipping Shoreline’s population center entirely (no 185th station). The latter may have been an alternative that was nixed at an early stage. Likewise, the part about 164th in Lynnwood must have been in pre-ST2 planning. I expected ST2 to go only to Northgate for cost reasons, and was stunned when ST proposed going all lthe way to Lynnwood in the same phase. But that was Lynnwood TC, not 164th, Further stations (a second downtown Lynnwood station, an Alderwood Mall station, and 164th/Ash Way) were “if there’s enough leftover money or supplemental funding to extend it somehow”.

      Swift will go to 185th Station, going south on Aurora and east on 185th. CT is already planning on that. Metro’s 2025 plan leaves the E as-is and focuses on 185th.There’s a Frequent route like the 348 from Richmond Beach to 185th (Aurora and the station), then south to 175th & 5th (library), east to 15th, and south to UW Station. (Is RossB listening?) That would not give a one-seat transfer from the E to Link, but the alternative is that there are several east-west feeders to all Link stations which will be more frequent, and those will be one-seat rides from some origins (e.g., near 45th, 85th, 105th, 145th, and 185th), so the number of people who have to take the E and transfer to an east-west bus and transfer again to Link may be not that large. Or they can just take the E downtown, y’know.

      1. I believe your mostly correct about the pre vs post ST2 plans. I think the confusion comes about because of the two different versions for ST2 that were adopted by the board. The first one adopted in May 2007 (in preparation for that roads and transit ballot measure that was rejected by voters) did indeed include stations for the Lynnwood Link at Alderwood and 164th/Ash Way. The version of ST2 that was adopted by the board in July 2008 and later passed by voters in Nov scrapped these two stations and terminated at the Lynnwood TC.

        The other big difference in the two versions is that the 2007 adopted plan has costs in millions of 2006$. In the 2008 adopted and voter approved plan, the costs are states in YOE $.

        May 2007 Adopted ST2 Plan:
        (figures stated in millions of 2006$)

        Systemwide-
        Link light rail
        • North corridor extension from University of Washington to
        164th/Ash Way
        • East corridor extension from International District to Overlake
        Transit Center
        • South corridor extension from Sea-Tac Airport to Tacoma Dome
        • Fleet, maintenance facilities and annual operation
        Capital/O&M/Total
        Total costs 10,215/540/10,756

        Snohomish County Subarea-
        Link light rail
        • Extension from N 185th St. in Shoreline to 164th/Ash Way,
        with stations at Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood Transit Center,
        Alderwood and 164th/Ash Way
        • Contribution to system maintenance capacity, fleet and annual
        operation
        Capital/O&M/Total
        Total costs 1,372/60/1,432

        North King County Subarea-
        Link light rail
        • Extension from University of Washington Station to N 185th St.
        with stations at Brooklyn, Roosevelt, Northgate, Jackson Park
        and Shoreline
        • Rainier Ave./I-90 station
        • Contribution to system maintenance capacity, fleet and annual
        operation
        • International District – First Hill – North Capitol Hill streetcar
        Capital/O&M/Total
        Total Costs 2,465/202/2,667

        July 2008 Adopted ST2 Plan:
        (figures stated in millions of YOE$)

        Systemwide-
        9-Capital
        Link light rail 1,473(SnoCo)3,453(NKingCo)2,061(SKingCo)4,568(EKingCo)265(PierceCo) 11,821(Total Capital)
        13-O&M
        Link light rail 32(SnoCo)116(NKingCo)31(SKingCo) 113(EKingCo)292(Total O&M)
        17 Contribution to system-wide(all modes)
        145(SnoCo)308(NKingCo)204(SKingCo)303(EKingCo)190(PierceCo)

        Snohomish County Subarea-
        LINK LIGHT RAIL AND OTHER
        •Extension from N. 185th Street in Shoreline to Lynnwood with stations at Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood Transit Center
        •Contribution to system maintenance capacity, fleet and
        annual operation
        CAPITAL/O&M/TOTAL
        Total costs 1,473/32/1,505

        North King County Subarea-
        LINK LIGHT RAIL AND OTHER
        •Extension from University of Washington Station to N. 185th
        Street with stations at Brooklyn, Roosevelt, Northgate, 145th/Jackson Park and Shoreline
        •Rainier Station
        •Contribution to system maintenance capacity, fleet and annual operation
        •Contribution to First Hill Link Connector
        CAPITAL/O&M/TOTAL
        Total costs 3,453/116/3,569

      2. *you’re mostly correct

        Hopefully this is legible for other readers. Using the mobile version and formatting this info/data is a bit tricky.

