87 Replies to “Sunday open thread: car-lite Ghent”

  1. Everyone’s had a chance to review the 2021 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan overview presentation to the board from last week I hope:

    https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/ActiveDocuments/Presentation%20-%202021%20Proposed%20Budget%20and%20Financial%20Plan%20overview%2010-22-2020.pdf

    Brutal . . ..

    The slide on page 22 says that even with a five year construction period delay (to 2046), if there’s a “severe recession” the ST3 capital spending plan would be unaffordable.

    What is the meaning of the term “recession,” as it is used by Sound Transit staff here? Is it this:

    “a macroeconomic term that refers to a significant decline in general economic activity in a designated region. It had been typically recognized as two consecutive quarters of economic decline, as reflected by GDP in conjunction with monthly indicators such as a rise in unemployment”

    Or is it something else? It’s gotta be something else, right? I can’t believe that Sound Transit’s entire financial plan would be destroyed if the next two quarters here are marked by regional GDP decline and high unemployment. Obviously those things will occur — the 787 production line’s migration to the southeast alone will impact local GDP and employment negatively to those extents.

    1. What you gave is the standard definition & I think they are looking beyond the next two quarters. I think they are projecting out the next several years post CV with the assumption that remote working remains a standard & therefore transit ridership remains far below 2019 usage.

      This way if the numbers turn out to be better than projected, it can be viewed as a success story & be spun as such.

      1. Whatever Sound Transit means by “recession” it doesn’t refer to transit ridership because fare revenue essentially is inconsequential for the financing plan.

      2. Nobody would be overly concerned by a short, shallow recession. But nobody, outside of a few blinkered politicians, thinks this recession will be short or shallow. The loss of fare revenue won’t be as devastating as the loss of tax revenue derived from economic activity.

      3. ST is concerned about more than ridership levels not returning to 2019 levels (which were a 1% increase over 2018) due to WFH and a likely multi-year recession. They are concerned ridership levels never get close to the very optimistic future ridership projections ST made to support much of ST 2 and 3, or future population growth targets in ST influenced documents like the PSRC’s 2050 Vision Statement never materialize, at least in the ST taxing district, which will make it very hard for it to demand more taxes to make up for reduced general fund tax revenue. Today many citizens are shaking their heads over running rail to Snohomish Co. or Issaquah, although in 2018 it was just a few of us questioning those ridership and population growth estimates.

        In the end, all of this — from the PSRC’s 2050 Vision Statement that calls for TOD and density, the Cascadia Vision, ST 2 and 3, the dreams of The Urbanist, calls to upzone residential neighborhoods, all depend on huge regional population growth by 2050, which would be terrible for all of us and the region in general, even though some pray for it for reasons I can’t fathom, although I doubt it will occur, and if it does it won’t be in King Co.

    2. Anon, obviously, over the centuries we and more than one dread disease have finally learned to live with each other. How much time it’ll take this time, anybody’s guess is as good as anybody else’s.

      Meaning also that for transit, a good outcome is as likely as a bad one. So since nobody can stop us anyhow, fair number of us will choose to use the coming time do all the planning we can. To be sure that whenever our “break” finally does come, we’ll be first off the mark with the trains and buses we’ve never stopped needing and never will.

      Since “The Great Depression” is getting more frequent mention, so should President Franklin Roosevelt. Since his project provided both major employment to build and decades of access to more, maybe our signature color should be Golden like the “Gate”, with “Green” just understood.

      Anybody who actually is conservative can rest assured how little “Welfare” will have to be (gasp!) GIVEN to anybody. Because the whole idea will get shoved aside by people finally able to demand the WORK that’ll pay them enough to end Homelessness by being PAID enough to buy a HOUSE!

      Since San Francisco’s “Vertol” LRV’s proved that we can use Boeing factory space to start building all the trains we need, both to ride on and to sell worldwide, we really should buy the factories now to be sure our workers get them and not Amazon.

      If the present chapter of the Civil War (prove it’s not the same one!) has better luck ending slavery than when the Union surrendered with the Compromise of 1877, (look it up) in Carolina and elsewhere, a re-unionized Boeing may finally start turning out jetliners we’ll be safe to allow in our States’ own skies.

      So meantime, let’s talk about Ghent. In Southern Sweden, I saw bike-oriented towns also dating to the 600’s getting surrounded with malls and the traffic jams they generate. Let’s see footage of Belgium-Beyond-The Bike-Lanes. Like so much else on Earth, “Either-Or’s” just not “How-It-Works.” Thanks, Martin, for a great video.

      Mark Dublin

    3. ST would budget for a regular recession, just like Seattle and the state had rainy day funds. A severe recession is something like the 2008 financial crisis or the Great Depression, which is not expected more than once or twice a century. You can’t budget for that or you’d never build anything. And if you did start to save up that much, as soon as Republicans came to power they’d divert it to highway expansions or refund it to taxpayers, so it could never reach its full amount.

      1. Mike, it could be that Republicans are exactly what our country most needs right now:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaddeus_Stevens

        When Tacoma fully dedicates the new Route 1 out Highway 7 to Spanaway, there’s a certain Democrat whose association has long since worn out its welcome.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Pierce

        Honored States’ Rights by enforcing legislation that made it a Federal crime for citizens of, say, New York to refuse to help catch runaway slaves.

        Fortunately King County’s note-worthy name- re-dedication points Pierce Route 1 the easy way out. Since monuments are such an inviolable heritage, all Pierce Transit’s got to do is search the records for a Black Union soldier with Franklin’s same name.

        Whose like saved our country by getting killed in action after outcomes like Bull Run put a serious dent in Northern enlistments. Or maybe a woman who was a Union Army nurse.

        Because, “Bringing It All Back Home”, it might also be Monument-Time for a certain Republican named James R. Ellis, who bought our fledgling subway 1.3 miles of linear property in the midst of a building boom, and didn’t condemn an inch.

        What recent history has dealt the Republican Party is to give Slavers and Secessionists a re-match after their 1864 failure to take Washington DC on the ground.

        Legend has it that Abe Lincoln’s wife Mary was on the ramparts yelling for a rifle to shoot the Confederate commander, her Kentucky cousin John Breckenridge.

        Since my town’s Slavers all have AR15’s, Second Amendment says we our side gets Springfields. Also ‘way past time that amendment finally empowers Washington DC residents to withhold Federal taxes until they can VOTE!

        Sauce for the goose, Newt, and Thanksgiving’s three weeks off!

        Mark Dublin

    1. Thanks, Al S. Couple points I see, though. One, like any moving out-door part in constant contact with the public, could take a lot of maintenance. Spray-paint’s Hell on wood that nice.

      Might also best be placed where nobody can either kick those nice curved panels just to hear them crack. And also get away with it. Or jump the curb and run a car into them just to defend somebody’s “Freedom to Freeze.”

      For both Sweden’s winters and ours, space between edge and ground looks drafty. Both places, rain’s often horizontal.

      What I’d rather we do with stop of this importance is to incorporate the waiting area into a tasteful building featuring a variety of shops and someplace to get coffee and food 24-7-365.

      Because in addition to durability, what good transit stops have in common is the round-the-clock presence of light, activity, and people.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I too have reservations about having a mobile curved shelter that hangs. I have reservations about anything movable in a bus stop, frankly. I do think the objective of hiding from a cold strong wind is an important one.

        I do like how the lights begin to flash and the music plays before a bus arrives.

        The important thing is perhaps the ongoing research element to improve rider experience. I think an urban area like ours could benefit from having several stops that could be laboratories for good rider experience design (in contrast to our approach of agencies to decide what is best in a vacuum). I see no shame in trying promising design techniques and giving up on them if they aren’t practical to install or maintain.

    2. It just needs a bench to sit on. Or does a bus come every five minutes? Cool art though. Want. Along with Ghent’s bicycle network. Why do all the highly-liveable cities have to be in Europe, a ten-hour flight away.

      1. Mike, in the 1300’s, a Swedish lord named Bo Jonsson murdered another nobleman on the altar of Riddarholmen church, which is in sight of Gamla Stan transit station in Stockholm.

        Point being that I think a lot of the difference in land-use between anyplace in Northern Europe and the United States is the comparative length of time the two places have been continuously inhabited.

