Part 2 of a series

Sound Transit recently delivered some disappointing news about their estimates for ST3 project costs. When paired with decreased revenue due to Covid-19, the projected 50% increase to Ballard and West Seattle cost estimates present a gloomy outlook for the projects. There is a lot of hard work ahead, but it’s still possible for Sound Transit to deliver the high quality system voters approved. Transit improvements are still essential to our city and these projects must be delivered. We need to look hard at a combination of new funding sources and value engineering to get this plan back on the right track. However, making major decisions about the quality, scope, and schedule of ST3 this year is a mistake with long reaching consequences.

The underlying reasons to build transit in Seattle haven’t changed. Seattleites still want fast, reliable, convenient, low-carbon ways to get around the city. Voters have repeatedly reaffirmed their desire to make progress on transit — including November’s vote that passed by over 60 points in the middle of a pandemic. Seattleites believe in a post- pandemic future, and we need to make sure Sound Transit delivers the progress they demand.

Seattle voter support for transit is steadily increasing with every vote

A large part of the cost increases presented by Sound Transit are outside of their control: property and construction costs in Seattle have been super heated since ST3 was initially budgeted. For those increases we need to look to the federal government to return to investments in US cities. With Biden as President and a Democratic Senate, we have good reasons to be optimistic that help is coming. We also need to look closer to home: Our state’s tradition of not investing in transit has to come to an end, and there is no better time than now. We can infer from King County data that Seattle exports about 50% of our taxes to the rest of the state – the state needs to use more of our money on investments here.

In addition to revenue sources listed above,  Sound Transit can also look for additional cost savings using two methods:

The first cost-saving step is Realignment, which will last from January through July.  During this time, the board will consider a combination of four cost control options (pg 6):
1. Delay the delivery of projects to various extents to maintain plan affordability
2. Deliver projects in phases
3. Reduce project scopes
4. Suspend or delete projects

In this one instance, we think Sound Transit needs to slow down. We should not be rushing to make decisions that change what voters approved — particularly not during a pandemic-induced recession.  Reducing scope is unacceptable.  Removing stations is unacceptable. Making those  kinds of decisions now runs counter to our need to avert climate change, deliver the transit system promised to voters, and give people a better option than their car. Project timelines already provide what should be more than enough time to deliver. These projects won’t break ground for years, so Sound Transit should only even consider any of these options when all other avenues have been exhausted. We’re not there yet.

We need to remember the one piece of good news Sound Transit announced at its January 21, 2021 Board Workshop: we have until the end of 2029 to fix the funding gap.

A lot can change in the next 8 years to close this gap.

The second cost-saving step is the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, during which some value engineering and other cost saving measures can be implemented. The EIS should come out this summer and the Board’s decision-making process should last into 2023.

These include costs that are within Sound Transit’s ability to control.  Some of the costs appear to be artifacts of the planning process itself and can be relatively easily avoided, such as the West Seattle section noted in The Urbanist. Other changes will require more creative thinking. As we review potential changes to ST3, it’s critical that we do not bend on quality: Putting trains in traffic is unacceptable.  Building new grade crossings with car traffic or a new alignment that isn’t completely in exclusive right-of-way will make the system slower and less reliable. That isn’t what people voted for in ST3.

Sound Transit needs to prioritize delivering the system and put transit riders first: Use street right of way wherever possible, avoid up-zoned properties wherever possible, and review cases where individual stakeholders and property owners pushed the plan to expensive options that don’t add value for riders. High quality transit and the benefits it brings is the entire point of this investment. Making the system less accessible to riders is not a compromise we should consider. All rail stations and light rail projects must be maintained.

While issues like rapidly rising property values were impossible to avoid in the context of the current planning process, it’s worth noting that they aren’t impossible to avoid in general. Sound Transit currently does planning one expansion at a time rather than planning for a system as we’ve advocated when talking about ST4 Seattle and the case for passing HB 1304. If Sound Transit were authorized to plan for a complete system, then they could strategically purchase properties decades before they are needed. Those properties would become a benefit to Sound Transit and the public rather than contribute to a funding crisis.

Here’s the bottom line: delivering the system that voters want remains possible and we believe Sound Transit will be able to do it. Like all things transit, it won’t just magically happen — they will need the help of this community and the help of our institutions to make it a reality.

Please write the Sound Transit Board at emailtheboard@soundtransit.org and ask them to seek federal and state funding, maintain the scope and quality of ST3, and avoid decisions that impact what voters approved until it is absolutely necessary.  

102 Replies to “How to deliver ST3 in Seattle”

  1. “The underlying reasons to build transit in Seattle haven’t changed. Seattleites still want fast, reliable, convenient, low-carbon ways to get around the city.”

    The migration of Amazon, Microsoft, and other knowledge-worker employers to clouds from office buildings at the station locations invalidated the reason for light rail in this region.

    Now not enough people want to go often enough to the light rail station areas. The ones downtown aren’t attractive because of remote working protocols. The outlying station locations have residential TOD that isn’t going to attract residents dependent on light rail (for a paycheck, or anything else). Slamming the public with heavy sales taxes for decades for light rail of little utility would be foolish and abusive.

    Forget the sunk costs. Let the counties take over the Sound Transit bus routes. King County can operate the Sound Move and ST2 projects — Sound Transit should complete those, pay off the $2.3 billion it owes to the bondholders and disband. No way should an additional $15 billion in construction bonds be issued, secured by decades of heavy taxing.

      1. Repetitive commenters we agree are just speaking the truth. Repetitive commenters we don’t agree with are a broken record.

    1. Anon, you fell into the same trap as everyone else who says we need to mothball transit: Assuming all trips are commute trips.

      They are not.

      Just because people won’t need transit as much to get to offices is not a reason to not build what we voted to build. Yes, our transit is (incorrectly, in case my opinion is not clear) too focused on delivering commuters to and from major job centers. But some people will still go to work in office buildings. If nothing else, there is a significant minority of people who must do work in offices, even on a computer.

      However, we can’t write off all of the non-commute trips taken by transit. Bluntly, we’re out of room for more roads, and our environment can’t handle any more car traffic. So, we serve those trips by transit. Connecting to Lynnwood and Everett and Tacoma enables people to get to those places for leisure and work.

      This is why the county pulling a zero-sum game and moving service hours around the region in response to needs instead of increasing available service hours is foolish and incorrect. Even if we cancel all of the parts of ST2 and 3 not currently under permitting or construction, we’ve still spent actual billions of dollars on light rail. It would be even more foolish to let it sit and do nothing.

      1. Didn’t you know? People only ever go to work. That’s literally the only place anyone ever travels to. And offices are dead – no one will ever work in an office again.

    2. “The migration of Amazon, Microsoft, and other knowledge-worker employers to clouds from office buildings at the station locations…”

      This couldn’t be further from the truth – Amazon and Microsoft are both forging ahead with massive office developments at the station locations and neither have indicated any interest in cancelling them. Facebook and Google are also still actively acquiring and/or developing offices adjacent to ST3.

    3. Has anyone seen the latest ridership reports? I’ve personally only been on transit a few times since March 2020. Though, when in downtown – most buses I see are empty. With many things closed in downtown, I’m not surprised. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to recover. Downtown businesses have taken a hit from both the pandemic and civil unrest.

      1. We should not assume that “Pandemic Times” is the new normal. All those office spaces are still there, and if Amazon doesn’t fill them other companies will. The office space rent may be cheaper (which would attract smaller companies back into downtown) but there will still be demand for light rail as it’s already more convenient than driving for those in urban villages such as Columbia City that are walking distance from a light rail station.

        While it’s “anec-data”, out of my connections only one person reports that their company is going with “Remote Forever”. Most are expecting to return to the office in phases over the summer once vaccines become readily available.

  2. Tempting five-word request this morning, anon. “Prove it”. “And sign it.”

    Mark Dublin

    1. I can’t prove whether future Sound Transit boards would issue another $15 billion of bonds should the ST3 planning proceed. The final number could be higher than that — there are no debt-issuance (or tax-imposition) limits constraining that body.

  3. Because there has been such a dearth of details on several of the new Downtown subway segment stations (I have yet to see a profile for them showing how deep they are), I’m not sure that we have actually heard all of the bad news on cost increases.

    I agree that ST should slow down. However, I think also needs to set higher contingencies in cost estimating. We shouldn’t have to go back to the drawing board for these annual increases — and it wouldn’t be a problem if ST had the guts to set the end contingency at higher than 10 percent. FTA recommends an aggregate 30 percent contingency at this stage. With such a low budget cushion to begin with, we are going to have this cost increase issue to wrestle with almost every year for the next 15 years — all because leaders are afraid to set responsible contingency percentages.

    1. Perhaps the contingency should increase beyond 10% to some other figure, but we should also be replacing those staff which have been responsible for routinely underestimating by significant amounts on every single project. These are repeatedly dramatic failures, if not actual misconduct. We need to demand more competency and accountability in estimating realistic budgets at least as much as we need to consider increasing general contingencies.

  4. Just like avoiding surface segments, station cost cutting often means a worse rider experience with fewer station entrances and fewer conveyances and poorer bus transfers. That adds delay to a trip for a rider as well. Saving 3 minutes on the train is great — but saving 3 minutes by having good station layouts has the same benefit to an average rider. For those with travel challenges — a minor as mild arthritis or carrying something heavy, it’s a more important benefit.

  5. You are conflating “no trains in traffic” and completely exclusive right-of-way. Those are two very different things. ‘trains in traffic’ calls to mind the FHSC debacle, which is very different than allowing for the occasional at-grade crossing.

    Most Link riders are already familiar with the RV segment; I would be very surprised if the median voter assumed ST3 Link extension would be 100% exclusive ROW given than neither ST1 nor ST2 are 100% exclusive. As Al says, 100% exclusive ROW can result in a station alignment that is worse for the rider.

