The Sound Transit Executive Committee failed on Thursday to reach agreement on realignment criteria for ST3 projects. Board members sought a set of agreed criteria for a better-tuned realignment, but in the end voted only to send a framework of possible criteria to the full Board without recommendation.

A “blunt instrument” delay of five years for all projects not currently in construction would be affordable. To maintain flexibility, early design work would generally proceed on the original ST3 timeline, but construction would take place much later to conserve revenues. But the Board is looking for a realignment process that does something smarter than simply sliding all the timelines.

Combining the core principles with some other criteria suggested by Board members, a draft list of criteria to realign the ST3 program was developed. If these principles were adopted, they would be the basis for staff to develop scenarios for affordable paths forward.

A flavor of the discussion:

  • Roger Millar (Secretary of Transportation, WSDOT) and Dow Constantine (King County Executive) both expressed some skepticism about project tenure as a criterion. That’s the idea projects postponed from Sound Move or ST2 should be ranked higher because voters have been waiting longer. Millar pointed to WSDOT proposed projects that have been on a list for a long time precisely because they aren’t such a high priority.
  • Claudia Balducci (King County Council Chair) argued the primary consideration should be the level of service provided to the public by the truncated or delayed system, pointing to a more fundamental rethinking than shuffling the timelines. Balducci and Millar both suggested variants on BRT or expanded regional express bus service to future planned rail destinations, particularly those where delivery may otherwise be very late.
  • Joe McDermott (King County Council Vice Chair) was concerned about limiting 30 year decisions when much uncertainty remains about future finances.
  • Paul Roberts (Everett City Council) and Bruce Dammeier (Pierce County Executive) both spoke for the primacy of the regional system goals.

With such varied criticisms of the criteria, the list of possible criteria was forwarded to the full Board without recommendation.

Dow Constantine introduced another motion that staff develop revenue and increased debt capacity options as part of the realignment process. Constantine spoke to possible state funds, federal grants, or a future voter approval of greater debt capacity. That motion was also forwarded to the full Board.

The Board will next meet on June 25 and it seems likely there will be extensive attempts ahead of that meeting to seek agreement.

76 Replies to “Sound Transit Board argues realignment criteria”

  1. “Joe McDermott (King County Council Vice Chair) was concerned about limiting 30 year decisions when much uncertainty remains about future finances.”

    Why so cautious all of a sudden? The boardmembers had no hesitation whatsoever about “limiting their 30 year decisions” when they locked in Sound Transit’s 1.4% sales tax, its annual car taxes, and its property tax by pledging them as security to some 30 year bonds a couple of years ago.

    1. Because the bonds were the output of a multi-year public process, analysed by numerous studies, ratified by a public vote, and were aligned with stable, long term macroeconomic trends? Revising the project plan due to the pandemic would check none of those boxes.

    2. The decision you allude to was indeed made out of caution. They wanted to mitigate the risk of having to delay/cancel projects due to a future Eyman initiative cutting into their revenue stream.

  2. Where we all are right now is that, certainly ’til a vaccine is found, we’ve got no idea what’s going to happen in an hour. Fortunately, we’ve got good equipment, an honest government, (remember what city had the original Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicago Transit Authority in 1954) and operating people who can improvise.

    Major change is that the same internet that carries so many high-sourced lies now also enables the rest of us to do a large amount of well-researched planning on our own time and dime for specific things WE’d like to see get done. For the first time in History, we’ve got Seattle Transit Blog at the time we need it most. Charts look good, ST. Those stripes are great pattern for a nose-mask instead of my boring old black one. Keep at it.

    Mark Dublin

  3. What Sound Move/ST2 projects still haven’t started construction? I thought they were all under construction already, and thus not subject to delays.

    I agree with Balducci on this one. It’s the smartest plan, and doesn’t leave people with nothing when Sound Transit (foolishly, expecting 0 recessions for 25 years) promised delivery of projects. At least there will be delivery of some project on the promised timeline.

    It also recognizes that bus service is very different from rail from a cost perspective, and it can actually be provided in place of rail for much less (at least temporarily). It also would mean that Stride lines would probably open on time, maybe with some more expensive elements delayed. This seems sensible to me.

    1. ST2 suspended projects include parking garages in Auburn and Kent; a bus ramp in Renton; and, parking in Bothell along NE 185th Street. Also, service was reduced in 2011.

      1. The bus ramp in Renton was cancelled in ST3 – they’re getting that garage in South Renton in its place.

        The parking garages in Auburn and Kent are objectively awful projects – $200k+ per stall at the most recent estimate. But South King has been very loud about how it is “owed” these projects precisely because they’ve been postponed so long.

      2. Parking, parking, something else, parking. Seems to me (and most people on the blog) is that parking is the least cost-effective project ST can do. They can make the parking a bit cheaper by moving it to the ends of Sounder connector routes (such as Bonney Lake, Lakeland Hills, and South Hill) where both land is cheaper and closer to where the people who really have no other options live. (Also, whatever happened to the Orting ST Express route in ST3, seen on the map: http://soundtransit3.org/map#map If that were there, you could build parking for much cheaper than at Puyallup)

        I saw that Renton ramp on WSDOT material. I had no idea that it was an ST project (and Sound Move, not even ST2). What is the purpose of it exactly? It would be very helpful for ST 560 and 566 today, but it’s a complete non-consideration in the routing of Stride. What’s the vision here? Is it just to build things for HOV cars? That’s WSDOT’s job. ST-funded HOV ramps are useful for things like Federal Way, Bellevue, and Lynnwood because buses use those a lot.

      3. The original vision for the Renton ramp, I think, was to ease the path for buses moving through downtown and north Renton to get to I-405 N. In recent years, Renton has turned against having buses running through downtown. There’s a concern that the downtown transit center contributes to the general sketchiness of downtown, so operations are being gradually migrated away from there. Denis Law didn’t think North Renton needed more transit access, so he went all in the South Renton P&R as an intercept point for cars coming up SR 167. It’s an odd view if one thinks downtown/north Renton will urbanize, but fits the profile of I-405 as an express service to Bellevue.

      4. Replacing extremely expensive parking lots with shuttle bus service seems like an obvious solution (to at least part of the problem). Theoretically it is cheaper to build the lot, as in the long run it would save money over running the buses forever. But given the nature of the funding problem, the key is to spread out the costs. The fact that bus service may actually be cheaper in the long run, and provides an additional benefit makes it an obvious substitution.

      5. Bus ramp in Renton has been superseded by the direct access HOT ramp at N 8th, which is in WSDOT’s 405 master plan and likely to be built using HOT tolls, rather than transit dollars.

        It is useful for transit if it becomes another Stride station, providing a useful transfer with local routes on the north side of downtown Renton. More ambitiously (it would require a significant change in Renton city leadership), it’s possible to envision a future Stride route that exits 405 at South Renton, drives through downtown Renton, and gets back on 405 at 8th.

