The first hearing for House Bill 1304 for grade-separated transportation was moved to Tuesday, February 9th, at 10 am. Register now for Seattle Subway’s pre-testimony seminar scheduled for Monday, February 8th, at 6 pm.

As we noted last week, this bill will give Seattle the tools we need to solve a lot of problems. The most exciting part: HB 1304 can help address Link expansion timelines and create a system that serves the entire city. We need your help to advance the bill out of the Local Government committee.

Regarding the ST3 budget gap, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff wrote earlier this week, “Succeeding now requires us to come together to overcome lower revenue projections and higher cost estimates.” We agree with Sound Transit that time is of the essence. To fill the budget gap caused by COVID, we truly need partnership at every level of government—city, region, state, and federal—working together. 

With the legislature’s help to fix a minor piece of obsolete statutory language, Seattle can do its part to help keep ST3 projects within the city on track and enable further expansion beyond ST3. Your testimony (via zoom) is something concrete you can do in the present to support this vital work, and like all democracy, numbers matter.

Monday, February 8th, at 6 pm, Seattle Subway is holding a pre-testimony seminar on Zoom so that everyone who testifies can be as effective as possible. You can register for that here to receive dial-in instructions. We strongly recommend that you attend to help present a strong and effective message.

Reminder – you can sign up to testify via zoom or in writing here:

  • Click:  https://app.leg.wa.gov/csiremote/house
  • Select Committee: “Local Government
  • Select Meeting: Select “2/9/2021 10:00AM
  • Select Agenda Item: “HB 1304 Grade-separated transport.
  • Select type of testimony: “I would like to submit written testimony.”; “I would like to Testify Live During the Hearing.”; or “I would like my position noted for the legislative record.”
  • You will be sent to another page.
  • Select Position: “Pro
  • Fill out your information
  • If you chose to write testimony, write your testimony (limit 5000 characters)
  • Submit
The Washington State Legislature is prioritizing health and economic recovery from COVID-19, equity, and stopping climate change this session. HB 1304 responds directly to the legislature’s goals.

What we said when we first started our work in 2011 is as true today as it was then: Traffic is over – if you want it. Help us give everyone the option of a traffic-free life.

103 Replies to “ACTION ALERT: Traffic is over… if you TESTIFY for it”

  1. We can build even more rail track and stations from this money if the “grade separated” requirement is removed from the bill.

      1. I definitely agree it is a mistake to limit the scope of HB 1304. I think Subway Seattle and some of HB 1304’s proponents don’t understand the true costs just to complete the ST 3 projects in the N, King Co. subarea, which I don’t think Seattle can afford alone, at least the second transit tunnel cost overruns.

        The irony is on the one hand any levy under HB 1304, if the goal is to complete the ST 3 projects in Seattle, will be exhausted by completing rail projects, while on the other hand I don’t think those projects — rail to West Seattle and Ballard, and the second transit tunnel — are affordable under ST 3 OR with a levy under 1304. All the rest is just fantasy land (or buses).

        If I were the N. King Subarea and I was offered the second transit tunnel as the one option affordable under ST 3 I would take it in a second, because I am worried even the second tunnel is going to be a financial stretch if the four other subareas balk at cost overruns. I just don’t think Subway Seattle and some of HB 1304’s proponents understand the amount transit tunnels cost. HB 1304 might not have a single project underground, which is strange for a group called Seattle Subway.

        So, probably see if the second transit tunnel can be started and completed so Seattle knows what HB 1304 will need and voters know what they will actual get. My guess is all they will get from 1304 is the second transit tunnel, but that is the most important piece.

        To T.R.5000’s comment that “[b]uses will work perfectly when we remove all the cars from the streets”, I guess then Seattle better add the loss of the gas tax to HB 1304 for roads and bridges in Seattle.

        Seriously though, the voluntary and then mandatory switch to EV’s will decimate the gas tax (duh) just like cars and trucks with better gas mileage are straining funding road and bridge repair, and working from home will reduce miles driven if the alternative is a tax on miles driven. So that means even larger general fund tax subsidies for transit and all transportation infrastructure (and roads are usually the pigs at the trough and don’t expect that to disappear), or much higher transit fares and farebox recovery, closer to 65% like for ferries rather than 20% for Metro and 40% for ST light rail.

        Two of the benefits of the gas tax are: 1. it tends to tax a wealthier segment of society based on use; and 2. it is a sort of sin tax so drivers have a harder time complaining about increases in the gas tax (and WA’s gas tax I believe is the highest in the nation), especially as they pay less due to more efficient cars. Once everyone is driving ecologically friendly new EV’s they are going to resist taxes on an EV, and want transit to pay a higher share of transit’s costs, which means higher fares, service reductions, or even more general fund subsidies.

        Our transit infrastructure, especially rail, is fairly new, and the transit maintenance and operations costs other cities have ignored and are crushing them (including fewer riders due to crummy frequency or dirty transit) are not a big deal (except the existing transit tunnel, which is a little taste of what ignoring maintenance costs). Besides just building rail it has to be operated and maintained, and again I don’t think ST or Seattle Subway budget well for that, despite crazy ridership estimates.

        Although it will never happen, what I would really like any levy under 1304 to focus on are: 1. completing the second transit tunnel; and 2. future maintenance and operations, including the existing transit tunnel. Of course ST will tell you those are not very sexy items to sell a transit levy to cover ST 3.

      2. Two of the benefits of the gas tax are: 1. it tends to tax a wealthier segment of society based on use; and 2. it is a sort of sin tax so drivers have a harder time complaining about increases in the gas tax (and WA’s gas tax I believe is the highest in the nation), especially as they pay less due to more efficient cars. Once everyone is driving ecologically friendly new EV’s they are going to resist taxes on an EV, and want transit to pay a higher share of transit’s costs, which means higher fares, service reductions, or even more general fund subsidies.

        Um, er, ah, Daniel, you seem to believe that gas taxes are powering transit in some way. NO gas taxes go to provide transit, not even at the Federal level. None. Nada. Nicht. Rien. So the death of the gas tax would only indirectly — a two-cushion bank shot at best — affect transit by affecting the roads on which it runs.

        Oooopsie! My bad. Trains run on tracks! Silly me.

      3. If the gas tax becomes obsolete that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The state could replace it with other taxes rather than simply allowing the revenue to evaporate. There are two problems with the gas tax. One, it can’t be spent on rail, and only to a limited extent on buses. Two, gas is exempt from sales tax. This means, unlike all other products whose sales taxes go to the general fund and can be used for trains or buses, the non-sales tax on gas is dedicated to benefits for drivers. This means the rest of the state’s economy and products are subsidizing drivers, because they’re paying a general-fund sales tax while gas purchasers aren’t; gas purchasers are getting their own exclusive benefits instead. The gas tax also warps the state’s transportation planning. It makes the state reluctant to fund sensible rail and bus projects that other states and countries have, because gas-tax money can’t be used for them and the state is reluctant to use other tax money for them. But if all projects including roads and trains and buses came out of the general fund or other nonrestricted funds, then the state might have other priorities, and not fund just highways and ferries and current-level Cascades and nothing else.

      4. Replying to myself. Mike says that gas taxes do go in small part to transit, and I generally accept such an unequivocal statement from him. They aren’t “supposed” to, but I guess some kludge has been constructed.

        I stand corrected.

      5. Gas taxes are super important for transit because buses drive on roads. Our express bus network – the best in the US – heavily relies on WSDOT investment in HOV/HOT infrastructure.

        Yes, gas taxes don’t support transit O&M, but the primary reason buses are more cost effective than rail is because we’ve already done the hard work of building out a street grid & freeway network.

        If you include the cost of creating the HOT lanes from Renton to Lynnwood, gas taxes paid for >90% of Stride capital costs. If Stride 405 is successful, there is ample opportunity for gas tax investments that directly improve transit.

