The future Northgate Link Station under construction Image: Lizz Giordano

Tom Fucoloro, Seattle Bike Blog:

Many walking, biking and transit investments promised by the 2015 Move Seattle Levy vote face delays and cuts while major high-dollar car-centric projects got priority. Perhaps we need to rethink how we fund these projects in our city. And we also need to go a lot bigger. The Move Seattle Levy is set to expire at the end of 2024, the first time the 9-year levy renewal pattern will fall on a very-high-turnout Presidential election year.

I think this is right, and it’s also the story of Sound Transit. Recall that the original ST2 was a a combined “roads and transit” measure that flopped in 2007, only to come back as a transit-only package and win handily in 2008.

Give Seattle specific transit projects to vote on and they will generally say yes. Heck, even the Monorail needed five tries to finally lose at the polls.

ST3’s finances and COVID delays mean it’s unlikely we’ll see a regional ST4 package in 2024, but Seattle can absolutely be thinking about an ambitious capital project in that timeline, perhaps something from Seattle Subway’s list.

131 Replies to “The next transit measure”

    1. +1. Maybe ten or fifteen years ago, there was a plan to do a boulevard-like treatment on the Seattle section of Aurora. It was jettisoned as there was more political support for the Mercer and Lander St projects. That was a shame, because a project on that corridor could check all the boxes for more housing, reducing car dependence, improving safety for all modes of travel. From Green Lake to Washelli, Aurora has good bones (street grid, existing business district) for a major new urban village. North of Washelli, it’s more of a mixed bag for land use, but the social justice argument for making that street safe is even stronger.

      South of Woodland park, there’s a more interesting decision about whether you’d want to continue prioritizing vehicle movement to the north end, or if you want to try and reconnect the street grid.

      1. There is a kind of Urbanist syllogism in which transit creates density (or the other way around) that then creates affordable housing which creates some kind of “equity”, although I haven’t seen the proof.

        For example, housing prices in Manhattan or Chicago are more expensive than the rest of the country despite the density and mature transit, and despite growth urban areas of Seattle have created less affordable housing (an unfortunate byproduct of gentrification because new construction is always the least affordable), at least until the pandemic in which high end rental properties in Seattle began taking a big hit but for other reasons.

        Let’s take another look at the lack of available housing, which affects affordability.

        In today’s Wall St. Journal there is a headline story:



        Which to me seems a little counterproductive during a pandemic. Then there is a graph that shows over 16 million suburban single family homes are owned by huge corporate trusts (REIT’s).

        Imagine if those 16 million homes, and all the urban rentals owned by corporate trusts or large property owners, were divested and made part of the market. There is your housing shortage, and why a progressive city like Seattle is over 50% rental, which leaves those renters out of the capital gains for property, and subject to rent increases by a large corporate landlord.

        Seattle faced this problem with Airbnb. Airbnb is generally more lucrative for the landlord, and comes without Seattle’s restrictive landlord/tenant code. There is a rating system, and the property owner can decide whether to rent someone or not, and knows their reputation. So property owners naturally were moving to Airbnb, removing those rental properties from the long term rental market and driving up rents.

        So Seattle enacted a ordinance that restricted any one property owner from owning or running more than any two Airbnb properties in Seattle.

        Why hasn’t anyone in such a progressive city investigated the concentration of so much single family and urban rental housing in the hands of a few huge corporate trusts/REIT’s? Because upzoning has to do with profits for developers much more than it does about affordable housing.

        Sure you can upzone areas, or develop Aurora Ave., but you will be doing it for the REIT’s with public property (streets), and creating more rental properties that will be unaffordable because the new zoning requires new construction.

        If you want to solve the affordable housing problem you have to think like a developer, not an Urbanist, who generally know very little about development. So far Urbanists have been great at creating gentrification, and new expensive multi-family housing which is how developers make a killing — upzoning — and displacing historical communities of color from neighborhoods like the Central District, but where is all the affordable housing (except for now in the Rainier Valley)?

        If you prefer to live in a dense urban environment where you can walk or bike to local shops, and take transit for longer trips, I think that is great (except it gets harder with kids and schools). But you are not creating more affordable housing doing it, in fact just the opposite as experience should have taught us. Also you will find there is a larger percentage of citizens who want a single family home neighborhood, and resent efforts to change their neighborhood for canards like global warming or ST or “equity”.

        You want more housing and more affordable housing, free up the housing owned by large property owners, and/or publicly subsidize housing. Just building more housing, even is smaller and smaller, won’t create affordable housing, unless you think a $600k DADU is affordable.

      2. It wasn’t so much lack of political support as it was Faye Garneau threatening all-out war if the plan was pursued.

        Really, that was the spark for the city council districting initiative.

        For years you could see the oblique propaganda against the plan in a mural on Aurora – “the free movement of people and commerce is the backbone of the country” or somesuch. I think it’s been tagged to oblivion now.

      3. For example, housing prices in Manhattan or Chicago are more expensive than the rest of the country

        And yet housing in Tokyo is much cheaper than Manhattan, Chicago or even Seattle. It is as if the zoning restrictions so prevalent in much of the country push up the costs. Crazy, huh.

      4. Oh for God’s sake, rental prices are primarily constrained by two things, wages and land-use restrictions. They can go no higher than 50% of the median income of a city for very long and are prevented from falling by constraints on construction.

        Beyond that “density” has no effect. You can find dense cities with relatively low rents and low-density cities with sky-high rents. It depends on the availability of units in relation to the demand for them, not how closely or distantly they are packed together.

        What density affects is the overall energy efficiency of a city. Shared walls are easier to heat and cool than external ones. Period, end of story.

    2. You can buy some love on Aurora, or at least the kind of “love” money can buy.

      But I agree, a LR line up Aurora should be high on the priority list. Aurora needs some investment, and the potential for increased housing is huge.


        Actually Tokyo is less expensive than NY for nearly every category, although it still has one of the top 10 rental prices in the world. I think Seattle is 5% less than Tokyo. Japan also has a much larger public investment in things from health care to education than the U.S.

        At the same time comparing prices for an entire city is difficult. Even in Seattle there are wide rental and home price disparities based on neighborhood. I am sure the same is true in Tokyo.

        I am not aware of the zoning restrictions you are assuming drive up housing costs in Manhattan. Density in Manhattan looks a lot greater than Seattle, but yet it is more expensive. Shouldn’t NY be less expensive with all those huge Trump towers? Considering Tokyo’s incredible density I would assume much lower rental rates if your theory were correct. Why do the largest and densest cities in the world have the highest housing costs?

        My ultimate point, and we have had this discussion before, is simply upzoning and building new housing does not increase affordability, because it is new construction. At best you get a much smaller unit for the same price, and you end displacing the very people you are trying to help. Under your theory Capitol Hill would be much less expensive than Rainier Valley which is mostly single family homes, but it isn’t, and it would still have some Blacks living there. There are just too many variables.

        You can continue to argue simply upzoning will create affordable housing, but I will disagree, and at least in Seattle I haven’t seen the proof. If you want truly affordable housing, and not just a $600k DADU, you need public subsidies, or move to a less dense city to the south. After all, nearly every city south of Seattle is less dense but has much lower housing costs, when your theory would posit those cities would have higher housing costs due to their more restrictive zoning.

        At the same time you will get resistance from single family neighborhoods that don’t want upzoning because they believe it will change the character of their neighborhood, and they really don’t care if some can’t afford to buy there or not. How does upzoning benefit them, assuming they don’t see you as an equity czar, and often see these calls for equity or upzoning as class envy or displaced ideology.

        My position is the same as Sound Cities Assoc.: let cities zone what they want as long as it does not violate civil rights law, and none do, based on what their citizens want.

        If the citizens want greater density or upzoning great, if not great. It is called democracy. It is up to the citizens, not outsiders who harbor some untested ideology.

        But don’t do it to manufacture riders for ST that are never coming back, or transit that is on the cusp of huge changes with driverless technology, or because of “equity” because you disagree with what someone is willing to pay for a house or condo, or the neighborhood costs they choose to live there. They pay their outrageous property tax bill that subsidized others. If you don’t like it don’t move there. If you do then move there. They are not trying to change your neighborhood. Why are you so intent on changing theirs?

      2. A light rail line up Aurora would be a terrible value. Huge amounts of money for very few new riders (and very little time saved). The ridership per mile is nothing special. Much of the route is on what is essentially a freeway. This is in huge contrast to the existing Link line. If I’m close to the Beacon Hill Station and headed downtown at noon, I might see the 36 approach, and be tempted to hop aboard. But I won’t, because Link is so much faster. In contrast, if I’m on Aurora close to Green Lake, and see the E, I would take it, since the bus would be almost as fast as the train. If I’m on Beacon Hill, Link also connects me to several *additional* stops in Rainier Valley, something the bus doesn’t do. If I time it right, it is faster than driving — at noon.

        An Aurora Link would at best have all the same stops. Chances are, it would have about half the stops, cutting ridership substantially. Remember, a lot of riders on the E are going from one stop on Aurora to another — the chances that both stops would be on the train line are pretty slim. So unless Link suddenly decided to have Paris-Metro style stop spacing, the train would get less ridership than the existing bus.

        Oh, and what about the 5, 26 and 28. Would all of these buses be truncated? That would mean just as the bus is about to go on the fastest part of Aurora, riders have to get off the bus, and wait for the train (with no new stops as a bonus). Or would those buses just keep going, which would mean Metro would have no savings from the multi-billion dollar project, unless they wanted to reduce frequency on the E, thus amplifying the new “haves and have-nots” world the light rail line would create.

        No, sorry, that is a terrible idea. Aurora is a fast road. Improvements should be made so that buses can go faster on it. Frequency should increase to every six minutes all day long. If, at that point, the agency finds that there is too much crowding, then run a few express buses. If there is crowding all day, then it is time to consider rail. The primary advantage to a light rail line is that it would add capacity — something it may never need (especially if you make the buses faster).

      3. The commercial industry you’re referring to, Lazarus, can still have its degree of decency in the sense that not all its employees have to die of disease, murder, and suicide.

        Look up “Trams in Amsterdam.” Though I don’t think it specifies where this particular line of employment takes place.

        Just curious, though. What would you do to anybody male who’d recommend it to any female relative of yours? I doubt the jury would slap you with anything but a medal and an KLM flight to…

        Well there’s other stuff to do there too!

        Real question is what the Aurora Avenue corridor CAN start to do for a living. Because I think it could both solve so many problems and make it a wonderful place to work, my first choice would be small skilled manufacture at various points the length of the route.

        And let the mode-choice be whatever works best for the usage. Fact it’s relatively long, grade-reasonable, and straight suggests presence of longer-larger-coupled vehicles. But also need for local service too.

        Major train-bus difference is that while trains couple easily, buses can’t be both train-ready and “standard” at the same time. Has to do with how much linear strain the coach frame will take.

        Anyhow, the whole length of Aurora goes “back aways.” What did it USE to do? Anyhow, it shows no signs of “going anywhere.” Thanks for bringing it back into the Realm of Possibility.

        Mark Dublin

      4. “You can continue to argue simply upzoning will create affordable housing”

        That’s the second time you’ve asserted that strawman in this article. I’ve already refuted it multiple times. Urbanists are not saying that if you simply upzone Seattle’s urban villages 50% it will immediately create affordable market-rate housing. The correlation is long-term, requires a larger set of policy changes around it, and is clearer in the negative (inverse) aspect. If you don’t upzone, then in twenty or thirty years prices will be higher than if you had upzoned. That’s because upzoning (and owners choosing to build) creates more units. More units means less competition for each unit and a higher vacancy rate. That’s what makes the price pressure less intense. Of course, if the upzoning causes so many people to move to Seattle it would wipe out the gains, but people are moving to Seattle anyway and that’s what’s driving prices up — more competition for each unit. That and the influx of wealthier people and high tech salaries — people who can pay the higher prices. Owners wouldn’t be able to raise prices as much if there weren’t a sufficient number of people willing and able to pay those prices, or if the vacancy rate remained high so people could go to lower-cost units.

