This is an open thread.

165 Replies to “News roundup: part 1 of 2”

  1. Any idea what transit ridership is like in Seattle now? I’ve seen more people riding the bus.

    1. The main problem with light rail here is that it was designed as a commute-alternative for future knowledge workers who in theory would be required to commute daily to dense offices downtown (and on Microsoft’s campus) to work on computer terminals. As that functionality has been rendered largely useless by remote work light rail here is obsolete before it began benefitting either employers or any substantial percentage of residents subject to its heavy new sales taxes.

      1. Almost everyone at Amazon and Microsoft is raring to go back into offices. Only a very small minority of hermits want to work from home forever

      2. I feel more this way (too commuter focused) about ST3 Link and somewhat about ST2 Link much more than I feel about the current operation. Very little of Link opened today parallels major freeways — while much of ST2 and ST3 do. Instead it serves places like UW and its hospital, areas with lower auto ownership and areas with high parking cost and difficulty today.

        Of course, Link is a catalyst for land use change. Just look at the very new buildings south of Judkins Park station or in the Spring District. I really hope that the new stations coming on line by 2025 can ignite more interest in new denser land uses beyond just apartments and offices — creating steady demand throughout the day.

      3. It is a hybrid system. It is way too commuter based (from the very beginning) but still included enough of an all-day system to make pushing for the next step a goal. That all ended with ST3, in my opinion.

        ST2 meant service to the U-District, which I would consider an essential. There really isn’t much point in building a light rail line, without the most important section, which is U-District to downtown. That is what they should have started with, but better late than never. Along with that, you get Northgate Link, which still has good all-day demand. Lynnwood Link is farther than necessary, but at least has good bus intercepts. Not only from the northern suburbs, but from the east, west and northeast (130th, 145th). It also had East Link, which is somewhat commuter based, but not entirely. The 550 gets decent numbers in the middle of the day, and the eastern section (connecting Bellevue with Redmond) should get decent all-day ridership. To me that eastern section is the tipping point, where it goes from borderline (bus/rail) to rail. It wouldn’t be strong enough on its own, but combined with the main Bellevue/Seattle combination, it is solid. The southern extensions of Link is where it is geared towards commuters (with stations close to the freeway). Again, it probably went too far, but at least there is a good bus intercept (for buses coming from the south) which means a good connection for Tacoma riders to SeaTac (or other Link spots). Like Lynnwood, you could probably accomplish much the same thing for a lot less money, but it isn’t crazy, and it doesn’t dominate the (ST2) package.

        In contrast, ST3 is almost all based on low density commuter trips — the type that historically have performed poorly. The northern and southern sections will already have excellent bus intercepts (connecting right to the HOV lanes) which means spending billions so that riders spend a little more time on the train, and a little less time on the bus. The one strong project (Ballard Link) is extremely expensive, and watered down by the lack of coverage downtown (despite being an entirely new tunnel, with several stations). It is quite possible it will miss Ballard as well, putting it in this same category of “commuter-only” transit.

      4. Of course, Link is a catalyst for land use change.

        Yeah, but most land use changes in the area have nothing to do with Link. Places like Fremont and Greenwood have grown considerably.

        You are right though, once they pick a station, the city will likely change the zoning around it. Growth in the area has moved to the east (although the center of density will be to the west of the station, closer to Green Lake). It is likely that the city will change the zoning rules around 130th, for example.

        I’m not sure that is a good thing though. 130th is right by the freeway, which is not the area where you want growth. OK, it is where some people want growth, but that is essentially economic redlining. Put all the renters and condo owners next to the freeway, rather than giving them the opportunity to live in a nice quiet neighborhood. The city really needs to take a more holistic approach towards zoning, and allow growth everywhere.

        It also reduces the likelihood that it will be somewhere people will want to visit. The cultural center of Pinehurst (such as it is) will be to the east. To be fair — it isn’t meant to be a destination, but like 145th, a bus intercept. The problem is that almost all of the stations north of Northgate are the same way. They are all close to the freeway, making even the best attempts at creating a destination difficult. Worse yet, they serve areas farther apart, many with lower density cores. It is one thing to take the bus from Bitter Lake to Link to get to the UW. It is another to do that from Kenmore, let alone Richmond Beach. The farther out you go, the more likely people are to just drive, especially if the midday bus isn’t frequent. Waiting fifteen minutes for the bus, then another ten minutes for the train (along with significant time on each) and next thing you know, you just drive, or skip the whole thing and do something else.

      5. 130th will have only a modest amount of growth. Nobody is talking about making it as large as Lake City. The primary reason for 130th Station is east-west bus feeders to Lake City and Bitter Lake, which will remain the largest urban villages between Northgate and the city border. The growth at 130th will just be an add-on opportunity, low-hanging fruit.

      6. Link has always been about all day operations. Some alignment options are clearly skewed towards commuter corridors, but Link operations have been about all day ridership from the beginning & are funded accordingly. Even in the segments Ross despises, the arguments ‘for’ are generally boil down to “yes, but the subarea wants the surrounding land use to evolve to support all-day ridership” and it’s really a debate around whether the local land use can change sufficiently support all-day ridership (or you think the subarea leaders are straight lying about their intentions and are intentionally backdooring commuter rail)

        Now for my snark: if Seattle now has its “this station is about bus transfers so please politely ignore the anemic TOD,” does that mean Mercer Island and South Bellevue are off the hook after 130th opens, or is Seattle planning on throwing rocks from its glass house?

      7. “this station is about bus transfers so please politely ignore the anemic TOD,” does that mean Mercer Island and South Bellevue are off the hook
        Mercedes Island is an important bus transfer point. Bellevue P&R always has been just plain stupid. Too many of the supposedly enlightened city council considered the P&R essential. That lead to a terrible, possibly the worst alignment choice, that’s pretty much doomed any future expansion to Issaquah (deemed engineeringly impossible by one member that used city resources to “study” the feasibility). Not only did we end up with a terrible alignment but are spending piles of cash just to maintain the existing parking capacity at the swamp & ride.

      8. I wasn’t defending MI or S Bellevue land use, just wondering if Seattle will be embarrassed into not doing the exact same thing for 130th.

        I thought the 112th alignment was all about the placement of East Main station and the tunnel alignment through Bellevue; the station at the old P&R always struck as an ‘on the way’ station given the selected alignment. The only way there isn’t a station at S Bellevue is if East Link followed 405, which creates an OK station around the Wilburton P&R but places the East Main station on the east side of 112th and/or requires an elevated alignment through Bellevue CBD, both of which I think are clearly inferior to the final alignment; once the East Main station is place at-grade (for the tunnel) west of 112th, I think the S Bellevue Station was a given.

        S Bellevue also includes significant bus infrastructure, unlike MI, so it will be an important bus node even if MI is the preferred transfer point. It will be the primary Link access point for Bellevue Way south of downtown and for Factoria until Issaquah Link opens; it will also serve as the midday layover for I90 buses. If the bus loop is underutilized by KCM, I think it could make for an excellent regional bus node (Greyhound, Bolt) for routes heading over the I90 pass, so those private operators don’t need to slog through Seattle traffic, and similarly it will likely be the primary hub for Trailhead Direct routes.

      9. Link has always been about all day operations.

        Oh come on, man. Link has always been about long distance trips. Trips that are usually done via commuter rail, or express buses. Many have called our system a commuter-rail/subway hybrid. Others have called it the most expensive commuter rail system in the country. The enormous distance, plethora of freeway stations and huge parking garages make this clear. Most of the trips between stations can be done faster by bus, most of the day. The only time of day when it is faster by train is rush hour.

        Some alignment options are clearly skewed towards commuter corridors

        The entire thing has been skewed towards commuter corridors. Why else is there such a shortage of stations within the city? The goal it get out to the more distant locations as fast as possible, since traffic is bad. (The irony, of course, is that those distant locations will be screwed as well, since trips to most of the city will take a long time.)

        but Link operations have been about all day ridership from the beginning & are funded accordingly.

        Oh, I didn’t realize that. So they are going to run the trains down Rainier Valley every six minutes now, all day long?

        Even in the segments Ross despises, the arguments ‘for’ are generally boil down to “yes, but the subarea wants the surrounding land use to evolve to support all-day ridership” and it’s really a debate around whether the local land use can change sufficiently support all-day ridership (or you think the subarea leaders are straight lying about their intentions and are intentionally backdooring commuter rail)

        Subarea? Why are there subareas? (The short answer is: rush hour commuters)

        Yeah, of course they want to build up the area around the station, so that they get more riders. But building a station next to the freeway, and building enormous parking lots, and running it extremely far from the urban core make the goal of significant all-day ridership unrealistic. Many, many other agencies have tried this — they have all failed. (https://media4.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/economics-of-urban-light-rail-CH.pdf)

        Do you really think that you will get more all-day ridership from places like Ash Way than you would from the Central Area or Wallingford? Even Tacoma — a city most would consider quite attractive — is not going to get that many all-day riders. There just aren’t that many people who will spontaneously walk up to the station in Tukwila, ride the train for 40 minutes, then take a bus to anywhere in Tacoma worth visiting. Even from Capitol Hill, one of our highest performing, all-day stations, you aren’t going to get many willing to ride the train for over an hour, just to end up in a parking lot in the city of destiny.

        It is clearly skewed towards rush-hour commuting. That doesn’t mean there aren’t worthwhile pieces that will provide value. But the skewing made the system much worse than it needed to be.

      10. Mercer Island, 130th and 147th are all very similar stations. The only reason they exist is as bus intercepts on long, heavily traveled corridors. None of them are in areas well designed for walk-up riders, and whatever they get in that regard has to be considered a bonus. In none of those cases would I waste political capital trying to develop the area.

        Bernie described the South Bellevue station well. It is a terrible station, and the decision to go on 112th instead of Bellevue Way was terrible as well. But what’s done is done. It does have bus connections, but it is easy to imagine the network being just fine without the station (that part of Bellevue Way is all coverage). Factoria can be served with buses from Mercer Island or east of 405. As it is, there won’t be that many people who transfer there. It will be mostly park and ride users.

        If you don’t look too closely, you can easily imagine the area being redeveloped, and walk-up riders contributing a significant number of riders (which would make it different than Mercer Island, 130th and 147th). Unlike many of the other stations, it isn’t close to the freeway. Unfortunately, it just won’t work. You could build apartments next to the station, but they built a big parking lot instead. Any further east and it is a swamp. To the west there appears to be potential, but look again (https://goo.gl/maps/R6LmWCEmN3wfnALz9). The streets don’t go through. You could develop 27th, for example, directly west of the station, but getting to the station involves a significant detour (https://goo.gl/maps/R6LmWCEmN3wfnALz9). That is true of much of the area. The potential for walk-up ridership is low. I wouldn’t bother pushing for it.

      11. I specifically didn’t mention Link up Bellevue Way because I thought it was obvious that if a Bellevue Way alignment was selected there would still be a station at the S Bellevue P&R. Any alignment placing a ‘main street’ station west of 112th would entail a station a SBPR.

        Why do you consider all day operations and long distance trips mutually exclusive? The nexus of all-day frequency and long-distance corridors is exactly what Link is designed to provide.

        “Do you really think that you will get more all-day ridership from places like Ash Way than you would from the Central Area or Wallingford?” Nope. Nobody thinks this. You keep bringing this up because you worship at the altar of productivity and are blind to any other policy goal. There is more to good transit infrastructure than ridership metrics. It’s not like CT writes a check to SDOT each month and say, “you know what, you’ll get better riders/$, so why don’t you spend the money”

        “So they are going to run the trains down Rainier Valley every six minutes now, all day long” No, and nor will KCM run the C, D, or E at 6-minutes all day. Link & Stride are fully funded for 6~8 minutes peak, 10~15 minutes off-peak. I consider that good all-day frequency. Whenever Link has been at a lower frequency it is due to a non-financial constraint like single tracking, driver shortage, or a pandemic.

        “It is clearly skewed towards rush-hour commuting.” No shit; so is our bus network. Every transit system is skewed towards rush hour, that’s where the peak ridership is. The debate it about the degree of the skew, not the existence of the skew.

      12. Ross, perhaps it will be helpful to conceive of Link outside of Seattle as the next evolution of our (best in North America) express bus network. Link serves the same major corridors but improves upon the express bus network with better capacity, better reliability, better frequency, and better & span-of-service. While still skewed towards peak ridership, these improvements will unlock off-peak ridership by offering a compelling & reliable off-peak trip experience and through long-term induced demand from changing land use.

      13. I view “planting” light rail stations like providing water for “plants” to grow in a “garden”. The commute-heavy orientation in the first year will wane a bit as time progresses and day-long uses are hopefully added. There are many factors — the quality of the soil (allowed density), sunlight (market conditions), size of the area being watered (land not restricted by access or highway right of way) and ability to “weed” (suppressing relatively unproductive land uses like open free parking lots).

        Perhaps the key issues are who is selecting the plants and doing the garden upkeep. ST has little jurisdiction over that outside of its own owned land. Each city is the gardener.

        I applaud cities that sincerely understand this. Over time, they can nuance each station to its soil and microclimate — and that may not be fully comprehended until a station has been open for at least a few years.

        One area that gets little attention is public facility siting. Should we move or better connect community colleges and large medical facilities? Should new government building site selection criteria include light rail proximity? Should some public facilities like museums, libraries, post offices and recreation centers be colocated as part of stations? Should a city have to “earn a station” by presenting a strategy to show that they intend on making their garden successful? I feel like we want transit operators and builders to incur much of the cost and effort — yet are less likely to push in cities which control most of what will involve.

      14. That’s a really good metaphor.

        For siting of public buildings, Alon Levy has written some good stuff about this, basically arguing that public entities should pay the land premium for great transit access (or ideally owning the land in the first place)

        For ‘presenting a strategy to show that they intend on making their garden successful,’ that’s a key function of the PSRC growth center process. It’s not very focused on the fine grain gardening of TOD, but it’s trying to ensure each growth center garden is cultivated and showing healthy growth

    2. I’ve been seeing more people too the past few months. I almost commented on it a couple times. The most striking thing is it’s happening on lower-ridership routes. The 10 was low before covid and during covid but the last time I rode it almost every open seat was filled. I haven’t seen the crowding on the 131/132 that I did earlier this year and last year, so I think that ridership might be more evening out across routes. I don’t remember the other specific routes I’ve seen an increase but I have seen it. Still, it’s below “normal” ridership, and the government is still limiting capacity for social distancing, so you can’t really blame Metro or ST for not having 90% capacity when the government’s own policies discourage it.

      The article didn’t seem to have much point. Begging riders to return is a possible future problem, not a current one. King County is still under capacity restrictions, so Metro doesn’t want too many people or it will have to turn them away. The rest of the country has lower covid and higher vaccination rates so maybe they’ve lifted these restrictions. Even so it would take a year for ridership to gradually build up. Commuters will return as soon as their offices reopen, but non-work trips are individuals’ decisions, and different individuals will decide differently or return to transit later than others. We should inject a national transit stimulus both to make return quicker but because transit has been chronically underfunded. But the next year should be more about welcoming riders back than transit administrators pulling their hair out over low ridership. in 2023 they can look at where were at and whether anything should be done about it.

