Extensions under construction or already committed, like downtown Redmond seen here, will be prioritized. Later extensions may be considerably delayed (image: Sound Transit)

Local transit agencies are facing financial challenges as revenues from fares and sales taxes decline precipitously. Federal aid has mitigated the most immediate operational impacts, but the affordability of the ST3 expansion plan is now in question. Sound Transit on Thursday signaled it was looking at a re-prioritization of planned capital projects. Decisions on delays to ST3 rail and BRT extensions may come as early as this summer.

In the near term, Sound Transit is financially well-positioned to maintain operations. Recent reductions in service are a result of operator shortages at partner agencies rather than budgetary concerns. Those can be restored as the virus crisis heals and more staff return to work. Transit operations are just $370 million in a more than $3 billion budget for 2020. Fare revenues will fall far short of plan this year, but that’s just $100 million in a full year. The larger part of Sound Transit’s budget is capital for system expansion. A sudden recession threatens a tax revenue shortfall with cascading effects on agency debt leading to extended delays for most ST3 projects.

The CARES Act included once-off assistance for transit agencies, some $167 million of which is expected to flow to Sound Transit. Future relief legislation may include additional aid for transit, and local agencies are lobbying for an adjustment to the usual formulae that would direct more aid to agencies that are dependent on sales taxes. Sales taxes are 79% of Sound Transit’s tax revenues. Although generally less volatile than income taxes, they are more volatile than the MVET and property taxes that make up the balance of Sound Transit’s tax base. Because of the unusual nature of the current crisis, with most retailers shuttered and private construction halted, they have probably declined by much more than in a typical recession.

In a report to the System Expansion Committee on Thursday, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff referenced the “tremendous uncertainties around the economic impacts” and described steps underway to respond. A freeze on hiring has taken effect. An interdepartmental working group has been formed to develop a realignment process. This is modeled on the process in 2010 that delayed several projects as tax revenue expectations were revised downward. Between May and July, staff will report to the Board several times with updated financial projections and options for adjusting the expansion plan.

Projects already in construction or entering construction will be protected as far as possible, implying later projects may face greater delays. Staff will also review financial commitments already approved by the board to see if there are opportunities for more savings.

A March presentation illustrated some scenarios. A shallow recession comparable to that in 2000 would increase Sound Transit’s debt and push it slightly beyond allowable debt limits around 2031. A deeper recession, following the template of the Great Recession in 2008, would push the agency far beyond permitted debt balances. This would have to be corrected through delaying projects. The recession we have likely just entered is sharper than either of these, but it remains to be seen whether it will be a persistent slowdown or if the economy might snap back more quickly as businesses re-open.

Sound Transit financial scenarios based on previous recessions show the agency exceeding permitted debt capacity around 2030 after a mild recession, and far worse after a deep recession (image: Sound Transit)

Highlights of CEO Rogoff’s remarks follow:

“At this time, we do not have sufficient information to predict the severity or length of a recession, and its impact on our long term financial capacity. [] Staff are beginning to develop a framework for the Board to consider moving forward. I have formed an interdepartmental Sound Transit working group to develop a realignment process similar to that in the 2010 realignment. As we move forward in the coming months, we will need to continuously review and update financial projections as they become available to better understand the potential impact on Sound Transit. []

That analysis will inform and support the work of the Board as you grapple with the extent to which the voter-approved program needs to be realigned based on new projected financial capacity. Based on agency commitments already in place, our first priority will be to minimize impacts to current projects already in construction or entering construction to the greatest degree possible. []

The realignment task force will start to bring data and analysis forward in May, June and July. Staff will be bringing updates on our financial picture to board committees and to the full board as they become available. For projects that are currently in planning and final design work, we will for the time being continue work that the Sound Transit Board has already approved. This will support project readiness for a range of possible revenue situations and any new grant opportunities that may emerge.

Staff will be reviewing financial commitments that have already been approved by the board and are in process to determine if there are opportunities to reduce our financial liabilities. []

Back in 2010, the board took some 18 months to arrive at what realignment decisions had to be made. We may not have the luxury of being able to wait 18 months to come to finality on these decisions given the sudden cliff that the economy may have jumped off.

98 Replies to “Sound Transit considers ST3 delays as financial outlook worsens”

  1. When the North King subarea’s projected revenues dwindled in 1999 the board acted prudently – it shortened the length of the initial segment, increased the project budget, and delayed construction. The board again should use all those arrows in its quiver.

    IMO, cut and delay the extensions to the small subareas (Pierce and Snohomish). Big chunks of their projected revenues are needed for downtown Seattle tunneling anyway, plus they voted against ST3. Just desserts.

    1. Nonsense.
      1. Snohomish county voted in favor of ST3, albeit by a smaller margin.
      2. The Pierce and Snohomish County subareas ran cumulative surpluses through 2016, the year of the ST3 vote, which allowed for the North King County capital projects (ST2 and the Sound Move reset, i.e., U-Link), to proceed. In total thru 2016, the North King County subarea actually ran a cumulative deficit of some $90 million per the agency’s annual subarea reports. The subarea sources and uses report only balances over this period because of adopted financial policies that allow for subarea borrowing and agency-wide debt capacity.
      3. The “spine”. Though it’s always been a dumb idea, it was and still is the commitment made to voters. Snohomish County, and specifically Everett, were actually promised light rail in a phase two expansion. If you check the archived board documents you will find a resolution to that effect. SE Snohomish County residents most likely will not see light rail until 2025, some two years after the promised completion date which was already at the end of the line for the ST2 capital program.

      1. The board can’t look at past performance of the subareas — it needs to look ahead only. And yes, reducing scopes of projects in some of the subareas certainly is one of the tools available to the board. The ST3 ballot measure specifically says the board can reduce projects’ scopes if projected revenues in any subarea decrease beyond a hard threshold. Here’s the language voters approved:
        ———————-
        Adjustments to Subarea Projects and Services

        2. For those cases in which a subarea’s actual and projected expenditures exceed its actual and projected revenues and funding sources by five percent or greater, and/or where unforeseen circumstances occur that would result in an inability to substantially complete projects within such subarea’s plan, the Board must take one or more of the following actions:
         Correct the shortfall through use of such subarea’s uncommitted funds and/or bond capacity available to the subarea; and/or
         Scale back the subarea plan or projects within the plan to match a revised budget; and/or
         Extend the time period of completion of the subarea plan; and/or
         Seek legislative authorization and voter approval for additional resources.
        ——————
        The board MUST do one or more of those things. Those are part of the financial policies voters approved.

      2. Tlsgwm, would you say that I-5 between Tijuana and New Westminster was a dumb idea? Let alone whole length of I-90, when Pearl Harbor failed to station Japanese marines along the whole Pacific Crest Trail?

        Some historians say the Rising Sun could’ve held a beach-head the length of California, but rocked the wings of their dive-bombers “Sayonara” through the smoke because, listening to US isolationist radio- really was called “America First”- High Command KNEW they could scare us into of leaving China and Korea to them.

        Flash to 2020, long as KIRO still hasn’t completely replaced Dave Ross with Luke Burbank and Dori Monson, every morning’s average Everett-Seattle trip time tells me how many trainloads of motorists would rather be sitting still at either Zeitgeist, Caffe Umbria or the office instead of level with Alderwood.

        But I’m curious. In your own thinking, North-South-wise, what do you think would’ve been sufficient?

        Mark Dublin

      3. “The board can’t look at past performance of the subareas — it needs to look ahead only. ”

        This is also nonsense. In order to take this position, the agency and its board would have to revoke its subarea equity policy. That “past performance”, despite all the accounting games ST employs, is the metric by which the agency ensures its taxpayers that the policy is being followed.

