82 Replies to “Sunday open thread: rail ties”

  1. This is an open thread, right?

    I got email from WS-DOT inviting me to an online open house on SR-526. The link is here https://engage.wsdot.wa.gov/sr-526/

    They always use the justification of improving freight mobility – that was used to justify the deep bore tunnel that replaces the Alaskan Way viaduct. Hardly any truck traffic uses it, it is just more SOV infrastructure. Here again they use freight mobility to justify adding more lanes and ramps to SR-526, which serves Paine Field and Boeing Everett – where we are spending significant Sound Transit dollars to divert Link.

    But at the website, you see the real goal: Improved peak period travel times for all vehicles

    Yet another project that really is an SOV project that is really about increasing peak period capacity. The most expensive kind of investment that is only needed during peak periods and encourages SOV use rather than transit use.

    1. I agree. Although maybe we can get the state to pay for the full cost of repairing the West Seattle Bridge by saying it is for freight mobility.

      1. And 787 production moving completely to South Carolina and the 747 at the end of life, and widebody aircraft demand expected to remain low for years to come, Boeing will have way less activity at Paine Field

  2. At last month’s Sound Transit’s board meeting this 2021 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan overview was presented:

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

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

    Both the GDP decline and unemployment levels are severe, and by the start of 2021 those recession-indicators will have extended at least two quarters.

    Everyone gets this, right, or do I need to get explicit with you? Sound Transit already told us its tax-to-the-max capital cost financing plan is doomed to fail.

    1. Its not that surprising. It wouldn’t be the first time Sound Transit failed to deliver everything they said they would. I think it would be the third.

      What it means from a practical standpoint is tough to say. We probably won’t complete the spine. Issaquah to Kirkland (a dubious project to begin with) is probably dead. It gets trickier in Seattle. The current plans are to build things backwards. First the West Seattle section, ending at SoDo (?!). Then the tunnel and bridge to Ballard. The order should be reversed, of course, but I doubt they do that. So the Ballard line — the one part of ST3 that was actually a reasonable proposal — may be delayed indefinitely, while West Seattle has a train very few would use.

      Not only does ST have a history of not building things they said they would build, but they also have a history of building things out of order. So yeah, none of that would surprise me. But then again, things like this are hard to predict.

      1. I have been talking to some WS neighborhoods about running a Aerial gondola instead of light rail to ID. That could be built much faster and save ST about $2b which is about the current shortfall, meaning enough savings to continue the rest of ST3 as planned.

      2. The problem with gondolas or aerial trams to WS is the speed. It’s about two and a half miles. The fastest aerial trams are about 22-26 mph and have to slow down near the ends. Gondolas seem to be able to only go about 13 mph. The cable would have to be pretty long unless it operated on two loops with an automatic handoff in the middle.

        I see a hybrid solution to end WS Link at Delridge and put a hub for gondolas or aerial trams to Admiral, Alaska Junction and High Point. Put it all on the top level of a multi-story building (parking garage at $10 a day?).

      3. Yes, gondolas are not as fast as light rail on a long stretch, but they run continuously (no headway) and direct (not around Pigeon Point or follow street grid). In some cases by the time your train would pick you up, you might have already reached your destination on a gondola.
        Distances of up to 8mi are doable, Junction to ID is about half that distance.
        So for a short connection, gondolas are a much more flexible and affordable option.

    2. The other shoe is the very likely low-ball cost estimates and low contingency budgets for building deep subway stations routed through Downtown and South Lake Union. Blaming COVID gives ST an out on the structural ST3 funding shortfall.

    3. “Sound Transit already told us its tax-to-the-max capital cost financing plan is doomed to fail.” … “It wouldn’t be the first time Sound Transit failed to deliver everything they said they would.”

      Oh, c’mon. It’s the first pandemic in a century. The federal government has never ignored a pandemic before, and the last time it ignored a recession was the 1930s. Should ST have saved up enough for all that? We’d never build anything.

      ST3 may have been packed tight, but its schedule was always based on an unpredictable future economy. As for “tax to the max”, that’s how all public projects are funded. What other source is there besides taxes, grants, philanthropy, and public-private partnerships? Grants are limited to the grants available, philanthropy depends on a philanthrope, and public-private partnerships run the risk of high fares that only wealthy people can afford.

      1. ST3 was huge. So huge, that it required very long term financing. This increased the risk that it wouldn’t be completed. The pandemic has little to do it with it. A big recession (which we were overdue for) is a different matter.

        I’m not saying there will be a problem. I’m saying it wouldn’t surprise me if there is, given their past record (of over-promising) and the size of this package (relative to the population).

      2. Mega projects such as I-405, the DBT also use long term financing in the 25-30 year range, so what’s your point?

        (and who knows what will happen with the WS bridge and Hewitt Ave trestle?)

      3. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure freeways (and houses) are funded differently than Sound Transit projects. My point is that by proposing such a huge set of projects, there is a very good chance that much of it won’t get built. That wouldn’t be so bad if they built the most important things first. But they won’t, which means there is a very good chance that we’ll have to live with poor-value projects while they indefinitely postpone the only part of ST3 that was decent.

        A proposal to build smaller projects (like a Ballard to UW subway or a new downtown bus tunnel) would be much more likely to actually get built in the near (or even distant) future.

      4. I don’t see how making the second tunnel a bus tunnel saves you any money. The tubes have to be the same size, the stations have to be equally as long since it will be sold as “convertible”, and the depths the same, for the same reason. Where are you going to save money?

        Fourth Avenue can’t be cut and covered; the depth is way too great. So at a minimum Westlake and Midtown stations will have to be mined. Probably everything north of there can be cut and covered for the station boxes; there’s usually enough room.

        The only way that converting to bus operation would save money is north of the Lower Queen Anne tunnel portal. Presumably you’d use 15th NW and not build a new bridge in to Ballard in order to save money.

        And you can not build Ballard-UW as a standalone “alternate” project. There’s no practical place for a maintenance facility anywhere in Ballard, Fremont of the U-District. Vehicles will have to travel to and from such a line through some existing connection, which of course would be North Link.

        However, it is completely impossible to break into the compression rings of the existing tubes, even for a single-track, non-revenue “service” connection, without digging a seventy-five foot deep, one hundred and fifty-foot long and thirty-foot wide trench somewhere on the UW campus.

        The crews would have to expose the tube on all sides, support it and carefully peel back the compression rings and tunnel walls through the length of the turnouts, of which there must be three unless ST is willing to run out-of-direction through HSS and use the cross-overs south of the platforms there.

        Assuming ST is willing to do that — which means essentially that NO train could leave the Ballard-UW trackage between the hours of 6 AM and the midnight following for any reason — then you don’t need as long or wide a trench because you don’t have to have the facing-point cross-over.

        You still need the connection to the service track though and you can’t get that without exposing the entire tube and rebuilding it using a concrete shell surrounding the turnout.

        “Through” revenue service would require either a level crossing which would have to be encased in a concrete and steel “station box” or two smaller boxes leading to the diverging tubes, one of which (eastbound to southbound) would have to under-run the tunnel before its junction. Yes, it will already be deeper than North Link, but that means that after the connection under-runs it has to rise to the level of the existing southbound tube where the box would be placed.

        Have you ever ridden the N through the flying junction by the Mint? That’s what ST would have to replicate and it’s two blocks long.

        Absent a directly and noisy command from the entire governmental structure in Olympia, none of that is going to happen on the UW campus.