    1. I think you make a great point about the difference between FHSC and Link, AJ. I could also see advantages to driverless trains if there are no grade crossings. However, much of our existing service has crossings that are likely fatal flaws for fully driverless trains — and there is only one new ST3 line (Kirkland-Issaquah Line 4) that isn’t an extension — and that one shares track with Line 2 East Link through Downtown Bellevue .

      Another issue is that we don’t have the funding capacity to “fix” recent mistakes. The entire ST3 program is pretty much additive. While moving existing tracks is very expensive, ST could work with Seattle and Bellevue to look at other ways to change surrounding traffic flow and improve safety — such as removing some surface crossings.

      Take Graham Street as an example. Is there a way to site the station to locate it away from a busy intersection (that will make Link riders have to wait a longer time for a walk sign)? Can the MLK traffic alignment be shifted or modified?

      Meanwhile, I have to wonder if we should build new automated lines rather than extend existing manned ones. The restriction of only allowing grade separations is much less useful if trains aren’t fully automated.

      1. I think if they can automate cars and buses they will definitely be able to automate Link. I know fully automatic cars are several years away but it will happen.

      2. I’m with Barman – grade separation is not needed to fully automate the system. Fixed alignment with occasional perpendicular crossing traffic is a much, much easier problem to solve than driving in mixed traffic. There are good reasons to grade separate a few of the crossing in the RV, but enabling automation is not one of them.

        I’d also disagree that grade separation improves station access – I’d much rather wait for a short light cycle than need to hoof up broken escalators – and pulling stations away from major cross streets will make for a longer walk for many riders since peds, bikes, and buses are all using that cross street to access the station.

        Think of a 145th station drifting north to 147th, or East Main, which needs a midblock crossing immediately adjacent to its south entrance but it also benefits from having its north entrance as close as possible to Main street.

        I’d place the infill station as close to Graham as possible and keep it at-grade for quick horizontal access. I’m much rather lower or raise Graham the street before I’d lower or raise Graham the station.

      3. There is also remote operation, which goes along with automation. Each train is largely automated. But when something weird happens (e. g. a car that appears to be blocking the road) the train stops. This sets off an alarm at the main station, and the attendant, who has been watching the trains all day without incident suddenly focuses on that train. They honk the horn, the car moves out of the way, and they continue. If it is worse (e. g. an accident in front of the train) then they deal with it appropriately.

        This type of system scales — you don’t need a driver for each train. A couple attendants for the entire system would probably be adequate. It also eliminates the need to send the SeaTac trains to Ballard — they can keep going to the UW, as they do now.

      4. Why would grade crossings prevent automation anyways? Trains, even light rail trains, are very heavy. They can’t stop very easily. If something is stuck in the grade crossing, neither a human nor a computer is going to stop the train in time.

        In mixed traffic they’d probably do poorly stopping and going, but Link light rail has no operating characteristics that would require that level of control.

      5. Ross is exactly right about scaling. There still would be drivers, just not at many. The most important thing it would unlock is that off-peak, ST can run shorter trains at high frequency. Imagine if at 11pm, instead of a 4-car train every 12 minutes, there was a 1-car train every 3 minutes. Exact same number of vehicles deployed, so the cost for ST in energy, maintenance, etc. is the same, but much, much better mobility for riders.

        @Henry – for the specific problem you highlight, an unexpected obstruction, automated trains in theory should actually be safer because of quicker reflexes. It’s with dealing with the situation once the train has come to a stop that computers will do poorly, which is why Ross points out that there will need to be remote drivers who step in to deal with unique situations.

      6. Ross, they can’t go to UW; the only reversing is at the platform and that would gum up the through trains. They could go to Northgate where there will be a tail track.

    2. The Elliott/15th Ave corridor is perfectly fine built “in traffic” – the only significant cross traffic is already elevated at Dravus and Galer. No left turns to and from Gilman and bunch of minor streets/lots and boom, you’re done. Connect that to a 70′ vertical lift bridge and you’ve got a value engineered line that’s better than the 14th elevated or tunnel options for riders.

      1. Exactly. The Elliot/15th corridor is actually better suited for surface rail than MLK. They are also tied together, which means that it wouldn’t change the headway situation.

      2. We obviously disagree on this point but it’s academic. Voters approved grade separated transit in Seattle – a scope change of this scale should not be considered at this phase.

      3. No grade crossings of the right of way is the premise, not necessarily a separate elevation. My offered alignment has no grade crossings: it’s functionally equivalent to running elevated. You just need to lose two lanes and some left turns. I didn’t realize Seattle Subway was so interested in drivers’ convenience!

      4. There is not enough room at Dravus for a center station, at least, not without rebuilding the entire interchange. Now maybe that’s worth it, but the station would be very weird for long trains. It would sag in the middle if you kept the same gradient as the roadway. Now if you started to trench a couple of blocks south and went flat for a block on either side of Dravus where the train would stop it would be fine. However, that’s a pretty heavy construction on a roadway that’s pretty much at capacity at rush hours.

        The bus lanes would certainly have to go away during construction.

        And how are you going to get people to the Armory retail cluster, a flyover?

      5. Also, there’s no way in hell that ST is going to build an at-grade station in the middle of 15th NW just south of Market. That would kill a lot of riders over the years.

        Now if you basically do the same thing that ST is planning north of the Ship Canal — bulldoze the west side of 15th NW for an elevated then switch over to a station on the east side of the street where the Safeway gas station is — then it might work. You’re kind of stuck with something like that with a 70′ newly built bridge.

      6. If the car bridge was moved to 14th, at grade at 15th would be fine, though I’m not sure if the incline allows for a high bridge to descend fast enough to be at grade at Market.

        If the ‘through’ traffic is shift to 14th, 15th south of Market can shrink dramatically, creating plenty of room for a station.

      7. Er, 15th is a truck route. Trucks come from north Aurora or I-5 down Holman Road to 15th. They would have to make two additional turns to get to a 14th bridge.

      8. So? Arterials often ‘jog’ over from one street to another, there are plenty of examples around Seattle.

        Could shift the arterial from 15th to 14th at 65th if you think those left turns would overstress the Market interchange, or have 15th and 14th share the arterial between Market and 65th so 15th gets a lane diet south of 65th while 14th needs to add a lane.

        Or do none of that and have a long “turn” cycle and a short “through cycle,” inverting the current pattern.

      9. Elevated north of the canal, station straddling 15th at Market, main access where the gas station is now.

        Dravus station would be elevated as well, north of the interchange.

        Lower to the 15th median south of Dravus, that’s where you’ve got flat right of way with very little cross traffic.

        Armory is addressed by the city’s preferred plan to replace the Magnolia Bridge: it needs a flyover to make that work.

      10. Where does a 4+ lane truck route jog? Phinney & 65th is the largest jog I can think of and it’s a short distance so it can bend in an S shape. Latona jogs, and it’s barely tolerable for one bus to do that. The jogs on Capitol Hill are small residential streets.

  6. The best advice in the article is don’t make any large decisions in the middle of a pandemic, when citizens are stuck at home, sour, speculation is rampant about the future, few are riding transit, and there is little ST can do right now anyway.

    Personally I have no idea why ST chose the end of 2020 to suddenly announce what many already knew before ST 3 passed: the N. King Co. subarea was always going to have funding problems completing some of its ST 3 projects due to underestimated costs and insufficient general fund tax revenue in order to sell ST 3 to the other subareas. Shock and surprise. Here is a little secret: ST is underestimating funding shortfalls and cost estimates in its new projections, especially for something rarely discussed: the second transit tunnel. If you think that can be built for $2.2 billion you are naïve. If you want to build rail on budget build it in wetlands, through fields, and across existing bridges, like East Link.

    After all, what does ST expect the board to do now?

    I would have waited until the Northgate rail line opens, and the commuters begin to return, along with other riders, before announcing funding shortfalls, and tell Terry White if feeder bus frequency isn’t there ST will begin a public campaign to state Metro is just too unreliable of a partner to build ST 3 rail projects with. If one person can screw all of this up, from Northgate to the eastside, it will be White and Metro. ST was never about equity, especially on the eastside. Northgate is going to serve a lot of riders. Metro needs to understand that. If ST is going to add seats and transfers to commutes Metro and ST are going to have to run frequently.

    Next I would have waited until East Link opened, under (amended) budget and on time. Although the ridership was never going to be close to ST predictions, the fact is East Link is going to be a dramatic and exotic run, with a dramatic lake crossing, long runs between stops unlike the milk run to the airport (the benefit of little density) that many think of when thinking of light rail, along wetlands and open areas on the east, something someone living on Capitol Hill might not see every day.

    At the same time, the eastside by design can be a little drab, and someone from Redmond can drive to a park and ride (or Uber if you are going to drink) and take the same dramatic train ride to something exotic like Capitol Hill, and I imagine early on people on both sides of the lake will take East Link to check it out, although it might not end up the commuter vehicle it was sold as. Big deal. It will be done, paid for, running, and dramatic. Rail is romantic; buses are the opposite.

    Think of East Link more like Disney Land, and who doesn’t like going on rides at Disney Land. If eastside citizens south of the East Link line howl about loss of one seat express buses and shitty feeder bus frequency, add some one seat express buses. Big deal. The eastside has so much revenue no one will notice, and the key is to SELL light rail, and then more funding, for the N. King subarea. It is like a major remodel of your home; always over budget, beyond frustrating especially near the end, and then you see the final results and begin living in the remodel and you forget the costs and frustration.

    Then, around 2024, I would raise the funding issues about one subarea, N. King Co., after folks have seen the other runs open and work, with rail approaching the Snohomish Co. line so Snohomish Co. can start hemorrhaging money running rail, but also getting more excited about finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel, no pun intended.

