Bellevue Downtown Station (Sound Transit)

On October 8th System Expansion Committee received briefings on various capital projects. The centerpiece was a detailed review of East Link. The system is 85% complete, within the budget set in 2015, and on schedule for opening in July 2023. But there’s also some bad news.

Major civil engineering should be done in early 2021, and systems work by early 2022. Most of 2022 will be “pre-revenue” testing, and from September 2022 is 9 months of “float”. But some things are not going well.

The Redmond Technology Center garage concrete is cracking. As this was a design/build contract, the builder is responsible for this failure and will absorb the cost. But the work will stretch into next year.

Redmond Technology Center Garage cracks (Sound Transit)

Potential legal delays due to Mercer Island’s lawsuit about the bus interchange plan could also cause delays.

In better news, there is talk of an early opening for the South Bellevue parking garage, but nothing is decided yet.

South Bellevue Garage (Sound Transit)

And now for the irritating news: Link will suffer a series of weekend closures in 2021 to connect the overhead lines into the main system, branded as “PowerUp 2021.” There will probably be three closures in early 2021 for installation and two in late 2021 for testing. When asked why this couldn’t have been done concurrently with the massive Connect 2020 closure, Sound Transit cited scheduled delivery dates and the need for rails to be completely installed and tested prior to electrical work.

In other news, all other major capital projects are within budget constraints and on schedule for their planned openings: the East Link Operations and Maintenance Facility later this year, Northgate Link in September 2021, Hilltop Tacoma Link in May 2022, Lynnwood Link in July 2024, and Federal Way in December 2024.

One exception is light rail fleet expansion, which is having several logistical problems, including a Covid closure at the Sacramento factory. 22 of the new vehicles have arrived, and 25 are ready to ship at the factory. Lynnwood and Hilltop also have less budget slack than the other projects, the latter because MLK is in worse shape than anticipated, requiring more repair work.

Operations and Maintenance Facility, East (Sound Transit)

70 Replies to “Challenges, more closures for East Link construction”

  1. Thanks for the helpful recap. Just want to share that I’ve been reading STB for years, and I’m shocked – this is the first time I’ve ever seen a post here without any comments. Thus, this – my first-ever comment on the blog.

  2. Given the depressed ridership in January with office workers still working at home, wonder if they can consolidate the three early 2021 shutdowns into one. Shut down all of light rail for three weeks in January and offer shuttle bus service. Do it all at once?

    1. You can’t do the install of the OCS poles/wires and testing at the same time. It can only be tested once the rest of the system is up and running.

  3. Is the Redmond Technology Center Garage possibly going to delay East Link service? Since it’s for parking cars, it seems unimportant.

    1. The more important part is the bus center on the lower level of the garage.

      Still should, hopefully, be unrelated to the train service timeline.

    2. +1. As Martin has convincingly argued, the greatest utility of P&Rs is that they allow habitual drivers a path to supporting transit.

    3. It would seem silly to delay an entire line because of a parking garage at one station. As long as the station itself isn’t compromised structurally, the system can almost certainly open and operate as normal and the garage can merely open later. If nothing else, the political embarrassment of an entire line not opening on time would be so great that nothing outside of a system failure would seem to prevent that from happening.

      Then again, we are talking about ST.

    4. I was thinking the same thing. Maybe the trains can’t operate when they are doing the repair work. Maybe the station could be closed, but the train could still turn around there (which means that Link could serve every other station.

      The same also goes for Mercer Island. Folks can fight all they want over where the buses and cars go, but the train should operate, and at worst skip the station.

  4. Is staff still sticking to its guns and predicting about 52K daily boardings of East Link? Lockdowns will be over, but Microsoft now has permanent WFH.

    1. Permanent for people who want it. The campus rebuilding continues, so they must be thinking a lot of people won’t want it.

      1. I’ve been finding that while my office has gone semi-voluntary WFH (as in, we can work from home if we want, but office is encouraged), there are several obvious benefits to working in-person in regards to impromptu conversations about projects and problem solving. I imagine that the same sort of benefits of in-person meetings versus audio/video calling will continue to motivate most desk-sitting staff to return to offices. However, I also imagine companies will have to reconsider making the office desk a more palatable place to work (reversing the trend of open-floorplan offices).