      1. Bernie, I am confused. Mike Orr was talking about TOD at 130th. AJ I assume was wondering if Mercer Island or S. Bellevue will upzone despite the fact 130th likely won’t upzone (the answer is no, S. Bellevue won’t upzone, and Mercer Island’s town center to the south of the station is zoned 4+ and five story multi-family/mixed use, but north of the station will remain a SFH zone with 12,500 and 15,000 sf lot minimums which dates to I-90 and Aubrey Davis).

        I think you are talking about the S. Bellevue Park and Ride. But that is increasing to 1500 stalls (which very well could be too few) whereas you complain about the cost to maintain the old 500 car stall park and ride.

        I am also interested in the East Link route you preferred. I would have preferred a tunnel under Bellevue Way but no extension to Microsoft, but still support the park and ride. I agree the line from Issaquah to South Kirkland is unnecessary.

        You mention running light rail to Issaquah is impossible, and I remember that argument, but a $4.5 billion from Issaquah to S. Kirkland is part of ST 3, but then neither city wants a station in their city core.

        I think some transit advocates have a hard time understanding why light rail followed freeway rights of way. One it is cheaper, but two many cities did not want surface rail in their city cores, including Seattle, but were denied tunnels.

        Eastsiders and Eastside politicians I know just don’t believe East Link will make much of a difference on the Eastside, and ridership — especially intra-Eastside — will be anemic. So they don’t plan on building their zoning or lives around light rail or transit riders, and assume folks will continue to drive.

        East Link was mostly political because subarea equity required the expenditure, but local pols didn’t think it would be much benefit to their cities. So Bellevue ran it along 112th, the bottom of the city. Which explains the route of East Link, which Mercedes Island never really wanted except it was cheaper than going around the Island.

      2. Every station and freeway segment has different issues regarding TOD and why the alignment was chosen, and different subareas and city/county councilmembers influenced the decision. It’s also useless to argue now about decisions that were made in the 1990s, in 2008 with the ST2 vote, and in the mid 2010s when the segments went through design.

        130th: This was an add-on station that wasn’t present in the 2008 ST2 vote. I first heard about it in the 2010s, first on an ST Aurora alternative, and later on the I-5 alignment. The initial purpose was for an east-west feeder to Lake City and Bitter Lake. Later in ST3 the city committed to a modest upzone of the station area. The size and nature of the upzone hasn’t been decided yet.

        Spring District: This is Bellevue’s new TOD center, which it pats itself on the back for.

        South Bellevue: There was no discussion about adding housing there I heard. I have heard ST talking about designing the P&Rs at South Bellevue and TIB to be convertable to housing in the future. I don’t know whether that was done. The most important thing about the South Bellevue P&R is: it’s not in downtown Bellevue! Bellevue avoided the city-center P&R garages that plague Renton, Burien, and other cities. If that requires a peripheral P&R with its own station, that’s a reasonable compromise. In the run-up to ST2 and South Bellevue’s design, everybody seemed to assume it would remain an isolated P&R with no additional housing. Bellevue’s TOD contribution is in the Spring District.

        Mercer Island: I don’t know enough about the housing/P&R/bus issues to comment. My personal preference would be to add a couple stories to downtown zoning. Mercer Island is not planned to be major a job/housing center, so I assume it will remain mostly as is, with only modest growth.

        Lynnwood Link is on I-5 because that’s where it was assumed in the 1990s and in the ST2 ballot measure. ST evaluated Aurora and I-5 and two other corridors, and in the end decided that Aurora’s 4-minute additional travel time would lose more riders in Lynnwood than it would gain on Aurora, and that I-5 would have lower capital costs because it’s publicly owned and already has underpasses.

        Federal Way Link is on I-5 because Federal Way and Des Moines wanted it there, while Kent wanted it on 88. Federal Way had the most clout because it’s the largest city in the area, it had been agitating for Link for a long time, and it was afraid that 99 would lead to longer travel time and a greater risk the project wouldn’t be completed (due to higher costs). Des Moines didn’t want Link demolishing its strip malls and car-oriented businesses, which it says are low-cost storefronts for immigrant startups. Kent wanted Link for a large TOD village on the east side of 99, but Kent’s city center is so far away that its wishes probably weren’t taken seriously. The studies showed the travel time and cost of I-5 vs 99 were the same.

        Tacoma and Lynnwood are on I-5 because they’re exurbs and nobody expected them to be more enlightened. In Pierce ST studied both I-5 and 99 in Pierce County, and found the cost and travel time the same. Since 99 there is a stroad of nothingness, it doesn’t seem to matter much whether Link is on it or not. A notable fact is that Fife asked for a station on 99. Actually, I don’t remember exactly which Link alternative in Pierce was chosen.

        Issaquah-South Kirkland has such different issues that it would be better as a separate discussion,.

        The original East Link concept was on Bellevue Way. That wasn’t chosen because Kemper Freeman threw a fit at having Link next to Bellevue Square, and the city felt the center of density would be at 110th rather than Bellevue Way. 108th-110th has had the tallest zoning since the 1970s, and that’s where most of the highrises were built in the 1990s-2000s and where city hall moved to. So it was decided to put the station at the transit center, and for the south Bellevue alignment to be somewhere between 112th, the Eastside Rail Corridor, and 405. 112th eventually became the preferred alternative.

      3. The swamp & ride doesn’t scale no matter how many “stalls’ you build. The fixation on serving the P&R from what was considered the “progressive” members of the city council I will never understand. I went to many meetings and testified about how stupid making a P&R the focus of the east link alignment was stupid. Looking back… I guess it was a jobs bill.

      4. “I think some transit advocates have a hard time understanding why light rail followed freeway rights of way. One it is cheaper, but two many cities did not want surface rail in their city cores, including Seattle, but were denied tunnels.”

        Nobody outside Seattle asked for tunnels, except downtown Bellevue which got it. Bellevue was the only one where surface rail downtown was proposed. In South King and Pierce it would have been on a wide arterial, so the issues of a small street like 110th with lost of cross streets doesn’t come up.

        The DSTT was already there, and had been intended for future rail, so that avoided the issue of a downtown alignment.

        Rainier Valley couldn’t get a tunnel because when ST made the decision in the 1990s its philosophy was “tunnels only where necessary due to hills or waterways.” That’s how previous American light rails were designed: 90+% surface. After Rainier Valley went through design, Tukwila objected to surface on 99 because it had just redesigned the street. (Note: it wasn’t for Tukwila’s downtown. Tukwila doesn’t have a downtown.) And Roosevelt successfully lobbied for a tunnel extension, and ST found it was cheaper to extend the tunnel to 95th rather than emerge at 63rd and weave around I-5’s foundations. After that ST started assuming elevated everywhere. Mainly on freeways and arterials.

      5. “The swamp & ride doesn’t scale no matter how many “stalls’ you build. The fixation on serving the P&R from what was considered the “progressive” members of the city council I will never understand. I went to many meetings and testified about how stupid making a P&R the focus of the east link alignment was stupid. Looking back… I guess it was a jobs bill.”

        I think you’re imagining progressive councilmembers and a jobs bill. The P&R was mainly inertia. The same reason Northgate and 145th stations are at freeway P&Rs. That was just 20th century thinking. It was assumed all suburban subareas need a P&R. A progressive council would have skipped the P&R, put Link on Bellevue Way, taken advantage of the opportunity for TOD at South Bellevue, not pursued the “Vision Line” alternative on 405, not obstructed Link, and at least done the low-hanging fruit of upzoning Surrey Downs.

        The P&Rs closest to downtown are always the most popular, so Mercer Island and South Bellevue inevitably fill up early while those further east and in more obscure locations have empty spaces. People drive in a chain from Mercer Island to South Bellevue to Eastgate and others until they find a space.

      6. put Link on Bellevue Way, taken advantage of the opportunity for TOD at South Bellevue, not pursued the “Vision Line” alternative on 405

        The knock on the “Vision Line” was that it put the Downtown station too far from the actual transit center. Instead, the money was spent on an expensive tunnel but not on an underground station. Net result, the TC station is almost exactly where it would have been in the Wallace proposed “Vision Line”. The B7 alignment proposed had an East Main station in the same place it is now. It would have had a tunnel portal in the same place. One difference was the proposed underground station at the TC and continuing north to cross at NE 12th. The proposed Hospital/Ashworth Station was terrible and completely unnecessary with a 124th Station.

        South Bellevue P&R wasn’t just “on the way”. It was deemed essential and in the end gets more love than the aircraft carrier downtown station.

      7. “The original East Link concept was on Bellevue Way. That wasn’t chosen because Kemper Freeman threw a fit at having Link next to Bellevue Square”

        Mike, there was never an original line that had a Link station next to the mall. The closest proposed stations, even if Link ran up Bellevue Way, and turned east at 6th, were at Main Street and the BTC.

      8. Daniel, the mention that “a line to Issaquah is now impossible” means that the original proposal for rail directly to Issaquah from Seattle included in the I-90 Bridge study is now seemingly off the table, given ST’s design criteria. There can be no “flying” junction within the envelope of the modified reversible lanes.

        It is interesting, but goes unsaid, that ST will be violating it’s “no level junctions in revenue service” rule at South Main Station if South Kirkland-Issaquah is built. If it can be finessed two miles north at South Main, it could also be ignored at the I-5 exit. The slip ramps to and from the main lanes could be re-purposed for a trackway on east.

        That said, there is probably a better argument that Issaquah be linked to healthy, striving Bellevue than to declining, needle-and-trash-littered Seattle. No?

        P.S. I think so, too, but for other reasons: it makes more sense for transit systems to connect to and through closer rather than farther nodes. It makes a better all-day network, and THAT is how transit best serves the most people long-term. Regardless of your opinion that commute riders are the only folks worth serving in the East King Subarea, in fact there will be another million people living between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish (virtually extended north to the KC line and south to SR18). There isn’t room for another half million SF houses in the undeveloped areas of the subarea, so there will be lots more dense nodes, and several will be along Issaquah-Bellevue. I just hope that the Link line when built is not cheek-by-jowl with I-90 all the way.

      9. @Sam — My guess is it wasn’t a station next to the mall, but the train line itself. I don’t know the original plan, but if it was on the surface, it would mean taking a street lane. If it was underground, it would mean digging up the street. No matter what, there would be plenty of work done close to the mall, making driving to the mall more difficult (at least temporarily). I can see how Kemper — given his priorities — would object.

        Regardless, it really is a shame the train didn’t go up Bellevue Way. The station at Main and Bellevue Way would be better than East Main and South Bellevue put together.

      10. I don’t think the Issaquah-East Main junction in the representative alignment is consistent with ST’s current design standards. Technical staff preferred the ERC corridor with a transfer at Wilburton, but public comment drove the switch to East Main and interlining through the Bellevue tunnel. I wouldn’t read too much into the theoretical junction in the representative alignment.

        Given East Link design was fixed, I think ST leadership (staff & Board) reasonably concluded they could accommodate the public preference in the representative alignment and figure out the technical details later when the EIS process kicks off, probably a full decade after the ST3 vote. There were significant known unknowns in 2016, include Eastrail and Grand Connection.

      11. “Ross, perhaps it will be helpful to conceive of Link outside of Seattle as the next evolution of our (best in North America) express bus network. Link serves the same major corridors but improves upon the express bus network with better capacity, better reliability, better frequency, and better & span-of-service.”

        At an exorbitant cost.

        AJ, I agree that outside Seattle light rail can marginally improve the transit experience over buses, at least along the fixed route of rail, if you don’t need a feeder bus and transfer which changes everything.

        But when you envision long-term induced demand from zoning changes that will “unlock off-peak ridership” in these undense areas I think you miss the point: light rail in these areas, especially off-peak, is not competing against buses, but against cars. The “walkshed” for light rail — or buses — in much of these areas is not existent, and will remain a tiny fraction of citizens. A resident is driving one way or the other, even if to the light rail station or bus intercept park and ride.

        East Link was sold almost exclusively on improving the commuter experience, mostly to Seattle, because of traffic congestion and the cost of parking in Seattle. That explains its route (except along 112th). Of course that was 2004–2008. East Link serves maybe 2% of east King Co’s land mass.

        Folks in East King Co. who have to take transit off-peak are not going to see a lot of benefit to their lives from East Link, in part because many are not going to Seattle, and most are taking some kind of trip to work, and those jobs probably are not in downtown Bellevue or at Microsoft, and if they are they will drive.

        I am not a big fan of “induced demand”, which is the basis for ST’s questionable future ridership estimates. If demand already exists — i.e. population density and ridership/mile — yes, improved frequency will benefit those transit riders, and at some point rail. But buses or light rail are not going to create induced demand IMO where demand does not already exist, certainly for off-peak trips in an area where most transit trips one way or the other begin in the car. I think Ross is right when he states don’t take areas with low bus ridership/mile and expect ridership on rail to significantly increase for the same areas and routes. The bus riders simply switch to rail.

        There is no “unlocked” transit demand, at least on the eastside, especially during off=peak times.

        I also don’t think expensive TOD like what Bellevue is zoning naturally leads to induced transit demand, and neither does Bellevue which is why all these projects have such high parking requirements. Folks who can afford a $1 million condo can afford a car. If congestion is bad, sure I could see someone living in the Spring District taking East Link to Seattle for work if they can walk to the station, unless they have parking, but not for off-peak trips.

        90% — 95% of Link ridership will come from those who take buses today. There is not some huge well of untapped induced transit demand, and IMO I think that thinking is how we got a 90 mile spine through very rural areas that are too expensive to serve with feeder buses, so you need park and rides (if travelling to Seattle. Who in the world would drive to a park and ride in Lynnwood to take Link to Everett?)

      12. “There is no “unlocked” transit demand, at least on the eastside, especially during off=peak times.”

        Sure there is. Look at the travel times between downtown Bellevue and downtown Redmond on Link and compare it with the meandering B-line bus. It’s not even close. Of course, people will travel more often if a trip takes 15 minutes instead of 40.

        During peak, there are express buses available that are faster (at least, when they don’t get stuck in traffic), off-peak, it’s either put up with the B-line or go buy a car. Link will change that.

    3. “The main problem with light rail here is that it was designed as a commute-alternative for future knowledge workers who in theory would be required to commute daily to dense offices downtown”

      The main problem is your misunderstanding of Link. Why does it run off-peak if it was designed mostly for commuters? it not only runs off-peak it’s more frequent than most bus routes, covid reductions notwithstanding. Link is both to bring people to downtown Seattle, Bellevue, and Microsoft, to reinforce concentrated job centers (as opposed to peanut-butter sprawl), to build up all-day two-way ridership, and (for Pierce and Snohomish) to entice companies/workers/shoppers to their growth centers to improve their economies.

