Projected years of delay to ST3 projects if parking is the lowest priority (NP = No Parking)

As Sound Transit grapples with escalating costs for ST3, one emerging option focuses on delaying parking construction to prioritize transit. In the past month and a half, we have:

Delaying parking has a number of advantages. It allows ST to complete the “lines on the map” that captivated most voters with the least delay. Parking is an expensive way to acquire riders, averaging $128,000 per net new space in ST3. By comparison, upzoning and selling the land to a market-rate developer adds riders and is revenue positive.

Finally, it’s possible rideshare and autonomous vehicle hype actually comes true by mid-century. In this case, structured parking will instantly be obsolete while trains still avoid traffic and carry more people in constrained spaces.

On the other hand, a great many voters will never have good bus, bike, or pedestrian options to Link, and the only way they can conceive of accessing the system is through parking. While the ST3 statute is structured to allow Sound Transit to do cost-effective things to improve station access, the representative alignment has a lot of parking. While not building all of it is not legally a “lie,” voters would be right to feel misled if the bits they liked were jettisoned at the first sign of trouble.

Additionally, diverting parking funds to more cost-effective modes adds riders. Cutting parking and replacing it with nothing, which an austerity scenario implies, does not.

At the Executive Committee meeting (video starting at 58:00), reaction was mixed. Mr. Millar and King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci were clearly favorable. Meanwhile, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus were skeptical, perhaps drawing from the auto-oriented experience of Sounder.

61 Replies to “Delay ST3 parking to save the rest?”

  1. Good thing they gave into the tantrum demands of Mercer island, setting the precedent that ST would pay for parking for all.

    1. Right, Mercer Island is not about car parking. These other stations are getting large garage expansions; that’s what’s suggested to be postponed. The Mercer Island issue is about Eastside buses terminating there, and whether ST made an omission in the EIS and later promised to limit bus terminations, and whether ST has to do anything about it because these are mostly Metro bus routes. Not about car parking, and not about significant costs either way.

      1. Mike Orr is correct. But the issues are interrelated as they alternative methods of Link access. On MI, the issues are the walk between bus and Link and the specious concerns of MI about buses operating south of I-90. For ST3, the issue is how to attract riders to Link: walk, bus, or parking. The increased cost of parking is waking the ST board up to the fiscal tradeoffs.

  2. The head of a state department of transportation advocating against car infrastructure? Wow.

    Of course, he is right.

    1. Wow indeed. The sentiments in that letter, coming from WSDOT, actually seem like a really big deal. It’s about time.

  3. Yes. Parking should (very obviously) be the first feature to hit the cutting room floor. I liked the idea of shuttles from existing parking. The suburbs are full of lots that are mostly empty when transit demand is highest.

    I’m glad you brought up autonomous vehicles. The “driverless cars will fix everything” crowd get loud about every transit expansion but don’t like to talk about parking much.

    Middle of the road take: Autonomous vehicles will do either nothing for traffic or make it worse. They will very likely demolish demand for parking.

    1. I disagree on the autonomous vehicle take for commuter parking. Autonomous vehicles certainly decrease the need for parking at commercial & retail establishments, but simillar to TNCs, the ‘parking’ may simply shift to more VMT as vehicles are idled in motion rather than idled while stationary. Related, autonomous vehicles will most certainly make traffic worse.

      My hot take is that autonomous vehicles will actually *increase* the productivity of suburban structured parking as they will allow for a garage to turn over multiple times a day, rather than once a workday. With autonomous vehicles, the garages become giant boarding zones, with a user experience rather simillar to walking to your Uber in the SeaTac parking garage. If a parking space is used by 5 or 6 riders a day, it quickly becomes cost competitive with low-ish ridership bus service (automating bus shuttles could revert the math … but then why not just repurpose the best P&R spaces for a fleet of public automated shuttles?)

      Some garages, like the giant S Bellevue garage, will have capacity quickly limited by street capacity, but elsewhere in the network I can easily see some of the P&R structures become a major conduit for riders with automated vehicles. At a station like SE Redmond, the P&R structure could play a critical role as a transfer point for driverless vehicles (SOVs and shuttles) to transfer to Link, drawing in riders from a large catchment area.

      Not better than good TOD or good bus service, but also not obsolete.

      We should certainly defer all the parking structures we can, but I’m skeptical the existing garages will be obsolete, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in 30 years we are building a ‘new’ form of parking to handle the large 1-way flow of autonomous vehicles in and out of the city each day.

      1. If we’re talking about a small surface lot, I think your point makes sense. The spaces would actually turn over well beyond 5-6 times/day. In the morning, the car would just drive itself back to the owner’s driveway. The car would occupy a space for only a few minutes in the afternoon, just before the owner’s train arrives.

        But, the need for huge garages capable of storing several thousand cars at once in a world where nearly all cars are autonomous is hard to imagine. There’s not anywhere near that many people all arriving and departing at the same time.

      2. Let’s not turn parking garages into boarding zones. We have loading/unloading zones for a reason at most park and rides now. People already inappropriately use fire lanes to load/unload. Encouraging bad behavior from automated systems is definitely a bad idea.

      3. @asdf2 – I agree massive parking garages aren’t needed, but I can see a need for several hundred loading zones in use simultaneously during rush hour, particularly if people are seeking to connect with an autonomous vehicle they own, rather than simply the first available. People might also still leave vehicles in the garage (for a fee) for short trips, rather than having the vehicle cycle back; having vehicles drive all the way back ‘home’ mostly makes sense for all-day trips like commuting.

        A garage optimized for loading/unloading would presumably need to spread out the spots, particularly for the less abled (those more likely to want to use a vehicle rather than walk or roll home), so a 400 stall parking garage could become a 200 stall parking garage with a 100 stall loading zone (or whatever).

        @A joy – I’m amazed at your ability to look at the exact same scenario as me and come to the opposite conclusion. My entire point is to, in the future, redesign some of the garages to significantly expand the loading/unloading zones to accommodate new technology.

        At the Issaquah TC, half the parking spots on the ground floor are “15 minutes or less,” and it seems to work great. During rush hour, a bus arrives ~10 minutes and ~25 people get off, of which ~ 5 hop into a car with a waiting driver. So over a few hours, probably 60 cars use 10 spots. What’s the objection?

