waiting for the bus

This is an open thread.

38 Replies to “News roundup: about right”

  1. The US cities that are best for a carless lifestyle also happen to be the cities most people can’t afford to live in.

    1. And also some European capitals, that are expensive to live in, whose countries most people can’t emigrate to unless we are high earning professionals and young.

      1. I know you said some European capitals are expensive, but I think Madrid is a good example of relatively inexpensive for what you’re getting. Probably a gold standard for transit and walkability.

      2. London, almost all the wait staff seemed to be from Poland last time we visited “the old country”. Now that Brexit is in place I wonder how that’s going to change the “landscape”? Renting a flat in London pretty much sucked. As did renting a house in Ireland. Hoping this gets better when the UK regains control over their nation.

  2. In the first half of the 20th century, Tacoma was urban and had pretty good transit. It has a street grid. Now, it is dominated by I-5, I-705, and SR-16. There is too much traffic on I-5; it congests. My grandmother commuted by streetcar or bus from Fern Hill to downtown Tacoma to bake for 30 years. With I-5, downtown was drained: retail went to the mall; Weyerhaeuser went to Federal Way; BNSFRR went to Texas. The UWT is leading a bit of revival.

    1. Much of Tacoma still has a great grid, which is promising for the future. The 3 freeways are barriers but do not bisect the urban core, remaining on the periphery more like Everett, Renton, or Bellingham than Seattle of Bellevue, which is also good. 20 years of I5 and SR16 construction have at least created a good HOV network to feed express buses from western Pierce & Kitsap.

      If Tacoma can densify, particularly with missing middle outside of downtown, it should be able to support great transit. The retail centers off I5 and 16 need to be redeveloped, but those are generally superblocks with minimal residential, which is conducive to large scale redevelopment like a Northgate.

    2. This is an interesting study that makes the case for I-705 (https://planningtools.transportation.org/290/view-case-study.html?case_id=31). The problem with that line of thinking is that it isn’t sustainable. It is one thing to have free parking downtown, or even build a huge parking garage (as Seattle did). Eventually the city grows up around it. A few months ago I was coming back from the mountains, and decided to stop off in downtown Bellevue, because bridge traffic wasn’t moving. It wasn’t terrible finding a parking spot, but it wasn’t easy, either. I can imagine how someone who is used to going to a mall right off the freeway would prefer that. Who cares? It was obviously a vibrant, thriving city that was less dependent on the automobile than ever. For every mall shopper they lose, they pick up two who want to wander around (off the mall) before or after, and three from folks who live in the area. It all adds up to a lot better transit as well.

      I don’t see much wrong with big parking garages for a struggling city. At worst they are fairly easy to tear down. But a freeway eventually becomes a big stain on the city and really hard to get rid of. If the city grows, it reduces the potential for bigger growth. If the city shrinks, it becomes a ghost town — making blight even worse. I-705 was a deal with the devil, and in the long run it hurts Tacoma.

      I’m not sure what would help Tacoma. It isn’t close enough to Seattle to feed off of it (unlike Bellevue or Redmond) nor is it likely to be regional leader. As everyone says, Tacoma has good “bones”. It has a nice street grid, lots of nice old buildings and houses. Like all cities that size, it struggles with its transit system. There just isn’t enough money (or enough riders) to do a great job, absent a lot of subsidy from the state or federal government. Making things worse, it sprawls to the south. These are areas only marginally connected to Tacoma, even though it is the biggest city for a long distance (the military/VA are major employers, and they are to the south). It is tough to serve areas like Spanaway (other than on the main drag) and yet this is essential if the goal is to provide at least minimal transit to those who need it. The result is a handful of bus routes that carry several thousand, while most carry very few. The 33 bus routes in Pierce Transit carried 29,000 riders a day in 2018, with the 1 carrying over 5,000 (see Appendix B on this download: https://www.piercetransit.org/file_viewer.php?id=4085).