      If you add Metro to it (as you should, because Metro has most of the riders), you see that Metro was primarily focused on downtown in the 1980s but it has since moved beyond that. All parts of the county have how been restructured to direct many of their transit resources to their local city centers. Do I need to list them? The 120/131/132 came out of downtown-Des Moines milk runs. The 150/160 came out of a downtown-Auburn route. The 41/67/345/346/347/348 came out of downtown-north end routes. The peak-express share of service hours may still be 50% outside Seattle but it’s lower than it was, and it will be even lower when ST2 Link is finished ca. 2025. And I can easily get a C, D, 8, 65, or 160 for midday or evening bi-directional trips when previously I’d have to wait twice as long or it was slower or there was no service.

      1. Light rail here was designed as an alternative for commuters to downtown offices because, the thinking went, so many cars would be clogging I-5 and I-90 during rush hours that large employers downtown and in Redmond might look for office space elsewhere. Read Sound Move and ST2:

        Sound Move says: “The problem is traffic congestion. … Today’s increased number of two-worker households, more frequent job changes and longer work commutes are putting more demand on our transportation system than it can handle. No one likes traffic. It takes a frustrating toll on our time and our nerves. But much more sobering and far reaching is the impact congestion has on our jobs, economy and environment. Congestion reduces productivity by making it harder for employees to get to work on time. Those same traffic jams also make it more difficult to get goods to market. Such impacts can cause existing companies to relocate and potential business to look elsewhere for places to expand and build factories. And as companies leave they take vital jobs with them.”

        ST2 says: “By the year 2030, growth will lead to a 35 percent increase in employment and a 30 percent increase in vehicle travel in the region. By 2030, the typical commuter could spend nearly an entire work week of additional time struck in traffic. Weekday rush hour could last from breakfast through dinner, strangling the movement of traffic an freight, jeopardizing our economy, and hurting the environment. … When all proposed ST2 projects are completed, half of all work trips to downtown Seattle are expected to be on transit. The number of people taking transit to work during peak commuting hours will increase in the other major regional centers being served by the plan’s investments.”

        If we knew remote working would play out as it will light rail would have been seen as a folly when those ballot measures were designed.

      2. Hey Anon,

        First of all, we don’t “know” how much remote working will take hold. The best indication is most companies are moving towards a “hybrid” approach involving significant office presence. Half of WA including King County is struggling with a (minor) 4th wave and looking down the barrel at a roll-back to Phase 2 restrictions. It is all too early to tell, as the crisis/disaster is not quite over yet!

        Second, even if remote work takes off, who’s to say remote workers might actually want to live in Town. Specifically, in parts of Town where they really want to live, rather than a compromise between where they want to live and where the commute is reasonable? It’s often assumed that remote work means you go to live out in the country somewhere. Not necessarily the case! At the very least, people might want to live within easy Uber range of one of the suburban stations for the couple days a week they still need/want to go in to the office.

        Finally, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, traffic congestion is mostly back, *despite* most large downtown employers being shuttered. Therefore, the alternative-to-traffic-congestion motivation still holds–indeed, it doesn’t even require *all* of the downtown offices to re-open to create a huge problem, as we’re already at capacity without *any* of them having re-opened. Oh, and we’ve got a new arena and waterfront area re-opening downtown!

      3. Personally I would have preferred running East Link under Bellevue Way from Main Street to NE 10th with three underground stations, but I can understand why Bellevue and Kemper Freeman didn’t want that route.

        First, it would be very expensive to tunnel and build three underground stations, and Bellevue didn’t have the density and commercial activity when ST 2 was being designed –and the eastside subarea did not have the estimated future revenue it does today — to support a tunnel. No major city council is going to agree to run light rail along surface streets down its retail core, and I doubt Seattle will be willing to do the same with the DSTT2 along 5th Ave. (although my suspicion is that may be the only option). Maybe if the four other subareas had agreed to pay half the cost to tunnel under Bellevue Way, the eastside subarea 1/2, and Bellevue $300 million, like the DSTT2 it could have been done (at least in the eastside subarea).

        Second, I don’t think mall owners and large retailers believe transit improves their business. It hasn’t helped retail near the Westlake Station from what I can see, and someone posted the Simon Properties rep. developing Northgate Mall basically stated transit brings shoplifters, which is a reflection of how they think. They spend a fortune in free parking for a reason.

        Third is the eastside car culture. For example, Mercer Island has built up its town center with multi-family housing (including both the mixed use zone and surrounding multi-family zone), and concentrated housing there (early TOD), and the bus and rail stations are right in the town center with good frequency both east and west. Still most town center residents own cars and drive, although the walk to the station would be pretty easy and flat.

        You can build pricey TOD along East Link but that doesn’t mean residents will take transit even if their first/last mile access is walking, and you won’t be building affordable housing. Even though I can walk to the Mercer Island rail station, would my wife and I walk to East Link to catch a train to downtown Bellevue to dine or shop. Probably not. The drive during non-peak times is 10 minutes, parking is usually free, and even if I we go to Seattle and park, the cost of parking in Seattle is less than two round trip tickets on East Link, although cost really isn’t the issue.

        Fourth, I can understand why some transit advocates and Urbanists don’t like park and rides, certainly in Seattle, but if feeder bus service is as convenient and frequent as driving to a park and ride then people will stop using park and rides (except in some parts of east and south King Co. in which there simply is no local feeder bus service, and you need a park and ride simply to get to the park and ride to catch a feeder bus).

        I disagree with ST’s plan to charge for park and rides ( ST wants the money and Urbanists want to disadvantage driving and use of park and rides no matter how shitty feeder bus service is) because our transit system (especially rail) and transportation system is already so skewed in favor of the more affluent: the most affluent drive and park everywhere; then there are those who can afford a reserved park and ride spot; and finally are those who have to take feeder buses to catch rail or get to the park and ride by 6 am which is not good if you have to get kids to school, and my guess is a one way ticket on East Link when it opens will be approaching $4.

        If feeder buses are as fast and convenient as using a park and ride then folks will stop using park and rides. So make first/last mile access as convenient as a park and ride.

      4. Even if parking at Bellevue Square is free, not everybody enjoys driving through parking garages. Getting into and out of the parking garage can easily take a good 10 minutes, even if the freeway is empty. I’d personally rather spend the time waiting for a train.

        You also assume that everybody has a car and always will. Which is not the case. Transit doesn’t just respond to people’s choices, it also influences them, and it is a fact that all else equal, people without cars looking for an easy transit ride to both Bellevue and Seattle will be more likely to consider Mercer Island as a place to live (at least the part within walking distance to the park and ride) after Link opens than before.

        Even without Link, car culture on the Eastside is not absolute. I have personally met multiple people who live in Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland who do not have cars. They exist.

    4. Too much speculation about Link’s lower ridership obsesses about office commuters. A large segment of the former ridership is college and high school students so reopening classes will bring back those riders quickly. Also, service workers are working much less and they also were using Link heavily — and their jobs are less likely to ever switch to work from home. I’m optimistic that 70-80 percent of the riders will return in the next year. Of course, Northgate Link opening will make it hard to directly compare what this relationship is because there will be a ridership bump when new stations open and more buses won’t be going Downtown.

    5. Seattle times published an article today on metro ridership. The comments were intriguing. I was surprised to read so many people not wanting to ride transit again. Some people don’t feel safe riding , even after vaccination. Metro will have to work to win them back.

      1. I’ve seen opinion polls showing that the average member of the public considers riding a bus a greater COVID risk than eating indoors at a restaurant.

        A lot of people are still very ignorant about how it spreads. In reality, the restaurant is far more risky, since you can ride a bus with a mask on, but you can’t eat with a mask on.

      2. Yeah, it’s going to be hard to win back ridership. I hope it doesn’t mean future service cuts next year. I wonder when link will resume ten minute frequency?

      3. I am one of those people who are reluctant to get on a bus or ride Light Rail and I haven’t used transit in over a year as I just don’t feel safe in doing so.

        So I drive but primarily in my neighborhood to run errands. Before the pandemic I used to go to downtown by transit but I have no desire to go their either. If I need to go shopping it is at the University Village which is near by or go online.

      4. You can’t win back ridership if there is nothing to ride. Aren’t over 50 routes still suspended?

      5. I think its different when you’ve been vaccinated. Before that, I would be very hesitant. I would take the bus, but only if I had to. Now, I wouldn’t hesitate. I would wear a mask, knowing the risk was very low.

        But I felt the same way about doing anything indoors. It is crazy to think that some people feel safer at a restaurant than on a bus. That’s just nuts.

        Anyway, the more people get vaccinated, the more comfortable they’ll feel on the bus. Of course it will help if the numbers come down (being in the “fourth wave” doesn’t help).

    6. I don’t have anything quantitative, but the routes I ride regularly (31/32, 26/62, and 44) all “feel” busier now than they did 6 months ago, and certainly far more so than last summer. That said, while riding a bus was a bit stressful before (especially in those now long-ago days when the front of the bus was taped off), being partially-vaccinated and a few weeks from being fully-vaccinated makes it feel much closer to normal. As more things open up, more people get vaccinated, and traffic gets worse, I expect the trend to continue. I also hope that people recognize that transit can fight against climate change and for urbanism, and return even if it feels a bit uncomfortable at first.

      I never thought I’d think this, but I’m looking forward to packed buses and trains soon!

    1. Great map Sam. Personally I prefer the European approach to upzoning Bellevue has taken in which the core is delineated and upzoned heavily but the surrounding residential neighborhoods remain SFH zones. Although not terribly affordable, this concentrates retail and work downtown and creates a great walking experience, while preserving the original purpose of Bellevue, SFH and schools. I find in interesting that Bellevue has become more walkable and dense than downtown Seattle, and a better urban experience.

      If I could go back and redo one thing it would have been to tunnel under Bellevue Way and run East Link under that, and forget about running rail to Redmond (or rail to Issaquah), considering Microsoft is now building a 3 million sf underground parking garage.

      1. >European approach to upzoning

        Which European cities are dominated by single family zoning, Daniel?

        >Bellevue has become more walkable and dense than downtown Seattle

        Good joke.

      2. One of the see-through future pink buildings is mostly obscuring it, but I can see on the map a building that used to be the second tallest building in dt Bellevue back in the late 1970’s. The Key Bank building on 4th between 106th and 108th. A restaurant called Benjamin’s was on the top floor.

      3. I fail to see any way Bellevue is like Europe. American cities that grew before the 1940s were allowed to densify single-family areas proportional to the population increase. Now suddenly they can’t? That just distorts things and gives an extraordinary privilege to homeowners adjacent to urban centers. It gets more and more unequal as those house prices rise and those homeowners are replaced by ever-richer people. The one concession to density Bellevue and the other King County cities have given that Seattle hasn’t is large tracts of light-industrial land, so that they can have large developments like the Spring District. Seattle hasn’t because it wants to keep its industrial land and jobs and manufacturing capacity, and those warehouses are bustling with trade and other things. Conversely, Seattle has allowed some density in neighborhood centers outside the urban growth centers, which other King County cities have generally not done.

        “preserving the original purpose of Bellevue, SFH and schools.”

        You forgot about avoiding colored people in schools; that was a big part of the 1960s and 70s suburban flight. In any case, Bellevue’s “original purpose of single-family houses” is completely non-viable now that the population has increased so much. There isn’t room for houses for everybody. And I’m sure Bellevue has a higher percentage of multifamily residents now than it did twenty years ago, so those people didn’t move there because of the single-family houses they don’t have. And given that you haven’t seen a rise of duplexes or close-together houses that would allow for more single-family-ish residents, probably almost all of Bellevue’s population growth has been multifamily. What you’ve seen more of than duplexes is houses replaced by larger McMansions, but that doesn’t increase the number of single-family residents, just the size of their house.

      4. I agree with the concept of a dense urban core in a city with a ring of SFH surrounding it. I think Seattle could really benefit from such an approach too. While one could argue why it is the case and whether or not it is a good thing, most US West Coast cities seem to have SFH inside the city limits as almost a defining part of their character. So rather than fight it, I say we embrace it. Keep SFHs within 2-5 miles of Seattle city limits and make everything in the UW-Ballard-Downtown triangle high rises and skyscrapers. The urban village model really didn’t serve the city well, and if transit advocates here really want to push their “no light rail to the suburbs” attitudes, this added density would give them fuel for that fire.

        It does come with tradeoffs I don’t think such “urbanists” are willing to concede, though. Local neighborhood groups would need to be empowered to help design the new signature elements of neighborhoods like Wallingford and Fremont. And the cement “parks” would have to be returned to greenspaces, as well as current parks in the footprint preserved and places like local golf courses not sacrificed for housing (outside their club houses, which are already paved over).

        Sadly such a logical, balanced approach will never be looked at by the build, baby build YIYBYs (yes in your backyard) that are trying to dominate the current land use conversation space these days.

      5. “make everything in the UW-Ballard-Downtown triangle high rises and skyscrapers”

        That’s exactly what’s missing. I’ve suggested a target area north of the Ship Canal, and not mostly highrise. If we have enough 7-story buildings we don’t need 20-story or 40-story. We just need to get rid of this single-family three-story lock on areas so close to urban centers. We need to have large urban areas like Chicago. I don’t care if peripheries like Magnolia or the Lake Washington shore get upzoned last or not at all: the point is that the area between Ballard and the U-District and similar areas need to be upzoned. There will still be some houses and row houses scattered around, as there are in Chicago.

      6. It’s unfortunate that they are building so much parking. But there are also a lot of new apartments going up (both around the Microsoft campus and Downtown Redmond), and the 545 has pretty decent ridership, so the demand for transit is there.

        I would concede that it is possible to handle this by running better bus service between Bellevue and Redmond. Though better bus service would require a reduction in car capacity, via more transit signal priority and bus-only lanes, and I don’t think the governments of Bellevue or Redmond are particularly ready to do that. It’s just another example of how the primary goal of American transit is to serve drivers.

      7. Keep SFHs within 2-5 miles of Seattle city limits and make everything in the UW-Ballard-Downtown triangle high rises and skyscrapers.

        That is a prescription for high housing costs. It is also not much different than what we have. By drawing little circles where people can grow, and excluding the vast majority of the city from any density change, you create high housing prices. It is not just an American thing, of course: https://pricetags.ca/2019/10/17/the-grand-bargain-illustrated/?fbclid=IwAR1yAeWGDUzZjG8vLaBPhwJPYh9fxm0tIuVXUbfLVYFqbT1f7zJy5H7s7D0.

