Sound Transit:

Good news, Link riders: light rail frequency will increase starting June 12. 

Link will run every eight minutes during peak hours and every 10 minutes during midday and weekends to help passengers get where they want to go – and return to their normal routines. 

During late evenings, Link will run every 15 minutes.

Currently, Link runs every 12 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off-peak hours, with frequency every 30 minutes in late evenings.

One more step towards normal.

288 Replies to “Link frequencies will increase on June 12”

  1. Good news, but imagine what we’d have if we really invested in Sound Transit and not more highways & “freeways”. We should have SkyTrain-esque service where the trains are grade-separated & automated so they can run frequencies in less than 5 minutes.

  2. Why not six-minute headway as before Covid to reduce waits? Why not shorter off-peak headways to reduce waits?

    1. Because ridership is still way down and many offices will not be reopening until after Labor Day. I think ten minute headways from open to close, seven days a week would be fine from now until the fall.

    2. Because there is no plan for 6 min frequencies. There never was, and there likely never will be.

      The 6 min hz that ST ran previously was just temporary while they worked through some logistical issues. The plan was always 7.5 mins max per line, and now ST is delivering!

      But hey, if the extra 45 secs average wait time for a train is make or break for you, then maybe transit isn’t the right mode choice for you. There is always a faster way if you want to throw enough money at the problem.

      1. A hertz is a unit of measure that means 1 cycle per second. One train coming every 6 minutes would be a frequency of 0.00277777778 hertz (or 2.77777778 millihertz).

      2. In other words, Sound Transit doesn’t care. They are not focused on increasing ridership, or giving riders a better experience. They are focused on building new lines.

      3. Hey Bill!

        You are of course correct! I just got tired of writing “frequency” all the time. But of course it could be less than 1 hz.

        You former Boeing guys rock.

      4. Also for both of you nerds, Hertz is capitalized (Hz rather than hz), because it’s derived from someone’s name. Same with Volts (Alessandro Volta), Ohms (Georg Ohm) and Amps (André-Marie Ampère).

      5. Well, I went and messed up. I blame it on writing this before drinking my coffee. They should be capitalized when abbreviated (Hz vs. hz, A vs. a, Ω vs. ω, V vs. v), but not when written fully out.

      6. It amazes me how obsessive some people can be about the average 45 second time savings (7.5 versus 6 minutes) yet ignore the extra time (and extra physical effort painful for many arthritis sufferers) it takes to walk down 45-50 stairs or use an elevator as opposed to having a down escalator. Plus, waiting for a crowded up escalator or elevator or climbing 45-50 stairs can take lots more time than this extra 45 seconds.

        I’m happy with 7.5 minute trains and investing in more escalators and elevators instead. The only reason to reduce the headway to 6 minutes would be for overcrowding.

      7. That’s because standing and waiting for something you can’t see and don’t know when it will come is more frustrating than walking or going through an escalator crowd. Those two are more like travel time, and studies have shown that people dislike waiting for transit more than they dislike moving slowly or over a long distance.

        Having a next-arrival sign that tells how long until the next train substantially reduces impatience and increases satisfaction with the system. ST’s problem the last several months is the signs are often turned off or wildly inaccurate. Hopefully that will resolve itself with this change.

      8. Waiting 45 seconds for an elevator door to open seems to drag time out to be longer than waiting 45 seconds for a train door to open to me. At the very least, it’s perceived as a similar wait time — as it’s all about waiting.

        The same “waiting” is required when a bunch of people have to wait to ride an up escalator to transfer to a bus, which happened often before Covid.

      9. Mike, that the signs are “wildly off” except when there is an incident within the immediately preceding three or four minutes simply means that the programmers at Sound Transit are lazy or incompetent. The traffic control system knows where every train in the system is NOW .. and NOW .. and NOW .. and NOW.

        That the time does not reliably shrink to zero immediately before the train enters the station says that the programmers are simply ignoring the live data stream and instead adding a fixed factor of the scheduled transit time to the platform at which the display is located to the time of departure from the last station the train visited.

        Even worse would be if it’s simply parroting the published schedule.

    3. Downtown to Northgate will have 5 minute headway all day in 2023. That will be another huge improvement.

    4. I think everything will be four car trains. That’s 32 cars an hour! The old six-minute operation was only 2 or 3 cars, meaning it was about 26 cars an hour.

      If it gets too crowded, ST certainly seems willing to consider running more trains. Lots probably depends on when OMF East trains will be available (powered electrification into Seattle).

      1. I could see ST increase frequency again when demand returns, or they might just use the additional fleet (once it arrives) as pocket trains to be used for peak-of-peak.

        For example, pre-COVID the highest crowding was for the last southbound train through downtown that connected to the peak (5pm?) Sounder run. It could see ST schedule a couple extra 4-cars trains to alleviate that sort of reoccurring peak-of-peak without officially announcing that headways are shorter 4.30-5.15pm weekdays vs the rest of peak.

      2. The concerns about potential overcrowding are when U-District, Northgate, Lynnwood, Bellevue, and Redmond riders traveling through U-District to Westlake get added to the mix. The additional train cars first have to absorb that. U-District and Lynnwood have been so far from Link that most of them have not appeared on Link yet, but they will when U-District is directly on Link, the 511-513 are truncated at Northgate, the 74 and 76 are truncated, etc.

      3. That’s a good point. I could see ST going up to 6 minute headways after Northgate opens to handle crowding, but then drop back to 8 minutes after East Link opens. Northgate to ID would still get improved frequency (4 minutes). While ID to Angel Lake would be negatively impacted by East Link opening, if there isn’t crowding in the RV at 8 minute frequencies then I don’t think there is a strong case for 6 minute frequencies.

      4. It won’t get too crowded. Lazarus is right. This is what ST planned, and it is likely what we will always have. ST isn’t even looking at the issue. No is going “Hey, what if we just ran the trains more often? It would cost some money, but ridership would increase, and thus we would get some of that back in fare revenue. Riders would save time, too. Let’s do a study, and figure out if that is a better use of money versus some of the projects we have planned.”

        Nope. No one is doing that. That isn’t how they roll.

        It is worth noting that Metro, in cooperation with the city of Seattle, did just that. When they got a bunch more money, they put it into running the buses more often. This resulted in a big increase in ridership — at the time the only city experiencing an increase in ridership. But politicians often ignore the value of frequency, focusing on ribbon cutting instead. This leaves the policy experts to argue for what the country really needs:

      5. Are there any routes where KCM runs more frequent that 10 minute just because it can? My understanding is KCM’s service standards are 10 minutes and buses only run more frequent if needed for capacity reasons. Without the TBD, KCM would be forced to cut service on lower preforming routes to increase service on overcrowded routes. If there is TBD money left after crowding is addressed, KCM uses that to bring additional routes up to 15 minute and then 10 minute service.

        Ross is incorrect. ST does have service standards and a formal process that measures productivity and service quality. The annual process that creates the Service Plan is exactly the process Ross insists doesn’t exist because he doesn’t like the outcome. Take a look at page 5:

      6. Are there any routes where KCM runs more frequent that 10 minute just because it can?

        No, because Metro has a very limited budget. They aren’t spending billions to run trains to Fife. They also have dozens and dozens of lines, many of which run infrequently. While some perform better than others, it isn’t clear that increasing the frequency of the E from 10 to 6 is better than moving the 11 from 15 to 10 or the 33 from 30 to 15. ST runs the metro, not Metro. (Yes, I realize how funny that sentence is — I think the City Beautiful guy missed a good opportunity by not mentioning that: “This is the light rail line, and it is essentially a light metro, as it runs largely grade separated, with tunnels and very long elevated sections. It is run by Sound Transit, not Metro, the biggest bus operator in the region. Yes, Metro does not run the metro. Go figure.”