      6. Yes, I was thinking of the HOT lanes on 405. The 405 master plan included features that would allow BRT-priority lanes and in-line stations in the future. That’s about the extent of gas-tax support.

        Buses aren’t trains, so they don’t get into the controversial issue of whether trains are a “non-highway purpose” across the board. The constitutional prohibition against gas-tax funds going to non-highway purposes was enacted in the 1930s, and was then intended to prevent tax money from going to robber-baron freight railroad monopoly sweet deals, and also to build road infrastructure for cars. Highway-running buses weren’t a significant presence then, and in any case buses are compatible with cars. There have been legal counterarguments that the provision doesn’t really prohibit train highways of the light rail or heavy rail variety, but I’m not a lawyer so I can’t evaluate these dueling claims.

      7. AJ, as someone else noted in a different thread of this comment section, the “roads” on which the vast majority of transit buses run are not paid for by fuel taxes. They are city streets and county roads which are paid for almost entirely by property taxes and to a lesser degree by B&O and sales taxes.

        Yes, King and Snohomish Counties have a very good express bus system centered on Seattle, much of which is in abeyance right now because of the pandemic and will largely be wiped away when East and North Link open in a few years. There will still be express buses from Burien and Renton to Seattle, rudimentary all-day “local” sort-of-express buses down the Green River valley, and Bellevue-centered expresses run by ST. The roadways on which they run, as you say, are largely provided by fuel taxes.

        But of the bus hours consumed in King and Snohomish counties, at least 75% are burned on city and county roadways paid for by property taxes.

        I’m not knocking the contribution that the freeway express system — Blue Streak! — has made to Seattle’s sterling reputation for transit. It has been great. But fuel taxes will mean much less to overall mobility in the ST service area in the coming decades.

        Good timing, ST!

  2. Thanks for the update.

    I asked that the bill be amended to allow funding for any type of transit. Specifying rail, and “grade separated” rail, is a silly restriction.

    1. Does “grade-separated” include sections like what we have near the airport or will have in interbay? If so, it is indeed silly. Maybe limiting it to exclusive ROW would’ve made more sense but even then we need all the money for transit we can get and limiting that in any way seems counterproductive.

      1. I’d support a restriction that the transit has to have “an exclusive right of way”. This is a tax to support bonded indebtedness; we need to “get something” for it, not just a bunch of bus and train hours.

        Those should always be funded in the fiscal year in which they are operated. No debt for “consumption”!

      2. As I read the bill, it establishes an agency with taxing authority, but it doesn’t insist that it go into bonds (although it can). It’s like a school district. It can just tax and spend, or it can issue bonds, and then pay them off over time (by taxing).

        Anyway, if we insist on spending money for capital projects, I’m OK with that, but there is still no need to insist on anything more specific than “transit”. For example, it could be spent on a whole new fleet of (electric) buses. It could go into a bunch of ORCA readers outside stops. It could retrofit all the existing buses with ORCA readers and cash boxes in the middle of the bus, so that Seattle could easily transition to proof-of-payment on all the buses. It could pay for widening the street, so the bus can run in its own. Or paying to adapt bus stops so there is level boarding. Or how about a bunch of buses that have doors on both sides, making it easier to have the bus lanes in the middle.

        Consider Madison BRT, for example. They are spending a bunch of money on new buses, new stops, wider streets and center lanes. It wasn’t cheap, but for the speed and frequency improvement, it will be worth it. Yet I don’t think any of it would be considered “grade-separated” the way that a bus tunnel would.

      3. OK, Ross. I guess I’m fine with the examples you give of “capital expenses” in support of buses rather than rail, but convincing the Leg will be hard.

    2. Tom, have you heard of buses? They run on roads and bridges, with 20% farebox recovery.

      You may not know this but transit ridership statewide is much higher on buses than rail. Did you know we don’t even have rail in ALL of east King Co. but do have transit?

      Re: what mode of transit you would accept in a HB 1304 levy. Read Dan Ryan’s post. 1304 won’t even cover ST 3. Not even close.

      Unfortunately transit in Seattle ran out of money. The real issue is today’s article in the Seattle Times noting demand for commercial space in Seattle is plummeting. Those are transit commuters and general fund tax revenues (i.e. transit subsidies).

      The only transit left for the N. King Co. subarea that is affordable is buses, and what do buses run on, and what do gas taxes fund?

      1. So then you are ipso facto against this bill, that is, against completion of grade separated transit in the west corridor of Seattle. What exactly are you for? More cars obviously, but this is the Seattle Transit Blog, not the Seattle Auto Blog, which would probably have a lot more readers for your writings.

        Why don’t you start one?

      2. what do buses run on, and what do gas taxes fund?

        Buses run on roads, which are largely funded by property and other local city taxes. Gas taxes, in general, fund state highways with relatively little winding up in funds for local streets.

        Commuter traffic thus represents a huge money pit for cities as they wind up having to pay for their own residents’ needs as well as large numbers of others who don’t contribute taxes into their roads.

        I’m not quite sure how that helps your point.

  3. I’m not a seattle subway person, and yet I think there is a benefit to keeping the scope of the bill focused on rail.

    If you open up this particular funding option to stuff other than rail, then what will happen is that you start confusing people. For instance when they vote for something like Move Seattle – which funds a diverse array of transit and mobility projects, why would they then vote for an HB1304 levy which also would fund a diverse array of transit and mobility projects?

    The answer is that they wouldn’t.

    Yet, if you keep the goals of HB1304 distinctly different, i.e. rail, then people can get interested and excited about it – because it is going to pay for something new that they otherwise wouldn’t get.

    The other effect I can see of stating that it needs to be grade separated is to ensure that lines aren’t watered down, and to prevent something being built that really isn’t as effective as it should be. The ST-local government-community input process has given us so many suboptimal solutions already that putting in language to make it easier to get an optimal solution seems like a win.

    Is HB1304 the best possible transit bill? No, but given the political ecosystem that we find ourselves in, it seems to me to be worthwhile to pursue it as is. Keep its scope focused, and don’t try to dilute it.

    Lastly there is little functional difference between a monorail and a grade separated light rail project. There is a ton of difference between a monorail and a bus. Keep the argument simple to convert the monorail funding authority to the train.

    1. The issue with the grade separated requirement is that it requires grade separation in every instance. While mostly grade separated is best, fully grade separated requirements would prevent using the funds to build a project even if it has just one grade crossing on a lightly used street — or even pedestrian path or bicycle trail. That’s even true for tracks not in revenue service.

    2. If you open up this particular funding option to stuff other than rail, then what will happen is that you start confusing people. For instance when they vote for something like Move Seattle – which funds a diverse array of transit and mobility projects, why would they then vote for an HB1304 levy which also would fund a diverse array of transit and mobility projects?

      The answer is that they wouldn’t.

      That is a really weird argument. Are you saying that voters in Seattle — who overwhelmingly supported Move Seattle — wouldn’t support it again? That’s ridiculous. Of course they would support it again. They supported additional bus service just recently by very high numbers. You could hole that same vote — on top of the old one — and it would pass by similar numbers, again.

      This is all about allowing Seattle to fund what it wants to fund. It wants to fund a diverse array of transit and mobility projects, and HB1304 — if amended — would allow them to do so. Otherwise they are hamstrung by laws that limit how we are allowed to tax ourselves.

      Besides, it is up to the city council to decide what to put on the ballot. If they really thought this was a concern — that people wouldn’t support transit projects that are rail, even though alternatives would be a much better value and benefit a lot more people — then they would just promote a rail-only levy.

      Restricting this to rail *reduces* the chances that a levy like this will fail, because it reduces the opportunity for the council to put things on there that are a good value.

    3. The other effect I can see of stating that it needs to be grade separated is to ensure that lines aren’t watered down, and to prevent something being built that really isn’t as effective as it should be.

