Pioneer Square

This is an open thread.

159 Replies to “News roundup: limited edition”

  1. RE: ST realignment —
    I’m in East King subareas. Nothing should be cut there because we will produce over-budget amounts of tax revenue. No way should we subsidize projects in the under-budget subareas (Pierce, Snohomish). Projects need to be scaled back there, as ST3 requires.

    1. The realignment process is to reorder projects and potentially phase some of the larger projects. Nothing is proposed to be ‘cut,’ though some parking structures might be deferred indefinitely, which is functionally the same.

      1. Hey AJ — how much excess projected revenue is the East King subarea supposed to generate before the ST3 taxes rollback?

      2. None. As per the original ST3 plan, subareas balance after the whole life of the plan.

        Subarea equity is trued up each time the Board submits a new levy, so if over time a subarea realizes excess projected revenue, that subarea has more capacity for new spending in future levies. In theory, East King could run out of things to spend money on and ask for lower taxes, but I don’t see that happening in the real world.

        East King is likely to have excess projected revenue because 1) cost increases in the middle of the ST3 plan skew away from East King, and 2) Bellevue’s current boom likely will generate revenues well above forecast. The most likely outcome is East King will have significant excess capacity make further investments across the subarea in a prospective ST4, while the other subareas will be presented with a (relatively) modest project list.

        Of course, with each new funding authorization WaLeg can throw out the old rules, but subarea equity seems to have strong political precedence so I don’t see the rules changing materially.

      3. I see the reason that East King has a better financial direction stemming from its less ambitious light rail investments. The Downtown Redmond extension is modest and the Kirkland-Issaquah line is mostly in publicly owned right of way. Had some other subareas had more modest light rail plans or chosen to use Stride, they too could have more money remaining.

        The second downtown Seattle tunnel cost is billed as a regional project. Unlike other projects, the Board members from all over the ST district have a vested interest in stepping in the tunnel cost problem. The tunnel funding challenge appears to need resolution by about 2025. The estimates are now off by billions! As much as it’s tempting to look at other projects, the ST3 cost issue front and center is this tunnel as part of the larger WSBLE project.

        If East King ultimately has more funds to spend, I believe that the deferred station at Lakemont would be first in line to receive them. Advancing the Issaquah connection by a few years may also be viable.

        I’m not convinced that the 405 corridor service is fully “resolved”. The congestion is bad many hours a day — particularly between Factoria and Renton — and the Express Lanes with Stride may not ultimately satisfy future leaders and riders. While there isn’t a defined upgrade project, one could evolve if a new funding proposal goes to voters.

        With many different public issues emerging (like banning gasoline cars and driverless vehicles advancements that may result them replace a feeder bus and park-and-ride function) as well as waiting to see what happens once 2025 comes and the ST2 lines open, the best approach may be to just watch and eat popcorn for the next 4-5 years.

      4. “I see the reason that East King has a better financial direction stemming from its less ambitious light rail investments.”

        Two people have said ST has extra money in ST3 but none have proven it. The interesting question is, why didn’t East King allocate all of it? Pierce saved up money in ST1 and 2 for a down payment on the Tacoma Dome extension in ST3, but what is East King saving it for? You’d think voters would have asked that question before election day. It’s not like they couldn’t have come up with something, with Renton wanting more and Kirkland dissatisfied with getting nothing downtown.

        The first thing that comes to mind is multi-line BRT. Instead of Stride North being one line, it would have multiple overlapping lines to more places, including downtown Kirkland, Bothell, and Woodinville. That was one of the two scenarios but ST deselected it because it cost more. Well, if ST has extra money, then that problem goes away. Then downtown Kirkland could have Stride to Bellevue, while the original line continues to bypass downtown Kirkland for better Bothell-Bellevue travel time.

      5. “Had some other subareas had more modest light rail plans or chosen to use Stride, they too could have more money remaining.”

        That’s just another way of saying, “if other subareas didn’t have projects go wildly over initial projects, they too could have more money remaining”

        East King is benefiting from 3 factors
        1) Likely more revenue over the life of the plan. Thank Amazon
        2) Early ST3 projects coming on track. So far, looks like Stride has been a great bet from a capital standpoint, with the 405 projects gradually improved while remaining on budget. But as Al points out, we haven’t actually run this mode yet, so still TBD if this was a good bet by East King.
        3) Later ST3 rail projects haven’t even been touched, so we have no idea how wildly over forecast the representative alignments may be for Issaquah-Kirkland. They are so far out they aren’t even relevant for realignment, but if they also are billions over budget, East King may not with up with ‘extra’ money left over.

        As to, “why didn’t East King allocate all of it” – because there was no excess money in 2016. At the time of the ST3 plan approval, the subareas were in balance.

      6. Mike: A branching upgrade to Stride is an excellent idea!

        I imagine a DT Kirkland – Juanita branch could be popular, and indeed, may even have higher ridership than the “Kirkland” light rail station. A consolation prize for getting neither Link to downtown nor the BRT system they had initially studied?

      7. East King is benefiting from 3 factors
        1) Likely more revenue over the life of the plan.
        2) Early ST3 projects coming on track. So far, looks like Stride has been a great bet from a capital standpoint, with the 405 projects gradually improved while remaining on budget.
        3) Later ST3 rail projects haven’t even been touched, , so we have no idea how wildly over forecast the representative alignments may be for Issaquah-Kirkland.

        Bingo. It is quite possible that revenue forecasts come in above that projected (the same is possible for Seattle), but it seems like a stretch to assume that overall, the East Side projects will be under budget. It is simply not true that they decided to “go small”, and are now sitting with a bunch of money for ST4. That wouldn’t make any sense, given the projects you (and Mike) mentioned, which would be popular.

        Very few of the East Side projects are cheap. The BRT projects are likely going to be under budget, but the savings could easily be eaten up by the rail projects. 405 BRT (only part of which is on the East Side) was supposed to be around 800 million in capital costs (which I assume includes a lot of parking) and another 600 million or so in operating costs (over 30 years). The Redmond extension is around a billion. Kirkland to Issaquah rail was supposed to be around 1.8 billion. The biggest project hasn’t been looked at, which means it is quite likely over budget as well. These are obviously big projects. They may seem small compared to North King (Seattle), but that is only because the subarea is small compared to Seattle.

        The most likely difference will be in revenue. This has happened before. Seattle and the East Side are doing well, but the other areas are not. In the past this hurt South King, and the Federal Way Station was delayed (indefinitely), requiring the passage of ST3 to finish it. The area I worry about is Everett (with the gradual loss of Boeing). Fortunately, the area includes all of Snohomish County, which means it is balanced out by the rest of the area, which should do OK. Renton may be hurt, but it is more than balanced out by being in East King.

        In general, it is way too soon to predict that one area will do a lot better than another.

      8. “Federal Way Station was delayed (indefinitely), requiring the passage of ST3 to finish it”

        Yes, but not due to the recession. Federal Way Station (320th) was never in ST2 because it couldn’t fit into South King’s budget when it also wanted more Sounder runs. So ST2 only went to Redondo (272nd). Then in the 2008 recession it was truncated to Angle Lake (200th). Later in the recovery it was re-extended to KDM (240th). The ST Express planning scenarios at the time had them terminating at KDM. Then ST3 superceded it and KDM was folded into Federal Way.

      9. Kent-Des Moines could be a great bus intercept with a new bus-only south half interchange at 240th. The bridge could do double duty for getting the Kent-Des Moines Rapid Ride past the mess at the existing interchange.

        But, Federal Way Link has sailed, so bus intercept will happen there for a while.

      10. With Federal Way open simultaneously, will there be any buses on I5 trying to access KDM? A bridge across 240th would be nice and might be the best option for buses accessing the station from the east, but I don’t see any reason to create an interchange there.

      1. That would be illegal.

        The board wants to use East King’s excess revenues to bail out projects in Pierce and Snohomish County, “for equity.” That’s why the pre-taxes-rollback projected revenues and expenses for the five subareas are kept hidden.

      2. It’s one tax district. The tax rate rolls back everywhere at the same time. That would be when all construction everywhere is finished and the bonds are paid down somewhat, nominally 2041.

        If East King has extra money after all its projects are complete, it can spend it on anything it wants. But since spending is district-wide rather than subarea-specific, East King may not be able to spend the extra until the other subareas are finished.

      3. Mike —
        You clearly have no idea what ST3 actually says about the five financial plans — one for each subarea — that the board is required to maintain and update. Read ST3, then get back to us.

      4. Comments about secession — and the unsophisticated article on The Urbanist — misunderstand several important points:

        1. Subarea equity. East King Co. already runs its own “regional” transit agency. It is called the East King Co. subarea. Best thing to ever happen to East King Co. It also contributes to Metro, and receives a somewhat proportional share of services, except serving most of east King Co. with bus service is impossible due to lack of density and sheer size. So some areas (Mercer Island, and others) effectively have no local bus service, but quite honestly there are many areas on the eastside that would have very low ridership even if service were frequent and comprehensive because of topography and a preference for driving. The eastside has always thought express buses using the existing freeways was a better and more flexible approach to transit, maybe because the eastside is so agnostic about transit and doesn’t believe it will change the world.

        2. Although East King Co. will likely have more revenue under ST ($5 billion after East Link is completed although farebox recovery on East Link will likely be closer to 20%) and ST 3, each subarea has its issues. But one common one among Pierce, Snohomish and East King Counties is they don’t really have many other areas to run rail after the spine, which is what is expensive. Issaquah to S. Kirkland (who even knew there was a north and south Kirkland) is stupid. Once the spine is complete their rail needs (if the need even really existed) are met. So funding shortfalls under ST 3 are not as apparent. In fact, Bellevue and Kirkland chose to not even run rail in the city centers.

        3. N. King Co. is a different issue. A big problem is the subareas were drawn when Seattle had all the money, and so to complete the regional spine (ST’s grand but foolish vision — if you are a Seattleite and don’t take transit to Lynnwood or the Hill Top often — ) placed a disproportionate burden on Seattle to run rail to the Snohomish Co. line, pay for 1/2 the second transit tunnel, and run rail to S. King Co. East King Co. paid for 100% of East Link and 100% of the east–west buses until East Link opens, but Snohomish and Pierce Counties got a screaming deal on the spine. But Seattle was easy to fool with its blind passion for any transit.

        4. The issues with the “current” $11.5 billion shortfall for ST 3 projects in N. King Co. are that figure does not include the true cost of the second transit tunnel, and is probably low knowing ST (after all it increased $9 billion in the last year). First ST used ST 3 revenue to complete the spine in N. KC, second it lowballed the cost estimates for ST 3 in N. KC to sell ST 3 to the region, third the pandemic created a big but manageable hole had estimates been honest, and fourth future general fund revenue/subsidies in N. King Co. are likely less long term than ST’s usual rosy estimates due to changes in working and likely loss of tourism revenue. The real issue with extending completion dates to collect more revenue is a losing game because ROW and construction costs go up faster than revenues come in, and ST is spending some of that ST 3 revenue to complete the spine. ST raises extending completion dates so it doesn’t have to admit 1 through 4 above. Unfortunately ST’s poor delivery and arrogance likely doom any kind of ST 4, in part because the other subareas don’t need a ST 4, or want one.

        5. Forget about ST 3 in N. King Co. Concentrate on the second transit tunnel, which everyone now knows is for West Seattle and Ballard, when the eastside was sold a bill of goods on ridership on East Link requiring a second transit tunnel to meet 8 minute train intervals. The four other subareas must share 1/2, and are not thrilled about that since it really does not benefit them. But the estimated cost was $2.2 billion, not the current $3.65 billion, and Pierce, Snohomish and S. King Co. are going to balk at paying an additional $276 million each for the true cost, even if they had it.

        6. More than the extra cost for the second transit tunnel is the terror of beginning construction with the last tunneling project fresh in everyone’s minds. Digging deep under 5th Ave. with deep underground stations is fraught with expensive complications and long delays. Complete the second tunnel first if you are serious.

        7. It was Bellevue that insisted on subarea equity. I wouldn’t worry too much if you live on the eastside about ST suddenly raiding the eastside subarea since most of the money is from Bellevue which has no love for Seattle, although ST has done what it can to spread that money around (sharing second tunnel costs and forcing the eastside to pay 100% of east-west express buses, which will cost the eastside subarea close to $1 billion by the time East Link opens).

        8. A HB1304 levy is fine if you want some more Move Seattle bike lanes and sidewalks at 50% of what is promised, but pointless if the goal is to cover the N. King Co. subarea’s current $13 billion shortfall for ST 3 projects including tunnel. Seattle Subway seem like well meaning but unprofessional transit planners to me. If you can’t complete ST 3 in Seattle — let alone the second transit tunnel — can Seattle really afford to run a subway up Aurora (that ironically relies on a second transit tunnel). Has anyone driven along Aurora recently. Sometimes I wonder if transit advocates understand money — big money — at all.

        9. The big issues with the spine are it is 90 miles in length through a lot of nowhere, and Metro can’t possibly provide any kind of adequate feeder service so that total commute times with a transfer to Link don’t go up compared to before Link. For the vast majority of transit users, especially commuters, time of trip is 1, 2 and 3 in importance. Some parts of the spine will work (although at great cost) and some won’t. But if feeder service is infrequent none will work. Concentrate any money there is — ST, Metro which is cutting service, HB1304, whatever, to feeder bus service. If ST made one terrible mistake it was not understanding or considering first/last mile access. Luckily the east KC subarea did, which is why there are so many park and rides, although unfortunately many don’t directly serve East Link, which will cause a lot of complaints and problems IMO when East Link opens. Driving to a park and ride to catch a crowded and infrequent feeder bus to a station to catch East Link is not most eastsider’s idea of first/last mile access, considering they are already in their cars in an area with huge freeways.

        CONCLUSION: Forget about ST 3 for every subarea except completing East Link to Redmond, which really doesn’t make sense except for Microsoft’s demand (although it is building a 3 million sf underground parking garage). N. King Co. can’t ever afford ST 3, and the rest of the subareas don’t need ST 3, at least rail. Concentrate everything on first/last mile access for the spine, a kind of hybrid commuter/long distance rail system when most hybrid systems in a sparsely populated three country region with likely flat future growth is usually a bad idea, at least financial.

        If first/last mile access is inadequate for the spine the spine will be seen as a failure and there will be zero regional momentum for further transit spending, whether federal, state or local. If the spine overall works well, at least in dense areas, then maybe future regional transit funding could be possible for some discreet projects (but probably not the second transit tunnel, which alone limits future rail).

        Get the spine right first, then come back.

      5. Daniel, your assertion about extending completion dates in point #4 is a logic error. You claim that land acquisition and construction costs will continue to outpace any extra revenue accumulated by project extension. But that cannot be true forever, or, really, even for very long, because even if revenues don’t increase after the projected completion date of the package, the body of uncompleted work will continually shrink.

        So, even if you’re right for a few years that the accounting balance will look worse, eventually, by gnawing away at the uncompleted corpus, the agency will bring the level of expenditures made in one year below the incoming revenues for that year and the projects will quickly come to completion. Look at how steeply the financial curve drops at the end of the project period in the financial plan documents. It will doubtless take longer to get to that inflection point with higher overall costs, but unless an ST4 is passed and adds large new projects, that time must arrive.

        And, not to put too fine a point on it, the whole thing was expected to cost $54 billion in “year of expenditure dollars” so a significant portion of the expected cost increases are actually assumed in the financial plan.

        In #3 you complain about ST “using ST3 revenues to complete The Spine in North King County”. That is a mis-statement. Northgate has been entirely paid for by ST2 revenues and is under-final-budget. Yes, the entirety of North King revenues under all three tax levies have been used now for three years to build the complete Northgate and now to build the portion of Lynnwood Link within North King County. But that has been the plan since ST3 was proposed. Although the ST1 levy ends in 2028 (IIRC), the ST2 taxes continue until 2047, with only Graham Street and BAR stations in any way connected to ST2.

        So essentially the years of ST2 revenues to be collected in North King after Lynnwood Link completion will be first allocated to operations, then to East King projects in order to “pay back” the loan from EKSA used for ULink and North Link. [Oooh! I like that: NoKSA, EKSA, SoKSA, SnoCSA, and PierCSA, the PenCSA Family!]. After that debt is settled they can be used on North King ST3 projects as well. Please use accrual rather than cashflow accounting in your tirades.

        So far as numbers 5 and 6, why in the world would you dig a train tunnel with no train line in it? I guess you’re advocating for Ross’s bus tunnel and that’s not a bad idea, but you didn’t say so.

        So far as your resentment about having EKSA taxpayers pay for the operating costs of the express buses to and from their area in #7, what is that about? I thought you were proud of EKSA’s ability to pay its own way. I guess the two or three riders who (used to) get on or off at the Rainier Avenue flyer stop were just two too many — or was it two too tawny? — for the EKTAP’s [East King TAx Payers] on the bus to accept.

    2. ST has a short period — I forget the exact timing and duration but something like five years in the late 2020s — where its scheduled projects will exceed the debt ceiling due to covid-era revenue loss and rising costs. So it must reschedule its expenditures to avoid the ceiling. It has exempted things already under construction (Northgate, Lynnwood, downtown Redmond, Federal Way). So with the rest ST can:

      A. Delay everything by five years evenly.
      B. Delay some projects more than others.
      C. Split projects. (E.g., open Mariner before Everett, or Fife before Tacoma Dome).
      D. Defer things out of ST3 or delete them entirely. (Deferred items could be funded in ST4. Deleted items would be gone unless re-added later.)
      C. Raise the debt ceiling, which apparently requires a public vote.

      ST is most likely to choose B and/or C.

      Subarea equity refers to the total amount spent by the end of the phase, not each expenditure in isolation. So there’s one checkbook and one debt limit, not four. Thus far it has avoided favoring specific projects or subareas, so we have no idea what it might choose. What we do know is four planning scenarios, under which either ridership, equity, the Spine, or tenure/phasing would be preferred. Each of these would lead to vastly different outcomes. These are just example calculations, not proposals. The final proposal may have a combination of them and other things. ST estimates a delay of 1-14 years on different projects depending on which critera is selected and how much additional revenue it can raise ($0-9 billion. mostly grants). An STB article suggests a fourth criterion: put parking last

      From the first article, “Nancy Backus may have spoken for several Board members when she asked if each subarea could directly identify their priorities and have Sound Transit develop that scenario. The Board is visibly struggling to come up with a shared vision better than having each subarea move forward within their own particular financial constraints.”

      When the scenarios were presented to the board, some boardmembers objected that equity wasn’t accurately calculated or additional criteria should be studied. So there may be some changes there. The equity calculation looked at the broad demographics of entire subareas or cities, which overlooks pockets of poor/minorities in wealthier neighborhoods. For instance, Lake City and Bitter Lake have pockets of lower-income people even though north Seattle as a whole is wealthier than Renton, and they may have more equity-deserving residents per square mile than Renton because its density is higher. The examples didn’t consider that.

      East King fares poorly in three of the four example scenarios, and all its projects would be delayed. In the fourth scenario (tenure/phasing), the first East King priorities would be Stride North, Stride 522, and Eastgate-South Kirkland. Conversely, under equity, Stride South would be before these.

      1. You’ve invented a meaning for “subarea equity” that is contrary to what ST3 says, and your focus on the “debt ceiling” has zero relevance to the ST3 financial policies voters approved here:

        You need to re-read ST3, Mike — there are supposed to be five separate financial plans showing projected revenues and revenues — one for each subarea:

        The Financial Plan for Sound Transit activities addresses this equity principle by providing a financial plan for each of the five Sound Transit subareas, comprised of the subarea’s share of local taxes, debt capacity, farebox proceeds and an assumption for federal funding.

        Those ST3-mandated five financial plans are what Sound Transit is keeping hidden, so we can’t verify whether or not the ST3 planning involves taking East King (or North King) revenues to bail out the smaller subareas’ projects and services.

      2. I thought you were concerned about when East King projects open, not on how much inter-subarea borrowing occurs. Passengers can ride lines on the ground; the can’t ride accounting entries.