      4. I can see a loading zone of a couple hundred spaces being useful for a service like Sounder, but not thousands. The key is that the number of spaces you need is O(number of people per train), not O(number of people riding across all trains, all day).

        For people looking for a closer space to store their robocar for an hour or so without going all the way back to the driveway, there can be parking lots off-site, maybe a mile away or so, for that purpose. The car doesn’t need to sit for an hour right at the station.

      5. Sure, lots nearby would be better, but if the parking structure already exists I’d imagine it will be continued to be used as such.

        The lot at Bel-Red is designed to be replaced by TOD in the future, but otherwise the garages are likely to remain garages if/until the land becomes so valuable it is worth the expense of tearing down the garage.

      6. AJ, I have not come to the opposite conclusion at all. My comment is an observation of current bad behavior and an expression of a desire that we do not encourage more bad behavior. I am skeptical that boarding zones will need to grow, as I am of the opinion that autonomous vehicles will not reach a plurality of usage until well after my lifetime. I also think there is no political will to convert parking spaces into boarding zones, making this change little more than wishcasting. That said, if that need arises I would be all for removing parking spots and converting the space into autonomous boarding zones. I emphasize the autonomous part of the statement as everything I have seen suggests that autonomous vehicles do best when in a group with other autonomous vehicles.

      7. Loading spaces and idle-car spaces are two different things. We may need to expand the loading spaces but it would be a small fraction of the spaces idle cars occupy. If autonomous cars make dropoffs mainstream, then the result wouldn’t be most of the parking spaces turning over several times a day, but most of the parking spaces being empty. Because it’s only commuters that park there 8 hours a day. If they stop doing that, people leaving their cars for short midday trips aren’t going to replace them. There would be a modest increase in people leaving cars there for a few hours, who can’t currently because the lots are full with commuters. But they can’t be as numerous as the commuters. And midday shoppers are just as likely to use a dropoff service as commuters are.

      8. If you get to the point where automated cars are ubiquitous, we would be well beyond the point where buses are. All you need is a place for the buses to drop people off and pick them up, and every station already has that. Cars don’t scale. Transit does.

      9. Perhaps we can think creatively about robotaxi parking spaces. There must be places that are suitable for robotaxis but not human taxis, are otherwise underused, and would be inexpensive.

        Also, where are these taxis going to park at night? We’re assuming they’ll just go to a company fleet somewhere. If their home lot is reasonably nearby, they could just park there. If not, we could find places for them. One that comes to mind is church parking lots. These are less desirable to human park n riders but robotaxis won’t care, and they’re scattered around suburban cities. So if driving to a P&R and leaving your car there is replaced by anonymous cars, they can go park in the church lots.

      10. Also, where are these taxis going to park at night?

        How about on the street? A big benefit of this type of shared vehicle is that you’d no longer need to have more vehicles than can fit on the road at one time. Whether they’re moving or not, they all fit on the street. Why force them to use a completely separate set of space when they’re not moving?

        During peak periods most of the vehicles would be in use, taking advantage of the full width of the street. As demand drops the vehicles could autonomously park themselves along the sides of lesser-used streets, with lanes dynamically switching from travel lanes to parking lanes as demand changes. We currently see this concept in action on a few streets around the city, with signs prohibiting parking during peak hours to maximize travel lane space. An autonomous vehicle system could really expand on this.

        Maybe at 4 in the morning you’d even see the right lane and shoulder of the interstate used for robo-taxi parking. Why not? No real need to have three full travel lanes each way at that hour.

    2. I’m glad you brought up autonomous vehicles. The “driverless cars will fix everything” crowd get loud about every transit expansion but don’t like to talk about parking much.

      That same crowd also won’t admit that driverless cars, outside of maybe freeway only driving, are minimum 10 years out. And unless there’s a cost effective way to retrofit existing cars, it’s another 10 years beyond that before driverless cars are ubiquitous enough to consider planning infrastructure and transit around them.

      1. ACES (autonomous electric shared vehicles) will be much more like a continuous driverless Uber than private vehicles. Since the capital costs will be huge but without drivers look for the major rental and car companies to dominate. Such a centralized continuous system will require some kind of public traffic management.

        Most urban citizens will have a private SUV for private trips, and an account for intercity driverless travel like Uber but less expensive due to no driver.

        There will also be driverless continuous loop vehicles/shuttles like Bellevue plans for NE 8th to Bellevue Way to Main Street back to 112th.

        It won’t change zoning, because only zealots think transit ridership trumps zoning (which really comes down to wealth, marriage and schools) which is exactly those ACES will serve, like Uber.

        Longish light rail will compete because of the enormous public subsidies. But the decline of the urban work center post pandemic — not unlike the decline of business air travel — might change the whole trip destination paradigm. Right now, only a masochist would want travel to downtown Seattle.

        Driverless technology is still many years away, except it supports our massive road system. It will decimate local feeder transit, but more and more that will be undermined by working from home and funding declines leading to shit first/last mile access.

        The downside is driver jobs are the number one occupation for HS educated males, especially public transit jobs,,which will exacerbate the wealth divide.

      2. Longish light rail will compete because of the enormous public subsidies.

        It needs “enormous public subsidies” to compete with single occupancy vehicle travel which needs…”enormous public subsidies”. So yeah, I guess that makes sense.

        Right now, only a masochist would want travel to downtown Seattle.

        I know I shouldn’t feed the anti-Seattle troll, but traveling to downtown Seattle is fine.

  4. I don’t see this to be an all or nothing question. The issue I’ve had is not whether to provide parking, but how the number of spaces is set in the planning process. Somehow, the ballot measure affixes parking garage size and that specific number gets carried forth as if it was engrained on Moses’ tablets.

    More shockingly, the cost reduction techniques recently used for Lynnwood Link were escalator removals rather than eliminating 50-100 spaces and leaving the escalators intact to save money . This illustrates the ridiculousness of embracing this arbitrary number.

    I believe that the intent of this alternative is merely illustrative, so let’s not get too giddy about it. There is no way the politics will allow for a surface-only scenario at all new stations.

