by PETER ROGOFF, SOUND TRANSIT CEO
Completing critical transit investments that regional voters approved in 2016 will not only enhance our mobility, but increase our communities’ economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and social equity. Succeeding now requires us to come together to overcome lower revenue projections and higher cost estimates.
As an agency and region, we find ourselves whiplashed by a unique recession that has decimated revenue sources such as sales taxes, but without slowing our red hot property and construction markets. Other capital programs in rapidly growing regions are also experiencing this double bind that is beyond anything we’ve seen before.
Projects already under construction, including light rail extensions to Lynnwood, Bellevue, Redmond, Federal Way and Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, are continuing unabated toward on-schedule openings. Of the eight major projects we currently have under construction, seven are either on or ahead of schedule and on or below budget. We are now just months away from opening Link to Northgate, and in the next four years, we will almost triple our light rail system from 22 to 62 miles.
However, through a process called realignment, the Sound Transit Board of Directors is working to determine the agency’s course of action for projects not yet in construction. Increased cost estimates, combined with reduced revenue projections, result in an $11.5 billion affordability gap to complete voter-approved projects on their original schedules.
The realignment process is moving forward under the Board’s two-pronged approach. The first prong prioritizes pursuing expanded financial capacity. This includes aggressively seeking new federal and state funding and cost relief to help bridge the affordability gap.
To the extent that sufficient new resources are not secured, the Board’s second prong, as required by the ST3 Plan, will utilize the plan’s identified tools to ensure affordability under updated projections for current revenue sources. Available tools include delaying construction of projects; modifying the phasing of projects; and/or modifying the scope of projects.
The plan the Board forges under the second prong’s conservatism will provide the base from which expanded financial capacity can improve. The opportunity to work with the Biden administration, which has emphasized the importance of transit infrastructure, is an optimistic backdrop for the Board’s work ahead. However, a determined pursuit of new funding can’t eclipse the obligation to exercise fiscal responsibility.
It is critical we advance the realignment process now. The ballot measure approved by voters requires this process when we know the program is not affordable. And the revenue challenge in combination with the growth in cost estimates makes it very clear that it isn’t affordable. We owe a transparent and honest reading on what can be accomplished, in what timeframe, to the voters, taxpayers, and communities that have waited so long for high-capacity transit. We cannot wait until we can no longer make payments for capital projects or operations to start making decisions. If you know you are going to bounce checks by the third week of the month, you don’t write the same checks you might have during the first and second weeks.
Taking measures now is how we will get off a spending trajectory of costs exceeding revenues in 2029 and in every year thereafter. We will simultaneously pursue funding from state, federal and third-party sources while seeking ways to reduce costs. This is our path to deliver the long-needed voter improved extensions as soon as possible. Bringing challenges and opportunities into focus will support our work to move projects to shovel readiness and secure competitive grants that require rigorous scrutiny of projects’ financial underpinnings.
The Sound Transit Board and staff are embarking on the hard work now so the region can face the future realistically, while also painting a clear picture for Washington, D.C. and Olympia of what can be accomplished with stronger assistance. The public will have opportunities to weigh in through a public involvement process in April. We encourage everyone to follow and support this vital work. Please look for coming updates at https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/realignment.
81 Replies to “Realignment will simultaneously pursue expanded funding while focusing on challenges and opportunities to reduce costs”
Others can and will (hopefully) make this point in more detail, but I wanted to ask whether there’s any chance that projects will be realigned to maximize ridership per mile and cost per mile? ST1 and 2 did well to move people. ST3 seems to focus on political priorities, not mobility.
If the current problems can inspire a reorientation towards projects that move people quickly and cheaply, this could be a good opportunity. I fear that we will instead begin to ape the mistakes characteristic to American transit planning, rather than those followed by cities and countries that know what they’re doing.
If ST focuses on getting the 2nd tunnel built, since that is the lynchpin of the ST3 operating plan and a prerequisite of the Spine buildout, they will be taking a step in that direction.
“Mobility,” however, is about more than just maximizing ridership and efficiency. Even if you set aside other accepted uses of public infrastructure*, if ST’s sole goal was mobility, it does not follow that it would seek to maximize ridership and efficiency. There is an equity lens, in which some populations merit more or less service, and there is a coverage lens, in which all populations merit some minimum level of service.
*Other goal explicitly pursued through the ST3 plan include economic development, place making, affordable housing financing & development, funding public education, facilitating access to jobs (prioritized over other trip types), supporting local transit agencies through cost sharing and investing in common resources (e.g. ORCA 2), improving environmental outcomes (e.g. bus electrification, bike parking), and building & maintaining public art.
To focus solely on ridership and efficiency is a deeply political position.
Saying focusing on ridership is political is like saying focusing on cost is political. Ridership is a basic data element that informs many measures and design choices like overall usefulness (total ridership), cost effectiveness (cost per rider), service frequency, projects to ease overcrowding, station design and greenhouse gas reductions by getting drivers on rail.
And I think it’s important to also point out that ST3 projects have never been described by station ridership, but only by project ridership. How much of Everett Link ridership comes from north if Mariner? ST has NEVER told us. Outside of five-year-old flow diagrams, we just don’t know. Maybe if in the dozens of new stations there is one that has terrible ridership and can be cut to save money with little harm to “mobility”.
As we move forward, ridership is more important to consider — not less.
There’s an inherent conflict in maximizing ridership per dollar spent and making each part of a huge region feel like they’re getting something for their tax dollars. If the sole goal were to maximize ridership per dollar spent, money collected from the entire region would be concentrated in Seattle, while the suburbs would get nothing.
Asdf, I think a counter-argument can be made that projects shouldn’t be merely included or excluded but should instead be the appropriate technology and capacity design. There is this tacit assumption that Link light rail has to be built for every extension except 522 and 405 Stride and Sounder to DuPont. Link has design requirements and ST3 has design assumptions that may be unnecessary. Six minute frequency all the way to Everett and Tacoma in trains that carry 600 riders (300 seats) running for miles with 5 people in a car seems like a huge waste of driver salaries even if the track accommodated that.
Why not more self-propelled operations? Why not any single track sections? Why not use cheaper street trams in less dense areas like London, Paris and many other cities do? There are plenty of technology and design changes that can be made and still keep the commitment to serve every corridor.
I totally agree. I felt that the Metro 8 + Ballard-UW proposal that was floating around in 2015-16 was much better on equity *and* efficiency metrics. The problem I have with the extended spine is that it will not move people, nor provide coverage, given that half of the station walksheds are I-5, not housing. No metro system stretches as far as ours will, and we will do so without hitting higher value areas closer-in.
A better spine could have addressed the points you listed, but a freeway-aligned commuter line does not, and we should rethink whether that money can be best used elsewhere.
@AJ — Do you really think that the second tunnel is the best way to maximize ridership per dollar spent?
Not that it should be the only metric. At a minimum, we should include ridership gained per dollar spent, as well as time saved per dollar spent. Otherwise we can just paint all the Metro buses pink, and brag about how 400,000 people a day ride the new pink buses.
Oh, and there is no reason to assume that it is a “prerequisite of the Spine buildout”. No one ever talked about a second tunnel, even though the spine has been an idea for a very long time. It only makes sense to build a second tunnel if you want to build a second line downtown (from say, West Seattle) since you don’t want to merge the routes. Without those lines (from Ballard and West Seattle) merging, you don’t need a second tunnel.
If the sole goal were to maximize ridership per dollar spent, money collected from the entire region would be concentrated in Seattle, while the suburbs would get nothing.
That’s not true. The suburbs are desperately in need of decent bus service. Pierce and South King County service is terrible. Even in more urban areas, like East King, the service is terrible.
