Sounder at Everett Station. Credit: Bruce Engelhardt.

In an interview with STB Wednesday, Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit board chair Dave Somers said that West Seattle and Ballard stakeholders have to rein in their ambitions for the new line unless they can come up with more funding.

“We are going to be ever vigilant that costs are kept in control,” Somers said. “Those of us that are out in the distant future for delivery, and at the end of the system, are going to bear all the risk of cost overruns or overspending.”

Dave Somers. Credit: Sound Transit.

Planning for the new segments of the Link system can be understood as a competition for limited resources. Projects are designed to meet a budget, rather than the other way around: Sound Transit’s mandate is to deliver a system within monetary constraints, rather than designing the system and figuring out how to pay for it later.

Somers and other Snohomish County representatives are worried that Seattle might overdraw the accounts. The agency has, so far, successfully argued to the board (and voters) that spending at the center of the system, in Seattle, carries benefits for the rest of the region.

That might be changing. Snohomish County board members are worried that they might not ever see benefits from the money they’ve put into the system if the region suffers a recession, or existing projects cost more than they should. The Everett segment of Link isn’t projected to open until 2036.

“Those of us that are out in the distant future for delivery, and at the end of the system, are going to bear all the risk of cost overruns or overspending,” Somers says. “I know people are very excited about the system, but I’ve been very clear—and I think the other board members from Snohomish County and the Eastside have been very clear—that we’ve got to stay within the budget. If you want to add some things on, you’re going to have to find some additional funding for them.”

Seattle stakeholders have generally expressed preferences for the most expensive alignments presented by ST. In West Seattle, for example, residents prefer a tunneled line near the junction. An elevated line would be much cheaper to construct, and would offer the same quality of service.

“If they want a tunnel, they’ve got to figure out how to pay for it,” Somers says. “I’ve said this before: we could easily spend the entire $54 billion Sound Transit 3 package going to West Seattle and Ballard. But we’re not going to let that happen, because we’ve got a commitment to finish the darn system. I’m not against a tunnel, but the rest of us are not going to sacrifice our portions of the system for a tunnel.”

As Somers suggests, third party funding could resolve the conflict. Rumors suggest that either or both of the City of Seattle and the Port of Seattle could kick in extra money. Somers says he and his Snohomish County colleagues would welcome Seattle-specific additional spending—as long as it’s payed for by Seattle.

“I have nothing against Ballard and West Seattle,” Somers says. “I’m excited for them.  I want them to have a good system. But the costs have to be realistic.”

This post has been edited to reflect the actual time of the interview with Dave Somers.

154 Replies to “Snohomish officials: Seattle needs to rein in potential light rail spending”

    1. “Dave, how about if we run our share to the county line on our own dime, and let your own constituents make our point for us. Meantime we’ll build you bus-only lanes all the way to Marysville, constructed for easy rail-conversion whenever you say.

      And we’ll also have our marketing department enclose in your every airline passengers’ ticket booklet an ORCA card.Informing them the Link line they’ll see on the way in will go to Everett soon as you say. But careful now.

      Experts say Baker is set to go, and Suksan will probably help. So wouldn’t stomp your foot too hard, or it really could come out in main bullet-train grand concourse in Beijing. OK, Henry, your turn.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Somers is wrong when he asserts the $54 billion is a spending cap. The board has unlimited spending authority, unlimited taxing authority, unlimited bond selling authority, etc. The $54 billion figure was nothing but an estimate, and the courts have ruled estimates aren’t binding on Sound Transit.

    3. Pretty easy actually. Most of Snohomish County is rural. Even Everett is all single-story, auto-oriented. It’s already possible to get to Everett by Sounder.

      If you visit Seattle, you may want to go to Ballard. How are you gonna do it if there isn’t a high-quality (NO DRAWBRIDGES) line to Ballard? (Preferably to the vicinity of 17th St. where it belongs.)

      Now… West Seattle should not have a tunnel and does not need one. But fergodssake get Ballard right.

  1. “Those of us that are out in the distant future for delivery, and at the end of the system, are going to bear all the risk of cost overruns or overspending,” Somers says. “I know people are very excited about the system, but I’ve been very clear—and I think the other board members from Snohomish County and the Eastside have been very clear—that we’ve got to stay within the budget. If you want to add some things on, you’re going to have to find some additional funding for them.”

    =================

    Hey, Ballard here. Snohomish County is getting their first station eleven years before we get ours. Considering that and the Paine Field extension they advocated so stridently for, they can shut right the heck up with their insincere concern trolling about budget bloat.

    1. King County got its first station fifteen years before Snohomish County gets one. And Ballard will soon U-District Station just two miles away, while the last station in King County (185th) will be three miles from Lynnwood and nine miles from Everett. And for whatever merits the Paine Field extsion has or doesn’t have, it was included in the ST3 budget. Ballard was also included, just not a tunnel. Snohomish isn’t asking for a tunnel for Paine Field.

      1. I agree with you in general. Snohomish does have to wait a long time to see ST3 benefits, butbutt’s be real about the Ballard situation. It may be two miles between Ballard and the upcoming u district station, but East-West connections are terrible. Ballard is effectively unserved by Link even with the opening of U District station.

      2. And Ballard will soon U-District Station just two miles away, while the last station in King County (185th) will be three miles from Lynnwood and nine miles from Everett.

        Except for Ballard, that requires slogging through a few dense neighborhoods, versus Lynnwood, which connects via a freeway.

        With your logic, you could also claim that Ballard is ONLY 4 miles from Westlake Station and West Seattle less than 3 miles from Sodo Station, so why build either extension?

      3. Holy smoke, Mike. Did you really write that Ballard should be happy because they have a station 2 miles away?!! Seriously?

        Man, that quote should be pinned on the wall, as the reason we are in this mess. I don’t mean to pick on you, Mike, but it epitomizes the thinking around transit in this town. Folks look at a subway system like it is a freeway. Just get it in the general vicinity, and it will be great.

        But it isn’t. The stops on the subway that exist are largely irrelevant to Ballard — or at least, as relevant as the stops are to Snohomish County. If I’m in Ballard, and want to go to the UW, nothing has changed. Nothing will change when Link gets to Northgate. Nothing will change when Link gets to Lynnwood. Oh, getting to Capitol Hill is a little easier now — after the bus to downtown you can take the train back up the hill — but the same is true for Snohomish County. When Link gets to Northgate, getting to Roosevelt and Northgate will be a bit easier, but it will be much easier for folks headed from Everett. They will have various express buses that directly connect them to Northgate, with connections going *in the same direction* towards Roosevelt, UW, Capitol Hill and downtown. Things improve a little for folks in Ballard, but they improve dramatically for folks in Snohomish County.

        Don’t get me wrong — Apocynum’s argument is bad, but your argument is worse. It is like someone arguing that the Iraq war was a bad idea because Saddam Hussein was a great leader, and then someone replying that was saved lives. Aaach.

      4. “Except for Ballard, that requires slogging through a few dense neighborhoods, versus Lynnwood, which connects via a freeway.”

        You can walk from Ballard to U-District station in 40 minutes, whereas to walk from large parts of Edmonds, the Everett Industrial area, or Snohomish Bothell to Lynnwood Station or Everett Station would take several hours, and even in a car it can take half an hour or more, and going to 185th Station would be that much further.

      5. “Holy smoke, Mike. Did you really write that Ballard should be happy because they have a station 2 miles away?!!”

        Sometimes when I write I’m recommending something, and other times I’m just articulating the unhappy factors that are causing the sub-optimal situation and have to be overcome if we want something better. This is the latter case. It’s worthwhile to clarify what the situation is, to promote realistic steps to overcome it, and to imagine an ideal alternative (which can inspire people to move toward that position). It’s not worthwhile to keep promoting unrealistic alternatives that have insufficient political support to be enacted. “It doesn’t say Hanes until I say it says Hanes!” Ballard or 45th or Metro 8 won’t be prioritized until the 800,000 people in Snohomish are convinced it’s a significant benefit to them. It doesn’t matter if you say it will benefit them (and your arguments are correct that it will), what matters is if they think that and thus vote that way and pressure their boardmembers that way. And that requires more than just telling them how much they want to take Link to Ballard and First Hill. It requires a fundamental change of values on their end. You’ll know it’s happening when they start changing their demands.

      6. You can walk from Ballard to U-District station in 40 minutes, whereas to walk from large parts of Edmonds, the Everett Industrial area, or Snohomish Bothell to Lynnwood Station or Everett Station would take several hours, and even in a car it can take half an hour or more, and going to 185th Station would be that much further.

        First off, it’s over an hour, more like 90 minutes if you decide to take the more comfortable BGT instead. I’m not sure how being more than an hour walk justifies delaying or cancelling light rail to a very dense neighborhood.

        Second, it’s not Ballard’s fault that Lynnwood and SnoHoCo are built out as an auto-centric wasteland. I could argue that the Lynnwood Link is only encouraging poorly planned, urban sprawl up north and should be delayed or cancelled to ensure Ballard Link is built. It’d be a silly argument, but no more silly than the walking argument.

      7. When I lived in the U-District I walked plenty of times from University Way to Stone Way and it was 20 minutes. An hour gets you from University Way to Broadway or SPU. In any case, for comparison we have to take the shortest and main street, which is 45th. I thought Stone Way was around the midpoint but maybe the midpoint is a bit west of there, but not far west.

        The point is that it’s a long but not infeasible walk from Ballard to U-District Station, so transit is more of an alternative than strictly essential. But a walk from most parts of the Snohomish subarea to 185th takes so many hours that if you made a round trip it would take 4+ hours out of the day, and that makes it completely impractical and thus transit is absolutely essential. If Snoho had few people it wouldn’t matter, but Snoho has 800,000+ people which is more than the entire city of Seattle. That’s why it matters.

      8. Mike, are you really arguing that proximity and density don’t matter? Are you saying that it benefits your neighborhood if you can walk from the edge of it to the nearest subway stop in an hour (https://goo.gl/maps/9VqAaqRFUUx)? Seriously?

        Using that logic, we should get moving on that trans-Montana subway. Montana, after all, has more people than Snohomish County. It has over a million! Better get moving on that thing.

        Look, dude, Snohomish County has a lot of people. But like Montana, they are all spread out. Just look at the density map: https://arcg.is/1eLOPq. You can see that the central “spine” corridor is nothing special. It no more represents the bulk of the population any more than a “spine” from Kalispell to Great Falls would. There are thousands upon thousands of people in Snohomish County for which the light rail line will be irrelevant, because it will simply be too far away, or nowhere near where they are headed. Mass transit is not some magic elixir, and by being only a few miles away, your life is richer. It works when people can walk to it (or take other transit they can walk to).