    No one is saying commuting will end post-pandemic. I don’t know why some on this blog have to be so dramatic. But it will likely change, and decline, although no one knows for sure how. That doesn’t negate the need for transit.

    But too often some on this blog dismiss the importance of the commuter. Commuters work, and in the past mostly worked peak hours, pay full fare (often subsidized by employers), and pay the bills, and generally hate having to commute. Standing on a packed 550 commuting to work only reminds you how crummy your life is.

    ST was sold on grade separation from rush hour traffic. Not equity, not the non-work rider. Otherwise buses would have worked just as well for non-peak hour workers, and been much cheaper.

    The good news is as the pandemic ends traffic congestion will return, certainly during rush hour, even if the number of commuters is down, and the point of rail will be remembered. Riders take transit because they have to (cheaper), or because it is quicker (congestion), but the latter pay more of the bill, both farebox and general fund subsidies.

    A big reason for ST’s real concern is the unanticipated drop in future farebox and general fund revenue from working from home, not that commuting would end. ST tends to be optimistic in its cost estimates, future ridership, and future funding. Any funding decline was always going to be a problem, because everyone knew the cost estimates were rubbish for N. King Co.

    What ST would really like to do is transfer some of the eastside subarea’s excess funds to N. King Co. Seattle simply cannot afford to levy the $10 billion or so to complete ST 3, including tunnel and bridges. Moving the crazy rail line from Issaquah to Ballard, makes sense density wise, except for subarea equity. I think the eastside (and certainly other subareas) would rather “loan” N. King Co. some money rather than float ST 4.

    Who knows, Issaquah might find out rail to S. Bellevue is less important than its own express buses, and rail won’t actually reach Kirkland but Rose Hill. But if funding were ever transferred from the eastside to N. King Co. the projects for Seattle would need a thorough review because some transit advocates are unrealistic when it comes to rail, tunnels, and transit in general. 99% of all tax paying citizens don’t love transit. My guess is Ballard would get rail, but West Seattle would get buses and a new bridge with loss of car capacity, which it will demand anyway. If Seattle wants more it can levy for more, but it will be tapped out just completing ST 3, with help from the eastside.

    Instead ST should begin the massive undertaking of building a second transit tunnel now. It will determine what the N. King Co. subarea can afford afterwards, the other subareas are paying half, and the second tunnel can handle rail and buses. I think N. King Co. will be lucky to get the second tunnel and rail to Ballard out of current and extra funding, and all the other fluff about subways and so on won’t be affordable. Seattle has other issues than transit to fund too. If Seattle population doubles then it can look at more rail.

    Let’s revisit the funding issues for N. King Co. in 2025, open Northgate, East Link, complete the line to Snohomish Co., and see how things shake out.

    1. I would agree with Daniel that we really shouldn’t make big decisions during the pandemic with depressed ridership. We should wait to even get ST2 stations operating where reasonable.

      I don’t think we should assign new funding to projects until 2026 or later — once the ST2 system is part of daily life. Almost every rail system built or greatly expanded in the last 50 years has had issues that needed fixing that became quickly obvious when they opened. From the Muni metro reversal capacity problem to the Dallas and Portland slow downtown segments to the terrible pre-pandemic ridership in several regions. It’s not if we will have surprises but which ones will we have. Consider that the UW Station escalator failure was not planned!

      It does take 9-12 years to build a subway tunnel through a downtown with tall buildings. Above ground segments can shave five years off of that timeline. We can get the tunnel segment between Smith Cove and Holgate started after final design as early as 2023-4 — and deal with starting to build the remainder as late as 2028-9 and still have the line open at about the same time.

      1. A good balance might be to get the 2nd tunnel through EIS as quickly as possible, to allow for early ROW acquisition and allow for other public and private actors to make decisions based upon the final alignment, but wait to get to final design until after the full ST2 system is operational.

      2. Splitting the EIS makes sense to me, AJ:

        1. The FTA local share could be met with ST3 as is for the middle segment.

        2. The tunnel design could get permitted and prioritized, and construction could begin.

        3. The West Seattle and Interbay/ Ballard segments — likely to mired in controversy, lawsuits and affordability — could be separate EIS’s finalized several years later. Their localized problems could delay the entire EIS for several years if they remain part of a bigger EIS.

        4. New funding could go to the voters in 2028 if not before.

        I’m not too sure about the operational plan but with four platforms, ST could probably terminate the WS line at SODO operationally until later.

    2. Can we please have a limit on comment sizes? As a rule of thumb, if a comment doesn’t fit on a screen, it’s probably too big.

      1. Dan routinely writes comments longer than the original post. His argument is that if it’s too long, don’t read.

        So I don’t read them. It’s certainly improved my own quality of life.

    3. unlike the milk run to the airport

      Huh? There are 8 stations between I. D. and SeaTac, a distance of about 13 miles. That makes the average stop distance somewhere around a mile and a half (or 2.2 KM). That is huge, and well beyond just about any system in the world. For example, the Paris Metro has stop spacing of 600 meters. Moscow (at the other end of the spectrum) has stations about 1.7 KM apart. Simply put, our stations are very far away from each other — that is not a milk run.

      What ST would really like to do is transfer some of the eastside subarea’s excess funds to N. King Co.

      There is no reason to believe the eastside has excess funds to give anyone. Issaquah Link is likely to have just as much trouble as any other project. It is hard to see the East Side being excited about anything in Seattle, except maybe the connection to South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. That would still require a transfer though, which means it won’t be much better than walking or taking the monorail (respectively). It is hard to see the tax averse area being eager to fund something like that, given the generally poor quality of overall bus service. If I lived in say, Kirkland, I would push for better bus service (e. g. UW to UW Bothell, via 520 and 405, with stops along the freeway) instead.

      Instead ST should begin the massive undertaking of building a second transit tunnel now. It will determine what the N. King Co. subarea can afford afterwards, the other subareas are paying half, and the second tunnel can handle rail and buses.

      I agree. Building a bus tunnel (designed to be converted eventually to rail) is by far the best project that can built in the short term that resembles any of the major projects in ST3.

      1. RossB is correct. East King County does not have excess funds. if they did, they could easily spend more on bus frequency: in the short term, on current routes; in the mid-term, on two Stride lines and post East Link routes 554 and 556, that will probably be redesigned. Yes, the Issaquah Link line will be costly; I hope it is redeployed to a project that extends to the pedestrian centers of Kirkland and does not stop at a parking lot.

      2. I didn’t mean to suggest the eastside subarea would agree to fund N. King Co. subarea projects, just ST has tapped these funds before, for example for east/west buses the eastside pays 100% of. And you are correct there is an anti-Seattle sentiment on the eastside right now, and anti-transit/tax, and many feel Seattle is profligate. Still I believe the eastside subarea will have excess reserves even after Issaquah. For example the eastside subarea will have $5 billion left over from ST 2 alone after East Link is completed, and not many places to spend it.

        I just don’t know why ST would raise these issues at this time. Maybe to prepare the citizens. Good to know before deciding on bridge replacement.

        All things considered I doubt rail to Ballard or West Seattle will ever get built because the Seattle area can not afford the cost overruns alone, HB 1304 or not, and the cost overruns on the second transit tunnel will reduce the N. King Co.’s reserves more than expected. With expected reductions in frequency for Metro feeder buses the whole spine thing might end up a bust with poor first/last mile access, including on the eastside although it has huge park and rides.

        Still, when it is over there will be light rail from Everett to Tacoma and to Redmond, for around $75 billion with interest.

      3. So those of us who want to live near high-frequency, high-capacity transit that doesn’t get stuck in traffic, will have to live in north-central Seattle, southeast Seattle, Snohomish County, southwest King County, or Tacoma Dome, rather than in the western half of Seattle.

      4. Mike, the West Seattle SkyLink could quickly bring high frequency, high capacity transit to West Seattle and HB1304 could bring another Link line to South Park, Burien, Renton.

  7. In addition to contacting the Sound Transit board, I would urge everyone to contact their local mayor and city council – in many cases, the decisions driving cost increases originated with them.

  8. ” We can infer from King County data that Seattle exports about 50% of our taxes to the rest of the state – the state needs to use more of our money on investments here.”

    So the wealthiest county in the state of Washington should keep more of its money? Because King County is the most culturally progressive county in the state, it gets to be upset when its the also the most financially progressive county?

  9. And tell local politicians what? Less underground rail, crummier stations, no second transit tunnel, cheaper locations, fewer stops, less frequency, more taxes, higher fares?

    Based on Seattle’s district specific council elections all a council person cares about is their district, and it was predictable that when ST announced cost overruns and funding issues that would not afford all the ST 3 projects in the N. King Co. subarea different neighborhoods would begin to compete. The current mayor is leaving at the end of her term, and I doubt mayoral candidates will want to speak the truth about what can be afforded, or propose a local $10 billion levy.

    Residents and council persons from West Seattle will say run buses to Ballard, and Ballard will say the same about West Seattle. Other neighborhoods will argue run buses to both. Maybe some will argue for surface rail through downtown Seattle rather than a second tunnel, although that would be stupid since the four other subareas are paying half of the tunnel costs, and without a second tunnel West Seattle and Ballard will get “stubs” for rail lines, and surface rail through Seattle after we just spent billions to reclaim the waterfront does not make sense.

    The Board knows the issues: more funding or fewer projects in the N. King Co. subarea. It just doesn’t know the solutions, or how to sell the solutions to the public without irreparable harm to ST, and transit in general, and themselves.

    The end of 2020 in the darkest part of the pandemic was maybe not the best time to raise this issue.

    1. I agree with the sentiment, but I don’t think there is anything stopping Sound Transit from simply raising the money until they can build. So that means that instead of Ballard Link being here in 15 years, it will be 30. Or maybe 40. 50?