        Though when you bring in archaeology now possessed of rock-reading instruments…it could be that for our continent’s own world-renowned historic subway stations, the sonics and the satellites have just not found them yet.

        However, DSTT had an occurrence we really have to put our foot down to prevent from here on. When First Nations artifacts began to be found, story has it that Chief Engineer Vladimir Khazak laid down a notorious dictum to his crews:

        “You. Don’t. Find. One. Single. BONE!!!!

        Though on the positive side, good chance the subterranean prehistorics lying waiting to reclaim for a hundred thousand years were all dug East to West! In the world of caves, ’tis an ill wind that blows nobody trains.

        Mark Dublin

      2. It just needs a bench to sit on.

        I would prefer a bench, but I get it. A bench tends to more problematic. Stuff gets on it. If you have a long bench (where lots of people are supposed to sit) then you have other issues. There are homeless people who want to lie down there. There are also creepy guys who try and snuggle up against women. Those pods (or whatever they are called) are rather clever. They offer independence, while dealing with the worst weather condition they face, which is similar to what Seattle faces (although not necessarily as often, or as severe). Think of the nastiest day to be out — do you want a bench, or do you want one of those pods, where you can twist it against the wind, avoiding the wind/rain/slush coming your way? My butt is too cold to sit — I want to lean on that bunch, and maybe hop and down until that bus comes.

        Yeah, it could get thrashed, but that is true of everything. Put up a nice plexiglass protector, and some punk kicks holes in it. The bench has a quarter inch of bird poop on it (or is it bird poop? ewww). The point is, no shelter is perfect, but this seems like a very nice addition that we could use, since unlike, say, Arizona, it gets cold (and windy) here. Being wood is a nice touch, and would be very appropriate for this region. I could see Weyerhaeuser chipping in for this, just to promote some wood laminate.

        It wouldn’t make sense at most bus stops. They are too tiny. My guess is the same is true for most of Sweden. But in areas where there is plenty of space, it would be a nice addition.

    3. I’m reminded of how Amsterdam’s bicycle network started. In the 1970s or so there were protests about the number of cars killing children and pedestrians, so the city shifted to non-car priority and built protected bike roads to minimize the number of fatalities — a kind of “Vision Zero”. The public got behind it because they prioritized minimizing deaths over drivers’ convenience. And skeptical members of the public warmed up to it after it was on the ground and they could see grandparents able to bike to all their daily needs.

      Unfortunately it’s a chicken-and-egg problem if the public doesn’t have the right vision beforehand. Rainier Valley was much more skeptical of Link before it opened, but once it was on the ground for a year or two some opponents gradually started seeing how it could benefit their trips and became supporters. New Yorkers were more skeptical of the Broadway pedestrianized block and the 14th Street bus-only street until they opened and people saw how successful they were. If only Seattle and other Pugetopolian cities could get over their myopia.

  2. A few comments about the video:

    1. Ghent is flat. Seattle is generally hilly — especially West Seattle. That affects the attractiveness of walking and bicycling. A vertical access element would be needed to do this in most areas here.

    2. Looking at Ghent on a map app shows that this inner ring road has a radius of about 3/4 of a mile (diameter about 1.5 miles). There is then a second ring road designed as a freeway out about a mile further. Our street network has developed without this option. Unless we are willing to put in wider major streets with multiple lanes every 1.5 miles around a car-free zone, creating such a zone seems illogical.

    3. I like how Ghent has buildings with character, roof lines and doorways every 20-50 feet in most places. It gives life to the street — as opposed to our streets in areas with many new buildings that promote no street life and minimalist character. If we took cars off some our streets in areas with new buildings, many would look like prison yards rather than villages.

    1. Seattle does have numerous hills but there are connections between neighborhoods that follow fairly level pathways. I we could prioritize bikes and pedestrians along the level pathways and move cars to the hilly pathways, we might be able to achieve some success.

      Looking at the Ghent transit agency’s website, it appears that a monthly transit pass costs a maximum of 49 Euros (about $59), with many discounts available for purchasing several months at once in addition to the usual age-based discounts.

      1. It looks like they have the rubber filler blocks. If they were open it would be carnage. Is there a speed limit where this type of filler can be used successfully? They mentioned 30kpm/18mph.

      2. My guess is the speed limit is low and they have done other things to reduce accidents. The idea that trams and bikes live happily together everywhere in Europe (because bikers just know how to handle the tracks) is a myth. A lot of work has to be done by the traffic control people to make things safe. This is an article from five years ago about how “Flemish public transport authority De Lijn is looking into making the embedded tram tracks in Ghent safer, in an effort to avoid accidents caused when bicycle wheels get caught in them” because “the situation has long been hazardous for cyclists”.

        Maybe it isn’t so hazardous now. Or maybe they just have a fair number of accidents.

  3. Archaeology aside, guys, we-the-living can build, pull down, and re-arrange any time and any way that, individually and collectively, we want.

    At this writing, no question right that our needs and wants are changing as we speak. Or also that whatever’s wrong is in our power to put right.

    Just this minute as I’m looking at the buildings-trees-and-all aerial 3D photograph of transit-disputed Mercer Island, a badly-needed peace-offering presents itself.

    If on its own dime Sound Transit can install an espresso cafe outclassing anything in Sweden in the structure of the Park and Ride or other proximity to Link, it’ll reveal how much of the present ill-will owes to the lack of just exactly that.

    Lit ceilings and spinnin’ shields optional. Though alternative to Starbucks is mandatory. Howard’s got no “kick”. It’s long been his choice to keep his M.I. location transit-free. And while ST’s at it, Maybe same contract can also do the Caffe d’Arte or Caffe Umbria spot for both Ballard and West Seattle Link.

    Mark Dublin

  4. Watching BIZ STREAM on NHK there was an interesting article about a new technology that allows UV light to be used as an anti-viral without the harmful effects normal UV light has on humans.
    Japan’s Germ Fighting Tech
    The UV story starts at 15:30 and around 19:30 they show renderings of how it could be applied to transit vehicles.

      1. “The UV light that will be used in the current overnight subway and bus disinfection program is very efficient in killing the virus that is responsible for COVID-19,”
        The Japanese breakthrough is isolating the 222nm wavelength so that it can be used when people are present. That wavelength doesn’t penetrate the outer layer of dead skin cells. No mention of what it does to one’s eyes though. Overnight disinfecting helps some with other pathogens but Covid-19 doesn’t last long on surfaces. To be effective it needs to “flash” the air people are breathing. Of course if there’s adequate ventilation a standard UV light in the system works.

  5. Large European cities are laid out based on the Catholic Church, which would set up its cathedral (which were often walled) and then the city would form around it, creating a circle called the pale. Very few first, second, third avenues in European cities, but lots of streets that go in a curve or circle. (Beyond the pale means beyond the fence). Concentric circle after concentric circle. Maddening.

    When it comes to Covid-19 and changes to society, very hard to predict. The great recession was terrible, and so many lost their homes, but most critically the collapse of the stock market made every municipal, state and private pension insolvent, and Obama’s greatest achievement (begun under Bush II even though it went against his political ideology) was to restore the stock markets, which refunded the pensions (which for many state and municipal pensions are still woefully underfunded and based on mythical returns, but at least not every pension is actuarially insolvent — we have a rapidly aging demographic).

    The markets have done quite well during Covid –19 which means Wall St. and CalPers think things will return to a form of normal, much earlier than the great recession. 2019 was a pretty great year for most states and cities and business, which is why Trump is speaking about a desire to return to “normal”. Most people liked their lives before Covid-19 and just want to return to that life.

    Some things will change permanently though, because they are better. But Covid-19 won’t create changes to life before Covid-19 if the citizens didn’t want them in the first place.

    Since most state vaccination plans like Washington now prioritize allocating any vaccine first to the elderly, young, and communities most impacted (communities of color) the work commuter will be one of the last vaccinated. So I doubt there will be much transit use or commuting before 2022. The revenue hole from those lost two years is huge.