        Right now, Link provides some benefit to those in Ballard. They can take a bus downtown, and then take a bus out to Rainier Valley or the airport. In a few years, they might — and I want to emphasize might — have a faster trip to Northgate. But when that happens, Snohomish County is way better off. They have faster rides to Northgate, the U-District and downtown. That becomes even more valuable to them as Link moves further north, while Ballard gets less and less (there just aren’t a lot of folks in Ballard headed to Lynnwood).

        I think you are confusing a subway with inter-city rail. If you were talking about inter-city rail, then you would be correct. If we built a high speed rail line and it included a stop at the UW, then of course someone in Ballard would benefit. They would be able to grab a taxi, and quickly find themselves in Portland, or Vancouver BC. But that isn’t what we are building. It is a subway, or a metro, if you will. So far, we haven’t built much of anything that makes a big difference if you live in Ballard, nor will we for a long time.

      9. The point is that it’s a long but not infeasible walk from Ballard to U-District Station, so transit is more of an alternative than strictly essential.
        Getouttahere. The facts according to Google Maps are that Ballard to U-District station is just over 1 hour over 3.4 miles along NW Market, 46th, and 45th St with 207 feet of elevation gain in the .7 miles climbing up Phinney Ridge alone. Burke Gilman? 1.5 hours over 4.5 miles, with 140 feet of elevation gain from Burke Gilman up to 45th; it’s actually the same time with less elevator to walk to Husky Stadium station. (And the Burke isn’t actually totally flat, folks, even if it feels like it– check it out yourselves.)

        No one in Ballard is doing either of these walks to access Link. A Ballard resident will sit on the D through two hours of overturned-fish-truck traffic and it will still not enter into their thinking. They will tell themselves to check traffic ahead of time next time and to not attempt that trip in that traffic.

      10. Link is not a necessary part of ST. Snohomish County has had its Sounder and ST Express routes since ST1. Ballard (and indeed, all of northeast Seattle) has exactly none.

      1. That they have eight times more need for high-capacity transit than Ballard’s and northwest Seattle’s 100,000.

      2. The point is that nearly a million residents should have to wait for a system that they’ve been paying into for decades while a little corner of Seattle, which already has light rail, gets its own personalized neighborhood system.

        Neighborhood transit to Ballard should fall under the jurisdiction of Metro unless there is an intention of extending it into a full regional line.

      3. That is absolutely ridiculous (and you call yourself an Engineer). Using that logic, Iowa — a state of 3 million(!) — should have a mass transit system well before cities like Seattle, Boston, or Vancouver, BC. You are being silly.

        The mass transit system will never “serve” Snohomish County any more than it serves the state of Washington. Mass transit systems don’t serve huge areas. They serve neighborhoods. They run in particular counties and states, but that is irrelevant. If I live in Buffalo, I don’t feel served by the New York subway, even though it runs in my state.

        The reason why Ballard will carry more riders than any *neighborhood* in Snohomish County is because it is more densely populated than any neighborhood there. It isn’t even close. It is also closer to other densely populated neighborhoods, which, believe it or not, is an advantage. Proximity and density are key elements to building a popular mass transit system, not the number of people in an arbitrarily designated area.

    2. Yah, no.

      SnoCo gets its ST3 stations at roughly the same time as Ballard. SnoCo has to wait on its ST2 stations after UWLink and Northgate are completed. Lynnwood link has already been delayed once and had design elements and amenities stripped out of its stations because of regional construction costs and an unfriendly Federal administration. Caution and drawing clear spending boundaries are completely warranted.

      In the meantime, Ballard should consider advocacy for filling in the locks and cuts to speed up project delivery.

      1. You don’t seem to get his argument. His point is that Snohomish County will reap the benefits of Link (both directly and indirectly) years before they even start digging the tunnel for Ballard. In just a few years, Northgate Link will be complete. At that point, Snohomish County folks will benefit greatly for the infrastructure completely paid for by Seattle residents. Buses will no longer have to slog their way to downtown Seattle, or split their time headed to the UW and downtown (to big destinations). Instead, they will all simply go to Northgate. Folks from Snohomish County will thus have a significantly faster ride to Northgate, Roosevelt, the UW, Capitol Hill and downtown.

        Ballard residents will have … uh … maybe a faster ride to Northgate? Even that isn’t clear. The 44 is dreadfully slow (even in the middle of the day) which means a two seat ride to Northgate may be slower than taking the 40.

        A few years later, things get even better for Snohomish County. Some even get to walk to a station, and take a train right to several stations in Seattle. Everett riders also have a much faster trip (at least during rush hour) to those same destinations. Ballard, meanwhile, gets … uh … a nice trip to Lynnwood? Great, wonderful. I’m sure Ballard riders will be thrilled to know that they can take a bus to the UW and then transfer to get to Lynnwood. Whoop de doo.

        This has been a system designed to please suburban interests, even though ridership within the urban core will dwarf it (as it has *in every city*). From the order of the projects, to the various projects themselves, it treats parts of Snohomish County as if there were Ballard, and they just aren’t. You don’t have anywhere near the destinations or the population density in Snohomish County, and worse yet, you don’t have the proximity! Long distance commuter rail systems — whether they have lots of stops or only a few — simply don’t carry as many riders as urban systems, anywhere. I can list several examples — from New York to San Fransisco — or you can look it up yourself. ST has ignored this fact, and is hellbent on building something that will benefit only a handful of mostly suburban commuters, while denying the vast majority of potential riders with a poor system.

      2. “ST … is hellbent on building something that will benefit only a handful of mostly suburban commuters”

        ST is hellbent on building the system that the majority of city and county councilmembers in the ST district want, and that 2/3 of the ST board who are suburbanites want. And no, they don’t think taking a two-seat Link ride to Ballard benefits them much. If they did they’d be more supportive of the project. Although I think most people don’t realize the massive latent transit demand between Snohomish County and north Seattle which will be visible when Lynnwood opens.

      3. “Although I think most people don’t realize the massive latent transit demand between Snohomish County and north Seattle which will be visible when Lynnwood opens.”

        To clarify, I’m referring to the demand to Northgate, Roosevelt, U-District and the points accessible from there. Many people won’t mind taking Link to U-District and a bus to Wallingford or Ballard, or taking Link to Northgate and a bus to Licton Springs or Sand Point; instead they’ll be relieved that they finally have the option. Sure, east-west subways on 45th and Denny Way would be even better, but something is better than nothing, and this solves 80% of the problem for Snohomans. Even 145th Station can participate as soon as the feeders in Metro’s LRP emerge, to Shoreline CC, Lake City, and places around there.

      4. There’s plenty for Ballardites and other topographically isolated or constrained folks to be angsty about but most of what you (Ross) are retorting about aren’t cards ST have to play. The Ballard centric complaints about the system ignore the political and funding realities of the “Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority.”

        I’ve made the walk from Frelard to the Udistrict many times and know how shit the East-West connections are and get that the Ballard ST3 spur does little to remediate that. That’s the dynamic for some pretty obvious topography, built environment, and planning realities.

        The Exec is right to draw a lines in the sand. Hes making sure what was promised to voters gets delivered. The ST political arrangement depends on it, as does any future state funding authority approval. This isn’t a discussion of (unfortunate) routing; it’s dollars and relationship management.

      5. RossB: Ballard gets traffic free connections to SLU, Capitol Hill, UW, SEA airport, the east side and west Seattle, not just to Northgate. And the traffic will be a lot worse at that time!

        And *of course* some people will be able to walk to SnoCo stations. That’s kind of the point?

      6. “ST … is hellbent on building something that will benefit only a handful of mostly suburban commuters”

        ST is hellbent on building the system that the majority of city and county councilmembers in the ST district want, and that 2/3 of the ST board who are suburbanites want.

        That is a distinction without a difference. That is like pointing all the various reasons why this country stumbled into a war with Iraq, while I am simply pointing out that it was stupid.

        … and this solves 80% of the problem for Snohomans …

        I think most Snohomans will find Link irrelevant, but I get your point. It is the same as mine. This will benefit a handful of suburban commuters, as opposed to the much larger number of riders that will just have to continue to make do with buses that are significantly slow (at every time of the day, including rush hour) than the buses being replaced by Link in Snohomish County.

      7. “That is like pointing all the various reasons why this country stumbled into a war with Iraq, while I am simply pointing out that it was stupid”

        I can’t do anything about the US mentality. It is stupid. But it’s what we get until the majority change their mind.

      8. Ballard gets traffic free connections to SLU, Capitol Hill, UW, SEA airport, the east side and west Seattle, not just to Northgate.

        You are very confused. I’m sorry, I’ll try and clarify it a bit. Link is built in stages. That was the point that Apocynum made. Let me break it down for you, while looking at only whether it benefits folks in Snohomish County or Ballard:

        Northgate Link — This will benefit folks in Snohomish County immensely. Various buses from all over the county will converge onto Northgate, with is a tertiary destination in its own right. Those same riders will have a much faster, much more frequent trip to places like Roosevelt, UW, Capitol Hill and (the big one) downtown. Ballard, on the other hand, will have a slightly faster ride to Roosevelt and Northgate at best. It is quite possible their trips to those destinations will be the same, while trips to more important destinations (like the UW and downtown) remain unchanged.

        Lynnwood Link — Again this benefits folks in Snohomish County. You will have even more buses converging onto Link. You will also have folks who can take a trip on Link exclusively using it. No drive to the park and ride. No connecting bus. Just walk to the station, and ride the train. Ballard riders, on the other hand, get very little. Reverse commutes are rare, and fairly fast with the 512. It is quite possible that a trip from Ballard to Lynnwood will actually be faster now than it will be when Link Lynnwood.

        Everett Link — This benefits very few, really. It is mainly an urban subway line for an area that is not that urban. It is just fine for folks trying to get around the greater Everett/Lynnwood area, but overkill for a subway (when a Swift or two would do better). But anyway, this will benefit some folks in Snohomish County, while Ballard, once again, really doesn’t care.

        Ballard Link — Well it all depends. If they go ahead and build this monstrosity as feared, meaning they build it at 14th, then for many, it will mean an extra transfer to get to the train, leaving many wishing they kept the old express bus routes. Putting that aside, at best it means a nice ride south, which includes trips to Queen Anne and downtown. But it does nothing for trips to the UW, and places north. Going downtown (via a bus or train) and then turning around and heading back north to get to Northgate, Lake City, etc. just doesn’t make sense. Even though the 44 is horribly slow, it isn’t that slow. As long as it can muddle along at 8, maybe 10 MPH, it will beat the train. It just isn’t that far, and the extra transfer (or two) add up. Meanwhile, Snohomish County gets a significantly faster ride to a couple stops in South Lake Union and Queen Anne. Not as much as Ballard gets, clearly, but something.