      Nonsense, of course it could be watered down. Right now, the default station in Ballard is at 14th NW. The default station at the Junction is about 1/4 mile from it. This is watering down. It would be a lot worse for riders if they make awful stations, and other compromises of this nature than if they ran along the surface on 15th/Elliot.

    4. I’m not a seattle subway person

      No, that’s pretty clear. As a Seattle person, I can tell you that you are wrong on all counts. Seattle will support transit, of all types, and what goes into the levy should be decided by the city council. It is crazy to think that you know what Seattle will or will not pass, but the council doesn’t. That somehow we Seattle voters will get confused (Huh? What are we voting for?) unless it specifically spells out the mode (“Uh, OK — this is one for for the choo-choo, now I unnerstand”).

      This is a bad bill, designed to save ST, not improve transit in a cost effective manner in Seattle. It is micro-managing by the state in the worst way (but that is nothing new).

      1. “This is a bad bill, designed to save ST, not improve transit in a cost effective manner in Seattle. It is micro-managing by the state in the worst way (but that is nothing new).”

        I agree 100%. I emailed my two state reps and my state senator about the legislation today, urging them NOT to support the measure as written should it get out of committee. Its advocates here, including Seattle Subway, clearly are in denial about the restrictions in the language of the bill. I’m not going to debate their nonsense any further when they resort to pulling out the “concern trolling” trope. Give me a break.

    5. @Jas, totally! If transit blog peeps want watered down transit projects, they can advocate for the Seattle TBD or Move Seattle levy to fund them. Those two sources can’t really afford to build useful rail projects anyway. Voters who want to get places can use the HB 1304 authority to build rail projects that can actually move people between neighborhoods quickly.

      I read the bill, it says you can build rail on the surface of any street as long as other traffic uses over/underpasses and it can improve existing facilities, like in the Rainier Valley, so f%ck yes: let’s go Graham Station!

      From the bill: “the authority may construct new public grade-separated transportation facilities for operation in entirely exclusive rights-of-way without grade crossings. This subsection does not limit the authority from maintaining or improving existing facilities that may be transferred to the authority. Public grade-separated transportation facilities constructed by the authority, or using the funds collected by the authority, may be constructed at surface level elevation or in a retained cut.”

      1. Those two sources can’t really afford to build useful rail projects anyway.

        Those two sources can’t afford to build much of anything! That’s the point. What sense does it make to restrict the will of Seattle voters. If Seattle voters want to spend more money on buses instead of rail, why not? If they want to spend half and half, why not?

      2. “Those two sources can’t afford to build much of anything! That’s the point. What sense does it make to restrict the will of Seattle voters.”

        I don’t think anyone is restricting the will of the Seattle voters are they?
        For example, if the mayor wants to put out a $2 billion, 4 billion, 6 billiion.. whatever billion dollar Move Seattle levy then the mayor can do that and the voters will decide.

        But how much of the last Move Seattle levy was spend on high capacity rail? If this bill had already been in effect for the last decade, and the funding available to be used, would there have been any better outcomes in terms of how the lines have been built and/or routed? I think so.

      3. The other sources can build all the streetcars or bus stops or whatever it is you’re concern trolling about.

      4. I think there’s a cap on how much property tax a municipality can levy, even with a vote? So there is a limit, though I think Seattle is well below it.

      5. For example, if the mayor wants to put out a $2 billion, 4 billion, 6 billion.. whatever billion dollar Move Seattle levy then the mayor can do that and the voters will decide.

        No they can’t! If they could, they wouldn’t need this law! What possible purpose would there be with this law (giving Seattle the authority to spend lots of money on transit) if Seattle already had it?

        Look, cities are restricted — by law — from raising taxes. There are limits, set by the state. This is a change in that restriction. As the bill is currently written, it only applies to one city (Seattle) and only allows it to approve money for rail. It can’t approve this much money for other things (like a bus tunnel, or better service, or off-board payment, or center running buses, or bus lanes, or BAT lanes or a huge range of things that world class transit systems use to make transit better). This bill allows only Seattle to raise more money than usual, and only if it spends it on a rail project.

        Got it now?

      6. The other sources can build all the streetcars or bus stops or whatever it is you’re concern trolling about.

        Wow. If that ain’t the pot calling the kettle black. You are trolling when you write a statement like that. You are just begging me to write about how we simply don’t have enough money to fund transit that most people use. Too late — I already explained it all down below. https://seattletransitblog.com/2021/02/05/action-alert-traffic-is-over-if-you-testify-for-it/#comment-868577.

        This is a lot more than bus stops, troll.

      7. I think there’s a cap on how much property tax a municipality can levy

        Of course there is a cap — otherwise the bill would be pointless! This doesn’t allocate any money to Seattle. It simply allows Seattle to tax itself. If that taxing ability already existed, then why on earth would we need another law allowing us to do that?

        Jeesh.

      8. “This bill allows only Seattle to raise more money than usual, and only if it spends it on a rail project.

        Got it now?”

        Yes that is exactly how the bill is designed, and exactly what it is for. I have no problem with it being restricted to rail. Forgive me my hyperbole – of course Seattle can’t pass a $6B levy, but the Move Seattle levies are for all the other types of transit.

        Too, with HB1304 Seattle will have even more influence over ST within the city. They have a lot now, but it could help Seattle escape the subarea regional spending restrictions that are hard-coded into the way ST operates.

        If for instance passage of this bill gets Ballard a station to the west of Safeway, and preferably at 20th, then that alone would make it worth it to me.

      9. @Ross

        Silver BRT can easily be built with the Move Seattle Levy ($145.0M 2019, without maxing out taxes) and Seattle TBD ($45 Million annually, without maxing out taxes). What other mode would you like to concern troll about today?

      10. This discussion is a bit unmoored.

        There aren’t any new projects. It’s going to take a boatload of new voted taxes just to finish the ones we thought we approved funding for in 2016. If there’s any money to spare, it’ll to be gold-plating West Seattle and Ballard with the tunnels they were kinda-promised (wink, wink) by the pols, but never actually funded in the ST3 plan.

        Look at how deep in the hole the WSBLE financials are. Outside the advocacy bubble, that’s still considered a lot of money.

      11. If Seattle voters want to spend more money on buses instead of rail, why not? If they want to spend half and half, why not?

        The point of this is to back bonds for long term projects, not “consumption” spending on operations.

        I agree that Seattle should have the right to raise its consumption taxes to whatever level it wants. The cap on local sales taxes is short-sighted. But it is exactly such consumption-based taxes by which consumption-based expenditures — like bus and train hours — should be funded.

        Capital expenditures are expected to increase the value of in-City properties, and so it is a natural match to tie it to property taxes.

      12. The primary purpose of these changes is to allow Seattle to use an existing law to do planning/property acquisition/preliminary engineering for an entire Link system. That includes capital to future proof existing plans for expansion. As these kinds of measures go, that’s small dollars.

        Capital would be down the road from an ST measure or running another measure to fund part of the plan.

        A secondary goal could be to help fund ST3 projects if needed, but help is the key word there. Dan is correct that it is in no way “the idea” to try to run something that would remotely plug a $6B hole in ST3.

        We have other thoughts on that which we posted about last week. Something smaller to keep ST3 projects whole from a quality perspective, OTOH, could be in play if needed.

        Ross’ conjecture about our aims are, to be extremely direct: wrong.

      13. Silver BRT can easily be built with the Move Seattle Levy

        No it can’t! That’s the point. Move Seattle ran out of money almost immediately. Just like ST, they didn’t realize how expensive the project was going to be. But instead of costing billions more, it costs hundreds of millions more. This will not be built: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/. It costs too much, and Seattle can’t simply pass enough tax. There are limits on what Seattle rasie, which is why proponents want this bill.

        You are making a ridiculous argument. If we really can just raise taxes to pay for any transit project we want, they wouldn’t need this bill. We would just pass Move Seattle 2, which would finally fund the things that voters thought they were getting in the first Move Seattle AND all of things they thought they were getting with ST3.