      UW Tacoma is great, and probably played a big part in the economic success of the city. I could see some companies moving down there, as an alternative to expensive Seattle. More likely, I could see startups down there, for the same reason. On the other hand, it could easily struggle. Those from Seattle or Bellevue don’t want to commute that far (especially if they live north of downtown). Even face to face business meetings become difficult. That keeps you small, and most companies don’t want to be small. Even as a satellite office it is likely to lag growth in the area, not generate it. I think that’s the problem with cities that are neither really close, nor really far away from a bigger city. I’m just not aware of similar cities being that successful (if someone can suggest an analogy, I’m all ears). Whenever I consider one, I can always find very important differences.

      I think it is quite possible that Tacoma will become an increasingly nice retirement city. It is close enough to Seattle that folks can go up there for the day. Houses are cheaper than in Seattle, yet many have the same feel — taking advantage of those “good bones”. Tacoma has good medical facilities, and UW Tacoma definitely helps in that regard. I noticed that Ruston is adding a huge new retirement community development (https://goo.gl/maps/FcDtCdfbw5fkg6CZA). That might be a sign of things to come (and hopefully good transit would come with it).

      1. RossB: yes. Note other cities that developed before WWII near rail and around streetcar, Butte and Spokane. Now, the development sprawls along I-90. Everett and Marysville may have a similar story. Lynnwood and Federal Way are new and urban center wanna-bes with Link as a possible anchor.

      2. Amazon provided a questionnaire to its employees about alternate cities they would be interested in living and working in. Tacoma scored surprisingly high, because it has the same access to the outdoors Seattle/Bellevue do, and has more affordable single family home neighborhoods.

        Plus Tacoma has good access to intercity transit, and is well served by freeways which are important if you prefer to drive. By car, depending on traffic which is mostly a peak issue, you can be in Bellevue or Seattle in less than 45 minutes, and in Olympia in 30 minutes. Access to the Kitsap Peninsula is easy via bridge.

        Although I am not personally familiar with Tacoma that much, those who live there tell me it reminds them of Seattle 20 or so years ago, before the dot.com wealth and influx of out-of-staters, and it has a more “real” feel.

        Here is a comparison of the two cities. https://www.bestplaces.net/compare-cities/tacoma_wa/seattle_wa/people

        Tacoma’s major industries include a vibrant port and other industries.

        Median age would not suggest Tacoma is more likely to become a retirement city, like Port Angeles or Sequim, than Seattle. Currently Tacoma is half as dense, which many people like, and I doubt either city (especially Seattle) will see the same rate of future growth as from 1990. It is hard to predict how working from home will affect either city, although more affordable single family homes without the need to commute to work every day would seem to benefit Tacoma.

      3. Generally good comments, but ‘retirement city’ ??? I mean, I guess up near Point Defiance or along the narrow, but come on. There are tons of jobs in Pierce County and South King within reasonable commute, and you continue to dismiss the thousands of people in our region who already ‘super commute’ into Seattle; tele-work makes super commuting far more desirable if people know they are commuting less than 5 days a week. I’m very skeptical of the “yay no more offices downtown” crowd, but I do think there will be many people who live in further out cities like Tacoma that are cheaper but still allow a commute into the primary office in Seattle, whether they primarily work remote or at a satellite office.

        Tacoma is a real city. Saying a start-up will struggle in Tacoma because of the commute from Bellevue is almost as irrelevant as saying the commute from Bellevue to Bellingham is too long. Tacoma has it’s own business ecosystem, which includes a tech scene. Sure, proximity to Seattle & the east side helps, but a start-up in Tacoma would have most of its staff living in Tacoma.

      4. @eddiew – I’d quibble with Federal Way as an urban center. Federal Way station density is going to look closer to the Junction or Roosevelt than even a Northgate – some nice density, but just for a few blocks. Lynnwood is the one that’s dreaming of being the next Bellevue. I’d call out Tukwila (Southcenter Mall), Kent, and Renton well before Federal Way as hopeful urban centers of South King.

        And Everett has old bones and great potential, pretty much everything north of 41st street.

