Projects in active construction (in green) have been prioritized while Sound Transit reprioritizes its longer term program (slide: Sound Transit)

With a comprehensive realignment of capital projects delayed until July 2021, Sound Transit turned its attention yesterday to current projects where advances through project stage gates have been on hold since March. The Board must decide in coming months how to proceed on many of these projects in 2021 pending decisions on the broader program.

Earlier this year, the Board decided to pause advancing projects not in construction. That meant planning and design could continue, but projects could not advance into project development, final design, or construction. Some of the largest ST3 projects are still too far away to be affected by a near-term pause, but the staff presentation detailed more than a dozen where some work or stage gate decisions are being delayed.

Projects affected by the pause include several in early development. These include Sounder platform extensions on the south line. Those platforms were to be extended to accommodate 10-car trains by 2028. An operations and maintenance facility for Everett Link was to have started work later this year. Environmental work on Sounder access projects has been delayed. These include parking in Edmonds and Mukilteo which are not being moved to environmental review. Contracts have been negotiated at South Tacoma and Lakewood station, but not brought to the Board. In North Sammamish, a 200-car park-and-ride is on hold. The bus on shoulder program has been screened to a short list of possible projects, but paused further development.

Others are further along. Projects where final design actions are paused include parking garages in Kent and Auburn. Environmental work is proceeding for the I-405 and SR 522 BRT projects, but contracts are pending to authorize further engineering, including the BRT bus base in Bothell.

Two projects are ready to advertise for design-build construction. These are the Sounder maintenance base in Sumner and another parking project also in Sumner.

Several funding agreements with third parties are on hold. These include parking at Everett station in partnership with Everett Transit. Sound Transit’s contribution to Madison BRT is paused, as are contributions to RapidRide C & D improvements. In Kirkland, a contract partnering with WSDOT to build the 85th St BRT station and direct access ramps to the HOT lanes is delayed.

Beginning in August, the Board will consider actions to consider lifting the pause on some of these projects, and develop a budget for 2021.

In separate news, CEO Peter Rogoff relayed some hopeful news about legislation in the House of Representatives that would assist Sound Transit’s finances. The bill would permit the re-negotiation of existing full funding agreements to increase the federal share. Rogoff did not estimate the financial benefits of such legislation if it were to pass unscathed through the congressional process. But just two projects, to Federal Way and Lynnwood, already have federal grants of nearly $2 billion, so a significant expansion of that support could meaningfully ease the delays to future projects.

46 Replies to “Decisions later this year on delayed projects”

  1. Dan, Seattle Transit Blog deserves thanks for the valuable service you’re performing by keeping us briefed on the status of future projects. Whatever circumstances beyond anyone’s control are delaying, given the knowledge you’re providing, we can all still help design and plan.

    And thanks to STB’s strict [OT]/[OH] prevention protocols, without danger of either catching or spreading anything fatal or incurable. COVID-combat can really take a leaf. If it didn’t threaten to bring down such hate on Twitter, I’d recommend that Jay Inslee deliver your award in person.

    OK, OK, vaccine maybe next year …but at least it might result in the elevator by the ST 574 stop at the Sea-Tac Link Station bridge over SR99 finally getting fixed. Upkeep on The Good Work always works.

    Mark Dublin

  2. Sound Transit needs a new PR campaign to justify its projects. Ridership on its trains is down 85% while car travel is only down 15%. Time for some public outreach: “The trains are green!”

    1. I imagine a lot of choice ridership has evaporated. It makes sense why someone would rather sit in a clean empty car than a potentially crowded bus, not to mention the service cuts, lighter traffic, and lack of parking enforcement.

    2. Brian, for PR which means “Public Relations”, substitute PE for Passenger Experience, and you’ll be right on target. Except that, far from a campaign, it’s always a matter contact by contact and incident by incident. For good and – good’s polar opposite.

      Ordering me to get my bike off a northbound train at Pioneer Square had best not be followed by ten minutes more of messages that next stop will be Angle Lake followed by Sea-Tac Airport.

      And if the luggage I’m deboarding ST 574 with at Sea-Tac is in fact accompanying me to UW Station, might help if the coach operator, excellent as they usually are on this run, can advise me to ride one more stop into the terminal so after how many solid years of elevator failure, I can at least find an escalator that’ll put me on same platform as a train.