        The whole point being that Snohomish County will benefit greatly by these improvements well before Ballard does, and extensions like Lynnwood Link benefit them far more than they benefit Ballard. Furthermore, they are the primary beneficiaries, and outnumbered by those that would benefit from a similar project (like a Ballard to UW subway) which so far, hasn’t made it out of committee.

    3. Yes Snohomish County gets it’s first station (actually 2) in 2024, 11 years before Ballard (in 2035).
      The difference, and why that 11 years is irrelevant to this discussion is that Ballard is being built out of ST3, while Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace are being built out of ST2.

      And Ballard Link will still beat Everett Link by a year.

    4. @Apocynum — I get your point. I agree with your point in principle. But here the thing:

      The proposed changes are not only more expensive, they are worse for Ballard. Really, they are a terrible idea, that will make transit worse, not better for the region. (https://seattletransitblog.com/2018/10/17/14th-avenue-is-the-wrong-spot-for-a-ballard-station/). This isn’t like Seattle trying to squeeze in a First Hill station (that would benefit everyone, including folks in Snohomish County). This is an effort to make the system worse, because individuals who don’t care about transit don’t want to deal with it. Basically, they want to put the station in the most remote place possible, treating it like a sewage plant, not a subway station.

      I agree that Somers’ argument is crap, and ignores the fact that Everett benefits greatly with Lynnwood Link (and the spine in general) while Ballard does not. Yet despite my disagreement with him on that point, I agree with his goal. Seattle should build what is cheapest, because it is actually the best option that is being considered right now.

    5. Will all 70-whatever of us just put this turf-war in a bag, ignore the Shoreline Management Act, tie it to an engine block, and drown it? Tell Dave he’s wrong, but do what I said:

      Offer rail-convertible bus-ways (30 years has seen a lot development since we re-did the DSTT) and go from there. All the while keeping the (rusty arsenic) pointed discussion where the enemy can’t see or hear it.

      Has anybody talked with Dave’s Chamber of Commerce? Have a feeling their sentiments about a fast attractive train ride to and from Seattle might be different than what Dave just said. Which is likely very difference what he does, or will do.

      Mark

    6. News flash: Everett is part of the Sound Transit District, as is Seattle – a city.

      Ballard is a neighborhood.

      Furthermore, Paine Field has many large employers, no less than three museums & a factory tour with over 300,000 annual takers, and is in a very strategic spot.

      Ballard has what exactly? A lot more than West Seattle’s well-connected political operatives, senior Sound Transit staff, & career politicians.

      West Seattle’s light rail can wait until Ballard & Everett get theirs.

  2. Maybe ST should start selling naming rights.

    The Ballard Station brought to you by the Port of Seattle
    Expedia Station,
    The Amazon Line
    Lower Queen Anne Station brought to you by the Oak View Group

    etcetera….

    1. Favor. Let’s hold off on the Amazon Line ’til we know the accuracy of the facial recognition software he’s talking about selling to ICE. Read a sci-f story thirty years ago about a robot police car equipped to identify, arrest, try, convict and execute criminals.

      And then put their powdered remains in the glove compartment in a little jar with their names on it. Then officer assigned to the car, which is called a “Law Wagon” starts finding an increasing number of jars, each with name of same wanted criminal.
      Guess who ends up in the last jar, underneath his hat on the seat.

      In this political climate, my worry is the number of mislabeled Jeff Sessionses who will suffer the consequences of being identified as Jeff Bezos. So let’s hold up on the naming rights ’til we know how many innocent police-state collaborators start fleeing South Lake Union on in a doomed effort to get back to Argentina. Or if reports are right, Brazil. Where at least I’ll get a really delicious last meal.

      Marcos

  3. Considerig how much fretting is going on locally over a $50M-ish go/no-go for the CCC, it’s kind of hard to understand the exuberance for spending an additional $700M on top of the $1.9B already budgeted for the West Seattle extension.

    Not that this is always the best metric, rider experience and distance matters, but they both would add about the same number of weekday boardings.

    Really interested to see where they plan to get that funding. If they can find funding, I’d be interested to hear why we should spend that money on aesthetic upgrades instead of extending the line(s) a stop or two.

      1. “Maybe the mayor’s endgame is to have congestion pricing revenues go towards transit projects.”

        If so it’s so secret that nobody knows about it. “Ssh, I’m going to solve your transit problems. I’ll announce a plan in two years.” “Too late, we already voted you out of office because you didn’t announce a plan to solve our transit problems.”

    1. If i were a cynic, and I do resemble that sometimes, I would say that no one is going to figure out where to get any more funding, AND Seattle leadership knows this. It simply costs too much!

      They also know that someone, somewhere is going to have to make the tough call to tell people that they won’t be getting their precious tunnel, and they are setting up Sound Transit to take the fall for that.

      Neither the stakeholders group, nor the electeds have any requirement to stay within budget so they can, and did, say whatever they want to say.

      It’s the ST Board that is going to have to select a preferred alignment that fits the budget. So in the end all of this neighborhood input and participation leading up to that selection is a bit of a sideshow.

      Oh sure, there will have been some useful information come out that the ST board will take into account, but in the end it’s the money that will make the decision for everyone, and it is the ST Board that will have to convey the message that West Seattle will be elevated, and Ballard will be a bridge – likely to 14th unless they can appease the port and put the bridge at 15th. That is what it will come down to.

      okay.. cynicism off. Let’s put that Ballard station at 17th, that s where it needs to be!

    2. Yeah, and cutting out basic amenities like roof canopies (it rains in SnoCo too!) and escalators in SnoCo (and in the eyes of many–not myself–parking garages) to save a coupled hundred million. This might have something to do with the controversy?

    3. Anybody ever think that aesthetic improvements also increase passenger boardings?Word’s always had it that the Metro’s water quality people were planning to challenge the Art Project’s right to steal their customary rights to decorate the round underground things made of concrete.

      We also had to dissipate the effects of that Night Stalker episode where a mad Civil War doctor set up in the Underground and came back every few years to drink people’s blood. Thinking being that since any art worthy of the name offends somebody, maybe the little flashing lights that turned into pennies would do the trick with the doctor.

      Truth is that in the last frame, the doctor turned into Casey Corr, whose desperate campaign to get the Art Project back to Water Quality morphed into Seattle Times’ editorial policy. OK, Dave Somers, do THAT without a light rail Tunnel!

      https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/27633891278/in/dateposted-public/

      “Do it, Dave, and be sure all the trains are too heavy! I was right about the Breda’s but everybody laughed at me! “Promise, Casey, San Francisco, Gothenburg, and Oslo didn’t listen to you either.

      https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/27807796108/in/dateposted-public/

      Well, at least those cars saved MUNI a lot of jackhammer blades when it came time to turn a lot of trolleybus ROW into grooved rail.

      Mark

  4. The FTA recommends a 30 percent contingency at the ST3 stage and ST budgeted only 10 percent. The 2016 Board and senior staff that developed the budget are the ones at fault for putting an underfunded ballot measure.

    The eventual shoe that will drop is that there are other issues with the existing system that will need upgrading or repairing well before 2041. At that point, a new funding measure will have to be put in front of voters.

    The other solution: Scale back the project. Our region has had to scale back rail projects in the past. These have included dropping stations. Other places have single-tracked bridges and scaled back parking. There are elements that can be sacrificed. A future ST Board has options.

    Still, dropping stations — especially at the ends of lines — is the only way to save large amounts of capital money. The more expensive the last station option is, the more likely it will have to be cut. That puts dropping Ballard and West Seattle stations at the top of the eventual cost-savings solution list, especially if they get more expensive to reach.

    1. ST1&2 include budgeting for maintenance, so it won’t be like DC/NY/BART where the trains fall apart because there’s no money for maintenance without a new tax.

      1. It’s not going to be a maintenance problem per se. It’s probably going to be something expensive that creates unanticipated operational problems. The DSTT already had an unforeseen mistake with the track grounding (before ST). Examples elsewhere include the Red-Purple Bypass project in Chicago, the MUNI turnback project in San Francisco and the Downtown Connector in LA. When first opened, few realized that these would be problems.

        There are already several issues looming. The SLU-Downtown segment ridership forecasts are already so high that six-minute trains (a max frequency because of the MLK median) won’t carry enough capacity further north. Public pressure to have direct trains between RV/Seatac and UW/North Seattle given the terrible transfer environments currently planned after 2035 will occur. The 522 BRT connection congestion at Shoreline South is going to quickly be intolerable. The South Renton transit center disconnect from 405 median BRT is going to be intolerable as now proposed. That’s on top of things that could result from a major land use change, a technology shift (driverless trains) or obnoxious crossing delays (SODO? MLK? Overlake area?). A safety fix resulting from a future major accident could also happen. Eastlink isn’t being built for the Issaquah spur that will now be needed. A billion+ dollar fix is likely going to be needed somewhere.

        Given the short-sightedness about rail transferring issues coming with the ST3 lines, there is a strong likelihood that some operational problem will emerge somewhere.

      2. “It’s probably going to be something expensive that creates unanticipated operational problems.”

        Like the UW Station escalators. But those are both expensive and something ST can fit into its current budget. So it does have some available slack when it needs it.

        “There are already several issues looming.”

        I’m most concerned about overcrowding in downtown-UW. Six minutes in Rainier Valley also seems weak when there are already buses every five minutes at Tacoma Dome. SLU I don’t know about Transfers at Bellevue TC are headed in the same direction. (As I know because I’ve spent thirty-five years transferring between Bellevue’s highest-ridership routes (550+B and their predecessors) and other routes like the 240.)

        Maybe after these open people will suddenly acknowledge that there’s a problem after all that must be fixed. But these problems have persisted at UW and Mt Baker Stations since the beginning and still not enough people think it’s a problem to fix them. . (Beyond the Montlake Blvd reroute for Eastside buses, which is a significant step.)

        Overcrowding is the most critical issue because I can’t see just allowing pass-ups as a tenable strategy. ST may have to keep a few express buses from Snohomish County, at locations furthest from Link. Re SLU I don’t know. The proper solution would be extra short runs from Stadium (which Lynnwood Link can do so I’d be surprised if Ballard Link can’t), or finally putting Rainier Valley in a trench, or finally painting Third Avenue red. (And hey, isn’t that CCC supposed to help with this?)

      3. Mike, the problem won’t be overcrowding, but undercrowding. Just like every other city that has built things that are similar, ridership won’t meet the grandiose, unsupported-by-history-or-study expectations. Yet the trains still run for miles and miles. The tracks still need fixing. Eventually, this adds up, and fares don’t raise nearly as much money as you need, because Everett to Seattle doesn’t resemble Tokyo. Al is right, the system is huge — one of the biggest in North America, if built out — which means it will have problems, eventually. That means problems that no one expected. This will cost money, and that will eventually lead to cutbacks.