    Working from home will become permanent for about 20% to 35%, maybe 50%, because it is a win/win/win for everyone. Workers no longer have to spend 60 to 90 minutes of every work day commuting on a crowded bus or train to a dense urban center, time they can now spend working or with their families; businesses will save a fortune on expensive commercial office space in dense urban cores; and carbon emissions from commuting will plummet. How can anyone object to working from home as a future model, and what could their objections be?

    Plus I think we will see a much greater emphasis on electric delivery trucks and cars, first because when it comes to deliveries what difference is there to Amazon between gas and electric delivery trucks, and second electric cars are better in every way, from acceleration to maintenance (the new Porsche Cayman electric is amazing). At that point private transportation creates no carbon. Who can object to that?

    At the same time both GM and Tesla plan to roll out driverless cars without human drivers this year. How amazing is that.

    These changes benefit humans, and result in reductions in carbon emissions. We should celebrate these, although there are downsides like the number one occupation for males with a H.S. degree is driving something.

    Other changes that are driven by ideology but result in little improvement in most citizens’ lives will get as little traction as before Covid-19.

    First this includes bikes, especially in a hilly, dark, scary, wet, cold city like Seattle. If around 2% regularly commute by bike in Seattle, let alone the rest of King Co., before Covid-19 expect 2% after.

    Second is inner-city transit. Before Covid-19 Uber/Lyft were killing transit in short trips, and that was before ride sharing apps were up and running. Same price with two, door to door, safer, faster, just a better product which is why ST and some cities like Seattle are trying to sabotage Uber/Lyft as they do with parking.

    Third is revenue allocation, both ST subarea equity and general revenue. I find it amazing that no one (except Ross) posts on The Urbanist the flaw in a West Seattle Tram: not everyone is going to downtown Seattle, although that is how Urbanists think.

    As Ross notes on The Urbanist, running light rail to West Seattle is a terrible idea, due to cost, density, topography, you name it, but ST thinks rail is the cure for all, and Urbanists think downtown Seattle is the center of the world.

    When Seattle is removed as the center of the world, and region, then things have to be rethought because Seattle’s revenue will decline pretty significantly (although overall throughout the region revenue will return to pre-Covid 19, , and so will Seattle’s ST subarea with a line still to run to Snohomish Co. (which I think makes less sense than a line to W. Seattle). With less revenue, and some pretty big unknowns when it comes to working from home, Uber/Lyft and their ride sharing apps, and driverless cars (including Uber/Lyft) the future of Seattle as the queen bee and transit emanating from Seattle is really questionable.

    Fourth is housing. Covid-19 will move citizens to larger dwellings, and already is, and will allow them to live in non-urban areas and still work. TOD or density will have to be all about affordability, except new construction is always the least affordable.

    Transit will survive since it has been around for over a century, but in what form I can’t really say. I just don’t ever see the Seattle (N. King Co.) ST subarea having the funding for all it promised in ST 3, from lines to W. Seattle, to the second transit tunnel, to lines to Ballard. The eastside subarea has the funds for a $4.5 billion line from Issaquah to S. Bellevue but it is a stupid idea today, let alone in 2041 when transportation won’t look anything like it does today. How driverless electric cars will affect transportation is also a huge unknown. Models I have seen suggest citizens will keep a monthly account and use driverless fleets of rental cars for close in trips, and will keep a private car for farther trips (which will free up garage space for living space).

    Finally, whether it is the Cascadia Vision, the PSRC’s 2050 Vision Statement, ST future ridership projections, or just Urbanism in general, they are all predicated on one principle: huge increases in regional population over the next 30 years.

    Personally I don’t see it, and the scary thing is if our regional population grows that dramatically so will many other areas around the country and world although some think Seattle is some kind of magical Xanadu, which means a continuing out of control world population growth which will destroy the planet, whether rural, urbanism or suburbanism, so transit or housing will be pretty irrelevant at that point.

    1. “Working from home will become permanent for about 20% to 35%”

      Finally a realistic prediction for teleworking, rather than implying it will definitely be the majority.

      Even if that many telework we’ll still need a robust all-day transit network, and the most effective kind for a region this size and with so many geographical barriers is rail-based. I’m talking about Link’s ST2 extent, not necessarily Everett and Tacoma.

      “Before Covid-19 Uber/Lyft were killing transit in short trips”

      It was reducing transit. “Killing” it is an overestimation because there were still people on the bus, and many Seattle routes were nearly full in parts of the midday. And if you were just going one or two stops and didn’t have a pass, it was always hard to justify paying a $2.75 fare.

      “running light rail to West Seattle is a terrible idea, due to cost, density, topography, you name it, but ST thinks rail is the cure for all”

      Objection. It was Seattle/King County politicians and West Seattle activists who convinced ST to prioritize West Seattle light rail so highly and not consider a BRT alternative. Without it, the natural progression would have been Ballard-downtown and Ballard-UW, and maybe Lake City (as part of a Northshore line, which would have been more justified in East King than Issaquah). And transit activists have been trying to get ST to acknowledge the need for a central Seattle eas-west line. That might have gotten more traction if the West Seattle elephant hadn’t been put ahead of everything else.

      “When Seattle is removed as the center of the world, and region”

      Downtown Seattle is still in the middle of Everett, Tacoma, and the Eastside. It’s a larger jobs center than all the others combined. Large, dense urban centers generate the largest number of transit trips. Partly because people will take transit to downtown or Seattle who won’t take it for other trips. So you can’t go very far in removing Seattle from the center of a transit network.

      And if you’re talking about the West Seattle and Ballard lines, those are all paid by North King. The size of ST3 was based on Everett and Paine Field as much as those Seattle lines. When ST offered its initial 15-year proposal to match the size of ST1 and 2, there was practically universal public demand to make it bigger, more so than any of ST’s other issues. Transit fans who usually support ST# were divided half and half, and if I recall STB even had an editorial against ST3 if it wasn’t bigger. Because the first proposal had West Seattle Link (politicians’ top priority) and a Ballard streetcar (completely inadequate). To get Ballard Link the package had to be bigger.

      “I just don’t ever see the Seattle (N. King Co.) ST subarea having the funding for all it promised in ST 3”

      If ST doesn’t have the revenue it will have to delay or defer. That’s not a major revelation. I agree that ST3 was packed really full, and Seattle really wants more than the minimal project specs, and there’s no money for those. And with the covid recession there may not even be enough money for the minimal specs. All that is being deliberated by ST and they’ll make a decision in good time.

      1. I agree going to work to get out of the house or advance a career will still be part of work, although perhaps at non peak times which will allow driving. The 20% to 35% reduction is a big deal when you compare it to future ST ridership increases.

        Although kill was probably too strong a term for the impact from Uber/Lyft they did account for 94 million miles in 2018 in Seattle alone, and I thought I read 175 million miles in 2019 for all of King Co. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/uber-lyft-boosted-car-travel-by-94-million-miles-in-seattle-last-year-study-says/ Driverless technology in 10 years could make them less expensive than transit for door to door transportation for an individual.

        My comment that running rail to West Seattle, at least at this time, made little sense was an echo of Ross’ post on The Urbanist, although I agree with it. Seattle has some very large infrastructure costs ahead, and some funding issues. Cost analysis is rarely a consideration by certain groups when it comes to Seattle transportation (and Tram proposals just make me shake my head). Just like Issaquah felt it needed a rail line to be a player on the eastside West Seattle and every other Seattle neighborhood feels they need a rail line to be a player, and I agree with you rail in Seattle is a much better mode or transportation, depending on cost of course. When it comes to Issaquah I think future transit or transportation will be better than a rail line, and much less expensive.

        It is true Seattle lies between Everett and Tacoma, but so does Bellevue. My comment was twofold: One, that working from home will decentralize all cities, at least as far as work; and two, Seattle has made some unfortunate decisions that will likely damage it when competing against Everett, Tacoma and Bellevue, which are competitors, not partners. This really was the vision of Urbanists, except not in the little cities and suburban areas outside the large cities, although it meets all the climate and other goals.

        Bellevue is doing everything it possibly can to lure Amazon from Seattle to Bellevue. Bellevue is the real competition because it also sits between Everett and Tacoma. But I think all three cities will likely see a reduction in revenue from working from home because those are the three main areas people commute to work at right now (and Microsoft). Mercer Island or Sammamish are not going to see a reduction of work commuters to those cities, because there are no commuters in, only out. The little cities where the commuters will live will benefit, and they will likely develop much better retail areas.

