The 77th Ave SE configuration as outlined in the 2017 SEPA Addendum

[Update: the original post incorrectly implied that the Mercer Island city council meeting will be on 9/16, when it in fact will be on Tuesday 9/15. This has been fixed.]

It’s hard to believe that more than ten years have passed since Bellevue and Sound Transit began their long slog over East Link routing. It took rounds of council meetings, open houses, endless studies, and competing community activism to get to a compromise that both agencies continue to champion today.

Although neither side got exactly what they wanted, both the City of Bellevue and Sound Transit managed to escape the saga free of litigation directly between the two parties. This accomplishment is precisely what makes Mercer Island’s recent actions particularly frustrating. Bellevue — arguably responsible for higher decision-making impact — managed to abstain from habitual litigiousness; yet this act is somehow beneath Mercer Island.

Readers may recall that the 2017 Settlement Agreement was only the result of first a suit from Mercer Island and then a subsequent counter-suit from Sound Transit. Sadly, the city council’s recent announcement shows that the agreement was merely a short reprieve from what looks to be a lengthy legal contest. Most disappointing is the impact that this will potentially have on the rest of East Link’s beneficiaries.

Sound Transit is slated to seek permits for construction of the street-level interchange this month. As Brent pointed out a couple weeks back, this legal recourse is timely designed to throw a wrench into that process. Although progress on the actual Link station continues, terminus planning for all Eastside routes connecting to the Mercer Island Station will be thrown into flux until this is all resolved. In the worst case outcome, East Link opening is delayed and the majority of Bellevue and Redmond-based riders will be left tapping their fingers.

What ultimately qualifies this move as political gamesmanship is that Mercer Island does not have a clear advantage in the legal arena. The implementation of the preferred 77th Ave SE configuration was expressly contingent on Metro’s concurrence with the 2017 agreement. Although the City claims this was obtained in October 2017, Metro’s letter made clear that there remained open-ended questions on incorporating operational considerations in the technical design. A May 2019 letter from Metro further clarified that the agency’s concurrence has not yet been met.

The City has attempted to push back by claiming that the agency is not qualified to request modifications based on METRO CONNECTS, alleging it is a “long range planning document” rather than an “operational schedule.” This arguments holds little weight: long-range transit plans are always built around operational assumptions with heavy involvement from schedulers and service planners. Metro further supplemented its assessment on a separate operational study produced by David Evans & Associates. Short of hopping in a time machine to get the 2023 operator runcards, these documents are more than sufficient to justify the interchange modifications.

Moreover, if Sound Transit can legally argue that the bus-rail interchange is a critical component of East Link and its bus connections, the agency may also have grounding to invoke RCW 36.70A.200, which prohibits local municipalities from holding up the siting of an essential public facility. This leverage is augmented if the City’s actions result in a project-wide delay.

In order to finance this scheme, Mercer Island is taking to levying a temporary utility tax increase on its own citizens. It simply spells bad optics to reinforce the stereotype that a privileged community can tap into its residents’ wealth to hinder regional progress. Island residents who want to see transit move forward are encouraged to speak out against the tax increase. They can do so by registering for a speaking slot by 4pm today tomorrow when the council plans to take up the relevant ordinance in the evening.

97 Replies to “Editorial: Don’t let Mercer Island impede regional progress”

  1. Note: As this editorial was posted on the morning of September 15, the council vote is *today*, at 5pm.

    I’ll add this to my list of “Daily Things to Scream Into My Pillow About”

  2. The lack of a resolution to the bus intercept issue should not be a reason to delay East Link’s opening. Is the number of bus slots reduced from its current level? ST is already planning to delete the 550, and the other ST and Metro routes can simply continue as is until a resolution is found. If some runs drop to near zero as riders shift to Link, the agencies will naturally cancel those runs, and then the number of buses in Mercer Island will go down anyway.

    1. Shouldn’t have any impact on rail operations, but if there is still work on the surface streets, ST may not be able to open the station entrances on time. Presumably the worst case is the MI station itself is unable to open timely.

      Needing to run the 21X series into downtown Seattle post-East Link would be an enormous expenditure of serve hours and kneecap KCM’s ability to execute an Eastside restructure alongside East Link opening.

      The 550 will indeed disappear, but those service hours simply disappear. The opportunity to reinvest service hours elsewhere on the Eastside is a function of KCM able to truncate major express routes. The MI bus-rail intercept is critical to unlock a re-imagined East side bus network.

      1. If the situation isn’t resolved, then I would do the following:

        1) Close the park and ride.
        2) Have Link skip Mercer Island.
        3) Kill off the 550.
        3) Keep the 554 as is.
        4) Keep Metro routes the same.

        Yes, that sucks for Metro. But it is a delay — eventually this will be worked out.

        It also sucks for Mercer Island. The 554 is not that frequent. People won’t be able to use the park and ride. There will be a brand new, expensive, fast light rail line that you can’t access. Write to your city council.

        I feel pretty strongly about those first three items. But I could see variations for the last two. We could have the 554 skip Mercer Island and send the 204 (and 630) to South Bellevue. But that would cost money (and I don’t know where Metro would get it). Another option would be to change some of the Metro routes (like the 212) and have them stop on Mercer Island. That way folks who live in the apartments nearby would have more frequent service to downtown Seattle. That wouldn’t cost much. But I would definitely *delay* the opening of the Mercer Island station, while shutting down the park and ride lot.

      2. Some transit advocates want Link to skip Mercer Island Station if the council continues being obstructionist and demanding concessions no other station area has. It would be ironic if the council itself forces the station opening to be delayed by making it impossible to open it on time.

        The worst outcome is if Bellevue and Redmond have to wait for Link until this bus-intercept issue is resolved. I’m fine with Link skipping Mercer Island for a while. I’m not fine with making Bellevue and Redmond and Judkins Park and the double frequency in north Seattle having to wait until Mercer Island is satisfied.

      3. I’d go a step further. Give MI residents something to get really upset about. They clearly have too much time on their hands, and will fight whatever is brought forward, so the strategy should be to propose something so obnoxious to them, that they spend all their effort fighting it. Propose a bus line that just circles the island 24/7 as a “collector” that will then drive back over to Bellevue to drop passengers off at Link. The fallback agreement is the proposal currently being fought.

      4. As a MI resident I’d be happy for Park and ride to close down and allow MI to
        Manage the land – with reside Permit stickers. I’ve needed do use it Only 2x and the lot has been full with what has been documented as lots of non-resident parkers. And I I’d love for the crime train NOT to to drop on MI!

        Funny with the selective memory! I where is the factual discussion about the prior agreement granting residence access when we partnered on the bridge years ago! As well as the studies on traffic that go against your stated stereotype MI residents? Common liberal ploy when they are afraid of the real facts . I am sure you will just restating your false facts as that seems to be the trend here, pathetic .

      5. MI resident: If you or MI wants to purchase the land being used as park-and-ride from the public in order to manage it, make an offer! Seattle has several private lots and garages that Link riders use because there isn’t a lot at the station.

  3. Let’s say this goes to court, and a judge finds in favor of Mercer Island. That Sound Transit didn’t adhere to an agreement. If that happened, wouldn’t Sound Transit be the reason for the delay?

    1. If it’s really about the center lanes, everybody knew when they were built that they were intended for rail someday and Mercer Island’s SOV privilege was only temporary in the interim. I knew that in the 80s. So for Mercer Island to say it should get compensation for losing its privilege or that gas-tax money contributed to the I-90 project so none of I-90 can be used for light rail doesn’t make sense.

      However, I’ve heard it’s about ST not making a disclosure in the EIS to Mercer Island’s satisfaction. Since a judge hasn’t ruled on that and I’m not a transit engineer, I can’t evaluate that. The fact that ST agreed to a settlement may give ST less leverage than if it hadn’t. But you can’t assume a judge would rule in Mercer Island’s favor without more factors to show that ST was definitely wrong. Not that that ever stopped a troll. Maybe ST agreed to a settlement just to avoid the time and expense of litigation.

      1. Minor nit-picking. I might call the argument a strawman, but not trolling, since it is on topic and does not appear intended to stir a lot of controversy. And even strawman arguments are not entirely unjustified as a debate artifact, especially in a forum such as this. Being prepared to answer relatively similar arguments in less friendly forums is in fact a very useful skill. It is not unlike the preparation for any public debates in the political space at some level. So I actually think that here, at least, arguments such as the one above are in fact to be welcome. YMMV of course :)

        Specifically about the center lanes, I had heard the point about the lanes being eventually intended for transit in the early to mid 2000s, too, so I agree that it’s unlikely to fly that this is a new requirement on them.

      2. I call it a troll because I see a resemblance to his previous troll-bait, which focuses on transit equity for Medina, Newport Hills, Beaux Arts, and raising race/class-based stereotypes. (I.e., you’d say yes if you believe group X is undesirable/threatening and should be kept away). That’s just one person’s interpretation (mine); others may think it’s inaccurate.

        It comes down to the choice of topics. Why Newport Hills or Medina? We know why Mercer Island, but why the focus on calling ST wrong? If a judge decides against ST, that merely means a judge decided against ST, ST may have to pay a fine, and maybe it should modify its practices. But dwelling on “ST is the reason for the delay” goes beyond that: it’s more than just a technical question of who’s at fault. it’s a pretext to lambaste ST and wag your finger at it and say “bad Sound Transit”, not just once but ongoing. It’s taking the very real problem of Mercer Island’s backward thinking, obstruction, and allegedly frivilous lawsuits, and postulating a mirror image of “Maybe ST is just as wrong and should be treated the same way”.

