Tracks and catenary supports for the Blue Line on Mercer Island

In case you haven’t heard, Link celebrated its tenth birthday last week, bringing back memories of the long-past era of 2009. Since the first trains left Mount Baker Station on the morning of July 18, 2009, Link has carried over 125 million passenger trips and has become the single busiest transit corridor in the state. For all the milestones and achievements of the past ten years, Link is saving its grandest leaps forward for the upcoming decade.

When we arrive at Link’s 20th birthday in 2029, light rail ridership will have shattered several times over and reached well over 280,000 daily trips—surpassing almost every light rail system in the United States. Trains will whisk away riders from 44 stations, from Lynnwood to Federal Way and from Redmond to downtown Seattle, popping out of the Northgate tunnel every three minutes, alternating between red and blue.

Keen-eyed commuters will also be treated to glimpses of the slightly further future, in the form of the new extensions to West Seattle and Tacoma, which will have been well underway for several years. For those walking around downtown Seattle, they might be interrupted by a few of the new underground stations that will be dug for the Green Line to Ballard.

The trains themselves will also be a little different. The Series 1 Kinkisharyo trains introduced in 2009 will have company in the form of the Series 2 Siemens fleet, and perhaps a Series 3 will be in the works with yet more changes to how riders sit and stand while traveling at 55 mph over and under slow and stopped traffic.

Link will have become far more ingrained into the minds of Seattleites by this time, with the thought of errand-hopping or going out on the town by train being as normal as breathing. Complaints about squeezing into escalators or about the ever-present bumbling tourist standing on the wrong side of the escalator will be as commonplace as the whinging about the winter weather.

The neighborhoods around the 44 stations will have grown and matured into their own communities that are married to the idea of train living, becoming inseparable with the idea of Link. Restaurants prepare themselves for the tides of patrons in the morning and evening rush hours, train riders will form friendships and relationships based on who they see everyday across the aisle or the platform.

By now, the works of art installed in the first generation of Link stations will have long become community icons and landmarks, themselves the inspiration for other works in other stations, creating a clear lineage between eras of light rail expansion. Perhaps something more outlandish than the kissing jets of Capitol Hill or the false brownstones of U District Station will have been lifted into place above commuters for their enjoyment or ignored as just another part of the background noise.

Even in 2029, there will be long and hearty debates over light rail and transit by advocates, experts, newcomers, and dreamers alike. The biggest what-ifs, great regrets, criticisms of the present, daydreaming about the coming AV revolution, and optimistic looks at the future like the one you’re reading now on the STB of 2029. Here’s to another ten years of watching Link grow and blossom into what it was envisioned to be: the great backbone of our home region.

97 Replies to “The next 10 years for Link”

  1. I have a déjà vue from this text.
    In style and general structure and narrative it mirrors precisely Soviet propaganda from my childhood. All through 80ies we were fed such texts about future of USSR.
    We all know what happened in ’91…

    1. Besides this being rather off topic, your complaint can also be levied against a lot of writing from all over the political spectrum, from right to left to libertarianism. So trying to tar Link and transit writing with the implication that it is communist in tone makes zero sense, because this kind of optimistic writing is common across the political spectrum. There’s also the fact that I’m pretty sure you are not a regular poster or even a poster who has posted on here before, so there’s a good chance you came here just to troll and make up some vague stuff you can tar transit with.


        Rob, “trolling” charge itself is bad habit for our side, both in spirit and tactic. It focuses attention on the adversary, if he really is one, rather than the facts of the subject. The more we care about transit, the more accurately and pointedly we have to be prepared to offer both criticism and remedy.

        At this stage of what could be another century of work, our progress speaks for itself. A regional railroad started with trolley buses. In the years when I my podium was my driver’s seat, it always irked me how much of my own self-criticism got contradicted by New Yorkers who wished THEIR subways had buses.

        In every exchange now, the more right we have to be about our own mistakes, with the emphasis on their cure. My own favorite declaration of civic attitude against the opposition we face, paraphrased from a favorite national hero, a German immigrant named Karl Schurz who was also a Union combat general.

        “Our country. When she’s right to be kept right, and when she’s wrong to be set right.”

        Tell me ……Is it “Vasily?”……. How would the blonde transit employee in the Crimea video and her driver think we’re doing at this stage of History?

        Mark Dublin

      2. Different opinions and viewpoints are welcome here, especially if backed with real data.

        For the regular posters here, who are obviously transit supporters, it’s good to have ‘opposing’ viewpoints, since it sharpens up pro-transit arguments.
        It also helps keep STB from becoming an echo-chamber for transit aficionados.

        Just come here with the data (or at least stay with the logic of the argument) to back up your point of view.

    2. As usual, va, the truth is far more unsettling, both for Russia and here. For both places, since 1991 massive light rail programs have been nothing but a distraction.

      Around turn of the recent century, there were active plans to wire the Route 7 into the DSTT. Whose eventual goal was always to connect the University District with Spokane. Given climate change, Bering Strait bridge already on the boards.

      Heroic statues are doubtless someplace covert and convenient, posing as mops.

      At the very least, no one can claim that the lady official in the video lacks the general presence necessitated by a project of this scale. Venture that fare evasion is and will always be minimal. Mind the slow order at the I-90 exit for Gonzaga University.

      Mark Dublin

    3. I think you may be on to something. I think King is destined to split into 4 counties, Bellkrania, Balltivia, Federaliskistan and Lynndova, Pierce will become Piercestonia and Snohomish will become Snohomvlakia.

    4. Soviet-style propaganda would include conspiracy theories like the National Enquirer or Fox News. I saw my Russian friend’s school textbooks from the 70s. The geography section on the US started out reasonable, describing the states and principal industries and climate, but then it said that while the largest newspapers were the New York Times and a couple others, the most important newspaper was the Socialist Workers’ something, and then promoted the fringe communist parties that have 1% support.

      This article is a straightforward extrapolation of committed plans and the experience of other cities that have gotten high-capacity transit through a significant part of their metro area. Link’s impact has been limited because it only reaches a few neighborhoods and job centers. When it reaches “most of the large ones” within Lynnwood-Redmond-FW, we’ll enter a new phase.

