91 Replies to “Weekend open thread: the South Shore Line”

  1. And the mayor of the small town at the end of the line (and only 25% of the in-service trips) is about to be the Secretary of Transportation…

    Something is wrong with this picture.

    1. He might know something about Chicago at the other end of the line. He might have even been there. And he’s familiar with a train that looks like the Chicago el.

      1. I’d add the going to university where urban rail is king and where there is a trolley bus tunnel (Harvard, Cambridge/Boston) also leaves an impression.

    2. He also has two nearby urban advisors if he wants to know what transportation works in cities: Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama.

      1. Listening to Rahm about anything = automatic disqualification.

        I’m not sure what OP is complaining about either – the likely alternative would’ve been someone who ran a state highway department.

    3. In other words, I’d rather have a transportation secretary on the South Shore Line, which has proven transformative for a century, than one from Texas, Florida, or Georgia where even the cities are suburbanesque and rail is viewed with suspicion. Mayor Pete can take a train any hour to a real city and probably does sometimes, or at least knows people who do regularly. In the southeast there are few trains or buses and no large walkable cities, so the first one they may encounter is Washington DC. And somehow there’s a diconnect: bigwigs see a European-style transit network in DC and how it has benefitted Arlington and Alexandria and Silver Spring, but somehow think it’s not feasible or worthwhile or is too socialist for their cities.

  2. According to the video the South Shore Line began in 1903, was privately run until 1990 until Indiana took it over, carries 3.5 million passengers/year, is 90 miles long, serves around 8 cities, and runs at grade over freight rails.

    What I don’t understand is why the video states this is the last interurban passenger line in the U.S. Or why Illinois and MI do not help fund the line.

    What about the Cascade Line between Seattle and Portland? Or Amtrak on the east coast. Link will be electric, nearly 70 miles between Everett and Tacoma, and will serve at least 6 cities. There is passenger rail between Seattle and Spokane that runs over freight lines. It is slow and bumpy.

    So why is the South Shore Lake Line considered the last interurban passenger line in the U.S.

    My guess is the reason for the lack of interurban passenger rail between cities — except in the northeast — is the lack of density between cities, distance between cities, the slowness of the train especially on freight rails, cost including public subsidies, and direct competition by planes, or cars on interstate highways.

    The South Shore Lake Line certainly looks romantic, and slow, and I would like to know if most passengers are traveling to Chicago or from Chicago. Could such a line survive without public subsidy, and having one of the terminus a major city like Chicago.

    1. Seattle had interurbans too, including one to Tacoma and one to Bellingham. They were streetcars with very long routes, often serving rural agricultural towns. “The last of the interurbans” means the last of continuously-operating lines. Most American interurbans were disbanded in the 1920s-1950s. The distinction between interurban, commuter rail, and regional rail is perhaps arbitrary. Interurban is used for continuously-operating systems that were called that then. There has been talk of “reviving the interurbans” but it’s not clear what that means and the proponents haven’t clarified it. VTA light rail in San Jose was, in the 1950s planning, intended to revive something like the old streetcar lines. That’s not interurban but it’s the same concept. Interurbans, as the name implies, go between principal cities (as they were considered a hundred years ago), while commuter rail may fizzle out in a suburb with no significant city in between. The Metra northern lines may not be interurbans because they don’t go as far as Milwaukie. I haven’t seen the South Shore line or the cities on it so I don’t know how large they are or how many industrial workers ride it. If it’s considered an interurban outside this video, it’s probably historical terminology.

    2. I believe that the Norristown line NW of Philadelphia can also be considered an interurban. There are several other systems which could fit. Finally, several other lines began as interurbains but they morphed into light rail, heavy rail or electric commuter rail depending on the modernization.

    3. The difference is really academic now.

      At one time, railroad companies had ticket booths, staffed stations, conductors and had to have a crew of at least 5.

      Interurbans fell into a different class of operations with lighter equipment, stations that might just be a bench with a roof, and a lot less staffing.

      Today, South Shore has to operate with the same equipment as any other railroad, with the same staffing requirements. Simple, unstaffed stations are common, though virtually nobody has the simple trackside bench of the interurban era.

      Light rail is basically the successor to the interurban, not full scale railroads that have to meet full Federal Railroad Administration requirements like South Shore does.

    4. What goes to comes fro.
      In other words the number of people in each direction are equal.

      To & Fro.

    1. I would definitely like to see ranked choice voting come to the state of Washington. Although, if it does happen, it will probably be through a ballot initiative, rather than direct action on part of the legislature.

      A first step could be to at least legalize ranked-choice voting for city-level elections. The most recent mayor and city council races in Seattle could have definitely used it.

      One could even imagine ranked-choice voting for future transit-related ballot measures. Instead of having a single proposal where you’re forced to vote “yes” or “no”, you could have three options to choose from, including a more ambitious option, a cheaper option, and a “do nothing” option. Perhaps this might lead to better transit outcomes than a binary vote where the only choices are to either accept what’s proposed or reject everything, with no idea when or if another proposal will be voted on.

  3. Observations:

    Yes, Virginia! It is possible to have electric trains on single track sections (although it limits frequency)!

    Yes, Virginia! It is possible to have high platform loading!

    Yes, Virginia! Trains in city streets have to go too slow!

  4. Note how leaders and entrepreneurs figured out over 100 years ago that there was value in separating longer day-long train lines from close-in urban rail systems in large urban areas. In this case, the state boundary/ ownership plays a key role as to why this isn’t a Metra line.

    ST on the other hand assumes that there can only be elaborately-engineered light rail (Max 55 mph speeds) or locomotives on mostly rented tracks as rail technologies. As ST struggles with its looming ST3 budget challenge and as our region is hungry to lay the groundwork for high speed intercity rail, a revisiting of some of the ST3 projects on the extremities would seem more than timely — if there was the political will to do that.

  5. While it’s been forever since I lived in Michigan, I knew quite a few people who would drive to South Bend to take the South Shore Line into Chicago, bypassing Indiana Toll Road and Chicago Skyway tolls; congestion on I-80/94 in NW Indiana and the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago; and avoiding the stress and cost of finding parking in Chicago. These days, with the incremental improvements along the Amtrak-owned tracks between Porter, Indiana and Kalamazoo, Michigan (which now allows 110-mph service) plus other improvements at freight-passenger rail bottlenecks in NW Indiana and Chicago’s South Side, for folks in SW Michigan, it’s easier to drive to Kalamazoo or Niles and take Amtrak into Chicago vs. driving to South Bend to take the South Shore Line. Given South Bend’s proximity to the Niles Amtrak station, it might be easier to drive north into Michigan to catch a 110-mph Amtrak Wolverine or Blue Water train than taking the South Shore Line or Amtrak’s long-distance Capitol Limited into Chicago from South Bend. If Indiana invested in its Amtrak network like Michigan did — remember, the state of Michigan bought a major stretch of the Chicago-Detroit Line (Kalamazoo to Dearborn) from Norfolk Southern with Obama USDOT assistance while Indiana actually defunded its Amtrak Hoosier train service between Indianapolis and Chicago in 2019 — South Bend and NW Indiana might be able to take more advantage of their Chicago-adjacentness. Right now, the South Shore Line and Amtrak’s Capitol Limited don’t even go to downtown South Bend! The South Shore Line terminates at South Bend’s airport at the edge of the city and Amtrak’s Capitol Limited stops on the west side of South Bend, not at or near the former Union Station closer to downtown. South Bend has studied options to add more South Shore Line stations in the city, including a station closer to downtown near the former Union Station. The doubletracking of the South Shore Line between Michigan City and Gary, recently approved and funded through a mix of federal, state and local/regional sources, will help improve frequency and speed of service between South Bend and Chicago, but hopefully, the city South Bend, St. Joseph County, state of Indiana and the USDOT can figure out away to bring the South Shore Line to downtown South Bend. It’s (relatively) low-hanging fruit.

    1. I think the biggest problem is the general economic collapse of that part of the country. The South Shore Line carries less than 12,000 people a weekday. That’s not much, given the size of Chicago. Gary, Indiana sits more or less in the middle of it. East Chicago, Indiana gets a respectable 1,700 riders a day. Downtown Gary gets less than 500. The problem with this line is that Gary collapsed, and still hasn’t recovered.

      In 1970, Gary was bigger than Tacoma. It had 175,000 people. Now it has 75,000. (Tacoma is over 200,000 now). East Chicago has shrunk as well (from about 50,000 to about 25,000). There are some nice neighborhoods scattered around, but they tend to be in suburban areas (suburbs of suburbs if you will). The core city of Gary has collapsed. It isn’t that there aren’t “good bones” (like Tacoma). There are some cool old buildings, along with Jackson Five murals. But the few that survive are outnumbered by empty parking lots (https://goo.gl/maps/fkUHyiexBNiaJwwKA).

      An interurban has to connect urban areas. Otherwise, it is just a poor excuse for a faster commuter train, or an express bus (as there are not shortages of freeways in the area). While connecting the train to the middle of South Bend would be nice, it isn’t clear where the riders would come from. While the college town has escaped the worst of the what amounts to a fifty year (and counting) regional recession, it isn’t big enough to be a regional attraction. Unless places like Gary recover, riders would prefer to skip the town, and take a faster way to Chicago, while Gary itself generates fewer riders than an express bus to Auburn (or the Sounder stop for it).

      1. South Bend is also an issue. The biggest thing in South Bend is the University, but a few decades ago the decision was made to cut the line back to the airport. The effort was to try to make it another Chicago airport, but that’s not happening.

    2. “Tacoma is over 200,000 now”

      Tacoma is as large as Spokane now? For most of my life it was significantly smaller. Hmm, Wikipedia says Tacoma in 2019 was just 4,484 less than Spokane (213K vs 217K). I guess I’ll have to revise my views of the relative sizes of Washington cities. I thought it was Seattle, Spokane, then a way’s down to Tacoma, Bellevue, and Everett.

