Tunnels, deep stations for West Seattle-Ballard line could add $2B

The Level 3 end-to-end alternatives. Click to enlarge. Credit: Sound Transit

At a Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting last night, Sound Transit released its first cost estimates and evaluations for the three proposed Level 3 alignments of the West Seattle-Ballard Link extension. Agency staff presented cost estimates and “mix and match” opportunities, both of which advisory group members and elected officials requested in earlier meetings.

Sound Transit project lead Cathal Ridge took pains to emphasize the cost estimates are very preliminary.

“This is a very high level evaluation that I’m giving to you,” Ridge told the stakeholder group. “I’m not trying to capture everything that’s in the analysis, I’m just trying to give you some high points to think about.”

Below, all the figures amount to estimates of the cost that an additional funding source would have to account for in addition to existing ST3 funds. Individual items add up to the total cost of the end-to-end alignments.

Continue reading “Tunnels, deep stations for West Seattle-Ballard line could add $2B”

Future Link riders are mostly in Seattle

Ridership on Link in Seattle and the Eastside in 2040 (image original: Sound Transit)

Where will riders use the ST3 Link system in 2040? Longtime readers will be familiar with project ridership estimates, but most riders on Link are not going to the ends of the line. Along any line, ridership can be much higher on some segments than others. The suburban lines have weak ridership at the tails. Even the Seattle ST3 extensions have lower ridership outside of downtown than is widely understood.

The busiest part of the system is, of course, downtown Seattle with about 200,000 daily riders expected across both tunnels. Near downtown, the largest number of riders will traverse the North Line (about 108,000 daily riders near Northgate), the South Line (72,000 riders near Tukwila), and the east (65,000 riders crossing Lake Washington).*

Ridership to downtown Seattle from the ends of the Ballard and West Seattle extensions are smaller. West Seattle Link will carry 32,000 over the West Seattle bridge. Ballard Link has 34,000 riders on the segment west of Seattle Center. Taken together, this is scarcely more than the East Link ridership across Lake Washington.

Continue reading “Future Link riders are mostly in Seattle”

Free Transit: What’s it Worth?

Lining up to pay Credit: Lizz Giordano

Over the holidays, policy analyst David Gordon made an argument for assessing a county-wide payroll tax to make transit free.  

I don’t know enough about tax revenue to critique Mr. Gordon’s math, but the idea of replacing the regressive transit sales tax with a progressive payroll tax is certainly appealing.

Free transit proposals have been bubbling up in lots of places recently. CM Mosqueda called for it a while back. The Seattle Democratic Socialists called it a “basic need” in an blurb for an upcoming candidate night. We’ve discussed it on multiple podcasts, but haven’t written much on the blog. So, should transit be free?

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Metro Report Highlights South King, SLU Needs

Photo by Bruce Englehardt.

For the last seven years, Metro’s service-change planning has been driven by the agency’s Service Guidelines, adopted by the County Council to professionalize a planning process that had been increasingly driven by political pressure on individual Council members. The Service Guidelines process has been enormously helpful to the agency over time, allowing it to prioritize hours in a way that benefits the highest number of riders (with a special emphasis on riders from disadvantaged communities written in) and enables continued ridership growth.

Part of the Service Guidelines process is an annual report on system performance, now called the System Evaluation. The report highlights areas where investment is needed under the Service Guidelines in three priority areas: 1) overcrowding, 2) schedule reliability, and 3) service growth. It also contains a treasure trove of route-level reliability and ridership data.

Metro recently released to the public the 2018 System Evaluation, which is based on data collected after the fall 2017 service change. The report identifies various needs scattered throughout Metro’s system, but two particular areas of focus jump off its pages. The first is that endlessly congested traffic conditions in South Lake Union continue to present major reliability challenges for north-south transit in that area, even after continuous investment of large numbers of hours in SLU service over the last four years. The second is that most of the highest-priority needs for overall network growth, rather than spot fixes, are in South King County outside of Seattle.


The SLU needs are not a surprise to anyone who ever travels through the area. Every north-south route through SLU except route 70 appears on the list of routes needing reliability improvement. Routes 62 and 40, the two highest-ridership core services connecting the heart of SLU with North Seattle, need the highest investment of all routes on the list. Unfortunately, “investment” that increases running time and recovery time is of only limited use to stuck passengers. The continuing reliability challenges in this area underscore the need for much more comprehensive transit priority, especially longer bus lanes with fewer gaps at problematic intersections such as those at Mercer and Denny.

South King County

The more fundamental challenge that comes out of this year’s System Evaluation is the need for major network investment in South King County, both in the all-day network and commuter service. Fully half of the routes requiring reliability improvement are South King County routes, and the report specifically calls out declining reliability of I-5 South commuter service. In the network growth category, six of the top ten priorities for growth are South King County routes.