        I take no exception to the remainder of your response as these measures were clearly spelled out in the pending proposal to voters. Frankly it’s unclear to me why you chose to list them here as they don’t bolster your argument in the least. Yes, this is the toolkit the agency has to work with, but none of these provisions provide for abandoning the longstanding policy of subarea equity.

    2. The WaLeg as some language about which project get cut first, namely P&Rs go first. There is also opportunity for savings in O&M, particularly by trimming STX service to <600,000 hours a year after East Link opens.

      Will be interesting if these financial constrains give ST the political cover to stand up to King County and
      1. Pull the Link operating staff out of the King County payroll to stop subsidizing King County overhead.
      2. Allow for STX service to be competitively bid and operated like Community Transit. Contract directly with a private provider to stop subsidizing KCM overhead.

      The 2nd tunnel will be built but could be delayed because it's simply the biggest expense. Other ST3 projects would easily be truncated – having Ballard Link open a few years later rather than simultaneously with the 2nd tunnel is an easy decision, and splitting Everett Link into two or three phased segments was likely anyways given the sheer size of the extension, akin to how Redmond Link was spun off the original East Link timeline. Delaying West Seattle to open with the 2nd tunnel, to avoid the foolish stub line, could also be a smart decision.

      For Pierce, the extension to South Federal Way is highly likely to be on time because of the need to connect to the OMF South, but it's plausible the rest of Tacoma Link may get pushed.

      For Sounder, there is no timeline, so likely easy for staff to delay the addition of capacity. Start small by adding the bare minimum of service to deal with projected overcrowding (likely 8-car trains and one more peak round trip), and save the rest for after the period of maximum fiscal constraint.

      And a few other options in the toolkit, such as delaying ST Art capital spend and selling surplus land at market prices rather than subsidizing affordable housing. Lots of hard decisions to be made.

      1. 2. Allow for STX service to be competitively bid and operated like Community Transit. Contract directly with a private provider to stop subsidizing KCM overhead.

        It’s cute when people think that privatization will result in better and/or cheaper replacement to public services.

      2. When you say P&Rs go first, does it mean the land can be repurposed for housing? Or does its use have to remain the same and held until funds become available to build the original parking commitment?

        In general, what are the possibilities for undoing commitments to P&Rs, particularly those made in ST2 that predate the recent boom and housing crisis? It’s asinine to see sites with the most TOD and affordable housing potential recurrently go to capital intensive P&R facilities.

      3. Most of the ST Express service is already operated by First Group America (via Community Transit) or Pierce Transit. ST has pondered building its own base for STRide, which could also house ST Express buses. Bringing Link in-house would be fairly straightforward on paper but likely lead to (a) either contracting operation of Link for 10ish years at a time to a company that mostly only knows how to operate bus service; or (b) hiring all the staff in-house, with wages and benefits comparable to Metro if they actually want to hold onto the current staff, followed by the staff quickly unionizing with a union more hardball than ATU.

        Option (a) means significant operational disruption (compared to the current very significant operational disruption for the virus and for lack of foresight in future-proofing construction plans) each time a contract turns over to another low bidder who mostly knows only how to operate bus service, kinda like what happens predictably with school bus service. After the next year and a half before large crowds are allowed again, maybe we’ll barely notice.

        Option (b) will just involve bargaining for a no-strike clause in the contract, with the price paid in automatic increases beyond the life of each union contract, which doesn’t really bother me. Or, the threat of possible full shut-downs when ST decides to play a little too hardball at the same time the union does, if a no-strike clause is not included in previous union contracts.

      4. Most of the ST Express service is already operated by First Group America

        The operators (i.e. drivers) are contract employees as opposed to union CT drivers. First Group doesn’t actually have any say over the operations (i.e. routes, fares, etc.).

      5. @RapidRider – is about competitive procurement, not privatization. If KCM or Pierce can provide the most competivie bid, great, but I’m deeply skeptical. What is cute is ignoring the data that already exists, such as the cost difference per hour between CT’s in house and contracted routes.

        @Trevor – I’d imagine the P&Rs would be deferred, not canceled. So we’d see very basic surface parking lots in lieu of garages. Re-purposing for TOD would likely require a new vote to replace the existing commitment to the voters.

        @Brent – I’d expect a “lift and shift” of the Link drivers & staff into ST payroll; I’d expect zero savings in terms of direct compensation and benefits to the actual workers. T-Link operators & mechanics are already direct ST employees with union representation; Link could be the same at a much larger scale. Right now, ST negotiates with KCM, who then negotiates with the unions – this negotiation by telephone is unproductive and has all sorts of perverse incentives. It’s like BART contracting with SFMTA for drivers for the entire BART network. Bringing Link in house so ST can have direct relationships with their drivers, staff, etc. is a better long term approach.

      6. @ AJ thanks for the answer. It’s unfortunate there is so little institutional flexibility considering the long development timeframes. Hopefully, a silver lining of COVID and I-976 uncertainty will be a revisiting of some of these decades-old decisions. Cutting capital spending on P&Rs while backfilling with development rights/land sales could be a win-win. Not to mention the benefits of increased TOD more generally.

      7. “When you say P&Rs go first, does it mean the land can be repurposed for housing?”

        I interpret it to mean delaying building the garages. Property acquisition should continue because the rapidly-rising cost of land would crowd out other promised features if the acquisitions are delayed by 5-10 years.

      8. Of course, ST could allow the current owners to live in the houses if P&R construction were delayed.

      9. Generally the P&R footprint is also used for construction staging. I don’t think property acquisition would be noticeably impacted. I suppose ST would be able to lease land for staging, rather than purchase, which would generate cash savings, but givne the P&Rs are deferred, not cancelled, I think ST would acquire the land upfront and figure out later if the P&R gets funded or go back to the voters in an “ST4” to re-purpose for TOD.

      10. If you don’t buy the P&R land now it’s going to be a lot more expensive in the future… after it’s within walking distance of a light rail station. OTOH, maybe this would be an economic stick to build something like, I dunno… maybe street level retail with housing above. Maybe it’s the rose colored glasses or the wine glass 1/2 full but I think there’s going to be less demand for parking in the future. Especially if it’s a pain to find and/or you have to pay cash money to use it.

  2. I’m concerned that ST is apparently not considering a scenario worse than the 2008 “Great Recession” considering this economic disruption is very likely worse at the moment. A scenario that best approximates current conditions would be, at a minimum, valuable to understanding the risk of the downside case.

    Secondly, nothing about this virus has been faster or easier. That will likely include the recovery period. I’m just one data point, but my work is exploring scenarios where we do not return to ordinary ways of doing business (in the office, normal travel, etc.) until well into 2021.

    1. I wouldn’t say “worse than great recession” isn’t consider, it simply isn’t modeled in this presentation. Modeling a specific scenario is purely academic at this point. You get another bar chart series taller than the red bars, but you don’t learn anything useful for decision making.

      A sustained shutdown is bad for ST financially, but may be mitigated when it comes to project execution. Washington hasn’t taken advantage of the shutdown to accelerate infrastructure because we are one of two states to shut down nearly all construction, but I’d imagine that will change as one of the first steps coming out of lockdown. If those who can work from home continue to do so for many months, there’s a window for ST and WSDOT to accelerate projects in the medium term. The financial problems laid out above are more about the ST3 project pipeline than about finishing the ST2 active projects.
      https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2020/04/coronavirus-street-repair-transit-construction-projects/609343/

    2. [A] Alex, your comment this afternoon could give Boris Johnson a badly-needed lesson in British understatement. Both easy and useless to debate, disease-like, who’s the pathogen and who’s the symptom.