        That I don’t believe, and it’s a technique that has become too common in right-wing politics (“Accuse your opponents of doing what you’re doing or will do.” That’s what so scary about the warnings against armed left-side activists not accepting the result of the election: it’s what armed right-side activists are more likely to do, and have done in attaching anti-racist protesters and spreading false rumors of antifa taking over Seattle and threatening small towns.) I don’t think Sam is anti-transit or nimby or a definite right-winger; I think he’s probably moderately pro-transit but more suburbanish than I am. But that gets into another issue. I suspect he’s saying things he doesn’t believe as a provocateur, choosing topics that are the most flame-bait and prejudiced rather than the most critical transit/liveability issues. That’s why I call it a troll.

        Sam might say I have unjustly negative attitudes toward Mercer Island. That may be, but it comes from my strong desire to have walkable, non-highway-dominated neighborhoods, with easy-to-use transit, and enough of them so that everybody who wants to can live in one. I strongly dislike 1-2 story strip malls, large parking lots, and designs not emphasizing walkability, short walking distances, and the shortest distance between transit stops and building entrances. I spent years living through that. And that’s what I see in Mercer Island’s downtown, and in its attitude toward future development.

      3. Hello Mike,

        First, thank you for the very thoughtful and considered response to my comment, I really appreciate it. I also entirely respect your position and I make no claim of it being wrong in any way. You have been a contributor to this community for much longer than I have and thus have a very well-reasoned opinion.

        My only response would be on the merits of the specific comments rather than the intention. To some extent, I feel like the specific intention is actually less important than how the opportunity provided by the comment is being used. To me, there is a lot of value provided by getting insight into how non-transit supporters view things; many of the comments Sam makes to me are therefore thought-provoking in that they provide an opportunity, in a relatively “safe” (from actual trolling) environment, to prepare a thoughtful response that can help improve transit and accessibility, rather than to devolve into name calling and other such uninteresting discussion. But, as you said, this is just one person’s opinion (or approach to the discourse).

        The rest of your points about how different communities engage in debate and rhetoric are also very well-taken, but I feel like they may not be on topic for this specific post, so I will not risk commenting further :)

        Thank you again, I really appreciate it.

    2. I’m being sincere. Everything I’ve seen portrays Mercer Island as the delayer and impeder. I’m just asking what if a court sides with Mercer Island? If that happens, shouldn’t Sound Transit get the blame for impeding regional progress?

      PS, if anyone here plans on speaking to the council to argue against the tax increase, but you don’t live on the island, but you need a good fake rich person name so it seems like you do … H. E. Pennypacker.

      1. No, because it’s within MI rights to accommodate KCM and ST’s preferred outcome. MI can win on the legal merits and still be wrong on the best policy outcome for both MI and the region. You are conflating what MI can do and what they should do.

  4. ST’s fight with Mercer Island reminds me of the battle between Seattle and the Missing Link Obstructionists, expect on a much more grandiose scale with more significant regional impacts. It goes to show that a group with enough money and willpower can draw out a conflict essentially indefinitely.

    Maybe there will be a day of reckoning for the Mercer Island Council, but I doubt it. People pay a lot of money to live on a island that they like to pretend is a gated community and this is just a small part of that price.

    1. Yes, there are similarities with the Burke Gilman obstructionists. In both cases the public agency should play hardball. If I was the mayor, I would have added stop signs on Shilsole Avenue a long time ago. I would make it one way, so that drivers have to go out of their way to access the businesses there. None of that would require an EIS — I would just do it.

      The same is true here. Sound Transit should start by closing the park and ride lot. It operates the lot, so I see no reason why they can’t close it. Likewise, there is no reason why the train has to stop at the Mercer Island station (lots of riders would prefer the “express”). Play hardball, and don’t assume the other side has your interest at heart.

      1. Closing the station would be bad for I90 bus routes ( Issaquah, Sammamish, and Eastgate), so I’d definitely oppose that.

        Closing the P&R would be petty. Also, I wouldn’t assume the P&R just serves MI residents; it’s easy to access from the freeway, so many users are off-island.

        Intentionally making government services worse to win a political battle is a good way to lower trust in the government.

      2. The Burke-Gilman situation could easily be solved by amending the SEPA/EIS regulations to streamline the process for something like a regional bike trail replacing street parking. The fact that an technicalities in an environmental process have been holding up the fully funded completion of a regional trail for decades is complete insanity.

        With Mercer Island, I’d be hesitant to play hardball too much. ST’s opponents would stick to a hardball situation like flies on what’s left of Eyman’s reputation. ST should simply withhold any and all improvement money from Mercer Island that typically goes to local jurisdictions near stations for infrastructure upgrades. Do what they can within the WSDOT ROW for a bus terminus and let them eat cake.

    2. Pretty much.
      When BART reached to Pleasanton in the Bay Area it brought a lot of undesirable consequences to the city from San Fran ie homelessness and crime. Let’s call a spade a spade, it is what it is. Whole reason I moved away from Seattle to MI. I’m happy to have it zoom right past us…

      1. Considering ST Express 550 has been running this general route from Downtown Seattle since 1999 (and Metro much longer), this comment just makes you appear to not have done research on MI seclusion. It’s fundamentally just changing transit from rubber tires to steel wheels.

      2. So you’re saying that potential criminals will:

        1. Make their way to a Link station via bus transfer or walking.
        2. Wait for a train.
        3. Ride the train to Mercer Island Station.
        4. Get off.
        5. Walk to a business or home at random (unless they they used Link to do reconnaissance prior as well).
        6. Commit whatever crime they came all this way to commit.
        7. Walk back to the Mercer Island Station with their ill gotten loot in tow.
        8. Wait for a train.
        9. Ride the train to their station of origin.
        10. Get off train.
        11. Wait for bus transfer or walk.
        12. ???
        13. Profit!

        Seems totally rational and rooted in reality!

      3. Good point, Rapidrider!

        I’ve never seen anyone with an apparently stolen flat screen TV on light rail! Criminals are most likely to use a car (possibly stolen) than to use transit. It’s also seemingly true that a thief is more likely to get noticed by a FEO than by the Highway Patrol.

        I read the whole transit=crime statement as fear-driven bigotry towards poor people combined with a wildly inaccurately suspicious view of transit riders. It’s particularly absurd and laughable in this MI situation, given that the disputed buses are coming from Eastgate, Newport and Issaquah — places not known for housing criminals or even poor people. It’s this embracing of a clearly false fear-driven reality that keeps things like Fox News on cable.

      4. Right, the 550 and predecessors have been making almost exactly the same stops between downtown, the Rainier freeway station, Mercer Island center, and Kemper Freeman’s properties (Bellevue Square) since at least the 1970s. Any gangbanger who wanted to travel this corridor could easily have done so. And most of them would have driven a car so they could get away quickly. It’s not like there’s a lot of people in Rainier Valley who don’t know anybody who has a car.

      5. And Mercer Island it’s not Pleasanton. It’s comparable to having a city on Yerba Buena Island, halfway between San Francisco and Oakland. Pleasanton is more akin to Everett or Federal Way. And I find it hard to believe it has had a major increase in crime due to BART riders. I’ve been to Pleasanton once and it seemed fully suburban, and there are probably a lot of other positive things happening in Pleasanton to balance any increase in crime. Crime has fallen everywhere in the US since its 1990s peak, and while there’s a small uptick in 2019-2020, it’s much less than before, and BART Pleasanton opened long before 2019.

      6. It’s not actually about crime.

        It’s about undesirable people gaining access to the perceived-private enclave.

        “Undesirable” could mean dark skin or it could mean tatty clothes, but the intention is the same: “I am better than _those_ people and I don’t want them near me.”

  5. Since there are a lot more people living on Mercer Island who are not on the City Council than are, I can’t see why East Link has to lose five minutes’ track-laying time over the events described here.

    If they haven’t already, the Island’s business community should not take long to notice how much money they’ll be losing to the “Start-ups” that’ll soon start to populate the locations on either side of the water wherever the buses DO turn around.

    This IS, after all, the Age of the Food Truck. Bus-size VANS serving meals representing every cuisine from Venezuela to ancient Assyria via Tijuana, and that’s just at the bus stop across from the east end of the CBD in Olympia.

    As easily as buses can be re-routed, so can a whole new commercial world which now has rubber tires instead of building foundations. And also, look up Mercer Island’s “Roanoke Landing”.

    When the Island’s 80 years without ferry service are brought to an end by tomorrow’s jet-boat fleet, it’ll be up to Mercer Island’s own business community to decide whether boarding passengers will be taking aboard meals from Mexico or Romania, purchased from brick and mortar venues or vans with ethnic murals.

    Meantime, I still think it’ll make for a faster ride and less Downtown Seattle congestion if, starting tomorrow, the 550 turns at IDS. Anybody reading this who rides this route…what do YOU think?

    Mark Dublin

    1. The business community is probably in on it. I haven’t heard that there’s a split between the business community and the council and the nimby residents, like there was with Kirkland’s rail corridor where the city council and Save Our Trail had very different positions. This follows Mercer Island deciding to have only a teeny little 4-story token upzone downtown. Those businesses are the ones whose heights are at issue, and they seem to prefer a 2-4 story downtown serving mainly island residents, and no non-island cars in their P&R or non-island buses on their downtown streets getting in front of their cars.

      If the business community really wanted to build a walker’s paradise that attracted Link-arriving clients from the rest of the region, it would have got the station put on the downtown side of the freeway so said clients wouldn’t have to walk across the freeway twice.

      1. Is MI big enough to have a business community? The largest private employer is probably the QFC, which likely has no opinion on the matter.

      2. Pretty much.
        When BART reached to Pleasanton in the Bay Area it brought a lot of undesirable consequences to the city from San Fran ie homelessness and crime. Let’s call a spade a spade, it is what it is. Whole reason I moved away from Seattle to MI. I’m happy to have it zoom right past us… why would business want what’s happening downtown to start on MI. We can see how happy all the business are there?! Come on.