    But let’s demand that ST reveal and prove how many spaces are needed at each station. These touted ridership models have parking garage assumptions incorporated in them but it’s not clear if they were used to set parking garage sizes. Instead, it appears to me that the numbers are pulled out of a hat! Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many stations with exactly 500 spaces recommended.

    So, let’s see some quantitative proof about what parking is needed before getting philosophical about it! Revealing data is the adult way to have this debate — dogmatically keeping or eliminating parking isn’t.

    1. “reveal and prove how many spaces are needed at each station” – that’s a meaningless request. ST’s models assume the garages will be full after levying a parking fee that is forecasted to yield $20MM a year in net revenue, so clearly staff assume demand will exceed the number of spaces planned to be built. As to how many stations are ‘needed,’ that’s a values based question to be answered by the board, not a technical question for staff.

      As to asking staff to prove the arbitrary numbers in the ST3 levy, that’s a bit like demanding staff to prove that Link should go to Tacoma, or prove that there should be a station at Delridge. I suppose you could gin up some quantified public good model, but the model would be just as arbitrary as whatever process went into ST3.

      As to how many riders ST assumes in the ridership models, I believe it is something close to 1.2 riders per spot, but a simple public disclosure request could answer that if you are so inclined.

      1. AJ, the assumption that every lot is full is not written anywhere I can find; the parking demand equaling supply appears to be a math exercise only. Plus, if all the lots are full, it would be useful to know which ones will fill up at 7 am and which ones will fill up at 11 am to know how equitable the allocation is within a corridor.

        Why not expect ST to better explain the garage demand? Will the result be overcrowded trains? Paying $100K for each space is a huge public expense, and the public should know why that expense is what it is and what the quantitative consequences are.

      2. https://seattletransitblog.com/2021/02/08/sound-transit-to-expand-paid-parking/
        “charge for up to 100% of the stalls in lots that meet the criteria”
        So if we’ve somehow overbuilt parking somewhere, those lots will remain free and the relevant ridership forecast will be incorrect. I’m deeply skeptical there will be any ST parking lots free by 2030. Are you concerned Sound Transit will be the first major American transit agency that managed to supply more free parking than will be demanded by riders?

        “Will the result be overcrowded trains” – the South Sounder capacity study looks at exactly that and considers the sequencing of expanding Sounder access (including parking) with expanding Sounder capacity, such that access doesn’t exceed capacity. There is also data on Link crowding forecasts, which derive from the ridership forecasts and therefore use assumptions around garage sizes, but P&R ridership is a small fraction of Link ridership so other factors, like population and employment growth, are far more relevant to crowding forecasts.

    2. “Right now, only a masochist would want [to] travel to downtown Seattle.
      I know I shouldn’t feed the anti-Seattle troll, but traveling [sic] to downtown Seattle is fine.”

      I don’t know if you work in or travel to downtown Seattle RapidRider, but most businesses are closed, and most workers do not feel safe commuting by transit due to Covid 19 (which you might have noticed has reduced transit ridership), so yes it would take a masochist to ride a bus to downtown Seattle if they didn’t absolutely have to. Since Amazon has now extended its office reopening until Sept. I doubt we will see much activity in downtown Seattle until at least Sept.

      If you are talking about the current situation in downtown Seattle, it is pretty grim, and I work here 5 days/week and have for 30 years, but the new proposal by homeless and business advocates to change Seattle’s Charter to address the homeless encampments seems encouraging. https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/homeless/seattle-ballot-measure-homeless-housing-encampment/281-5cb4534f-7a6c-4ebc-8351-cca8e77b7a59

      Basically this Charter amendment is similar to state legislation allowing counties and cities to raise their sales tax 1/10th of 1% for emergency housing, but adding Sen. Fortunato’s and Snohomish Co.’s proposals to enforce bans on camping in parks and on streets as part of the Charter. I hope Seattle voters pass this Charter amendment and the necessary funding, although Seattleites currently carry a pretty high tax threshold, and transit advocates are pushing for a HB1304 levy, which looks dead for 2021. Apparently not everyone thinks everything in downtown Seattle is “fine”.

      By the way, the definition of an internet troll is someone who refuses to use their real name and insults others without actually discussing the issue. https://www.howtogeek.com/465416/what-is-an-internet-troll-and-how-to-handle-trolls/#:~:text=%20Here%E2%80%99s%20a%20list%20of%20places%20online%20where,comment%20sections%20of%20places%20such%20as…%20More%20

      If you have some evidence, even anecdotally, that travelling to Seattle on transit today is “fine”, or the downtown climate is “fine” despite the calls to amend Seattle’s Charter, or are willing to use your real name, then please let us know the basis for your opinion that all is fine. I don’t see it despite spending most my life in downtown Seattle, but maybe I am missing what you see.

      1. Traveling (not [sic] by the way, look it up) to downtown Seattle on transit today is perfectly safe, most of the protest alarmism has been proven to be much ado about nothing, and NIMBY complaints about homelessness don’t address the issue any more than this charter amendment or KOMO hit pieces do. My basis for that opinion? Living in the Seattle area since the early 80’s. I’ve seen recessions, stock market crashes, and housing bubbles come and go, and I assure you downtown is as stable and vibrant as ever, given the pandemic situation. Is growth flat? Sure. But in other US cities, there are actual flights of people out to the suburbs. Give it a year and the growth will be back. Housing prices will increase and people will still be sleeping in parks too, sadly.

  5. It allows ST to complete the “lines on the map” that captivated most voters with the least delay.

    Citation please. What evidence do you have that voters prioritized the projects in this way?

    Do you really think people were “captivated” by a line from Delridge to Smith Cove or an extension to Fife? Do you think the folks in Rainier Valley, Lake City and Bitter Lake (who voted overwhelmingly for the package) just don’t give a shit about those infill stations?

    This is just another version of Sound Transit bullshit, but with an anti-parking emphasis to get the urbanists excited. The whole process is corrupt. There is no thought given to ridership per dollar, or any other sensible metric. Otherwise Jackson Park would be at the top, followed closely by 130th.

    You keep burying the lead. The fact that have been doing this (more than once) is the real story. Why are they finding new ways to push the most cost effective projects to the back? Are they hoping that Seattle will just pay for those? Do they think that no one will notice?