      Also the reason I won’t “let up” on a fare policy demanding that an easily-mistaken card-tap makes me liable for the exact same criminal charge as if I’d stolen a ride. Possession itself proves I paid in full in advance- but to accounting, claiming precedence opposite to voters’ intent- that’s irrelevant. Over the years, fact that one black train driver has ended up in handcuffs for non-cooperation says how Far We Are From Mere PR.

      Reason also I’d like postings on high-level conjectural stats to be balanced by actual day to day and ride to ride accounts of direct experience, from passengers, drivers, supervisors, mechanics, and communications people themselves.

      Bad enough that the Governor’s orders, which I respect to the letter, forbid me from driving to Tacoma Dome and getting on a bus to transfer to Link to see for myself so I can report first-hand.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Well you don’t need converting, but an increasingly large percentage of the public does.

        A fresh, funny TV campaign — lots of folks are at home with the TV on and need a reason to smile. Sound Transit could give them that.

    3. Very few people will be swayed to ride the trains because they’re “green”. What matters far more is restoring service frequency and enforcing face masks, so people feel safe.

      Also, the roads haven’t gotten any wider, so we will eventually see some sort of equilibrium coming where traffic gets bad again and people start looking to public transit to avoid it.

    4. I have not ridden a bus or light rail since the virus crisis started and I have no plans to do so for the foreseeable future.

      I am a senior citizen and I would not feel safe to ride transit because it seems too many passengers are not wearing masks and maintaining social distancing when it is possible to do so.

      I will drive my car because doing so I will control my surroundings and no PR campaign by Sound and/or Metro Transit will convince me to get on a bus or light rail.

    5. The most effective PR campaign would be to restore 10-minute frequency. People are avoiding Link because it’s infrequent, especially 30-minute weekends. When I go on a trip to Rainier Valley or the U-District/Roosevelt, I write down the Link schedule before I go, but if it’s not coming soon when I’m near the station, I take a bus instead of running for it or waiting a long time.

      Maybe we don’t need extra peak service now, but Link should at least return to 10 minutes all day. There’s also those 255 riders who have a truncated route now.

      1. The most effective campaign would be to require masks and socially responsible behavior.

    6. Attendance at Mariner games is also way down. Go figure. Maybe they need a new mascot or something.

      Seriously though — the buses still clearly state “Essential Trips Only” which basically means “don’t ride this unless you absolutely have to”. Ridership is down because it is supposed to be down, just like every other activity (drinking in bars, eating in restaurants, going out to movies) is supposed to be down. Wait until the pandemic is over and see how things recover.

      1. Seriously though — the buses still clearly state “Essential Trips Only” which basically means “don’t ride this unless you absolutely have to”.

        I think that answers a question I was going to ask in a previous open thread and has been addressed here. If I have the choice of commuting in my car vs using transit “Essential Trips Only” means my commute should be by car.

        Begs the questions, why doesn’t Metro follow the governors “law of the land”? The only answer seems to be it doesn’t support the homeless industrial complex.

      2. Begs the questions, why doesn’t Metro follow the governors “law of the land”? The only answer seems to be it doesn’t support the homeless industrial complex.

        What is that supposed to mean? Seriously, I have no idea what you are trying to say. Metro doesn’t enforce the law, if that is what you are getting at. Doing so puts the drivers at risk (drivers haven’t enforced fares for years). On the other hand, they do follow the law. For example, drivers are wearing masking, or otherwise protecting themselves (and others) from the transmission of the disease.

      3. Now that I have a friend living near 188th & Meridian in Shoreline, I’ve wound up taking the E for almost its entire length.

        I’ve seen people on that thing for similar hour long slogs. Great for local trips but Link will be so much better for so many.

        Link would be a huge improvement for my specific trip because the express trips are rare, and have to get off the freeway at 145th. Link will have a station at 185th, and even if bus routes are terrible at connecting it, it will probably be faster to take Link and walk than take the E the entire way.

        Additionally, the E starts too far north in downtown to be that easy to access from King Street Station.

  3. Once Link gets to Northgate and Redmond everything after that will have diminishing returns. The next truly worthwhile line to Ballard wasn’t projected to come until after 2040 anyway.

    1. I’d think Lynnwood and Federal Way will also be fairly popular. Generally, I’d agree that most of Link in ST3 has diminishing returns except for Downtown-SLU-Ballard. After all, Link corridors identified but unfunded in ST2 (Generally Link projects in ST3) are that way mostly because they have had diminishing returns in the first place.