      Of course, this reflects artificial municipal boundaries. The tens of thousands in Lakewood and Spokane Valley aren’t included, even though the density doesn’t change much at the boundaries.

  6. A topic I’m curious about:

    We’ve seen the Northgate restructuring as well as early talk for East Link and Lynnwood Link restructuring. Most of these have involved public agencies revising their own services. However, I’ve not seen much chat about private operations (employer shuttles, casino shuttles , intercity bus services, etc) and other public agencies (JBLM, WSF, National Park Service, etc) on whether the expanded Link and Stride system should change things for them. 2025 is now only four years away.

    Are there any current proposals that have been presented? Are there any suggestions on service changes or new services? I could see some better connectivity evolving once Federal Way, Lynnwood and Redmond have Link stations.

    1. I don’t think there have been any restructuring or changes in service for East Link. ST now states East Link may open 9 months early.

      If by connectivity you mean first/last mile access, I think this depends on the area and surrounding density, from feeder buses to shared scooters/ebikes to park to walking to rides. I think first/last mile access will be a key issue when light rail is completed to Everett/Tacoma/Redmond, with cost and ridership being the two main considerations.

      If commuters gain a seat and transfer when light rail opens from their current one seat express buses frequency on feeder buses and light rail will be even more important during peak times because to some extent peak hour commuter travel will be discretionary with working from home.

      ST’s problem for East Link is it estimated 50,000 riders/day by 2030 which few believed, but if ridership is depressed from working from home (post pandemic) the gap between ST’s fantastical estimated ridership and actual ridership could be large enough to further erode ST’s credibility. Ridership on the 550 declined before Covid-19.

      Throw in adding a seat and transfer for Eastside commuters and less than ideal frequency of the feeder buses and East Link (on top of the drive to the park and ride) due to cost and lower fare box revenue and you could see riders deciding to work from home, drive directly to the train station, drive directly to work, or complain like hell and demand their one seat express bus back.

      Since East Link will open first and the Eastside subarea has plenty of money, I would suggest ST spend whatever is necessary to increase frequency of any feeder buses and the trains, because if East Side residents begin to complain East Link is a bust it will hurt ST’s other projects right when ST is dealing with declining credibility, and convince those communities served by a bridge to demand no loss of car capacity in any new bridge.

      . Spend whatever it costs to make East Link work from day one no matter how many (or few) are riding it so riders and residents say it works.

      1. I certainly expect to see a shift from other park and ride lots (like Eastgate) to South Bellevue and SE Redmond Link Stations when they open. I also expect that the Mercer Island transfer issue will need to come to a head in the next year.

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see new private shuttles connecting East Link stations to other places a mile or two away. Factoria, Eastgate and South Kirkland campuses seem pretty ripe for one or two private shuttle vehicles that can frequently circulate into Link stations.

        I expect all of the major casinos will change or introduce services to feed a new Link station. The expanded system is going to bring Link much closer to every major casino.

        Snohomish ferry terminal shuttles are another service that may become viable but that seems less likely than some other shuttle services.

        State fair shuttles to Federal Way seem like a reasonable thing to offer.

        Bolt Bus stoping at end stations is another possibility.

    2. I don’t even know what the company shuttles do now because that’s internal to the company. WSF has never had last-mile access so I doubt it would start now.

      I’m assuming Trailhead Direct will go to South Bellevue or possibly downtown Bellevue. I think it’s going to Seattle only because East Link hasn’t started yet.

      The state and national parks and ski areas don’t have good transit access now so I doubt that will improve. (A $50 private shuttle is a far cry from a $2.75 bus. Even if the bus fare were bumped up to $10 it would still be much cheaper than the charters. Vancouver has a regular bus to Grouse Mountain as I said a few days ago.)

      The casinos would likely have shuttles to Link since that would expand their client base, and they already have shuttles from Seattle I’ve heard. Taking transit to casinos is fairly popular. I think Greyhound has a special branded route from Oakland to Reno, and from Chicago to somewhere.

      STB has suggested a shuttle from Federal Way to Mt Rainier, but don’t hold your breath.

      1. The ski shuttles are inherently very expensive to operate because each round trip ties up the bus and driver for the entire day, including the several hours in the middle of the day where they have to pay the bus driver to sit with the bus while all the passengers go skiing. Plus, they have to commit to a schedule in advance without knowing what the weather or snow conditions are going to be like. Whether a bus is full, half-full, or 1/4 full, they still have to run it.

        As a rough estimate for what the economics look like, I once looked up the cost of an all-day charter bus to be around $1500/day. If the bus seats 50 people, that works out to a break-even rate of $30/person for a round trip – if every single seat is sold for every single trip, which obviously unrealistic. If each bus runs half-full on average, the round-trip per-person cost must increase to $60, just to pay for the cost of running the bus. Of course, the people riding the bus are also buying lift tickets and not consuming on-site parking, so there is some business justification for subsidizing the fares somewhat. But, not anywhere near the $10 level.

      2. I’m assuming Trailhead Direct will go to South Bellevue or possibly downtown Bellevue.

        I agree. I think it is worth noting that only two of the four routes goes to Seattle. I would send the Mount Si route (https://trailheaddirect.org/mountsi/) and Issaquah Alps route (https://trailheaddirect.org/issaquah-alps-2/) to downtown Bellevue instead of Seattle. That saves some time, and downtown Bellevue will be easy to access. South Bellevue is a big park and ride lot, and accessible by the train, but not especially good for buses (downtown Bellevue is a major transit center). Downtown Bellevue would also get walk-up riders — that’s just not gonna happen in South Bellevue. Meanwhile, people who park and ride can just drive to Eastgate (which is about as easy).

        The Mailbox Peak route only goes as far as Issaquah (https://trailheaddirect.org/mailboxpeak/). I could see it extended to downtown Bellevue.

        The Cougar Mountain route serves Tukwila and Renton — I don’t see that changing (https://trailheaddirect.org/issaquah-alps-2/).

        Right now, the service is largely designed to deal with the huge overcrowding problems that exist at these trailheads. On the website it has on bold letters: Park. Ride. Hike. This explains why the Mailbox and Mount Si buses stop at the North Bend Park and Ride. People who are forced to turn around can backtrack to North Bend (which acts like an overflow lot). It will be interesting to see if they want to evolve to attract more transit/walk-up riders.

      3. The ski shuttles are inherently very expensive to operate because each round trip ties up the bus and driver for the entire day, including the several hours in the middle of the day where they have to pay the bus driver to sit with the bus while all the passengers go skiing.

        Not necessarily. They can send one bus back, with all of the drivers. Then in the evening they come back at work. It is not a lot different than peak transit service. It that sense it is expensive (in part because you are paying part time wages) but not horrible. There may be some that would like to wait for the evening drive. Ski resorts often get cheap labor by giving away lift tickets. I could see that.

        Also, while there is a definite early “peak” orientation, there are always people who like to leave early (especially older skiers with season passes) and people who take a leisurely start. If you look at the schedule for Mailbox, for example: https://trailheaddirect.org/mailboxpeak/, there are a fair number of buses in the middle of the day that wait a few minutes at the trailhead, then turn around.

        Plus, they have to commit to a schedule in advance without knowing what the weather or snow conditions are going to be like. Whether a bus is full, half-full, or 1/4 full, they still have to run it.

        Yes, that’s a big part of the problem. That, and the big distances. From Bellevue to Snoqualmie Pass takes about 45 minutes in good weather. If you have to put on chains, it could take a lot longer. Assuming you are paying for round trip time, you are looking at a couple hours in the morning, and a couple in the evening (if not more). That’s not cheap.

        But it isn’t unheard of. It is fairly common in Europe. (I’ve taken a bus to go cross country skiing in Italy). It would require a big subsidy, and it isn’t clear what the big benefit is, compared to simply improving regular transit. One is being able to get more people on the slopes — but that isn’t a big societal benefit, just good for the resort. The other is the reduction in traffic. I don’t think this is a major issue on I-90, but it is on Highway 2.

        The ski resorts essentially lease out the land from the Forest Service. There are conflicts between folks who are paying to use the lifts, and people snowshoeing, or backcountry skiing (who don’t pay a dime to the resort). Again, this is bigger issue at Stevens Pass. As part of a new lease, I would require Stevens Pass Ski Resort to come up with a traffic/parking plan. One option would be to run a free shuttle, while charging (everyone) for parking. I would run the shuttle buses from Monroe. This would free up the parking, while reducing traffic. This would be a big expense for the resort, but that would just be the cost of doing business.

        Another option would be to have the county (or state) run it, but simply charge the resort.

      4. “The ski shuttles are inherently very expensive to operate because each round trip ties up the bus and driver for the entire day”

        Still, Switzerland does it. If you want to reduce vehicle miles traveled, make those areas accessible to everybody, and avoid expanding parking lots and widening rural highways, and ensure everybody has the health benefits of outdoor recreation, you have to have transit to the major recreational areas. In Switzerland and Germany and China you can take transit from the airport to practically every part of the country, towns both large and small, and several recreational areas. And they run at least hourly, or at worst every two or three hours. Not every trailhead and ski area and view needs to have transit, but at least one in each category. That’s why the unofficial suggestion for a shuttle from Federal Way or Tacoma Dome to Mt Rainier is so intersting. I also wish there were a way to get to Northwest Trek in Eatonville without a car. Or the MMA tournaments that are mostly in suburbs and small towns.

      5. Anecdotally, the trailhead direct service is used primarily by people who do not have cars, the vast majority of which, live in Seattle. People who do have cars are not driving to the bus; they’re just driving to the trailhead.

        A link connection is acceptable since it adds very little time and many of the riders will be on Link anyway, so it isn’t even an extra connection. Downtown Bellevue is fine as a cheap extension, but it shouldn’t replace service at South Bellevue park and ride, which is much more on the way for people coming from Seattle. A forced backtrack would add a good 15 minutes of travel time each way, without much benefit.