    1. “What evidence do you have that voters prioritized the projects in this way?”

      1) That was the order in the levy, which passed.
      2) That is the order the Board is (mostly) aligned with; the Board is made up of public officials, who have all been elected/appointed after ST3 passed.

      Your line of criticism is like looking at the Biden infrastructure plan and exclaiming, “this isn’t what Biden voters prioritized!!!” The Board’s job isn’t to follow the public opinion, but to do what they think is best (within the Overton window). Insisting that people who value something different from you are “corrupt” just makes you another partisan throwing slander across the internet. If you honestly can’t understand why people disagree with you, maybe you have nothing to add to the discussion here.

      1. 1) That was the order in the levy, which passed.

        That isn’t even true! The improvement to the C and D was supposed to be done by 2024. Yet now it will be at the very back. All the infill stations (BAR, Graham, 130th) were supposed to be done in 2031. The downtown tunnel was supposed to be done in 2035. Yet now the infill stations are delayed the longest (12 years if we get an extra $4 billion, 14 years if we don’t) while the tunnel gets delayed a couple years. The amount of delay has nothing to do with the order originally proposed by the board, and voted on by people.

        Not that they were paying much attention. Most people just voted in general. The idea that people specifically looked at the projects and said “Oh, that makes sense” is not born out by the voting patterns. Various areas in Seattle that won’t get much of anything voted for it (in overwhelming numbers) simply because they support transit.

        2) You are missing the point. If the board decides to do this, so be it. But this is being presented as if it is based on objective measures. Previously this was based on ridership, but not ridership per cost. This is the part that is bullshit. This is the part that is scandalous, and suggests corruption. Seriously, how the hell do you ignore the standard metric in the industry! This just continues the trend. You have “connect centers” and “First Segments”, yet somehow the infill projects are not only pushed beyond the “first segments”, but they are pushed beyond the last segments! They just put those projects — again, the most cost effective projects — in their own category, and arbitrarily decided to put them last. No reason — they just put them last. Oh, and if you notice, the 130th Station — which was designed with bus integration in mind — doesn’t even get the double asterisk noting that it has “Good Bus Integration”.

        And now this slide, which represents an improvement supposedly solely based on simply delaying parking manages to delay some projects way more than others. Why? That’s what I’m asking! Why do they continue to mislead the public with regards to these infill stations, and imply that they are poor values, or unimportant, even though it was the only reason that a significant number of people voted for the project. I can tell you with certainty that if 130th wasn’t included, a lot of people in Lake City/Pinehurst/Bitter Lake would have walked. They would have voted against this proposal for that very reason. The board knew this, and decided to include the station. Now, whoever is coming up with these recommendations is spreading bullshit about the station (and other infill stations) for reasons that deserve more scrutiny.

      2. “Yet now it will be at the very back.”

        Nothing has been decided yet. These are all just scenarios to evaluate the tradeoffs. All of the scenarios have completely different schedules, and what’s in front of one is in back of another.

      3. @Mike — I get that. Nothing has been decided. What upsets me is that a lot of this information is presented as an objective recommendation, with nothing to support it. For example, why are the infill stations delayed the most, if all we’ve done is delay parking?

        This is nothing new. This is have been going on since the last presentation, which put those same projects at the back, in the name of “ridership” (even though they should be at the front). At first you suspect incompetence, but when it keeps being repeated, you suspect corruption.

        An analogy is the Iraq War. The Vice President kept spreading falsehoods about Iraq, while ignoring evidence to the contrary. By the time Congress had to decide, a good number of them just assumed that Iraq really was a threat. They had worked with Niger in attaining yellowcake uranium, and were well on their way to developing nuclear weaponry. Except it was all bullshit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niger_uranium_forgeries.

        If people can fool Congress — for a decision that was literally about life and death — then fooling a far more naive ST board is a piece of cake. Keep repeating the lies, and next thing you know, someone like Roger Millar is just going to go along with the idea of delaying the infill stations, based “on the data”. Do really think that Millar — or most of the board for that matter — has enough time to evaluate these subtle recommendations? Of course not. Juarez, who sits on the board, and is the biggest champion for the 130th station, hasn’t even mentioned the issue. She did mention that the “equity” measure was bullshit because it ignored the people who would take the bus to the 130th stations (lots of poor people). But she missed the bigger lie, which was ignoring cost when rating ridership, or this arbitrary decision to put the infill stations last, when the savings come from parking. It is easy enough to say that none of these slides matter, but obviously they do. They have repeated ideas, several times now. Eventually, people — and especially the board — begin to believe them as common knowledge. If someone on the board dare propose that Graham Street be built first because it is the most cost effective project, the rest of the board will look at them like they’re nuts, and show them the slides. This matters.

        What is the point of this blog if not to point out bullshit like this?

      4. “What upsets me is that a lot of this information is presented as an objective recommendation, with nothing to support it.”

        It sounds like you’re reading too much into it. It’s not a recommendation, it’s a starting point, an example illustration.

      5. “Juarez, who sits on the board, and is the biggest champion for the 130th station, hasn’t even mentioned the issue. She did mention that the “equity” measure was bullshit because it ignored the people who would take the bus to the 130th stations (lots of poor people). But she missed the bigger lie, which was ignoring cost when rating ridership, or this arbitrary decision to put the infill stations last, when the savings come from parking. It is easy enough to say that none of these slides matter, but obviously they do.”

        Is this what you mean by corruption? The process of getting to a realignment decision is slow and bureaucratic, and not all cards are on the table yet. This is still just prepositioning for the ultimate debate of what criteria to follow and which projects to prioritize. The scenarios are just possibilities for comparison. One boardmember can’t go first about one station: they all have to do all of them together. Otherwise that one station will get an unfair advantage or disadvantage. The scenarios just show what would happen if you take one criterion alone and ignore all the others. ST won’t do that; it will have some mixture, and the board may move projects around before it comes to a final decision. Parking last is a good operating principle, so the more the board discusses it, the better.

