2017 was not a great year, both worldwide and in our little corner of the universe. Here is our customary summary of the 10 most-read and most-commented posts of the past year:


1. Mercer Island to Sue Sound Transit, WSDOT (2/13 by Zach Shaner) Mercer Island’s tantrum over HOV lane access was a fine opportunity to pillory a privileged group defending their privilege. Although many of their points had no merit, it wasn’t hard to empathize with a few others.

2. House Democrats All Vote Against Sound Transit (4/13, by Brent White) Sound Transit opponents couldn’t win at the ballot box, so they fired up some angry constituents to scare legislators. This sorry episode is one of the best examples of why we shouldn’t hold public votes on highly technical issues.

3. Seattle Times Editorial Board Flunks Geometry (3/7 by David Lawson) David dismantles the Times Editorial Board’s latest primal scream against change, growth, and the facts of living and working in a prosperous major city.

4. Ban Cars from Third, Now (2/21 by David Lawson) I am a firm believer in rail’s sometimes magical powers, but no one has explained to me why 12 streetcars per hour deserve absolute dedicated right-of-way, while 240 buses per hour on Third are going to have to go through a “data-driven” process to earn the same treatment.

5. 5 Democratic Senators Side with Republicans Against Sound Transit (3/2 by Martin H. Duke) There is a certain willful ignorance among progressive advocates for scrapping the Sound Transit Board. The Republicans they’re voting with are dedicated to gutting urban transit in all its forms, and have no interest whatsoever in efficient delivery of high-quality services. Someone here is a sucker, and I’m guessing it isn’t the Republicans.

6. The Technical Challenges of Seattle-Vancouver High Speed Rail: Part 1 (2/17 by Zach Shaner) We knew Zach and Alon Levy’s series on this project was going to be a crowd-pleaser. It was even reviewed in the legislative report on the project, on which more next year.

7. SE Seattle Representative Sponsors Anti-Sound Transit Bill (1/31 by Martin H. Duke) Another one about “governance reform.” Nothing goes viral like legislative session reports, I guess.

8. Sound Transit to Sue Mercer Island (2/18 by Brent White) As is usually the case, the dueling lawsuits were eventually settled with money. The power of local governments over Sound Transit is one of the principal reasons costs escalate.

9. Amtrak Cascades to Add SEA-PDX Service by the End of the Year (8/16 by Frank Chiachiere) The gradual evolution of Cascades into a fast, reliable service is a good news story, notwithstanding the tragedy this month.

10. “I think that vote was rigged” (5/12 by Martin H. Duke) Mayoral candidate (and State Senator) Bob Hasegawa criticizes ST3 as dishonest, claiming he didn’t understand what he was voting for, months after it wins big in Seattle. (Though it narrowly lost in his district.)

Most Commented

1. (tie) One Center City Proposes Aggressive Bus Restructures, More Transit Priority (1/26, by Zach Shaner) and The Technical Challenges of Seattle-Vancouver High Speed Rail: Part 1 (2/17, also by Zach) (168 comments). Again, HSR is a crowd-pleasing subject. The first draft of One Center City suggested a transformation of the bus system, with lots of impacts to opine about.

3. Jessyn Farrell for Mayor (7/7, by the Editorial Board; 149 comments) A wide-open mayoral primary provided a candidate for everyone. This board member is cautiously optimistic about Mayor Durkan, but still thinks Ms. Farrell would have been amazing.

4. For Link a Drawbridge is a Bridge to Nowhere (9/12 by Seattle Subway, 146 comments) Seattle Subway lays out all their priorities in the Ballard/West Seattle design, but minimizing bridge openings over the ship canal is the headline.

5. When Common Sense is Wrong, and Intuitions Fail (4/6 by Zach Shaner, 144 comments) Zach’s rebuttal of celebrity meteorologist Cliff Mass’s screed for more general-purpose lanes was well received, but I was surprised people had this much to say about it.

6. Mercer Island to Sue Sound Transit, WSDOT (2/13, by Zach Shaner; 143 comments) See #1 most read.

7. Issues to Watch in the Seattle ST3 Alignment (10/21 by Martin H. Duke, 133 comments) I predict the likely flashpoints in Seattle’s upcoming alternatives analysis, leaving lots of grist for readers.