      3. I thought you were concerned about when East King projects open, not on how much inter-subarea borrowing occurs.

        I’m concerned that the extra billions of East King revenues will be used to pay for projects and services in the smaller subareas. I have that concern because Sound Transit is not disclosing the five financial plans ST3 requires it to update yearly for the public. There are no valid reasons to keep those five financial plans secret, and several bad ones.

      4. The problem is the gap between revenue and the debt:asset ceiling. That was not foreseen when the document you cite was published in 2016. And you seem to be focusing on a tangental issue: that ST must have subarea financing plans in general and update them regularly. The current development plan is the pre-covid one, because no changes have been adopted yet, so the subarea financing plans would reflect that. All these changes are just theoretical possibilities now; nothing has been committed to or is close to being committed to. That’s a multi-month bureaucratic process which is in its early stages.

      5. Paul, realignment is driven by agency-wide financial constraints, in particular the debt ceiling. Subarea equity is a completely independent concept and is still an organizing principle for the long term financial plan. North King’s projects still need to fit within North King’s revenues between now and 2060 (or whenever the plan ends). Realignment is needed because the agency has a constraint in the 2030s, not because a particular subarea is running into a constraint.

      6. “have that concern because Sound Transit is not disclosing the five financial plans ST3 requires it to update yearly for the public.”

        OK, but that’s a separate issue than the one in the first link. “Realignment” means closing the $9 billion budget gap in the years it exceeds the debt ceiling.

      7. “So far as numbers 5 and 6, why in the world would you dig a train tunnel with no train line in it? I guess you’re advocating for Ross’s bus tunnel and that’s not a bad idea, but you didn’t say so”.

        TT, my point is that without a second transit tunnel there won’t be any more rail. So until the second transit tunnel is completed no more talk about ST 3 or rail to West Seattle and Ballard, or a subway under Aurora Ave. Unless Seattle wants to run surface trains along 3rd Ave. Show me the tunnel.

        Digging a tunnel under a viaduct that is being torn down is a lot simpler than building a deep tunnel under 5th Ave., and that tunnel was a nightmare. Plus you have three subareas that just don’t have an extra $276 million each lying around for the new tunnel cost estimate of $3.65 billion, IF tunneling goes as planned. $276 million is a lot of money for S. King Co.

        If ST can’t build the second tunnel and is afraid to even start we can stop talking about more rail. Let’s move onto what is critical: first/last mile access.

        When it comes to new funding deficit estimates for ST 3 in N. King Co. I have two points: 1. $11.5 billion sans tunnel is basically the entire budget estimate in 2016 for ST 3 in N. KC. How can the current budget deficit estimate be equal to the entire original cost estimate; 2. let’s see if the funding deficit estimate for ST 3 doesn’t go up and up over the next few years (after all it was originally $2.5 billion just last year).

        And you are welcome for the express east-west-east ST buses. Whoever thought the eastside would have to bail out Seattle (of course, why in the world did Seattle agree to build a rail spine to Snohomish and S. King Co. At least the eastside — at the time — understood you pay for rail to get to Seattle, not the other way around).

        “So essentially the years of ST2 revenues to be collected in North King after Lynnwood Link completion will be first allocated to operations, then to East King projects in order to “pay back” the loan from EKSA used for ULink and North Link.”

        I was not aware of this “loan”. Sounds like loaning money to a brother-in-law. I hope EKC got some kind of collateral.

      8. Actually, Daniel, the second tunnel is not necessary if twenty trains per hour is acceptable between Lynnwood and downtown Seattle. The engineering is tricky, but because the alignment along Pine Street between the east wall of Westlake Station and the curve away at 9th Avenue is an upward sloping cut-and-cover tunnel built three lanes wide for buses, it is possible to connect a South Lake Union line there.

        It would be a great engineering challenge, but it is possible to connect to a stacked tunnel directly adjacent to the Pike Street reversible ramp to Minor as an entrance to South Lake Union. Between the existing tracks a downward sloping ramp between the existing tracks would be dug for the northbound SLU track. By Ninth it would be deep enough to pass under the southbound track from the Capitol Hill tubes. At Boren it would curve north alongside the off-ramp. The southbound track would be laid above it, merging with the southbound “Main Line” at about Boren.

        Such an approach would dramatically improve coverage of the area, allowing stations at Fairview, Westlake, and Aurora/Dexter. Is it snaky? Absolutely, but the snake opens up the 1/2 mile section just north of Denny from the freeway to Westlake to the rest of the system. It does a bit more of the Metro 8 service shed.

        So that gets South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne and Smith Cove without the deep tunnel. Perhaps there would be enough money for the full Ballard extension. Trains from Federal Way/Tacoma would take the line to SLU as they are planned to do with the second tunnel.

        Because both Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and the Lake Washington Bridge apparently have six-minute minimum headways, there would certainly have to be overlay service from Lynnwood or Mariner to Sodo. However, the trackage along the busway is currently also limited to six-minute headways. Fortunately, that is much more easily corrected than is that along MLK. Simply overpass Holgate and barricade Lower Royal Brougham between on either side of the tracks, making the block between the busway and Fourth South transit only and the part to the east a stub for Greyhound.

        Use the outer loop at Forest Street to turn trains. This might require some minor track changes and a comfort station, but it could be done.

        If by not digging the tunnel it becomes possible to build to West Seattle, some sort of flyover taking the northbound track from West Seattle over the existing trackage to a merge point could be created.

        There is no doubt that this is a worst-case scenario which would limit Lynnwood Link to 2 min/4 min headways, at least until the need and ability to pay for a new tunnel arises. But it is a solid p,an for Seattle Westside Link Service without the second tunnel.

      9. The reason for the second tunnel is for capacity between Westlake and Intl Dist. Building a Y north of Westlake doesn’t help that.

        Also, increasing headways below 3 minutes would require capital improvements in the DSTT to keep service reliable. There would presumably be plenty of money for this if DSTT2 is canceled, but it’s an expense that must be factored in.

        A renovation of the DSTT would be nice too. I was at Westlake yesterday and noticed that the finishings on the bench structures are wearing down and could use a restoration. The rest of the stations have little things like that. There’s also the escalators and elevators, but ST is gradually working on them. It may not get to the smaller things.

      10. Mike, I put reasonable caveats on the comment: IF 20 trains per hour each direction are sufficient for the demand because Daniel is correct that downtown Seattle is a smoking ruin overrun with degenerates dangling outfits from every arm or IF engineering studies show a second tunnel would be too hazardous to dig or would cost $10 billion THEN there is a difficult but possible alternative. I’m not as dumb as you seem to think I am.

      11. Oh, you’re right, 20 trains is three minutes, which puts it at what ST says is the current maximum.

      12. Mike, Thanks. I admit that interlining from Ballard/SLU means that the trains from Lynnwood have to run 4-2-4-2… in order to slot the Line 1 train into the mix, so it’s not as nice as 3-3-3-3, though it would be 2-2-2-2 through downtown. Given that people grab doors and delay trains, nothing runs exactly on the clock at any station after the first.

        One thing about getting two minute headways in the tunnel, there would have to be separators which close a few seconds early to at least severely reduce that lunging. That’s how Japan is able to maintain schedules, but they would not be popular in AMAGAca.

      13. Tom Terrific tunnel concept: how could this be done? Would Link continue to operate? Would Pike Street and Boren and Minor avenues be opened up or would the work be mined? Does not Link go beneath I-5 infrastructure; is it the way of the concept?

      14. eddiew, There is a long ramp upward from the Westlake platforms. It rises maybe fifteen feet before leveling out around Ninth Avenue. At that point the buses used to swing away (according to Wikipedia, under the Camlin Hotel basement) into the Convention Center Station. The tracks continue straight for about a half block and then turn right. I guess they’re deep enough to under-run I-5, because they don’t have crossing gates at the freeway.

        That long ramp is three lanes wide. Apparently the tunnel engineers decided that since they were going to cut-and-cover it, they might as well have a passing lane.

        My proposal is to use the space dedicated to the passing lane to dig a downward sloping trench of roughly the same inclination either between the existing tracks, or if that’s too complicated, on the right side, with the “through” track moved into the passing lane area.

        Because the up angle of the existing trackage and the downward angle of the new trackage, by the time that the new track gets to the location of the curve into the tubes, it will be deep enough to underrun the southbound “main line” or both directions, depending where the trench is placed.

        The lower track would begin to curve at the underpass and move underneath the upper track (explained in a minute) and begin curving to enter the trench in which the Pike Street Reversible Ramp operates underneath the the corner of the Convention Center at Boren and Pine. The existing tubes underrun the Pike Street Ramp so they must be deep enough that a track running flat into a junction with them (the “upper track” referenced above) can underrun the reversible ramp too. The other track would be below that track.

        The upper track would be the southbound direction and so could have a simple, level junction with the southbound main line track right at the point that the main line curves away from Pine Street.

        Once in the Reversible Ramp right of way the double deck tunnel could be bored, but I do think that it would make more sense to cut-and-cover since it would be narrow and it’s reasonable to close the ramp on the weekends to remove pavement and lay decking a few yards at a time. The trench would have to be dug deep enough that excavation could take place beneath the decking, say fifteen feet.

        How quickly can modern equipment dig a trench as wide as the offramp fifteen feet down for thirty feet? Could that be done in one weekend from say 7 PM Friday to 6 AM Monday? If not thirty, then twenty?

        Anyway, once the decking was in place excavation would continue.

        In fact, it would probably make the most sense to begin at the Minor Avenue Station and excavate up Minor, around the curve into the Reversible Ramp right of way and then dig the trench from junction to the Westlake platforms. That would make earth removal much easier. The same tear-up-the-street, dig-down, and deck over would probably be used on Minor and for the station. As I mentioned above, north of the Minor Station box the tunnel should be bored, with the boxes for Metro 8 diversions built then.

        Pine Street would not be opened up; all excavation would use removal from the north end, probably using a conveyor belt because the tunnel would be “single track” width so trucks couldn’t pass. Link would need to be interrupted for a weekend to put the switch at the east end of the Westlake platform in place and test it. After that Main Line Link would be unaffected.

        Does this answer your questions?

      15. Also, there is a type of modified cut-and-cover in which trenches for the walls are dug on the edges of the tunnel, molds are placed in the trenches with the re-bar inside them and then they are filled with concrete to make the walls. This would be done before the pavement was stripped off and decking added, again, with weekend closures for a good long while.

        I don’t want to minimize the impact, but the Reversible Ramp is not used heavily on the weekends.

      16. eddiew, Darn, it looks like the tracks constrict a bit east of Westlake. I didn’t remember that when I came up with the idea. So, yes, Pine would probably have to be opened up on the south side to widen the tunnel. It wouldn’t be a very wide trench, but it would be necessary, because the wall supports the street above. It would probably require eight feet from the curb, and it definitely would be a big deal.

        Well, that is too bad, because this would be an elegant way to link in Ballard without a new tunnel.

        Other folks have suggested just doing Westlake to Ballard or Smith Cove as a way of serving SLU. But that won’t work without some sort of “service connection” to deliver trains and take them to the MF for rehabbing and overnights.

        It might just be possible to run a service connection out of University/Symphony in between the two existing tubes, but the grade down to underrun the southbound track at Pine would be steep, steep, steep. That would continue north a couple of blocks on Third and then swing over to a service connection between New Westlake and Denny.

        There would be connections to the revenue tracks right in the station using the bus passing lane. There is definitely enough room to do it there. It would be strange, though.

      17. eddiew, one further thought.

        It might be possible to do a “level” junction with a service track at the sharp curve just west of Westlake where the tubes enter the station box. With a “facing-point” crossover at University/Symphony using the bus passing lane, one could build a single-track connection to the southbound track that had a turnout at the sharp curve with the farthest west stretch of the north wall “demised” to connect to the single-track service tunnel. That wall can be broken through, unlike the shell of a TBM tunnel.

        The new section of tunnel would be on the west side of Third Avenue, which is very good for the necessary curve at Stewart to head over to Westlake. Stewart intersects at a greater than 90 degree angle, making the curve easier, and the matching curve at Westlake is even wider.

        This would be a service tunnel so slow speeds through sharp curves would not be a problem.

        Operations would be (relatively) easy to arrange, since most trains on the Ballard stub would be going into service during the period that other trains are leaving Forest Street headed north, but few are returning from Lynnwood to downtown Seattle. This is important because trains headed toward the stub would be running “out of direction” for two blocks between Symphony and the junction.

        Another option is one Al suggested: just dig one tube of the two all the way through downtown but don’t create the Midtown or New IDS stations. Since the only cost would be the TBM operation this would be considerably cheaper than the entire tunnel with two stations.

      18. Tom, I appreciate your solutions-driven assessment of the opportunity. I was disappointed that ST takes the approach of either “it can’t be done” or “we don’t need to do it this way so we won’t explore its requirements.” This should have been done at least in 2014 if not in 2004 when U-Link was being designed. It’s a product of not planning expansions — and applying a silly concept that because nothing is to be funded and built, it can’t be even considered as remotely possible when designing the tracks.

        I’ve also wondered whether a vaults could be created to make a small subway loop (a much smaller version of the Chicago “El” but underground). For example, first branch the southbound line to the right to go under 7th, Olive then back to the main tracks at 3rd. This new southbound tunnel could have a center Westlake station platform at 4th to 6th under Olive. As part of this tunnel, a subway wye could be added to run to and from a subway to SLU and beyond. As a last step, the current Westlake southbound platform could be shifted to become a center platform for cross-platform loading since the existing southbound platform would no longer be used for southbound trains. The right sets of switching tracks would also need to be added to this new “Westlake Loop”.

        I know this option sounds disruptive and expensive — but the second subway tunnel construction station vaults will be highly disruptive and expensive anyway — and much deeper! A double-track loop under Downtown that circles Westlake Center would provide amazing operational flexibility that the current plan does not. Trains could terminate here without reversing or they could be interlined as appropriate.

        Admittedly, I doubt that any reconfiguration from the ST3 plan will happen. ST seems wedded to charging ahead like a bull — stampeding in a particular direction once it starts running. The bull started running by 2015 and outside of shooting it dead I can’t think of another way the bull can be realistically stopped. It may take an environmental consequence or a major impact (say destabilizing a series of prominent high rises) to pull the trigger.

      19. Al, am I understanding correctly that you are proposing to run all southbound trains through tge loop? If so I say WOW, that is a very elegant solution! Trains never cross paths, and always take one of two paths. U-District to IDS trains would curve right into the loop, stop at Westlake and Olive (the “Bellevue/Airport/Tacoma Platform”), curve south under Third to Pine and head straight through the (demised) existing north wall of the station extension and continue south in the existing trackage. IDS to U-District would operate unchanged, stopping at the same but renamed “North Seattle-Everett Platform”.

        Ballard to IDS trains would curve right to merge with the loop just east of the Bellevue/Airport/Tacoma Platform then follow the same path down Third Avenue that U-District to IDS takes. IDS to Ballard trains would come out of the tube from University / Symphony and “cross over” to the existing southbound platform (the “SLU-Ballard Platform”), stop there then turn left into the loop and go straight (roughly) up Westlake at the curve that the U-District to IDS trains take to the North Platform.

        Like The Loop this even allows for Ballard to U-District (and beyond) operations without a new subway across North Seattle. Trains bound that way would follow the Ballard to IDS route but after curving south on Third would junction left across the IDS to Ballard turnout and join the IDS to U-District trains stopping at the North King / Everett Platform. If this movement were ever to run as a revenue service, it would be a good idea to make the section of the Loop tunnel between the Westlake junction and the junction to continue south on Third double track so that trains from Ballard to U-District could take the inner track in order to lay for opposing northbound traffic without blocking the southbound main.

        Trains from U-District to Ballard unfortunately would have no platform at which to stop unless they did three quarters of a circle, also using the inside track of the north and west legs of yhe loop, switched instead into the track which serves the SLU /Ballard stopped Platform then continued to SLU.

        This would require highly complex “special work” at the southwest corner of the Loop, to allow the southbound inner track of the Loop to switch to either of the existing platforms while also allowing trains entering fromthe northbound existing tube to do the same. There’s not a lot of space.

        The east leg should also be double track, to allow Ballard-bound trains to lay for “through U-District to IDS trains free passage to the Bellevue / Airport /Tacoma Platform. Near the northeast junction there would be a cross-over from the “main” track to the inner loop for U-District to Ballard trains to skip the Bellevue /Airport /Tacoma Platform, and immediately to the north the inner loop would junction across the outer loop to become the Ballard branch.

        This Loop tunnel would certainly be cut-and-cover because of the complex trackwork required, but what a powerful way to add in Ballard and South Lake Union without tge enormous cost of tge three deep stations. Yes, this would have a new station at Olive and Westlake, but it would be relatively shallow and could largely share the existing mezzanine.

        You have hit it out of the Park, Al!!!!!

        I know tge chances of this are slim, but it is THE elegant solution.

      20. I’m not sure the Loop is something we want to imitate. It’s mostly an artifact of Chicago needing to integrate several independent lines that all terminated downtown; an elegant solution to a difficult starting point, but a better option would be to not have that starting point at all. The two highest ridership lines, the Blue and Red, don’t use the loop but instead are more typical subways that pass through downtown in dedicated tubes.

        Cities like Boston and NYC are considering spending billions to through run regional rail; I don’t see why Seattle would intentionally design as system to not through run

      21. AJ, the routes would “through-run”, all of them.
        The little “Loop” is just a way to build a junction so that Ballard /SLU trains can use the existing tunnel. If Daniel is right that downtown Seattle will not “need” a second transit tunnel because of work-from-home and his dystopian vision of Seattle politics, it would be dumb to dig one.

        I grant that Al did mention the possibility of turning back trains in it should the need arise, but it isn’t a planned use.

        Adding junctions to TBM-bored tunnels which weren’t designed to accommodate them is devilishly hard, so a connection along Third Avenue is almost inconceivable. However the portion of DSTT1 between the Capitol Hill tube portals and the Third Avenue tube portals just west of Westlake Center is a cut-and-cover trench, to which modifications can be made relatively cheaply, albeit with a lot of disruption to the street.

        While his elegant idea of a mini-Loop does mean that southbound “Spine” trains would have to make two additional sharp curves, it does allow integration of Ballard /SLU-bound trains into the tunnel without an un-buffered level crossing. Trains northbound to SLU would have to cross the path of mainline trains, but they would have a holding space between their northbound Westlake Center platform and the crossing which I believe would be long enough to hold one train.

        I had thought that my idea of a down-sloping ramp to a “burrowing junction” at the curve into the Capitol Hill tubes would work, but Sounder Bruce’s photo revealed that I had not noticed that the tunnel east of Westlake narrows so that it is not the necessary three full lanes wide. Thus adding the down ramp for the SLU track would require redoing the street decking above the tunnel to widen it while it is in service. That’s not something to contemplate happily, to say the least.

        So I like Al’s “Loop” as an elegant means by which to avoid a level junction without a waiting place for crossing trains headed northbound into the branch.

        I had come back to the discussion to modify my proposal for a down-sloping tube connected at the north wall of University Street / Symphony to be a single-track level junction at Third and Pine with the southbound track using cross-over through the bus bypass lane at University Street / Symphony using out-of-direction running for the two blocks between the station and the new junction at Third and Pine for service access to a Ballard-Westlake stub. At the cost of three blocks of single-track cut-and-cover tunnel it would allow the use of the northern end of the branch to Ballard as a stub while keeping the option for finishing the new tunnel in the future should projections for its need be realized.

        But I read his reply and prefer his idea, complex though operations would be.

    3. That assumes the East King ST3 were optimally selected. The ST Board should change projects if they were poorly conceived. In Sound Move, the NE 85th Street center access project and the I-90 busway were not implemented. Perhaps the line between Issaquah and the South Kirkland P&R could be improved upon.