      3. Pretty much.
        When BART reached to Pleasanton in the Bay Area it brought a lot of undesirable consequences to the city from San Fran ie homelessness and crime. Let’s call a spade a spade, it is what it is. Whole reason I moved away from Seattle to MI. I’m happy to have it zoom right past us… why would business want what’s happening downtown to start on MI. We can see how happy all the business are there?! Come on.

      4. Yep, Pretty much.
        When BART reached to Pleasanton in the Bay Area it brought a lot of undesirable consequences to the city from San Fran ie homelessness and crime. Let’s call a spade a spade, it is what it is. Whole reason I moved away from Seattle to MI. I’m happy to have it zoom right past us… why would business want what’s happening downtown to start on MI. We can see how happy all the business are there?! Come on.

      5. “Is MI big enough to have a business community?”

        It has a variety of businesses. Retail, lawyers, insurance companies, and I don’t know what else, probably expanded health clinics. Whether they have an association (if that’s what you meant by “community”), I don’t know. They probably do because other small cities do.

      6. There’s also the Stroum Jewish community center in south Mercer Island. I’ve never seen it or the neighborhood, but I’ve known multiple off-islanders who work at it, so I assume it gets other off-island visitors too. I’m hoping there will be full-time transit between the Link station to this neighborhood.

    2. RapidRider
      It’s even simpler than that. Some of my neighbors actually think that Issaquah commuters will take the opportunity to mug people when the transfer from the bus to the train.
      Makes sense, right?

      1. I mean, I’m as wary of those Issaquashians as any other Puget Sounder*, so to relieve all concerns, ST should install a deposit box at the entrance to the station for Islanders to drop their wallets, jewelry and televisions into to streamline the mugging/robbery process. The Issaquashes can come at their leisure to collect their bounties and Islanders can go about their lives without worrying 24/7 about getting mugged.

        *not really

  6. riders will be left tapping their heels

    Really? One “taps one’s fingers” or “cools one’s heels” while waiting. The only heel tapping I’ve ever seen or heard of is among “hoofers” [e.g. tap-dancers], not train riders. You might want to update your copy of “Cliches for the Modern Writer”.

    To the business of the post, well done and Thank you for the heads up. Merce[na]r[y] Island is being it’s usual Special Snowflake self.

      1. I didn’t really “get it wrong”. Here in America “cooling [your] heels” literally means being made to wait. “Tapping fingers” is such cliche for nervous waiting that it happens in nearly every movie.

        “Tapping one’s heels” may indeed be a phrase in England — I certainly can’t deny that; you showed the link — but it’s not one over here. Sherwin may be English, though, in which case I definitely apologize.

      2. And “thanks” for changing to “fingers”. I think that most readers will get your meaning more clearly.

      3. Holy cow, man, it is listed in the freakin’ Oxford dictionary — the mother of all dictionaries. I doubt even the most pedantic editor would edit out that phrase. If it is listed in the Oxford dictionary, it is appropriate everywhere English is spoken. From the Northern Territories in Canada to the South Pole; from the slums of Jamaica to the Palace of Brunei; it is acceptable English. You might not know the word, or the phrase, but it is still good English.

        Oh, and next time you don’t know a phrase, look it up. My guess is everyone else either knew the phrase (like me) or figured out its (rather obvious) meaning immediately (https://tenor.com/view/mickey-mouse-waiting-impatient-disney-hurryup-gif-12693700).

      4. @RossB:

        https://www.dictionary.com/browse/appropriate
        https://www.dictionary.com/browse/common (see definition #4, very similar to “not one over here”)

        Snark intended, as deserved in response to “Oh, and next time you don’t know a phrase, look it up. My guess is everyone else either knew the phrase (like me) or figured out its (rather obvious) meaning immediately” – I did not know the phrase, and did not bother to figure out the meaning immediately, and I am certainly part of “everyone else”. Let’s all be a little nicer to each other, I think we all deserve it here :)

        Wish you all the best.

      5. The OED focuses on British usage. It has American usages and an American edition, but you can’t assume that Americans recognize every word in the OED. “Tapping one’s heels” is not in my vocabulary, and I guessed it meant going around in circles in a futile attempt to do something. The OED’s definition is similar but not identical: “to delay”, which sounds to me like causing a delay. We might say diddling while Rome burns or arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. That might not be exact either.

        I prefer Merriam-Webster’s New International Collegiate dictionary.

  7. This is complex legal authority issue involving multiple agencies. There seems to be attacks on what the agreement meant as well as what the impact is, and one has to take precedence over the other. All of this is happening three years before opening day, and getting permits to build improvements is not the same as using those improvements.

    The only people that are gaining anything from this MI action are attorneys. I’m not even sure that “winning” would get MI anything beyond points from a loud minority of citizens whose hobby it is to spread speculative fear.

    Stepping back from the particular details, I have to ask this: Is there any legislative action that can be taken to nullify what appears to be an obstacle to operating public transit on public streets that allow unlimited private vehicles with similar fumes, noise and vibration impacts? I don’t want to see this kind of crazy litigation ever happen again.

    1. a loud minority of citizens whose hobby it is to spread speculative fear.

      And THAT, sir, is exactly at whom this grandstand is aimed.

      1. Correct. This is 100% posturing by the City Council so they. can say “look, I fought the boogey man” at election time.

  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0fTVnhg7S0

    I seem to remember that in Link’s early days, a train christened “The Musical Ride” left IDS bound for the airport with some fine musical entertainment on board.

    But what made the most impression on me was that the ensemble at IDS immediately prior to the trip cleared the premises of their every single pigeon.

    Though if memory serves, they got to those towering arches at Tukwila International before the train did. Not sure of the Downtown Bellevue Tunnel’s proclaimed ethnicity. Could be a fair number of Eastern Europeans there.

    But whatever Link station fits the program, could also be said that Ireland belongs to the world. OK with you, Kemper?

  9. [O][K] [MARK]corridor focus is no excuse for ignoring that today’s topic is Mercer Island.

    So my comments should carry the context that the reason IDS pigeons may have trouble keeping pace is that when the train makes the Island, they’ll be intercepted by seagulls and ospreys whom the Business Community has been feeding for months in anticipation of the confrontation.

    So maybe choice of choreography should center on the fact it’s an island. Which many of the world’s maritime routes have at both ends. So:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw4mCWPWMHg

    You’ve got them outnumbered, Link. Remember also that a lot of your island-dwelling opponents have nieces, nephews, and grand-kids who’ll very shortly be getting their first Link ride buses or not.

    And in 2038 will be able to vote both at the polls and from the seat they just won in the Legislature. With literally lifelong convictions that whoever on Mercer Island doesn’t like transit, buses included, is a poop-head. And vote accordingly.

    Mark Dublin

  10. Better title for this article: “We should encourage big government to boss your community around”

    They should cancel sound transit entirely. These idiots spent a trillion dollars and in 6 months 80% of the “projected riders” will be remote. Way to go thinking into the future.

    A waste of tax payers money. King county’s specialty.

      1. While I am not a boomer myself, I think age discrimination is a terrible thing to jest towards, and there are a number of boomer-age on this blog who do not deserve the blame painted with such a broad stroke, even in jest. I implore you to not hint towards it, even though I know that the intent behind the meme is not that… We (as people) need to unite ourselves, not to divide ourselves further, if we are to have any hope at solving the much bigger challenges ahead, like climate change. So yes, boomers and gen X and gen Y and gen Tik-Tok all need to find common ground.

        Thank you very much in advance for your understanding.

      2. Come now Ness, there are young people that are as out of touch with reality as your stereotypical boomer! Pissed could just as easily be a Zillenial who was raised on Dori Monson.

      3. Yeah you don’t actually have to be a boomer to be ok boomer’d. Plenty of Millennials and GenX are effectively boomers.

    1. Well, PC, now we know it wasn’t your dog that got the bathroom floor when America’s Biggest Government Ever was driving thousands of people out of their homes in the 1950’s.

      For so-called “Freeways” that cost the country a fortune in established neighborhoods, destroyed worse than the Luftwaffe could’ve ever done, Heinkel bombers and V2 rockets included. Russian “Bear” bombers too, with all those backwards propellers.

      Freedom doesn’t consist of collapsing bridges and cracked canyons so jammed with motionless vehicles that a fair number of Us The People have VOTED ourselves OWNERS of agencies like Sound Transit.

      So that, when we’ve got an economy back and maybe a country, we can once again spend our work-trips actually moving, instead of having our termination notices pile up on our desks, stuff our mailboxes, or flood our e-mail.

      And save fortunes on fuel, maintenance, and insurance by leaving our cars safe at home, rather than damage and depreciate them by exposure to jammed traffic they hate worse than we do.

      If THEY could vote, ST’s budget would triple. Tim Eyman himself just signed my car’s petition on his way to fetch its campaign headquarters an office chair.

      Mark Dublin

    2. If you don’t like it, you can always move away from the Seattle region. The majority of voters here support transit. I’m sorry that you don’t like democracy.

    3. What about the tens of thousands of people who travel between Seattle, the Eastside, and southwest Snohomish County every day? If Sound Transit is canceled, both Link and ST Express, they’d be stranded. I used to live in Bellevue and work summers at UW. I know a woman now who lives north of Ash Way P&R and cleans houses in east Seattle, and also shops in Seattle because of the dearth of options in north Lynnwood, especially if you don’t have a car. What are people like her supposed to do? She can’t afford to move back to Seattle, at least not right now, she’s getting discounted rent at a relative’s house, and Lynnwood doesn’t have the number of clients, it would be harder to get to them without a car, and her existing business contacts are in Seattle.