        Anyway, the metro/subway/light rail line is clearly special. It is different in that it can’t possibly bunch (not at every six minutes), will carry a huge number of riders, and operates very quickly through the urban core. No bus does that. When Link gets to Northgate, the part through the urban core is extended. Furthermore, the system is dependent on Link — bus routes that used to offer a way to downtown from the north are gone (and more are going away with Northgate). Transfer times are critical for the train. It is not an ordinary bus.

        ST does have service standards and a formal process that measures productivity and service quality. … [Link to report]

        That is not the service analysis I’m talking about. Nor does it have anything to do with the subject of this thread. For buses, there is flexibility and productivity analysis. Poorly performing routes or bus stops are killed off. For trains, there is nothing of the sort. Of course there isn’t — it is a train. Moving stops and lines is very expensive.

        The point is, no one is doing the type of measurement I’m suggesting, which is to determine the increase in ridership (and fare recovery) versus the cost of running more often. Let everyone know that cost, and if we get money (from say, the federal government) put money into that. While you are at it, compare that sort of spending with the projects in ST3, to see if it is a better value than some of the projects. In most cases, it will be.

      7. OK cool, so if ST ran like KCM, we would be having a discussion about whether we can to invest more O&M is ensuring all ST Express routes have at least 15 minute frequency all day. Link is already running at 10 minute frequency or better, so I’m not sure what you want ST’s planning team to do, unless you want them to treat Link differently because it runs on metal wheels rather than rubber tires? Unlike post-ST2, bus-rail transfers are no more consequential than bus-bus transfers in our network. Nowhere in the region do we run transit more frequent than 10 minutes just because we can … and neither does Europe:

        Looks like Alon is fine with a 10 minute city (the standard ST & KCM have already set themselves to) and only advocates for NYC MTA to shift to a 6 minute city to alleviate overcrowding … and 6-minute branches during peak is literally what ST is designing Link for, so we can always add rolling stock and O&M in the future if Seattle reaches Manhattan subway ridership levels later this century.

        “which is to determine the increase in ridership (and fare recovery) versus the cost of running more often.” You didn’t actually read the file I linked, did you? Right there on page 5, for Link: Measure and set targets for boarding per trip, boarding per revenue hour, subsidy per boarding, and passenger mile per platform hour. Not on there is gross ridership, because as you frequently point on comparing the E-line (highest ridership) to more productive KCM routes, total ridership is a dumb metric.

        And if you want to be clever, Metro does run metro. Sound Transit funds and sets operating stands, but Link maintenance and operations are 100% contracted to KCM. The only mode ST ‘runs’ is the Tacoma streetcar.

      8. @AJ,

        Thank you AJ! An informative and fact filled post. I like that.

        I think we should all remember that Link is going to 7.5 min headways. That is something pretty phenomenal, and something this region has not seen in the modern era.

        Additionally, once E Link gets interlined we will have 3:45 headways in the urban core. That is mainly a capacity gain, but it is significant and I look forward to it.

        Also, it should be noted that operating a bus route at below 10 min headways isn’t primarily a cost issue. Given the amount of money we through at Metro they would have done it before if it made sense.

        Na, very short headways on buses are problematic because buses operate in mixed traffic and are inherently unreliable per schedule. Try to operate at too short a headway and bus bunching and associated issues become dominate.

      9. Lazarus,

        Link isn’t going to “7.5 minute headways”. No transit system runs — or for that matter even CAN run — on half-minute schedules. Are you claiming it will be “seven-eight-seven-eight”? That’s not what the announcement says: it says “every eight minutes”.

        Now I grant that eight isn’t an even fraction of sixty, so the “clockface” schedule will have to be sacrificed during the peaks. But the trains will depart the endpoints at eight minute intervals, not seven and a half.

      10. unless you want them to treat Link differently because it runs on metal wheels rather than rubber tires

        Good God, man, do you really think that is the only difference? I’ve already explained it. OK, let me do it again:

        1) Link is a subway line. It cost billions to build. Running it infrequently is like putting cheap tires on a Ferrari. You are wasting the potential of this enormous investment.

        2) Link has ridership that dwarfs any of the buses. Before the pandemic, it had 80,000 riders. Our most popular bus had less than 20,000. Oh, and pretty soon — with those three new stops — Link will dwarf any bus even more.

        3) Link is fast, and consistent. It takes 48 minutes, end to end, no matter the time of day. Our most popular bus (the E) varies quite a bit, but takes longer. Other buses with really high ridership are similar. The 40, for example, takes well over an hour.

        4) Link has a lot more capacity.

        5) Link is expected to play a huge role in our system. Various routes were truncated, with the riders expected to transfer. That simply isn’t the case with a typical Metro bus.

        Simply put, we get a lot more out of an increase in frequency for Link than we would any particular bus. Then there are the other issues, which I mentioned before, but you seem to be ignoring:

        1) Metro, unlike ST, doesn’t have dozens of highly performing bus routes that are not running every ten minutes. ST also runs buses, but they don’t perform anywhere near as well as the train, in ridership per hour of service. Are you really arguing that we should run the ST buses more often, instead of putting that money into running the train, because the train has reached some arbitrary 10 minute midday threshold? Is that really your argument?

        You are missing the crux of the argument. Let’s say both Metro and ST get a grant, which they can then put into service. With Metro, it isn’t clear where to put the money. Run the 7 every eight minutes during the day, or run the 14 every ten? It is really hard to say what will benefit the riding public more.

        With ST though, any service increase is obvious: Run Link more often (every six minutes all day long if possible). That will get you the most bang for the buck (i. e. the most riders per dollar spent).

      11. Also, it should be noted that operating a bus route at below 10 min headways isn’t primarily a cost issue. Given the amount of money we through [sic] at Metro they would have done it before if it made sense.

        What??? Of course it is a cost issue. The reason why Metro doesn’t run the buses every six minutes is because they can’t afford to. In fact, the only time they do run it often is when it is most likely to bunch, which is during rush hour.

        Keep in mind, in a few years, Metro *will* run a bus every six minutes, all day long. It will be the closest thing to BRT in this region, and that is largely because it will be running frequently. But the only reason it will be running this frequently is because there was a grant for it. In other words, they have the money.

        There is nothing magical about ten minutes. This is well above the point where you stop increasing ridership, which means it is well above the point in which you stop adding value. In fact, in their study on the effect of frequency on ridership ( the authors didn’t categorize bus service as “Frequent” until it is under 10 minutes (ten minutes is considered “Medium”) . It is worth noting that even below ten minutes, ridership keeps increasing. For anyone who has ever stood on Third waiting for a bus to the other side of downtown — or rode a frequent subway system — this is rather intuitive.

      12. “It is worth noting that even below ten minutes, ridership keeps increasing.” I’m skeptical there is causality. A high preforming bus route in any major city will need greater than 10 minute frequency simply to carry all the people. Scanning the paper you linked, I think the authors are stating that high level of service is better than medium level of service; I don’t think paper speaks to the ridership elasticity of different headways with the “high” level? In other words, more frequent service is better than more mediocre bus service. Apologies if I read the paper incorrectly.

        We are going to run 60 cars/hour through our fancy subway tunnel. The only reason we don’t do that right is because we don’t have enough trains (or drivers), not because ST is cheap. And I explicitly hedged that post ST2, once the region has aggressively truncated express service, high frequency to facilitate transfer is important. But right now, or even after Northgate opens, that transfer penalty isn’t that important.

