In bloom, Bellevue style

This is an open thread.

82 Replies to “News roundup: slowly expanding”

  1. Hard to see how the new CRC isn’t going to include light rail now that Don Benton (R – Vancouver) is gone and the Senate Republicans are out of power.

    Will be a great for Vancouver which has the potential to be a good urban downtown if it wasn’t so inconvenient to get to.

    1. I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion. Portland uses rail (Max) and Vancouver uses bus (Vine), so there’s going to be a forced transfer on one side of the river.
      I don’t think it is obvious that rail, rather than bus, should be the mode crossing the river, for example a bus-only lane on the bridge will better support express overlays between Clark County and Portland.

      1. AJ, I agree in theory, but the geometry doesn’t work for expresses and an extension of The Vine (and probably “The Branch” [e.g. “Mill Plain BRT”]) to cross the river in the same facility.

        The BRT lines end at Turtle Place, on Fifth Street between Main and Washington. The freeway is three blocks to the east. The CRC was to have bellied well to the west with a lower level including separate ramps for the LRT track way allowing the northbound trains to exit without a cloverleaf or flyover. They had a “flyunder which would have fed directly into Washington about Third Street. That design would work equally well for a busway for the BRT lines, but the expresses couldn’t use it without going through downtown Vancouver.

        In any case, “Waterfront Vancouver” has encroached significantly into what would have been the CRC’s envelope, and local preference is strongly for a single-level bridge. So the CRC double-deck design is pretty much off the table.

        I don’t see how Rep. Blumenauer is going to get his way. LRT can’t climb to the height needed to clear shipping without an opening span. So a separate lifting bridge would be required for MAX significantly increasing the project cost.

      2. They can’t build a non-lift span over the Columbia there anyway. They went through all that before.

        Shipping wants 200 feet or so clearance. A bridge that high would have an approach that intrudes into the FAA air space of two airports. This is the primary reason why CRC 1 didn’t go anywhere.

        They can keep throwing money at it all they want, but until someone bites the bullet of reality and realizes the only “bridge” that works in the given constrains is a Delta, BC style Fraser River tunnel, this project will continue to eat pointless money.

      3. the geometry doesn’t work for expresses

        Huh? It seems like it would be just fine for expresses. It would be similar to the buses that run on 520 to the UW. You make almost all of it with bus-only lanes, and then run the buses from the suburban neighborhood right to downtown Portland. I get the impression that when people in Vancouver say they want “express buses” instead of rail, what they are getting at is that they don’t want to have to transfer to a train, and then wait for the train to make a bunch of stops along the way. They are willing to skip those stops (or deal with a separate, less frequent bus to the end of Max) so they they can have the fast express to downtown.

        As to whether adding all of that right-of-way would be cheaper or more expensive than the train, I have no idea. But I really doubt you need the capacity of a train, nor that you can connect together a series of great stations in Vancouver. The population there looks quite spread out, which means you would have several different express bus lines (which is the case right now, if I’m not mistaken).

      4. Ross, I didn’t express my thought completely. I neglected to state that the expresses would continue to run in the HOV lane. But the BRT’s can’t because the HOV’s will be next to the median while the BRT’s would have to run in the mixed traffic ramps to and from downtown Vancouver which add/drop on the outsides of the new structure.

        If bus bypass lanes for the ramp meters at each end are included, the BRT’s should be fine since there will be a pair of auxiliary lanes connecting the downtown Vancouver and Hayden Island off ramps which shouldn’t clog very often. More folks will be in the Mill Plain-Marine Drive auxiliary since there are many more jobs accessed from Marine Drive than are on Hayden Island.

        One might hope that there will be bus-only branch off the off-ramp to and a bus lane in the middle cross-road from the Hayden Island MAX station, which I’m sure will be built even if the train doesn’t cross the bridge.

        I just wanted to make it clear that the BRT and expresses can’t share a bus lane but I wasn’t clear about the expresses still running in the HOV. My apologies.

      5. Glenn,

        Oddly enough, British Columbia just replaced the Fraser River tunnel with a brand-spanking new Fraser River Bridge for BC99.

        I do agree that a tunnel is the optimum solution for through traffic, but it would cut off access to Hayden Island from the north and downtown Vancouver from the south. The first practical ramp location to the south would be Marine Drive and Mill Plain (barely) to the north.

      6. Glenn, shipping is asking for the Moon. Since the company that fabricated system structures for the North Slope closed down there will very rarely be a need for anything taller than the cruise sternwheeler and large tow-pushers to pass under the bridge. There will never be anything sufficiently industrial between the bridge and the Bonneville Locks (which determine the size of everything that passes on the river) to require ocean-going transport again.

        A ninety foot above mean water level bascule bridge could open for such rare custom moves and easily clear the PDX glide path. It would be in the middle and hence out of the way of Pearson’s path. The few times a year it would open could be scheduled for 1-4 AM.

      7. “Oddly enough, British Columbia just replaced the Fraser River tunnel with a brand-spanking new Fraser River Bridge for BC99.”

        Huh? The last I heard was that the provincial government was still leaning toward replacing the Massey Tunnel with a new tunnel. The original bridge proposal, favored by the former Liberal Party-controlled government, was canceled when the NDP took over back in 2017. I think the snap election held last fall increased their seats. Are you thinking of a different highway?

      8. “the BRT’s would have to run in the mixed traffic ramps to and from downtown Vancouver”

        Aren’t we still in early design? This issue strikes me as something that’s easy to fix this early in the process.

        “cut off access to Hayden Island from the north and downtown Vancouver.” Seems like through traffic could be in a freeway tunnel and a much smaller bridge (2 car lanes, 2 transit lanes) would then sufficient to serve Hayden and downtown Vancouver? A tunnel could be great for Vancouver if the portal was away from the waterfront, removing the need for the mega-interchange with SR14 and converting I5 between downtown and fort into a local boulevard. Moving the portal all the way to north of Mill Plain would be expensive but also super transformative for downtown Vancouver, perhaps comparable to burying 99 or I5 in downtown Seattle?

      9. Tlsgwm, no. I read an article a while ago announcing that bridge construction was imminent and did not check before I posted. Thanks for the correction.

        I wondered why they would do it.

      10. AJ, in the best of all possible worlds, a local Bridge and “through” tunnel would be ideal. But it would be quite expensive. The channel of the Columbia River was reamed out to about 200 feet below MSL by the Missoula floods, so it’s a lot of random muck through which to tunnel. Shades of Bertha, though there are probably no old pieces of steel scattered through it.

        If you can get the Feds, Washington and Oregon to write a blank check to “Vancouver Tunnel Partners”, oe whatever Tutor Perini calls its next sock puppet, go for it! It is the best technical solution.

        However, you can’t cut SR 14 off from I-5 south. There are too many jobs in North Portland.

      11. Even at 90 feet up, you are talking about some pretty extensive ramp work.

        The Columbia is dredged to only about 28 feet deep at the navigation channel. A tunnel could therefore potentially mean less impact to the interchanges over a higher bridge. Depends on how deep they would have to make the tunnel for geological reasons, but it’s not like it’s the first tunnel anyone has ever built under a river. It’s a very different area than the Seattle Deep Bore.

        The BRT thoughts are interesting, but the reality is that dedicated carpool lanes would never be politically acceptable here. Even the 5 miles we already have are difficult to keep.

      12. “…dedicated carpool lanes would never be politically acceptable here.” Carpool lanes are pretty acceptable in WA and CA, what makes them special? Carpool lanes are like roundabouts – everyone objects beforehand and then gets over it once they get used to them.