        @Ross – interesting link. I agree I705 is not something I get worked up on. It’s really just a long on-ramp, and it doesn’t really ‘divide” Tacoma from the waterfront because the rail line is an existing barrier. The Port really likes it, but that could be achieved by just keeping the viaduct between I5 and 509.

        On parking, I’d say garages work if you are trying to create access to small town. I’ve seen this work very well for towns in the 50~150K size. But in a city, it’s better to just create sufficient economic density in the urban center itself rather than depending on people driving in from elsewhere.

      5. There’s a difference between being a city that retirees want to move to and a city that’s majority retirees. Twenty years ago when I lived in Ballard, I found it too isolated for my lifestyle then but thought I may want to come back and retire there someday. That doesn’t mean Ballard is majority retirees; just that it’s a nice place to retire. If Tacoma gets a small cluster of retirees the same way, that sounds good for Tacoma.

    3. The conventional belief is that the desirable prestige addresses are in Seattle and the Eastside, especially along the Lake Washington and Puget Sound shore. This is where affluent people pay a premium to live. It’s partly driven by the high-paying jobs in those areas (short commute), and partly by a persistent cultural preference. The undesirable areas are south-central Seattle (approx. 35th Ave SW to Rainier Ave S), South King County, and Pierce County. The affluent generally overlook these areas, and those who gravitate toward them are looking for a good deal, can’t afford the desirable areas, or work in the industrial/retail jobs in those areas (short commute). Snohomish County is somewhere in between.

      Tech workers have bucked the trend somewhat, since some of them prefer living in urban/dense/multicultural areas rather than a large house, so they have been filling condos/apartments in central Seattle and Rainier Valley. So if tech workers are now favoring Tacoma, that’s the second time they’re going into an area that’s conventionally considered undesirable. That could be good news for Tacoma, and it could ease the imbalance of everybody wanting to live and work in Seattle/Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland. Tech retirees would be a variation of this.

      Federal Way and Lynnwood have long stated ambitions to have a downtown as big and wealthy as Bellevue. This is unlikely since they’re in undesirable areas. But they could become the best cities they can. If some tech workers/retirees see Federal Way as a nice place to live, especially with the coming Link stations, and help jump-start its downtown, well, that would be good for Federal Way, and also good (if mixed) for South King County. Mixed because it would also put upward pressure on South King County’s housing prices and displace more people. (Displace them to where? Pierce County? Thurston County? Whatcom and Spokane Counties? Idaho and the Rockies? We’re coming soon to a time where there will be no affordable place to flee to except Detroit and other depressed areas.)

  3. I am not sure how much of a factor weather, or number of days of sunshine, was in the survey. Other than Honolulu all the other top ten cities are in northern areas, and some quite cold and/or wet.

    On the other end the ten worst cities generally are in the south with more sunshine, although several are very warm and muggy in the summer.

    One important factor not mentioned in the list is total population, which leads to population density. Is it realistic to expect Augusta, Huntsville, or Shreveport to have a good transit system. I wonder where some eastside and south King Co. cities would fall in this list. At the same time when Seattle is listed which part of Seattle, because Seattle is a very large and dispersed city based on neighborhoods. Is the list measuring downtown Seattle, or West Seattle, or Ballard for transit and walkability.

    1. Here’s the full study, with the methodology included:
      Everything is based on a citywide average.

      “Access” makes up 26% of the total weighting. It consists of walk score (itself a metric that mainly measures retail and population density), bike score, and number of hiking routes. I suspect this hiking route figure is a decent part of why Portland finishes at #2 on the list.

      “Commuting methods and time” makes up 30% of the ranking and consists of commute mode share data. Importantly, it breaks out mode share into 4 categories–taking transit, walking, biking, and carpooling. It gives 0% to the city with the minimum share and 8% to the city with the maximum share per mode, with a linear interpolation for values in between. So New York’s 56% transit commuting mode share gives it as many points as Portland’s 6% bike commuting mode share and some random city’s 16% carpooling commuting mode share. IMO, this is the most dubious part of their methodology. NYC, Boston, DC, Philly, and Chicago would rank quite a bit higher if it just considered overall non-car commuting share.