      1. TT, I said the second transit tunnel was not affordable and is a huge risk, especially if the N. King Co. subarea does not have the funding to complete light rail to West Seattle and Ballard, and four other subareas are splitting half the cost but receive none of the benefit (at least up to $2.2 billion). You came up with ideas that made the second tunnel unnecessary, but I don’t know enough about tunneling to comment on those ideas, (although you have taught me you ain’t going to bulldoze a tunnel from Ballard into the UW line).

        The issues with Seattle’s business and tourist climate, which may or may not be significant post-pandemic, and working from home that really has nothing to do with dystopian politics, are both result in less general fund tax revenue for an urban work/tourist center like Seattle (and farebox recovery) which goes to the cost issue. But even without a loss of long term general fund revenue in Seattle ST is still “estimating” an $8 to $12.5 billion deficit for ST 3. Those are big numbers.

        At the same time, the eastside IMO has pretty sensible business policies and WFH may actually benefit the eastside (for example Mercer Island had record sales tax revenue in 2020 despite the fact the perennial leader for sales tax revenue — construction — was not even in the top five for sales tax revenue sources), but I still don’t think the Issaquah to S. Kirkland rail line is a good use of funds because very few eastsiders will ride it, for various reasons, mostly because they like to drive.

        As I posted before, considering I can’t see any way for Seattle to fund $3.5 billion in bridge repair and maintenance (the good and bad of living next to water), even over 30 years, and tolls are a very regressive tax, why not place a measure on the ballot asking each subarea if they want to allocate some or all of their ST 3 revenue to bridge repair (which seems like a no brainer for N. King Co. since they are not getting ST 3 anyway).

        In the law we would say bridges are “a priori” to transit. You are not going to run rail to West Seattle or Ballard without new bridges over water.

        The idea communities like West Seattle and their politicians will agree to toll new bridges for them while massively increasing the bridge cost in order to run rail over the new bridge is unrealistic IMO. After all, the number one demand every time a new bridge is mentioned is no loss of car capacity, and I think it was Dan Ryan who pointed out the West Seattle bridge transports four or five times as many citizens by car than bus, and drivers are better business customers than transit riders usually.

        I am pretty agnostic about transit in general, although it provides a public good which is why it receives such massive subsidies. But I do know every project — bridge, tunnel, or rail — begins with the money, and sometimes the money is just too much, especially if you are the Seattle City Council and you have ignored major infrastructure like bridges for a very long time, your city is built basically over water, and the unaffordable transit projects require new, expensive bridges.

        Unless we are talking about a gondola or water taxi from West Seattle to Smith Cove.

      2. Um, the short-lived idea to combine the Link bridge with a West Seattle Bridge replacement has been rendered moot by the decision to repair the current structure.

        So far as your general sneering about Link, get off your butt and organize a repeal of the enabling legislation. Stand up for what you believe!

        I expect no one on the blog would be crying if no ST3 projects other than STRide, the infill stations and South Sounder improvements were completed. Seattle has the ability to paint more red lanes and serve Ballard and West Seattle very well.

        Otherwise you’ll go to your grave in thirty years still bitter that the region built an LRT system.

    4. If East King has extra money, perhaps it could go toward connecting the Eastside to Snohomish or South King. The existing options for getting from Lynnwood or Kent to Bellevue or Redmond are quite terrible.

      1. I think it is likely that ‘excess’ East King monies will go to improved STX service, in addition to robust all-day frequency on Stride.

        I’m really keen to see how the Kent-Bellevue route preforms post-Covid, as the 167 flyover ramp + the 405 HOT lanes should make that line very competitive with SOV driving. ST 567 is currently suspended, and for most of its existence it had a really slow path through the 167-405 interchange. I recall talking to service planning about that route and how the recovery time on that route was enormous because of the huge unreliability of travel time, which made it a very expensive route to operate; reliability should be much improved in a few years.

      2. Good lord, TT, why so angry on a Friday in spring with the sun out? I wish it was 40 years ago and I was an undergraduate wandering around the UW campus on days like these. As it is, I plan on a glass of red wine and a little gardening after work. Working in the soil is restorative for me.

        I don’t mind the Link system, and have zero bitterness because light rail was built. Part of the system made great sense, and anything that reduces traffic congestion is a good thing in my book.

        I think some ST 3 projects are not well thought out, wish some stations would have been included in ST 1 if legitimate cost estimates had been provided to the voters, and doubt I would have spent so much to run the spine from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond because I don’t see the ridership per mile, although apparently Lynnwood is the next Bellevue, and our population throughout the ST taxing district will double in the next ten years.

        I know some on this blog get very sensitive if you criticize ST, or any transit decisions, but I think a citizen taxpayer has the right to question some decisions that look pretty stupid to me, especially for an agency that won’t be honest in its cost estimating.

        Some ST 3 projects don’t look affordable to me, and I worry transit fans don’t quite understand how much $12.5 billion is (if that is the correct number), but no one asked me. I don’t trust ST when it comes to cost estimates or future funding estimates, which is a concern when we are talking about tens of billions of dollars that could go towards bridges or affordable housing or education, and the best subarea for ST 3 and rail — Seattle — is being told it gets no ST 3 projects because somehow the cost exploded in the last five years since ST 3 passed, and we ran rail to nowhere. I am not bitter by that, but am frustrated.

        Personally, closer to home, I doubt East Link will come close to ST’s ridership estimates, but so what. Few will rely on East Link on the eastside for transportation, probably around 20,000/weekday although much transit service will worsen with a transfer. Mercer Island got a station it didn’t really want with two entrances, and if I want I can walk to the station. The subarea can afford it, and most eastsiders drive. Don’t worry about us.

        I do worry about the laissez faire attitude of some (including the council) towards an unfunded $3.5 billion bridge mandate, but will leave that issue up to others like you. When bridges fail they fail spectacularly, and all bridges fail if left long enough.

        The West Seattle bridge and Ballard bridges are going to have to be replaced one way or the other to run rail over them, just due to age, so like I said, the bridges come before transit because trains don’t fly or float. Between the bridges and ST 3 and second tunnel Seattle is looking at around an extra $20 billion, but I am sure a HB1304 levy can cover that, or maybe Seattle neighborhoods will embrace bridge tolls.

        But I am not going to let any of this spoil my dinner and wine tonight, and will rely on you to solve these thorny issues. I hope I live another 30 years, but doubt I will live to see ST 3 completed in Seattle although it won’t affect me. You should be bitter about that.

  2. That MHA article was only nuanced if your definition of nuance is “consider only what happens within Seattle city limits and ignore the rest of the world.” The article noted that multifamily was ‘impervious’ to Amazon but then navel gazed on why office production is down without noting that Amazon has shifted new office production entirely outside of Seattle.

    1. Amazon isn’t moving out of Seattle. Quite the opposite. In January they had a record high 75,000 employees based solely within Seattle city limits.

      1. I said nothing about Amazon leaving Seattle. The article is about new office construction, not office vacancy levels. Amazon’s decision to build new offices in Bellevue rather than in Seattle is a massive shift in new office construction patterns yet goes unmentioned in this article.

    2. The article seems reasonable to me, all except the last paragraph. The navel-gazing seems to be more in your imagination than in the article. The issue is not why commercial applications stopped, but whether they’ll continue to be low and if so, what to do about it. Amazon is one part of the city’s economy, not the entire thing. Housing demand appears to be robust and stable.

      It’s obvious that downtown is in a recession, and will need large subsidies to revitalize. We can’t allow it to decay like it was in the 1970s. Downtown is a unique regonal asset: Seattle retained a higher percent of jobs downtown (10%) than most American cities, and in the past two decades downtown jobs increased more than in other cities. That plus the oft-derided peak expresses to downtown has kept overall transit ridership per capita higher than most of the country, and sprawl lower. In the SLU construction boom the number of jobs and residents downtown increased but the number of cars didn’t, and the drive-alone mode share downtown is now below 30%. That’s a big achievement. It means the amount of increased jobs and residents equals the amount of decreased car use. A similar thing happened with electricity: the decrease of usage due to conservation equaled the increase in population, so total useage was flat. The same thing probably happened with water.

      Downtown has a large investment planned: the waterfront. The CCC seems to be deferred. The retail core needs a new vision because the department stores aren’t coming back, and Nordstrom is the only one left. The Westlake tunnel mezzanine originally had three entrances to department stores. The southeast one closed when Nordstrom moved. The northwest one closed with Macy’s and probably won’t reopen. (It might if the new owner’s ground-floor shopping arcade extends down to he mezzanine floor.) But downtown needs a lot more than one shopping arcade. Nobody has yet suggested a vision of what it might be, or what public+private investments it would require.

      The Downtown Seattle Association has one pending idea, reducing 3rd Avenue from four lanes to two when Link extensions and RapidRide conversions reduce the number of buses downtown, and turning the reclaimed space into wider sidewalks and pedestrian amenities. But that doesn’t directly affect what’s in the buildings or how many more buildings might be built.

      1. I think it’s rather obvious the downtown is *not* in recession given the current transaction prices for real estate downtown. Rents might need to drop to bring down vacancies, which is a bummer for landlords but rather irrelevant for the city of Seattle.

        The region continues to add office space at a torrid pace. The only change is office construction is now spread between Seattle and Bellevue, not just Bellevue. The fact that the article wondered aloud why office construction was down but didn’t look into the changing dynamics in nearby cities is what I considered ‘navel gazing’

      2. There’s clearly a decrease in the number of shoppers downtown, and increase in business closings and boarded-up windows. That’s the recession that needs to be addressed. Real-estate prices have their own logic. The article is about how many affordable-housing units have been delivered compared to projections, a SEATTLE policy, not on how Bellevue may be gaining market share in office space. Bellevue is starting from a much lower base, like one tenth of downtown Seattle, so even a large increase will still leave it with a much smaller office core than downtown Seattle.

      3. The conservative press likes to imply that the economically expanding liberal tech cities like Seattle are somehow in major decline (“…. is dying”) but the truth seems to be more that the growth burner is just cranked down a notch and that will probably get turned up again soon.

        Honestly, the last 10 years of growth in Seattle has been an unexpected boon. Our economy is driven by many sectors so a decline in one is not a complete disaster. Tech continues to find new business opportunities and consumer markets driven by changing societal needs and priorities — even when those needs change quickly because of something like a pandemic. So I am confident that Downtown Seattle has significantly more growth ahead in the coming decade.

      4. The explosive growth of 2012-2017 was so unprecedented and extraordinary that it couldn’t have lasted forever. It was already slowing down in 2018 and 2019, even if it was still higher than 2003-2008 level.

        The 2008 boom was caused by Amazon’s major expansion, consolidating office space downtown (when it outgrew its Beacon Hill space), and the unexpected success of Amazon Web Services which created a new cloud-computing industry that quickly became one of the biggest in the world. That couldn’t continue to grow at the same explosive rate forever, nor is another boom that big likely in the medium term.

        Seattle also missed an opportunity by not upzoning Northgate to accommodate an Amazon-sized workforce and raising Seattle’s population target to 1 million. (Currently 720K.) Seattle could have 1.8 million people and still not be denser than San Francisco. But Seattle wasn’t interested in New Westminster-upon-Northgate.

        So the pre-covid expectation was that the growth rate would gradually decrease but still remain high. Now everything is scrambled, with companies unsure when they’ll reopen their offices or how much they’ll downsize them, and downtown shopping patterns unclear.

        Amazon’s Bellevue expansion is mostly a token hissy fit over a corporate tax, even though Amazon’s and Bezos’s total tax burden is less than it would be in other states due to the lack of an income tax and the regressive nature of the remaining taxes. Or the hissy fit may have been just an excuse, because there’s a valid long-term argument for having a large Amazon office in Bellevue, because many workers prefer to live and work in the Eastside. And downtown Bellevue is the best suburban location for it, because it has a wide range of retail and housing and will have several high-capacity transit lines converging on it.

        We should look less at Bellevue winning out, and breathe a sigh of relief that the expansion is in downtown Bellevue and not in some obscure location that’s less transit-accessible and walkable. The Seattle-Bellevue Link trunk we’re building goes both ways, so it’s just as easy for Seattle residents to work in downtown Bellevue as it is for Bellevue residents to work in downtown Seattle. So both Seattle and Bellevue residents will be better off no matter which side of the lake they work on.

      5. But why would an analyst look at affordable-housing production in Seattle vs projection and not even look at affordable-housing production rates in the greater region? It just struck me as a very incomplete piece of analysis, particularly given the author clearly spent a lot of time & effort.

      6. There’s clearly a decrease in the number of shoppers downtown, and increase in business closings and boarded-up windows.

        Yeah, I wonder why? What happened over the last year or so to suddenly make going to downtown a lot less attractive? It is almost like most of the workers suddenly decided to work from home, people suddenly didn’t like riding transit, and in person shopping suddenly got a lot less popular. Oh, and how come there are a lot fewer people at the baseball games even though the team is doing quite well (for their standards)?

        Come on man, we are still in a pandemic. Some places are bound to be hit harder than others. Downtown Seattle has a lot of offices, and those offices were shut down, as businesses asked their workers to work from home. Region wide entertainment draws (sporting events, symphony, etc.) were also shut down. In person stores were forced to close. Those that did operate do so without attracting many from outside the region. That’s because downtown Seattle is more transit dependent than any other region, by a wide margin. All of this — the lack of workers and visitors — hit restaurants and shops really hard.

        Some won’t recover, but most will, and the area, as a whole, will as well. Of course the shops could use some extra help (some was given, although they could always use more) but the area will recover, even if the shops switch hands. We just have to get over the pandemic.

      7. “There’s clearly a decrease in the number of shoppers downtown, and increase in business closings and boarded-up windows. That’s the recession that needs to be addressed.”

        Mike, you know that most boarded-up windows in downtown Seattle isn’t related to business closures or recessions, don’t you? Let’s be honest about why they are boarded-up.

  3. When they ban new gasoline cars, what will happen to new diesel cars? They are not zero emissions cars. Will a new car dealerships be able to sell used gasoline cars? Will the state of Washington tax or penalize out of state new or used gasoline cars sales to make this work. Will companies with huge truck or van fleets have to follow the same rules or have the opportunity to buy some time or credit? How much work are they investing into the public charge stations between now and 2030? Washington state already charges $225 extra for electric vehicles per year. Is part of that going to infostructure?

    1. JJ, the actual bill says:

      “A goal is established for the state that all publicly-owned and privately owned passenger and light duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later that are sold, purchased, or registered in Washington state be electric vehicles.”

      However the goal is continent on the state passing a VMT, and VMT is typically only palatable if it replaces the gas tax and electric vehicle registration surcharge. The VMT is also supposed to support electric vehicle charging infrastructure (although, I don’t remember hearing about govt support for gas stations). There are plenty of other states that will be requiring all new cars to be electric-only in the 2030’s, so all companies should be planning to transition to all-electric in the next decade.

      1. “Seattle also missed an opportunity by not upzoning Northgate to accommodate an Amazon-sized workforce and raising Seattle’s population target to 1 million. (Currently 720K.) Seattle could have 1.8 million people and still not be denser than San Francisco. But Seattle wasn’t interested in New Westminster-upon-Northgate.”

        Are you saying that if Amazon’s commercial and residential development had been in Northgate rather than South Lake Union that would have benefitted downtown Seattle? Or that Amazon employees would have wanted to live in Northgate (without light rail).

        Or that zoning is the main factor regulating Seattle’s population, or for Bellevue’s dramatic development?

        Seattle’s population growth is currently growing 1.5%/year (as of 2020) after its upzones, and it only increased in population from 563k in 2000 to 635k in 2012 toto 765k in 2020 during its record growth.

        Ironically those rates of population growth are lower than some eastside cities that had very little changes in their land use zoning.

      2. No, I’m saying that in addition to Amazon’s 40,000 workers in SLU there could have been an additional 40,000 workers in Northgate. It could have been Amazon HQ2 or another company’s HQ1; it doesn’t matter. But Seattle would have had to zone 40,000 more jobs in Northgate, and 40,000 more housing units throughout the city. That would have doubled the amount of tax revenue compared to Amazon’s existing presence, and given Seattlites many more job opportunities, and cut down on the US’s carbon emissions (assuming the company would otherwise go to suburbia). But Seattle didn’t even consider this because such a large population increase was inconceivable to its way of thinking.

      3. To be clear, the bigger problem was housing. The reluctance to add 40,000 jobs to Northgate was due to an allergy to tall buildings: no highrises outside downtown except on the Northgate Mall lot and the U-District. That’s a specific, contained problem in one location. The housing issue is more diffuse and pernicious. In the 2012-2018 boom Seattle built 9 housing units for ever 12 jobs, so it was falling behind 25% every year. (Not 25% of the total housing supply, but 25% of the additional units it should have had.) So if it couldn’t keep up with housing during the SLU boom, what’s the chance it would keep it up in the Northgate boom even if it pledged to? If it didn’t, and 40,000 additional people came anyway, it would squeeze the housing supply and vacancy rate even further, and prices would go up even faster than in the last boom. We can’t survive that; we could barely survive the last boom. So unless the city makes a major commitment to improving the housing situation and keeping it up with job growth, we can’t tolerate another Amazon-sized boom. That’s a loss of revenue potential to the city, and economic potential, and revenue for transit improvements we need, and a gain for the suburbs or other cities that snatch those jobs instead.

      4. Ironically those rates of population growth are lower than some eastside cities that had very little changes in their land use zoning.

        I don’t think any area in Washington grew faster than Seattle. If measured in people per square mile, Seattle was the top.

        Percentage increase is a poor way to measure growth. For example, imagine two cities, exactly the same area. One has a million people, while the other 100,000. Both cities grow by ten thousand. The percentage increase is bigger in one than the other, but they both grew by the same amount.

        Absolute growth is a better measurement. But that suffers from the fact that the size of cities vary so much. That is why absolute growth divided by area gives you the best measurement. For example, Seattle added about 150,000 people. Sammamish added about 20,000. Seattle is a lot bigger (in terms of area) but not that much bigger. Seattle has about 4 times the land, but it grew by about 7 times as much. Seattle has grown faster. That is because most of the growth in Sammamish was in the form of sprawl — low density housing where there was none. Most of the growth in Seattle was in the form of new apartments replacing empty lots or houses.

        Which is not to say Seattle wouldn’t have grown even faster, with more liberal zoning. Housing costs are still extremely high. There is clear demand for housing of all types. Construction continues, but within the limitations of the law. Developers generally add as much density as possible. If they are allowed to build apartments, they build apartments. If they are allowed to build row houses, they build that. But in most of the city, they are only allowed to add (or more commonly, replace) houses. Even in areas where they subdivide (like in my neighborhood), the extremely large lot size prevents houses being close together, let alone build row houses (or duplexes or apartments).

    2. Real estate construction, especially commercial, is a lagging indicator because of the time to permit, and the funds are dedicated to the project. Real estate permitting is more of a leading indicator. However, there have been several sales of buildings in downtown Seattle during the pandemic that had very strong prices so some pros must think a rebound is coming. Residential housing like everywhere is on fire, except there are not many sales that generate REET taxes.

      The financial issue for downtown Seattle is reduced sales taxes (retail/restaurant which is influenced by commuter-workers) and construction. Residential looks strong, my guess is commercial will slow in part based on working from home leading to less leased space, but that was predicted pre-pandemic as Seattle gets built out. Then there are B&O taxes, and finally taxes from tourism, which is really a cash cow because there are so many taxes, and tourists come with almost no social costs. I strongly supported Dow Constantine’s decision to loan the convention center $100 million to complete the remodel, although am not sure about the $1.2 billion remodel to begin with. Someone got a little over their skis.

      Seattle is not Buffalo or Cleveland. It is a beautiful city directly across from Asia. Soon there will be a waterfront park. Not long ago it was probably the fastest growing city, and regularly rated in the top five for U.S. cities, for good reasons.

      NY found itself in decline in the 1970-1990’s when its street scene deteriorated, but cleaned things up by electing Giuliani. I sincerely hope Seattle’s council or next mayor does the same.