      1. Right – the ST3 projects have lower returns than ST2 pretty much by design. The highest value ST3 stations are in Denny Triangle and SLU, which make sense because that’s the major change in regional activity centers that wasn’t anticipated when ST2 was developed. The rest of ST3 is either working through projects that didn’t make the cut in ST2 or creating more capacity in Link and Sounder.

      2. Right – the ST3 projects have lower returns than ST2 pretty much by design.

        Which just shows how poor the design was. That isn’t normal. The returns should be bigger as you make your system bigger (network effect). One way to measure this is ridership per mile. This should go up as your system gets bigger. This happened when U-Link was built (to an enormous degree). It will happen with Northgate Link, and East Link. With Lynnwood Link, maybe. But with ST3, ridership per mile will actually go down with ST3, despite the enormous price tag. This is shocking, really, and a sign of extremely poor planning.

      3. Lynnwood will be very popular during peaks, at least, post-Covid. But I doubt it will carry very many folks during the middle of the day or nights and weekends. The origin-destination pairs north of Northgate are just too spread out.

        Now if the political will to change that existed, eventually it would become busy. But it was in question before and a slam-dunk that densification won’t happen now.

        Tim Eyman might even be governor starting in late January.

      4. The 512 runs every 15 minutes midday and is practically full all day and even in the early morning and evenings. Not many people get off at 45th, 145th, or MT so most riders are going to Lynnwood or beyond. Link will generate more ridership than the 512 to Lynnwood and MT because:

        – It runs every 5 minutes (after East Link opens).
        – It serves Northgate, Roosevelt, Husky Stadium, and Capitol Hill, which the 512 doesn’t do.
        – It will be a one-seat ride to southeast Seattle, SeaTac airport, Bellevue, Redmond, and Federal Way. (In ST3: West Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond.)
        – It’s immune to traffic jams.
        – It has level boarding for wheelchairs and walkers, and more space for them to sit.
        – It’s a train.
        – ST and CT will have more bus feeders than now.

      5. “But I doubt it will carry very many folks during the middle of the day…”

        I’ll take that bet, for all of the reasons Mike Orr elaborated on in his comment above. :)

      6. I think Lynnwood Link will be reasonably popular in the middle of the day, but it will be far less popular than the areas to the south. Tom is right in that there will be a dramatic ridership difference between rush hour and off-peak. In contrast, all the stops between Northgate and downtown will be very busy all day.

        The 512 runs every 15 minutes midday and is practically full all day and even in the early morning and evenings.

        The 512 varies from around 10 to 60 passengers per trip. Highest ridership is at the edge times, close to peak. It is fairly busy when it runs every ten minutes, suggesting that increasing frequency will lead to increased ridership. Which leads me to this:

        It runs every 5 minutes (after East Link opens).

        Not necessarily. There are turnback stations at Northgate, so it is possible that only half the trains run north of Northgate. We’ve already seen that ST is willing to drop frequency, even on a line that is obviously more influenced by frequency. The difference between five and ten minute service isn’t likely to make such a big difference in suburban travel, which means that a cost-cutting agency could find that it saves a substantial amount of money by turning back half the trains. Interesting enough, it is exactly one hour from Northgate to Federal Way, just as it is from Lynnwood to Redmond.

        It serves Northgate, Roosevelt, Husky Stadium, and Capitol Hill, which the 512 doesn’t do.

        Yeah, that’s the big change. It is also the big mystery, in my opinion. It is pretty easy to see how Northgate to Capitol Hill, for example, will result in a lot more trips on Link. Mountlake Terrace to Capitol Hill is a different story. The distances are just farther — it is tougher to make a spontaneous trip.

        It will be a one-seat ride to southeast Seattle, SeaTac airport, Bellevue, Redmond, and Federal Way. (In ST3: West Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond.)

        Those trips don’t add up to much, in my opinion. Even now, with SeaTac already connected to downtown and the UW, ridership isn’t that high there. Business travelers and students account for way more trips to the airport than riders from residential areas. For Lynnwood itself, it is faster to take the bus to Bellevue (rather than round the horn). South Seattle (and certainly Federal Way) are very far away from the northern suburbs. There is definitely some ridership within the city, but very little from that far north.