        I don’t see any of this as a negative. Electric cars, driverless technology, allowing workers to work from home unless they want to come into the office, decentralizing the big cities and the commute. Transit, especially non-commute transit, will be necessary, but maybe not with such peak loads, and more emphasis on long runs, not short runs. Cities like Seattle or Bellevue will have to deal with reduced tax revenue however they feel is necessary, and the voters approve. Like you said same with ST, although they seem to be vacillating back and forth on frequency.

      2. To clarify more on West Seattle, the Lynnwood Link Alternatives Analysis included a BRT alternative. West Seattle could have too, except those politicians and activists insisted that nothing less than light rail was acceptable. RossB has a good multi-line BRT proposal with a downtown bus tunnel. The BRT part might have gained more traction if the politicians hadn’t been so absolutist. A bus tunnel was probably out because of Everett and Tacoma, but a mixed rail-bus tunnel might have been a possibility. (Although I have reservations because buses slowed trains down the first time we tried it.)

        There are two other factors. One, the failed monorail to West Seattle and Ballard. That gave a sense that West Seattle deserved to be next in line. Two, a lot of current and former councilmembers and executives live in West Seattle, so they prioritized their own district.

        What makes a rail corridor more justified is the size of its urban villages. The three largest in Seattle are Center City, the U-District, and Northgate. The ones after that are Ballard-Fremont and Lake City. That’s why I prioritize those areas for rail. In the Eastside only downtown Bellevue, the Spring District, and downtown Redmond meet that. Downtown Kirkland might but it’s in such a difficult-to-serve location and there’s been mighty opposition to upzoning it or 108th. Renton has hardly an urban village, downtown is mostly big-box stores, and the eastern residential area is pretty car-dependent.

        405 could have been the main freeway, and some urbanists think it should be now, and we could downgrade I-5 to boulevards.

        “Seattle has made some unfortunate decisions that will likely damage it when competing against Everett, Tacoma and Bellevue”

        Are you referring to taxes and policing? To me they don’t matter much in the long term. If you’re referring to Seattle’s rezoning, well I support that. Bellevue has long been a competitor to Seattle. Everett and Tacoma aren’t really because they’re so far away. Many workers won’t tolerate going that far or living so far out, and they aren’t prestigious or wealthy like Bellevue is. So they’ll continue to struggle. Everett has a niche in heavy industrial though.

        The biggest transportation issue outside Seattle or King County is the huge imbalance in Snohomish County. Some 70% of Snohomans work in King County, and a large number of people also go the other way to places like Boeing. So Snohomish is focusing heavily on increasing its jobs base in Lynnwood, Everett, Marysville, and north Bothell so that more of its residents can both live and work in the county. This will be a good thing when it’s accomplished. Unfortunately Snohomish is putting too much faith in Everett/Paine Link to accomplish this, when it’s really a larger issue. It goes beyond the Link corridor and the kinds of companies Everett might be able to lure from downtown Seattle.

        Two promising Link nodes are Northgate and Lynnwood. These have the potential for a huge expansion of jobs and housing near Link, that tends to be forgotten in the debates about Everett, Tacoma, etc. I also think Link between Snohomish and North Seattle will become a major hit.

        Peak hours might flatten out as they’re doing now with covid. That would be a good thing, because it’s less expensive to serve a flat demand throughout the day than to have such huge peaks eight hours apart. But the corollary is we need a robust all-day network. That means a rail-based core running every 10 minutes at least. Metros that have that have more effective transportation than metros that don’t.

        The push for West Seattle Link is based on the unfulfilled promise of the Monorail and because a disproportionate number of politicians live there. Issaquah, Federal Way, Tacoma, and Everett are because they don’t want to get left behind economically. They have a somewhat accurate fear that if other cities get light rail and the don’t, it will be hard for them to attract companies and residents and a bigger tax base, and that in a worst-case scenario they’d become the future slums. But we could counteract that with high-quality BRT to those areas. It’s not so much that people won’t ever take a bus, it’s that they don’t believe buses can be guaranteed high quality, because every attempt so far has been far less than that. The successful ones are outside the US and most people don’t know they exist.

      3. If West Seattle got BRT instead of rail, we’d still have the 2nd tunnel because the 2nd tunnel has nothing to do with West Seattle. The 2nd tunnel solves a downtown capacity issue, and length-of-line operational issue, and provides subways service to Denny, SLU, and LQA. The fact that it then serves Ballard rather than Fremont or Aurora or whatever is great but secondary. If Ross’s arguments got traction during ST3 planning, I think we would have ended up with West Seattle BRT to open alongside Stride but still ended up with Ballard Link & a 2nd tunnel. The future bus tunnel may have been funded through design, as I think Mike is correct that a shared tunnel would have had enough operational objections from ST staff it wouldn’t have gone through.

        On fact I’d quibble with Mike on is ‘north Seattle pays for Ballard’ is only strictly true for the Ballard segment. For the full WSBLE project, the segment between ID and Westlake is a regional asset whose cost is split among all subareas.

      4. I don’t think West Seattle BRT without buses in a tunnel is politically possible. People would say, “We want something faster than the status quo.”

        Yes, all subareas are paying for DSTT2.

      5. A bus tunnel was probably out because of Everett and Tacoma.

        Why would they care?

        I realize that ST is planning on splitting the line, but the plan all along was to run a line from Everett to Tacoma (that was in ST1). It was never to have two overlapping lines. That was a bonus, of sorts, that came from Ballard to West Seattle. If they built a bus tunnel (or simply didn’t build anything) then folks would still have their rail from Tacoma to Everett. With plenty of turnbacks (at SoDo, Northgate, etc.) the same sort of thing could be achieved without asking drivers to stay on the train a long time.

        It was Seattle/King County politicians and West Seattle activists who convinced ST to prioritize West Seattle light rail so highly and not consider a BRT alternative.

        That is a distinction without a difference. That is like saying the U. S. didn’t invade Iraq; it was only Cheney, who lied and falsified documents to stir up the case for war. What your saying is true — but what I wrote is true as well. Remember, the head of Sound Transit at the time was also a resident of West Seattle. The Sound Transit board, for whatever reason, preferred rail and the public was not given the opportunity to support a BRT alternative that included a bus tunnel. They did have a “BRT” option, but it involved buses running on the surface through downtown, which meant that it of course would have been slow, and of course was unpopular. If ST had studied a BRT option, then it is quite possible it would have bubbled to top, as it offered the best chance for a widespread improvement in transit (not only for West Seattle, but for the Aurora corridor as well).

        Of course the board could have simply asked consultants for options. This is what any responsible board would have done. Propose a budget, and ask them to come up with the most cost effective plans for the region. Measure them on a a few metrics (ridership per dollar spend, time saved per dollar spent, etc.). My guess is you wound have seen very little rail (since we’re in the process of finishing our most cost effective piece) and a lot of bus improvements. It is quite likely they would have rejected West Seattle rail, and said it was inappropriate simply because it is so expensive, and offers so little compared to open BRT.

        Of course what was true in West Seattle was true in Kirkland. Hard to blame Kirkland for that, either, since they hired their own consultant, who recommended BRT (not rail) on the CKC, but ST rejected that idea, so now Kirkland has rail to a parking garage on the outskirts of town.

      6. Everett & Tacoma are relevant because they are picking up a share of the 2nd tunnel. If it was a bus tunnel, North King would have to pay for the entire tunnel on its own. This may have been doable with no rail to either Ballard or WS. I agree ST could have split the line and had a stub to Georgetown or something instead of West Seattle.

        I don’t think consultant studies would have made a difference. I can sneeze and find a consultant who will tell me BRT will solve all my problems at half the cost. West Seattle fixed on rail because they didn’t want to get screwed by a mediocre BRT line. That’s their reason, and no study is going to fix that. A BRT line in the region that actually deliveries the speed and reliability of rail (not simply comparable ridership) could be persuasive, so I suppose the bus advocates could have flown Dow down to Bogotá to change his mind.

        Kirkland is a good analog to WS. They had a good BRT plan, and it didn’t get traction with ST. Thankfully, Kirkland-Issaquah is far enough out that I think there’s is still enough runway from that project to come back to BRT, particularly if there is a re-imagined ST4 in 2024~2028.