        But I agree with Mike — nothing will be done to fix the big flaws. Mount Baker station will continue to be awful. 147th Station will continue to be awkward. First Hill Station will continue to be missing (along with Montlake Station, Belltown Station, etc.). This, in turn, not only makes it difficult to not only maintain the things we built, but build the things we need. I think it is quite likely that Tacoma and Everett see 20 minute trains, connection them to the airport and other parts of Everett respectively. But we won’t see a Ballard to UW subway, or a Metro 8 subway for a very long time, if ever.

        BART made the same basic mistake we are making almost fifty years ago, and yet they still haven’t built the basic pieces that a standard, conventional subway would have included. No network covering San Fransisco or Oakland/Berkeley. This, despite being much bigger, wealthier and more densely populated than us. Despite being one the most successful, powerful, wealthy and growing areas in the country, they haven’t improved the system much, in fifty years. Now they struggle with the basics — simply maintaining the one segment every knew was crucial (connecting San Fransisco with Oakland/Berkeley). It is pretty easy to see our future — it is right there — and it doesn’t look great.

      4. “BART made the same basic mistake we are making almost fifty years ago, and yet they still haven’t built the basic pieces that a standard, conventional subway would have included….”

        BINGO! I couldn’t have said it any better myself. We should’ve looked to our neighbors to the south (Bay area) to see what not to do, and looked to our neighbors north of the border (Vancouver) instead.

      5. Link goes to the U-District and the in ST2 the entire eastern half of Seattle, which is the long axis. BART serves to only the southeast corner of San Francisco, basically only downtown, the Mission District, and Balboa Park area. So Link serves two or three times as much of the city. You want to go from Othello to the U-District, Capitol Hill, Roosevelt, or Northgate? Check. Want to get from Geary, the Haight, North Beach, or the Sunset to downtown SF or the Mission District? Sorry, can’t do it.

      6. Initial BART funding in San Francisco also paid for the MUNI Metro subway that served five branches that cover most areas between Golden Gate Park and the Mission. Had San Mateo not voted it down and Marin was abandoned for cost reasons, it would have covered much more of San Francisco. Saying BART didn’t serve most of San Francisco is not historically true.

        One costly mistake that BART made was not putting in tail tracks between West Oakland and Daly City. Another was not building crossover tracks between Montgomery and 24th. Another was not building any spur tracks to go elsewhere in San Francisco. The system was planned with three San Francisco branches rather than four, but the Pleasanton crowd demanded direct service and Fremont didn’t want to give up two train lines. With BART trains spaced less than four minutes apart to allow for four lines, operations are pushed to the limit.

      7. The original BART plan had a branch north to northern San Francisco and Marin. That got axed when Marin County voted not to join the BART district. If it had been built, then BART could claim to cover the east half of the city like Link does.

        I agree that the subsequent construction plan wasn’t that well thought out. It was the 1950s and people had a hard time predicting what they would need in the future, since all the previous expertise had been flushed down the drain or ignored since the streetcars were ripped out. Also, they had dazzling visions of satellite cities that were the future, They sort of knew the population would double but didn’t really see how it would play out, and they had a blind spot for San Francisco’s mobility beyond the most obvious downtown and Mission districts.

        Yes, BART paid for the MUNI subway, but MUNI trains are so much less frequent and slower than BART trains that you’re at a big disadvantage if you live on a MUNI line. Not only are the L and J lines slow on the surface like the Capitol Hill streetcar, but I once took a J train from 30th to go to the Transbay Terminal, but it went the other way in the tunnel and ended up at West Portal going west. I got off and waited for an eastbound train, which took some fifteen minutes, and when I finally got to Montgomery my total travel time was a whopping 45 minutes and I had to run for the Greyhound and only made it because it departed late. Taking BART from the Mission to Oakland or Berkeley is fast and easy-peasy relative to the distance. And MUNI Metro does not go to Geary Boulevard at all.

  5. There are three strikes as I understand it with our Light Rail plans.

    Ballard – between hills and the ship canal, it is painfully expensive to bridge over or tunnel under, and both have serious problems for access.

    West Seattle – same expensive bridge and a variant tunnel demands, plus no paying passengers for most of the middle of the trip.

    Snohomish – The north end of one of what will be the longest systems in the country. Snohomish River to the Nisqualley Delta (OK, not quite).

    And all of this leaves most of Seattle still without decent east west travel, and at the same time potentially exhausting further mass transit funding. I am increasingly doubtful about the entire enterprise. It sounds like others are zeroing in on this too.

    1. We zeroed in on it a while ago :)

      Seriously, though, folks who know a boatload about transit, who can rattle off facts and figures about various transit systems throughout the country (and the globe), guys who ace quizzes about such things, all point out how poorly designed our system is. Fans of it are either ignorant, basically hoping it will do something that no other system has done, or are simply resigned to it, figuring it is better than nothing. It makes all the mistakes of BART, despite the hindsight gathered by that (and other) projects.

      It reminds me of this article: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/26/17903146/mass-transit-public-transit-rail-subway-bus-car, and specifically this quote from that article:


      Walker also says most American customers mistakenly prioritize reach over frequency; they want buses or trains everywhere, on every block, as opposed to a few trains that come all the time. “There is a distinctly American idea to have infrequent trains from the suburb into the city,” he says. “That’s an example where you put a line on map and people say, ‘Oh, [transit] exists,’ and someone who doesn’t understand frequency is going to think an area is being serviced when it is not.” Those who are more familiar with public transit understand that it’s better to have a few lines with frequent trains, rather than many lines that leave once every two hours.

      Or, to put it another way, those who are more familiar with pubic transit understand that building a very long distance subway is silly, and the money instead should be used to build a thorough urban subway with good connections to suburban express buses and commuter rail.

      1. Ross – I remember your post from two years ago, but read it again. Bus lanes, more semi-express buses, and that new bus tunnel under 3rd (?) are looking better all the time.

      2. Ross,

        That’s a pretty disingenuous pull quote – he’s talking about lines that “come every two hours” – i.e. crappy commuter rail systems.

        Link’s an all-day better than 15 minute headway system. Is it the optimal system? No, but it’s going to be successful.

        BART’s biggest problem (besides the original sin of Santa Clara/San Mateo opting out) is suburban land use in the Bay Area; compared with that, Bellevue, Redmond, Lynnwood, etc. are itching to be Tokyo.

      3. Ross,

        That’s a pretty disingenuous pull quote – he’s talking about lines that “come every two hours” – i.e. crappy commuter rail systems.

        Yeah, sure. But the idea is the same. Just look at the quote:

        That’s an example where you put a line on map and people say, ‘Oh, [transit] exists,’

        Now look up above, and you can see the same mentality, even by folks who have commented on this blog for years! Somehow being 3 miles from a subway station counts as having access. In only a few years, “Snohomish County” will have rail. Ballard will have rail. It doesn’t matter if the station is at 20th and Market or 14th and Market — Ballard will have a nice, shiny subway line and that will solve their problem. Absolutely ridiculous, and I know Walker would agree (and yes, I’ve emailed him a few times and he finds many aspects of Link ridiculous). Another example is Ballard to UW rail. It was rejected because “Ballard had rail”. After all, they have it, so other communities (West Seattle) should have it next. It is line on the map mentality. It is really a freeway mentality — folks who don’t understand subway systems compare them to a freeway when there are some huge differences.

        Link’s an all-day better than 15 minute headway system.

        Yeah, sure, but for how long. Don’t get me wrong, I assume that key parts of this system will run every 15 minutes or so in perpetuity. But Lynnwood to Everett? Issaquah to South Kirkland? That has 20 minute at best headway written all over it. Yes, it will probably start out higher, but as with Denver, cuts will happen as folks fail to fill up the trains.

        BART’s biggest problem (besides the original sin of Santa Clara/San Mateo opting out) is suburban land use in the Bay Area; compared with that, Bellevue, Redmond, Lynnwood, etc. are itching to be Tokyo.

        As I’ve said before, I have no problem with ST2. I have no problem with the core of BART. The tunnel under the bay is huge — one of the greatest things to happen to the area. But like BART, we have gone too far, out into the low density suburbs, while ignoring the urban core. Like BART, it is bad for both urban dwellers and suburban folks alike. If you do live in one of those areas well served by BART, but fairly distant locations, and want to go somewhere in San Fransisco, you probably drive. The connecting trips are just not worth it.

        As for land use, don’t throw too many stones. I’m not happy with the way things have gone in the Bay Area, but it isn’t like we don’t have our own sprawl. Much of the region is very low density, lower than most suburbs of the Bay Area. San Fransisco/Daly City/Oakland/Berkeley form a pretty solid, relatively dense city. Seattle proper (which has a similar land mass) also forms a dense enough area to merit a major investment in underground rail. Bellevue and Redmond squeak under the wire as well (just barely). But Snohomish and Pierce County have hardly anything. It really is striking, when you look at the census numbers, how little there is outside the city of Seattle: https://arcg.is/9SSui. We aren’t like Phoenix (which is worth checking out) we have an urban core (just like the Bay Area), it just won’t be well served by Link (just as BART doesn’t serve the Bay Area well).

        Oh, and I know things have changed, but they have simply increased what existed before. Most of the growth has happened right in Seattle, with urban parts of Bellevue and Redmond close behind.

        More to the point, if you look at the numbers, the Bay Area suburbs are simply more dense. Yet that isn’t reflected in the ridership — areas that eclipse places like Lynnwood in terms of destinations and density simply lack big ridership. Almost all the ridership occurs right in that urban core, even when the suburbs have done a good job of increasing density.

        Link’s an all-day better than 15 minute headway system. Is it the optimal system? No, but it’s going to be successful.

        BART’s biggest problem (besides the original sin of Santa Clara/San Mateo opting out) is suburban land use in the Bay Area; compared with that, Bellevue, Redmond, Lynnwood, etc. are itching to be Tokyo.

      4. Enough of this “hinterlands” shit.

        Everett is the 4th largest city in the metro area and 6th largest in the state. That’s not a hinterland.

      5. I sometimes think that comparing an 80-mph BART train to a 55-mph Link train is a core misunderstanding that led to the spine being done as light rail. It’s not the wrong geography for rail; it’s the wrong technology for the geography.

        The ST Board and stakeholders dream that they are building BART when what rail they are actually building is much slower. The speed loss isn’t very noticeable with stations every mile and distances well under 10 miles, but for longer trips and wider station spacing (like from Everett to Downtown Seattle with the Paine Field jog) the speed will seem slow. It’s about a 61 minute trip proposed between Everett and Westlake, which is more time than Route 510 takes today.