        The Mailbox shuttle should probably be truncated further and just go to North Bend (with a timed connection to the other bus). The saved money can be used to add a new shuttle from North Bend to Rattlesnake Lake.

      6. “South Bellevue is a big park and ride lot, and accessible by the train, but not especially good for buses”

        You were the one who said a significant number of people carpool or drive to a P&R to take the shuttle, especially if they’re carrying bulky equipment. That’s the main reason I chose South Bellevue over Bellevue Downtown. If it turns out that this isn’t sufficiently necessary,, or that they can and would take Link two stops and transfer to the shuttle as a 2-seat ride, then I’d to back to my original first choice, which is clearly downtown Bellevue.

      7. “The ski shuttles are inherently very expensive to operate”

        And we can recognize the difference between trailheads within King County’s urbanized area and Metro’s service area, vs Mt Rainier and Snoqualmie Pass which are a longer distance and more expensive to operate and don’t have any in-between stops to add value to the cost.

      8. I see ski shuttles as the last shuttle purpose someone would choose to reach via transit. The gear is just too hard to carry. I was thinking that shuttles would instead be used by tourists and hikers. For example, I could see a direct Snoqualmie Falls shuttle from SE Redmond or Downtown Redmond or South Bellevue (as opposed to Route 208, which stops over a half-mile from the overlook and ends in Issaquah).

        I could see ski shuttles operating from major station parking garages. Having 1500 free spaces at South Bellevue is a huge asset that could be advantageous for a ski shuttle operator to use. ST may need to think about what is the right response to garage users that don’t board Link.

      9. Downtown Bellevue is fine as a cheap extension, but it shouldn’t replace service at South Bellevue park and ride, which is much more on the way for people coming from Seattle. A forced backtrack would add a good 15 minutes of travel time each way, without much benefit.

        It would take a bus just as long to get to downtown Bellevue as to South Bellevue. That means the only difference if you are coming from Seattle is the time spent on the train, which adds up to 5 minutes. This is a minor delay for those coming from Seattle. It is also possible that someone will take a bus from the UW, as opposed to riding the train all the way around. Then you have all of those people on the East Side who have good bus connections to downtown Bellevue, along with the people who would walk to the stop. There is nothing at South Bellevue, but a huge parking lot. Which brings me to the other point:

        You were the one who said a significant number of people carpool or drive to a P&R to take the shuttle, especially if they’re carrying bulky equipment. That’s the main reason I chose South Bellevue over Bellevue Downtown.

        Except you are ignoring what I also wrote. Everyone — and I mean everyone — who wants to park and ride can use Eastlake. The bus will stop there (as it does now) and there is a gigantic park and ride lot there. There is no reason to stop at multiple park and ride lots in Bellevue. It should stop at downtown Bellevue — with transit connections to practically everywhere — Eastlake, and stops to the east.

      10. Sorry, I was referring to asdf2. He has said over the years that people carpool or drive from all over to a P&R for the trailhead shuttles or a smaller number of cars. I thought that quote was part of his comment but I misread.

      11. “That means the only difference if you are coming from Seattle is the time spent on the train, which adds up to 5 minutes.”

        It’s not 5 minutes, it’s 15 minutes. 7.5 additional minutes on the train. 7.5 additional minute on the bus. Anytime you add a backtrack, the time penalty is double what you think it is, which is why backtracks are quite bad. Also, as I mentioned before, a large majority of Trailhead Direct riders are coming from Seattle, most of which would be reaching the Trailhead bus by crossing I-90 on Link.

        On top of that, the quickest route from downtown Bellevue to I-90 is to get on 405, but the ramp configurations do not allow any vehicle that uses the I-405->I-90 ramp to serve Eastgate Freeway Station. So, making any stop at Eastgate at all would require the bus to take surface streets between downtown Bellevue and I-90, at which point you may as well just serve South Bellevue P&R and use the Bellevue Way ramp.

        “It is also possible that someone will take a bus from the UW, as opposed to riding the train all the way around”

        Possible, but today’s weekend frequency on the 271 would make that very unattractive. We’re talking a bus that runs hourly in the morning and half-hourly in the afternoon. Link’s weekend frequency will be every 10 minutes – a huge improvement, especially if you can make the switch at South Bellevue and avoid the backtrack. Even more so for those from Roosevelt or Northgate who are already on Link, so staying on Link avoids an extra connection entirely. I hope Metro does improve the weekend frequency of at least the Bellevue->U-district part of the 271 to every 15 minutes. But, I’m not holding my breath that it will actually happen, especially since the 271 doesn’t get brownie points for “equity”.

        “Except you are ignoring what I also wrote. Everyone — and I mean everyone — who wants to park and ride can use Eastgate.”

        Once the bus serves South Bellevue, you could probably get away with skipping Eastgate for the reason you mentioned. But, the freeway station is so quick, I’d probably serve Eastgate anyway, since there’s little reason not to.

    3. “ST’s problem for East Link is it estimated 50,000 riders/day by 2030”

      It may be a problem for you and the FTA but I don’t think it will be a general problem among the public. Seattle/Bellevue/Redmond is guaranteed to have some all-day ridership, and even if it’s low it’s an important strategic corridor to have. I’d say it’s the second most important corridor after downtown-Northgate. Travel across the bridges has been increasing for fifty years, so if it suddenly reverses that would be unexpected and not something ST could have foreseen in 2008. But any expert or well-informed politician will tell you high-capacity transit between the two largest cities in the area that are only twelve miles apart is important. If you said BART isn’t needed any more because travel between San Francisco and Oakland will be low you’d be laughed out of the room. The same for travel between Minneapolis and St Paul or Seattle and Bellevue. The larger the cities and the closer together they are. the more people will inevitably find reasons to travel between them, both now and in the future, even if they don’t commute 9-5 across them. Hockey is coming, and basketball may return. And people have relatives across the lake.

      Some people will take a 10-minute train that extends to east Bellevue and Redmond, and the other way to Capitol Hill and the U-District, who won’t take a 15-30 minute bus that terminates at Belleuvue TC and Convention Place. Didn’t you say something about people preferring one-seat rides? Link will open up one-seat rides from Seattle to the Spring District and Overlake Village. And reciprocally to Capitol Hill, the U-District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. And via a train-to-train transfer to south Seattle. (Train-to-train transfers are usually more convenient and supported than train-to-bus transfers.) And East Link will have Judkins Park Station, directly in part of southeast Seattle. I knew somebody who lived on Rainier and worked on Mercer Island, so he might have taken the 7+Link if it had been an option. There are an increasing number of Eastside-oriented people living in Rainier Valley, and it will surely increase with East Link.

      Last-mile transit to stations will be an ongoing ST and Metro issue. Metro has already said what it will do if it has the funds. ST3 budgeted ST Express at the same level it is now, so I doubt there will be a dramatic increase in frequency on truncated routes like we’d hoped. But relentless public pressure could help, as it did with bringing Link’s frequency back up to 15 minutes and eventually 10 minutes, and 130th Seattle station.

      As to a disappointing East Link ridership and feeders raising the mantra that “Link is a bust”, people will think what they think, and most of that would come from people who have long thought Link is a bust. If people are surprised that the 554 and 111 will be truncated, they haven’t been paying attention. They asked for light rail across the lake. This comes with it. You can have parallel buses for a short distance, but not ten miles across a lake. You can have parallel buses for Federal Way where Link’s speed will be >20 minutes slower, but not in a corridor where Link will be as fast as the buses. (Or faster when the buses are stuck in traffic or a collision closure.)

      1. Eastsiders who don’t take transit won’t care if East Link is a bust. And in 2008 with ST 2 and later with ST 3 truncation was never discussed. In fact truncating all buses across the bridge span is fairly new, which is why the litigation between ST and Mercer Island just started. Bus truncation and intercepts were never mentioned in the Nov. 2017 settlement agreement.

        I am sure there will be some cross lake ridership, but it is called East Link, not West Link, and the North King Co. subarea didn’t pay a dime of East Link. So it better work for eastsiders who use transit or riders will raise a fuss.

        If it doesn’t work for all Eastside transit users it will be considered an expensive failure and citizens will lose interest in rail, and transit in general, and ST’s credibility will go from near zero to zero.

        As you note transit riders will look for alternatives: driving to work, driving directly to the train station, working from home, maybe private shuttles. That is what they did when the 550 was eliminated from the transit tunnel and ridership dropped 1/3, pre-pandemic. But they will be angry at ST and will express their dissatisfaction to their local politicians who have a lot of juice with ST, and all the subarea funding.

        It isn’t the Eastside subarea that is out of money and needs one or two future levies, including Metro. If East Link is a dud on the Eastside that won’t encourage future yes votes for levies.

        ST isn’t the Soviet Union. It needs to sell because with cost overruns and future reductions in ridership and fare-box revenue it is at least $10 billion short on ST 3, which will affect future frequency. East Link is first out of the gate on ST 2 and 3 and it needs to work for the Eastside.

        Telling Eastside transit riders they should have read the tiny print in the footnotes on ST 2 in 2008 on truncation is not a good idea IMO, if ST and Metro ever want another dime out of these people who may no longer have to commute by transit with working from home.

        I just don’t think some realize how precarious ST’s financial and political situation is right now. ST basically just told West Seattle and Ballard they are not getting light rail (too bad they didn’t read the tiny print in the footnotes of ST 3), and I thought made it pretty clear earlier that without more funding long term frequency on rail will be 15 minutes despite the recent and temporary reversal of that decision which isn’t affordable long term, which no doubt was in the tiny print too, with vehicle valuations. But based on North King Co. subarea equity balances I don’t see how ST can ever have 6, 8 or 10 minute frequency, especially during non-peak times, without more general fund revenue.

        If I were ST I really wouldn’t care what Seattleites think about East Link because their subarea is broke. I would spend whatever it takes no matter how many riders — especially commuters because East Link was sold about commuting — to actually make the experience pleasant for people who don’t like transit or commuting to begin with. If that means parallel express buses so be it. The subarea has too much money to spend anyway.