      5. It would be a lot easier to build a Ballard to UW gondola and not mess with the Link lines. I don’t think the distance/traffic/cost warrants a light rail connection and a gondola would be faster and more reliable than a bus connection.

      6. Actually, given the geometry, the cross-over would be trailing-point because the Ballard-UW platforms will have to be under the existing platforms so the connection would approach the existing tubes from the north side after bellying out perhaps to 17th NE.

      7. I don’t see how making the second tunnel a bus tunnel saves you any money. The tubes have to be the same size, the stations have to be equally as long since it will be sold as “convertible”, and the depths the same, for the same reason. Where are you going to save money?

        Because it is the only thing you build (for a while, if not ever). Build the bus tunnel, build the ramps to the SoDo busway, and a bus stop under Dravus. That is good enough for a very long time. In many ways it is better than what they plan to build. That is way cheaper than the West Seattle to Ballard subway, which requires the tunnel *AND* a bridge over West Seattle *AND* a bridge (or worse yet a tunnel) to Ballard.

        It is an iterative approach. It is no different than building out your subway system. You start by building the most cost effective piece. Then, later on, you build something else. Probably not there — at that point, the greatest need becomes something else, like the Metro 8 subway, or Ballard to UW subway.

      8. And you can not build Ballard-UW as a standalone “alternate” project.

        Says who? Sound Transit did a study, and not once did the say “Oh, wait a second, we can’t do it”. Because, of course, they can. People have connected subways to other subways all over the world. It probably wouldn’t involve digging in the UW (the U-District station lies west of the UW, and the line would be coming from the west).

    4. You’d be taken more seriously as a protector of the taxpayer wallet if you advocated for the cessation of the subsidy given to the Trucking companies and SOV drivers.

      1. Would a subway from Ballard to UW be a “small” project. One thing we have learned is the boring equipment is fairly delicate, and you never know what you will find once you begin to dig, including under interstates.

        A second transit tunnel through Seattle is already part of ST 3, split between the north KC subarea (Seattle) and the four other subareas. Considering the legitimate doubt about how much rail the north KC subarea will be able to afford to run to the different neighborhoods like WS and Ballard a tunnel that can co-exist with buses makes good sense to me, although it might spook neighborhoods like WS and Ballard that they might never get rail, and if you don’t get rail — like Issaquah — you are not a player.

        Tunneling is very unpredictable. I am also not sure how “equitable” a subway from Ballard to UW would be perceived as. The editor of The Urbanist argues the way to deal with the cost of repairing or replacing the WS or Magnolia Bridges is to not replace them (although unlike roads that are ignored bridges “fail”, and tend to be built over things.

        With that kind of mentality what is the chance rational thinking on transportation will triumph, because every time these folks make these demands it makes the residents in WS, Magnolia or Ballard to demand number one no loss of car capacity.

      2. WS to Ballard tunneling would not be easy due to the topography, lot’s of up and down and most likely UW will push back again. A gondola would be much easier and faster to build and fund, It won’t be quite as fast, but still faster and much more predictable than any bus.

      3. Would a subway from Ballard to UW be a “small” project.

        It would be a lot smaller than West Seattle to Ballard. It was studied, and the initial cost estimates were much smaller than what they are building.

      4. Any new connection to UW is academic (bad pun, huh?) unless UW gets more supportive about designing for rail transit. Why spend any money unless the University is behind it 1000 percent? As the major destination for this east-west connection, it is the primary driver of justifying any project. I hate to see the region spend the money required unless UW is willing to lead the effort and integrate a line into the future campus design. The latest UW plans put most of new buildings beyond the close walking distance of Link stations so outside of a sea change in campus layout, I don’t think UW actually cares much about integrating rail transit.

        Of course, the distance from Ballard to the UW is only about 3 miles. There are plenty of technologies that can be examined — but it starts to push the outer limit of cable-pulled systems.

        I would also suggest that a single bore tunnel could work, with two tracks at the end station platforms. That system could be automated and the power could be delivered below the train cars, reducing the needed tunnel diameter. An intermediate station could also be served. When one train arrives at the end station one Platform 1, the next train is loaded and ready to leave Platform 2 because it sat there 10 minutes with its doors opened. It’s so much cheaper than building a classic two-tube system with larger tunnels to accommodate the LRT catenaries at the top.

        Part of the strength of ST Link expansion is its interoperability across the network, but the chosen LRT technology does make tunneling and station vaults more expensive than it needs to be. This is the design assumption which fed the conclusion that Ballard-UW is particularly much more expensive than it needs to actually be. This implicit technology assumption also helped to inflate the costs of many other studied Link extensions leading to ST3, all for trains maxing out at 50 mph.

      5. “it starts to push the outer limit of cable-pulled systems”
        Why is 3mi the limit of cable systems? Gondola systems can be up to 8mi in length.

        “single bore tunnel could work”
        Children’s Hospital is very much interested in an extension, it would allow for extra stations at UW, UVillage, and Children’s. This could still be done with a gondola but not with a single bore tunnel.

  3. As has been true virtually every weekend in 2020, route 255 is on reroute in the Montlake area, making trips from downtown Seattle and UW circuitous and far more time consuming. Burning up any service hours that could have been saved. Truncation should not have happened before construction in the area was finished.

    https://metro.kingcounty.gov/alerts/pdf/20-255-00-rt255-271-st542-sb-montlake-to-eb-sr520-clsd-nov13-16.pdf

    It does also beg the question – why don’t routes 255 and 542 serve the same stops in the Montlake triangle when headed to the Eastside? There are at least a couple of common stops along SR-520 where transfers can be made to other service, and the general principle that makes transit comprehensible is that service headed in the same direction should serve the same stops.

    1. I was very surprised they truncated the buses when they did. I figured there would be a wave of truncations after the 520 bridge work is done, and getting to the UW would be better than ever (and as good as it will ever be). It is especially bad that they made the change knowing things would get worse before they would get better. Of maybe they didn’t know, which would also be bad.

      1. If you enjoy the weekend route 255 disruptions, guess what? You get to do it on weekday evenings, too. Every night this week:

        https://metro.kingcounty.gov/alerts/pdf/20-255-00-rt255-271-st542-sb-montlake-to-eb-sr520-nightly-clsr-nov16-19.pdf

        The completely ridiculous thing is that one of the arguments made to truncate 255 was that it would make service more reliable and predictable. Do they have to have extra buses running to accommodate the longer running times? Certainly the entire route from S Kirkland to Totem Lake will be off schedule due to this reroute. What a great benefit to riders everywhere.

    2. I got caught in this yesterday. It’s not every weekend, but it does seem to happen a lot of weekends. They also managed to design the westbound weekend morning schedules so that the bus always arrives at the Link station right after the previous train has left.

      Still, not doing the 255 service restructure would not have magically prevented COVID service cuts, and I still greatly prefer the current 255 over a version of the old 255 that is reduced to hourly on Sundays. Also, not everybody going to Seattle is going downtown, and UW Station is not just about Link, but also about bus connections to pretty much anywhere in Seattle north of the ship canal. For example, to go to Fremont or Wallingford, you can take the 32 or 44, rather than go to 3rd/Pine and wait for the 40 or 62, like you previously had to do.

      For trips like these, I greatly prefer the UW as the connection point over downtown. It’s a lot calmer. The homeless situation isn’t as bad. It often saves time, as the total distance that you need to travel is less. Also, the old 255, with it’s 5th/6th couplet, didn’t really connect with the 3rd Ave. bus spine all that well, especially in the eastbound direction.