        I’d still like to know how the estimated costs for Lynnwood Link grew from $1.5 billion in the 2008 ST2 proposal, which included O&M costs as well as contributions toward the fleet and the maintenance facility, to $2.1 billion, then to $2.4 billion before this latest announcement. I know some of this complexity stems from the overlap between the two subareas involved and the associated allocations for the Lynnwood Link project.

        If anyone has the info on where to find the best documents related to Lynnwood Link’s cost estimates, it would be greatly appreciated. I’ve been following the project online and reviewing the specific project in the annual TDP. The most recent version of the latter shows the following:

        (Figures shown in millions of 2016$)
        2008 cost estimate – $1,769
        2016 cost estimate – $1,508
        2017 cost estimate – $1,508

      3. That could be. I know Roads & Transit was more extensive but I don’t remember what it contained. I don’t know about the numbers issue so I won’t try to guess.

      4. Did STB start before or after Roads & Transit? I don’t think I was on STB until after it, and so I didn’t have all the detailed information I had for ST2, and didn’t know the open houses existed, or know more than a couple people who didn’t drive most of the time. [1] So I didn’t know all the details and after its defeat I figured it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t happen.

        [1] The roommate who said “There’s nothing outside the UDistrict-Ballard-downtown area I want to go to”. The woman who grew up in Summit in the 50s and never got a driver’s license. The punk who was a transit fan. The colleague who can’t drive because of his vision. The great-aunt who loved traveling by Greyhound.

      5. 185th at the location of the ST station is nothing close to what you would call a center in Shoreline – obviously you neither live in Shoreline nor visit very often.

    5. Debbie: “Metro is considering moving the Aurora Village Transit Center from Aurora Village to a park & ride at 190th, but it isn’t anywhere close to 185th.”

      Swift will pass that location on its way to 185th Station, and could have a station there.

      A Shoreline planner told me a few years ago that Metro and CT were considering moving the transit center to Shoreline P&R, but that idea seems to be abandoned. It would have made more sense if Link were on Aurora.

      Metro’s plan for the E is to keep it the same om 2025, and a slight extension to Meridian Ave in 2040.

      I don’t see Shoreline P&R as being that important: it’s a small P&R, both Swift and the E will serve it anyway under existing plans, and is there any need to make it a transit center and put more routes there? To me 185th & Aurora and 175th & Aurora are more critical than 192nd & Aurora.

      “I live in Shoreline, do you?”

      No. I occasionally take the bus there. I’ll go there more often when Link makes it easier, and could possibly live in Shoreline someday. My roommate used to live in Shoreline and has relatives there.

      “The upzone around BOTH 145th and 185th have been painful to a community with no major employer. Do you even know what services like grocery stores are around those stations? Obviously you don’t, so I will let you know – none. All services are on Aurora Ave. N. Nothing nearby means it isn’t walkable and in all likelihood it will never be walkable.”

      That’s up to the city and community to make sure that a supermarket and other everyday needs comes with the development. That’s the definition of an urban village: a place where people can live and obtain everyday needs without leaving the neighborhood, and possibly work too. What’s there now does not limit what could be there in the future, and it’s up to the city and community to make sure the developers include those things or to provide incentives for them. If the city says specifically, “We want a supermarket in this neighborhood or this parcel”, somebody will probably step up to provide it.

      “There are no advantages whatsoever at 185th – ST has told the Shoreline City Council that ridership will take at least 25 YEARS to show significant use, it would have been better to not build it and plan for it later like 130th.”