        East Link is easy because there is plenty of money. If ST can’t get East Link right — which includes the 90% of East KC not directly served by rail but will be affected by East Link it has no hope in the other subareas, and those subareas will realize that truth if East Link is a dud, which on paper looked like a dud in 2008, compared to say the northgate to Seattle run.

      2. “And in 2008 with ST 2 and later with ST 3 truncation was never discussed.”

        It was left open to be decided later. That’s not a definite truncation, but it’s not a definite non-truncation either. So they can’t say they were promised the buses would continue going to downtown Seattle. The point of rail is to replaces buses in its corridor because it does it better and more efficiently and can handle demand spikes better.

        “I am sure there will be some cross lake ridership, but it is called East Link, not West Link, and the North King Co. subarea didn’t pay a dime of East Link.”

        East Link, and Forward Thrust before it, were predicated on connecting Bellevue and Seattle. The Redmond extension and intra-Eastside trips are add-ons. They may become the majority ridership someday, and hopefully they will, because that would show the Eastside has gotten seriously into transit and is keeping most of its origins and destinations within its area, as any area should. But East Link’s intention was to connect Bellevue and Seattle, because regional transit is important too, and there are a lot of car trips across the bridges that will hopefully be replaced by transit trips eventually.

        The Eastside would not exist without Seattle. If Seattle weren’t there, an Eastside settlement would be smaller and less prosperous. If it were as big as Seattle, that’s the same as saying Seattle could have been in another location or with another name. That doesn’t change the fact that it did grow west of Lake Washington, so the Eastside needs to connect to it there. It needs to connect for all the reasons a satellite city needs to connect to the largest city in the region — for business, for government business (e.g., the courts and county government), for ballgames, to access multimodal transportation (ferries, Amtrak, Greyhound), for taking visitors to Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, etc. It may seem to be inverted with the most affluent people shopping in Bellevue Square and the Bravern and finding their cities cleaner and the like, but for the total number of everybody’s activities, Seattle is still the center of the region and the one other cities need to connect to for many reasons. So the Eastside is paying for it because they need it more than Seattle does, because they are the smaller satellite cities.

        It’s like Judkins Park Station. It’s there because it’s on the way to the Eastside. If East Link didn’t exist, North King wouldn’t build a short line to Judkins Park, because it’s way low on North King’s priorities, and North King has more ciritical corridors to buid before it. But East Link is high on East King’s priorities. In fact, the highest. Some think the 405 corridor is more important, but I don’t believe it. Maybe in several decades it will be, but not now.

        But regardless of whether it’s one-sided with the Eastside needing it more and paying for it, the vision was to serve the totality of bidirectional trips, because that’s what bridges or trains do. You try to replace as many bus trips and car trips with train trips as possible, because trains do it better and more efficiently (using a quarter of the energy).

      3. There’s a big difference between truncating a bus that happens to go right by a Link station anyway when the train takes the same route the bus would have take anyway vs. truncations that would add significant out-of-the-way travel. Truncating routes such as the 545, 554 or 111 seems reasonable. Whereas, not running eastside->U-district routes (255, 271, 542) and telling people to ride Link all the way around would be unreasonable.

        Still, when a bus is being truncated, the constituency needs to get something out of the restructure to compensate for the overhead over the transfer. An obvious form of compensation is a bus that runs more frequently or more hours of the day (e.g. reinvesting the savings into the same route). They also need to coordinate schedules so that the eastbound buses leave the station right after the train from Seattle arrives, rather than right before. This goes hand in hand with more frequent buses, since a timed connection between a train that runs every 10 minutes and a bus that runs every 15 minutes is mathematically impossible.

        On the other hand, if the plan is to repeat what Metro did for Northgate and simply reduce the level of bus service to the affected areas altogether, and redeploying it to more “deserving” sub-areas (with “deserving” defined not by actual transit ridership, but by the skin color distribution of residents), of course people are going to be resentful.

      4. It isn’t the Eastside subarea that is out of money and needs one or two future levies, including Metro.

        They do if they want decent transit, just like every other region. Metro is underfunded in every region but Seattle (and even in Seattle it is a bit underfunded). I doubt there is a way around that, other than a levy.

        I think Issaquah Link is a stupid project, so I don’t think it matters that much, but it is likely over budget, in the same way that all of the other rail projects in ST3 are over budget. This doesn’t necessarily mean a new levy — everything can be built without another levy, if we wait long enough — but it could be delayed a very long time.

        As far as East Link, I always thought the ridership estimates were optimistic. The 550 never got that many riders. If you add up all the other buses, though, it will at least be decent. I also think there should be pretty good ridership between Bellevue and downtown Redmond.

        I don’t think anyone will call it a bust, even if it never gets close to 50,000 riders a day. It should be able to get enough riders throughout the day to maintain decent frequency. It should be reasonably popular, especially as downtown Bellevue (and the places to the east) continue to grow.

      5. Ridership forecasts are mathematical projections based on current behaviors applied to projected street systems, land uses, and transit service routing and speed/ frequency.

        Since transit a small proportion of overall trip- making, it’s possible to see those forecasts go up or down pretty widely. Want higher ridership? Increase paid parking and toll assumptions, and create a bus transit network that forces trips onto Link. (Consider how many more riders get added to the current Link forecasts by truncating I-90 Eastgate and Issaquah service, or consider how many more would get added by terminating Route 7 at Judkins Park as the northern terminus, or consider how many more East Link riders there would be if the I-90 bridge over I-90 Lake Washington was tolled or lots more new skyscrapers were added in Downtown Seattle and Bellevue.)

        The FTA decided thirty years ago to get into the weeds of ridership forecasts as a result of unbelievable forecasts for Dallas and Miami rail systems. Applying for New Starts money requires a thorough forecast review. That scrutiny has meant that the mathematical assumptions are more closely limited than we may realize.

        Unlike ridership forecasts, cost estimates should be more reliable. It’s possible to take actions to result in ridership going up or down, but costs are costs. Unfortunately, we have the opposite problem — which is that we simply scrutinize cost estimating as closely as we should. This is a big failure item for ST and this needs to be addressed — even as simple as requiring bigger contingencies for projects not yet fully designed.

        I’d much rather see ridership as a range based on the external variables and more focus on cost assumptions. To ST’s credit, their main East Link project summary is for 43,000 to 52,000 weekday riders by 2026 and not a hard 50,000 forecast — and keep in mind that many of those riders will be boarding at stations elsewhere and getting off at an East Link station so that probably about 25,000 to 30,000 are East Link station boardings.

      6. They also need to coordinate schedules so that the eastbound buses leave the station right after the train from Seattle arrives, rather than right before.

        Yeah, but that shouldn’t be that difficult. The vast majority of buses will run during rush hour, when the train should be running every six minutes. So it is really the midday, evening and night buses that will need to be coordinated, when the train runs every 10 to 15 minutes. My guess is this will be almost exclusively Sound Transit buses.

        Which brings up the issue of how Metro could “compensate the constituency for the overhead over the transfer”. For Sound Transit, it is simple — just run the 554 more often. They should be able to run it every time the train runs, from what I can tell.

        But for Issaquah and Metro, it looks trickier. The 218 and 214 are both a subset of the 554 (from what I can tell). None of the other Issaquah to downtown Seattle express buses are running right now, so I can’t tell where exactly they went, or how often. But I can’t imagine running those buses all day. Other buses look pretty weak (e. g. the eastern part of the 271, and the 269). So other than running a few extra express buses during rush hour, I’m not sure what else could be done. Maybe Metro will just make sure the 554 runs often often enough (by subsidizing if necessary) while making minor improvements here and there.

        For the 111 and 114 there is a much greater potential for improvement. The first question is where you send the bus:

        1) Mercer Island: Similar to what exists now. Has a fairly fast, two seat ride to downtown Bellevue, as well as good connections to Eastgate and Issaquah.

        2) Bellevue: Worse for getting to downtown, but much better for getting to downtown Bellevue. The bus avoids congestion making the 405/I-90 turn.

        3) South Bellevue: Probably faster to get here than Mercer Island. This means it is about as fast to get to Seattle as Mercer Island, but a lot faster to get to Bellevue. You lose those connections to Eastgate and Issaquah, but there are alternatives, like the 240. This also takes the pressure off Mercer Island and downtown Bellevue when it matters most (rush hour).

        In any event, the savings could go into buses like the 240, which performs reasonably well all day. Better yet the 105, which performs quite well, and could definitely use more frequency.

      7. Parents do ski buses every year for their kids. Since buses and drivers — and parking at the resort — have to be reserved a parent must sign up and pay for the entire year (usually 8 trips) in the fall. Cost per trip is around $25 to $30/trip. The buses go in all weather which is why kids who grew up skiing here are such good skiers, and the trip is a little over 2 hours each way.

        Skiing is not a cheap sport. Skis, bindings and boots cost at least $1000 used, and goggles, gloves, outer clothing and a helmet. You can rent at the base of the slope, but that is a madhouse on weekends and also not cheap. Since Crystal has the best skiing and the most capacity most buses go there, and I think this year a daily ticket is $85 (which is better than $175/day at Sun Valley).

        Even then you still have to get to the bus, which usually makes only one stop, which means schlepping the kids to the bus at 6 am. and picking them up at 6 pm.

        The issue with subsidizing bus service for skiing is it is a very white sport, and a pretty wealthy sport. Subsidies would be difficult to justify during a time Metro is cutting service levels, and when disadvantaged communities of color are demanding a bigger cut of the pie.

        Skiing is definitely my favorite activity, and I started on ski buses that were converted yellow school buses, before high speed chairs and modern equipment. One of my kids loved it and one did not. But as soon as we reached 16 and someone had a car we abandoned the ski bus, which was for little kids.

      8. “The 218 and 214 are both a subset of the 554 (from what I can tell).”