        “or move to a less dense city to the south. After all, nearly every city south of Seattle is less dense but has much lower housing costs”

        It’s a lot harder to live without a car in eastern Kent or Auburn where the bulk of housing in those cities are, than it is in most parts of Seattle. It’s harder to get to the rest of the region, and harder to go to the store or other your local errands. When you do get to the store it’s in a depressing strip mall behind a parking lot. If you go to Pierce County or Thurston County it’s even worse. So you’re asking people to take a huge loss in quality of life or the number of things they can do in a day. Or they have to maintain a car, which adds $7000/year in expenses, plus the aggrevation and stress of traffic and parking. So it’s a lot more than just a simple choice of going where rents are lower.

        And prices in South King and Pierce are rising faster than Seattle. So many people are moving there in search of lower prices that it’s driving prices there up. Ten years ago Renton’s Sunset Highway was easily affordable. Now an increasing number of working-class people are finding Renton and Kent too expensive and moving to Auburn and Pierce County. In ten or twenty years Auburn will be unaffordable too. And South King County has not upzoned: it’s housing increase in the past decade is around 1%, far below the rest of the county. So that’s exactly what I’m saying would have happened happen in Seattle if it hadn’t built more housing. And it’s what has been happening in San Francisco since the 1990s, which has also built little housing like South King County.

    3. I agree, 99 needs some love.

      I’ve lived in Greenwood for a decade now and could city many improvements for the area, especially as they were the ones that annexed it 70 odd years ago yet have made little to no improvements

      – Stop allowing left or right turns onto non-arterial residential roads off of Aurora Avenue (only 80th, 85th, 90th, you get the idea allowed). Currently, yay too many Aurora-Licton neighborhood residential streets are becoming speeding thoroughfares for those avoiding major arterials like Aurora, and many do not have proper sidewalks, so pedestrians suffer.

      – Speaking of pedestrians. Make an ADA ped bridge for N. 68th Street by Green Lake. Its completely stupid to have a surface level cross-walk there off a main highway that backs up traffic both directions, and is made worse during both rush-hours. Also, surface level is just un-safe in that area. I’d say make a tunnel under the road but druggies and homeless would just use it.

      – Beautify the highway. Add a boulevard of trees and middle strip with greenery since we won’t have left or right turns allowed anyhow, except on major arterials

      -Only allow building of local amenities that pedestrians in the neighborhood can use or would actually want. No more motor related services, storage units, low rent motels, chain restaurants, cannibals’ stores, etc.

      – Start building more housing options on Aurora Avenue, with local/commercial businesses below them on the first floor. Sure, it will look a lot like 15th Avenue, or Ballard, or Dexter Avenue, but it would be better then what it looks like now, which is trashy in some areas.

      1. @Daniel Thompson

        I’m pretty sure the straw man is dead. You kicked his ass. Congratulations.

        Just for the record, no one said that density correlates with lower prices. As Tom so succinctly put it, rental costs depend on the availability of units in relation to the demand for them, not how closely or distantly they are packed together.

        Liberal zoning leads to more units being available, which means — all other things being equal — lower costs.

      2. Density is:

        1. A way to fit the necessary amount of housing into a municipality or urban growth boundary, when demand exceeding supply.

        2. A desirable living environment for some.

        3. More energy efficient than detached units.

        That doesn’t mean high density everywhere is the ideal solution. The answer to #1 is “as dense as necessary to balance supply & demand”. The answer to #2 and #3 is to research environmental factors (e.g., energy use), people’s preferences, and what kinds living environments are conducive to human health. Much of this research has already been done. I haven’t studied this closely but my impression is that a variety of housing types is best, something like a bell curve centered on 4-8 unit buildings and seven-story buildigns, with tails out to small-lot houses and midrise/highrise units. Of course there can be some large-lot houses too, but not so many it creates a housing shortage. Paris. Boston, Edinburgh, Chicago’s North Side, Vancouver, and Toronto are all good models. All of them have different density profiles and sidewalk characteristics, but they all generally match the bell curve I suggested.

        None of Pugetopolis’ cities match that bell curve because their average density is too low, only 20-30% of their residential land allows building types at the top of the curve, and excessive setback/parking/open space/block-size policies push things even further apart. Some neighborhoods or parts of neighborhoods in certain cities match the curve.

      3. A number of people here love to point at Toronto (and Vancouver) as examples of how much better (read: higher) their population density is. The truth is a little more mixed.

        As you can see here, Toronto is about 28-30% more dense than Seattle, and less dense than Philly, Chicago, or Boston. Vancouver is about 55% more dense than Seattle, but still significantly less dense than San Francisco or New York City.

        For a population density map of Toronto:

        For a population density map of Seattle:

        Note that the colors used in the heat map indicate different ranges (both for population counts and surface area), so you can’t just compare directly. However, roughly speaking a square mile is about 2.5 square kilometers, so my understanding is that the density in the darkest reds is about similar; for the next Seattle range (orange), that maps to about orange, yellow, and green in Toronto; etc.

        The other point of note, Toronto has a _lot_ of very low density regions, too. About half of the city is in the lowest two categories, which roughly map to the lowest density in Seattle (technically not even as much as that, but roughly speaking).

        I don’t disagree with Mike’s point, and I apologize if I come across as upset with Mike’s posts (I am not) but – again – it is very easy to fall into rhetoric that does not match reality. Toronto is really not a great example, as people who have actually lived there know. A lot of the density comes from “islands” of tall buildings, often built in the “tower-in-the-park” setup that was popular in the 60s and 70s, and are actually kind of a terrible setup overall. And there is a _lot_ of single family housing too. I don’t know anything about zoning laws there, but reality is that there is little in the way of mixed land use on residential streets, it’s all single family housing on small-ish lots (similar in size to Seattle’s denser lots).

        Hope this helps.

      4. A typical Vancouver or Toronto resident, who does not want to use a car or taxi, has many more choices for walkable housing, jobs, and a vast variety of other destinations, than Seattlites or King Countyans do. Huge areas of Toronto have frequent subways, streetcars, and buses that a large percent of the population use for their daily trips. That’s what I’m getting at. The fact that those cities also have large areas of low-density sprawl and hundreds of thousands of residents living in them doesn’t erase this. Density maps don’t tell you the shape of buildings, the range of destinations or their distribution, how pedestrian-accessible each housing unit and business is, how well the transit network matches people’s trips, how frequent the transit is, or the demographics of the residents. These are all major factors. New York City and New York metro as a whole are mediocre, not very impressive, but there are huge parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens that are a walker’s/rider’s paradise or at least quite good, and have high ridership and low car-ownership rates to prove it. Those are the areas we should emulate more, and forget about the low-density sprawl areas those cities also have. Those are just signs that the city isn’t perfect. We can’t get perfection but we can aim for pretty good.

      5. Completely agree that density isn’t everything, but you used density as an argument on its own, and Seattle and Toronto are less dissimilar than some people (including you, Mike, TBH) tend to think.

        Yes, Toronto has a much better grid. However I can attest that three seat rides in Toronto are still painful, midday trips away from the subway lines are still painful. Subway hours start at 8am Sunday, which makes people working in the downtown core starting in the early morning have to do weird things to get there from, for example, the NW corner of the city (which is one of the lower income areas) or from the E side (also lower income). And these are not short trips. Toronto is big surface area-wise, bigger than Seattle is. Toronto is about 243 squared miles, vs. Seattle with its 83 square miles. There are ways to do these trips, of course, you can take some bus to another bus to a streetcar (the streetcars do run 24 hours a day, now, at least, though they are concentrated in the South end of the city, below Yonge street – this is where the density is, too, of course, as you can see from the map).

        For TTC hours info:

        Regarding accessibility to other jobs etc. by transit, yes, it’s better than Seattle. But it’s generally 2x better, not 10x better, which is my point. If you aim for 2x better you will get maybe 1.3x better because that’s politics. Toronto is more like Seattle than it is like Manhattan, outside the city core – what used to be the “actual” city of Toronto before amalgamation (little known fact here, probably – until 1998 Toronto was actually 6 distinct municipal units, which got amalgamated to “save money” by the Progressive Conservative Party which was running Ontario at the time. You could think of it as having grouped Seattle, Bellevue, Shoreline, Renton, Edmonds, and Kenmore together – these roughly correspond to Toronto, North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, York, and East York in terms of politics and attitude towards land use and transit).

        Anyway, I stand by my broader point. Toronto is just not a great example, sorry :) And there are many other examples which are better, I advocate going for those. Montreal is probably a better one for Canada.

  1. At this point, it will likely only be a Seattle only push. People are done with being taxed and not seeing their worth for 10-15 years. If there was some guarantee that it would be completed in less than 5 years, great! But it is time to refocus efforts hard into Seattle/King County and it HAS to be something other than car tabs.

    1. So let’s finish the RapidRide lines. Enhancing the E would give Aurora some love, and it would parallel enhancements to the C and D that ST is funding someday.

      1. I’m a “no” vote on anything that is bus only. Seattle needs to “go big or go home”.

        Enhancing the E is not going big, it is just a little tinkering around the margins. If we keep going small we will never solve our transportation problems. We will fall further and further behind.

      2. @AJ,

        Elevated E stops and new bus tunnels? Me ever going to happen.

        We learned our lesson with the first DSTT. If you spend that much money on some piece of transit infrastructure, you had better get your money’s worth by running something worthy on it. The E Line isn’t worthy of that level of spending.

        Na, an Enhanced E Line would take the form of a stop diet, a little signal prioritization, and maybe a touch more frequency. Hardly the stuff of big dreams, and hardly the stuff that generates TOD.

      3. Lots of small projects help more people, in more neighborhoods, for more kinds of trips. And people in multiple neighborhoods are more likely to be diverse than people in one contiguous neighborhood. So lots of small projects benefits a larger cross-section of society, which are the taxpayers as a whole.

        Sometimes you need big central projects. Central Link was one of those cases. You can’t serve the area between downtown and the U-District adequately without grade-separated transit: the existing roads are too small and congested and there are cliffs in the way of widening them. But now that Central Link is open, Northgate Link is almost open, Lynnwood Link is under construction, and East Link is also, there’s nothing else that rises to that level of criticalness. instead there are smaller needs for faster and more frequent transit in many parts of the city. Putting all our money into one won’t help the others. So an incremental approach that improves several corridors at once is best for people living in Ballard, Lake City, Greenwood, 23rd, West Seattle, First Hill, etc. It just needs to be substantial, not watered down to almost nothing.

      4. I’m a “no” vote on anything that is bus only. Seattle needs to “go big or go home”.

        That is ridiculous. Imagine we doubled the frequency of the buses from what they were before the cutback. That means the E runs every 5 minutes in the middle of the day. So do the D and the 7, while the C runs every 6 minutes. Various buses like the 1, 3, 4 and 5 run every 8 minutes all day long, instead of every 15. Routes that combine, like the 65 and 75, run so often you never check the schedule.

        Now also imagine that Metro runs buses on corridors that would obviously be popular, like the 61, or a bus on Boren. While we are at it, add a bus from Bitter Lake to Lake City, long before Sound Transit gets around to building the station on 130th.

        Also add the capital projects promised, but not delivered with Move Seattle (

        That isn’t big. That’s huge. That is enormous. That would have a dramatic impact on transit in Seattle, and would result in a huge jump in ridership.

        Yet is would cost less than just about any poorly-designed, poorly-thought-out Link project that would likely not get here until 2050. You can dream of a train to Westwood Village. I want the folks in High Point, Alki and South Seattle College to have good transit service instead.

      5. I support an Aurora Link line eventually, but not in the 2020s-2030s timeframe. The bus projects are higher priority, and we can include enhancements to the E in that.