      In cities with a comprehensive multi-line subway, many people rarely use buses because they can get everywhere by the subway. Seattle is emphatically not like that so you have to use buses even on subway-ready corridors. When my friend visited from Ohio in the early 00s, he took an express bus from the airport and another to the U-District, and we went everywhere on buses because that’s what I do. At the end of the weekend he said, “I’ve never ridden so many buses in my life.” Compare that to New York, Moscow, or St Petersburg, where many people take only the metro, and in Moscow you come up to a transfer station and thirty people are waiting to meet someone or are gathering for an evening activity. Vancouver has a bit of that at Broadway Station. Also in those cities, people think the subway is essential and wouldn’t dream of downsizing it because it would cripple the city’s mobility. And people take the train to nightlife and bars instead of driving. Seattle will probably never go as far as these cities in terms of transit mode share but it will get partway, and it’s a judgment call how far it will go. Engelhardt’s estimate is reasonable. Maybe it will be a little less; maybe a little more. We’re already seeing the beginnings of it: people moving to station areas, taking jobs in station areas, businesses opening in station areas, people taking Link every time they go downtown or to the stadiums, increasing ridership on both Link and the other buses and Sounder, increasing public willingness to fund more transit, etc.

      1. I guess it depends how you feel about “most important” because for them that was probably true.

    5. I wouldn’t call it propaganda, but the tone of the article, and talking about people making friends on the train, the art becoming community icons, etc, seems a bit over the top. This reads like a press release.

      1. That’s odd. Anniversary pieces are usually exemplars of investigative journalism.

    6. If you don’t like projects like this vote people into office that have the same political leanings as you. If that doesn’t work run for office yourself. If that doesn’t work, move.

      1. That’s fine to say but it doesn’t work when the majority of people are against you. It takes time to build a critical mass so that a majority agree with you. And people still believe the Futurama propaganda, yes, propaganda, about detached houses in single-use neighborhoods and ubiquidous highways and parking. It’s a multigenerational effort to get over this.

        You can move, but as I say below, there aren’t many American cities you can move to where it’s as easy to live without a car. And some people have family here or prefer the climate or can’t get as good a job elsewhere (or a job they don’t have to drive to). And several states now don’t respect your voting rights or intentionally hinder healthcare, so why would you want to suffer those? So moving is a bigger decision than just “The transit isn’t excellent” or “The majority disagrees with me”.

      2. Just to clarify, this Bob is NOT me (I’m the one who made the comments about va seeming to be a troll above). I should really use the Tacoma Bob name instead more often…

  2. As Link expands, buses are going to have to change to work with Link, rather than provide a separate, parallel system, which is generally slower and less frequent.

    There are a few no-brainer routes to truncate/restructure away, such as the 41, 512, and 550. But, there are some cases that might draw controversy. The 545 is one, particularly during the year or so where Link ends in Overlake and doesn’t yet go to downtown Redmond.

    For another example, in the Eastgate area, bus service is current set up to treat Eastgate P&R as the primary hub, even though South Bellevue P&R is the one getting the Link service.

    In the case of the 240 (which Metro plans to eventually promote to RapidRide), this is particularly painful. The route passes within 3 (driving) minutes of the South Bellevue Link Station, as it crosses I-90 near Factoria – yet you’re forced to sit on the bus for an additional 20 minutes before finally ending up at Bellevue Transit Center, then have a longer train ride to Seattle when you finally get there. Adding a full hour to people’s round trip commute (not including wait time), as the price for riding the feeder buses is nuts, and is a great way to ensure that everybody drives and parks. Unfortunately, it is not feasible to build a big enough parking garage for every single person to drive and park, so the feeder buses are going to have to be taken more seriously than this.

    1. As Link expands, buses are going to have to change to work with Link, rather than provide a separate, parallel system, which is generally slower and less frequent.

      I was wondering about that just this morning. I took Link from SeaTac to King Street Station. I understand the commuter heavy traffic, but until downtown very few people got off, compared to what happens on MAX at, say, 82nd Ave, Gateway or Hollywood. Even minor transfer points like Holgate along I-205 has a fairly significant number of non-downtown passengers.

      1. Portland has a stronger bus grid and more unconstrained geography. One of those buses will take you to southeast or northeast Portland where you might live or be visiting a business. South Seattle is a series of long narrow islands separated by ridges, so it’s hard to go east-west and there’s not much in the other islands to go to because the barriers disincentivized large population or business concentrations. So Link really only serves central Rainier Valley. In North Seattle and the Eastside there will be more perpendicular ridership because they’re unconstrained like Portland is. Many people will take Link to the 31, 32, 44, 45, 65, 67, 75, 372 and their successors. Northeast Seattlites will have to. It’s not visible yet because Link doesn’t reach those areas.

      2. Yeah, it is combination of things. Partly it is was because you were on a morning run. Morning transit ridership is very heavily oriented towards commuting (and higher education). There just aren’t that many high employment locations (or colleges) along the way. The VA is likely the biggest, but it involves backtracking. Someone from Rainier Valley is often better with a direct bus. Those from the southern suburbs might take the train, but it really isn’t that fast when you factor in the transfer. Since the suburban stops don’t cover high density areas (and are largely designed around park and rides) most folks probably just slog on I-5 instead of working their way to the park and ride, and then taking the train and bus.

        But even in the middle of the day, you aren’t likely to see huge numbers. There are a number of reasons, and Mike touched on some. Crossing bus service exists, but it is not especially frequent. There aren’t that many stops, which means fewer combinations. In the case of Rainier Beach and Columbia City, the urban center is on Rainier Avenue, not MLK. Then you have the awful Mount Baker station ( Not only does it fail to serve the area well, but it fails to connect well to other buses. There just aren’t a lot of people jumping off the 7 and hopping on Link a couple stops. Othello is probably one of the better stops. The most common combination is probably from Beacon Hill to Othello, but the frequent 36 probably eats into its ridership.

        It is likely to improve a bit. Adding Graham Street will increase the combinations. Areas around the some of the stops are becoming bigger (more people and more shops). The plan is to turn the 7 into RapidRide, and have its tail hook up to Link (making the transfer to Rainier Beach better). It is possible that the 50 will have decent frequency someday, or that the bus to train connection at Mount Baker might be merely awkward, instead of awful.

    2. I agree that bus service will have to change. I think the unexpected factor will be that Link riders will push for the change.

      1. Oh, I seriously doubt that. Commuters who are used to their direct bus to downtown will continue to push for it. Just look at the latest restructure (for Kirkland/Redmond). They kept the peak-only express buses to downtown, even though during rush hour the transfer penalty is smallest, and traffic the worst. When restructure discussions followed the implementation of UW Link, I seriously doubt there were lots of folks in northeast Seattle clamoring to see their bus truncated at UW station, instead of heading downtown. Heck, they kept some of those runs (the 74 and 76 are still around). Finally, just look at all the people from Snohomish County who *don’t* want to see their bus truncated at Northgate. They just don’t want it, even though it would likely mean more consistent and frequent service, with the added bonus of connecting to the UW (along with Northgate and Capitol Hill). Unless the connection is perfect (via an HOV ramp right to the station) they don’t want to bother with a transfer.