      My present temporary employee and renter at 1600 Pennsylvania, no way it was his fault he lost the 2016 Election. Tell me Betsy DeVoss didn’t send him The Electoral College through a PCTW (Private Charter Time-Warp)!

      Not his fault either that how many of his own people weren’t even US citizens when the Compromise of 1877 made the Union accept defeat in the Civil War, freeing let the South, including the State of Wisconsin who’ve just adopted Jeff Davis’ electoral politics, to re-name slavery The Department of Corrections and curtail early voting. Far from majority of Northern non-Blacks, but a lot of German IMMIGRANTS joined the Union Army expressly to fight Slavery!

      From personal observation in a very small city at an extremely early stage of a worldwide disease, I think the rescue and rebuild of the US and its every State, city, county, and region are well within our ordinary citizens’ abilities.

      When the second enhanced pressure-cooker ended the Boston Marathon, rescuers simply ducked and kept on treating the victims of the first. Signature American: Without Orders.

      Dan, speculations like today’s worthwhile and much appreciated. Though one subject I’d appreciate a lot less of: Agency, location, or ridership, who needs to get a lot less so who else can get more? A few weeks in, and we’ve got no idea of who the competitors even are anymore.

      Personal “bent” I’m trying to underlay my transit politics with. Neighborhood, city, county, State, region, country, or planet, the wider our conception of them, the more choices we’ve got for life-necessities from work to schooling to dwellings. Lot more important than guns for Freedom.

      Mark Dublin

    3. It says right in the chart above that significant reductions would have to occur under a 2008-like scenario, so a larger scenario would mean larger cuts. We can’t say how much bigger the recession might be because nobody knows and it’s an unprecedented situation, so what’s the point of guessing whether it will be 25% worse or 50% worse? We’ll know when it becomes clear, and ST would have to take proportional steps. 2008 and the Great Depression give us known scenarios to work with where we can predict the impacts. Anything else is just blindly guessing in the dark.

    4. “Nothing about this virus has been faster or easier” FWIW, the UW models have had to decrease the death toll significantly compared with early projections, and the stock market is hanging in there at around 20% off the peak–hardly Great Depression levels (falling 50% in the first few weeks and bottoming out at 20%!). Even if this is likely a bear rally and will drop several times before coming back up. Cautiously optimistic that both the human impact and economic impact will be lower than initially predicted, although it’s still likely some of these projects will be delayed and/or shortened. We were always going to have a recession or two before the ST3 projects even break ground. It’s a shame that things like debt ceilings seem to be set assuming the economy will just roar ahead the whole time, which everybody learns in Econ 101 is never the case.

      1. It’s always darkest before the dawn. This was a hit without warning which markets hate. The response has thrown millions into unemployment but a “stay home” order is fundamentally different than than the previous crashes which exposed economic flaws (i.e. stupid loans of the housing bust and “irrational exuberance”of the dot com bust). The economy was doing well before this hit and it will have an impact but I feel it will be swift. So on the revenue side I think sales tax will be fine. Fare recovery, maybe not but that’s not going to be a big hit.

      2. “the stock market is hanging in there at around 20% off the peak–hardly Great Depression levels”

        They’re expecting the closures will substantially end in a month or so. If they go on through the end of the year and into next year because we don’t have vaccine yet or the attempts to make one fail, there will be a lot of bankrupcies and it will be like the Great Dpression or worse. Wall Street doesn’t know what will happen any more than anyone else does so it can’t price that risk, so it falls back on what it does know and assumes things will substantially recover in a couple months. That’s what ST is doing, modeling it after 2008 because we know how that went and how it recovered.

      3. I mean, ST could model a scenario where ridership drops 80% and stays there, ST is disbanded due to lack of revenue and transit shuts down. But what’s the point of that? If it happens, it happens.

  3. Is reduced scope a possibility without a revote? Not just delays or cancelations or truncations, but a different type of project? NOT suggesting, just wondering about the legal mechanics. For example, canceling the second tunnel in downtown Seattle but keeping all planned termini with some sort of elevated or at-grade ROW instead.

    1. Short answer is no. For your specific example, though, yes I believe they could built elevated if they felt that met the representative project.

    2. What they absolutely could do is sever the second tunnel from the Ballard project, build Ballard-to-Westlake as scheduled, and build the second tunnel later. While Seattle will endure some seriously overcrowded trains while waiting, having the service to Ballard is, in my view, a bigger benefit than relieving overcrowding.

      1. I tend to agree that the line north of Westlake is more important, but I’m not so sure it has to reach Ballard; getting to Smith Cove is the most important thing. I’m also not sure what to do about not having tracks that won’t tie into the rest of the system, including the OMFs; any ideas? Finally, I’m also not sure that the overcrowding will actually occur.

        This option is a puzzle.

      2. Rather than completely abandon the line connections, surface tracks on Third Ave or on Fourth/Fifth Ave could provide the track connectivity at a relatively low cost. The biggest challenge would be to then determine how to portal the track through SLU. There are lots of variations on this concept. Going to the surface could save enough money to keep the project intact. After all, any rider wanting to avoid the resulting slow ride through Downtown can simply transfer to a train in the existing DSTT.

      3. Al is correct – the Smith Cove station is the logical temporary terminus. The tunnel itself needs to be built to connect to the system. Building Link to Ballard without the full 2nd tunnel is a non-starter for technical reasons. Since there is no junction at Westlake, any track laid north of Westlake without a 2nd tunnel is worthless. The Ballard Link trains access the OMF south of the ID.

        Running at grade through downtown is a terrible option. Grade separation is most important in the core. If you are looking to save money, run at-grade in Interbay, Ballard, or West Seattle.

      4. More than half the length of the proposed second tunnel is north of Westlake. Grant, the portion between IDS and Westlake is likely to be astronomically expensive, but it only includes one new station, whereas Ballard-to-Westlake would include seven (including “New Westlake”).

        And where do you put a maintenance facility for a Ballard-to-Westlake segment? There will be NO connection at Westlake, that is 100.0000000000000000% certain.

        This is not just a “half-baked idea”, it hasn’t even been removed from the freezer.

      5. Smith Cove is probably the lowest ridership stop on the line. At that point, you would be out of the tunnel, where costs are much cheaper. Either you avoid building a station (saving more money), or go to Interbay (gaining a lot more riders).

        Both have the weakness of forcing buses over the Ballard Bridge, the source of much of the congestion. With Smith Cove, you gain very little, as the buses that go by have nowhere to go but to downtown*. It would allow the D to skip Queen Anne (like the 15) so that does add something, just not a lot. The 8 would have to be sent to Smith Cove, so you don’t really save much in service, you just have a (slightly) faster trip for some Ballard riders. Terminating in Interbay avoids the cost of the new bridge and enables all the buses in Magnolia to head towards the U-District (or just terminate there) which would be a substantial improvement for Magnolia and/or a substantial service savings.

        Ideally it would end at Lower Queen Anne, but you probably wouldn’t save much if you tried to build the tunnel in two pieces.

        * Theoretically if Link terminated at Smith Cove you could terminate some buses there. But realistically that won’t happen. Agencies are loathe to force people to transfer right when they are at the edge of downtown, especially when there is little there. That would be like terminating buses at SoDo, which Metro has not done, despite the heavy crowding downtown and substantial service savings that would come from truncating.

      6. Well, not 100.0000000% certain. There can’t be a connection between the northern segment in its own tunnel crossing the existing tunnel at right angles as now-planned. But as I wrote below, if the northern segment is re-engineered completely between Gates Foundation and Westlake to belly east to I-5 and fishhook back to Amazon Station which would have to be re-configured of course, then it would be possible to just build the northern section.

        This would of course permanently embargo any possibility for an Aurora line and probably any possible extension beyond Ballard.