        The biggest thing the E needs is full BAT lanes. It has them in Shoreline, and South King County has full BAT lanes for the A. But it didn’t happen in Seattle because of car-and-parking interests. Faye Garneau lives there, and Suzie Burke is nearby. Both of them are loud SOV supporters, and Faye is part of the Aurora business coalition that markets the area as a car-friendly part of Seattle with free parking and low rents. So they scream against giving up any GP lanes or parking lanes. That’s why the E has full BRT lanes in Shoreline but only a few blocks here and there in Seattle. And Aurora bogs down in rush hour, like 15th Ave W does.

        Another small project would be an elevator station down to 35th Street in Fremont. That would bring the Fremont urban village into the E, which is the north-central Seattle quasi express route. There would be complaints about the cost of an elevator and people vandalizing it, but giving Fremont access to the E would be a major benefit that would make it worth it. And it would cost much less than a Link line on Aurora.

      6. I’m a “no” vote on anything that is bus only. Seattle needs to “go big or go home”.

        Oh no, we lost the support of Lazarus! Now the bus-only levy will only pass by 80.37%!

        Sorry, Lazarus, but you are one of the few in Seattle who would oppose a bus-only levy (for whatever reason). We don’t need to include rail funding to pass a transit levy in this town.

      7. “Imagine we doubled the frequency of the buses from what they were before the cutback. That means the E runs every 5 minutes in the middle of the day. So do the D and the 7, while the C runs every 6 minutes…. [and the rest of the vision]”


        Five-minute frequency on the major corridors is the ideal frequency. These should connect all the urban villages to each other and to Link stations. If Metro got even close to that, as in RossB’s outline, we’d have practically the best local-transit network in the US. Metro has already identified the corridors and number of routes in its Rapid and Frequent long-range plans. I would include at least 90% of the Rapid lines and 75% of the Frequent lines in this high level of service. (In other words, I wouldn’t go quite so far with Rapid 62 and some of the minor Frequent routes, where 10-15 minute frequency should be sufficient. But the 7 and 36, two routes Metro has prioritized, should be ultra-frequent, and that applies to their restructure successors.)

      8. That’s mainly for Seattle. Countywide I would expect 5-10 minute service only on routes like the 250 (connecting downtown Kirkland to Bellevue, Link, and Stride), Rapid KDM (connecting Kent, East Hill, and 132nd to KDM), etc. Rapid 181 may not be ready for it until later, but I’d hope its ridership would reach a 10-minute service level by 2035.

    2. Okay, I agree with your assessment, but I feel that tab fees are acceptable, so long as they are static. Personally I wish we had real estate taxes as an adjunct.

      1. “so long as they are static”

        Why? If by static you mean a flat rate, then people with basic, older, and compact cars are paying as much as people with new, expensive, large, gas-guzzling SUVs. People with the first kind of cars tend to be lower income and genuinely have trouble making ends meet, while people with the latter kind tend to be higher income and are just whining about taxes they can easily afford, and in any case they didn’t have to buy that kind of car.

      2. (some people just don’t listen to reason *u district watch merchants*). I would love to see Referendum 51 reimplemented, but I know that 10 people with a Raptor aren’t all wealthy enough to pay extra for the privilege of use. Vehicle miles traveled is fairer by far, but requires enforced compliance. Privacy concerns obviously rule it out.

      3. Any car tab tax would pass in Seattle. The more progressive, the better. To be more precise, the closer to being flat, the better. Chances are, car tab taxes will continue to have a flat tax for the car (e. g. $15) plus a tax on the value of the car. That means that they have no chance of being flat, let alone progressive. But if they have a low base car tax ($5) along with say, $2 per value of the car, that would be reasonable.

        In contrast, my guess is any car tab tax would fail in the county. Even if it taxed high-end vehicles more, folks would find a way to hate it. Lots of people in the suburbs buy very expensive trucks — and even if the don’t, they dream of buying one, and tribalistically sympathize with whiners who do.

      4. I do have one concern with a value-based car tab, which is that it actually serves as a disincentive to car buyers to choose an electric car over a gas car.

        If you imagine two car models, one electric, one gas, that have the same total cost of ownership (absent the city car tab), the electric model will have the higher purchase price, compensated for by cheaper energy and less maintenance. But, a car tab formula that doesn’t know about the big picture will end up taxing the electric higher, thereby creating an (albeitly small) incentive for the driver to choose the gas car.

        I don’t think electric cars should get off free, but I do think it’s reasonable to charge them less than a gas car with the same purchase price, since more of the total ownership cost is front-loaded and we want cars to shift towards those that don’t pollute.

        So, maybe the sweet spot is some formula that combines vehicle value with emissions.

      5. I wouldn’t mind giving electric cars a discount relative to petrol cars. But I’m opposed to continuing the other electric car subsidies long term. That’s just giving rich people money to buy an expensive car, and eventually the mainstream public money to buy a car.

    3. I think the County council is keen to have a county-wide measure. Between suburban RapidRide improvements at >$100M each, a new bus base, and fleet electrification, it should be pretty straightforward to add in enough stuff for the rest of King County.

      1. People don’t need an incentive to buy a car. Look at the roads, despite all the taxes placed on cars, gas and parking. People buy cars for convenience, and tend to buy as much car as they can afford, or more. For many it is a status symbol.

        They do need a financial incentive to buy an EV if they are more expensive, and until the battery range gets closer to 500 miles, if global warming is a concern. . Once cost and range are comparable EV’s are superior anyway, and incentives will not be needed, unless a goal is to remove used gas/diesel cars from the market which will require used EV’s.

        At that point the only advantage transit will have is grade separation from congestion and it’s huge public subsidies, which is only rail, and will depend on working from home. Plus mobility for those who cannot afford a car, but with the loss of so many transit users frequency and coverage will be limited. Metro sees the writing on the wall.

        Electric Uber/Lyft, especially with ride sharing apps, will compete with short trip transit as they did before Covid-19, with a lower carbon footprint than buses, which will have a higher cost with a carbon tax. Driverless electric cars will likely replace buses as feeder transit, and provide door to door service, although I could see some fixed route driverless buses for heavily travelled routes through impoverished areas. Unless it is cheaper to subsidize driverless EV’s for these riders, which they will likely demand as equity.

        Density and Urbanism will ultimately depend on whether streets are perceived as safe since walking, buses, and bikes expose a resident to street crime. Parts of Seattle today are not perceived as safe to be on the streets, especially at night, and Urbanism cannot exist without safe streets, although many Urbanists support fewer police, whereas ironically suburbia which is based on the car and rarely exposes a citizen to street crime is very pro-police and law and order.

        Without safe streets retail, bars and restaurants won’t survive, which will negate much of the point of Urbanism. .

        I don’t see driverless EV’s negatively affecting those who prefer a dense, urban environment, except with door to door service that will remove former bus riders from the street, which will be a benefit in a dangerous part of the city. The extent riders will use door to door service will depend on whether the urban steet scene is safe and vibrant. Tons of dense, small housing without a vibrant street scene defeats the point of Urbanism, and residents will move some place safer.

      2. Some people live in dense areas so they can walk to the store and library and gym and hardware store and friends’ apartments, and because the most frequent and 24-hour transit is there. This applies regardless of whether there are trendy restaurants and hip bars and cute clothing boutiques, things that many people never buy anyway. You can make coffee with a funnel and a filter even if there’s no Starbucks on the corner.

        South Chicago is much higher crime than Seattle but it’s still urban. Your perception of Seattle’s crime is, I don’t know whether to say unrealistic or it’s in the eye of the beholder. And you’ve said you’re mostly in Pioneer Square, which is one of the worst areas for a thick stream of panhandlers, etc. Most of the city isn’t like that.

      3. Oh, and while I used to go to Capitol Hill clubs and bars extensively every week, when I moved to the neighborhood it was right around the time I became old enough to stop going to them. From my first place I could see El Corazon, which I used to go to every few months and thought I would continue to do so, but I’ve only been to it once in the past fifteen years, and I haven’t been to the other clubs at all. (I would go to the Vogue but it closed in 2000 and there’s nothing else like it.) Still I value living there because of the convenience for everyday errands and being so close to Westlake Station and buses to everywhere.

  2. That’s a pretty big contrast. Tom writes about basic bike infrastructure. When he mentions something costing “a fortune”, he writes that it has a “hell of a price tag, perhaps somewhere in the $20–$40 million range”. This just to enable a safe, decent way to cross the Ballard Bridge.

    In contrast, the Seattle Subway imagines hundreds of *new* miles of expensive subway, which includes spending billions of dollars on two new stations (one at South Park, another at Georgetown). It includes a new “Metro 8 Subway”, which somehow manages to follow the existing route too closely (staying on 23rd too long) while simultaneously missing the key connection, at Capitol Hill.

    Fucoloro writes as a realist, carefully considering the cost and benefit of every project that could literally save lives. Seattle Transit writes like a 14-year-old with fantasy plans that would make Elon Musk say “be realistic, dude”. It is a disservice to put the two together in the same essay. Tom Fucoloro should be taken seriously, the Seattle Subway should not.

    Rather than dream of bike tubes running all over town, or the end of automobiles on our streets, the Seattle Bike Blog is proposing realistic, sensible improvements. As transit advocates we should do the same. We need to reverse the cuts that just went into effect, and will continue to hamper basic transit mobility in the region. We need to push for frequent service everywhere, along with direct routing. A trip from Northgate Transit Center to Greenwood should not involve a looping bus up to Northgate Way, followed by transfer, with each bus buses running every 15 minutes at best. People in Yesler Terrace shouldn’t have to wait a half hour for a bus to go downtown, or take a streetcar that initially goes the wrong way. All of the “RapidRide+” projects promised with Move Seattle should be built, as promised.

    It is great to dream big. But before we fantasize about new subway lines from Madison Park to Medina or from Ballard to Woodinville, we should spend money beefing up the essential part of our system: the bus network. No matter what we build in terms of rail, those buses will carry the vast majority of transit users. At most we should consider the UW to Ballard line (which has already been studied) while making the most cost-effective improvements to the backbone or our transit system. (While, of course, also improving our bike infrastructure).

    1. RossB, it looks to me as if Seattle Subway has started to derail itself from civil engineering into ideology. Wrench and screwdriver metaphor definitely does need a terminology morph into LWIT Precision Machining 2020 terminology.

      But conceptually: Dig? Bridge? Track? Lane-reserve? Rail? Rubber? For same project, approach depends on satellite photo, soils, rocks, and underground water. Like Ice Ages, Plate Tectonics Happens.

      Brian, good to hear from you, because the fact your work desk has a throttle makes your perspective desperately needed. Pre-paid merchandise arrival record might necessitate smaller and more focused project.

      “Aurora” is such a love-ly name it most definitely deserves some better romantic company. Mike Orr, any chance that to transform Rapidity from logo to and paint job to stop-watch, might be best to concentrate on car-removers like active signal-priority (bus driver instead of Traffic Central)?

      But Benjamin C, Aurora needs to show some appreciation. Hat, sunglasses, and flag that’s Union-not-Confederate entitle you to at least a date.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Money to keeping moving Ballard-UW along makes good sense. Getting a project like that through EIS is a great way to accelerate the project timeline for relatively little cost. ST3 basically fund the alternatives analysis, so Seattle could fund the next step, which I believe would be a proper EIS.

      There are also ways for Seattle to positively supplement ST3, such as funding a new car bridge at 14th so the Link bridge can subsequently occupy the current alignment on 15th.

      But directly funding Link extensions is well below Seattle’s financial capacity, unless it’s something super basic like at grade from Market to 65th … probably not a priority, but perhaps politically necessary for a ‘flagship’ project to place at the end of a levy?

      1. AJ, time for some terms-definition. Does “Ballard-UW” mean a light rail tunnel under Phinney Ridge feeding into north-end LINK?

        Route 44 runs a long steep slope up Market Street from 6th Avenue to 46th Street. Excellent for trolleybus. Will your plan give it grooved rail too? Or will making Wallingford’s east-west arterial bus-only do the job?