      Overall, I still think the 255 service restructure was the right thing to do; they simply needed to tweak the schedule to make the trips align with Link better.

      1. How do the homeless impact bus service? Are there more homeless on the 255 than say the E or 124? It seems rather odd to alter one’s route due to “the homeless situation”.

      2. Homeless people do not ride the 255. But, I wasn’t referring to homeless people on the bus, but homeless people downtown, at the bus stops. 3rd Ave. has a ton of them, while the Montlake Triangle and UW campus seems pretty clean.

      3. I agree, the 255 restructure has been quite nice, even though I live in Wallingford, not Kirkland. Now that the 43 is a vestige of its previous self, and the 545 no longer stops at Montlake, it’s nice having the 255/542 combination to transfer to other 520 routes. Having non-downtown routes definitely adds resiliency to the transit network as well.

    3. I would also add I think areas on the eastside not served by East Link will object to a bus intercept, and going from a two seat to a three seat commute (if you count the drive to the park and ride as a seat). In that case you will need a second transit tunnel that can handle express buses.

      I can’t think of too many things that will dampen enthusiasm for transit on the East Side than we spent $5.5 billion on East Link to increase commute times to and from Seattle by 45 to 60 minutes for over half the commuters.

      1. For Kirkland, at least, EastLink won’t add a connection, since it would be way too far out of the way. The 255 will continue to run to the U-district, and will remain a faster way to get between Kirkland and downtown than taking the 250 and transferring at Bellevue.

        Bellevue and Redmond would be served by Link directly, so there’s no added connection. The 271 and 542 are also expected to remain to avoid the time sink of having to detour all the way south to I-90 and back north again, just to be on a train.

        Really the only section of the Eastside that really has an added connection from all this is Eastgate/Issaquah. Even then, most people that, today, would take a bus to Eastgate would simply end up taking a different bus to one of the Bellevue Link Stations, skipping Eastgate P&R altogether. While it is true that today’s bus network makes that impossible for many neighborhoods, bus routes can be restructured to change that. So, that really leaves just Issaquah that has an extra connection and even then, only the subset of Issaquah drivers who sleep in too late to get a parking spot at South Bellevue P&R. Even then, the extra transfer adds maybe about 5 minutes, but you easily save 5 minutes getting from one end of downtown to the other end on the train in the tunnel vs. a bus on the surface streets. So, at worst, it’s a wash.

      2. The express buses from the East Side to downtown are bad values. Turning them into feeder buses greatly increases their value, even if a handful of rides decide to just drive. Likewise, building a bus tunnel *and* a train for the same riders is a terrible value. We can’t justify that many express buses from the East Side *now*, let alone when riders have the option to transfer to a frequent train.

        On the other hand, building an HOV ramp between the east side of I-90 (Issaquah) and north 405 (Bellevue) would be a much better value than the Issaquah to South Kirkland rail line. Buses would go from various parts of Issaquah (and Lake Sammamish) to downtown Bellevue and/or Mercer Island, thus avoiding the three-seat ride you dread.

      3. Please tell me why we run Express buses from Tacoma to Seattle which charge the same fare as Bellevue to Seattle. Which Express buses are redundant with Sounder during Sounder’s operating hours, but Sounder charges double the fare. Which Express buses crowd downtown’s streets. Why do Tacomans deserve one seat Express bus service that duplicates rail, at a discount, but Eastsiders do not? That Tacoma service must be terribly expensive to provide since it can be an hour long trip and I-5 is unpredictable so it’s unlikely that most peak period shifts can do more than a single trip. Any why have crazy reversed pricing incentives, so you make the service with low marginal cost per added rider much more expensive than the service with high marginal cost when you add another coach?

      4. Because ST wanted to simplify the fare structure. One of the persistent complaints is Pugetopolis has too many different kinds of fares. Metro merged its two fare levels, and ST did too. I think there was also something about preparing for ORCA 2.

        Sounder has always been positioned as a premium service with a higher fare. That helps to pay for the higher operating costs and expensive track leases. Sounder also doesn’t have enough capacity for all those Tacoma commuters. ST wouldn’t be running buses from Tacoma Dome every 7-10 minutes if they weren’t full. If Sounder fills up in Tacoma there’d be no room for Auburn and Kent even though they’re paying for part of it.

      5. It doesn’t simplify the fare structure when MT and ST have different fares for the same in-county service. It would be way more rational to have a King County fare for all service inside the county, and another for (longer distance) intra-county service.

        It doesn’t simplify the fare structure to have Link have different fares entirely when it really is similar to bus service.

        It doesn’t simplify the fare structure to have Sounder have yet again different fares. The principal in most transit systems that have a decent fare structure (think almost everywhere in continental Europe) that the fare is the same between two places regardless of whether you are taking train, subway, tram or bus.

        If you are saying that the train from Tacoma takes longer, that’s not a good reason to charge twice as much. And the slot payments to BN are the same whether they run 8 coaches or 10 coaches, so the lowest marginal cost is there. A Sounder train can hold like 1800 passengers, that would require 36 buses (at pre-Covid loading). The fares should be the same, and during Sounder operating hours they should not be wasting substantial bus platform hours to duplicate the service. Right now the times when they run frequent 590 buses is exactly when Sounder is operating, not to fill in the times when it is not operating. The 590 series should be for when Sounder isn’t running. And even if the bus sometimes is faster, at least the train is more consistent so that people can be sure to get to work and appointments on time – if you are on I-5 you have to allow for an accident or two to gum things up.

      6. Why do Tacomans deserve one seat Express bus service that duplicates rail, at a discount, but Eastsiders do not?

        What does “deserve” have to do with anything? I wish people would stop using that word when it comes to transit. No one “deserves” anything. West Seattle doesn’t “deserve” light rail, and neither does Tacoma deserve express bus service. These are funded regardless as to whether anyone deserves them or not.

        Anyway, the ST express pricing is stupid — no argument there. So too is the express from Tacoma to the UW. My guess is that it will go away with Northgate Link. All of the Tacoma expresses will go away when Link finally has a good connection to the HOV lanes (which will happen with the Federal Way Station). As of now, there is no good way to truncate the buses. Getting to SeaTac is too cumbersome, as is Rainier Beach.

        As far as express buses from Sounder Stations, I’m pretty sure they are timed to run opposite the train (which is common with commuter rail). The exception being Tacoma, of course, but that’s because the commuter line takes a very long time to get from Tacoma to Seattle (it actually starts out going the wrong direction). In contrast, from Mercer Island, Link operates as an express to downtown Seattle, making only one additional stop (at Judkins Park). There is a transfer penalty, but not much of a time penalty.

      7. Sounder also doesn’t have enough capacity for all those Tacoma commuters.

        Wait, what? Can’t they just add train cars with open gangways? They wouldn’t have to make the stations any bigger, but just allow people to spread out. As it is, none of the trains reached sitting capacity, let alone standing capacity; the Tacoma buses don’t carry that many people.

        Didn’t Sound Transit also negotiate to run more trains?

        I don’t think the problem is capacity. The problem is they don’t want to piss off the folks that prefer the (faster) express bus. Eventually they will, but at least they will simultaneously offer them a better connection to SeaTac, Rainier Valley and other places that Link goes. I don’t know what they will do with the substantial service savings — even after running the bus to Federal Way twice as often (as the SeaTac bus) there will be plenty of money left over. Maybe it is already baked into the plans, and goes into maintaining the train (and building an even longer extension).