      What bothers me the most about Seattle’s direction is Urbanists don’t want to live downtown, and the retail looks like it is dying. My daughter is 18. I picked her up from a hair appointment in Belltown, and she casually remarked she and her girlfriends never go into downtown Seattle: instead the go to “U-Vil”, Bellevue Square, sometimes South Center Mall, even Capitol Hill for the “scene”. The street scene for young (and older) women in downtown Seattle is not inviting, and old male transit bulls don’t buy anything. The Seattle City Council simply has to address the street scene downtown, but that will require it to question for once some of its ideological presumptions. If not, my guess is the nail in the coffin will be the loss of Nordstrom, which is the risk that triggered Norm Rice’s policies when he was mayor.

      I think the problems go much deeper for ST 3 in N. King Co. than just lower revenue. First the cost estimates were just dishonest to sell ST 3, and my guess to complete ST 2. Second, ST always exaggerates ridership, future general fund revenue, farebox recovery, you name it, so there was zero margin for any kind of pull back. ST 3’s deficits in N. King Co. just do not change by $11.5 billion from 2016 when the other subareas don’t see such massive deficits, and tunnels don’t increase in cost so dramatically as well.

      My advice would be to simply forget about ST 3 in just about any subarea, don’t waste time on Seattle Subway’s fantastical plan, and do whatever it takes to make the spine work, which is the unsexy work of first/last mile access.

      Then get very serious about cleaning up Seattle’s streets, and bringing back folks to live downtown and shop/dine there. What is the point of having a major urban city like Seattle in a region of urbanists if the street scene sucks? Seattle’s modern urbanist “vision” of mildly upzoning the residential neighborhoods to create weak and dispersed retail because they don’t want to live or go downtown drives me crazy. If there are no young people on the streets retail and restaurants are going to die, and so many of those young people grew up on the eastside.

      Bellevue starts with none of the advantages Seattle has, and yet can create the street scene shoppers and diners and workers want, even if it is not affordable and a little sterile. But you can’t build a vibrant downtown based on poor people. That means so can Seattle, if it wants. If you think shoppers and diners and commuters will return to downtown Seattle with thousands of tents just about everywhere, and boarded up retail and few people on the streets (when it already begins with expensive and inconvenient parking) I think you are taking a huge risk because reviving a city is very difficult, a mistake Bellevue, Issaquah, Redmond, Kirkland, and the malls are not making, and believe me they are not moaning about Seattle’s misfortune if it benefits them.

      Never believe that “regional” kumbaya crap, and no city has been as arrogant or greedy regionally as Seattle, so there is a certain schadenfreude among the other cities. East King Co. doesn’t give a shit about the fact Seattle won’t get ST 3 which I think surprises some Seattleites, but then Seattle has never cared about the eastside, which surprises no eastsiders.

      1. “Urbanists don’t want to live downtown,”

        I don’t want to live among the downtown highrises, but the downtown urban center includes western Capitol Hill/First Hill/Uptown/Little Saigon where I do want to live. Some people do want to live in the downtown highrises, because they’re buying and renting them. SLU has a particular problem in that more people want to live near their SLU jobs than want to live in SLU as a goal in itself, and the offices are now closed. But that will resolve itself one way or another when the pandemic recedes. Either Amazon will reopen its offices and residential demand will return, or it will vacate its offices and other companies will take its place, or it will vacate its offices and no other company will come. It’s too early to say which, but the first one is most likely.

        “the retail looks like it is dying.”

        It’s declining. “Dying” implies a permanent loss and Seattle becoming a ghost town. It’s way to early to predict where these short-term trends will go.

        “My daughter is 18. I picked her up from a hair appointment in Belltown, and she casually remarked she and her girlfriends never go into downtown Seattle: instead the go to “U-Vil”, Bellevue Square, sometimes South Center Mall, even Capitol Hill for the “scene”. ”

        That has existed for literally decades. Some people, whom I call suburban-minded, prefer the suburbs to downtown and U-Village to the Ave. In 1978, when my friend moved from Bellevue to the top of Queen Anne, and his mom took him shopping for school clothes and i went along, we went to Northgate. I asked her why since the same department stores are much closer downtown. She said, “Because Northgate has parking.” I would have just taken the 2 that came every 20 minutes then. Some people think like that even if they live in Seattle. Capitol Hill’s range of nightclubs and restaurants is unique, so that’s a different issue.

        “Then get very serious about cleaning up Seattle’s streets, and bringing back folks to live downtown and shop/dine there.”

        That’s what the Downtown Seattle Association and the city and others are working on, a new vision for downtown, since the 1980s vision has run out of steam. That will take a while to figure out. And the homeless issue won’t be solved until there’s enough housing for all of them.

        “my guess is the nail in the coffin will be the loss of Nordstrom, which is the risk that triggered Norm Rice’s policies when he was mayor.”

        Nordstrom strong-armed the city into taking federal money that was intended for low-income housing and diverting it to beautifying Pine Street to please Nordstrom. Talk about misallocating funds, and it was Nordstrom pushing for it. Nordstrom threatened to move its flagship store to Bellevue Square if the city didn’t do it. I don’t see how that’s Norm Rice’s fault, except in the sense of giving in to Nordstrom’s bullying. The renovation was remarkably successful: the shops were full and Pine Street was thick with pedestrians more than anybody could have predicted. But it came at the cost of not building the same amount of low-income housing. That was at the same time that homelessness started becoming a major issue. So you can say that the retail renaissance and Nordstrom’s subsidy in particular came on the backs of the poor.

        As to why homelessness started rising then, it’s because the city closed most of the SRO hotels citing fire codes, and changed the zoning so that no new SROs or micro-apartments could be built. Small apartments are generally less expensive than larger ones, so it created an affordability gap. That combined with the national closing of inpatient mental-health facilities and the non-building of promised outpatient centers to replace them, so the residents who couldn’t hold a job were thrown onto the streets. The Nordstrom switcheroo was a small part of the larger low-income housing problem and the city’s negligence in addressing it (which still hasn’t been rectified to any adequate extent), but it does represent a certain number of units that weren’t built.

      2. I’m not entire sure how much the downtown Seattle dining and retail scene depends on hipsters and urbanists in high rises versus tourists taking cruises, spillover from large events including sporting events, and conventions/business travelers. All of which are still way down from pre-Covid levels. Not to mention the whole club scene is still shut down. Does downtown Bellevue take a bigger piece of the pie? Definitely! But that doesn’t mean downtown Seattle diminishes. The pie can also get bigger.

      3. And office workers on lunch break. The crowds in downtown Seattle now look like Bothell or Kent usually do; in other words, not much. But not zero either. Pike Place Market has gotten its large weekend crowd back, but the other streets, no. I think most of the shoppers on Pine Street are locals, because why would tourists go to the same department stores and shops they have at home?

      4. We really should have a contest to guess which paragraph will be the beginning of the absurdities. “Fifth paragraph, who had fifth paragraph!”.

        Never mind that Giuliani was a terrible mayor (and an even worse human being), the fun really begins in the fifth paragraph:

        What bothers me the most about Seattle’s direction is Urbanists don’t want to live downtown, and the retail looks like it is dying.

        More people live in downtown Seattle than ever before.

        As for retail, there is a pandemic going on! I don’t know why folks seem to be ignoring that. Of course it hit downtown hard. Downtown has the events, is transit dependent, is a major tourist area and has been hit hard by the lack of office workers. Tourism from Canada, for example, is down 100%. Where are all the usual Japanese tourists, anyway? No one is taking the bus to see a show at the Paramount, Meany theater, or the Showbox, because there aren’t any! Even if there were, people are afraid to ride the buses. The Mariners lead the AL West, and attendance is down. Same with the Sounders. Not only that, but the small number who are allowed to attend the game don’t spend the time before the game hanging out in a crowded bar inside — simply because they aren’t allowed to. Good God, man, get some perspective. In a couple years if it looks like this then yes, that would be bad. But right now downtown is suffering from a freakin’ pandemic.

  4. Mike —
    You clearly have no idea what ST3 actually says about the five financial plans — one for each subarea — that the board is required to maintain and update. Read ST3, then get back to us.

    1. Ross, you need to go to downtown Bellevue. The pandemic is ending. You need to compare Bellevue’s downtown retail/restaurant environment with Seattle’s, and find an explanation for the difference. It isn’t as if Seattle was hit by the pandemic and the eastside was not. Or go to Issaquah or Kirkland or Redmond. Or any of the malls.

      The problem is downtown Seattle is not seeing any green shoots of activity when it should be. I know. I work in downtown Seattle five days/week. I go out and walk around and I don’t see any green shoots, and no one misses the retail and restaurant activity more than I do, because I actually work here. It irritates me when folks who never come downtown, or haven’t visited in a year, opine on the state of downtown Seattle.

      Giuliani was or became a terrible human being, but he was a very popular mayor, and is credited with turning NY around. Here is an interesting article about how he became mayor in 1993 in a very Democratic city. Bloomberg simply continued Giuliani’s policies, with a little more polish, and he is seen as a very popular mayor.

      Here is a good and comprehensive look at the issues facing downtown Seattle.

      I don’t know why you would write downtown Seattle’s population is higher than ever. Maybe you could speculate those who moved out will move back. In the past you acknowledged a decline in downtown population, along with a 14% decline in lease rates in upper priced units, which you ascribed to a closed city, but now you claim there was no loss of population. Come on, man.

      You also state tourism is still dead. That is just not true. Airplane travel is through the roof. Tourism is returning to cities. 30% of adult U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated, and half have received at least one shot. Seattle’s downtown retail core — even with the loss of Macy’s and some other key retail tenants — should not still be boarded up so their windows don’t get smashed.

      Get out and visit downtown Seattle, and visit surrounding cities and the different malls. People are going out in droves.

      1. How much is this related to the political differences in Bellevue/Eastside and Seattle? I went to Kirkland back in February, certainly before 10% of adults were vaccinated. 80% of the people were walking around without their masks on. Heck, I went to downtown Bellevue in last September, just after some of the restrictions imposed in the summer surge had been lifted. There were people eating indoors, not socially distanced, not masked when they weren’t eating. Unfortunately, covid protocols are a political wedge issue. And the politics of the Eastside, you more than most people on this board would know, are different from elsewhere.

        The truth is that people on the Eastside are more likely to be averse to covid protocols. More likely to flout restrictions. The guidance right now is “vaccinated people can be around vaccinated people, but not others.” It’s still tentative for someone who wants to follow the protocols (like me, and like many others) to be going out and living life socially. But if you don’t have that compunction, then you might be prone to go eat indoors.

        Let’s not get started on the economic picture. Plenty of people are still out of work, or otherwise in economic straits. Meanwhile, there are people that are merely inconvenienced – typically, your white-collar knowledge worker. Those are also people who make up a higher proportion on the Eastside.

        Why not wait a bit until we start to make proclamations? That’s all.

      2. Andrew, Atlanta has had Democratic mayors for the last 140 years. Not one Republican in all that time. Last summer, people were eating indoors, were not socially distanced, and were not masked when they weren’t eating. In other words, they were, and still are, flouting covid protocols. So I’m having a little trouble fitting them into your left/right covid theory.


        This article cites a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing a 23% point gap on wearing masks “most of the time” and a 33% point gap wearing masks “all the time” between Dems and Repubs. That poll was conducted in November/December.

        In a working paper, there is a large correlation between mask wearing and politics, even within states, even controlled for urban-rural, even controlled for a variety of other factors – such that Republicans are less likely to wear masks.

        I appreciate the criticism and too many people of any kind are probably still not following sensible protocols. But I’m having trouble how you could have lived through the past year and not noticed the clear politicization of mask wearing. What did you think when Trump was refusing to wear a mask for months – and then only wore one after he got infected – and then made a big show of taking his off after he returned to the White House?

      4. I drive all over Oklahoma for work. It is obvious anecdotally that the rural areas are taking covid less seriously than the urban areas, which skew blue. Even though the maps show covid is hitting rural counties worse. It is a correlation that rural=majority republican urban=Slightly less majority republican, not necessarily the reason . All though we did have a bunch of Q people and the mypillow guy throw a super-spreader mask burning party in suburban Tulsa last week……
        Y’all enjoy having real public transit in the PNW!

        sorry for the test i couldn’t figure how to reply directly in the thread.

      5. The pandemic is ending.

        Wow, first paragraph. Anyone have first paragraph? Anyone? Yeah, usually you start with a couple sensible paragraphs before you make statements that are complete, total bullshit. But you just jumped right into it this time. The pandemic is not ending. Yeah, sure, it will end, but that’s like saying everyone is dying (even that healthy little baby will eventually die).

        Look at the numbers for King County: We are in the middle of what has been called the “fourth wave”. As of right now, there are more cases and more hospitalizations that at any time last year prior to the election. It is quite likely Pierce County — which just recently moved from phase 3 to phase 2 — is going to move to the even more restrictive phase 1. It is also quite likely we will move to phase 2. This ain’t over, not by a long shot.

        To be clear, we are doing well in terms of vaccinations. That’s the good news. If we can keep this up, and if the variants are vaccine resistant, we could essentially be done with this during the summer. But that is the future. I’m talking about now.

        You need to compare Bellevue’s downtown retail/restaurant environment with Seattle’s, and find an explanation for the difference.

        I already did. Maybe you should spend a little more time reading, and less time writing. Seattle downtown is not Bellevue, nor is it some fucking mall. Good God, man, get a clue.

        Seattle downtown is a real downtown. People go there to do stuff, not buy stuff. They take transit there, instead of driving. Yes, I know, transit is pretty good to downtown Bellevue, but that doesn’t mean that the average person visiting Bellevue (which consists of … someone shopping at the mall?) takes the bus. Downtown Seattle is transit dependent, and activity dependent. My guess is more people attend the Moore Theater than all the activity centers in downtown Bellevue combined. Yet the Moore is smaller than the Paramount. Belltown is famous for its night life — not much of that going on. The Mariners and Sounders just recently allowed crowds, and those limited. Travel is tiny compared to what it was a couple years ago. Yes, it is coming back to life, but it is nowhere near what it was (did you even read the article you referenced?). International recreational travel to the U. S. is nonexistent (did you even read what I wrote?). There are no Japanese visitors. There are no Canadian visitors.

        Of course downtown Seattle is more dependent on all of this. No one from Canada comes here and says “I know, let’s visit a mall!”. They don’t come here to see downtown Bellevue. They want to see guys throwing around flying fish. They want to walk around old buildings, like those found in Pioneer Square. They want to visit the International District.

        Oh, and by the way, there was another big event that happened over the last year. I guess you didn’t notice it, just like you missed the news about the pandemic. Does the name George Floyd ring a bell? Yeah, turns out there were protests over his killing, in every major city in America. The bigger the city, the bigger the protest (my guess is Mercer Island didn’t have a big protest). Given for what passes for justice in America, I don’t blame any downtown shop keeper for boarding up the windows before the Chauvin verdict. Everyone remembers how the cops that beat up Rodney King got away with it — can’t blame for folks for assuming the same thing would happen here, and we would have riots.

        The combination of the pandemic and the potential for violent protests hit downtown areas hardest. Which is not to say that downtown Bellevue or the malls weren’t hurt (of course they were) but downtown Seattle got hit the hardest.

        As for unwillingness to live downtown, again, you should read the articles you reference.

        The essay you referenced as a sign that downtown Seattle is shrinking was written during the pandemic! It is right there, in the second paragraph: “Whether it was the pandemic …”. Yes, it was the pandemic. Seattle was not alone. Lots of people, from every major city, left it, temporarily. Again, to quote from the article “Seattle actually gained in net migration from the 20 largest cities in the country, as it has in other recent years. Seattle picked up a net gain of nearly 2,000 households coming here from those cities. Most of that influx came from San Francisco and New York — two cities that are both far more expensive, and arguably more troubled in the pandemic, than here.”

        You are basing all of your ideas on things that happened after the pandemic, with the assumption that the changes it brought will be permanent. If there really was a permanent migration out of the city, do you know what would happen? Housing would be cheap. So, let’s see how many 1 bedroom apartments there are downtown for under $300 grand. Not a lot. You have a couple places on First Hill, another one in Capitol Hill, and a very tiny place in Belltown. Most of the relatively cheap places are farther out. There are more affordable condos in Bitter Lake then there are in all of greater downtown.

        I know what you’re thinking (if you are into that sort thing). How can this be? How can so many people be leaving the area, but prices are still very high for condos — even tiny condos — downtown? It is almost as if they have only left temporarily — maybe in response to an event — and plan on returning at some point, just as they plan on doing in other big, expensive cities (or do you think San Fransisco is dying too?).

        Come on man, just read Wikipedia (

        With about 65,000 people living in Seattle’s core neighborhoods as of 2015, the downtown area’s population is growing. Downtown saw a 10 percent increase in the number of occupied housing units and an 8 percent increase in population between 2010 and 2014, outpacing growth in the city as a whole. … As of 2018, Downtown Seattle has 82,000 residents and 300,000 jobs, including 48,000 added since 2010 in the Denny Triangle area.

        That is what I mean when I write that Seattle has never had so many people living in downtown. No one was saying this “downtown Seattle is dying” bullshit before the pandemic. They won’t say it after it ends either. Unfortunately, it won’t end for years, although we in America may be vaccinated relatively soon.

      6. Hey Ross, you’ll have a much better time if you just scroll past and ignore anything Mercer Island Man writes without reading it, because you know it’s going to be more Seattle Is Dying brain worm horseshit every time. There’s not enough time in the day to debate every internet shithead, especially not one with a track record of being this wrong all the time. At least Sam is clever, this guy is just tedious.

        Unfortunately you’ll be scrolling for a while, since he’s both physically incapable of writing fewer than 2,000 words at a time AND never able to insert his reply in the right place.

      7. Anyone can find stats to back up their political biases. It proves nothing. Only that the person is biased. BTW, according to Andrew’s logic, Sweden’s politics must be very far right of Bellevue’s.

      8. The poll doesn’t distinguish between indoors and outdoors, so it’s unclear how people who consistently wear masks only indoors are supposed to answer.

        It’s a poorly worded question.

  5. One wonders why there is room for two-year lease for a tiny house village north of NE 45th Street on the Roosevelt couplet. Even with Covid, there are building cranes throughout the U District. There is also heavy traffic.

    1. That intersection has large parking lots and strip malls, so there’s plenty of room for a tiny-house village.

      1. All the more reason it is likely to be converted to something bigger in the future. I’m pretty sure this is the lot, just south of the Mazda dealership: This gives the owners of that property a chance to do something with that land for a couple years. My guess is after a while they will start the permitting place to build a new apartment, with the intent of building there after the lease is up.

        Unless the lot used to be a gas station, and there are issues with the soil. The lot at Roosevelt and Northgate Way is like that ( It has sat largely empty, with the occasional surface level retail popping up from time to time (e. g. Christmas trees). That would be a good place for some tiny houses.

    2. “The truth is that people on the Eastside are more likely to be averse to covid protocols. More likely to flout restrictions. The guidance right now is “vaccinated people can be around vaccinated people, but not others.”

      Andrew, you do know that you can check statistics on infection/positivity rates per 100,000 citizens for different cities.

      Just click on the bar and select the city. For example:

      Bellevue: 2908.5/100,000 citizens.

      Kirkland: 2840.1/100,000

      Issaquah: 2726.8/100,000

      Mercer Is. 2194.5/100,000

      King Co.: 4288.3/100,000

      Seattle: 3137.6/100,000

      I think the difference between the data and your anecdotal evidence suggests your politics may be influencing your opinion.

      “And the politics of the Eastside, you more than most people on this board would know, are different from elsewhere.”

      I think that is another misconception. For example, I have posted before that Mercer Island donated over ten times more to Biden than Trump. The 41st legislative district is one of the most liberal in the state. If you really want to see a political divide, I think north and south King Co. is a better comparison, because the working poor feel tax increases much more acutely than the wealthy. Or Snohomish/Pierce Co. vs. King Co. Generally urban density more than wealth influences political party preferences.