      I think it was always Shoreline that pushed for 185th, and ST might have defaulted to 175th otherwise. As I said above I think 185th is the best location: it’s where the population and services are centered and can most feasibly be centered in the future. The alternative would be a lot of things on 175th, and I haven’t seen anybody interested in that. It would be sad if the station were at 175th and absolutely nothing were done to center housing and services along that corridor. Also, 175th is a freeway exit, which means a large volume of cars going through that area which hinders the station area — the same problem as at 145th.

      “Ridership from Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace will use the 205th and northward ST stations, so it will take forever for 185th to even reach breakeven usage.”

      I see 185th as serving mostly Shoreline residents. Having a station within (long) walking distance or (short) feeder distance of the city center and much of the housing and businesses is important. For the bulk of Shoreline’s population, Mountalke Terrace Station and 145th Station doesn’t give you that at all. You’d have to drive to them (which is what we don’t want) or take a long feeder (more time-consuming). I would rather chop off 14th Station and MT Station than 185th Station.

      1. Ah, but if you lived in Shoreline you would know why they didn’t build a station at 175th. 175th didn’t work because of the Thornton Creek watershed, existing public facilities, and the extreme congestion, not to mention other concerns – like the wetlands associated with the Thornton Creek watershed.

        And if you actually knew more about Shoreline, the community didn’t want the huge upzone – in fact, ST planners specifically advised them that a small area should be upzoned. However, the Shoreline City Council rubber stamps anything the city staff proposes and went along with it. Furthermore, the City of Shoreline had a lawsuit filed against them by a developer due to city staff negligence, and they addressed it by gerrymandering the upzoned area to the southeast. The Association of Washington Cities insurance pool refused to defend Shoreline against this lawsuit due to staff negligence.

        As for your last point, Shoreline residents have to drive no matter what to 185th, Northeast Shoreline residents use the MLT station already, as does Kenmore and Lake Forest Park.

        You seemed to have the missed the point – even ST staff stated that the 185th station will not even come close to breaking even in the next quarter century – it is a total waste of money.

      2. Thanks for engaging on this issue and for providing this information. If you’re familiar with what urbanists and most of the people on this blog want, it’s stations every 1-2 miles (or less), with station areas containing walkable housing to allow more people to live near high-capacity transit, and daily commercial needs like grocery stores, and frequent feeders to the city’s other activity areas and residential clusters. So we’re heavily against a station without a statoin-area upzone, and stations only at the outer edges of cities. So I’m at a bit of a loss at what you want, and if it’s possible to reconcile our wishes and yours and other Shoreline residents’, and beyond that ST’s. Would you have preferred the Aurora alternative?

      3. Debbie,

        It sounds like you have a problem with your local government, not Sound Transit. It was your local government which lobbied strongly against SR99. Of course they had allies in Snohomish County. Riders to and from there didn’t want the extra minute and a half for the deviation.

        But it’s way too far between Mountlake Terrace and Jackson Park. There is either a station at 185th with a concurrent upzone surrounding it or no Lynnwood Link. Is that a better choice for you?

  11. I propose ST4 to fix this issue. Another 25 billion would fix it. And when that is not enough let’s do ST5. The possibilities are endless.

    1. Wonderful idea. Let’s extend rail transit throughout the tricounty metro area. I’m so glad you’re on board with this.

  12. I agree that building parking spaces so that drivers (often alone) can drive to the train is not a good use of resources, though the planners at Sound Transit still seem to be focused on car usage to get to the station rather than buses or walking & biking. Bikes have the advantage of being competitive with a bus for trips of under 2 miles, the beauty of personal transport and minimal parking costs. For the cost of providing a dozen spaces in a parking structure a la Kent Station @ $130,000 each, Sound Transit could construct approximately one mile of bike lane. For $1M (9 spaes), it could fund 1 mile of separated bike path. What if ST was required to work with cities to co-fund convenient, safe bike routes (ideally segregated) within 2 miles of all proposed stations on Lynnwood and East Link lines? (It is costing $65Million to build a 500-car space at Kent Station).
    There is disconnection between ST’s goal of getting people out of their cars, yet making it so easy for people to drive their cars to catch the train…this is the type of thinking more akin to 1980s Metro in Washington DC, not 2017.
    How to get Sound Transit’s board and the cities through which new lines will pass, to change their thinking?