        My projection is that commuters will take the train as traffic returns to I-5 and I-90, but not before. The real question is how long the lag will be before people warm back up to standing in a stuffed train rather than sit in traffic and pay for parking.

      2. Nathan D., Microsoft employees do not pay for parking.

        Brian H., Microsoft has a permanent 50% WFH. But as a tech employee, and a longtime Softie, I’m sure the majority of people will go into work the majority of the time.

    2. Who cares? Ridership projections are primarily useful as a tool to inform a discussion of what to build. As we are not currently facing such a choice, spending staff time on the impossible task of assessing the outcome of a black swan event is a waste of our money.

      1. I think it does matter in the long run. Ridership effects revenue, which can create a positive or negative feedback loop.

        I agree, though, there is nothing they can do now, and they shouldn’t spend money trying to predict the future, especially since there are so many self-proclaimed experts who will do that for free :)

  5. What are logistics for actually delivering something like light rail cars to Sound Transit from the factory? They can’t just go on their own power, and they look too big and heavy to carry on a truck. Do they ride on a freight train?

    1. Well, here’s one solution, asdf2. What ST can build locally, it can also use its own tracks to deliver.

      Seems Boeing’s lately developed a preference for building planes in the union-free State of South Carolina that was downright Union-hostile in our country’s last Civil War.

      I’ve got relatives there, so good thing that like the rest of the South, lot of the hill people stayed loyal to the United States of America and will again. No accident that what we for some reason call “Link”, Charlotte-Mecklenburg calls “Lynx”. Time for us to Re-THYNK?

      So thanks in advance to Boeing for making available a good deal of factory space in both Everett and along East Marginal in Seattle. Which already has tracks, whose catenary can be added as part of the same project mentioned here.

      Also doubt that PCC Natural Markets’ governing board would hesitate for a minute on a partnership to revive manufacture of world history’s greatest streetcar. “Naturals” for Transit Oriented Development as well.

      And since Kenosha Wisconsin’s long had a fleet of those, a sister-city relationship sit us could revive the former factory economy whose loss contributed a lot to recent tragedies.

      According to this morning’s “Olympian”, remote learning’s giving good students a lot of “F’s”, which should rightly go to remote learning. Not to fear. Evergreen College prefers applicants who remote-write their own syllabus.

      However long the future takes to get here, it’s already in good hands. Lot of which belong gripping train-controllers and bus steering-wheels. And also filing forms to run for offices that also run the fleet.

      Mark Dublin

    2. They are trucked from Sacramento, CA because it’s easier, cheaper, and more secure than moving the vehicles by train. To travel on our freight network they have to be placed on a flat cars then handled in a special manner. Light rail cats can’t get here under their own power since mainline aren’t electrified (among many reasons).

      1. Ah, so the train cars do fit on a truck (at least one that can be legally driven on a public highway). That’s the part I wasn’t sure about.

        When I envisioned railcar, I assumed resting atop a flatbed freight car, towed by a standard diesel locomotive. I highly doubt the track gauge of the BNSF mainline and ST Link are compatible, even ignoring the power issue.

      2. Link is standard gauge, same as the Class 1’s. Ditto the Street Car.

        But I would assume there would be all sorts of issues with towing the LRV’s from Sac to Seattle. And you’d still need an interconnect in Seattle.

        I’m sure it is just easier and cheaper to truck them A to B.

  6. I would think the South Bellevue Garage could open in 2022. Maybe we will have a vaccine by then and our lives can return to bring a bit more normal.

  7. The pre-Covid SIP said that ST planned six-minute headway with four-car trains with Northgate Link. If the LRV are late, that combination may have to be delayed. The ST 2021 SIP has longer headway, but there is still the chance to convince them otherwise. South Bellevue demonstrates the Sound Parking is still solid.

    1. The six minutes at peak was in ST3. My recollection is that ST2 was planned as eight minutes at peak, and eight minutes is what the FTA grant and environmental analysis was approved for — as well as the vehicle purchases and storage facilities.

      Unless loads get quite heavy, I don’t see six minute trains happening until 2030 at the earliest (or Tacoma Link and West Seattle Link opening and a third rail storage and maintenance facility opens in South King).

    2. My recollection is that ST2 was planned as eight minutes at peak

      What the hell, really? We had six minutes before. Now, after a major expansion — after the most important section of our network is complete (UW to downtown) — frequency will go down? That’s nuts.