      1. Daniel I appreciate the point about politics that you’ve brought up. It’s true that Washington and KC in particular is more blue. I come from the South where pretty much anywhere outside the cities is straight red. But there’s still a difference, isn’t there? I guess my point is that you are always bringing up Seattle’s social justice agenda in contrast to Bellevue – doesn’t that represent some sort of political difference between the two?

        On the other point about Covid per 1000 – doesn’t say much. There’s more population density in Seattle. There’s more essential workers, as proportion, in Seattle. There’s more poverty in Seattle.

        I’d say take a look at these links I showed to Sam – masks, social distancing, other covid protocols are definitely a political issue.

    3. Andrew have you actually been to the eastside? Where do you get this idea the eastside is rural America, or even eastern WA. Look at the eastside state legislators. How many R’s do you see.

      The data disproves your theory that eastside residents don’t take protocols like wearing a mask or social distancing as seriously as Seattle residents. I work in downtown Seattle and I can state virtually no one on the street I see wears a mask, but on the eastside mask adherence is very high, and of course the data proves that.

      Eastside positivity rates are lower than Seattle. In fact Mercer Island’s positivity rate is almost 1/2 of Seattle’s, but you don’t see me claiming that is because Islanders are twice as conscientious about wearing a mask or social distancing than Seattleites, although my suspicion based on the data that is partly true.

      The reality is Covid moved from urban areas to rural areas.

      Overall there is not a great difference in positivity rates between metro and non-metro areas from March 2020 to April 2021. This is a very good article examining the factors behind positivity rates in the country, which tend to migrate.

      Yes, masks became a political statement, but factors other than masks had important influences in positivity rates, such as density of housing, density of population, essential workers, race and ethnicity, testing, poor decision making like forcing nursing homes to accept infected patients, and so on.

      My original point was the retail vibrancy of the eastside and the malls compared to downtown Seattle indicates Seattle’s retail and restaurant scene has issues other than the pandemic. Claiming eastsiders party harder because they are not as conscientious about Covid protocols is disproved by the data, as virtually every eastside city has a lower positivity rate than Seattle, even though Seattle is much less vibrant right now.

      I think one of the biggest mistakes some make is viewing every issue through a D vs. R, or metro vs. non-metro-rural lens. Seattle’s retail and restaurant vibrancy was hurting pre-pandemic, and IMO has structural issues it must address post-pandemic to recover.

      Those issues have nothing to do with D vs. R (otherwise your argument would be R’s on the eastside are way smarter than D’s on the westside in running a city, and the fact large blue cities are hurting right now). Seattle has made some poor choices, and once it addresses those I would hope retail and restaurant vibrancy returns, although cities on the eastside probably hope for the opposite as Seattleites are going east to shop and dine, but more importantly eastsiders are not going west, and it isn’t because the eastside has lower positivity rates.

      1. My original point was the retail vibrancy of the eastside and the malls compared to downtown Seattle indicates Seattle’s retail and restaurant scene has issues other than the pandemic.

        Yet you can’t point to a single bit of evidence to support that theory. You don’t have any report of problems prior to the pandemic. Do think it was just a coincidence that the downturn happened at the same time? Do you think that Seattle shop keepers would be boarding up buildings if not for the pandemic, and the protests?

        Come on dude, all of this happened within a very short period of time — barely more than a year. We are still in the thick of it, with very high numbers of infections. It isn’t a coincidence. The pandemic hurt downtown Seattle just like it hurt New York City and San Fransisco. The more urban the area, the harder it was it hit. It’s not a coincidence.

  6. Early-life mode change sends steel after steel. Gather your your lean-age where both steerage are board are both both in board able, rail, and notice speed and assertion. If nobody’s got steel/steel in their brief -case, only a matter of time.

    Or some appropriate animal too, but you have to risk the creature’s life, but we really are already in realms where iron often fail to make non-worlverous honorables species too. One can “Non-rechervize” and still not ever near “die.” as a positive result.

    Wash it down with cognac at the back of the bar in poback side side with someboy with some tough touch people who resembers a silversotan in Pioteen in Pioneer deep the Poor and we’ll have you contract for you to will Pioneer Square!

    Mark Dublin

    1. I don’t know if you know this Ross, but King Co. is in phase 2, which allows 50% capacity for indoor dining, outdoor dining, and gatherings up to 50 people. I am not aware of a single boarded up store on the Eastside, or a single closed restaurant whose space has not been filled with a new restaurant. Even with extended unemployment benefits people are flocking back to work. A store today should not be boarded up. It is phase 2.

      I used to go out when allowed when unvaccinated, following proper protocols. Now I am fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. I still wear a mask in public because the CDC still isn’t certain whether I could infect an unvaccinated person. I walk around downtown Seattle, fully vaccinated, because I work there, but can’t find many open stores or restaurants. It is like a ghost town.

      I am going out tonight to eat. I am vaccinated. The restaurant will have 50% capacity. I will wear a mask until I reach the table. I won’t live my life in unreasonable fear.

      You gotta get out of your room. Life is too short to live afraid, especially if you have been vaccinated.

      It feels good to go out. Head to Bellevue or Kirkland and walk around. Feel the energy. Get something to eat with your sweetheart. It will help take the hysteria away and remind us all a blog is not LIFE. Or head to downtown Seattle if it is so vibrant. I bet the Market has open restaurants, and Elliott’s is nice. I don’t care. Just get out and enjoy. I mean that seriously. It will help take the anger away that builds with isolation.

  7. A lot of interesting ST board documents were published today for the full board’s monthly meeting. (Pet peeve: Last minute publication makes submitting public comment on any agenda items difficult. This has become the norm of late.) I encourage all to take a look at the latest financial and realignment update materials.

    I found this little nugget quite interesting:

    “Purchased transportation cost growth consistently higher than
    the rate assumed in the ST2/3 plan. It could add $1B additional
    cost to the plan if cost growth not contained.”

    I’m assuming STB will do a full post on today’s board update in the near future, so I’ll await for that to comment further.

      1. They have 100% visibility to KCM’s cost structure, so it’s pretty obvious where the cost increases are coming from, in particular when PT and CT don’t have the same cost slope. So far, King County won’t let ST operate its own buses or trains because charging ST for KCM and KC ‘overhead’ is a critical source of revenue for KC’s general fund. All those staffers working at the council would need to take a pay cut if ST left the fold.

        In 2019, ST staff proposed a interim bus base to solve regional base capacity issues (stopgap until East Link opened), and King county politicians and unions (I repeat myself) mobilized and blocked the move in somewhat dramatic fashion (for an ST board meeting), insisting that running more buses is less important than King County getting paid.

      2. Thank you for the Libertarian Hot Take on bus operation pricing. I can see that there is a conflict of interest within the Council. With three of the five subareas plus most of the “city” seats on the ST Board, King County seems destined to control the agency.

        Perhaps some independently elected members should be added to the Board if only to complain publicly about the self-dealing in real time.

  8. Here is the information that was released on Thursday for the ST monthly board meeting regarding the agency’s updated financial plan:

    2017-2041 Financial Plan Update

    Tax Revenues Update-
    • Tax revenue loss projection improved by $4.6B
    (from Fall 2020 forecast of $6.1B, to $1.5B).

    April 2021 Federal Grant Updates-
    • $527M American Rescue Plan funding:
    —$275M formula
    —$253M for Federal Way and
    Lynnwood Extensions

    Well, that’s the end of the good news. Of course that also means that ST can no longer rely upon the recession narrative for their spin. On to the bigger problem….

    Capital Costs Update-
    $595M higher projected capital cost mainly due to updated capital cost inflation, project
    cashflow, and infill stations cost estimates:
    • $1.2B increase from updated inflation adjustment:
    —Construction Cost Index +$1.03B
    —Consumer Price Index: +$0.13B
    • $716M decrease from project cashflow updates
    • $154M increase in infill Station cost estimates:
    —NE 130th Street Station ($64M estimate increase)
    —Graham Street Station ($12M estimate increase)
    —-Boeing Access Road Station ($78M estimate increase)

    Putting it all together, ST is now projecting an affordability gap of $7.9B, down from the $11.5B figure that was released in Jan 2021. This is largely due to the improved revenue picture. There’s a slide in the presentation deck that illustrates the math as follows:
    Jan 2021 Affordability Gap
    Revenues revision +$4.6B
    Additional grants +$0.5B
    Capital exp net increases -$0.6B
    Other exp increases -$0.9B
    April 2021 Affordability Gap

    I just finished reading the independent consultant’s assessment report (from Triunity et al) published yesterday as well, “ST3 Cost Estimates & General Assessment Services – Task 1 Final Report”. It was also on the agenda for Thursday’s board meeting.

    All I can say is wow. Just wow. Some of the cost estimation misses on the four ST3 project areas that the consultant group was tasked with assessing are just enormous.

    Here is the top line takeaway but I strongly encourage others to read the entire report for the details.

    “The report considers both capital costs and associated real estate. For the Board’s information, the Appendix provides information on peer agency’s cost increases for mega-projects. The cost estimates previously presented to the Board for the four projects (I-405 BRT, SR-522 BRT and Bus Base North is considered one project for the report) at the various stages of
    development is shown in the below table:

    “Project, ST3 Plan (2016), Phase 1 (2019), Phase 2 (2020)

    “WSBLE, $7,094M, $7,929M, $12,103 – $12,581M
    TDLE, $2,431M, $2,999M, $3,308M
    OMFS, $649M, $759 – $1,366M, $1,167 – 2,424M
    I-405 BRT, $1,037M, $1,088M, $1,016M
    SR-522 BRT, $481M, $658M, $544M
    Bus Base North, $191M, $208M, $238M”

    All figures are shown in constant 2019$.

    1. Haven’t read the report, but the inflation in the light rail numbers vs. BRT kinda jumps out here.

      1. That’s because the ROW acquisition costs were waaaaay off, and the construction cost estimates were not great. The BRT projects require little to no additional ROW since they’re running on existing streets and highways. In contrast, the light rail projects (WSBLE in particular) are a lot of brand new ROW. Meanwhile ST missed on the cost of elevated guideway construction (longer spans generally) and ground mitigation work (hazardous material removal in particular)

        ST blew the ROW cost for WSBLE by 1,500-1,750%. From $162 million in 2016 to $2.58 (tunnels)-$3.0 (elevated) billion in 2020. (page 20 of the consultants report) Some of that was maybe unavoidable due to the crazy real estate market, but most of it was just plain bad estimating.

      2. The increased cost of ROW is more than a cost issue. ST is proposing to take out much or even most of Youngstown. This is a community impact issue.

        Let’s also not ignore that a deep IDC Station set of platforms is also still on the table, right? I have a hard time seeing how digging a 150 foot deep vault won’t impact Chinatown more that a more shallow alternative. It’s kind of revealing when one neighborhood gets leaders up in arms about construction impacts when a different one is planned to be somewhat permanently wiped out and no one seems to care.

        One could blame bad estimates. I blame bad contingencies because 10 percent for ST3 was way off given the uncertainties of actually building this project.

      3. It seems pretty obvious that a mid-level opening bridge at the end of Diagonal Avenue, leading to a short tunnel through Pigeon Ridge ending directly at Genessee is and always has been the right solution. The truth is that it’s probably the cheapest solution as well, even with the short tunnel.

        It gets Link out of the inevitable construction congestion when the West Seattle Bridge has to be replaced and avoids the curve problems in Youngstown. The station could straddle Delridge, making bus connections direct and quick. I know that they rejected a Pigeon Ridge Tunnel in the first cut, but given the huge community impacts and high costs of the other alternatives, it should be evaluated again. The biggest cost would probably be crossing Argo Yard on the Diagonal Avenue heading.

      4. I tend to agree, Tom. Looking at it objectively, the short Pigeon Ridge tunnel bore (no excavated section with a costly station vault) seems to have been a “cost-effective” ($ + impacts) way to build this section and should not have been discarded. It would have avoided lots of potentially messy problems.

        I do wonder if an opportunity missed is having an added station between First Ave and 99.

        Another opportunity I wonder about is to have a wye at the western end of this bridge, allowing ST to then someday extend Link to the 509 corridor — as an alternative to the conceptual Duwamish bypass (stations east of White Center and at Burien).

        I’m not affected by this line — except for how the RV split combined with terrible station platform layouts — will turn a one seat ride into a unreasonably difficult rail transfer once the second tunnel opens. I’ll let others take on the West Seattle design challenge.

      5. There aren’t many new stations with the BRT. There are some new parking lots (which likely explains the cost increase for I-522 BRT) but that’s about it. Some of the increased cost is due to land being a lot more expensive than they though. Some of it is that it more expensive to build than expected (this is the case with 130th, for example — the land is all bought, they just need to build it). You also have the combination — in West Seattle they want to go somewhere different, and land there is more expensive. Mostly it is the stations, not the rail itself (although partly it is the cost of rail).

      6. Al, I agree that the wye idea for a cheap way south is worth investigating. It would, however bypass the northern part of White Center which seems a good place for growth. It would bypass all of the Roxbury region if it followed SR509 to be really cheap, but it would end up purely an express bus replacement.

        What about putting the wye at the west end of the tunnel just west of the station over Delridge and running down the greenbelt? Junction stub trains would be infrequent enough that a level junction would be reasonable here.

        This would be a long time in the future.

      7. Tom, I tend to think that West Seattle should have an integrated high capacity transit systems plan regardless of the ST3 financial outcomes. It’s an area with many smaller commercial districts, no large employment districts, key hubs scattered all over the place and no worsening traffic/ bus bottlenecks once getting across the river — making grade-separated light rail overly expensive and not optimally responsive.

        The gondola advocates are in my mind filling this visionary “gap” of a good plan by their proposal even though I think it’s a horrible idea to build a long one to SODO.

        In addition to your idea , I lay out even more concepts:

        A. I could see an Alki- Admiral- Alaska Junction- High Point- Westwood- White Center- 509 Station near Glendale- South Park- BAR surface line (as long as it’s not bogged down in mixed flow traffic).

        B. I could see a cable pulled line (fixed cable liner or gondola) extending from 509 to White Center and Westwood and maybe all the way to Fauntleroy Terminal.

        C. I could see this new “509 branch” not being the bypass and instead turning east-west once at the top of the hill to connect to White Center and Westwood and up to High Point as a second West Seattle Link line (that would feed into the SLU line to offload heavy demand there). It could even be the southern half of an eventual Aurora line.

        I’m not wedded to any of the options and some may have serious flaws. I’m thinking are likely others — at least variations to these.

        The big problem with the West Seattle transit planning work to date is that ST led the rail planning, SDOT led the RapidRide planning and Metro led the bus route planning. There has not been a recent jointly-led long-range high-capacity systems plan for West Seattle driven by the community itself.

        An argument against this is that it would slow down project development by two or three years to do this planning. However, it’s clear that a delay is still more than likely and that many lawsuits are likely that will slow down Link to West Seattle — and finally that a stub line in the interim is useless since almost everyone in West Seattle would be forced to make a double transfer (until the second tunnel opens way past 2035) while they have direct service to Downtown Seattle now.

        So my urging is to have a jointly-led West Seattle Long-Range High-Capacity plan with tireless community involvement so all this noisy chatter can be channeled away from gondola fantasies and neighborhood destruction to an affordable, optimal strategy for the investment!

      8. I really like your surface line from Alki to BAR Station; Metro should establish it as a RapidRide and see how it pans out. I’m pretty skeptical that West Seattle would give up that much right of way for a rail line, but there are some great trip-pairs opened up by such a cross-town, even as a bus.

      9. Thanks Tom! Still, I don’t know if it is that useful without those three Link stations in place though. None of these stations exist today.

        Tying West Seattle better to Link differently will soon be needed in my mind. The future of 560 looks very problematic once Stride opens. I don’t get why both Stride and RapidRide F should both terminate in Burien. One should terminate at TIBS, and the truncated segment should be served by RapidRide H (Delridge) or Stride should continue to West Seattle.

    2. Thanks for the numbers tisgwm.

      Is it just me, or is anyone else concerned about such huge swings in tax revenue estimates in 12 months. ST’s revenue losses went from $6.1 billion to $1.5 billion in 12 months. Even with a pandemic can anyone think of a public company that must issue quarterly guidance that has recalculated its estimates to this degree? How about another local agency or company? How does a board make a decision when an agency has such wild swings in estimates?

      Personally I don’t trust any estimates ST issues because few if none have been correct, or close, and the errors always benefit ST’s goals. Ridership estimates on East Link, cost projections on ST 1, ST 3, and now revenue estimates.

      If one takes the April 2021 affordability gap of $7.9 billion and adds back in the $4.6 billion difference between tax revenue estimates you get $12.5 billion (not including the $500 million in additional grants), which is the number I would have predicted considering I think ST continues to low ball the rising costs for future projects but wants to slow walk the true numbers.

      All I know is no public transit agency that has been doing this for over 20 years in this region should have such wild swings in tax revenue estimates. Either the estimated declines in 2020 were exaggerated, or the new numbers in April 2021 are lowballed.

      I still suspect the cost increases are lowballed and will continue to rise, and would bet total tax revenue losses are more than $1.5 billion. Maybe the sudden revelation of the $11.5 billion figure worried Rogoff his job was on the line, so he needed a lower number. If I were on the Board, and ST kept giving me numbers that changed so dramatically, I would first ask ST what it wants the Board to do, and then do nothing. My suspicion would be ST is angling for some kind of regional levy and is simply looking for a number the Board thinks could pass, when I don’t think any number could pass.

      I would tell ST thank you for the estimates, now complete the spine and get it up and running, and we can revisit these estimates and what needs to be done in several years when we have better numbers. And get a CEO I could trust.

      I don’t know what ST’s angle is with the old and new numbers, but I know there is an angle, and for ST estimates are just a political tool.

      Of course, as I predicted, ST never really took seriously first/last mile access in its love for rail, and is learning relying on Metro to provide frequent and reasonably priced transit in King Co. along nearly 90 miles of rail was probably a foolish thing to do, and as I also suggested ST is beginning to use its huge political machine to trash Metro so Metro owns the coming issues with first/last mile access to rail.

      ST should have built more park and rides. First they should not cost 30% more per stall than it costs a private developer building parking underground, and second there is no driver, no union, no electrification costs, in fact no vehicle or employee costs, no politics on routing, and perfect frequency if the park and ride directly serves light rail or the express bus, and you can charge for park and rides.

      1. For years, I’ve been pointing to FTA guidance that advises a 30 percent contingency at this stage of project development. Even though obvious corridors (mostly within existing right of way and on the surface with occasional aerial sections) could have a lower contingency, this is creating a new corridor with many subway stations — several deep stations — meaning that the costs are almost assuredly going to be off — like almost every single major Downtown subway in the US and other countries recently opened or under construction. Every time I’ve pointed out, the point doesn’t seem to get much traction.

        Given the continued vagueness of the subway station details in Downtown Seattle even now, I also think another huge cost increase is coming.

        Finally, I get concerned that we are building a suboptimal system that will limit Link for decades. Eyeing value engineering so early sets the stage for forgoing good stations in the future when they finally open.

    3. I assume OMFS stands for the new operations facilities. As I understand it, these aren’t needed if we stop at Lynnwood and Federal Way. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

      If that is the case, I think they should be included in the other costs. The north end OMF should be considered part of Everett Link, while the southern one is part of Tacoma Dome Link. Seems silly to treat them as separate projects. I think it is interesting to break out the costs, but that is true for every project (e. g. how much of the cost of West Seattle-Ballard Link is the part in West Seattle, or the cost of the stations versus the line itself, etc.).

      1. You raise a good point, Ross. Still it’s not so cut and dried.

        The existing ST2 system was promised to go from 8/4 minute service to 6/3 minute service so that even existing lines are projected to need 33 percent more vehicles.

        It could be argued that some of the increased frequency is needed to carry the new riders on the new extensions. Still, most of those riders would be on a feeder bus or driving to a lot further from their home — so the net new riders probably don’t warrant this level of vehicle increase by itself.