      1. Yes, the Link projects of Sound Move and ST2 were delayed. Delay is the usual approach. Recessions impact tax revenue; booms increase costs.

  10. I agree that we shouldn’t rush to make any decisions.

    But I don’t agree with the overarching assumption made in this essay, as well as that made by Sound Transit. This is not the best value for our transit dollar. This was true before the huge cost overruns and it is true now.

    This is not like light rail to the UW, which faced a similar problem. In that case, it was clear to everyone that the best train line — by far — would connect UW, Capitol Hill and downtown. Sure enough, the three stations with the highest ridership are Westlake, the UW and Capitol Hill (in that order). And we haven’t even added the U-District.

    Nothing in ST3 is like that. West Seattle rail is at best a case of an area cutting in line when it comes to projects (with the help of the county executive and former head of Sound Transit, who lives there). At worst it will actually lead to lower ridership from West Seattle to other parts of the city. Unlike any other line, the vast majority of riders will not walk to the station, but be forced off their bus, right before it is about to speed its way downtown. Like most transit riders in the city, ridership is not dominated by peak trips. That means that a majority of riders would be better off with the existing bus, rather than making a transfer, especially when the train is running every ten minutes (which is likely most of the day).

    Ballard Link is not that bad, but it still isn’t great. It is worth noting how we got here. With West Seattle Link considered essential, they also needed another tunnel. You can’t just force riders to transfer at SoDo (since there is nothing there) nor can you squeeze another train in the tunnel (apparently). So this requires a new tunnel, with nothing in the way of added coverage. Every station is exactly the same as an existing one, or very close. No one will ever transfer to get to Madison — they will simply walk. For many riders, this new tunnel will be just a little bit worse — instead of two stations between I.D. and Westlake, there will be one.

    Given the enormous cost of West Seattle Link (i. e. the line from the Junction to Westlake) ST decided to leverage it, by extending it to Ballard. Even assuming West Seattle Link must be built, I question this assumption (as do others: https://www.theurbanist.org/2016/01/11/ballard-spur-and-metro-8-subway-serve-seattle-better-than-interbay-light-rail/). While Ballard Link has some value, it too is full of flaws that aren’t obvious when you ignore the importance of station placement or the overall network.

    The point is, these projects were dubious with the original estimates — they are even worse now. Does anyone actually believe it is the most cost effective improvement to transit we can make right now? If not, then maybe we should revisit the whole thing.

    Seattle is willing to spend money on improving transit. But we won’t spend money indefinitely. No city will, and no city has. If we spend a huge amount of money on bad projects, eventually we end up with a poor system, and nothing left over to improve our system. The vast majority of transit riders will have to endure infrequent, slow buses, while automobile trips dominate. This is common in the United States, even with much bigger, wealthier cities than ourselves (like San Fransisco). In every respect the Bay Area is bigger — more people, more people headed downtown, bigger density, you name it. But the decision to expand outward — out from the urban core of San Fransisco/Oakland/Berkeley — instead of building more lines (and stations) in that core has forever hampered their transit system. Ridership is dominated by the slowest system in North America (Muni) and people riding BART in that urban core. In fact the Muni system — which just serves San Fransisco — has 700,000 riders while the entire enormous, extremely fast BART system has 400,000. Just the Oakland/Berkeley bus system has over 200,000 thousand, which mean that over 2/3 of the ridership is on something *other* than BART, despite BART having the key bay crossing connection, and being extremely fast.

    Again, San Fransisco is not the outlier. I can’t think of a single city that spent huge amounts of money on a transit system, had little to show for it, and then went ahead and built a much better system. It just doesn’t happen. This is likely our only shot to get it right, and as things stand, we won’t.

    We can’t assume that we will be able to just keep building. It matters if you build the right thing, especially when it is extremely expensive. I agree that we shouldn’t cut corners, but I don’t think we should build this at all.

    1. I think there would still be a 2nd tunnel without West Seattle. The extension to Ballard and the service to LQA and SLU that require the 2nd tunnel, with or without the WS extension. I’d be happy to just punt on the WS extension and build the 2nd tunnel as-is and wait to built Link to WS only once we were ready to fully demolish the WS bridge & approach structures in 30~40 years. Trains that would have gone to WS can either turnaround at SoDo or just enhance frequency on East Link.

      Muni’s ridership is <200K? I think the 700K figure includes Muni buses.

      "I can’t think of a single city that spent huge amounts of money on a transit system, had little to show for it, and then went ahead and built a much better system. " – most cities continually invested a ton of money in transit, good or bad projects, until the 1950s. What killed major transit investments in the US was a diversion of funds and policy to freeways in the 1950s. Most European cities have a history of old rail lines that were steadily improved as technology improved; London's new lines are much better than the older lines – you can tell when a line was originally built by the size of the vehicles. Most great urban rail networks started out as mixed traffic streetcars and steam powered commuter rail and improved over time.

      A few American counter examples:
      San Fran executed a major upgrade to its streetcar system through the Muni tunnel in the 70s, building upon the Twin Peak tunnel built in the 1910s, but as you say still runs a very slow system. Nonetheless, the city continues to spend billions on further expansions & enhancements, most notably the central subway.
      Los Angeles opened its first light rail in the early 1990s and is now coming back and completely rebuilding its downtown infrastructure with the Regional Connector project. LA followed Denver's approach in building the easy ROWs first but still maintained the political coalition to continue to invest the much harder, much more expensive subway corridors, while the Regional Connector should transform its early light rail lines from mediocre to decent.
      Dallas opened its first light rail in the early 1990s and is now circling back to invest in a downtown tunnel and platform extensions throughout the system. Portland is starting to make noise about a similar downtown tunnel upgrade. San Diego continues to invest in high quality system expansion. Atlanta is trying to build upon its 1970s heavy rail legacy. Etc.
      Chicago (a great system) was building entirely new lines into the 1990s and still invests in major upgrades like the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project and the Belmont flyover.

      Your narrative is wrong. America is unique in underinvesting in transit for a half century. What makes European urban rail networks so great is that they steadily invest is better and better system. To suggest that a global city has only one shot at a rail network is a decidedly American point of view.

      1. Yeah the main thing that really needs to happen is provision for an E-W junction in SLU to make sure a “Metro 8” crosstown line can be interlined with Ballard Link eventually. Keep a non-revenue connection possibility for a 45th line, and you’ve got a useful framework for later incremental improvements.

        Other than that, the ST3 investment in Seattle is good! Two tunnels in one of the most dense areas on the west coast isn’t unreasonable, and adding an additional seismically sound Canal crossing is worth it.

      2. Erm, the only new line in Chicago I know of is the Pink Line, which is not really a new line in a new corridor but a mashup replacing a branch of the blue line and connecting it downtown to the elevated Loop rather than the previous Blue Line tunnel. Meanwhile there are proposals for another el or metra line to the far south, an outer ring line, and Ashland BRT, but they don’t seem to be getting anywhere much.

      3. We can build SkyLink to West Seattle and later we can decide whether it would make more sense to run Link to Burien and Renton via South Park or or combine Link onto a new West Seattle bridge and run Link along Delridge to Burien.

      4. Orange line opened in 1993, according to Wikipedia, right about a century after the first elevated opened in Chicago. Chicago most recently has been investing in SOGR and capacity expansions (longer trains, higher frequencies), rather than extensions, but my point is the city was building new lines several generations are the core of the system was built out. Seattle will not stop investing in HCT in the 2040s unless it stops growing.

        Pink line is more recent but yes it’s mostly a clever mashup of existing rail.

      5. I think there would still be a 2nd tunnel without West Seattle. The extension to Ballard and the service to LQA and SLU that require the 2nd tunnel, with or without the WS extension.

        It is the same dynamic, in reverse. Interbay rail is not a given. It is a bad value compared to Ballard to UW, even if it ends at Westlake. Ending at SoDo (which is essential, since it can’t share the main tunnel) makes it an even worse value.

        It is not an obvious political maneuver, but it explains a lot. The numbers looked much better for Ballard to UW rail, and that was without the bus intercept values. The main reason the board pushed the Interbay route is because it would then be easier to justify West Seattle rail — and get other subareas to pay for it.

      6. Then don’t end at SoDo. Send all the Lynwood trains to Bellevue and send all the RV trains to Bellevue. Problem solved. There still needs to be a 2nd tunnel to serve the ‘west Metro 8’ stations at Denny, SLU, and LQA. Once Link surfaces at Smith Cove, the extension onward to Ballard is a very cost effective alignment, which is why Interbay beat out Fremont.

        Yes, the Ballard-UW numbers looked good. So good that staff determined the induced demand would overwhelm the single tunnel. Which bring us back the the keystone of ST3 … a 2nd tunnel.

        So you have two tunnels to serve the demand coming across the ship canal and into & through downtown. Pierce to Ballard and Snohomish to Bellevue for better operational balance. UW to Westlake needs 3 minute frequency, but ID to Bellevue does not. That frees up capacity for a 3rd line at the ID junction. Ergo, West Seattle.

        I guess you can argue for ST3 to serve Fremont with a tunnel and just ditch WS entirely, but that’s an odd hill to die on. Though you are already dying alone with your bus tunnel, so you do you.

      7. San Fran executed a major upgrade to its streetcar system through the Muni tunnel in the 70s, building upon the Twin Peak tunnel built in the 1910s, but as you say still runs a very slow system.

        Yes. The point is there have been no major upgrades to the system since BART. Consider this comment from Alon Levy, on a post by Jarrett Walker (https://humantransit.org/2009/11/bus-rapid-transit-stop-spacing-is-2-miles-too-far.html):

        For clarification, what I meant in my Richmond versus Richmond District quip is that BART would’ve gotten much higher ridership if instead of extending far out into the suburbs, it had served dense neighborhoods more, with a line under Geary and more intra-Oakland service.