  4. There are additional considerations that I think seem remarkably ignored:

    – Opening date packaging. It takes 8-12 years to build tunnel sections and 5-8 to build non-tunnel sections. Rather than merely have an opening date projected for each project, the strategy should first define an integrated operating system at a few targeted horizon years, and schedule a package of projects to open during that year that work together to match service plans and anticipated ridership. Then, the entire “package” can be delayed by a few years rather than doing it at an individual project-by-project level. The most obvious example of the current scheduling method being illogical is the West Seattle temporary stub, which would both require multiple transfers as well as overload Link trains with riders in SODO. For example, ST should begin with a 2033 and and 2039 systems scenario that’s a system rather than set completion dates for each project.

    – Phasing. It seems best to move some essential early steps forward far enough without delay to get things like the real estate purchase and utility concerns resolved. That also includes arrangements for new subway stations in Downtown Seattle with adjacent building owners. A further benefit is that it makes projects more shovel-ready when special unforeseen funding sources emerge.

    – Overcrowding. Many assumptions in projects as well as even a few costly project assumptions are made to address worries about overcrowding, yet we likely won’t ever see peak transit travel ever be as concentrated as much as it was when ST built its forecasting models. ST3 would benefit from a thorough re-analysis of overcrowding needs (as well as the converse of flagging “over-supplied” service for some segments).

    – Reassessing technology. A wide variety of technology advances in both bus and rail vehicles have been occurring for the past several years. Guidance systems and suspension systems on buses can make rubber-tired vehicles feel like rail. New car designs with open gangways can increase capacities without adding frequency. Battery recharge systems can make it possible to not need expensive, continuous catenaries. Every major project set to open after 2029 should have a new technology assessment. For example, the spine could possibly be completed sooner by operating self-propelled vehicles with a cross-platform transfer. They could even travel faster between stations!

    1. With you on the open gangways. But problem of rubber-tired ride quality is what a heavy vehicle does to pavement. Based on past-practice and -performance, maintenance under overweight rubber always seems to be a lot more deferrable than straightening steel track.

      If “self-propelled” means no human driver, ok under one condition. As with the Vancouver BC Skytrain, your track end to end is a horizontal elevator shaft, without Grade Crossing or Pedestrian Walkway ONE! Take an I-5 ride southbound past the Capitol to the curve where SR101 sweeps in downhill from the West and count the variables. “No” really shouldn’t so often need to have “Hell” in front of it.

      Mark Dublin

      1. No reason ST’s series 3 trains cannot be open gangway. I think that’s unrelated to this project realignment. We are several years away from procuring the ST3 fleet.

    2. Regarding technology assessment, autonomous rail should be in the picture, at least for the grade separated segments of Link. Five additional years should be enough to at least consider it in planning. This is technology that has worked since the 1980s. Our neighbors north of the border apply it very effectively, and achieve greater frequency (with smaller trans sets) than we are hoping for with Link. In the long term, this would seem to be a hedge against future increased operating costs. Why any system that is set to be completed in the 2040s is using the same approach to vehicle operations as the 1940s is a bit beyond me!

      1. Because most of ST’s operations department is led by people who went to school in the 1970s. I asked around when I was at ST, and the short answer is we need to wait until most of the current Operations leadership retires before ST will consider driver-less technology. Immensely frustrating, because the longer we wait, the more likely we will end up like BART and keep the drivers solely to pay off the unions.

        With respect to project realignment, converting the existing system to driver-less likely pays off in the long term, but will require a major capital investment up front. As valuable as it is, I think it’s basically impossible to add an entirely new project to the portfolio prior to the period of maximum constraint (~2030), so best case this is something ST begins work on after the 2nd tunnel opens.

        Once driver-less buses & shuttle become more common throughout the US, more people will wonder why our trains have drivers.

      2. Brandon, Skytrain does “Driverless” right, namely pretty much total impossibility of anything or anybody getting on the tracks ahead of the train. More or less a horizontal express elevator.

        Outside of that, give Evolution a little credit for a million years’ worth of software between the ears of every single trained human being. Now. Could be I’m just “hearing things” in my old age, though more likely over-active sense of smell, but I’m getting strong hints of an education that’s a lot more school than work.

        Polite aversion to the scent of one’s own sweat, and to paying anybody else for theirs. No wonder our present obscene atrocity of a Chief of State has so much blue-collar affection. For people, countries, and public utilities, Tone-Deaf can kill.

        Mark Dublin

        Mark Dublin

      3. How can driverless trains be feasible as long as the track is surface in MLK and SODO, and any truck or pededestrian can stray onto the tracks by accident or suicide? Autonomous cars’ safety still aren’t foolproof; one in testing killed a pedestrian last year or so. Early adoption of autonomous buses/vans are limited are focused on low-risk corridors like a company campus or low-volume street and traveling under 20 mph. Link in MLK is 35 mph, and in SODO it may be faster.

      4. Oh, and ST isn’t a risk-denying cowboy like the Texas and Georgia governors. It will not authorize driverless trains and risk lawsuits from harmed individuals until their safety is well proven or all surface segments are grade-separated. There are other surface segments coming in Bel-Red and southern Redmond.

    3. I meant self-propelled as a reference to battery trains like Bombardier’s Talent 3. No one thought that battery cars were viable a few years ago, and now there are many models.

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xxZQeS__6sE

      Trackless trams with guidance are running in China. https://theconversation.com/why-trackless-trams-are-ready-to-replace-light-rail-103690

      The bigger point about technology are that what’s cutting edge now will be common after 2030. After all, the iPhone has only been available for 13 years and Smart phones are pretty common now.

      1. I’m a strong proponent of battery technology to electrify the Sounder fleet. I’m not sure it makes sense for Link, though, if that’s what you were proposing?

        Sounder electrification is not funded, but I could see it be a key ST4 project, particularly as bus electrification will be well under way by the time the region is pulling together ST4.

  5. While I think delays are inevitable, I also think its gonna depend on if we have changes in government administration during this year’s election. If we see a change to the federal government administration, we could see there be a possibility of much more money available to offset the budget gap. It may not completely plug it, but it could lessen the impact of delays.

    1. It will help, but the appropriations still have to come from Congress. As long as Mitch McConnell controls the Senate, it will be DOA.

      Even if Dems retake the Senate, there’s still the filibuster. And there’s still the reality that even congressional Democrats mostly represent districts where transit is unimportant and/or nearly non-existent. There’s just not enough transit riders to be a potent electoral force in national politics, exacerbated by the fact that they tend to be squeezed into a tiny number of house districts, all uncompetitive, except for the Democratic primary, immediately after a retirement.

      In local politics, transit riders absolutely do matter, bit federal aid comes from Congress, not the Seattle city council.

      1. “It will help, but the appropriations still have to come from Congress. As long as Mitch McConnell controls the Senate, it will be DOA.”

        I’m not so sure about that. For one thing, the current administration has been trying to kill the FTA’s CIG program but the annual appropriations to fulfill the committments of the FAST Act have still gotten through, despite Moscow Mitch being in control of the Senate agenda. The THUD appropriation, while certainly not nearly robust enough, has still occurred in these omnibus and mini-omnibus spending bills that, sadly, have become the normal method of appropriating these days. The real problems on this front have come from Moscow Mitch’s wife, DOT Sec. Chao’s slow rolling of funding for transit projects. A Democratic administration next year will take care of that problem.