      It is way better to have three-car trains every six minutes than four-car trains every eight. Yes, it costs more, but you also get more riders.

      1. There are multiple operational issues that may set the headway floor above 3 minutes. ST hasn’t actually named which one sets the floor the highest.

    3. Six minutes was a temporary boost. I don’t remember what exactly started it and when it as going to end because that period is all a blur of the Ride Free Area ending, needing more capacity for U-Link, the ST2 cars not arrived yet, and ST increasing frequency instead of lengthening trains. It was something along those lines, and it was going to be boosted to 6 minutes for a few years and then revert to 8.

  8. So maybe I missed it, but is U District, Roosevelt and Northgate all opening in September 2022 or will they be staggered?

    1. They must open together. There is no scissors cross-over or tail track between Husky Stadium Station and Northgate Station by which to reverse trains.

    2. Because “systems testing” is a full year, the entire system would seem to have to be ready all at the same time. No station can open if the many systems aren’t approved for daily use. It would make little sense to stagger the opening in a normal situation.

      If there is a reason to not open a station with the others, it would almost certainly be because there is a specific major problem in that station — like most of the elevators and escalators fail an inspection and cannot be used, or the structural integrity of the station is deficient. With a year of testing, it would seem to be a very rare possibility.

      1. My solution’s already on record, Al S., but no harm in forwarding it to to your “reps” in the ST Board.

        Like with the Link fleet itself, bring manufacture, installation, and maintenance in-house. Our maintenance people have proven they can handle trains a lot longer than the average escalator.

        It’ll also contribute big-time to the gigantic industrial defibrillator that our region, and State, and country will need if all three entities are to survive.

        Looks like all our Community Colleges are way ahead of us. And google says the program’s already got a motto. “Solum Fac Id” means “Just Do It!”

        Mark Dublin

      2. Does any country other than the US require a full year of systems testing before service can open to the public? A full year of running trains before the public can ride them feels very excessive.

      3. Does any country other than the US require a full year of systems testing before service can open to the public? A full year of running trains before the public can ride them feels very excessive.

        I know, right? Imagine if we had this requirement for highways. We’ll build a fancy new bridge to West Seattle. After it’s done we’ll wait to open it up to the public until we’ve hired a few people to drive back and forth on it for a year…just in case something’s wrong with it.

        Trains aren’t exactly a new technology. Humans have been building them for a while. We don’t need to see if the technology is viable, we just need to see if it was built properly. What category of construction defects is going to present itself in the eleventh month of “testing” that doesn’t show up in the first month? If we really do have reason to worry about that eleventh month why should anyone feel safe riding it in the thirteenth?

  9. It doesn’t sound like those issues are likely to push the overall project (e.g. if the parking garage isn’t done then you just run w/o parking) — so if the overall project is on schedule is there a possibility of opening early since none of the “float” has been use up yet? E.g., Sept 2022 instead of June 2023?

  10. I don’t think anyone on the eastside is surprised that East Link won’t open in 2023. It is a very long and complex line, with some very large park and rides that will be inadequate the day East Link opens.

    The project was set back around 9 months, according to ST, to deal with post tensioning of the bridge span, and the engineering for the joint where the fixed bridge deck meets the floating bridge span. ST claimed it would make up the time by reducing testing time.

    Cracks in the concrete at the Redmond TC in 2020 would not delay the opening of the line. Neither would negotiations with Mercer Island on the intensity of the bus intercept, which in many ways is an irrelevant dispute now that WFH will become permanent. ST likes to blame others for any delay. God forbid post tensioning does not work as hoped, or the joint at the bridge deck which originally would have reduced train speeds across the bridge span to 20 mph. This the first light rail across a floating bridge, and ST has been known to rush things that lead to derailings.

    ST estimated 50,000 riders/day by 2030, which few believed. Before Covid-19 the concern was that with 8 minute trains, and only one train in either direction allowed on the bridge span at any one time, there would be insufficient capacity for 50,000 riders/day (including first/last mile access), at least until the $2.2 billion second transit tunnel through Seattle was completed, which Seattle is to pay 1/2 and the four other subareas 1/2 (which Pierce and Snohomish Co. don’t quite understand). In many ways this second transit tunnel was a big part of ST 3 because the Seattle subarea did not have the funds for it, and considering the costs to run a line to Snohomish Co. may not have now, especially with reduced revenue due to Covid-19. I can’t see a second transit tunnel being completed until 5- 10 years after East Link opens.