      7. Good point, Ross – by “Smith Cove” is really meant the tunnel portal. I think you need to build the portal for safety/ventilation purposes, but yes if there are switching tracks within the tunnel the LQA station would be a good terminus. Smith Cove could allow for truncation, but given this is a short term measure to preserve capital dollar, you are right that a major bus truncation is unlikely, particularly with the extension all the way to Ballard would presumably just a few years away.

      8. And as another afterthought, maybe a single track junction at Westlake could be only a non-revenue connection to a rump section of Ballard-Downtown which ends in “New Westlake”. The new tunnel would have to be engineered with a scissors just north of the new platform, but that’s probably a good idea anyway.

        So, rather than spreading to two tracks at the first opportunity, a non-revenue track could be single track all the way to a junction with the Green line a bit north of Amazon. It would require a single cross-over tunnel to connect both tracks to the non-revenue tunnel, but if done before construction that is a relatively inexpensive addition.

        Now I grant that is a LOT of “temporary” tunneling I. But it does allow such a northern rump of the Green Line to run at normal headways and by keeping revenue trains out of the main tunnel, the Red and Blue lines (I guess “Lines 1 and 2”) could each run as frequently as the un-ventilated section allows. But if West Seattle is never built, and the section of tunnel between “New Westlake” and the portal south of “New IDS” is also never built, the North King cost could be radically cut, to the benefit of all sub-area budgets.

      9. OK, not “before construction”; that’s obviously impossible. And dumb to have written. Instead, “planned before construction and built during initial construction”.

    3. If faced with financial problems, it makes sense to build the best value projects first. With transit projects, that is often expressed in rider time savings per dollars spent. Calculating time savings gets a bit complicated, so it is easier to just start with ridership per dollar spent. According to this table (https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/06/youve-got-50-billion-for-transit-now-how-should-you-spend-it/), here are some of the items listed from best to worst:

      1) Ballard to downtown
      2) Graham Street
      3) Tacoma Streetcar
      4) Federal Way
      5) West Seattle Link
      6) Boeing Access Road
      7) SR 522 BRT

      Some of these would save a lot of time, some of them (like the streetcar) wouldn’t. Some are large, some are small (allowing a fair amount of flexibility).

      It is worth noting that Ballard to downtown is not only the best value, but it is a much better value than anything else (in riders per dollar spent). It has over twice the riders per dollar spent than West Seattle Link. Or, to put it another way, the subsidized cost per riders is less than half. This is important, as it generates more revenue, and enables paying for other projects (or service) sooner. I would also assume that Ballard Link is close to the top in time savings per rider as well.

      Unfortunately, agencies don’t always work that way. We should have started with a line from the U-District to downtown (including First Hill). But we still don’t have that section built, and have built other, lower valued projects instead. We aren’t alone — Vancouver hasn’t built the UBC line yet, for example. My point is, even though it seems completely backwards, I think the Seattle project that is likely to be delayed is the one that is the best value (Ballard Link). It has happened before — I don’t see why it won’t happen again.

      1. Most likely reason it won’t happen again is because the young professional and UW students who, being fashionable, can enjoy my apartment with a stove in the middle of the dining room, will see its opposition in Hell before they let Ballard once more get stiffed aside.

        Large percentage of Monorail support a few years ago was about protest vote against the exact Ballard disinclusion mentioned here.

        Also, fast as a hydrofoil, Boeing or Estonian, can roostertail, Smith Cove doesn’t sit along a commerce-and-industrial-friendly waterway whose eastern maritime “reach” is the eastern shore of Lake Washington. Itself stretching from Lake City to Renton.

        With a shoreline actively commercial in its inclusion of a working sea-plane airport. That happens to be literally in the middle of South Lake Union. And as with the trackbed underlaying the Cross-Kirkland Corridor, born streetcar-friendly.

        Shilshole, Ballard CBD, Leary Way, Fremont T-junction for lakeside track to both SLU and the U-District…finishing touches all just substations, wires, and poles. None of it in any hurry for completion, but there long as necessary.

        Do it or your kids won’t keep paying your rent at Lockhaven.

        Mark Dublin

  4. I’ve often pointed out that ST3 projects were developed with some pretty unrealistic cost assumptions. Now, the revenue assumptions are going to drop. This situation was inevitable in my mind, even though its size is severe and its timing is unexpected.

    Since we don’t know the impact, I would suggest setting beginning with a “percent of ST3” project and operations scenario. For example, assume only 60 percent of the total cost.

    The ridership forecasts should also be adjusted downward. Even when the crisis is over, certain structural changes like more people working from home will reduce the use of transit. This suggests that part of the savings can be achieved through less frequent trains and buses. Going from 3 to 4 or 5 minutes for Link isn’t that horrible if the ridership isn’t there, for example.

    There are some major cost reductions that can keep projects substantially intact except for the proposed frequencies, like changing technologies and single-tracking difficult sections — but it probably won’t save enough. We are going to need to lose large proportions of each project.

    I don’t expect project reductions to begin to be apparent for at least six months or a year.

    1. “I’ve often pointed out that ST3 projects were developed with some pretty unrealistic cost assumptions.”

      Yup. And I’ve been pretty much in lock step with you in that regard. Additionally, the entire ST3 capital program, while certainly more conservative in its financial plan than its predecessor, had no consideration of an economic slowdown and/or recession. It’s a freaking 25+ year plan!

      I agree also that the inevitable program reset won’t become apparent even to folks like us who are paying attention for some time to come.

    2. If you assume six-minute headways during the peak for each line you don’t need the new tunnel, though there is then the problem of connecting to the SLU/Ballard alignment. The downtown tunnel has no ventilation problems; it’s mostly station platforms…. It is the long stretch between Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium which remains un-ventilated that limits headways to three minutes in that stretch embargoing three lines from the existing trackway.

      However, it might be barely possible to accommodate them through downtown by using the transition zone to the cut-and-cover tunnel east of Westlake to make the junction. If a single track for the SLU-Ballard line took the center between the tracks just east of the platform but did not rise, and instead dove, by the time it reached the transition curve to the bored section by the old bus terminal it would be deep enough to under-run the southbound track. It could possibly dive deep enough to pass between the foundation of the Convention Center extension and I-5 and then run diagonally across South Lake Union with three stations instead of two.

      The question is can a six-minute headway accommodate potential future volumes on the Tacoma extension? Perhaps rather than having all Everett trains go to West Seattle, which will never fill up six-minute headways, every other one could continue on to Sea-Tac. That would mean uneven headways on the northern segment through the Rainier Valley, necessitating overpasses for the major east-west arterials, but they’re needed anyway, and building them is a tiny fraction of the cost of a new downtown tunnel.

      It would behoove Sound Transit to study the engineering required to accommodate this. Yes, southbound riders on the Ballard/SLU line would frequently be waiting for a “slot” southbound. It would be important to schedule north- and south-bound moves on the Green Line to meet west of Gates Foundation and south of IDS so that they don’t foul each other on the single-track section. But it’s likely that it can be done if care it taken.

      1. Oh, if something like this is chosen to limit costs, a center “transfer” platform like we’ve been discussing for Pioneer Square could be included at Westlake to facilitate “double-back” transfers between the Red and Blue lines to the north and the Green line to SLU.

        There is no ceiling between the operations level and the mezzanine so building end of platform stairs and some sort of mid-platform elevator with doors on both sides for ADA compliance would be completely adequate. People could not circulate from one end of the platform to the other, because of the elevator shaft in the middle, but all trains would have two cars on both side of the shaft.

      2. You raise an excellent point that there is enough of a gap between the tracks near Westlake that could enable a switch and siding for a line to SLU. It should be explored — even if it’s found to be too difficult to build.