        Additionally, there are still many Cons that have an interest in a large national infrastructure spending program. If the country remains in a recession for any extended period of time I think that number of supportive members if Congress is likely to grow. Of course those members may want to push the vast majority of the funding toward the Federal Highway Administration, and specifically to the Highway Trust Fund (which currently has about a $20B balance compared to the Mass Transit Fund which has a balance around $7B*). It will be up to Congressional Democrats to fight hard to make sure the FTA gets a good chunk of funding from any sort of infrastructure stimulus package, on top of the “normal” DOT appropriation process.

        If you really want to get into the weeds on the entire sausage-making involved with last December’s consolidated appropriations bill for FY2020 spending levels (HR 1865 was the vehicle used), which includes the THUD funding allocation (Division H), Eno Center for Transportation did a nice job of summarizing what transpired. In this piece, the authors go through each department/agency within the DOT and detail how each fared in the final spending outcome. I’d strongly recommend giving it a read when you have some time, particularly the section on where things stand on the FAST Act appropriations since 2020 is in its final year.

        https://www.enotrans.org/article/final-fy20-bill-provides-87-2-billion-for-usdot/

        *thru FY2020 Q2
        https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/highwaytrustfund/

      2. All signs are pointing toward a Democratic landslide this year. But of course most Democrats aren’t much better on transit than Republicans are.

        The filibuster is merely a tactic that Democrats use to make things they don’t want to do look impossible.

        Given this reality, we in Seattle and King County need to take every opportunity we can get to raise our own revenue.

      3. Sometimes, I wonder if the federal government is actually too involved with transit. The crumbs of money it doles out is better than nothing, but the grant process is slow and usually results in a denial, and the policies for evaluating proposals seem so out of date. Thus, instead of getting federal money to do something useful (like run more buses), we get federal money to build a downtown streetcar (which, last I heard, the city is prepared to plow ahead with $50 million of its own funds, even while basic bus service is getting gutted, simply to avoid losing the federal subsidy). Also, the administrative overhead of preparing grant application after grant application, only to be denied, denied, denied, years later, adds up.

        At the same time, the federal government imposes numerous rules on transit agencies which are unnecessary and drive up costs. At the top of my list is “Buy America” requirements. There is no reason why an agency shouldn’t be allowed to buy Chinese buses or European trains if doing so allows it to use its local tax dollars more efficiently. Then, there’s ADA and its costly paratransit requirements, forcing small agencies that cannot afford both fixed-route service and paratransit to run only paratransit. It was also cited as a reason for Community Transit to abandon all Sunday service during the last recession – the only way to work around the fed’s requirement to run paratransit on Sundays was to cut all the Sunday fixed-route service with it.

        In short, the classic Republican argument about Big Government micromanaging and getting in the way actually does have some merit when it comes to transit.

        That said, the federal government does have one huge thing going for it, which state and local governments do not, and that’s the ability to borrow extremely huge sums of money extremely cheaply. An ideal proposal, I envision having two components. The first would be some kind of block grants for transit agencies based on local population and ridership; other than the requirement that it be spent on transit (not roads, except for bus-exclusive roadway), agencies would be free to do what they want with it, and make their own local choices whether to spend the money on capital improvements or operations. The second role would be some sort of infrastructure bank, where it loans money to local governments at the same rate the federal government, itself borrows the money from investors. This would apply to all local agencies (not just transit), and the criteria would be based on agencies ability to repay the loans, not what the money is being spent on. From the perspective of the federal budget, the only real cost would be administration, plus when a city or county defaults.

        For example, under the above scheme, King County Metro, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, etc. would all get a yearly allowance from the feds, which they can use as they see fit, while Sound Transit would get a ton of extremely cheap loans to fund virtually all of the ST2 and ST3 projects. Between lower borrowing costs, the ability to import cheaper equipment from other countries, and the ability to choose projects based on what actually makes since for the area, rather than what’s best for leveraging federal grant money, such a scheme would result in projects like ST3 being much more efficient with taxpayers’ money.

        Oh, and more thing. Get rid of the Trump Tariffs.

      4. I hope I am not the only one here who is disappointed to read about lack of support for the disabled (a class of people poorly represented in the political circles and generally not well equipped to defend their needs from a generally uncaring majority) on a blog which is generally very supportive of BLM (another class of people poorly represented in the political circles and generally not well equipped to defend their needs from a generally uncaring majority).

        The ADA is by no means perfect, and therefore there is room to change it. However, in terms of equal access, it does help, compared to even otherwise well-off countries. One example of this is Canada – Ontario had the oldest version of a comparable act, passed in 2005, and the Canada-wide federal law was passed only last year (though admittedly with unanimous support). Source: https://www.essentialaccessibility.com/blog/canadian-accessibility-laws/

        It would well behoove all who feel that it deserves amendment to work to elect legislators who will do so in an effective manner, and I am sure that all contributing to this blog are doing so to the best of their abilities.

        I apologize if this comes off as critical, but as someone who has a disabled parent, and a number of disabled friends, I have more reason to think about this issue than perhaps others here might.

      5. “All signs are pointing toward a Democratic landslide this year.”

        We must remember that things can change in six months, and the voter-suppression machine is in full swing.

    2. Then why have transit grants survived throughout the last twenty years in spite of efforts to zero them out? Even with a Republican-majority or filibuster-vulnerable senate and Mitch McConnell at the help, transit grants have still gone through. There may be a reduction coming but the death of grants has been predicted repeatedly and failed.

      1. I agree and that was one of the points I made in my comment just above. The FTA’s CIG program and formula grants have done okay even in the Moscow Mitch era.

    3. McConnell’s priorities are power for himself and conservative judges, not zeroing out transit grants. Some of his fiscally-conservative assertions are more to please the base than a personal commitment to see them through.

  6. https://www.amazon.com/Ecotopia-Novel-Ernest-Callenbach/dp/0553348477

    Can’t say this hasn’t been planned for. The entire length of the West Coast offers a lot of world trade to its possessors. And if we fortify the whole ridge-line facing east, “Heartland” invaders will be clay-pigeon targets from the Mississippi to the foot of our fort. We just have to make sure we get the First Fort First.

    Only mistake the authors made, really has to be addressed as a clear and present danger. Walk around naked that much in California and you better get issued haz-mat that’s a six-inch layer of calomine lotion for the poison oak. Also, as anybody who’s really been in the service can tell you, training maneuvers where you dance around and get yourself ritually stabbed will result in a lot of draft evasion.

    And the part where young women WHO YOU’RE NOT EVEN ALLOWING INTO COMBAT come and wail over your bandaid like you’re dead…..Germaine Greer never got that copy you promised her before you published, did she? But…can’t deny this news cycle’s amount of evidence that threats work.

    Mark Dublin

  7. I agree with all the boardmembers’ critiques except maybe the last one, “the primacy of regional system goals”. That sounds like code-speak for the Spine. And look who’s saying it, the Everett and Tacoma reps. What other “regional system goals” do they have in mind?

    It makes sense to start from a 5-year delay and tweak the projects here and there from that.