      Sound Transit is doing a lot more than building “trains to nowhere” in Everett, Tacoma, and Issaquah. If you think ST should focus on the Lynnwood-Redmond-Federal Way circle and give a lighter treatment outside it (e.g., replacing the ST3 extensions with feeders), then I would agree with that. But canceling Sound Transit entirely, that’s myopic. ST is providing a lot more benefit than just building Link in low-density areas and taking your taxes. People need to get around, and the county-based agencies can’t take up the slack. For one, they have no money for major expansions to replace the current ST service.

      1. It depends on the definition and the person’s intent. With a new person I can’t guess their intent. I could see myself being an anti-tax zealot, reading STB for the first time, thinking “this is bullshit”, and writing the above. I was libertarian in the late 80s and 1990s and was generally skeptical of taxes and bureaucracy (although I also supported transit and wanted a subway), so I might have thought something in that direction. So is the person interested in transit and just voicing an opinion about ST? Are they a fly-by-night idealogue dipping into forums just to say that? Do they believe what they’re saying? I can’t tell from one day’s worth of comments. If they continue posting over time and engage in the issues (e.g., recognizing occasional truths in the opponents’ positions, but not contradicting themself), then we might see a pattern emerge.

  11. I thought about calling in and doing my “Go Sound Transit” routine.

    Frankly to have a 2nd generation Skagitonian call in would just further polarize the situation, so I decided instead to read & watch Bob Woodward.

    I hope those who did speak for Sound Transit felt comfortable doing so.

  12. This post misses the point.

    Mercer Island does not object to serving as a partial bus intercept for areas east and south of Mercer Island that are not served by East Link, it objects to the intensity of the bus intercept, which is determined by the clause in the settlement agreement that drop offs are not permitted on the north side of North Mercer Way, which is on the opposite side of the rail station of the busiest arterial on Mercer Island.

    This prohibition was originally intended for safety reasons: imagine having hundreds or even thousands of bus passengers trying to cross North Mercer Way every hour rushing to reach the train. No traffic engineer would ever draft such a dangerous scenario, which is why the 2017 settlement agreement prohibits it. Otherwise the station design on Mercer Island would have been completely different from the initial design.

    Mercer Island has not objected to a bus turn around at 77th and North Mercer Way, and expects there to be regional buses accessing Mercer Island and turning around to head back east. Both drop offs and pick ups will be on the south side of North Mercer Way, as intended in the settlement agreement.

    However after the Nov. 2017 settlement agreement was signed ST proposed three different bus intercept configurations:

    1. The “limited” configuration which does not allow drop offs on the north side of North Mercer Way, and does not allow buses to be parked on either side of North Mercer Way. ST originally called the limited configuration the “original” configuration, because it is consistent with the settlement agreement. MI is perfectly free according to MI to choose this configuration, and that is what Mercer Island will argue in any litigation: Mercer Island chooses the limited configuration ST proposed as consistent with the settlement agreement.

    2. The “improved” service configuration that allows drop offs on the north side of North Mercer Way, and allows parking two articulated buses on each side of North Mercer Way, which eliminates the only east-west bike path through the town center that is part of the regional Aubrey Davis Master Park corridor running from Seattle to Issaquah. This would allow up to 16 articulated buses per hour to drop off passengers on the north side of North Mercer Way, turn around, and pick up passengers on the south side.

    3. The “optimal” service configuration (so named by ST) that would allow up to 20 buses per hour. This would bring to Mercer Island over half the Island’s total population each day.

    It is important to understand that with thw loss of SOV access from Island Crest Way 1100 peak hour SOV’s must now wind through the town center on North Mercer Way to access I-90 westbound, and the 453 car park and ride entrance/exit is right next to the proposed bus stop on the north side of North Mercer Way.

    Mercer Island is only seeking to enforce the clause in the settlement agreement that prohibits drop offs on the north side of North Mercer Way because: 1. safety; 2. the loss of SOV access has made North Mercer Way the primary way for SOV’s to access I-90 westbound and the optimal or limited service configurations would put Mercer Island outside its GMA mandated transportation concurrency ordinance; and 3. the number of off-Island riders per day under the optimal service configuration would overwhelm the town center and surrounding neighborhoods, and create enormous police and fire costs for up to 14,000 off-Island riders per day. (No bathrooms are planned for commuters, many of whom will have to take three forms of transit to reach Seattle).

    It is also important to understand ST’s motivation for the bus intercept. It makes absolutely no sense to have commuters going to Seattle from Issaquah, Snoqualmie, or the Renton area to drive to a park and ride, catch a bus to Mercer Island, disembark, and then catch a train to Seattle, rather than the current express buses.

    The motivation for ST is to attempt to reach its unreasonable ridership projections it made for East Link, 50,000 riders per day in 2030. ST’s plan is to force every Seattle bound rider onto a train and then count at the bridge span to goose ridership projections. It is important to understand ST is probably the most dishonest organization to exist in the history of this area.

    Originally at least half of the intercept was suppose to be routed through Bellevue’s S. Bellevue park and ride station, which is why a 1500 stall park and ride is being built there. It is also why WSDOT is beginning an $800 million construction project on 405 to create both dedicated bus lanes and center road exits/entrances to access the S. Bellevue station. When the WSDOT representative for this project testified before the Mercer Island city council he stated he assumed the bus intercept would of course route through Bellevue. Except Bellevue then decided it did not want to serve as a bus intercept for other cities’ riders.

    An even bigger issue is East Link — and ST 3 — were predicated on a second transit tunnel through Seattle if capacity was to be met. But once again Seattle does not have its share of the 1/2 cost of the $2.2 billion project (the other four subareas are to pay the other half which Pierce and Snohomish Counties object to), whereas the eastside subarea is flush with cash. So no matter where the intercept is, there likely won’t be sufficient capacity through the one existing transit tunnel for all the trains, certainly if ST’s ridership projections are remotely correct. (The Seattle Times recently noted ST’s riderhip growth for 2019 was less than 1%).

    The fact is ST (and all transit) is in big trouble. The $30 tab fee and lost revenue from the pandemic is going to require ST to cannibalize a lot of the proposed lines and enhancements to Seattle stations, and will pit neighborhood against neighborhood, because equity pricing means any revenue raised in a ST subarea must be spent there. Seattle can never raise the funds — even before the pandemic — to run lines to all of its neighborhoods through its difficult topography, whereas the east side subarea is flush with cash.

    Changes in working from home, the exodus from Seattle by employers, and the risk even after Covid-19 passes that transit is unsafe, means ST will never have the funds to complete most of its lines and stations outlined in ST 3, or its future operational costs, especially during a recession which is likely.

    Pierce and Snohomish Counties are serious about withdrawing. There is virtually no benefit to them. In fact the PSRC’s 2050 vision statement predicts most population growth will go to counties other than King, which has lost net citizens the last two years. Uber and Lyft were taking a big bite out of transit before the pandemic. It is all a waste of time. Transit — especially funding transit and expensive light rail lines — was about moving rich, white suburbanites to the city center to work, but now they will be working in suburbia from home.

    The other big tragedy is that although the east side subarea has all the money, ST has never understood East King Co. which is almost larger than Rhode Island. The lack of density and steep topography make cars the only “first mile access — which is doorstep to first form of transit — and that requires huge park and rides. ST however never budgeted for those and now parking costs ST $115,000 per stall. So ST decided to charge for park and rides, except that makes transit plus reserved parking the same cost as driving to work and parking there, without all the inconvenience and risk of transit.

    The irony is Metro has basically eliminate all intra-Island transit on Mercer Island, and its park and ride is filled by 7 am, half of whom are from off Island due to the lack of park and ride capacity.

    ST brings nothing to the east side. 83%b of all trips are by car, and that was before the pandemic. Once the 550 express was kicked out of the transit tunnel — ST’s busiest express bus — ridership fell by 1/3, because it is too unsafe for a female commuter to stand on 2nd Ave. in the dark waiting for a bus.

    This issue is much, much bigger than Mercer Island. Future population gains by the PSRC and ridership projections by ST were wildly exaggerated before Covid-19 or CHOP, or more importantly working from home. None of the major businesses — Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and now Amazon — are based on the west side. The momentum is working from home, which means finally workers will work closer to where they live, but that will be in the suburbs.

    Seattle cannot afford to run light rail to its neighborhoods or contribute to the second transit tunnel. Snohomish and Pierce Counties will withdraw soon. Ridership will never recover, and of course not far away is driverless car technology, Until then there will be Uber and Lyft, which are far more convenient.

    Mercer Island will win this round of litigation, but the reality is it will be transit, and especially light rail, that is the loser in the long term.

    1. “imagine having hundreds or even thousands of bus passengers trying to cross North Mercer Way every hour rushing to reach the train. ” Saw it every day as people transferred from Sounder to Link across 4th Ave. Far more foot traffic and a wider & busier road than Mercer Way, and yet we manage to not kill anyone.

      “police and fire costs ” Say what?
      “steep topography” Say what? No one is running a train up Newcastle. Bellevue and Redmond are pretty flat.

      “East Link … predicated on a second transit tunnel through Seattle if capacity was to be met. ” Incorrect. The 2nd tunnel will create capacity in Seattle but will have no impact on East Link capacity as the West Seattle segment will be interlined with East Link at ID.

      ” WSDOT is beginning an $800 million construction project on 405 to create both dedicated bus lanes and center road exits/entrances to access the S. Bellevue station. ” Never heard of this, got a link? There are unfunded direct access HOV ramps in the 405 master plan, but first I’ve heard of a direct connect to south Bellevue. I assumed any HOV to HOV ramp would necessarily miss S Bellevue, similar to the existing 405S to I90W ramps (HOV & SOV) miss the S Bellevue exit.