        The faster and maybe cheaper technology would have been a DMU or EMU, but forcing transfers is not acceptable to suburban leaders (conveniently ignoring that even Rainier Valley residents will have to transfer to get to UW and North Seattle in the current operations plan). It’s too late to change the plan, but we could have built rail transit much sooner and much cheaper and even a bit further had ST chosen to end light rail at Lynnwood and Federal Way (or KDM), and served the outer areas with a faster technology. EBART runs st 80 mph!

      6. There are light rails that can go faster; ST just chose a combination of specs that favor other factors than speed. Its original reason for choosing light rail was that it’s compatible with street-running. “Surface, elevated, underground: it can do any of it.” ST envisioned a lot more surface segments than we have now, like Mt Baker to SeaTac. That’s what all the light rails before us had been like, and is the cheapest. The biggest problem is that ST is trying to do two different things simultaneously with one technology because it was too cheap to build two networks. So the best it can do is an in-between compromise, like BART. BART provides urban service between downtown, the Mission, Balboa Park, and Daly City, and in-between service to Oakland and Berkeley, and commuter-rail type service to Fremont and Dublin. Link does sort of the same thing but its specs are geared to more effectively serve Rainier Valley and the Spring District than distances as far as Federal Way and Tacoma.

        Link is highly competitive in Lynnwood-Westlake and Everett-Westlake. ST never promised it would be faster than no-traffic buses; it essentially promised more reliability, frequency, and destinations. 28 minutes to Lynnwood and 60 minutes to Everett is the midrange of ST Express (faster than 5pm but slower than Sunday morning) and the same as Sounder. But with it you get 10-minute frequency all day and direct service to Capitol Hill, Northgate, Roosevelt, Rainier Valley, the airport (with a train-to-train transfer), Bellevue, the Spring District, and Redmond, which take a lot longer with a bus transfer.

        The south end is different because the distances are longer. People think Tacoma is equivalent distance as Everett and Federal Way as Lynnwood, but actually Kent is equivalent to Lynnwood, Milton-Puyallup is equilvalent to Everett, and Tacoma is further still. At that point the difference between 55 mph and 65 mph become noticeable. The “Rainier Valley overhead” is 10 minutes on top of that.

        So the original problem is that ST, the state, and the taxpayers thought too small: they tried to build a first-rate network with a second-rate budget. That was all because of the anti-tax rhetoric that tries to reduce taxes to zero, starve the beast, thinks all government is incompetent and corrupt, and sets arbitrary caps without regard to what the mobility needs and infrastructure needs actually are. We should have built a light metro in Seattle, an S-Bahn to Everett and Tacoma, and one or the other to Redmond. But the Powers That Be recoiled at building two rail rights-of-way so they settled on an in-between strategy that would sort of do both.

        Sounder South is limited by BNSF’s high fees and freight traffic (which matters to us in the sense of trade jobs). Its Kent-Auburn routing is a plus because their larger and more transit-riding than Federal Way and Des Moines and they have a full feeder-shed on both sides.Ideally the state would buy the BNSF track, shift freight to the UP track, and give ST a good deal on half-hourly Sounder South service.

        Sounder North is a different matter because it runs next to the water and a cliff, is single-track in parts, can’t be easily widened, and is prone to mudslides that shut down the line and might kill people someday. But most importantly, it doesn’t go anywhere near Lynnwood, which is the center of the urban area’s population. Hardly anybody can walk to it, it’s a steep downhill from the population center, and feeder buses would have to go out-of-direction from the direction of travel. So the only way to effectively get heavy rail to Lynnwood, Alderwood, Ash Way, 128th, and Mountlake Terrace is with a new right of way. Or really recreate the Interurban on the legacy trail, but that’s almost as big a project as a new ROW, and you’d have to bulldoze lots of houses where the trail is discontinuous.

    2. “Snohomish – The north end of one of what will be the longest systems in the country. Snohomish River to the Nisqualley Delta (OK, not quite).”

      Nope – this is not part of the plan. That’s the whole point of “spine segmentation” — splitting that super long line into two of more reasonable length: West Seattle to Everett and Ballard to Tacoma.

    3. Snohomish – an armada of CT commuter buses suggests there is lots of ridership demand. Pretty much the entire ridership of that armada is expected to switch to riding light rail.

      Ballard – Have you been there lately? It’s one of the few neighborhoods in Seattle outside of downtown that looks urban. There is a reason there has been a movement for UW-Ballard light rail, albeit one without a workable engineering plan.

      West Seattle – Getting to the Junction, which won’t be a huge ridership source, is the political price of getting service to Delridge, which doesn’t have the money of the California corridor, but has more riders. I’d be totally cool with having the line turn south on Delridge, but that’s not the plan.

  6. In West Seattle, suggesting that the tunnel is a bad idea is the quickest way to get shouted out of the room.

    1. I’m in the minority as a resident of West Seattle in that I also think it’s a bad Idea in the absence of a cogent plan to fund a tunnel that doesn’t subtract from other link projects. The West Seattle connected politicians and some of the residents seem to think that tunnel funding will somehow turn up like a tooth under a kid’s pillow.

      1. I don’t think you are in a minority among West Seattle residents, and certainly not among future riders. Tunnel vision is coming from homeowners and businesses who see light rail as something on which to minimize negative impact rather than something to maximize positive impact. The riders need to outorganize the NIMBYs for a change.

  7. why does not subarea equity protect Snohomish County taxpayers from paying for Seattle lines? whose house is glass; does not a Link spine with scoliosis (bending to serve Everett Boeing) merit concern?

    1. It does, but Somers is worried about what happens the last few years if cost overruns have overtaken the total ST3 budget. Then ST would have to decide whether to extend the taxes past 2041, defer the last projects, or draw up an ST4 measure for the voters. The end result could be Snohomish, East King, and Pierce paying full taxes throughout but not getting their last projects (Everett 2036, Tacoma 19th Ave 2041, Issaquah 2041), which are a large percent of their total projects. I think ST ordered the projects from most essential to least within subarea equity (with some exceptions like West Seattle’s special priority), so the ones most likely to get chopped are the least essential ones, but naturally those areas are eager for them. Everett’s necessity is in an in-between area between Ballard and Issaquah, so Somers have more of a case than just being a squeaking chicken.

      There are two other factors. One, boardmembers are discussing inter-subarea loans to get priority projects done faster. That could go either way Seattle-to-Shohomish or Snohomish-to-Seattle. Somers has suggested the former, and is trying to nip the latter in the bud.

      Two, subarea equity’s legal restriction is not a spending limit but a disclosure limit, like the EIS. ST merely has to inform each subarea what percent of its taxes benefited the subarea. And it doesn’t matter what happens in the middle but how the accounting ends up in the end. The reason ST refuses to spend subarea money outside the subarea is not because it can’t but because it doesn’t want the political flack from saying it’s doing so. This goes right to, “Snohomans don’t want their taxes going to Seattle, or Seattle getting its projects first”, beyond such clearly-regional things like the downtown tunnel (where ST has already said all subareas must contribute).

      1. I don’t think there is much support for the South Kirkland to Issaquah line outside Issaquah elected officials.

        The ridership numbers are horrible for the amount of money spent. It seems mostly like a way to spend money on the Eastside so sub-area equity can be kept while giving all the other sub-areas their desired projects (especially completion of the ST2 era spine).

        If push comes to shove expect the Issaquah line to be delayed and a lot of “borrowing” from the East sub-area.

      2. The notion of “the spine” was part of ST1. The suburbs would support building outward from Seattle with the intention that getting to Tacoma and Everett would be the priority. ST2 then diverted to Bellevue and Redmond.

        Snohomish County politicians then engaged in historical revisionism by pretending that the detour to Paine Field was part of the original spine. Fine. Detour to Paine Field. But accept that it is Snohomish’s spending decisions on Snohomish projects that are causing Ballard to open before Everett.

        I find common cause with Somers, despite his disingenuousness, in opposing tunnels to West Seattle and under Salmon Bay because I happen to see those tunnels as anti-amenities, when compared to elevated tracks with world-class views. Tunnels are an EYESORE for the riders, and add to the trip time when compared to elevated stations. And I want West Seattle Link to reach southward to White Center, which is less likely to happen if it requires continuing tunneling vs. continuing elevated tracks.

      3. Bellevue/Redmond was always part of the Spine. Link’s primary purpose was to connect Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Bellevue-Redmond; i.e., the largest cities in the region.

        I don’t think Snoho ever claimed that Paine Field was part of the original Spine. I don’t think it was on the early long-range plan maps. It was more of a recent realization on Snoho’s part that it was necessary, like SLU in Seattle which nobody noticed until 2015. It seems to stem from that visit by a German company to the Everett Industrial Area, and them finding it undesirable because it didn’t have a transit option the majority of workers could use.

        Snohomish’s claim is more that “to Everett” didn’t mean literally to Everett Station and no more; that was just a placeholder until further evaluation and could be done. It now claims that the Spine’s proper extent is past Everett Station to downtown Everett and terminating at Everett Community College in north Everett (although not far from downtown, and not across the sloughs to far north Everett and Marysville).

        This is parallel to Pierce’s articulation in 2014, that Tacoma Dome was never the strict terminus of the Spine but that it was a placeholder for further evaluation. Pierce has now done that evaluation and determined that the proper terminus is Tacoma Mall, where it intends to build an urban center. (Recently someone suggested going slightly further to South Tacoma Way and Sounder station. I don’t know whether officialdom has any interest in that.)

      4. Mike, thanks for making the corrections to Brent’s own bit of revisionism (which allows me to keep this retort rather short). The spine idea was developed in the lead-up to the Sound Move package (there was never an ST1) and has been maintained, conceptually, thru ST’s light rail’s successive extension plans. As you’ve stated, the Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond corridor was always part of the original spine proposal and the 1996 long range plan.

        https://m.soundtransit.org/About-Sound-Transit/News-and-events/Reports/Sound-Move/Sound-Move-original-documents

        In regard to the Paine Field “detour”, this idea stems back to at least 2004-2005. It was one of the alignment options considered in the agency’s white papers published in early 2005. (See “Issue Paper N.2: I-5 Corridor Northgate to Everett HCT Assessment” at the link below.)

        Lastly, the disingenuous comment is akin to when folks on blogs make the “concern trolling” allegation. It’s trite and frankly unnecessary.

        https://m.soundtransit.org/About-Sound-Transit/News-and-events/Reports/Issue-papers

      5. Interesting, the Sound Move paper says that “electric light rail” (how quaint) is “to serve the core of the regional system where transit ridership is the highest” (sounds like RossB wrote it), and “a two-way light-rail line can carry the same number of people as 12 freeway lanes” (sounds like Mark Dublin wrote that). And I didn’t see any mention of light rail extensions to Everett and Tacoma, only a RossB-friendly “Northgate to SeaTac” (with north of 45th depending on unidentified additional funding). So when/how did the notion of Link in particular to Everett and Tacoma first appear? Was it an unwitten assumption among the Snohomish and Pierce delegation, or something in side documents but not in the long-range plan until later? I keep hearing that Link was intended primarily to connect Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Bellevuue/Redmond, and that Sounder was just low-hanging fruit that they couldn’t pass up because it would give an “early deliverable” at a “low startup cost”. But then I don’t see Everett and Tacoma extensions as even a long-term goal in Sound Move, at least not in the parts I skimmed through. So is there something inaccurate in that narrative?