This could include, but not be limited to the other new service that will be added. For example, a bus that went from Woodinville to the UW would solve the last mile problem in Woodinville, as riders would have both a fast trip to the UW, and a fast, two seat ride to downtown Bellevue (via 405 STride and a transfer at Totem Lake). Similar routes through Renton/Kent/Auburn make sense as well.
From a capital standpoint, there are large projects that are probably too expensive to be considered a great value, but still better than what they are building. For example, how about an HOV lane from westbound I-90 to northbound I-5 (and the reverse). That way, someone from Issaquah or Eastgate/BCC can get to downtown Bellevue very quickly. It wouldn’t be cheap, but it would be a lot cheaper — and a lot more useful — than Issaquah Link.
Similarly, in Snohomish County, you could fix the northbound I-5 to eastbound 405 interchange (and reverse) so that riders could get from Lynnwood to Bellevue much faster. Even easier would be the Ash Way ramps. Make them bidirectional (https://goo.gl/maps/bRoM2o66mGrchPJg7). That way an express bus coming from the north swings by the station, and then just keeps going, never messing with regular traffic.
This is the way agencies normally progress. You run buses until a corridor is saturated, and then look at ways of making it faster. This is why UW to downtown is such a success. There were a ton of buses going from the UW to downtown, as well as two that went by Capitol Hill (there still are). But they were basically saturated, and suffered from slow speeds (except for the express routes, and even then it was only peak direction).
All that it would require from ST is a change of focus. But somehow someone thought the Spine was a great idea, despite the lack of evidence and lack of success with similar projects elsewhere. It is a terrible value, and yet even now, projects are rated in part as to whether they are part of it. It is a strange obsession — like God himself ordained The Spine to be essential, and anyone who questions the wisdom of The Spine is a heretic.
I’m not saying that the best project in the suburbs would get as many riders as the best project in Seattle. But there is no reason why each subarea can’t focus on projects that are good for it. Is Issaquah Link the best value in terms of ridership per dollar spent (or time saved per dollar spent) in East King? Of course not. Not even close.
“Saying focusing on ridership is political is like saying focusing on cost is political.” Yes, of course! There’s an entire political & policy debate around whether focusing on cost is important:
Just because something is political doesn’t mean it isn’t important. I’m just objecting to the canard that one project is ‘political’ while another is not.
“@AJ — Do you really think that the second tunnel is the best way to maximize ridership per dollar spent?” Nope. I think the second tunnel is the best way to build a regional system that stitches together central Puget Sound into a vibrant, multi-nodal community. But total ridership and incremental ridership/dollar invest are certainly important metrics.
“Why not more self-propelled operations? Why not any single track sections? Why not use cheaper street trams” I’d support all of that. Link should be driverless. There are probably several opportunities for single tracking. Link should be at grade more outside of the urban core. And we are building street trams! ST paid for both FHSC and Tacoma Link.
“station ridership … ST has NEVER told us” – uh, right here: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2020/01/27/sound-transits-station-ridership-in-2040/
Ross is spot on about bus investments. And buses are an important part of the ST Plan, they just aren’t a large part of the capital portfolio. In Operations, ST spends more on buses than trains from inception until (I think) East Link. ~40% of Pierce’s service hours are from ST, not PT.
Ok,?i admit I was wrong about station ridership. It still doesn’t tell us about direction or time of day, and the info was provided to Dan Ryan rather than be put into a document to be discussed by the Board as far as I can tell.
I think the second tunnel is the best way to build a regional system that stitches together central Puget Sound into a vibrant, multi-nodal community.
Seriously? Good heavens why? For the vast majority *of transit riders* it will be irrelevant. For many (like those on the south end of the main line) it will be a degradation. I can only think of a handful of trips that are much better than today. I’m curious why you think it will be such a big deal.
You are right, Gerick. ST3 updates that have been presented have not included performance comparisons. In fact, the main information has been presenting updated cost estimates that demonstrated how poor the ballot cost estimates were. I have not seen an update to the ridership forecast since the vote 4.5 years ago — just after Rogoff was hired.
Is there any chance that projects will be realigned to maximize ridership per mile and cost per mile?
Unlikely. As you put it:
ST1 and 2 did well to move people. ST3 seems to focus on political priorities, not mobility.
If the current problems can inspire a reorientation towards projects that move people quickly and cheaply, this could be a good opportunity.
Agreed. It would be great if they took a step back, and asked whether the current set of projects are really what we should be building, especially with the higher costs. Not only should we look at ridership per mile, but ridership time save per mile as well. Throw in the equity angle as well, while we are at it.
I fear that we will instead begin to ape the mistakes characteristic to American transit planning, rather than those followed by cities and countries that know what they’re doing.
Yep. [Great comment by the way — two tight paragraphs and you pretty much nailed the situation with ST3.]
Agreed on all points. I’m not totally sure how much flexibility they have at this point, but I wish there were more transparency.
RE: my comment, I’ve regularly been convinced by a number of the points you make on this forum, so I’m happy you liked my framing of the issue :)
ST3’s light rail expansion plans no longer are needed. Remote working means employers no longer will be driving massive light rail ridership growth to the levels Sound Transit is projecting by demanding hundreds of thousands of daily commutes to and from the planned and existing station areas.
Hey Rogoff: do your job and disclose the projected revenues and expenses for each subarea for the duration of the ST3 system plan – including the “debt capacity” figures (as defined in, and required by, that measure voters approved). Here are those financial disclosure policies you have been ignoring because it is politically-expedient for you to ignore them:
There is no “Financial Plan” of the specified type with that required financial data. Revenues and expenses projections (on a subarea by subarea basis) of the required types now are more important than ever as the board “realigns.”
You know what’s great about your comments – they are essentially copy and paste. I see your name, and know exactly what you are going to write. While I agree, there will be an increased in remote work. I don’t think transit usage will be gone forever. I do think a more measured approach is necessary on building transit. All decisions on future extensions should be placed on temporary hold until 2022-23, when we get a better idea on future ridership trends. I will say this, Amazon wants their employees to work on site. SLU will continue to be a giant source of onsite employment. Some other industries, notably finance/insurance – might go more remote. This might lead to more vacancies in traditional office towers that housed these industries, like Union Square office complex. Waiting until 2022-23 to make final design decisions on alignments seems like a wise course of action.
Q has not mentioned the Pizza parlors for a while. That’s why the posts are so predictable.
I don’t think we ever “needed” light rail to Everett and Tacoma, we certainly do not need light rail to Issaquah. It just so happens those are minor bonuses to the much larger need for more light rail in the city of Seattle.
Setting aside the specifics about alignment and station locations, we’ve been discussing rail transit to these locations for literally decades. The need is growing and frankly will never go away, unless the entire city is destroyed in some cataclysmic event.
The need for light rail in Seattle ended when remote working became the norm last March. Light rail in Seattle was designed as a daily commute alternative for hundreds of thousands of people to and from worksites near a relative handful of stations. That won’t be happening.
How has Sound Transit adjusted its ridership forecasting model over the past year, and what does the new output differ from the output used for the ST3 finance and ridership assumptions? We don’t know, because Rogoff’s staff is keeping everyone ignorant.
Why hasn’t the form of “Financial Plan” ST3 requires describing the revenues and expenses projections for the duration of the ST3 system plan been produced or disclosed? Rogoff and his staff want the public (and boardmembers) ignorant of the ugly realities of the financial outlook.
If you really believe everyone’s going to telework forever and ever, you don’t know any corporate managers.
“The need for light rail in Seattle ended when remote working became the norm last March. Light rail in Seattle was designed as a daily commute alternative for hundreds of thousands of people to and from worksites near a relative handful of stations. That won’t be happening.”