        It’s immune to traffic jams.

        Yes, but that is largely true with Northgate Link. The big all-day traffic jams generally start at Northgate. Yesterday, at 3:00 PM, southbound traffic was crawling (during the pandemic).

        ST and CT will have more bus feeders than now.

        That is really the key, in both cases. When Northgate Link opens, I wonder how hard will it be for people from the north to get to Link. From what I’ve been able to tell, ST will continue to do all the work. I wonder if they will run a lot more often, and if they will extend into neighborhoods. My guess is that a truncated 512 will be it for all-day service, which means that people are looking at three seat rides, or trying to find a space at the park and ride lot. Given the distance, this seems reasonable. While Lynnwood Link would improve things, it isn’t clear how much. The ST bus is likely to be frequent (ten minutes at worse). The key is the Community Transit bus to the 512 bus stop. To be clear, Link will avoid a transfer, but not a painful one (to the 512). My guess is that ridership gains from Snohomish County will be dependent on how often those CT buses run (before and after Lynnwood Link).

        In some ways, Northgate Link reminds me of U-Link. In both cases, the stopping point is odd. U-Link should have gone to 45th. The two stations at the UW are likely to be two of the most popular stations in our system. Service to 45th would completely change the dynamic for northeast Seattle, even if it was the terminus. We would have seen a dramatic change in ridership, as the core of our system (UW to downtown) would finally be complete.

        Likewise, Northgate Link ending at Northgate is a bit anti-climactic. North of the UW, the system changes. It is less about walk-up ridership, and more about bus connections, and serving a broad area. To be clear, there will be some walk-up ridership to both stations, but nothing compared to the number of people that take a bus to the station. Northgate isn’t in the heart of the neighborhood, and while 65th is, there are a ton of people who will connect to there by bus. But getting to Northgate is a real pain from the surrounding neighborhoods, even though it isn’t too bad from the freeway.

        In contrast, 130th and 145th are much easier. The 130th station will make trips from Bitter Lake to the UW or downtown dramatically faster. Similar improvement comes from Lake City and Pinehurst. Even 145th changes the Lake City situation, assuming fairly frequent buses headed that way. This is where the people are. This is where the density is. This is where large all-day ridership will come from. 145th will also make a big difference for areas like Kenmore, but I expect that to be more peak oriented.

        It is after that point that I expect all-day ridership to dwindle. 185th will get a boost from Swift, but again, that is a long trip for most people. Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood Station have the same fundamental problem. The 512 doesn’t carry *that* many people, and while Lynnwood Link (and Northgate Link) will make it a lot easier to get to various places, I’m not sure if it will result in high midday ridership. I do think we will see somewhat of a clue with Northgate Link, but I think in both cases, it is highly dependent on what the buses do.

      7. Sound Transit looked at the issue of peak vs non-peak ridership during the DEIS phase for Lynnwood Link. A consultant report titled “Interim Transit Ridership Forecast Results:
        Technical Memorandum” was produced for the agency in 2012. Unfortunately, since ST has removed a significant amount of these sorts of older documents from their online archive, I’ve only been able to source a link to this document from a third party (see link below – it’s a direct d/l .pdf file).

        Here’s one of the highlighted projections from said report pertaining to the above discussion:

        “Average weekday and annual project ridership forecasts specific to the project corridor (between
        Northgate and Lynnwood) are also summarized in Table 2-1 for the build alternatives. Average weekday project riders (inbound boardings plus outbound alightings) range from 67,200 to 70,200, with the highest daily project ridership forecast resulting from a combination of five stations. Peak-period transit passenger volumes north of Northgate are between 18,200 and 18,600.”

        The peak period in question is the three-hour PM period and the figures given are for expected ridership in 2035.