      6. P.S. I didn’t follow ST closely until 2008 when I found STB, because I didn’t know that all these open houses and public board meetings existed and I didn’t know anybody who followed those inside things. So my knowledge of ST and Metro in the 1990s and early 2000s is much less, just the ballot measures and service-change proposals.

  8. How many people from King County are going to use these Snohomish stations; practically none. How many people from Snohomish County are going to use the King County stations; practically all. Nuff said

    1. There are a bunch of people that live in Seattle and commute to Boeing, particularly old-timers. As Snohomish grows its employment centers, some of those jobs will be fill by Seattle residents. I90/SR520 already has a robust reverse commute for jobs in the Bellevue-Redmond-Kirkland tech triangle, I don’t see why Snohomish won’t be any different, long term. Cities like Edmonds, Lynnwood, and Everett are not bedroom communities and have no interest in becoming one.

      Link is designed to serve an economy with multiple regional job centers, in contrast to, say, Sounder. Facilitating “reverse” commuting has been a core assumption of ST from the beginning. That’s why we built light rail, not commuter rail.

      1. Oddly enough, that describes me. I live in Ballard and commute to Paine Field, and while it’s tolerable enough by car, it is 35-60 minutes of my day each way depending on traffic and just getting worse. I’d love to take public transit, but for me that’s:

        40 to North Seattle Community College (or 99) (~30 minutes)
        346 or RapidRide E to Aurora Village (~30 minutes)
        Swift to Airport Road Station (~50-55 minutes)
        and then either a 20-minute walk to my building or another bus to take me half a mile up the road and a 15-minute walk into the car-centric no-mans-land surrounding my workplace.

        Needless to say, it’s pretty much a non-starter to spend 4 hours of every workday on the bus. Link would help, but I still generally oppose a Paine Field extension for cost and ride-time reasons between our two cities.

      2. Snohomish County currently has a vast imbalance, with 70% of workers commuting to King County (mostly Seattle and Bellevue/Redmond), and also a large reverse-commute from King County to Everett Boeing and places. Snohomish’s long-term goal is to attract more employers to it so that its residents won’t have to commute to King County. Snohomish is keen on Link both for the short-term need of getting workers to Seattle, but also for the long-term goal of convincing companies to locate in the Everett Industrial Center and the future downtown Lynnwood and Everett. If all that succeeds, more Snohomans will be able to work in their own county, people coming from King County to Boeing or other jobs will have better options, and people will even take Link from Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace to the Everett Industrial Center, and hopefully to Alderwood Mall and Lynnwood shopping and the Future of Flight too. So that’s their vision.

  9. We should nip this crap from politicians in the bud pretty quickly before it gets out of hand… I have a couple of thoughts:

    1) I think West Seattle and Ballard understand that additional things will require third-party funding from the City or the Port.

    2) Let’s not even get started here on STB about how stupid it is to design a transportation system to a budget and/or to having to win support for system expansion and funding at the ballot box. Many of the flaws in our system vs others can be blamed on that.

    3) Under sub-area equity — which the non-Seattle members demanded, we (mostly) spend Seattle tax dollars on Seattle projects. We’re not taking Snohomish County’s funds to spend on our projects, and we didn’t do that over the last 20 years EITHER.

    4) There would be some significant amounts of money for projects left in the other areas for funding their lines if they hadn’t wasted it on building park and ride lots and silly freeway ramps to and from them. It’s certainly not West Seattle or Ballard’s fault that Dave Somers doesn’t have more money available to build things sooner. Why don’t they have design alternatives ready to go?

    1. #2 Lol. Thanks for the good chuckle; I sort of needed that today.

      #3 Nonsense. Here’s just one example. For the period 2009-2016, the North King County subarea actually ran in the red per ST’s own subarea reports. In other words, they used some $90 million more in “uses” than they took in from all “sources”, resulting in a decline in the general fund reserves. In contrast, SnoCo added $335 million to the reserves, South King added $123 million, East King added $193 million, and Pierce County added $120 million, for a net $511 million addition to the reserves over this period. (The system-wide uses also exceeded sources $172 million.)

      This doesn’t even address the arbitrary way that ST does apportionments nor its practice of inter-subarea loans; those are subject matters for another discussion. These are simply the numbers as reported by the agency itself. Putting aside the larger debate about the soundness of and need for the subarea policy, the way ST has executed and reported on it has been a joke frankly.

    2. #1 — Great. We will get third party funds so that we can make things worse. Wonderful idea.

      #2 — That is ridiculous. The reason we have made the mistakes we have made is that we have a leadership board that doesn’t understand the basics of transit. Not a single member is a transit expert, nor are they willing to defer to people who are. When transit experts are hired, the board ignores their recommendations, which means that instead of building something like this, we instead build something ridiculous, like a subway from South Kirkland to Issaquah. From “the spine” to West Seattle rail, the system is full of poorly performing projects, while they ignore what just about every expert would would build.

      #4 — Yes, they are building just as poorly in Snohomish County as we are down here. Link should not go past Lynnwood, which means they should be spending money on dozens of small projects (since Snohomish County really is about dozens of small areas and dozens of small bottlenecks). Improve the express buses to Lynnwood, both on the freeway and the surface. Build the entire Swift network. Do all that, and Snohomish County wouldn’t be worried about any of this, but rather, be a bit upset that Seattle is doing so poorly (why no First Hill station, Seattle?).

      1. Yep, I kind of agree about Link ending at Lynnwood and focus on good bus connections to Lynnwood and improving the local bus network (mainly, better frequency, perhaps even going driverless?). There is lots of underutilized road space in SnoCo that could easily become bus lanes. Also, it would be worth it to put some attention towards Sounder North. Trips from as far as Everett should really be done with commuter rail not light rail. Oh, and finish the Interurban Trail already!

    3. #1 I don’t think the Port will provide doodly squat for West Seattle or Ballard. The port’s function in all this link business is to pipe up and oppose any route that will have a detrimental effect on their business The city? If they propose a tax or a levy which would be out of pocket, I suspect that home owners, many of whom I suspect want a tunnel, will oppose anything that they believe takes more money out of their pockets. After which the city will pass the buck back to ST.

  10. The argument from Snohomish County’s perspective is reasonable. WS needs to nail down a solution to privately fund the tunnel option (the sooner the better) or concede that funds for the tunnel weren’t budgeted and aren’t available. The worst case scenario if WS persists with unrealistic demands for more spending is that light rail service to WS will be indefinitely (if not permanently) obstructed. I’m not against a tunnel, but there are solutions that could make an elevated line work and preserve the character of the Junction – I’ve suggested before locating the station at the intersection of Fauntleroy and Alaska. The major concern with this option seems to be a 5 minute walk, which I think most Junction residents will willingly make to take advantage of the faster commute. This isn’t to say a tunnel is impossible if residents are able and willing to pay up.

    1. The worst case scenario is if 130th Station, Graham Station, and the Ballard line north of SLU get deleted to pay for West Seattle’s tunnel.

      1. Not necessarily the worst case for West Seattle! But I understand your point, Mike. I’m doubtful the rest of the region would allow other stations included in ST3 to be deleted for West Seattle’s benefit (even to preserve the Junction’s historic character!), but I could see “unexpected” cost overruns delaying later phases of the proposed expansion if too much is spent on custom improvements for earlier phases without proper budgeting.

  11. As long as Somers is focusing on things that do not impact the quality of the system, like tunnel vs. elevated in West Seattle, then go right ahead. But if he wants to force through a lower-quality system (14th Ave in Ballard, fewer West Seattle stations, etc.), he should remember that Seattle’s system has already been severely compromised to ensure that light rail reaches SnoCo faster: only one station between downtown and the Montlake Cut, only two stations in the entire UW-UDistrict area, and suburban stop spacing throughout North Seattle.

    I say this as someone from Pierce County, without a dog in the Seattle vs. SnoCo fight, other than wanting a quality system when I come up here to Seattle, which people from SnoCo are a lot more likely to do than we are.

    1. “…he should remember that Seattle’s system has already been severely compromised to ensure that light rail reaches SnoCo faster:…”

      Huh? Care to elaborate on that? There’s no doubt that First Hill and North Capitol Hill got shortchanged in the way Sound Move played out, but SnoCo was always at the tail end of the second phase, ST2. Of course, we now know that all northward and eastward expansions of Link will be delivered later than originally planned.

      1. There should have been a First Hill station. There should have been additional stations in the greater Capital Hill area. There should have been a Montlake Station. There should have been an actual UW Station. There should have been a 55th St Station. There should have been at least one more station between Roosevelt and Northgate, possibly around Lake City Way. 130th St Station should have been included from the start. All the stations north of U District should have been farther from the freeway for a larger walkshed. But all of this would have cost more money, which would have delayed the pace of construction, which would have slowed the arrival of the 55mph max-speed train to Snohomish County.

      2. “But all of this would have cost more money, …”

        And there’s the rub. It all came down to the ask with ST2, and how that would play in the political environment at the time. One needs to keep that in mind, especially since the transit measure the previous year (which included two more SnoCo stations and a northern terminus at Ash Way as well) was unsucessful and Sound Move was already years behind schedule and way over budget. Pointing the finger solely at SnoCo for the agency’s poor choices for extending northward seems rather unfair.

        For the record, I don’t take any issue with your list of “should’ve ‘s”. The spine concept was always a terrible idea.

      3. Perhaps I should have been more precise. It would have cost more money per mile. Meaning that, given the budget constraints in ST2, the line could have been built properly; it just wouldn’t have reached Lynnwood then. Hence my claim that accelerating service to SnoCo was a trade-off with a proper quality in Seattle.

        The obvious response is that it would not have been politically feasible to run a ballot measure with eleven stations from First Hill to Northgate and no stations in SnoCo. That is true, but it’s partly the point: Seattle (and those of us in the rest of the region who want a quality system) took a hit because it was believed (probably correctly) that SnoCo voters wouldn’t accept a properly designed system. On the other hand, SnoCo voters might have accepted a proper system in Seattle if it were paired with better North Sounder (in an ideal world, a new right-of-way; in a realistic world, making the landslide-prevention improvements that were done more recently), or bus lanes on the freeway so express buses could get downtown and to the U District faster than the real-world Link system will take run from any given station in SnoCo to the destination.