How do you know this? And even if it’s true that no one will ever commute to work again (many already are) why are you under the impression that commuting is the only legitimate reason to build transit?
Anon must be looking into the QAnon crystal ball. Remote work was a knee jerk reaction last March because we didn’t know the trajectory of the virus. But nobody knows how much remote work will remain a norm by 2024, when economic activity is expected to be back to pre-Covid levels. Even now, most of my neighbors are back to commuting to work daily. At any rate, most jobs at places currently shut down by Covid are not doable as remote work. Not everyone works in tech/information industry—even in Seattle.
I wonder sometime if Anon has ever ridden a real subway in the middle of the day. Maybe he should take a field trip. Go ride a train in New York, from say, Brooklyn to Manhattan. What you will find is that the train is busy at noon. At every stop there are people getting on and off. Where are they going? Are they going to work at a hospital? Going to school? Checking out that new restaurant/bar/play/band/gallery I just heard about? The answer is yes, to all of those, and then some.
You can just imagine the same thing in the middle of the day on any road in the city. Look at all those cars going this way and that. Does Anon really think they are all commuting to work downtown? At 2:00 in the afternoon? Heading west away from I-5 on 85th?
Most trips are not commute oriented, and lots of commuting has not gone away, and will not go away. The need for transit in Seattle has nothing to do with rush hour commuting to office jobs. Never did, never will. It is about getting from neighborhood to neighborhood, the same thing that people do in any big city. It is just that in this city, they tend to do it via a car, because our transit system is inadequate. Buses are slow (especially east-west) and often infrequent.
That is the “need” that barman was referring. Whether ST3 (in any form) did a good job of meeting that need is a different question (Seattle might need rail, but West Seattle doesn’t).
Ross, are you sure Q is a “he”? It could be a “they” or even an “it” [e.g. an algorithm]. Jes’ sayin’.
What if the board decided to now emphasize station and line locations that facilitate higher all day demand, and de-emphasized commute hour throughput?
For example instead of taking the Ballard line up 15th to Smith Cove where the demand would have been Expedia, and pretty much only Expedia, take the line up 99 to Fremont and then cut over to Ballard where the end station (for now) would be at 17th or 20th.
I know, I know… too far along.. not what was voted on… won’t happen. blah blah blah…
What if the board decided to now emphasize station and line locations that facilitate higher all day demand, and de-emphasized commute hour throughput?
That would be nice, and should have been their approach from the beginning.
For example instead of taking the Ballard line up 15th to Smith Cove where the demand would have been Expedia, and pretty much only Expedia, take the line up 99 to Fremont and then cut over to Ballard where the end station (for now) would be at 17th or 20th.
That is basically Corridor D (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Screen-Shot-2013-12-06-at-1.01.40-AM.png). It performed the best out of the downtown to Ballard options. It was rejected because of cost concerns, which is ironic, since the route they did choose (by Expedia) is now extremely expensive, and this would likely be similar. Here is the comparative analysis, and it is likely the cheapest per rider, simply because it would have the most riders (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2013/12/06/sound-transit-refines-ballard-options/). My guess is Ballard-to-UW is still a better value, especially if assume a reduction in office commuting.
Anyway, chances are, they won’t do anything like that. I really don’t see them rejecting the basic structure of any of the plans, no matter how flawed. For the spine, the cutback is simple (just don’t go as far). For every other route, any cutback will be severe, and likely cripple what little it had going for it (e. g. ending the West Seattle line at Delridge).
I think there is only one way to save this fiasco: Build a rail-convertible bus tunnel downtown. It would have the same stops as the original plan, and thus be seen as simply a step along the way towards the original goal (not unlike every extension of the Spine is viewed that way). But while we wait for more money to arrive, it would give people in West Seattle and Ballard a very good improvement in their transit system. This is especially true if there is no rush hour.
“I think there is only one way to save this fiasco: Build a rail-convertible bus tunnel downtown. It would have the same stops as the original plan, and thus be seen as simply a step along the way towards the original goal (not unlike every extension of the Spine is viewed that way).”
I once thought the same, but who pays for the actual cost of a second rail-convertible bus tunnel downtown? Four subareas believe they agreed to pay 1/2 of $2.2 billion, not 1/2 of whatever it costs, and I doubt they have the additional funds. Unless the N. King Co. subarea is willing to pick up the cost overruns (which at this point are looking to be around $1.35 billion) except it is the N. King Co. subarea that has the most acute funding issues.
” this would likely be similar.” – wouldn’t the cost deltas remain the same? The cost overruns are mostly structural. You can have your arguments for corridor D, but “long tunnel should be cheaper than elevated alignment” isn’t one of them. You can’t point to a 2013 cost estimate and say, “oh look, this 7 year old cost estimate is lower than our updated cost estimate for a different alignment”
Daniel is correct, but Ross wants Seattle to just give up on West Seattle and Ballard Link, which may free up enough capacity in North King to afford a solo tunnel.
“That is basically Corridor D (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Screen-Shot-2013-12-06-at-1.01.40-AM.png). It performed the best out of the downtown to Ballard options. It was rejected because of cost concerns, which is ironic, since the route they did choose (by Expedia) is now extremely expensive,”
I’m sure there are other examples too where routes that would get more riders all day long have been discarded, but where costs now might be more in line with, or less than, what they’ve decided.
So if Mr. Rogoff is reading this then my two cents is that: if “realignment” to reduce costs is on the table, then everything should be on the table.
We’re already looking at delays so they may as well take the time to get this studied properly.
You can have your arguments for corridor D, but “long tunnel should be cheaper than elevated alignment” isn’t one of them.
I didn’t say it would be cheaper. I said it would be cheaper *per rider*. For sake of argument let’s say the original costs and ridership break down like so:
Original plan: $50, 100 riders.
Same route, but underground: $100, 100 riders.
Corridor D: $100, 150 riders.
The original plan is the better deal. But now looked what happened:
Current plan: $100, 100 riders.
Current plan but underground: $110, 100 riders.
This is why there is suddenly talk about going underground. The cost of both has gone up, but the cost of above ground has gone up more. Now look at Corridor D:
Corridor D: $110, 150 riders.
Now it is the best value. To be clear, I’m speculating here. But if they are considering running underground, then they should consider the underground option that would get the most riders, which was Corridor D.
Who pays for the actual cost of a second rail-convertible bus tunnel downtown? Four subareas believe they agreed to pay 1/2 of $2.2 billion, not 1/2 of whatever it costs, and I doubt they have the additional funds. Unless the N. King Co. subarea is willing to pick up the cost overruns (which at this point are looking to be around $1.35 billion) except it is the N. King Co. subarea that has the most acute funding issues.
North King has the most acute cost overrun issues, not revenue issues. In all likelihood North King and East King will recover very quickly from a revenue standpoint (given their tech focus). South King and Snohomish will recover like most of the country (slowly) while Snohomish may suffer long term damage with the Boeing situation (on top of the recession).
But to answer your question, my guess is that North King pays for the overruns. This is another argument for building a transit tunnel. There is no way that the other subareas will pay for the extra cost of the tunnel, which means the extra cost to North King for West Seattle to Ballard is both the total cost for the Ballard and West Seattle sections *and* the original cost for the tunnel *and* the extra cost for the tunnel. Ow, that’s a tortured sentence. Let me give some arbitrary numbers (since I’m too lazy to find them):
Ballard to the tunnel: 2 billion
Tunnel: 2 billion
West Seattle to SoDo: 1 billion
Outside contribution: 1 billion
Seattle cost: 5 billion
Ballard to the tunnel: 4 billion
Tunnel: 4 billion
West Seattle to SoDo: 2 billion
Outside contribution: 1 billion
Seattle cost: 9 billion
The tunnel would cost Seattle 3 billion, while the other subareas are still on the hook for 1 billion. From Seattle’s standpoint, this is relatively affordable. The cost of just the tunnel is way less than the cost of Ballard to West Seattle rail, even with the extra cost.
