In March, Transportation Choices Coalition hosted a panel discussion on the longstanding effects of Link light rail on our region. Link turns ten this July.

This is an open thread.

34 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: 10 Years of Link Light Rail”

  1. It appears that Sound Transit is no longer putting out their fairly nice monthly ridership reports. Instead, the ridership information is going in the monthly presentations for the Rider Experience and Operations Committee.

    There’s a presentation for the April Meeting up, which includes the ridership data for February.

    The PDFs for the presentations are ST’s website, so it’s still available to anyone, but a bit harder to find, and the formatting is more appropriate for accompanying a presentation, rather than being read on its own.

    1. Yeah, I think Al S mentioned this change in a comment of his on a recent open thread.

      Ughhh. Just give us the former regular monthly ridership report, Sound Transit.

  2. The video is more interesting than I expected. It strikes me how the recognition from several of the speakers in how to better operate the system for riders is a common theme — while a few others wanted to merely take a victory lap on what got built. To me, it illustrates how ST still needs to more structurally shift from a “stakeholder” orientation to a “rider” orientation as it builds and operates more stations in the future.

    As an example, the lack of an elected board means that rider interests get less priority. To provide that priority, a more active rider committee review should be an elevated priority for ST. A respected, active committee would then attract more legitimacy and more coveted committee slots. The current advisory committees appear to have instead been shut out of the many projects currently under study including West Seattle-Ballard.

    1. An elected board wouldn’t necessarily prioritize riders more. A lot of voters aren’t riders.

      1. I can easily see an anti-transit bloc forming on a politicized board. It would make meetings more interesting, but not as productive.

    2. I agree Al S. I do think Sound Transit – and other regional transit agencies such as Community Transit – would be well-served to look at the effectiveness of the Skagit Transit Community Advisory Committee and take notes. Community advisory committees can be very proactively helpful…

      I do have concerns about electing transit boards at the local level – the lack of interest by transit advocates to serve, and the ability to fundraise versus say developers & other moneyed interests that make their voices heard very loudly in the Seattle Times & on talk radio. We could see as a result more ridicilous transit routes that only serve commuters and future conversations about fare progressivity evaporate.

      But I still support electing the Sound Transit Board by district with some at large positions and a rest of state position. The current federated board is incredibly weak – see failure to enforce Board rules on Alex Tsimerman and see inability to force a preferred alternative out of the current Seattle ST3 process. If you had some people like me on the Sound Transit Board, you would have things get done with a sense of urgency.

      1. Where do transit board candidates go for campaign money? To transit industry consultants and contractors, that’s where. Not where we want to go!

    3. Regardless of what you think an elected board might do it’s absolutely mandatory.

      We have the single largest taxing authority in the state running rogue without any accountably to those they are taxing. This is EXACTLY what the phrase “Taxation without Representation” refers to.

      When you have an agency defrauding the taxpayers without any possible recourse and those who do have oversight more interested in protecting the agency than the Taxpayers (and who lie saying they will fix it yet prove they have no interest in doing so) you have a Constitutional Crisis on your hands.

      This is unacceptable by any measure.

      1. What unaccountability? The ST 1/2/3 measures list what ST will do with your tax money and they’re doing it. If you’re talking about the West Seattle and Ballard tunnels, the board hasn’t committed to them at this point; it’s just acknowedgeing community input. If you’re talking about the financial reports tisgwm talks about, is ST worse than other agencies? What would ST have to do to be accountable in your view?

      2. The Port board is elected yet I regularly hear complaints about it being unresponsive. Most voters are not directly involved with the port except occasional use of the airport, so they’re akin to non-riders. Rarely do you hear an argument for or against a port commissioner based on the quality of the airport, and they aren’t in the freight shipping industry so they don’t know much about that. Instead you hear arguments about environmental issues or taxes are too high or they’re not responsive to what the public wants or they’re making environmental claims in their own narrow interests or in short-term interests, etc. Many voters have no idea what criteria they should choose commissioners on, so they either leave it blank or choose the incumbent or whichever one they saw in an ad or focus on one sentence that jumped out at them in the voters’ pamphlet. What guarantee do we have that an elected Sound Transit board would be any better, or that it would even be as good as the current board? If we don’t have a pretty solid guarantee, then there’s no good reason to change the system.

        An ST board more separated from the cities/counties could also find them less cooperative in permitting since they don’t have direct responsibility for delivering high-quality transit and other parochial concerns bury it. That has happened in a lot of other cities.

      3. The Sound Transit board is limited by enabling statutes passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. They have not spent one dime that was not authorized by the voters of the Sound Transit district. Enough of the nonsense about Sound Transit being some kind of rogue agency!

      4. Oh, goody, this debate again.

        OK, sure, I think you can make a case that we elect way too many officials. I would prefer that our judges be appointed, for example. The problem with the Sound Transit board, in my opinion, is three fold:

        1) They aren’t dedicated to their job as ST board members. Each and every one of them has a more important, very time consuming job (head of a county, mayor, or big city council member).