        As to whether ST should weigh certain aspects of ridership differently, that’s a values issue, and as you know the board’s values aren’t your values. Juarez and the pro-parking boardmembers aren’t being corrupt, they’re expressing what they think are the most important things for their subareas. What THEY think, which is what they’re appointed to do.

      6. The scenarios are just possibilities for comparison.

        Right, except they use official sounding rhetoric to lump things in tiers. They don’t just randomly assign them. They call one “Daily Ridership — Project Performance” and it manages to put the highest performing projects at the back. This matters. If someone says “we should focus on performance”, and this is their only source of information, the infill stations would be pushed to the back.

        Sure, you can ignore all of this, but if the various metrics were intended to be ignored, why bother with them? Why spend so much time and effort coming up with definitions if you don’t want people to consider them?

        It is pretty easy to come up with criteria where the infill stations are at the top. I can come up with two. The first would be ridership per dollar. This is a common metric used for proposals all over the world. It shouldn’t be the only consideration, but it is quite reasonable to prioritize it.

        The second would be size. Show what happens when you build the small stuff first. Then show what happens when you do the reverse. If you are trying to show scenarios, this would be quite reasonable. You aren’t suggesting that they build things in this order (that would be arbitrary) but demonstrating how shifting priorities can effect timing. But they didn’t do that. These were not arbitrary (they never put projects in tiers alphabetically). The tiers are calculated. For whatever reason, they want to put the infill stations (and the bus improvements) towards the back.

        I appreciate the optimism Mike and AJ, but we’ve been screwed before. It is easy to assume that the powers that be know what they are doing, and are thoughtfully considering all the facts, while trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number. But history suggests otherwise.

        Consider the proposals for improving transit to West Seattle. The BRT plan involved the bus stuck in traffic, while the rail plan was 100% grade separated. Yeah, sure, they were just proposals — just scenarios — but they changed the nature of the discussion. Oh, and the rail proposal was also ridiculously optimistic in terms of cost. Someone looking at the two proposals would see the much faster speeds and higher ridership for rail (because it is faster) and conclude that it is worth the extra money. Of course they would. If you aren’t given all the facts, that is just what happens.

        Are these cases of corruption or incompetence? Hard to say. But given the fact that the infill stations are routinely placed at the back for every scenario — often without explanation (as in the parking case) — it suggests to me that whoever is making these presentations want a particular outcome. They want to build the biggest stuff first. I’m not sure why — but I don’t think it has anything to do with the interest of the public.

      7. “1) That was the order in the levy, which passed.:

        Come on, AJ. You have got to know that that just isn’t the case.

        “Are these cases of corruption or incompetence?”

        IMO, there is no shortage of incompetence at this agency, and by extension, the board charged with ultimately directing it. But I also agree that there is a certain level of “corruption” at play here as well. The agency frequently engages in a fair amount of intellectual dishonesty in its decision-making processes. It appears to do this in order to advance a preconceived outcome while at the same time giving the appearance of a fair shake. It appears to be doing that again here in this presentation. So, yeah, I think a reasonable person could conclude that there is a certain level of corruption going on within the agency’s senior management. Sound Transit lost their “benefit of the doubt” with this particular observer some time ago when they began lying about all of the cost estimate misses with the ST2 projects. Now we know that we were sold a bill of goods with the ST3 project estimates as well. Was that low balling estimates to get a huge levy passed, or more incompetence, or both? Hmmmm.

  6. “This is just another version of Sound Transit bullshit, but with an anti-parking emphasis to get the urbanists excited. The whole process is corrupt. There is no thought given to ridership per dollar, or any other sensible metric. Otherwise Jackson Park would be at the top, followed closely by 130th.”

    Ross is correct, but I would add the tier system is designed to encourage the eastside subarea to vote yes on a ST 4, and that won’t happen, in part because I think there is zero chance S. King Co., Pierce Co., or Snohomish Co. will vote yes, especially if they are being told (like ST 3 in N. King Co.) they have to pay twice for the same park and rides they were promised in ST 3.

    The problem with this approach is it fails to address the two key factors:

    1. Which subarea are we talking about? There are five, all with different densities, access issues, and funding levels. The eastside has the funds for its promised park and rides, and those promised park and rides on the eastside were a big part of ST 3. They will get built because the cities will demand it and there is the money. What is the point in delaying park and rides in East King Co., unless ST is now admitting even East King Co. does not have the funding streams to complete ST 3. It isn’t like the savings can be transferred to another subarea.

    2. What kind of alternative first/last mile access can CT, PT or Metro provide in lieu of park and rides. The park and rides were included for a reason, and that reason is it is cost prohibitive to provide meaningful, frequent feeder bus service to most subareas except N. King Co. due to the lack of density and sheer geographic size of the other subareas. Park and rides cost money to build but the cost of someone driving to a park and ride costs ST nothing.

    Without meaningful, frequent feeder bus service to light rail the options are to drive to work, or park on nearby streets and in private lots, or add an hour to your commute waiting for infrequent bus service, which is exactly what we have seen on Mercer Island. All this plan really does is further highlight the difference between ST’s ridership estimates for ST 2 and 3, and reality, and the difference between what ST claimed rail would cost, and its actual costs.

    This “plan” is not about park and rides, it is about trying to coerce more funding, but the figures are too high because ST was just too dishonest in its cost estimates to sell ST 3, and then a pandemic threw off optimistic future revenue estimates.

    What this “plan” tells me is ST is like the Titanic is throwing chairs and tables off the deck, but not admitting ST 3 is sinking. It is a cry for revenue, but ST has no credibility. It means ST underestimated costs for ST 3 in basically every subarea, revenue and general fund subsidies will likely be less than optimistically estimated, and right now it is using ST 3 revenue to complete ST 2. Shock and surprise.

    I don’t care how many park and rides you cut (and no one spends $120,000/stall for an above ground park and ride (which is just more ST dishonesty to goose the savings) –even if the savings could avoid subarea equity — ST is never going to come up with $11.5 billion is savings to complete ST 3 in N. King Co., the one damn subarea where ST 3 (at least rail) kind of makes sense. And the $11.5 billion does not include the true costs of the second transit tunnel. So effectively all ST 3 revenue is going to complete ST 2 and the spine in N. King Co.