      I’d argue the merits of bus truncation, but you seem to think driverless cars will solve the geometric issue of freeway congestion so not sure it’s worth it.

    2. While well-written, I feel the need to call out a few items that I think are simply untrue here.

      1. By adding 1000 parking spaces at South Bellevue, ST is helping the overcrowding at the MI park-and-ride lot. That benefits the Eastside and MI. It’s not only going to make it easier for MI residents to get a space, but it’s going to keep cars from driving into MI to look for parking and add to local traffic.

      2. Is it better to have a bus come from Eastgate or 40 more cars to come from Eastgate? Allowing buses will encourage Eastside Link riders to not come into the station in other vehicles. In particular, MI traffic would benefit from allowing an Eastside commute bus as opposed to hundreds of additional Eastside drivers driving to the MI station to drop off and pick up their spouses. More buses to MI mean less traffic!

      3. There doesn’t appear to be any plans to improve 405 HOT access to South Bellevue Link Station. I checked out the project web sites to confirm and I see nothing even remotely proposing a new HOT access in South Bellevue that buses can use.

      4. A 1500-stall parking garage at South Bellevue does nothing for improving bus transfer access there.

      5. Buses stopping at Eastgate in the median cannot safely get across three lanes of traffic in less than a mile to get to and from South Bellevue Way ramps. This problem has nothing to do with the 405 project.

      5. The traffic volumes on North Mercer Way do not appear that high and traffic already cannot speed through this area. There are innumerable examples of buses at Link stations stopping on higher volume roads with higher speeds from MLK, Alaska, Othello and Henderson in SE Seattle to 112th and Main or NE 6th and 110th in Bellevue. As safety risks go, this appears much less consequential.

      6. 20 buses an hour is a very limited number of buses. There are streets all over Seattle that carry this number of buses. I don’t have pre-COVID schedules handy by I’d think that the MI had close to this volume for several years already.

      Admittedly, bus/rail transfer design with ST has been appallingly neglected In general. I’ve often complained about impending transfer issues at Shoreline South and Downtown Bellevue, and the issues are Mt Baker are the initial poster child for this neglect. Still, MI Station transferring is such a minor situation that it pales when compared to other stations.

      1. It is actually 40 buses per hour because each bus will use the round about at 77th and North Mercer Way to reverse course to access I-90 eastbound. So one bus in each direction every three minutes. It is also different than the current buses because each articulated bus will drop off all its passengers on Mercer Island, which at standing room capacity is around 100 or 105 passengers.

    3. Thanks for the details on Mercer Island’s street configuration options and their impact. I didn’t know there was no SOV access from Island Crest Way but I assume there are GP entrances around the corner without having to go to the remote West or East Mercer island entrances (if they’re still there). As a non-driver I don’t notice those things or have much to say about street configurations.

      “Once the 550 express was kicked out of the transit tunnel — ST’s busiest express bus — ridership fell by 1/3, because it is too unsafe for a female commuter to stand on 2nd Ave.”

      This is a huge exaggeration. The 550 became significantly slower and less reliable because of not only the loss of the tunnel but other construction bottlenecks. The South Bellevue P&R is closed, and the replacement lots are smaller and further away. The Rainier freeway station is closed, blocking access from Rainier Valley and 23rd. Peak frequency has been reduced. Etc. All of these together is why the 550’s ridership has dropped so much. The tunnel couldn’t have remained open forever: an East Link turn track at Intl Dist is somehow incompatible with buses. The Convention Center only accelerated the bus ejection by nine months.

      The second downtown tunnel is not because of East Link, which is part of ST2. The second tunnel is because of the total aggregate circulation downtown, both to other neighborhoods and within downtown. A PSRC report said downtown’s total north-south circulation would exceed transit’s capacity (both Link and surface buses) in the medium term if nothing was done.That’s what led to splitting the C and D, extending the C to SLU, planning more RapidRide lines on 3rd, the CCC, and the second Link tunnel. Without the second tunnel, the first tunnel will be close to capacity if it doesn’t exceed it. The second tunnel gives breathing room to ensure both tunnels won’t be near capacity, and allows a potential post-ST3 line too. All subareas are paying for the second tunnel because all subareas benefit from the two tunnels combined. This is the center of the Link network and a downtown ten times larger than the others, so of course all subareas benefit from having good thoroughput through the center. But again, the second tunnel is not “for” East Link. It’s for Everett and Tacoma, and the total aggregate travel demand downtown that all Link lines and most bus routes pass through, partly because central Seattle is an lsthmus.

      The rise of teleworking is still uncertain. It may last long-term, it may shrink to an in-between level, we don’t know. Facebook just bought REI’s new building in Bellevue so it thinks it will continue having office workers. Every time a company has left downtown Seattle, another company has taken its place. There’s no sign of that stopping. It may be suppressed for a few years but it will probably be back. You’ll know it’s changing if the total number of downtown jobs starts decreasing persistently and Seattle’s population decreases. There’s no sign of that.

      Finally, not everybody works downtown. Many people take Link or will take Link to work or school at UW, Bellevue, the Spring District, Redmond, and Northgate and Licton Springs. And Highline, Shoreline, and Bellevue Colleges on the planned feeders. My roommate lives on Capitol Hill and sometimes attends Shoreline and Bellevue Colleges. The woman I mentioned above lives in north Lynnwood and cleans houses in east Seattle. All of them will take Link for all or part of these trips.

      Those others who worked at the Stroum center on Mercer Island; they lived in the U-District and White Center, and were not Jewish. I assume other off-islanders come to the center for its services. Mercer Island’s local buses were reduced because almost nobody rode them for decades. But Metro and the cities are planning big with Link feeders, both on Mercer Island and the Eastside and North Seattle and Snohomish County. I take that as a commitment that there will be all-day transit, as frequent as the budget allows. That frequency depends on the economy and whether voters pass the next countywide Metro levy or the cities step up with equivalent service hours and capital funds, so it’s outside Metro’s control and not completely predictable.

      1. Thanks for those details. Although I am not sure about Metro’s ability to provide meaningful first and last mile access on the east side (so far Metro claims it does not have the money) the point I was raising was individual driveways and access drives on the east side just to reach the bus stop are too steep and long for most citizens, especially older citizens. So you would need a park and ride at the feeder bus stop.

        As one person noted Metro terminated most bus service on Mercer Island (including buses that served the high school students) because of lack of ridership. The reason is there was no way to get to the bus stop to catch a bus to the bus station because of the topography.

        The city of Mercer Island tried a pilot program with Uber/Lyft in which it subsidized rides that began or ended at the bus station, at 50% to begin, hoping to encourage ride sharing, but there were too few Ubers/Lyfts on the mid and south parts of the Island, and when the subsidy declined so did citizen use. Round trip with the reduced subsidy was $10, plus bus fare.

        The city also tried a shared Lime Bike program, without subsidy, but it failed too. The hills are steep and dark, and most women commuters (especially dropping kids at school or daycare) did not care for a bike. Plus the original number of bikes for the entire Island was something like 35, most of which ended up in ravines.

        Part of the settlement agreement provided $4.5 million for commuter parking, with Mercer Island having to match 51% in order to reserve the parking for Islanders, but the agreement requires Mercer Island to front all the costs first and complete the project, and Mercer Island does not have the $9 million to start and complete a project. It started a mixed-use development with 100 underground commuter parking stalls at $90,000 each, but abandoned it when it became unfeasible. The new proposal is to restripe some of the town center streets for commuters, which of course hurts our already hurting retail.

        As I noted the park and ride is full by 7 am, and 53% are off-Island, or were, in large part because you couldn’t catch the 550 from the Renton area.

        So the great irony is ST is proposing to bus up to 14,000 off-Islanders to the light rail station when it opens, but there is no way for an Islander to get to the station except walk or bike. Except ST forgot to include any secured bike storage as part of its two stations on MI, so you have to leave your very expensive bike chained to an outside rack in the rain.

        I am sure this frustration is part of the objection to the optimal service configuration, and ST’s total lack of honesty or good faith with MI throughout this entire process. Few Islanders use transit, and those who can can’t afford it, unless they want to pay the $120 reserved park and ride fee ST recently put on the park and ride.

        I will tell you, this animosity on the east side, among the citizens if not the politicians, towards ST is pretty strong. The citizens overall don’t really care about transit, and it mostly does not work for them on the eastside, but they really don’t like ST. Except maybe Bellevue, which gets whatever it wants.

    4. Re Mercer Island vs South Bellevue, I always assumed it would be South Bellevue because of the shorter bus distance, the large P&R, and the lack of a downtown to be overwhelmed. But it has the disadvantage of a little backtracking: the buses have to go north to the station, then Link goes south to get to I-90. That adds a bit of travel time and service hours. There’s also the question of how many will take Link west to Seattle vs how many will take Link east to dowtown Bellevue and Redmond. Historically, Issaquah like Woodinville has been highly Seattle-centric, more so than Bellevue or Seattlites coming to Bellevue/Redmond. That pattern could persist, in which case Mercer Island is a better transfer point for Issaquahites and Factoria/Newportites. But there’s a ton of driving from Issaquah to Microsoft, and some of that might want to switch to Link. Some people might switch to transit when there’s a bus from Issaquah to South Bellevue and Link to downtown Bellevue, if the feeders are more frequent than the 554 and faster than the horrible 271. Those Eastside destinations all argue for South Bellevue.

      I haven’t heard that Bellevue opposed a South Bellevue intercept. That sounds odd because that’s the purpose of South Bellevue Station, and it contradicts Bellevue’s longstanding policy to have a transit hub at South Bellevue. And there are no single-family or strip-mall nimbys to complain, just a few houses on the west side of Bellevue Way up a hill.