      3. “Perhaps rather than having all Everett trains go to West Seattle, which will never fill up six-minute headways, every other one could continue on to Sea-Tac.”

        I kind of recall another poster suggesting this operational strategy as a means of lowering capital costs for ST3 in a post a while back. Perhaps that was you also; I just can’t recall at the moment. It certainly is an option that should be considered if it’s feasible.

        The enormous cost of the second DT tunnel, which wasn’t scrutinized enough in the buildup to the ST3 vote imho, is now starting to rear its ugly head.

      4. It’s a never-ending STB debate whether a third line could be added to DSTT1 without hitting the capacity ceiling and causing pass-ups. Six-minute headways from Tacoma is clearly inadequate because the existing six-minute trains in Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill are almost full, so where will those Federal Way and Tacoma people fit? The only increase we’ll be getting is 3-car trains to 4-car trains and some fill-in 2-car trains (every third run I think) to 4-car trains. This compared to beaucoup number of current express buses coming from Federal Way and Tacoma that will be truncated. Even if some Tacomans start driving because Link will take over an hour, you’ll still need the equivalent of a bus every few minutes.

        And that doesn’t even consider the bottleneck between UW and downtown, which will overlap with the Tacoma-downtown demand. Again there’s debate but ST2 Link there could be overcrowded on its own.

        Now, it’s unclear how much Everett and Tacoma will increase crowding compared to Lynnwood and Federal Way, because the ST2 scenarios in 2015 all assumed truncating all routes at Lynnwood and Federal Way, so people from Everett and Tacoma will be on ST2 Link anyway. It all depends on how much the Everett and Tacoma extensions increase ridership to downtown beyond the ST2 level. And that again is another never-ending STB debate.

      5. What we do know is that DSTT1 cin its curent state an go up to 3-minute headways. Current ST2 plans are, I think, 4-minutes on Central Link and East Link combined. That leaves 3-minutes as a possible expansion if overcrowding becomes an issue. Tacoma and Everett will add some amount of demand. A third line could take that 1-minute reserve; I’m not sure what its m,aximum headway would be (what’s the proper calculation?), but then the tunnel would be 100% full with no room for additional trains if crowding occurs.

        The tunnel’s capacity could be increased to 1.5 minute headways with capital improvements. The ST3 candidate list had a potential project to do that, but it was deselected when the second tunnel was selected. Now there’s no money budgeted for it until possibly ST4. As to whether DSTT2 could be deselected now to raise money to increase DSTT1’s capacity, that raises several issues.

        The absolute maximum ceiling is probably 45-second headways, but ST estimated reliability would degrade if it went beyond 1.5 minutes, because even small delays or bunching or merging by one train would throw other trains off-schedule.

      6. Mike, believe me. I’m just as concerned about overcrowding as you are. However, we are in the midst of a new “social distancing” era that affects many elements of trip-making. To put it simply, we aren’t going to collectively use transit as much on a typical day as we were. More of us will work from home, get takeout and take adult education classes on line. More of us will be germaphobic and avoid being near other people.

        I see this as long-term behavioral-transforming too. My aunts were older children during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They remained stingy until their deaths because of it. If this lasted a few weeks, people would revert to old habits, but we are beginning our second month of this without an all-clear date.

        We don’t fully know how our aggregate behavior will change in the long-term, but I just don’t see how any prior forecast is going to be any good unless population and job growth wildly exceeds our already rosy projections.

  5. A couple of follow-up points are warranted I believe.

    1. “A freeze on hiring has taken effect.”

    A similar move to reduce the planned expansion of the number of outside consultants needs to happen right alongside this. For example, the board is now considering advancement of Motion 2020-25 relating to the Federal Way Link project:

    “Authorizes the chief executive officer to execute a contract modification with South County Transit Partners to exercise a contract option for Phase 2B design-build project management services for the
    Federal Way Link Extension in the amount of $81,643,091, with a 10 percent contingency of $8,164,309, totaling $89,807,400 for a new total authorized contract amount not to exceed $106,433,313.”

    So that’s a contract modification to the tune of some $100M for project management through the start-up of revenue service for this one contractor. Of course this is on top of ST’s own project management staffing.

    The full board is scheduled to vote on the motion later this month.

    2. Sound Transit has had a significant underspend on its capital program for the last two fiscal years. In 2018, the agency spent only 70.7% of the adopted budget for projects, ending up with a variance of about $528M. Last year, ST spent only 82.2% and ended up with a variance over $419M. This was primarily due to the lack of progress on capital projects, delays in ROW acquisitions and awarding of construction contracts, and not due to any substantial cost savings.

    So in two successive fiscal years the agency has essentially increased its unrestricted cash levels as the result of these underspends by nearly $1B. Add in the higher than budgeted tax revenues for the last two years, and the amount surpasses that threshold.

    Of course these delays will eventually come home to roost as a delayed planned expense typically will result in an increase in said expense. The 2020 budget and the 6-year CIP (or whatever ST calls theirs) should already have the aforementioned project(s) delay costs baked in if they’re on top of their game. (That’s certainly open to debate, of course.) Part of that equation is the increased cash position relating to the underspend though.

    I only mention this here as I’m sure CEO Rogoff will not be discussing this aspect of the financial plan. I’m curious now to see what he says about the $2B in TIFIA funding that was previously secured and has only had one draw against it IIRC.

    Pass the popcorn, as they say.

    1. Finding ways out of any early-stage, long-term build contracts that are based on pre-virus costs is an easy albeit controversial move to save money. Even when they restart, they can be done more cheaply.

      1. The contracts would include incentives to reduce costs. Insofar as macro costs are lower – lower price of steel, concrete, labor, etc. – that should flow through naturally, no need to renegotiate.

    1. Ness, now that Goodcardbadtapwrap has gone the way of not only Fare Inspection but very likely Link itself, best I apologize for my own hard words to the official you mention.

      Too bad “Ad Hominem” sounds so much like a little cartoon creature who lost the advertising contract to Theodore, Simon, and ALVIN!!!!!!! the Chipmunks.

      Purely selfish motive: If he quits now, ST will have to contract with our Civil War’s still-pro-slavery- victor-States for some classic personnel-retrieval software no pedigreed canine from north of Mason Dixon will touch. Let alone drag out of the woods and return to his office in time for the next Thursday Board meeting.

      If ST service area’s Defense is in fact still contracted to the United States Armed Forces, we might have to wait at the end of a long line leading to Jared Kushner’s desk for software, materiel, and technicians to detect the hiding places of possible successors.

      Like Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Becky Thatcher would have called it, “Blank Slate.” In Peter Rogoff’s position, Jim would’ve been five years in Canada by now.

      Mark Dublin

    2. In a confidential executive session, since it’s a salary issue. We may hear about it afterward.

    3. There should be a Facebook or similar site showing how much of a paycheck our representatives are willing to sacrifice. I think it should be extended to every public employee. Mainly because non essential public employees are working while private companies are told to stay home. But I am sure most people would think that is too far. My opinion only.

  6. A modest proposal for extreme cost-saving in Seattle if shit gets real. Basically, split the spine at the U District instead of downtown, and build Ballard-West Seattle as a separate line, and halve frequency at termini using turnbacks.