The other areas have to contribute, because it is still a tunnel, and still part of the long range project (to build West Seattle to Ballard rail).
If someone wants to quote the actual numbers that would be great. I think you will still find that building just a tunnel is cheaper (even for Seattle, which pays for all the cost overruns) than the original West Seattle to Ballard line. Simply put, I don’t see how Seattle can pay for Ballard to West Seattle as originally planned. It will have to scale back, and the best way to scale back is to build a rail-convertible bus tunnel downtown (from Elliot to SoDo).
Daniel is incorrect. All subareas are on the hook for their share of 2nd tunnel, whatever the tunnel costs, so cost overruns are shared proportionally. That’s how all systemwide assets work. The subarea accounting is identical if one of the OMFs comes in over budget (like OMF-S might), if the ORCA2 system comes in over (or under!) budget, etc. The board members certainly understand this (or at least the ones I’ve presented to understand this).
Some assets are shared, but not systemwide. For example, if the Sounder maintenance base is over budget, that would be shared by Pierce and South King (not sure if Snohomish is looped in), but not North nor East King.
N King is on the hook for Ballard to Westlake and all of West Seattle.
Thanks for the correction AJ.
So what happens if a subarea doesn’t have the money? Let’s say the cost goes up, and revenue goes down for say, Snohomish County (because of the Boeing downturn). What then? Is it just that they pay for it longer?
This seems like a very big incentive to make the tunnel stops (some of which are fairly weak) even weaker. Everett really wants that spine. Now they will be looking at cutting it back, all the while they are chipping in an increasing about for a tunnel. Sounds like there may be some unhappy campers at a few of these board meetings, especially if the folks up north realize what they are paying for. A lot of them assumed that ST3 was required to get the train to Lynnwood (Sound Transit tried their best to convince them that in the ads) and once it goes that far (and the buses connect fairly well, I imagine a lot of folks won’t want to keep paying for this mess.
I don’t know what the actual ramifications are if a subarea gets in the red and cannot remove. I would speculate that the real impact is on future levies, because that is when the Board seems to create a complete portfolio with balanced subarea spending over the life of a Plan.
Assuming the subarea equity policy holds, subarea “debt” would constrain that subarea’s ability to add scope in a future package. So let’s say Snohomish does struggle economically. In ST4, they might be looking at getting Everett Link across the finish line while Seattle & East King get to add new projects (for example). Similarly, I expect S King to have Sounder capacity expansion costs spilling into ST4.
Yes, a subarea could choose to descope a project in a fresh levy. Dannaher has made noise about this for Pierce. Snohomish views the Paine alignment as essential for their post-Boeing economic future, so I don’t seem them backing down from the core of the ST3. Everett will be grumpy that it will take forever to get to them, but 1) Everett doesn’t drive the bus (or train) in Snohomish like Tacoma or Seattle, and 2) Everett will get great STX service to Lynnwood, so they are still getting ‘value’ from ST3 operations.
Assuming a subarea doesn’t descope their ST3 priorities, then yes they basically just take longer to pay off their projects. The ability for ST to delivery project timelines is based upon the total agency’s financial constraints, so Everett Link won’t be slower just because Snohomish is in the red (i.e. Seattle/King is humming along); it could factor into Board decision making, but that would be at the Board discretion.
The system is all interconnected. Yes, Snohomish is stuck paying more for the core tunnel, but again, it’s a systemwide asset, not a “Seattle” project. In turn, Seattle likely needs Link to get to the Paine Field industrial area to build out the OMF-N to have enough trains to service Ballard Link, which should ensure that at least Link to Mariner will be built in a timely manner.
So yes, we will likely see the suburb put the kibosh on higher cost alternatives like the deep bore option in the ID. But unlike the Ballard station, I don’t see a high cost alternative for Westlake to ID that actually delivers value (a Midtown station serving First Hill not making it to the alternatives analysis), so having the suburbs focused on cost for that segment might be a good good thing. There is an interesting debate around the LQA and 99/SLU stations, but I believe those are N King stations, not ‘system-wide’ station, so S & P will likely defer to Seattle on the specifics.
A more interesting debate will be with the OMF-S, where King county reps want ST to solve their landfill problem and P & S will likely balk at the higher cost. I find placing the OMF on the landfill is an elegant solution if the risk can be mitigated, but I also think King should pay for the incremental cost.
Whoa up folks. “Corridor D” envisions a 200 foot deep station under Central Queen Anne and no service for Dravus or Expedia. Given that Central Queen Anne is one of the few areas on the hill that doesn’t have street-level views, and any views to the east wouldn’t happen until the fifth or higher floors (maybe the third floor to the west), this is not likely to be a super great station. There simply isn’t the road system by which to access the top of the hill sufficient to support a cluster of high-rises at Queen Anne and Howe.
Corridor D does serve Fremont of course and that’s a big win.
One problem it would have is that two stations in SLU now replace the one in Belltown, giving a current version of Corridor D a very snake-like pathway to Fremont or no Lower Queen Anne station.
AJ, the cost of boring tunnels is not increasing in cost nearly as rapidly as North Seattle properties. Tunnel boring is a tecchy thing so improvements in the actual boring technology and in seismic imaging decrease costs and reduce uncertainties. Seattle property just keeps getting more expensive, especially in neighborhoods which have or are slated to have, Link stations.
There are obvious ways to decrease the costs of a Ballard extension, but they are looking ever less likely in West Seattle. But the other sub-areas would not benefit from a bus tunnel, “rail-convertible” or otherwise. So digging it would necessarily be a North King-only project. And don’t forget that without it ventilation improvements and center platforms in the existing tunnel will be required to accommodate the number of trains expected without the new tunnel.
Of course if commuting reduces significantly, a new tunnel is simply not needed at all bus or train. See my post at the bottom of the article.
the other sub-areas would not benefit from a bus tunnel, “rail-convertible” or otherwise.
They would benefit just as much as they would with the original tunnel. It is the same dynamic, in that it is viewed as a regional asset. Getting to South Lake Union, or example, is easier. If anything, a bus tunnel is better, as frequency for those stops would be better.
“[Upper Queen Anne] is not likely to be a super great station. There simply isn’t the road system by which to access the top of the hill sufficient to support a cluster of high-rises at Queen Anne and Howe.”
The hilltop location hinders buses too. A station at Boston Street would solve the problem of downtown-QA-Fremont transit access once and for all. I wrote an article about this. Unfortunately the Queen Anne community and friends did not rally around this station or advocate for it enough to overcome the calls for cheaper 15th and an Expedia station.
`Corridor D was not really an Aurora alignment. It may have approximated Aurora from Denny Way to the Ship Canal, but an “Aurora alignment” as I think of it would go near Bridge Way and 46th & Aurora, and this one did not. It would have gone under the canal west of Aurora, probably with an underground Fremont station, and then gone underground or surface on Leary Way to Ballard.
“ Available tools include delaying construction of projects; modifying the phasing of projects; and/or modifying the scope of projects.”
This is bureaucratic speak for not willing to say that the ST3 plan plans are unchangeable. Keep in mind that decisions normally left to the EIS and detailed design process have been short-circuited under the plans of shortening construction timelines.
If timelines are now longer, shouldn’t we revert to a more normal EIS process? Then we can have an open discussion about the details of each corridor the normal way.
As a taxpayer, I’m highly uncomfortable that we are simultaneously fast-tracking Link expansion project environmental and design review — yet lengthening the time when ground will be broken for construction.