      1. The primary advantage of MI is the direct HOV access. If South Bellevue had direct access to the I90 HOV ramps, I’d fully support sending all I90 buses to S Bellevue. But it doesn’t, so I don’t.

    5. 3. The “optimal” service configuration (so named by ST) that would allow up to 20 buses per hour. This would bring to Mercer Island over half the Island’s total population each day.

      I-90 brings at least 149,000 people to Mercer Island every day, or almost 6.5 times the island’s total population. Granted, like the future bus transfers, they are almost all going through Mercer Island, but you have to go to Mercer Island to go through right?

      Maybe Mercer Island should just close down access to interstate off ramps, just to be sure not one of those dirty, 149,000+ mainlanders set foot on your precious island.

      Or were you joking?

      1. Is this blog about transit or class envy. It seems half the posts are about transit, and are pretty knowledgeable, and half about class envy. When did transit become “moral”?

        The fundamental public good of transit is it provides mobility for those who cannot afford a car or to park (including the 20% parking tax Seattle and the state apply). That is why it is publicly subsidized. No one really wants to take transit, they just have to.

        As hard as some might try transit is not about global warming, density, making privileged neighborhoods more equitable, class envy, sprawl, or any of those things. It is about a network of affordable mobility for those who can only afford transit.

        The irony is all the “morality” some ascribe to transit will be achieved from working at home, but that will be in the suburbs where commuters live, and will devastate transit because of the loss of the full fare paying commuter.

        The morality in transit is the obligation to make it affordable, clean, safe, and convenient for those who have to use it, not to force everyone else onto transit. I am not sure a line from Capitol Hill to Microsoft for techies at a cost of $6 billion is moral, but the eastside subarea is so flush with cash what the hell. But that is not what transit is about, especially now that 1/2 of Microsoft employees live east of Microsoft. The Millennials grew up.

        Of every city Mercer Island was the most disadvantaged by light rail, but because of some terrible mistakes by the mayor got the cheapest mitigation package and stations. Look at the cost to tunnel under Capitol Hill, or the amenities for the UW, or tunneling the second transit tunnel under Seattle, or the tunnel in Bellevue, none of which were structurally necessary, or all the bells and whistles Ballard and West Seattle and Montlake and every other Seattle neighborhood wants, when the Seattle subarea is broke.

        Cut the class envy. It is boring. Concentrate on the core mission of transit, especially now that it is likely some pretty tough cuts will have to be made going forward.

      2. Might be generational, rather than class? Everyone I know rides transit as a choice, not because they cannot afford it, and most do have a car and will occasionally drive into Seattle if that makes more sense given their schedule that day. The 21X series (to be truncated at MI) was packed full during rush hour, and given the neighborhoods feeding that service the vast majority of them could afford to drive into Seattle if they wanted.

        Transit is certainly a critical social service, and KCM runs many routes specifically to serve populations unable to drive, but I wouldn’t consider any of ST’s service a ‘social service.’ ST’s mandate is to provide high capacity transit as an alternative to driving, not as the only option for non-drivers.

      3. Is this blog about transit or class envy. It seems half the posts are about transit, and are pretty knowledgeable, and half about class envy. When did transit become “moral”?

        This article is about Sound Transit and King County Metro using a soon to open light rail station as an optimal bus turnaround for transit riders to continue to downtown Seattle and beyond. The impacts are so minimal they are negligible: buses use an existing offramp, travel a couple hundred feet in front of an existing transit park and ride, turning around, traveling a couple hundred feet and getting back on the freeway. 99.9% of those transfers will never set foot beyond the walkway to/from the light rail station.

        Yet the Mercer Island Council sees fit to throw a temper tantrum about these negligible impacts, for reasons that seem to boil down to class hatred, not class envy. If you’ve got a valid reason that goes beyond “you must be richer than this to set foot on Mercer Island”, I’d like to hear it.

        Of every city Mercer Island was the most disadvantaged by light rail, but because of some terrible mistakes by the mayor got the cheapest mitigation package and stations.

        That’s on the mayor. Mercer Island Council hated the light rail so much, but understood that the light rail was coming whether they wanted it or not. As an act of defiance, they refused to negotiate or work with Sound Transit regarding typical vicinity improvements that Sound Transit does for light rail stations. If Mercer Island refused the money for improvements, Sound Transit can’t force it on them.

        Look at the cost to tunnel under Capitol Hill, or the amenities for the UW, or tunneling the second transit tunnel under Seattle, or the tunnel in Bellevue, none of which were structurally necessary, or all the bells and whistles Ballard and West Seattle and Montlake and every other Seattle neighborhood wants, when the Seattle subarea is broke.

        This statement and a large portion of the rest of your comment are so full of errors and insinuations that I’m beginning to wonder if you’re really just anti-Sound Transit and using the Mercer Island fiasco as your anti-ST soapbox.

      4. The Capitol Hill tunnel was necessary to reach one of the densest neighborhoods in the state, and a community college. Do you think they should have walked a mile down the hill to an Eastlake station, as the preliminary concept would have done? Practically zero of them would have. Link should serve Capitol Hill for the same reason BART should serve Berkeley and the Mission District.

        What “UW amenities”? If you’re referring to the station art, that’s under the “1% for art” law that all public projects are required to budget. The ped bridge was paid by the university if I remember.

        “all the bells and whistles Ballard and West Seattle and Montlake and every other Seattle neighborhood wants”

        What specific amenities? The Ballard and West Seattle alignments have not been decided yet; all you’ve heard is just proposals and community arguments. One man’s extravegance is another man’s wise forward-thinking, so we’d really need to talk about specific features, which may have differing value.

        Montlake has zero Link amenities, so I can’t even guess what you’re referring to. If you’re referring to the planned 520 lid and bike trail, that’s a WSDOT issue.

        The second downtown tunnel has not started construction yet, and is not expected to until at least 2025.

        The Bellevue tunnel was at the insistence of the Bellevue city council, and they paid for half of it. The other half came out of economizations in the Spring District and Redmond, lowering an elevated track plan to the surface.

  13. You miss the entire point of topography, as has ST. East King Co. has low density and steep roads and driveways to even access feeder buses, if they existed. Except it would be cost prohibitive to have Metro serve these remote areas as first mile access to park and rides or stations. For example, on MI the 201 that served the perimeter Mercers was cancelled due to low ridership because no one could get up their driveway to even catch the bus, which was slooooooow.

    That means the only first mile access is by car, but once in a car why drive to a bus stop to catch a bus to a train station when you can drive directly to the train station (if there is park and ride capacity) or directly to work, especially if ST is charging to park in a park and ride? A well known principle of transit is a commuter will never take three forms of transit to reach their destination, the first form being from doorstep to first form of transit. I suppose a second is why pay for round trip fares and to park in a ST park and ride if it costs the same as parking at work?

    On MI, like many areas of east King Co., we basically have no transit to the station, and the park and ride is filled by 7 am, with 53% of users from off-Island. The Island is quite steep with few bike trails, and many residents have children.
    So what good is a train if you can’t get to it? And Mercer Island would be considered dense compared to many other areas of east King County.

    You are mistaken about the second transit tunnel. Without it at best a train will be able to run from the east side to Seattle very 8 minutes, which is not enough during peak hours if 50,000 riders is remotely correct. Capacity is why the buses were kicked out of the transit tunnel. That is why the second transit tunnel was part of ST 3, and in many ways was the drive for ST 3 since the Seattle subarea was broke after the cost overruns on ST 1.
    .
    Plus trains can only run one at a time on the bridge span in either direction. The irony however is that future ridership will be so reduced the capacity will be adequate with one tunnel.

    Look, East Link is coming and now will open around 2024. Will it change life on the eastside? No. But working from home will. It cost around $5.5 billion to build and will access a tiny portion of east King Co., although residents of Mercer Island can’t get to it.

    The rest of east King Co. will be accessed by rapid buses, which do make sense in east King Co., and are far more economical, although still even “urban” areas of east King Co. are not dense. I can’t imagine with the passage of $30 tabs and the future loss of ridership the line from Issaquah to S. Bellevue will be completed by 2041 at a cost of $4.5 billion.

    I also doubt commuters from Issaquah and areas east would take a train to S. Bellevue to catch a train to Seattle, which is why I think those commuters east and south of MI will demand express buses when East Link does open. They just are not aware of the issue at this time. It would take 2 hours to take a train from Issaquah to the airport, when it takes 25 minutes in an Uber.

    The original plan, before ST became desperate to meet its ridership projections for East Link, was to continue the express buses from areas not served by East Link (which is why an entire lane of I-90 is dedicated to transit), have some of the buses intercept at S. Bellevue Park and Ride, and some on Mercer Island, which is embodied in the 2017 settlement agreement. Your real beef is with Bellevue for deciding it did not want any bus intercept from these areas, and ST for eliminating express buses when East Link opens (which the east side subarea pays 100% of because….Seattle is broke, and will cost the east side subarea almost $1 billion by 2023, even though half the riders are going from west to east).

    Transit, and light rail, makes much more sense in the core Seattle area due to density, but I don’t think the Seattle (north King Co.) subarea will be able to afford it. As the Seattle Times noted, the fights between Seattle neighborhoods for limited funds and amenities including rail will be fierce, but not affect the east side.

    The east King County subarea will have nearly $5 billion left over after East Link is completed even with just ST 2, and endless funds after ST 3. When subarea equity was first adopted no one understood the economic engine of the Puget Sound region would end up on the east side. It is just that east King Co. is too large and lacks density for rail. But what the hell, we have the money to do anything I guess.