      13. I wish I knew the answer to that. Every time the question comes up, the response response from the loudmouth minority always seems to be an effort to remove the several miles we have. “First they’re coming for your cars, then they’ll come for your guns” or some such nonsense is what you hear on right wing radio. Ultimately, sticking us with the status quo is what happens.

  2. re the Columbia River crossing: more important than rail as a mode choice, is that both highways be included in the study and that variable tolling be implemented. the primary purpose of the tolling could be demand management and not revenue. the revenue could be set aside for operations and maintenance. former Senator Benton hated both rail and tolling.

    re West Seattle and the gondola. Seattle controls both bridges, high and low, and have opened the South Lander Street overcrossing. Before either Link or the gondola could be provided, the agencies could provide a frequent, fast, reliable, and well-connected Link-bus network. ST would have to provide short Link headway and short waits. ST3 may be delayed. ST3 funds can only be spent once.

    1. Actually the tolling has to make a significant contribution to the bridge costs in order to get a Federal appropriation. Now maybe the Infrastructure Package will suspend cost-sharing rules, but don’t bet on it.

      Also, there are two projects in Oregon already aimed at demand management, one on I-5 just to the south of the bridge, and the other on I-205, but much further to the south.

      All that demand management toll revenue will supposedly revamp the narrow stretch through the Rose Quarter in Portland and replace the I-205 bridge across the Willamette in Oregon City.

      There is a third project, the Northern Connector between the south end of the I-5 bridge and Washington County which might be funded by freeway tolls, too.

    2. Seems to me that the better, cheaper option is to run the light rail south, through Georgetown, to a lower bridge to South Park and on to cross Delridge and Westwood Village.

      The geography is a lot less complicated and it would actually be more of a cross town line as it would serve potentially a lot more stops: Georgetown/SouthPark Delridge South, Westwood/White Center…

      It catches all of the same bus lines, serves more areas and would probably run into fewer wealthy nimbys trying to force everything into a tunnel.

      The only drawback is a low bridge would have to open now and then, but the majority of that traffic seems to be north of there so it probably wouldn’t have to open that often.

      That way West Seattle still gets light rail for perhaps a billion or two less money?

      1. The only part of West Seattle served by a route through Georgetown & South Park routing is the very southern edge of it, in the Westwood walkshed. No one would ride the C line or 120 15-25 mins out of the way to the south to transfer to light rail that would then take another 20+ mins to slog all the way from the southern city limits. From the Junction and North Delridge, it takes just as long to bus to Westwood as it does to get downtown.

        That route is more mileage than the planned route too, so I doubt there would much if any construction cost savings.

      2. @Jesse

        The idea was more that *if* we built a gondola in the north (pretty big if), just run the line down south for cheaper/more stations.

        Alternately though, we could run the line up from the south on Delridge and just gradually elevate it up to Alaska junction instead near the north end of the golf course?

        If we’re looking for cost cutting measures, a low bridge + elevated rail is cheaper than two bridges (Duwamish+Delridge), two tunnels (Both the first ridge and the Junction) option that folks were pushing for….

        The biggest problem with the current line is the tremendous (and escalating) cost for the relatively small area of the West Seattle served

        @Brad maybe a later line from Burien could meet this line near south Delridge? They could easily share a bridge over the Duwamish, just not so sure how much tunnel capacity downtown would be available.

      3. It’s unfortunate that the Pigeon Ridge tunnel concept didn’t open up the opportunity to move the corridor further south. Because a tunnel here would not have a station inside it, its cost is not extreme like a subway station. Had the new Duwamish crossing for Link been further south, the line would get much closer to those lower income areas for easier walking or feeder bus access.

        Of course, the undiscussed big elephant in the room to me remains the West Seattle Golf Course. Moving the golf course to Pigeon Ridge near South Seattle College could solve all sorts of design challenges (station placement, vertical profiles, better TOD near the stations, fewer home takes and the costs of doing that) as the current golf course land could be redeveloped in an amazing way. We seem to have the ability to only have individual light rail plans or park plans or land use plans — but not an integrated plan that does more than impact mitigation.

  3. Gondola’s make sense when the terrain is unfavorable for street, but in the case of West Seattle there is a freaking highway between either ends of where they want to put a gondola! In what world does this make sense?

    Oh I get it… in a world where creating a dedicated bus lane would require taking a lane away from cars. Yet, somehow West Seattleites are coping with the loss of an entire bridge. Give them back the bridge with a couple of lanes each way, and also have a dedicated bus lane and I think they could manage.

    If the gondola folks are putting the question of rail to west seattle back on the table, then other options than a gondola should also be back on the table. So, at the risk of being accused of channeling RossB, build BRT from west seattle to downtown; and then ST can build a Ballard > somewhere-other-than-west-seattle-that-makes-good-sense line.

    1. I often feel that the “gondola fever” is the “mode of the times” chapter of 2020-21.

      When will West Seattle interests stop picking a mode first and then forcing that mode onto its geography? First it was monorail, then ST3 light rail and now gondola. It’s like watching a dysfunctional relationship driven by practicing repeating unhealthy practices.

      Here is how I think the repeating cycle of modal obsession can be stopped:

      1. Suspend the current environmental West Seattle Link process. The massive inaccuracies in capital costs and neighborhood property takes provide more than enough justification to do this. The costing mistakes are adding several years to the timeline anyway and there is nothing to be gained by the ST3-planned 2030 stub link to West Seattle – especially since an aerial-only option to the Junction has so many problems with both cost and impacts that has made it unattainable.

      2. Undertake a deep dive into lots more technology options generally and West Seattle specifically. There are many technology concepts and variations that remain undiscussed and unanalyzed. Automated vehicles? Cable liner connections (faster speeds but same cable-pulled concept as a gondola)? Rubber tired guided trains that can handle steeper grades and maybe even the West Seattle bridge? Steel rail vehicles that aren’t as tall as light rail with catenary wire so tunnel bores can be much smaller and cheaper? Single track sections with automation?

      Each option needs to be sketched out enough to present realistic speeds, travel times, system connectivity focused on transfer penalties and most importantly capital and operating costs — and include presenting actual impacts to the urban fabric. That could hopefully be done in about two to three years.

      3. As all of these options are on the table, each option needs to be screened and enhanced by a rider-focused group first. Property owners have narrow special interests. Advocacy groups have narrow special interests. While there is nothing wrong for looking after self-interest, this perspective needs to be balanced by prioritizing a larger public good. I will call them the Riders of West Seattle Team to ROWST a doable systemic solution for the community.

      Without a deliberately new approach to the challenge like this, I expect a protracted fight that’s going to get messier, more bitter, costlier and more schedule-penalizing. Spending two years now will save more time and morale and money that will otherwise go to hand-wringing and lawsuits and bitterness.

      Someone call a good transit planning “therapist” that can force a change in perspective!

      1. Incorrect. There are considerable cost AND aesthetics savings to be had by simply excluding cars completely from several streets in West Seattle (Fauntleroy, Avalon, etc.) and giving the right of way, uninterrupted by any grade crossings, to the light rail. This would involve the severe challenge of displacing the extremely sensitive feelings of car drivers. But West Seattle automobile enthusiasts can be presented with the choice between elevated, allegedly “ugly” rail they can still drive under, or cheaper, “prettier” light rail that takes away their car lanes.

        But yeah, no, we are not starting from scratch with a “new approach” to West Seattle Link. The votes are in, the ship has sailed, we are moving forward.

      2. Jort, I challenge you to reflect on the unspoken biases in your words. You have one perspective — but it’s not everyone else’s. It suggests West Seattle outcomes that are not politically implementable. Being narrowly convinced that you are right and that any other perspective on having a different process is literally “incorrect” just screams of a narrow-minded more opinionated perspective.