      Safety makes up 24% of the total and includes the violent crime rate, property crime rate, sex offenders per capita, hate crimes per capita, pedestrian fatalities per capita, and unintentional shootings per capita. It weights all of these equally.

      Climate makes up a final 20% of the total, broken up equally into: number of days with a min temp 90 degrees; average precipitation; average percent possible sunshine; and air quality. Seattle’s mild weather puts it in the top third of cities on this climate metric, with only limited sunshine bringing it down. (Btw, almost all of the country east of the Mississippi receives more rain per year than Seattle. Atlanta, for instance, sees 40% more rain per year).

      Population density is already so correlated with mode share and walk score that including it as a separate metric would be redundant.

      Tacoma comes 81st on the list. I suspect south King cities would mostly fall below Tacoma but eastside cities would be higher, with similarly poor mode shares but much better safety measures.

      1. One aspect of car-free feasibility not mentioned anywhere in the study is the availability of rental cars. No matter how good the options, there will always be a need to get out of town at least a few times a year. It doesn’t have to be Zipcar (the traditional car rental companies work too), but it does need to be within a reasonable travel time/distance, and you usually can’t bike there because there’s nowhere to secure the bike while you take the car.

        For instance, I recall reading stories that, when COVID hit, the car rental companies in New York City quickly all sold out and what rental cars were available were going for exorbitant prices. So, that’s one piece of the car free puzzle where Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland actually had an edge over NYC.

      2. when COVID hit, the car rental companies in New York City quickly all sold out and what rental cars were available were going for exorbitant prices. So, that’s one piece of the car free puzzle where Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland actually had an edge over NYC.

        Huh? That’s a weird conclusion. The reason they ran out is because lots of *carless* people suddenly, out of nowhere, all wanted a car. The reason Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland didn’t have a car rental problem is because everyone already owns a car. Under normal circumstances, the rental car agencies in New York have more than enough cars to go around.

        In a city like New York, there are lots of people who don’t know how to drive. A rental car isn’t much use to them. This is an old article, but in 2003, only about 25 percent of New Yorkers possessed a driver’s license. https://archive.seattletimes.com/archive/?date=20030820&slug=drive20

  4. Regarding Sounder North service, this was the official update ST posted late Tuesday evening:

    “Sounder train Canceled
    Jan 5 – 7:00 p.m. (updated: Jan 5 – 7:18 p.m.)
    Sounder North – Service Canceled until Monday, January 11 – Special Buses Available
    Sounder North

    Sounder North line service has been canceled for Wednesday (1/6), Thursday (1/7) and Friday (1/8) due to forecasted rain and the continued threat of landslides. If there are no additional events, Sounder North line service is expected to resume Monday (1/11).

    Special buses providing direct service to and from Seattle will operate from each station scheduled at Sounder departure times.”

    1. The Scenic subdivision moratorium for passenger service ended at 8:15am, Wednesday, 1/6.
      (i.e. the Empire Builder was on schedule)

      Sound Transit is playing it safe.
      Plus I don’t know if anyone is on those trains, anyway.

    2. Why, in God’s name, are they still running Sounder North? You might as well just set money on fire.

      1. Because of a hope and a prayer I guess. Seriously though, ST has completely fallen into the sunk cost fallacy trap.

  5. The articles about the price increase for Uber have suggested different outcomes. The average hourly rate for Uber drivers in Seattle will be around $31 after the increase, around 25% higher than in surrounding cities.

    Some have suggested this will attract Uber drivers to Seattle due to the higher relative pay, and so more miles driven by Uber/Lyft will occur in Seattle, which I doubt was the council’s goal when enacting this pay increase.

    Others have suggested this will discourage those living outside Seattle from taking Uber into Seattle to dine or for entertainment when they see the Uber charge will be much higher if they go to Seattle, which will hurt Seattle restaurants and shops.