        The four-station alternative, what ST ultimately decided to build, was broken down as follows:

        2035 Build Representative Alternative –
        PM Peak and Daily Transit Volumes (NB)

        NGTC to N145 –
        18,500 and 32,000
        N145 to SHLN –
        17,200 and 30,000
        SHLN to MTTC –
        14,800 and 24,000
        MTTC to LYNN –
        12,500 and 20,000

        PM Peak and Daily Transit Volumes (SB)

        NGTC to N145 –
        4,100 and 32,000
        N145 to SHLN –
        3,700 and 30,000
        SHLN to MTTC –
        3,000 and 24,000
        MTTC to LYNN –
        2,500 and 20,000

        So, if one does the extrapolation and the math, the segment volumes break down as follows:

        NGTC to N145 –
        45,200 (70%) Peak
        N145 to SHLN –
        41,800 (70%) Peak
        SHLN to MTTC –
        35,600 (74%) Peak
        MTTC to LYNN –
        30,000 (75%) Peak

        Here’s the link to the full report:

      8. Thanks Tlsgwm, that’s good data.

        30% of ridership midday makes sense. I’d imagine I5 traffic would have a similar split. I’m curious to see if there will be a midday mini-peak for the lunch rush. When I was working in Bellevue, my coworkers would occasionally carpool into the ID for lunch, and I see East Link making that much easier. I’d wonder if it will be the same for Lynnwood; there currently isn’t the same density of office workers like there is in Bellevue, but it all depends on if Lynnwod sprouts residential towers (super peak oriented?) or office towers (more midday travel?). In other words, it all depends on if Link helps Snohomish county create job/activity centers around each station, or creates bedroom communities clustered around each station. Will presumably be somewhere in between.

        I don’t think ST will extend their routes further into residential areas. Truncations may result in better frequency or span of service, but that’s it. Providing new connections to Link post-Lynnwood will be the work of CT.

        The airport will generate some nice passenger-mile metrics as people will be willing to ride the train >1 hour from Snohomish to catch a flight, but we are talking a small number of people per train.

    2. Lynnwood will be transformative. There’s a lot of interaction between Snohomish County and North Seattle that goes unnoticed, and Link will strengthen it. Downtown Seattle will have 20-minute access to downtown Bellevue, while southwest Snohomish will have 20-minute access to a lot of North Seattle. That will generate trips. Right now it’s piss-poor awful to get from Snohomish County to Northgate, Licton Springs, Lake City, or Greenwood. But Lynnwoodites and Mountlake Terracans are more likely than Everettites to go to Wallingford, Roosevelt, the Ballard Locks, the Vegetarians of Washington dinner in Greenwood (whenever that reopens), North Seattle College, etc, after Link opens, especially those who would rather not drive to them. And it will allow beaucoup truncations of express buses, which Community Transit plans to recycle to a frequent local network. Snohomish County is large enough now that it needs that.

      Federal Way will be less transformative, but it’s a reasonable compromise between those who didn’t want Link to go south of SeaTac or KDM, and those who want Link to go to Tacoma. It will be slower than the 577 or 594. But it will offer 10-minute express service within southwest King County, which is something. It will be a more frequent way to get to downtown. The Highline College area and Kent currently have no all-day express to downtown. Link will be effective for the Highline College area. It won’t really help for central Kent, but with an east-west RapidRide it will at least be an alternative to the 150, and maybe a bit better from East Hill and 132nd (which are on the proposed KDM RapidRide).

      Tacoma, Everett, Paine Field, and the Issaquah line will have diminished returns compared to these.

      1. Right now it’s piss-poor awful to get from Snohomish County to Northgate, Licton Springs, Lake City, or Greenwood.

        Right, but that will dramatically improve after Northgate Link. There will be a lot more buses going to Northgate, which means riders will be able to transfer to those other locations, the same way they will when Lynnwood Link gets here.

        I’m not saying that I would stop at Northgate — that makes no sense. Lynnwood Link will add stops at 130th and 145th, which is a huge savings for those to the east (Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell, Lake City) and the west (greater Bitter Lake area). But you get diminishing returns after that. If you are traveling along the freeway (from say, the Ash Way neighborhood) it doesn’t matter that much where you make the transfer — Lynnwood or Northgate. Of course Lynnwood is better, but Northgate is fairly close to the freeway (unlike the current northern terminus).

        The point is that Lynnwood Link will improve things, but not as dramatically as East Link, or Northgate Link.

      2. I couldn’t agree more with your summation of the SW SnoCo situation and all of the possibilities that Lynnwood Link represents for us folks up here in this neck of the woods. Because of the delayed opening I may actually be retired by the time the line is up and running (and thus won’t necessarily rely upon Link to commute to my office downtown at that point), but I’m certainly planning on using Link to do many other social or recreational things around the city. We are very anxious to see Lynnwood Link come to fruition as we have been waiting for a very long time.