      7. “A bus tunnel was probably out because of Everett and Tacoma.” –“Why would they care?”

        Because a “bus tunnel” implies no tunnel for trains. I can’t see ST building two new tunnels downtown in the same round, so if it’s a bus tunnel rather than a hybrid tunnel there would be no tunnel for trains. And Everett, Tacoma, and Ballard would allegedly bust the capacity of DSTT1, or at least come so close to it it would be a danger. You don’t believe that but people in power do… the ones who make the decisions what to put in ST3. A hybrid tunnel wouldn’t have that problem (although it would have other problems), but then it wouldn’t be called a bus tunnel.

        Yes, some West Seattle residents were on the ST board. But the biggest factor in ST alignments is ST deferring to cities. That was ST’s default posture and is difficult for others to persuade ST differently, so that’s the reason we got West Seattle Link and so little consideration of a BRT alternative.

    2. “Large, dense urban centers generate the largest number of transit trips.”

      Compared to any other single area, not compared to the entire rest of the network.

      1. Well, it depends on where you draw the lines. But New York generates about a third of all transit trips. Like all cities, most of the transit trips occur within the city. But is all New York dense? Compared to what?

        Another example is the Bay Area. This is a huge, sprawling area with somewhere around 7 million people (depending on how you measure it). Now you get into the big question: What do you call the urban center? Downtown San Fransisco? Just San Fransisco itself? San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley?

        It gets very tricky. I’m sure you could draw some lines based on population and employment data, and do a detailed analysis. But personally, I would start with San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley (what I consider to be the urban core, even though obviously it includes suburban areas, like the Oakland hills). Now look at the numbers:

        Muni Buses: 500,000
        Muni Trains: 160,000
        San Fransisco Heritage Streetcars and Cablecars: 40,000
        AC Transit (East Bay): 215,000
        VTA (San Jose): 92,000
        SamTrans: 41,000
        BART: 420,000
        CalTrain: 65,095
        Other Commuter Rail: 20,000
        Ferries: 17,000

        San Fransisco seems to dominate. Without BART, it would make up more than half the ridership. Meanwhile, East Bay dominates the rest. Now consider that trips from San Fransisco, Berkeley and Oakland make up more than half the trips on BART. Clearly those are the areas that make up more than half the transit trips, and it is quite likely that San Fransisco — just San Fransisco — makes up more than half.

        Obviously San Fransisco does not make up the majority of the trips in the region. It just that in the suburbs (or secondary cities), folks are driving, while the people in the city are taking transit. Even if it is extremely slow — they are taking it.

        I’m sure you could do the same analysis pretty much everywhere. Large, dense urban centers really do seem to generate the largest number of transit trips.

      2. I was talking about one urban center, not an entire city. I.e,., something the size of the U-District, or at most Pinoeer Square to South Lale Union. And I was talking about Pugetopolis, not the entire world. Manhattan is so big that’s it’s not really useful to call it an urban center. If you can’t walk across it in an hour, then it’s something else. A megacenter or something.

      3. I think what primarily matters is job density. NYC has immense job density in Manhattan, which supports good transit mode share even into low density suburbs. LA has decent residential density but weak jobs density, which means outside of the CBD transit mode share is minimal.

        If Seattle converted all SF to townhomes & low rise apartments, but jobs drifted out to the fringes, transit mode share would drop. If population growth accelerates outside of Seattle but we continue to focus job growth into Seattle and Bellevue CBDs, transit mode share will go up.

        Good residential density supports 15 minute cities and will boost the walking & biking trips, but if the jobs are elsewhere then VMT will still be high. This is most obvious in small, walkable exburbs, where everyone owns a car to commute to work elsewhere.

        Alon Levy writes about this frequently, including a recent post:
        https://pedestrianobservations.com/2020/10/22/job-sprawl-as-deurbanization/

        Just looking at density doesn’t show the complete story. For example on the east side, job growth along East Link, and particularly around the Bellevue TC, should support great transit mode share. But job growth in downtown Kirkland, while a dense neighborhood, is hard to serve by transit, and job growth along Willows road is clearly suburban, so both would have relatively job mode share.

        So the specifics matter on if our non-Seattle growth will support a polycentric city as the PSRC’s growth plans intend, or a weakly centered region like LA

      4. I was talking about one urban center, not an entire city.

        That is what I was getting it. You have to define your terms, otherwise the statement is meaningless. San Fransisco covers less than 10% of the Bay Area. It isn’t a big stretch to call it “the urban center”, given that it makes up such a tiny part of the region. Yet this tiny area (roughly 49 square mile) has about half the transit trips.

        I tend to use the term “urban center”, which would include Oakland and Berkeley as well. For what you are referring to it is “Central Business District” or just “downtown”. No matter what, though, any discussion is likely to include trying to hammer out the terms, since they are so vague.

      5. If Seattle converted all SF to townhomes & low rise apartments, but jobs drifted out to the fringes, transit mode share would drop.

        If the jobs drifted out to the fringes, then the housing would as well. That is what happened in Detroit, and it is what Alon was getting at in that post. It is tough to have a vibrant, dense city if all the jobs are outside it.

        But Levy also emphasizes the importance of centralized employment for transit in general. I think this is exaggerated, especially with L. A. It is easy to find statistics that support the importance of centralized employment to transit in the U. S., but that is because the U. S. focuses so much on commuting. Even though commuting makes up less than half the transit trips, that is what the government measures.

        While L. A. struggles because the jobs are so spread out, so too is the housing. There is density, but no highly concentrated area that would (or should) provide the bulk of transit ridership the way that San Fransisco has. San Fransisco has about 880,000 people in it, and the transit systems that never leave the city carry about 700,000. Some of that are people from outside moving around in the city, but some BART users never leave the city as well. Region wide, those trips from outside to downtown make up a teeny tiny part of the transit ridership, while the trips inside the city make up roughly half.

        The point being, if downtown San Fransisco suddenly had half the employment, but San Fransisco magically stayed the same (or continued to increase density) then there would be a drop in transit use. But It would be felt mostly with the commuter lines — services that make up a tiny portion of the overall ridership. It is hard to see how that would dominate Muni, given that most trips on Muni are clearly not employment based. The same is true for Seattle. If Seattle converted all SF to townhomes & low rise apartments, but downtown Seattle lost a good share of its jobs to the suburbs, it is highly likely that transit ridership would go up (although increased density with a loss of employment would be a strange situation; that is rare, if not unheard of).

      6. I think I’d argue that if Seattle added residential density but lost job density, we’d see more transit trips within Seattle but also higher VMT and more vehicle congestion, both within Seattle and throughout the region. I agree it would be a bizarre outcome.

        Would Dallas be an example of a city that is growing in density but losing its share of employment to the suburbs?
        I wouldn’t classify San Jose as dense, but it continues to add population while most job growth occurs in adjacent cities.

      7. “You have to define your terms, otherwise the statement is meaningless.”

        OK, sorry. I was using the term urban center in the sense Seattle does, for the largest urban villages, and what the PSRC calls “regional growth centers”. Seattle has three levels of urban villages. The urban centers are greater downtown, the U-District, and Northgate. Hub urban villages are those like Mt Baker and Westwood Village that are expected to eventually have office buildings or an institution like a college. Neighborhood urban villages are small ones like Beacon Hill, that are not expected to have office buildings or midrise.

        My contention is that urban centers in this sense generate the most ridership to/from them, and that it’s related to their size. Certainly for the Seattle ones, downtown Bellevue, the Spring District, Lynnwood, etc. Isolated speculative ones are less certain (Totem Lake, Issaquah, Federal Way) — I’ll believe it when I see it. So the comparison is to San Francisco’s downtown and similar neighborhoods in the East Bay. The boundaries of centers are where density drops. Manhattan’s density doesn’t drop below 7-10 stories for several miles from Wall Street, so it’s too large to consider it a center like the others, it’s more like a whole city. The city of most of Manhattan.