    West Seattle should be slowed down in favor of DSTT2. There’s no point in opening a SODO stub early; that was just an early deliverable to a politically-important constiuency. Now that the early part is out the window, there’s no reason not to delay West Seattle until DSTT2 is ready. People won’t flock to SODO and transfer; they’ll continue taking the C and 120. Metro is not planning to retire the C until West Seattle is connected to Lynnwood. Although I suppose maybe the broken bridge may drive more people to Link in the interim. But the West Seattle stub won’t be open for 15 years at minimum now, and the bridge may be replaced by then.

    I wish ST separated out DSTT2 from Ballard so we could see how long each takes.

    Ballard Link is now twenty years away. That’s so long it’s irrelevant to my thinking now. To put it in perspective, a person turning 18 today will be 38, and a person turning 55 today will be 75. If we assume ages 25-65 are the maximum commute/ridership range, our 18-year-old will have spent a third of her career without Ballard Link, and our 55-year-old all off his career. in the absence of Ballard Link and 45th Link, there’s a 30-minute overhead to in/out of Ballard from the regional transfer points (Westlake, U-District) and from 100th & Aurora (where I used to go to when I lived in Ballard). That makes me reluctant to live or work in Ballard again until these are resolved. It also makes it harder for Ballard to make its complete contribution to Seattle’s housing shortage, because of some people’s reluctance to live in Ballard due to access issues.

    I’m glad some boardmembers are considering incremental openings and feeder reprioritization. It makes sense to open Snohomish 164th or 128th early. The argument against them, that it will reduce the political will to finish Everett Station and Paine Field, will recede as time goes on, and there will be greater interest in getting at least part of it open.

    I don’t see such benefits East or South. The downtown Redmond extension is so short there’s little to incrementalize. South Federal Way may make sense, but Fife?

    The last projects, Tacoma 19th Avenue and Issaquah-South Kirkland, are now 24-26 years away. That’s so far in in the future that another generation will be on the board and voting-age, and will inevitably reevaluate them. And our 18-year-old will be will be 52 when Issaquah opens. It’s hard to believe Issaquah will seem like such a priority in the 2030s, or that our 18-year-old will care much about it because she’ll be taking the 554 for 3/4 of her career. And Kirklandites will say, “Bah, who needs it?”

    I like Balducci/Millar’s idea to upgrade interim feeders, which I interpret as more Stride lines or frequent ST Express. The ST2 feeder scenarios from 2016 are a starting point. Only the 512, 545, 550, and 577/578 are 15-minute frequent the entire weekday. On Saturdays only 512 and 550 maintain 15-minute service. On Sundays all of them drop to 30 minutes. The 522 has a strange frequent span, less than 7am-7pm. It’s harder to get around during the 30-minute periods.

    As an outline of potential frequent service, the 2016 scenarios use a 20-minute threshold rather than my preferred 15-minute. But we’ll have to go with that because I can’t recalculate them myself. By these assumptions, the I-5 north, I-5 south, 520, and 522 corridors will be full-time frequent every day. 405 north and south skimp off-peak, but I assume those are superceded by 405 Stride. The chart isn’t clear about evening service, so I don’t know if frequency will drop off at 7pm or 10pm.

    I don’t know what Balducci has in mind for “more”, or which corridors might become BRT (Stride).

    Issaquah should really just have a frequent bus to Bellevue, as a bribe to give up Link. We could throw in one to Redmond and a peak-only one to South Bellevue/Mercer Island if that makes them more willing.

    1. the interim spine could be very frequent bus between Federal Way and Tacoma and between Lynnwood and Everett; the latter could have two lines, one serving Boeing.

      1. Lynnwood and Federal Way Stations don’t exist now. Once they do, ST Express will be much faster, and much more efficient. That allows a lot more in the way of express service to those stations.

      2. For example, when East Link opens, the 550 will simply go away, the O&M costs displaced by Link O&M. If ST instead redirect those service hours to other routes, that’s net new expense for the financial plan. So yes, routes will be more efficient, particularly the I5 N and S corridors, but ST will be doing less service with less bus hours, not more service with the same hours.

        Further, KCM, and to a lesser extent CT, need the planned reduction in STX service hours to meet their own growth plans. So if ST is going to invest is more hours above the current plans, the region needs more bus base capacity. ST’s new bus base is fully committed to serving Stride, so capital dollars need to come from somewhere else (within ST’s capital portfolio, or elsewhere) if the plan is to significantly increase bus service above 2019 levels.

      3. For example, when East Link opens, the 550 will simply go away, the O&M costs displaced by Link O&M. If ST instead redirect those service hours to other routes, that’s net new expense for the financial plan.

        Yes, and that means the train line would be built even later. So what? It doesn’t cost that much to run the buses — unlike now, when it costs a lot. Sound Transit is heavily dependent on fare revenue (unlike Metro) and the type of routes we are talking about are very cost efficient (in part because they don’t take that long to complete). The main benefit is much better service much sooner, even if what some consider to be the ideal (trains to the Fife) take even longer.

        Further, KCM, and to a lesser extent CT, need the planned reduction in STX service hours to meet their own growth plans. So if ST is going to invest is more hours above the current plans, the region needs more bus base capacity.

        No, that simply isn’t true (as I wrote below). The need for growth is for the next couple years, then it would drop dramatically (as Northgate and East Link come on line). What we are saying is that instead, it would level off. Instead of bus lines like the 550 simply going away, the service would be shifted to something else (e. g. all day bus service from Issaquah to South Kirkland). Furthermore, if ST improves their bus service in Snohomish County, that helps CT as it means they don’t have to run as many buses.

      4. “Instead of bus lines like the 550 simply going away, the service would be shifted to something else (e. g. all day bus service from Issaquah to South Kirkland).”

        The money for that was not included in ST3. That was the Medium and High scenarios in the 2016 draft.

        What would be even better than Issaquah-South Kirkland would be Issaquah-UDistrict. That would address Issaquah’s primary concern about access to Bellevue, transfers to downtown and Redmond, and the 271’s slow service to Medina. Kirklandites probably wouldn’t care about losing South Kirkland station, because they aren’t going to drive or bus to it to take it one mile to Bellevue, and eliminating the extension makes it harder to put light rail on the Cross-Kirkland Connector.

      5. The 555/556 are (or were) Issaquah-Northgate via Bellevue and U District. It would not take a large tweak to get a slightly better service to U District.

        I should add that when Bellevue TC was running both 271 and 555 from the same bus bay, a number of people would jump onto whichever bus came first to get to the U District, and go up the hill from the Montlake freeway stop (or catch the 48). This was much more common when the Montlake offramp was super backed up. Of course, with the freeway stop gone, that’s not feasible anymore.

      6. The money for that was not included in ST3.

        Right, I’m saying there would be a shift of money towards bus service, and away from light rail and parking lot projects. The light rail and parking lot projects would still be built, just later. (The Redmond light rail extension would still happen on time, or as close to on time as possible).