        This is why I suggest both having a committee of community users who are riders as well as a broader objective assessment of the situation.

        Finally, it may be that Link would emerge to be best through objective analysis — and probably with considerable design variation to that voted in ST3 or currently in the refined WSBLE alternatives (and let’s not ignore that the current alternatives already have very different aspects from the ST3 promises so they no longer the same thing). I’m not saying that it’s wrong; I’m only saying that now is the time to look more broadly at modes. After all, only BRT and Link light rail (with the design expectations during that era) were the only project modes studied in 2013-15 before ST3 was assembled.

      3. After all, only BRT and Link light rail (with the design expectations during that era) were the only project modes studied in 2013-15 before ST3 was assembled.

        You should probably put BRT in quotes. As in, they studied “BRT”, but found it to be slow, as the bus was stuck in traffic on the freeway, and getting through downtown. They never studied a serious BRT proposal (a new bus tunnel, improvements to the freeway, etc.).

    2. Gondola could make sense in two contexts

      1. West Seattle bridge is going away midcentury. Ross’s BRT vision would require a new car high-bridge across the Dwamish in ~30 years, so building a gondola in lieu of WS Link in the 2030s would enable removal rather than replacement of the high bridge at its end of life.

      2. Link serves Delridge and heads immediately south to White Center & Burien. In this scenario, a gondola functions as just a last mile transfer to the Junction

      1. In addition, a Delrdge to White Center line could add stops in the Duwamish that won’t get stops now.

        Unlike swapping streetcar for a first hill stop, this option seems like it creates more winners than the default option…

        The idea of a gondola crossing downtown seems a bit unwieldly though. Most Gondolas I have ridden only have two stops because transfers are a pain… I would suspect a single gondola would just run from the Junction straight to sodo… maybe a stop in Delridge?

        There’s no way a 90 degree turn and then a gondola to International District is happening.

        If ST is even willing to drop the Junction from their list.

        Remember, multiple folks in power are from West Seattle… if anything I suspect West Seattle will get the most expensive option possible.

      2. There is great opportunity for doing just what you say in #2 at grade along the base of the hill to the west of Delridge. You can get all the way to Sylvan Way, with a couple of stops right below High Point, on the ground.

        Once there, it would have to be elevated most of the way to Burien.

      3. Running the train south on Delridge has the same fundamental problem as any train to West Seattle — it offers very little compared to the bus. You are basically reproducing the freeway — billions for a new rail lane that isn’t much faster. It wouldn’t get that many riders, which means the capacity advantages of rail are more than offset by the high cost.

        That being said, it does have more potential, simply because you could have more stops for the same amount of money (probably). Cut and cover for most of it would be pretty cheap, as would the stations. You could put them in every 1/2 mile or so (like a real subway). In a lot of cases, there is nothing there, but just like much of our system, the hope would be that development would occur later (TOD).

        The buses would still have to terminate at one of the stations, or keep going to downtown. Assume the former. I don’t see how the gondola gets you much. A bus will do the exact same thing. Of course a gondola would be nice, but I don’t see anything special about the connection between the Junction and Delridge, given that the 50 makes that connection quickly, and it would be trivial to send the C looping around to Delridge and ending at say, the college (https://goo.gl/maps/hEvsYuRS8aBapDRQ8). There are no natural obstacles there, and with plenty of buses heading that way, the gondola really isn’t needed. Sure, it would be cool — but you could say that about much of our system. Various parts of the 44 or 8 would get a lot more riders than this would with a gondola.

        The exception would be High Point. There *is* a natural obstacle between it and Delridge. As of the last census, High Point had the most density of any area in West Seattle (it may have been passed by now). Juneau makes the most sense for a station on Delridge, while Raymond is closer to the center of things at High Point (https://goo.gl/maps/8KbXVCji473cprv26). You might also add a station on the other side, to the college. If going across on Juneau is the only practical option, then you could hope for TOD. Either way, you would need a lot of development in all the places. South Seattle College (my alma mater) is much smaller than the other two of Seattle’s community colleges. It would need to grow, parts of High point would need to grow, and most of all, the area around Delridge would need to grow. It can’t *just* be a station. It has to be a destination.

        That’s because gondolas don’t work really well as last mile solutions. This is another reason why the gondola to the Junction doesn’t make sense. If the Junction area gets really big, then at around 5:30 PM, you have a lot of people getting off the train, waiting in line to take the gondola up the hill. The big advantage of the gondola (very low dwell times) is lost, because of the lineup. Of course if there aren’t many people at the Junction, then it doesn’t make sense to spend a bunch of money saving a handful of people a little bit of time. The same flaw exists with connecting to SoDo (its not a destination, its just a stop).

        Gondolas only make sense when you directly connect two big destinations with good all-day demand between the two spots. If there was no Link, then a gondola between Capitol Hill and the UW would be a reasonable project. It wouldn’t change the system (there would be no truncations) but it would greatly improve the speed in which one can take a trip that thousands take throughout the day.

    3. “Gondola’s make sense when the terrain is unfavorable for street, but in the case of West Seattle there is a freaking highway between either ends of where they want to put a gondola! In what world does this make sense?”

      In the world where a gondola costs less than light rail and the volume of passengers isn’t high. Proponents say it would cost less although this would beed to be confirmed. The volume of passengers isn’t high because there are no highrises in West Seattle. That highway is currently out of commission and needs to be rebuilt, so it’s not “there” in the sense that you can just use it.West Seattle has steep hills and a cliff on the east side, and gondolas are good at handling that.
      Link will not use it, so the real comparison for a gondola is to a new light rail bridge. BRT is not in any of the official plans and it would be hard to get transit-priority lanes without widening the bridge to keep all the GP lanes. Widening the bridge would cost a lot of money.

      “the single, primary goal of the WS Gondola campaign is, strangely, not to actually build a gondola to West Seattle: the goal is to cancel the light rail line to West Seattle.”

      Maybe. It depends who the proponents are. It’s likely you’re right but I wouldn’t want to accuse them without knowing for sure.

      The biggest hurdle for a gondola is that it’s late in the game to argue for it. ST3 passed five years ago, and it would be hard for ST to explain to taxpayers why it should be able to divert their tax money to a gondola when they voted for light rail. You can argue that it’s the best and most cost-effective mode for the corridor, but it’s so far from the usual range of options that it would be hard politically to get it approved. The Alternatives Analysis requires a fair consideration of all reasonable alternatives. BRT is always an alternative for light rail, but gondolas are so little-used in the US it would be hard to argue they’re a failsafe alternative.

      Actually, if the proponents are trying to get ST to switch to gondola, then they’re not going to get Link or Skylink cancelled. ST wouldn’t cancel light rail without a definite alternative in place. Not unless it has to cancel it due to budget limitations.

      1. BRT is not in any of the official plans and it would be hard to get transit-priority lanes without widening the bridge to keep all the GP lanes. Widening the bridge would cost a lot of money.

        There already are bus-lanes on most of the bridge. There are really two trouble spots. The first is the weave, the second is the big loop to get onto SR 99. There are various ways to fix it, but neither would be especially expensive. My proposal is listed here: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/08/03/build-real-brt-for-west-seattle/, under the heading “Making it Work”.

        You don’t need to widen the bridge. You essentially extend out the Spokane Street Viaduct (something we did recently). Based on that project (which was much bigger than what I have in mind) I figure it would cost well under $200 million for the new lane and the new ramp from the viaduct to the SoDo expressway (and that is probably being conservative). It is also quite possible that with much cheaper improvements (especially ramp meters) you could accomplish much the same thing for a lot less money.