        Yes. Their purpose seems to be to handle demand surges the 554 can’t and ST won’t pay for, and to compensate for peak congestion which doubles the 554’s travel time. The 15 seems to serve the same purposes with the D. The 214/218/etc also reflect an A/B stop pattern where — when all buses are full — one route goes to some of the 554’s stops and another route goes to other ones. Some of the Metro routes also have unique tails to areas not served by the 554.

        Something similar happened when I was in Vancouver on the return train platform and at the last minute it wouldn’t move. Amtrak booked a block of hotel rooms and chartered ten buses. Passengers to Bellingham, Mt Vernon, and Edmonds were put on one set of buses, and passengers to Edmonds and Seattle were put on another set. And my driver wasn’t sure where the Edmonds bus stop was so one of the passengers had to help him.

      9. Passengers to Bellingham, Mt Vernon, and Edmonds Everett were put on one set of buses, and passengers to Edmonds and Seattle were put on the other set.

    4. We tried to warn South King and Pierce repeatedly for years that Link to Federal Way and Tacoma Dome would be substantially slower than the existing buses, and did they really want it in that case? We didn’t warn Eastsiders because we thought everybody knew the buses would be truncated at South Bellevue or Mercer Island, it was just a question of which one. And we thought everybody was fine with that, because it hasn’t been raised as an issue in the Eastside that I’ve heard, and Link will be as fast as the buses. its Westlake-Bellevue travel time is around 20 minutes, shorter than the 550.

      1. It is also a different dynamic. There aren’t that many I-90 buses, other than the ones serving Bellevue. So people in places like downtown Bellevue, the Spring District, Microsoft and downtown Redmond come out ahead, while a relative handful in downtown Issaquah come out behind. Even then, they will likely be somewhat compensated by a better frequent connection downtown Bellevue. The 271 is not fast for any segment. Taking the 554 and then riding the train ten minutes from Mercer Island to downtown Bellevue is probably faster than any combination that exists now. As others have mentioned, you are also probably better off it you are headed to the north end of downtown. But more than anything, a small subset of riders will be worse off, while the vast majority benefit.

        I see the opposite for Tacoma and Federal Way. If they truncate all the buses (as I expect they will) then only a handful will be better off (those headed to SeaTac?). The vast majority of people, who had fairly frequent buses from Tacoma to Seattle, for example, will have a trip that is lot slower most of the day. Oh, and for many riders (e. g. those going to or from downtown Tacoma) it will require an extra transfer. Careful what you wish for, as they say.

  7. Berlin Wall: What happened to the trains? (I encourage people to check out David Frankal’s other YouTube videos. It’s one of the best transit channels I’ve seen).

    1. Original extended opening date was July 2023. Nine months before that is around November 2022. I thought however the testing schedule had been reduced to meet the July 2023 date so I don’t really know when East Link will open. Apparently it is under budget, although that includes the extra $500 million or so for the post tensioning and some of the engineering.

      The 77th station entrance on Mercer Island is completed, and although I am not a fan of the station design the vegetation looks nice. I was surprised the “secured” bike lockers only hold about 10 — 15 bikes total and there are no standard bike racks, and there will be a charge to use them. I thought bike access was suppose to be a big deal on Mercer Island.

      The 80th street entrance is unfinished. Someone told me there is one Lime ebike left on the Island Lime refuses to come get.

      From what I have been told ST had to waive the federal decimal sound level at the station platform by five decibels since I-90 is on both sides.

      1. To clarify, what’s holding me back from agreeing to keeping the 111 and 554 to downtown is the lack of full-time 15-minute frequency on the 240, 271, and a truncated 554, and roues like that. Those holes need to be filled before we consider redundant one-seat rides to downtown in a post-East Link world. Maybe ST and Metro and county funding will step up to it, but there’s no guarantee at this point, so we can’t commit hours to more niche services yet. Metro Connects defines Frequent as 15-minute minimum but it leaves itslf wiggle room to drop it to 30 minutes after 6pm and weekends. We need that raised to 15 minutes minimum until 10pm every day, guaranteed. Then we can talk about extra one-seat rides for downtown commuters not near East Link stations.

      2. I’ve said it before, but the 240 route, as currently structured, is not ideal for accessing Link from the homes south of I-90. Yes, it eventually gets you to a Link Station but not without a detour both east and north to go west and south. This detour adds a good 15 minutes to any trip to or from Seattle – about as time-consuming as simply ending the route at Eastgate and making people transfer.

        Somehow, they need to come up with a service restructure that avoids the detour.

      3. I mean a general Renton to Bellevue route serving Kennydale and Newport Hills, not necessarily the current 240 routing. The 240/241 have changed too many times for me to keep track.

      4. I would expect routes like the 240 to be restructured after East Link. It looks pretty tricky, though. The segment of the 241 from Factoria to downtown Bellevue should be moved to Bellevue Way, and run more often (or be combined with another route). Other than that, I’m not sure what should be done.

        I have some ideas, but in general, the area is a mess. It has a horrible street grid, a mishmash of density, freeways which cut off access, and of course, natural barriers. All of this makes it extremely difficult to serve. For example, there are buses that run just north of I-90, and just south of it. Why don’t they just pick one side, and ask everyone to walk? Because you can’t. Or how about the apartments/condos on 118th, a bit north of I-90. They have no bus service within a 20 minute walk. Why? Because they built those apartments next to a green belt. It’s almost like they took 2,000 years of transportation experience, and then did their best to make getting around (by any means) as difficult as possible. The ancient Romans would quickly understand a train, but they would wonder what the heck we are doing with everything else.

      5. “For example, there are buses that run just north of I-90, and just south of it.”

        If you look closer, the 240 doesn’t actually have any stops along Eastgate Way just north of I-90, except for Eastgate Transit Center itself (there are no destinations there to put a stop in for). They really could have just picked the south side to run all the buses, without any loss of coverage whatsoever.

    2. If you pull out a map of East King Co. and draw a line that East Link will travel you will see how little area it serves, and how huge and undense the total area is. Basically everything south of East Link will add a bus trip/seat/transfer to their trip, primarily a commute. Areas north of East Link will still opt for express buses across 520. Even then, East Link’s primary first/last mile access is park and rides, like before, as are the feeder buses, except Metro doesn’t have the funding to serve East King Co..

      Before the 550 was eliminated from the tunnel and could access the center roadway buses did have grade separated lanes from the eastside to Seattle. Since the 550 accessed the transit tunnel but the 554 did not, and many female eastside commuters considered the transit tunnel safer, that skewed first/last mile access towards Mercer Island’s and South Bellevue’s park and rides which the 550 served. When the 550 was removed from the transit tunnel ridership declined 1/3 pre-pandemic, and when the 554’s route added routes along Rainier Ave. it fell 17%. Where the commuters went I don’t know. But they went.

      The idea that we just “force” people onto transit to meet ridership projections, like some Soviet era planning, is not selling a better service, it is forcing a worse service on commuters despite spending billions of dollars, because on the east side few take transit during non-peak times, although there are some. This is why so many people dread taking transit. Because it is a shitty experience.

      How about ST and Metro start to think like Nordstrom, and actually care about what the customer wants and needs. See if they can actually provide a service that is at least as convenient, safe, fast, clean and pleasant as driving, rather than make transit something people loath to take.

      Because post-pandemic, on the east side, we are going to see a transit rider with a lot more options, including working from home and just driving to work with less congestion. During non-peak times the eastside resident always has the option during non-peak times to avoid transit because there is endless free parking, huge roads and freeways, and almost everyone has at least one car in their garage. ST sold ST 2 and 3 on the eastside almost exclusively as a better commute.

      If ST can’t get transit right for the entire eastside, and not just the tiny sliver East Link serves, with endless subarea funding, then God help West Seattle, Ballard, Snohomish Co., S. King Co. and Pierce Co. that don’t have endless funding. If East Link, and eastside transit from Bothell to Renton, sucks, especially for commuters, then that will pretty much tell every other subarea ST does not know what it is doing, which most are beginning to suspect.

      If ridership on East Link is half of 30,000 riders/day post-pandemic it will only prove what the ETA said from the beginning: the fantastical ST ridership predictions were to coerce the eastside subarea into funding the second transit tunnel through Seattle to maintain frequency on East Link, which really is just a West Seattle/Ballard need, so the N. King Co. subarea needs to fund the tunnel through Seattle, or go to at grade service like everywhere else.

      Of course if ST decides to go with express buses to West Seattle and Ballard don’t be surprised if suddenly express buses to Seattle run from the eastside too, because they will then need …. drum roll …. a second transit tunnel that can handle buses for a one seat commute.

      1. Wait, what? I lived east of Issaquah for well over a decade. You could count the number of passengers getting on or off the 554 at Mercer Island westbound on one hand, even during peak hours. What evidence do you have that suggests women were getting off the 554 and onto the 550 due to perceptions of safety? You’ve made some bold claims in my opinion, but this one ranks right up there near the top.

      2. The 550 left the tunnel around the time the South Bellevue P&R closed, the Rainier freeway station closed, the 550 got off at the Rainer exit, it was subject to downtown traffic outside the tunnel, and its peak frequency was reduced. And now sometimes it doesn’t even make the South Bellevue stops but goes to 405, SE 8th Street, 112th Ave SE and wraps around. All these happened within a few months of each other, and contributed to its ridership decline.

        There may be some women who avoid taking buses if they have to use 2nd/3rd/4th Avenue surface stops, but it’s not all women and probably not most women.

      3. You’ve made some bold claims in my opinion, but this one ranks right up there near the top.

        And that’s saying something.