        “ST though, any service increase is obvious” – I don’t find it obvious at all. I would hope the staff would look at ST Express (and eventually Stride) at the same time. There might be more value in expanding span of service, for example.

      13. Nowhere in the region do we run transit more frequent than 10 minutes just because we can … and neither does Europe:

        Ha, you link to an article proposing a six minute city as your argument that there is nothing to be gained by going faster than ten minutes. Oh, and then you claim that no one runs trains more often than every ten minutes, even though the author of that article writes:

        Within the Ring, Berlin is a 5-minute city for the most part

        Keep in mind, this is not about individual lines, it is about all the lines running at worst at that frequency. Of course there are subway lines that run more frequently than every ten minutes in the middle of the day. The two main Toronto lines run every 4-5 minutes off-peak.

        Or how about considering a place closer to home, as in our closest neighbor: Vancouver. On both the Expo and Millennium Line, the trains run every 6 minutes in the middle of the day. The same is true on weekends. It is only late at night that the trains drop to 8-10 minutes. This also means that for the combined section of the Expo line, you have 3 minute service on the middle of the day and weekends, and 4-5 minutes late at night.

        The idea that 10 minutes is some international standard for midday service, and no one every bothers to run trains more frequently than that is absurd. Ridership on these lines is very good, and a big reason is because they run frequently all day long.

      14. ‘Within the Ring’ would be analogous to most of Seattle where Link will be running a 4 minute headways, i.e. better than Berlin. So Link will be better than Berlin’s rail network, both in the urban center (4 minutes vs 5) and the the suburbs (8 minutes vs 10 minutes).

        Yes, if Link became driverless we would run the trains more frequently. If we had infinity money and no pollution, we would run all buses as frequently as we could without causing bunching. But this isn’t a debate about where more frequency is useful, it’s a debate about the margin value of incremental frequency on an already frequent line.

      15. I don’t think paper speaks to the ridership elasticity of different headways with the “high” level

        Yes it does. That is the whole point of that section of the paper. To speak to the elasticity of ridership when frequency increases. What they found is pretty much as you would expect — very infrequent routes (every hour) are more elastic than frequent routes. If you go from hourly service to half-hour service, you will see a bigger increase in ridership than if you from twenty minute to ten minute service. But what they found is that even under ten minutes, it is elastic. Going from 10 to 8 you add riders. Going from 8 to 6 you add riders. Of course you do. Holy cow, man, haven’t you experienced that? Haven’t you stood on Third and James, trying to get to go Belltown, and thought “I’ll be there in no time”, while on Aurora you think “I wonder when the E will be here?”. Haven’t you taken a frequent bus at rush hour, knowing that it would be silly to look at a schedule, since a bus will be coming along every couple minutes? Haven’t you seen someone hail a cab in New York City (or at least seen it in the movies)? Have you ever waited a long time for an elevator, and thought “maybe I should just take the stairs”?

        The science is clear, and confirms everyday human behavior. Frequency
        effects ridership. If it effects ridership — if someone is willing to find a different mode (or forgo the trip altogether) — then clearly they matter. Of course there is diminishing returns, but ten minutes is nowhere near that level. That level, for *surface* transit, is around three minutes.

        You may be thinking, why three minutes? Check out this essay about streetcars: Let me quote a couple parts:

        Jarrett Walker: “This capacity advantage can be relevant in high-volume situations, particularly when frequencies get down to the three-minute range. However most streetcars now under discussion are not this frequent, or for markets nearly this busy.”

        Alon Levy (in a comment): “It boils down to the fact that unguided buses can’t reliably run at higher frequency than about one every 3 minutes; beyond that they bunch too much. Bunching and high load factors then lead to long queues, which lead to excessive dwells.”

        In other words, running *buses* (in traffic) more than every three minutes is problematic. They bunch. So even in the case of three minutes there is nothing magical. If the buses could run more often (without bunching) they would pick up more riders. Which means that it is quite likely that trains running every 2 minutes get more riders than trains running every 3 minutes. It is simply that most agencies aren’t willing to spend the money on that.

        Which gets me back to my main point. Is it worth the money to run the trains more frequently, knowing full well that it will increase ridership, and improve the system? I would like to know. By that I mean, how much would it cost to run the trains every six minutes all day long (like the bus that is going to run up Madison)? Despite the document you have referenced, no one is doing that study. Just because they “Measure and set targets for boarding per trip, boarding per revenue hour, subsidy per boarding, and passenger mile per platform hour” doesn’t mean they are looking at the effect that frequency would have on ridership, or whether it would be worth it.

        It is worth noting that we are building an extremely expensive system (probably the most expensive light rail system ever built). Even for a heavy rail system, it is extremely expensive, especially for a city this big. To build a system this fancy (almost entirely grade separated, at great expense) while treating it like a second rate streetcar (stuck in traffic) is just bizarre.

      16. We don’t know what the ceiling is when frequency increases reach the point of little return , so we should saturate the lines to make sure. Anything less means the transit network isn’t reaching its potential. We see that 30 minutes gets more riders than 60 minutes, and 15 minutes is a major jump over 30. After that you start seeing shrinking increases at 10, 7, and 5 minutes. I’d say 10 minutes is a good minimum standard for all of Metro’s proposed Rapid corridors and many of the Frequent ones, and all Link lines (except maybe Issaquah). The highest-volume corridors should have less than 10 minutes, medium coverage areas can be 15 minutes, and the lowest coverage areas 30 minutes.

        Each frequency increase affects decisions on the margin; that is, decisions that could go either way but need just a nudge to get them on transit. A frequency boost is the most effective nudge. How do you feel about possibly having to stand 25 or 45 minutes at a bus stop, or to arrange your schedule around a 30-minute or 60-minute pulse? It’s a significant deterrent to taking transit. When the wait is “only” 15 minutes it’s easier to tolerate, and when it’s 10 or 5 minutes it’s even easier. That’s why frequency generates ridership.

        Most of my friends drive everywhere, so they have a low tolerance for waiting, because they’re used to going exactly when they want. To get them onto transit and reducing carbon emissions and road space, you need a frequency that will entice them. That threshold is 15 or 10 minutes for those who are open to transit.

        In Link’s case, we’ve spent so much for the right of way and construction that we should not hesitate to run it often so we can get the most out of that investment. Operations is less expensive than construction.

      17. Berlin’s S-bahn runs every 10 minutes, even fairly late at night when there isn’t that much ridership, so that’s where their mathematics got them.

      18. I’m all for higher frequency – I advocate for driverless Link trains primarily because it unlocks major increases in off-peak frequency – but I’m skeptical boosting frequency beyond ST2/3 plans is “worth it” (a nebulous phrase unless your sole goal is ridership) because the primary constraint isn’t O&M but fleet size. ST has a fleet procurement and OMF footprint intended to provide 3 minute core frequency and 6 minute branch frequency across most (not Kirkland-Issaquah) of the Link network. To raise the frequency on the overall network, ST will need to plan for a larger fleet and larger OMFs (most likely a 5th OMF or an expansion of OMF-C); raising peak frequency materially would require hundreds of million of capital, in addition to the O&M. This is very simillar problem to that facing KCM prior to COVID, when it ran up into bus base capacity issues and couldn’t spend all of Seattle’s TBD money because there simply wasn’t enough buses, and while KCM had millions of spare O&M money, it didn’t have $200MM for another bus base. So while ST has tens of million of spare O&M*, it doesn’t have $1B (in YOE) for another OMF+fleet.