        ST could probably add a line item to every project as “OMF capacity increase” to the vehicle costs as an alternative approach. Separating the OMF is conceivably better for value engineering, grant writing and other project development issues.

  9. Most people who haven’t visited Northup Way in Bellevue in the last few months probably aren’t aware of this fairly large residential project. The website has some recent construction progress photos. A storage locker business called Bellevue You-Store-It used to be there. This location is about one or two driveways west of the AM/PM on the corner of 130th/Northup. I estimate it will be a five minute walk to the Bel-Red/130th Station.

  10. This is in reply to a comment from Jason Rogers above. Jason wrote:

    “ST blew the ROW cost for WSBLE by 1,500-1,750%. From $162 million in 2016 to $2.58 (tunnels)-$3.0 (elevated) billion in 2020. (page 20 of the consultants report) Some of that was maybe unavoidable due to the crazy real estate market, but most of it was just plain bad estimating.”

    Yeah, I had to reread the section on the ROW estimate misses for this particular study area a couple of times because I couldn’t believe what I was reading frankly. Holy cow. How do certain planning people still have their jobs? Who were the consultants that assisted with formulating some of these truly terrible ST3 estimates? Is this just incredible incompetence or some level of malfeasance at play (to keep the 2016 levy ask within a certain range)?

    I actually was going to include exactly the section of the assessment report you’ve mentioned in my previous comment but opted not to since the comment was quite long already. But since you’ve brought up the specific issue anyway in your comment, I’m going to go ahead and cite the narrative contained on page 20 of the report. ST will of course try to spin the narrative in the direction of the market impact but that’s only ancillary to the primary driver at play here, i.e., the increased magnitude of the required ROW.
    From my own experience watching this play out with the Lynnwood Link extension project over the years, a project with an alignment largely within the I-5 ROW, my guess is that the parcel numbers given for the 2020 Phase 2 assessment are still vastly understated.

    (Page 20 of the report)
    “SCC 60 Comparison of Estimates

    “ST3 (2016) Plan to Phase 1(2019)

    “Overall ROW costs increased from $162 million in the ST3 (2016) plan to $678 million, representing an increase of 318%. As the design was further developed, the total area of impacted ROW increased by 11%; however, as the ROW impacts
    were further analyzed, it was determined that the number of full takes increased from 65 in the ST3 (2016) Plan to 100 in
    Phase 1 (2019).

    “Rising real estate values in Seattle over the three-year period also largely contributed to the change in overall ROW Costs
    (see bullet points below).

    “The increase in the overall contingency from 55% to 75% also made a significant contribution (36% on top of higher property values) to the increased ROW costs.

    “Phase 1 (2019) to Phase 2 (2020)

    “Overall ROW costs increased from $678 million in the ST3 (2016) plan to ~$3 billion (PA 201 (Elevated)) and $2.58 billion
    (PA 202 (Tunnel)), representing an increase of 342% (PA 201 (Elevated)) and 280% (PA 202 (Tunnel)).

    “The area of impacted ROW measured in square feet (sf), including full acquisitions, increased from 2.4 million sf in Phase 1 (2019) to 6.7 million sf (PA 201 (Elevated)), representing a 174% increase, and 6.3 million sf (PA 202 (Tunnel)), representing a 162% increase, in Phase 2 (2020), with associated full takes increasing from 100 in Phase 1 (2019) to 298 (PA 201 (Elevated)) and 259 (PA 202 (Tunnel)) in Phase 2 (2020).

    [Ed: The following paragraph should be especially highlighted. Btw, TCE’s is the shorthand for temporary construction easements.]

    “The single greatest reason for the increase in cost appears to be the use of the buffer method for estimating private property impacts in the ST3 (2016) Plan and Phase 1 (2019) cost estimates, in contrast to the use of a more refined project
    footprint in Phase 2 (2020). This footprint resulted in a more accurate understanding of the ROW impacts, with a significant
    increase in the number of full acquisitions (see above) as well as more impactful partial acquisitions. In fact, real estate
    impacts associated simply with construction (not including TCE’s) account for $1.4 billion (PA 201 (Elevated)) and $1.2 billion (PA 202 (Tunnel)). These costs are particularly noticeable in the downtown segment.

    “The other significant factors include rising real estate costs and redevelopment of parcels to higher density uses.
    ▪ Seattle multifamily residential sale prices increased from $315,460/unit in 2016 to $410,567/unit in 2020, equal to
    appreciation of 8%/yr.
    ▪ Between 2016 and 2020, only 643 multifamily residential units were demolished, whereas 31,139 were built, illustrating lower density uses being replaced with higher density uses.
    ▪ Seattle office sale prices increased 6%/year in the same time frame with approximately 2.9 million sf of deliveries/year compared to 65,000 sf of demo.
    ▪ Retail and industrial values/sf increased by 5%/year and 12%/year, respectively.
    ▪ King County median assessed values for single family residential increased 44% from 2016-2020, equal to 11%/yr.
    ▪ These market conditions are reflected in higher real estate values in the estimate, with a significant jump in the RE Adjustment Multiplier used for commercial properties (from 1.67 in Phase 1 (2019) to 1.90 in Phase 2 (2020)).”

    1. Tlsgwm, I do not see how “real estate impacts associated simply with construction” for a fully tunneled section of the project [e.g. “the downtown segment”] are, frankly, anything other than zero. I understand that there will be impacts — big ones — to traffic, pedestrian circulation, and even, possibly, certain ingress and egress paths to the buildings surrounding Midtown, New Westlake, and Denny, and possibly though to a much lower degree to those surrounding “South Lake Union” [e.g. “Aurora Bus Intercept”], Lower Queen Anne and New IDS.

      Perhaps there will be some takings making construction cheaper at Lower Queen Anne and Aurora Bus Intercept, and maybe at New IDS. The single-story building at the northwest corner of Denny and Westlake could be taken, though it is certainly modern and attractive. At all four stations the streets are fairly narrow and it is perhaps cheaper to buy the least attractive building adjacent to the primary intersection for a construction staging site.

      However, there is no way in hell that any “taking” will occur at New Westlake or Midtown, because whatever would be taken is many stories tall. It is, bluntly put, a farce or a damnably corrupt giveaway that the necessary takings at those four other stations can total two effyouseeking billion dollars. The real estate on all thirteen available corners adjacent in total can’t be more than two or three hundred million in the most optimistic scenario possible. So where in the world do the other $1.8 billion come from? This is not the cost of tunneling but rather the takings for access holes and stations. I do NOT get it; ST must be building replicas of Westlake everywhere there’s a subterranean station.

    2. “This is not the cost of tunneling but rather the takings for access holes and stations.”

      What’s the matter? Tunnels need access holes.

      “ST must be building replicas of Westlake everywhere there’s a subterranean station.”

      What does Westlake have to do with it?

      1. Of course tunnels need access holes, and they’re big. But there are to be two tubes through downtown which will probably be dug in one direction, from one access hole to another, probably with two TBM’s because of the length of the bores, just as the stretch from the bus tunnel to Capitol Hill was dug from CHS to the ventilation box next to the freeway.

        One of those access boxes will be south of IDS, presumably in what is now one of the plethora of parking lots in the area. The other will be at the other portal, somewhere along Elliott West north of Harrison. Yes, that one might be a bit spendy, depending where the portal is. But if they’re smart given the cost of land in Seattle, the tunnel will actually stay inside the southwest corner of Queen Anne Hill all the way to the Helix Bridge area.

        The plan to build a second pair of tracks on or above the busway won’t require any takings; either the City or Metro already owns it. A bridge at Holgate won’t require any land; the City already owns the right of way of the street.

        A tunnel in West Seattle will require a couple of access holes, but dammit Sound Transit and City, just close Alaska in the two blocks east of California long enough to deck over the hole for the station box and launch the TBM(s) from there, removing it/them at the side of the hill below Avalon.

        A tunnel below the Ship Canal would begin somewhere around the Dravus Station and, if headed right into Central Ballard end about 20th and 58th. It would probably require several properties along one side of 20th between 56th and 58th (the closest to 20th and perhaps the adjacent one along the north side of 56th, both sides of 57th and the south side of 58th). Those would certainly be expensive, but they could be re-sold after construction for a definite profit.

        If the tunnel were to end at ST’s preferred alternative in the middle of 14th there would be no cost for property, because the right of way of 14th NW is wide enough to build a station box without any takings. That’s probably why ST prefers it. The 15th NW station site would require taking at least the gasoline station of the Safeway.

        How much did the entire block on which CHS is sited cost? Given that it was mostly houses with a few old two- or three-story apartment buildings and four parking lots, the total cost may have been $20 million. In a pinch $30 million, but I really doubt it. I have tried to find some figure in the Wayback Machine, but was unable to do so.

        Sure, if it were done today it would be vastly more expensive, but that’s because the station is there now.

        Obviously, the folks making these estimates have access to more detailed plans than we do, but $2 billion for six TBM retrievals and four station boxes splashing outside the road rights of way really seems excessive. ST is paying too much, probably to avoid having to take people to court with the resultant indignant boo-hooing by the the owners who didn’t get a 400% premium on the property for their silence.

      2. Tom, about CHS, have you tried Parcel Viewer? There are various parcels involved, but if you go through them individually, looking at Property Report, Property Detail, and Sales History, you might find out what they cost.

      3. A few follow-up thoughts….

        1. Parcel viewer won’t be much help as sales prices for property takings for public use won’t be disclosed, whether acquired through condemnation or settlement. Likewise, the board resolutions whereby the parcel takings are authorized will not disclose the individual property financial details. Per board and agency policy, such discussions are only done in executive session.

        2. I would suggest rereading Dan Ryan’s blog piece from January whereby he discusses some of the reasoning behind the higher ROW estimates.

        3. @Tom T. I think perhaps you are underestimating the cost of ROW for station access points in the downtown portion of the planned second tunnel. It’s not just the portals for the two TBM’s being considered in the new estimates. I suppose you could attempt to do a public records request for the spreadsheets the agency has compiled for the various alignments and station sitings that would list the potential impacted properties, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a response on that. Such documents should’ve been included as part of this independent consultant’s “Task 1” assessment.

      4. Tls, I just found that out. I looked at a CHS parcel, and the transaction where there should have been a transaction listed is missing.

      5. Thanks, Sam. I found it. I’ll see if I can suss out the original parcels underneath the station footprint. Great tip.

      6. Thanks, Sam. I found it. I’ll see if I can suss out the original parcels underneath the station footprint. Great tip.

        Tlsgwm, thank you for the information about the property acquisition process. I’m going to try Sam’s hint to find out the previous sale prices for some of the parcels.

        ST simply cannot build anywhere except within the envelope of the overlying streets for New Westlake and Midtown. What are they going to tear down at Sixth and Pine (or Pike or Olive) for an access point? They will have to deck over Sixth Avenue like Market was decked during the building of the BART/Muni Tunnel and like Third Avenue was decked over during the construction of Pioneer Square and Unversity Street. That’s the only way to do it.

        The same is true for Midtown if placed on Fifth Avenue. If it were sited under Sixth Avenue — I am NOT, NOT, NOT advocating that; it would be crazy unless underground walkways under the freeway were provided to First Hill — then the access could probably slop into the freeway ROW a few yards. Otherwise the thing is completely surrounded by deep foundations which simply cannot be moved or bothered.

        I am convinced that Midtown will be a stacked station whether ST allows for Subway’s “Pink Line” deviation just south of it or not. There’s no other way to fit it in between the street boundaries. Fifth Avenue is “not that wide”. Again, it will have to be decked over between just north of Marion and Madison and then between Madison and just south of Spring. It’s probably possible to build the station box without severing Madison, but it will be tricky. Since the thing is going to be deep, deep, deep, providing a small Mezzanine the length of the station over the platforms with access on the sides probably wouldn’t be too difficult. Remember that BART requires its riders to descend two levels from the Mezzanine.

        I would have it run from Spring to Marion and actually have the Mezzanine cross those streets, though the platforms won’t need to. That way there can be a horizontal walkway to Fourth Avenue at each end and at the Marion end a long diagonal under the freeway for access to First Hill.

        There would be accesses to Fifth at both ends as well, of course and probably basement access to some of the surrounding super-high-rises.

        Just don’t mess with their foundations. Keep it slender and compact.

  11. Sound Transit’s “realignment” survey is pretty open-ended, and this is an open thread, so here are the thoughts I am working up. Some of them are maybe not so original, as I read this blog every day!

    West Seattle:

    It was never worth striving for a 2030 opening of West Seattle Link that requires a transfer to get downtown. So the first thing to do is to abandon that as a goal.

    Next, the costs and impacts in West Seattle turn out to be quite significant, and the benefits, not so clear, versus the best BRT system you could build. We should run those numbers again.

    The West Seattle Bridge is currently in jeopardy but will be fixed. After all the drama, SR 99 is a reliable connection to downtown. We have basically a freeway connecting downtown Seattle and West Seattle that is under either state or local jurisdiction.

    So why don’t we do what it takes to carve out the space we need on this roadway network and improve upon it and get West Seattle some better-performing, higher-quality bus service that gets people downtown and onto the Link system, years sooner than West Seattle Link would. Why would this not work?

    Given West Seattle geography, Link is unlikely to be extended beyond the Junction, and a line that doesn’t even make it to the “real” Junction at California Ave. would be disappointing. Meanwhile, the center of gravity of population, and the growth, is from Delridge to the south, towards White Center. Finally, the folks in the Admiral district and Alki are all left out of the Link plan.

    West Seattle geography is what it is; we cannot fight it. It’s a basic fan-out of small-to-medium destinations along arterials that leads to a limited-access roadway to downtown — an absolute natural for BRT.

    Maybe you could have buses continue past IDS, straight up Yesler to Harborview and First Hill, which is still pretty hard to access in this system. Let’s think about the possibilities now, not just the barriers to existing plans.

    West Seattle was an add-on to the Link long term plan, and a questionable one, at that, arguably made for political reasons as much as planning reasons. It was never a top priority. Ballard, in contrast, was on the map as far back as Sound Move in 1996.

    The construction of West Seattle Link would take out a large number of homes in a longstanding, charming community in Delridge. Though I do not live there, I do not want to see this neighborhood taken out to construct very expensive infrastructure we may not really need, while we are all trying to fix the climate.

    Re-think West Seattle Link. Maybe the gondolas are worth a look. They work great in other places with the same laws of physics.


    The SLU station at SR 99 / Harrison, is OK, but not great. At least it supports bus transfers pretty well. Aurora is disappointingly far from many important destinations in SLU. Denny/Westlake is a fine location for a station.

    But the station at 14th Ave. in West Woodland, east of Ballard, is terrible. That location is actually 3 real blocks from 15th Ave. NW which is, itself, the edge of the neighborhood most people think of as Ballard. The Link station should straddle 15th Ave., somehow, if it can’t actually go in the center of real Ballard, which is closer to 20th Ave. NW. Everyone who knows Ballard or visits Ballard, knows this. West of 15th, or bust, in Ballard.

    In Interbay, we need to get the details right on station placement and access. It’s a total mess right now. in the area around Dravus. Don’t forget the bikes! Or the buses. Or Magnolia.

    Frankly, Ballard to UW, which has been in the long term vision since Sound Move, is probably better value-per-dollar than downtown to Ballard, and at minimum, downtown to Ballard should be extensible, probably via subway, to UW, which is about to gain about two dozen high rises and is already the second largest destination after downtown. That line could potentially continue to University Village, which is actually a major employer. This is a solvable problem in need of some vision.

    Second tunnel in downtown Seattle:

    In the larger picture, I’m still not totally sold on the second tunnel that is the grand centerpiece of Sound Transit 3 in downtown Seattle. A complex underground transfer adds minutes to any trip. It’s so much easier to get off a train, wait a few minutes, and get on another train on the same platform. It’s so much more accessible for people with luggage, kids, baby carriages, bicycles, wheelchairs, etc. to just wait at a platform.

    How much do we really, really gain by having slightly lower minimum headways in some hypothetical long term future, when that comes with the known downside of forcing everyone doing these transfers to navigate underground mazes forever? How much over some theoretical limit are we in the planning models, and if that gap is really small, how much is closing it really worth, when the opportunity costs are so huge?

    If we had BRT to West Seattle instead of Link, that probably makes it easier to retrofit the existing DSTT for Ballard Link, either to add Link riders as transfer passengers, or to merge in the Link trains themselves as we do for East Link at the south end of downtown.

    Hong Kong subways work great with two minute headways. Why don’t we ask the question, what is the most we could possibly get out of the tunnel we have, with some modifications, even if they are expensive, that allows us to use the wye near the old Convention Center or something like that to hook in trains from a new tunnel to SLU and Ballard. A tunnel that snakes like an S through SLU, giving an extra stop in there closer to Fairview further east, would do wonders for transit accessibility in the area, and we’d have a lot of money left over for underground stations in high rise districts if we didn’t need that second tunnel to extend all the way through downtown.

    Maybe it can work to merge in the trains from Ballard. Maybe it can work to have a Ballard line that just terminates at Westlake, or carries on one station to First Hill, or serves Belltown too, I don’t know, but I suggest that we be more creative and open-minded before we go into hock for the next two generations going pedal-to-the-metal on subpar lines to West Seattle and Ballard.

    Everett Link:

    I realize there are a whole lot of folks who are excited about Link in the Paine Field area and the economic opportunities around that, but I am just not convinced on that Paine Field loop, especially when it comes with such a high price tag and such a hit to travel times to the existing real city of Everett. Boeing’s future in the area is a bit hazy. The employment up there tends to be shift-oriented and spread out. It’s just not a natural fit for a Link line.

    My recommendation would be to do an abbreviated “loop” that lets bus shuttles serve the dispersed destinations around Paine Field but still supports direct transfers to BRT with as little as one station straddling SR 99. That ought to bring the price tag down and help keep the schedule from shifting too far out. Ridership may be a wash; we should run the numbers and see.

    I am inclined to make a beeline for that Mariner station while we figure this out.

    Tacoma Link:

    Let’s just complete Tacoma Link ASAP. Pierce County has been waiting too long. There may not be much in Fife, or East Tacoma, but Tacoma is a real city with a bright future that needs a better connection to Sea-Tac, pronto. Sounder South is great for other reasons, but it’s no substitute. Once Link is extended to Federal Way, there’s nothing really in the way. There was an interurban to Tacoma a century ago.

    Issaquah to South Kirkland:

    This line needs a lot of thought. I’m not sure how viable it is as proposed. The new places it serves are not too walkable today. It’s fortunate that it’s planned a long time out.

    Deferred stations in Seattle:

    Meanwhile, please do not go through the penny-wise, pound-foolish exercise of pushing out the dates for the deferred stations at 130th St. and Graham St. in Seattle. I’m not sure what Boeing Access Road is really for except for real estate ventures near there, who knows when, but those others are quite important. 130th also needs a major localized up-zone, plus a new bus line from Lake City to Bitter Lake. Graham is in a fast-growing area. Let’s build these ASAP.

    1. Have you been reading my comments about interlining a new tunnel by inserting a down-ramp between the two tracks on the ramp east of Westlake that uses a stacked tunnel under Minor to get to Denny and Fairview, following an S path through South Lake Union exactly as you describe? I’ve been mooting this for the past year or so, mostly being ignored.

      If so, thank you for the vote, but if not, search for them; there was one earlier today as a matter of fact.

      1. I’ve wondered too about if a track branch could be built northeast of Westlake Station. The Convention Place giveaway makes that much harder.

        An alternative could be to put the new tunnel in a way to use the station entrances at University St (and maybe Pioneer Square) instead of building a new Midtown station. The further east the platforms go, the deeper they must be. Wherever the station platforms go, a vault will almost assuredly be needed. The ST3 Westlake transfer concept already requires level changes and some walking distance for riders transferring Link lines, and a surface street (5th Ave? 6th Ave?) will have to be closed for several years during construction.

        If the transfer station shifts to the University Street mezzanine and the second tunnel moves to be under 4th Ave, there may be some sizable cost savings. The costly Midtown Station and new part of a Westlake transfer station would be exchanged for a new part of University Street transfer station only. That savings could then open up money for things like a new escalator and inclined elevator up the hill and a station near 4th and Lenora (Belltown adjacent) station.