      14. The bolded text above seems to be quite specific that “grade-separated” does not be up on stilts on down in a trench of tunnel. The ballast can be laid on graded earth if roads crossing are up on stilts or down in a trench. So the strip along the railyard on the way to Ballard could be built on the surface with these funds.

        It sure seems that ST has a serious edifice complex. Why are they going to put the trackway on stilts all the way from the Highway 99 overcrossing to Kent and then again from Kent to downtown Federal Way, except at one station? Sure, there are some fairly steep hills that would need to be graded, but that is sure a lot of concrete and greenhouse gas they’re planning for the Federal Way extension!

      15. @Keith — I don’t care what your motivations are. I don’t care if you want this restricted to rail for realistic reasons (finishing ST3) or pursue a fantasy (https://www.seattlesubway.org/region.png).

        All I care about is this bill. If enacted as proposed, it will do little to improve transit in Seattle. If it is modified to allow spending on all transit projects — even just capital spending projects as Tom wants — it could have a huge, positive impact on transit in this city. If it is restricted to rail, the impact won’t be anywhere near as big. The original law was pro-monorail and anti-light rail. This is pro-rail, and anti-bus. Both are stupid, if your goal is better transit.

      16. Capital expenditures are expected to increase the value of in-City properties, and so it is a natural match to tie it to property taxes.

        Right, but so does increasing services. If the schools improve (because you hire a bunch of new teachers) then the value of the property in the neighborhood improves. Seattle does this, and so do cities across the country. The same logic applies to transit. If property taxes go into running the buses more often *and* faster (with a mix of service and capital improvements) then the value of the property increases.

      17. “Why are they going to put the trackway on stilts all the way from the Highway 99 overcrossing to Kent and then again from Kent to downtown Federal Way, except at one station?”

        I thought it does have substantial segments on the surface there, in the freeway ROW so there’d be no level crossings. That’s what ST said during the planning. Has it changed?

        P.S. Lynwood Link also has surface segments in the freeway ROW without level crossings. So ST seems to be doing this part right, building it cheaply while avoiding speed-degrading crossings.

      18. Mike, the only places that Lynnwood Link is on the ground is the stretch north of Mountlake Terrace where there is a big hill to the west of the freeway that’s being cut. It appears that the trackway will be on the surface in that cut. But so far as I can see, south of Mountlake it’s on stilts all the way.

        And, yes, you’re right, there are four sections totaling a bit less than half the total length of the Federal Way extension where the trackway will be at-grade in the freeway right-of way.

        So you’re right that they aren’t being completely spendthrift.

      19. AJ, yes, that’s what the map says, but if you drive I-5 you’ll see that a LOT of it is being elevated.

    6. Tom, I am for:

      1. Seattle residents having the authority to tax their own subarea without uniform tax rates.

      2. I am for a 1304 that allows all options to be explored. As it is now written, 1304 is basically locked into completing ST 3, and my guess is that is what ST wants.

      3. I am for ST (and Move Seattle) being honest with cost estimates when selling levies. The shortfalls for ST 3 projects in the N. King Co. subarea were predicted before ST passed, especially the cost estimate for the second transit tunnel that affects all 5 subareas.

      4. I am for transit advocates understanding the cost of transit projects, and this is money that can go towards bridges, education, affordable housing, etc. You’re playing with other people’s money, and tax capacity is finite.

      5. I am for transit advocates, ST and Metro understanding first/last mile access is key if you are switching to a bus truncation system that adds a transfer and seat. Rail can’t make commutes and trips longer, because time is either the biggest advantage or disadvantage when it comes to cars v. transit.

      6. I am for transit advocates to stop making transit class warfare, or the only way to provide adequate transit is disadvantage cars or abuse zoning.

      7. I am for ad hoc organizations like Seattle Subway realizing they are being used by ST to do ST’s dirty work, and any 1304 levy won’t come close to finishing the ST 3 projects, but ST will insist every dime goes into ST 3 BECAUSE OF THE LANGUAGE OF 1304.

      8. Even though I live in an area that has no intra-city transit I support general fund transit subsidies, but have a right to see my tax money used effectively, and not used as an “equity” political tool.

      9. I would like transit advocates and agencies to recognize how much tax revenue we devote to transit that has farebox recovery rates of 20% to 40% and not act so damn entitled.

      10. I am for transit advocates understanding the cost estimates for ST 3 — and all transit — are not the major issue and were always known. The main issue is declining future general fund revenue for decades in the one subarea that has — or had — the density for rail, and transit in general. It is declining future general fund revenue, for ST and Metro, in the Seattle area that Rogoff hoped would cover the dishonest cost estimating that is driving Rogoff’s mea culpa. You want more transit? Create more general fund revenue in Seattle despite working from home, especially if we are no longer going to enforce fares.

      I just don’t want there to be more tears when 1304 fails, or can only cover 1/2 the ST 3 projects in the N. King Co. subarea, in part because the legislation effectively devotes any 1304 levy to ST 3 unless you know someone else who can build grade separated rail.

      I have learned a lot from this blog, but I have also learned transit advocates can be naive, and are too trusting agencies are telling them the truth.

      If there is one question Seattle Subway and transit advocates should be asking is WHY is 1304 limited to grade separated (rail) transit? Because that is what ST wants. If a 1304 levy does pass there will be NO debate about which projects it will fund: ST 3, and my guess that is the second transit tunnel because ST promised the four other subareas $2.2 billion, but only the N. King Co. subarea believed that estimate, and 1304 will pick up 100% of the tunnel cost overruns, and nothing else, because Seattle BELIEVED ST. Don’t make that mistake again.

      1. “If there is one question Seattle Subway and transit advocates should be asking is WHY is 1304 limited to grade separated (rail) transit? Because that is what ST wants”

        The issue is not what ST wants but what Seattle wants. The monorail tax was set up to complement ST1, not to do its bidding. The monorail focused on corridors that ST had no timeline for (Ballard, WS) or weren’t in ST’s long-range plan (35th Ave NE/25th Ave if I recall). This modernization of the monorail authority is an extension of that. It will be made Link-compatible, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily go to ST3 projects or be in ST’s control. It will be in Seattle’s control. Seattle officials who are also ST boardmembers may want to use it for ST3, but that’s not the same as ST pressuring or extorting Seattle to seize a non-ST tag.

      2. Thank you, Daniel. I actually agree with much of what you say, but I don’t think you’re being honest with yourself. The logical conclusion of your ten points is clearly and unequivocally “Repeal ST3 and make Seattle pay for a bus tunnel itself.”

        That would certainly mean that North King would have to pay Pierce back a portion of the taxes it has paid to this point in excess of the cost of South Sounder and STEX service. They would never get anything except Sounder, some ST Express service and the streetcar.

        I don’t know if South King has accumulated enough to be in the black and anyway it’s going to get Federal Way which won’t be free.

        A few days ago I tried to outline a Seattle plan which would not even require the bus tunnel Ross is advocating. I doubt the full IDS to Elliott tunnel with six stations could be dug within the 1304 funding limits. If the Leg allowed differential taxation levels as you advocate in point 1, and certainly 1304 is a step in that direction, then ST3 could be repealed and North King could simply continue with its projects while everybody else opted out.

        I believe that with a short tunnel from the north end of Third Avenue to Harrison just east of Elliott and the Sixth Avenue bypass I mentioned for Aurora buses, downtown could absorb future commuting. Such a short tunnel section and the flyover to Sixth North could probably be accommodated within the 1304 budget since the alternative tunnel would have only one station and it would only need to be fairly small.

        With differential taxation the junk in the ‘burbs could be canceled while the full length bus tunnel is built with an eye to future extension of rail mostly at-grade to Ballard.

      3. ““Repeal ST3 and make Seattle pay for a bus tunnel itself.”