        *Disclaimer – it does not. Updating the cost profile of KCM subcontracting was a $1B hit to the financial plan last cycle. If the growth rate on cost per KCM service hour, Link and bus, doesn’t ebb, ST is going to have another multi-billion dollar hole in its budget.

        If you want to raise the frequency *right now*, I doubt ST has the trains for a major increase until OMFE opens … at which point there will be 4 minute frequency in the core. Once Lynwood and FW opens, Link network frequency will be ‘maxed’ out until OMF-S opens. And so on. Could we boost frequency off-peak? Sure. But why not do the same with ST Express or Stride … Link far less unique on evenings and weekends.

        It will be interesting to see what happens on Northgate to ID when Link frequency roughly double, and whether we’ll be able to isolate the impact of frequency vs other important drivers.

      19. I agree with Mike: we don’t know “what the ceiling is” for ridership given a high frequency of Link operations. But I do like AJ’s suggestion that ST should be ready to deploy turnbacks between Northgate and IDS at any time after Northgate opens.

        I don’t know of the overhead can be energized to Judkins Park yet or not, but there IS a tail track there, clearly visible just west of the station around the curve toward Dearborn. This gives GREAT flexibility to run alternating turnbacks first to Judkins Park and then to Stadium, then to Judkins Park then to Stadium through the rush hours should they be needed.

        These tail tracks really aren’t set up to be in-service reversing facilities. The driver has to descend to the right of way and walk between the parked train and in-service tracks on both sides of the train. There is usually a wider side to accommodate that, but it can’t be too pleasant. Obviously, that won’t be true for trains that turn at Judkins Park before East Link opens.

        In any case, it’s not nearly as quick convenient as existing a train in a stub station and walking back to the other end on the platform. A train couldn’t be expected to enter the tail and depart any sooner than four or five minutes later. The lead cab has to be shut down and secured, the walk made, and the new lead cab opened and booted up. The safety checklist has to be completed.

        With a single tail at Stadium, splitting the Rainier headway with extra trains would over-tax the reversal, but if one train can go to Stadium and the next to Judkins Park, by the time that the next southbound needs Stadium (twelve minutes after the lead Stadium turn entered), it would be emptied for the next train.

        Ditto Judkins Park.

        This means that ST, if it needs the capacity, can run three-minute headways between Northgate and IDS immediately upon opening without over-loading the Rainier Valley, assuming enough Siemens cars on online.

        Very good news.

        However, having these two

      20. the primary constraint isn’t O&M but fleet size

        Then run fewer trains more often. Four car trains every 8 minutes is exactly the same as three car trains every 6 minutes. The latter gets more riders. It also saves them more time.

        Which brings me to my next point. There is no reason to believe that Seattle riders behave differently than other riders across the country, or across the world. The science is clear. Running more often gets more riders. This occurs well below ten minutes.

        Then there is the issue of having a different schedule during rush hour. In terms of the number of trains or their configuration, it costs nothing to keep the schedule the same all day long. It also simplifies hiring. It costs extra to have peak service. To put it another way, it doesn’t cost that much extra to run the trains the same all day long. The increase in fare recovery, along with the relatively low extra cost means that the overall cost would be minimal. Yet riders would be much better off.

      21. “Nowhere in the region do we run transit more frequent than 10 minutes just because we can … and neither does Europe:”

        Houston has run its light every 6 minutes for years, peak and midday. Granted, 6 minute headways doesn’t apply on weekends or evenings, and I have no idea what the frequency is these days after COVID. But still – at noon on a Friday in 2019, the Houston light rail actually ran more often than the Seattle light rail (in spite of probably carrying far fewer people).

  3. Excellent! This is exactly what people on this blog have been advocating for for a long time now. This should be cause for a major celebration, so why do I hear crickets?

    Come on people. This is what you wanted. 7.5 min frequencies is perfect. Be happy!

    1. 10-minute daytimes is the biggest thing I’ve wished for operationally. I’m jumping for joy.

      8 minute peaks is fine. As you said, ST never promised 6-minute peaks long-term, it was just a temporary phase. Of course, my ideal would be 2-5 minutes like London, New York, or St Petersburg, but you’ve got to start somewhere. And when North and East Link overlap it will be 3-5 minutes there.

    2. Yay! It is barely adequate again. The train will run as often as a lot of our buses!

      As lots of people have noted, we won’t get decent frequency on the train until Link gets to Bellevue, and that is only for the combined section. For the East Side and the south end, you are just out of luck. If you are in Rainier Valley, the 7 will run as often as the train. No wonder no one transfers from the 106 to Link — ten minute transfers suck.

    3. “You didn’t actually read the file I linked, did you? Right there on page 5, for Link:”

      1. Measure and set targets for boarding per trip,

      2. Boarding per revenue hour,

      3. Subsidy per boarding, and

      4. Passenger mile per platform hour.

      “Not on there is gross ridership, because as you frequently point [out] comparing the E-line (highest ridership) to more productive KCM routes, total ridership is a dumb metric.”

      AJ, can you explain why these are the metrics Metro is using, why they are better metrics than gross ridership, and what Metro is using them for? I am assuming frequency, but want to better understand how these four metrics are the most important for determining frequency, and how any one of them determines frequency.

      Can you also explain how a route with high gross ridership wouldn’t also meet these other criteria for increased frequency? Would it be because the route is long or slow? As a baseline, it seems to me a route with high gross ridership would have high boardings per trip, boardings per revenue hour, and passenger mile per platform hour (I am assuming the subsidy per hour has to do with Metro’s “equity” priority).

      I have never been a fan of induced demand from greater frequency, although many on this blog apparently believe greater frequency for Link creates more demand/ridership, but apparently not for Metro. Frequency for Link seems to be a holy grail.

      But at the same time it seems to me if a Metro route had infrequent service it would necessarily have high 1. boarding per trip, 2. boarding per revenue hour, and 3. passenger mile per platform hour because there would be more passengers waiting for the bus.

      1. According to ST’s link AJ links to, both “productivity” and the “Service Performance Measures” quoted below appear to determine “frequency” (and from what I can tell frequency is about the only tool to adjust productivity and service performance).

        Again to me it seems gross ridership would tend to mirror these service performance measures, that along with the “productivity” criteria (except perhaps subsidized fares). If gross ridership was out of whack with these other productivity and service performance criteria I would be confused. Gross ridership is the one objective measure I would want to compare the more subjective criteria to.

        “Service Quality”

        “Sound Transit evaluates service quality based on passenger load, on-time
        performance, customer complaints, and trips operated as scheduled.

        “Passenger Load compares the number of passengers on the
        vehicle to the vehicle’s seating capacity. The passenger load
        standard must balance the efficient allocation of vehicles (seat
        utilization) with a comfortable rider experience (access to
        seating for most of the trip).

        “On-Time Performance is based on whether trips are arriving
        at time points early, late, or on time and determines service
        reliability for customers.

        “Customer Complaints convey customer satisfaction and
        help identify service strengths or weaknesses. A high volume
        of complaints related to a specific service attribute can inform
        service change decisions.

        “Operated as Scheduled compares a trip’s actual
        performance to the published timetable/schedule.

        “Service Evaluation

        “Service evaluation is the process of utilizing these service standards and
        performance measures to inform service change decisions. Sound Transit
        conducts on-going service analysis and periodic comprehensive operations
        analysis (COA) to identify potential service changes and develop the annual
        SIP. The service change process is detailed in Section 3: Making Changes to
        Sound Transit Service.”