      4. Snoho could have asked for that in the 1990s and demanded it, but it didn’t. It wanted to reactivate the legacy tracks and prepare for a future Link line.

      5. At least it will have trains able to go 55 mph through tunnels rather than BRT buses limited to 10 mph in the tunnels.

  12. I predicted we would hear the axes start to cut down the trees.

    This is what you get when you allow suburban political entities to have such a large influence on transit infrastructure: they want it going to them rather than where it can be most effective. More Seattle lines and stations would have much higher ridership, higher transit mode share, lower carbon emissions, and more people getting rid of their cars than equivalent stations in Snohomish. Everybody agrees Link must reach Lynnwood, and that was already in ST2. RossB has outlined a perfectly feasible bus-feeder alternative to Everett Link, and it will actually be in place between 2024 and 2036. If Snohomans are concerned about bus congestion in that network, they should pressure WSDOT to put HOV lanes there.

    When that German company visited the Everett Industrial Center and was aghast that it didn’t have a high-capacity transit plan like all German industrial centers have to have, I don’t think they were specifically requiring a subway/S-Bahn station at the site. Why doesn’t Snohomish have peak express buses every five minutes from Lynnwood Transit Center to the Everett Industrial Center job sites like Tacoma Dome has to downtown Seattle? And it should stop at a Swift Blue station too. Why isn’t Boeing paying for this? A route that did that and continued east to Mill Creek would serve a significant chunk of Snohomish County that now has just patchy ad hoc service in a few places.

    The ultimate problem is that the state doesn’t value transit enough to fund a comprehensive level of transit like German cities have, New York and Toronto have, almost all other industrialized countries have, and Chicago, Vancouver, and LA sort of have partly. So we’re arguing how to divide an inadequate pie, and that’s pitting Ballard against Everett against West Seattle. We should have approved the Bogue subway in 1920; we should have approved Forward Thrust in 1968 (the World’s Fair was largely about transit!); we should have done ST1&2 simultaneously in 1996. Then Lynnwood Link or faster heavy rail would be open now, and Everett residents would be heaving a sigh of relief at having 80% of their commute problem solved. (Or rather, they wouldn’t know how good they have it compared to what might have been.) Why the state? Because the state is autonomous, it can set taxes at any level it sees fit, and it can set up an infrastructure bank to finance capital projects. ST’s limitations and political structure prevent it from doing that or offering/enforcing a comprehensive transit-where-it’s-most-effective approach.

    And if you look at the Ballard and West Seattle advisory groups and the Seattle elected advisory group, they’re doing the same thing as Snohomish. Of course they want tunnels! Wouldn’t everybody? If you ask somebody whether they want a scoop of ice cream or a triple-scoop sundae, of course they’ll say the triple-scoop sundae. One hopes they would be more civic-minded than that and think about all the region’s residents, but the default assumption is that they’ll follow their personal self-interests. It’s the job of the central authority (the Sound Transit Board) to weigh this advice against all other factors regarding effective transit in the region.

    1. “or faster heavy rail”

      That is the key. Link to Tacoma is not going to fix our problems here in Pierce County. It will probably be faster than what the buses are by then, but it will be slower than we have now (just more reliable). We need Sounder improvements. What Troy has outlined on Page 2 would be great, but there’s a lot of potential for improvement that falls short of that.

      Similarly, SnoCo should have tried to get better heavy rail rather than weakening the urban system (light rail is an urban technology) to get their commuters downtown faster.

    2. Yes, the state should be taking the reins here. If we divided transportation dollars by population, considering how many WSDOT highways have been decommissioned in recent years (portions of 908, 181, 901, 99, 514, 513), despite a population and economy that are booming in urban western Washington, I have to ask, where is our fair share? WSDOT should either be picking up local roads to maintain, given the amount of money we hand them, or should be decommissioning rural highways to keep a balance. Alternatively, instead of focusing on roads, they could be subsidizing Sounder, Link, and ST bus routes as a way of providing urban parts of the state with a sort of “subarea equity.” Here’s a roundup of populations in Washington (2010):
      State: 8.19 M
      King Co: 1.93 M (24%)
      Pierce Co: 0.79 M (10%)
      Snohomish Co: 0.71 M (9%)
      Spokane Co: 0.47 M (6%)
      Clark Co: 0.42 M (5%)
      Thurston Co: 0.25 M (3%)

      I doubt that these counties are getting a fair proportion in WSDOT spending, when accounting for either population, or revenue, especially when you consider the amount of bridges, pavement repairs, guardrail repairs, highway patrol hours, snow plowing, or asphalt overlays done in the rural backcountry of the state. Let’s make WSDOT sub-equity the transportation dollars and contribute King, Pierce, & Snohomish’s portion to ST.

      I get so sick of subsidizing rural America, then listening to them whine about how high their taxes are, after my region subsidizes their roads and schools.

      1. Your numbers are off. I’m finding 6.72 milllion state population in 2010 and 7.53 million state population in 2018. For King County, 1.93 million in 2010, 2.19 million in 2018. Interestingly the percentage of the state population which is in King County has *risen*.

        The 2020 census should shift power away from the rural freeloaders and moochers to the city populations.

    3. Yes, Tacoma and Pierce should have. And yes, the state should recognize that regional transit in its largest tax-generating metropolis is a statewide interest. For the same reason it funds Highway 99 and just built a new tunnel for it.

    4. A) Frankly the light rail to Paine Field should have been an automated spur just copy-pasting SkyTrain tech.

      B) There is great need & demand for light rail to Everett to serve Everett, North Snohomish County, Camano Island and Skagit County.

      1. No, Everett Station is a transit hub for Everett, North Snohomish County, Camano Island and Skagit County so light rail to Everett serves all of those places too where more & more are being pushed out due to bad land use policies. Also sorry for late response, busy weekend including photography classes!

    5. “There is great need & demand for light rail to Everett to serve Everett, North Snohomish County, Camano Island and Skagit County.”

      Psst, Joe, the last three of those are outside the ST District and not paying ST’s taxes.

  13. Mother: Honey, your father and I promised you a new car as a High School graduation present, but we can’t afford a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. We were thinking more along the lines of a Toyota Corolla. Son: Would you and dad both consider getting second jobs so you can afford what I want?

    I’m sorry, but I agree with the parents on this one. The child is going to have to pick a car his parents can afford. It’s unreasonable to expect them to come up with more money so he can have his dream car.

    1. No worries, why pay for his own transpo, when his cousins from east of the mountains can kick in some extra gas taxes to pay for it. Or maybe his aunt can chip in and drink some extra sugary soda’s to cover it.

    2. But they are the parents. The money is coming from themselves. The budget is arbitrary; it was just an arbitrary decision. “I’ll give myself $300 a month to spend on groceries.” They could simply increase the tax and build the rest of it. Of course in the real world there are state-imposed tax limits and poor people who already can’t make ends meet, but not in this father-son analogy.

    3. Son: I have a free transit pass, and the best transit system in the Country outside of New York. Can’t I get into school at UW as my graduation present?

      Pa: Smart boy! He’ll grow up learning to speak five languages.

  14. >> “If they want a tunnel, they’ve got to figure out how to pay for it,” Somers says. “I’ve said this before: we could easily spend the entire $54 billion Sound Transit 3 package going to West Seattle and Ballard. But we’re not going to let that happen, because we’ve got a commitment to finish the darn system. I’m not against a tunnel, but the rest of us are not going to sacrifice our portions of the system for a tunnel.”

    That sounds exactly like what Seattle said when Bellevue insisted on having a tunnel through one of the region’s busiest areas (downtown Bellevue). Oh, and Bellevue found the money for their “extravagance”.

      1. And let’s not forget, Bellevue’s tunnel enters the hill on 112th ave, and exits the hill a half mile up the road on 112th ave, with no stop in-between.

    1. North King contributed part of it by agreeing to pay for Judkins Park Station. Originally East King was going to pay for everything east of Intl Dist, because it wasn’t a North King priority and North King wouldn’t have built it if the Eastside didn’t want a line to Seattle.

    2. “That sounds exactly like what Seattle said when Bellevue insisted on having a tunnel through one of the region’s busiest areas (downtown Bellevue).”

      Seattle didn’t say that. Sound Transit did. Note the difference.

  15. Snohomish officials: Seattle needs to rein in potential light rail spending.

    Ballard transit riders: The best plan is the cheapest.

    Seattle leaders and much of the transit community: Missing the importance of these two points.

    Look, I get why people get offended when folks in Snohomish County seem to be telling folks in Seattle that they can’t spend a little extra to get a different system. But as been mentioned before, the more expensive project is worse. Whether it involves a long trek to 14th, or a long walk deep into a tunnel (or both), it is worse than what everyone approved.

    In West Seattle, at best it is a wash, but not if they then cut corners, and remove a station. Then it is clearly worse for transit riders.

  16. Cheapest ballard option being a drawbrdige to 15th? I might take that over a station at 14th.

    Al S. brought up the Renton Transit Center disconnect from I-405. I agree that is a hopeless situation as it is. The whole corridor HWY 167 through to Bellevue on I-405 is really a mess.

    Maybe the HOT lanes will help some if they run BRT along 167 to Bellevue – interlining with the ST3 BRT line, but the lack of a Renton in-line highway station is a severe handicap.

    My only thought is that maybe they could move the transit center to the old Sam’s Club and run a pedestrian tunnel to the center of the highway where they could carve out a bus stop. I don’t know if where the new HOT lane bridge ends would allow that though. Probably not.

    Or maybe farther north up near the landing they could find some room. Just east of the landing there is a little bit of industrial land next to the railroad tracks, and the Howser way bypass that could maybe be used for a transit center. There isn’t much room there though for a parking.

    It really is a mess.

    1. I expect that if you were a fly on the wall at City discussions that led to the Electeds not forwarding the Representative alignment, you would have heard serious concern about building a Link bridge directly east of the auto bridge.

      The City needs to replace or at a minimum clone the highway bridge within the foreseeable future and would prefer the east side for itself.

      This is not a problem to be poo-poohed by transit fanatics.

      1. It is however an overblown concern of car-centric people who are still in denial that everyone being able to drive their personal car everywhere they want is a sustainable lifestyle. Kneecapping Ballard Link by keeping it from actually being in Ballard is only going to hurt the city and region in the long run.

      2. Ness, that’s a fine argument for a tunnel and station at 15th and Market. However, the City probably can’t stump up the extra $500 million that ST estimates would be required, so high bridge to 14th it will very likely be.

        It might even be mid-level-opening-bridge to 14th if Dave Somers gets his way. And he might.