        It is important to remember that height doesn’t equal density. There are brownstone areas of Brooklyn with as much density as any in Seattle. In general, our biggest problem is not height, it is density. You can build a three story building pretty much anywhere in Seattle. You just can’t put three families in it. It also has to be on a lot that is either big, or huge. This is where things need to change. Leave the “urban villages” as is, but allow the areas around them (where most of the land is) to add people, and become more like Brooklyn. Of course it wouldn’t be anywhere near Brooklyn, but more like it. (Fun Fact: Seattle has more land than Brooklyn, but Brooklyn has 2.5 million compared to our 3/4 million). It means not allowing more height, but more density. Everywhere.

        Get rid of the setback requirements, the density restrictions and the parking requirements, but keep the same height limits. Do that and you would see widespread, more affordable growth everywhere. Instead of McMansions everywhere (the most common form of development in Seattle right now) you would have small apartments and row houses.

      8. RossB, I’m not talking about drawing little circles where housing can grow. I’m talking about drawing big circles where housing can grow. The Ballard-UW-Downtown triangle was honestly an off the cuff example. Ideally I’d like to connect all of the city’s urban villages into a dense urban core, keeping only the areas not between them for SFH. I am definitely talking about including the majority of the city in a phased in density change, at something like two city blocks a year for every urban village until they connect. That should be more than enough to build additional high rise housing and hopefully allow neighborhoods enough time to be able to decide on design elements that help define them.

        But keep the setback requirements. This is where we could keep the badly needed green space so that we don’t end up looking like Brooklyn. Keep the parking requirements in the remaining SFH zones. Ditch the myth of the “missing middle” in favor of what people want to live in. Remove the parking requirements *and* raise both height and density. Row houses and five over on apartments are merely modern slums (in the case of row houses, historic slums. I’ve been inside London’s row houses. They were worse than the torn down Yesler Terrace units.).

        Affordable housing is dead. You could eliminate every housing in the city, county, and state, and let Seattle build skyscrapers from 145 to South of BoeiField. Housing prices would still rise. The only affordable housing for the next century is going to be subsidized, plain and simple. The question before us how do we accommodate the expected influx of people in a climate change suffering world while still keeping Seattle’s character. So we keep as much green as possible, have a few SFH “zoos” to point at and say we’ve kept that element while designing a real urban core rather than amusing the notion with all these microcore urban villages, which basically amount to intra-city urban sprawl.

        It would also justify what are currently joke Link lines like the Metro 8 and UW-Ballard. If people want a Seattle Subway system, Seattle has to have the density *and* height to justify it.

      9. But keep the setback requirements. This is where we could keep the badly needed green space so that we don’t end up looking like Brooklyn. Keep the parking requirements in the remaining SFH zones. Ditch the myth of the “missing middle” in favor of what people want to live in.

        Wait, what? First of all, if they don’t want to live in a place, they won’t build it. Do you really think someone is going to build a duplex or row house, only to find that no one wants to live there? Come on, get real.

        Secondly, what the hell is wrong with Brooklyn? Oh, the horror: https://wp.zillowstatic.com/streeteasy/2/shutterstock_201591710-54a861-1024×682.jpg. Green space should be in parks, so that everyone can enjoy it. As you can see, there are nice trees in front (and a typical brownstone has a nice open area out back). Extra space in front isn’t always wonderful (https://goo.gl/maps/TPgJ1yMthYQVqqC97). Encouraging sprawl (which is what development like that does) is not good for the environoment.

        As for affordability, the more places we allow growth, the cheaper things get. This also means that money spent on public housing goes a lot further. Of course the bigger a city gets, the harder it is to build affordably. But the missing middle isn’t a myth — the concept is universal. It is one way in which Tokyo manages to have relatively inexpensive houses (yes houses) in the largest city on earth (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGbC5j4pG9w). That simply would not be possible without a much more liberal set of zoning rules. The property cost is way too high, and the demand to live in Tokyo is way too high. More to the point, you can’t build that in most of Seattle. But you can build this: https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/12051-20th-Ave-NE-98125/home/171917350. That is a 5 bedroom, 3 bath house on a 9,100 square foot lot. Big houses on big lots, legal. Small houses on small lots, illegal. And then people wonder why houses (and condos) are so expensive.

        Oh, and one more thing: Density does equal height. Height does not equal density.

      10. @Sam
        I have fond memories of Benjamin’s (top floor of the Key Bank building). Years ago, when I used to work for a securities firm in the Koll Center, we sometimes walked over there for drinks and/or dinner. One of my friends who worked at Dean Witter Reynolds (yeah, that DWR that was gutted by fire in 1990 or 1991…can’t quite remember which year) would go there fairly often and I’d join him for a drink or two. They used to give you your money’s worth if you ordered from their top shelves. Lol.

        Here’s a link that I think you might enjoy. It’s a database where you can look up the history of many buildings on the west coast.


        For example, here’s the record for the 400 Building on 108th, one of Bellevue’s first “skyscrapers”:


        Finally, here’s a piece from the PSBJ ($) from 2005 when Key Bank sold the building you mentioned in your comment. Benjamin’s gets an honorable mention. (Schwartz Bros. had already made the change to Spazzo by then.) Anyway, I hope you can access the article as I think you’ll enjoy reading it as well. A bit of recent nostalgia.


      11. RossB, as always you are your position’s own worst enemy.

        “Wait, what? First of all, if they don’t want to live in a place, they won’t build it. Do you really think someone is going to build a duplex or row house, only to find that no one wants to live there? Come on, get real.”

        That’s actually *my* point. Duplexes and row houses aren’t being built in Seattle today because nobody wants to live in them. The DADU/ADU craze has likewise failed to create housing, despite two separate rounds of regulatory easing. This is also how we know there is no missing middle to housing. Real estate agencies and construction companies would be building missing middle housing today if there was demand for it. They’d skirt every regulation they could and get it done. They aren’t, because nobody wants to live in that type of housing. Simple cause and effect.

        “Secondly, what the hell is wrong with Brooklyn? Oh, the horror: https://wp.zillowstatic.com/streeteasy/2/shutterstock_201591710-54a861-1024×682.jpg.”

        Yes, the horror. Bland, soulless cookie cutter buildings with clear mold issues, likely roach motels on the inside, with half dead root bound ornamental trees. No life, no vibrancy. Just stagnation and death.

        “Extra space in front isn’t always wonderful (https://goo.gl/maps/TPgJ1yMthYQVqqC97).”

        It’s a little garish, sure. Lawns are awful too. But compared to your Brooklyn picture? Night and day. Green spaces belong everywhere, not just parks. Disabled individuals are not going to luxury of taking mass transit to one of the few green parks “urbanists” would deign to permit a city to keep. Look at Myrtle Edwards (diminished by the Olympic Sculpture Garden and the north end of it chopped off), Victor Steinbruek (mostly paved over and filled in with tacky retail), or any number of “parks” in Seattle with little to no grass in them at all. Keeping plant life throughout the city gives everyone a chance to enjoy it, not just the abled and mobile.

        “But the missing middle isn’t a myth — the concept is universal. It is one way in which Tokyo manages to have relatively inexpensive houses (yes houses) in the largest city on earth (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGbC5j4pG9w). That simply would not be possible without a much more liberal set of zoning rules.” For starters there is clearly a demand for that type of housing then that there isn’t here. Second of all those houses are even more plain and lifeless than your Brooklyn example above. Boxes made of ticky tacky much? Finally, Tokyo isn’t all that population dense. There are multiple US cities denser, big and small. So your argument that missing middle housing provides lower cost dense housing is demonstrably false using your own example.

        Your argument is all over the place and falls apart under its own weight. We may not see eye to eye, but I’ve seen you argue your case much better than this.

      12. Tlsgwm, thanks! I’m about to check out your links. Btw, I was listening to Tom Douglas’s radio show a couple of years ago, and he mentioned that when he first came to the northwest, I think sometime in the late 70’s, he said his first job at a restaurant was at Benjamin’s as like a line cook or something.

        It’s funny now to think that back then being in a restaurant on the 9th floor felt like you were on top of the world.

      13. “nobody wants to live in that type of housing”

        I want to live in that type of housing. A 4-8 unit apartment building, preferably with a courtyard.

      14. If you want more green space, the city needs to stop requiring people and businesses to pave over their green space with ever larger parking lots.

  2. “Today, Americans who rely on public transportation to get to work spend twice as long commuting as those who drive. And it’s not as reliable as it should be,” Buttigieg told The Associated Press. “A lot of this is because of the age of our transit infrastructure — across the country there are systems in urgent need of upgrade and modernization. Every American should have access to good options for affordable, fast, safe and reliable public transit — particularly those for whom transit is the only viable option.”

    This quote is from Pete Buttigieg in the article cited by Anon, Obviously.

    If one can afford a car time of trip is the first factor whether someone will or can take transit, followed by the cost of parking. Parking in urban areas (with high parking taxes) makes driving unaffordable even for those who own a car and would prefer to drive.

    If the urban work centers like Seattle (and Bellevue) return to in office work traffic congestion will return which can make transit faster than driving, and both Bellevue and Seattle are expensive to park in for a worker (although shoppers might get free parking, at least after 5 pm on the eastside). If it doesn’t return in force more folks will drive because the traffic congestion will be worth it, and some employers have gone to a shared parking/WFH model during the pandemic rather than subsidizing transit which is no longer a deduction for the employer.

    Another factor some on this blog think is overblown is perceptions of safety, both on city streets and on buses. The best way to create a perception of safety is by having more ordinary folks (workers and shoppers) on the streets and on transit (especially in the dark), which is why commuting by workers is usually seen as safe, certainly on the eastside. In the cited article it wasn’t a fear of Covid, as the rider was vaccinated and wore a mask, it was a perception of lack of safety from other passengers on a nearly empty bus that made riding transit disfavored.

    In this region we are fortunate that our light rail system is new (although the transit tunnel needs $500 million in deferred maintenance), and probably the best part of the spine — Northgate to UW to Capitol Hill to Seatac to Bellevue (but not First Hill) — is/will open first, and by 2023. Other cities like New York have very old rail systems, and billions in upgrades and replacement. Of course they also have huge population densities.

    Light rail is not designed for those so poor they cannot afford a car. It is designed for peak hour commuters who cannot afford to park in urban centers, grade separation from congestion, and want to live in a SFH in suburbia but must work downtown. Otherwise who would run rail to Redmond?

    If tourism and in-office work return to pre-pandemic levels in Seattle some parts of the spine will be quite popular, especially with work commuters, although fares may be high. My point has always been those are the only areas rail probably should have been built. The rest of the spine will likely have very low ridership per mile. That will likely result in many ST 3 projects getting extended, or revamped to another mode, if for no other reason than cost, but in the end cost also takes into consideration how many will actually ride those ST 3 projects.

    Still, as Buttigieg noted, time of trip is critical, and the spine adds a transfer to many trips even if rail is grade separated. Transfers, even if they don’t result in a longer trip, are disfavored and frustrating, especially by work commuters and those who can drive.

    CT, PT and Metro will be asked to serve a 90 mile spine through many areas with low population and density, and time of trip will ultimately come down to first/last mile access, and I don’t see the funding to provide frequent first/last mile access to many areas. Of course many of those areas today get infrequent bus service –without a transfer — which is why so many from those areas drive if they can.

    Get first/last mile access right, and recreate the urban vibrancy that will draw commuters and shoppers and diners to downtown, and transit will rebound, although many transit systems like ST are based on some rosy population and ridership projections over 90 miles, so even a 5% decline in projected commuter riders will have a negative effect, and my guess is poor first/last mile access will result in a 5% decline alone, not counting WFH.

    But IMO, even if everything returns to pre-pandemic levels there are still large stretches of the spine that will have poor ridership per mile/dollar, and poor first/last mile access, and ST 3 looks to be unaffordable for some subareas and a terrible waste of money in other subareas.

    I think it is smart for the Board to wait several years before making any more major decisions, because my suspicion is ST 3 revenue is being used to finish the spine, and the only way to afford ST 3 is a ST 4, which will depend on how well the best parts of the spine (Northgate to UW to Capitol Hill to Seattle To Seatac to Bellevue) actually work. If those parts don’t work well forget about a ST 4, and ST 3.

    1. I think ridership will return to normal, but it may take a few years. Third avenue in downtown Seattle is shockingly chaotic. I was almost assaulted yesterday by a crazed man that chased me for a block holding a broken bottle. This was at 2pm. Lots of tents and mentally ill people. That will need to be resolved before all employees return to work.

      1. When employees return the problem will be solved quickly. The encampments were only allowed to grow because there has been very little weekday foot traffic

      2. When employees return the problem will be solved quickly. The encampments were only allowed to grow because there has been very little weekday foot traffic
        The problem will not be solved quickly. Seattle has a serious problem that requires replacing the wackos that created the problem and then trying to rebuild a police force that can, as a minimum, meet the federal consent decree. That’s currently going quickly in the wrong direction.

      3. Or instead of endlessly shovelling money at SPD &co we could actually house people permanently with supports

        None of the security services in this county have shown the slightest desire to reform or even just stop shooting first and fearing for their life later, they should be terminated and the funds reused for projects that actually *help* people.

    2. There is an extremely strong correlation between transit ridership and density. Seattle has dramatically increased its density over the last ten years, as have some neighborhoods outside the city (mostly in inner-suburbs). The relationship is not linear, so going from medium density to high density* (common in Seattle as well as Bellevue) is much better than going from low density to medium. This increase in density bodes really well for the future.

      There is also a really strong relationship between transit ridership and frequency of service. This is where things get fuzzy. With enough money, Metro could dramatically increase ridership. Not only by increasing frequency on popular routes, but also by creating more of a grid. A grid is more efficient (increasing frequency even more) and can dramatically speed up some trips, but it can also force transfers for trips that are common. The more frequent the bus, however, the less painful that transfer is. Whether Metro (or Seattle, or any of the suburbs) will have enough money to provide frequent service is a big question. If they do, then we can become a “big city”, where people view taking transit as the standard option for all their trips, as opposed to just for commuting (and only then to a handful of places).

      Of course Link frequency plays a huge part as well. I’m afraid that Link is stuck with the idea that ten minute frequency is just fine, and aren’t interested in the increase in ridership that running every six minutes would bring. East Link should bring an increase, but only for part of the system. The good news is that it at least will include the core. From downtown to the UW (as well as up to Northgate) the trains will run every 3-5 minutes during the day, while the rest of the region endures 6-10 minute service. That could change, of course, but I don’t expect it to.

      It will be interesting to see the increase in ridership that comes from East Link. Not only for trips that involve the East Side (and Judkins Park) but within the combined areas. I expect northbound trips starting downtown to increase, just from the frequency. What will be confusing is that at the same time, there will likely be a general increase in ridership due to the pandemic waning (at least locally).

      * By “high density” I mean relative to the area, not relative to other cities.