    There were also concerns on Mercer Island, even before the proposed bus intercept would terminate on Mercer Island, that being the last stop in both directions trains would arrive full, or at best standing room only, during peak hours, even though Mercer Island is supposed to only contribute 3000 resident riders/day. Adding up to 2000 off-Island commuters during peak hours from the bus intercept would only exacerbate the situation, for everyone. Great for Redmond/Bellevue riders, terrible for everyone down river, which includes commuters from areas not served by East Link. Like Bart Mercer Island was worried riders would have to go backwards to get a spot on the train.

    ST decided to close the bridge span to any buses after East Link opens, claiming it would save Metro $1.5 million/year, although my guess is ST figured force all riders onto the train across the bridge span and measure ridership there, to get even remotely close to 50,000 riders/day.

    However that decision came so late in the process the logistics were not in place, including whether commuters from Snoqualmie to Issaquah to Renton will drive to a park and ride to catch a bus to Mercer Island to catch a train to Seattle, rather than just drive to a park and ride next to a rail station, which is pretty much S. Bellevue since it will have 1500 stalls, not something Bellevue wants.

    Now with WFH who knows. 50,000 riders/day was fantastical before Covid-19, and many commuters from areas not served by East Link are beginning to realize their commute will actually get worse. Imagine driving to the Issaquah park and ride to catch a bus to Mercer Island, the last stop going west with capacity an issue.

    The eastside subarea has so much money it doesn’t matter, but still park and ride capacity is tiny at the rail stations, in part because the huge park and rides at Eastgate and Issaquah and Snoqualmie and Renton will serve only buses, and many commuters will probably skip them. Eastsiders will always drive if road and highway congestion allows it, which means East Link was always predicated on commuters. With WFH driving may be an option even during peak times, in part because many staff who can’t afford to drive and park will be happily working from home. I certainly imagine these WFH staff will want to go into the office every now and then, during non-peak times, just to get out of the house, depending in part on whether they find the office in an area they want to shop at or get a drink after work with colleagues. My guess is they will drive, especially if female and they plan on getting groceries afterwards, staying for drinks or something to eat or shopping after dark, or plan on picking the kids up on the way home.

    I don’t think anyone on the eastside is holding their breath for East Link to open. It will change very few lives, and will make many eastside commuters’ lives worse.

    If it opens in 2024 that was pretty much assumed, but not anticipated with bated breath. For many eastside commuters East Link will be a degradation in their commute, and will add a completely new transfer at the bus intercept if all buses across the bridge span are ended. It doesn’t help that the eastside subarea is paying 100% of the ST buses between Seattle to the eastside until East Link opens, with an estimated cost by 2023 of nearly $1 billion, or that ST then kicked those buses out of the transit tunnel years before East Link opens, and Seattle’s city council decided to make the streets too dangerous to stand outside waiting for a bus.

    In the end, I think the two biggest issues for East Link are whether the engineering on the bridge deck and span work (and I would prefer a delayed opening and plenty of testing on that issue first), and how many commuters work from home, full or part time, which ironically would solve some of East Link’s capacity issues. When it comes to reduced riders or fares on East Link, money is just not an issue for the eastside subarea.

    1. There were also concerns on Mercer Island, even before the proposed bus intercept would terminate on Mercer Island, that being the last stop in both directions trains would arrive full, or at best standing room only, during peak hours.

      ST estimated 50,000 riders/day by 2030, which few believed

      Well, it sounds like there were some people in Mercer Island that believed those numbers. So much so they were worried about crowding on a four-car train running every six minutes.

      ST decided to close the bridge span to any buses after East Link opens, claiming it would save Metro $1.5 million/year, although my guess is ST figured force all riders onto the train across the bridge span …

      Metro would truncate all those buses even if there were bus lanes on the bridge. They are doing the same everywhere. The HOV lanes that worked really well for the 41 all those years will be useless. (OK, not completely. There is the possibility that Metro will run express buses to First Hill and/or South Lake Union. But they certainly won’t run them to the heart of downtown, and I don’t think Issaquah can justify running buses to First Hill or South Lake Union).