“decisions normally left to the EIS and detailed design process have been short-circuited under the plans of shortening construction timelines.”
What decisions? ST begged the stakeholers to agree on one or two alternatives to make the EIS easier, rather than the dozen demanded in southern Bellevue that added a year to the process. And it asked cities to streamline the permitting process like Redmond did so that ST wouldn’t have to seek a zoning variance which the city could delay and fill with pork. I don’t know how the permitting went, but the stakeholders did NOT reach agreement. Instead they fractured and began demanding things that weren’t mentioned before the vote. The Port and Fisherman’s Terminal began pushing for a new 14th alignment, and West Seattle began demanding tunnels and objecting to supposed impacts of the representative alignment. I don’t see how ST short-circuited the process; it asked the COMMUNITY to compromise in the number of alternatives it requested, and the community didn’t. Any short-circuiting would have been done by the community, and it didn’t.
The Lynnwood Link EIS included an alternative to use the 99 corridor. In contrast, ST denied consideration of a First Hill station even before the EIS began. Even now, the WSB EIS assumes fixed positions for many stations. This is limiting the alternatives that should be considered.
If WSB is delayed by at least four more years, the extra time should be invested in more diverse alternatives. It’s a 100 year civic investment that should be planned optimally.
I did find that strange. 99 and Lake City Way are further from I-5 than 8th is from 5th. In those cases they were in scope because the mandate was to serve Northgate and Lynnwood. In the First Hill case ST argued it was outside the scope of “downtown” so it couldn’t legally include it. I’m not a lawyer so I can’t evaluate this. There could be an argument that people expected a downtownish number of stations downtown.
With funding abd bonding problems as well as significant dissent, I think the WSB EIS should be split into three EIS’s — north of Smith Cove, south of SODO and the central segment. It’s pretty clear that there is less consensus and more controversy for the northern and southern segments as well as less money to build the entire project. Since the EIS approval requires that a project be affordable and the ends are more controversial than the middle, the EIS will take longer if it’s done as one. By dividing the EIS, construction can probably begin in the central segment much sooner. The central segment appears to have validity even without building the northern and southern segments, while the ends have less validity as stand alone projects.
For the central segment, alternatives can be at least penciled out and screened for viability. That includes a dual-mode tunnel, an alignment that uses existing DSTT stations (transfers can be at University Street rather than Westlake for example), a First Hill and Midtown underground incline to replace the Midtown station, a Denny stop closer to Belltown and many other system ideas that never got scrutiny in the rush to prepare ST3.
I agree with Al. The planning has been rushed, and a result, they aren’t even considering an underground station at 20th. I realize it is unlikely they would choose it, as it would be more expensive than above ground. But they are considering elevated options, and seem to be moving towards them, especially as the difference between them shrinks. It would be crazy to get an underground station, but have it be designed as if it was running on the surface (15th, or even worse, 14th).
Are you suggesting that the community wanted 14th instead of 20th, Mike? Seriously? There was widespread support for a station at 20th, and almost no one who wanted 14th.
Do you think they wanted an underground station at 14th or 15th? Even the Port and Fisherman’s Terminal (a tiny part of the community) didn’t care where the underground stations were, they just didn’t want to lose a little land to the train. Why is an underground station at 14th (an idea supported by no one) still being studied, but an underground station at 20th (with widespread community support) not?
“Are you suggesting that the community wanted 14th instead of 20th, Mike? Seriously? There was widespread support for a station at 20th, and almost no one who wanted 14th.”
A dozen commentators on STB does not constitute “widespread public support”. If almost no one wanted 14th, how did it get there? The Port pushed for it. and the Port is a large employer with thousands of people. Where are thousands of Ballardites who were pushing for 20th? I wish there were but I haven’t heard of any.
Breaking up the EIS is unlikely. One of the key takeaways of the current cost overruns was that ROW acquisitions need to occur earlier. That will lead to ST wanted to do a full EIS to establish the alignment and begin ROW acquisitions even on segments that are phased for later. I expect the same approach for TDLE and Everett Link with a single large EIS (each) to establish the specific alignment and then design & construction broken into digestible phases.
“Since the EIS approval requires that a project be affordable ” – is that a thing? Every project, individually, remains affordable so I’m not sure what that requirement would accomplish.
The Port pushed for it. and the Port is a large employer with thousands of people.
Yeah, but not there. Only a handful would be effected. As far as Ballard goes, there wasn’t a huge outcry, because they never told them! There was no big meeting, seeking input. It was all relatively hush-hush, unlike the campaign to actually pass the thing.
Put it this way, how many people who would actually use this pushed for 14th? Yeah, hardly any.
Splitting the EIS seems appropriate. Both Silicon Valley BART and Dulles Metro had their EIS’ split. It appears quite reasonable. In Silicon Valkey BART’s case, it was split seven years after the first environmental statement. It was how they got their FTA funding secured.
In reading the timelines for these projects, it appears that ST skipped the Major Investment Study step. That appears to be what the pre-ST3 studies were — but ST never gave them that recognition and instead implied that those studies were merely supposed to help them get general cost estimates and performance data for the vote.
This is an important point as the WSB alignment is almost completely new so technically it could go anywhere. It’s not as if ST or any other government agency was holding the right of way for ST like I90 or I5.
AJ misses a critical point: the other subareas except east KC don’t have an additional $176 million or so lying around for tunnel cost overruns, and he doesn’t cite his legal authority to require subareas to pay for cost overruns for an outside subarea they objected to originally. Because AJ says it does not make it enforceable, and Rogoff understands inter-subarea financing is very political. If AJ has an agreement among subareas they will pay for a second transit tunnel no matter what it costs I would love to see it.
I could be wrong, but I don’t see why the ‘contribution’ would be a fixed number before the project has been baselined. I think it will be hard to S & N to insist on it being treated differently than another systemwide asset, but at this point it’s politics, not policy, that matters.
This file here marks the downtown tunnel as a North King asset.
Appendix C clearly notes “Contribution to Downtown Seattle Light Rail Tunnel” but I don’t see an amount.
I doubt East King has an extra $176 million either, when you count Issaquah Link. The only reason things look rosy to the east is because they haven’t calculated it yet. There is no reason to believe property on the East Side hasn’t gone up as well. My guess is all agencies are the same boat when it comes to costs. As far as revenue goes, it is way too early to predict with any level of certainty.
“ The Board has set the process for capital program realignment, culminating in summer 2021 after gaining input from the public and partner organizations.”
How about taking lots more input specifically from riders, Mr Rogoff? Do you think riders are like cattle and not important people? After all, the fares that riders pay go towards your salary.
It’s a sad day when a transit agency views unspecified organizations are considered more important than riders are.
I never quite understood why ST is bringing this before the Board at this time, when funding deficits are not suppose to become an issue until 2029, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and no one can predict the future. Does Rogoff think he is telling us something we don’t already know: increase revenue, extend completion, reduce design costs, abandon projects. No shit, Sherlock.
The additional costs to complete ST 3 in the N. King Co. subarea can’t be a surprise to the Board because even I knew ST 3 lowballed costs for the N. King Co. subarea in order to sell ST 3 (and likely complete some ST 2 projects in the N. King Co. subarea), although the amount might be higher than expected.
What has been a surprise for ST is the likely future decline in farebox revenue (ridership) and general fund tax revenue. No, commuting and transit are not going to end post-pandemic, but ST’s pre-pandemic future ridership estimates and increased general fund revenue estimates were so optimistic (to cover the likely increased costs in the N. King Co. subarea) any decline was going to be a real problem, because ST was banking on large revenue increases. Or at least ST 3 did. The eastside subarea can afford East Link having about half the estimated riders in 2030, but not the other subareas.