        No, it was really Metro that pushed for it, and pushed hard. It was tough convincing folks that it would be better, and in order to do so, frequency was increased mostly in that area. A truncation would of course lead to increased frequency, but they could have increased frequency system wide. But by focusing the improvements largely in the area that got truncated, riders were OK with it. Keep in mind, this is not to a minor destination (e. g. South Bellevue) but to the UW.

        No, the push for truncations (just like the push for more of a grid) is likely to come from those in charge. As long as people don’t understand transit basics, or fail to understand the tragedy of the commons, changes of this nature will be pushed from the various agencies, not the general public.

      2. Wow, did NE Seattle bus riders ever NOT lobby for the restructuring of bus routes! And with good reason–it takes longer than ever to get downtown. The 70-series buses used to take various routes to UW, then get onto the I-5 express lanes and go directly into the transit tunnel. Now they take various routes to UW, then trundle down Pacific to Husky Stadium, where you have to negotiate the significant transfer penalty, wait for the train to leave, and finally reach the transit tunnel. The 41, which did not have its route changed but was banished from the tunnel along with the rest of the buses, is also a longer ride now. All so Link riders can exit into cavernously empty transit tunnel stations served by a glorious one train every six minutes.

        Hey, I get it. EVENTUALLY the tunnel will be full of trains. And OF COURSE there was no alternative to selling the Convention Place station quickly so another office building could be put in its place. But it was all premature, and we NE Seattle riders are paying the price.

        I guess it could have been worse. The initial plan for the 73 restructure was for it to stop at 65th, for riders to make yet another transfer to get all the way to UW, or home. But not directly; first a bunch of useless twists and turns past the unfinished Roosevelt Link station were needed. At least that insane plan was nipped in the bud. I have serious doubts about Metro’s ability to plan rational bus trips to the new stations at Northgate, and especially to NE 145th and NE 185th.

      3. The peak expresses are really a stopgap now until Northgate Link and East Link open. It’s not so much because they’re still sacrosanct but in order to prevent the entire bus service in those areas from getting a lot worse. The decision was made before University Link started so they really weren’t sure how well it would perform and whether the transfers would be tolerable. And it turned out the transfers aren’t very tolerable and there would be a lot more uproar if the peak expresses to downtown didn’t exist. Metro has clearly established a pattern of rerouting all-day routes while leaving peak expresses as-is until something compelling supercedes them: we’ve seen that with the 15X and 18X, and now with the expresses between 55th and 125th.

    3. If I got to be queen for a day, I’d fold the 545 and the 542 into one route once East Link opens that goes from Bear Creek P&R to the Husky Stadium Link station, then loops around the Montlake triangle back to Redmond again. (I’d also upgrade the NE 40th and NE 51st street 520 overpasses into lids with inside HOV ramps and bus stops on top, and add center HOV-only on and off ramps at the West Lake Sammamish Parkway exit.)

      It seems like once the bus-to-link transfer at the Montlake triangle is fixed in early 2020, riders between Redmond and Seattle shouldn’t have much of a reason to feel sour about a restructure like that.

    4. All light rail lines have a separate, parallel bus service that shadows the rail line. Why do you think the northbound 106 doesn’t terminate at the Rainier Beach Station? Why do you think it continues on up MLK?

    5. There will be a lot of truncations in the future, but there will still be a lot of buses that parallel Link. For much of the way, the trains largely follow the expressways (I-5, I-90, West Seattle Freeway, Elliot Ave W). In all these cases, you will see truncations, but largely for buses that follow those routes today. For example, the 355 will certainly be gone in a few years, but the 5 will remain.

      I don’t think there will be many buses that cross the ship canal over I-5 once Link gets to Lynnwood (and they may disappear after Link gets to Northgate). The only exception would be a bus that covers a high density area, connects to Link, can easily get on the freeway and then serve some other part of downtown (like South Lake Union or First Hill). In Metro’s long range plan ( they have exactly that. The 2515 goes through Lake City, by the Roosevelt Station, exits at Mercer, goes along Fairview (using BRT lanes by then) and then up Boren to James, ending at Swedish Cherry Hill. That is one of only two buses that cross the ship canal at I-5, and I like their thinking.

      For the south end, we’ve already seen a reluctance to truncate. It is hard to see this ending, when it will be easier for the buses to move through downtown. I would expect to still see buses from Renton, for example, using the freeway to get downtown (instead of ending at Rainier Beach). Even for buses that use the freeway, it isn’t a given, like it is with the north end. Angle Lake would make a decent truncation point for freeway buses coming from the south, yet there isn’t a single bus that does that. The farther out you go, the more it makes sense to truncate. Buses coming from Kent headed to the freeway may truncate at Highline Community College, while the buses that go close to Star Lake certainly will.

      Like the north end, I really don’t see buses going over I-90 once Link gets here. They will be truncated at Mercer Island (for I-90 buses) and South Bellevue (for I-405 buses).

      520 buses are a challenge, but that challenge exists right now. Do you continue with express buses to downtown, or just send them all to the UW? Northgate and Redmond Link will have some influence, but only a little. What is likely to be a bigger factor is improving the connection (finishing the 520 project). Speaking of which, when there is an HOV lane all the way to I-5, we may see more buses like the 542 (with service to South Lake Union).

      West Seattle Link will lead to lots of truncations, unless there is a rider revolt. On the one hand, they avoid traffic by making a transfer. On the other hand, they don’t gain any stops. This makes it different than the north end, where even the UW truncation gets you Capitol Hill. I could see someone on the 120 (by then RapidRide) objecting to the truncation, especially in the middle of the day. I would expect buses that go over 509 and places between it and I-5 remaining the same. West Seattle Junction is simply not a big enough draw (unlike the UW) nor is it really “on the way”.

      Geography will also play a part in what areas see truncations and what areas don’t. Once Ballard Link gets here, I think all of the Magnolia buses will be truncated (or sent to Nickerson) while Queen Anne buses will remain largely unchanged (with the exception of the 31/32). That is because Magnolia is a peninsula whose only connection to the rest of the city is via 15th, while Queen Anne is largely disconnected from 15th because of a large green belt, and steep hills (the exception is the north end of Queen Anne, where the 31/32 come in). In Ballard itself, everything west of the 28 will be truncated. To the east it will remain the same.

      Overall, see a fair amount of truncation, but still a lot of buses going through downtown. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that. Even cities with robust subway systems have buses going downtown.

      1. “For the south end, we’ve already seen a reluctance to truncate… I would expect to still see buses from Renton, for example, using the freeway to get downtown (instead of ending at Rainier Beach).”

        There are fixed geographical factors. South end cities are further away than north end cities and neighborhoods, and the MLK segment makes it hard to have a reasonably fast two-seat ride. The 101 will continue until the end of the earth; Metro has long protected it, and it Metro Connects it’s replaced by an Express, which is the same thing as what it does now. It can’t drop the stops on Renton MLK as long as there’s no other bus route there. The 106 and 107 actually went the opposite from what you described: they used to take I-5 to downtown but then were downgraded or truncated, and now the 106 is a completely local route.