      The point is, the assumption from the very beginning is that there would be few, if any buses across the lake after Link gets there. The trains would be crowded (both directions) during rush hour, but not to the point that they would turn people back (four car trains can carry a lot of people). Ridership would be driven mostly by commuters (again, both directions) which would add up to somewhere between 40 to 50K a day. That estimate may be a bit high, but is certainly reasonable. Fundamentally, nothing has changed. A couple years after the pandemic has passed, the estimate seems reasonable (although a bit optimistic in my opinion).

    2. I don’t think anyone on the eastside is surprised that East Link won’t open in 2023.

      The very first paragraph of the article says East Link is on schedule to open in July 2023.

  11. Daniel, you and everybody else on Mercer Island have an advantage over me. Until Seattle’s complete collapse stops dragging its heels and finally makes it possible for me to re-afford my Ballard residence…

    You have ST Board representation whom you can render both jobless and homeless with a single box-dropped ballot, and I don’t. Whole Board including Peter Von Reichbauer’s smart-phones treat all my calls like idiots. But just wait.

    Extend Sounder ten minutes south of Dupont to Lacey, and ST Express and a twenty minute bus ride with Special Needs status for legislators could connect Olympia with Seattle Freeway-free. Exile electorate, growing by they day. Judging by their restaurant bills, campaign-funding Thurston into ST is in the bag.

    Meantime, checking with my mechanic to see if in addition to a toilet, my sedan can also be fitted with both a shaving mirror and a shower. However many tires make up your house’s foundation, even from home, employers demand presentability.

    So here’s a worry-related question for you. On or off East-link, how many Mercer Island residential foreclosure notices are matters of public record? Not my business, but for income-related East-link fare-affordability, you might want to check.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Hi Mark, I know you lament the loss of your Ballard residence, but that is gentrification (and upzoning every residential lot to three separate legal dwellings). If you want to live in Seattle have you thought about a TOD unit in Seattle or Mount Lake Terrace. They are supposed to be quite affordable, and are next to transit.

      Mercer Island has a varied demographic among its 26,000 residents. 43% are elderly, a historic high, and are often house rich but cash poor, and punished by property taxes and the pretty low property tax exemption rate for seniors. They could sell but don’t know where to go, and have lived in their house for decades, although taxes will probably force them out soon.

      Then there is a sizable percentage of moderate income residents who mostly rent, but moved to Mercer Island for its excellent (but expensive) special needs school programs that gives their children school advantages not available in Seattle or other school districts. Plus Mercer Island is very safe for children, women and the elderly, and a kid can ride a bike in the park alone or with his friends without adult supervision. It is a good place to grow up.

      Of course just like Seattle there are many who bought a house long ago and watched its value (and taxes) soar, and probably could not afford a house on MI or in Seattle today.

      One of Mercer Island’s programs is called Youth And Family Services. It oversees nearly $1 million in annual city funding for school and metal health counselors that also attract parents of school children, much of which is funded by the Thrift Store from donations. Plus YFS funds a rental assistance program to struggling residents, and used the state sales tax refund for that program, and should have used the 1/10th of one percent sales tax but missed the deadline. MI also donates around $85,000 each year to ARCH, the eastside housing program.

      Then there are taxes in general. For example, I have posted before that Islanders pay around $7.5 million in vehicle tab fees but receive back $36,000 from the state. Multiply that by 100 for property taxes in general, even though we use very few public resources. But that is the point of taxes.

      Rather than always asking others what they are doing, or complaining others are not doing enough, ask what are you doing. What money do you contribute to society above what you take out. The poor need one thing: money. If you don’t have money you can’t help the poor. Ideology and sanctimony do not pay the rent.

      To answer your direct question, there have been very few residential foreclosures in Seattle or the eastside because Covid-19 and WFH have increased the value of single family homes dramatically, even more than before, because people working from home, or living at home, don’t want to live in a TOD shoebox (and even if they do there is a moratorium on evictions). A homeowner who found their income less than the mortgage could either request an extension under the federal program, or sell for a windfall. My guess is it is the same in Olympia.

      I like this blog because so many are very smart about transit and I learn a lot. Granted on a blog in Seattle about transit I don’t expect a lot of conservatives, or even moderates, but I try to remember I am a guest on this blog.