        However, there’s absolutely nothing that says that a line crossing the Ship Canal at 14th NW can’t turn at 52nd and run across 15th on low-level elevated with a bus-intercept station mostly east of but extending across 15th, then turn up Tallman to a terminal just south of Market. That three blocks of elevated structure can’t cost more than $50 million and the but intercept station would be roughly the cost it would be at 14th or 15th. The second station would be additional cost, but it would give two Ballard stations. They’re closer than usual for ST stations, but they are more than Ross’s mega-super-unbelievably-long Ballard east-west blocks apart. It puts “downtown Ballard” station right in the heart of were everybody want to go while separating the bus-intercept traffic from the heart of downtown Ballard.

        It’s probable that a mid-level bridge at the narrower 14th crossing and two elevated stations could be done for the same cost as the “Representative Alignment” without endangering the future option to replace the Ballard Bridge. To do so would require building the replacement alongside the existing bridge. The City simply can’t take such an important arterial out of service for two or three years.

        To preserve the ability to extend the system to the north, the turn at 14th and 52nd should be stacked with little stubs sticking out to the north for a possible extension. And yes, Ross, it’s no big deal to run elevated up to 65th and then transition to 15th on a structure. If the station is in the block between 14th and 15th in front of BHS the slow curves leading into it aren’t an operating problem. They could be a sound issue, yes, but there are technologies to contain the sound.

    2. I like your idea of Richard’s It is reminiscent of the idea to stack the west Seattle line at Delridge In order to extend the line south from there.

      But can ST think outside the box enough to consider this?

      What is on 52nd though?

  17. The truth nobody wants to acknowledge is that one way or another, ST is going to underde
    Liver to almost all and be overbudget doing it. What a joke. This should be entertaining actually

    1. Do you just want to gloat over ST or do you actually care about people’s ability to get around without traffic congestion, a car, or the infrequency and unreliability of bus service. How do you get around? It must be in a car because if you rode ST or Metro you’d be concerned about whether your options were going to get better or stagnate, and Schadenfreude would not be your #1 and only value.

  18. Ballard and West Seattle are stub end stations. When trains arrive and depart from them there will typically be another waiting in the platform.

    Build the last half mile or so of each line as a single track line that can be relatively easily expanded to a second track. Until the time comes to extend those lines, there will never be a need for the trains to pass in that area. Having them do so would throw off the headways on the rest of the line.

    1. I was thinking the same thing, the other day (and meant to ask someone like you, who knows more about the engineering). It sure looks to me like all the plans seem to have the rail extending beyond the station. That seems unnecessary — just build it as you suggest.

      1. I’m taking about between the end Station and the end Station and the rest of the line.

        You can’t schedule trains to pass there because at least 50%of the time they will get into each other’s way because they will need to change to the platform on the opposite track.

        The only time you will ever be able to take advantage of there being a double track line is if one train is quite far off schedule for some reason AND the outbound side of the platform happens to be the vacant side.

      2. That only saves money if you are at grade. If you’re elevated or in a tunnel, you still bear the cost of the full structure to accommodate double track.

    2. That would cripple the possible headways at peak hours. The Red Line in Portland with its two single-track sections is only possible because the Blue and Green Lines can run as many trains between them west of Gateway as will fit across the Steel Bridge. The east end of the Red Line continues its every-15-minutes “base” Gateway for which its trackway was designed.

      The north end of the Green Line in Seattle won’t have that luxury. If a pocket track were built west of Expedia Smith Cove to allow turnback trains it might work. But you’re essentially advocating building only a single tube under the Ship Canal. Unless the terminal station were built with the necessary bellmouth for a second tube, this would be “it” forever.

      There’s no defensible “reason” to do a single-track section on a bridge. You’d build it two tracks wide “just in case”, so not adding one of the tracks would be chump change in savings.

    3. Sacramento RT runs as a single track across the American River northeast of Downtown. It works there — but there is one train in each direction every 7.5 minutes (15 minute scheduling). It might work at 10 minute or even 8 minute schedules, but at 6 minutes it seems operationally problematic.

      Also, tunnel crossings probably need two tunnels for safety/evacuation reasons. Single track options are probably only viable for bridge crossings.

  19. “after my region subsidizes their roads and schools”.

    Cutting off the nose to spite your face is not a good solution.

    State highways such as 90 and 5 are major transport providers for goods that end up in King county (the goods feeding into these highways are from the states rural road system) No other county takes more advantage of this rural network than King.

    520’s redo cost alone will exceed combined rural road costs for decades and decades to come.

    The state ferry system by far has the highest operations cost per transpo mile; it is a seriously subsidized system so people can enjoy an island life style.

    Because of low usage, rural feeder roads are some of the least expensive roads to maintain. In many cases dirt roads are common.

    The majority of rural folk that work orchards, damns, wheat farms and etc do not have significant salaries and are more dependent on vehicle miles and heating energy than those in King county; not a lot of room for higher taxes. An income tax is the only way to hit the major benefactors.

    1. Was intended for “Engineer says”. I keep losing internet connection; isn’t the greatest in parts of the Caribbean.

  20. Somers’ getting all parochial highlights yet another reason why ST needs its own board. What the hell does he care about maximizing ridership and delivering quality subway alignments to urban centers that merit investment? He cares about his day job first and foremost – SnoCo Exec. You know who serves on the boards at MTA and WMATA? I encourage you to check out their board compositions. Google them. EVERYTHING ST does is second rate and I’m sick of it.

  21. In his machine-gun arguments with all and sundry, Ross conveniently ignores that in-City Seattle riders would have nothing were it not for voters and elected officials in the four other sub-areas. The legislature would have never given the “Socialists” in Seattle the means to tax themselves for anything more substantial than an amusement park ride.

    There are in point of fact many more buses between Snohomish County and downtown Seattle arriving during the 7:00 to 8:00 AM hour — 87 — than there are from Ballard — depending what you include about 40.

    So the hated “Spine” is actually a considerably better project than the Green Line to Ballard. Everyone in the Central Puget Sound Region will benefit from the first four stops. The last two? Not so much.

    So Engineer is partly right when he says that Ballard-Downtown (and even more so West Seattle-Downtown or Ballard-UW) should be the responsibility of Metro. But how would such a division of responsibilities be operated? Trackage rights?

    Someone needs to take a Humility and Gratitude pill, and keep taking them regularly.

    1. I actually think it would be a great idea for Metro or Seattle to pay extra taxes for UW-Ballard and Metro 8 subway. I live in Seattle and would gladly pay.

      1. I agree with that, but again, the legislature seems unwilling to untether Seattle.

        And when the City tried to use the one “special” tax available to it, the mayor and Council knuckled under to the “Richest Man In The Universe”

      2. It seems to me if Microsoft is willing to pitch in big bucks for HSR to Vancouver for business connectivity then they would be willing to pitch in big bucks for a connection from Redmond to UW and onto Ballard. The potential for significant stops at a never ending expansion of U-Village, Childrens, the Zoo, the terminus of a new Kirkland-Issaquah line and etc, it all seems too tempting.

        Furthermore, with Gates and the late Paul Allen pumping in 100’s of millions into the UW and with the UWs further expansion onto Montlake, a direct Redmond connection seems like a no brainer.

      3. The problem is the cost. An underground line in the 45th or central Seattle corridor would cost a billion dollars or more. The only large unused tax authority we have is the monorail authority, and its estimated to raise only $1 billion. We can vote to raise property taxes but we’re close to the constitutional limit, and the city wants to reserve the remaining capacity for emergencies and housing/education. Any other tax capacity would require legislative permission, and the legislators are interested in capping the total taxes and in keeping them relatively even across cities and counties. So they respond to any request for major transit capital projects with, “Those tax-and-spend liberals, gotta keep them down and be faithful to taxpayers wallets, because that is our mandate.” There are occasionally small exceptions, such as the two-year recession protection for Metro, and the slight extra allowed to CT and IT (Thurston County), and the small annual transit grants to mostly rural and exurban bus routes, but overall it’s little pieces at a time with many rejections.

        Sound Transit is the one exception where the legislature allows multibillion dollar capital measures, and that’s why every city tries to get its wishlist into an ST measure. In Seattle that means the Ballard and West Seattle lines, U-District and Capitol Hill Stations, the Rainier Valley routing, etc.

      4. “The only large unused tax authority we have is the monorail authority, and its estimated to raise only $1 billion”

        And it has a restriction, “fixed-guideway transit except light rail”. It’s unclear how enforceable that restriction is, and it doesn’t define “light rail”, but at the time it was understood as Link technology. So tapping it for a Link line would potentially require a court battle or getting the legislature to strike that provision. But if the legislature looks at it, it may decide to repeal the authority completely beacuse “Seattle hasn’t used it for its intended purpose for two decades already, so it clearly doesn’t need it, and my reelection depends on standing up to Seattle tax appeals.”

  22. I have to agree that we should be reticent about talking about tunnels.

    1. There is no funding source. There isn’t likely to be a funding source. This will likely cause a lot of political drama and infighting with no real potential for gain.

    2. It increases the risks and timeline for the project. In the off chance that it actually gets funded, this becomes much more complicated engineering effort that will take years longer, and has the potential for cost overruns.

    Is the tunnel worth it if it pushes Ballard back to 2040? It will be at least that bad. It takes a very long time to build tunnels vs doing elevated. Northgate isn’t opening until 2021, and the drilling is already finished…

    3. It seems the most of the tunnel alignments being studied are worse than the elevated alignments. This is especially true of the Ballard alignment, where the proposed tunnel station is outside of what you might call “downtown Ballard.”

    A tunnel has the POTENTIAL to be better than an elevated line, but it’s more likely we will get something like the station at husky stadium.

  23. Snohomish County is mostly rural. When people from Snohomish County visit Seattle by train… and want to go to Ballard…. how are they gonna do it if Ballard doesn’t have service?

    Seriously, they need to be reminded that serving the dense commercial urban areas needs to come first.

    1. The part of Snohomish County in the ST District is definitely not rural. It’s more like South King County.

  24. Officials like Dave Somers need to do something more than just bellyaching to help Snohomish County residents today.

    First, complete the north side of the direct access ramps at 164th, which would eliminate the need for buses to weave across all lanes of general purpose traffic going to and from.
    Second: direct ST Express planners to have the 513 serve the 112th Park & Ride, so that folks in southwest Everett get a bus connection to Eastside service, i.e. the 532, there. They have no connection there today, they have to take a bus 30 minutes in the opposite direction (north) in order to make this connection.
    Third, split the Everett Link segment into at least two segments, the first being Lynnwood to Mariner Park & Ride: 3 stations, about 7 miles, not too unlike Northgate Link except that there are no tunnels involved! The shorter segment could open by 2028 and would connect to Swift Green BRT, which even Boeing folks could figure out how to transfer to and from (since that’s the extra $1 billion/5 years of construction reason for the dogleg to Boeing on light rail).

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