        Like another really-awful election result four years ago, huge amount of pro-Monorail votes were sheer raging protest over how long Ballard’s transit loyalty has been rewarded by total light-rail non-delivery.

        And what was the “Anti” campaign’s main promise? We need LIGHT RAIL INSTEAD! While West Seattle can argue about bridge, street-running or subway, plain fact is that for my whole tenure in the Northwest, that whole corridor has deserved a rail corridor it’s not yet got.

        Floor’s yours.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Personally, I think bus only lanes for 44 is sufficient for that corridor, but I don’t live in Seattle and Ballard-UW has passionate supporters. As per ST3, it’s vaguely designed so could include everything from a proper subway to a crappy streetcar through Fremont.

      3. Here’s ST’s study in 2014. This is a level 2 snapshot; there may be a later report lurking around somewhere.

        Most transit fans prefer an underground line following the 44 (Alternative A3), or dipping down to Fremont and back up to Wallingford. (At grade-separated speed and with the ability to disregard the street grid, the short zigzag wouldn’t add much to travel time and would bring in all the urban villages.) ST’s C1 alternative is similar to this but it’s surface/elevated rather than underground.

        I’ve been a strong supporter of the Ballard-UW line, but in the context of the current situation, I’d rather have a set of RapidRide and frequent bus lines first. Building just this line and nothing else for a decade isn’t as appealing.

      4. “Building just this line and nothing else for a decade isn’t as appealing.” For sure. That’s why I was saying just fund EIS, which is a ~4 year effort and makes the project more shovel ready for the next regional mega-levy.

      5. I’ve been a strong supporter of the Ballard-UW line, but in the context of the current situation, I’d rather have a set of RapidRide and frequent bus lines first.

        Yeah, I agree with that.

        But directly funding Link extensions is well below Seattle’s financial capacity

        Only as defined by the current arrangement. There is no reason why the state couldn’t amend the law and allow cities to approve big transit packages as they see fit. Given the subarea equity rules, a regional package would probably result in just as much taxation for Seattle residents as a local one.

        You are right, though. Neither one is likely without a significant federal contribution. I would think, though, that a Ballard to UW subway would look good given its ridership per dollar, time saved per dollar, and small size. If I’m trying to find a compromise with Republicans, I would think “big bang for the buck” would be a much bigger sell than “green new deal”.

      6. “That’s why I was saying just fund EIS”

        Sorry, I missed that. That’s fine. Planning costs much less than construction, and it wouldn’t crowd out those other projects. This is what Seattle did for the Ballard-UW study: it gave money to ST to accelerate the study, which otherwise would have happened in the late 2020s after ST2, and then the ST3 vote would have been after that. It was McGinn’s determination to accelerate the study (and add a Westlake streetcar study to it), and put his [Seattle’s] money where his mouth was, that convinced the other subareas to say, “Hey, we want to accelerate our studies and the ST3 vote too.”

      7. “I think bus only lanes for 44 is sufficient for that corridor”

        The west side of Phinney Ridge has only three lanes, and the hillside hinders widening it. If you take two lanes for transit, that would leave only one lane for SOVs one direction, and the hillside blocks any other nearby street the other direction. That’s clearly too low for a major mixed-use arterial; even I think SOVs need more lanes than that.

        “As per ST3, it’s vaguely designed so could include everything from a proper subway to a crappy streetcar through Fremont.”

        Link projects are defined widely; e.g., the Alternatives Analysis for Lynnwood Link considered I-5, Aurora, 15th Ave NE, and Lake City Way. For Ballard-downtown, a Ballard-UW line would be stretching it too far: the downtown Seattle urban center is must-serve, the way Northgate and Lynnwood were must-serve for Lynnwood Link. I suppose a crappy Fremont surface line might fit the letter of the ST3 project. But when ST proposed that earlier, in order to fit West Seattle Link within a shorter 10-year phase, transit fans blew up against it and STB ran an editorial opposing ST3 under that condition, and we’re among the biggest supporters Link has. So I don’t think it could come up again.

      8. “But when ST proposed that earlier”

        To be clear, it was a Westlake-Fremont-Ballard streetcar. Not like Link on MLK, but like the SLU streetcar. MLK-like Link in this corridor would actually be better, but we’d have to watch that it doesn’t get watered down. The first problem would be the Fremont Bridge: it’s narrow, congested, and goes up a lot.

      9. The interesting bit about Westlake to Fremont as a “streetcar” is that the old interurban right of way is mostly still there along Westlake. It’s been converted into a wide parking strip but it’s still very much there.

      10. It is, but what’s the chance you can take away even part of the parking lot? They complained about just having a bike trail, saying bikes would be dangerous for people walking to their cars.

      11. Ballard-UW alone is impossible. You cannot break into the compression rings of the North Link tunnel without excavating a hundred foot long by forty foot wide access crater in the UW campus. UW will never allow that.

        GIVE. IT. UP.

        Now it could be built as an extension of the SLU/Ballard line, but doing so would require a station on 14th. That station would have to be at least a block south of Market to allow for the curve into Market headed east.

        You can’t make the curve at 15th because of all the surrounding construction.

        If you hate a station at 14th and Market, you’re going ballistic with one at 54th and Market, a block from the 44.

      12. I was assuming it would tie into Ballard-Downtown; WSBLE EIS is starting now, so an Ballard-UW EIS process that isn’t theoretically funded until 2024 would be able to make assumptions about tying into the system at Ballard.

        Anyone who thinks Ballard-UW will be a junction at U District, rather than a transfer, is a fool for both the technical reasons you highlight and the political reason that Snohomish will block it because they won’t give up 50% of their Link frequency. However, I think a standalone Ballard-UW using a different technology is interesting; smaller, shorter trains would be much cheaper to tunnel than Link as-is, potentially more than offsetting the cost of a standalone OMF.

      13. Tom, that sounds like the same problem an elevated 14th line would have turning left at 65th and right at 15th without encroaching the high school land. In other words, ST is thinking short-term.

        If it were underground, it could of course curve north of Market and come back to Market by the next station.

      14. Mike, yes, you’re exactly right; there can be no zig-zag at 65th. Getting over to 15th NW either at-grade or elevated would take some block of buildings between 14th and 15th. If you notice, the tails north of Market in the diagram are angled a bit west of true north. I think they’re planning to take the block between 58th and 59th between 14th and 15th NW, making the school move. There is no other reason to diagonal the tail track structure across the roadway. It just adds to the cost.

        Putting the station on the east side of 14th is a poor choice for a future extension eastward. It would put the end of the curve VERY close to the Koi Apartments. It requires yet one more street crossing for folks walking from central Ballard as well.

        If they put the station along the west side of the street and had it between 52nd and 54th, they could make the turn by just taking McDonalds which would be replaced if there were a station built at that corner anyway. But that’s a long way from Central Ballard.

  3. I think we are at a point where the best thing that can be done is to undertake an updated systemic rail transit vision based on multiple alternatives and analyses. Seattle has had rapid growth since ST2 was envisioned (and ST3 was a political effort based on ST corridors identified in ST2).

    A good example is Harborview. There remains nothing in an adopted plan to adequately serve it. It was promised a station in the original measure, and ST2 had the FHSC which has become a poor substitute for actual connectivity to Link.

    With such a strong and frequent spine created upon ST3 completion, there may also be a role for new investments to study the best way to add connections to feed the spine. That could be through new pedestrian tunnels, funiculars, monorails, escalators, streetcars (that aren’t slowed by forced lane sharing with cars) and even aerial trams or automated shuttles.

    There are also lingering questions about possible overcrowding that could emerge. There are lingering questions about station modernization, vertical device needs, unreliable cost estimates in ST3 and fixes to places where ST went “cheap” resulting in future station and track operations challenges too. There has even been a marked change in development and redevelopment even since 2016.

    This is a process that isn’t a bunch of leaders or advocates agreeing to one consensus by drawing colored lines on a map after a two-hour session — with an implicit bias towards creating a new line that connects their favorite destinations. There will be plenty of time to do that once a more objective analysis with multiple alternatives gets pursued.

    1. Which is why any ST levy is assumed to be at 2028 at the earliest, so we can fully digest the ST2 system and where it fails & succeeds. There are plenty of things the city and/or county can invest in that don’t need to presuppose anything about ST3 or theoretical ST4.

      1. This is true. I do think Seattle should revisit and broaden the Transit Master Plan concept to examine the trade offs between better Link connectivity and upgrading bus corridors.

        The City seems incapable of assessing these trade-offs. Consider how many other ways connectivity can be improved in Downtown Seattle by shifting funds from the CCC project or RapidRide G, for example. The City continues to portray the projects as go/no-go choices rather than ask what is the most effective way to spend funds to improve transit in the central core.

        Another example is the special effort required to build the I-5 pedestrian bridge for Northgate Link station connectivity. It wasn’t in the last Transit Master Plan.

      2. Another example is the special effort required to build the I-5 pedestrian bridge for Northgate Link station connectivity. It wasn’t in the last Transit Master Plan.

        Which is why master plans are not that important. They should be put in the same category as Metro’s long range plans. They are simply an assortment of ideas, not a blue print.

        While Link has changed things, they haven’t changed things that much. The streetcar follows a ridiculous route, whether Link exists or not. A fast, frequent bus on Madison makes sense whether Link exists or not. Even a bus from Lake City to Bitter Lake makes sense without Link — it just makes a lot more sense with Link. A lot of the subtleties (such as where the Lake City to Bitter Lake bus goes) are no more likely to be solved in a big, one-time, “master plan”, than they are the occasional restructure.

        One of the weakest arguments you can make for a project — any project — is that it is part of a master plan.

      3. Well I am not a fan of mode-specific Master Plans. I’d much prefer subarea multi-modal plans. That way, the access-to-transit improvements can be recognized for improving general pedestrian (and sometimes bicycle) access. There are plenty of other benefits too — invoking things like parking management, vertical issues, designing for safety, focusing on pinch points where modes conflict and trade offs on narrow streets.

        However, the concept of master planning has an important role in providing circulation in a large urban area. The very idea of the “spine” or any regional rail system would not have ever evolved as a piecemeal effort.

        Just because Seattle does an inadequate job at master planning is not a reason to trash the concept. The concept needs improvement rather than belittling.

    2. Harborview? Might be perfect for the same builders and car-designers who did the aerial tramway in Portland.

      Thirty second all-weather rush-hour “elevator ride” to the park alongside both King County Courthouse and the entrance to Pioneer Square Station. Could easily handle an “ST” paint job, and painlessly accept ORCA cards.

      Combined with Routes 3 and 4, could take away a lot of the urgency out of the subway loop connecting all three First Hill hospitals with the rest of transit. And also, via Sea-Tac, the rest of the world.

      Good “partner” to for an electrified Route 27 over the hill and down the lake-shore to Seward Park and Rainier Beach.

      Last Portland visit, I watched it first-hand be the only transit in the whole city still running through a cold and icy night. Designed for ski-country, after all. Let nobody say we lack for proven choices.

      And just a “blanket” piece of funding philosophy: whatever tax, fee, or otherwise fund-raising mechanism we choose, can’t we personify real conservatism by calling it “An Investment?”

      Got to watch it, though. “New Electric Railway Journal” founder Paul N. Weyrich was so Royalist our Founders would’ve hung him for treason. So his insistence on streetcars can give THEIR advocates some really bad company on twitter!

      Bang! Arrgghhhh! I’ve been CANCELED!

      Mark Dublin

      1. Mark, I completely agree, aerial gondola would be a great solution to connect Harborview to Link and may even continue to Swedish to connect our two most important hospitals.

  4. Realistically, the next measure is going to be full of mostly car-centric projects including the Magnolia bridge replacement plus whatever they decide to do with the West Seattle bridge. Thrown in a couple of rapid rides and bike lanes and call it a day. Car infrastructure is expensive to maintain and there isn’t much (any?) momentum to start decommissioning roads and bridges.