  4. One think that concerns me is that there hadn’t been much money set aside for core systems projects to correct any problems that result in a forecasted tripling of ridership between 2019 and 2025. Now with social distancing and more work/school-from-home approaches as new behavioral normals, another set of new challenges may emerge that will require design and funding.

    Rather than “How long can we delay ST3 projects?” I think the Board will need to ask “What system investments make the most sense now?” sometime next year.

  5. For those not wanting to read the whole post, I’ll summarize it for you … Some stuff that is paused might be unpaused.

  6. These next years, the chief determinant of transit’s fate will be how well it can bring itself to serve the average person’s need to make a living. Whatever the job descriptions of that turn out to be. Meaning chief emphasis needs to be on positive, informed foresighted flexibility, all modes, all levels, all directions, and every single subarea.

    Vehicle design and repair and precision machining have a caution on enforcement: “If you have to use force, chance is, you’re going to break something.” For emergency public health, you don’t have to mess with people to also “Not Mess Around.”

    Issued PPE without saying, fare enforcement and station agents certainly should hand out masks. Somebody flat refuses? Only objection from me as to having them ordered off-property is if King County Sheriff already has her plate full. Floor’s yours, Mitzi. It’s not driver’s work. Maybe if County Medical Examiner’s people had their ORCA cards no-questions respected……


    Mark Dublin

  7. “The bill would permit the re-negotiation of existing full funding agreements to increase the federal share.”

    Lol. This piece of legislation will most likely just die in the 116th Congress. But I guess Rogoff needs something to talk about to distract from all of the bad news he doesn’t want to talk about. (He certainly won’t be mentioning things like the Lynnwood Link extension project having already used 2/3 of its total contingency with four, perhaps five, years of construction and testing still remaining.)

    So here’s the question I’d love to get an answer to: how many ST employees involved in the capital program have been furloughed at this point due to hitting the pause button? If the answer is none, what exactly are these folks spending their time on?

  8. There is some validity as to how much value is beyond Redmond and Northgate, but I’d modify beyond Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way (though since Pierce County voters are contributing, they should be getting some light rail-at least to Fife or the Tacoma Dome). However, since voters in three counties approved this set of projects, ST needs to re-think the future in light of the drop in ridership, some of it likely to be permanent due to the rise of telecommuting and be flexible with their future plans. For instance, the Ballard project is tremendously expensive and should be revised to an east/west line to the University District station, which would better serve Ballardites with north commutes as well as south and east commutes and visa-versa and is probably less expensive (if it isn’t, truncate the Ballard line at pier 90). The Everett line should be truncated at Mariner Park & Ride to connect to the green line BRT, then continued along I-5 (shorter, direct, more practical, less expensive, sooner) when the demand is sufficient, with the green line BRT extended to downtown Everett in the meantime via the blue line’s routing (526 to/from Evergreen Way). The Issaquah line could be truncated at South Bellevue, with future consideration for that line heading south, where the need is greater, rather than north.

    1. “Pierce County voters are contributing, they should be getting some light rail-at least to Fife or the Tacoma Dome”

      Pierce County voters should get something more effective than Link to Tacoma Dome. Their elected representatives squandered the opportunity to design a better Sound Transit vision for Pierce. Tacoma Dome just barely reaches into Pierce County, and all of Pierce County’s population concentrations live beyond it, most several miles beyond it. (Only downtown Tacoma, Hilltop, and the Dome District will be a mile or less.) Pierce could have pushed for something faster than Link, better all-day regional transit within Pierce, more RapidRide-like lines, etc.

      If the demographics of ridership change ; i.e., fewer middle-class commuters and more working-class essential workers and more from diverse areas, that will change the equity calculations. I’m not sure how that would affect particular projects, but it could have some effects. Metro has said it might change its route priorities as trip patterns and ridership demographics appear to be changing. I.e., deprioritizing the Eastside and prioritizing South King County and southeast Seattle.

      I would deprioritize Everett and Tacoma, although I know Snohomish and Pierce would argue they have a high share of lower-income people who work at nontraditional hours in nontraditional locations. Ballard and West Seattle I’m neutral on in this context. Some of the worst station locations are making it to the top, which threatens to squander part of what Link’s benefit would have been in the first place.