    Advocates for the pay increase claim Uber is unnecessarily raising fares in Seattle as a political stunt, supposedly to make Uber users angry. Uber says it cannot afford the pay increase without a fare increase, especially during the pandemic when Uber use is down 80% in areas.

    Personally I don’t think raising Uber compensation/fares will result in those Seattle riders switching to transit. Those who choose Uber know it costs more than transit, but it is safer, quicker and more convenient, especially for short trips (and when there is more than one rider the cost differential with transit diminishes).

    Whether it will attract more Uber/Lyft drivers to Seattle — which I think would be good for Uber riders in Seattle — post pandemic who knows, but basic economics suggests it will at $31/hour.

    I am not really sure how a 25% increase in an Uber fare will impact residents outside Seattle taking Uber into Seattle, especially if a martini costs $15 and you don’t want a DUI or to pay a fortune for parking or try and find street parking. Uber’s main selling point is over the car, not transit, and that comes down to the hassle and cost of parking, and whether you plan to drink alcohol, because Uber and driving are about the same when it comes to convenience and safety.

    1. The relative value of Uber vs. transit ultimately comes down to a trade-off of money vs. time, or dollars spent per minute saved. Obviously, higher cost changes the calculus, making Uber less attractive than before. Especially for trips along a frequent bus line where the wait for the Uber might be just as long as the wait for the bus.

      Also, Uber has to compete with other forms of transportation besides just public transit. For short trips, it competes with walking or biking. For longer trips, it competes with rental cars. For nearly all trips, it competes with asking car-owning friends and family members for rides. For airport trips, it competes with shared-ride van shuttles, etc. In some cases, higher fares deter people from even taking trips to begin with.

      From a driver’s perspective, of course an increased guaranteed minimum wage might make them prefer driving in Seattle over Bellevue. But, since Uber doesn’t want to pay drivers to just sit around, they may not get the choice. They may even reserve the privileges of driving in Seattle for drivers who rack up a large number of trips in the Seattle suburbs (without Seattle’s minimum wage).

      Another interesting question I’ve been wondering about is what happens with trips that cross the city line? Will you save money on your Uber fare by ending the trip at the city limit and starting a new trip (with the same driver) to go the rest of the way? For long rides, like downtown Seattle to Kent, the savings from avoiding thr Seattle surcharge for mileage outside Seattle could be substantial.

      1. Well, there is a study suggesting that in some cities Uber increases transit ridership because it provides the missing first/last mile access although it depends on the size of the city. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-19/is-uber-eating-up-transit-users-not-always

        Strangely the study finds Uber shifts riders from rail to buses.

        Apparently at least in San Francisco Uber/Lyft are a big part of increased traffic congestion. And as you suggest in some cities E-bikes are cutting into Uber, although to me E-bikes seem like the worst return for any kind of mobility when cost is factored in.

      2. E bikes are great mobility value when you own them yourself. It’s the shared rental model that drives up cost to the point where it doesn’t make sense anymore.

        That said, I personally use my e-bike as a bus replacement, not first/last mile access, as I am not leaving a $2000 e-bike locked up on the street at a bus stop all day. Door to door, an e-bike ride as long as 10-15 miles is often just as fast as riding the bus, sometimes faster if the bus option requires a transfer.

      3. It’s the shared rental model [of bikes] that drives up cost to the point where it doesn’t make sense anymore [in Seattle, while making sense in just about every other city]

        Fixed that for you. We are one of the few cities that has trouble with the whole bikeshare thing. Even Portland is doing better. $100 a year for point to point bikeshare is quite reasonable.

        I realize “point to point” and “bikeshare” is redundant, but lots of people still don’t understand the concept, because we have failed so badly at it. If you were to visit, say, Boston, you would quickly understand that it really isn’t about “rental”, the way you would rent a car (there are plenty of better options for that). It is about renting for a very short time, and then dropping it off at a different location than where you started. If enough people do that, it becomes affordable for all. Kinda like transit (the two go together). That’s why a high percentage of bikeshare users already own bikes, or have the means to own bikes.