        I’m not a tunnel engineer, but it does amaze me that the design challenges of building this second subway line with depths and vaults and mezzanine requirements has not reached a general stakeholder and elected official discussion. ST continues to suggest that the stations for this second line are as easy as a magic wand creating these stations with entrances, vaults and platforms. That just doesn’t appear realistic. ST is already confessing missed costs for the Ballard and West Seattle ends — but the central part details including costs remain relatively unrevealed.

      2. @Al S
        “ST continues to suggest that the stations for this second line are as easy as a magic wand creating these stations with entrances, vaults and platforms….”

        Amen to that whole last paragraph.

        At some point, this will certainly will be the next shoe to drop in this escalating botched estimating saga.

      3. Al, I don’t think that Convention Place makes any difference. The “main line” deviates from Pine about halfway between Ninth and Boren, east of the Paramount. I grant that the huge structure of the Convention Center means that you can’t have an equal curvature through the old corner of the bus station. However, the Pike Street Reversible Ramp is still there. It was not sacrificed to the Center. It is wide enough for an LRT tube to fit beneath it, and the proposal is to build a stacked pair of anyway in order for the northbound track to descend below the southbound main track at the main track’s deviation. The upper level would curve similarly, but a bit more sharply to connect with the southbound main track.

        In fact, this could probably be build cut-and-cover with an intervening “floor” to support the upper track. It would require closing the Pike Ramp for a few weeks to several months while the pavement was stripped away and the trench dug deep enough for decking to be placed over it. There’s a triangular parking lot at Olive and Minor under which the tunnel could curve into the Minor right of way. The avenue is well named.

        Again, cut-and-cover would probably work just fine all the way (it’s two blocks) to a station box under Minor between Stewart and the three street intersection with Virginia and Denny. This is directly in the center of a huge cluster of recent high rise office and residences. The station would have to be deep enough that beyond that point a TBM would take over.

        I would curve the tube to travel directly under Denny so that the Westlake Station would be adjacent to the Amazon complex, but placing it under the street would allow for symmetrical access from all four quadrants. It would curve northward under Denny Park. Remember this is stacked, so it would be possible for the Metro 8 to share the tunnel through the Denny Station and divert away to the north before the curve into the Minor Avenue Station. It would continue straight when the Ballard line curved away and then pass into Belltown wherever it best served the neighborhood. I’d guess that would be Cedar or so. Too bad they filled the Viaduct tunnel….. Strengthening the decking would have been cheaper than digging a whole new tunnel. Jes’ sayin’.

    2. I agree with all your points about Seattle. For Everett and Tacoma, I would just punt, and shift the money into bus service. They are simply too far away to generate strong all day ridership. Even the Ash Way and Mariner stations are too far, and too close to the freeway. They are classic examples of the type of failing systems (or failing stations) mentioned in this report: To quote that report:

      The low ridership of most U.S. light rail systems, however, frequently stems from one of two mistakes: overexpansion; and route choices that are more politically expedient than economically efficient

      Anything past Lynnwood is overexpansion. Even Lynnwood is probably overexpansion. To quote the report again “larger light rail systems that stretch into low-density suburban areas tend to underperform”.

      Now I know what some of are thinking. But Ross — there will be development around the stations! There will be lots of TOD. Yep, that is called out as well:

      Two species of overexpansion in U.S. cities deserve special mention. First is an overemphasis on serving transit-oriented developments. Many cities have seen new developments on “New Urbanist” principles: apartments with mid-rise units and a mix of commercial and residential development aimed at satisfying most residents’ daily needs without having to drive. Many of these developments are also transit-oriented, to allow for travel outside the development, such as to downtown jobs. Because of strict zoning laws in developed areas of cities, these developments often must be built miles from established downtowns. As such, transit-oriented developments frequently disappoint. New, isolated developments are rarely large enough to be self-contained or offer the amenities of true city centers. Residents who want to travel to specialty stores or jobs not readily accessible by the existing transit network—and in typical low-density U.S. cities, this is almost all of them—will need to own cars. Once they own cars, there’s no reason not to use them for all trips, especially if zoning policies guarantee copious parking.

      I’m not even sure if Ash Way or Mariner will be developed as well as that paragraph suggests. Will Ash Way residents have cars? Of course. Will they use them to get around? Of course. There is a freeway right across the street. Which leads me to this paragraph:

      Light rail lines along freeways are undesirable for several reasons. First, the freeway takes up much of the land accessible from rail stations on foot. Second, because freeways are convenient to access by automobile but unpleasant to live near, they tend to be surrounded by lower-value land uses. Third, trips on a light rail line that runs alongside a freeway are competing directly with the region’s fastest car trips.

      It is almost as if the author is specifically calling us out. Oh wait, he is:

      In Seattle, finally, Sound Transit has proposed extending the light rail line south from its current terminus at SeaTac airport to the suburb of Federal Way, 20 miles from downtown. The extension lacks the virtues that made the existing Seattle light rail network relatively successful. The planned 7.8-mile, $3.16 billion light rail line—at $400 million per mile, an inordinate construction cost for an above ground line—will run along-side Interstate 5 through low-density residential and retail areas with poor pedestrian accessibility. All three cities should reconsider or halt plans for expansion.

      So I guess it isn’t just us (at least two other cities are doing the same thing). That’s the thing — lots of U. S. cities have done this, and it doesn’t work. Folks on this blog have been saying this for a long time (back when d.p. was allowed to comment). This comment was based not only on logic and analysis, but also on history:

      This gets me to Tacoma. Yes, Tacoma is a real city, but it is not that large, and it is quite a ways from Seattle. Link will do very little for it. It won’t even serve downtown Tacoma! If you are in downtown Tacoma, what difference does it make if you transfer to Link at the Tacoma Dome or Federal Way. For that matter, why are you transferring to Link? If you are trying to get to downtown Seattle a bus is faster in the middle of the day, and Sounder is faster whenever it runs. The only significant destination between Tacoma and downtown Seattle is SeaTac, which leads me to another quote:

      Another form of overexpansion comes from the tendency of light rail planners to overvalue airport service.

      Whether it is SeaTac or Paine Field, people think it is essential to provide light rail service to the airport, when the demand suggests otherwise. Besides, even if that is your goal, transferring in Federal Way makes as much sense as transferring at the Tacoma Dome. Better yet, run a bus all the way to the airport from Tacoma, especially since the busiest period on the bus is between 2 and 3 AM (does Link even run then?). [See page 155 of

      Simply put, Tacoma is just too far away. You aren’t going to get many long distance riders, and there is very little in between (mostly freeway stations).

      By the way, one of the thing that report emphasized is that frequency has a very strong correspondence with ridership. Unfortunately, the longer the line, the harder it is to be frequent. Ridership per mile will actually go down as we expand, according to ST, even under their ridiculously optimistic predictions for growth outside Seattle (e. g. Everett growing 2 ½ times faster than Seattle).

      It is crazy for an expansion to decrease your ridership per mile, and it is really bad. As maintenance costs mount over the years, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain decent frequency, and next thing you know, you are in the typical frequency/ridership death spiral. Again, this is not rare — in the report the author recommends that some agencies actually remove some parts of their light rail system. I don’t think we will get to that point, but longer is not always better. It is often much worse.

      Oh, and Issaquah to Kirkland is stupid. It is like Spokane running a subway line out to Cheney. Hell, I would run a gondola from BCC to downtown Bellevue before I built that ridiculous line.

      1. Ross, Lynnwood isn’t over-expansion. It’s a growing urban center which is willing to let its downtown grow significantly. It is the place where the diagonal part of the funnel to Seattle from the populated part of Snohomish County meets the tube; it’s a natural bus intercept. Absent some fancy flyover and spiral down to the station from the semi-elevated freeway, Northgate would never be nearly as efficient. And of course, the buses would still be fighting the traffic the the section without reversible lanes.

        Lynnwood will prove to be a good choice for a hub.

        The Northwest is certain to be inundated with climate refugees from California and Arizona in the coming decades. I know everyone thinks I’m exaggerating, but the Puget Sound region is going to double in population between Olympia and Arlington at least by 2050. There isn’t room to double the number of single-family houses in the available land unless Fort Lewis is abandoned and turned into housing. So, many of those refugee immigrants will have to be housed in multi-family buildings. There must be at least a couple of New Westminsters rising from the sprawl smersh, and Lynnwood has the best shot at being one of them. Federal Way would like to be the other, but it seems that Kent has more fire-in-the-belly than does FedWay and it has much more opportunity to grow to the east.

        It’s likely that extending past Lynnwood will happen, just because of bureaucratic inertia and the tax receipts will continue to arrive.

      2. Thankfully Tacoma and Everett link have little to do with daily commuters riding Link all the way into downtown Seattle, so your concerns about those cities being ‘too far’ from Seattle can be politely ignored.

        Both Ash Way and Mariner provide perpendicular intersects with Swift lines, so while TOD in the immediate stations areas will be in important source of ridership, they will be important transit hubs and will enable Snohomish to build a proper grid. It amuses me that you are so frustrated that KCM orients the north Seattle bus network towards serving downtown rather than a proper transit grid, but when CT lays out the keystones for a simillar grid approach in Snohomish you dismiss it and insist they should just run express buses on I5 because why would anyone take the bus if they aren’t going to downtown Seattle? It’s like you think communities don’t deserve good transit if they are on the wrong side of the county line.

        You also seem to think freeway congestion is only a King County problem and that Pierce and Snohomish enjoy open freeways and low gas prices in perpetuity and therefore have no need for good, all day transit. Everyone in the suburbs is wealthy and owns a car, right?

      3. Thankfully Tacoma and Everett link have little to do with daily commuters riding Link all the way into downtown Seattle, so your concerns about those cities being ‘too far’ from Seattle can be politely ignored.

        Nice straw man. Let me repeat what I wrote:

        Simply put, Tacoma is just too far away. You aren’t going to get many long distance riders, and there is very little in between (mostly freeway stations).

        What part of “and there is very little in between (mostly freeway stations)” don’t you understand?

        Put it another way. If Tacoma Dome has absolutely nothing to do with SeaTac or Seattle, where will the ridership come from? Fife? Federal Way? Angle Lake? Remember, the station in Tacoma doesn’t even go downtown. It goes to the Tacoma Dome. Other than events, you will get only a handful of riders. There just aren’t that many people trying to get from the Tacoma Dome to Tukwila. Or Fife to Federal Way for that matter.

        Everett at least runs it to their downtown. But if Tacoma is small, Everett is minuscule. If the main Link line only served Tacoma, it would undoubtedly be the biggest, most expensive light rail project built from scratch for a city its size. Everett is half that.

        To be clear, there are small cities that have built “light rail”. Look at the list of light rail systems in the U. S. ( These include streetcars. From what I can tell, Tacoma is the smallest city on that list. The only cities that come close to being that small have added light rail on top of an old railway (Norfolk, Oceanside/Escondido, Trenton/Camden). Norfolk has less than 2,000 riders a day. The other two have less than 4,000 and 6,000 a day. Every city with over 10,000 riders a day on their light rail system is a big city — the type of city that dwarfs Tacoma.

        Tacoma is too small to generate a significant number of rides, especially when the light rail line more or less runs right next to the freeway. Cities like Spokane and Bellingham just don’t build light rail lines, let alone extremely expensive ones. Without Seattle, Tacoma and Everett wouldn’t have a line (and they probably would ultimately have better transit).

      4. “Cities like Spokane and Bellingham just don’t build light rail lines”

        Not in the US. In Germany they do.

      5. Ross, Lynnwood isn’t over-expansion. It’s a growing urban center which is willing to let its downtown grow significantly.

        Yeah, well, that ain’t saying much. I used to live in Lynnwood. If someone asked me where downtown Lynnwood was I would just shrug. I mean, maybe the mall? If you look at employment data, it is spread out, with no big concentration. Yeah, I expect it to grow, but it will never be huge. You’ve got a creek and a freeway that limit development. There are a lot of parking lots that aren’t going away. It is a textbook example of the type of station that the report mentioned (as underperforming).

        It is the place where the diagonal part of the funnel to Seattle from the populated part of Snohomish County meets the tube; it’s a natural bus intercept.

        So is every station between there and 145th. That is where the real funnel is. It is formed by Lake Washington. It would start around 175th or so, if it wasn’t for the ravine caused by McAleer Creek (causing people to go southwest or northwest to go west). It is also where density drops dramatically. Again, yes, I know, it can change. But this last decade it was Seattle (and to a lesser extent the East Side) that was growing, not the more distant suburbs.

        Then you have the fact that the station is by the freeway, and none of the stations north of Northgate are a destination. By moving the terminus south, you really haven’t gained much — all you’ve done is switched from spending more time on the bus to more time on the train. You could say the same thing about Northgate, except the difference is that thousands upon thousands of people will be taking the train from Northgate to Roosevelt, UW and Capitol Hill. That just won’t happen with Lynnwood. About 800 people a day board the southbound 511, headed to Seattle. Less than ten get off at Mountlake Terrace. The 512 has about double the number of riders coming from the north (with three stops in Everett, along with Ash Way and Lynnwood). A whopping 32 people get off at Mountlake Terrace.

        Yeah, I know, things are going to change. Just you wait. The light rail station is the key. They’ll change the zoning, and next thing you know tens of thousands of people will ride Link in Snohomish County.

        Yeah, sure. Except that never happens. Read the report again. You would think there would be some exceptions, somewhere. Some city where they ran a bunch of stations next to the freeway and next thing you know, huge numbers of riders are using those stations, really far away from the city. Nope, none. It just doesn’t happen. Lots and lots of cities have tried, they have all failed. They all held such promise. They all focused on the really bad traffic. Many held out grand dreams of a new, urban oasis, next to the freeway. Some of them actually achieved that ( This is an area the author mentioned. Look at it. Big buildings! Not just six story apartment buildings, but real office towers! Less than 300 people used that station (before the pandemic).

        I’m not saying that Lynnwood will be that bad. It will be OK. It was an over-expansion, but compared to ST3 it was like running rail to the U-District. It will probably get middling ridership, which people will applaud, ignoring the cost (both initially and in terms of maintenance). I do think it sets ST up for a nasty situation in the future. Normally areas like that have only a handful of riders in the middle of the day (less than would fill a bus). Most agencies respond by reducing frequency to around 20 minutes in the middle of the day. BART, which serves a lot more people, runs each train about every 15 minutes. They get away with it because of the splits. Service from (most of) Oakland to San Fransisco is every 7.5 minutes, as is service from Berkeley to San Fransisco. Service within San Fransisco, Daly City (and West Oakland) is twice as frequent. ST doesn’t have that. There is no split north of downtown, which means Lynnwood (the type of station that you would expect to have 15 minute service in the middle of the day) is linked with the U-District (the type of station you would expect to have 5). This is a huge service disconnect, and it will end up hurting performance. Either you spend a lot of money on a handful of riders (up north), or you significantly reduce ridership (closer to Seattle).

        But that is nothing compared to the capital costs. Lynnwood Link wasn’t cheap. It cost billions for an area that struggles to run buses every half hour. As a result, you have a huge mismatch. Most of the trips within the county won’t be much better, yet there will be no money for running buses more frequently.

      6. Ross, the “parking lots [weren’t] going away” in downtown Bellevue until they did because the land was worth more with a building on it. Lynnwood is in a perfect location to become a third urban core for the region. It’s about equidistant from Seattle and Bellevue, but far enough from both to become important. It will be the city for Snohomish County.

        Heck, it already is. Only inertia and tradition keep the county offices in Everett.

      7. And yes, there will be ” money to run buses more frequently. Every one of those 25 buses per hour which slogged down to Seattle and the U-District in the pre-pandemic peaks will be gone or travel only the portion of their trips north of Lynnwood, largely on freeways. That sales tax revenue for CT and ST will be available for more frequent peak feeders where needed but mostly for all-day service improvements.

        Do you think the peaks will return after the pandemic only in Seattle? Of course you don’t.

        The midday thing may indeed be a problem, but it will probably be solved by upgrading the Northgate tail track to be a better reversing facility for short-turns in the system core.

      8. Tom is right – Lynnwood today isn’t that much different than Bellevue 20 years ago – but Lynnwood would be the 4th urban center, unless you think Tacoma is just a bunch parking lots with nothing in between like Ross seems to consider everything that is not Seattle. Tukwilla (Southcenter), Renton, and Everett are also throwing their hat in the ring, but I agree Lynnwood is currently the one that’s most likely to be the ‘next Bellevue’ (which is really Bellevue + Redmond).

        Since Ross doesn’t seem to know where it is, here is a handy map:

      9. Lynnwood is closer to both Seattle and Bellevue than Tacoma is, so that will give it a leg up if it hasn’t missed the prosperity window. And Canyon Park in between <i.could be made non-horrible if Bothell put a mind to it. Bellevue’s growth was planned in the 1970s and started on the ground in the 1990s (after I left Bellevue), and look how it’s transformed twenty years later. Lynnwood keeps talking about a large downtown but what’s it doing about it. The zoning seems to be taken care of, so the next step is to entice companies to locate there. If the region continues growing and Bellevue fills up more and has few large parcels left, developers will have to look further, and a larger Snohomish population will want more options in its own county. Currently there’s a huge imbalance: some 70% of Snohomans commute to King County.

        Lynnwood has both disadvantages and advantages. On the negative side, it takes a high-powered microscope to find any signs of a walkable core. On the positive side, it’s a half-hour express bus or future Link and Stride trip from downtown Seattle and Bellevue. The city says it’s committed to a Bellevue-like transformation, and has a lot of developable land. The Interurban Trail is right next to the transit center. I’ve never seen Alderwood Mall much but I gather the neighborhood isgetting larger and denser and adding housing, so that might be an emerging downtown. Community Transit already has 15-minute service between Lynnwood and Everett on top of ST Express, and has an Edmonds CC-Lynnwood-Mill Creek Swift line under construction, and has a few more lines planned and more frequent local service, so it will probably be easier to live and/or work there than it is now.

      10. AJ, you are right of course. Tacoma is certainly an regional center. My apologies to that fair city.

        However, it’s almost an independent economic unit. Seattle/Bellevue/Lynnwood are and will become more strongly, a cluster with strong connections among themselves.

      11. Fair, Tacoma historically has been pretty independent, but I think that independence is waning as greater Seattle continues to grow. Lynnwood certainly benefits by being within the 45 minute commute shed of both Seattle and Bellevue. As Ross correctly points out (as much as I vociferously voice the opposite conclusion) , Tacoma Dome Link’s success is going to stand upon robust all day demand for travel within & between Pierce and South King, with the ability to easily travel into Seattle for one-off an economic multiplier but not a source of major ridership on a daily basis. Put another way, TDLE’s connection to Seattle is important for Tacoma for economic development, quality of life, access to talent, etc., even though the daily ridership between Tacoma and Seattle will be modest; it’s the difference between a corridor having high daily ridership but low annual unique riders (e.g. purely commuter services) and low daily ridership but high annual unique riders.

        Lynnwood, on the other hand, can first build out as a major commuting node, building housing and ancillary businesses and then later becoming it’s own center of gravity once it achieves an urban ‘critical mass.’

        I don’t know what Lynnwood is doing to nurture urban development, but from a transit perspective CT & the city widened 196th to provide bus lanes in both directions for Swift Orange, with should support strong transit connections to neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity.

      12. The Link exceptionalism is hilarious. For years people have been writing — on this very blog — about the dangers of focusing too much on distant suburbs (i. e. the spine) and not enough on the urban core. They cited numerous examples of similar, underperforming systems. They pointed out the contrasts between them and higher performing ones. People referenced blogs, where amateur researchers had done the same thing. Now a professional policy analyst, from a well respected conservative* think tank says essentially the same thing, complete with mathematical evidence and numerous examples.

        Yet for the most part, the rebuttal consists of “But we’re different”.