        Bingo. But it begs the question. Why didn’t they just built it anyway? Why — in one of the richest, most left wing, most densely populated areas in the country, with very high existing transit use, didn’t they just build a big subway for the urban core?

        It is clear that BART was actually a hindrance, not a help. This has nothing to do with the size of it, but the poor value of it. In short, they spent a bundle, and got very little. Just to clarify the numbers a bit:

        Muni Rail: 200,000
        Muni Bus: 500,000
        AC Transit Bus: 200,000
        BART: 400,000 (most of which is trips within Oakland/Berkeley/San Fransisco).

        BART is huge, and cost a fortune. Yet they have nowhere near what say, DC has in terms of ridership per mile (6,700 versus 3,700). This makes the system very expensive to maintain, which in turn makes it very difficult to expand. Again, nothing major for the Bay Area since about the 70s, when BART opened.

        Your examples miss the point. L. A., Dallas, Portland all built on the cheap, initially. You will find nothing in their history that is like BART (or ST3), in being both very expensive, and having relatively few riders. Dallas may, if things go right, run some of their trains underground. Well, whoop de doo. It will still suck, because it manages to skip all of the real destination. They simply don’t want to invest in a proper subway, while at the same time short-changing the buses. Same with Denver, which did much the same thing. Portland is a little different, in that they got decent return for their investment (mostly because they didn’t spend that much), and burying the lines downtown should help immensely. But it still isn’t clear whether it was the best deal (See the second to the last paragraph here: https://humantransit.org/2009/11/brisbane-bus-rapid-transit-soars.html). I should note that MAX does not extend anywhere near as far away from downtown Portland as what we are building, even though it has 94 stations. I’m not saying it is what I would have built, but if you consider transit a losers game (as I do) then it has worked out fairly well, as Portland has avoided big mistakes, by avoiding a huge outlay for projects with very little return.

        America is unique in underinvesting in transit for a half century.

        Yeah, sure, but not for want of trying. America has spent plenty of money, and except for DC rail, not gotten squat. In that same half century, we have BART, DART, and dozens of light rail lines, most of which perform worse than a typical Metro bus. Just look at the list of light rail lines, and sort by date: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_light_rail_systems_by_ridership. Since 1980, there are lots of lots of rail projects, but most of them are crap. Seattle is actually an outlier. Its ridership per mile is quite good. But it will actually go *down* with ST3. Who does that? That is crazy. But it is the result of poor planning.

        More than anything, you can’t invest in that manner, and expect to turn around and then build what you should have built in the first place. No one has done that. Not Dallas, not L. A., not San Fransisco — no one. We are spending more per capita than all those cities — even the really big ones. And if we don’t get something good out of it, we are just out of luck.

        Mass transit is a measure-twice, cut once deal. We are not measuring very well.

      8. Once Link surfaces at Smith Cove, the extension onward to Ballard is a very cost effective alignment

        No its not! Holy cow, man, read the news. It is now an extremely expensive alignment, and that assumes a station at 14th! It is so expensive that tunneling now looks about as cheap. So the whole idea that you save money by running by miles and miles of nothing is no longer true.

        Then don’t end at SoDo. Send all the Lynnwood trains to Bellevue and send all the RV trains to Ballard [you wrote Bellevue, but I assume you mean Ballard].

        You are missing the point. You can’t build Interbay Link without building a second tunnel. Otherwise you mess with the frequency of the main line (the one connecting UW to downtown). It is this second downtown tunnel — with the same stations as the original tunnel — that compounds the problem. It makes the already weak value of a Ballard to Westlake Line even weaker. What it does do is make West Seattle Link suddenly look reasonable. West Seattle Link is seen as not needing a second tunnel, but simply using the new capacity of one built for another purpose.

        Yes, the Ballard-UW numbers looked good. So good that staff determined the induced demand would overwhelm the single tunnel.

        Citation please. I never heard that. I did hear that they didn’t want to interline the routes — fair enough. But I never heard that anyone was concerned about crowding on the main line, especially with trains running every 3 minutes (if not 2).

        It just doesn’t make sense. If you are in Ballard, and want to go downtown during rush hour, then you take the express bus. It is one seat, and will get you there at roughly the same time. In contrast, if you work at South Lake Union, or Lower Queen Anne, then wouldn’t you put even more pressure on the main line? There is no other way to get home (to the north end). This sounds like one of those STB myths about capacity, similar to the one involving the need to invest in ventilation tubes (shot down by an actual Sound Transit official — https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/03/21/capacity-limitations-of-link/).

        Sorry, but just look at the facts:

        1) West Seattle, despite scoring poorly by every metric, was including as part of ST3.
        2) Interbay Link scored worse than Ballard to UW Link by every metric.
        3) A commitment to Interbay Link (with a second downtown tunnel) makes West Seattle Link look better.
        4) They sold the idea as part of the same package (West Seattle to Ballard) — much like the proposed monorail alignment.
        5) Dow Constantine is from West Seattle. He is King County Executive, and was head of Sound Transit at the time.

        I’ll admit, it took me a long time to connect the dots. But they sure look connected to me.

      9. “ San Fran executed a major upgrade to its streetcar system through the Muni tunnel in the 70s, building upon the Twin Peak tunnel built in the 1910s, but as you say still runs a very slow system.

        Yes. The point is there have been no major upgrades to the system since BART. “

        Uhhhhh…..

        1. Muni Metro Turnback
        2. J-Church extension to Balboa Park
        3. Mission Bay/ South Beach Extension
        4 T-Third Street Line
        5. F-Line Market St
        6. F-Line Fisherman’s Wharf
        7. E-Embarcadero Line operations
        8. Central Subway (under construction)

        I don’t think you know what’s happened in San Francisco these past 30 years.

      10. “Why — in one of the richest, most left wing, most densely populated areas in the country, with very high existing transit use,”

        Because it had a very suburban mindset when BART was planned in the 1950s and built in the 1970s. The majority of the population was emerging in the suburbs, and they wanted a way to park their car at a P&R and take BART to San Francisco in the morning and evening. The mindset shows in the suburban station areas, where old-density cities like Oakland and Berkeley have housing and destinations within walking distance of the station and other stations toward Fremont don’t.

        And while the city and east and north Bay Area had a rather liberal mindset in the mid-century that prepared the way for the 1960s counterculture, things weren’t as extreme or polarized or politicized as they are now. There was less sense of walkability or an alternative to all-day driving (outside work commutes) or the need for comprehensive transit for people without cars. There was a comprehensive non-car network to the populated areas in the early 20th century but it was ripped out because it was assumed everybody had a car or would soon get one and drive everywhere.

        And then in the 70s you got this anti-urban environmentalist mindset that cities are bad so everyone should live in quarter-acre lots in outlying areas, and multifamily growth should be banned beyond its existing extent.

      11. A few quibbles here about LA:

        Los Angeles has always been willing to build new RoW where it made sense, just like they were willing to use some old alignments where they too made sense. The Regional Connector is in fact the last stage of the Blue Line, as it was oringinally envisioned back in the 80’s. The “Rail Pogrom” that LA went through in the 90’s (Bubbling around before then, but Triggered by the 1995 Sinkhole Accident) that (nearly) banned new Subway construction. It froze the Red/Purple in the configuration it’s in Now, and turned it’s would be extensions (Westside/Eastside/San Fernando Valley) into either BRT (Orange Line) or Light Rail (Expo Line and Gold Line Eastside extension). Then, Villaraigosa got into elected and “Lazurused” the West side Purple Line and Regional Connector back into existance, and kickstarted the process on getting every corridor they’re trying to built now going.

        Now if only they could run trains on it. This is perhaps the one area Sound Transit has an edge over LAMTA. Though while a lot of people here are wavering about the DSTT 2 when LA’s equivalent (The Downtown segment of the West Santa Ana Line) is moving forward no questions asked.

      12. I love to rag on BART, but most of its issues can be traced to the original sin of Marin dropping out losing a ton of SF coverage, and the incredibly reactionary land use polices for decades thereafter that never let the suburban extensions reach their potential.

      13. Yeah I’m in the camp that while BART clearly isn’t perfect, it’s also not that bad. If SF, Oakland, and Berkeley had much better land use around their non-downtown stations, BART ridership would be much higher. BART’s failures have much more to do with California’s broken land use and housing policies rather than transit (i.e. alignment) specific decisions.

        Also, my understanding is that BART’s trans-bay tube was near capacity during rush hour, which suggests that BART is actually pretty successful at its primary goal – moving lots of people long distances during peak times – and it needs to improve its operating patterns and pricing structure to encourage more short trips and non-peak trips.

        The fact that BART is not driverless and therefore is unwilling/unable to run shorter but higher frequency trains off-peak has nothing to do with decisions made in the 1970s and everything to do with the politics of today.

      14. If SF, Oakland, and Berkeley had much better land use around their non-downtown stations, BART ridership would be much higher.

        Oh come on. There are only 8 stations in San Fransisco. Eight! There are over 40 stations in the District of Columbia (a similar size city). The subways are similar size as well. The big difference is that one is focused on the urban core, and the other one is focused on distant suburbs.

        To put things in perspective, there are 121 stations in Manhattan, and 157 in Brooklyn. There are 11 stations in Oakland and three in Berkeley. I realize the New York Subway is bigger, but it is only about twice as big. Brooklyn shouldn’t have 10 times the number of stations as Oakland, and Manhattan shouldn’t have 15 times the number of San Fransisco.

        There is effectively only one line in San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley (or two if you count the split). There are huge distances between urban areas, and you think the problem is lack of development. They completely short changed the urban areas, and then you wonder why the stations areas aren’t more built up.