    For East King Co. I don’t really think it will matter as long as the park and rides directly serving East Link are built, because I don’t see commuters driving to a park and ride to take a bus to catch a train. East King Co. is pretty agnostic about rail and is a car culture, and at the very worst ST could cancel the Issaquah to Kirkland line, which is probably the biggest waste of money in all of ST 3. Kirkland (not unlike Bellevue with Bellevue Way) doesn’t even want rail serving its downtown core, so really this line is Issaquah to Rose Hill, for $4.5 billion, which for ST means closer to $7 billion.

    So yes, the Urbanists will cheer what they see as finally the demise of the car, although there are 460,000 in Seattle alone, and a much higher percentage outside Seattle. Will those whose park and ride was delayed or cancelled simply stay at home (yes, if that is a work option, but these folks live in areas that is less work at home capable), wait 30 or 60 minutes for a feeder bus, ride a bike miles over steep terrain in high heels, or will they drive to work, or drive and park somewhere around the rail station? And then seriously consider a ST 4?

    All ST is doing by delaying or cancelling park and rides in more remote and rural areas along the 90 mile spine is:

    1. transferring that cost to local transit, which does not have the funding to serve these areas; and

    2. proving it was a stupid idea to run 90 miles of commuter rail based on false ridership density estimates and population growth estimates, which is what Ross is basically saying when he argues for more infill stations, in areas that are actually dense, have reasonable (for light rail) cost per rider, and have decent first/last mile access by bus (unless Metro keeps cutting and reallocating service).

    If ST is seriously talking about cutting the park and rides in these remote areas then the problem is much, much bigger than park and rides, and we all know Millar is not anti-car, so something must be spooking him, like the water gushing in below the water line.

    1. ” don’t see commuters driving to a park and ride to take a bus to catch a train.”

      Yet only a small fraction of riders drive to P&Rs. The vast majority take feeder buses, get dropped off, or come some other way. They can’t park in the P&R even if they wanted to because there aren’t enough spaces for them. Not currently and not in any future scenario. You’d have to make the garages four or five times larger than the representative alignment if you want the majority of riders to park in them. And that would take four or five times the amount of land and turn it into a parking-lot city.

      Some people who park in P&Rs have a feeder bus, they just refuse to use it. We don’t need to spend P&R resources on them. And they should stop being lazy so that people who really don’t have a bus near them can use the spaces.

      1. That is great Mike Orr, as long as meaningful and frequent feeder bus service is provided to these riders throughout the day and night in lieu of their park and ride.

        On the eastside this means extra frequency for commuters since they were suppose to make up a significant portion of East Link ridership. We are talking about some remote areas, and someone will have to fund the feeder bus service. Basically all that does is transfer the cost of first/last mile access from ST that collected the money for the park and rides to local transit, which won’t get any of the park and ride funding to offset these new and substantial costs. So instead of ST having to pass ST 4 Metro and other transit agencies will have to sell new levies.

        Was it stupid to run 90 miles of light rail to areas that have very little density but claim very large ridership projections. Yes. But the citizens paid for it, and it is being built, so if you live outside Lynnwood or east of Issaquah or God knows where you are entitled to the same feeder service as someone who lives in Seattle.

        The park and rides are to be “delayed”. They won’t be sold off to market rate developers because otherwise the cities would sue.

        But all of this once again misses the number one issue in all of this: MONEY, or the lack of money.

        Anyone who thinks delaying the construction of some park and rides will make a dent in the massive underfunding of ST 3 throughout the region (except perhaps the East King Co. subarea) is living in a dream world. Anyone who thinks Bellevue or eastside cities care what Balducci thinks when it comes to ST, or park and rides, doesn’t know how ST works, or who pulls the strings on the eastside. My guess is the other subareas that are car oriented will demand those park and rides too. It isn’t their fault N. King Co. ran out of money.

        The reality is PT, CT and Metro don’t have the funding to provide this first/last mile access, Metro is reallocating service to equity zones and plans to cut overall service, ST collected the money for park and rides but plans on keeping it but shifting the cost of first/last mile access to local transit, which means what I have predicted from the beginning: the spine will open, first/last mile access will be shit, citizens will howl, and ST and transit will take a huge public hit for spending tens of billions of dollars on shit. Which will trickle down to every transit levy thereafter.

        The park and rides are a tiny, tiny eddy in this river, and won’t make a difference. My guess is they will get built, and this whole exercise is ST’s desperation to somehow convince voters in the subareas to give it billions and billions in more money to complete what was already promised in ST 3, except most of those projects look stale today post-pandemic.

        Once ST accepts the fact ST 4 won’t pass, or be put on a ballot, and HB1304 can’t ever fund ST 3 in North King Co., it will give up on these stupid exercises and build what it can with the money it has, which will include park and rides but not West Seattle to Ballard.

      2. This is happening right now with the current routes and feeders, not just in the future when there may or may not be additional feeders. There will be at least as many feeder runs as the current service.

        I was struck by the statement in the video that ST is spending the majority of ST3 on parking, and how it could reorganize things and still serve 80% of its riders (the non P&R drivers). That’s similar to the 80/20 rule, that it often takes 20% of the resources to solve 80% of the problem, and 80% of the resources to solve the last 20%. The proportion of costs isn’t the same in this case but the proportion of riders is. And Sounder’s ridership has been increasing even though P&R spaces haven’t.

    2. Again, Daniel, when half of the buses running for CT in the peaks are not stuck in traffic on I-5 one way or the other but instead shuttling riders to Link, there will be plenty of service!!!!! RTFS [“S” = “Schedule”] for the 510 or 512 pre-pandemic. They ran every few minutes through the peak but each bus after the ones going into service before 6:30 makes one round trip!. They’ll make three if they just have to hot loop at Lynnwood.

      Sales tax revenues are have pretty much returned to normal in Snohomish, because they mostly are provided by car and retail sales. CT has to spend it on something; it will spend lavishly on commuter Link shuttles.

      You are simply uneducated about how transit actually operates.

      1. I will grant that people who have to go home in the middle of the day will be inconvenienced in the suburbs, because those frequent shuttles will not run any time except the peaks.

        But that’s a “one-off” for most people and they can take an Uber or Lyft on days that it happens.