    2. Is there a study that indicates Uber is safer than mass transit in general? With regards to coronavirus studies seem to be all over the place.

  6. If people who lives in a low-neighborhood hate gentrification, why should low-income housing be built in wealthy neighborhoods? Isn’t that putting them in the type of surroundings that they detest?

    1. I can never tell if your questions are serious or not. I’ll treat them as serious (if perhaps a bit smart-ass):

      Gentrification is when wealthy people move into a poor neighborhood. The greater societal ramifications aren’t simple (many have argued it is a good thing, overall) but it is pretty easy to see why some would object, especially if they believe it is responsible for higher rents. Higher rents push out poor residents, as well as shops that cater to them, or shops that don’t make enough to afford the higher rents. This is what people object to.

      There are definitely low income people that wouldn’t want to live in a wealthy neighborhood for the same basic reason. You may find it difficult to assimilate, so to speak, and the shops won’t really cater to you. But there are plenty of people who don’t care. They are poor, after all, and just want a roof over their head. There are also lots of poor people who would be thrilled to move to a wealthy neighborhood.

      This is the direction public housing has been moving for a very long time. Don’t build big housing projects in poor neighborhoods, but subsidize housing all over an area (using so called “Section 8” vouchers). Those vouchers are voluntary though, and plenty of landlords (especially in a “hot” market) won’t bother with them. This creates a sort of “small town” environment, which most sociologists, or public planner would consider a lot better than the alternative. If you have a lot of wealth stratification (which we do in America) it is better to have every neighborhood have a mix of wealth. You want the town banker a few blocks away from the guy who cleans bed pans. You want them both going to the same school. That’s the idea.

      Whether America can actually deliver in that regard, or lag most of the industrialized world in solving social programs (since roughly the 1970s) is a big question, but putting low income housing in rich neighborhoods is the right thing to do.

  7. Martin, could you be a little more specific as to what you mean by “The Seattle Process” and why you think it’s a bad thing.

    Because in my life’s transit experience in more than one visibly pro-transit place I’ve lived, the more trackage got laid by sheer adherence to good old-fashioned bribery.

    My first answer as to the reason of my every pro-transit vote, I’d never call it either blameless or ingenuous to just say this: the better the public transit, the longer my car will last.

    However something from my earlier machine-design years left irrevocable in me. Most especially about designing anything in ground transportation, any design you “nix” away from me, the more I want to to prove I can’t handle either the pole-rope or the dynamic before you say I’m too old to drive it.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Tesla stock up 7% today. Uber stock up 7% today. I believe the first self-driving cars widely used by the public will be self-driving Ubers using Teslas.

  9. Piggybacking on J.S.’s comment above, Sound Transit’s Deputy CEO has put out a damning memo to her boss concerning the escalating cost issues with ST3 capital projects. I recommend reading the entire ten-page document, but here are some key excerpts from the memo’s preface:

    “This memo reviews concerns relating to increasing cost estimates for transit expansion projectscurrently in development that have not yet been baselined – which is to say that the Board has not yet selected the project to be built or established a final cost estimate or delivery schedule. The memo also outlines Sound Transit’s planned response, including information and next steps that staff are preparing
    to review with the Board and public.

    “We are now seeing many of the same challenging factors, which boosted the costs of our Lynnwood and Federal Way light rail extensions, impact the estimates of light rail projects that are currently early in design. As we move this next wave of projects toward baselining their budgets and schedules in the
    coming years, it is clear from the latest estimates that the ultimate costs will be higher than previously estimated. These challenges are also present in other local projects and other areas of the country where rapid population growth, urban development and economic growth have driven up costs of
    construction and real estate.

    “Recent design advancements contributing to significant cost estimate increases for the next wave of projects have primarily involved three projects: (1) the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions(WSBLE); (2) Tacoma Dome Link Extension (TDLE); and (3) the Link Operations and Maintenance Facility (OMF) South. For these projects, the cumulative impact of the revised estimates is significant: approximately $4.8 billion to $6.2 billion, or an increase of more than 40%.