    3. The PSRC’s past population projections have been pretty accurate. The changes stemming from covid and remote working and preparing for future pandemics are a real curve ball, nobody knows what the impact on long-term population growth will be. So the most prudent response is to assume at least 80% of the PSRC projection will be fulfilled. If the trajectory ends up being much lower in five years, we can adjust then.

      Pugetoplis is one of the few parts of the country that will be most liveable with climate change, and we have more water and hydropower than many part of the country, those mountains and waterways are still beautiful and close, and we’re still on the Pacific Rim and closest to Japan and China. All those will continue to be long-term attractors of population growth. There’s been no indication yet that they will stop, so we should plan for the likely influx so we don’t end up with an even bigger crisis of lack of housing and infrastructure. Again, if the trajectory turns out substantially lower than expected, we can make adjustments in five or ten years.

  6. Not many Americans know this, but Belgium, Flanders, Dutch, Flemish, Swiss, Holland, and The Netherlands are all just one county, but just have many different names. Sort of like there’s America and the USA.

    1. Belgium and Holland/Netherlands are not the same country; they don’t even speak a common language. Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands. Belgium has several regions (like Flanders) that speak different languages with Dutch being a very small portion. French is the most common with English being the “common” language. Brussels is the capital of Belgium. Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Prior to the Euro they had their own currency.

      1. Amsterdam is the capital but all of the government leaders, their Supreme Court and their Council of State are in De Hague.

        The king’s residence is located Wassenaar but the plan is to move him and his family to a palace in the De Hague in the future.

        The palace in Amsterdam is only used for special occasions like welcoming leaders of other countries and each year on May 5th there is a ceremony in front the palace to remember the victims of World War Two.

      2. Interesting, I always assumed the International Court of Justice was in De Hague because it was a neutral city. Next you’re going to tell me that Tel Aviv isn’t the capital of Israel ;-)

  7. if you were to try to implement something like this in Seattle, you might start by demolishing the West Seattle Bridge
    The W Seattle Br is hardly central to anything. We have something like this in Seattle, the UW main campus. We did have a chance to implement something like this with the removal of the viaduct. But the rebuilt Alaskan way is all about moving cars. Until Seattle is willing to implement cordon tolling I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    1. I found the West Seattle Bridge comment to be a total non-sequitur. Ghent’s concept is akin to closing off an existing dense pedestrian area like Pioneer Square or Capitol Hill or UW, and not a highway link though a port and warehouse district.

      1. The Ghent Centrum area (where cars are restricted) is much bigger for a city that is much smaller. It would be like closing off all of downtown. Or, given our bigger size, it would be like closing off downtown, Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, First Hill and Capitol Hill. So the northern border would be Mercer and the southern border Jackson. The eastern border would likely zig-zag, including and excluding various neighborhoods, but basically around 12th.

        It is a bit of a stretch to say that the West Seattle freeway is relevant in such a discussion. If anything, the West Seattle freeway could play a part in that big ring around (greater) downtown where cars are restricted. SR 99 actually makes sense, as it lacks downtown exits (although the northern exits don’t make sense, they would have to be pushed northward, to Mercer). Likewise, all I-5 ramps would be restricted (no cars without permits, like in the Centrum).

        The West Seattle Bridge only deserves mention in the broader sense. As soon as West Seattle Link is here, no buses will use the new bridge. Does it make sense to spend a fortune fixing a bridge if the city is going to dramatically reduce driving (like Ghent did)? I’m not sure, but I think the case for a full rebuild is extremely weak. Fixing it would mean that the buses could use the bridge until Link gets there. It means that at some later date (forty years from now) folks have to make that decision again, knowing that the bridge is only going to be used by cars. At that point, the lower bridge could be opened up (no sense in having a transit lane if there is no transit). Maybe that lower bridge is expanded a bit which would likely be way cheaper than replacing the upper bridge (especially since at some point, other parts of that bridge are likely to need replacing). It seems crazy for West Seattle to live with just the small bridge, but that is merely what folks are used to. The lower bridge becomes a lot like the Ballard bridge — not ideal for driving, but something folks just live with. There are several huge projects that were proposed for years, that we managed to live without. Freeways seem essential, until people adjust, and then you wonder what all the fuss was about.

    2. Yes, the West Seattle bridge has little to do with a bike network or Ghent’s renovation. The Duwamish River is wider than Ghent’s canals and the west side is high up a cliff. The bridge is more of a major transportation corridor like the Lake Washington bridges or maybe those between Germany and Scandinavia.

      Visions of a bike network are mostly in central Seattle and extending north and South. West Seattle might have a separate smaller bike network because there wouldn’t be as much demand on the steep hills. There’s an existing bike path on the low bridge, and while it might be moderately expanded, the east end is miles away from any non-industrial neighborhood and the west end requires going up the huge steep hill to almost all neighborhoods, so expanding it is low priority.

      By the way, is there any kind of bicycle lift which might be worthwhile on the west side?

      1. It’s admittedly not popular to mention, but I remain interested in the viability of level-floor funiculars on the ground or on aerial structures around Seattle. Tops on my list is from Pioneer Square Station to Harborview (Jefferson St). One huge benefit is for facilitating bicycling up hills — and I’m amazed that the idea hasn’t been on the radar screen of the bicycle advocates.

        While their popularity was huge 100 years ago, support waned for them. It’s ironic because they are great for meeting the spirit of ADA and expanding the places where bicyclists can easy go.

        Two West Seattle applications come to mind — Water Taxi to Admiral and South Seattle College to somewhere. Of course it seems more viable on other hills around Seattle.

      2. I recall a system of escalators inside DT Seattle buildings that took you up the hill. It was semi-private. I haven’t used this in decades but presume it still exists? Public support of new infrastructure could include a bike gutter that makes it easier to take a bike up an escalator.

      3. Yes, the escalator/elevator network is now on the downtown accessibility map, and is the recommended way to ascend the steep hills if you can’t walk them. But it’s only available weekedays from 8 to 5, so there’s no solution at other times.

      4. I like the idea of a bicycle lift to circumvent the hills…
        Link is overkill for WS, aerial gondola would be so much more appropriate, costs a lot less and would make a fine bicycle lift.

      5. Around the waterfront there are some public elevators. You are right, they could use some towards the south end of downtown. Elevators work best when you have a cliff, not just a steep hill. The freeway also messes everything up. An elevator next to the Yesler Terrace Hill Climb seems possible, but I don’t see many other good possibilities.

    1. Wasn’t there a proposal pre-Covid from the owner of the Ferris wheel to build a tram from the waterfront to 6th and Pine next to the convention center. I think it was mostly tourist oriented though.

      1. Yes. It would have been privately funded. It was mainly intended as a parking shuttle for the waterfront during all the viaduct teardown and road and park building. The public mostly opposed it because it would have done hardly anything for our overall transit needs, and the thought of giving pubic sidewalk space to a private elevated tram that didn’t address our major transit needs seemed like too much.

    1. That’s wild. It reminds of mods and rockers (let’s hope they don’t have street fights with bike riders, although maybe that could lead to some great music).

  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do7epBepl8U

    Early, accurate, and lasting verdict on “Working from Home”, Daniel. It was what young people, a lot of them from Scotland, staged The Industrial Revolution to liberate themselves from.

    Filth, poverty, and serious ever-present danger. Horses and cows killed a lot more of their human handlers than machines ever did. For a teenaged rural boy, no worse tyrant than his father. For a girl, no wickeder queen than her mother as she worked HER self to death. And above it all, lifelong boredom only relievable by an early demise.

    Well, it’s a good thing that Home’s Where The Heart Is. Because what’s going to happen on the western side of Washington State, and the parts of British Columbia, Oregon, and California stacked alongside it, is this.

    Abetted by the trade-schools already training elevator-techs here, young people will start incorporating and organizing their own work-places as part of a decades-overdue Movement to once again start designing and, with their own hands making, the things that have proven so wastefully misbegotten to either import or just assemble.

    CAD (not the non- Gentleman with a mustache, but Computer-Assisted Design) will see to it that they complete their work-life with all their fingers still attached as they turn out the tram-cars whose Issaquah tracks they will also both laid out and lay down.

    From workplaces that vary between home, a variety of espresso-places including Mercer Island Link station, and their train-seat’s tray-table crossing the Oregon line at 90.