    2. One thing I’d modify about the ST2 feeder approach is to run it more like a branched BRT system, with routes branching off of the I-5 park and rides and going into the neighborhoods along strategic routes. It doesn’t even have to be every trip. Say for the route that ends at Mariner Park and Ride, have some of the trips continue westward towards Boeing, some northward along 4th Ave. West, and some eastward and southward towards Mill Creek. Similar for 164th-westward towards north Lynnwood, eastward towards Mill Creek. While the frequency on any one of the “branches” would be similar to the local routes, avoiding the extra transfer penalty would be huge, and it may reduce the reliance on the park and ride lots. The branches could also potentially supplement the local routes during peak hours.

      1. I agree Brandon — this is something that ST should expand on. I wrote up a page 2 proposal a while ago for just that: https://seattletransitblog.com/2018/03/13/frequent-everett-bus-routes-serving-lynnwood-link/. For some reason the map didn’t show up inline — here is a link to it: https://tinyurl.com/yc9lpuq5.

        @AJ — It would complement CT’s current network (just as ST’s bus routes do now). But the point is, there is no reason why ST buses have to focus on just connecting cities or big park and ride lots.

      2. Balducci/Millar raised the possibility of enhanced interim buses, which could go to more cities and collection points. The ST3 ST Express budget is at the low end of the 2016 scenarios, so additional money would have to be found by delaying Link projects. The board may be open to that because we can’t just do nothing for twenty more years. ST has already punted on bus service for twenty-five years, saying just wait for Link.

        Metro has already planned all-day expresses to replace some of the ST Express service, like downtown-Federal Way, downtown-Kent-Auburn, and Redmond-Sammamish-Issaquah-Mercer Island. If ST doesn’t have enough STEX-branded buses it can give money to Metro, CT, and PT to expand their routes. They’d be operating it anyway, and Metro will have a new base in the late 2020s. I’m assuming the expanded service wouldn’t begin until the ST2 extensions open and the truncations occur.

      3. Metro has already planned all-day expresses to replace some of the ST Express service, like downtown-Federal Way

        OK, that seems crazy to me. That sounds like it would simply poach ST ridership. That is nothing like what I’m thinking of, and probably nothing like Brandon is thinking of. We would still have Federal Way as the endpoint, but run say, through Tacoma, or through Fife, rather than just going by the freeway.

      4. I suspect it was tentative: Metro wasn’t sure how much controversy there would be at having no replacement for the Federal Way express. Link’s travel time will be significantly longer: 55 minutes vs 34 minutes. Going from downtown to Kent or Auburn via Link and an east-west RapidRide will take well over an hour. Every conceivable train/bus line is advantageous for a certain range of trips and disadvantageous for other trips because a line can’t be both simultaneously fast and slow, the distance can’t be both long and short, it can’t both stop and not stop in intermediate cities or go around them. South Link is competitive to SeaTac and Highline College, but for longer trips or to places east of 99 its effectiveness diminishes. There’s a reasonable argument that it shouldn’t take an hour or more to get from downtown to any city in the county, especially since that may be only part of people’s trips. North Link is competitive to Everett because it’s fully grade-separated and a shorter distance and doesn’t zigzag east and west, but that breaks down in the south end.

        However, I talked with a Metro rep early on about some of the more speculative expresses like Renton-Issaquah, Auburn-Snoqualmie, Auburn-Enumclaw, and Renton-Enumclaw, “Are you really going to run them half-hourly all day?”, and he said Metro hadn’t completely decided whether some might be peak-only. That’s a loophole large enough to make Federal Way-downtown possibly peak-only. All that will be decided at a later date.

        And if revenues are below the 2016 projections, or there’s no countywide measure to complete the plan, or it fails, then some of it won’t be realized. Some concepts seem very speculative and subject to cutting first, like that Auburn-Snoqualmie route, or in Seattle that 25 revival or E Aloha Street routes.

    3. Once ridership returns post-pandemic, if the solution is to pour money into STX, the region needs to solve its bus base capacity issues. ST isn’t going to be able that much more service above the current (pre-COVID) baseline as the 3 county agencies are running at/near capacity and will be looking to invest in their own networks, not simply contract out to ST.

      Giving up Link for a bus is DOA, unless it’s Stride with dedicated ROW. The HOV lanes on 90 already slow down during rush hour … add another 15K people to Issaquah and you’ll need to either add a lane of 90 (like 405’s HOT expansion), or build Link. I’d rather go with the Link project that is funded than be dependent on WSDOT’s benevolence for good transit in my city.

      Otherwise you devolve into Ross’ argument, which is to advocate for building none of the non-Seattle project because you reject the entire premise behind ST3.

      1. if the solution is to pour money into STX, the region needs to solve its bus base capacity issues.

        In the next few years, we will have to expand our bus base capacity. But after Link gets to Lynnwood, Redmond and Federal Way, running express buses becomes a lot more efficient. Sound Transit was planning on dropping service hours on their buses dramatically. Thus a shift to more bus service then would likely not result in an increase in bus base capacity needs at all. There may be more recent information, but the basic situation probably hasn’t changed much since this report: https://seattletransitblog.com/2019/05/02/sound-transit-metro-continue-rail-partnership/.

        Giving up Link for a bus is DOA, unless it’s Stride with dedicated ROW. The HOV lanes on 90 already slow down during rush hour … add another 15K people to Issaquah and you’ll need to either add a lane of 90 (like 405’s HOT expansion), or build Link.

        Yet Link won’t do anything about the problem until 2042, at the earliest. Even then, riders will have to take a train to downtown Bellevue (Main Street Station) then back. The vast majority of riders would be better off with their “slow” one seat ride to Mercer Island. What is true of Issaquah is true of Everett. Lots of people in Everett would be better off with an express bus to Lynnwood, rather than taking the train as it traverses through greater Everett. Same with Federal Way. For those south of Tacoma, the Tacoma Dome is a detour — harder to get to than the Federal Way station.

        Otherwise you devolve into Ross’ argument, which is to advocate for building none of the non-Seattle project because you reject the entire premise behind ST3.

        That isn’t my argument at all. My argument is to build the best value projects first, so that people get the greatest benefit the fastest. Run a lot more express buses sooner, and rail projects (and parking garages) later. If that means that light rail doesn’t get to Issaquah until a few years later, so be it. At least in the meantime people will have decent bus service.

    4. Yes, on all your points. We’ve been over this before, but it bears repeating.

      The spine should go from Lynnwood to Federal Way. Both are excellent termini, because both can be served extremely well by feeder buses. The ability for a bus to go in an HOV lane on the major corridor, and then serve the station without encountering general purpose traffic is rare and extremely valuable. Not that many cities have that — they all wish they did.

      More to the point, extending the subway along that corridor brings very little in terms of benefit, especially since — in every case — it is serving a lesser destination. It would be one thing if the plan was to serve downtown Tacoma or downtown Everett — but it isn’t. The plan is to serve destitute places, where the prevailing land form is a parking lot. The proposed ends of the spine will still require a bus ride for the vast majority of riders. There will be no time saved for the riders, and thus no benefit. The only argument for extending the spine is that it would require less in the way of bus service — an argument that is nonsensical given the financial realities which Dan Ryan has explained so well. We can’t afford to spend billions on light rail to save millions on bus service — especially when so few riders will benefit. We need to do the opposite. A commitment to good bus service to Federal Way and Lynnwood is affordable and would provide a lot more value for riders a lot sooner.