  4. If the Deep Bore Tunnel can’t carry any freight, is there any reason we CAN’T put express transit through it?

    Also lends itself to easy low-cost experiments. Six months’ non-stop “Love”-affair between West Seattle Junction and an “Aurora North” that’s pining for affection.

    Ballard-Sea-Tac Airport? While Link is being built, future passengers will still need rides. Reserve a tunnel lane with a paint-stripe, and pretend an non-stop bus is a car. Like a deceased old radical used to put it, nothing to lose but our chairs.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I think the deep bore can carry freight. It’s just not useful to freight because little freight wants to go up Aurora Ave. Similarly, it’s hard to construct useful transit routes that use the tunnel since it completely misses the high activity areas. It’s not great for SLU access, and it misses downtown. If there were demand for Burien to Green Lake, sure. It was a poor investment of transportation dollars. Just like SR-526 widening will likely be.

      1. The DBT is quite a bit better for getting not just to South Lake Union, but also for those catching other buses to continue north/northwest to Fremont, Ballard, etc. The time saved by not having to slog all the way through downtown on a bus is a lot.

        Going against the DBT for transit service is the fact that, during rush hour, much of the speed benefits of using it get lost waiting in the line of cars to get into or out of it, while 3rd Ave. downtown moves pretty consistently because it’s a bus only street.

        Long term, I believe that West Seattle Link and Ballard Link will be good enough that bus service through the DBT won’t be necessary. But, I do think some bus service through the tunnel should be done for the interim period until all these new Link lines are finished (at least once COVID recovery gets further along, I wouldn’t do it now, while budgets are so strained). I wouldn’t reroute the C, but instead make the change on some peak-only express route, such as the 56.

      2. One of the big arguments for building the tunnel (or a new viaduct) is to help with freight. I’m not saying it was a good value (it wasn’t, and freight is hurt by the lack of ramps at Western) but it played a part in at least something getting built.

    2. What express route goes from southwest Seattle to northwest Seattle?

      Metro’s 2040 plan has one route in the tunnel, an all-day express from the Fauntleroy ferry terminal to WSJ and SLU.

      Yes, buses can use the tunnel. But the lack of downtown exits makes it not very useful.

      1. What express route goes from southwest Seattle to northwest Seattle?

        Yeah, that’s the problem. That is what Carl is talking about — there just isn’t the demand, even during rush hour, for those sorts of trips. Part of the problem is that it wouldn’t connect well with other trips that involve downtown. The tunnel and Aurora largely act like a freeway, with no transit stations, in what is the biggest connection of transit trips. That means that not only would it struggle to get enough riders, but it would be a bad value (most express buses are bad values).

        You can curl around, but that really doesn’t get you much. It costs just as much money (if not more), and not that many people benefit. That being said, it is something that Metro and SDOT is looking at, as part of the special enhancements for West Seattle.

  5. Thanks for your concern for our needs, Anon, obviously, but even if our laptops had those great lit-up purple tubes like a 1946 Philco radio, they’d still have an “Explicity” knob right by the on-off switch. Your comment, your call.

    Would like to ask somebody actually running a business, though, especially if it involves the manufacturing whose loss has done our region and our country decades’ worth of damage:

    Unless NPR’s hourly investment reports show The Market outpacing Elon’ “Hyperloop” on the way to Pluto are just more liberal lies, any chance that instead of a “Tax to the Max”, you might call regional transit “A Bet For The Best?”

    Mark Dublin

  6. I love that video. It reminds me of my nephew and a few of his teenaged friends in the 1990s who knew every Metro route and would travel anywhere in the county just for the fun of checking out the various neighborhoods. Good clean fun.

    1. In the 1960’s when I was a pre-teen my little brother and I would walk to the bus stop across from Stevens Elementary and catch the bus downtown to watch a movie at the theater at 6th and University (I can’t remember the name).

      Parents would never allow that today, and I doubt many parents would allow teenagers to ride the bus throughout the county. I live on the eastside and still have a teenager (17) at home, and most parents I know don’t want their kids taking a bus to Seattle, and if necessary will pony up for Uber or drive the kids back and forth.

      If there is one thing transit advocates and Urbanism need it is safe streets, but sometimes I get the feeling neither group sees that, maybe because both groups are so male oriented.

      The transit tunnel and fellow peak travelers made transit from the eastside feel safe for female commuters, but those are gone. If this site allowed photos I would post a photo of the long line of tents at the bus stop for the 550 heading East at 2nd and Jackson. It has made it impossible for our firm to hire Eastside female staff for our Seattle office, well before Covid-19.

      Now having to compete with firms offering working from home it will be basically impossible to hire female staff because they don’t want to go to downtown Seattle anyway.

      1. Hi, woman who regularly rode the buses between Seattle Redmond and Bellevue for 3+ years here. Only time I ever got scared on those routes was fully within Bellevue, and *every* time someone’s threatened me on transit it’s been an entitled middle-class-looking white guy.

        There was nothing more safe about the transit system when it used the DSTT. Quit scaremongering and using women as your cudgel against Seattle and improving transit.

  7. I really meant to start with special thanks to you, Martin, for what I can personally testify is likely rail transit’s both least-known and most powerful motivator. ‘Way past time for some stats put up alongside “Commuting.”

    AKA lifelong addiction starting with Train Ride One.

    All through the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel’s years of “Joint Ops”, two-year-olds being wheeled past the stair-case door at Bon Marche would start pointing and demanding a ride before they knew any words, when they heard a train-bell. Horn or a diesel exhaust? Who said life was fair.

    From work experience, though, I can also testify that a trolleybus driver who’s internalized dynamic braking can gain a small front-seat co-pilot who’s already enlisted for the War on Space Aliens also called the Route 7.

    Word to video-presenter, though. Train or bus, velvet-‘lectric-trick is to glide into the station on “Regenerative”, and engage the brakes jerk-free when the train has already stopped.

    I didn’t leave my Breda-wheel anymore voluntarily than I simultaneously left my combined voter-ship over Ballard, Seattle, King County, and Sound Transit. Thurston County’s membership? To my fellow Ballard-refugees and me, matter of time.

    For my own artistic life, my sculpting chisel, palette, and paint-brush involve a steering wheel and two electric-connected pedals. Paying same tabs and taxes as if the trips were “Work”.

    Because Western State mental hospital is full and Olympia Police de-facto-long- defunded re: budget not politics, they’re certainly “Essential”

    And what’s Unfairest of them all? Every transit trip I have to miss depreciates my lifetime’s chief artistic instrument, starting Learner’s Permit One. 1954 Cadillac, Prius, Breda, Canadian hybrids, one giant blue Sicilian streetcar, – I’m still my family driver.

    Making my mission re: Sound Transit Blog to counter all the word-count getting spent so diligently giving up on public transit. Yeah, pandemic-wise, fecal waste happens. But COVID’s not an armorer’s mistake at Naval Base Kitstap, which also SURE AS HELL COULD happen.

    Budget source for the Recovery that’s as inevitable as it is vital for city, State, county, and region alike? Pearl Harbor attack cost us two thousand killed, World Trade Center maybe three thousand. COVID-count? 245,000 and exploding.