    3. “If you pull out a map of East King Co. and draw a line that East Link will travel you will see how little area it serves, and how huge and undense the total area is. Basically everything south of East Link will add a bus trip/seat/transfer to their trip”

      That’s why they should get the least transit resources! Low density means a low number of potential riders per square mile. The areas have actively resisted upzoning or expanding commercial/retail centers that would justify more transit resources. (Expanding retail centers would create a bidirectional flow of people to area destinations and residents from the area rather than just the latter.) So they want (you say) to continue the 554 and 111 to downtown. How much does the redundant segment west of South Bellevue cost, and is it right to spend the resources on that rather than; e.g., more frequency on the 240 or 271 or a truncated 554? You may say definitely yes, but I say probably not, because we should give more weight to routes that serve a larger and wider cross-section of the total southeast travelers. If the area were uniquely low-income and transit dependent, that would give it a stronger weighting, but most of it is large-lot houses that must cost at least $400K by now (and probably $600K), and on average the residents chose to live there expecting to have more space and less transit than the Eastside as a whole. Issaquah supposedly has lower-income areas, and that can be addressed, but that doesn’t mean most of them are commuting to downtown. And Factoria/Eastgate also has some density that must be addressed, and plans for an eventual Spring District-like growth someday. But when you say “south of I-90” it sounds like the residential area between Factoria and Renton, which definitely does not deserve a disproportionate share of transit resources. If they want extra service they can set up a Transit Benefit District to fund it.

      1. A Joy, what I wrote is Eastside commuters who had to drive to a park and ride to catch the 554 instead chose to drive to a park and ride — Mercer Island or S. Bellevue — served by the 550, not that riders would shift from the 554 to the 550 on Mercer Island. That is why Mercer Island’s park and ride was 53% off-Island use, all from the 554 route, according to the license plate surveys ST performed.

        When the 550 was removed from the transit tunnel ridership dropped 1/3. It became very difficult for our firm and other downtown firms to recruit Eastside female staff because the 550 now runs on 2nd., which in Pioneer Square is along a sea of tents.

        Even when the 550 accessed the transit tunnel most law firms I know would pay for an Uber home if staff were asked to work past 6 pm because that is when the commuter rush cleared out of the transit tunnel, and staff considered the tunnel less safe after 6. An Uber fare to Issaquah is insignificant compared to a time sensitive legal project.

        This didn’t affect me because I drive to work, but our firm relies on staff.

        When the 554’s route was changed to include Rainier Ave. it’s ridership declined by 17%. I doubt people just stopped commuting to work in Seattle, so they must have found alternate ways to commute.

        I understand you walk alone from The Mercury to the Night Owl at 4 pm dressed to the nines, but I am talking about middle aged legal staff from the Eastside who don’t even know what the Mercury is, and can get a job at an Eastside law firm.

        Safety on transit apparently is their number one concern, above where they work, and when perceptions of safety on the 550 and 554 declined a sizable percentage found alternative jobs or ways to commute into Seattle.

        Post pandemic a new alternative could be working from home, which solves a host of problems, from the intensity of a bus intercept on Mercer Island, personal safety, frequency of feeder buses, frequency of East Link, traffic congestion during peak hour drives to work, and time wasted commuting.

        Even for those who continue to commute into Seattle after East Link opens and accesses the transit tunnel my guess is a large percentage of those driving to a park and ride served by the 554 will simply drive to the new 1500 stall park and ride at S. Bellevue since that is what they did when the 550 accessed the transit tunnel. Why drive to a feeder bus?

        What will be interesting to see will be the ridership on the 554 and 550 post pandemic before East Link opens. I know our firm is transforming into a work from home option to compete post pandemic and survive right now although I prefer in person working, but understand why a paralegal from Issaquah doesn’t want to spend his/her life on a bus or standing on 2nd Ave., although one option some Seattle firms are using now is providing free parking for staff who rotate days in the office instead of the cost of a transit pass. Ironically under the 2017 tax reforms the parking is deductible but not the transit pass.

      2. “ Safety on transit apparently is their number one concern, above where they work, and when perceptions of safety…”

        This reminds me of those Republican senators that talk about the perception of a stolen election as justification for the attempted insurrection and the denial of certification — without specifics.

        Is the concern assault or robbery? Is the concern Covid exposure? Is the concern getting hit by a car? Is the concern tripping on a crack on an unlighted sidewalk at night? Each concern needs a different kind on analysis and a different solution.

        But suggesting that Mercer Island believe that more transferring bus riders will turn into a high crime area when nearby transit centers in Issaquah, Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond don’t seem to have this concern — and they have more buses going through them than Mercer Island would have — is mere fear mongering. Do you really believe people from Eastgate and Issaquah are troublemakers?

        A pretty good argument could even be made that if there are more “non-threatening” (eye roll) riders are around, Mercer Island people will actually perceive that they are safer.

      3. It became very difficult for our firm and other downtown firms to recruit Eastside female staff because the 550 now runs on 2nd., which in Pioneer Square is along a sea of tents.

        Yeah, sure, that’s why. Uh huh, yeah. Nothing else, from the employment market or your firm could explain your struggles with staffing. Ohhhh Kayyyyyy.

    4. “the fantastical ST ridership predictions were to coerce the eastside subarea into funding the second transit tunnel through Seattle to maintain frequency on East Link,”

      East Link was planned before ST3. There was no idea when Everett, Tacoma, Ballard, or West Seattle might proceed or what the downtown situation might be. The second tunnel is mostly about the total amount of downtown circulation required on all north-south transit modes to avoid overcrowding and pass-ups, because of population growth. There was no talk of cutting East Link’s frequency to accommodate Everett and Tacoma if the second tunnel weren’t build. Either Everett and Tacoma would be added and trains might get overcrowded, or they wouldn’t be added and Lynnwood-Everett and FW-Tacoma would continue to be served by only feeder buses (and the tunnel might get overcrowded too). The argument for all subareas paying for the second tunnel is that all subareas benefit from both subareas in general. And the cost is split based on how many runs each subarea has in either tunnel.

      1. Geez, Al S, equating safety on transit with Republican Senators and the attack on the Capitol is one of the dumbest analogies I have read on this blog, which is saying something.

        I was recounting my experience, and the experience of other law firms in downtown Seattle, about the difficulty of attracting staff from the eastside, because we discuss this issue on various law firm forums. Law firms are cash cows for commercial property owners and cities.

        Pre-Covid we were told the same thing by the recruiting agencies we and other law firms usually use to hire staff: they didn’t want to take a bus that did not access the bus tunnel. We already knew that from prior policies that paid for an Uber if staff had to work after 6 pm. I am sorry you disagree with their decision, but my guess is you are not a license paralegal or legal secretary.

        Two alternatives we are all shifting to at this time are working from home, and providing parking for staff who rotate on coming to the office, which is working pretty well since there is plenty of parking right now, and hopefully will continue post pandemic.

        As an employer I really don’t have any feelings one way or the other about transit: if there is a better mousetrap staff prefer to use to get to work, or do their work, great. If need be we will move to the eastside. The funny thing about professional or white collar employers, whether our firm or Microsoft or Amazon, is it is usually the employer who has to move where the employees are. The steep declines on the 554 and 550 after changes to routes and not accessing the bus tunnel suggest there are alternate ways for eastsiders to commute, if they have to commute. No one, and I mean no one, WANTS to commute on transit on the eastside, which is why none of the partners or executives do, including Microsoft. Transit is for others, although to be fair Microsoft provides its own shuttles so staff don’t have to take public transit, and so did Amazon.

        If you have a business or employees in downtown Seattle please recount your experience, and specifics, with hiring staff.

        I don’t know why you raise the bus intercept on Mercer Island since I never raised that, unless it is some kind of class warfare. As I have posted on this blog before, Mercer Island donated to the Biden/Harris campaign over ten times the amount they donated to Trump/Harris. The issues for the intercept are much more nuanced, if you researched it.

        During the litigation in 2016 both ST and Mercer Island commissioned traffic engineers to perform traffic studies. Both sides’ traffic engineers stated it was not safe to have thousands of passengers disembark buses all at once on the north side of North Mercer Way, and then cross NMW to catch the train, especially with articulated buses in both directions every three minutes, a 453 park and ride at this intersection, and all the SOV traffic from mid and south Mercer Island that can no longer access I-90 westbound from Island Crest Way and so must take North Mercer Way to the westbound entrance at I-90 (around 1100 vehicles per hour).

        So both ST and Mercer Island agreed in the Nov. 2017 settlement agreement — that ST drafted — that drop offs on the north side of NMW would be prohibited, and all drop offs and pick ups would occur on the south side, which was fine until ST and Metro switched the entire bus intercept to Mercer Island from S. Bellevue in contradiction of the settlement agreement, which would require drop offs on the north side of NMW to meet volumes.

        The next issue was sanitation. Some of these riders will have driven to a park and ride, taken the bus to Mercer Island, and will then have to wait to catch the train, several thousand per day. But there are no bathrooms, and no bathrooms near the train station.

        The next issue was the cost to Mercer Island. Any increase in number of citizens increases safety issues. For example, if you go to a Seahawks game you will see dozens of police gathered around, although the amount of crime might be small. The goal is to prevent crime, not wait and chase it, even if it is bike theft or vandalism or graffiti.

        Mercer Island’s small police force can’t absorb the extra cost for traffic control and other safety issues, and so wants ST to pay, and doesn’t want to rely on ST’s anemic promises of its own security.

        Finally our station abuts a residential neighborhood to the north, and naturally they were concerned about thousands of off-Islanders so close to their homes and children each day. Mercer Island is quite unique because kids of a pretty young age are safe to go out of the house alone, to a park or the town center. It doesn’t help that there is zero benefit to Mercer Island from serving as the bus intercept, and we can’t even access our own park and ride. So screw ST. I don’t know why you presume white eastsiders are more safe than riders of color on the westside, but yes, it doesn’t help when non-transit riders on Mercer Island read complaints from female riders about masturbation, shooting heroin, harassment, assault, de facto homeless camps on buses, etc. on buses, on this blog and others.

        Now, with working from home, and the steep declines on the 550 and 554, it may be the intercept won’t ever have the number of buses or riders, certainly not ST’s 50,000 projected riders. That is the current thinking anyway today, and Mercer Island would be better of accepting the bus intercept in exchange for SOV access from Island Crest Way (which benefits both parties by removing SOV traffic from North Mercer Way) and reserved space in the park and ride..