    An example of a realistic yet ambitious ask would be to finish building out the sidewalk network, which I believe would cost a couple hundred million.

    1. I agree. Even ditching West Seattle and Magnolia bridges, there are plenty of other road structures that require replacement that even an ardent urbanist would have a hard time arguing against, like replacing the 4th Ave viaduct in the ID. I think the most likely Move Seattle levy will be vehicle-centric (which is different than SOV-centric) in its major projects, continue to fund complete streets, and then make steady progress on various buildouts like sidewalks and bike lane.

    2. The West Seattle Bridge should be a state funded project. I was surprised to learn it isn’t a state highway already, most ferry corridors are. If the state refuses to fund public transit the least they could do is handle the major roads.

      1. I agree. When it is repaired it should also have tolls. It is very similar to the SR 520 bridge in nature.

    3. Just put the road projects on their own local ballot measure.

      The public will decide to fund them if the cost/benefits analysis makes sense.

    4. “I was surprised to learn it isn’t a state highway already”

      I was surprised too, but state highways connect multiple cities. West Seattle was a small neighborhood in Seattle when the highways were built. It’s not like Renton which was an isolated rural town when Rainier and MLK were built. (And the original “highways” were just two-lane roads, so it wasn’t like eight lanes to a town of 5,000 people.)

      1. Too bad Warren Magnuson is not head of appropriations, although Patty Murray holds essentially the same position, albeit in the minority party. I see significant federal aid for the West Seattle Bridge repair, but at the expense of federal aid for other projects including transit. Pork infrastructure is usually allocated by seniority, and the desires of the state’s politicians.

        The fact is Seattle ignored its core infrastructure during very good economic times to pursue a questionable progressive agenda, and the bill has comes due. Seattle’s contribution towards the W. Seattle Bridge and other bridges will exhaust any transportation funding if this council is responsible at all.

        Of course so has the state and rest of the country. Bridges by far are the most significant, and expensive, infrastructure need right now (followed by aging water and sewer lines) Failing infrastructure doesn’t care if there is a pandemic or recession or not.

      2. I figure it would be part of Hwy 160. There’s no reason it can’t or shouldn’t be, isn’t 145th a state highway? There’s no rule stating a highway has to connect multiple cities.

      3. There’s no rule but the state isn’t very interested in highways within cities. Incorporated cities have autonomous tax authority so they should take care of their own roads. 145th is a state highway between 522 and I-5 because it connects them. It may be a state highway to Aurora for the same reason. Aurora of course isn’t just a city highway; it was the main north-south highway from Canada to Mexico, and specifically connects Seattle to SeaTac, Edmonds, and Everett among other things.

        MLK originally connected the Madison Park ferry terminal to the towns in Rainier Valley and Renton. The state lost interest in Seattle’s part of MLK, and the city wanted to develop it and slow it down so it took it over. There has long been talk of doing something similar with 145th. Seattle doesn’t care much about it because it’s on the outer fringe of Northgate, Lake City, and Bitter Lake, but Shreline cares very much about it because half the city is within a mile of it. So it would most likely be Shoreline taking over both sides of it. It has been preparing to do so but never fully gotten around to it. The current situation is a mess. I think Seattle owns only up to the southern edge of the sidewalk. The state owns the road, and Shoreline owns the north side. So it’s a three- or four-juristiction issue to resolve.

      4. We’re kind of just talking in circles here but making Fauntleroy/West Seattle Hwy part of Hwy 160 would still make perfect sense, even compared to the descriptions of other local highways you’ve given. It would make more sense than 145th.

        I know there are historical reasons for these old highways and it’s unlikely WSDOT will adopt Fauntleroy. I wish they would though.

  5. Realistically the next project will be the West Seattle Bridge because that’s where the political momentum is. So we should think of improved transit lanes both on the bridge and around the approaches, and argue that they’re needed for complete streets and equity.

    Beyond that and finishing the planned RapidRide lines, we could look at Metro’s 2025 plan and decide what to do first, or how to modify it.

    Since Lake City to Ballard has come up numerous times, there’s the 61 proposal, and the Fred Meyer to Fred Meyer route. A flaw with the 61 proposal is it fizzles out on NW 85th Street, requiring a transfer for 99% of the Ballard destinations. It helps Greenwood more than Ballard. One alternative would be to extend it south on 24th Ave NW, following the old 75. That might overserve 24th, but it’s important to get to Real Ballard somehow. The Fred Meyer to Fred Meyer route assumes the D is deleted, otherwise they would overlap on 15th. Another option would be to extend the D or 40 to Lake City, but those sound like very long routes with lots of traffic bottlenecks. Another alternative would be to get something from Ballard to 65th & Roosevelt, so it could transfer to the 522 when the latter moves to Roosevelt. I’m not sure what routing between Ballard and Roosevelt would serve an underserved corridor. I’ve long thought the 62 should go to Ballard instead of downtown, but Metro is so bullish on the 62 that’s a non-starter. There’s also NW 65th Street, which has gotten persistent calls for transit service. I don’t see how to incorporate it into the 61 very elegantly. Since Greenwood is a priority, it could turn south on Greenwood Ave and west on 65th, and south on 24th to Market. That would take out west Greenwood though.

    1. A flaw with the 61 proposal is it fizzles out on NW 85th Street, requiring a transfer for 99% of the Ballard destinations.

      That’s not much of a flaw. That’s like saying the 41 is flawed because it ends in lower Lake City — it should go to Kenmore. Or that the 44 should keep going to Children’s Hospital.

      The three main destinations of the 61 are Lake City, Greenwood and Northgate. The main direct benefit is dramatically improving travel times from Greenwood to Northgate or Lake City. Overlapping with the 45 to connect to the Ballard buses is a huge bonus, shaving an enormous amount of time from the existing alternatives. To get from Lake City to Ballard High School would probably go from being about an hour ( to about a half hour. Even from Northgate to 24th NW it would be a huge improvement. If you just miss the 40, you could take the next 61, and catch it again at Crown Hill (heading it off at the pass, so to speak). (The 40 is extremely slow between Northgate and Crown Hill). Of course if you are headed to Crown Hill — a significant destination — it would be much faster.

      I’m not saying the 61 is ideal. But it is a simple, very strong *addition* to our system. It doesn’t require a big change, but
      lays the ground work for future restructures. For example, I would send the 40 to Northgate via the 61 route. Then I would send the D to Northgate via the northern part of the 40. The D would be a little bit longer, while the 40 would be a lot shorter.

      That would mean going back to a two seat ride from Lake City to Greenwood, but it would still be a much faster one. No more of this crap: Again, we are talking about shaving a half hour off the travel time, even though folks would have to make a transfer at Northgate.

      We are getting into the weeds now. It is quite reasonable to be asked to make a transfer if you are going from Lake City to Ballard. Even from Northgate to Ballard it is reasonable. There are other trips — like to places on Aurora, Greenwood Avenue or Phinney Ridge — that will certainly require a transfer. The main thing is, those trips should be fast. It shouldn’t take three transfers (and an hour) just to go from Lake City to Greenwood — a distance of less than five miles that can be driven in about 15 minutes (without using I-5). The point is to create a real network, so that travel between to common destinations is fast, and travel to slightly less common places is at least straightforward and reasonably quick. Adding the 61 wouldn’t create that network, but it would go a very long way towards it.

  6. Any reason every single car-centric project can’t be deliberately-designed from the get-go for easy addition of and coversion to transit when the time comes?

    Didn’t think so.

    Mark Dublin

  7. “Any reason every single car-centric project can’t be deliberately-designed from the get-go for easy addition of and conversion to transit when the time comes?”

    Mark, buses and bikes ride over roads and bridges already, yet pay no use tax.

    If you are talking about converting roads to rail the whole point of rail is it is grade separated from car congestion so it needs its own ROW. Rail — other than cost — is popular in suburban areas and Seattle’s residential neighborhoods because it complements car capacity and increases mobility, especially during peak hour congestion to urban areas.

    The “conversion” you reference seems a long way off. Every time Seattle faces a bridge replacement, transit and urban advocates begin demanding transit to replace car capacity, and so the first reaction from the residents is to demand no loss of car capacity in any replacement as their primary goal. Since maintaining car capacity and adding additional “transit” capacity costs more, one has to give, and the residents want the car capacity. It is their neighborhood after all.

    What you are really driving at I think is frequency. Depending on cost, frequency uses the existing infrastructure for buses, and does not force residents into a choice between transit and car capacity, which transit usually loses.

    Some transit advocates see the debate as cars vs. transit, which I think is a losing argument, especially when EV’s become more climate friendly than transit (including the massive carbon emissions from concrete and construction for light rail). The West Seattle Bridge replacement and bridges/overpasses to Magnolia suggest to me a car capacity vs. transit fight is the wrong fight, especially during a pandemic when so many are afraid of transit.

  8. Well, well, well, Daniel, we’ve finally come to where we’re plagiarizing “West Side Story.”

    What it’s finally about is WHO’s neighborhood it is. The Sharks who’ve got names like “Bernardo”? Or the Jets whose names include Polish ones like “An-TONE” who everybody in our Nation of Immigrants really knows is “Tony.”

    Who people with Saxon-Teutonic names like “Kemper” think are inferior too, but their hereditary power makes it unnecessary for them to even talk about.

    Tech-source-wise, my in-service conversation with an on-duty Sacramento light-rail driver is definitive. If he says the freeway-designed bridge we were traversing at that minute can handle rail no sweat, Blog-floor’s open to somebody proving him wrong. All I’m seeing is “It’s Already Pre-Paid!”

    Or does that just make it mandatory that where we do have structure or right of way from our own Pre-Freeway Days, we’re required to dig it up, sell it for scrap and put the money to cars-only?

    My own loss of my twenty-year Ballard “live there” privileges was as unwanted as it was irrevocable. What’re you going to do when an inevitably improving economy swings your Island’s “Live-there-ite” vote to strong regional pro-rail?

    You’re not helpless. As befits an enterprising State Capitol, Downtown Olympia’s pretty harbor has been strongly sprouting luxury apartments with everything from forty dollar meals to Dilettante chocolate in their ground floors.

    Antique ferry boat now on sale could soon be either another restaurant or a deluxe-priced freeway-free ride to Tacoma.

    Anyhow, when COVID’s O-VID, your first espresso-mocha at Olympia Roasters in front of our Police Station/City Hall will be on me. Because around here, Neighborhood-possession really is about being neighbors.

    Mark Dublin

  9. I’m with AJ: UW to Ballard should proceed. It should have been the Ballard choice in ST-3 instead of Ballard to downtown that RR D covers IMO, as many Ballardites commute north and east, not south, and there are commutes from north to Ballard as well. It’s been a congested corridor for decades!

    1. Without Ballard-Downtown to link it to the larger system, Ballard-UW is impossible. Read my post upthread; bored tubes can NOT be opened up without digging a big hole, building a surrounding “station box” and removing the compression rings gingerly.

      That is not going to happen on the UW campus. Forget about it.

  10. I think some of you are in denial about how important equity will be to transit planning going forward. Ballad to UW doesn’t pass the equity test. Even Aurora doesn’t pass it. (I’ll give it a D+ for being low income). And the Sand Point Crossing idea is now completely dead. You people need to wake up. The stuff you want or think should happen, now goes to the back of the line. From now on, when you are fantasy planning future Seattle Link lines, you better keep an income and demographics map open in the background.

    1. North Seattle north of 85th Street and the Northgate urban village is lower-income and more diverse than many people realize. With Rainier Valley gentrifying, north Aurora, Broadview, and Lake City will become increasingly seen like a lower-income, less desirable area like Delridge and High Point. And thus an appropriate place for equity funding. North Seattle has been historically viewed as the white half of town, higher income than most of the southern half. But the reality is more complex and has been changing. The remnants of it mostly apply to 45th and the area a mile or two north and south of it.