      2. Gross Ridership is a bad metric because it’s not a normalized comparison and overly represents long routes. Two routes I’m very familiar with are the 40 (Downtown to Northgate via Ballard) and the 70 (Downtown to the U-district). Both of these routes are very well ridden in my experience, and KCM’s 2020 report agrees:

        From the 2019 data we see the following:

        Route 40 (13.5-mile route):
        Avg. Weekday Rides: 13,200
        Avg. Weekday Platform Hours: 343
        Avg. Weekday Rides per Plat. Hour: 38.5

        Route 70 (5.5-mile route):
        Avg. Weekday Rides: 8,100
        Avg. Weekday Platform Hours: 217
        Avg. Weekday Rides per Plat. Hour: 37.3

        So, we have two routes, one that’s less than half the length of the other – the shorter one has 61% of the weekday ridership of the longer one, but also has 63% of the weekday hours.

        Based on gross ridership, the 40 has 50% more riders than the 70. Does that mean it’s performing 50% better?

        In reality, we see that because both routes perform similarly, both corridors are getting significant capital investment in route improvements with the Route 40 Multimodal Corridor and Rapidride J projects.

      3. Nathan is right. Comparing gross ridership from one line to another is silly if one route is much longer than the other. But looking at gross ridership of the entire Link line is relevant, if the plan is to increase frequency on the entire Link line (which is what I’m proposing).

      4. You can stand beside highway 206 in central Oregon, and not see a car go by for an hour sometimes. There is never a time when Interstate 205 in southeast Portland is quiet. If we measure sheer number of people using Highway 206 compared to 205, it shouldn’t have been built.

        It is, however, extremely important for those living in Wasco, Heppner and a few other farming towns. As it’s mostly agricultural land, it’s also important to anyone that eats food. They put a bunch of wind turbines up through there too, so it’s also an important road if you use electricity.

        So maybe how useful a transportation means is should be measured by how useful it is to those nearby? Or that use materials originating along that transportation corridor?

        There’s also network effects too. Years ago a large freight railroad was looking at getting rid of a bunch of the “money losing” branch lines in the northwest. However, when they actually looked at the overall financial impact, they found that they received some 4x in profits from that traffic once it was on the main line than what those lines represented in losses.

        So, stuff like Metro #1 in west Queen Anne might not seem particularly important, but it could be particularly important to those that live near it. If you take enough of those unimportant routes away, you eventually start to impact the busy routes because some of the passengers on those busy routes have come from the lesser routes.

    4. The missing factor is rider convenience. Frequency affects the load (how many seats are full), but it also affects how long people have to wait, how satisfied they are with the transit and the government that runs it, and how likely they are to take transit instead of driving. Frequent service allows people to fit more activities into a day, which many people cite as the reason they drive. The more activities people can do in a day, the more they can work and shop and pay taxes and take care of their relatives. Waiting is the biggest thing people hate about transit, even more than travel time, and every minute gets exponentially more frustrating. If it’s a one-seat ride or the first segment, you can time when you leave home or arrive at the station with some inconvenience, but if it’s the second or third part of a transfer, you have no control over how long you’ll wait, so it’s even more important that the segment be frequent or the connection timed.

      Transit can’t run on demand so a frequency has to be set, and that’s a values judgment how to balance convenience vs cost efficiency/affordability. As a values judgment, it’s a political/policy question. In my experience taking metro transit in several countries, I’d say 10 minutes is the minimum for good service, and 3-5 minutes would be ideal (as in London, New York, St Petersburg, etc). Many American subways are 15 minutes on each line (MAX, BART), which I consider substandard. Link was good to have a 10-minute minimum until 10pm from its start in 2009 until 2020; that made it better than many American metros.

      So what should minimum peak frequency be? There are two answers: 10 minutes like off-peak, or 2-5 minutes like the best subways. I assume 2-5 minutes is unaffordable given ST’s tax revenue vs responsibilities (although Lynnwood-Intl Dist will have it when East Link starts), so we’re back at 10 minutes. Any additional frequency beyond that is to meet capacity demand. You could say that the minimum peak standard should be 8 minutes or 6 minutes, but I don’t see a reason for that other than one’s values. It’s a continuum between 10 minutes (a basic standard) and 5 minutes (excellent), and any point in between seems arbitrary.

      Buses follow a similar pattern. Metro’s definition of frequent is 15 minutes (with varying definitions of peak, Mon-Fri, or Mon-Sat). RapidRide’s standard is 15 minutes everyday until 10pm. Metro has a list of underserved corridors, and some deserve 10 minutes daytime by Metro’s criteria. Some of them like the 7 and 36 have it, others like the 67 had it between 2017 and 2020, and others haven’t gotten it yet.

      ST Express should be 15 minutes on the core routes (512, 522, 550; and maybe 545, 577/578 overlap, 594), but it’s only part-time on all of these routes. The 550 drops to 30 minutes Sundays and after 7pm. The 522 is 30 minutes even weekday midday. The 512 is sometimes 20 minutes, which seems to be Metro/ST’s tactic for “we want 15 minutes but can’t afford it”. To get these all to full-time 15-minute frequency would require writing it into ST’s budget and setting the tax/service rate to allow it. Fortunately, Link will be full-time frequent when it replaces most of these routes, and the 522 will be at least daytime frequent when it’s truncated at Roosevelt in October.

      1. So what should minimum peak frequency be?

        Six. Next question.

        Seriously, there is good reason to have six be your baseline. First of all, it is probably the closest thing to an international baseline out there. It comes up a lot (Vancouver is just one example). There is some evidence (referenced in this comment) to suggest that it is somewhat of a standard: I don’t have online access to that book (and a print copy looks way too expensive) so I can’t speak to the reasoning. But it is quite possible that it is often the sweet spot. Any more frequent is really expensive; any less and you have unhappy riders. This would appear to be the case for Toronto (

        Then there is the clock. If you have to look at a schedule, it is handy to have things in round numbers. This is especially good for longer and infrequent trips. The train to Portland, for example, could leave every hour, and it would be much easier to understand than if it ran at 7:43, 8:37, 9:41, etc. Similarly, 10 minutes is a lot better than 11, and not much better than 9 for that reason (I don’t think you will find many routes or lines that run every 9 or 11 minutes). But I think most people would consider 8 much better than 10, especially since there are various apps that will tell you the same information (we’ve come a long way from looking at a schedule, then checking your watch). If you avoid odd numbers, then again, 6 minutes seems to be a sweet spot. As one commenter wrote “I’ve never met someone who wants a timetable for a service with 5 minute frequency. (But I have met many people who want a timetable for a train that comes every 7.5 minutes.)”

        But the obvious reason why six minutes is ideal for our system is that we can’t go lower. There is plenty of evidence that going that low will get us more riders. Whether going lower makes sense or not depends doesn’t matter — we can’t do it.

        Our system is also very transfer dependent. Frequency matters way more when you have to make a transfer. It is one thing to wait for a ten minute bus to downtown. It is another to wait for that same ten minute bus, then wait another ten minutes for the train. Suddenly driving looks really good.

        Of course there is cost. Maybe we just can’t afford to spend the money to run every 6 minutes all day. Fair enough. But we should at least look at running at 8 minutes all day, since there is an economy of scale by running that way (fewer part-time operators). If it turns out that we can’t afford to run every 6 minutes all day long, it is just one of many cases where Sound Transit blew it. They focused too much on new construction, and not on leveraging what they’ve built.