        From Renton, Tukwila, and Kent, it’s really difficult to come up with any two-seat alternative that takes less than an hour, and even the one-seat routes take close to that. That’s why Metro is so reluctant to force people to transfer at Rainier Beach or TIB or SeaTac. It will finally do it at KDM (the 150 is going to be broken up), but not until KDM opens.

        Even for buses that use the freeway, it isn’t a given, like it is with the north end. Angle Lake would make a decent truncation point for freeway buses coming from the south, yet there isn’t a single bus that does that. The farther out you go, the more it makes sense to truncate. Buses coming from Kent headed to the freeway may truncate at Highline Community College, while the buses that go close to Star Lake certainly will.

      2. I think Routes 101 and 150 are susceptible to the chopping block north of the BAR Station once it opens in 2030. I also don’t see the SODO busway staying open as West Seattle Link begins construction sometime around then. The only way I would see saving these routes is if Link gets too crowded through the Rainier Valley.

      3. Link from angle lake to Westlake where 578 has the first stop downtown it takes 42 minutes from the federal way future link station to angle lake takes 15 minutes and there’s a transfer time at angle lake so you can say on average it’d take just about one hour to get to Seattle if we truncated bus to angle lake. 179 takes 37 minutes the same destination 577 take 25 minutes 578 takes 32 minutes. To speed up the commuters we should be building bypass to mlk using cut and cover on abandoned rail aligned with e marginal way. That way we will be able to have maximum of 3 minutes frequency from down tibs and truncate all the route to near by link station we could also build future infill station on industrial area around bus way once hopefully gets upzoned

    1. How long will the wait be to even get on a working escalator? With an out of service escalator (allowed up to three days a month without violating an adopted standard), what will riders do to get in and out of an affected station?

  3. Never mind ten years, the big changes will occur in five. By then we will have both Lynnwood Link and East Link. Even if Lynnwood Link gets delayed and doesn’t make it by then, the big change will be Northgate Link. We will finally have built the section that we should have started with (U-District to downtown). It won’t have all the stations it should (including one that was promised) but it will still be the busiest section. The line south, along with going up to Northgate and going over the lake are just bonuses in comparison. We probably could have built that one section (correctly) along with better bus service and have something better than what we have now. Oh well, better late than never (and better mediocre than not at all).

    1. Precisely what I was going to comment. Nothing really that exciting about 2024-2029 unless you’re a construction geek, but tons of excitement between 2021-2024. If you count Tacoma Link, 28 new stations will open in a 2.5-year period.

    2. Northgate station will actually be a significant game changer, too. Just mainly for commuters from Snohomish County.

      1. For South SnoCo, it depends. There is a heck a lot of traffic between Northgate and south SnoCo to contend with–including the busses. Northgate itself is not very efficient for a bus to get to from the expressway coming south in the morning, esp. if they’re merging from the HOV lanes to the exit ramp. It’s easier to get on the freeway north in the evening, but you still have to get over to the HOV lanes.

        In my case, I can walk 18 minutes or drive 5 minutes to take a 871 or 810 bus. Presumably those will be truncated at Northgate (as they should). Ride time? Better, but with transfer penalty it’s a wash. Walking time from the U District station is about the same as from my current bus stop. What will probably burn me many a time is trying to time the connection from Link to the truncated 871/810 in the evening. Trying to use the bus tracker to tell me when to leave work to minimize the wait time is much more difficult to do that when there’s a train ride in between and you’re looking 20+ minutes in advance vs. a 6 minute walk. In the scheme of things, I’d tend to count this as “first world problems.” However, when Link is a short local bus ride (which Community Transit is looking to upgrade to 15 minute headways) or 10 minute bike ride or 25 minute walk away? That’s my game changer.

      2. No agency has committed to truncating express buses at Northgate yet. They talk about Lynnwood and South Bellevue and FW/KDM but not about Northgate. That’s partly because it would only be for 2-3 years until Lynnwood Link opens, so it’s arguably not worth two reorganizations. Plus the streets between the freeway exits and the transit center are already at capacity, so how would you fit all those buses, and is it worth building layover space that will be obsolete in three years. The same goes for a freeway station: one like Mountlake Terrace would cost a lot, and where would the buses turn around?

        Some have argued for truncating at least the 512, and I think that’s a good idea. But the peak express buses may be the last to be truncated.

      3. I don’t think Northgate is gonna be significant at all for Snoco. It is very difficult to get from there to the freeway, with no HOV ramps and lots of slow traffic. CT is planning to wait the extra two years to that can intercept at Lynnwood or Mountlake Terrace instead.

      4. Let’s not also forget that the East Link/ Blue Line (doubling train frequency) doesn’t open until 2023. Without the second line, Northgate Link would be packed if CT and ST buses on I-5 add riders with a Northgate transfer. So it would make most sense to wait until Lynnwood Link opens just a few months later.

      5. Once Lynnwood opens, you will see a big demand for trips to and from the airport, trust me.

        I hear a lot of requests, not only from the actual travelers, but …
        The People They Ask To DRIVE Them there !
        (“Yeah, I’ll take you… to LINK!, and you can ride it yourself to the airport !”)

      6. @Jim Cusack: I’m waiting for North Seattle and Snohomish leaders to realize that not only will the direct connection to the Airport will be severed in 2035, but the transfer ponts are being designed inconveniently in the stations (as currently diagrammed). It’s why I keep pushing for a level cross-platform transfer at SODO (although few seem to think it’s important). The Westlake transfer may require changing two levels further down and the ID transfer may be only reachable by elevator if a deep station alternative is chosen. Even the current SODO plans require one or two level changed.

      7. That was one of the things I heard at the early Lynnwood open houses: “We can get to the airport in an hour on Link!” They were pretty excited about that, more than a King County person can comprehend. Seattlites complain that Westlake-SeaTac takes 39 minutes when the 194 took 28-33 minutes, but Snohomans have never had a transit alternative to the airport nearly as good, and driving there is twice as bad.

      8. That’s definitely something we should help encourage the Snohomans to speak up about, and that’s the connections/transfer in Seattle.

      9. I don’t see a good reason to not at least do a Northgate truncation for the 512, and the CT 800-series too.

        The big argument against that truncation is the speed benefit of the connection between the HOV lanes and the express lanes. This benefit, for the most part, does not exist except for rush hour in the peak direction, nor does it exist for any bus that stops anywhere around the U-district.

        Truncating the 512 will save riders time if traffic is bad, and even if traffic is not that bad, some riders may still save time, simply by avoiding stoplights downtown or being able to use a U-district stop closer to where the action is.