      1. “From downtown to the UW (as well as up to Northgate) the trains will run every 3-5 minutes during the day”

        Seattle has never had this level of frequency for large parts of the day. It will create an unprecedented level of ridership and acceptance of transit. Suddenly you’ll be able to travel like in New York, London, or St Petersburg. Only if your trip is between Lynnwood-Intl Dist Link stations and doesn’t require a bus transfer of course. But the point is that you can at least do it somewhere, whereas previously you could do it nowhere in Pugetopolis. And a lot of people do have trips that are solely between downtown, the U-District, and Roosevelt. And Northgate will become more popular when you can walk from the new apartments to a 3-5 minute train. And most people probably don’t even realize it’s coming, or haven’t internalized how it will affect them.

      2. I wouldn’t say it never existed before — just never at this scale. If you want to get from one side of downtown to the other in the middle of the day, the buses are very frequent, and quite fast. This extends out to some shared corridors. For example, the 10/11/49 up to Capitol Hill or the 1/2/13/D to Uptown. This is a fairly limited area, but probably an area where people already view transit this way.

        Link will extend this perspective out to more of the city. How much depends in part on how often the connecting buses will run. They don’t have to run as often as the trains (they won’t) but getting in the 6-10 range helps a lot. As with the bus system now, a “spine” system of combined buses will help a lot of areas (e. g. greater Northgate, or the area between 65th and 45th).

      3. Yes, downtown, Jackson, and Belltown/Uptown. I live at Pine & Bellevue precisely because the 10/11/49 and their predecessors overlap to there. But Jackson and Belltown are really the only ones that have 3-5 minute frequency. On Pike-Pine it’s “about 5 minutes” daytime but often more like 5-10, and less evenings and Sundays. But all this is a very small area with a limited number of places to live. It’s not a total solution for Seattle.

    3. https://bellevuewa.gov/city-government/departments/community-development/data/demographic-data/cultural-diversity

      39% of Bellevue’s population was born outside the U.S., and 50% of Bellevue’s population is of color. 43% speak a language other than English at home. 34% are Asian, 12th highest in the nation, and highest outside Hawaii or California.

      Meanwhile as noted on the link 64% of Seattleites are white, higher percentages than both the U.S. and King Co., and just 5% less than Washington State as a whole.

      Your understanding of Bellevue is very dated, not uncommon among Seattle progressives.

      Whether you think Bellevue’s single family zones are privileged or viable is your opinion, but not the opinion of Bellevue’s residents and council, and they don’t seek to change your neighborhood. Bellevue has not increased its house GFA to lot area ratios (GFAR) as far as I know in decades, so the explosion in McMansions you describe — which are defined not based on the total GFA of the house but the GFAR — hasn’t occurred, although some very rich folks have combined lots to build very large houses, most notably in Medina.

      And if you want to get into equity, note the upzoning and gentrification of the Central District displaced the historic Black community, mostly to South Seattle, although whenever that is raised on this blog there are plenty of valid reasons given, like Blacks didn’t keep up their houses, the neighborhood needed to be gentrified, they would have been gentrified out anyway, Seattle needed the density, they are happier in South Seattle among their own, and so on. But God forbid a white Seattle progressive can’t find an “affordable” apartment or condo north of Yesler.

      Don’t forget progressive Seattle’s Black population is 7.17%, lower than Oak Harbor’s Black population. https://www.bing.com/search?q=black+population+in+seattle+wa&cvid=114effa96abc48e690b7a0b2a219066f&aqs=edge.0.0l2.5352j0j1&pglt=299&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=DCTS

      This is the lowest Black population in Seattle in 50 years. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/percentage-of-blacks-living-in-seattle-at-lowest-point-in-50-years/

      1. I’ve noticed how there are several regulars that post that view local areas as if it’s still 1990. They think Bellevue is mostly white corporate types or Renton is blue collar Boeing workers.

        Most insidiously, they believe that all new housing should best be one bedroom and studio apartments, ignoring how those from outside the US often prefer and expect to live in extended family housing arrangements.

      2. There can and should be large apartments. New York has 2,000 square foot apartments, which are as large as houses but stacked on top of each other. Some of those are owned rather than rented due to New York’s differing use of the word apartment, but the result is the same: larger and multi-bedroom multifamily housing is available for more people.

        Developers are chasing the small studio/1BR market because they can get more money out of two studios, they’re hoping to cash in on the increase in affluent tech workers, and Seattle has the lowest number in of children per capita in the country (sometimes second after San Francisco). So they skim off the cream of the crop, and since zoning doesn’t allow sufficient housing for everyone else, the other buildings don’t get built, and few of those that do get built are 2+ bedroom. Developers have noticed the backlash at not having larger units, so they’ve started to incorporate more 2+ bedroom units into buildings, but it’s still a lower percent than the natural demand.

      3. I think it is funny that you make a statement, and then cite a source which clearly refutes that statement. Is that to keep us on our toes?

        This is the lowest Black population in Seattle in 50 years.

        From the article: 2010: 49,351 — 2018: 50,578

        The black population grew by over 1,000, it is just that the non-black population grew by a lot more. By the way, Bellevue still doesn’t have a lot of black people. Somewhere around 2 or 3 thousand from what I can figure (way less than Seattle). Like Seattle, there are a lot of Asian people. The reason is obvious: High tech workers tend to be white or Asian. There are very few black or Latino workers in the computer industry. This also explains the high immigrant numbers on the East Side.

        It is also worth considering that a significant number of people consider themselves “mixed”. This wasn’t even an option on the old census forms, and due to systemic racism, those with only a bit of African heritage were considered black. This means that a significant number of people who used to choose “black” on the form now choose “mixed”, while an increasing number of kids in this country are mixed, and always consider themselves mixed.

      4. FFS, Daniel, Oak Harbor is a military town and by far the largest community on the island. It probably has ten times the ratio of temporary residents to permanent than any other community on Whidbey Island.

        What egregious cherry-picking.

    4. Chicago has nearly 2.7 million residents in the city proper, and almost 10 million in the greater metropolitan area. Why would Seattle or the greater region (considering King Co. alone is nearly the size of Rhode Island) adopt Chicago’s density or zoning?

      1. The reality is Seattle is much whiter than Bellevue (and is only 5% less white than the entire state as a whole), and has not been a kind city to Blacks despite its citizens’ self-congratulation. Distinguishing people of color, or suggesting Asians are not people of color, is disingenuous. Suggesting all or a majority of Asians on the eastside are in the “computer industry” is ignorance. Seattle’s percentage of Blacks is 16th among cities in the state, at 7.17%. My point is don’t stereotype cities you are unfamiliar with, or throw stones if you live in a glass house.


        “But the reality is the homeless prefer camping in Seattle”

        “Total bullshit. There is a waiting list for public housing (of any kind). People camp in Seattle because they are broke.”

        No shit Sherlock. Of course people camp in parks and on streets because they are broke, for different reasons, and because the emergency shelters have reduced capacity due to Covid-19. The issue is why Seattle has a disproportionate number of regional homeless camping in its parks and on its streets, which is a fundamental factor in how east and west King Co. address the problem.

      2. “The issue is why Seattle has a disproportionate number of regional homeless camping in its parks and on its streets, which is a fundamental factor in how east and west King Co. address the problem.”

        That’s no issue. The centralization of services was by design, to facilitate ease of accessibility. This is well known. Nobody has to try and study it.

        It didn’t cause Seattle to be a magnet city, either. While some of King County’s homeless did indeed move to Seattle, it wasn’t a significant amount. The population density of Seattle ensured most needy individuals came from within the city limits, and statistics show a negligible out of county presence.

      3. Hey Daniel, I’m Asian. Patting yourself/the eastside on the back for its “diversity” in having a lot of high-income Asians is the really disingenuous thing here. I’m unbelievably fucking tired of white people, especially goddamn Asian Wife Guys, using Asians as tokens. You and the entire eastside can go to hell.

      4. TT, here are the first 10 cities with higher Black percentages than Seattle:

        SeaTac 24.72% 29,019
        Federal Way
        Tacoma 10.18% 212,869
        Burien 7.96% 51,477


        Here are the next six:

        11 Lynnwood 7.78% 38,143
        12 Des Moines 7.41% 31,734
        13 Mountlake Terrace 7.36% 21,210
        14 University Place 7.28% 33,326
        15 Oak Harbor 7.25% 23,089
        16 Seattle 7.17% 724,305

        Seattle is number 16. I wasn’t trying to cherry pick. Most listed cities don’t have military bases. I chose Oak Harbor because it is one spot ahead of Seattle. If you asked my opinion of the main defining factor it would probably be cost of housing, which includes gentrification.

    5. You said three times in this post that you think most of The Spine will have permanently low ridership. There are several of the regular posters to the who agree.

      Yet you have repeatedly urged that The Spine first be completed before poor bankrupt North King gets the new tunnel. This seems, frankly, crazy.

      As several of us have shown, there are technical solutions to the “no MF” problem of a standalone Ballard stub. They are not cheap, but they also are not ruinously expensive because they avoid digging two of the three deep stations envisioned for DSTT2. Running one of the TBM’s digging the SLU/Lower Queen Anne tunnel another mile to somewhere near Stadium as Al has proposed would likely be less than $200 million. TBM’s aren’t that expensive per foot of progress if they’re well below street level.

      My proposals for using University / Symphony and the north wall of the Westlake station box as a connection point would be much more disruptive but even cheaper.

      As I said recently, if you feel so strongly that ST3 is a bad deal for the region, get out there and organize a repeal of the enabling legislation. No, the courts won’t allow the revocation of taxes to cover bonds already issued, but if you are able to stop further construction at Lynnwood, Federal Way and Downtown Redmond, but in some way preserve North King’s ability to pay for an operable Westlake-Ballard stub, that would seem the best of all possible worlds at this time. At least the issuance for new bonds beyond those already sold would be greatly reduced, shortening the period of tax collection at tge end if the project.

      It might have been even better to have stopped at Highline CC, but that train has keft the station, so to speak.

      I doubt many of the regular posters would shed much of a tear if you were successful. But your constant, repetitive, triumphal whingeing about ST3 without offering any solutions is really getting old.

      But I guess that’s the difference between engineers and attorneys. Engineers look for ways to grow the pie. Lawyers fight over the way it’s sliced up.

      1. Tom, I am very agnostic about transit in general, including light rail. I live in the eastside subarea so why would I get worked up over ST 3. No one asked me, and no is going to listen to me, about where to run rail, let alone something stupid like seeking to repeal ST’s enabling legislation. Each subarea has to find its own solutions.

        ST can complete the spine, promised to complete the spine, and I think the other subareas have the funding to complete the spine. So ST will complete the spine.

        Now if it were 2004 I would humbly suggest skipping the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line, probably skipping rail to Microsoft (although continuing to Redmond at this point probably makes sense), and using more of the N. King Co.’s subarea’s revenue for “in city’ rail including West Seattle and Ballard (acknowledging Ross has his doubts about rail to each) rather than to the Sno Co. line. But it isn’t 2004.

        I don’t hate ST 3. Or the spine. I am just opining I don’t think the N. King Co. subarea has the funding to complete a second transit tunnel under 5th Ave. and run rail to West Seattle and Ballard. And that is based on ST’s estimates, which I can’t trust. If I were the biggest proponent of ST 3 in the world I still need the money.

        I can’t comment on your tunnel ideas because I know nothing about building a deep transit tunnel under Seattle, except apparently it is very expensive. Every time I take the tunnel under the old Viaduct I am in awe that people can build that (for $5 billion). I hope you have sent your ideas to ST and they listen.

        One tip though: although engineers may grow the pie and lawyers only divide the pie (and Dow was my classmate at UW law school), lawyers understand politics. You seem to prioritize Ballard over West Seattle in your alternative ideas when ST 3 prioritizes West Seattle, and Dow Constantine and I believe Jenny Durkan live in West Seattle.

        From what I read on this blog running rail to Ballard (and then north) makes more sense, except not politically. (And getting to West Seattle when the bridge is open by car is 10 minutes from my home, whereas getting to Ballard is like getting to Pluto — taking light rail from the north end of Mercer Island to Ballard by rail does sound cool). If West Seattle doesn’t get rail my bet is neither does Ballard, just based on politics.

        So, in addition to your tunnel ideas for Ballard, I would come up with an cost-effective alternative for a new West Seattle bridge with no loss of car capacity and lanes for light rail if you want to get rail to Ballard, and an underground West Seattle station, and probably a tunnel under West Seattle once there to avoid a zillion dollars in ROW costs. Or get Dow to move to Ballard. Ironically tunneling to Ballard is the easy part.

      2. Daniel,

        Thank you for your reply. I have dismissed West Seattle for the same reasons that Ross (especially) and many others have: it’s perfect for quasi-BRT — really “Blue Streak”-style neighborhood collector turns into express service — because of the freeway connection. Build more fancy stations and have more low-floor slick buses; no problem. But either do Ballard right — a bored tunnel through Pigeon Ridge leading directly to the south edge of Genessee and a cut-and-cover tunnel into the Junction District with two stations up on the hill — or don’t do it at all. A bored tunnel solution that has one station half way between California and 35th is weak, pitiful and far too expensive for the small area it would serve.

        Ballard, on the other hand, as you’ve well stated, is hard to get to from anywhere other than Smith Cove or Interbay. From there to Ballard is a breeze; getting to Smith Cove, though, is usually quite painful.

        Seattle can’t afford the entire WSBLE “package”; you’re right about that. OK, maybe it can afford it if the timetable stretches to 2050 for construction and 2065 for bond defeasement. But here, now in 2021 that’s functionally “never”.

        But it can afford New Westlake to (at least) Interbay (Dravus) within its expected pre-2040 revenues, pretty easily since Midtown and New IDS are deferred. There is nothing wrong with building a stub that serves the job-rich South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne districts; ideally it would extend on to Ballard with a reasonable bridge solution, but it really isn’t essential. Temporarily delaying things at Dravus with a station that doesn’t forego either a bridge or a tunnel by its elevation or alignment is perfectly OK. The D could continue east on Mercer to Fairview and turn down Fairview then Boren to First Hill. Lots of folks traveling between central Ballard and downtown Seattle would continue to ride the 40; Link to Dravus would essentially be a collector/distributor for Magnolia and the minor peak routes in Ballard. It wouldn’t get a lot of ridership, but waiting there for six to ten years wouldn’t be a great crime; SLU would get a connection from farther out, and that would be good enough.

        If the Dravus station is made flexible then if “East Ballard” or “Lower Woodland” is upzoned as I think it should be, a bridge or tunnel to 14th with a station just north of Leary and a left turn into Market, ending around 22nd would serve the whole developable area properly. I’ve written at length how to do it with both elevated trackage and tubes. Done correctly it could provide a pair of stations for both the downtown line and a possible future Ballard-Fremont-UW line.

        If it West Woodland doesn’t boom then the best solution for Ballard is a bored tunnel with a single station at 20th and Market. That can’t be afforded at this time, but it might in a better world.

      3. “but either do West Seattle right”…. Wow, what a dumb error. Apologies.

    6. The “to work” commute is much more important than the “to home” trip. In nearly all two-seat trips involving Link and a residential collector, Link will be the final carrier in the to work journey. It will run frequently at peak hours, even if mid-day headways stretch out.