    The real issue I was driving at — and identified in the recent Seattle Times piece on ST’s recent public conference — is Seattle does not have, and won’t have, the money for even a fraction of its plans to run light rail to its neighborhoods. It can’t afford its 1/2 for the second transit tunnel or a new West Seattle Bridge.
    Transit is a critical public good, especially for low income individuals, but light rail won’t be affordable, at least not as idealized. Plus I think it is likely Pierce and Snohomish counties will pull out of the ST subareas.

    Finally Mercer Island is not arguing it won’t do its part as a bus intercept and regional bus intercept, and agreed to that in the settlement agreement (which screwed Mercer Island because the mayor was naïve enough to sign off on the SEPA permits without a written agreement, and let them vest without telling anyone, whereas Seattle neighborhoods, the UW, and Bellevue used the SEPA permits to get hundreds of millions of dollars in mitigation funds and tunnels).

    I believe Mercer Island will win the litigation. After the last council the new council has to fight. Nothing to lose, and a lot of animosity between the two parties. East Link will open. Ridership will be less than buses before the pandemic, and waaaay below future estimates. As St estimates the same number of riders will use the train as used buses, so big deal. The eastside subarea is flush with cash so who knows what ST will build. I do know Bellevue will never allow ST to access the east side subarea for Seattle.

    ST still needs to figure out first mile access in east King Co., and right now that is cars, even for rapid buses.

    Transit just is not a big deal in east King Co. It is inconvenient, you can’t get to it, many on the eastside have kids and dogs, their lives are built around their SUV’s, and no way will they give that up to wait at a bus stop since they can afford it. You would have more luck getting Montanans to give up pick up trucks.

    Transit will be an even smaller deal when all the techies who live there (most Microsoft employees today live east of Microsoft) work from home. No one in Redmond is going to shed tears they can’t take a train to Ballard or West Seattle, when all the good restaurants are on the east side today, and most suburbanites think Seattle is too unsafe to go into at night. (I have worked in Pioneer Square since 1990 and tend to agree). The Millennials have grown up, and moved to the east side.

    So ST, Metro and transit in general have to begin to seriously think about what to cut from the wish list, and get back to transit’s core of providing subsidized mobility for economically disadvantaged citizens. Except ST’s five year plan doesn’t even factor in the pandemic or $30 tab fee. Forget about the intercept on MI: it is the least of ST’s or transit’s problems.

    1. I’m a strong transit and light rail supporter, and I’m doubtful of the worth of the Issquah-Kirkland line, the Everett and Tacoma extensions, and the West Seattle line. In Ballard the default 15th Ave alternative is already pretty far east, and the ST-favored 14th Ave alternatives would materially harm the ridership and usefulness of the line. I wanted something Ballard-downtown rail (or something better than the D, and Ballard-UW), but this is not the future I wanted. I sometimes feel maybe we should just bag ST3, because ST2 will be quantum leap better than the region has ever had, and that’s something. (I assume South Link would be extended to at least Highline CC or Federal Way, and downtown Redmond would be completed, because they’re such short extensions.) However, the second downtown tunnel and SLU and Uptown would be a significant benefit, and there’s a reasonable case that it will be needed and busy. And 130th Station (north Seattle) should have been in ST2.

      The current situation is too fluid to say definitely what future ridership will be, what the economy will be, or future funding for the anticipated projects. I don’t think we can say anything definitive now. ST and Metro are reassessing the situation, and we can wait until they propose something. ST has made a preliminary estimate that it could delay all projects 5 years across the board. That’s a good enough estimate, and I think it’s a likely outcome because every city will push to keep their own projects and take it out of others.

      I’ve always thought Issaquah-Kirkland should be replaced by an Issaquah-Bellevue bus. The reason it got into ST3 was Issaquah’s mayor was on the ST board and was pushing it harder than any other East King boardmember was pushing any other ST project. It’s not just about easy access to Bellevue and Seattle. The main reason Issaquah, Federal Way, Everett, and Tacoma are pushing so hard for Link is they’re afraid of being left behind economically — the future slums of the regions — if they don’t have Link while other cities have it. It’s about attracting affluent employers and residents and workers and their tax base to those cities. Bellevue, Tukwila, and Lynnwood just have to keep breathing and they’ll succeed, while cities further out have to try harder.

      I don’t think most of ST3 is necessary, but I’ll support it if the rest of the region is willing to build it, because it would be better to have it than not have it. Being able to travel to many parts of King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties by grade-separated trains, with more off-peak frequency than their predecessor bus routes, and one-seat or train-to-train transfers to smaller parts of North and South Seattle and the Eastside, that’s a significant improvement. Of course, the frequency commitment has been called into question with ST’s moves this summer, but I hope that will be resolved and Link will get back to a 10-minute minimum within a year.

      Many people in Pierce want to secede from ST, and maybe in Snohomish too, and I don’t know about Mercer Island or other Eastside cities. I could see Link becoming a King-County thing. Snohomish would shoot itself in the foot if it loses Lynnwood. Pierce has never been served well by Link’s plans: it only goes to the nearest corner of the county, and never reaches the population centers in Tacoma, Lakewood, Parkland, or Puyallup. And Link will be slower than ST Express or Sounder because of the distance to Federal Way and Tacoma and the surface alignment in Rainier Valley. I’ve been warning Pierce about this for over a decade, but this is what the Pierce delegation insisted it wanted. They should have focused more on intra-Pierce transit throughout the aforementioned cities. Fundamentally there’s a disconnect between what the City of Tacoma and the Pierce ST boardmembers want — ST3 Link — and what the loud voices in southeast Pierce want — no taxes and no transit, oh but yes we want Sounder and P&Rs, but we don’t want to pay for them. Pierce will have to resolve that among itself, and Snohomish to the extent that there may be a similar disconnect.

      What worries me if ST3 Link doesn’t go through, is the hundreds of thousands of people in Pierce, Snohomish, and South King who will have less transit access to their destinations. The status quo is pretty bad. Link won’t benefit everyone in those subareas but it will benefit some people. And if I get priced out of Seattle someday and end up in Everett or Tacoma or Auburn, I’d want something better than the current transit situation. Maybe I’m contradicting myself about Tacoma and Everett, but that’s how divided I feel.

      Your assertions that Bellevue pressured ST to stop considering South Bellevue, and that ST is doubling down on Mercer Island to keep its East Link ridership numbers up, are things I haven’t heard elsewhere and am skeptical about.

    2. The Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond Link axis is definitely worthwhile. There are a lot of overlapping trips all day along it. The Seattle-Lynnwood axis is also worthwhile. Snohomish doesn’t have a big anchor or draw like East King does, but there’s still a lot of people in that corridor. And I believe there’s latent demand between North Seattle and Snohomish that’s overlooked. All the express buses go to downtown or the U-District, but there’s also a lot of people traveling to Northgate, Licton Springs, Sand Point, Ballard, Greenwood, etc, that have no viable transit alternative now. Taking local buses 1-2 hours each way is not a viable alternative, or something that will get people out of their cars. I can’t even recommend it to people who live in Snohomish because it’s so unreasonable. Link will transform that. And if Snohomish secedes from ST before Lynnwood Link is completed and there’s no side agreement to backfill it, that will be a major loss to Snohomish and overall mobility.

  14. I would just like to add that some of the recent comments to my original comment are very thoughtful and knowledgeable, and I appreciate them.

    I suppose in the end it comes down to politics. After the debacle of the last litigation with ST, which was doomed after the former mayor signed off on the SEPA permits ST needed without a written agreement and left them vest which doomed Mercer Island in the litigation, based on ST’s “trust me”, the animosity on Mercer Island towards ST is overwhelming, which means the new council has to fight. If the mayor had not signed off on the permits without a written agreement, Mercer Island would have used that leverage to control the bus intercept, like other cities did. Mercer Island used to have a reputation as fierce fighters, and litigated I-90 for 20 years.

    Mercer Island has a compelling argument: they are seeking to enforce the settlement agreement ST drafted, and wish to choose the “limited” service configuration ST offered as consistent with the settlement agreement. I doubt ST’s desire to meet its ridership projections by eliminating any buses across the bridge span would qualify as an essential service.

    Metro does argue terminating all buses on MI would save it $1.5 million/year, but the east side subarea will end up paying close to $1 billion for east-west-east express buses by 2023 when East Link opens, and will have well over $10 billion from ST 2 and 3 after East Link is completed, so money isn’t the issue, or an essential service.

    My guess is in the end ST will go back to the original plan: express buses to Seattle from Issaquah and areas east, and areas around Renton, will continue onto Seattle because those commuters will object getting off on MI to catch the train, Bellevue will accept some of the buses, and MI will accept its share. It isn’t the end of the world, and Mercer Island won’t stop transit or East Link.

  15. As a Mercer Island resident I definitely support East Link, and a stop on Mercer Island, and do see the benefit of running a line from Seattle to Redmond considering the congestion, and the fact Bellevue and Seattle are the two major centers in the region (although I think 520 made more sense). But East Link is about congestion, not providing transit to the eastside’s poor citizens. Of course that is easy for me to say because the east side subarea has so much ST revenue in the bank it doesn’t know what to do with it (i.e. $4.5 billion for a line from Issaquah to S. Bellevue, not even Seattle due to topography).

    However Mercer Island has many of the issues other eastside areas have, and a big one is first mile access to the stations, which will likely be cars forever because there isn’t the density for Metro to run feeder bus lines, and the topography is so steep and remote citizens would still need cars to access the bus feeder stop. There just isn’t any other first mile access other than cars on the eastside, which means huge park and rides. It amazes me ST along with Metro want to run 20 buses per hour from off-Island to Mercer Island, but won’t provide any first/last mile access to the stations for Islanders (and the irony is there is no first/last mile access for most of the riders ST plans to bus to Mercer Island).