Reviewing past System Evaluations reveals that underservice in South King County is not a new phenomenon. But it has been thrown into sharp relief with the improvements to the Seattle network funded through 2014’s Proposition 1. The Eastside has had relatively generous service for years in comparison to ridership, thanks to the politically driven “40/40/20” (Eastside/South/Seattle) service growth formula that ruled Metro during the 1990s and 2000s. More recently, Proposition 1 corrected a significant amount of historical underinvestment in Seattle service. Now, needs in South King County increasingly stand out. Under the Service Guidelines’ equity-driven approach, the higher concentration of lower-income and minority residents in many South King County communities only reinforces the need for further investment in the south end.

The King County Council as a whole should be prepared to listen to what the System Evaluation is saying, and prioritize the investments in South King County that it recommends. In major South King County destinations, ridership exists to support a frequent network comparable to the one Proposition 1 has helped Metro build in Seattle. Building that network needs to be Metro’s and the Council’s first service development priority in the near future.

News Roundup: Black Women Do Bike

Bike lanes will be replaced 1-for-1 in the new tunnel. (Bruce Englehardt)
  • Gothamist schooled New Jersey car commuter Whoopie Goldberg on bike lanes, safety, and entitlement. She later walked back her series of rants against NYC bike lanes, sort of.
  • Phyllis Porter, advocate for safe streets and building more family-sized affordable housing, and founder of the local chapter of Black Girls Do Bike, is jumping into the race for Bruce Harrell’s open seat.
  • Cutting 3 minutes from First Hill Streetcar trips costs no more than $75,000, but — guess what — “local business owners and property owners pushed back.” It would be great to know which businesses on Capitol Hill don’t like fast transit. But CHS reports the plan is not yet dead.
  • Mountlake Terrace Station open house report.
  • ECB is not impressed that Alex Pedersen, a candidate for Rob Johnson’s open seat, has deleted his social media posts opposing ST3, bike lanes, and HALA.
  • West Seattle Blog covers the daily Highway 99 closure multi-agency media conferences consistently. The tunnel opening is still on track for February 4, but the northbound exit into downtown on Dearborn will open at least a week later. Laura Newborn of WSDOT warns drivers not to return to their pre-shutdown routine:

If 90,000 drivers decide to get back in their cars, there’s no question that things will get worse quickly – don’t do it!

This is an open thread.

Rogoff scolds Kent about OMF zoning

Is it gentrification if they’re putting in a rail yard?
Credit: Dick’s

At yesterday’s Board meeting, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff confronted a growing backlash against a potential operations and maintenance facility (OMF) site in Kent.

Rogoff detailed Sound Transit’s efforts to prevent a backlash, and also presented questionable legal analysis about the threat of a lawsuit against Sound Transit over the issue.

As Bruce wrote yesterday, the Kent City Council rezoned one of the candidate sites, which presently holds a Dick’s and Lowe’s, in an attempt to forestall further consideration of the site for OMF. Kent councilmembers have also expressed concerns that some sites could limit the TOD potential of future Link stations.

Rogoff said that the agency is far from a decision on a final site, and hasn’t ruled out any of the contenders.

Continue reading “Rogoff scolds Kent about OMF zoning”

Carpocalypse Day 8: “Avoid driving alone”

Carpocalypse hero Darryl Butler. Credit: Jeff Switzer/Metro

In a Carpocalypse update yesterday, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other officials said again that the traffic crunch has gone as well as they could have hoped. They again encouraged commuters to continue using transit and avoid driving during the viaduct closure, and warned drivers to stay off the road.

“While we’ve survived the first week and a half, the marathon is not over,” said Metro’s Terry White. “Marathons are quite long and have their ups and downs. It’s a little too early for us to celebrate and say we have won.”

White again declined to say definitively whether Metro’s systemwide ridership has gone up. However, there are a few indications that it has. All of the below figures were current through yesterday morning

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Link OMF Decision Could Threaten Future TOD at Kent-Des Moines Station

Aerial view of Highline College (Joe Mabel/Flickr – CC-BY-SA)

The Link light rail extension to Federal Way is up next for federal funding approval, but Sound Transit is looking beyond for its future operational needs once the Tacoma Dome extension is completed in 2030. Among the priorities is identifying sites for an operations and maintenance facility (OMF), which is the subject of an ongoing search and environmental review.

Sound Transit is considering six general sites between Highline College and southern Federal Way for the OMF, which would require a 30-acre plot of generally flat land that is adjacent to the proposed route of the Federal Way Extension. One of the options, at the site of the recently-opened Dick’s Drive-In and a Lowe’s home improvement store, is causing a ruckus that has mobilized city officials in Kent.

Continue reading “Link OMF Decision Could Threaten Future TOD at Kent-Des Moines Station”

Voters Both Ahead of and Behind Public Officials

Red bus lane in front of UW Medical Center
Popular! (Oran Viriyincy/Flickr)

The Seattle Times published results of an extensive public poll ($) on local transportation issues this week. It asked hundreds of adults in households with registered voters, in both Seattle proper and King County, what they thought about where we are and what we need to do. The results suggest that King County deserve a little more credit than many give them on core questions relating to transit, but are not yet with us on all issues. The wild popularity of measures mired in endless controversy shows the extent to which Seattle politicians have allowed a few extremists to hijack the process.