        I used to live around the Northgate area and used the transit center regularly during all hours. I don’t recall traffic between I-5 and Northgate Transit Center even being that bad – yes, you might have to wait for a couple of lights, but there will never be 20+ minute backups, like you can sometimes have for the Stewart St. exit into downtown.

      10. That’s doubtful, Breadbaker. There will not be enough trains to carry all the passengers from Snohomish buses diverted to Northgate, except the “all-day” all-stop ST expresses to Lynnwood and Everett.

        In any case, diverting southbound would be a fuster-cluck of the first order unless buses were allowed to continue straight from the off-ramp to Meridian and go Around the Horn on 92nd.

        That would take a lot of time, too.

      11. “I don’t recall traffic between I-5 and Northgate Transit Center even being that bad”

        Then why are we concerned about the 67, 75, and 40 being caught in traffic, and our reluctance to route the 522 to Northgate? I’ve experienced it several times on the 75, and others have complained about the 67. It’s not as bad as Stewart Street but it’s more evidence that Northgate Way is at capacity. So we’re going to add dozens of buses to it? Four buses per hour and one busful every few trains won’t make a big difference, but the equation changes if all the express buses terminate there.

      12. Northgate station will actually be a significant game changer, too. Just mainly for commuters from Snohomish County.

        I think it will be a bigger deal to the folks who live in the area, even if they do truncate the Snohomish County buses there (and I think they should). Mass transit is not just about commuting. The reason the 41 carries so many people is because it runs frequently throughout the day. Ridership per hour *off peak* is higher than almost all the suburban buses *on peak*. It carries a lot of riders during the day, and those riders will see a huge improvement.

        Riders on the 41 have a fast commute, but their trips to downtown in the evening are ridiculously slow. Their trip to Capitol Hill is bad any time of day. A trip to Roosevelt or the UW requires a bus that initially goes the wrong way (north to go south). All of that will change. Riders from the Northgate/Lake City area will be able to get to Roosevelt, UW and Capitol Hill very quickly (with very little waiting). This, in turn, will come with a restructure that will hopefully improve transit in the area, including trips that don’t involve Link (e. g. Lake City to Roosevelt).

        In contrast, Snohomish County trips involving Link will largely be commuter based. The 510 will likely be truncated, which will be a huge improvement, but only 2,000 people a day ride it. This is common for the suburbs. There just aren’t that many people who take the train a long distance, unless they are commuting. Nor do that many people ride from suburban stop to suburban stop. In contrast, folks ride the subway short distances in the city all day long, for various reasons. That is why urban transit *always* exceeds suburban transit, even when suburban transit is much faster. More people ride the really slow buses in San Fransisco than ride the entire BART system. In terms of transit share, the difference is even larger. In parts of San Fransisco, the number of people riding transit each day exceeds the number of commute trips. Nothing close to that will happen for Snohomish County riders.

      13. Regarding Snohomish County bus truncations:

        It is worth noting that a half dozen Snohomish County express buses serve the UW. Somehow they manage to leave the HOV lanes, travel along I-5 a considerable distance, enter into fairly heavy traffic around the UW, and get riders to their destination. I think they could handle the Northgate situation. Northgate is not an ideal terminus, but to suggest it is somehow worse than trudging to downtown (or the UW) is a big stretch.

        The bus crowding situation is also overblown. Even if it is an issue, it can be easily overcome. Don’t run all the buses there, just run some of them. There are 7 express buses that serve Lynnwood, along with 9 that don’t. Or you could just truncate the 4 buses currently serving the UW. That gives you a lot of flexibility in keeping the same basic bus service, but simply ending some of them at Northgate.

        At the same time, Metro (and ST) can edge towards sending more buses towards Roosevelt. The 522 should go there, instead of Northgate (which makes sense just to retain the highly popular stop at 20th). Likewise, the 309 and 312 should be truncated there. During rush hour, those three buses are currently *more* frequent than the 41, which means that you don’t really need to increase the 41 much (if at all) during rush hour. Outside of rush hour, a truncated 41 is likely to run more often than the 522 (as it does now). Meanwhile, the 555 and 556 are likely to be sent to the UW (no reason to express to Northgate when Northgate Link exists). I would also merge the 67 with the 73 — the new 67 would avoid the button hook and Northgate all together, and just go to Roosevelt instead (

        There really aren’t a lot of Metro buses that could be truncated at Northgate (without a big restructure). I believe it is just the 301, 304 and 308. The last two are infrequent, and the 301 has nowhere near the frequency of the 41 (it has service about every ten minutes). Likewise, there aren’t a ton of ST buses. The 510 runs every ten minutes, while the 511 and 513 runs every 15.

        Buses coming from the north would be following a unique path — no existing buses go along Northgate Way or First Avenue right now (there has been talk about rerouting the 40 to go that way, but that won’t happen until after Lynnwood Link opens, if ever). So the only competition would be those Metro and ST buses (and congestion around the center itself). In both cases I think you could send a lot more buses there without a problem. Whether they do, or wait for Lynnwood Link is anyone’s guess.

      14. Truncating the 512 and 800’s makes a lot of sense. As Rosx says, it opens a lot of North King destinations to Snohomish County riders. But there will not be enough cars per hour to truncate the CT expresses at Northgate. The new Maintenance Facility in Bellevue won’t be “reachable” until East Link opens.

        If the CT expresses were truncated their riders plus those of truncated North King routes would fill the trains, excluding riders from Roosevelt and U- District from boarding. It might be bad enough to disrupt the ridership at Husky Stadium.

        CT should not be ALLOWED to truncate at Northgate except the 800’s.

    3. @RossB +10
      “We will finally have built the section that we should have started with (U-District to downtown).”

      Amen to that.

      A little aside (yes, with snark):
      ST Board: “But the spine! The spine. We told people we are building a spine from Tacoma to Everett. We even passed a board resolution, once upon a time, committing to connecting to Everett in a second phase extension.”

      But in 2029, with Everett still years away from having light rail service, this is but a footnote in ST’s historical narrative.

  4. In ten years, The Seattle Times will still oppose all spending on light rail. Some posters on the Seattle Transit Blog comments section will still complain about it being late and over-budget relative to the original 1995 plan.

    1. The 1995 plan failed to pass. You mean the 1996 plan, i.e. Sound Move. And, yes, it will be very late (e.g., U-District 45th St station) and very much over budget when it’s (kinda) completed. Let’s not whitewash ST’s history. Those early failures are very relevant to those folks who voted for the transit system and who are now in their retirement years.

      1. Correction noted. And no one is whitewashing anything. Most people are just wise enough to realize that deviation from the 199*6* plan isn’t really relevant to anything anymore, and don’t bring it up at every opportunity. Other people.. they’ll still be doing it in ten years.