    ST totally misunderstood east King Co. because its original ideology was it would kill the car and save the world, rather than provide reasonably priced transit to deal with congestion and citizens who can’t afford a car. Now ST simply does not have the funds for massive park and rides, and the land and construction costs on the east side have skyrocketed. Even the 1500 stall S. Bellevue Park and Ride will be inadequate. Plus these massive park and rides force congestion from the commute to work to the station.

    The other issue is east King Co. (and King Co. in general) is too vast and sparsely populated to support rail except for the densest core, Bellevue to Redmond, which still are not very dense with a lot of nothing in between, the eastside just have a very bad road/highway system. The rest will have to be express buses.

    No one off of Mercer Island is commuting to Mercer Island, because there is very little industry or business on Mercer Island, by choice, and virtually no intra-Island transit (which is why I find so odd proposals to move low income housing to Mercer Island’s steep and pretty remote neighborhoods in which you have to have a car). These commuters are going to Seattle or Bellevue (which is why the trains are going there), or anywhere else other than Mercer Island, so take them there if their only transit is an express bus.

    The next big issue is the operational expenses going forward, even for a new system, something ST is very vague about. ST 3 is about construction, as is East Link.

    ST originally addressed this issue with totally unreasonable future ridership projections (and of course the PSRC assisted with unreasonable future population growth estimates). Even without Covid-19 ST was going to have issues with future operational expenses, unless fares rise dramatically or there is much greater general fund tax subsidies which the citizens don’t seem keen on. After Covid-19 ST’s ridership dipped at one point to 13% of pre-Covid levels. This won’t affect East Link or the east side subarea because of its banked revenue, but it will definitely affect the other four subareas.

    I don’t know nearly as much as Mike Orr above about transit off of Mercer Island (and in fact don’t use transit). But I support transit because it is a public good. That doesn’t mean however it is not subject to the same economic realities as any subsidized public good.

    For Seattle the rub is equity pricing, which requires any ST tax revenue to be spent in the subarea it was raised. ST for a long time has wanted to change that, and the east side subarea pays for all the east-west express buses and the other four subareas will pay for 1/2 the second transit tunnel, but Bellevue and the eastside (and Snohomish and Pierce Counties) will never allow that.

    Another concern for Seattle is although ST rail is a hub and spoke system with Seattle the hub, Seattle looks to be less and less relevant going forward. Everyone will finally be living near where they work, at home in the suburbs. Great for global warming and congestion, terrible for transit numbers, especially when ST is predicated on very large ridership gains in the future, although in 2019 ridership grew by less than 1%.

    Obviously light rail makes the most sense in Seattle, unless it is the Sounder Line from Tacoma because of the distance and congestion on I-5. But how much sense does it make to run light rail to Angle Lake when limiting sprawl is one goal of transit, except the revenue in the south King Co. subareas has to be spent there.

    At the same time running light rail through Seattle is by far the most expensive. Most of East Link — despite some engineering complications because of the bridge — runs along interstates or open areas east of Mercer Island, without tunneling.

    The problem is I don’t think the Seattle subarea will have the funds for many of the neighborhood rail lines even if above ground, especially if they want to get to the Snohomish Co. line that is turning out much more expensive than thought. But of course it makes more sense to link Everett to Seattle than Seattle to Ballard.

    ST has to learn that for transit to work and be competitive the parking has to be free, and fares competitive with other forms of transportation which means operation costs have to be subsidized or realized from fares. Once transit begins to cost as much as driving and parking, or Uber/Lyft, it suffers, and it is a downward spiral of higher fares, more tax subsidies, or fewer riders.

    Although transit has a lot of inconveniences (including a virus), it has grade separation and cost. One of the most interesting things for me was the stalls ST offered for $120/month for a reserved parking stall at the Mercer Island Park and Ride never sold out, and sold poorly even before Covid-19. It turns out those who could afford the $120/month and round trip fares could afford to drive and park at work, and no matter what anyone argues humans prefer SOV’s over transit, at least on the eastside.

    Covid-19 simply accelerated a reckoning ST needed to have. It is an incredibly arrogant organization with little oversight. Costs, including operational costs, were never part of the discussion (like $800,000 parties to celebrate the opening of the Capitol Hill station which itself was millions overbudget). If the commuters don’t return post-Covid-19 — even 15% of them — ST’s financials are in deep trouble, especially in Seattle.

    If there is any morality to transit it is the obligation to those who have to take transit because they don’t have another mode of transportation. I worry ST and others who see transit as a vehicle for other goals from sprawl to global warming to “equity” have lost vision of that, but the new economics will drive it home, although I worry ST is so arrogant it will refuse to accept this new reality, not unlike the Seattle City Council.

    1. I have to take issue with the East King surplus and equity. Over 10 percent of the population lives in Renton and Renton has more transit-dependent people. Yet Renton didn’t push for anything other than a new South Renton garage. Other Eastsiders conveniently ignore that Renton is part of their subarea and instead claim their is a “surplus”. Even Stride in Renton is negligent because the direct HOV lane access isn’t there. It’s worth noting that many in Renton are foreign-born and are not adept at influencing our region’s political project development.

      At the very least, I think a direct connector to South Renton for Stride should cone before much of the Issaquah-Kirkland line. Ideally, Renton deserves light rail connectivity long before either Kirkland or Issaquah.

      1. Al S. Agree completely about Renton, and so do the residents of Renton, which was a big issue in their recent election for mayor. But on the eastside Bellevue decides what ST does, and how the eastside subarea reserves are spent, and when it comes to East Link Microsoft, although when East Link was first adopted and designed Microsoft had many more employees living in Seattle than today (even tech workers get older and married). East Link was never about foreign born or poor transit users.

        The south Renton parking garage is critical on the eastside though for first/last mile access. I guess is the irony is Mercer Island has the station(s) but not the park and ride capacity, and Renton has the park and ride capacity but not the station.

      2. Renton was its own worst enemy. While Bellevue and Kirkland were drawing up excellent transit master plans, Renton just pouted that ST and Metro should do it and that Renton deserved a bigger share of the pie. The most it could articulate was that it wanted 405 Stride and Renton-Burien Link. (In the Link study ca. 2014 it was through-routed to West Seattle and downtown, with a 40-minute Renton-downtown travel time rivaling the 101. But the ridership estimates were so low that South King stopped talking about it for a while.) The problem with all of these is they don’t reach the bulk of Renton’s resdents in east and south Renton, and Renton wouldn’t articulate some kind of frequent transit that could get them to the stations. Renton’s downtown also looks like a bomb fell on it, with that circle of highways and inside it superblocks and big-box stores with large parking lots and only a token concern for transit and a teeny small-block area around the transit center. Then Renton wanted the transit center moved from downtown to the South Renton P&R. So 405 Stride put it there. Then after all that and another year or two, Renton finally got around to thinking about what kind of citywide transit it wanted, after the major decisions were made.

        Issaauah was the one that diverted an inordinate amount of resources to it, and Renton was one of those it might have gotten taken out of. The Issaquah mayor did it by having a seat on the ST board and being the only one to cheerlead “More Link!” for years while the rest of the delegation wasn’t sure if it wanted any more large investment. So when Seattle started agitating for Ballard and Everett and Tacoma and Federal Way started pushing for acceleration too, Issaquah was at the front of the line and was the beneficiary.

  16. Renton’s town center looks like a bomb fell on it is funny, if true. But it is important to understand as well that Renton has always felt the rest of the eastside feels Renton is lower class, and Renton has worked so hard to improve itself and the surrounding areas. (I think the south Renton/Tukwilla area has one of the highest crime rates in the country, with a rating of 4/100
    https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/wa/renton/crime

    Renton has a legitimate beef that it gets little respect on the eastside, and a lower share of the pie (although of course Bellevue creates the majority of the pie). But Mercer Island gets a tiny fraction of the pie despite a high tax base for the county, but generally does not want or need as much.

    One factor about Renton and some other areas of rural and south east King Co. is many of the residents work with tools, and own pick up trucks. Transit does not work for them. Renton’s demographic, and lack of any town center core, don’t make it ideal for transit, or some kind of hub and spoke transit center built around rail, , and like most of east King Co. the population is not dense and the only first/last mile access is by car. This is the same problem Metro faces in most of east King Co.: it just isn’t economical to run feeder buses because of the huge areas, congested roads, and lack of density. Transit is generally predicated on some kind of density.

    What Renton suffers from is the congestion on 405 which in normal times is brutal. Unlike I-5 which causes many of its own congestion problems with its exits and entrances, and the convention center squeezing the lanes, 405 is simply maxed out, especially with all the growth south on 167. We were told WSDOT will be starting phase 2 from SE 8th in Bellevue to Tukwilla on a redesign of 405 that WSDOT claims will relieve congestion even during rush hour. I will believe that when I see it.

    Many think the redesign of 405 and the plan for express buses north and south on 405 will have much more impact on mobility than East Link. I always thought East Link should have concentrated on the 405 corridor, but then again many of the residents south of Bellevue don’t use transit.

    I suppose the irony is Renton didn’t actively participate in its master transportation plan but could have benefitted from one, and Issaquah did participate, but Issaquah will never get a $4.5 billion line to S. Bellevue, and is even losing express buses to Seattle. Now an Issaquah resident will have to drive to the park and ride, hope to find a stall or pay to reserve one, catch a bus to Mercer Island, disembark with every other passenger, and fight for a spot on the train at the last stop going west. Considering the economic power Issaquah has my guess is when its residents complain about having to bus to Mercer Island to take the train the express buses will return. Issaquah just doesn’t want to serve as the bus layover area.

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