8. Sounder Negotiations Update (6/20 by Martin H. Duke, 125 comments) What did Sounder riders vote for in ST3? Nobody knows! Ambiguity is hard for many to swallow, as Sound Transit asks us to trust them.

9. News Roundup: Abomination (9/6 by Martin H. Duke, 122 comments) Elected boards, 11-lane roadways in Bothell, and other items.

10. We Have Traffic Because We Drive so Far (1/18 by Dan Ryan, 118 comments) Dan ties together transportation and land use in a big-picture post.

21 Replies to “Top 10 STB Posts of 2017”

  1. I gotta say the continuous bashing of electing transit boards like “a certain willful ignorance among progressive advocates for scrapping the Sound Transit Board” is really… contradictory and inflammatory considering these facts:

    a) Seattle Transit Blog writers and commentators agree, []

    b) An unelected Sound Transit Board means [].

    c) []

    d) The BART Board is not just directly elected but full of transit ideologues.

    e) Bruce Dammier (sp?) was supposed to be a nightmare even being on the Sound Transit Board. No instead my friend Bruce has become my friend and forced more accountability & transparency into Sound Transit. There is no harm in having direct votes on collective bargaining agreements and property condemnations. Furthermore, by all reports, Bruce has been a team player with the Sound Transit staff.

    Finally, I’m going to repost from earlier this year the other set of reasons why I support electing all transit boards with my own abridgment for multiple reasons,

    “At least we’ll … maybe wake up the Washington State Transit Association membership (aka state transit agencies) some of us transit advocates are really upset at being told to sit down, shut up. What do I mean by that perception? … You only get 90-120 seconds or if lucky 180 seconds of public comment at transit board meetings but have to travel hours on transit (4 hours round-trip to Skagit Transit for me) to attend, you get this moderator who won’t allow debate at ST open houses encouraging more talking at, and worst of all you see transit board members not openly debate with one another to see how compromises are made.”

    You want to know why I’m supporting elected transit boards? There you go.

    One last thing, I cannot and will not support just making the Sound Transit Board directly elected. Heck knows the other transits need an elected board. No secret I’d rather start there and make them farm teams for the Sound Transit Board.

    1. Joe, I think that from the beginning, the problem with an elected board whose only mandate is transit is that its every action must then be negotiated with the elected general representatives of the transit board’s own constituents.

      My own thinking? In addition to regular board-members, every municipality each elects one board member who votes on transit matters only. Who is also welcome to attend all the regular board’s meetings as a non-voting member.

      Main purpose is to keep every representative on both boards “on same page” – which, as governmental pages always do- often carries solutions-before-the-fact. Considering importance of transit and expense of its shortcomings, might be worth trying this for a few years.

      And BTW, Joe, I think about you a lot while I’m developing my own vision of regional transit these next years. I really think of the Central Puget Sound Region as an expanding city with a lot of open space left. Seattle right now largest neighborhood.

      Reason I stay on the “Streetcar Suburbs” bit. First order of business, which I think is best handled on the regional level, as opposed to cities and counties, is to find a way to De-Sprawl existing development. And equally important, to start channeling new development into corridors, or whatever they get called with electric rail, streetcar and express, designed into each development exactly as motor traffic is now.

      If Marblemount will be in your electoral district….well, they could do worse. Hey, are those old passenger coaches still at Rockport? And there’s got to be some trackbed left between there and Ross Dam. Just sayin’.





  2. Hey. We found a way to save money on the Lynwood Station. We dodged a bullet by gaining the democrats in or state legislature as opposed to someone who wanted nothing to do with Sound Transit

    1. Consider that with a split state senate, the dueling bills to reduce ST’s car tab funding stream would remain stalemated. With the Democrats totally in charge, Rep. Pelliciotti’s bill to reduce ST funding by a mere $2B could get a green light.

  3. Have no fear, there’s good news. Eyman’s initiative to roll back car tabs again to $30 and slash ST3 failed to gather enough signatures for the ballot. ($)

    ‘“Why didn’t we make it this time?” Eyman wrote. “It boils down to money. We just didn’t raise enough funds to hire paid petitioners to supplement our volunteers.’ Oh.