    “While cost pressures continue across the region, design advancements reflect that our challenges are particularly acute in areas where we are seeking to build within highly urbanized areas of Seattle, as is the case with the West Seattle and Ballard light rail extensions. In these areas, advancement of our design work shows that real estate development and cost pressures have continued to outpace the
    assumptions in our cost-estimating methodology. These and other issues associated with building in densely developed areas are further discussed below.

    “These projects are also seeing increases in construction costs as design advances and the scope is better understood. As an example, the updated estimates now assume, in some places, replacing surface stormwater management options with underground detention facilities. These and other changes and
    provisions will be reviewed through value engineering, although many of the construction cost estimate
    changes discussed below reflect better understanding of project requirements that are not likely to
    change. These include long aerial guideway spans over railroad and utility corridors, challenging site
    conditions, and larger maintenance facilities as a result of more detailed operational analysis.

    “Ahead of future development work, the staff is updating the agency’s Long-Range Financial Plan to assume cost increases of 36% for these later projects based on the recent Tacoma Dome Link estimates, as discussed later in this memo. These adjustments, when applied to the Everett Extension and OMF
    North, the South Kirkland to Issaquah Extension, and the extension to Tacoma Community College total $2.7 billion in 2019 dollars.

    “Cumulatively, the cost estimate increases described and included within the finance plan total $7.9
    billion in 2019 dollars and $12 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars on current project schedules. They contribute to an overall $11.5 billion affordability gap, that is 10.9% of the agency’s Long-Range Financial Plan through 2041 as the Board moves forward with its realignment process.”

    Well, the shit has finally hit the fan, as the saying goes. I’m sure the agency will try to blame the pandemic in some way for their continued poor cost estimations for ST3. Anyone who has been paying attention had to see this moment coming. Some of us long ago, even before the Nov 2016 vote, were warning that the ST3 cost estimates were BS.

    https://www.soundtransit.org/get-to-know-us/documents-reports/board-directors/search?keywords=&order=published_date&page=1&facet_1807%5Bstart_date%5D=Jul 01%2C 2018

  10. Land, construction, and soft cost estimates are all up significantly. ST when selling levies tends to downplay contingency funding for such massive projects, which ordinarily if public projects is around 20%. Meanwhile future estimated revenue is down. Overall this is several billion dollars.

    The solutions are to: 1. extend the completion dates for West Seattle and Ballard even further; 2. try and sell a ST 4 to a skeptical post-pandemic four other subareas; 3. place a specific North King Co. subarea levy on the ballot; 4. scrap light rail to either West Seattle or Ballard, because I think it would be hard to convert rail to express buses for one neighborhood but not the other; or 5. try and borrow the funds from the other subareas, although Snohomish balked at lending the N. KC subarea funds to complete/accelerate the line to Snohomish Co, so not sure how willing they would be to “loan” the funds for West Seattle and Ballard that would not be paid back for decades and would displace service in those subareas.

    I think these cost “estimates” have to do a lot with subarea equity, because ST in ST 3 was trying to downplay total revenue and tax rates for the four other subareas while at the same time hoping to sell tax rates and future revenue that would complete the project list in the N. KC subarea. I could be wrong, and some on this blog have stated I was wrong in the past when I questioned the revenue and cost estimates to complete ST 2 and 3 in the N. KC subarea.

    At the same time we are talking about 2035 and 2040 so new estimates for land prices and construction costs could be high post-pandemic. Maybe just wait and see what happens in 15 or 20 years revenue and cost wise. Maybe if the lines from Everett and Tacoma and Redmond have been running for a while, and the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, a new levy in 2030 or 2035 is the better approach, and the other subareas will have projects and funding needs that would support a ST 4.

    Or transportation is fundamentally different than it is today and light rail to these areas is not cost effective, based on ridership and general tax revenue.

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