      2. From Ross’s own link:
        Vuchic’s 2005 Urban Transit text lists the following desirable headways:
        – up to 6 minutes for “short urban trips”
        – 6-12 minutes is “still satisfactory for urban trips up to 5-10 km”

        So, uh, er, doesn’t ST2 Link meet that easily? 4 minutes in the urban core and 8 minutes in the rest of the network fits best practices. Only the Bellevue-Redmond urban corridor is underserved, which is why I’d like ST3 to send 100% of UW trains to Bellevue and interline WS and RV trains in the new tunnel.

        Yes, once Seattle reopens and there isn’t a driver shortage, it will be good if ST boosted Central Link frequency until East Link opens, but post East Link I don’t think SE Seattle has a commanding case for 6 vs 8 minute frequency.

      3. It’s because Houston brought in Jarrett Walker to overhaul their bus network. The new network emphasized straighter routes and more frequent service – even on evenings and weekends – at the expense of zigzags to avoid transfers and one seat rides to downtown that ran only during rush hour. It was the better bus network – not the new rail lines – that really made the difference, allowing the city to grow ridership while most other systems were shrinking.

        For example, under the old network, every 3rd bus on a route that went by house would take a big loopy detour that added about 10+ minutes to serve a stop where maybe 1 person gets on or off. Unless you carefully consulted the schedule on a route that was otherwise frequent enough that you didn’t need to, you’d get shafted. Under the new network, that detour is gone. Every bus goes straight down the arterial, and the one person who wants that detour stop has to transfer.

        Jarrett Walker has done some amazing things to make the bus network more useful, even in very car-oriented cities, and Houston proved no exception.

      4. Vuchic’s 2005 Urban Transit text lists the following desirable headways:
        – up to 6 minutes for “short urban trips”
        – 6-12 minutes is “still satisfactory for urban trips up to 5-10 km”

        4 minutes in the urban core and 8 minutes in the rest of the network fits best practices. Only the Bellevue-Redmond urban corridor is underserved …

        First of all, the trains won’t run 8 minutes. They will run every 10 minutes (read the post again). It is only during that brief rush-hour period that trains will run 8 minutes. Secondly, East Link is still two years away. In the mean time, the entire line — including the most urban section — will run every 10 minutes most of the day, and all of the day on weekends.

        Finally, you are ignoring everything south of I. D., which is bizarre since it is what we started with. Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill are definitely urban — more urban than the suburbs. This is the area that is getting screwed. It is unlikely that someone would take a spontaneous trip to the airport or Tukwila. But they could definitely take a trip from from one end of Rainier Valley to the other, or from Rainier Valley to Beacon Hill, or for that matter from either location to downtown. These are trips that would see higher ridership if there was better frequency.

      5. Yes, once Seattle reopens and there isn’t a driver shortage, it will be good if ST boosted Central Link frequency until East Link opens, but post East Link I don’t think SE Seattle has a commanding case for 6 vs 8 minute frequency.

        So run the trains every 8 minutes! Seriously, if that is all we can afford, do it. But that isn’t the plan. The plan is to run every 10 minutes.

        Oh, the case for running more frequently is way more commanding than the case for just about every ST3 project. There isn’t a commanding case for Tacoma Dome Link, Everett Link, Issaquah to South Kirkland Link, or even West Seattle Link. Yet we are going to funnel billions into those projects, while ignoring something that is far more cost effective: higher frequency.

      6. I believe 10 minutes also qualifies as “6~12 minutes”?

        I would certainly consider all of Seattle south of Mt Baker station as suburban. Sure, it’s denser than most of the post-1980s suburbs outside the city limits, but it’s still just suburban residential and not at all what Vuchic’s has in mind for ‘urban trips.’ The North Rainier neighborhood (roughly between Mt Baker and Judkins stations) is transitioning nicely into real urban midrise, but south of that there’s little that distinguishes Seattle from Skyway or Burien. What’s the frequency on Route 7? Link and the 7 are very comparable corridors; Link carries significant ridership passing through SE Seattle and have much better speed through downtown Seattle, but for trips within SE Seattle they merit the same frequency.

        And yes, I understand that if you think the entire ST3 package is not a good investment, you have a very straightforward argument about investing in service hours over any capital investment.

      7. “ I would certainly consider all of Seattle south of Mt Baker station as suburban. Sure, it’s denser than most of the post-1980s suburbs outside the city limits, but it’s still just suburban residential and not at all what Vuchic’s has in mind for ‘urban trips.’ The North Rainier neighborhood (roughly between Mt Baker and Judkins stations) is transitioning nicely into real urban midrise, but south of that there’s little that distinguishes Seattle from Skyway or Burien.”

        This is just not true anymore.

        – Othello is increasingly surrounded by six and seven story mid rise buildings. It’s long been the hub of a neighborhood shopping district.

        – Columbia City has several blocks of four story buildings around it and the nearby commercial district has metered parking and taller buildings now open and under construction.

        If this is “suburban”, so are large sections of several NYC boroughs with rowhouses and four story residential, Chicago’s Northside, Boston’s Roxbury and DC’s Capitol Hill and Adams-Morgan. SE Seattle is more like those than it’s like East LA or North Portland or East Oakland.

        Just because there is little that YOU may personally patronize should not be justification for calling it “suburban”.

        Finally, SE Seattle would have more urban non-residential destinations if the white privilege market forces in real estate development wanted it. It’s between Downtown and Seatac Airport and that’s ideal for corporate offices or hotels. The area has no major hospitals either (and the nearest ones are not even served directly by either Link or a major Metro bus route).

      8. SE Seattle is great! I’m just saying it’s ok to give it the level of service of a ‘branch’ line rather than a ‘core’ line, when benchmarking to German S-Bahns, which are the best comp for Link from ID to Rainier Beach. 8~10 minute frequency seems spot on for branch service when looking at other regions.

        And I don’t consider it ‘suburban,’ I’m more mocking Ross’ instance on referring to every non-Seattle city as a suburb. ‘urban low density residential’ might be a better term? Sure there are good clusters of midrise density emerging around the stations, but the same will be true around Kent’s or Redmond’s stations and I think 8~10 minutes is good for those stations also.

      9. Of course it is a judgement call, but one of the key elements of suburbia is distance. Nobody would call Tacoma a suburb. But neither is it part of Seattle (which is why it is ridiculous to run a subway down there). Yes, at best you could run an S-Bahn, or some sort of inner-city rail. But that means leveraging the existing track, not spending billions upon billions building brand new above ground cement structures to hold freeway stations. You also want a U-Bahn to go with it, otherwise, you would end up with lots of people driving anyway, since it is too difficult to move within the city. Like the S-Bahn, you also want to add lots of stations close to the center of town, maximizing coverage. We aren’t doing any of that, so it is silly to compare our system to an S-Bahn.

        Anyway, for the purposes of transit, proximity to a major destinations is a huge factor when it comes to being urban. Other factors include the value as a destination, as well as proximity to the freeway. Then there is bike infrastructure and additional transit (making it more likely that people don’t own a car). There are also cultural factors. Land use matters, but a few apartment buildings does not make an area urban. I don’t think anyone would call Ash Way urban, for example.

        From a transit perspective, sometimes you can measure this. Are the trips mostly just to downtown, and mostly peak direction? Then you either have a suburb, or secondary city.

        For the most part, Rainier Valley is more urban than suburban. The 7 is not heavily peak oriented (quite the contrary). Lots of people take Link between stops in Rainier Valley/Beacon Hill. It isn’t that far from downtown. Columbia City and Beacon Hill are mid-level destinations (unlike, say, Ash Way). I’m sure there are lots of people who don’t own cars. In short, for the most part it definitely looks urban, and the Link stop data shows that.