        If you goal is to just get to SoDo, then that would do it. The bus would be faster than the gondola 9 times out of 10. To be fair, the gondola would be more frequent, but since it would only serve three stops, it’s effective frequency would be the same for the vast majority of riders (and you have the extra time making the transfer, as well as the big lines during rush hour).

        BRT is not in any of the official plans

        Yes, and this is the problem. There were several options studied for light rail to West Seattle. For the line to Ballard, there were a bunch, including some that would have been quite slow. Yet the only “BRT” plan was not much different than what we have now. The idea of a bus plan that would be as fast as a train (from the on-ramps) was never looked at. A new bus tunnel (pretty much essential for such a thing) was never considered. This is shocking when you think about. An option that would quite likely save billions of dollars and result in more time savings for riders was not studied. Either people aren’t aware, or they just shrug their shoulders and ignore this level of incompetence (or malfeasance) while hoping they do better in the future.

    4. Gondola’s make sense when the terrain is unfavorable for street, but in the case of West Seattle there is a freaking highway between either ends of where they want to put a gondola!

      Well said — good channeling :)

  4. It is very, very important to understand the single, primary goal of the WS Gondola campaign is, strangely, not to actually build a gondola to West Seattle: the goal is to cancel the light rail line to West Seattle.

    Discussion of BRT and all of that is pointless when you begin to understand that the primary goal is rooted in making sure the “tall concrete rail towers” of so many internet comment sections aren’t built. The goal IS NOT to build effective transportation. The next time Marty Westerman and his posse of anti-rail advocates shows up to your community organization’s meeting to pitch their “Make believe that a gondola is feasible for just long enough to throw a wrench into light rail planning” presentation, watch them instantly and seriously zip their mouths completely shut when you ask them to answer this simple question: “If and when Sound Transit and/or the City dumps the gondola plan, will you instead support the construction of the voter-approved light rail?” They won’t, because their goal is 100 percent to cancel the project. They don’t like the rail line, period, end of story.

    What I really, really wish is that people would see this effort for exactly what it is: a community organization aggressively weaponizing the Seattle Process to create enough uncertainty to erode community support for the light rail.

    In other words, it is professional, highly-organized concern trolling (“we want mass transportation, but we have ‘concerns’”) and it should be shoved off the broken West Seattle Bridge to drown in the Duwamish River forever.

    1. I think funding is the bigger issue for rail to West Seattle.

      Right now the ST N. King Co. subarea is around $13 billion short when including the correct cost for the second transit tunnel (which will require the N. King Co. subarea to pick up half the tunnel’s cost overruns, and the four other subareas half unless they balk). I am not a gondola fan, but unless ST finds an additional $13 billion lying around (assuming those current budget estimates are accurate) — and Seattle finds the money for a new bridge — there really isn’t much opponents of light rail to West Seattle have to do, and to be honest I was not aware of a large organized opposition by West Seattle residents to light rail. Rather their demand — as I understood it — was no loss of car capacity plus light rail, not unlike Ballard.

      The problem for politicians when it comes to ridding Seattle and its neighborhoods of roads for cars is Seattle residents love their cars, and there are 460,000 cars in Seattle alone. Hence SDOT just increased the time cars can use the lower W. Seattle bridge, because of the outrage, and why the major selected the quickest method to restore (car) traffic across the W. Seattle bridge. If I remember Dan Ryan’s article correctly, 4 to 5 times as many people use the W. Seattle Bridge every day as cross by the bus. The very first demand by West Seattle residents for any new bridge was no loss of car capacity, which pretty much made a new bridge with dedicated rail too expensive because it would have been so wide (and tall). So the mayor wisely punted.

      I am afraid light rail to West Seattle and Ballard pretty much went into completing the spine to the Snohomish Co. border and S. King Co. If the real debate is buses vs. a gondola I would go with buses, but you still may need a second transit tunnel to avoid basically a stub of a rail line, and I get the idea ST is getting cold feet about digging so deep under 5th Ave. after the last tunneling project.

    2. Jort, the only way to diminish the gondola enthusiasm is through objective study. Sure the motivations may be nefarious even if only at a subconscious level. However if the gondola is to ever be put to rest it has to be studied in some way and the disadvantages of that — multiple transfers, slow speeds, ADA, staffing requirements fir operations and maintenance, overhead property rights, etc — have to be objectively presented.

      I have faith that enough people can be objective to come to a conclusion based on facts and not just dreams.

      1. Lets be clear on a couple of things — first of all, almost everyone in West Seattle wants better mass transit. Even car drivers want better mass transit so it clears up the road space for them. West Seattle voted strongly in favor of ST3, especially in the Junction area. The Junction association is not stupid, they know light rail will bring more customers and want the station as close to California St as possible.

        The gondola group is taking advantage of people who are a bit out of the loop on light rail planning and advertising that the gondola will be FINISHED in 2025. Obviously there is not the tiniest shred of evidence to support that claim, but they have caught the attention of community members who want mass transit delivered FASTER than light rail as well as those who do not want their houses bulldozed by the light rail. The current preferred alignment bulldozes hundreds of houses so an alternative that saves those properties is attractive. It doesn’t matter since the gondola is never going to gain any traction with Sound Transit…the most that would ever happen is that they get their wish for a study like the immersed tube tunnel and we waste $250K concluding that a gondola isn’t feasible.

        Regarding Jort’s comment on light rail alignment. It’s not as simple as following the existing bridge/highway right-of-way with light rail. That was presented as an alternative at level 1 and it was rejected for failing Sound Transit’s metrics, mostly due to the poor placement of the Delridge station. Some of the more recent alternatives (Yancy-Andover) are sort of a modified version of that but you still end up with a station east of Nucor which is less than ideal. If you read through some of the recent slide decks from ST on WSBLE costs you’ll see that virtually every aspect of the project is running over budget. But there’s no doubt that the cost of grade separation is in the billions. If there’s one thing the gondola folks are not wrong about, it’s that WSBLE is on thin ice right now. We’ll see if some of the concerns are resolved when the DEIS comes out but I think more likely it will be a bit of a reckoning of ideals vs. reality and even with federal infrastructure funding there’s going to be a reckoning ahead.

      2. almost everyone in West Seattle wants better mass transit. Even car drivers want better mass transit so it clears up the road space for them. West Seattle voted strongly in favor of ST3, especially in the Junction area.

        The more urban areas of West Seattle voted strongly in favor, while the less urban areas didn’t. If you look at the vote, West Seattle was nothing special: https://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/27084517/st3precincts.png. As I’ve said before, the vote had a lot more to do with general support for transit, as opposed to support of one project or another (otherwise, it is hard to see why huge swaths of the city that will get very little out of ST3 voted in favor).

        The gondola group is taking advantage of people who are a bit out of the loop on light rail planning

        Oh, I don’t know about that. If you have been paying attention, things look awfully grim for ST3 projects in general, and West Seattle Link specifically. There is talk of moving the Junction station well away from the Junction. There is even talk of initially only going as far as Delridge. That would mean forcing riders to transfer (significantly delaying most riders) or having only a handful of people use the train.

        Sound Transit’s inability to design and build light rail systems (oops, didn’t realize our trains are so long) gave the gondola fans a perfect opportunity to push for their favorite mode. Of course their numbers are unrealistic, and it is clearly the wrong mode for the area. But ST’s numbers were unrealistic, and light rail in clearly the wrong mode for West Seattle as well. All of this makes their arguments sound quite reasonable.

        I think the gondola folks are just as sincere as the folks who came up with ST3. Both don’t understand much about mass transit, but they have a favorite mode, and want to push for it wherever possible (even in areas where it is inappropriate).