    So if our aging and chronically-traffic-jammed freeway system ever counted as National Defense, like its name said, budget-category-solved-let’s-get-to-work. Good thing those lanes will work so well for trains.

    I know Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, and General Eisenhower, would rather have both Link AND giant emission-free buses for a monument than a War.

    Mark Dublin

  8. And “COUNTRY?” Whatever America’s most-disgruntled temp’s twitter-feed’s obsessed with, that also GOES WITHOUT SAYING!

    Mark Dublin

  9. Can we stop this myth that only well-off businesspeople and tech workers ride peak-hour service? Harborview has shifts starting at 8am, and evening-shift jobs start in the PM peak. My friend in north Lynnwood who cleans houses in Seattle and does short-term jobs in e.g., Pike Place Market, prefers to take the 4xx rather than the 512 whenever she can, because of her perception that riders are better behaved and quieter. And people not working peak hours take transit in the PM peak to go shopping, to evening activities, etc. It’s called peak because of the convergence of all these trips. Especially in the afternoon. In the morning many non-9-to-5-workers wait until 9 or 10 am to go out, but in the afternoon they’re right in the PM peak, on their way from one activity to another.

    1. Of course there are lots of folks that ride transit during rush hour. The point I’ve been making is that express service disproportionately helps the well-to-do.

      Your examples prove my point. Your friend in north Lynnwood prefers to ride the bus that runs peak direction. Why? Because it has more well-to-do riders. Lots of people like to ride transit in the evening. OK, but peak direction only? And besides, how are they supposed to get back?

      No one is saying we should eliminate peak-oriented service. Sound Transit is right in running the trains more often in the morning and evening. But running more poor-value express buses is more likely to benefit well-to-do workers than if you put those service hours elsewhere.

      1. No chance the solution could be to see to it that people whose incomes are too-low-to-live-on could be hired to well-paid JOBS?

        Corridor comprised of a north-end segment in a certain King County Councilman’s district will connect easily with a very long Link-line south of it, and another headed east.

        Make an ORCA card “Un-Evadible” by making sure everybody has one, however many different individual funding arrangements the “Equitizers” have to activate.

        Transit-compatible community colleges like Lake Washington Tech, Highline, Shoreline and all can offer affordable On-Job-Training that’ll mandate a raise on being hired.

        Transit [T-shaky] but a State law forbidding an employer from demanding a degree ’til they can prove the machines themselves require one would be if not a “Great” equalizer, at least a pretty good one.

        No matter how many casualties his gun was responsible for, Samuel Colt’s patent still may not be dead yet.

        Mark Dublin

  10. Uh Ness, the 550 doesn’t use the transit tunnel anymore. That was the point of my post. Yes, female staff don’t feel afraid between Bellevue and Redmond (who does except you), which is why they don’t want to continue into Seattle.

    I am sorry you felt threatened by an entitled middle class looking white guy in Bellevue (on a bus) but that is a little different than standing on 2nd and Jackson in the dark waiting for a bus back to the eastside .

    I don’t have a cudgel against Seattle or transit. Our staff use transit. That is the whole damn point. They have a right to be safe, and feel safe, using transit. Since they won’t commute to downtown Seattle we will move to the eastside when our lease expires after 30 years in Seattle, dozens of employees over the years, and a fortune in taxes.

    The only vote we have after 30 years is to vote with our feet. Even though I like(d) Pioneer Square before Covid-19 I get to drive and park, and am a male. Like most firms if staff — male or female — were asked to work past 6 pm we paid for an Uber home because the character of the DSST changes after 6. It might cost $50 to Issaquah but that is insignificant for a law firm.

    Whether it is Google, Microsoft, Amazon or any law firm you have to go where your best workers want to work and live because we are all competing for the same staff, and great staff can make a fortune. I am sure they have had to deal with boorish riders too, but that is entirely different than fearing for your safety, and you don’t speak for them because you are female and rode a bus in the past and I am guessing are not a licensed paralegal.

      1. In three to four years? That is “temporary”? Before Covid-19 ridership on the 550 dropped by 1/3 after it was removed from the transit tunnel. We can’t wait three to four years.

        But the bigger issue I am driving at is the state of Seattle’s streets. Yes, walking to 2nd and Jackson as opposed to the transit tunnel shouldn’t result in such a different perception of safety but it does.

        It isn’t my problem to solve. We lose nothing by moving to the Eastside, except a fabulous view over Puget Sound. . .

      2. walking to 2nd and Jackson as opposed to the transit tunnel shouldn’t result in such a different perception of safety

        I think you are the only one with that perception, which probably comes from outdated ideas about crime from the 1970s. It doesn’t help that our current president is quite comfortable spreading those myths, as he tried to invoke the worst parts of Richard Nixon. Thankfully, the country isn’t that stupid this time, and voted him out.

    1. I am sorry you felt threatened by an entitled middle class looking white guy in Bellevue (on a bus) but that is a little different than standing on 2nd and Jackson in the dark waiting for a bus back to the eastside .

      I’m pretty sure she felt threatened by an entitled upper class looking white guy in Bellevue (on a bus). The words entitled and middle-class are contradictory in your sentence. She felt threatened by what is commonly known as a douche-bag. If you feel like this is a minor threat, you must have slept through the last four years (“grab them by the pussy”, Harvey Weinstein, Brett Kavanaugh, etc.). All of those attacks were from entitled men. Of course that sort of thing has been happening for years, but a lot of folks just “woke” up to it recently.

      The point being that she is more likely to be harassed by an entitled jack-ass (AKA douche-bag) on the commute home than someone at 2nd and Jackson (although there are entitled jack-asses there as well). Her story is not unique — I’ve heard the same thing from women who commute from the East Side.

  11. Maybe no excuse, Ness, but very possible explanation. On his smart-phone, two consecutive e-mails had just shown him that, one, his house just got re-possessed, and two, his bank had just sent his every loan to court for non-payment.

    More and more, and again and again these days, we have met the Homeless and they are us.

    Mark Dublin

  12. And since yesterday’s Thread is still Open, another set of relevant experience. These last couple of visits to Seattle bring back another painful memory AKA Detroit.

    A definitionally World-Class manufacturing town. Shoved down the Third World chute as the war that a Democratic President lied us into, bled away the exact money we’d set aside to renovate its aging industries post-1960.

    And sent to an early death at the flight-controls of exploding helicopters, “gunships” and “Medivac” alike, the generation whose leadership our country may very well die for the lack of now.

    And a little “History Repeat” here, this time renamed “Seattle?” A fleeing flood of History’s richest refugees, as billionaires price lazy pathetic millionaires out of their homes. And whose locally-increasing increasing numbers make me glad my lift-back can contain a mattress.

    The rebuild of my high-school home and here, I really think the generation whose last election was their first can handle. But I don’t think it’s self-pity to say that in one lifetime, one lost home-town is all that I can handle.

    Mark Dublin

  13. A subarea deserves what a subarea can afford, with a few caveats.

    If the citizens in the Pierce Co. subarea demand express buses to the UW, and those riders carry any political weight, then run express buses to the UW if the subarea can afford it. If the South or North KC subareas don’t want to chip in, and Pierce Co. doesn’t want the fare revenue, then don’t stop in those subareas. Transit is — good or bad — just politics. If rail plus transfers is faster riders will shift voluntarily.

    The Eastside subarea has to pay for 100% of East-west-East express buses even though they are regularly used by those in the North KC subarea. The total cost to the Eastside subarea by the time East Link opens will be close to $1 billion.