        Oh, and yet those areas still dominates ridership! Just nine stations between San Francisco and Berkeley account for half of all rider on/offs. Imagine if there were more stations, and more lines! If not for the suburban focus (which Mike mentioned) — if they had simply built an ordinary subway, with multiple lines serving the urban core and good stop spacing — there would be a ton more riders. People wouldn’t have to endure the very slow buses (in San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley) or slow trams. They would be able to get just about anywhere very quickly, with a similar investment. If they had good interfaces for commuter rail and commuter buses it is quite possible suburban transit ridership would actually increase — since the toughest, slowest “last mile” problem is not in Walnut Creek, it is San Fransisco.

        As I’ve said before — I don’t blame local officials. It was a huge experiment, and unlike anything ever built in the world. An S-Bahn without a U-Bahn. The RER without the Paris Metro. It was worth a shot, I guess. But it failed. Transit expert after transit expert has pointed out that a similar investment in a traditional subway would have yielded much higher ridership — would have made a bigger difference in way more lives — than BART.

        I don’t blame them for trying this (it sounded reasonable). What I don’t like is how agencies take the same approach, again and again, and have the exact same problem. Only in America do they do this, as we just don’t understand how transit works. City after city ends up with crap, and we are headed down the same road.

        We have gone a long way into the weeds on this. I go back to my original points:

        1) Does anyone think the rail projects in ST3 are the best way to spend money (especially given the new estimates)?

        2) Does anyone think it doesn’t matter?

        My answers are definitely not, and absolutely. These poorly designed projects will cripple our ability to make necessary improvements that would make a huge difference to the people in the region. Oh, we will make tweaks around the edges — little improvements, similar to the ones that Al mentioned. Although instead of essentially tram improvements, with trains running on the surface (occasionally stuck in traffic) there will be bus improvements (a little paint here or there) and maybe even the biggest change in transit in the Bay Area — off board payment. But nothing of the type that our neighbors to the north are making, or have made, for a very long time.

      15. SF does have a U-Bahn, it’s called Muni. I guess you could argue that the Muni tunnel should have gone somewhere else other than under the BART tunnel, but I think interlining under Market was the most obvious and best option, even with the failure to integrate fares. Once Central Subway Phase III is built out, the Muni: U-Bah :: BART : S-Bahn comparisons will be pretty obvious.

        So if your concern is Seattle won’t have the capacity to deliver Muni-scale projects SFMTA, I’m not sure that jives with your frequent observation that Seattle voters appear to have an unlimited capacity to tax themselves on transit. If King County could build a bus tunnel in the 80s, I don’t see why a much denser and wealthier Seattle couldn’t do the same this century to build a Seattle “U-Bahn” to supplement Link.

      16. If SFMTA could build subways at the same costs as European countries, or if CA spent its HSR monies on enhancing Muni and Caltrain, BART would be a good tool in the toolkit rather than the end all be all for Bay Area HCT.

      17. “If King County could build a bus tunnel in the 80s, I don’t see why a much denser and wealthier Seattle couldn’t do the same this century to build a Seattle “U-Bahn” to supplement Link.”

        Er, construction costs were lower then. The entire tunnel was $200-250 million. And ratepayers’ other expenses were lower. They weren’t worrying about the cost of housing, education, healthcare, and gas, and wondering if they could afford a transit fee on top of that.=

  11. As Al S. pointed out in the earlier article, Seattle Subway continues to view everything through a rail lens. It’s great to get inspired by Paris, but Paris has more people, more density, and is flat! As I pointed out a year ago in https://www.theurbanist.org/2019/12/26/gondolas-could-be-the-light-rail-complement-seattle-needs/, we could build a much denser transit network much faster, if we could focus light rail on the main spine and use gondolas to serve the neighborhoods in between.
    Many comments on this blog have pointed out how difficult/expensive it would be to operate and connect a Ballard to UW line, nevertheless it is still part of the vision map. Instead I suggested a gondola line instead, in fact it a separate line from Wallingford could reach Fremont and upper QA to connect back with Link at Seattle Center.
    Why suggest an Aurora Link line when we have one along I-5? Once 185th station is built, Shoreline will connect up with Link. We could run a gondola from Bitter Lake to 130th station to Lake City. The remaining part of the E line could stay as BRT but add separate ROW.
    If we recognize gondolas as an HCT option (as Sound Transit did in 2014 Tech paper), we wouldn’t need to run Link to the Everett Industrial Center (Boeing), as we would have instead run a gondola and may be extend it to serve the ferry terminal in Mukilteo. Gondolas are a great HCT option for stubs like suggested by http://www.westseattleskylink.org, they don’t have quite the capacity as LRT, but run on clean energy and offer much better frequency than any bus.
    If we only think in terms of rail, I’m afraid we will not become a 15min city anytime soon, a combination of LRT and gondolas are a far more prudent way to get there.

    1. Please stop pushing the Gondola pipe dream its not going to be practical and I think the whole idea is silly. We imo should have invested in a subway from day one. I think for West Seattle I would take an approach like the netherlands with separate bus only routes that are free of cars as much as possible so there are few delays. The bridge replacement is a missed opportunity to really link West Seattle to the rest and I don’t think ST3 should at the moment continue past finishing the current projects in place. Bus improvements would better serve our budgets, riders not to mention tax payers who keep getting hammered with levy’s. My property taxes are up 400% in ten years with little return on investment. Seattle is now a dirty ghost town full of druggies and vagrants. It is no wonder no one wants to ride transit there much less take their kids out for a day in the city. I think slowing down on the projects and taking an honest look at into the system is what should be happening. BTW I am not anti transit but I am definitely at this point hostile to light rail’s money pit.

    2. I prefer cable pulled vehicles on a lightweight track (like the Oakland Airport Connector or Mandalay Bay Tram) over gondolas because they can load faster with more stability, carry more people per vehicle, have less ADA challenges and have slightly higher speeds. They can more easily be driverless too, enabling vehicles operated very frequently for 18 hours a day.

      A comprehensive cable-pulled tax package is possible to bring stations to First Hill, Queen Anne, North Capitol Hill, Aurora near Green Lake, Lake City, Belltown, maybe Fremont and Wallingford, maybe Ballard and maybe West Seattle. Add a few Citidis style trams in areas not connected by these connectors and the entire city would perceive benefit.

      Sure it’s a pipe dream. But it’s a cheaper pipe dream than WS and Ballard legs with many more stations all over the city.

      To do this requires a study to assess the design options, costs and benefits. Can someone find $15M for some feasibility studies that could save hundreds of billions?

      1. Yes, Cable Liners can be an alternative as they can handle curves and are faster, similar to LRT, as such they also need just as much ROW, but can be operator-free. Gondolas are a bit easier/faster to build as they need fewer towers and can be operator-free, too. Not sure how cost compares, gondolas are about a tenth of the cost of LRT.
        Sound Transit had looked at transit technologies for the spine in 2014. At the time, they did identify gondola technology as an alternative for “local” HCT connections, but it would sure be nice to update such research.

    3. The purpose of a parallel line (Aurora) is to avoid overcrowding on the first line (Central). The question is when the first line will reach capacity. You have to anticipate it twenty years ahead so that it will open by the time the first line gets close to capacity. If the Aurora line goes as far as Snohomish County or Shoreline, then some people who live closer to it will take it instead of the first line, thus leaving room for other people on the first line.

      I’m not saying we need a second line on Aurora line now or will need it in the future. I’m just saying we should leave that possibility open in case we need it later, and we need to think proactively to start it twenty years before we need it. Otherwise you get into a situation like the DC Metro, where it can’t add extensions or lines because the central stations are at capacity now and can’t accommodate any more people.

      Another purpose for a parallel line is if the area is wide, as in South King County between 99, the Tukwila-Kent-Auburn axis, and Renton. Link on 99 is too far away to effectively serve Renton, Kent, or Auburn; and its meandering/slow design makes it even worse. A reasonable travel time from downtown Seattle to Kent or Renton is 30 minutes. The 101 takes 40 minutes; the 150 takes 60 minutes; the 162 takes 45 minutes. Sounder is infrequent, runs mainly peak hours, and not at all weekends or evenings.

      There is a way to take Link to Kent, transferring at SeaTac to the 161, or in the future at KDM to the KDM-GRCC RapidRide, but these still take 60 minutes, or no better than the 150, which already takes too long. And then you have to add a half-hour transfer time to the 161 in a worst-case scenario, and cross International Blvd twice to get from the Link station to the southbound bus stop. Even if the 161 gets 15-minute or 10-minute frequency, it still won’t serve Kent very well, or replace the 101, or fix the problem of an hour-long travel time between Kent and Seattle which may just be a part of people’s trips. Metro is planning to address this long-term with an all-day Seattle-Kent-Auburn express, if the budget shortfalls allow it. And the 101 and 150 terminate in downtown Renton and Kent, while the bulk of the population lives in the east of those cities and has to take an additional bus further. An ideal way to solve these problems would be to make Sounder half-hourly or add Link lines in the Tukwila-Renton-Kent axis and between Rainier Beach and Renton. The other solutions are just substandard and stopgap. Unless the Seattle-Kent-Auburn express can be frequent and have full HOT lanes so it doesn’t get caught in traffic. But Metro’s outline for Express routes is half-hourly until 7pm, not frequent or full time.

      1. Yes, we need enough “light rail spines” to cover the region. Sound Transit alignment B4 had suggested a line from SODO – South Park – Burien – Renton line, may be it could ultimately extended along 167.
        For now BRT might be sufficient, or you could run a gondola from Kent Station to Highline College above S240th St to use the existing Link line.