      3. “Sound Transit’s inability to design and build light rail systems (oops, didn’t realize our trains are so long)”

        What? When has that been an issue?

      4. @Mike — My understanding is that is why the original proposal for The Junction Station (on Alaska) won’t work. The platform is longer than the gap between streets. If that is incorrect, then my apologies. But it is weird that it is no longer being considered, given that it looks like the best option (from a cost benefit standpoint).

        Regardless, the fact remains that they are looking at rather large cost overruns, and in my opinion, making things worse than they originally proposed, not better.

    3. Opponents of a West Seattle gondola fall into two categories: opinionated and informed. If Jort had read the SkyLink website (https://www.westseattleskylink.org), he’d have been informed that (a) ST vetted gondolas in 2014 as HCT connectors between trunk lines and local, off-spine areas like West Seattle, (b) ST’s finding aligns with RCW, (c) the SkyLink team strongly supports ST’s regional LR plan, (d) ST is $11.5 billion in debt and SkyLink will save them $2 billion, (e) SkyLink can be delivered by 2025, vs. 2031 or later for LR, (f) SkyLink construction & operation doesn’t displace businesses & up to 200 residents, or interfere with Port, maritime & Nucor operations, unlike LR, (g) SkyLink is more environmentally sound & sustainable than LR, (h) SkyLink has double the capacity needed for ridership ST predicts in 2040. Finally, the likelihood of getting the WS Link built (with never-before attempted 150-foot support pylons), and connecting it south through 3-5 miles of WS to White Center is slim to zero, due to the fabulous cost of bulldozing hundreds of residential & business areas, or trying to tunnel under them and build costly underground stations. Your opinions inform the SkyLink proponents, so thank you for offering them.

  5. If another passenger starts sneezing uncontrollably, I can’t think of a mode of public transit I’d rather be on less. You can’t move away from the sneezer, and you can’t exit the gondola for 14 minutes.

    1. The end-to-end travel time would be around fifteen minutes, and if you’re getting off at Delridge it would be shorter. So they wouldn’t be sneezing very long before you’d be getting off anyway.

  6. The Urbanist recently reported[1] that a number of north Seattle routes (43, 49, 62, 65, 345, 373) would be losing their STBD funding in September. Is there any way to find out what that funding is supporting right now, and whether Metro will be backfilling any of that? I’ve been all over the Metro and SDOT websites but haven’t been able to figure out what route-level support the STBD provides, though there are some very pretty glossies that give the general system-level details.

    [1] https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/03/30/sdot-proposes-route-20-to-improve-northgate-restructure-and-boosts-west-seattle-service-with-prop-1-revenue/

    1. Metro doesn’t have money to backfill them; that’s why the STBD is funding them. And Metro lost revenue in the pandemic, which is still ongoing. At times Metro or SDOT has published lists of STBD-supported routes or included it in the semi-annual service change announcements but I don’t know of a current one. The powerpoint in the first link of the Urbanist article has an indirect answer.

      You can also go by what Metro service was like in 2015 before the TBD. The 5, 8, 10, 11, and 49 were half-hourly evenings. The 40, 41, and 120 were half-hourly or hourly evenings. The 11 was half-hourly Saturdays. The night owls were funded by a special city appropriation. (Metro stopped funding them in the 2014 cuts.) So the TBD is a large part of what makes the full-time frequent network frequent.

      The powerpoint has a contradiction: the 49 loses TBD funding on slide 22 but gets TBD funding on slide 11 as part of the Northgate Link reorganization. Maybe that’s just sloppy wording. Or the additional funding may refer to just the slight reroute and rewiring at U-District Station and the lost funding refers to deleting trips.

      The cuts to worry about are the 2, 3, 12, 24, 33, 43, 49(?), 62, 65, 125, 345, 373 (slide 18), and RapidRide C and D (slide 15), and of course the Northgate-Lake City service (routes 41 and 75).

      The TBD’s biggest investment was splitting the C and D and extending the C to SLU and the D to Pioneer Square. That took a third of its revenue. The slide is unclear but it seems to say the TBD is transferring that burden to Metro and Metro will cut the equivalent number of service hours from the routes. I assume that will be in evening service. Note that the reason the C was extended to SLU was that the existing transit was melting down with the new highrises so Metro desperately needed additional SLU-downtown capacity. So that part of the C can’t be deleted without replacement, at least daytime.

      I don’t understand what the TBD is funding on the 62. I thought Metro made it a full-time frequent route. I could see deleting half the evening runs east of Roosevelt, where ridership drops significantly. But they shouldn’t delete Wallingford and Fremont service, especially with the loss of the 26 to downtown noted earlier.

      1. Thanks, that makes sense. It actually is the 62 I’m most curious about, since the 15-minute weekend service is a major improvement over the 16 for us, and losing that on top of losing the 26 is going to make Wallingford a lot less of a transit utopia. I guess we do have weekend service on the 31 to look forward to.

      2. You could ask SDOT for more details on the 62. I doubt it will lose all 15-minute evening service, because Metro has been investing in it as a future corridor, as it did earlier with N 40th Street/U Village. 40th used to have no all-day service, and then when Metro put the local 74 on it it became very popular, so it doubled down on it with a 31/32/75 through-route, which not only increased service on 40th but also between the U-District and U-Village/Children’s, and the through-route allows a one-seat ride from Children’s to 40th and Fremont. This has been immensely popular, and the 31/32 on 40th probably have as many riders as the 44 on 45th now or maybe even more.

        Metro tried to do the same thing with the 62. It serves several overlapping markets, including new crosstown service between Fremont, Greenlake, and Roosevelt. That has become immensely popular in itself, and will become more so with Northgate Link. The eastern part was an attempt to increase ridership on NE 65th and get full-time frequency to Magnuson Park (which has low-income housing, NGOs, and NOAA as well as the park). That segment has been lagging but it will probably increase with Roosevelt Station too. It’s ridiculously hard to get from Magnuson Park to the rest of Seattle without Roosevelt Station. So I think Metro will keep prioritizing the 62 for all these reasons. It’s also the only connection between Latona and 40th to downtown as we’ve discussed earlier: a 30-minute coverage ride to transfer at U-District Station isn’t very appealing.

  7. Throwing this out to the horde. If you live in a place that is considered hip, but will not see light rail until 2040 (say, hypothetically, Ballard); would you sell your place in order to buy a place cheaper and close to soon to be open light rail (Northgate, U District) but does not have the hipster/walkability of a your previous hood?

    1. Because commissions are involved, I would maybe suggest renting a new place and renting the old place to someone else first.

      I would also look at the commuting requirements. If a new commute to work can eliminate a transfer, it’s worth considering.

      Finally, one often wants quieter surroundings as we get older. A hip neighborhood today may feel like a zoo in ten years.

    2. U District walkability is quite different from Northgate. U district I might consider but Northgate probably not. Both offer quite a lot of transit connectivity to places outside the area.

      Do you travel often for work? Then maybe being close to an airport / Amtrak connection is important.

      In theory, when the nearby MAX green line opened, it increased the value of my place some 3x what I paid for it, but haven’t tried to actually sell it. ($149k in 2005, line opened in 2009, supposedly place was worth $450k in 2010) Property prices at the three new stations are probably already factored in to some extent, but you might see it climb after opening. MAX blue line saw some $1 billion in new development along it from 1986 to 1992, and that was back when $1 billion was a lot of money. That was also before they changed the awful Portland zoning “freeze Portland in amber” policies to be a bit more like plaster of Paris.

    3. I would stay put. Taking the train to places is nicer than a bus, but being able to just walk to places is nicer still.

      1. You don’t give much info. Condo or house? Old or young? Married or single? Kids or planning on having kids? Work commute? What equity do you have?