    But ST is trying to massage ST subarea equity, especially for North KC that has some very expensive projects/promises, including 1/2 the second transit tunnel I am not sure it can afford. The cost estimates for a second tunnel under Seattle were made before the recent tunneling cost overruns and delays, and $2.2 billion is likely low, a common theme with ST.

    Originally having the Eastside pay 100% of the express buses made some sense because there were very few stops in Seattle, and riders would switch to rail, and the heavier volume was east to west. But now that the 550 no longer accesses the transit tunnel that argument doesn’t hold water, so it is just massaging ST equity.

    What I don’t understand is this argument for bus truncation even if it makes the trip longer or more inconvenient. It is hollow to argue cost because of the enormous cost of rail, both construction and operation.

    The main distinction between most peak riders and those who ride during non peak hours is peak riders HAVE to be someplace by a certain time, which means before, like work or class , which includes the uncertainty of transfers. Trains are more certain, except for truncation, and high number of stops.

    Is ST really going to tell every eastside commuter who lives south of I-90 (plus Eastgate) East Link increased their commute by one seat and 45-60 minutes/day? Or that UW students who live north of Bellevue will take a bus to East Link to a transfer at the International station rather than one seat express buses across 520? No, both groups will demand express buses, and the Eastside subarea has the money for express buses, unless of course ST hopes to use those funds for other subareas, either explicitly or implicitly. (I don’t remember that being a selling point for ST 2 or 3).

    Where light rail improves trips — especially commutes because those folks have to be somewhere on time — great, especially if traffic congestion returns. For areas it does not serve, or improve a commute, then an alternative will be necessary.

    In the end ST is going to have to compete for riders, as will Metro, and can’t adopt Comcast’s customer service model, because otherwise commuters will find alternatives, or demand better alternatives. Rail is not an inherently better commute just because it is shiny rail.

    This need to serve commuters will become more acute with working from home, which is the best alternative to rail, and may be the most important job criterion in the future. How much of a lower salary would you take to save 60 to 90 minutes/day in commuting you may be paying for out of your pocket? This is why ST and Metro are so keen on serving commuters, even though demand is low during the pandemic, with a vaccine around the corner. Neither has any competition for those who have to take transit since they don’t have a car. They get Comcast customer service.

    The reality is rail is fixed and serves a very tiny part of the three county area. The question isn’t whether a bus route on paper duplicates a rail line, the question is which provides better and faster service to an end point when you consider number of stops, congestion, transfers, and overall speed, and WFH provides the best commute of all. Telling commuters their commute got worse because ST spent the money on rail won’t be very popular.

    I think some transit advocates and some on this blog don’t absolutely have to be someplace by a time certain — every single day — and so might miss how difficult or nerve wracking adding a transfer or seat to a commute is, because the rider really has to be there before their start time. Blithely telling a commuter even more of their life will be spent on a bus or train when they hate every single second on that bus or train away from their family will not be popular, and as I began this post transit is just politics, unless of course WFH means there are very few commuters which won’t be good for transit overall, whether is is levies or fares. People on the Eastside who don’t commute have no love for transit.

    1. Look at Link’s planning history. There are hundreds of articles in STB’s archive. East Link was predicated on deleting the 550. ST Express is defined legally as an “interim” service until/if high-capacity transit takes over its corridors. This is common worldwide. Vancouver’s Canada Line to the airport had a Swift-like bus for years from when the Skytrain line was approved to when it opened. I rode it for two or three trips Vancouver to Europe and eastern Canada.

      All ST Express planning scenarios in ST2 in January 2016 deleted the 550 and truncated all other Seattle routes at Bellevue TC, Lynnwood, KDM, and the east-west intercepts at 145th, UW, and SeaTac.

      BUT, the Redmond-UW express continues in all ST projections. The 542 was added to in U-Link and the Eastside (255) restructure to prebuild that corridor for when it takes over from the 545. The Kirkland-UW express (540) is in the 2016 plan, although it I haven’t kept track of it later. Metro plans to continue the 271 and 255 to UW. ST never adopted those so they’re not ST’s concern.

      All over the world, a trunk bus route starts first, then when more capacity is needed and a decision is made, it’s replaced by a rail line. The duplicative bus route doesn’t continue forever, because rail has higher capacity so it can absorb the bus riders. (Sounder notwithstanding: it’s an unusual case. The motivation for Sounder was its short startup time because the tracks were already there.)

      Where do you get adding 45-60 minutes a day to commutes? Those coming from south of I-90 will have an average wait of 5 minutes (10 minutes max), and Link will be slightly faster than the 550. (Seattle-Bellevue at around 23 minutes instead of 33.) We already know Link’s travel time to Beacon Hill for comparison (14 minutes). East Link has fewer stops and no surface segment so it will probably get to Mercer Island in 14 minutes. Those coming from Kirkland or Overlake would have to ignore the 520 bus alternatives if they want to take Link.

      If travelers didn’t want Link. they should have thought about that before they voted for it.

      1. East Link does not duplicate transit for eastside areas south of I-90. That is the whole point. It only duplicates the bridge span and the tiny route East Link runs, which is why express buses will continue to run from Kirkland and areas north to Seattle.

        In fact, originally the center roadway was to accommodate complementary forms of transit (buses), until post tensioning required the rails to be raised, which was a very contentious point on the eastside, and in part converted the HOV lanes from possible HOT or general purpose lanes to HOV only because buses after East Link were expected, and prohibited Mercer Island’s SOV access.

        Living on Mercer Island, having all buses truncate on the eastside will likely benefit me, because there is no rationale for reserving an entire lane of I-90 in each direction for HOV if there are no buses, just HOV cars. The FHWA has indicated that in that scenario the HOV lane would convert to a HOT or general purpose lane, both of which would allow SOV access for Mercer Islanders, including during peak hours.

        Eastside cities with clout like Issaquah don’t care what is in ST’s archives. To tell Bellevue or Issaquah “they should have thought about that before they voted for ‘it'” (whatever “it” is) is politically naïve. They see it as their money, which is true. The settlement agreement between ST and Mercer Island does not allow drop offs on the north side of North Mercer Way for the bus intercept, or a bus layover area on Mercer Island, but that isn’t stopping ST or other eastside cities from claiming that.

        Taking a bus to Mercer Island to wait for a train to Seattle will definitely add at least 20 minutes each way, and just as importantly psychologically a transfer, which means you have to build in additional time if you HAVE to be someplace by a certain time, and Mercer Island is the last stop westbound, and requires at least 8 minute trains to meet capacity (and ideally a second transit tunnel through Seattle).

        When every eastside city south of I-90 starts to complain “truncation” — a term they have never heard despite voting for “it” — will add a seat and at least 20 minutes each way to their commute let’s see how they take that, when the eastside subarea has more money than it can ever spend.

        The cities with the money and clout reserve the right to change their mind, except they will never admit they are changing their mind, and Rogoff does what Bellevue and Issaquah want, including a $4.5 billion line from Issaquah to S. Bellevue, which should give you some idea of Issaquah’s clout with ST.

        Unless of course there are no eastside commuters into Seattle by 2023. Then this argument is probably moot, and some are questioning whether working from home will make Mercer Island’s litigation against ST over the bus intercept moot.