      The bus legs will be operating on the periphery of the congested regional cores, so they’ll become more reliable. They won’t be lined up on Stewart or Fourth South in sight of their riders’ destinations.

      Put all that together and contrast it to Link’s much better reliability and swift passage through downtown and you have a better user experience.

      You yourself have complained about the 550 being ejected from the DSTT. Well, when East Link opens the former 550 riders will be back in the tunnel, along with the riders on all those Metro peak expresses formerly waiting on Second Avenue.

      Sometimes a transfer is an upgrade as well.

      1. A truncated route followed by taking Link (to the same place that the bus used to go to) is rarely an improvement. It is everything else that Link gives you that makes it worth it.

        I’ve used this example before, but folks who used to commute downtown on the 41 had it better in the old days. The bus quickly got them to and through downtown. Now they will have to transfer. This is just a sacrifice they will have to make so that others have a better system. The folks headed to the UW, Roosevelt or Capitol Hill will have it much, much better.

        East Link is similar. The trips from downtown Bellevue are much better, even if rush hour trips from Issaquah to downtown are not. Folks from various parts of the line (e. g. Mercer Island) will not only have fast service to downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue, but to various parts of Bellevue and Redmond. The combination of trips is why you build a subway.

        Once you build a subway, you don’t have to truncate, but the advantages are huge. It gets you better frequency. Maybe not on that run, but somewhere. This means that some riders (commuters used to their express buses to downtown) will have to make a sacrifice, but overall, the system will be better.

      2. I agree that the journey back home is more important than many think about, and that is often the most difficult to make (like if someone works late or grabs dinner first). That’s why the term “last mile” is more prevalent than “first mile.”

        I will also say that it’s a heck of a lot easier to stand (usually with some sort of bag or case) on a light rail train than on a bus running on the freeway. Ride quality is a big deal, and that’s a huge game changer with East Link because the distances are much further than just traveling inside Seattle from Downtown.

      3. I am not sure the ride home, or last mile access, is more important, at least for the work commuter, because usually you have to be at work at a time certain. If for some reason the trip home takes an extra 15 minutes there is no penalty, whereas you show up 15 minutes late to work there can be a penalty, and a big one. That is when frustrations rise if a transfer is involved, or first mile access (feeder bus) or light rail is not frequent. The proof will be the total trip time using Link compared to before Link, and the certainty of that time. There can’t be 15 minute daily swings in trip time for a work commuter going to work.

        If frequency declines later after work and a worker chooses to stay for dinner that is the reality, but often for the commuter there is safety in numbers when riding transit during the peak commute. The rider can control the trip time home.

        I don’t think anyone would argue a bus is a more pleasant ride than light rail. Including standing. But for a lot of light rail trips the trip won’t begin on light rail, it will begin with a bus (I think most commuters would consider driving to a park and ride that directly serves Link is not a “transfer” like taking a bus), and my guess is the park and rides at Northgate I did not know existed will fill very early.

        Some parts of Link will work quite well, and as Ross points out some areas Link goes to like Capitol Hill or the UW are very difficult to get to by car or bus and so those riders will benefit, especially if they don’t have to park, if their first mile access to Link is good.

        Others like East Link are a little strange, because actually the trip is not downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle, it is 112th to downtown Seattle. Development may change once East Link opens, but right now Bellevue is pretty focused on Bellevue Way and near there. So you still have to get from Bellevue to Link to get to downtown Seattle, and eastsiders are not huge walkers.

        East Link was sold and based upon the commuter, and at that time mostly from the eastside to downtown Seattle, which may be the primary rider after the pandemic.

        If the first/last mile access is acceptable, Link to Seattle avoids traffic congestion and high parking rates. But commuters will still remember the express buses like the 550 that used the center lane, and had access to the transit tunnel. So that is the benchmark, certainly for riders not served by East Link that just got a transfer added to their work commute that requires them to be someplace at a time certain. Their commute got worse, and I doubt they will accept that because someone else’s trip got marginally better on East Link.

        But I really doubt many eastsiders will take Link to Seattle off-peak, (or Redmond), because they will either drive, or stay on the eastside. It is the same reason the rail line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland makes no sense to me. Even if the line went into downtown Kirkland, why would someone in Issaquah take rail to Kirkland, or vice versa? Each city has what the other city has to offer.

        I agree with those who think ST’s ridership estimates of 43,000 to 52,000 on East Link are wildly inflated, even pre-pandemic, but rail had to be run somewhere due to subarea equity. I would have run a tunnel under Bellevue Way and skipped the line to Microsoft and Redmond, and it looks like Microsoft agrees considering it is building a 3 million sf underground parking garage.

        The point of East Link was not a rural rail system, but downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle, which with Bellevue today seems an even better idea, but with East Link running on 112th that isn’t what East Link is. It would have been like building the Seattle transit tunnel on Broadway.

        I think Mercer Island is a good example of the issues with East Link. Mercer Island got a station in its downtown, that has very little employment, but no first/last mile access to the station, and around 20 bike lockers. If a resident were going to take a non-peak non-work trip they would almost certainly drive because traffic is light, and parking free (or affordable in Seattle). I could see them taking Link to downtown Seattle for work because they did that with the 550 — which was much preferred over the 554 and other buses that stopped on Mercer Island because it accessed the tunnel — but not Bellevue, because East Link doesn’t go to Bellevue, it goes to 112th.

        I guess in the end ridership is the proof in the pudding, and whether the location of the line made sense.

      4. “In nearly all two-seat trips involving Link and a residential collector, Link will be the final carrier in the to work journey.”

        I agree that hybrid Link+bus commutes to a workplace/school within walking distance of a Link station may be 80%, but not 98% as your “nearly all” implies. For somebody working at Children’s or the First Hill hospitals, there will be a last mile bus. Both Martin, I, and my roommate have or had a commute with a last-mile or last-three-miles bus to Interbay, northeast Seattle, or north Kent. Even if just 20% of commutes are like this, that’s still tens of thousands of people.

        The difference between commutes to work and commutes from work are, (A) on-time arrival is more critical, (B) people are less likely to talk and less tolerant of loud conversations because they just woke up, (C) the AM peak is only commuters while the PM peak is both commuters and people ending midday trips and people starting evening trips — all three simultaneously.

        “folks who used to commute downtown on the 41 had it better in the old days.”

        But their next-door neighbors who took the 41 southbound between 12:30pm and 7pm had it worse because they got stuck in I-5 traffic around 45th, the Ship Canal bridge, and/or the approach to downtown.

      5. Absolutely TT, the return to the tunnel by East Link will be huge on the eastside. Safe, congestion-free travel through downtown Seattle is the whole point of the tunnel, at least for eastsiders. Plus continuation to the UW. I don’t think anyone will complain about that part of East Link. And I think the ride will be pretty across the lake and along the greenbelt when the trees grow back in. The long spaces between stops will make riders feel like they are really covering ground.

        The issues with East Link are more on the eastside. We now know there will plenty of capacity because ridership will be lower, and the second transit tunnel was never necessary for East Link capacity. But the line isn’t from downtown Bellevue to Seattle, it is from 112th.

        Bellevue plans to run shuttles from 112th to Bellevue Way, and the seminar I attended and co-hosted suggested driverless electric shuttles running a loop, although I am not sure NE 8th can afford to lose a traffic lane.

        When East Link opens in 2023 I doubt many eastsiders will be able to walk to an East Link station. Many of the large park and rides were constructed based on direct express buses, and will require a feeder bus to access East Link.

        So really, on the eastside, East Link does not directly access the core downtown of the major city, Bellevue, so last mile access will be required like Mike Orr discussed for First Hill, and first mile access (not including getting to a park and ride) is unknown. Throw in a population that covets its cars and a lot of free parking so I don’t see a lot of non-commuter trips on East Link, some working from home, and I still think there will be a stink by commuters out by Issaquah who have to transfer from a bus to a train.

        Will ST care what these riders think. I don’t know. This is the same city of 35,000 that got a $4.5 billion line to South (as though there is a north) Kirkland. But the rub is even if express buses continued to Seattle, they would not access the existing tunnel. So the real options for these folks are to drive to S. Bellevue park and ride, or to work.

        What I am waiting to see is ridership (and first/last mile access) on Northgate Link because that line should be very popular, and the reopening of the S. Bellevue Park and ride in Sept. 2021 with a 1500 stall park and ride, because if the eastside commuter to Seattle returns in full force it will be interesting to see if the 1500 park and ride fills on weekdays, and where the riders come from, because they certainly will continue to drive to the park and ride when East Link opens. It very well could be 1500 stalls were way too few.

      6. Ross, the 41 and the other routes which used the “Blue Streak” loop (north on Third in the morning, south in the afternoon in order to use Cherry Street and the reversible lanes) were fantastic transit, and in the absence of Link AND the DSTT (which of course makes no sense) could certainly happen again. So, yes, 41 riders and, probably 355, 77 and the few other remaining north Seattle I-5 expresses will have a harder life.

        Although, as I said to Daniel, the reliability of the “to work” commute on Link may very well impress even them.

        Al, I said I believe that the “to work” commute [e.g. “morning”] is more important because people have to make meetings and look busy for the boss in the “productivity hours” before noon.

        I agree strongly that evenings can be a huge bummer if the trunk and/or connections go to infrequent service headways before 10 PM.

        And Daniel, it wasn’t ST who moved Link to 112th. It was Whimper Freeman and his paid-in-full claque on the Bellevue City Council who nixed Bellevue Way and THEN a station on 108th. So don’t be blaming ST for the crappy station placement.

      7. the reliability of the “to work” commute on Link may very well impress even [the riders of the old 41]

        The old 41 was quite reliable. The difference in reliability won’t make up for the delay. A trip that takes 15 minutes, each and every time, is not as good as a trip that takes somewhere between 8 to 12 minutes. Besides, there is variability with the transfer. At first it will be 6 minutes, eventually 3. It is quite possible there will be as much variability in the transfer as there was with the bus (especially to downtown, since there was less traffic then). Not only is the trip a bit more time consuming, but there is also the time spent getting to the platform, which isn’t trivial (although by no means the worst in our system). I think this is just one of those cases where things will be a bit worse for some, but a lot better for a lot more. Nothing new there — the same thing happened with UW Link.

        It is also one of the clear cases of a station not designed for downtown commuters. The biggest time savings for trips to downtown will be in the evening, when the express lanes are going the opposite direction, and traffic is at its worse. Those riders will save some time, along with the folks going other places (at any time of day).

        It will be interesting to see who rides the express buses, especially those that ride a bus like the 361 (now renamed the 320 — https://drive.google.com/file/d/18CmhoDCDzripvyF6-nP-X2AL0YRQwO0T/view). If you happen to be on that bus, and are headed to the north end of downtown, it probably makes sense to just keep riding it. But depending on the frequency, it probably doesn’t make sense to transfer to it, or wait for it (if another bus comes along). This reminds me of a friend of mine, who used to commute from Ravenna to downtown. He stood on the corner of 65th NE and NE 25th. If the 76 came along, he would take it, because it was much faster. Most of the time, though, he took the 372 and Link. My guess is it will be similar. Folks will take the first available bus (which likely won’t be the one heading downtown) and then transfer to Link. Waiting sucks — more than a transfer.

      8. Mike, you are right that perhaps 20% of Link commite trips for riders on connecting bus lines will be three seat. However I specified “two-seat” rides in order to compare what Daniel’s pampered cohort of East King riders experience today in the downtown commute on Metro or ST expresses with the post-East Link service opening.

        Yes, those folks who suffer the jam ups on Fourth South and then transfer to SLU or Pill Hill will have a three-seat trip as you described. But most such commuters just drive as Daniel asserts. The three-seaters will mostly be taken by Seattleites who don’t work downtown or in the U-District

      9. Ross, since the 41 uses Pike now instead of Stewart, it was probably a bad choice of example.

        You’re right about it,but few King County expresses do.

  3. The encampments were allowed to grow because there are restrictions on density in emergency shelters, the number of homeless in Seattle grew, and a weakened mayor bowed to council policy.

    The Seattle Times had an opinion in Sunday’s edition on the proposed Charter Amendment called “Compassion Seattle”. It needs 33,060 signatures to make the ballot.

    The goals seem unrealistic to me: 2000 emergency affordable units (which means zero AMI and so 100% subsidized for most homeless), when hotel rooms are costing the city and council $55,000 — $62,000 each per year, and the county is spending $5 million/month housing 1100 homeless in hotels. 12% of the city’s general fund budget would go towards homelessness each year under the Amendment, on top of the city’s obligations to the county’s Regional Homeless Authority, and don’t forget bridges which is a $100 million/year obligation for the next 30 years. (Not mentioned in the opinion piece is the part of the Amendment that prioritizes removing the homeless from parks and streets).

    The Times hopes placing this Amendment on fall’s ballot along with races for mayor, the recall of Sawant, and three other council seats, will give Seattle voters a choice for the future. I understand the frustration on both sides — east and west King Co. — over this issue, but really don’t see east King Co. doing more unless there is political change in Seattle, considering the homeless appear to prefer to camp in Seattle.

    My anecdotal experience is not unlike Alex’s. I work on 2nd and Yesler and have continued to go into the office five days/week during the pandemic. Although I have a beautiful view of the city from the 25th floor, I have gone out of the office only one time since last March, for a sandwich, which really frustrates me.

    Although my wife and I have gone out to dine or drink many times over the last 13 months, only once in Seattle at a fundraiser at Matts in the Market, which reminded me how much I missed the Market (my wife lived there for a few years when we first dated).

    As someone who has continued to work in downtown Seattle during the pandemic (and am now vaccinated) I welcome the return of the in–office worker, and hopefully the street vibrancy. It’s no fun feeling trapped in a very expensive office.

    1. “The encampments were allowed to grow because there are restrictions on density in emergency shelters, the number of homeless in Seattle grew, and a weakened mayor bowed to council policy. ”

      What would you have done? Arrested them and housed them in jail? Driven them away to Oregon? If the city hadn’t de-densified the shelters there would be covid outbreaks all the time. And part of the increase is probably from the rest of the county because they’re doing even less for them.

      I’m undecided about the charter. One one hand I’m leery of amateur activists writing laws and especially charter amendments. What will they leave out, what will they structure badly, and what are they not foreseeing? On the other hand, Seattle declared a housing emergency, what, two years ago, and still hasn’t done hardly anything about it. There’s not even a plan to build 10,000 units for homeless housing for current or near-future needs, or 100,000 for workforce needs and the rest of the cost-burdened. Not even an unfunded plan that it could start looking for grants or taxes for. Just, “We’ll build a few hundred tiny houses here and there.” So maybe we need to light a fire under their butts and say, “Hey, you need to start seriously building housing.” But still I’m fearful that a non-city-drafted charter may lock us into tactics that might be troublesome later, that wouldn’t have happened if somebody with urban planning experience and city council experience had drafted them. What we need is for the city leaders to do their job and recognize the priorities.