        2) They have no expertise. Only one has anything to do with transportation (the representative for WSDOT). None of the other members know anything about transportation, let alone transit. It is like a school board member without a single teacher or PTA member. No formal, or informal expertise whatsoever. I doubt they even attend public transportation seminars or educational programs.

        3) They aren’t elected, and thus citizens have no control over the decisions they make. The only choice we have is to vote for or against their proposal, while having no control over how the decisions are made. Even after the vote, the board is free to make major changes. What if you voted for ST3 because you really like the idea of an elevated line to Ballard?. You could just imagine your commute every morning, being above the water in one of the prettiest cities on earth. Instead you may get a tunnel to 14th. This is a huge degradation for the user, yet it will actually cost much more. What is your recourse? Vote out the board? Chances are, you can’t vote out anyone. The board rotates, and besides, no one is going to vote against the mayor just because they screwed up a Sound Transit project. They will vote for or against the mayor on a host of other issues (crime, police, homelessness, etc.).

        Now an elected board might be trouble. An elected board might lead us to have anti-transit demagogues. Well, the same is true right now. There is nothing stopping a rouge mayor from joining the board, and saying we should abandon what we have planned. Put the money into park and ride lots, not extra bus or train service.

        I realize people aren’t thrilled with the port commision, but the port is a very obscure position. Most people have no idea what the issues are, and with the exception of the airport, very few have any direct experience. But most people ride buses and trains. Their opinions may not be informed, but the same is true for schools. It is up to the people running to show that they know about school issues, and the public to (hopefully) pick based on that. If recent history is any guide, we have been overflowing with qualified candidates for the school board. Their level of competence greatly exceeds Sound Transit board’s experience and understanding of transit. I don’t think this is a coincidence. It is just the nature of the job.

  3. Central Link opened 10 years ago. East Link opens in 4 years. How is that something that isn’t even open yet has already had a more transformative effect on development than something that opened a decade ago?

    1. Because developers are forward-looking people. Something doesn’t have to be open yet in order to drive and shape development in the area where it’s going to be.

    2. Zoning. Nowere in the initial segment was upzoned as much as the Spring District was.

    3. As a 20+ year resident of south Seattle, I would argue that Link has had a profound effect on Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill development. A New Urbanist who rides through Rainier Valley a couple of times a year on the way to the airport might be dismayed by the lack of 20 story residential towers within sight of the Link stations, but the changes from 10 years ago to today are enormous. Much of the change has been preservation and rehabilitation of existing homes with a significant amount of smaller scale infill development that isn’t visible from the trains.

      There are still plenty of undeveloped lots in Rainier Valley, but so far the Valley has been able to add lots of new residents without losing its essential character.

    4. Link’s initial segment opened at the depths of the Great Recession. That just may have had something to do with slow development along that segment.

      1. Initially yes, construction halted everywhere for two years, and some projects lost their financing and couldn’t get another arrangement for several years. But the construction boom was in full swing again by 2012 in downtown and SLU and Capitol Hill and Bellevue, but not much in Rainier Valley, especially south around Rainier Beach, even though it had Link. Why? The only logical reason is that the valley still had a lingering perception as an unsafe area, so developers chose other lots first until they filled up and they had to look in less fashionable areas.

  4. Does anyone know where one might be able to find scans of historical King County Transit Route maps, preferably online?

    1. You’ll probably have more luck contacting Metro and asking for copies. I don’t think much has been uploaded. I’m sure whatever department is in charge of restructures and designing routes has file cabinet somewhere with historical route maps or route books.

      1. I thought maybe MoHaI or SPL would have some. Seems silly if this stuff hasn’t been scanned by anyone yet.

  5. For my friend Luis Rodriguez, I’d like to re-word a comment of mine in a previous posting. After reading about the deterioration of the general passenger experience waiting at street stops for bus service that formerly in the Tunnel.

    I said that the massively-moneyed forces that demanded an end to tunnel bus service years before so much major service was finished with it should consider themselves responsible for creating on the streets an atmosphere fit for transit passengers to use.

    Having been close to the DSTT project, including at the controls of its coaches since its inception, I know that the transit system never considered maximally efficient joint rail and bus Tunnel operations anywhere near worth their cost in coordination and training.

    Though also have to admit that however many defects I could identify, our bus operations generated millions of compliments over the years from visiting passengers from other systems. What the Tunnel operators were given to work with, we ran with great credit to Seattle as we founded a major regional electric railroad with buses.

    The wording I’d change for Luis’ sake was my stipulation that the remedy include problem areas essentially becoming police stations. Though policemen of good quality and character, of whom we already employ many, will always be extremely important, what’s got to be fixed is the whole process by which Seattle’s current prosperity is presently delivering the average person so much conspicuous poverty for surroundings.

    Suggestion to the Convention Center just for a metric. For duration of the construction, consider the entire displaced DSTT ridership to be convention attendees and fund their care accordingly. Trust me, word of the improvement will rapidly circulate through your own industry world wide. The 41 and the 550 now run down your own main hallway. Deal with it.

    Mark Dublin- Former Metro Transit Operator 2495, appointee to the Employee Advisory Committee on the Downtown Seattle Transit Project.