        Almost every single issue on the eastside goes away with working from home (including carbon emissions) and if ridership on East Link and eastside buses plunges post pandemic, because the only point of transit on the eastside for around 99% of residents is traffic congestion during peak hour commutes, and the cost of parking.

      2. If Third Avenue is your fear and frame of reference, clearly you are confusing transit riders with troublemakers on the street. You need to look hard at your inherent prejudice as these are not the same people.

        If anything, those people waiting on Third Avenue feel safer once they are on a bus! Why would they feel that way? It’s because these are two different universes of people.

        I too have worked in a major city downtown with worse crime issues (Oakland). The thing that reduced panhandling and “scary people” was the closure of the local MacDonald’s. It had nothing to do with transit.

      3. You need to look hard at your inherent prejudice…

        Yeah, and Trump needs to lose a few pounds. Neither seems likely.

      4. Pre-pandemic the market was strong. It still is for many firms like ours. The issues with hiring eastside staff started after the 550 was kicked out of the transit tunnel, before Covid-19, when ridership declined 1/3. Although Ross likes to think I am conflating this with issues in downtown Seattle, as usual he understands very little.

        Some have postulated other reasons for the decline in ridership, such as closing the S. Bellevue Park and ride, although that doesn’t explain the 17% reduction in ridership on the 554 when its route changed, and those same staff were getting to work somehow. I do know that paid parking along with working from home are effective right now at attracting eastside staff so that is what we are doing. My guess is this will be the model in the future until something else comes along, but that wont’ be transit.

        Ross obviously prefers to stick his head in the sand, and that is his right to do so. He didn’t believe when I stated everyone on the eastside who had read ST 3 knew the North King Co. subarea would never have the revenue to complete rail to West Seattle or Ballard because ST was worried about selling ST 3, until ST admitted the same. Ross also went ballistic when I said the obvious: Amazon was moving to Bellevue, which is confirmed in a Bellevue Reporter article linked to on The Urbanist today. Any idiot knew that after the first head tax and HQ2 search, and the commercial leasing activity on the eastside. Plus I have several friends who are execs at Amazon on Mercer Island.

        It is tiresome to have anonymous people come onto a blog and call you a racist because you are having a hard time hiring eastside staff to come into Seattle, so are other firms and were pre-pandemic, and recruiting agencies tell you eastside staff don’t like commuting into Seattle, or standing on a street waiting for the bus.

        It as though some on this blog are looking for someone to blame for the transit woes today. I didn’t cause those. I don’t ride transit. But it makes this blog very unpleasant. Granted The Urbanist is also very progressive and sometimes a little naïve, but at least the people on it are polite, and some are knowledgeable, and explain why their post is knowledgeable.

        Generally in my field when someone purports to be an expert on a subject they set forth their qualifications. Education, work, awards, consultancies, fellowships, something that explains your expertise on housing, finance, how eastsiders think, crime, commercial leasing and development, or law firm hiring in Seattle. Despite all Ross’s posts I still don’t know his education, work experience, or any other factors that would qualify him to state these opinions, or issue insults, especially since so many are wrong, unless it is minutiae on bus routes which he is knowledgeable about. I mean just look at Ross’s posts above. This is what he considers thoughtful dialogue?

        Granted qualifications to post on a blog are pretty mild, and over half the stuff is rubbish or pure anecdote, or heavily biased by the blog itself, and many remain anonymous or partially anonymous, but since Ross likes to correct others so often it would help if he could explain his qualifications to opine on finance, housing, hiring, the eastside, anything, because for me his opinions do not suggest any expertise.

      5. Amazon has always tried to get out of paying taxes. Washington is a low-tax state because we don’t have an income tax, so that helps Bezos and the executives. Amazon wouldn’t pay sales tax for decades in states it doesn’t have a warehouse, until it decided to focus on fast Prime shipping and put warehouses in every state. The expansion in Bellevue was mostly a symbolic tactic: the amount wasn’t enough to threaten Amazon’s outsized profits. I think the HQ2 search was also about tax breaks if I remember.

        How much should cities bend over backward for companies who want the benefits of the city but don’t want to pay their fair share and expect other residents to subsidize them? Boeing and sports stadiums have the same issue. Corporations and executives have made out like bandits since the tax law changes in the 1970s, and now they want even more. We need to solve social problems like homelessness, unaffordable housing, and lack of robust transit, and that costs money. Amazon is in a unique position to be able to afford it the easiest, and it has gotten the benefit of all those tax breaks since the 70s.

        Large companies need to be a partner with the rest of society to solve these problems, not just give all their money to their shareholders and CEOs and let the cities they live in suffer neglected, as if that doesn’t affect them too. For instance, Daniel mentioned homeless tents in Pioneer Square bothering employees. I’m sure Amazon is impacted by the same kinds of things. So what if we… just gave housing to all of them? Then there would be no more tents. The company can limit the impact on itself with its security entrances and employee shuttles, but it dampens the city’s overall economy and people’s ability to buy Amazon products and increases stress and medical problems — and I mean the entire population, not just the homeless. Amazon has offered some $2 billion in mostly loans to three cities, and that’s something, but it’s not enough to build all the housing we need, and it’s dependent on a company’s whim when and how much it will be. People can’t wait months or years for a whim, just like they can’t wait months for federal stimulus checks to appear at some arbitrary time.

        It looks like Amazon has 29,000 current and planned jobs in Bellevue. Meanwhile it has 40,000 or 50,000 jobs in Seattle. I don’t see all those moving to Bellevue, and if they did where would they go? You’d need several more highrises in downtown Bellevue or the Spring District for that, and that and the other companies would hit close to downtown Bellevue’s highrise capacity ceiling, unless it expands outward. Will the Amazon factor finally cause an upzone in Surrey Downs that Link was unable to do?

  8. Annoying somewhat transit thought but how would you handle a new Democrat who happens to oppose Trimet MAX Light Rail crossing the Columbia River in Jaime Herrera Beutler crossing over from the broken Republican Party? Just wondering what the response would be from you.

    1. She’s not a Democrat. She took a courageous vote to impeach her party’s “dear leader”, but she is still a Republican.

      1. OK asdf2, just trying to take this group’s temperature. Really appreciate for the 10 Republicans who impeached “dear leader”.

        That said… as regulars know, I’ve got the Flickr album of Trimet: https://flic.kr/s/aHskFZAnc2 . Just thought I’d mention at some point.

    2. I voted for Kim Wyman because she’s a good elections director and hasn’t let any of the voter suppression occur in Washington. I didn’t vote for Rob McKenna when he ran for governor because even though he may be all right (I was uncertain about that), there was a real possibility he could be jerked around by the party and be bullied into their views. That’s how I evaluate Republican candidates nowadays.

      I don’t know enough about the Columbia River crossing issues to give a definitive statement on one type of candidate. I’m in favor of extending MAX to Vancouver, or robust BRT with transit lanes, and not expanding GP lanes. So I’d look for candidates favoring those views. If somebody who’s generally good changes from D to R, the first thing I’d ask is why. Do they agree with good R things or bad R things? Are they strong enough to withstand pressure from the party to support bad R things? Did they do it to help their electibility chances because the district is majority R, without adopting bad R views?

    3. I think there needs to be a frank discussion about whether Max is the right choice for connecting Vancouver with rail or not. Downtown Portland is already 10 stops away on the Yellow Line , which moves slowly on North Portland streets. Outside of the Expo Center or a future Hayden Island station, the corridor is pretty much residential with local commercial pockets. I don’t see Downtown Vancouver as a dense employment district either.

      The bigger ongoing discussion needs to be what’s the best way to connect before getting into the complications of only using Max. There are many ways to connect — from an FRA- compliant rail line to a gondola to a fast ferry — that also seem viable.

      1. I agree. The worst thing transit advocates can do is assume that rail is essential here, and make a deal that involves a gigantic (and unnecessary) expansion of I-5. Political deals may be necessary, but I would rather make one with folks that want to keep things small.

      2. You can’t get too much worse than the current situation, where the bus connecting MAX to Vancouver struggles to get on and off I-5 in the course of MAX – Haden Island – Vancouver trips.

        At some point they’re going to have to realize that no changes to the I-5 bridge will ever happen and that transit needs to go it alone with its own bridge. Preferably this would be a bus and light rail bridge so the express buses no longer had to deal with I-5, at least through there.

        Vancouver is far more dense than any other suburban centers in the Portland region, and thus really has decent light rail potential.

        The slow running along Interstate Ave is unfortunate but it is far faster than the previous bus route 5, which followed the same Interstate Ave route from Portland to Vancouver and was fairly crowded most of the time.

        Making the express buses faster would be nice, but it will never happen. Thee isn’t any interest in trying to make HOV lanes here, and that means making a dedicated grade separated transit line. For that kind of money, building a separate express MAX line would probably be cheaper.

        In the end though, it really wouldn’t save that much time. It’s sort of like the Rainier Valley vs Duwamish Bypass thing: it really wouldn’t save that much time, and would miss a significant number of good stations.

      3. Since Vine isn’t likely to be converted to rail, seems like there will be a bus-rail transfer somewhere, and the question is which side of the river.

        Also, there are two different problems to solve. 1) Connect Vancouver to the MAX network, and 2) connect Vancouver to downtown Portland. #2 could be done using the Yellow line, but I recall seeing some plans that have commuter rail looping around to connect Vancouver to Portland’s union station directly. #2 would be a bit like the Duwamish bypass, but if the ROW is cheap (unlike a Duwamish Link option, or a standalone Max line), it might be a better option?

      4. Vancouver is far more dense than any other suburban centers in the Portland region, and thus really has decent light rail potential.

        I don’t see it. Here is a density map: https://arcg.is/18ayXD. There are a handful of neighborhoods that are just barely over 10,000 people per square mile. They are scattered around, and would be difficult, and very expensive to tie together with a single line. What exactly would the plan be? Several different lines in Vancouver? Seriously though, I don’t see a realistic plan, other than something that just plops down fairly close to a the freeway, an area that could obviously be well served with bus improvements. Maybe you have a rough idea — if so, please share.