      What is true of the spine is true all over. West Seattle Link without a connection to downtown is practically useless. Building it first was a bad decision. Ballard to downtown really is a decent line — arguably the only decent large project in all of ST3 — but the fact that it costs so much is a problem, given the fiscal situation. This reality has been swept under the rug before — leading to independent, impartial, outside criticism (https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/06/youve-got-50-billion-for-transit-now-how-should-you-spend-it/). How can you place your most cost effective project at the back? How indeed. But it is the result of the funding mechanism (not “the Seattle process” or overly cautious planning, as some ignoramuses have suggested). And yet, here we are, with just about every project dealing with the same basic issue — the money won’t be here soon enough.

      As with other issues of our time — a pandemic, police brutality, racial progress that stalled in the late 70s — we need to address the problem head on. We need to stop pretending that all it takes is a little tweaking around the edges — that everything is pretty much OK. It isn’t. This isn’t the best possible plan. Not even close. If you doubt me — hire a few consultants and ask them.

      We need to wake up and deal with the mess we have, which means telling people that previous plans are going to be abandoned, but they weren’t that good anyway. That’s going to mean a lot more bus service, simply because the rail plans are too big, or too weak (or both). What that actually entails is hard to say, but you start with reducing the spine, since Lynnwood and Federal Way are by far the best endpoints.

      As I’ve argued before, there is only one logical project for Seattle at this point: a bus tunnel. It has to be designed from the very beginning to be converted to a train tunnel. The stations have to be exactly the same. It has to be viewed not as a substitute for the subway, but as a first stage. Unlike *every other initial stage* it provides tremendous benefit to *everyone* along that corridor. Rail to Lynnwood will benefit Everett riders quite a bit. Rail to Federal Way will benefit Tacoma riders. A bus tunnel will help Ballard, Queen Anne and West Seattle riders while they wait for the eventual rail system connecting their communities (to be built in 2040?).

      Lastly, all of the expensive parking garage projects should be replaced by shuttle bus service. It is quite likely this is a better value anyway. It certainly is a better value given fiscal realities. Buses can be running very soon. Expensive garages won’t be built for a while.

      All of these ideas follow the same approach. Build what will benefit people soon, while eventually building something better.

      1. “Build what will benefit people soon, while eventually building something better.” Isn’t that finishing the ST2 projects and then build ST3?

        Other than those who opposed ST3 to begin with, I have see no one arguing about abandoning the ST3 goals. I still see strong consensus with both staff and the board to complete the core ST3 projects.

        No one outside of this comment thread is arguing that since it might take 5 more years to built TDLE and Everet Link, we should just give up and do neither.

      2. This isn’t the NYC MTA, where there isn’t a path to solvency and risk of a ridership death spiral. ST simply cannot build as quickly and aggressively as planned.

        If you want to argue for your favored projects to get to the front of the line, cool. Most will do the same, based upon their values. But advocating to ditch the entire effort at the first speed bump isn’t interesting commentary.

      3. “Build what will benefit people soon, while eventually building something better.” Isn’t that finishing the ST2 projects and then build ST3?

        No. Come on — read my comment. It is about building *the parts of ST3* that can benefit people sooner. Specifically that means building bus related projects sooner, even if it means rail projects and parking garages are even later. Look at that chart:

        Stride (both) — 2031
        Tacoma Dome Link — 2035
        West Seattle Link — 2035
        Ballard Link — 2040
        Issaquah Link — 2047
        Parking Garages — Five years later than scheduled

        I’m saying that is unacceptable. It means over ten years before either of the BRT projects are done. It means twenty years before Seattle has a significant ST3 project (unless you include NE 130th, which would likely get delayed under this scenario as well). Lest you get excited for West Seattle, it has to be pointed out that in 2035, they only get a train to SoDo — not downtown. It means no money gets shifted to bus service, because ST is focused on getting the projects done as soon as possible, even though every project will take a very long time.

        In contrast (and I’m just throwing out numbers) how about something like this:

        Stride (both) — 2025
        Seattle Bus Tunnel — 2032
        Improved ST Express — 2025
        Tacoma Dome Link — 2040
        West Seattle Link — 2042
        Ballard Link — 2042
        Issaquah Link — 2050
        Parking Garages — Ten years later than scheduled

        The bus tunnel is the first phase of Ballard-West Seattle light rail, not the West Seattle stub. People in Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell, Lynnwood, Kirkland, Bellevue, Renton, Tukwila and Burien get the BRT when it was promised. At worst you delay the N. E. 85th station (or ask WSDOT to build it). Meanwhile, places like Tacoma and Everett get better bus service, even if it takes longer to get the trains. Overall, it is much better than simply delaying everything five years. It is a sensible approach that focuses on befitting the most people, as opposed to adhering to a bizarre and unsubstantiated transit dogma called “the spine”.

      4. “a bizarre and unsubstantiated transit dogma called “the spine”.”

        The bulk of the public/lawmaker push to create Sound Transit was the Everett-Tacoma-Redmond light rail spine, and ST has been promising voters it’s the agency’s top priority throughout all of the ST1/2/3 votes. You can’t just wave that away. In the 1990s it was unclear that 55 mph light rail would be chosen over faster heavy rail, but it has been clear since long before ST2.

      5. I’m saying that making it a priority is screwing over the region, as well as the vast majority of people that voted for it. The vast majority of voters that voted yes were simply supporting transit. Otherwise it is hard to explain very high numbers in Fremont or the Central Area, and relatively low numbers along the spine (https://s3.amazonaws.com/stb-wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/27084517/st3precincts.png). The numbers largely follow the left-right divide. You can see the correspondence even with the presidential race (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/upshot/election-2016-voting-precinct-maps.html#8.54/47.525/-122.168) even though almost all of Puget Sound went for Clinton (I can’t find a precinct map of the governor’s race, but that would be similar).

        Just to be clear, I’m not saying you kill the spine — you simply delay it. Put it at the back, which means that it will be a very long time before we see it. It is crazy to put it towards the front, since it would mean a lot of people have to live with nothing for a very long time. The last little bit of the spine simply doesn’t add that much value (it is different than what we are adding now).

      6. “Otherwise it is hard to explain very high numbers in Fremont or the Central Area, and relatively low numbers along the spine”

        It’s simple: people in Fremont and the Central Area are pro-transit and willing to pay for it, and people in the outer parts of the spine are suspicious of taxes especially car tabs. I suspect most Fremonites didn’t pay attention to whether it went to Tacoma or not because that’s so far out of their and experience, or if they did they thought, “That will be good for Tacomans, or me if I ever move down there (especially if I’m priced out of Seattle someday).”

      7. Yeah, that’s my point. There is no reason to religiously adhere to the idea that the spine is essential, when most voters could care less. They just voted for transit, or against it.