    1. It’s the cities and public who pressured Sound Transit into including the garages. In ST1 maybe that wasn’t the case as much but it is now. If you asked ST in the 1990s why P&Rs, it would probably say the riders won’t come without it, and point to the existing local transit plans which were really anemic. Now ST’s position is that P&Rs are sized to minimize hide-n-ride, where people park on neighboring streets and impact the neighbors. That impact is something ST legally has to include in the EIS and mitigate, because it’s a change from the status quo.

      Northgate Station is a very interesting case. Some of the parking spaces ST is building are to replace spaces demolished during construction that are owned by the mall and contractually guaranteed to the mall tenants. For the rest of the garage, Metro did a survey of where the license places come from. It’s not from people driving down I-5 from further north, as happens with the I-90 P&Rs. Most of the cars are from directly east and west of the station. So ST asked those people whether they wanted the parking or would rather have better bus feeders and ped/bike access. 3/4 of the neighbors said they prefer better feeders and ped/bike access over more parking. That’s great, and ST did so.

      But that approach hits a wall when you come to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, and Tukwila. They aren’t ready to exchange parking for other things. Not only do the cities insist and cause ST delays and costs if it refuses to build the parking, but also their voters vote against the measure. ST’s garages are located and sized to balance all these things: to minimize hide-n-ride, to get cooperation from the cities, approval from the voters, and to serve people who live in odd locations where feeders are infeasible.

      On the east coast regional rail operators build just the train and the station, and the cities build any parking they want. That would be better but it’s not the tradition here. The public views the garages as a basic part of transit, and a mitigation for the impacts of the station. And it’s all coming from the same taxpayers anyway, so why can’t they vote for the transit with garages they want?

      Seattle stations don’t have P&Rs because city law prohibits any new P&Rs with stations. Only the existing P&Rs at Northgate and 145th can be expanded. This has been a sore point to some people in Rainier Valley who think they need P&Rs to use the train, and don’t believe the private paid lots are an acceptable substitute.

      1. So ST asked those people whether they wanted the parking or would rather have better bus feeders and ped/bike access. 3/4 of the neighbors said they prefer better feeders and ped/bike access over more parking. That’s great, and ST did so.

        Does this mean that Sound Transit will be paying for increased local bus service to Northgate? It really should, since it’s the one who would’ve been paying for the parking otherwise.

      2. It’s making capital improvements for the ped/bike routes and maybe for the buses, but it’s not funding bus operations. Capital improvements are a one-time cost, while operations would be every year forever. I doubt those are authorized by the vote and they’d raise the question of why Northgate should get a feeder subsidy when other parts of North King don’t.

      3. Why are other stations getting the benefit of ST-paid parking garages, but Northgate isn’t getting anything? (Nor are Roosevelt, Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, or Capitol Hill.) It seems like this’s more anti-Seattle bias.

      4. Northgate is getting a pedestrian bridge and a garage, which will have more spaces than just the mall ones but won’t be supersized because the neighborhood doesn’t want it. Seattle law prohibits P&Rs at those other stations. The suburban stations have P&Rs because ST believed ST2 and 3 wouldn’t pass without them, or at least the vote would be lower and too close to the threshold.

      5. Seattle also has higher real estate prices so that’s where some of the money for the Seattle stations is going.

      6. Those people in the Rainier Valley waiting for Park’N’Rides are going to miss the train. The huge number of units going up within walking distance of Columbia City and Othello have put the land for any garages completely out of reach of ST or any parking provider.

        Too-bad; so sad.

      7. Sneaking on-street parking in the RV is quite popular. Route 50 runs mostly every 30 minutes and it’s very inconvenient.

      8. I do not get this hatred of “hide and ride”. The streets belong to everyone, not the people living directly adjacent to them.

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