    1. There’s a pattern that has been emerging over the past forty years. In the 70s the Forward Thrust subway failed and essentially all development was low-density cul-de-sacs and garden apartments and 2-story office buildings. In the 80s King County voted for a transit tunnel but didn’t try for rail, bus service was skeletal and it was believed people wouldn’t go for more, and Seattle passed the CAP initiative to keep downtown towers short. In the 90s we voted for light rail that was mostly suburban-commuter oriented but with some service to Seattle’s urban centers and poor/multicultural neighborhoods, and RapidRide which was supposed to be the local transit solution. New urban villages started sprouting up (I mean condos in neighborhood centers), and downtown Bellevue and Kirkland implemented their downtown master plans.

      In 2000 Initiative 695 was a reversal, along with Initiatives 601 and 602. These can be seen as the local manifestation of a nationwide tax revolt which first became visible in California’s Prop 13 in 1979. This movement is most strongly affiliated with the suburbs and exurbs, especially the outer ones, and so it tends to be the same people who think everyone drives everywhere, and also tends to be the new conservatives. Initiative 695 (which was declared unconstitutional but the legislature enacted its terms anyway) slashed transit agencies’ revenue, which rolled back RapidRide’s plans somewhat. Meanwhile Seattle voted for a shiny new monorail, and then said never mind. The urban villages grew and density increased somewhat. Metro had a few service increases which brought us back partway to where we would have been without 695.

      In the 2010s, and going back to 2008, we voted to significantly expand light rail, Seattle expanded Metro service twice, the HOT lanes came, Seattle took more baby steps toward density, and Bellevue expanded its downtown and Spring District. But countywide Metro measures failed, and south King County grew hardly at all. Attempts to repeal the HOT tolls and ST3 MVET failed, although the latter may still get a haircut.

      So the net result is that people have become more favorable to transit, density, and non-car modes over time. There are still waverings and reversals but the trend is clear. And it’s party because the population increase makes the alternatives less and less viable. If starter houses and affordable apartments only exist thirty miles out, if highway congestion keeps increasing making those longer commutes longer and less reliable, if there’s greater recognition that a large percent of the population wants a multifamily unit in a walkable transit-rich area, then people will tend to more support transit and density over time. We’ve seen this with ST2 and 3: they passed with wide margins. And even recognizing that some of it is masked by ST’s structure (majority-No Pierce and south King County weren’t able to veto it), the fact remains that most precincts are gradually moving in the right direction. It’s just that there are smaller waverings and reversals sometimes.

      Three things stand out:
      1. Seattle has repeatedly voted for pro-urban councilmembers and mayors the past few years, and strong reactionaries have lost by landslides. This started around McGinn’s time, and matured after the council seat restructure.
      2. The Monorail II initiative (the Alaskan Way monorail circa 2008) failed 70%. This was a defeat for new unique technologies in favor of older well-tested solutions.
      3. This MVET II failure. People are becoming more convinced that transit is essential, we can’t pretend like it’s the 1970s anymore, and even if they aren’t total tax enthusiasts they want some infrastructure and recognize they’ll have to honestly pay for it.

      1. Mike, you and I have different perspectives, but think we’re united by all the necessary things that are taking ‘way too long to get. But also, like I said farther down the page, differences in age and experience naturally give us different ideas to think with.

        Forward Thrust didn’t either die or get defeated. Well, only the last arch-supported leather shoes 10 double A. At Nordstrom’s ’til store moved. Costing us an entrance when it moved across the street. Reason ‘Thrust got deflected was that it was still possible to get a car into physical motion, let alone drive it to the mountains through fields of something besides cars.

        Places dense enough for the civil transit engineering that confined quarters, hills, and waterways require were losing rail transit’s real first need: tax-paying population to use and finance it. Who didn’t leave for lack of transit, but because in the suburbs they’d finally have room to use a car.

        Now that last sugar-cube of car-free space is gone….let’s just say that transit doesn’t lead people to build it for its future promises. First train on a line doesn’t get pulled through, but blasted through from behind in a successful escape attempt.