      2. The important ones will run all day. And that should be our focus: all-day feeders to all-day rapid transit. The 554 replacement will be all day. The `114’s replacement will be on the 240’s successor. The 212-218 are mostly relief runs to provide capacity, so their replacement will be something that provides that. New feeders in new corridors, well, we’d have to talk about what those corridors would be before we could prioritize them.

      3. “You are simply uneducated about how transit actually operates.”

        I think Daniel’s problem is he has a myopic East King perspective, and is especially focused on those who drive to P&Rs.

        First, East King won’t be affected much by this. It doesn’t have many Link P&Rs, and most of those are in ST2. It’s mainly an issue in the north and south ends, where more P&Rs are planned and more Sounder stations exist. And it’s not just North King trying to fill funding gaps in its projects; it’s also Snohomish with Everett Link.

        Second, P&R drivers aren’t the primary focus for ST resources.

        Third, Mercer Island is in a unique situation having lost its intra-island service. I assume that will be addressed by the time East Link opens. You can’t project Mercer Island’s experience to the rest of East King or the other subareas.

      4. Mike — and Daniel downthread — sure. There will be some sort of all-day shuttle between South Bellevue, Factoria, Eastgate and Issaquah. That will probably end when Issaquah-Bellevue opens, but that’s a long time from now. There are at least a couple of others north-south through Lake Hills that will have all-day service.

        But the Park-N-Ride shuttles from places in the middle of Sammamish won’t. Riders detraining at Southeast Redmond in the middle of the day will want to take an Uber or get picked up. Daniel is right that it just doesn’t make sense to run any buses the length of Sammamish during the middle of the day. There’s probably enough activity at the south end for an hourly shuttle from South Bellevue.

        Snohomish has a LOT more “activity centers” scattered around. It doesn’t have one big City like Bellevue around which a hub and spoke system can be depended upon to build all-day demand. It will be more like a ladder once Link goes north of Lynnwood and in the meantime a star-pattern focused there.

        There are a lot more middle- and low-income people in Snohomish County than there are in the East King subarea. A lot more; that’s why CT has a pretty good all-day plan already. East King has four primary all-day activity centers: downtown Bellevue, Overlake, Factoria and Eastgate. The first two are already on Link; the primary connections for which ST will be held responsible are Factoria, Eastgate, and Issaquah. Other than that, yes, it’s Metro’s responsibility.

      5. Well, I’m wrong. Route 269 runs the entire length of Sammamish every 31 minutes from 6 AM to 6 PM weekdays. So Metro thinks there there is good cause for service every half hour, at least Monday through Friday.

        Kudos to them for the social service.

        I expect that it’s mostly maids and au pairs who ride, right?

  7. This is the best argument. “ By comparison, upzoning and selling the land to a market-rate developer adds riders and is revenue positive.”

    1. I am not projecting Mercer Island’s transit service on the rest of the eastside (considering Mercer Island has no real intra-Island transit, but isn’t well suited to it anyway due to lack of density, winding roads, and steep topography, common features of east King Co., which is why the park and ride is so critical).

      I do focus on the eastside because in ST’s subarea model there is little point for me to focus on a subarea I don’t live or travel in. The subareas are just too different to try and find a one size fits all. For example, the N. King subarea has the most density and ridership, but also the greatest funding deficits. What do I know of or care about Snohomish Co. transit? Good lord, I can’t think of anything lower on my list of concerns.

      Tom Terrific states there will be plenty of first/last mile access once Link opens, at least for CT in Snohomish Co., but for the eastside — the one subarea with plenty of money and juice– Tom states: “I will grant that people who have to go home in the middle of the day will be inconvenienced in the suburbs, because those frequent shuttles will not run any time except the peaks.” (As though Snohomish Co. is somehow denser than the eastside).

      How many times has Ross posted that the primary purpose of transit frequency is not peak riders, but the riders who ride all day long. How do you build non-peak ridership if someone has to spend 30 minutes waiting for a bus (since these eastside routes mostly have one bus coverage) to wait up to 8 minutes for a train. Throw in the drive to the park and ride and a non-peak rider could be over an hour in before the train even begins to leave the eastside.

      Mike Orr writes: “The important ones [buses] will run all day. And that should be our focus: all-day feeders to all-day rapid transit. The 554 replacement will be all day. The `114’s replacement will be on the 240’s successor. The 212-218 are mostly relief runs to provide capacity, so their will be something that provides that. New feeders in new corridors, well, we’d have to talk about what those corridors would be before we could prioritize them.”

      But Mike ignores the frequency of the buses, the entire point. How important is a bus if it runs every 30 minutes?

      Isn’t this the opposite of what Tom Terrific writes, that there will be plenty of bus service, except during non-peak times? Tom Terrific then writes: “You are simply uneducated about how transit actually operates.” Really. How complicated is transit, at least routing? Is there some transit degree Tom Terrific has to determine what is adequate service? Do our ST employees have some kind of special transit education that resulted in their cost estimates?

      The ST survey says feeder bus service for East Link will be 15 minute peak service and 30 minute non-peak. Is that adequate for feeder bus headways for those educated in transit? I thought I had read for the last 6 months on STB that 7 minutes is necessary if bus truncation and light rail trips will match the total trip time buses alone provide pre-Link.

      If bus service throughout King Co. is 15/30 minutes is that good service, whether the bus truncates or not? Can someone educated in transit, or just a regular transit rider, answer that simple question. Would you mine waiting 30 minutes to catch a feeder bus to light rail?

      So educate me here Tom T. ST has just admitted the N. King Co, subarea has an $11.5 billion funding shortfall, not including the real costs of the second transit tunnel, which means Seattle will get no ST 3 projects. It is now suggesting it might delay some park and rides in more remote areas, without a real plan on providing first/last mile access, a chronic flaw for ST. Now ST is stating after spending $5.5 billion on East Link riders will wait 30 minutes to catch a feeder bus to a train during non-peak times, and you actually think an eastside citizen will wait 30 minutes for a feeder bus to catch a train after they just parked their car in the park and ride lot, or do you think they will drive to a park and ride that serves East Link, or just or their destination especially if it is mid-day and there is little congestion?.