        “That would certainly mean that North King would have to pay Pierce back a portion of the taxes it has paid to this point in excess of the cost of South Sounder and STEX service.”

        No it wouldn’t. Pierce and South King pay for all of Sounder South and their ST Express routes because they mainly benefit them, and North King wouldn’t have instituted them on its own because they’re low priorities for North King. This holds true for the rest of ST Express and Sounder North, with a growing exception of the 550 and 545. East King pays for all of the 550 and 545 based on the same principle. But the growing reverse commute has made reverse ridership on the 550 as high as the traditional direction, and cars on the bridges do too, and the 545 may have a larger reverse commute than traditional. So those are clearly cases where North King should maybe pay a portion. But it hasn’t come to a head because they’ll be deleted in a few years with East Link anyway.

        I’ve long supported differential taxation in the subareas. It would require splitting the tax district, because constitutionally all parts of a tax district must be taxed uniformly. I’m not sure how that would affect the board, whether it would have to split into mulitple boards and agencies, or only subarea boardmembers could vote on subarea projects.

      4. If Pierce withdraws from ST, all Link, Sounder, and ST Express would be truncated at Federal Way and Auburn. Pierce would still have to pay down its debt.

        If southeast Pierce withdraws from ST it would be more tricky. Sounder would then be going through non-ST territory between Auburn and Tacoma Dome, while Tacoma and Lakewood would still be in it. The only just way to do it would be to make southeast Pierce pay its share of the debt and Sounder operating costs. Otherwise you’d get into a situation where Sounder was predicated on Southeast Pierce’s participating in the taxes, and Southeast Pierce would be able to freeload by driving to Tacoma Dome or Auburn Station and taking Sounder. If Sounder were eliminated or truncated at Auburn, that would cut off the larger communities and pro-ST taxpayers in Tacoma and Lakewood.

        Withdrawing from ST would also throw into disarray Pierce’s growth-management transportation plan. Pierce will still need regional transit of some kind, and Spanaway and south of Puyallup are growing. If it throws it all away they’ll have nothing, and probably be in violation of the growth management act, and hundreds of thousands of people will be stuck in cars like they were in the 1980s, or have limited mobility if they don’t have cars. And PT doesn’t have nearly the tax resources to address this. And Southeast Pierce withdrew from PT earlier.

      5. Mike, Pierce has been contributing to the overall budget kitty for more than the service it gets, much as Snohomish County has. It has no “debt” to pay down.

        In fact, it has been “building equity” toward TDLE. I guess “Tacoma Link” if extended might use up most of its positive balance, but Pierce has been contributing to North King projects since the inception of SoundTransit. It must have built up some “savings” by now, and if TDLE isn’t built the beneficiaries of that balance — e.g. “North King” — will have to pay it back.

  4. A few questions for clarification.

    If you do not build grade separated light rail, do you need to follow the speed limit of the corresponding street? That seems to be the case in our system, but is it law?

    Why can heavy rail run 50-70mph trains in non grade-seperated areas? What is the difference?

    1. In answer to your second question, heavy rail is protected by crossing gates. Ordinary median-running LRT, like Martin Luther King Boulevard or Interstate Avenue MAX does not have crossing gates; it is a part of the traffic signal system.

      The lights must be synchronized for the train because it can’t stop in the normal length of a yellow cycle, but traffic benefits from moving in pulses also. So the LR-train speed is set to the speed limit in order that the signals go green in front of it reliably.

      That restriction

    2. Jimmy: 1st question: Yes. It’s part of what keeps the RV running slower than other parts of the system.

  5. Count me in. Feel the state legislature needs to give local municipalities a free hard in funding their transportation needs.

    1. This is not a free hand. This is a hand that used to be restricted to a monorail, and now will be restricted to rail. I’m arguing that the bill should be modified so that Seattle would actually have a free hand in funding their transit needs.

    2. There can be another bill that loosens the restrictions on Metro and other local agencies and transit benefit districts. It doesn’t all have to be in one bill, and these are very different needs. The problem of inadequate local transit is an issue statewide, both in in-county services and in inter-county rural connectors.

      1. Why not this bill, though? Why add this restriction at all? Just replace all that language defining “grade separated rail” and replace it with public transit.

      2. “Why not this bill, though“

        Because the narrow focus of this bill increases the likelihood of it being passed. I’d rather get something for light rail, than nothing at all. My hope is that it would allow for comprehensive system planning instead of the line-in-a-silo approach that ST seems to plan and build, because of the constraints of what voters have approved.

        As Mike says there could, and should, be another bill for other transit, that maybe could apply to all cities, not just Seatle. That would be great actually.

      3. It’s theoretically possible to expand the modal definition later — but that’s just not how the current decision system works here in Seattle.

        Our decision system will almost certainly say “we can only look at grade separated rail” and discard designs that don’t conform rather than expand the modes in more legislation later. Let’s not kid ourselves.

    3. Everyone I look at it as one of the lessons of 2015 is to not allow ourselves to be forced to contend with either a $500 million dollar ransom payout to the Central Puget Sound Education Industrial Complex (bad) that should help some youngsters find a career in public transit (tactical optimistic thinking) or $500 million into the state general fund (hellish and likely going to land highways) to get ST3 to voters. I resent that we transit advocates need a permission slip from people who drive and consider us transit users invisible to even go to voters; and as soon as next year may lose our virtual testimony opportunities. THAT is what I mean by free hand.

      I can assure everyone here also that a monorail is too toxic to get passed. We’re stuck with light rail. Sigh.

  6. Here is a plausible scenario. Let’s say that there are two proposals up for discussion:

    1) Fully fund Link from 14th and Market in Ballard to Fauntleroy and Alaska in West Seattle (the default right now). Stops would be added in various places, based on cost. For example, the “South Lake Union” stop would be the parking lot here: https://goo.gl/maps/jWCbEB2jKwbY679z9, north of Mercer Street between Aurora Avenue North and Taylor Avenue North (an actual proposal).

    2) A mix of projects, including:

    Fully fund the Move Seattle RapidRide+ plans (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/). This means silver or gold level BRT on the ITDP scale for several of our corridors. (Right now none of our RapidRide routes are considered “real BRT”).

    A large increase in service for buses. Most buses would come every 10 minutes throughout the day. Some of the more popular buses (RapidRide as well as a handful of others) would be more frequent. Buses that run less frequently, or run only during rush hour (buses like the 73 or 17) would run every 15 minutes. New routes (especially east-west ones) would create more of a grid.

    Extra money so that ST will run the train more often through Seattle all day long. This would likely include service to the suburbs as well (you’re welcome).

    A new bus tunnel from Elliot to SoDo. This would be exactly like the proposed train tunnel, but with entrances for buses. It would be designed to eventually be converted for rail.

    So, which one gets more riders? Which one gets more people out of their cars? In that regard, which is better for the environment? Which one dramatically improves transit for every person in the city?

    Its not even close. Obviously the second proposal is better. It is stupid to restrict funding to mode.

    Consider the words of Kevin Desmond, who is leaving his job at Translink. The American Public Transportation Association named TransLink the best system in North America. SkyTrain carries about half a million people, while the buses carry around 750,000 — they had record ridership before the pandemic. He had this to say about the modal wars (tinyurl.com/1gtz7c4g):

    “I took it as a mission of mine, and it started in New York, to reject that buses aren’t sexy and reject that buses are for losers…. If we just assume that all walks of life should use the bus, we can step up the quality of the bus service, and it actually isn’t that hard to do it.”

    This law, if enacted, wouldn’t make it any easier in Seattle. It is really a bad idea to restrict it in this manner.

    1. Or:
      Option 1 as you present it.
      Option 2 – a “good” ST3 rail plan, with better WS and Ballard station placement, but delivered ~6 years late. AND RapidRide+ fully built out by 2030 and extra bus service hours.