    Three lines:
    1-Line: Federal Way-U District every 6 minutes, Tacoma-U District every 12.
    2-Line: Redmond-Lynnwood every 6 minutes, Redmond-Everett every 12.
    3-Line: Ballard-West Seattle (every 3 minutes). Elevated from Ballard to Seattle Center in new ROW, then tear down the Monorail and re-use the ROW for Link. Intermediate station at 5th/Bell to serve Belltown and Denny Triangle. Build a larger Link station on the 3rd floor of Westlake Center with high-speed elevators to underground 1- and 2-Line platforms. Continue elevated down 5th to Jackson (grade never exceeds 5%, marginal but doable) with intermediate station at Madison. Continue elevated through SODO into the planned line to West Seattle. Combine construction with a new auto bridge since the current one is toast. Automate the line and run it as often as ridership warrants.
    4-Line: Canceled. Instead, Stride lines S4 and S5 from Issaquah-South Bellevue and Downtown Kirkland-Downtown Bellevue, respectively.

    Frequency levels become appropriate to ridership:
    3 minutes from U District-IDS
    3 minutes from Ballard-West Seattle
    6 minutes from Lynnwood-Redmond and IDS-Federal Way
    12 minutes from Lynnwood-Everett and Tacoma-Federal Way

    Only one tunnel downtown.
    Automated and longer trains possible on 3-Line.
    Serves Belltown, Denny Triangle, and Amazon, walkable to most of SLU.
    Probably (?) quite a bit cheaper.

    Sure it may be crazy, but it’s a hell of a lot more reasonable than the recent proposal to just throw trains in the 99 tunnel from a former mayoral candidate.

    1. Because all of the subareas kick in funds for the second Downtown tunnel, alternatives that avoid its expensive construction save money for every subarea. It’s clear that rethinking it will be key in developing cost reductions.

      I am amazed at how the discussion of the second tunnel has always avoided highlighting the depth issue. The current proposal has deep, DEEP stations. It’s going to take a rider a few minutes just to get to one of those platforms.

      I’ve often felt that the monorail tracks are worth sacrificing for high-capacity light rail service but many others find it off-limits as if it’s a sacred cow.

      A final benefit to giving up a tunnel is avoiding its lengthy construction period. The new Downtown tunnels in San Francisco and Los Angeles both have two-year delays, and the SF tunnel is looking like an eleven-year project from groundbreaking (which was after final design and environmental steps). Tunnels easily take an extra five years to build and ST3 tacitly assumes this fact. Going aerial or surface can save at least five years of debt service.

      1. Al S., would you be willing to tear down and replace the existing Monorail pillars if they won’t handle modern steel-rail vehicles?

        And if you owned property on Fifth down to Jackson, would your attorneys be assigned to grant or fight the extension? At slopes trains could handle down Fifth, wouldn’t tracks reach grade for street running someplace around Columbia?

        For 58 years, those trains and pillars have essentially been express horizontal escalators between what’s now Westlake Station and Seattle Center, extendable to the Lower Queen Anne business district.

        But vertical platform to platform considerations of the rest of Link Downtown, being me, where’s Section Drawing One? Burlington Northern still runs some freights under there, don’t they?

        Incident under Third around Century Square gave us some “De-Watering” practice when the river Spring Street’s name referred to encountered Big Bertha’s older brother”Mighty Mole”.

        Brave New Galaxy, let alone World.

        Mark Dublin

    2. It’s certainly not “crazy”, but it would be received with stunned disbelief. Downtown Seattle along Fifth Avenue is walled with large buildings, more all the time. It’s considered “the beautiful street” and I seriously doubt that the owners of those half to three-quarters of a billion dollar buildings are going to say “Sure, why not?” to a proposal for an elevated railway down the middle of them.

      That’s not to say it can’t happen, but don’t bet the farm on the possibility.

      1. Also, if you read above, it might be possible to have only one tunnel serve all three lines with a junction just east of the existing Westlake Station.

    3. How would trains terminate and lay over at UW when through trains are using the same pair of tracks? The turnbacks are at Northgate and Stadium, so those would be the best places to split lines.

      5th Avenue beautiful, my foot.

      However, it was the 2nd Avenue office-building owners who led the five initiatives to cancel the monorail because they didn’t want it running in front of hteir windows, and they finally succeded on the fifth one (with the help of a monorail budget meltdown). 5th Avenue isn’t 2nd Avenue and has different owners, but a similar opposition could arise. And the ST3 ballot measure didn’t say anything about elevated on 5th. ST can substitute elevated for tunnels in the neighborhoods but downtown would be a much harder sell.

      1. It is the most aesthetically pleasing north-south street. It’s narrower than Second, Third and Fourth and has more plazas and pedestrian refuges. Is it The Champs Elysee? Of course not, but it is the “high street” of downtown Seattle.

      2. P.S. You are correct about layovers at HSS. They can do it now because none are screaming in from the north. You need a tail track for mid-route short-turns.

      3. Ah, yes, the aesthetically pleasing vistas of KCCF. 5th is only pleasing if you stay on the north end of downtown.

  7. Just a friendly reminder to everyone that private jets were subsidized to the tune of the following:

    – No excise tax for the rest of the year
    – No fuel taxes for the rest of the year
    – Billions in forgivable loans and guarantees

    We’re in the middle of class warfare and we cannot allow public transit to fall apart while private jets for the super rich are bailed out.

    1. Class war, huh? Any of us rate “combatant” or are we all war-crimes victims? Not reassuring the stripe of foreign leader our own Pennsylvania Avenue renter keeps closest company with.

      At least Vladimir Putin is a career civil servant. In addition to starting public life as a uniformed torturer and killer, Brazil’s President is proud of his career beginnings. Though, maybe mellowing with age, he says that if he had it to do over, he’d just shoot them all.

      For a transit blog, Chile bears some attention for some governmental habits with the average lifespan of Dracula. NEVER has a leader faced a LIBERAL enemy as cruel as Dr. Van Helsing!

      In addition, pertinent here, to a fairly advanced transit system. Long years after longer years of violent dictatorship, though, however hard old habits die, certain ones surely smell that way.

      During recent student demonstrations over subway fare, riot police deliberately blinded people with a riot-gun pellet likely invented for the purpose. There was a time our country was at least good for a rebuke for such conduct.

      Now, rebuke-tank’s empty after dealing with losers like Germany and Canada. So what’s the deal for us? We got any allies? Like an Afghan prince in an English movie who went home to rule after Harvard graduation once told Western captives….

      “Doncha know when you got no cards at ALL?”

      Mark Dublin

  8. Saving $ on Link in Seattle:

    West Seattle: at-grade along Fauntleroy starting by Nucor, following West Seattle Bridge right-of-way, avoiding expensive property acquisition costs associated with other elevated alternatives. Would only need 2 at-grade crossings–35th and Alaska. Also potential major cost-savings if West Seattle Bridge needs replacing, can split rebuild costs with SDOT for a combined rail/car bridge. This route was one of the 2018 alternatives so no reason why they can’t bring it back.

    Downtown: Build the tunnel. This is where money should be spent.

    Ballard: Drawbridge.

    1. I agree on the drawbridge to Ballard. Ross and Mike generally agree, too. The problem is the Port of Seattle. It does not want to lose any of Fisherman’s Terminal because it really is the place that the Alaska fleet over-winters.

      That means that “a drawbridge” almost certainly means “a drawbridge east of the existing bridge” and very possibly at 14th Avenue.

      For West Seattle, just to be clear, are you advocating continuing west along Spokane elevated to Fauntleroy and then somewhere after a curve to the south descent to a center of the road at-grade alignment like along Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard? There would be no deviation to the south to serve the Youngstown neighborhood directly?

      If so, you have to remember that Fauntleroy is a much narrower street with no more opportunity for widening; it’s closely hemmed in with substantial structures. Though it’s fairly wide at the bottom of the hill, right now it is three lanes with a refuge and two parking lanes from Andover up nearly to 35th. Putting tracks in the middle would certainly eliminate the parking, and make any left turns very difficult. I’m all for having at-grade at the ends of stub lines, but is there really room on this street? A rail right-of-way is wider than two lanes of traffic because of the buffer zones.