      1. FWIW, some statistics of this, specifically the median housing price (and link to more stats):

        Delridge: $593k, going up

        Lake City: $656k, stable

        Broadview: $950k, going up

        Bitter Lake: $515k, going down

        Also, for comparison:
        Kent: $495k, going up

        Auburn: $475k, going up

        Des Moines: $470k, going up

        My personal guess is that Bitter Lake will indeed remain lower cost and perhaps depreciate a little more without further gentrification, but the others (Lake City and Broadview) will continue to go up. And even Bitter Lake is still about 10% higher cost than the southern King County cities which deserve the bulk of investments, and as Sam pointed out this is starting to be recognized by the Metro administration and King County leadership. I think the chances of major investment in Broadview are on a similar rate of likelihood as major investment in, say, Enatai – the area is too rich and too low density. Yes, there are plenty of lower income who could benefit from transit in both regions, but there are a lot more such people elsewhere, and they should probably get the extra investment.

        As a last tangential point, I think that adding such numbers to an opinion piece can really bolster the argument being made, so I encourage others to do so whenever possible. It took me 10 minutes of Google + Redfin to find the links above – less than it took to type the rest of the comment. And I stream-of-consciousness type my comments :)

      2. Yeah Broadview is not the right neighborhood to use as an example of racial diversity and poverty within Deep North Seattle.

        Pinehurst, however, has average home prices of $455k and going down:

        Haller Lake is also $570k and roughly stable:

        The broader Northgate neighborhood

        Also, any transit line that serves the U District will do WAY better on equity metrics than most people assume. The 2 census tracts with the most people under the poverty line in King County are the core U District and the census tract straddling I-5 between Wallingford and the U District (59% and 41%, respectively). Those 2 census tracts are also well above the King County average in terms of limited English proficiency, foreign born population, and percentage of people of color (54% and 49%).

        Source and more demographic maps:

      3. @Jesse:

        Thank you for the useful information.

        One question regarding the two census tracts you specified: I am wondering whether the distribution in those two districts is skewed by a very large population of foreign students, who are likely to speak English as a second language and have limited to no income due to immigration law restrictions. Do you have a sense that this particular distribution is similar to, say, other majority-non-white census tract districts in South Seattle or South King County?

        I am asking the question genuinely – I tried to use the dashboard you linked, but it was sufficiently unintuitive and slow to respond on my current device that I gave up pretty quickly. I am sure the information is likely all there, and hoping you can provide the answer with less frustration than I could get it myself :)

        Thank you again for the very interesting post and link.

      4. Why is Broadview so expensive? It’s a decaying fringe area, and an hour away from downtown on the 5. There must be some small part of Broadview that’s wealthy and skewing the entire census tract. And I’m not talking about single-family houses, which went above affordability fifteen years ago. Broadview has a lot of apartments. like Lake City and Bitter Lake, and they’re less expensive than the city average. I don’t see Broadview as being hot in the near future. Developers would have to exhaust central and near-north and southeast Seattle before there would be major attention to Broadview, Aurora, or Lake City.

      5. I see the problem. I thought Broadview was the area north of Greenwood, with the 5 going in the middle of it. But half of what I thought was Broadview is western Bitter Lake in the real estate map. And I thought the part west of 1st Ave NW wasn’t Broadview but Ballard or Crown Hill or Loyal Heights. So what I meant was, the area between 1st Ave NW and around Fremont Ave was a lower-income area. (And east of that as well since that’s clearly Bitter Lake.)

      6. “the distribution in those two districts is skewed by a very large population of foreign students”

        That may be. The International District is also much lower-income statistically than it appears, with people paying unheard-of low rents that you can’t find. It must be all the immigrants and people on special programs from yesteryear in little-noticed parts of the neighborhood.

      7. I lived in the U-District for 18 years. It was affordable in the 80s and 90s, pushing it in the 00s, and is now quite expensive. There certainly aren’t a lot of low-income people in low-cost units anymore. The data is probably skewed by students, many of whom don’t work and their living expenses are paid by loans or their parents.

        The advantage of the U-District is there are so many units and a wide variety of them, and some are small and have few amenities because students don’t need them (e.g., some students eat out most of the time so they don’t need much of a kitchen), that there’s an above-average chance of finding one unit that meets your needs and is that the bottom end of the neighborhood’s cost, as compared to Greenwood or Lynnwood where there are fewer choices.

      8. Those are home prices. It doesn’t reflect rents. For the most part, the prices that are going down are simply adding more condos. That is why Broadview is going up in average value, and Bitter Lake is going down. Broadview includes a lot of very nice houses (with broad views of Puget Sound). There are some condos within the somewhat arbitrarily designated area, but way more by Bitter Lake.

        To get a good idea of the demographics of Seattle, it is better to look census data. Here is an example, just looking at income: This can be a bit deceiving, since college students don’t typically make much money (the UW looks destitute). Still, you can see what Mike was talking about. There are plenty of places in the south end that are lower income, but up north there are plenty as well. That is an old map, but newer maps tell a similar story.

        Anyway, Sam misses the point. This would be a Seattle proposal, which means that low income places like Kent or Auburn are off the table. Income is only one factor when determining transit service, and it lines up just fine in Seattle.

      9. Ross is exactly right. Anywhere west of 3rd NW in Broadview is well north of a million, especially north of NW 130th. The views are VERY “broad”.

    2. I think Sam’s post above about the new transit/Urbanist cause du jour, “equity” in transportation funding (global warming is like an ex wife these days), and Lazarus’ comment that go big or go home when it comes to transit, both hit the same nail on the head:

      Go home. Great idea, especially for the majority who don’t ride transit.

      Or get real politically.

      If you tell all the wealthy and politically savvy Seattle neighborhoods like Ballard no transit for you despite the promises in ST 3 and past Seattle transportation levies, they will vote to go home: no transit for anyone, and these people vote. But I agree if you tell Ballard, sorry, we don’t have the funds for rail, you will get the same objection. ST has sold rail as the cure all for every neighborhood, and its standing, but ST is running out of money for all those promises.

      If you tell the eastside sorry, no transit for you due to equity, they will look at you like you don’t understand ST subarea equity, which of course is their kind of “equity”. They would love to “go home”, which means no county wide transit measures. They “are home”. Equity” is not a great way to sell county wide transit measures on the eastside, especially if you can never spend all the subarea revenue you have, just like global warming is not a great way to sell transit to poor neighborhoods. They are more worried about tomorrow than 2050.

      The route for ST 1 to the airport was all about equity, except it hasn’t done much for the Rainier Valley. Transportation that keeps poor people in poor neighborhoods (to paraphrase Ross) won’t change their lives. Crummy schools forever, there is a catch phrase for equity transit measures.

      Transit won’t cure the sick, or solve global warming, or create “equity”. Education, and better health insurance might, and more money for the poor, better housing assistance, better jobs in a better economy, ironically better and more policing in their neighborhoods because that is where the crime is and they are the victims, but the irony is the first thing the poor buy if they come into some money is a car because they see all the rich people driving cars, and they will be the first to vote no on transit if it will hit their pocket book.

      My guess is if you went to any bus stop in the Rainier Valley everyone standing in line would tell you two desires: 1. more frequent buses; 2. more buses and capacity. If you told them that was not equitable, they need rail in a few decades, they would shake their heads and know you don’t live there, or ride that damn crowded bus.

      1. The Rainier valley has transformed dramatically since Link went there. Some of it was for reasons unrelated to Link, but Link was definitely a large part of it, as it created new neighborhoods where you can live and be a 15 minute transit ride away from downtown. I personally visit the Rainier valley far more often than I did before and, nearly every time, get there on Link. If Link didn’t exist, I would hardly ever go there because bit would be too far.

        A couple times, I’ve taken the 7, and it took seemingly forever. Link is so much faster.

      2. @asdf2:

        How does your personal income compare to the average Rainier Valley resident?

        No need to answer us, just worth considering.

      3. Thanks AM for the well researched post. My question is whether the price of homes is the right metric to determine transit “equity”? Is transit designed to increase the price of homes or neighborhoods? What if you rent? Won’t your rent increase?

        One metric I would be interested seeing is the ratio of renters to owners in a neighborhood. Next would be quality of schools, and percentage of parents who send their kids to private school (Seattle is second in the nation at almost 22%).

        I am assuming you are only talking about buses or city transit measures, because ST is determined by subarea equity. East Link should tell you the eastside does not consider equity when considering transit routes, or rail lines.

        So who will fund non-ST transit to Bitter Lake? Or Kent? The south King Co. subarea? It has no money. Is Ballard suppose to forego its long desired rail line — either to the UW or Seattle, or somewhere — to run transit to Bitter Lake or even Lake City because they have lower house prices?

        I don’t see it. What you are creating is a transit funding program for poorer areas (or at least with less expensive houses) that only poorer areas will agree to fund. ST 3 will tell you that is not how you sell an expensive transit package. Instead you tell Issaquah it will get a $4.5 billion rail line in 2041 because Issaquah thought that was important to its image, knowing everyone involved with ST 3’s sales pitch will be dead in 2041, or every assumption will be wrong when it comes to mobility. But you get the money now, and 2041 is a lifetime away.

        Whether it is ST 3 or Move Seattle or any transportation levy citizens are smart enough to demand specific projects for their vote, especially when it comes to their neighborhoods, or they vote no. Equity is about the worst sales pitch I can think of to fund transit, even though it is the most important basis for transit subsidies, because only poor neighborhoods with low levy rates will ever vote yes, and because any smart and wealthy neighborhood will never trust “equity” in lieu of specific projects.

        At least global warming affected everyone.

      4. @Daniel Thompson

        I am not specifically advocating for anything, though I do not see anything wrong with asking the questions you are asking. If nothing else, they are complementary to others being asked elsewhere in these threads.

        My broader (and shorter) response would be that transit improvements focused on lower income, underserved communities need not be exclusive to these regions. It is a bit like affirmative action based on income level. Whether someone believes this is moral or not is not something I am interested in debating, as it is a judgment call. Whether it is legal or not would appear to be determined by the specifics of the funding source; ST limits it to an extent due to the subarea equity. Metro used to require subarea equity but my understanding is it no longer does. Finally, whether it is feasible at the polls is a different issue from the morality and legality, and here opinion is interesting, because each of us is plugged into different communities. I expect that you are correct in that it would probably fare more poorly on Mercer Island than something like ST3; I venture to guess that it might do okay in Ballard. Whether one would compensate for the other requires more statistical analysis of data that I do not have access to, so I will not speculate.

        Thank you for a thoughtful response.

      5. The equity argument is mostly about Metro at present. It’s a response to coronavirus and Seattle’s increasingly liberal values, as reflected in the city council’s makeup. King County has also gotten more liberal, even if it’s not nearly as much as Seattle and is not uniform across cities. ST’s subarea equity is a different issue, an artificial construct for a specific purpose. (To prevent district-wide tax revenue from being concentrated on Seattle projects; to ensure the Spine.) The Eastside public may misunderstand the former term, but that’s irrelevant for the immediate issues.

        Metro has subareas but the 40/40/20 rule is long gone. Metro usually keeps hours in the subarea during restructures, but the equity surge will be an exception to that.

        Yes, equity emphasis areas are those with lower rents, a high percent of low-income people, minorities, working-class people, elderly, people who can’t afford a car, essential workers, etc. There’s a formula that includes these factors. And Metro’s latest statement said “historical”, meaning neighborhoods that have traditionally been equity-challenged. Rainier Valley is clearly in that category even though it’s half gentrified, while far North Seattle may be less so because its stagnation is less traditional and more recent and more white.

        In the immediate term, Metro is reevaluating its service allocation and equity policies, and intends to shift resources to equity-emphasis areas. We won’t know until next year how much service will actually change. When it comes to the next countywide ballot measure, we don’t know when that will be. Equity will be only one of Metro’s focuses, not its only focus. I don’t think you’ll see gigantic losses on the Eastside, like the 250 and 255 becoming non-frequent. Those are still major strategic corridors. Metro’s map also identifies 148th-156th as an equity-emphasis area, between Overlake Village and Eastgate. So that area might get more resources; e.g., the 245, B, and 226.