      I try to point out eastsiders sometimes have a different mentality, and most the money, and mostly find themselves on the eastside because they got married and started a family and want a single family home. There are very few eastsiders on this blog, and even fewer females, and females buy around 99% of everything in America, which explains why Kemper Freeman didn’t want East Link down Mainstreet and has so much surface parking in the most expensive part of Bellevue. Eastside women don’t read transit blogs, but women tend to run the world indirectly. ST has never been very good about understanding how women think because transit geeks are usually all male, although most women who work have to commute on transit. Women like cars, or SUV’s, and are not apologetic about it if that is what you are seeking.

      I think it a mistake to view transit as some kind of class struggle or something that is owed to others. Transit is simply a mode of transportation that has to compete with other forms of transportation like Uber/Lyft and cars that have a distinct advantage: door to door service. Since it is transportation of the last resort it needs to remember that too. Is East Link at $5.5 billion, or a $4.5 billion rail line from Issaquah, about the poor? No, I don’t think so, except for eastside subarea equity, for the same reason TOD are not very affordable.

      1. DPT, I appreciate your stated willingness to engage and learn, but when scrolling past your replies is a chore in itself, it proves difficult to ignore or disregard the meandering contempt for high-capital public transportation.

        What does the cost of a project have to do with its “intended” users? What does Mercer Island’s city budget have to do with East Link? Why extoll the Island’s lack of dependency on public investment when its only accessible exits and entrances are free public facilities? While the STB comment policy is laudably tolerant of “unproductive conversation”, I wonder what posters of such Gish Gallops hope to achieve besides overt degradation of the comment section itself.

      2. Daniel P.

        Are all the assumed male names on these blog posts evidence that men like to hear themselves talk more than women do?

    2. house rich but cash poor, and punished by property taxes … and have lived in their house for decades, although taxes will probably force them out soon.

      Force them out? Seriously? I really doubt that. Folks can rent out a basement. If they are older, they can always get a reverse mortgage. That means they don’t pass on the house to their heirs, but they still get to live in their house the rest of their life.

      They could sell but don’t know where to go

      Seriously? Don’t know where to go? There are condos they could go to all over the place. Or they could buy a house in a less expensive city, which means basically anything in Washington other than Seattle/Bellevue (Shoreline, Auburn, Tacoma, Everett, Bellingham, Sequim, you name it). You could also move to a different part of the country. The Seattle/Bellevue area (and the pricier suburbs) are rather expensive compared to most of the country.

      Please, stop with the anti-tax B. S. Property taxes are not forcing the old folks out of their homes. Give me a break.

      To answer your direct question, there have been very few residential foreclosures in Seattle or the eastside because Covid-19 and WFH have increased the value of single family homes dramatically, even more than before, because people working from home, or living at home, don’t want to live in a TOD shoebox (and even if they do there is a moratorium on evictions).

      Wrong. It is low interest rates. Otherwise condo prices would be dropping (the Seattle citywide median sales price for condos rose 12.22% year-over-year) to quote this source ( The other thing that is driving high house prices is inventory:

      That reflected a hefty 36.4% additional condos for sale compared to a year ago and 20.4% more than the prior month. In comparison, the single family house inventory was down 8.2% year-over-year.

      Oh, and I have a feeling you don’t know what “TOD” means. It is not a type of housing. “TOD” stands for “Transit Oriented Development” and can include any sort of development. Rainier Valley homes that have been refurbished could be considered “TOD”. So could roomy new townhouses built close to a train station. Meanwhile, studio apartments in Belltown, or apodments in Fremont would not be considered “TOD”, even though they are quite small by your standards. Very few people live in a place that could safely be called “TOD” in the greater Seattle area.

      1. As I recall, some of the new buildings around Roosevelt station count as TOD because they explicitly got exemptions from parking provisions etc., right? Or at least were built with fewer-than-usual parking spots.

        For something closer to East Link, the nominal topic of this thread, I expect a lot of Spring District should count as TOD, given it was (and is being) built explicitly in conjunction with East Link. Unfortunately, not much else in Bellevue counts, most likely. Not familiar enough with Redmond to say, though we did go there the other week and I was surprised as to how much more urban it had become compared to how I remembered it from years ago when I was last there to visit some friends.

      2. That is a good point Ross. When I hear people complain about the price of housing or rentals in the Puget Sound region I should think of your comment about the elderly: “You could also move to a different part of the country”.