      1. By the way, a 14th Avenue drawbridge is not the end of the world if it comes to ground a bit north of Leary, has a station there to redevelop “southwest West Woodland” and then turns into the center of Market Street stubbing at a station between 17th and 20th. This would require that 15th over- or underpass Market Street to avoid permanent carmageddon on 15th.

        Doing this would permanently embargo an extension north along 15th NW.

      2. @ Tom, I see nothing wrong with forgoing an extension along 15th to the north as long as they end up with that station near 17th/20th in Ballard.

        The better line to the north, for me at least, seems to be along Aurora. Then build the Ballard to UW line for the cross city connection.

        Where would a line going north on 15th go? To Northgate? To Greenwood and north where it could eventually hook into Aurora near the old Sears store/WSDOT building/Shoreline Community College? To 85th and Greenwood? In all cases a line going up Aurora could do the same thing, and probably better.

      3. That’s correct re: West Seattle. There has been a ton of new multifamily development in Youngstown since the preferred alternative was chosen nearly a half-decade ago and it isn’t practical to build elevated rail through there anymore. Recent alternatives have reflected this with the Yancy/Andover options gaining favor–those have the Delridge Station would be next to Nucor/Spokane anyway. But they have some potential challenges due to the curves in the track, climbing a steep grade up to Avalon, and potentially crossing over the WS bridge approach if the new rail bridge is built on the north side of the tracks.

        So my proposal is an elevated Station right along the highway at Delridge, then follow the ramp to the WS bridge up to Avalon–transition from elevated to at-grade at Manning St, and then build the at-grade rail in the median with an at-grade station at 35th/Fauntleroy and another along Fauntleroy south of Alaska. Only downside is that the Junction station would be a little too far east for my liking but it provides an easier path to extending south in a later extension than trying to get up to 41st or 42nd on an elevated line.

        I suspect that if new alternatives are not proposed after the draft EIS that some version of the Yancy/Andover alternatives will be the winner anyway, although it will be interesting to see how the one with the shorter tunnel (likely cut and cover) is rated.

      4. jas, the long term ST plan is two more elevated stations on 15th NW, at 65th and 85th. Seattle Subway envisions those plus 105th and Greenwood, 105th and Aurora, Northgate, Lake City (125th and LCW), Lake City, Kenmore and Bothell and a couple of intermediate stations. Unlikely.

        I generally like the idea of an Aurora line in North King County north of about 85th. I-5 misses all the activity centers except Northgate/North Seattle College.

        But how do you get there? South of 85th is pretty non-dense except for a (relatively small) cluster at Fremont. The easiest way is to take the 85th extension to 105th and Evanston and then use the Interurban Right of Way to 160th or so and then down the middle of Aurora (swapping the existing bus lanes for center running) as far as you want with frequent MAX-style stations.

        A new crossing of the Ship Canal in the area of Fremont is either a new high bridge right next to the Aurora Bridge with tracks otherwise in the middle of Aurora, a continuous tunnel along Westlake to the south and Fremont/Greenwood to the north or a mid-level bridge between tunnels on both sides of the bridge, probably under Dexter to the south and Woodland Park Avenue to the north moving to Aurora elevated somewhere in the park.

        All are mega-expensive and the all-Aurora high level alignment misses Fremont yet again.

      5. “on both sides of the Ship Canal“. The [one] bridge would be just east of the Aurora Bridge and a 70 footer like any Ballard drawbridge.

        Ay-yi-yi. I need to proof-read better.

      6. Drawbridge, expensive, obtrusive, permanent source of sudden delay over mechanical failure. Let’s see maintenance comparison between a drawbridge and a bored pair of tubes.

        Not saying it can’t be done, but it’d take a worse helmsman than the one at the wheel of the Exxon Valdez to rip a bored tunnel out of the Canal at Ballard. For a bridge, average ocean-going tanker or freighter should always have more than one crewman aboard equal to the job.

        Mark Dublin

      7. Mark, and a tunnel would likely mean no Ballard station until 2045 or so. There just aren’t that many large ships passing through the Ship Canal east of the Ballard Bridge any longer. A medium elevation bridge will be just fine. Nobody has rammed the considerably lower Ballard Bridge in its 80 years of existence.

  9. All right, having embarrassed myself with several re-thinkings, and gotten some support from Al for thinking about it, here’s a bullet point summary:

    1. Build a single-track connection, with a connection to both existing tracks, between the existing tracks in the section which angles upward just east of the Westlake platforms. Make the section from the junction switches dive rather than rise so that it can pass under the existing southbound track at the curve by the old bus terminal.

    2. If the decision is to cancel Line 3 (the “Green Line”) south of Westlake, have the new alignment spread to two tracks as soon as physically possible, add a new station somewhere around Denny and Fairview, and reconfigure the planned Amazon station to more southeast-northwest alignment. Add a center platform at Westlake to facilitate “doubleback” transfers. Build the remainder of Ballard-Downtown as planned from Gates Foundation on west and north. This saves the most money.

    3. If the decision is only to defer the portion of the new tunnel south of Westlake, build “New Westlake” as designed below existing Westlake, presumably with a center platform as planned. This requires that a scissors cross-over be included in the tunnel just north of the New Westlake platform. It also requires a facing-point cross-over between the southbound and northbound tracks to be built somewhere between Amazon and Gates Foundation. Just to the south of that cross-over the single “non-revenue” track connected in step 1 would connect to the northbound track in a trailing point connection. This track would not carry revenue trains, but would would provide possibly a ten-year delay of the section of the second tunnel is built. It could be done in sections itself if necessary, say Westlake to Midtown first and then the south portal to Midtown. Doing that would, again, require a scissors just north or conceivably south of Midtown.

    For details see my various ramblings. My apologies for not planning the idea better, but it really might make doing the rump section north of Westlake possible.

    1. I could see another option for your deferred tunnel concept:

      – Bore the eventual second tunnel between Westlake and ID initially as a single-track/bore for non-revenue service only. (Perhaps both bores could be created but put tracks only in one.) No Midtown station or platforms at ID for SLU/ Ballard until later when overcrowding warrants it and more funding is enabled . That would give track access to the system for vehicles but not interrupt the primary DSTT operation or require new switching tracks in the DSTT.

      I suggest this because boring machines have to be removed so that having them exit at portals rather than yanked up at least 100 feet in the middle of the Westlake area seems pretty strategic option. (That’s a big reason why I suggested Smith Cove as the end station elsewhere in this posting.) It’s not the boring that makes the new Downtown tunnel expensive as much as it is the station complexities.

      1. Digging half a new tunnel but excavating no stations is an interesting idea, but a more expensive that the much shallower connector tunnel. The part of the connector in the existing cut-and-cover tunnel would have to be mined with support structures in order to avoid disrupting the existing tracks, and that mining would start somewhere just east of the new Convention Center structure. One possibility is to have the transition between boring and mining be just north of Olive and Minor to the east of Minor in the parklike area; the boring machine could be retrieved there.

        The mined section would run underneath the Pike Street off-ramp down to Pine and then swing into the Pine Street right-of-way to the junction. It could conceivably even be cut-and-cover under the Pike Street though it’s only a couple of blocks so it would make some sense to use the same mining method the entire distance from the bored section to the junction.

        Grant, the single tube you propose would be reusable when the second is dug and the two new stations are opened which is a very huge plus. But it would also require boring the entire two-and-a-half miles to the baseball stadium. And you really do have to excavate the station boxes and erect the bearing walls along the way, though you don’t have to finish their interiors. There is no way that the Midtown station can be excavated entirely from the surface; there’s just too much material to remove. And if you don’t make the station box, then you can’t break into the tunnel bore(s). Mining from track level upward for 3/4 of the depth (until the overburden becomes unstable) is the way to go. You have a railroad at the bottom to haul the spoils away.