      Option 2 is still better than 1. So it doesn’t even matter what one thinks about the specifics of ST3. If Seattle is able to divert even a small fraction of new transit funds to support bus improvements and bus O&M, that would be better than a 100% lockbox on ‘grade separated’ transit. A debate on the ‘right’ ST3 approach is secondary to rejecting the silly restriction on 100% grade separation.

  7. Skylink Aerial Gondola could be up and running faster than light rail to serve West Seattle. It would save over $2 billion dollars which could fund the other ST3 projects. Lets Build It!

      1. To be fair, West Seattle has fewer stops, is closer to SoDo, and the geography favors it. Not enough to make it the best approach, but to make it better than a Ballard gondola.

        You could cover the Queen Anne/South Lake Union section with a gondola from the Seattle Center to South Lake Union to Capitol Hill. That is one of the alignments that might actually be a worthy gondola project in this town (http://citytank.org/images/Roewe_gondola_map-1096.png).

      2. I agree, Ross; it doesn’t make sense to have a gondola from Ballard to downtown. It would be too slow.

        But a Ballardite who advocates forcing West Seattle to take a mode it doesn’t want so that Ballard can have the mode it does want, is worth trolling.

  8. I don’t live in Seattle (but do work in downtown Seattle) and I can hardly wait for the debate over the projects in a HB 1304 levy. I emailed my support just so I can watch the levy debate among Seattleites. I never really thought the regular STB posters would be the adults in the room.

    It isn’t hard to tell if a new poster is from Ballard because then Ballard needs the more expensive station and rail while West Seattle would do better with buses, and of course the opposite if you live in West Seattle (strangely the second transit tunnel is rarely mentioned or advocated for). Or transit for everyone!

    As if ST didn’t go though all of this selling ST 3, or didn’t understand running rail to West Seattle plus a new bridge made little sense, except for the 71,000 votes in West Seattle when ST 3 was looking tight, and of course West Seattle and Ballard will always demand no loss of car capacity for any new bridge which makes any bridge at least 6 lanes wide, a mile in the air.

    What about all the Seattle neighborhoods who get nothing out of ST 3 or HB 1304, except the chance to pay for them twice? Why should they vote yes?

    And if I were Seattle Subway I don’t think I would keep bringing up Move Seattle to sell a HB 1304 levy.

    The difference between ST 3 in the N. King Co. subarea and Move Seattle is the costs under ST 3 are staggering. Like transit tunnels hundreds of feet deep under 5th Ave., not a sidewalk or bike lane.

    I imagine Rogoff can’t wait to hand off ST 3 to Seattle Subway along with a $6 to $10 billion tab (depending on how dishonest the new cost estimates are), and focus on what to do with all the money in the eastside subarea with residents who are not all that excited about transit, and found out East Link works pretty well when actual ridership turns out to be less than predicted, but no one cares.

    I don’t want to be Debbie Downer, but Seattle Subway is going to find out completing the second transit tunnel is all that can be afforded with both ST 3 and HB 1304, right when Seattle residents just added a seat and transfer to their trip with bus truncation, but unfortunately Metro had to reduce frequency for “equity”. We can forget about a long debate about a Ballard light rail station on 14th, 15th, or 20th.

    My guess: Any HB 1304 levy won’t pass, even in Seattle, except the second transit tunnel is critical.

    1. Seattle voters have repeatedly made it clear that we want better transit, so unless you think we’re going to swing 31 points from 11/2020 to the next transit vote, it’s pretty hard to support your last point in particular.

      I’m not sure who started rumors that this is going to plug a $6B hole in ST3. It isn’t, and that isn’t the point. We’ve laid out what the point actually is over our last several posts, back to the first ST4 post.

      1. I’m not sure who started rumors that this is going to plug a $6B hole in ST3.

        Uh, you? You wrote, in this very essay:

        With the legislature’s help to fix a minor piece of obsolete statutory language, Seattle can do its part to help keep ST3 projects within the city on track and enable further expansion beyond ST3

        So now you are saying this has nothing to do with ST3?

      2. The monorail authority was estimated to only be able to raise about $1 billion. If that applies to this authority too, then it could only plug 1/6th or 1/10th of ST3 North King’s hole.

      3. I expect that the authority as originally passed is worth more like $2 billion nowadays. Seattle property is vastly more valuable.

    2. Nobody is handing Seattle Subway anything. They’re a special interest group, not an organization that oversees construction of transit infrastructure. They don’t bid or request bids. They don’t work for ST.

      1. Try Seattle Subway is a citizen started, citizen led Seattle-centric transit booster club.

        NOT a special interest group.

        Otherwise, you were right.

  9. This is just bring the monorail authority into the 2020s, and getting rid of the knee-jerk “not light rail” provision. That provision was added due to pressure from monorail fanboys. Monorail is intrinsically grade-separated because it’s incompaible with street-running. This just extends that limitation to any light rail project funded by this authority. I don’t see why the monorail authority that was acceptable in 2020 should suddenly become unaccaptable in 2021 if it’s broadened to include grade-separated light rail.

    Also, people are making wild speculations about what it would be spent on. There’s no proposal yet! Maybe it will backfill ST3 projects, maybe something else, maybe both. That doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. The assertions on how much ST3 will need to be backfilled and whether Seattle can afford it are also wild speculations. The budget gap is changing month by month, the economy is changing month by month, and ST still hasn’t addressed the issue of whether it might make differential cuts and if so where. We’ll know more later this year and when we get closer to the 2029 budget gap, how much ST3 might need from the rail authority and whether we want to use it for that or something else.

    1. “This just extends that limitation to any light rail project funded by this authority. I don’t see why the monorail authority that was acceptable in 2020 should suddenly become unaccaptable in 2021 if it’s broadened to include grade-separated light rail.”

      Well said.

      1. Both are acceptable. Both are stupid.

        This isn’t going to make things worse, just like the old monorail provision didn’t make things worse. In that sense, they are both acceptable. But it isn’t going to make things (much) better, which is why it is stupid. It is a lost opportunity. With a simple modification, it would allow Seattle to fund the transit it needs. As it stands now, it won’t allow that.

    2. @ Mike Orr: Thirded. If we do get to spend it on something new, I would like to see a split in the route of Ballard Link, bringing back option D and having Metro 8 be routed through SLU instead.

    3. This is just bring the monorail authority into the 2020s, and getting rid of the knee-jerk “not light rail” provision.

      Yes, and replacing it with a knee-jerk “only rail” provision. Either way, it is a stupid provision. If we are going to go through the trouble of passing a bill like this, then we should do it right, and simply allow Seattle to pay for transit if it wants transit.

    4. Also, people are making wild speculations about what it would be spent on.

      No, people are speculating on what it *could* be spent on. More importantly, people are pointing out what it *could not* be spent on. The money could not be spent on improving the key pieces of our transit system — the mode that carries the most people, and will continue to carry the most people: buses.

      It is easy to say “well, that can fixed with another bill”, but where is that bill? Seriously Mike, what bill is that, so I can write an “Action Alert”. There isn’t one. This is the only thing on the table, and it is severely flawed. Of course it isn’t as bad as the old monorail provision, but it is almost as bad, because it almost as restrictive. It basically says to Seattle: OK, you can be trusted to build a multi-billion dollar rail line, but we can’t trust you to build something just for buses (even though the county did quite well with the bus tunnel). It is ridiculous. I have no idea the political motivation. Maybe it is an attempt to save Sound Transit. Maybe it is being driven by light rail fan boys (I’m looking at you Seattle Subway) just like the previous law was driven by monorail fan boys. I don’t care. The point is, it could be made much, much better if they didn’t specify mode.

    5. “where is that bill?”

      It depends on whether the legislature is getting more open to transit in general. The bill might be in a year or two, not necessarily right now. It was only a few years ago that we were worried that if the legislature looked at the monorail authority, it might just repeal it and replace it with nothing, in its hostility to transit taxes.