        Furthermore, the people who will actually benefit from the completion of the spine are not the ones pushing it. There is no grassroots movement in Tacoma or Everett to complete the spine (the way there is in Lake City/Pinehurst/Bitter Lake for 130th). 130th was not driven by politicians, but by regular people, who saw the obvious benefit. There is no such contingent in those other cities, because most of them, wisely, say “meh” to the plans. What they want it transit that works, which for the vast majority of them means a bus (to a train, perhaps). It is only the civic leaders who feel that a light rail line will transform their city who are pushing that idea. They are wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. There is no city, anywhere, that has improved itself significantly, let alone dramatically, by building such a thing. They are way better off focusing on the universities in their town, and balancing all the other issues (public health, public safety, public transit, beautification, etc.).

      8. But by the same token you can’t say Fremonters obviously oppose the Tacoma extension because it fails some transit metric or they obviously prefer a West Seattle bus tunnel. You can’t assume that most of them are little RossB’s. I’m going by what I’ve heard Fremonters and Wallingfordites say again and again over the years, and similarly for Eastsiders and South King Countians and Piercians. You’re going by what you think they should want.

      9. I’m saying that the vast majority of voters are voting for or against transit as an abstract concept. They have no knowledge or analysis of the particulars, and rarely does it alter their view of the projects. This explains the voting patterns. It also explains the marketing campaign run by Sound Transit, where they implied very strongly that if this failed, there would be no transit to Lynnwood.

        This is common. Most people don’t research an issue at that depth. This is a republic, not a democracy, for that very reason. I’m saying that the representatives of the board should act responsibly, and build what makes sense, not adhere to a philosophy with no evidence to support it, nor any evidence that it is actually what people prefer.

        Besides, you have no way of knowing that one aspect of ST3 is any more popular than any other. Imagine if someone in Kenmore voted for this proposal only because they wanted BRT to Shoreline the day Lynnwood Link opens. How can you tell them they have to wait five years? Worse yet, how can you tell them they have to wait longer than five years, because adhering to a proposal with a snazzier name (the spine) is more important? Shouldn’t you look at other, more meaningful metrics, like ridership per dollar spent, or ridership time saved per dollar spent?

        I’m saying that if you start looking at those metrics, my approach makes way more sense. Eventually everything gets built. It is just that over any given time frame, the framework I suggest will provide the greatest benefit to the most people.

      10. “representatives of the board should act responsibly, and build what makes sense,” which is exactly what is happening. Tacoma’s political leadership truly believes a direct Link connection is essential. Snohomish’s political leadership is unified around the Paine alignment. Paul Roberts doesn’t have some abstract, philosophical attachment to the spine. He and his peers have had a political consensus with the region to pay into the Sound Transit system since the 1990s to get HCT rail built to Everett and Tacoma.

        I don’t see the spine being prioritized over the lower cost ST3 projects, particularly Stride. But I also don’t see Ballard Link opening in full before any of TDLE or Everett Link simply because the ridership metrics are better. We’ll land somewhere in the middle.

        You are vociferously objecting to the “delay everything 5 years” suggestion, but I read that as simply illustrative, to demonstrate the magnitude of the financial constraint. I can’t see any board member, or staff, advocate for that approach. Some projects (or more likely, subprojects) will be prioritized to remain close to schedule, and others will be delayed by more than 5 years.

        I roughly agree with your proposed timeline, except I’d swap out the bus tunnel for the actual tunnel, and then I’d try to give Pierce and Snohomish an early extension, say to SFW and Alderwood mall, to demonstrate steady progress towards the final goal of stitching together the entire region – which, again, was the entire point of the creation of Sound Transit in the first place.

    5. Providing enhanced bus service to mitigate delayed project timelines sounds like good policy and good politics.

      I’m just saying that one agency committing more bus service now is going to constrain the whole region’s ability to deploy bus base capacity in the future. King county was literally out of bus base capacity in 2019. Even with no 41, no 550, etc., modest growth in bus service levels post-pandemic will quickly bring us back to where we were in 2019 because all those bus hours from 41, 550, etc. are already committed in long range service plans. For example, CT’s ability to launch more Swift lines is predicated on Lynnwood Link allowing CT to pivot away from Seattle oriented express routes.

      Even with a fully built out ST2 network, the region needs 4 new bases, 2 in King and 1 each in Pierce. The long term capital plans by each agency make this clear, and there is no funding for any of them.

      ST can write all the STX check it wants, but at a certain point it’s just pulling buses away from other corridors.

      1. I’m just saying that one agency committing more bus service now is going to constrain the whole region’s ability to deploy bus base capacity in the future.

        It is not “now” that is the issue. We are talking about ST3 spending. There are really two phases — made very clear on the graphs.

        1) Now until Lynnwood, Federal Way and Bellevue have stations: High demand for bus space in the region.

        2) Lynnwood, Federal Way and Bellevue have stations. Dramatic drop in demand for bus space in the region.

        The problem occurs in that first phase. We need more space for buses before the trains get to their logical termination point. After that, we will likely have more than enough space — in part, because we just increased bus base capacity to deal with that first phase. That is the period where ST would spend money on bus service.

        ST can write all the STX check it wants, but at a certain point it’s just pulling buses away from other corridors.

        No its not. Consider CT and consider how many buses they have. Don’t focus on overall service, just buses. You need enough buses to handle peak. During peak, you have a bunch of buses — a huge number, really — all going all the way downtown and all the way back to Snohomish County. That all goes away. Those buses go to Lynnwood. You can run a ton of extra rush-hour service, and still come nowhere near the number of buses you have today.

        But if you want to increase all-day service, it will cost you more money. That is because you are running those buses a lot more often. That is precisely the type of service I’m talking about, and precisely the type of service that CT is unlikely to be able to afford.

      2. With Metro pulling back its service hours 15%, and more next year, and probably pulling back more at peak than off-peak, doesn’t that substantially ease the near-term bus base capacity problem? That previously constrained capacity can be recycled for ST REx.

      3. Ross is correct, it is a peak only problem. My understanding is that CT is planning on fully redeploying all of those buses (with huge deadheads) into other peak oriented service (which should be much more productive given the avoided deadhead). It’s still the same number of buses, just running more trips within Snohomish.

        First Phase: We are at capacity. KCM is unable to provide Seattle the buses it wants, despite a blank-ish check from the city.
        Second Phase: ST2 truncations free up a bunch of peak oriented buses. All three agencies reinvest those buses into new/better routes, as per their existing plans. We remain at capacity. If ST then wanders in with a blank check asking for more bus service, ST either displaces routes elsewhere in the region, or we build another base.

        Ross, I think the mistake you are making is assuming that CT will run less buses post-ST2. CT will have far, far less deadhead, but same number of buses in service.

        Dan, I’m thinking of a post-pandemic world. Yes, as long as KCM is unable to run at 2019 service levels, there is likely no bus base capacity problem.

  8. I’m leaving this “call” to Dave Ross, Mike. On his word that rush hour traffic speed between Everett and Tacoma is finally closer to seventy than seventeen, I’ll agree that that distance is a waste of steel rail and go sulk. ‘Til then,

    I agree Link’s the wrong tool, but if SKO-ne Province can build us those bathroom-bearing purple Swedish streamliners, delivery should be an easy sail out of Gothenburg via Panama. Though would rather we assemble them here, to wipe off the stain of doing that for the Breda fleet.