$4 billion in additional costs to complete the rail lines to W. Seattle and Ballard is higher than originally suspected, but classic ST, always hoping massive population gains, TOD, density, increased commuting, a war on cars, increased parking fees, fees on Uber/Lyft, would manufacture that future ridership, or at worst cutting stations. Unfortunately a pandemic came along.
My suspicion about why ST is coming clean now are:
1. The likely declines in tax revenue and farebox recovery for the N. King Co. subarea, when that was suppose to be the cure.
2. ST is beginning to realize what an unreliable partner Metro will be, when the entire principle of a rail spine is that frequent first/last mile access and rail frequency make up for the added seat and transfer. Now you better live near a large park and ride that serves link if you want first/last mile access, or in South Seattle. I am sure Metro leaving ST a $500 million maintenance tab for the existing transit tunnel helped. Some partner.
3. The four other subareas will balk at paying more than the estimate $2.2 billion price tag for a second tunnel, which makes the tunnel unaffordable for the N. King Co. subarea, HB 1304 or not. You really can’t create a world class rail system with trains running along the surface streets of the major urban core, and anything beyond the spine from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond will need a second transit tunnel. But as we have learned tunneling under an urban core with a high water table and steep slopes will always cost more than estimated.
I think it is the realization that the four other subareas won’t contribute to the additional costs over $2.2 billion for a second transit tunnel, or just can’t, that is leading Rogoff (whom I expect to be gone by years end) to tell the Board ST is at an existential point. I used to think the best course of action was to begin the second tunnel, and extend rail or convert it to express buses for N. King Co., but not if the four other subareas who are paying half are telling you don’t start what you/we can’t afford to complete.
So where do you go with ST 3 in the N. King Co. subarea without a second transit tunnel? That is what Rogoff is really asking.
“Where .. you go in N. King Co. subarea” is revamping the ventilation between CHS and HSS in the existing tunnel to allow for two minute headways and adding permanent center platforms with ADA access to the three main stations downtown for faster loading and unloading. This also allows better transfers between the South and East lines than the up-over-and-down transfers at IDS that will almost certainly result from a new tunnel.
Next, completely remove non-commercial vehicles from Third Avenue between Cedar and Yesler. There are parallel paths available to private vehicles. Bias the signals in favor of Columbia section between Third and Alaskan Way and replace the traffic signals on Third north of Lenora with stop signs for the cross-traffic except at Battery and Wall. Include a flasher cross-walk at each of the other street for pedestrians to cross the bus mall but have them synchronized and delayed so that buses aren’t delayed erratically. Add a southbound bus-only exit from Aurora to Sixth North next to the Gates Foundation and a southbound bus-lane on Sixth down to Wall. This allows the southbound buses to avoid the difficult merge across traffic to exit from the center.
The biggest capital investment would be digging a short section of bus tunnel between Third and Clay and Elliott at Harrison with a station between Queen Anne and First North for Seattle Center, the new stadium and the LQA neighborhood. There is room for a single lane next to a tunnel portal between Fourth West and Elliott. Make that one-way westbound with a right turn only at Elliott. Two lanes would make protected right turns — the left-hand lane for northbound buses — at the same time that southbound buses were turning left into the tunnel. Dig the tunnel with gradients and curvature that could accommodate a possible future Tram line to Ballard using real Trams from Siemens or Alstom. That could only come, of course, as a part of a project to build a replacement Ballard Bridge.
To balance such a much smaller North King ST3, truncate Link at Mariner and South Federal Way and basically do nothing except the Downtown Redmond extension in East King. For service to Pierce County add a third track to BNSF where one does not already exist between Black River Junction and South Tacoma or if that’s not possible a second track to UP. This would be to divert through freights away from the BNSF main in order to add capacity for Sounder. Add all-day service for South Sounder.
I know this doesn’t get Tacoma its hoped for “train to the airport” but the ST3 “train to the airport” is going to be pretty lame anyway starting from nowheresville between freight yards and the freeway.
Would you then return ST 3 tax revenue to citizens in subareas like the eastside who will have excess reserves when their ST 3 projects are cancelled? I am not sure what you mean by “balance” a much smaller ST 3 for N. King Co.
I think if that option was placed on a ballot for eastside citizens to vote on — use the ST 3 revenue or return it to taxpayers in lieu of cancelled projects — my guess is a majority would say use it, even on the eastside with some crazy projects like Issaquah to Kirkland. However my guess is voters in Snohomish, Pierce, and S. King Co. would vote to return the ST 3 tax revenue in lieu of ST 3 projects. For N. King Co. that isn’t an option; they won’t get the ST 3 projects or the tax revenue back.
anything beyond the spine from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond will need a second transit tunnel
Wait, what? You think the spine will be extended beyond Everett, Tacoma and Redmond? Really.
Anyway, I don’t know why people got this idea that the second tunnel was being built so that we can build the spine. That has nothing to do with it. No one ever talked about a second tunnel until they started talking about Ballard to West Seattle.
It basically evolved like this: ST wanted Ballard to West Seattle (and especially West Seattle, since Dow Constantine is from there). The cheapest way to build a line from West Seattle to Ballard is to use the existing tunnel. But that would mean reducing frequency on the main line. This was a major concern, and the solution they came up with was another tunnel.
I think people may be conflating the decision — made much later — to split the main line. They plan on sending the Tacoma Dome train to Ballard instead of Everett. This was largely an afterthought, not a requirement. The long line (from Everett to Tacoma) is problematic, and there are ways around it, but if you are building another tunnel, it is easy to just send the trains elsewhere. But again, it isn’t essential to do that. There is no way they would build an extra tunnel (especially one with essentially the same stops as before) if not for the Ballard to West Seattle line.
As for getting the other subareas to pay for it, to a certain extent it makes sense. Assume for a second that we really are limited to three minute headways in the existing downtown tunnel. If we merged the lines, that means that service to Bellevue or SeaTac would come every 9 minutes. Ballard would as well, unless you did a lot of switching and the trains went to UW and Ballard every 6 minutes. Switching is expensive, and UW to downtown is one of the few places where we might need the train more often than every 6 minutes. It is also just a degradation for areas that are hoping to get trains every 3 or 4 minutes as soon as East Link opens.
According to ST (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/03/21/capacity-limitations-of-link/) we could go under 3 minutes (to as low as 90 seconds) but it would require an investment, and involve some risk of bunching (i. e. a train being delayed). There would be much the same level of service for the south and the east. During rush hour, you would have four minute frequency (for both Ballard and UW). During the middle of the day, they could run the trains every 9 minutes to Bellevue, SeaTac and West Seattle, giving you 6 minute frequency for Ballard and UW. I think the 2 to 1 ratio makes a lot more sense than the 3 to 2 ratio, but I think the bigger issue is the concern over bunching. Both the east and south lines have surface running, and lots of stops (especially with the south line). There is a good chance that they could be delayed, which is why they wanted to avoid it. This makes the new tunnel a “system wide asset”.
It is kind of like buying up air space above someone’s property. You are buying to ensure that they don’t build anything that would make your life worse. The wording is odd — I wouldn’t call the new tunnel a “system wide asset” — but the logic behind it is fine. If anything, the part of the tunnel from Westlake to Lower Queen Anne is more of a system wise asset, but I guess that’s just semantics.
I guess the thing that makes it weird — the thing I don’t like — is that the other subareas are committed to this project. I think they should have just made an agreement with Seattle to not connect any lines that would degrade the “core” frequency (and then go ahead and define “core” to be downtown to Northgate, or even downtown to Lynnwood). These other agencies would essentially be buying up frequency rights. Then Seattle would not be encouraged to build such a wasteful project, and instead build something like a Metro 8 or Metro 44 subway, neither of which would connect to the main line.