        For Sound Transit, ST2 & 3 Link are already fixed. The ballot measure said Everett, Tacoma, and downtown Redmond. ST2 Link is too far under construction to reprioritize parts of it now. So equity mostly refers to ST Express. In East King that might mean shifting hours to the 522, 550, and 560, and away from the 545, and 542, and 554. On the other hand, the 554 is already skeletal and can’t be reduced much without cutting off Issaquah, and Issaquah may also have some equity-emphasis areas because it’s so far out. (Wealthier people tend to live closer in, so Issaquah may be the housing nobody else wants.) As to the public being offended by ST’s equity measures, the only time they really interact is the ballot measures, which are 7-12 years apart. The last measure was in 2016; the next one isn’t expected until at least 2025 and maybe not until the 2030s or ever. By that time many other things will have been happened, including massive Link openings, an unpredictable change in the economy, some number of people moving here, and other transit and traffic issues. Equity may seem like a small issue then, even if ST makes significant equity changes. In any case, equity is only one of ST’s focuses.

  11. It will probably be a “replace the bridges” bill. The West Seattle bridge obviously needs work right now, the Magnolia bridge should have been replaced 10 years ago, but like the Viaduct the city just propped it up and kicked the can down the road. The Ballard bridge is also up for replacement. I’m sure other bridges, other than South Park, need major work as well.

    These are all cost of maintenance items which aren’t as flashy or cool as brand new tunnels or roads. But they need to happen.

    A lot of this is going to depend on if Biden is able to get some sort of Federal transportation bill through Congress. Which since the Republicans will definitely maintain 50 seats means roads, roads and more roads.

    1. If the R’s end up with exactly 50 seats. E.g. both Ossof and Warnock win, Kamala can vote “Aye” on a GISTUPENORMOUS “reconciliation” bill twinkling like a Christmas tree.

  12. The longest-overdue-repair our country will need for its survival is the restoration of the average person’s ability to EARN, as opposed to be undeservedly blackmailed into GIVEN, enough money to buy a house without borrowing a dime.

    When I moved to Seattle, a lot of those Ballard “Craftsman” homes had union-represented manufacturing-employed OWNERS.

    Now Boeing has decided that since passenger-survival had become such a saggy budget-item, they can’t afford union wages anymore than they an afford to build planes that don’t suddenly just turn off their own engines and crash.

    And no, a corporation that is both owned and operated by its own members is not SOH-shalism! Reason there are so few co-ops is same reason opioids are so profitable. A Consumer’s generally a victim who thinks he’s giving orders. But an OWNER works 24-7-365 union-free.

    Well, make debt a slick and deep enough hole with a branch in every shopping mall and gravity+desperation+greed take care of the rest.

    And anyhow…when did STB is start giving so much column space to housing prices. Doesn’t WA-MU have its own blog?

    Their pre-Crash adds in 2008 really did have loan officers waving fresh-signed liar-loans in the air and going “WOO-HOOO!” So maybe let’s turn this whole dynamic over to them. They’ve worked hard enough to earn it.

    And get some coverage on how to build a railcar and a bus, and whether Switzerland or China now builds the bridges and tunnels that the world really should be looking to us to show them how to build. Like we used to.

    And while we’ve got their attention and regained at least a little of their respect, how to be a free country with a democratic government as well.

    Mark Dublin

  13. I’m skeptical there will be an ST4, much less on the 2020s or early 2030s. The most critical part of Link is ST2 (Lynnwood, Federal Way, Redmond); ST3 is contributing only five miles to that. The rest of ST3 Link many people feel ambiguous about, even transit fans. ST1 and 2 set the “normal” size of a phase to 15 years or $15 billion dollars. ST3 went beyond that to a 25-year phase. So that’s already half of what was expected to be in ST4. So with ST3 already so big, and people feeling ambiguous about it, and people reaching the limit of their tax tolerance — especially car tabs — it’s hard to see anything big again for quite a while. Then there’s the recession, and Boeing’s losses and moves, and potential federal gridlock for four years, and not knowing when covid will recede.

    There’s a longer-term issue with ST# measures too. Up until now all subareas have been pursuing the original mandate: Everett, Tacoma, Redmond. After that the subareas’ interests and willingness to spend will diverge. North King wants a lot of things and is willing to spend. Snohomish wants a short extension to Everett CC. Pierce wants a still-pretty-short extension to Tacoma Mall. Will East King want anything? Will it feel strongly enough about Kirkland and Renton to bestir itself to do something? Will NIMBYs hinder anything toward downtown Kirkland?

    The BRT lines are an unknown factor. 522 will definitely be popular because the community has been so eager for it. 405 north and south have the potential to be significant, but we’ll have to see whether people really flock to them and demand more. There’s also 167, which could have a BRT line. If the BRT lines are successful, maybe that would improve people’s overall impression of ST and their willingness to do another phase.

    Regarding a Seattle-only package, as I said, while I support several more Link lines long-term, I feel like now we need to take a step back and complete our bus infrastructure. Central/North Link is the most critical corridor. Ballard and West Seattle are coming anyway. So the next thing we need beyond those is a complete bus network. Then we can worry about another Link line.

    1. I agree an ST4 would need a new organizing vision to replace the Spine, but I think it will be pretty easy to create a coalition of needs. While the ST taxing district doesn’t align with the UGA, is does a pretty good job cover the parts of greater Seattle that have (or will grow into) the density to support transit.

      Instead of grand visions, I think future ST# will simply be viewed as the primary means for raising large sums of money for the region. In many ways, this would go back to the original Sound Move concept, where ST really existing as a coordinating and funding body, with the real operational work done by the counties. ST would certainly take the lead on any future Link work, but for other projects it can simply be the funding body, using it’s immense balance sheet to sustain funding through economic cycles and using the Board as the regional coordinating body to reshuffle and adjust subprojects as regional needs & values change.

    2. I agree, Mike, on all your points.

      There is an argument over what is called “incrementalism”. This is the original argument:, followed by this:

      It depends on the situation, of course, but I tend to fall on the incrementalism side. Mainly because it is extremely difficult to “go big”. It is very easy to spend a huge amount of money on the wrong thing (and I think we did precisely that with ST3). In contrast, an incremental approach is bound to be successful. At most you end up with outdated infrastructure (SoDo busway, or Mountlake Terrace freeway station). Even there, though, often those are outdated only because of the “go big or go home approach”. Maybe Mountlake Terrace should be the terminus. Maybe we should just build another bus tunnel and connect the busway to it (and connect the busway to the West Seattle Freeway and the I-5 HOV lanes). Too late now.

      The important thing, now, is to improve the core of our system, which is bus service. The trains — as good as they are — will never carry more people than the buses. It just isn’t a big enough network. The vast majority of people will depend on the buses — even if it is only for part of the trip — and there are lots of things we can do to make them better.

      1. I generally agree with Strong Towns, but I’m with Levy on anti-incrementalism, particularly for a booming, wealthy region like Seattle; anti-incrementalism makes much more sense for a small, stable-ish city or town that is Strong Towns primary audience.

        That said, at the city level incrementalism seems to be much more successful. So I guess I’d land at advocating for an ambitious ST4 in 2028 while also advocating that Seattle should focus robust incrementalism in the next city levy in 2024

    3. “While the ST taxing district doesn’t align with the UGA”

      They have different purposes. The urban growth boundary is the limit of tract-house sprawl. The ST district is a smaller area at higher density, with urban growth centers and a larger amount of multifamily housing. The ST boundaries are unbalanced, but that’s not directly related to the urban-growth boundary. ST’s Snohomish boundary is small: it probably should have included fast-growing Marysville. Lake Stevens, Snohomish (town), and Monroe are also out. ST’s King boundary is medium: Issaquah, Kent, and Auburn are in, while Covington and Snoqualmie are out. ST’s Pierce boundary is large: it includes huge amounts of sprawl land in the southeast including Spanaway and Orting. Either Pierce should be smaller or Snohomish should be larger or both.

      The practical impact of this imbalance is that Snohomish is allowing its biggest growth in Marysville and Arlington which are outside ST, so it doesn’t have a regional transit plan for that growth. And southeast Pierce is luxuriating in its vast relatively-undeveloped sprawl potential, and is building car-dependent sprawl there expecting ST to serve it. Southeast Pierce should either be outside the ST district, or it should have density/walkability requirements at least to Tacoma’s level. (I didn’t say downtown Tacoma; I gave it the wiggle room of Tacoma’s outer neighbrhoods. What I’d prefer is traditional streetcar-suburb neighborhoods.)

      1. They for sure have different purposes; my general point was ST functions well as “taxing district that covers a contiguous urban area and funds urban transportation infrastructure” in ways that our individual cities and counties don’t do as well.

        “Snohomish is allowing its biggest growth in Marysville and Arlington” – I don’t think that’s true? Appendix D of the County’s General Policy Plan says S.W. County UGA should account for 62% of 2011-2035 population growth, with Non-S.W. County UGA at 30% and non-UGA 8%.

        I think it’s rather unfair to say there isn’t a regional growth plan for Snohomish county. Community Transit seems to have pretty decent plants to service that area, notably the proposed “Red” swift line.

        I don’t mind SE Pierce being in the ST taxing district; those areas benefit from ST’s investments in ways that Covington or Marysville do not. STX routes from South Hill, Orting, and Bonney Lake strike me a very coherent Sounder feeder network, with South Hill having the upside for a future all day ‘Rapid Ride’ level route. SW Pierce similarly has Sounder connections, so I always felt south central Pierce was the odd duckling, but funding the SR7 BRT route fills their hole.

      2. Marysville is the fastest-growing city in articles I’ve read. All those tract houses and apartments and Costcos and industrial centers add up. Downtown Lynnwood plans beaucoup highrises but they haven’t started yet. So Marysville’s developments compare to Martha Lake’s and Mill Creek’s and Mukilteo’s developments. From what I’ve read, Marysville is getting the largest number of them.

      3. My guess is Marysville is the fastest growing from a % basis, but SW Snohomish is still gaining the most absolute population growth.

      4. “I think it’s rather unfair to say there isn’t a regional growth plan for Snohomish county. Community Transit seems to have pretty decent plants to service that area, notably the proposed “Red” swift line.”

        Swift is borderline between regional and local transit. It’s not a Sounder extension for instance, and has lower capacity. Is it sufficient for Marysville and Arlington to access the rest of the region within a reasonable travel time? Maybe it is; I’m not saying definitively. I’m just saying that Snohomish should have either included it in ST or redirected the growth to somewhere else within ST. If it were in ST, it would have been seamlessly included in the regular regional transit plans. Instead CT is trying to meet it in an ad-hoc basis. Maybe CT’s plan is the right scope for Marysville. But somebody in the county government should research and declare that, not leave it to CT to cobble something together. We don’t put the burden of Bothell’s or Auburn’s regional transit entirely on Metro; that’s what ST is for.

        The fact that Covington and Maple Valley are outside ST seems to be a declaration that they will remain smaller housing and jobs centers than e.g. Kent or Renton. Lower-density housing, no urban centers, mostly local-oriented jobs, not workers coming to them from the rest of the region. They may or may not adhere to that, but that’s the ideal distinction between cities inside and outside the ST district.

        “I don’t mind SE Pierce being in the ST taxing district”

        That’s where the largest percent of ST no votes, I-976 yes votes, ST seccession talk, and anti-density zealots are. It’s also the area Pierce Transit withdrew from so that its No vote wouldn’t keep bring transit measures down, which prevented Tacoma and Lakewood from improving their transit. They can’t decide whether they want no transit, or transit without paying for it. And they certainly don’t want urbanists telling them to upzone, limit surface parking lots and put them behind buildings instead of in front, and don’t build cul-de-sacs or superblocks.

      5. “…so it doesn’t have a regional transit plan for that growth.”