      2. Some of us aren’t, however, many of us that supported the 1995 initiative are having to gut our way through most of our working lives on an overrated surface bus system (But I’d argue that the Capitol Hill neighborhood may be the exception:))

      3. I think we can do both. We can differentiate between planning timelines, which have roundly failed due to ST’s early mismanagement or other political factors. We can avoid whitewashing any of that but still praise ST for meeting timelines once they established construction schedules. ULink slipped to ST2/2016 due to early mismanagement, but once they broke groudn they were on time. Northgate slipped to ’21 due to the recession, but once they broke ground they’ve been on time and may be early. East Link slipped from ’22 to ’23 due to Bellevue’s meddling, but the project nearly a year ahead of its construction schedule. To praise ST for timelines should be to praise their construction management, not their admittedly rocky political or planning history.

      4. “many of us that supported the 1995 initiative are having to gut our way through most of our working lives on an overrated surface bus system”

        Oh I hear you, East Coast Cynic. You can include me as part of that crowd.

      5. What most transplants and youngsters don’t realize is how painful this process has been, and how mired in the politics it still is.

        We are, at heart, still an auto-centric region. The pejorative moniker “Wet LA” is fitting. I’ve decided it’s really because we are rain wimps, afraid of getting our gore-tex wet.

        I see it changing, slowly and surely, (a bit too slowly, as far as I am concerned), but it will reach a tipping point.

      6. There’s a difference between lamenting that things weren’t perfect and we all lost ten years of Link trips and the time we spent waiting for unreliable buses, vs continuing to berate ST about it. The lamentations will continue for a generation and are appropriate. The berations are obsolete now that ST has reformed itself, admitted the schedules were unrealistic, revised the schedules, and the voters accepted it by voting for ST2. We should direct our ire at the bad things ST is doing now: bad station design and transfers, unreliable escalators/elevators, fare inspectors not accepting passes when a tap was forgotten, etc.

      7. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a comment is a lamentation or a beratement. That’s why I keep bringing up this up and encouraging writers to make it clear. Tisgwm has been berationary in the past as I interpreted it, but I trust that today’s comments are just lamentations of the “Just so we don’t forget the original promise” sort.

      8. @Steve. I knew someone would play the relevance card (and hence my earlier comments); it’s become the predictable refrain from those advocates who like to minimize the import of ST’s failure to deliver Sound Move’s light rail elements by 2006, or even by 2016 for that matter. If folks wants to marvel at the single line ST has in operation between Husky Stadium to just south of SeaTac after 22+ years, then more power to them. On the other hand, if others are mindful of all of the agency’s failings, past and present, in their criticisms of Sound Transit, as long as they are honest and factual in their assessments, I think that’s a reasonable approach on which to base their perspective. Thus the past history is very relevant in that regard. For many ST taxpayers the agency still has a lot to prove, particularly given the fact that all ST light rail extension projects in ST2 will be delivered later than originally proposed, Lynnwood Link is some $700M over its initial cost estimate, Federal Way Link is some $460M over, Redmond Link is some $100M over and East Link had to grab $225M from its contingency budget when one of its major contracts skyrocketed. These are all current, ongoing projects; does ST get a mulligan on each of them as well? (RQ)

      9. @Mike Orr
        “The berations are obsolete now that ST has reformed itself,…”

        Many district taxpayers here in Snohomish County would counter your “reformed” agency assertion with “the jury is still out on that”.

      10. “If folks wants to marvel at the single line ST has in operation”

        There are multiple ways to look at it. One way is to compare it to the original ballot estimates. Another way is to compare it to urban riders’ experience over time. (Roughly meaning somebody living in the east half of Seattle between Northgate and Rainier Beach. I chose “east half” because that’s where the U-District with its 50,000 students/staff, is and to give Link the most advantage.) A third way is to compare it relative to previous transit.

        I lean mostly toward the third. It really is much better for going to the airport, Capitol Hill, or UW than the previous buses were. I expect the same for the U-District, Roosevelt, Northgate, the Eastside, and Highline College. I’ve made thousands of trips between those places and it will certainly help me, even though I’m not super-obsessed about living and working 5 minutes from a station. (I.e., I’d consider it a significant benefit even for my ex job on Meridian, visits to Northgate North, ex-apartments on 55th and Summit, trips to Bellevue still requiring the B, and ex job in Ballard where I couldn’t use it for work commutes.) In that sense I look at it not as its fall from perfection but from its rise from “What if it never happened or took even longer?” Because its actual openings are something I can ride. The rest is just theoretics. ST is not the only public agency to have cost overruns. Maybe in an alternate universe ST would have been perfect; Forward Thrust would have gotten its supermajority; local/state/federal visionaries would have enabled a Germany-like or Vancouver-like network in Washington state and the west coast.

        “Many district taxpayers here in Snohomish County would counter your “reformed” agency assertion with “the jury is still out on that”.”

        I can see how Snohomans might be more frustrated and impatient.

      11. Ten years from now we still won’t have a First Hill station.

        There’s a difference between lamenting that things weren’t perfect and we all lost ten years of Link trips and the time we spent waiting for unreliable buses, vs continuing to berate ST about it. The lamentations will continue for a generation and are appropriate. The berations are obsolete now that ST has reformed itself, admitted the schedules were unrealistic, revised the schedules, and the voters accepted it by voting for ST2. We should direct our ire at the bad things ST is doing now: bad station design and transfers, unreliable escalators/elevators, fare inspectors not accepting passes when a tap was forgotten, etc.

        But they are one and the same. Yes, they are better at meeting their targets, but there inability to focus on what is important remains. It is a continuous problem that goes way back, and exists today. When faced with a major cost overrun, most agencies would build what is likely to get the most riders. They might even hire an agency to question whether the entire plan is a good value, given the added cost. But not ST. They wanted to go south, towards the airport, as a symbol that they could build the spine, whether it made sense to build it or not. ST3 of course includes the spine (woopee!) along with other expensive, dubious projects (e. g. South Kirkland to Issaquah). Whether it gets built, or falls just a little bit short is not the big issue. The problem is that other, far more cost effective changes (BRT on the CKC, better bus service, more effective light rail lines) are lacking. It continues to the planning stages. The Mount Baker station was awful, and the new 145th station will be as well. 130th planning should be happening now, but the only sketches we have is for a station that sits to the north of 130th, instead of straddling it (thus forcing just about every rider to stop buses while they make a transfer). They are busy considering spending a billion dollars on changes to a couple stations that won’t improve the transit experience one bit (and I would argue are a degradation) while they won’t even consider a First Hill station as part of the new downtown tunnel.