  6. I watched the video. The cop-bashing really made me fume.

    First off: I am a “white guy” and I am afraid of… other white guys. Not just a certain Al-ex but the 200 serial felons terrorizing Seattle. Of the white felon who almost killed my momma in front of me.

    Second, the rise in sexual harassment and worse reported on public transit is why we need the pol-ice. I am genuinely concerned for the women folk of all colors. Period.

    Third, it’s time to start defending law enforcement as a noble profession. I’m not defending ICE – that agency really needs a lot more Congressional oversight and restraint. I’m defending Sound Transit law enforcement and local transit police forces – I’ve had my interactions with them – whether a fare check or a reminder to stay on the fair side of the Board rules, always professional.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Citylab articles:

    You’ve heard of cross-country high-speed rail. How about a cross-country bike trail from Seattle to Washington DC? Sounds like a good idea. One concern is that it’s part of the rails-to-trails movement, so would it invalidate potential rail corridors we may want in the future?

    What it takes for these parents to live car-free.

    Congestion pricing: apps not cameras. (I have my usual reservation about making things dependent on mobile apps.)

  8. Saturday I went to Kubota Garden, taking Link to Rainier Beach and the 106 to the park. The train stopped twice at intersections for a traffic light, once around Cloverdale Street and the other further north somewhere. When Link started it often had non-station pauses on MLK but then they became rare. So having two in one day was quite a surprise. Is it something temporary or the signals out of whack, or has quality degraded? Also, the train was slower than usual throughout the SODO segment, speeding up only when it was about to enter the Mt Baker tunnel. I assumed that was the driver’s style or being early, but coupled with the stoppages on MLK it makes me wonder if Link’s performance is degrading.

    1. I’ve also noticed increasing problems on MLK Link operations. I’ve even seen the train crossing lights go on and off when there is no train nearby (usually held by an upstream signal). I’ve noticed that the challenge seems to be related to delays from activated pedestrian signals located away from major intersections.

      The Link signal priority system was a hallmark achievement. However, it only operates as good as the current staff can manage it and monitor the working order of the equipment. Things like delays for phantom car movements occur when the detector equipment isn’t set right or train locations aren’t accounted for.

      It’s one of those conundrums about SDOT resources too. We’ve recently added more complex Link and RapidRide signal systems for cars as well as lots of new pedestrian and bicycle crossing signals. Yet, increasing staff resources significantly to manage and monitor these systems may not be happening because it’s perceived as “rewarding auto driving”. While the budgets to install these things seem to be assigned to different modes, I wonder if the upkeep is. All modes suffer when upkeep is inadequate.

      1. One or two mid-line stops aren’t unusual these days, in my experience. The trains are running smoothly but the signal system does seem to be getting more finicky. I guess 10 year old software is considered obsolete.

    2. I went to Kubota Gardens myself on Sunday. The gardens are nice, I just wish it were more accessible. The way they laid it out, there’s only one entrance, which is, of course, on the side that is farthest from Link. With a simple back door, the gardens would be just a 10-minute walk away from Rainier Beach Station, with nearly all of the walk on trails. Without a back door, the walk is quite a bit longer, and you’re forced to walk along a busy street for a good chunk of it (although, it at least has decent sidewalks).

      The 106 does stop at the front door, but the detour to Rainier Ave. in annoying, since it adds a lot of stoplights and a lot of waiting. I tried it once a few months ago, and it took about 10-15 minutes to travel just under a mile, with no traffic. Too bad for the people in Skyway who use the 106 as a Link feeder, having to endure the detour twice a day, every single day, just to get to work and back.

      So, I start thinking…maybe Link->Via is the best way to get there. But, if they had just put in that back gate through the fence, it would have been an easy walk.

      1. I also went to Kubota Garden on Sunday, via Link, but we went the “fun” way, walking from Rainier Beach station along the Chief Sealth Trail to Marcus Avenue S to S Roxbury Street to Renton Avenue S. All quiet with no traffic until Renton Avenue. According to Mapquest there may be a “back door” entrance on S. 51st Street–I’ll have to check that out the next time. That is unless you know that that “seemingly” entrance is indeed blocked by a fence. The park entrance is free, so no need for only one entrance where paying visitors would need to funnel through.

      2. I meant 51st Avenue South. Sorry. I’m terrible with numbered streets and avenues.

      3. The 51st ‘backdoor’ entrance is some kind of service vehicle entrance with, as you guessed, a locked chain link fence across it. If you are intrepid, there’s more than enough room to wriggle underneath it. I’ve done that from time to time when the timing from the station for the 107 is much better than the 106.

      4. i almost took the 107 because it came first and I saw from Google Maps that it had a stop right at the northwest corner of the panhandle, but the map also showed no trail west of a certain curve and I’ve been burned with other trails meaning that area is impassible. Also I didn’t know whether the street went through from 51st to the entrance or there’s a hill in between. I may explore that next time, because the 107 came just a couple minutes after Link while the 106 took the full 15 minutes and then another couple minutes.

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