      2. We are already building a 2nd line to serve NW Seattle. If there’s a need to free up capacity on the E, just extend Link east or northeast (or both) from Ballard to eventually pull riders away from Aurora, much like Central Link will do in a few years. The 2nd tunnel will have capacity for 1 additional 6-minute line, so unlike WMATA we’ll be able to build a junction somewhere (SLU? Ballard?) and still have capacity in the core.

        Aurora itself needs upgraded to Link only when there is a need for a 3rd Link spine.

      3. “A reasonable travel time”

        This gets into the most fundamental issue. We should start planning with target travel times that are competitive with driving, because that’s what we’re competing against. People will flock to transit if it’s as fast or faster than driving, or at least not too much slower. I put the threshold at 10 minutes slower for trips like Seattle-Renton or Seattle-SeaTac, based mainly on the fact that Link to SeaTac is 10 minutes slower than the 194 was, which seems reasonable. Then it needs to be frequent, because people hate waiting a long time even more than they hate traveling slow, and they don’t have to wait at all when driving. And even if people use smartphones to time their arrival at a 30-minute bus stop, it still means they’re waiting 20 minutes at home or can’t accomplish as many things in a day because of all the accumulated waiting. So these are some of the factors that make a transit line the most successful and well-used and gain the most mode share. So we need to put them first in planning. And if the agency must degenerate from them because of geography or other incompatible trip priorities, then it should only do so reluctantly and with a transparent explanation of why it must do so. That’s one of two fundamental factors in a successful trunk transit network (meaning the core lines like light rail, commuter rail, BRT at various levels — everything bigger than a secondary local route).

        The other fundamental factor is to plan the system in advance, and have concrete plans for future phases, so people can know where they can live and work, and cities can plan large urban villages around the plans. Ideally you need a comprehensive regional+local network (commuter rail, metro rail, enhanced buses in non-rail corridors, and fill-in buses for everything else). In Pugetopolis terms that means a high-level authority would design a good three-level network combining ST, Metro, CT, and PT. Even if they continue to be operated by these separate agencies, there should be a plan up front for what you’re trying to accomplish. In cities with a transit-oriented top-down approach, where a high-level transit agency has full authority and willingness to plan a good integrated network and raise sufficient taxes for it and not be blocked by nimbys, you get a high-quality intergrated network. Like Vancouver, German cities, Dutch cities, etc. Sometimes the transit authority is also the highway authority, and it has a transit-first attitude, so it puts bus and rail lines where they’re needed to be the primary transportation component, and adds a few highways among it for freight and working trucks and some discretional use.

        These are what’s missing in our approach. ST has a pie-in-the-sky long range plan, but it doesn’t plan concrete corridors until each phase, so neighborhoods and cities don’t know if they’ll get high-capacity transit or when or where the stations will be. They don’t know for decades so they have to wing it the whole time until there’s certainty, And in the meantime they start building multistory buildings that are very expensive to knock down to get a train to the neighborhood center, and that have excessive parking because there’s no fast/frequent transit available when they’re built or possibly for a decade or two afterward.

      4. “This gets into the most fundamental issue. We should start planning with target travel times that are competitive with driving, because that’s what we’re competing against.”

        I agree. This is also why everytime we build a new highway, we are effectively moving the goalposts, requiring transit to be that much more faster than before in order to attract the same number of riders. Usually, the new highway doesn’t include any money for the transit agency to meet the new goalposts. And, they can’t even run buses down it without cannibalizing service from some other route.

        The highway 99 tunnel is a good example of “moving the goalposts”. Without the tunnel, RapidRide C from West Seattle to SLU is more than acceptable. With the tunnel as an alternative, suddenly it isn’t. And the $4 billion tunnel budget provides no money for Metro to run buses through it without taking service away from some other route, which makes them reluctant to do it.

        In Vancouver, the lack of highways in the city center increases the relative attractiveness of the SkyTrain and helps contribute to its success.

      5. A capacity problem like the one you mention is a good problem to have. The greater risk is that we build crap, and not enough people use it. With four car trains capable of running every three minutes easily, and two minutes in a pinch means it really isn’t an issue, except maybe when the Mariners win the World Series.

        Again, look at our nearest neighbor, Vancouver. Much has been made of how Canada Line has capacity problems (e. g. https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/canada-line-skytrain). But put things in perspective. Canada Line is 12 miles long, and carries 150,000 people a day. Our entire system carries about 80,000. This is the weakest line in their system — the one built on the cheap — and it carries roughly twice as many as our entire system. These problems can be solved, of course, and capacity has increased since that article was published. But it is a relatively minor problem. It doesn’t change the fact that Vancouver transit ridership as a mode is roughly twice ours. The other lines — the ones that carry more people — don’t have that problem.

        Our system is not single tracked. It is does not limited to 2 car train sets. It is crazy to think that we will suddenly leapfrog Vancouver, and have more demand than their busiest lines. We have lots of problems with our system, but capacity isn’t one of them.

      6. I agree, RossB, I would rather focus on how we can get to become a 15min city as quickly as possible. We may need a few spines (usually LRT, BRT if demand is lower) and then figure out the best way to get people to the closest spine line. SkyLink provides a cost effective to provide high frequency access to get you to the spine with little transfer penalty as the station could be right above the Link (or BRT) station.

  12. The only impact that Sound Transit has had on my life thus far has been negative: huge (and illegal) car tabs and bulldozing some of my favorite stores and restaurants in order to build a station in Federal Way.

    I would like a refund of my stolen tax dollars

  13. Based on this editorial, it seems like Seattle Subway is asking for new elevated alternatives to be added to the draft EIS that use existing street right-of-way rather than property acquisition. So I’m guessing what they want is a West Seattle line that sticks to Fauntleroy and a Ballard line that sticks to Elliott/15th? That seems reasonable, both of those are fairly wide streets and there is plenty of room to build elevated/grade-separated track in the median.

    If that is the case, I would like to see these options outlined in detail. I’m not quite sure what to advocate for based on the editorial since as it stands we have the draft EIS alternatives to choose from and none of them come close to meeting the criteria. To avoid property acquisition, either we build more tunnels or we somehow adjust the elevated track. I’m not sure how that is possible in either Delridge or Interbay without adding new alternatives, which would obviously lead to delays.

    It seems like the best thing to do that keeps the most people happy is to pay extra and build both the Ballard and West Seattle tunnels.

    1. Since Sound Transit is reporting combined impacts on the scale of 60-70%, of the original projections, we’re skeptical that best way forward is to add to project costs.

      The example we gave for potential costs savings ITA is a good one and speaks to how a slightly different approach can mean a meaninfully lower cost estimate. There are almost certainly other opportunities to value engineer the preferred alternative if something that low hanging made it out to the public.

  14. Seattleites still want fast, reliable, convenient, low-carbon ways to get around the city

    Yes, “Seattleites” do. They also seem to want riots, property destruction and shuttering of DT business. King County voters outside of Seattle also vote for transit taxes because it makes them feel good, they can afford it and hopefully other people will use it and free up space on the roads. The rest of the ST taxing district… not so much. They’d like P&R lots (not a great value) and buses to get them to jobs they used to have to commute to. That commute share has been shrunk by work from home and businesses moving out of high tax high crime Seattle. Sure, you can claim it’s not true but even the fake news can’t avoid showing all the boarded up store fronts in DT Seattle vs a relatively normal DT Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland.

    1. [ah]. Downtown Seattle is the largest employment center in the state.

      Yes, having literally hundreds of thousands less people going into downtown during the pandemic has an impact on businesses there.

      [Ah]

      1. It’s weird how parochial people can be about this. Of course, the pandemic is hard on service businesses everywhere. Is Bellevue a boarded-up mess like Seattle, though? No, not even close. It’s very different.

      2. Downtown Seattle is the largest employment center in the state.

        Yeah, so? It’s not where people live. An interesting data point is the in/out population during the work day. Reducing this number is a good thing for carbon reduction. Seattle has added dense housing near DT (Bell Town) but the legacy office towers are all geared toward commuting. The office tower jobs are mostly good paying and for the most part easy to convert to work from home. Bottom line is there has been a paradigm shift in technology jobs. Forced to try work from home most companies have made it work. People (employees) have voted with their dollars and the big gains in property values are in Pierce and Snohomish suggesting the Seattle centrist jobs have peaked.

        other anti-Seattle ramblings aren’t germane to this topic.

        I disagree. The office towers can’t be moved but where people live is mobile. If people don’t want or need to live near the DT core that impacts transit. West Seattle is a big question. Do we need high capacity transit to this “suburb”? UW to DT is the core and it’s built. Northgate I think is probably good. East Link will see a lot of ridership between Redmond and Bellevue. Outside of this it looks like a lot of misspent transit dollars.

      3. It appears much of T.R.5000 comments were deleted as “[Ah]” (ad hominem). I don’t understand that. Everything said in the original post I read seemed like an honest difference of opinion and not a personal attack on me. Perhaps the editing was a little too “Twitter like”.

        I like this forum because it’s a free exchange of ideas (albeit mostly liberal) but also because it also calls out stupid spending when most liberal outlets just walk the party line.

      4. Haha, it was ad-hom but Dan calling me parochial is as well by that measure.

        Re: DT Seattle. “ So?” The core you’re talking about from pictures has employers and hotels and little else. The part of DT that has a lot of people, north of the Westlake area, still looks mostly normal..

        You’re making a massive assumption about post pandemic life. I’ll go with the rest of human history on what happens next and with what happens to empty new apartment buildings when businesses re-open.

        We’ll go from businesses getting crushed to it being impossible to get a table at any restaurant. We won’t even need to wait until next year to see that happen. Meet back at this spot in 6-8 months.

      5. “Downtown Seattle is the largest employment center in the state. ”

        Yeah, so? It’s not where people live.