        Far from expiring, the first Forward Thrust efforts left a fair amount of groundwork for next leg of the line’s civil engineering. Though a few paragraphs of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, affirm that re: “Thrust”, bayonets get stuck in your dead enemy, whose buddies kill you. So TBM’s work more like grenades and sharp latrine shovels.

        We didn’t build a bus tunnel instead of one for trains. From the start, DSTT was designed for heavy-duty light rail cars. Buses alone would’ve gotten by with a lot cheaper and flatter roadways. Main limitation to rail progress was complete lack of inherited rail right of way.

        No excuse for failure to give us 2-way all-day diamond lanes from Northgate to CBD- which we’ll miss long after LINK hits Lynnwood. But monorail project’s problem was difference between technology and theology. Reason for so few monorails worldwide could be a Rosicrucian conspiracy. But any idea what a switch would look like?

        Our real alternative choice would have been to keep buses on the street until we could get rail right of way in any of three directions. Since plans had been filed for a skyscraper that would’ve made excavation impossible, every main bus route would be there yet, moving same speed.

        How many readers remember “The Wall of Buses” crawling down Third from Stewart to Third to Yesler to Terrace to Contraflow Fifth to Columbia every single rush hour? Approach we chose let us carry many thousands of those passengers on LINK’s most critical part for 19 years before, through no fault of our own, we could finally get track to run trains on.

        But- wish the French had given our new Waterfront a fifty story tall “Statue of Regret” holding a pointer listlessly against a giant 1970’s flip-chart and (great idea for a fountain!) crying waterfalls, and cradling a Boeing Vertol light rail car. Man, if only we’d have done that before Gulf War made them into Surrender Monkeys!


      2. “Forward Thrust didn’t either die or get defeated… Reason ‘Thrust got deflected was that it was still possible to get a car into physical motion, let alone drive it to the mountains through fields of something besides cars…. Far from expiring, the first Forward Thrust efforts left a fair amount of groundwork for next leg of the line’s civil engineering.”

        That’s nice but I couldn’t ride it in my teens or twenties or thirties, so I spent the years waiting for 30-60 minute buses that took half an hour to get from the U-District to Northgate. We didn’t need decades of groundwork, we needed a rapid transit system. Ballot measures have only two alternatives: yes or no. No is usually called a defeat. And it was unclear then or for decades after whether there would ever be a yes. That sounds like a pretty decisive defeat to me. Your best argument would be that Forward Thrust had a 66% threshold to pass, so it got a majority just not a supermajority.

        “Who didn’t leave for lack of transit, but because in the suburbs they’d finally have room to use a car.

        People didn’t leave Seattle because they didn’t have room to use a car. There were plenty of houses with a garage for everybody who wanted one, especially after people started leaving+. They left Seattle to get better schools and to get away from people who didn’t look like them.

      3. There’s also the lost opportunity. Forward Thrust might have started a chain reaction of better land use, as there would be stations people would want to live near, and that could have influenced the region’s critical growth period from 1.8 million to 3.9 million. That’s uncertain because the 70’s mindset was much more sprawly, and this concentation didn’t particularly happen around BART or MARTA, but it would have put one of the enabling factors into place at the beginning. And while we can follow an aggressive urbanization curve now, we can’t make up for what would have happened between then and now if we had done it then.

  4. Re: #4, Ban Cars from Third:

    With due respect to the need for transit priority on Third Avenue, won’t First Avenue actually have more than 12 streetcars per hour? Aren’t the planned (combined) headways 5 minutes at peak, northbound, and 5 minutes, southbound, yielding 12 streetcars in each direction, or 24 per hour? Madison RapidRide will share that lane briefly as well, at least as it transitions from Madison to Marion.

    1. Service is usually counted per direction because trips are unidirectional. (A streetcar going the other way won’t help you at all.) But if you count the number of transit vehicles on the entire 2-way right-of-way, it would be 24 streetcars and 22-24 buses (assuming Madison RR runs every 5-7.5 minutes).