    If Ballard Link’s distance of twenty years a comforting belief for you, by now we can spec out a TBM you won’t hear go by under your house. But by my 75th birthday next month, both age-group members you mention will always have my address. This time last year, did you see the COVIDS COMIN’? If not, why should we wail along with any prediction of yours about completion?

    Age group I’m watching, and signing over my remaining life in the service of, at this sun-shiny late afternoon minute are busy using the Capitol Steps for the Graduation pics for which they thankfully need an undermaintained high school building even less than they do an SAT test. Class of 2020 carries itself like people who can handle Regional Rail.

    Proud to have our comparative ages increasingly put me in the minority. Issaquah Class of 2020? For a Lake Washington Tech engineering elective, see what the Swiss can give Snoqualmie Pass in the way of a tunnel. If anybody can do it with a bus, since Crimean trolleywire can probably already handle 50 easy, might go for hydro-electric charging station east of North Bend.

    Mark Dublin

  9. So, it looks like my idea for a Ballard-West Seattle STEX might actually be on the table? Interesting.

    1. ST3 includes improvements to RapidRide C and D as early deliverables. It has never been defined what these would be. ST Express to Ballard and West Seattle is probably not on the board’s radar, since no intra-Seattle ST Express has ever been proposed. (All ST Expresses that go into Seattle are paid for by the suburban subareas if I recall. North King may contribute to the 550 and 545 since they have high bidirectional use.)

      What would a Ballard STEX do? I guess it would have a handful of downtown stops, Denny Way, Expedia, Leary Way, and Market Street. If it tried to serve SLU it would add significantly to the travel time, so the closest it could get is 4th & Denny.

      1. Correct, North King does not pay for any share of STX O&M.

        While the project specifics are board, they are specific enough to make clear ST will not be running their owns buses, instead investing in ‘transit priority improvements,’ plus cutting a check for RR-G.

        “This project would design and implement transit priority improvements along King County Metro’s RapidRide C and D lines that provide service
        to Ballard and West Seattle as an early deliverable to provide improved speed and reliability, in advance of light rail starting operations to these
        areas. The project also includes a contribution to funding for Madison Street BRT in Seattle. “

      2. The idea is that it creates a route/routes that (roughly) shadows a future transit project, much like how the 545-550 have done so for East Link. And much like how the 545/550 represented a major upgrade in service and frequcy over where, my proposal would do something similar, providing service at similar headways to Link and RRG. This isn’t meant to replace/ justify delaying Ballard/WS Link, but to build up demand for it.

  10. I’d favor the spine. Translated, in my perfect world:
    Everett: truncate at Mariner/128th, an endeavor like the Northgate extension in terms of the # of stations and length-but with no tunneling, complete the BRT loop to/from downtown Everett to/from Boeing using 526 and Evergreen/blue line stations. Hire laid off bus drivers to staff, use artics while purchasing new BRT buses. Revise the plan to follow I-5 to Everett as density and ridership warrant (not the case today). Complete north side of Ash Way/164th ramps to end buses weaving on I-5, critical to do before Lynnwood Link opens to keep the impending armada of buses in the HOV lanes.
    Issaquah: truncate at South Bellevue. Change plan to head south to someday serve Renton and Tukwila International Station.
    West Seattle: due to the bridge debacle, am inclined to keep this, but truncate the line in downtown Seattle.
    Ballard: horrendously expensive relative to other projects, duplicates BRT line. Delete, replace with Ballard-University District line if less expensive, as this would do far more for riders who go both places to work. Ballard to Everett becomes more viable, and visa-versa. We need to get away from Seattle-centric.

    1. “I’d favor the spine. Translated, in my perfect world: Everett: truncate at Mariner/128th…”

      That’s not favoring the spine. That’s what opponents of the spine want. It goes like this:

      1. The spine was originally defined as Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond. Everett Station, Tacoma Dome, and downtown Redmond were the preliminary conceptual termini.
      2. In the run-up to ST3, Everett argued that the specific final terminus should be defined as Everett Community College (going beyond Everett Station west to downtown and north to the college). Pierce argued that its final terminus should be Tacoma Mall (southwest of Tacoma Dome, and bypassing downtown).
      3. Everyone agrees that Lynnwood, Federal Way, and downtown Redmond are necessary, given the region’s population size, circulation needs, and serving the highest-volume part toward Everett and Tacoma. This was essentially the ST2 plan, although ST2 didn’t quite reach all of it due to budget scope and 2008 recession cuts.
      4. The non-spine side thinks Link should not go all the way to Everett and Tacoma, and that high-quality bus feeders should bridge the gap. They all agree the northern terminus should be somewhere between 196th and 128th, but disagree on exactly which station to truncate at. Your proposal for a 128th terminus and a particular bus plan north of it, fits right into this.
      5. In the south end, the non-spine side favors a terminus somewhere between KDM and South Federal Way. Since the 2024 plan already goes beyond KDM to 320th, and that already seems a bit too far to some people, it has emerged as a compromise.
      6. Issaquah is not part of the spine. Nor are Ballard, West Seattle, 522 Stride, or 405 Stride.

      “Issaquah: truncate at South Bellevue. Change plan to head south to someday serve Renton and Tukwila International Station.”

      That wouldn’t solve the primary objection to Issaquah Link, which that Issaquah’s population is too small and the streets aren’t congested enough to justify light rail. Your second part is interesting because Renton-Burien is in the long-range plan and had a preliminary study, and the board sees Renton-Bellevue as a possible future corridor although they don’t think ridership will emerge until later. 405 Stride is a step toward prebuilding that ridership. I’m less convinced about coming north from Renton and turning east at South Bellevue to Issaquah. That contradicts the primary demand for a Renton-Bellevue line, which is to go to downtown Bellevue.

      “Ballard: horrendously expensive relative to other projects, duplicates BRT line.”

      What BRT line? The nearest BRT line is on Bothell Way. The D is not BRT. The primary point of Ballard Link is to be faster than the D, more like the 15X. The D takes 30-45 minutes to get to Market Street on a bad day, which is way to slow for one of Seattle’s top-five urban villages just five miles from downtown. The “Ballard is expensive” argument ignores the fact that DSTT2 and SLU are not part of “Ballard”. They are independent reasons for the line. DSTT2 is about a coming downtown capacity bottleneck, not just with people taking Link north, south, and east, but north-south circulation downtown. SLU is about addressing a major oversight: the politicians completely missed the implications of bulding highrises in SLU without high-capacity transit. So the “Ballard” part you can only count as north of Smith Cove, and that part is inexpensive. And alternative could build DSTT2 through SLU to Smith Cove and terminate there, and not affect Ballard. As for the 45th line, several people here prefer it over Ballard-downtown, but ST and the Seattle politicians chose against it this round. And while ST has some flexibility in fulfilling corridors, it’s at minimum uncertain that it would be within the scope of the ST3 corridor. ST can’t build things that haven’t been voter-approved until it finishes everything that has been voter-approved and has money left over.

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