        Yeah, that’s not true either. Downtown Seattle had 82,000 residents in 2018 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downtown_Seattle). It has been growing quite a bit over the years, which is why, for example, Seattle Public Schools is working on adding schools downtown (https://downtownseattle.org/2018/01/new-school-coming-downtown-council-board-plan-moves-forward/).

        I expect downtown Seattle to recover very quickly following the pandemic, which I’m sure will disappoint Fox News, KOMO News (and their owner Sinclair Broadcast Group) as well as right wing talk radio hosts to no end. Of course don’t expect them to accept this reality (reality is not their strong suit).

      6. The population of DT during the day (at least prior to the pandemic) was much larger during the day that the resident population. Yes, pre-pandemic housing was being added. The estimates I’ve seen is ~30% of the people working from home will continue to do so. If that’s true and the housing market remains red hot perhaps some office space will get converted to condos or apartments. Seattle can recover but only if there’s a sea change in the City Council.

        Restaurants will be crowded post pandemic because so many of them will have gone out of business. I don’t see a lot of people pouring money into new restaurants in an industry that was always a tough way to make a buck.

      7. “Restaurants will be crowded post pandemic because so many of them will have gone out of business.”

        A few hundred restaurants closing is not enough to make the thousands of other restaurants crowded. And openings are making up for many of the closings. The Seattle Times reports a couple times a month on restaurants closings and openings, and often it’s like five closings, four openings.

      8. 12 other openings around Seattle
        I’m surprised there are any new openings but they seem to be mostly geared to take out since indoor dining is banned. If they have any seating it’s minimal. Restaurants open and close all the time as people are always looking for something new. But there’s a number of Seattle long standing institutions that have said “no mas”. Adverts on the radio are plugging Miners Landing being open and saying to come down to the restaurants. But outside dining on the waterfront in January? Seems many/most institutions are trying to stay open just to retain staff even if they are operating at a loss. I know from family that has been an owner, another that was a server (now “gigging”), a sister that was hostess at high end resorts and another that has worked his way up as Chef in large establishments that it’s a tough business in the best of times.

        Only bright spot I see for restaurants is commercial real estate has tanked which means they can at least negotiate rock bottom leases. The property owners will likely have to finance any new leases as no bank is going to touch it. That still means the owner is going to have to find cash for supplies and payroll.

      9. They’re starting out with takeout because indoor dining is prohibited. Some are opening now because they’re executing a plan that started before covid and they can’t change it now, or it’s less bad to continue their original schedule than postpone it because if individual financial circumstances or real estate leases. Others are opening now because they see a unique opportunity in the current situation or are taking a gamble.

  15. Bellevue has a fraction of the employment and an even smaller fraction of the tourism, Dan.

    The two main income sources for businesses in downtown Seattle. What’s not clear is why anyone has to point that out.

  16. “I expect downtown Seattle to recover very quickly following the pandemic, which I’m sure will disappoint Fox News, KOMO News (and their owner Sinclair Broadcast Group) as well as right wing talk radio hosts to no end. Of course don’t expect them to accept this reality (reality is not their strong suit)”.

    That is what you hope. The key word is “recover”. I don’t read people saying they expect Bellevue to “recover” quickly following the pandemic. I think it is a mistake to assume anyone wants downtown Seattle to fail, or decline. I have worked in Pioneer Square for 30 years and like its vibe, or did until around 5 years ago. I can’t think of anyone who dislikes the decline more than I do, even pre-pandemic, or is affected by it more. Negotiations on commercial leases and declines in rents and increases in vacancies also worry me about the long term.

    I hope Seattle recovers post-pandemic, but based on pre-pandemic declines and the added hit from working from home and massive loss of retail and restaurants during the pandemic I worry it won’t, at least for quite a while and some policy changes, because it won’t have enough people on the street to create enough retail density and safety, which will affect me more than probably anyone else on this blog.

    I hope I am wrong. This last weekend I visited my brother-in-law’s new penthouse condo in Pioneer Square with a sweeping view of Puget Sound. He sold his house next to the locks in Magnolia in three days for twice what he paid 7 years ago, and got a very good deal on a downtown condo (in part because the prior owner had sold one of the two parking spaces).

    We walked down to Elliot’s Oyster House for lunch and Bloody Mary’s along the water, and with the new waterfront park the potential for downtown Seattle as a place to live is incredible. One would think condo prices and rents would be sky high. My brother-in-law is banking on Seattle recovering even though he is quite conservative, and some policy changes, because right now the street scene, especially at night, is not good, especially for his wife, and of course nearly everything is closed.

  17. IMO, the first thing that needs to be done is to separate the “necessary” from the “nice.” The latter are things like large public plazas that the cities successfully lobbied for, but also diversions outside of “the spine.” The former are things like stations, wayfinding, escalators, i.e. what’s actually needed to transport passengers efficiently and safely.

    ST-3 was not voted on as a series of choices, so to say that it has to be exactly as the voters approved is a specious argument. We never would’ve approved the street level, accident-vulnerable segments of Central Link. I know there were many elements of ST-3 that I didn’t like, such as Issaquah to S. Kirkland (turning south to Tukwila Int’l was the best option), while others I did like, e.g. extending to Tacoma, and others that I thought should have been included that would have made the system more versatile due to serving non-downtown commuters such as a Ballard to U District line. However, voters don’t get a line-item veto or even options! It’s a take it or leave it proposition!

    Therefore, as I’ve written many times, spending an extra $1 Bn that we frankly don’t have anymore to detour to Boeing in Everett is wasteful, especially when high-capacity transit in the form of the Swift Green Line BRT already exists from the south and could easily, quickly, and very inexpensively (buses, drivers, and addition to existing Blue Line signage) brought to the north end between downtown Everett and Boeing. Keep light rail along I-5, the supposed spine, instead and get that piece done on the current schedule. Further, build it in segments: the piece from Lynnwood to Mariner (128th) is the equivalent of the Northgate extension, except there’s no tunneling involved. Take the subsequent segment to the South Everett Park & Ride.

    In Seattle, segments are also called for. West Seattle to SODO is one such segment. Dravus Street to Westlake might be another.

    1. Yes, spending $1B on Boeing plant doesn’t make much sense to me. For a fraction of the cost, we could run a gondola all the way to Mukilteo and serve not only Boeing but the ferry terminal, too, so that we can drop Sounder North service while speeding up the Everett Link service, too.

    2. “We never would’ve approved the street level, accident-vulnerable segments of Central Link.”

      We did. The original plan was for surface from Mt Baker all the way to SeaTac. An earlier plan would have gone around the northeast side of Beacon Hill like I-5 does, and while I don’t know if it was surface it might have been. When it was decided to go through SODO instead (mainly because Paul Allen wanted Stadium Station, secondarily for industrial workers), that was always going to be surface. Because previous American light rails had been 90+% surface: viz. Portland’s MAX, San Diego’s Trolley, San Jose’s VTA. Because that keeps the cost per mile low, and ST didn’t believe taxpayers would tolerate more grade separation. The DSTT was already there, and it had to be tunneled north of the DSTT because of the hills and Ship Canal. The original Northgate Link plan had it emerging from underground at 63rd. The SODO bus way and legacy rail track was there, so that was seen as a low-cost right of way that must be leveraged.

      After the vote, the segments went through design one by one. Rainier Valley was first, and it got surface because ST said it didn’t have anything to justify grade separation (no hills or waterways). Then Tukwila went through design, and the city of Tukwila balked at surface rail on 99 because it had just beautified the street and didn’t want it torn up again. Tukwila also objected to taking a corner of Southcenter’s property. So the alignment was elevated on 154th and moved to the airport freeway. Then it had to be elevated all the way to MLK because it couldn’t have steep inclines to weave around the highways. After that, Northgate Link went through design, and the Roosevelt neighborhood successfully lobbied to get it moved from elevated I-5 to underground right in the neighborhood center.

      By then the public mood had generally changed from “Maximize surface segments to keep capital costs low” to “Minimize surface segments make it a better system, and we’re willing to pay the costs.” So ST2 and ST3 were almost all grade separated. (This includes freeway segments that are technically on the surface but have no level crossings.)

      ST2 was 100% grade separated for a while. Then Bellevue demanded a short tunnel in front of City Hall, and said it would pay half of it, and asked ST to economize elsewhere in East King to pay the other half. That led to parts of Bel-Red and south Redmond coming down to the surface. But the rest of ST2 is grade separated. And ST3 is presumed to be 100% grade separated. Its alignments aren’t decided yet, but in the run-up to ST3 and afterward, I never heard any official suggestions for surface segments. It has only come up now this month because of the necessity to fill a revenue gap.

  18. If delaying construction to Ballard meant that eventually we could get a tunnel station at 20th, (or even 17th would be tolerable), or a surface station going east west at 17th-20th as has been proposed here then I’d be all for that.

    It mystifies me that they are even considering making a station at 14th. As someone else said it will basically be a bus intercept. I’m also of the opinion that accepting 15th as a station site is settling for something being better than nothing, and I don’t think settling here is the right thing to do.

    What makes sense is putting a station where the vast majority of people who live in Ballard are, and where the majority of people who don’t live in Ballard want to go.

    So save the money, stop the line at Smith Cove, and build the damn thing right later. Build a station where the people who use it love it, instead of building at a location where the people who use it curse it for the unnecessary long walk in the cold that it makes them take; or where the people who might have used it drive instead, or choose not to go to Ballard at all because the station location is so inconvenient.

    1. Yeah as long as Ballard opens <5 years later than Smith Cove, it shouldn't be an issue. No one in Redmond is up in arms because Redmond Overlake opens several years before Redmond downtown.

      If Ballard is simply deferred, then some like Ross would argue that we shouldn't even bother with the 2nd tunnel. But if Ballard is hitting the construction phase around the time the 2nd tunnel opens, the delay seems inconsequential if it ensures we get a better alignment.

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