        But there are obvious weaknesses. Mount Baker Station is bad. Columbia Center and Rainier Beach Station miss the cultural core of the neighborhoods. Much of the development in general is to the east (although there is some action close to the stations, as asdf2 mentioned).

        But the pattern sure fits that of an urban area, as you would expect. This makes it quite likely that it would respond well to an increase in daytime frequency. It really doesn’t matter where you draw the line (Beacon Hill, Columbia City or Rainier Beach) if it acts like an urban area, it should be treated like one.

      10. “I’m more mocking Ross’ instance on referring to every non-Seattle city as a suburb. ‘urban low density residential’ might be a better term?”

        There are two meanings of suburban.
        (1) A smaller satellite city around a central city. Traditionally these were bedroom communities for downtown workers, but nowadays most people both live and work in the suburbs,
        (2) Post-WWII style development: low-density sprawl, strip malls, large residential areas with no supermarket within a mile, car-oriented, wide streets and large parking lots, etc. Nowadays they may have mixed-use downtowns and areas like the Spring District, but 80% of it is low density.

        By the first definition, Bellevue was a suburb but is maybe a central city now. Tacoma and Everett were separate towns until the 1990s — separate job markets from Seattle except for Boeing workers and a few others — but then the suburban ring grew to include them. Neither of them have major downtowns like Bellevue that would make them more clearly central cities. And they threw away what pre-WWII urban roots they inherited. Now they’re trying to rebuilt urban centers, but it’s shocking how low-density and one-story they are just a few blocks from downtown. On the other hand, they have satellite cities around them, so it gets murky.

        By the second definition, everything outside Seattle is suburban, except a few urban growth centers. And a lot of Seattle is also kind of suburban. When we count Rainier Valley and northeast Seattle (north of 50th and east of 15th) as urban, it’s partly because they have higher density and more pedestrians than outside Seattle (except those urban growth centers again), and it’s partly aspirational, hoping they’ll become more urban in the next few decades if we give them a chance.

        Rainier Valley is five miles long and has a lot of transit-dependent people. The buses are full of people riding from one part of the valley to another all day for shopping and errands. It’s an excellent transit community, even if too much of it is single-family and east-west transit is substandard. So it’s the right place for a Link line going through it. And a network that skipped the valley would be substandard.

      11. And a lot of Seattle is also kind of suburban [by that definition].

        I agree, and lots of people who visit here say as much. West Magnolia, for example, looks like a pre-cul-de-sac suburb. There are areas where you are literally miles from anything but a house. A place like Inverness feels just like a modern suburb, with the same lack of commercial activity and curvy streets that don’t go through, making it very difficult to walk anywhere.

        On the other hand, while much of Seattle was built with the car in mind, it doesn’t follow the freeway. To get from Ballard to the UW, or downtown to the Central Area, there is no freeway. While it is unfortunate that much of the apartment growth has been around major thoroughfares (the product of exclusionary zoning, as in, let’s exclude the poor people from places where we would want to live) it isn’t the dominant land form. You can see that from a density standpoint, it has little to do with the highways or freeways (

        Finally, there is proximity. This is a very underrated concept, and it is common for people to get it backwards. As I’ve written many times before, proximity + density = ridership. Of course there are many other factors (touched upon here) but these play a big part of how people use the transit system. If the area around TIBS and the area around Othello Station have the same density, the latter will still get a lot more riders. Someone is way more likely to hop on the train to go from Othello to Beacon Hill, than TIBS to Angle Lake. The idea that stations that are too far away, and too close to the freeway will make up for this clear weakness via TOD has been disproved, time and time again ( As that report noted, it isn’t that these areas won’t grow, it is that transit ridership will be weak, as many of the riders use cars to get around, which means ridership patterns are more like commuter rail (relatively low, as people only take the train to go downtown during rush-hour).

        In contrast, areas that are closer will have high transit use per capita. If the area does grow, then it will see high ridership. Central Magnolia, for example, has low density, and only a relatively small “village”. But if Link served it, then it would have much greater potential than somewhere like Ash Way. I’m not saying that Link should have built there (that would have been silly) only that many of the decisions that were made were just as silly.

        Rainier Valley was underdeveloped when Link ran down the valley. They choose the corridor that was worse, from an existing cultural and development standpoint. As a result, the other transit corridor (the 7) has the main destinations (e. g. Columbia City and Rainier Beach) and much, if not most of the growth. But the areas by the stations are growing, and slowly but surely, old car lots are being replaced by apartments and restaurants. As Mike noted, ridership just within the valley (and between the valley and Beacon Hill) is good, and likely to get better in the future.

        Based on everything I’ve considered — including Link data — I think the valley (and Beacon Hill) would see a significant increase in ridership if the trains ran more often in the middle of the day. It may feel suburban to some, but from a transit standpoint, it doesn’t act like it.

    5. How does Houston pay to run empty trains, and where is the induced ridership from running empty trains every six minutes?

      1. @Daniel,


        Stated another way, if Houston is running trains every 6 minutes and ridership in Houston is still low, the what the Houston example is showing is that REDUCED HEADWAYS DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY GENERATE INCREASED RIDERSHIP.

        Point, set, match.

        But hey, people on this blog have been screaming for 7.5 min Link headways ever since the pandemic began. Now that they are being given 7.5 min headways they are screaming for 6 min headways, or 7.5. In headways off peak, or interlined LRV’s for the urban core.

        Clearly a lot of criticism on this blog per Link frequencies is just manufactured outrage for the sake of having something to criticize ST for. Ultra-low headways are not the holy grail of transit, and there is no real data showing that such headways generate significant ridership.

        One begins to wonder if there is some sort of disinformation campaign underway…

      2. Low does not mean zero. And we’re taking an unquantified estimate of “low”. Houston sprawls more and probably has less density than some Seattle neighborhoods, as well as being in the South where there’s suspicion of transit and unions, so that right there would yield low ridership. Like San Jose, which also has low ridership because it doesn’t go to all-day destinations or many dense neighborhoods (of which there are hardly any anyway). But you have to start somewhere.

      3. @Mike Orr,

        I don’t think anyone is saying that the ridership gains from running at headways below 7.5 mins is exactly “zero” (0.00), but I hint the evidence is that any gains that do exist are pretty darn small. As in very small.

        As good stewards of the public’s tax dollars, ST simply can’t be in the position of throwing piles of good money after teeny tiny ridership gains. They have to be better than that.

        Additionally, the max frequency that the RV surface alignment can support is exactly 6 mins. Operating Link right up against that mathematical limit isn’t easy and introduces schedule unreliability into the operation. Schedule unreliability has been shown over and over again as being a trait that REDUCES ridership demand. Thus it is possible that going from 7.5 mins to 6 mins could actually reduce ridership.

      4. Houston Metro is 22.5 miles long, and in 2015 ridership was 56,000. This is not entirely 0.

        In 2019, they averaged 63 passengers per light rail car hour in service.

        They averaged 5.3 trips per light rail car revenue mile, or about 3 times better than their buses.

        So, not exactly empty:

        I suspect that those claiming Houston’s trains are empty have not, like those complaining Link trains are empty, have never actually tried riding one.