      1. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declared homelessness an emergency in 2015. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/seattle-homeless-emergency_n_56392c7fe4b0411d306eb2eb

        The original declaration of emergency for homelessness was in 2005. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/homelessness-seattle_n_6811028

        I didn’t offer a solution or cast blame for the closure of emergency shelters. I only pointed out the three reasons homeless camping in public in Seattle has increased during the pandemic. I highly doubt the return of the office worker will magically eliminate the homeless camping on Seattle’s streets.

        10,000 affordable units — let alone emergency units which are 100% subsidized since most homeless have zero AMI — would cost at least $4 billion based on current costs to build affordable housing, more if the housing if for zero AMI homeless, and would advertise to the rest of the country is you get a free home in Seattle if you are homeless, without a need to become homeless or try and work.

        In 2015 when Mayor Murray re-announced the public emergency on homelessness the city committed $5.3 million, while ST embarked on tens of billions of dollars in transit, the city pushed for the demolition of the Viaduct and creation of a waterfront park that cost many billions more, and voted for a $1 billion Move Seattle levy. Priorities come down to money: bridges, parks, transit, education, tunnels, or the homeless.

        The region as a whole spends almost $1 billion/year for affordable housing and on the homeless. But the reality is the homeless prefer camping in Seattle, so whether it is right or wrong I wouldn’t expect the cities and parts of King Co. outside Seattle to solve the issue, especially since they believe — rightly or wrongly — that Seattle policies are a big part of the problem, and the region does spend $1 billion/year.

        I don’t have the solution, but then I don’t live in Seattle.

      2. But the reality is the homeless prefer camping in Seattle

        Total bullshit. There is a waiting list for public housing (of any kind). People camp in Seattle because they are broke.

      3. A small percent prefer camping. Most want housing and would accept it or pay for it if they could. And many homeless you don’t see: they hide as much as they can or are serial couch surfers; they don’t have prominent tents or panhandling hats. But they need housing as much as the visible homeless do.

  4. Does anyone rue about how the Federal Way platforms end immediately north of 320th St, so that riders heading south of the station have to immediately cross seven lanes of high speed traffic? I wish the aerial tracks were built far apart enough just south of the platform to someday put a walkway across 320th to a stairs and elevator station entrance south of this busy high-speed highway.

  5. Cars make themselves at home wherever they can access without causing damage to themselves. Even if the intent is to make them ‘guests’ they will inevitably get comfortable on the pedestrian areas of curbless roads without bollards.

    Maybe going the other direction makes more sense – traffic lanes should be set below city level, behind curbs as usual, and crosswalks raised to sidewalk level, requiring cars to realize that they have briefly entered a zone that they are not generally meant to be in. Probably it can’t be done for streets with >25 MPH speed limits, but you take your life in your hands any time you try to cross a road like that no matter what.

    1. Cars make themselves at home wherever they can access without causing damage to themselves.

      Yeah, and you can see that with bike lanes. It is common to see people parked in them (which is clearly illegal). So they put up bollards, to discourage people. But these are not concrete bollards, but soft posts, that won’t endanger bikes (or cars). So people drive over the bollards. So often that they get torn up (https://goo.gl/maps/rmXhsVtR73gwabeT9). Notice in that picture that the bike lane is literally across from a school. This is not a major street (it is not like Lake City Way, or Aurora). Yet drivers just can’t help themselves, and drive into that bike lane. Eventually all the posts are wiped out, and sooner or later, the city has to replace them.

      Maybe going the other direction makes more sense – traffic lanes should be set below city level, behind curbs as usual, and crosswalks raised to sidewalk level, requiring cars to realize that they have briefly entered a zone that they are not generally meant to be in.

      Exactly. That is what bikes have to do when the go by an island bus stop. It sends a clear signal (acting essentially as a speed bump) so that drivers can go through, but only if they travel at pedestrian speed. (Which isn’t that hard to do, although I swear there are a ton of idiots who don’t understand how to do it. You don’t come to a complete stop, you just creep along at 2 or 3 mph. Even if you have a manual you should be able to do that.)

    2. “Maybe going the other direction makes more sense – traffic lanes should be set below city level, behind curbs as usual, and crosswalks raised to sidewalk level, requiring cars to realize that they have briefly entered a zone that they are not generally meant to be in.”

      The Netherlands has a lot of intersections like that where the sidewalk is continuous along an arterial when it intersects with a neighborhood street. It works well when there’s a very clear differentiation between the main vs side streets. Here’s a couple examples from Amsterdam:



      There’s some examples of “raised crosswalks” in Seattle, but they’re usually somewhat less successful and are most often found in conjunction with a curbless street (all along Bell St, Howell & Nagle, Delridge by the bridge, 81st & Greenwood). They tend to have a much more generous slope for cars to maintain speed while turning and generally include a combination of crosswalk and tactile markings that make it clear that the intersection is still a negotiated space rather than a predominately pedestrian space.

      1. Here’s a great video about continuous sidewalks can make for a safer pedestrian experience if anyone wants some more examples:

    1. Yeah those linear parks along the creeks should make for a very space efficient yet pleasant green space among the midrise development.

      1. And, on the east side of 124th, there are Safeway and Coke bottling plants. The city of Bellevue bought about 8 acres of land behind those plants for a future park.

  6. I attempted to convince WashDOT that there were better alternatives to their current Cascades plans than what they are currently planning. I got this as a response:

    Thank you for sharing the information about available interim equipment that might be suitable for the Amtrak Cascades service. We are confident that Amtrak will provide us with enough Horizon equipment to meet our service needs over the next four to five years. Surplus Horizon equipment is being freed up as state-supported services in the Midwest take delivery of their new trainsets. Those Horizon trainsets will be delivered to the Pacific Northwest as they are replaced by the new equipment in the Midwest.

    Amtrak Cascades will take delivery of its own new train cars in the 2025 timeframe. These new Siemens cars will replace the Horizon equipment provided by Amtrak. Our new equipment will be part of Amtrak’s national procurement and we have a commitment from Amtrak that the new Amtrak Cascades equipment will be the first off the assembly line. With an entire new fleet, we look forward to a bright future for Pacific Northwest train service.

    Thank you,

    Janet Matkin
    Communications Manager
    WSDOT Rail, Freight and Ports Division

    In other words, it’s official decided that we will be stuck with high floor Siemens cars trying to use low platforms for the next 30-40 years.

    1. So there will be stairs just inside the doors? (I saw this on streetcars in Cologne in 1998.) If they don’t have Talgo tilting, does that mean they’ll be slower than the current trains? How much will that affect travel time?

      1. If they don’t have Talgo tilting, does that mean they’ll be slower than the current trains?

        Of course it does; not everywhere of course. There are many two to five mile tangent or very gently curving sections between Tacoma and Vancouver. But the overall transit time will probably go up about eight to ten minutes because of slower acceleration and braking with the heavier equipment.

        It’s be LSR……

      2. The Talgos were never allowed to take full advantage of the faster speeds they allowed. The locomotives were too heavy for that, and would have caused significant track damage if allowed to operate around curves at anything approaching the maximum speed allowed by the Talgo equipment.

        Supposedly BNSF is allowing the Horizon cars to operate at the current Talgo listed speeds. But any hope of making significant improvements with better locomotive choice is lost.

        As best as I can tell, the Siemens cars will have vestibules with folding stairs, just like the 1950s equipment used on the Coast Starlight up until 1982 or so. They’ll have to have something like that for access, as they are high floor cars really designed to replace the Amtrak Amfleet cars in the northeast.

      3. Glenn, that’s certainly true. Talgo’s are amazing when pulled by a low CG motor. Three decades ago I was lucky enough to go to Spain with my wife, including Malaga for a conference. We took the pre-Ave train from Madrid which was an early Talgo.

        Because we wanted to see Granada and there wasn’t a decent connection between Malaga and there, we rented a car which we kept for the trip back which paralleled the old rail line between Madrid and Cordoba.

        I remembered that we had whizzed around one particularly tight curve and on the trip back recognized the highway overpass across the curve. So we took a break to train watch there and in almost no time at all an electric Talgo came swooshing around the curve an about 100. The cars swung smoothly out to about ten or twelve degrees from vertical and then gently back perpendicular to the tracks as the train sped away. Very cool!

      4. Glenn, so you’re saying that even if WashDOT had low center of gravity locomotives the weight of the Siemens cars is great enough that they can’t go faster than 79? Why would that matter on straight-stretches?

        Sure, the trains would have to slow down more for the curves, and there are more than a few, but it’s not like the old Rio Grande east of Grand Junction through the Colorado River canyon.

        For sure the high-floor design is a huge mess without station modifications.

    2. Those Horizon trainsets will be delivered to the Pacific Northwest as they are replaced by the new equipment in the Midwest.

      Amtrak Cascades will take delivery of its own new train cars in the 2025 timeframe. These new Siemens cars will replace the Horizon equipment provided by Amtrak. Our new equipment will be part of Amtrak’s national procurement and we have a commitment from Amtrak that the new Amtrak Cascades equipment will be the first off the assembly line.

      How can this entire statement be true? Cascades is getting Horizon equipment surplused by Midwest services which are getting new Siemens cars. BUT, the Pacific Northwest is going to jump to the head of the line!

      Ah, the life of a Communications Manager…….

    1. I saw that too. It’s interesting.

      It could be that after enough people are vaccinated going to the office will become a real option for most people, and if it does, then I think the inevitable headache of driving through rush hour traffic will create the incentive to get back on the buses and trains for the commute.

      I also think that the option of working from home will remain, but how that affects the overall commute numbers is difficult (impossible?) at this time to even guess at.

      1. I agree – traffic will likely come back before transit ridership. It will also take the transit agencies some time to add back capacity in reaction to demand, which may also cause total ridership to take a bit longer to return to pre-COVID levels.

        For the option of working from home, I speculate the biggest impact will be lower ridership (and traffic) on Monday & Fridays; the region will have a 2 or 3 day workday peak, rather than a 5 day workday peak; annual ridership might be slightly depressed but peak (Wednesday?) ridership will be just as strong. For companies that go truly remote, their premium office space will be recycled over to other firms that aren’t currently in downtown Seattle or Bellevue; the mix of firms will change, but the total employment in the office cores should remain the same unless entire office towers are repurposed to other uses, which based upon the Times article is highly unlikely.

      2. To me the return of office workers to transit hinges on whether they are comfortable with being inside near strangers for more than 15 minutes twice a day. Even if 50% of my old AM commute bus trip’s riders come back, that’s a mostly full seated load, which means obviously no social distancing for many people. I don’t think we are remotely there yet as a society – people by me still assiduously step to the other side of the sidewalk when walking by fully masked.

        Personally, I’m concerned with transit from a COVID safety standpoint – I’ll be fully vaccinated soon. Rather I’m not looking forward to the prospect of wearing a mask ~10 hours a day while commuting and in the office. As long as my employer is ok with working from home, that’s where I’ll be as much as possible until the indoor mask mandates end, whenever that is.

      3. Edit: ***not concerned with transit from a COVID safety standpoint***

        I fail at typing.

    2. Both of those things — interest in Seattle office space soaring and people not riding Metro buses — cannot be true at the same time. Either the offices will stand empty or people will ride the bus to and from them, because there is not enough street space or parking for all the cars that the workers in those buildings would try to drive to get to them.

      It’s all physics. Two Newtonian objects cannot occupy the same “space” at the same “time”.

  7. Bus Layover on Eastlake?? Good idea but aside from the C-Line, the only other routes that start in that area are CT and the 590-series. Are they going to be using the layover area too?

    Unless the 120’s and Eastside expresses are gonna lay over all the way at Eastlake..

    1. I think the 304 lays over there as well. It comes from the north, but serves the south end of downtown first, and loops around. I don’t see that happening once Link gets here. Nor do I see the C using it. The bus would have to loop around, which would be rather challenging.

      Likewise, in a couple years, the East Side expresses go away. That leaves buses from the south, which I could definitely see. They could take advantage of some of the red paint in Denny Triangle to cover that area. Instead of Howell being used by express buses heading north, it would be the northern tail of buses from the south. Or they could use Virginia (with the 70). This provides additional coverage and one seat connections for an area that has grown quite a bit (likely as much as any place in the state).

      1. Yeah all those CT and Eastside expresses should go away by 2025, so presumably this is for something else. If the C won’t use it, where does the C layover now? Same for Rapid-Ride Rainier, which the Metro Connects map shows ending at Mercer in 2025.

  8. Is there any particular reason Sound Transit is so allergic to using value capture at Link stations? I biked past the Roosevelt and U District stations today to check out the progress and was again irked to see single-story stations surrounded by mid-rise buildings and a tower or two. U District in particular is such as wasted opportunity since it’s in such a vibrant commercial area.

    I used to live near Hong Kong, and MTR uses value capture extensively. It’s one of the few profitable metros in the world, and most of that profit is from real estate, not fares. Why not take a page from their book?

    The U District station could easily have accommodated commercial on the first level, and above that there could have been a dozen floors of residential. ST would gain revenue and more potential ridership, passengers would benefit from more amenities (e.g. grab a coffee on your way to work). Heck, even if we’re allergic to profit we could at least add some affordable housing instead.

    1. The issue is the state leg, not ST. Not only does ST not have value capture taxes as a part of its financial toolkit (ST3 at least added a regional property tax to the mix), but ST is required to divest surplus property at a discount for affordable housing, which is in effect a negative value capture tax from the perspective of ST’s finances since it has to acquire property at market rates. If ST was allowed to surplus ST3 properties at market rates, that would create hundreds of millions of dollars of financial capacity; if ST had zoning authority independent of local municipalities, like BART acquired a few years ago, that would be hundreds of millions more.

      U District should look significantly different in a few years. Seattle did a big up-zone allowing towers around the immediate station area under MHA, and the MHA fees function much like a value capture tax for the city.

      U District station will have a tower on top, I think roughly comparable to the current UW tower, but ST won’t hand over property to a developer until after Northgate opens. Roosevelt with have midrise TOD over the station cap, comparable to structures in the immediate vicinity.


    2. In the case of Roosevelt, I’m told the reason nothing can be built above the station is because the ventilation equipment for the entire Northgate Link tunnel is located there. I suppose it could be possible to integrate that equipment into an apartment building, but I doubt it’s an attractive prospect for any developer. There’s abundant low-hanging fruit in all of the detached SFHs within a half mile of the station that could and should be redeveloped if the city ever gets around to upzoning them.

      As AJ noted, the construction staging area next to the station was turned over to an affordable housing developer for an 8-story building.