I assume he means “beyond” in the sense of any additional lines anywhere that go through downtown, not necessarily extensions to the Spine. For instance, some STBers have suggested an Aurora-Georgetown line taking over the southern route, and the Rainier Valley branch would then be a shuttle to TIB.
In any case, Snohomish’s final “ST4” terminus for the Spine is Everett Community College, and Pierce’s is Tacoma Mall. “ST4” is in quotes because there is no ST4 outlined yet; these are just the next requests in the pipeline, as stated by Snohomish/Pierce boardmembers in 2015-2016. I haven’t heard any official requests to extend East Link. The ST3 routing — going to Southeast Redmond first and then turning back to Downtown Redmond — seems to preclude any extensions toward Sammamish or Woodinville.
In any case, even if all these extensions are built, none of them go to any large city beyond Everett, Tacoma, or Redmond, so they would not bring a lot of additional people or overcrowd the downtown tunnels. The overcrowding fear is based on Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond themselves, and on people beyond them who drive or bus to those stations. There are also additional fears that even Lynnwood and Federal Way will cause overcrowding in places. But none about the additional effects of Everett College, Tacoma Mall, or Sammamish/Woodinville extensions. Just as many of the Everett/Tacoma riders will already be busing to Lynnwood and FW in ST2, so Everett CC and Tacoma Mall riders will be busing to Everett and Tacoma Dome in ST3, and thus already be in the downtown tunnels.
I’m skeptical Snohomish will end up extending Link, even though it’s in ST3 planning – the placement in Everett station isn’t well designed for that. Everett Station to Everett CC is better as a Swift corridor. “ST4” Link for Snohomish will probably be not much more than infill stations (220th, Airport Road). If I was Snohomish, I’d rather punt for a spur at Mariner to S Everett mall (future TOD)
RE: East Link extension – firm no to Sammamish, but an extension to Totem Lake is plausible. A short extension to the light industry land to NW could be good TOD is Redmond is interested, and then it’s not far to Totem Lake allow Willows Rd (which as some stuff). If Totem Lake emerges as a major secondary center, it could be worthwhile. Unlikely, but plausible.
RE: Buying buying up frequency rights. That’s a good framing. It is why a UW spur to Ballard has already be DOA. It would require degrading frequency north of UW and therefore would always be vetoed by Lynnwood (in the absence of a compromise).
Mike is right – the crowding issue isn’t really about the lengthy extensions. Yes, there will be some induced demand when Link replaces bus transfers in the ‘burbs, but the peak ridership in the core is much more of a function of Seattle’s spectacular growth & economic strength rather than ST3 suburban sprawl. Pierce could just walk away from TDLE and the case for the 2nd tunnel would still be strong.
Where .. you go in N. King Co. subarea” is revamping the ventilation between CHS and HSS in the existing tunnel to allow for two minute headways”
It isn’t about the ventilation shaft — I don’t know how that rumor got started, but ST has categorically denied it. In contrast, it would likely require additional investment in Traction Power Substations, and it “wouldn’t give our ridership as reliable a service.” The small windows to fit in delayed trains might cause them to bunch up, delaying riders. Source: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/03/21/capacity-limitations-of-link/.
So even if they made the investment, it could mean some delayed trains.
“How about taking lots more input specifically from riders”
Mr Rogoff, this is one of the most critical things that’s missing in ST’s planning process. The purpose of Link is to improve people’s mobility and to make transit convenient so that people want to use it. Yet riders and transit advocates like STB are all lumped into one “stakeholder” while each government,large employer, and institution is a separate stakeholder. This is unbalanced. There needs to be a riders’ review board like the stakeholders’ and electeds’ review boards, which aren’t meeting our needs. “Stakeholders” may want 14th, but riders are the ones who suffer the long walk from Ballard Ave and most of the village’s apartments to the station. The larger the village, the more important a short walk from the center and short transfers are. This has happened with ST again and again: Bellevue station being a half-block east of the bus bays instead of underground on 110th, UW Station being in a far-off corner, Mt Baker station and the transit center and bus stops being so far apart, Lynnwood Link on I-5 instead of 99, Federal Way Link being on I-5 instead of 99, not adding 216th Station in Des Moines, leaving 130th out of ST2 Lynnwood Link, putting 145th Station two blocks north making buses turn into the station rather than having the station spanning 130th with entrances on both sides, Roosevelt Station with a practically useless entrance at 67th and no apartments on top, etc. Riders need to have a larger share of input so that we can get a Link network that works for riders.
Yes! Riders deserve to be considered as fully equal with other stakeholders taken as a group. I would add a few of those that are on transit all day every work day — drivers — into the group.
ST also needs a dedicated riders’ advocate/ombudsman like CT has.
I hope they consider all options when it comes to dealing with this fiasco. For the Ballard to West Seattle project (the most expensive one), I recommend they study the following:
Build a rail-convertible bus tunnel, with all the same stops as they are currently considering. They would need to add bus tunnels connected to Elliot and the SoDo expressway, but that is simple and cheap. There are a couple reasons why this would make sense:
A) Well within the scope of ST3. It can be viewed as a stage in the bigger project (as would running a train tunnel).
B) Better than a train tunnel to the same places. There are several reasons for this:
1) Better for those in West Seattle. Until the line connects to West Seattle, riders from West Seattle would transfer at SoDo. Very few riders like doing that now, even though the main train line serves downtown, Capitol Hill and the UW. With a train tunnel, the riders would be able to get to and through downtown faster, get to South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne, while improving their transfer to get to Capitol Hill, the UW, Northgate, etc.
2) In a similar manner, it would be better for those in Ballard and Magnolia. It would be a one seat ride to Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union, while dramatically reducing the time it takes to get downtown in the middle of the day. A stub train does not offer all of that.
3) Better for those who would walk or transfer to access the new stops. The plan is to send trains from the main line (SeaTac et al) to this spur. At best this will run every 6 minutes. It will likely run every 10 minutes during the day, and 15 minutes at night. The combined set of buses will run a lot more often.
4) Better for train riders coming from the main line (SeaTac et al). The existing downtown tunnel has four stops between Westlake and I. D., while the new one will have only three. The existing tunnel goes to Capitol Hill, the UW and Northgate, while the new tunnel will go to South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. A lot more riders go to destinations on the main line than the new spur.
Everyone comes out ahead. I want to make clear that I’m not comparing a train line from West Seattle to Ballard with a new bus tunnel. I’m comparing a new spur train line (from SoDo to Expedia) with a bus tunnel to the same destinations, with the same stops. In every respect the bus tunnel is better.
This should be seen as simply a step along the way — a stage in the development of our transit system, not a permanent situation. When we have enough money, we can build the entire train line, from Ballard to West Seattle, and build it right. Until then, the best option for the short term (next ten to twenty years) is a bus tunnel.
Ross, when your original proposal was to “build a bus tunnel first” you had it following the initial alignment through Belltown with only the connection to Aurora added. Are you now proposing some different alignment for the central portion of such a bus tunnel?
I ask because all of ST’s four proposed alignments for the new tunnel run between a portal on the west edge of Lower Queen Anne to a portal somewhere south of IDS surfacing adjacent to the busway. Turning it into a bus tunnel would require only a southbound flyover from Elliott to the southbound tunnel portal and some way for the buses to travel between the tunnel portal along the east side of the existing rail tracks along the busway over to the roadway. That could be a grade-crossing; the bus drivers are professionals well-trained to be watchful at rail crossings.