        Generally transit is not the prime factor. Schools, safety, location are more important. Kids mean schools, a wife means safety are more important. If your wife is like mine you ain’t making the decision, and a good wife is priceless.

        Almost always I would take neighborhood over transit (and I don’t mean nightlife), and valuations prove that. Generally a unit in an expensive neighborhood will appreciate faster than a unit in a less expensive neighborhood.

        I think the advice to rent first is wise. Even if it is just a two week Airbnb. I can’t count the number of friends who retired to the sunbelt or Suncadia and then moved back, but found themselves priced out of the market, or at least their former neighborhood. .

        I also don’t know how to value proximity to light rail. There was a recent post noting new condos farther away from the planned Mountlake Terrace link station were more valuable. Of course light rail to Ballard in 2040 might be optimistic. How old will you be in 2050?

        It also wouldn’t hurt to talk to a real estate agent, knowing they might be skewed by the commission on a sale.

      2. Suncadia the golf resort on Cle Elum? I had a conference there. I couldn’t believe people would want to live there, or would want a second house there as large as their first house. But it gave me an insight into what Mar-el-Lago must be like. Although I assume Mar-el-Lago is more luxurious and has more amenities and is maybe closer to a city.

    4. I lived in Ballard but left because of the 30-45 minute overhead of getting into and out of it and because most of my activities were in the eastern half of the city or Aurora or the Eastside. That was before RapidRide D or the 40 so it was worse then. If I were still living in Ballard, I think I’d wait to try the transfers to Northgate Link before abandoning it. The 44 and 45 transfers aren’t that bad: the biggest problem now is there’s no Link to transfer to. Or at least, there is Link but it’s significantly further away. You could get downtown in the time it takes to get to UW Station to transfer to Link.

      If I were a homeowner instead of a renter I’d be even less inclined to move. Moving requires a place available to move to, and there aren’t many houses or condos for sale now, and the likelyhood you can find something that’s as good as your existing house for the same price as your existing house is low. My friend has lived near the 5 and has owned his house for many years, and when he was considering selling it to a developer to move closer to Roosevelt or NE 65th I urged him not to, because it’s unlikely he could find a house as good or that he could afford. The developer ultimately withdrew its preliminary offer and he was glad he didn’t move.

      1. The original sales pitch made some sense for Suncadia: 90 minutes from Seattle, sunny, close to ski resorts, hiking, skiing, golf…

        At least for a second house.

        Turns out it is very windy, and very cold in the winter. The golf courses were underwhelming. Locals hate people from Seattle, in Patagonia and driving Lexus’s or a high end SUV and ordering red wine. This is Fox News country.

        Of course retiring to “Sun City Grand” is worse. Dinner at 4:30, gardens that grew at the pace of a glacier, no kids or young people, whose electric golf cart was fastest, daily ambulances removing the dead …

        Usually it was the wife who pulled the plug, and the fact grandkids don’t go to you, you go to them.

    5. Northgate isn’t cheap: You would be hard pressed to find a home below 500K. Condos will presumably shoot up in price in and around Northgate link. Professionals with enough bank will take on the cost and likely move.

    6. My Dad did that. But it was coincidental. He sold our family house in Ballard for about 2 million times what he bought it for. Just kidding. But not that much of an exaggeration. He did not need a family house anymore. He moved to Lynwood in 2017. One year after ST3 passed. He lives very close to the Lynwood Transit Center. He didn’t even know that when he bought the place. I soon filled him in. He will get a station in 3 years. Not 20. And he has ridden it. So he knows he will enjoy it. He voted for St1, 2, and 3. But like I said it is completely coincidental. But he is too old to care about hip Ballard. When he moved there it was not hip.

      1. That comment was for mdnative. I didn’t realize where it was going to show up in the comment section. I am sorry.

      2. Thanks for sharing the story above about your dad’s situation. Hopefully he’s found the change of venue to his liking. I have enjoyed reading the historical tidbits that you’ve picked up from your father that you’ve occasionally related to readers here on this blog. I sometimes ask my spouse about one thing or another that you’ve mentioned in your comments, my spouse being a Seattle native and myself an east coast transplant. Fwiw, my spouse grew up on Beacon Hill whereas I lived in the CD for my first five years after moving to Seattle, then ten years in Wallingford before we bought our current home in Edmonds.

    7. Good question. Let me expand on it. If you had a friend who lived out of state, and was moving to the Seattle area for work, which neighborhood would you suggest? Of course, it depends on where their job is. But, if someone said they got a job at Microsoft’s main Redmond campus, I would suggest living near Downtown Redmond Station. I really like the area. It has a lot of what the Bellevue Station area has, but it’s not as cold and corporate, and it won’t have the years of construction dt Bellevue will suffer through. I can’t think of a scenario where I would recommend Ballard, unless the person’s job was in Ballard. Shout-out to Bitterroot and Hot Cakes.

      1. Redmond is going to have a simillar construction wave as Bellevue. The buildings will be ~6 stories rather than 40, but it won’t be much less disruptive than in Bellevue.

      2. Moving from out of state has different decision factors. Somebody moving from Ballard has to factor in not living in Ballard anymore and losing their existing house. Somebody coming from out of state can choose any neighborhood they like best.

        The first thing I would to is try to get a job in Seattle so I wouldn’t’ have to work in Redmond. Microsoft’s Redmond campus will be much more convenient with Link but it’s still an office-park ghetto. Downtown Redmond has an impressive number of independent retailers and some urban apartments, but the percentage of one-story buildings with surface parking really bothers me, and those office parks just west of downtown. Will they really be redeveloped by twenty years? Why haven’t they been redeveloped yet? That’s the same thing I ask about Lynnwood and Federal Way.

        Still, if I worked at Microsoft and lived in the Eastside, I might choose downtown Redmond or the Spring District or downtown Bellevue or Crossroads. Downtown Kirkland would be another possibility but it’s so far from Link and I’d want to be near Link. Or I could live in Capitol Hill which will have a one-seat Link ride to Redmond, or the U-District where I’d have the choice of Link or the 542.

        I’d only live in Ballard if I worked in Ballard or nearby (downtown, U-District, Northgate). I worked in Ballard and lived in the U-District for four years. Then I both worked and lived in Ballard, and it was nice to be able to walk to work. I found Ballard pleasant: quiet, low-key, low-stress, with lots of bars and clubs and retail to walk to. (There was even a BJJ school in the firehouse.) Not the range of retail as the U-District, but I could take a bus to Fred Meyer just down the road. But I learned that there’s a 30-45 minute overhead to get from Ballard to any regional transfer, or even to my gym at 100th & Aurora. So I wouldn’t live there again if I worked in the Eastside or spent most of my time outside Ballard, and that’s the reason I’ve been so big on getting Link to Ballard, to shrink that overhead. The fourth largest urban village in Seattle shouldn’t have such a large overhead to get into and out of; that hinders it from reaching its potential in the region’s housing solution, if people are reluctant to live there or go there because of the overhead. But the neighborhood is so pleasant I might want to move back there when I’m older and not working far away from it.

      3. Redmond’s growth center ends at the river, so I don’t expect the office parks west of the river to transform any time soon, but I do expect pretty much all the 1-story + parking lots in downtown to be redeveloped in short order. It’s not as robust as the current Bellevue boom, but there is a good pipeline of projects in the Redmond permitting queue.