        So, yeah, I will direct my ire at all the mistakes they are currently making, or are about to make, but I think it is foolish to think that they somehow “solved” their problem. The basic issue is that no one on the board knows squat about transit, but thinks they do. They are a bit smarter when it comes to double checking the estimates, but they are still largely clueless when it comes to the overall design, or specifics that matter.

      1. Unfortunately the ghouls at the Suburban Times editorial board will be around far longer than they should.

      2. We’d better hope that somebody picks up their local journalism after them. Some ex-reporters have started local blogs or write for the online publications, but it’s still only 10% of what the Times does.

      3. The paper itself is fairly good. The editorial staff is horrible. They used to a reasonable, right of center editorial staff, focused more on effectiveness than ideology. Now they are largely reactionary. Not quite Trump, more like Mitch McConnell or maybe Paul Ryan.

        It largely is because of the Blethens. I have to give them credit for having a very strong wall between their editorial staff and there news reporting. But they are largely responsible for the nonsensical, or at best, extreme editorial staff. If someone else bought the paper, there is a chance that things would change.

  5. You mention trains leaving the Northgate tunnels every 3 minutes. But AFAIK, ST2 has trains on the red and blue lines running every 8 minutes, combining four every 4 minutes (not a complaint, I’m actually confident that with all 4-car trains, this will be plenty of capacity).

    But do you know if ST3 has lines running every 6 minutes each, or if it’s 8 minutes like ST2? Presumably extra frequency capacity is part of the rationale of the new tunnel to begin with.

    1. ST3 lists six minutes for headways for each line. It’s not exactly clear when this happens although the project descriptions do indicate this.

      I think it’s important to not be too fixated on the exactness of years or even end points. As an operating entity, ST should have the opportunity to introduce the best service plan based on overcrowding and on cost recovery. The important factor now is whether or not operational flexibility is being designed correctly.

      It’s also important to have a good contingency plan when Link operations come to a halt. It is easy to route a bus around a problem, but trains have to use tracks!

      The system will also be carrying 15 times the riders as our most utilized bus route! The problems from a modest 30-minute disruption will be major. ST dispatchers will want the flexibility to implement emergency service changes when that happens — like skipping stops (express trains) and reversing trains in the middle of the line to prevent long waits (service gaps) afterwards.

  6. Most major rail systems have capacity or operational problems somewhere. There doesn’t seem to be much concern today about these things — but there will be problems. Figuring out and addressing those in advance is best as it is usually more expensive and difficult to fix once a line is opened.

    1. Mt. Baker to International District is the stretch that is most likely to be overcrowded in the long run.

      1. Could you expand on this? People usually cite some portion of the U-District to International District segment as the part of Link that’s most likely to bump up against capacity limitations.

      2. I thought that too at first but MLK is constrained to 6-minute frequency due to cross traffic. So it’s like a single bus being standing room only when an articulated bus wouldn’t be; North Seattle’s double-frequency acts like an articulated bus to absorb more people.

  7. In 10 years, the Kirkland to Issaquah Link will be in its planning stages. WTF?

      1. I think what Matt is saying is Kirkland residents have the same reaction to putting trains on a walking and biking trail as Seattle residents would have on putting trains on the Burke Gilman. So he is right. We don’t want train tracks to replace our nature trails.

      2. I myself would never advocate ruining the peace and quiet for the well heeled.
        It is our duty to shield them from any inconvenience, AT ALL COSTS.

        Regardless of the facts, or the benefits to the general population.

    1. South Kirkland to Issaquah will be in planning. The rest of Kirkland is up in the air. There are several preliminary concepts like a 405-ish extension to Totem Lake, Ballard-Kirkland-Redmond, UDist-Bothell-Kirkland, or Northgate-Bothell-Kirkland. Some of these may run on 405, 108th, or the Cross-Kirkland Connector. But we really have no idea what East King’s ST4 priorities will be or whether any of the Kirkland alignments would get sufficient support. Part of the problem is that downtown Kirkland is hard to get to without expensive tunnels or unpopular property takes, and it only has half a walkshed/busshed due to the lake, and Kirkland is opposed to highrises downtown or lowrises on most of 108th, so that depresses ridership and people’s ability to live there.

      Other things East King might want in ST4 include: 522 Link, Burien-Renton Link, multi-line 405 Stride (overlapping frequent buses to more cities), RapidRide lines, etc.

      1. Why haven’t they done this earlier? Has none of the idiots at Sound Transit thought that Renton is a direct route from the Eastside to the Airport??

        It will make 405 traffic less congested on weekends because of fewer airport travelers on the freeway.

  8. Don’t forget that in 2019, the whole state got to vote again on how the Seattle area taxes itself. After the Eyman initiative restored $30 car tab taxes and repealed authorization for Sound Transit to impose motor vehicle excise taxes, ST3 had ten years added to its timeline. All the ST2 projects were done on time, by 2024, but in the years 2025-2029 not a single spadeful of dirt was turned on ST3 projects.

    Not hoping for this outcome, but it is a distinct possibility.

    1. “All the ST2 projects were done on time, by 2024,…”

      This is a complete fallacy. Even without the 2019 Eyman initiative in the picture, all ST2 Link extension projects will be delivered later than originally planned.

    2. Realistically Northgate, Overlake, and FW might slip to 2025 or even 2026 but probably not further. That’s still within a few years of the expected dates. Beyond that, all the projects might open significantly later, like 5-15 years, or ST might defer parts of them. MVET is only a small part of ST3’s budget but I’m assuming that other bad things might happen too, like federal grants drying up, recession(s), unexpected engineering challenges, climate-related shortages of materials, the high inequality in our economy causing inefficiencies, etc.

      1. “MVET is only a small part of ST3’s budget…”

        According to the ST article, “In total through 2041, Sound Transit estimates a financial impact of $20 billion.”

  9. Should’ve entered this footnote ‘way back up, Mike, so thanks for opportunity here. At all levels, I think it’s tremendously important to design as many steps as possible so that they can be changed, both in progress and after completion.

    Metro’s plans to wire the Route 7 into the Tunnel were shovel-ready, or just about. I’ve got copies of the drawings in my files. $12 million would have given the trains on MLK a very capable partner-service. And very likely made possible the lane and signal treatments that the 7 still desperately needs.

    Of all the cliches of massive civil engineering, my own absolute lifelong pet hate: “That ship has sailed.” Deep-ocean commercial sailing shares this with civil engineering: Knowledge and ability to “Come About.”


  10. No reason to be comparing our system only to other light rail systems. It should be compared to other mass transit systems, and if it is it obviously won’t be even close to first. The choice of rail technology is just as much a choice, that perhaps affect ridership, as the choice of station location.

    Also, it’s a little disingenuous to talk about traveling at 55 MPH above and below slow and stopped traffic. The train only occasionally travels at that speed (traffic also occasionally moves at that speed, and a lot faster), and it also frequently slows and stops (as anyone who rides it down MLK can attest – it also stops at intermediate stations, of course).