        There could be demising walls in the station boxes for the second tube when drilled.

        So, if the eventual goal is to finish the tunnel with the two stations south of Westlake, then it probably makes sense to drill one tunnel all the way and the other one only from New Westlake north and use the to-be-second tunnel for non-revenue moves. Again, this requires a pair of scissors between the two tracks north Westgate. They can’t leave that out!

        So far as removing the boring machines in a partial construction, why? Leave them in the tunnel south of the revenue trackage to resume their work when sufficient funds have been accumulated. And if the tunnel is only ever to be just Westlake and north just leave them in the stub. This has happened other places.

      2. Ah, I just thought of a problem with resuming a previously partially finished tunnel: the spoils. You can’t send them out through the portion of the tunnel already finished and in operation, so you would need to remove the TBM and bore from the other side. So no three-step construction, though two-step is doable.

        I do believe that some TBM’s can be disassembled, though and hauled out through the tunnel behind them.

  10. “Based on agency commitments already in place, our first priority will be to minimize impacts to current projects already in construction or entering construction to the greatest degree possible.”

    Does this mean East Link and the Tacoma-Everett spine will be prioritized over DSTT2, Ballard Link, and West Seattls Link? Star Lake is already in construction, East Link to Bellevue is rapidly finishing, as is Link to Lynwood. Has construction started on Ballard, West Seattle, or DSTT2? Am I reading too much into this statement?

    1. Does this mean East Link and the Tacoma-Everett spine will be prioritized over DSTT2, Ballard Link, and West Seattls Link?

      Of course they will, except for the final extension to Everett. East Link, Lynnwood, and Federal Way are all ST2 projects, except the Redmond extension of East Link.

      Redmond will be first, Tacoma second, West Seattle (groan), Ballard, Everett and then Issaquah. That’s the planned sequence. Now the East King subarea will be flush with cash, so Issaquah, if built at all, will probably come in before Everett if it is ever completed. But “The Spine” between 128th and Tacoma will be finished well before the Downtown Seattle tunnel. I don’t know how they’ll run to Tacoma initially, perhaps using turnbacks at Northgate where there will be a tail track just north of the station.

    2. I interpret that this way: Anything not under construction (planned for completion after 2025) is delayed indefinitely. I don’t know where 130th or STRide or Sounder garages fall in this interpretation. I don’t know what happens to the current environmental or design work on the remainder of ST3 but I could see those slowed or stopped for at least a few years.

    3. East Link is under construction and I assume Federal Way has started. Lynnwood is either started or entering. ST has not chosen an alignment for Ballard or West Seattle yet; that vote or at least the first round of final proposals was to be around this month. Tacoma and Everett are further in the future.

    4. Technically, Lynnwood Link has moved thru the phase gate to construction, but it has been lagging since it “broke ground” last year. They are having schedule issues with one of the civil construction contractors, the L200 one I believe, having rejected Dec 2019 and Feb 2020 schedule updates to the master schedule, per the last few monthly progress reports. As a result the SPI* for this portion of the line is well below 1.0, meaning the work performed was less than planned in the last reporting period. This is also the case for the portion of the line covered by the L300 contract. If I’m not mistaken, there are also issues with the contractor selected for systems final design, LTK Engineering.

      *Schedule Performance Index

  11. There’s an art to hitting someone up for money. It’s a two step process. First comes the hard luck story. Next comes the ask. We just got the hard luck story.

    1. You make it sound like ST wants the money for its own personal benefit. The money is to address basic mobility needs the entire society has (i.e., the taxpayers themselves). If we don’t finish the projects at whatever cost it takes, we won’t have the mobility, and that will be a detriment to our economy and well-being.

      1. ST lost money. The out of work waiter who can’t pay rent lost money. But the waiter must pay more in taxes to make ST whole? Oh, “for the good of society.” Something seems a little off with that logic.

      2. “But the waiter must pay more in taxes to make ST whole?”

        No, to run the transit so the waiter can get to his next job!

      3. I think Sam is simply advocating that we bill the entities most likely to be able to afford the payment, i.e. a combination of the federal government (which can print money) and the super-rich (through increased taxes on things like capital gains and inheritance). It is truly a very thoughtful, progressive approach to the problem, very commendable. Hopefully it will in fact happen.

      4. AM, you can be double-damn betcha certain that Sam is not advocating for billing “the super-rich”. Jes’ sayin’

    2. Balance sheet’s got two columns, Sam. To be doing wrong by a poor person, Sound Transit would have to be delivering less value than the money it collected from him. Or her.

      But while we’ve got the sheet out of the file drawer- in my Dad’s time those things were so heavy average file clerk was in shape for the Army on induction day- let’s haul out the account of somebody whose public transportation is the jet airliner his tax-breaks bought for him.

      Damn. My supper’s ready so let’s just leave it like this tonight. Side with me on reversing “Citizens United” before we argue anymore.

      While we’re talking public expenditure, nobody rich should have any problem at all with disclosing not only their Government contracts, but some really juicy services. Where’s my receipt for all those people in Greece, Brazil, and Chile whose torturers got not only free American uniforms, but their whole electric bill paid at work.

      What’s amatta wit’ yoo peeple? Did we leave ya short on Protection? Sheesh.

      Mark Dublin

  12. The highest capital priorities should be Northgate Link, the ST2 extensions, and 130th Station. Those are the most critical parts, and will create a core network that will really help, even if people have to take a feeder bus to Lynnwood or Federal Way and transfer.

    The next priority after that should probably be Stride. Tacoma and Everett will be better off even with Federal Way and Lynnwood, but the Stride corridors have no fallback. The 522, 535, and 560 have pathetic frequency off-peak, and they get caught in highway congestion peak hours.

    Ballard and West Seattle can muddle through with what they have, and the alternatives for the 14th and 15th alignments and the West Seattle transfer plan will not fully address the mobility needs anyway. If Ballard and West Seattle are delayed, ST’s RapidRide C and D contributions should be prioritized as mitigation. That leaves SLU as a casualty of course, since SLU has high-capacity transit needs and is piggybacking on Ballard.

    1. From what I’m seeing in the generation that’ll reach age 18 in a week or two, most dismal score on their general approach to life is the muddle. To them, standing dirt-contained standing water doesn’t need two words.

      Age they’ll graduate from high school, which they’ll do whether a school’s still there or not, and also getting sworn in as a Washington State legislator. Including for Ballard and the rest of every District that’ll be needed to attach rail to it.

      Can’t handle it, any respectable dump in Northwest Seattle should be full of dented up brown card-tables, many with “Monorail” signs still Scotch-taped to it.

      Like great Swedish (citizen by the Ballard Constitution) labor agitator who got shot both for a murder he didn’t commit and all those awful puns he did, would’ve put it: “You have nothing to lose but your Hookah Cushions!”

      Mark Dublin

    2. It is possible to do Smith Cove-Westlake using Al’s idea of a single-bore tunnel with no stations south of Westlake or (probably) mine of non-revenue trackage connecting in the rise east of Westlake.

  13. They should be allowed to consider revising projects, such as saving $1B by routing Link along I-5 as originally proposed, which might even keep that part of the project on schedule, but they wouldn’t even if it was easy to do, for there are campaign contributors to the politicians who insisted on the dogleg to Boeing. At the very least, ST should split the Everett line into two parts, the first being a three-station extension to Mariner Park & Ride, similar in length to the Northgate extension, but without any tunneling. This would connect Link to Swift BRT, which savvy Boeing employees could transfer to in order to reach their workplace.

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