        As to why that hasn’t happened yet in Lynnwood and Federal Way, I make this point on the blog about once a month, and I’ll repeat it again because I think it’s hard for Seattle-centric readers to grasp – outside of Seattle and core East King cities, rents simply are not high enough to pay for vertical mixed use (1+5, etc.) construction techniques and/or to pay for underground structured parking. In Bothell, the city had to do heavy legwork assembling parcels to support mixed used development. In Shoreline, all the new development appears to be wood-stick construction with minimum parking provided. We studied this when I was in Issaquah and the analysis said that rents were simply not yet high enough in central Issaquah to justify redeveloping 1 story shopping centers into multi-story mixed use. Look at Renton – there is a large office development that’s brand new on the waterfront, yet despite offering rental prices 1/3 of the going rate in Bellevue or Seattle the building is mostly empty. At the current cost of construction, it simply doesn’t make sense to develop in FW or Lynnwood until the project timeline means you will have an open Link station to market to prospective tenants.

      4. It really depends on how they spend their time, and what they like to do. It also depends on what part of Ballard you are talking about.

        Like most of Seattle, getting to downtown is not that hard. Even from Sunset Hill, you can get to downtown in little over a half hour, depending on your starting point and destination. Not great, but roughly the same as Redmond to downtown Seattle.

        But that is rush hour. The rest of the time, you are dealing with a long walk to a bus stop. Along the corridor of the 40, things are better (and will get even better in the future). Closer to 15th, and you have both the express to downtown during rush-hour, and the all-day connection to Uptown and downtown. Ballard has a somewhat awkward connections to the rest of the city. The 44 is slow. The 40 takes a winding path to Northgate. East-west travel in the city is bad (by transit or car) and Ballard is far to the west. This also means that if you are a hiker, it is a longer drive out of town.

        On the other hand, you could be close to a very nice, thriving neighborhood with a lot character. There are also a ton of breweries to the east of Old Ballard. You also aren’t that far from Discovery Park (in my opinion the nicest park in the city). In general there is great walking around the neighborhoods; good sidewalks, with a straightforward grid — great for short and long walks. Like someone in Magnolia, if you are wealthy you could have one of the nicest views available in any major city. But unlike Magnolia, not be so socially isolated. The buses don’t make it easy to get everywhere, but you can get to Fremont easily. While there may be ups and downs in terms of frequency and routing, the bus system overall is improving, as investments are made in both speed and frequency. If the 44 can be sped up (as with the “Corridor 5” plan here: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/) it could change the dynamic for the area. Oh, and then there is biking — maybe in twenty years they will finally finish the Missing Link, which will make it easy to bike to Fremont, Gas Works and the UW (from lower Ballard).

        But it is still far to the west. Even after ST3, the vast majority of the people in Seattle won’t be within walking distance of a station. It will change some things, but not others. For example, a commute from greater Northgate to downtown will be roughly the same, but a trip from there to Capitol Hill will be much easier. It won’t change Ballard for a really long time, and even then, only marginally (not the way Link has changed, and is changing Capitol Hill).

        As long as you know that you are somewhat isolated from much of the city, it may be worth it. Like most of Seattle, it is a matter of trade-offs (which is one of the redeeming factors of the city).

      5. AJ, how high would rents have to be to pay for vertical mixed use (1+5, etc.) construction techniques and/or to pay for underground structured parking? Rat trap 1 bedroom studios in Seatac rent for over $1,050 per month as it is. I’d argue rents in South King County have reached that threshold at this point.

      6. I don’t know, I’m not in that field, but apparently it’s more that $1k/month for a studio given the general absence of new development in south King.

        For vertical mixed use, the relevant rental price is the retail on the ground floor. Purely residential developments do pencil out, as there are several wood-stick apartments going up throughout Issaquah, but that isn’t what Redmond downtown is zoned for.

  8. The 49’s reduction may be related to the 60’s increase. Transit fans have long asked Metro to replace the 49 with a north-south route, and Metro’s long-range plan intends to do so. The 49 was boosted in U-Link as a stopgap until Northgate Link, because it was ridiculous to expect people to take a bus from 45th to UW Station and take Link just one stop to Capitol Hill Station, especially with the long transfer walk at UW Station. And it’s even more ridiculous if you’re going from 50th to the Broadway Market (both north of those two Link stations). I did that on Link’s first day, going from the University library to the Capitol Hill library, and realized that boosting the 49 then was a good decision. But that need diminishes with U-District Station.

    The 60’s soon 12-minute daytime frequency is the same as the 49’s pre-covid frequency, so it could be that Metro is switching the two in preparation for the north-south route, which will probably come with RapidRide G. Plus it addresses equity issues on the 60, which Metro and all the governments are keen on now.

    The future north-south route is envisioned as a 49/36 from the U-District to Othello, with a new routing on 12th south of John. That would create a grid corridor like the part-time 9. The 12th routing is to address longstanding pleas for service on 12th. It doesn’t address the steep hill between 12th and the Broadway medical establishments though, so I don’t know whether Metro will have an adequate response to that. It could say “the streetcar is there”, but the streetcar doesn’t go north of Denny.

    1. I’d rather have the 36/49 use the 60’s route north of Jackson, and for the 60 itself to stay on 12th, assuming no other changes. Given that RRG is going to rework everything in the CD, I don’t think that will be case.

      But the bigger thing I’m wondering about is how the creation of the 20 is going to affect the 131/132 and the 28.

    2. Running on 12th would be nice if the buses were frequent (around 6 minutes all-day). I don’t see that happening. We don’t have the money for that. Given that, having buses take similar, but slightly different routes in the area is a mistake. I would straighten out the 60, combine it with the 49, run it every 12 minutes and call it a day. The streetcar runs every 12 minutes as well, and you would time the two. That means that if you got off Link at Capitol Hill, you would have a bus/streetcar running south every 6 minutes.

      I would then modify the 3/4 to make up for the loss of service in front of Harborview. The G (with 6 minute frequency) connects to Virginia Mason. That pretty much covers the detour part of the 60. I would use some of the savings (of the combined and straighter 60/49) to pay for sending the 106 to South Lake Union (via Boren). All of that would happen after Rapid Ride G. That would cost some money, but not a lot.

      With additional funding I would increase that segment of the 106. You could increase frequency on the whole thing, but I don’t think there would be a good service match (there is a lot more density on the northern tail). The simplest solution would be to send the 106 back to downtown, or somewhere else (e. g. over to MLK and then on up to 19th Avenue East to make up for the loss of part of the 8 and all of the 12, respectively). Then run a bus from South Lake Union to Boren to Mount Baker Station every ten minutes, or better yet six. The bus could also turn, and take the alternate route from Lower Queen Anne to South Lake Union. The 8 would go along Denny, while this bus would go via Thomas around to Mercer.

      Another option would be to have a timed overlay, doubling the frequency. This is cheaper, and 7.5 minutes (half the 106) would be very good. That would mean vehicles running on Broadway every six minutes, Madison every six minutes, and Boren every 7.5 minutes. That wouldn’t be that expensive, but it would lead to a huge leap in ridership.

      1. “I would then modify the 3/4 to make up for the loss of service in front of Harborview.”

        Do you mean increasing frequency? “Modify” to me means changing the alignment. Metro has rejected the Yesler Way plan for the 3/4. so it’s not likely to reconsider it in the near future. Do you have other alignment changes in mind? I would delete the 4 and make the 3 an ultra-frequent SPU-34th route. But that wouldn’t affect Harborview-downtown access except in frequency.

        “The simplest solution would be to send the 106 back to downtown, or somewhere else (e. g. over to MLK and then on up to 19th Avenue East to make up for the loss of part of the 8 and all of the 12, respectively).”

        You mean remain on MLK all the way to its northern end at Madison, then west as the 8 does to 19th?

        I could see an MLK-19th route, not necessarily the 106. Although 19th residents would probably say they want to go to downtown and First Hill, not to the nothingness of northern MLK.