    1. The comparison is incomplete without the heavy metro competitors. Even with Link it will be much harder to get around Seattle than Chicago, New York, DC, or Boston. Compared to San Francisco and the East Bay it will be mixed. BART is faster and goes further but reaches less of San Francisco, while MUNI is more like the number of lines we should have, but MUNI slows to a crawl on the legacy surface segments and is not very frequent off-peak.

      But the comparison with light rails does show something anyway. It shows that cost and grade-separation are proportional to usefulness and ridership. When Link was originally planned, all previous US light rails were 95+% surface (San Diego, San Jose, Portland), and most still are (Dallas). That makes them woefully unable to compete with the convenience of grade-separated metros in Chicago, NY, DC, and Europe. In Germany large cities have underground metros, medium-sized cities have S-Bahns, and even cities as small as 200,000 have surface light rail with a downtown tunnel. Seattle had a downtown tunnel already, and was partly grade-separated from the start, and backed into being mostly grade-separated (especially once ST2 and ST3 are added). This shows light rail’s potential and how much the other US light rails have missed. Maybe heavy rail would have been more cost-effective at this level. But it still shows what light rail’s potential is. In Europe cities began building “mostly grade-separated” light rail that would later be converted to heavy rail; they called them pre-metros; but in many cases they found light rail had sufficient capacity and performance even in medium-sized cities so they scrapped the heavy-rail conversion.

    2. No reason to be comparing our system only to other light rail systems. It should be compared to other mass transit systems, and if it is it obviously won’t be even close to first.

      I agree. Light rail is usually built on the cheap (e. g. Portland). Our system isn’t cheap. Some have complained that we are basically building light rail at heavy rail costs. I really don’t think that is the problem, but it hints at it. We are spending a huge amount of money on rail. Any comparison should start with whether we are getting good ridership per dollar spent. Better yet, see how much is saved per rider per dollar spent. While there are segments that perform well in that regard (e. g. UW to downtown) my guess is we are lagging even similar cities (like Vancouver and Boston) and ST3 projects are likely to be especially poor.

  11. Arrived here in 2009 because I heard that Seattle’s commuter options were on par with major cities with more people. Now, after watching ST struggle to accomplish basic growth, cling to a completely unreliable and complicated fare system, and continue to waste resources due to the political climate in this town. Both liberals and conservatives have squandered years of progress with their back and forth, and the American commuter industry continues to create their own problems. Not sure who does it ‘best,’ but Sound Transit is not even in the top 5 for this country. I don’t even know how it could rank on an international comparison.

    1. ST’s logic boggles my mind so much it broke me mid sentence somewhere back there. Either way, at this rate, I’ll have good commuter service ready just for me to retire. Super excited about that.

    2. Seattle voted down two subways in 1912 and 1970 so that pretty much tells most of the picture. They thought highways and cars were the future and we didn’t need old-fashioned or big-city transit. MOHAI has a video clip from the World’s Fair where the mayor and city council are giddy about upcoming I-5 and 520 saying they’re the best things that ever happened to Seattle. Everything proceeded from those decisions. North of 65th and 85th weren’t annexed to the city until post WWII, and Shoreline and White Center were anti-city enough by then that they never annexed. The Eastside and Kent were still farmland until the 1970s with 405 and 520, so all that meant we didn’t have a legacy of a large dense population that would have demanded retaining the prewar mass transit, and low density areas within the city and without had a lot of clout.

      Pugetopolis transit is far behind the Big Five cities in the US but it’s within the top ten. If you want better transit there aren’t many other cities to choose from, and hundreds of cities to avoid. Even with a bus-based system, King County has high ridership per capita, and Metro won an award in the 1990s for the largest and best bus-only network, 10% of the region’s jobs are concentrated downtown, and even after Portland’s multi-line MAX and streetcars Seattle still has higher transit ridership per capita, and in the past few years Pugetopolis ridership has increased while most other cities have decreased. So there is something happening here, and we’re bumbling along to something better even if it’s not excellent or as comprehensive as NY/DC/Chicago/Vancouver.

      The cities with the most comprehensive networks built them mostly before WWII and retained them. DC is the only American city that has managed to build a prewar-level network in the post-1970s. And DC is unique because they want to impress foreign diplomants with a world-class network, plus the multitudes of paper-pushing bureaucrats in concentrated office buildings, plus it’s in Congress’s back yard and affects them and their families directly (both riding it and not having those riders on highways). None of those are replicable in other cities. But the DC area also recognized early the benefit of large TOD centers around stations, which any city can do. (It’s a critical mass thing: once people see a large enough TOD community or transit network, they experience exponentially more benefits and become enthusiastic for more. Seattle and other cities haven’t reached that point, so more skepticism and car-loving remains.)

      1. To be honest, Mike, the people voted UP rail transit in 1968 (better than what we will end up with), but were foiled by the undemocratic “supermajority” requirement of the funding mechanism chosen. My parents were pissed about that for the remainder of their days, and never got to ride Link by the time it finally got here.

        It would be interesting to see what various transit systems (including ours) would be like if the Feds still funded 90% of the capital costs as they did in the late 1960s. DC, of course, got this, as did Atlanta and SF, and a few new lines in other cities. Once that went away most of those systems stagnated in that very few extensions or new lines were built on conventional metro systems.

        Vancouver is a completely different kettle of fish – they receive funding not only at the provincial level, but as Canada’s “third city” from Ottawa as well. Despite being considerably smaller than Seattle in population, GDP, air passengers, whatever, they have been able to leverage that into an enviable city environment.

        The rest of your comment is, as usual, accurate. We used to drive out past Bothell to “farm country” on weekends.

  12. I lived at a time when the trolley was ‘everybody’s car. They went e everywhere and were cheap to ride. Then, in my teen years, electric lines were being torn up nationally. Busses became a poor substitute as they had to compete with ever-increasing auto traffic. How gratifying it is, in my 8th decade to see the cars coming back. They do not rattle, sway and hum down the track with the bell clanging, but the sleek, gliding trains of today brings joy to those of us eld enough to remember. Hurrah for Sound Transit!!

    1. I enjoyed this comment, Alexander. My grandfather started out his transit career driving trolleys in their last couple of years (late 1930s), switched to buses, and rose to assistant superintendent at the then-new Metro Transit before his untimely death in his mid-50s. I still have his change machine (the kind they wore on their belts).

      So many of the current in-city bus routes still follow the old trolley routes (often with the same route numbers). They really did serve a good portion of what is now the center city, as far north as Crown Hill and Green Lake, and south to the Rainier Valley. The interurbans went even further to Tacoma and Everett.

Comments are closed.