  10. One thing to watch for is a nonallocated rail-tax authority will most likely go to whatever prpoposal gets submitted to the city council first and/or gains its sympathy. Governments tend to prefer finishing existing plans before starting new ones, so that suggests the city would lean toward backfilling ST3. That’s what happened with the CCC for several years, where the city was intent on finishing it first because it had previously decided to build it, even though it’s not as relevant to Seattle’s overall transit needs as other projects. Alternatively, if the first proposal to get traction is a Metro 8 line or 45th line, it may take all the money because it got organized first, even if there might have been better or broader alternatives.

    West Seattle is interesting because, since it’s in ST3 it has the advantage of incumbancy (factor 1), but as a corollary it’s ineligible to be a brand-new corridor like Metro 8 or 45th (factor 2). But what if it weren’t in ST3, and a brand-new West Seattle proposal came up? (factor 2) Then if the politicians gave it the usual deference to West Seattle privilege, it would go to the head of the line. And if it took all the money in the tax authority, then there wouldn’t be anything for another project that might be more overall beneficial to the city’s residents and travelers.

    So watch for what proposal comes first. And if you have particular opinions about what project(s) should be done, make sure to get those in first when the time comes.

    1. Yeah that pretty well summarized it, Mike. The missing piece continues to be a lack of objective planning with metrics to assess what needs to be done. Overcrowded buses isn’t a metric. Jobs within 30 minutes isn’t a metric. Cost effectiveness analysis that looks at enhancements as well as new stations isn’t a metric. Heck, Yonah Freeman at Transport Politic did a cost benefit analysis as a casual observer — and yet all these people given huge responsibilities can’t discuss that.

      https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/06/youve-got-50-billion-for-transit-now-how-should-you-spend-it/

      Unfortunately, planning driven by popularity and stakeholder lobbying has become the norm so strongly that even some transit advocates have come to believe that it is “how good planning is done.” With good objective analysis, ideas like the West Seattle gondola thing would not have any traction. The denial of objectivity leaves open the door for any movement to legitimize their own transit fantasy.

      I am also wondering why — in the face of bad project development — so many are led to believe that the increased WSBLE cost is because of higher property and material unit costs. That’s not it at all. The Urbanist article points out how the project way underestimated the amount of property needed and the design needed to actually accomplish the project.

      https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/01/08/sound-transit-reveals-big-jump-in-cost-estimates-for-ballard-and-west-seattle-link/

      I see this fund source purely as a way to backfill the increased costs caused by ST’s mistakes in presenting the project to the voters in 2016. I don’t think Seattle will get anything out of this that wasn’t already proposed in ST3. Sure the yes campaign will be easy because Seattle is generous, and no one will have to face the shame of bad planning costing that went into ST3.

      1. Also well said, Al. I concur with most if not all of your points. ST screwed up (again) and will either have to delay voter-approved ST3 projects or look for a bailout option, or most likely, both.

        “The Urbanist article points out how the project way underestimated the amount of property needed and the design needed to actually accomplish the project.”

        I think the urbanist is spot on. One only has to look at the Lynnwood Link extension project as an example of how bad ST is at estimating its ROW acquisition scale (as well as its cost). The number of properties needed and the number of relocations required are now more than double those projected in the EIS for this project, and at the high end at that. Just check the last progress report to see for yourself how these numbers have escalated. Also, keep in mind that this has happened for a line that runs primarily in the I-5 ROW.

        “I see this fund source purely as a way to backfill the increased costs caused by ST’s mistakes in presenting the project to the voters in 2016. I don’t think Seattle will get anything out of this that wasn’t already proposed in ST3.”

        Agreed.

    2. There’s no objective planning because there are no objective metrics. A funding levy isn’t going to bake in the ‘right’ projects because there isn’t political agreement on what those projects are. This should be pretty obvious by the disagreement here in the comment threads – Seattle Subway things requiring 100% grade separation is the ‘right’ project, and many here vociferously disagree. I find both overcrowded buses and access to jobs super effective metrics. If a bus is overcrowded, that’s a good sign a route or corridor needs better investment. Access to jobs (or services or amenities) within a fixed time period is an excellent metric for mobility.

      A levy that requires spending to only go to the most cost efficient projects will be DOA on equity grounds.

      ” planning driven by popularity ” – um, it’s called democracy. You either convince large amount of people to agree with you, or you create coalitions based on shared values and/or overlapping goals. Sometimes I read these comments and think you guys are just pining for a subway Robert Moses to arrive on a white horse and lead us to the promised land of Metro 8 subways.

      ” the CCC … the city was intent on finishing it first because it had previously decided to build it.” Or, the political coalition that wanted the CCC built still existed. You think it’s “not relevant to Seattle’s overall transit needs,” but obviously other people disagreed.

      1. “Or, the political coalition that wanted the CCC built still existed.”

        That’s part of the same thing. The politicians wanted it to continue for a variety of reasons. Partly because they believed the ridership estimates and tourist potential of “a line from Pike Place Market to MOHAI and Little Saigon” as Durkin said, and partly because the city had already decided to do it.

      2. A levy that requires spending to only go to the most cost efficient projects will be DOA on equity grounds.

        Oh, I doubt that. Ballard to UW is probably very cost effective, in that it moves a lot of students (who are low income) to the UW. A Metro 8 subway runs through the Central Area (which is gentrifying, but still has a significant number of people of color).

        Anyway, there are significant metrics that should be considered. Sometimes they do run counter to equity concerns. For a while, the government was focused on ridership time saved. What they found is that it would lead to one extreme or the other. Either fairly cheap commuter rail (saving quite a bit of time for a relatively small number of riders) or some extension in New York (lots of riders). It often would leave out low income, relatively low density neighborhoods.

        I really don’t see that as a problem with our system. Projects like West Seattle link perform poorly in both regards. There isn’t much time saved, and all of that time savings go into relatively well to do commuters. The low income folks in High Point and Delridge get practically nothing out of it. Ballard Link benefits office workers in South Lake Union, as well as people who live in Lower Queen Anne and Ballard. At best these are middle income — they certainly aren’t as low income as much of south Seattle or Lake City.

        Of course it is challenging. ST has had a very hard time with their estimates, in part because they don’t coordinate planning with Metro. But it is certainly plausible that we could hire consultants to take a “blank slate” approach, and propose improvements to transit based on several metrics (including equity). I seriously doubt it would look like ST3.

      3. “ ” planning driven by popularity ” – um, it’s called democracy.”

        Maybe I should have been more specific:

        “Planning driven by stakeholder popularity based on deliberately bad cost estimates and inadequate contingencies thrown to the trusting voters as the only option.”

        Good democracy requires having facts and choices.

        ……

        “ Sometimes I read these comments and think you guys are just pining for a subway Robert Moses to arrive on a white horse and lead us to the promised land of Metro 8 subways.” I can speak for others but I think many of the comments in this post are advocating for the exact opposite of the Robert Moses approach. More options leads to more ways to provide transit. The closest thing to the Robert Moses approach is Seattle Subway’s Link-only technology “vision” and getting the Leg to put in restrictions on modes to validate it.

      4. There’s also a problem with a biased definition of stakeholders. Each unit of government, large employer or institution is given the same weight as all riders and transit advocacy groups combined. That’s what skews the projects to non-transit-effective conclusions. Ballard’s 14th alternative is a case in point. Nobody has said it will improve transit convenience or transfers. Instead it’s all about not impacting the Port’s land or Fisherman’s Terminal or the apartments on 15th. Transit projects should improve transit, not all these side issues that affect fewer people and don’t address a fundamental need like mobility.