        What are the chances that with working from home 20 peak hour articulated buses/hour will ever “truncate” on Mercer Island, although there is still the dispute with Issaquah over the bus layover area, and Issaquah is a tough opponent. Although nothing in the ST settlement agreement — or ST “archives” — supports Mercer Island being a bus layover area, and the land is not within the WSDOT right of way, I doubt that will convince Issaquah. Which usually means Renton will get the bus layover area, since Renton is scheduled to never get light rail, and will need buses forever.

      2. That “tiny route” covers two of the largest Eastside cities, most of the dense areas, the largest trip patterns (Seattle-Bellevue and Seattle/Bellevue-Microsoft), and a new urban center (the Spring District). No, it doesn’t serve far east I-90 (Issaquah) or south of I-90 (Newport Hills and all that), but you know what, Issaquah is a small city and Newport Hills/Kennydale isn’t even a city at all. The densest thing there is Factoria. Everything else is sprawl which they refuse to upzone. That means by definition there are few voters/taxpayers there, so the tail shouldn’t wag the dog. Renton is out of it because if you’re going from Renton to Seattle you take the 101/102 or Sounder, not the long way around to I-90. All of Metro’s long-range plans have a 101 successor.

        I can see the point that maybe Issaquah and Factoria/Newport Hills should have direct routes to downtown Seattle anyway, but that’s a judgment call, how far from Link is justified having a parallel route. That’s something between those areas and ST and Metro. As for the public not knowing their express buses will be truncated with 75% likelyhood, I can guarantee the Issaquah government and King County government knew it because they were part of the planning. Issaquah said not one word about having the 554 or 21x continue to Seattle, and Issaquah Link is not routed that way. There’s the same issue in Tacoma, where some residents may not realize their buses will be truncated. I have brought this up again and again to warn people of that.

        I don’t know about your history of I-90 rail. What I understood when it was built in the 80s that the center lanes were ultimately for rail but in the meantime would serve buses and Mercer Island SOVs. This was before Sound Transit, so “rail” was just vaguely defined, and assumed the heavy rail and high-floor models of that era.

      3. Taking a bus to Mercer Island to wait for a train to Seattle will definitely add at least 20 minutes each way

        What??? How do you get that? From Mercer Island a train will be the same speed, if not faster, than a bus. Almost all the buses run only during rush hour — when the connecting train is frequent. One exception is the 550, which will be faster from every stop. The other exception is the 554, which will be a lot more frequent, more than making up for the transfer. There is no great sacrifice being made here, for folks who have to transfer — especially at Mercer Island. That station has bus lanes connecting to it, and only one stop between it and the first downtown station — a route that is completely grade separated.

        Argue all you want that we should have built BRT instead. But the idea that the current bus system is better — or that it will be 20 minutes faster — is just BS.

  14. Half and hour ago today, Daniel, November 16. The virus really has gone lethal. Blocking action in any direction, the Topic becomes completely “What-all Else Can We Also Never Do!”

    We’re talking bus-lane space in yards, or maybe “meters”. The railroad that Sound Transit’s giving you is priceless. Would you really rather they’d put it down SR520?

    If life and luck had granted my wife and me her Nordic bakery-cafe in Ballard, our coldest business-plan conceivable would’ve made us do anything to make the place the intermodal transfer point success demands.

    South Bellevue Park and Ride will never be a rail-head. Giving Downtown Mercer Island’s cafe’s and other businesses the opportunity to which the same luck that gave them Link entitles them.

    Doubt it’s as true as you’re making it look, but inference could be drawn that keeping certain categories of people out of your town is more important to you than having them for customers. Because the effort you’re putting forth to make that sentiment mutual is staggering.

    Whatever the nature of the enterprise you’re starting, don’t you owe it to the people you’re hiring, wherever they live, to divert this back-breaking amount of time and effort back to the work you’re going to share?

    A description of it is what I’d really like to be reading.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The populations are as follows:

      Redmond: 67,678

      Issaquah: 39,378

      Sammamish: 65,733

      Snoqualmie: 13,753

      Renton: 102,153.

      $5.5 billion to serve a sliver of east KC.

      The idea Redmond will upzone like Seattle, or Bellevue will outside its commercial core, is unlikely. The Spring District if you look at the zoning is primarily office/commercial.

      Look, I don’t have a dog in the fight. Bellevue was always going to insist on rail just like the (former) Tateuchi Arts Center has to be better than anything Seattle has. I don’t see the future ridership east to west, but whatever.

      If you told me I had well over $30 billion to spend, and I understood the egos on the eastside, I would have predicted ST 2 and 3. But I would never claim this is an equitable expenditure of tax revenue for a society. This is transit perverted

    2. How can Sammamish have almost as high population as Redmond? What is there in Sammamish besides houses and a couple strip malls? (I don’t know since all-day transit doesn’t go there; I’ve only been through it twice in a car.) Either Sammamish has a very large land area compared to other cities or something is wrong with those numbers.

      Redmond is on East Link, and will also have 520 express buses, as I’ve said repeatedly. Snoqualmie is outside the ST district; it’s a rural town with a new urbanist exclave and is not expected to grow. Most of Renton goes to Seattle via the south end. Sammamish is, as far as I know, a collection of exurban houses more than a city.

      1. I’m not sure where Daniel gets his numbers. According to Wikipedia, Redmond is 71,929, while Sammamish is 65,892. So basically 72 versus 66. Redmond is physically smaller, with 16.57 square miles, while Sammamish has 20.42 square miles. So Redmond has more overall density. It also has bigger pockets of density, that happen to be close to the train stations.

        Redmond also has some business, like a software company or something. Macro, micro … I forget … something like that. The point is, I’m pretty sure there are some jobs in Redmond. Oh, and I think Bellevue might have some jobs as well. Maybe even some big buildings.

        Seriously though, without the skyscrapers in downtown Bellevue, and the Microsoft campus in Redmond, it would be difficult to justify the train. With it, and it is easy. It is about the population *and* employment density. The train manages to cover the main corridor, while also providing a very good connection point for feeder buses along the I-90 corridor.

        That doesn’t mean it provides for the whole region. The only way to affordably do that is to spend a lot more money on bus service (to places like Renton and Kirkland). Sound Transit could do that, but by and large they aren’t interested. Metro could do that, but the county voted against that last time (in part because places like Sammamish voted heavily against it).

      2. Yeah city population is rather meaningless on several levels
        1) Population + jobs more relevant; East King is a major jobs destination
        2) Neighborhood density is more relevant than city-wide. The population of Education Hill or Lake Hills isn’t going to drive Link ridership.
        3) Future density is more relevant than current. Several stations like Bel-Red and SE Redmond have little current density but should look very different in the near future as Bellevue and Redmond are explicitly using a Link station to re imagine the surrounding neighborhood.

        Sammamish has high population because it covers a large area and has above average household size (lots of school aged children), both of which don’t correlate with transit ridership. Sammamish lacks the built environment to ever support high capacity transit, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have good mode share … instead, the city should focus on a great bike network, satellite park & rides, and a good local bus network. It’s appropriately in the ST taxing district because it will benefit from 1. SE Redmond as a major transfer point for local buses, 2. STX serving the city directly, 3. access to Link P&Rs garages, and 4. more parking in Sammamish proper, eventually.

        To Ross’s point, Sammamish will benefit from ST2/3 because as KCM service is displaced by ST Link/Stride, KCM will be able to shift service hours to lower density neighborhoods in East King like Sammamish.

      3. My survey was not scientific: I simply Googled “Population of [name of city]. There could be some minor population discrepancies with Wikipedia, but pretty much in the same ballpark.