    The realm of Lyfft-Centered Uberia, mite early for a final call. But considering the number of lethal variables in location, position, speed, angle, and stopping distance to which every wheeled thing not contained in an elevator shaft is heir, wrongful death settlements alone will give the Cars to the Kids hands-on. Us drivers’ primal software’s had a lot more Releases than anything written by Elon.

    Animal Rights question too. How does the average dog feel about having their Home become a Workplace? Your cat on the other hand will not only go online to rent you work-space where it doesn’t interfere with naps and yarn-balls, but also notify your every client that they’re keeping you under close supervision.

    Fads have their lifespans. What’s it been since COVID, six months? Based on the Dreadful Seventies, won’t be long ’til no Worker can resist bringing Home bell-bottoms for a uniform.

    Mark Dublin

  9. For the West Seattle bridge, why isn’t there a “repair, built Link, remove” option? Once Link is in service, can SDOT just pivot to remove rather than replace the car bridge? Probably need to invest in car capacity elsewhere in SW Seattle, but nothing of the magnitude of the freeway bridge?

    1. To me, that’s what option 2 is about. It is by far the cheapest. It buys us 40 years, more or less. By then West Seattle will have Link. At that point, we can revisit the whole thing and decide whether it makes sense to rebuild that big bridge, or rebuild the smaller one. We will also have a good idea of the lifespan of other parts of the freeway by then, such as the viaduct west of there, which will likely be nearing their age limit. Expanding the lower bridge becomes a sensible option — much cheaper than fixing the big bridge.

      The case for the bigger bridge is a lot weaker than it was in the early 80s. Back then, the bottleneck was in West Seattle itself. Now the capacity of the bridge is largely unused. Traffic builds up getting to I-5, which means it really doesn’t matter that the bridge has all those lanes. Two lanes each way and traffic would move just as well (and that can easily be achieved with an expansion of the lower bridge).

      Furthermore, the expansion of the lower bridge could happen while the upper bridge is still operating. That is far less disruptive.

  10. I think they will be able to repair it. If not, they should build Link or a gondola and build a smaller bridge. Sometimes its still nice to drive a car to the mountains…

    1. Right, but the critique of the repairs is a need to replace the bridge in a 20~35 year time-frame, rather than 75 years for a replacement. To me, that’s a benefit, because in ~20 years, we’ll have WS Link and a 2nd tunnel, removing most of the need for a car high bridge, allowing the eventually replacement to be a low bridge with less lanes.

      1. The city really only has the money for repair right now, and actual WS residents don’t want to wait the extra time for a new bridge, although the estimated construction time has apparently declined. Like most citizens WS residents prefer to drive, and as Ross notes where is the density or first/last mile access for rail (let alone the grade for rail. WS’s demand for a rail line was all about ego.

        I also don’t know that the Seattle ST subarea has the funds to run rail to WS right now, or the capacity in a single transit tunnel. Or the funds for Seattle’s 1/2 of a second transit tunnel. I would think all intra city rail lines have been Pushed several years out due to the pandemic and likely recession. I think this decision is where the rubber meets the road, and Seattleites have to get real about money. I would want to at least see the vote on transit first.

        The reality is in 20 years light rail for intra city runs may be obsolete. Uber/Lyft was really cutting into intra city transit in 2019. WS has little density and no park and ride capacity (like the eastside).

        If I were the mayor or ST I would focus on completing the lines to Tacoma and Everett to convince Snohomish and Pierce Counties to not pull out, that Seattleites are not insane with ideology, and that the Seattle subarea has the money and discipline to complete those lines. These lines will tie the north/south corridor together, and long rail lines will have little competition in the future like intra city transit will.

      2. “The reality is in 20 years light rail for intra city runs may be obsolete.”

        Did you never ride the 71/72/73X? That was the UDistrict-downtown expresses. They were melting down trying to keep up with demand, and they kept getting stuck in traffic on I-5 and Eastlake. The 41 is now getting stuck in traffic all afternoon, even in the diminished covid traffic. Link will never be obsolete between central and north Seattle. And as I said, it will be a sleeper hit between north Seattle and Lynnwood. And no slouch between Seattle and Bellevue.

        “Uber/Lyft was really cutting into intra city transit in 2019”

        Metro was breaking ridership records in 2019. Link’s tremendous growth after U-Link’s opening may have slowed down but it didn’t stop. So where do you think Uber/Lyft cutting into intra city transit occurred? There may have been a significant number of transit to Uber defections, but other riders replaced them. And “cutting into” implies something like a 20% drop. Nowhere in Metro or Link got that before the abnormalities of covid.

        I don’t even know how to respond to your fantasy about Seattle saying “finish Everett and Tacoma first”, or appeasing them so they don’t withdraw, or that Seattle should prove its discipline for them. ST has the power to defer everything except the spine, but if it does it will be an arbitrary decision based on spine-first values.

      3. Daniel, I agree, covid forces cost control. ST should focus on the spine and WS Link will get pushed out. Once the 2nd tunnel gets built, it might make more sense to run Link through Georgetown and South Park as ST and SeattleSubway suggested. In the meantime, I suggest an aerial gondola up from ID to WS which costs a tenth of LR! LR is just too expensive for WS ridership.

      4. I agree AJ. I think the obvious solution is option number 2. It is cheaper, and gets the bridge fixed a lot sooner. When it needs to be repaired, the situation in the region will be different. Folks will have an alternative (Link) and be more amenable to other options, like expanding the lower bridge. Oh, and by then the lower bridge won’t have buses on it (and neither will the upper bridge).

      5. I also don’t know that the Seattle ST subarea has the funds to run rail to WS right now, or the capacity in a single transit tunnel.

        Seattle is in good financial shape. So is the East Side. The big problems lie to the north and south.

        I think it makes more sense to build a bus tunnel, rather than light rail to West Seattle, but it is highly unlikely that will happen. Light rail will be built to West Seattle, like it or not.

        But let’s assume you are right, and they either build a bus tunnel, or don’t build anything, because everyone runs out of money. So what? If we repair the bridge, it still buys us time, and means that cars (and buses) can get on the bridge sooner. It just means that we deal with the issue in the future. At that point, it doesn’t make much sense to say that we can’t afford what we said we were going to build (rail to West Seattle) but we can afford to build a brand new six lane freeway.

      6. ST should focus on the spine and WS Link will get pushed out.

        West Seattle Link is not a great value, but the spine is much worse. Furthermore, Seattle will pay for West Seattle, while the northern and southern parts of the spine will be paid for by areas with bigger financial problems.

        Once the 2nd tunnel gets built, it might make more sense to run Link through Georgetown and South Park as ST and SeattleSubway suggested.

        Wait, what? You think Georgetown and South Park make better stops than West Seattle? Come on, man. Again, West Seattle isn’t great. It isn’t even good. But Georgetown and South Park would be extremely bad values.

        In the meantime, I suggest an aerial gondola up from ID to WS which costs a tenth of LR! LR is just too expensive for WS ridership.

        The problem is, a gondola would be slower than just taking the bus *now* (over the lower bridge). Folks don’t seem to be getting that. By all means, it is better if the bus goes on the upper bridge. But the delay faced by the buses is minimal. The big sacrifice is for regular drivers. They are the ones asked to drive well out of their way (https://goo.gl/maps/p9CAyZEp5xwgGxCSA) whereas bus riders have a straight shot (https://goo.gl/maps/5SP8QQoW8ziTQhSP8).

        There are places in Seattle where a gondola makes sense. West Seattle is not one of those places.

      7. The reality is in 20 years light rail for intra city runs may be obsolete

        Mass transit works best in dense, urban areas. Mass transit to connect cities is more challenging, and where you tend to have issues.

        This explains why DART, for example, which connects Dallas with Forth Worth, has such low ridership. In contrast Muni Metro — which never leaves San Fransisco (a relatively small city by size) — has such high ridership (even though it is extremely slow).

        Density and proximity are the keys to transit success, especially mass transit. This won’t change.

      8. “There are places in Seattle where a gondola makes sense. West Seattle is not one of those places.”