  9. Took a few minutes to check out the link to the story about Judkins Park Station getting some artwork paying homage to one of our local legends, Jimi Hendrix. As a fan who almost wore out my older sibling’s vinyls of “Are You Experienced” and “Electric Ladyland”, I’ve been looking forward to seeing these art pieces ever since their announcement back in 2016*. Sadly, the Stranger piece doesn’t offer too much in its coverage. Photos of the second mural weren’t included at all, but perhaps that side of the installation is still unfinished at this point.

    Frankly, I’m rather underwhelmed by the artist’s concept. Both murals (assuming the second one not shown ends up looking like the renderings) really lack any vibrancy for me. I think that WSDOT made have had a role in that, as there is a blurb in the linked 2016 article that states: “…that mural will include a large swath of blank space at the top of the photograph so as not to distract drivers passing by on the freeway.” That’s unfortunate imho. The two pieces just feel so muted. Where’s the colorful attire that Hendrix frequently wore and defined much of the era during which the man made his mark? Why no images of the adult Hendrix doing his thing on guitar? Idk, the Jimi “headshots” are fine I guess but overall that particular mural seems rather meh. Perhaps seeing the finished installation in person will provide a very different impression, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the final product.

    Link to the 2016 CHS.com piece:

    An interesting interview with the artist commissioned for the Judkins Park Station artwork (a nice read):

    Food for thought:
    With the anticipated construction cost increases for the voter-approved ST3 projects, is the 1% commitment to the agency’s STart program still a sound policy?

    1. It would be a sound policy if ST had good taste in art. Unfortunately the current director of the art program:
      1) fails to direct work to local artists,
      2) thinks art is only something that she would encounter in an art museum, not something that is the product of good station design; why built an elegant breezeway, awning, or staircase when you can give your riders a random object to briefly look at…
      3) doesn’t consider the cost of long term maintenance when selecting art works, so ST will spent more that 1% of the 2016-2040 financial plan on ‘art’ because capital costs are usually a minority of lifetime costs, and
      4) doesn’t consider murals or mosaics “pieces of art,” despite a long history of 2-D art in transportation and that fact that good mural can be far more functional (#2) and far easier to maintain (#3) than the crap ST has installed recently.

      1. Great succinct points AJ. I really like the “art museum” comment.

        The core tragedy is that ST seems convinced that their art program is without flaws (similar to their overall approach to anything). I’d love to see artistic blown glass lighting or carved wood Salish walls or tile artists depicting a mountain slope or forest. Instead it seems that those in charge have created a system that they don’t want to change — and we are destined to have decades of irrelevant, impractical and uninspiring public station art.

      2. Re #3 above:
        “…because capital costs are usually a minority of lifetime costs,”

        Back in Feb 2018, ST made a presentation to the COP regarding its STart program status. In that presentation, the ST staff outlined the funding formula for art projects tied to Sound Move and ST2 as follows:

        STart Sound Move & ST2 Combined: 1998-2023
        Capital $49.27 M
        Operating $ 4.93 M
        Art Total $54.19 M
        **Operating/Maintenance Fund: 10% of Art Life-time Budget

        Has ST changed that mix for ST3? If they have, I wasn’t aware of that. I can’t seem to find the ST3 template for the STart program in my saved files at the moment.

        I agree with your larger point nevertheless that the agency doesn’t incorporate enough funding for maintenance of its growing collection of public art installations. Hasn’t this already become an issue at a few of the stations? IIRC, this came up a couple of years ago with needed maintenance of the art installation at Husky Stadium Station, but perhaps it was a different location.

      3. When I was at ST, I had some direct conversations with the relevant Director that my professional judgement was 10% was wildly underestimating the long term O&M needs for the art program. The conversations went nowhere and I would imagine it remains at 10%. IMO, if the capital budget is $50MM, the O&M budget should be ~$75MM through 2040; or even better, if the art budget is $50MM, then we have only $20MM to spend on new art. O&M covers everything from regular cleaning to replacement of broken art.

        ST does a good job being very conservative with setting aside State of Good Repair funds and not spending all the money on new stuff; the long term finance plans explicitly assume new construction is a minority of lifetime asset costs. ST’s Art program is a notable exception to this rule. (another exception is the expiring easements for South Sounder, but that’s a rabbit hole for another thread).

    2. Where’s the Judkins Park Station flaming guitar?

      Well, as long as all train announcements are made with the “All Along the Watchtower” riff preceding them.

      And…. the first thing over the PA in the morning should be his rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”, with the appropriate finale/seque.

      1. “Where’s the Judkins Park Station flaming guitar?:

        Exactly. That’s why I described the planned murals as “meh” overall. Such a missed opportunity.

        I’d love to hear some Hendrix riffs whenever taking an East Link train headed to Bellevue to meet up with my spouse, who works there, or family or friends who live there. A delay at Judkins Park Station would become welcome. Lol.

        Fun fact: A version of “Hey Joe” was recorded and released in 1967 by Cher!


      2. Guess we’ll just have to do the flaming guitars ourselves :)

        performance aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaart

    3. “It would be a sound policy if ST had good taste in art.”

      Setting aside the whole aesthetics issue, I guess what I was getting at concerns the financial formula involved. Is this one percent of capital projects’ construction costs (exclusive of tunneling) that is directed toward public art installations so insignificant that it gets treated like a throwaway/incidental expense? Should the dedicated funding grow in tandem with escalating construction costs, even when those costs exceed the construction inflationary factor that ST already baked into its 25-year capital program? In other words, if the estimated amount to be spent for the STart component was deemed appropriate in the initial voter-approved plan, then there is an argument to be made that this particular budget element should remain as originally planned.

      For example, the April 2021 update to the financial plan (2017-2041) presented to the board estimated an increase in the capital program in the magnitude of $12.9B (in YOE$). Doing the math, if just 50% of that figure is for actual construction costs (with the remainder of the increase coming from ROW acquisition and preconstruction planning phases), this would add an additional $60+ million to the STart program automatically over the life of the plan. While this amount isn’t that significant in the context of a 25-year plan that now is expected to exceed $100B, perhaps there is a better funding formula to utilize for the agency’s STart program rather than the current one.

      1. “ST Art” is funded as a standalone project in the TIP and long term financial plan, so it’s not “incidental” but budgeted and reported like any other project. I believe it has also been ‘baselined,’ which means the total lifetime budget will not increase even though overall ST3 costs have.

      2. Thanks for the reply, AJ. Just a few follow-up points.
        1. You’re taking my use of the term “incidental” too literally. Of course I realize that the STart program, both the Cap Exp and the O&M, are budgeted items and included in the annual 6-year TIPs. I was speaking more generally in regard to how little the spending in this program gets scrutinized by the board.
        2. The latest TIP breaks down the lifetime expenditures (YOE$) for the STart program as follows:
        System Expansion – Other
        Project #6X668 (Cap Exp) $161.5M
        Project #600668 (O&M)
        There is no baseline given for either component.
        3. Finally, if the total lifetime budget doesn’t increase as capital project construction costs increase, as you’ve suggested is the case, then ST would be violating their own stipulated policy in regard to the one percent funding for the STart program. Frankly, it would be interesting to see the Sound Move and ST2 actuals for project construction costs (exclusive of tunneling costs) and STart program expenditures to date to see how things actually stack up.

      3. 1. Fair, I did take you literally.

        3. My understanding is legal looked into it and the board signed off on the approach years ago; there will be a legal memo filed away somewhere if needed for public records request.

  10. Lynnwood Link Extension Drone Video taken a few days ago. (You’ll want to hit mute as fast as you can).

    1. Who knew BART del Norte would look like an HSR line through Shoreline and MLT? ST has a terrible Edifice Complex

      1. I will happily tolerate any decent aerial structure if it doesn’t compromise safety. Has anyone seen a thorough explanation of last week’s Mexico City Line 12 collapse last week?

      2. Who cares as long as it’s immune to traffic and has more all-day frequency than the existing buses? Aurora was a lost opportunity, but the chosen plan will be an immense benefit. Truncating hundreds of CT and ST buses in Snohomish County is a big deal. And the new transit market that will open up between Snohomish and North Seattle will probably exceed most people’s expectations. The I-5 corridor in Snohomish County is unfortunate but that’s how the county is oriented. One advantage is it goes near Mountlake Terrace’s downtown. 99 doesn’t go near any downtown, and downtown Edmonds is way off in an isolated area down a steep hill that Link couldn’t serve.

  11. Is Metro going to expand the bicycle locker capacity for the new transit center?

    1. Sounds like a good idea to me. This is along one of my regular jogging routes, and I can definitely attest to the need, as the current sidewalk is insufficient in places for people going opposite directions to comfortably pass each other.

      The change will also get southbound bikes in the bike lane out of the door zone, which is another plus.

      Personally, I think this should simply be a year-round permanent thing, rather than something that goes into and out of effect every few days, weeks, or months.

      1. Could be ‘tactical urbanism’ which the change is initially proposed as temporary, and then once it gains more support/acceptance it can become permanent. Also note how the shorter term options come with lower capital costs, which makes it easier for the city to pivot if there are certain segments that preform poorly.

        Also, to be devil’s advocate, that street already has bike lanes in both directions, so this is really about creating a ‘promenade,’ not creating a safe path where one doesn’t already exist. Without this change, there is still both a sidewalk and a bike lane for safe travel for bikers & walkers; if there is significantly less foot/bike traffic in the winter (poor weather, less daylight), I think there would be a case that street parking be allowed as people are more likely to want to drive rather than walk/bike in inclement weather / in the dark.

        If they want to turn it into a year-round promenade, great, I’m just thinking this might be a good compromise.

      2. I jogged this regularly on weekday mornings in the winter. I can assure you I’m not the only one there.

        With respect to biking, yes, there’s already a bike lane, but you’re at risk of being sent to the hospital every time someone inside of a parked car decides to open the door. Eliminate the parking, you eliminate the danger and make the existing bike lane much safer (at least southbound).

        As the city alluded to, there is plenty of parking capacity on the other side of the street, along with plenty of crosswalks, not including private parking lots. And, in the winter, there are fewer people parking there anyway.

        Starting a pilot is certainly better than endless debate while doing nothing, I’m just saying I hope this becomes permanent.

  12. The title of this thread is “News Roundup: Part 1 of 2”.

    Did we ever get part 2? what are we missing? Is this the Seattle Transit Blog version of a cliffhanger?

  13. Hey, I’m new to the area and wondering where to live. If I was going to commute to near Denny Park every day for work, where would you all recommend I live for a quick and reliable one seat ride? I was warned away from the 8 route as some said it can be real bad in traffic.

    1. If you don’t mind walking a few blocks, I’d live on the top of Queen Anne hill, and take the 3 or 4 down to Denny Way, then walk the rest of the way. I’d never want to live in Seattle again, but if I had to, and wanted to be in or close to downtown, I’d choose Queen Anne. Go check it out some day and see for yourself.

    2. I would choose one of the north-south routes near the park: 5 to Greenwood, 40 to Fremont and Ballard, 62 to Dexter Ave N and Fremont, 70 to Eastlake and the U-District, E to Aurora. None of these have a bottleneck like the 8. The E is RapidRide and pretty robust. The 40 will get some transit lanes. The E will be upgraded to RapidRide in the next decade probably.

      Avoid the 26 or 28: they’re notoriously unreliable, and the 26 will be deleted in October in the Northgate Link restructure.

      The 8’s problem is a freeway entrance near Denny & Stewart where cars line up and block the bus, making it unreliable. The city has done spot improvements and has more planned; I don’t know how much that has improved things.

      The top of Queen Anne is pleasant but isolated. The 3 and 4 have been losing frequency in recessions. It takes half an hour to get downtown through the traffic. There are no bus routes to the north, west, or east. You can take the 3, 4, or 13 north to SPU and walk across the bridge to Fremont or catch another bus there. Metro’s long-range plan calls for a route from the top of Queen Anne to Capitol Hill (E Aloha Street), but that’s unfunded at this point.

      Note that the north-south corridors on Queen Anne are isolated from each other because of the steep hillside. It’s flat from 10th Ave W to 4th Ave N (1, 2, 13, top of 3 and 4); then steep down to 5th (side of 3 and 4). Then steep again to Aurora (E, 5, 26, 28); again to Dexter (62); and again to Westlake (40). So if you choose one of those streets, don’t expect to go east or west unless you like walking stairs.

      1. Yeah, what Mike said. I personally wouldn’t worry too much about the 8. It’s slow, but you probably wouldn’t be going that far. In general, I would say that Denny Park is not that hard to get to. I would probably focus more on the neighborhood and the apartment more than the commute. It should be a consideration, but I don’t think you can do that bad. The most time consuming commute is bound to be the farthest away. There are exceptions, but not many. The easiest commute would be walking, but that can be costly. I like the Cascade neighborhood better than the valley to the west (Westlake) if you go that route. Belltown is also nice.

        Here is a good transit map: https://seattletransitmap.com/app/. You can see that there are plenty of buses that will get you right there, as well as buses that can get you close. Eastlake would be nice, for example (not that far of a walk, but you probably want to avoid walking on Denny — it is one of uglier streets in the area). The 62 and 40 are slow, but since they would get you right there, it extends your reach quite a bit. For that matter, the 5 and E (which are fast) mean only a short walk. I could easily see a good commute from Phinney Ridge, for example, just because the 5 is fast.

        I think it is more about the particulars than anything else. For example, if you decided to live in West Seattle, you would want to be closer to the C than the 21. They both could get you downtown quickly, but the C will keep going, which means you wouldn’t have to walk very far (or catch another bus). The bridge is out, but drivers are hurt a lot more than transit riders, which means that you might be able to find a good deal on an apartment. West Seattle can be a bit isolated though.

        Frequency could be a consideration as well, depending on your commuting style. If you can arrive at any time, and are comfortable “dialing it in”, then it won’t matter. But if you feel like just walking out the door at any time and catching the bus, look for areas where the buses share the same route. Unfortunately, many of the buses are suspended right now (because of the pandemic). The map has those routes as faded — I except them to come back within the year.

        As you peruse apartments, it would be worthwhile to check back in, to see what we think of the transit commute, as well as transit options in general.

      2. Yeah, I agree with Ross on deciding based on neighborhood and type of housing.

        If given unlimited amounts of money, there’s places within walking distance in Belltown.

        If the 17 comes back after the pandemic, even Ballard is a one seat ride away (the 40 is so long it seems like it would be not be exceptionally reliable). RapidRide C is close and goes into West Seattle. The 70 brings in a bunch of areas to the northeast, going all the way out to the University of Washington.

        I guess I would suggest getting to know some areas of the city first and see what you like best? Being near the restaurant district of U District or Ballard may or may not be worth the time required, depending on what you want.

      3. Two good options that come to mind:

        1) live at the top of Queen Anne hill and walk to work. It’s a long walk, but good exercise, especially coming home.

        2) Go for Fremont, just north of the ship canal and ride the 40 or 62. Or cycle to work if the weather is nice.

        I’d avoid the 8 for a daily commute if at all possible. It’s just too slow and unreliable. Riding the 8 is often slower than jogging and only barely faster than walking.

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