        I also wasn’t arguing East Link should have run north along I-90, although without a large commuting contingent from Seattle the populations along East Link don’t justify a $5.5 billion price tag IMO.

        I just wanted to highlight the eastside population south of I-90 that won’t be served by East Link. I didn’t include Coal Creek, Factoria (with its new planned multi-family housing), Eastgate, 148th, North Bend and Snoqualmie (whose commuters drive to Issaquah park and rides), et al. I didn’t list Microsoft either because I don’t know how many workers commute from the west side or other areas, how many already live in the Redmond area, and how its pretty generous permanent work from home policy will impact commuting to the campus.

        When it comes to transit it isn’t so much employment but number of commuters, although if I had to guess I would guess population will increase more in areas like Issaquah than Redmond considering Issaquah is on I-90 and Redmond is hard to get to by car. Some workers drive, some may work from home, some may walk or bike to work, some employers like Microsoft have their own shuttles. I didn’t consider cities like Mercer Island, Medina, Hunts Point, Yarrow Point, Clyde Hill, or Beaux Arts because such a high percentage of the work force drives to work.

        My only prediction — and time will tell — is those still commuting from large populations south of I-90 will object to a bus intercept and adding a seat to their commute when East Link opens. What happens then who knows. Maybe those areas will get the finger like Lake City and the reassignment of hours from the 41st to south Seattle (and Ross has an excellent post on The Urbanist on this unwise proposal, except you can’t divert transit from Mercer Island or Medina to Lake City because Mercer Island and Medina have no transit and ST subarea equity), but Issaquah and these eastside areas are not Lake City, and the eastside subarea has plenty of money.

        Even for areas where East Link will run, first/last mile access will mainly be by car to park and rides. There may be some TOD’s that mostly emphasize commercial space like The Spring District, but anyone commuting there from the eastside will still have to begin with a park and ride someplace. On the eastside, the neighborhood (single family home) and schools are still the primary factor in where people live.

        In the end it is just the enormous geographic size of east King Co., lack if density, and the desire for single family neighborhoods, that drive transit realities on the eastside (along with a subarea with too much money to spend).

        I was also surprised by the populations of Issaquah and Sammamish, and would have assumed the populations would have been reversed. Maybe the multi-family housing in east Issaquah as you head up the hill is actually in Sammamish.

        I doubt future employment in Redmond will materially exceed future employment in Issaquah. Both are pretty much suburban cities, and both have pretty restrictive commercial town centers, with some big box stores, but pretty much one and two story height limits in the town center proper. Employment in Bellevue will likely increase, but much of that will be coming from Seattle businesses moving east. When it comes to Microsoft I imagine commuting to Microsoft will decline in the future, even if the workforce increases.

        In the future, post pandemic, I have to think working from home will become a primary factor for many employees. It can save 60 to 90 minutes/day if you live in Issaquah and commute to Seattle, and those commuters are sometimes paying for their own commute. I think these workers will take a lower salary to work from home if commuting is not critical to career advancement. Adding a seat and extra time to the commute after East Link opens due to a bus intercept will only make working from home a bigger factor for these employees.

        If I had to guess I would guess that the total number of commuters east — west, whether on East Link or buses, will decline from pre-pandemic levels even if population increases. Very few eastsiders take transit unless it is to commute to work, so the peak hours are key, unless there are too few commuters to justify express buses or much frequency on East Link. I also did not try to factor in those who will drive rather than take transit if congestion is less post-pandemic from working from home or a recession.

        Like I said only time will tell, but the key for transit IMO is to provide as many options as possible on the eastside because there will be a lot of competition, from driving to working from home. Transit, especially commuting to work, will have to provide a benefit or folks won’t take it.

      4. There is plenty of dense house being added on the Eastside in particular Redmond downtown and Overlake (https://seattletransitblog.com/2011/12/16/redmond-approves-overlake-redevelopment/) and Bellevue Spring district… Some of these people work on the Eastside, but others in Seattle. Taking a car to downtown Seattle or even ST Express can be unpredictable. I rather switch to Link. Even if it takes a few minutes longer, it is more predictable and I don’t have to pay for parking.

      5. Don’t expect more ST Express frequency. The three scenarios in 2016 had fewer, the same, and more hours than current. The budget ST chose for ST3 has fewer. The 550 is being absorbed into Link without its hours being redeployed. The 554 may get an increase because it’s especially low now, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect 15-minute service.

        East King may have a lot of unallocated money as Daniel says. In that case, ST may choose to increase ST Express service there rather than saving it for future BRT or rail. But remember Renton may still want the Renton-Issaquah line, and there are still the stalled plans for an extension to Kirkland or a Kirkland-Seattle line (across Lake Washington or via Bothell to probably 145th).

      6. “as KCM service is displaced by ST Link/Stride, KCM will be able to shift service hours to lower density neighborhoods in East King like Sammamish.”

        The county now seems bent on shifting those hours to South King County and south Seattle in the name of equity.

        I saw a 7 “BUS FULL” today at Mt Baker, northbound in the PM peak. So I can see the point. The 7 has had many reports of full buses peak hours. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, especially since you never know whether the next bus will be full.

      7. I saw a full 7 yesterday in the middle of the day. Ridership on 7 has not nearly as much dropped as other parts of the city.

  15. You know Mark, sometimes I think your posts should come with a Rosetta Stone.

    When you state what the “railroad” (East link?) is “giving” us is “priceless” I am not sure you understand. ST isn’t “giving” us anything. It is our tax revenue. East Link for a city without intra-Island transit and no park and ride space that is about 98% car oriented in exchange for express buses at a cost of $5.5 billion on a dedicated center roadway is hardly priceless. It is a waste of $5.5 billion, except with subarea equity we have to spend it.

    I would vote in a second to divert that obscene amount of money to low income schools although they would be outside my “subarea”. There is nothing about East Link that is “equitable”, and you of all people should understand that.

    When you ask whether I would rather have East Link run down SR520 where do you think it is running? Bellevue to Overlake to Redmond is along 520. What do I care where they run it? I won’t ever use it, and most on the Eastside won’t either. I assume that is the only “density” ST could find on the Eastside, unless you have $4.5 billion to go to Issaquah. At least on the Eastside, light rail is pure politics.

    Next when you state the S. Bellevue park and ride will never be a “railhead” (which I assume you mean some kind of TOD) that was the entire point of the route for Eastlink: Kemper Freeman didn’t want it down Bellevue Way and Bellevue didn’t want it or the main station in Bellevue proper., because it is terrible for retail. That is the reason Bellevue so kindly wants to give it to MI now.

    On the Eastside transit is not something cities fight over, unless of course it is a rail line that will probably never get built and no one will use for ego, and we don’t even want light rail on Mercer Island.

    Finally, when you infer I am a racist because we can’t hire employees to use surface transit in Seattle that is way over the line. For 30 years we have kept our firm in Pioneer Square despite the issues, and for 30 years I have represented injured and disabled workers against insurance companies, especially longshore unions and workers. Yes, I don’t live in the same neighborhoods they do, and if I did they wouldn’t hire me.

    How about you list what you contribute net to society rather than always asking others the same question. Everyone needs to help row the boat.

    Look, I like your posts and like the arcane, but don’t accuse me of being a racist because I think there are more pressing funding needs than some transit, especially rail on the Eastside due to subarea equity.

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