      The Issaquah line should be replaced with BRT and extended to downtown Kirkland. (That would be a way to redeem South Kirkland Station and serve downtown Kirkland directly, which 405 Stride won’t do. It could also have an intermediate stop at 108th & 65th (Houghton, Google). Longer-term it could be extended to Totem Lake, because there’s another gap between downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake that needs to be filled.

      Substituting the 45th line for Ballard-downtown isn’t going to happen. ST3 said Ballard-downtown. ST is afraid the 45th alternative would overcrowd the U-District – downtown segment. You may not believe that but ST does and it’s ST making the decision.

      Everett Link should have an intermediate phase at Mariner or Ash Way. ST is already considering this, forced by the covid budget shortfall. After that it could just never get around to the second phase.

      1. Pierce County voters should get something more effective than Link to Tacoma Dome.

        Exactly. These ideas shouldn’t be set in stone. Just as the plan was to give Seattle additional bus service (Madison BRT, RapidRide C and D) they should give Pierce County better bus service, once Link gets to Federal Way. Something like this:

        1) Split the Pacific Avenue BRT into two routes. Have one go to the Tacoma Dome, then to Federal Way, while the main one avoids the Tacoma Dome detour. The only additional BRT stop would be Federal Way, which should have off-board payment anyway, given its main value as the interface between Link and feeder buses. So the capital costs would be minimal — it all depends on how many buses you want to run to Federal Way and how far along Pacific you want to run them (e. g. the other bus could end at Parkland Transit Center). Ideally you run the other bus every ten minutes, opposite the main one. If you can’t afford that, then so be it — run it every 15, or 20 minutes. My guess is you would have a combination (during rush hour it runs frequently, while outside rush hour it doesn’t). Riders who are simply traveling along the corridor get better frequency, while riders heading downtown avoid the detour.

        2) Send the other half of the 1 to the Tacoma Dome, and Federal Way.

        3) Send the 28 out to the Tacoma Dome and Federal Way as well. The 28 performs well (one of the few above 20 riders an hour), and just loops around downtown. It would help riders if it served more downtown locations, while providing a connection to Federal Way.

        4) Send buses that just end at the Tacoma Dome (like the 102) to Federal Way.

        5) The 590 would be truncated in Federal Way, although it is possible that it could simply be eliminated, with money going to the Pierce County buses. The 594 could skip Tacoma, and go straight to Federal Way (there are other ways to get to Tacoma).

        That would give you a lot of buses from downtown Tacoma to Federal Way. These buses would also intersect a lot of other buses, which means that much of Pierce County would have a fast connection to Federal Way (even if it involves an extra transfer). In a similar way, you would want to improve transit routes in Fife and southern Federal Way so that riders in those areas have fast connections to Link.

        None of that means that Link will forever end at Federal Way (even though I think that would make the most sense). They could still eventually get there. But until then, folks in the area would have better connections.

        That is really the theme here. Regardless of what they do, it will be a very long time before the train extends beyond the logical endpoints (Federal Way, Lynnwood and Redmond). We might as well wait a while longer, but at least have good connecting bus service until then.

      2. I think the rest of Pierce is getting a decent shake from ST3. The Sounder corridor is getting $1B of capex plus continuing O&M for STX feeders service so that covers eastern and western Pierce. The Route 1 BRT looks excellent in its current design (notwithstanding out debates around serving the Dome); that cover south/central Pierce. So all that is left is Tacoma itself.

        The streetcar extension is silly, but it’s at the very end of ST3 so we can ignore if for now. So that leaves TDLE.

        TDLE will certainly get deferred, probably more than other projects. The 2nd downtown tunnel needs to get built first for operational reasons, so that will be ST’s financial priority. Everett Link can very logically be broken into 2 or 3 phases to deliver steady progress for Snohomish, while an ‘early win’ for TDLE is probably just a 1 station extension to SFW.

        Sounds like the ST board is looking at better bus funding as a mitigation for delayed projects, which we all agree is good. What I think is the first interesting decision is do you just run more buses on the existing infrastructure, do you start talking about investing in more HOV/bus infrastructure on the Pierce side (Federal Way is good as-is) to support bus service that will be used only for a 20~25 years.

    2. There is some validity as to how much value is beyond Redmond and Northgate, but I’d modify beyond Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way.