  5. Tlsgwm, it’s also what needs to be the subject on a long enough list of postings to wash off the shame of that recent one bragging about being “501 free.” As if three dead passengers, dozens injured, and the reputations of every agency, official, and trainman involved filthied… were just a “blast from the past” of a murder trial that shamed our country’s judicial system

    I suggest an hour-long podcast of nothing but 9-11 calls from passengers- our passengers- trapped in the wreckage along with their families and friends. Interspersed with communications among first-responders as to what gravity was about to do to a demolished vehicle hanging from an overpass. And everybody inside it.

    Might begin welcome end to years of hurt, moon-gazing-calf incredulity, at how many voters are anti-both public transportation and its “Governance”. Which, far beyond railroading, shows every single check-mark of a disconnected, panicked ruling class. State Senator Bob Hasegawa didn’t have a train-controller in his hand and his eyes supposed to be focused out a locomotive’s windshield.

    And Senator Steve O’Ban, in whose district the crash happened, didn’t give that train its order to depart. Let’s also have name and position of one single right-wing Republican in the chain of decisions behind that order. Including track design and operator training. And decorate Chamber wall with their hide.

    Years of legislative undermining and budget-bathtub-drowning are [O to the bottom of Hell T] here. Any Republican who was in a position to resign publicly in the face of a dangerous order and didn’t- our side had better make nailing them top-of-the-lungs priority. But for final responsibilty, I wish to God Brian Bundridge would confirm or deny me on this:

    Wouldn’t you have secured the brakes, shut down the diesel, and resigned in front of TV cameras? Am I right same holds for a bus, David?

    Mark Dublin, Metro Transit Coach Operator 2495

    1. There was a hanging bus in the 2008 snowstorm. It was a charter bus from out-of-town, if I recall it was a high school band from Spokane. The bus turned on tiny cobblestoned Thomas Street, probably looking for the I-5 north entrance or an alternative to the Denny Way viaduct (which closes during heavy snows), and it went through the railing above the freeway. My apartment at the time was two builidings away.

      1. I remember that, Mike, but forget if anyone was killed or hurt. For the driver’s sake, I hope nothing happened that he’d carry for the rest of his life, whatever the court said. But his company carries very large share of the blame, starting with “indoctrination”.

        Usage nowadays has vibes of blind, unthinking belief and obedience. But for situations where an action of has to be life-and-death right, there’s another meaning. The ideas you think not about, but with.

        Radio, or phone to your dispatcher before you turn off an arterial street: “This is my location. I’m not sure how to get on the freeway. I don’t see any signs. Can you get me directions?”

        And any delay on info, followup: “Lot of drivers stuck behind me.” Until you get either firm directions to the ramp or police escort…should already be drilled into you that by reflexes you’ll heed in your sleep: Just let them honk.


        And be working on our incident report while you’re waiting.

  6. This “Top Ten List” proves that transit is All Politics, All The Time.

    Republicans cannot be trusted to be a loyal opposition. They just viscerally dislike public transportation.
    They don’t like the riders; they don’t like the operators; they don’t like the taxes; they don’t like the road space required; and they don’t like the cities that need it.

    Of course, they want the opportunities for employment, entertainment, and shopping that cities provide. But they want it just for them and people whom they recognize as being “like me”.

    Republicanism used to be the honorable political movement. If freed the slaves, established anti-trust, and worked for womens’ right to vote. But beginning with Richard Nixon and “The Southern Strategy”, the party sold its soul to the deplorable descendants of slavers and moonshiners.

    Democrats, don’t be suckered by any Republican proposals on transit. They can’t be trusted to keep their word or even to say forthrightly what they think and intend. Just Say “No!”

    1. It’s called colonialism or aristocracy. The have-nots produce the goods while the haves enjoy them. Parties change ideology periodically and sometimes exchange voters with the other party at the same time. The real pivot was the Democratic party’s support of Civil Rights in the 1960s. Nixon reinforced it by calling the discontents to him. There’s a book “Nixonland” that covers his entire political career. Nixon grew up poor, and he developed a lifelong grudge against his better-off classmates/colleagues whom he felt looked down on him. He called them the “northeast liberal elite” and he wanted revenge. He probably adopted the dog whistles because the liberal elite opposed them, and it filled a political gap he could champion.

      (It’s interesting that somebody else who did not grow up poor has a similar grudge.)

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