I guess there is a study of tunneling all the way to Massachusetts somewhere around Sixth South and then going aerial? It’s somewhat hazy and will almost certainly be rejected when enough people ask “What about the unknown composition of the landfill that is SoDo?” Are they proposing to tunnel so deeply that they will be in the primordial Duwamish estuary muck all the way? If so, “Wow!”
But that’s a side-issue. If one were to dig a rail-convertible bus-tunnel — the ONLY thing ST would accept — the service area and therefore the alignment ought to be the same as that voted on in 2016. All of those alignments are intended to and designed to surface adjacent to Elliott at the north end and the busway at the south. No extra segments are required.
I think we are on the same page.
The tunnel would be exactly as proposed, and currently being planned. The same stations, the same ability to eventually take trains (from West Seattle and Ballard). The only difference is that it would be designed to initially handle buses. This means the additional cost (albeit relatively small) of connecting it to the street grid. Even though that isn’t much money, I figured it was worth mentioning, as it is an additional cost. It sounds like it would be minimal though (making the case for it even stronger).
Wait wait wait…
If they were to build the rail-convertible-bus-tunnel shouldn’t they also put in tracks while they are at it?
If not putting in track now, the future closure to do so would be inconvenient at best, and possibly much more expensive.
They would still have to put in bus wire too wouldn’t they? So how much would they really save?
If they were to build the rail-convertible-bus-tunnel shouldn’t they also put in tracks while they are at it?
Yeah, sure. The tunnel would be built from the beginning so that it could easily be converted to handle light rail.
So how much would they really save?
In the long run, nothing. In fact, it would cost just a little bit more than if they built a rail line to the same places. The difference is that you can build something like that — a small section of the overall Ballard to West Seattle project — for far less money. In the mean time, while we wait for the money to build the rest of it, it would improve transit dramatically. That small section would have more value as a bus tunnel than a stub rail tunnel — see “B)” in my original comment above.
Is this like when your landlord says he’s going to be raising your rent, and cutting back on renovations?
A minor quibble with Rogoff. He asserts the ST2 capital projects are on schedule. Of course, they are on reset schedules. Lynnwood Link was originally set for 2023. East Link was reset while ST and Bellevue discussed alignments.
One change I would like the ST board to implement: to zero out garages not already under construction; that would be all the ones in ST3 and in ST2, the surface lot at 130th Avenue NE. The funds needed to construct the parking could go into the reset. The land needed for the parking could be sold for apartments. This would yield funds to ST and shift the housing supply curve out. We should have more housing next to frequent transit; it would be more productive for society than car storage.
I hope ST separates their short term service budget from the capital reset. Link and the trunk bus lines should be run often so that waits are short (e.g., Link and routes 522, 535, 545, 550, 574, 594). I suspect the millions spent on service would not slow the delivery of the capital program in billions.
The issues with Eddie’s idea is it is subarea specific: if he wants to “zero out” park and rides in the N. King Co. subarea due to funding concerns ok, depending on political desire.
If he is talking about the other subareas good luck. Right now, based on Metro’s funding and equity service allocation the only folks who will have better transit service with link are those who haven’t had a seat and transfer added to their trip and now rely on Metro, which are subareas with large park and rides serving rail.
: TOD ain’t going to solve the N. King Co. subarea’s funding woes. TOD requires “transit”, like a second transit tunnel.
If Rogoff’ mea culpa means anything it means forget about transit transforming society, especially housing. Transit is in serious trouble in the one subarea it makes sense, and the four other subareas are totally car centric.
I don’t think there are any P&Rs remaining to be built in N King aside from Lake Forest Park?
My comments did not attempt to address the major part of the fiscal realignment. I mentioned one ST2 lot in the East at 130th Avenue NE. Yes, there are ST3 lots on the Stride lines; one is slated for LFP. The Lynnwood Link construction has begun, so it is too late to stop. If a fiscal realignment is not needed for the East Stride lines and the funds for ST3 parking are available, we would be better off using them for improved service frequency and shorter waits. Politically, we want short waits, housing, and free parking; choices must be made; was the parking choice in 2016 correct? When garages are built, surface parking is often destroyed and that degrades access for existing riders; see Mercer Island garage construction period. ST funded added MI shuttle trips during that period.
But eddiew, running buses is so boring! What an undignified pursuit for a Master of the Universe. It’s tacky.
This is not to mention that it doesn’t create opportunities for the all-important “Electeds” to cut satin ribbons. It’s just not a “high priority” for one’s friends in the concrete, steel and heavy construction cauci. And where are the “good Amurrican jobs” from running buses? You’re just talking about more union corruption sucking taxpayer dollars from Real Americans to pay “protected classes” to drive mostly empty buses around!
That leads to the central question, “What about freedumb?” If you ran more buses you’d have to take lanes from the Holy American Driver!
There are so many things un-MAGA about running more buses.
my hope is that elected officials can get excited about cutting ribbons on pavement management and sidewalk projects.
I thought there was some law against getting rid of park and ride spaces? The Northgate community tried to get rid of a bunch of parking, but they were prevented from doing so. Otherwise, you are absolutely right — the community would love to get rid of the park and ride lot at 130th, especially if it meant getting the station sooner.
That’s because some of the spaces ST destroyed for construction are owned by the mall and contractually obligated to the mall’s tenants for customer parking. ST had to rebuild those spaces afterward or be sued by the mall. But it doesn’t have to keep spaces beyond that. Metro did a survey of where park n riders come from and they’re mostly from the west and east. So ST asked the community whether it wanted a bigger garage or more bus/bike/ped access to the station. Many people said they only reason they drove was bus access was so limited and there weren’t safe walking corridors or good bus corridors. Three-quarters of the feedback was for bus/bike/ped access improvements rather than more parking spaces. The pedestrian bridge to the west side feeds into that. The garage was sized to replace the mall-obligated parking and some number of remaining spaces, but it wasn’t made bigger. Northgate/Licton Springs/Maple Leaf was the only community not to request a larger P&R, so cheers to them.
ST2 East Link has a station in Bel Red with surface parking at 130th Avenue NE in Bellevue.
The WSDOT surface lot on 5th Avenue NE near the Lynnwood Link station is accidental. It has been largely empty for decades.
The Northgate parking is the most costly and awkward. the Seattle comp plan does not allow commuter parking. but none of the agencies asked to change the record of decision regarding North Link, even though they had an extra decade due to delay.
“ST2 East Link has a station in Bel Red with surface parking at 130th Avenue NE in Bellevue.”
ST says that lot is a placeholder until Spring District density reaches that area, then it can be redeveloped. That’s what an ST rep at an East Link open house told me when I asked about that lot. I responded that adding parking would create a constituency that would resist losing the spaces in the future. He didn’t think that would be a problem. We’ll see.
I found a comment that referred to the law: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2012/06/05/northgate-strongly-opposes-garage-at-public-meeting/#comment-230641. Here is the section that lead me to believe that it isn’t that easy to just sell off park and ride spaces:
The problem is that the various agencies involved are required by law and contract to provide a certain amount of parking. Some for the mall because of land takings and some to P&R users because of funding requirements. [emphasis mine]
I can’t find the actual law, or anything more about it. But this implies that if you are going to get funding, you can’t just get rid of parking spots. Even when the community really, really wants you to get rid of the spots, you are stuck with them. You can replace them, but not just get rid of them. Anyway, that is the implication, but I’m not sure that is right, of it even applies in this case.
We’d have to look at what specific funding agreements the P&R had in the past and whether they have limitations still valid today. ST was able to prevail in the I-90 center lanes because the federal funding agreement said they were intended for future rail. I don’t know how the Northgate TC P&R was fundedor whether it had any long-term restrictions that would still be valid decades later. In any case, that probably wouldn’t apply to all P&Rs across the board, since different ones were funded from different sources.
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