      I agree. Even though I just wrote a little blurb about why Lynnwood Link isn’t all that, it is clear that is way more important than any extension beyond the three stops you mentioned. Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way are three very reasonable, very appropriate end points. Lynnwood and Federal Way are deep into the suburbs (too deep, some would say) and both have excellent freeway bus access (with HOV lanes right to the front door). As a result, extending farther doesn’t save riders much time, even during rush hour. Redmond is the logical terminus of East Link, given its proximity and density (and employment along the line).

      the Ballard project is tremendously expensive and should be revised to an east/west line to the University District station.

      As much as I would like that, it’s just not gonna happen. There is no way the board would approve that, even though it is quite reasonable. My hope (and even this is a longshot) is that they go with a bus tunnel first (with the exact same stops as the future rail line) and then eventually build the train line. That way, riders in West Seattle and Ballard don’t have to wait for 2035 until they actually get something out of ST3. Actually, 2035 was the original date — it is quite likely they will have to wait until 2040, or later.

    3. Let me repeat my adage: DON’T SKIMP ON CORE CAPACITY. The second Downtown line should be prioritized, even if it falls short of Ballard this time.

      1. That is ridiculous. You completely miss the point of building the new downtown tunnel. The whole reason they are building a second downtown tunnel is to avoid sending both the Ballard line and the main line through downtown. Doing that would mean that the main line (from the UW to downtown) would see reduced frequency. This is the core capacity issue that resulted in the plans for a new downtown tunnel.

        If there is no Ballard (or West Seattle) line, then there is no capacity issue. The four car trains from the UW still run through downtown every three minutes, which is more than enough.

        Either way, the most crowded section of our system will be between Capitol Hill and Westlake, and adding a second downtown tunnel won’t help the situation in the least (it simply avoids making the situation worse).

  9. Does anybody know where the second Downtown Tunnel is supposed to go? From what I recall of DSTT construction, what with the BN tunnel and all those utilities, there’s not a whole lot of room down there.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The plan for DSTT2 is that it will stay east of DSTT1 and the BNSF tunnel. It will essentially go up Fifth Avenue.

    2. DSTT2 will be on 5th with stations at Intl Dist, Midtown (Madison, library), and Westlake. It’s unclear how the new Westlake platforms will relate to the existing ones. For the new Intl Dist platforms the alternatives are: 5th shallow, 5th deep, 4th shallow, 4th deep. “5th shallow” is the default. It has the best transfer to the existing platforms, the best access to surface businesses, and the lowest cost. However, some businesses are objecting to closing 5th for a cut-and-cover tunnel construction after having endured DSTT1 construction and streetcar construction. The tunnel will continue north to SLU and Uptown and emerge at Smith Cove (Expedia).

  10. They don’t have to be purple like the bathroom-bearing streamliners in Southern Sweden, but I really think Everett and Tacoma might need an in-between “caliber” of trains. Any thought about electrifying present Amtrak line, and also trains elevated over freeway right of way?

    But in addition to being the only terminal in that direction that makes any sense, Ballard deserves Link because its people have supported the project for so many years and gotten nothing back for it. Very large number of pro-Monorail votes were mainly in protest for being left out so long.

    And a lot of votes against it owed to the clear impression conveyed by anti-Monorail literature that a vote against the Monorail was most definitely a vote for light rail. Since this was just sort of an aside in passing, probably shouldn’t over-stress it, but Waterfront chief Marshal Foster did tell me the project did suggest some utilities along Alaskan Way had been upgraded for light rail.

    If it weren’t so threatened by melting ice-caps, might be a lot less expensive line than the subway loop through the First Hill hospital district station at Madison and Boren. Which would connect some really important stuff with the rest of the region. Some coverage of latest TBM technology much in order now.

    Mark Dublin

  11. I see a whole lot of parking in this delayed “transit” projects list. We are lucky most of the good stuff (Redmond Link, Lynnwood Link) is safe. Too bad about Ballard Link though.

    1. It’ll all be part of the same regional system. Though the more effort you put into convincing yourself that anything’s safe nowadays, the more carefully you need to ride, drive, or walk it. The wards are full.

      And for Ballard Link all the way to West Seattle, the longer it takes for work to start, the more advanced the tunneling and bridging techniques and equipment to do it. This isn’t going to be anybody’s grandfather’s Downtown Seattle Transit Project.

      Mark Dublin

  12. One would think a bunch of TIGER or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Mk II grants would cover building Link to Everett and the OMF North quickly. Ditto a new West Seattle mixed-use bridge.

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