      I might not be the most educated person about transit, but Tom Terrific knows nothing about eastsiders.

      1. Actually, yes, there is “a degree” that transit planners get. It’s a “concentration” in a broader “Urban Planning” degree. They even give people Master’s degrees in it.

        Like you, I too am sure that an “eastside citizen” — bow down to your betters North King Subarea ants! — probably won’t wait 30 minutes for a shuttle bus, which is exactly what I said: they’ll want to take a Uber or get picked up if they have to leave the office for an emergency.

        There are people in Seattle who have taken 30 minute headway buses for decades, because for most routes until the mid-2000’s that was all they had. These are people who choose transit because they are very low income or because they like it and want to be good citizens.

        In short, they’re not narcissistic rich jerks.

        Obviously, I can’t speak for Mike, but there are routes which run across Bellevue right now which run at 15 minute headways and don’t go to downtown Bellevue, much less Seattle. They go places which have some of the few pockets of people with modest means over there in Valhalla and to the destinations which those folks want to access. It’s called a “service network”.

        Those routes are not going to be downgraded because they happen to connect with Link at some station along the way in Overlake.

        You’ve become a troll with logorrhea.

      2. I’ve been told that in Switzerland, they put vast areas into a supercomputer and let it synchronize the schedule planning. That way, you not only have a bus running every half hour, but a well timed connection with perhaps 5 or 6 other routes it intersects.

        People can plan around a half-hourly bus, but not having to wait for transfers as much as possible really helps increase the effectiveness.

    1. This is a Metro survey, not ST as you called it above. I haven’t read it yet so I can’t comment on particular corridors.

      Regarding the 15/30 minute frequency, our definition of ideal feeders is 15 mintues until 10pm every day, but Metro’s definition is a measly 15 minutes until 6pm Monday-Friday. It wants to exceed it, and does so when it can, but this is a way to say it has a large number of frequent routes. It’s like when Biden promises 100 million vaccines but expects 200 million — the low bar ensures he’ll meet his minimum promise and anything beyond that will be welcome. I think Metro’s frequency target is too small, but that’s one long-term issue we’re working on.

      I’m assuming all the current bus service will have successors, so nobody who currently has a bus or feeder will lost transit. If that happens, nobody will be worse off than they are now. Some people who have a one-seat ride will have to transfer to Link, but in return they get a more reliable trip, more space (in the sense that Link has more capacity), and more limited-stop destinations (not just downtown Seattle and Bellevue but also Overlake, the Spring District, Capitol Hill, the U-District, Roosevelt, Northgate, etc). Some of them work in those places.

      Any additional frequency or additional feeder corridors will just make it better. We should aim for the maximum, but if we can’t afford it, any additions is better than none. Even if there are no additions it will be a net improvement, and we can try to add more additions incrementally in the future.

      Also, it’s worth noting that the Eastside is different from the north and south ends. The Eastside is a major job center and destination, and it’s closer to Seattle. So Eastsiders going to Eastside jobs don’t have to go as far, and it takes less time for them to get to Seattle so 2-seat rides aren’t as critical. The north and south ends are mostly bedroom communities and industrial, and it’s a longer distance for them to Seattle or Bellevue. Eastsiders are only looking at a 20-40 minute Link ride max, while in the north and south ends the Link portion alone will be almost an hour or more at the further ends. So they’re the ones who have the longest commutes, and at the same time they benefit more from Link because they’re saved from slogging through more miles of freeway traffic in the worst congestion.

  8. OK, I took the survey. The Urbanist comment about frequency is making a mountain out of a molehill. The text in question is “Definitions: Frequent: The bus comes every 15 minutes or less during peak periods and every 30 minutes or less during off-peak periods.” That’s just Metro’s definition of frequent; it doesn’t say anything about which routes will be 15 minutes midday or evenings. That will be in a future proposal this summer. That’s how Metro always does Link restructures: the first input is just general, no specific route proposals. We’ll have to see what the first route proposal is before we can evaluate it. You can use the text boxes to stress your most important concerns, whatever they are.

    30 minute midday and evening frequency sounds low, and it’s lower than Seattle where 15-minute middays is the norm. But that reflects the difference between Seattle and the rest of the county: the county is less dense and more car-oriented so its minimum frequency is lower. Most Eastside roues are 30 minutes daytime, 60 minutes evenings, so the above “Frequent” definition is twice that, and that’s a good sign. We’ll just have to try hard to get it to 15 minutes as much as we can.

  9. As long as they build the station on the Martha Lake side of I-5, the Ash Way parking capacity can remain untouched. Just needs a ped/bike crossing to connect it, which is a long overdue alternative to the hazards of 164th

  10. Ross, it might be useful to think about ST as a rail construction company. It provides a lot more political visibility to connect more cities, than to do infill; rail has higher political value, than buses or gondolas. I have to admit that once a rail line is on the ground, it can be used for multiple lines etc but at what cost? I wish ST would spend more time to increase ridership with the best technology for the job. In 2014 they identified that LR is great for the spine, but other methods (BRT, gondolas…) could be used for local connections for example, did they ever used that insight?!? If we just focus on building out LR, it will take a long time to serve the needs of our region and many people will never even consider transit for focus on their own personal car.

  11. or in other places they run gondolas as feeders which run continuously so that you never loose time waiting for the next bus…

  12. Highway capacity cannot handle all people taking cars, autonomous or not. I do see mass transit having a future, but driverless cars would be great for the last mile as they don’t require parking which brings me back to the topic.

  13. The key to driverless technology is shared rides. Before the pandemic Uber and Lyft were moving toward ride share apps that would allow riders to combine passengers along the same route and reduce costs. For shorter trips just two Uber/Lyft riders are price competitive with two transit fares, and the convenience and safety of Uber/Lyft is greater.

    So far most citizens have been reluctant to share rides, so it will be interesting how the ride share apps work post-pandemic.

  14. My experience with UberPool has not been great, even in the Bay area where utilization is high. Detours are adding a lot of travel time and car still gets stuck on the freeway. Autonomous operation won’t solve that. I would rather use it to get to a high-frequency transit line if I would know that I could continue a last mile ride if necessary.

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