  11. Sec. 1 (Definitions)

    “(7) “Public grade-separated transportation facilities” means a light, heavy, or rapid rail facility, monorail, inclined plane, funicular, trolley, or other fixed rail guideway component of a transportation system operating
    principally on exclusive rights-of-way that is not regulated by the federal railroad administration or its successor that utilizes train
    cars running on a guideway, together with the necessary passenger stations, terminals, parking facilities, related facilities, any lands, interest in land, or air rights over lands, or other
    properties, and facilities necessary and appropriate for passenger and vehicular access to and from people-moving systems. “Public grade-separated transportation facilities” does not mean elevators, moving sidewalks or stairs, and/or vehicles suspended from aerial cables, unless they are an integral component of a station served by public grade-separated transportation facilities; nor does it include facilities that are not public transportation, such as tourist services that are only accessible via private property, or other services not accessible to the general public.”

    Sec. 4 (Powers)
    “(9) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, to the
    extent new public grade separated transportation facilities are to be constructed by the authority, or using the funds collected by the authority, the authority may construct new public grade-separated transportation facilities for operation in entirely exclusive rights-of-way without grade crossings. This subsection does not limit the authority from maintaining or improving existing facilities that may be transferred to the authority. Public grade-separated transportation facilities constructed by the authority, or using the funds collected by the authority, may be constructed at surface level elevation or in a retained cut. For the purposes of this subsection, “grade crossings” means a place where a mode of transportation other than public grade-separated transportation facilities crosses with
    public grade-separated transportation facilities at the same elevation or where the crossing of another mode of transportation may hinder the movement of train cars operating in public grade-separated
    transportation facilities;”

    This is what the proposed legislation says, regardless of what its advocates herein are claiming.

  12. It’s not talked about much openly, but uneven population growth across the state will lead to some major redistricting in the legislature. Seattle and King County will gain clout and Central and Eastern Washington will lose clout.

    After the census data is released later this year and the new districts are revealed, I expect getting legislation that benefits transit to be easier to pass as the houses will be a bit more urban.

    Given this — along with Covid-driven ridership loss and continued wild swings in ST3 project costing — I wonder if this should be on the docket two+ years from now. By then, ridership will have hopefully returned and the good vibes from Northgate and East Link openings will be realized.

  13. “They are city streets and county roads which are paid for almost entirely by property taxes and to a lesser degree by B&O and sales taxes.”

    I’m not sure where all these misunderstandings about WA gas taxes stem from*. I’ve already posted several times about the apparently widespead misinterpretation of the constitutional provisions surrounding gas tax uses despite our high court’s clarity on the matter in Automative United Trade Organization v. State from 2012, so I’m not going to comment further about that particular aspect. The point of this post is to dispel this notion that the state retains all of the gas tax revenues it collects for use on state road projects and local jurisdictions don’t share in the spoils. This simply isn’t the case.

    I’ll use my own county, Snohomish, as an example. The following is taken verbatim from the county’s 2016 annual report for its Public Works Department, which is responsible for budgeting from the County Road Fund:

    “Funding –

    “Public Works is primarily funded by residents’ taxes and service charges, which is separate from the Snohomish County General Fund. In addition to these set budgets, the department also actively seeks funding through federal, state, and local grants. These additional funding sources are vital to leveraging tax payer dollars and service charges in order to complete projects and continue necessary programs.

    “Road Fund –

    “Funding for road work and services is provided by the Snohomish County Road Fund. It funds road construction, planning, maintenance, and operations of the unincorporated road network. The county Road Fund is a property tax levy of $1.52 per $1,000 (2016 rate) of assessed valuation on unincorporated property. Gas taxes also
    contribute to the roads team’s funding. Washington State counties receive a share equal to approximately 5.96 cents per gallon, of which 6.4% is then allocated to Snohomish County (less than half a penny per gallon).”

    Specifically, for 2016, the county broke down its Road Fund Revenue Budget of $98M as follows:

    Property Tax – 60%
    Reimbursables – 10%
    Gas Tax – 10%
    Grants – 9%
    Mitigation – 5%
    Other – 6%

    I believe the other account includes such things as interest/investment earnings, intergovernmental account transfers and REET-backed bond proceed distributions.

    This revenue allocation mix changes from year to year but the sources have remained consistent, with property taxes accounting for the lion’s share of the budgeted revenues. For example, in 2019, the Road Fund Revenue Budget of $126.2M was broken down as follows:

    Property Tax – 51.9% ($65.5M)
    Reimbursables – 10.2% ($12.8M)
    Gas Tax – 7.6% ($9.6M)
    Grants and Other- 27.1% ($34.1M)
    Mitigation – 3.3% ($4.2M)

    So, yes, local roads DO rely upon gas tax proceeds for funding. My own property is located in unincorporated SnoCo so its assessment includes the annual Road Fund levy and that’s why I follow this stuff fairly closely.

    I hope this post helps clarify the matter for other readers going forward.

    *This isn’t meant as an attack on you, Tom Terrific, or any other commenter who may have these same misperceptions.

    1. Thanks, Tlsgwm. Obviously counties apply for grants from the State and Federal governments and those grants can come from diverse revenue streams. At one time when it was bursting with revenues, some probably came from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. So if one is driving on a county roadway built in the 1950’s through early 1980’s, it may have some Federal fuel tax funding in it.

      But by your own statistics, state revenue sharing gas taxes pay for only 6-10% of Snohomish County’s roads, presumably those which are not numbered highways.

      So yes, you are correct that the more rural counties get some — probably those over the mountains a significant portion — of their local roadway funding from the State.

      But, buses hardly run on those roads. The buses whose operation that some folks are predicting will be affected indirectly by the loss of fuel tax revenues very largely run on streets paid for by Seattle and Bellevue. In fact, I’d bet easily 70% of bus hours in total do.

      I have looked at the 2019 Seattle Budget trying to find something equivalent to what you have found about your region of Snohomish County but am unable to find a clear “sources and uses” statement that would tie “Other governmental” sources — most likely as “grants” — to specific road expenditures or transit funding. If Seattle and Bellevue get grants from the State for street maintenance it would be nice to know how much it is exactly and from what funds at the State is originates. But I can’t find it in the City budget.

      In all honesty, I doubt it is more than 5%.

      So most of the funding for city streets comes from the three big local taxes, property, sales and B&O in that order. The gas tax makes a contribution, but its demise won’t change much except highway and ferry system expenditures.

      1. Buses hardly run on which roads?

        Sure, in urban areas buses overwhelmingly run on local streets, for which little maintenance funding comes from gas taxes. But in the suburbs, I think state highways and freeways play a very important role in the bus network; suburban routes are often express oriented and frequent routes often follow state arterials. For example, Stride is all on state roads, Swift blue & green are mostly state highways, and Steam (PT BRT) is mostly on SR-7.

        The local bus network would generally use local streets, but outside of Seattle the local network is much less robust.

        Slightly off topic, but this is a reason ‘microtransit’ is intriguing. Large buses, like freight trunks, put a ton of wear on roads. States roads are generally designed & funded to handle that load, but local road funding can struggle to keep up with the wear & tear – I think Seattle has this issue on some legacy trolley routes. For a route like RapidRide B, Bellevue is going to maintain 8th street to handle that traffic, so that’s fine. But for smaller roads and less frequent routes, figuring out the technology to delivery good mobility with a smaller vehicle helps rightsize the vehicle to the local road network.

      2. AJ, sure, that’s true. But there just aren’t that many buses running out there. At all. If you sum all the bus hours operated in Washington State and divide them into those which run on arterials within incorporated municipalities and those which run on state numbered highway either within OR without those incorporated municipalities, the ratio will be at a minimum four- or five-to-one in favor of the city streets.

        Buses run in cities. That’s what they do.

        Look, you can despise me all you want, but don’t be stupid about it.

    2. Good breakdown, very informative Tlsgwm.

      How is the 6.4% determined? Like, if I tank up in Snohomish county, does the county get 5.96 cents per gallon? Or Snohomish gets ~0.5 cents per gallon of statewide gas purchases?

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