        I also ran across this report: https://2016compplan.clark.wa.gov/Files%20With%20Bates%20Number/002008-002144.pdf. Check out page 9 (Page 14 of the PDF). Again, you can see how both employment and population density is very spread out, largely along the major highway corridors. It just isn’t a good fit for a very expensive rail line.

        The further out you go, the slower a “local” is compared to an express. For a line that extends well outside the urban center, there has to be enough riders taking relatively short trips to make up for this disadvantage. In this case, that means trips within Vancouver, or from Vancouver to North Portland. It is worth pointing out that Vancouver has no intention of creating its own rail line. It is building “BRT”, and fairly cheap BRT at that (similar to RapidRide). There are simply not enough trips within Vancouver or from Vancouver to north Portland to justify spending this kind of money.

        Nor is it a priority for the region. A poll of shareholders (from various Clark County agencies) came up with a list of priorities, shown on page 38. Improving Core Service was the most popular choice, with more votes than improving commuter service (to Portland or Vancouver) combined.

        Heck, Vancouver would be better off just running the buses more often, and having more “BRT” lines while living with the slow travel times to Portland (during rush hour). A Max bridge would pay for a heck of a lot of much needed service in Vancouver. Not that I would go that route — I do think that we should spend money so that the buses don’t get stuck in traffic.

        At some point they’re going to have to realize that no changes to the I-5 bridge will ever happen and that transit needs to go it alone with its own bridge.

        I don’t think that’s the case at all. Eventually they will repair the bridge. The question is whether it will be some enormous monstrosity or not. When they do fix the bridge, it would make sense to have HOV lanes on it (as well as HOV ramps). It seems like it would be easier, politically, to have a smaller project, given the tax adverse nature of Vancouver. I think that is the only realistic solution. Without a new bridge, there is no way that either Vancouver, or Portland, would pay for extending Max to Vancouver.

    4. Al S., I didn’t say eastside staff were worried about riders on the 550. These are the people we are trying to hire to work in our firm.

      They had no issues with the 550 when it accessed the transit tunnel, at least during peak rush hours, which is why they preferred the 550 over the 554. They are worried about those on the street at the bus stop where now that they have to wait in the dark to catch the bus, or did before the pandemic and working from home.

      It isn’t the 550 that is making it more difficult for Seattle law firms to hire eastside staff, it is the atmosphere at the bus stops in Seattle, the same atmosphere that led to the closure of Bartells (which is right next to a McDonalds). The best solution is for Seattle to address its street scene.

      Put the 550 back in the tunnel and my guess is eastside commuters would return to park and rides that serve the 550 (even if they have to drive past a bus stop/park and ride for the 554) and eastside employees would be more willing to take transit to work in Seattle, unless of course they can work from home, or employers continue to pay for staff parking in a combo work-from-home/commute by car schedule, which I think is highly likely, at least for a year or two.

      The safety issues I discussed for the bus intercept on Mercer Island have more to do with traffic and passenger volumes when the station was never designed for the intensity of the bus intercept ST now wants, although of course our Nextdoor is filled with quotes from transit blogs from female riders about masturbation, harassment, heroin use, homeless, and so on, like on this blog, even though it isn’t on the 550, or stabbings in downtown Seattle at 3 pm .https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/1-injured-in-downtown-seattle-stabbing/ar-BB1cJlqK People on the eastside experience less crime in their community, certainly on Mercer Island, and a stabbing is a very rare occurrence, and makes some hysterical. I am not sure Mercer Island has ever had a stabbing.

      Even in 2019 there were concerns that street crime would begin to hit Seattle’s cash cow, tourism, although despite rising crime conventions were still strong then. https://www.seattlebusinessmag.com/tourismhospitality/downtown-seattles-rising-crime-rate-stings-citys-hospitality-sector#:~:text=In%20the%20downtown%20commercial%20district,%20there%20was%20a,record%2040.9%20million%20visitors%20who%20spent%20$7.8%20billion. I imagine staff had issues waiting for a bus in the dark on Oakland’s streets too.

      My complaint is not transit per se. My complaint is moving the 550 out of the tunnel, combined with Seattle’s street scene that according to recruiting agencies and our own personal experience is making it very hard to hire qualified staff in Seattle who have to commute from the eastside. Maybe East Link will solve that issue in 2023, except my concern there is workers may have found a better mousetrap, or two, working from home, or having employers pay for parking since staff will rotate in office work, especially if they just added a seat and commute to their commute, which will be safer but longer.

      Who knows. Time will tell. Right now my concern is hiring staff. If we have to go where staff are we will. Personally I have always liked working in downtown Seattle, although I commute by car. On the Eastside people watch “Seattle Is Dying” and its sequel and around 90% believe it. Chop didn’t help, or the council’s consideration of defunding the police or eliminating prosecution of misdemeanors, and no doubt those all play into fears about taking transit in Seattle.

      1. So if it’s Doentown Seattle streets you are concerned about, the promoting buses from Issaquah and Eastgate to transfer in Mercer Island would be more advantageous than having them get on or off buses on local Seattle streets! That means that the best thing your firm could do is to advocate for more buses ending and beginning on Mercer Island!

    5. The starting point needs to be travel time, frequency, reliability, and passenger experience. What kind of project can give a robust experience that will attract riders and be competitive with driving on the freeway? Rail in general is good. MAX is speed-challenged in places. However, I too the bus to Jantzen Beach the last time I was in Portland, and it was crawling, much slower than MAX would have been. And because it was a bus it had to weave around to the bridge exits and meander around buildings it didn’t stop at, whereas a train with its own ROW could go straighter and stop at an in-line station. I don’t know enough about Vancouver to make specific recommendations, but I hope that whatever the solution is won’t be slow and will come every 10-15 minutes at least. And it’s not just for downtown Vancouver, but to connect the entire city of Vancouver to the entire city of Portland. Even if a single corridor can practically serve only part of the city, it’s for a diffuse variety of neighborhoods and use cases: they all need transit.

      1. The starting point needs to be travel time, frequency, reliability, and passenger experience.

        Along with cost and trip pairs. My guess is that most people in Vancouver would not start their trip anywhere near a potential station. Most would also want to skip the stations in north Portland. I think it is quite possible that the best value is to run express buses (that go through Vancouver before getting on the freeway) to downtown Portland, along with a handful of similar express buses to the northernmost MAX station.

        Vancouver Washington is not North Vancouver BC (which doesn’t have a train, by the way, only a ferry). Nor is it the urban part of Arlington County, Virginia. Nor does it want to be. It is merely a big, sprawling suburb, and has every intention to stay that way.

    6. By the way, I thought Jantzen Beach was a real beach like Alki, but when I got to the terminus I could only find a godawful shopping center. Did I miss the beach, or is the shopping center called a beach for some reason?

  9. Daniel, you mentioned an eastside transportation group that’s doing planning and has public hearings. What is it? Is it government or private? I don’t know of anything like that in Seattle, except SDOT.

    1. Kemper Freeman’s Pavement Partnership.

      Got to hear presentations during the I-405 Program from them.

    2. Or advocate they transfer at S. Bellevue, at least in part, as originally planned and assumed in the Nov. 2017 settlement agreement.

      In any case my guess is a large number of commuters who still commute from the eastside to Seattle will bypass a park and ride that serves a feeder bus and drive directly to a park and ride that serves East Link. That is what they did with the 550.

      Considering S. Bellevue’s park and ride is first in line and will be 1500 stalls, with great shopping and restaurants nearby, and Mercer Island’s park and ride is 453 stalls with anemic shopping and restaurants nearby, I would head to S. Bellevue first. Plus the S. Bellevue station is upstream from Mercer Island so it will be easier to get a seat if packed. I just don’t see eastside commuters mentally accepting taking a bus to a train to Seattle, after driving to a park and ride.

      Still the bigger issue is we are talking about commuting to a city, Seattle, most eastsiders don’t think provides very good after work activities like shopping and happy hour, so with working from home making commuting discretionary all these issues, like a bus intercept on Mercer Island, could be moot.

      But my work issues don’t really dictate what a majority of Islanders think, and we are planning on probably moving our firm to the eastside in 2022 when our lease is up. Islanders hate ST with a passion, don’t really like transit, and now are being told we have to upzone the residential neighborhood to the north because we got a rail station we didn’t even want because otherwise ST would have had to go around us.

      My suggestion to the MI city council is a settlement that accepts the bus intercept until 2041 when the Issaquah line opens in exchange for SOV access from Island Crest Way and reserved park and ride space might be a good deal, but we should have those anyway except for ST’s duplicity, so most citizens are opposed to any settlement with ST, in part because the last settlement was so unfair because our prior council was stupid enough to trust ST (except for the prohibition on drop offs on the north side of North Mercer Way).

      If you are on the Mercer Island City Council and you settle with ST, even for the moon, you are probably not going to survive reelection, like the last council that accepted the 2017 settlement agreement, some of whom had to move off the Island.

      If I were asked to guess, I would start with the truth that no one likes to commute on transit to work, even though they might like work. That means working from home, full or part time, will be popular and will continue post pandemic, maybe with some paid parking for part time office work, East Link will be sparsely used but still maybe fun for a ride to Bellevue or Redmond although I haven’t been in Redmond in 20 years, and work as we know it has fundamentally changed.

      People will still go out, drink, dine, movies and malls, kids sports, because those are fun, but our work will be a lot lonelier, and by Zoom and Microsoft Teams. I don’t see most court proceedings going back to in-person, going through metal detectors, parking, dealing with folks in the courthouse. All filing and service is now online and is much better. All depositions. Everything is going electronic, and a lawyer can work from anywhere. I think we will become a much more introverted society, and more stratified, more nesting. I am sure I will miss working in Pioneer Square, or at least Pioneer Square until a few years ago. For many of us who are older work is society, a chance to interact with younger and different people.

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