    3. That is a good link AJ. Thanks. From what I can tell from the map most of the developments are subdivisions with single family houses, which isn’t surprising for Issaquah. Right now there is a lot of hesitancy among builders and developers over multi-family development, at least until the long term effects of the pandemic and working from home are better known. The sale of the 170+ new units on E. Capitol Hill to Seattle for affordable housing at $243,000/unit by the developer because they were not selling has spooked a lot of developers when it comes to new multi-family projects.

      You are also correct about the cost of retail in mixed use development. As noted in other posts, generally seven stories is the maximum a wood framed building can go under the codes. After that is steel framed, and there is a no-man’s land until around 22 stories at which point a steel framed building pencils out, especially with underground parking or any kind of affordable housing requirement.

      That is the rub right now for zoning in the International District, which I believe is around 14 stories max. Too low for steel framed buildings, but the residents feel anything higher will destroy the character of the ID, which is probably correct. No neighborhood is more at risk of gentrification than the ID, and that was the fight over the new Uwajimaya.

      Also once you get into steel framed buildings you narrow the number of qualified builders pretty dramatically, and those who are qualified of course are drawn toward 50 story buildings in downtown Bellevue. Meanwhile the cost of building materials is skyrocketing. https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-home-price-growth-accelerated-in-january-11617109259

      Mercer Island’s council is exploring this issue right now. Town center height limits are 3, 4 and 5 stories with three stories having no retail requirement.

      Below is a link to the outside consultant’s report noting three stories is generally profitable for housing only (at least on Mercer Island), but at least four stories are needed if retail is required on the ground floor (another issue is relieving the building owner of underground parking for the retail if required and using street parking, which is another issue, and requiring necessary costs like a HVAC system for restaurants to be part of the original build).

      https://mccmeetingspublic.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/mercerwa-meet-92290710ad754cccbabdb17237aaef0d/ITEM-Attachment-001-7466f961b56e48d5a904ec8f002d6203.pdf

      This report was met with a lot of citizen pushback because the complaint on Mercer Island is the newer, taller “mixed use” developments have resulted in much less retail space than the one story lots/buildings they replaced, and the capital rates were exaggerated to support greater height in order to pencil out with retail. Right now in the town center most of the retail and restaurants are located in older, one story developments because the lease rates are lower.

      The residents are not interested in more housing, or profitability for developers, because more housing and more population does not benefit existing residents, and MI can meet its KC housing growth targets through 2044 with natural infill development under its current SFH zoning. None of the new units will be remotely affordable except for a few 80% AMI units that are allowed reduced sf limits for the number of bedrooms. They want retail vibrancy, and are not getting that in exchange for additional height, which was the original promise.

      A Joy asks how much do rents have to be to support “vertical” mixed use development? That is a legitimate question, especially in a city in which rates are limited just by the market. So far what we have seen is a desire by builders and developers to build in the most expensive communities because the profit is much higher because the sales price or rent is much higher, although construction costs (other than appliances, furnishings, fixtures et al) are not much different. But they don’t like retail, and do whatever they can to defeat retail, and then all upzoning gives you are housing deserts with no retail or street vibrancy.

      I imagine the issues for Seatac in penciling out mixed use development are different (and Mercer Island’s dir. of planning recently went to Seatac, not voluntarily).

      But Seatac is an interesting case study. A few years ago they switched to a much more conservative council and planning commission, and now Seatac is pretty flush with cash from its airport fees and revenue (which is why it is not keen on developing all those airport parking lots that are cash cows), but is not nearly as keen on development, or becoming a massive housing development, certainly not affordable housing, especially after seeing what King Co. had in store for Renton when it came to emergency housing for the homeless in Seattle. Seatac like Renton is tired of being seen as a dumping ground or second class city.

      The market alone may be a drag on taller mixed use development in Seatac, but at the same time I don’t think Seatac sees taller mixed use developments with probably low cost construction and anemic retail as a good trade for those airport parking lots and all that cash.

      1. “The residents are not interested in more housing, or profitability for developers, because more housing and more population does not benefit existing residents”

        That’s what all nimby neighborhoods say. “We’ve got ours; screw everybody else.” But cities and counties need to look beyond the most privileged residents to the entire population. It’s not reasonable to keep 75% of the housing land in single-family amber for the shrinking percent of the population who already own a house when the county’s population is over two million and growing.It may have been fine seventy years ago but not now. Boston, New York, and Chicago densified their whole cities when they got large, but now King County cities can’t?

        And developer profits don’t matter. What matters is housing the population. And not making people live thirty miles away from where they work or want to live so that the closer-in areas can keep their neighborhoods low-density.

        “MI can meet its KC housing growth targets through 2044 with natural infill development under its current SFH zoning”

        That may be; I agree Mercer Island should have a low target because it’s an island, and having a large population with only one freeway and rail line for its entire access is problematic. It’s a bigger issue for the Wallingfords, Hawthorne Hills, Surrey Downs, and Clyde Hills of the world. But the general issue remains. It’s inequitable for low-density areas to insist on extraordinary privileges and subsidies, and it’s becoming a more acute problem as the population grows.

  9. It is a damning indictment of Link routing and the zoning around the stations that such a choice is even plausible.

  10. I just recieved my Sound Transit progress report mailer for 2021. The cover is a beautiful picture of a person walking over a pedestrian trail almost under a set of light rail tracks. Trees everywhere. Plus the picture makes you believe they are waliking uphill. But they are walking down hill. But I think that trail is the pedestrian bridge near Franklin High that goes near the Mt Baker Station. It just seems funny to me that their perfect picture for their mailer is this. According to many commentors here, this is one of the worst stations with the worst connections and the most dangerous intersections. Plus I think they are getting rid that walkway. Just thought it was funny.

  11. For anyone who believes work from anywhere is going to be a significant part of Microsoft’s future strategy, take a look at this 1 minute long video.

  12. Wow, thermal energy and 3 million sf of underground parking with charging stations for electric cars. I wonder when this project was ok’d and permitted. It had to be pre-pandemic. Microsoft has indicated it won’t return to in office work until Sept. and has issued a post-pandemic RTW formula allowing around 40% to work from home, 40% both home and office, and around 20% all office, mostly executives, which would certainly be more climate friendly than this project. My guess is whether to work remotely or not will be up to the employee in many cases.

  13. An Immersed Tube Tunnel UNDER is better than a Bridge OVER the Columbia River.

    The United States Coast Guard requires a new vertical and horizontal bridge clearance permit. An immersed tube tunnel (ITT) has no clearance problems.

    Sixty-two years ago British Columbia built an ITT under the 38-foot deep ship-channel of the Fraser River. A Columbia River ITT will be less difficult to build with a barge-channel of only 17-foot deep.

    British Columbia is planning a new ITT that will include Vancouver’s light rail SkyTrain. Light rail will be necessary for any new Columbia River crossing.

    An ITT can be half as long as a bridge. An ITT needs to go downing only 50 feet, a bridge needs to go up over 125 feet. This will allow flatter and shorter ITT grades that are better for both light rail and truck traffic.

  14. On the I-5 re-triping, the new lane should be HOV only, and the current one that ends around Royal Brougham extended north to meet it. In other words, make northbound Seneca an HOV-only off-ramp.

    Folks from I-90 can’t use Senecs, so the only Seattle residents that would use it would enter at Albeo, Michigan or Spokane/Columbian. All of them have better options through SoDo. Tyhe only folks affected would be commuters from SoKing or Pierce.

    If that’s not acceptable to WSDOT, just make a striped “pass-through” zone a hundred yards long by which SOV’s can cross to the ramp.

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