        Callous but true I guess. So the next time I hear someone whine about the price of housing on the eastside or in Seattle I am going to quote your tough love. Move someplace else.

      3. There’s no place to escape to except depressed regions, and there there are few jobs and wages are low. In the past two decades people have fled mid King County for South King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, Whatcom, San Juan, Spokane, and other counties, but so many people have done so that prices in South King and Pierce have risen faster than Seattle. One person can do it but a milion people can’t. In the 2000s rising unaffordability was mostly an issue in the most popular cities and inner-ring suburbs, but it has now spread to smaller cities and rural areas throughout the country, especially relative to local wages. If you take your Microsoft savings and buy a house in Bellingham, it drives up prices for existing Belligham residents who don’t have a Microsoft-sized largesse, so you’re just moving the problem around to different people.

        The fundamental problem is that in most of the country the number of housing units is not keeping up with population growth so there’s increasing competition for each unit. This was exacerbated by investment companies buying up large numbers of foreclosed house and trying to rent them out for more than the previously cost, and AirBnBs taking units off the market. At first this affected only hipster neighborhoods and highly-desired houses, but then it spread to the entire metropolitan area and now most of the country. So even if one person can move to a less-desirable area and live like a king, it can’t scale to an entire population.

      4. The solution to the #bigtech largesse would therefore appear to be to spread the jobs around to these smaller towns and poorer districts, which is in stark contrast with the current trend in the urbanism-forever crowd to aggregate more and more of these jobs into ever more restricted areas. In other words, when the only high-paying jobs are in SF, NYC and Seattle, the whole country suffers from inequality, which is what we are seeing now. The next HQ2 should have been a whole bunch of mini-HQ2s, and not in the Bellevues and Alexandrias of the states, but in the North Bends and Bellinghams and Omahas etc. etc. But this goes in direct opposition to the economy of scale that everyone wishes for.

        I don’t have an answer to this, but it seems to me that simply increasing density in medium-to-large cities doesn’t appear to scale well. Even in the Seattle area, yes, Seattle is the 1000 pound gorilla, and Bellevue is a strong second best contender, but the metro area has what, almost 4 million people, and the well paying jobs are only in three cities which collectively account for about a quarter of that population or less (four if you include Kirkland as well as Redmond, I suppose). That just does not seem healthy. It just leads to the whole Seattle (and Bellevue, for that matter) becoming the next Medina or Beaux Arts, to point at two of the examples some people here love to keep pointing out as bastions of inequality. Where does that leave the people living in Auburn and Kent and Bothell? Where it leaves them is without a clear path to good jobs and good transit, and we see this in the ST3 projects, among other things.

        But this is straying pretty far from the current topic.

    3. Transit-Oriented Development means housing and/or retail that is designed to be convenient to access from a transit station. This means orienting the front door toward the station, having a straight walking path to it, and treating transit passengers as first-class clients rather than afterthoughts. The term typically refers to post-1990 buildings that intentionally buck the trend of putting drivers first, and are medium-to-high density mixed-use buildings or shopping centers. Pre-WWII buildings oriented toward a transit stop are transit-oriented buildings but are not usually called TOD because they aren’t “developments” or “intentional” in the post-1990 sense; they were just the norm then. The opposite of TOD is Transit-Adjacent Development, a dense building that forces transit riders to walk around two or three sides of the building, or through a huge parking lot or garage entrance, because they’re oriented toward drivers.

  12. Thanks for the update.

    In the rendering of the OMF East facility, just how many parking spaces are there on that site? I’m assuming that is intended for EE parking. I found it rather ironic to see so much space dedicated for this purpose.

    1. It seems counter-intuitive at first – why can’t transit workers use transit? But, like a bus base, employees need to be on site before the trains start running, or get home after the last train or bus has left. Doubly so at an OMF where so much work is at night.

      1. That makes total sense, i.e., the beginning and end-of-day service window prevents transit use by such EE’s. Thanks for the reply!

  13. Daniel, it shows I’m doing something right that you’re still writing to me. Because to my mind, we’re both beginning participants in more decades of transit-building effort than I’ll ever live to see the end of.

    Have to talk to Martin about that guy who’s officiously demanding ID from all the Guests! Maybe “Indeed!” ™ mistakenly sent him to STB instead of Medina.