First, a warning: the report freely admits that the survey over-sampled homeowners, who conventional wisdom suggests are more conservative on these issues. The Times posted the full, “topline” results, but not answers sliced among various demographic groups. These sample segments would be quite small with large margins of error. While some may seize the excuse to not challenge their preconceptions, even given the skew there are things to learn:

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Costs and Controversies

Mayor Durkan announces the appointment of Sam Zimbabwe to SDOT Director

Jarrett Walker has a typically insightful post on New York’s plan to speed up its buses, bucketing the city’s proposed improvements into two categories: cost and controversy:

The other big step involves controversy rather than money.  More bus lanes need to be created, and the space for them will come from some other street use, usually parking lanes, traffic lanes, and versatile curb space for pickups and deliveries.  Bus facilities cost money too, but winning these battles is the bigger struggle, so the cost is really in political capital rather than money.  

I typically refer to these as capital and political costs, but “cost and controversy” is pithier. It reminded me of a recent exchange between our own Mayor Durkan and the Times‘ Jim Brunner, captured in this tweet from Erica C. Barnett:

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Post-Viaduct Open Thread Day 6: Accessibility for People With Disabilities

Well-used sign at the lone elevator between SeaTac Airport Station’s kiss&ride and bridge Credit: Earl Gipson The SeaTac Blog

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

If you have a disability that, combined with poorly-planned public infrastructure (such as sidewalk furniture), or a lack of public infrastructure, makes commuting difficult — and this doesn’t just have to be about getting around downtown — let’s talk about that infrastructure.

Let’s also go meta on how accessible Seattle Transit Blog is to people with various disabilities. How can we serve you better?

This is an open thread.

News Roundup: Gov. Inslee Insists


The Downtown Streetcar is Alive

But it needs more funding

Streetcars on Jackson. Credit: Bruce qu

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced yesterday that the 1st Avenue streetcar will go ahead, if the city can secure $88m in new funding. In a release, the mayor offered her most enthusiastic endorsement of the Center City Connector to date:

“We have the opportunity to create a downtown with fewer cars and where residents, workers, and visitors can walk, bike, and take transit,” Durkan wrote. “A unified streetcar route provides a unique opportunity to build on our investments for the next generation.”

Continue reading “The Downtown Streetcar is Alive”

Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions on the Fast Track in Olympia

Walla Walla wind farm

photo by Umptanum / wikipedia

The Washington State Legislature opened the 2019 regular session Monday. Seven bills directed at dealing with greenhouse gas emissions had already been pre-filed, with most of them scheduled for hearings this week.

At the request of Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D – Seattle) introduced Senate Bill 5116, which would:

Continue reading “Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions on the Fast Track in Olympia”

Post-Viaduct Day 4 Open Thread: Cycletopia Rising

We’ve heard stories of how smooth commuting has been for transit riders since the Alaskan Way Viaduct shut down.

We’ve also seen a spike in bicycle commuting, in the middle of a literal Seattle Freeze.

So, tell us what is missing in your cycling commutes that makes you feel less safe.

This is an open thread.

I-405 and SR 522 BRT Will Be Known as “Stride”

Stride BRT station concept (courtesy of Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is entering yet another round of public feedback for the I-405 BRT project and has revealed the name of the service: Stride.

In their online open house and an e-mail to STB, Sound Transit described their criteria for choosing the name, the first new ST brand introduced since Link and Sounder were chosen in 1997. Stride (with a set of dangling legs in its logo to presumably represent someone running for the bus) was chosen with help from interviewed stakeholders because it was short, memorable, and integrated well with ST’s other brands.

The name had been mentioned a month earlier, which we only recently noticed thanks to a tip from commenter Robert Norheim. As other comments in the thread point out, the name could also be read as “ST-Ride”, but Sound Transit insists it’s prounounced like the word “stride”. Cambridge defines it as “to walk somewhere quickly with long steps”, which definitely fits the bill of freeway-running BRT with long stop spacing.

Details about the BRT stations and a rant about transit brands are after the jump.

Continue reading “I-405 and SR 522 BRT Will Be Known as “Stride””

Post-Viaduct Day 3 Open Thread: Please Make Space for Your Fellow Riders

The already-unburied ramps at the south end of the former viaduct (photo by Bruce Englehardt)

Some buses were reported to be skipping stops yesterday when they were “full”. Not all “full” buses are really full, because riders don’t always fill the standing space in the back. So, please be kind to your fellow riders down-route who also need to get on the bus. If you are standing, move all the way back. Fill up that back section where people don’t like to stand. Tell the jerk blocking the aisle to either move back, or let you by. Operators: Please don’t just assume your bus is full. Ask the passengers to please move back so more passengers can board, and tell them you aren’t moving until they move back. If nobody moves, get out, walk to the back, knock on the window, and wave at the aisle-blocking passengers to move back.

And if you are sitting, don’t put your bag on the seat next to you.

Graphic courtesy Sound Transit

This is an open thread.