        There is no attempt to address the issues the author painstakingly made, or any attempt to explain why we are different, other than to state that we are. For example, there is no thought given to the fact that proponents of those systems said exactly the same thing people are saying now. “Las Colinas will be the next Bellevue.” Yeah, sure. It kind of is. It has developed quite a bit, with office towers and very large apartment complexes. And about 300 riders a day.

        Or how about the politics. Once in a while, someone will comment that yes, our system really is poorly designed, and could be a lot better, but it would have been very difficult to build something that actually made the most sense. We had to enlist the support of the suburbs, which lead to “The Spine”. Not only that, but it comes down to individual cities. Even though it is a regional system, which should require a regional approach (essentially ignoring city and county borders) it doesn’t work out like that. Again, nothing new. To quote that report,

        The system was financed by each participating municipality and had an incentive to cover as many municipalities as possible—often in undesirable locations on corridors cobbled together out of old freight rail rights-of-way.

        Substitute “freeway corridors” for “corridors cobbled together out of old freight rail rights-of-way” and it is a dead ringer for what we are building. Does the rail to South Kirkland Park and ride make sense? No, but we had to build something to please Kirkland.

        Or how about this:

        The best place to build light rail, as our findings on the association between density and ridership show, is in dense locations near jobs. … The temptation always exists for planners to use easier alignments instead, such as building along freeways or abandoned freight railways, or through industrial zones

        Other than abandoned freight railways that pretty much sums up ST3. Almost everything outside Seattle is by the freeway. West Seattle Link is a combination of freeway and industrial (which explains they there are zero stations for almost three miles). Even Ballard Link runs alongside an industrial area, instead of Ballard-UW, which would go by … people.

        What is truly bizarre about all of this exceptionalism is that people ignored what is truly exceptional about Bellevue. Skyscrapers didn’t just arrive in Bellevue because they allowed them. The occurred because Bill Gates and his buddy Paul Allen decided to locate their business in Redmond. If they had stayed in Albuquerque, that city would likely be twice its size, and downtown Bellevue would look like Factoria. A few big office buildings, some apartments and a mall. But Bill and Paul just happened to build the largest company in the world in Redmond. As a result, business has essentially been trying to split the difference between Redmond and downtown Seattle. Thus you have downtown Bellevue. The odds of Lynnwood being chosen for another company like Microsoft are absurdly low. Suburban office sprawl — huge in the last part of the previous century — is gone. Most big companies (Amazon included) locate themselves in big cities. Oh, there will be satellite offices in various places (including maybe Lynnwood) but it won’t be huge. It won’t be anywhere what Bellevue is, let alone what you imagine Bellevue is in terms of a transit ridership generator. That Bellevue — the type of city that generates transit ridership all day long, with decent complementary bus service and little auto dependence — may very well arise, eventually. In other words, the next Bellevue will probably be Bellevue.

        * I mention the fact that the think tank is conservative because the report is essentially a prescription for urbanism. “There may be a restricted role for light rail in U.S. cities: handling frequent trips in dense inner urban areas, where passenger demands exceed bus capacity and the higher speed of freeways is less of a selling point. … many residents of far-flung transit-oriented developments would be much happier living in apartment buildings in inner-ring neighborhoods if zoning policies were more rational. “

      13. “But we’re different” Yep, pretty much, because transit doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It deeply dependent on land use patterns. BART ‘failed’ not because they built transit in the ‘wrong’ places but because the Bay Area completely failed to adapt land use in response to BART, both within San Francisco (in particular along Mission) and elsewhere in the region.

        ST3 is deeply intertwined with the region’s long term growth plans and is explicitly a bet that we will not make the same land use errors as the Bay Area. We are building rail to support the long term growth of cities like Lynnwood, Everett, and Tacoma, not to serve those cities as they are today nor even what they will be in 2040.

        The single greatest source of transit ridership in America, NYC’s Midtown business district, came into being because of transit investments; it’s not like Midtown boomed and then NYC politicians thought, gee we should build some subways through that neighborhood now that lots of people are there. More recent examples would be Lyon Part-Dieu or the various suburban towers clustered around Skytrain stations. Making generational investments in transportation to transform neighborhoods and cities is central to the history of any great urban center. What is the exception is post-war America spending billions on transportation (freeways and transit) and then proactively preventing neighborhoods from evolving in response to those investments.

        So yes, I’m optimistic greater Seattle can grow like the rest of the world. You are the one stuck in 20th century American land use exceptionalism.

        Your point about Gates staying in Albuquerque is a good one. If you think Seattle’s growth is just a quirk of Gates and Bezos’ geographic whim and that the region will abruptly stop growing when those men fade into history, sure then you’ll think we don’t need ST3 because we won’t have the implied growth. I believe that while Seattle has certainly benefited from quirks of history, its economic flywheel is now strong enough to grow robustly throughout the 21st century.

    3. It’s not be highlighted much, but the current plans for Mariner Way station place the platforms in way to continue the line towards Paine Field rather than continuing up I-5. If the line is to continue up I-5, the platforms will probably need to shift to be more parallel to the freeway — and that means putting the station on another block. If the area is zoned for TOD, moving the station site becomes expensive if the property purchase is 8-10 years away from now abd the rezoning is occurring now.

      Also, if ST is to reverse one of the lines (currently proposed for Line 2) just past Mariner, a tail track has to be built just north of the station. Reversing a train — when one arrives to continue north three minutes later and slotting to go south would require some extra time to reverse the train (and probably to give the driver a break) — becomes a major systems challenge without a tail track. None of the Snohomish station area planning that I’ve seen anticipates building this third aerial track — and the line is going to have to be squeezed to run on 128th St SW.

      This is a key issue that needs resolution soon. We tend to think that ST can build up to Mariner and decide about the line north of that at a later time. However, the station siting and new land use plan affects the decision — both of where the platforms go as well as how to anticipate where the end of the line is.

      1. I agree that the positioning of Mariner is super important, but I don’t think this is ‘lost’ on anyone. Determining the specific alignment is kinda the whole point of the EIS process.

        Even if ST decides to phase Everett Link and use Mariner has a intermin terminus for a significant amount of time (8~15 years), ST will need to have a final decision on the path of Link between Mariner and Everett before Lynnwood to Mariner construction begins. Even if it turns about that Everett Link was wildly over ambitious for the scope of ST3, I believe that including the full Everett Link alignment in ST3, rather than just an extension to Mariner, will end up being a smart decision specifically because it region will have a decision of record on the alignment north of Mariner before designing & building the station at Mariner. Even if the EIS determined that Link should permanently end at Mariner (or Ash Way or whatever), that will inform the station design because it will be oriented for bus transfers.

        As a counter example, look at Link after Ballard station. Staff has no idea if the Board will want to go north, east (to UW), or both, so it can’t bake anything into the current design for Ballard Link. If instead ST3 had specified Ballard-UW or Ballard-Northgate, we’d be working through right right now the best placement of Ballard station to accommodate future expansion. Or an even worse example is WS Link, where politicians and activists keep chirping about the important of future extensions beyond the Junction despite there being zero agreement what that extension should look like and which direction it should go.

      2. AJ, the issue is that the station area land use planning and rezoning are being decided now. The EIS work has not yet begun. Usually, the station is sited before the station area is changed for a TOD. This is happening the other way around.

        It’s not “wrong” — but it does restrict what can realistically be studied and designed in the EIS.

      3. Land use planning and rezoning are being worked concurrently. It’s a cyclical not a linear process.

    4. “It was never worth striving for a 2030 opening of West Seattle Link” [the WSJ-SODO stub]”

      That was all political to show that ST is giving West Seattle an early deliverable in recognition of its entitlement status. It seems to be on its way out; the planning scenarios have more of a Smith Cove-Delridge stub.

      “the best BRT system you could build”

      Is there a window to convince ST to convert West Seattle Link to multi-line BRT? Or a better bus service as an interim? The buses would have to go on the surface downtown, and West Seattle residents would be unimpressed with that. I don’t think ST could be convinced to make DSTT2 bus-compatible, and DSTT1 will already be too full for buses. ST really didn’t like the inefficiencies caused by having both buses and trains in the tunnel, since any bus delay would throw off the schedule, and any wheelchair opening would cause a delay.

      “the center of gravity of population, and the growth, is from Delridge to the south, towards White Center”

      A major geographical problem in West Seattle is the lack of connection between 35th, Delridge, and 16th to the Junction. This prevents those corridors from being oriented to their district center, so they all bypass it to go downtown and have hardly any commercial centers of their own. Only the infrequent 128 and 50 provide some kind of connection, and the 50 is so far north it’s pretty cumbersome. There’s not much Link or fanning BRT can do about this, but it is one of the basic problems in West Seattle that deserves attention.

      “But the station at 14th Ave. in West Woodland, east of Ballard, is terrible.”

      Absolutely, as I’ve said many times. It makes me wonder whether such a substandard line is worth it. The point of “a subway to Ballard” is to go to the commercial center.

      “Ballard to UW, which has been in the long term vision since Sound Move, is probably better value-per-dollar than downtown to Ballard”

      It is a better value per dollar — and a lower total cost — according to ST’s own corridor studies in the mid 2010s. But that ship has sailed. McGinn really promoted Ballard-downtown, and that’s what catalyzed getting ST3 started so soon, and it addresses the need for a SLU station, so there’s little chance the city or ST could be convinced to switch to it now.

      “I am just not convinced on that Paine Field loop”

      I’m not either, but the Snohomish county and cities are die-hard convinced of it. Boeing has been downsizing in Everett and may leave, and if it does it will take a long time to fill its space. The industrial facilities are not walkable from the station. They could be if the industrial district were designed more like its New York conterparts without so much gratuitous space between everything, but Everett and Mukilteo are not interested in that.

      “My recommendation would be to do an abbreviated “loop” that lets bus shuttles serve the dispersed destinations around Paine Field but still supports direct transfers to BRT with as little as one station straddling SR 99.”

      Yes, there needs to be some kind of BRT from Paine Field to both Mariner and downtown Everett/Everett Staion if the Paine Field detour is not built.

      “Let’s just complete Tacoma Link ASAP. ”

      That all Pierce’s money so it doesn’t affect the other subareas much. Federal Way is half funded by ST2 and is under construction, so it shouldn’t be an obstacle. Pierce has a down payment saved for the Tacoma Dome extension, and it doesn’t have much else to spend its ST3 money on, and the extension is one of the lower-cost ones, so I don’t see much problem there. Maybe it will have an interim phase at Fife, big deal. The express buses can terminate at Fife just as easily as they can terminate at Federal Way, KDM, or downtown.

      “Issaquah to South Kirkland: This line needs a lot of thought.”

      This line should be scrapped. It’s already scheduled last in the pre-covid schedule. The reason it exists is the mayor of Issaquah was on the ST board and harped on it for years. And it was better economic times. Both of those situations are so far gone it seems like a different era. It would be hard to convince ST to change its mind now, but it really should. The Bellevue-Bellevue College core could be served with buses, and an extension to Issaquah could keep it from feeling left out. A BRT or almost-BRT could even be extended to Issaquah Highlands and Sammamish, which the Link line wouldn’t do.

      The South Kirkland stub is absolutely ridiculous. It exists because of a snag in getting it to downtown Kirkland, which was the original purpose of that half of the line. ST wanted rail on the ERC, Kirkland wanted BRT, and the south Kirkland “Save Our Trail” activists wanted nothing unless it’s on 405. 405 wouldn’t serve downtown Kirkland, and would overlap with Stride.

      The South Kirkland P&R on its own is not enough for a line that doesn’t go to a larger center. The residential community there is small and can get to either downtown Kirkland or Bellevue in eight minutes on the 250. Nobody will drive through Kirkland to the South Kirkland P&R to take Link to Bellevue or transfer to Seattle or Redmond or the Spring District. The only reason they might is to avoid downtown Bellevue’s parking fees, but that’s not enough justification for the segment. Or they’d take it to Bellevue College, which is something, but again not enough justification for the northern stub.

      “please do not go through the penny-wise, pound-foolish exercise of pushing out the dates for the deferred stations at 130th St. and Graham St. in Seattle.”

      130th definitely needs to be built with Lynnwood Link. That would significantly improve access to Lake City and mitigate Metro’s sorry plans for feeders to Northgate.

      Graham I don’t feel as strongly about. The lack of a station is a missed opportunity, but there’s not much there now, and building the station will require interrupting service in the middle of the main line.

      1. Better bus service in the interim is already funded under the C & D capital enhancements.

        “The Bellevue-Bellevue College core could be served with buses” only if you build HOV-HOT direct access ramps in the I90-405 interchange, at which point you’ve spent 1/3 of the money needed to create the line anyways. I’m very open to switching this line to Stride, particularly because of extendibility to the Highlands, but to provide like-for-like Stride service isn’t an order of magnitude cheaper in the same way 405 Stride is.

      2. Given the switch away from commuting — if it’s permanent — having a split north of U-District might very well have worked. The Snohomish County folks put a stop to it because they thought it would take too much capacity but that may be moot now.

        But once the bellmouths and the junction box were bypassed by the TBM’s Ballard-UW as a stub from the main line became impossible. It can happen as an extension from Ballard-Downtown if ST plans for it. Don’t bet on that.

      3. It could go on the freeway; it just couldn’t use the HOV lanes on I-90 ( It would encounter traffic, but since most riders would be traveling outside of rush hour, would provide the same sort of express service. No one does that right now, because there simply aren’t enough riders doing that. It has good anchors, but just not enough to provide all-day, frequent service by itself — it needs the rest of the line to get enough riders.

        This is in contrast to the 41, which runs all-day long, in busy traffic. In the evening it is almost comical. It runs south on 5th NE, going by lots of apartments, but it doesn’t stop — too many people going downtown. While an extreme example, there are plenty of all-day express buses that we just take for granted. The 5, for example, does not keep going on Phinney, to connect to Fremont, and then Westlake/Dexter to downtown. It could, and get lots of riders, but there are enough on the 5 at that point that it might as well run express, all-day long.

        This is another case of Sound Transit leapfrogging. There isn’t enough demand for bus service between those two spots, but they are building a train anyway. They aren’t even waiting for East Link to be built, which would enable buses to cover the area and connect well to both Bellevue and downtown Seattle at the same time (e. g. This is an agency focused on construction, not service.

        It is quite likely that the Issaquah to South Kirkland line would actually *reduce* rides on East Link. Instead of connecting at South Bellevue or Mercer Island to get to downtown Bellevue, folks transfer at Eastgate. The reduction in service for East Link makes it tough to run the trains in the middle of the day. At the same time, the relatively small number of riders for the Issaquah line make it tough to justify decent frequency. So instead of running East Link every 6-8 minutes in the middle of the day, it runs 10, while the Issaquah-South Kirkland runs 15.

        I get why people are concerned and fixated on capital costs. They are enormous, and for much of ST3, is simply not worth it. But long term maintenance costs should also be a concern. With Northgate Link, ridership per mile will go up. This is a proxy for ridership per cost of service. This will get better for that section, which means that fare recovery alone will justify better frequency. The opposite is true for Tacoma Dome Link, Everett Link and Issaquah-South Kirkland Link. This will make for a far worse system.

      4. But once the bellmouths and the junction box were bypassed by the TBM’s Ballard-UW as a stub from the main line became impossible.

        Come on man. Enough with the amateur engineering analysis. We get it — it is a fun hobby. But the world is full of extensions that were added after the fact, just as it is full of “stubs to nowhere”. It is obviously cheaper if you plan ahead, but it doesn’t mean it is impossible. ST studied Ballard to UW, and not once did anyone raise the issue. This is just like the Montlake vent shaft. It isn’t a problem. A simple conversation with a Sound Transit representative showed it to be an urban myth. Which leads me to ask — have you discussed this issue with Sound Transit? Do you have any evidence to support your claim, or is this like the Montlake vent shaft?

        Until the real engineers study it, we don’t know all the issues, or any idea what it would cost. The likelihood that this particular issue (connecting the lines) will be a major expense is extremely low.

        Your point about Lynnwood is spot on, though. There was never going to be a capacity problem from Lynnwood, and there never will be. It is more than enough to run the every 6 minutes (let alone 3, which they are capable of doing, although it “wouldn’t give our ridership as reliable a service.” ).

        Folks really have it backwards. The problem isn’t capacity, it is ridership. Or, more specifically, it is ridership per mile throughout the day. If this is low, then cuts happen, and you end up with crap. Peak crowding, on the other hand, can easily be handled any number of ways. We can run express buses to downtown, which is actually what Metro plans on doing, even though there are no capacity concerns. Express buses along major corridors running right to South Lake Union and First Hill. This will reduce peak ridership on Link. This is bad right now, but if capacity was ever an issue on Link (which is highly, highly unlikely) it would be a good thing.

      5. “ Folks really have it backwards. The problem isn’t capacity, it is ridership. Or, more specifically, it is ridership per mile throughout the day. ”

        The issues of capacity and productivity are somewhat related — but it’s possible to have both be problems. The less mixed-use the outer stations are and the further they are, the more likely it is to have riders concentrated at peak hour and going in one direction leading to overcrowded trains at a peak hour and empty trains at other times. A train may be pretty empty in Lynnwood but overcrowded at UW station — and paying for a line to run empty for 30-45 minutes mostly empty just to provide enough room for 8-10 minutes is unproductive..

        Further, there is train capacity and passenger capacity. Train capacity is apparently why ST concluded that they need a second tunnel — not passenger capacity. If it was passenger capacity, ST3 would have addressed overcrowding between Westlake and UW as well as between Mt Baker and SODO. If it was passenger capacity, ST would have been looking at moving to vehicle designs that increase the number people that can squeeze onto a train.

        Look, we are all speculating here. I think that in 2025 we will see the general demand trends and operational challenges be more apparent on a typical weekday. Meanwhile, I think that ST has yet to take a revealing look at these issues. ST3 wasn’t primarily designed to solve a “problem” of either productivity or overcrowding; it was designed to convince enough voters that mere Link expansion was desirable. While I don’t think most STB posters are living mostly in the “toy train” world, I believe many elected officials — both supporters and opponents — do. Once 2025 comes around, they will have a much better handle on the realities as they may get more difficult questions from voters like “Why can’t I squeeze in an overcrowded train, yet it’s running wastefully empty out further?”

      6. As we’ve discussed at length, Ross, it is functionally impossible to add a Ballard-UW Link line without some sort of connection at the west end with service trackage. Yes, a big hole could be dug on the UW campus or along Brooklyn somewhere north of UDS, but we all know that neither is going to happen.

        There are some options which might use a smaller technology — Citidis-style long trams probably — with a smallish MF somewhere in southeast Ballard or more likely across the Ship Canal in Interbay — but a full-fledged Link subway branch is not going to be built off of the main line. ST will simply refuse to consider it.

        Although the cross-platform transfer opportunities for north-to-west trips or vice versa with a junction north of UDS would be great the cost to add three stations would be too high.

      7. If train capacity (not passenger capacity) was the issue, ST could have simply done the capital improvements to bring DSTT headways down to 1.5 minutes. It had candidate projects for both this and DSTT2, but selected DSTT2 for ST3.

        The passenger capacity issue comes down to a PSRC report that said in the medium term downtown Seattle’s north-south circulation demand would exceed the capacity of all transit modes. So this seems to be driving the decision of the second tunnel. That and that ridership from Everett and Tacoma would be be higher when Link goes all the say compared to transfering from feeders, and as their populations and TOD increase along with Lynnwood and Federal Way.

      8. Yes exactly Mike. Everyone points to the PSRC analysis.

        What isn’t discussed is that the peak ratios in that analysis are from 1999-2000. Demand has spread out greatly since then. Plus, it’s possible to loo to other technologies like surface streetcars to serve some of that additional need. Finally, they never went back and looked at how ST3 demand would occur — only that the second tunnel was “needed”. The question should not be if the need is there, but is the project going to resolve it. It won’t put a dent in the most crowded segments I mentioned above (both more crowded than the middle segments Downtown on a per train basis.

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