        With regard to the Snohomish County piece of this, AJ is correct. The county is (and has been) planning for most of its growth to occur in the SW UGA. As far as the regional transit planning is concerned, the county addresses this as part of the Transportation Element of its Comp Plan. It largely relies on the established agencies, i.e., it supports the long range planning being done by Community Transit and others. So I agree with AJ and think it’s a bit unfair to say that the county doesn’t have such a plan. If you want to get in the weeds on this, here’s a link to the codified section of the county’s Comp Plan dealing with the TE. (Note section IV, E in particular.)

      6. ” Snohomish should have either included [Swift] in ST or redirected the growth to somewhere else within ST. ” Strongly disagree – it’s not an either/or, it’s a continuum. Marysville/Arlington are getting proportionally less growth, so they get proportionally less transit investment. I don’t think it makes sense to only grow within the ST taxing district and freeze the rest of the region in amber.

        It’s the same as what Seattle is doing with the urban village framework, on a county scale. It’s not like Seattle is freezing growth in Madison Park, Alki, and Magnolia because those areas aren’t receiving transit investments; those neighborhoods still continue to grow, just at a much lower rate than neighborhoods like downtown, Ballard, the Junction, etc.

    4. We could split the subareas to separate tax districts so they could make their own decisions on tax rates and timing. We could give ST the mandate to do that high-level planning Al S outlined above. We could give Seattle more autonomous transit-tax authority. We could do things I’m skeptical of like an elected board. Any of these would make ST unrecognizable, so it’s not worth drawing up elaborate plans dependent on them. There would first be the huge issues of public acceptance, state consent, and unknown consequences.

      Comprehensive planning is what has been missing from the beginning. In better cities the transit authority has a comprehensive attitude and urbanist mindset. It puts high-capacity and medium-capacity transit where it’s needed, in the highest-volume corridors, connecting the large and medium urban villages and institutions, with stations right at the pedestrian center of the village. It has full authority and taxing resources to implement it, and it just does it. The town-planning authority complements it with highrises around stations, large institutions and employers within walking distance of stations (or at least shuttles to them), and walkable gridded neighborhoods in the larger surrounding area, with BRT in transit lanes for corridors that aren’t big enough for rail. It plans regional and local transit together so that they complement each other and transfers are easy and convenient.

      In contrast, Sound Transit has limited authority, a regional-only scope, and — most importantly — its structure and norms outsource clout to the counties, cities, subareas, and “stakeholders”. Its board are county/city councilmember/executives. Suburban cities naturally promote a more car-centric vision and demand a disproportionate share of resources, contrary to transit- and urban-best-practices. This is why our network is so much less effective than networks in Vancouver, Toronto, Germany, and Scandinavia — and leaves so many people out who would walk to high-capacity transit if it existed in more urban villages.

      But how do you get from here to there? The existing stakeholders would fear losing their advantages in the current system. NIMBYs would imagine 1940s els plowing through their neighborhood. Anti-tax people would worry about more taxes.

      1. In our current model, the cities are responsible to do such planning. Bellevue’s Spring District and Shoreline center and Redmond center show that cities can build around Link, but I agree that it requires some tight coordination which makes it challenging sometimes to agree on priorities and schedules.

  14. You mention how we fund projects in our city. I wish they were funded in your city but instead people outside of Seattle also pay for projects that seem designed just to benefit Seattle. It I had to get to Seattle without a car, for what I’m paying, I would like to be able to catch the train at a station and get off of it near my Seattle destination or catch the only bus I’d need right there. Not transfer again and again. Chicago managed to combine the train and bus routes well decades ago. I don’t care if a route moves a little faster if I still have to transfer to or from a bus before I even get to Seattle. So please, do fund it strictly within your city since we aren’t getting anywhere near the same level of service options outside of King county.

    1. Jo and everybody else, I guess it’s only human that in a world-wide period where short-term it’s really hard to get anything done, people will concentrate on all the reasons they not only can’t but never will.

      Also that, being human, we tend to focus on our own experience. One of the best times of my own life was when I lived in the formerly independent town of Ballard. Whose independence movement has yet to materialize despite being constantly shafted out of West-side light rail.

      Enrolled in engineering drawing at Lake Washington Institute of Technology just east of Kirkland, I also had a “gig” teaching part-time at Highline Community College. And also tutoring clients in both Lynnwood and Kingsgate.

      Question being….was I a Ballard passenger, a Seattle passenger, a Kirkland passenger, a Kingsgate passenger, a Bothell passenger, a Des Moines passenger, or a Homelessness suspect who’d been Warned that my ORCA card was NOT Proof of Payment? Private Company, you know, Australia, I think, wombat association obvious….

      Look. The whole idea of Seattle and its whole REGION- yeah, I use that word a lot, it just sounds so free and windswept and limitless- is that everybody in it gains mostly benefit from the presence of everybody else.

      If anybody doesn’t somebody’s either doing something wrong or having problems getting something right. A world full of problems has also got same amount of solutions. From experience that included suddenly driving a giant streetcar through Gothenburg, I can testify to Ballard’s most genuinely Scandinavian manifestations.

      Flash to Stockholm Central train station food court. Giant sign saying: “Real Nordic Food-KEBABS! Shift focus to ST service area: What had been revered Scandinavian restaurant at Market and Ballard Avenue became a Sikh place (you know, turbans, steam locomotives, giant trucks) called….. “The India Bistro!”

      Good thing for what seems to be another “Constant”. The Solutions we’ll probably spend our lives working at, our kids will spend their lives finally getting either finished or at least furthered.

      Mark Dublin

    2. people outside of Seattle also pay for projects that seem designed just to benefit Seattle

      What projects are those?

      1. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head are the STX buses between Seattle and the eastside. The North King County subarea really should contribute something for those but in the big picture it’s really a rather minor thing.

      2. The suburbs wouldn’t exist without the larger cities to depend on and to handle the largest-scale burdens. If the central cities didn’t exist, by which I mainly mean Seattle, the suburbs would be very different standalone towns without as many jobs or advantages. The bulk of the demand on ST Express is from suburban residents to Seattle activities: both work, civic duties, recreation, and accessing the longer-distance transportation network. Those ST Express routes are a critical need for the suburbs that depend on the city, but a lower priority for Seattle whose residents use it less per capita.

        However, the 550 and 545 have evolved into exceptions. The reverse commute between Seattle and Bellevue/Redmond has become as large as the traditional commute, and a lot of Seattlites go to Bellevue/Redmond for other reasons like shopping, attending cultural events, or visiting people in those growing cities. So it’s high time for North King to pay a third or half of those two routes. But that doesn’t apply to the 512, 554, 577, 578, 594, or other ST Express routes. Just the 550 and 540. And maybe the 542; I haven’t kept track of its ridership.

        But for pragmatic reasons, ST is not changing the allocation, both because of intertia, and because the 550 and 545 will be deleted in three years anyway with East Link, and ST is juggling much larger issues in North King and the other subareas, and North King’s budget didn’t anticipate the added expense of contributing to those routes so it doesn’t have spare money for it.

  15. I tend to agree that Aurora has a lot of housing spread along its way which makes it difficult to capture via a few Link stations. I think we should focus on light rail for the main corridors and then make sure that we provide a good connection from all urban villages to light rail lines. May be that’s a bus line, but may be a separate ROW would be better such as an aerial gondola. It would be easy to run a gondola from Bitter Lake to 130th Link station so that anybody living at any of the Bitter Lake apartments could take advantage of Link, effectively expanding the Link walk shed.
    Gondola technology might also work for the 44 alignment as you wouldn’t have to argue with UW about another Link tunnel and gondola can handle the ups and downs on that line far better than buses or even Link. Harborview, too.
    Maybe ST4 should be focused to fill those gaps and drive traffic to Link.

    1. Gondola only makes sense when:

      1) The geography makes it difficult to serve with a bus.
      2) You are dealing with a relatively short distance.
      3) It is not part of a larger corridor that makes more sense as a subway or bus tunnel.
      4) Enough ridership to justify the cost.
      5) The stations will have sufficient demand (unlike a corridor where demand is more spread out, and various stops along the way — served by a bus — is a better value).

      None of the corridors you mentioned make sense for a gondola. The only corridor I can think of that makes sense is the one proposed earlier, from Capitol Hill to South Lake Union to Lower Queen Anne. That’s because the freeway creates a major barrier, and the 8 suffers because of the bottleneck. That being said, recent improvements for the 8, and the future light rail line (which would, to be clear, awkwardly serve both areas) probably make the gondola a poor value.

      A gondola from North Seattle College to the Northgate Link Station would have made sense, but they simply built a bridge instead.

      1. These are all good reasons for gondolas, ROW is another one which beats any bus line. Yes, South Lake Union would make sense, you could even run it up to Upper Queen Anne.
        How do you define “short distance”? A gondola can be up to 8mi. I’m not sure the Ballard to UW would have enough ridership to justify a Link subway line, an elevated line may be tricky due to topology. Either way you would need to negotiate with UW. A gondola would not be quite as fast, but much easier/quicker/cheaper to build and still provide a separate ROW a bus doesn’t offer.
        And there is Bitter Lake to 130th station and Harborview, even West Seattle might be much better served by gondola than light rail.

  16. Here are two interesting links:

    The drop in rent in Seattle–Bellevue–Tacoma is not very large, 2.9% over the last six months, and no doubt eviction moratoria and existing leases attenuate fluctuations, but I think the reasons given — the ability to work from home and the ability of more affluent renters to relocate — are interesting, although I am not sure how either would be a major factor in a decline in rents. For example, where are the affluent renters relocating to, and why, and why would someone give up their apartment if they are working from home. Where did they go?

    I also think it is interesting the decline in rents was not Seattle specific, but applied to other local “urban” areas, including Bellevue and Tacoma.

    Two possible explanations given in other articles are affluent renters are pulling the trigger on buying a single family home with record low interest rates and a need for more space to work from home, and the scene in downtown Seattle is dead right now so what’s the point of living in the urban core.

    If one believes increasing housing supply lowers rental and housing costs, working from home could be the magic bullet because it extends the distance someone can live from work (in some cases indefinitely). If housing in cities south of Seattle, or north, or remote east King Co. (including Cle Elum) or Snohomish and Kitsap Counties, then the pool of existing housing supply increases dramatically almost instantly, and most of those areas are much less expensive than affluent parts of Seattle — Bellevue — Tacoma, for a much larger house or apartment.

    Working from home may be the magic bullet when it comes to affordable housing in the region, although no one saw that coming amongst the endless calls to upzone (which never were about affordable housing anyway).

    1. For whatever it’s worth, hearsay suggests that younger people working at #bigtech are looking at relocating to exotic places like Hawaii until the pandemic is over. I don’t personally know anyone who has done this, though – as I mentioned, it is hearsay. Closest I can say I’ve come is knowing someone who is actively considering it (and who is the source of the hearsay).

      I do, however, know of two families living in smaller towns in South King County who are relocating to other parts of the state/country, one from Covington to Spokane, the other from… Auburn, I think, I forget where. And a third moved from Lynnwood to Lake Stevens, though that one feels more like a lateral move (their lease was not renewed due to the sale of the property they were renting from a non-corporate landlord).

    2. The people who relocate to Enumclaw, the Tri-Cities or even Olympia thinking “I’ll just work from home. Cable and DSL are everywhere!” are making a huge mistake. After a few months it will be like they have disappeared from their organizations. They won’t get added to teams; they won’t attend workshops. They won’t be there to pal around with folks at lunch and after work.

      They will be the first to be let go in the coming automation massacres because they don’t have “mind-share” among other workers in the enterprise. Then they’ll be looking for work in Enumclaw, Tri-Cities or Olympia.

      1. Sure, a few hotshots can make it work. But the vast majority of people are ipso facto not hotshots.

  17. I think Seattle should pass a levy to build the Ballard to Sand Point tunnel extension cause they can just use refurbished Sound Transit TBM’s

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