    Because ’til we get too desperately [AH] for anybody to [STAND] us, our classification is [ESSENTIALLY] High Risk Volunteer Transit-Consulting for the duration.

    Same thing can usually be honestly looked at more than one way, with equal productivity. But like with any co-worker of mine lifelong, it is kind of reflex to alert you to things that can get you killed, like ingratitude to women for saving our miserable male lives at least once a day.

    Reason they “Indirectly” run the world is same as why a reactor technician doesn’t open the grate and flip some glowing fissile uranium with a pair of barbecue gloves and tongs.

    Some FundamentaliSkepticism of mine: fact that for our first three hundred million years on Earth, all our chief deities have been women indicates a blasphemous weaker-gender power grab that just needs to run its course.

    Blessedly, STB magnificently serves the ladies’ most urgent Divine necessity. Keeping you and me from distracting their assignment of running the whole universe. Though suspect we’re also really cute when we get into revenue-apportionment and route-redundancy. But anybody who’s a parent:

    Which gender always tells the other one they have to share? That ORCA-Tapcriminalization Business…no way that was thought of by a GIRL!
    Who would certainly remind us that, behind it all, we’re really building each other’s regional transit system.

    If they weren’t so busy with things like setting up the Zoomings by which your average presently- middle school kids will use the ’24 Election to start their career in State Government.

    As they vote to fund the subway station a couple hundred feet under The Dome. 90 minutes max from Island Crest via transfer at either Sea-Tac or IDS. Olympia Roasters’ “Big Truck Blend” really needs those giant electric strip- mine monsters for a trade-mark.

    Mark Dublin

  14. I will try to have a positive view on this. The original ST2 is a 15 year public transportation improvement. We all know how many obstacles had to be addressed to build this. Many mistakes made for sure. Individual projects were late. Recessions, lawsuits, late deliveries, and more. I won’t forgive the secalators, but that is different. But in all that time, they will be complete in 2024. One year late. After all the problems, one year doesn’t seem that bad. Especially for a government project. In 2008, around 15 miles of Link +3 for U-Link. In 2024, over 50 miles. Not too bad.

    1. East Link slipped a year because Bellevue demanded twenty alternatives and studies and obstructed Link and slowed things down. It slipped another year because of the 2008 recession and loss of revenue. It’s now slipping a third year due to construction-related delays.

      1. Yeah. I am not good at describing the details like you, but I am aware of a those issues. Good points.

  15. 22 of the new vehicles have arrived

    Where are they storing these? I thought the plan was to truck them to OMF-E.

    1. OMF-C has room for the initial batch. Yes, they will need to truck them to OMF-E prior to East Link opening, but for the first handful they are testing them at the current OMF.

  16. No one has mentioned that Kevin Desmond is leaving his Vancouver job next year, to return to the US.
    As an elderly female here’s a comment on housing. I think the whole “remain in place” emphasis should be done away with. One elderly person living in a house that is large enough for a family with kids should be discouraged, not supported.
    Apt., houses or condos are great for the elderly. In my 75 years I’ve owned everything from a houseboat on Portage Bay, bought for $800 in 1965, to a condo in Belltown, a country place in Gold Bar, and many others.
    I love transit but haven’t ridden a bus since March. Drove up the freeway to Lynnwood last week and was amazed at light rail progress, exciting to see.

    1. I think there are 2 different angles to “remain in place.” From a quality of life standpoint and a healthcare expenditure standpoint, I believe that data show that remaining in place in great for both the individual and society.

      However, an issue arises in an expensive housing market, where ‘remain in place’ can both be a less efficient use of scarce housing stock and cause difficulties for fixed income households. Yes, a good solution is simply for senior households to move to less expensive housing markets, as millions do, but that doesn’t work for all. So there are lots of other good solutions, in particular ways to the elderly to share spare bedrooms in a way that helps them both financially and mentally/socially.

      1. I think it’s important to distinguish “staying in place” in the sense of remaining in a community where you’ve built social ties over the years, from “staying in place” in the sense of remaining in the same physical home.

        The former aspect seems like a great thing, while the latter seems unnecessary and potentially harmful once the maintenance requirements of the larger house exceed the elder’s capacity to manage.

        A problem is that too many of our communities lack sufficient diversity of housing for seniors to be able to switch to a smaller home without also switching neighborhoods. This is a shame, and one of many reasons why zoning reform is so important.

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