        Ross, can you elaborate? A gondola ride from Junction to ID (https://photos.app.goo.gl/xcRdN58bWLoKkY6G7) would only take 20min and NO wait time whereas the C-line takes 30min and can get stuck in traffic whereas a gondola would not. It would stop at SoDo to connect to Rainier Valley, the airport, and Tacoma which currently is difficult for WS.
        You can still run BRT along Delridge and California Ave to feed into it.

      9. “ST should focus on the spine and WS Link will get pushed out.”

        That’s one strategy. Daniel seems to want ST to decide on an austerity strategy immediately, and for STB to draft an austerity budget in the meantime and debate what should be cut. What’s currently happening is, ST has been getting revenue estimates this year, paused pre-construction projects, and is getting ready to debate a strategy over the next year. It has released a default strategy of delaying all ST3 projects by 5 years. Any attempt at non-uniform cuts would face severe opposition from the receiving subareas, and ST’s power strucutre is a balance of subareas, so it can only be decided by all of them together in an extended deliberation. So let’s give them time for that. The debt ceiling is not imminent, it’s in the late 2020s for a few years, so it’s not like a decision must be made immediately.

        “Once the 2nd tunnel gets built, it might make more sense to run Link through Georgetown and South Park as ST and SeattleSubway suggested.”

        That’s beyond the scope of what voters approved. ST must complete all voter-approved projects and have money left over before it can spend it on non-voter-approved ones. Switching to Georgetown would require a new vote. And who would it benefit? South King County and Pierce. Those subareas are decidedly not interested in it. ST’s long-range plan in 2014 had a Georgetown bypass. It was deleted in 2015 and neither South King nor Pierce said one word to defend it that I heard. So they aren’t interested in it. The only benefit to North King is stations in Georgetown and Spokane Street. There’s not enough population there to build a Link line just for them. Especially when 45th and Lake City still have no Link lines.

      10. Oh, and ST can only build things in its long-range plan. So before it builds Georgetown it would have to re-add it to its long-range plan. That would raise a question about priorities. The Ballard-UW and Lake City/Bothell lines are in the long-range plan so why isn’t ST focusing on those first? It just declared the Georgetown line unimportant in 2015, but five years later it’s important again, and more important than those others?

      11. My proposal would be for ST to build an aerial gondola instead of Link using ST3 funds, it can transport 4500pph which would be sufficient to meet ST3’s target of 32,000-37,000/day but would cost a fraction and therefore could be built sooner rather than later.
        If you don’t live near a station, take a bus to Junction/Avalon/Delridge and transfer. You don’t lose much transfer time as it runs continuously.

  11. I agree with Ross, except I think completing the lines/spines to Everett and Tacoma are politically important to ST. If either Pierce or Snohomish Counties pulled out of ST it would be a big political hit. Plus in the future longer rail lines, IMO, will be the most popular transit, and very hard for any other form of transit or transportation to compete with, certainly on cost and congestion. Mike might also be correct that the line from Lynnwood to Everett will be very popular. It is unfortunate that ST did not better define its subareas so Snohomish Co. paid more for the line to Snohomish Co.

    I can’t find any justification for a light rail line to West Seattle, which requires a new bridge. Certainly not at this time. I think if Seattle decided to replace the bridge right now with a new bridge with light rail the cost would make some think Seattle is not being realistic about current finances, or its other infrastructure needs, and of course other neighborhoods like Ballard would object, or demand their rail line earlier, with all the bells and whistle (or tunnel) if W. Seattle gets a new bridge to include rail.

    If rail is going to run to W. Seattle, a future line is probably better because I don’t think W. Seattle residents will agree to a new bridge that reduces car capacity, at least not now (and think residents of Vashon Island would object to restricting car capacity.

    The biggest issue for a tram IMO is for anyone not living in W. Seattle they would be standing in the ID wondering why in the world would I take a tram to W. Seattle (unless you were a tourist, and if you were a tourist when you got there you would wonder why did they run a tram here). There is nothing in W. Seattle not available in the ID or Seattle if you don’t live in W. Seattle, and what would you do when you got off the Tram — W. Seattle is a big neighborhood with lots of hills. West Seattle residents have gotten use to driving to get anywhere, and see themselves as a somewhat “rural” residential neighborhood in Seattle, so I am not sure a tram or rail line based on future TOD is what they want now if it means reducing car capacity. But I don’t live there.

    1. There are quite a lot of recent apartment buildings along Avalon and Junction area. I bet they would love to get a fast and reliable transit option. Once you get to ID, you have plenty of options: Link, buses, street car, or you hop on a scooter to get downtown. There is also rumor about another tech hub next to the stadium.

    2. “completing the lines/spines to Everett and Tacoma are politically important to ST.”

      40% of the board are in those subareas, and will advocate to protect those subareas from cuts. They will produce arguments about how important the Tacoma and Everett extensions are to the region, how they and Bellevue/Redmond are the raison d’etre for Link and promised throughout the ST 1/2/3 votes, and how long travel time to Seattle is from them and the horrible traffic jams so they really need it, and how they need it to attract employers to their counties.

      However, those are the same subareas whose voters are most lukewarm about Link, who voted for I-976 the most, and who have talked about withdrawing from ST. One of the Pierce boardmembers (Peel?) said that if ST can’t finish Tacoma Dome on time, he’d look at withdrawing Pierce from ST. That’s a different argument than you hear from public activists. They never liked ST or its taxes from the beginning, so their current withdraw rhetoric is just more of the same.

      “Mike might also be correct that the line from Lynnwood to Everett will be very popular. ”

      I said Lynnwood to North Seattle. And more generally Snohomish to North Seattle. I don’t believe Lynnwood to Everett will be well used because it’s so much of a driving culture up there, and more resistance to bus+Link transfers. People may take bus+Link to Seattle, but they’re less likely to take bus+Link between Lynnwood and Everett.

      “It is unfortunate that ST did not better define its subareas so Snohomish Co. paid more for the line to Snohomish Co.”

      I don’t know what this means. Are you talking about the total size of the ST subarea? Snohomish has the smallest part of its urbanized area in ST, with fast-growing Marysville out, Lake Stevens out, and Highway 9 and Monroe out. King County is in the middle, with Issaquah in but Covington and Maple Valley out. Pierce has the most: it has a whopping amount of exurban sprawl land including Spanaway and Orting. So in that sense, Snohomish is ignoring some of its long-term transit needs, and Pierce is being pulled down by all the no voters in southeast Pierce.

      I would prefer multi-line BRT for West Seattle, with lines similar to the C, 21, 120 (H), and something to Admiral and Alki. With a large amount of transit/BAT lanes to make them faster, and always high frequency. The problem with Link in West Seattle is 90% of the residents are not within walking distance of stations, and the distance from downtown is such that adding a transfer for 15 minutes of travel doesn’t seem much better than just sending the buses to downtown. It’s not like the UDistrict-downtown corridor that’s so busy it can’t run enough buses without them bunching.

      1. Currently the buses already get stuck in the morning getting onto 99 and getting into downtown. That may be fine if you go downtown, but if you want to head towards Bellevue or Rainier Valley and airport, then you lose a lot of time transferring downtown as the tunnel is deep. A gondola transfer at ID or SoDo would really speed this up.
        Also, if you go multi line BRT, I think the headways during off-hours will be unappealing, feeders across WS could run more frequently.

  12. Who would pay for the tram, and how would other W. Seattle residents who don’t live within walking distance access the tram? If I lived in W. Seattle within walking distance of a tram, and worked in downtown Seattle or just wanted to get something to eat in the ID or attend a Seahawks or Mariners game a tram would be cool, but probably not very efficient transit for the number of riders it would handle. That means it would have to be privately funded, which means it would be very expensive to ride.

    I think W. Seattle residents will object to a reduction in car capacity whether the bridge is rebuilt or repaired. After that the question what is the best transit option(s). Probably bus in the next decade or two.

  13. Mercer Island city council votes to move forward with lawsuit against Sound Transit for violating the 2017 settlement agreement concerning the East Link-bus interchange plan:

    https://letstalk.mercergov.org/Transit-Interchange/news_feed/october-26-2020-city-files-lawsuit-to-enforce-terms-of-2017-settlement-agreement-with-sound-transit

    Of course this all could have been avoided if Sound Transit had simply consulted with Metro before entering into the agreement. (Metro was not a party to said agreement.)

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