People love riding Link. The more Sound Transit builds, the more Seattle votes with our feet. But planning and building expansions can take decades. It’s clear that we need Link expansion beyond what is currently planned, and our rapidly growing city and the burgeoning climate crisis demand we take action without delay. That’s why it’s time for Seattle to start working on ST4, the next round of Link rail expansion.
Looking ahead to the completion of ST3’s Seattle expansions in 2035, we see a city that has made huge strides building high quality transit but still lacks a comprehensive subway system. It’s a system that will still have frustrating gaps, lacking stations in our densest residential neighborhoods like Belltown and First Hill. We must think bigger and bring service to the entire city. A true Seattle Subway means being able to catch a train in Georgetown, Wallingford, or White Center and take a ride to Lake City, Crown Hill, or Fremont. ST3 is a huge step forward, but it falls well short of the vision of ST Complete, the vision of a Seattle fully connected by high-quality transit.
Seattle can’t afford to wait; it is imperative that we take charge of our future. Seattle is adding more residents than all King County suburbs combined. Our next expansion vote should come in 2024, on the heels of the opening of major expansions to Northgate, Bellevue, Redmond, Federal Way, and Lynnwood. More people than ever will be riding Link. More people than ever will be asking: Why can’t we have Link in our neighborhood? We must be ready with the best possible answer: You can.
Sound Transit’s regional process has worked very well at creating political space for investments and will pay huge dividends for generations to come, but it has come at a glacial pace. The Sound Transit Long Range Plan lacks critical Seattle lines that would have extremely high ridership. Meanwhile, the rest of the region is unlikely to be ready to move forward with expansion until sometime in the 2030s.
There are very serious risks in planning subway expansion piecemeal instead of as a system. Stations that should be built for eventual transfers have to be built that way from the start. Tunnels that should allow for future expansion have to be built that way from the start. If Seattle doesn’t authorize further expansion in 2024, we fear that the brand new subway tunnel Sound Transit is building as part of ST3 will just be for a single, solitary line that won’t ever live up to the potential of the huge investment we are making. This will mean far higher costs and longer timelines and possibly stopping expansion to some neighborhoods.
So how do we pay for it? There are options: The City Transportation Authority (CTA) and the Seattle Transit Benefit District (TBD) are existing funding sources that have potential. The CTA can be used as-is, but can be greatly improved with state action. Please join us in urging your state legislators to improve the CTA.
We stand now at the same spot we stood when we started working towards ST3 in 2011. The need is clear but there is a lot of work to do. We’ll need to select a funding source and get politicians on board but the very first step is the same as it’s always been – get people excited about what is possible.
For that, we need your help. Come join Seattle Subway. Help us write our coming series expounding on the merits of each potential ST4 line. Help us get the word out at farmers markets and community events around Seattle. Help us by letting politicians and Sound Transit know you want more expansion.
What we said when we first started our work in 2011 is as true today as it was then: Traffic is over – if you want it.
This article was written by Seattle Subway.