      5. Houston doesn’t run empty trains every 6 minutes – it runs a relatively well-ridden (~50k rides/weekday, 12.8-mile route) Red Line at 6 mins at peak and 12-18 mins off-peak, and then has two new lines (Green Line: 3.3 miles, ~5k rides/day; Purple Line: 6.6 miles, ~5k rides/day) that have poor ridership that run at 12-20 mins and interline for a few stops in Houston’s downtown. Unfortunately, they only report gross ridership in the monthly reports I can find, so I don’t know how their trains are actually performing. Meanwhile, Link carries about 80k daily riders on its 22-mile route. Wanna crunch the numbers on that?

      6. Glenn, I hadn’t seen these agency profile documents before so that’s super neat annual overview to have in the back pocket.

        I found King County Metro’s here:

        And Sound Transit, here:

        In “Unlinked Trips per Vehicle Revenue Mile”, Houston MetroRail outperforms Sound Transit Link Light Rail at 5.3 vs 4.6. However, Tacoma Link (“Streetcar Rail”) has 12.3 unlinked trips per vehicle revenue mile.

      7. Link probably is lower because of the two huge destinations at each end, but has several miles of route without even stations (ML King to TIBS).

      8. Gee how naive are some of you about Houston?

        They operate the light rail through their medical center area! Seattle promises it in 1996 and only ends up giving it a BRt on a slope or an extremely slow streetcar.

        As far as major medical center transit accessibility goes, Houston wins hands down. And medical center service has high demand all-day.

      9. Isn’t Houston the only major city aside from Seattle to grow bus ridership before the pandemic? Even though Houston has a very low baseline relative to US cities with legacy rail network, it does seem to be making good decisions in the past decade.

      10. Perhaps a more fair ridership metric here would be “ridership as a fraction of population with easy access to the system.” You could put a light rail line in rural Kansas, run it every 6 minutes, and you probably wouldn’t get many riders. In Houston’s case, you don’t have as any people who can walk to or take a good bus quickly to the system, so your ridership potential is lower to begin with–there are just not many riders that you can induce demand from. Granted, in terms of running the system, the raw ridership is what matters as it is (roughly) proportional to the fare revenue.

      11. Let’s see, Houston’s system is approx 10% longer than Seattle’s (22 vs 20 miles), it has 140% more stops than Seattle’s (39 vs 16!), it runs almost entirely at grade in traffic, it has shorter headways than Seattle (6 vs 8 mins), and it’s ridership is approx 30% lower than Seattle’s (56k vs 80k pre pandemic).

        And somehow you claim that this is proof positive that shorter headways automatically generate ridership like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat? I think someone’s bias is showing.

        But hey, maybe all the Houston “data” proves is that streetcars work and that Seattle should build the CCC!

      12. The six miles between downtown Houston and the Med Center through the arts district is heavily-patronized. The north end of the Red line and the entire Green and Purple lines are in ultra-low density mixed industrial low-income single-family home neighborhoods with high minority populations. Think South Park and you’d be as close as it is possible in the City of Seattle. The area is not even Rainier Valley pre-Link dense. Not nearly.

        There are relatively few potential riders on the Green and Purple lines, but the lines were extremely cheap to build.

        A better comparison to Link within Seattle would be the Muni Metro. How has it performed with higher and lower frequencies? I don’t know, but it’s a much better comparison.

      13. @TT,

        I concur. Houston is clearly a very poor comparison to a light metro system like Link. Anyone who claims to be able to learn something about Link headways by looking at Houston is clearly smoking something a wee bit stronger than what is legal in TX.

        But Houston probably does tell us something about positive streetcars. Clearly the Houston system shows we should build the CCC.

      14. I don’t think anyone is saying that the ridership gains from running at headways below 7.5 mins is exactly “zero” (0.00), but I hint the evidence is that any gains that do exist are pretty darn small. As in very small.

        Bullshit. You are just ignoring it. You can find study after study that says the same thing. The more frequent the trip, the more riders you pick up. You get diminishing returns, but they never get to zero. You can see that in the study I cited, as well as other studies (like the ones that Alon Levy mentions in the post I link to below).

        You are also ignoring the fact that the trains won’t be running 7.5 minutes. They will run every 10 minutes. The case is even stronger here. Going from 10 minutes most of the day (and all-day weekends) to 7.5 minutes would get you more additional riders than going from 7.5 to 6. It would also be cheaper, since hiring for short shifts (rush hour) is more expensive. The biggest gain might very well be during late night service. The train carries fewer people, but ridership is more elastic, because it is less frequent. Although to be clear, in all cases, you would still get more riders by going from 7.5 to 6 minutes, regardless of the time of day.

        The economics of running the same time every day pays off, as noted in this blog post ( To quote just one section:

        Thus, the instinct of the typical manager is to save money by pinching pennies on off-peak service. In contrast, the best practice is to run more service where possible.

        You are also ignoring other agencies, that run their trains more often, in the middle of the day. Of course you can find agencies that don’t, but those agencies are broke. They aren’t spending dozens of billions on new additions. We are being penny wise and pound foolish. We are replacing a perfectly good Ferrari with a newer model, but we are still not putting decent tires on it.

        There is also the issues of transfers. Our train system is highly dependent on them. This not only has a bigger effect on ridership, but also on decisions made by Metro. If people are forced to transfer and wait a long time after transferring, they will be pissed, and ask Metro to continue with the inefficient (but very popular) express buses. Infrequent Link trains make it more difficult for Metro to make the changes that could benefit a lot of riders.

        What I find baffling is that the same people who say ST3 is going to be wonderful — that it will get people out of their cars — are ignoring the fact that there is very little evidence to support that, while on a subject for which there is ample evidence, they choose to ignore it.

      15. “ I don’t think anyone is saying that the ridership gains from running at headways below 7.5 mins is exactly “zero” (0.00), but I hint the evidence is that any gains that do exist are pretty darn small. As in very small.”

        Yes I agree. The time difference in waiting the extra average 45 seconds is akin to the time waiting to cross the street at a traffic light. Putting a station in the median of a busy multi-lane street adds a similar time penalty because every single rider is forced to cross part of that street.

        It’s also close to the time penalty waiting for an elevator at a deep station. Imagine how much faster Mt Baker Link would be with extra elevators!

        The point being that there are many other ways to improve wait times besides just running trains more often when frequencies reach 10 minutes or less. The obsession with shaving a minute or two and mostly ignoring all the limiting access factors is clearly a bias that some have — and they are probably able-bodied males without significant arthritis or a stroller or luggage.

      16. So let me get this straight. The counter argument (shown in quotes) against six minute frequency goes something like this:

        Lots of cities run their trains every six minutes, all day long. Berlin runs them every five minutes, except for some of the outer branches, that run every ten minutes.

        “Yeah, but we aren’t Berlin. They are a bigger city.”

        OK, but SkyTrain does the same thing.

        “Yeah, but that is a far more successful system, with a lot more riders. ”

        Well then, what about Houston’s Red Line, that runs every six minutes, all day long*?

        “Houston doesn’t get that many riders. ”

        What about the scientific papers, that clearly show that frequency has a strong correlation with ridership? Or the transit writers who write things like All branches in New York should run at worst every 6 minutes during the daytime, yielding 3-minute frequency on most trunks based on all that evidence ( What about the anecdotal evidence from riders in various parts of the world?

        “But, but … ”

        Look, every agency (including Sound Transit) knows they will increase ridership if they increase frequency. This is not a disputed point, even if you can’t grasp it. What they wonder about is whether it is worth it. This is both a financial and political issue. It will cost money to run the trains more often. They will get some of that back with increased fare revenue, but not all of it back. The fact that both Houston and SkyTrain (two very different systems, serving very different communities) both decided that six minute frequency is worth it means that we should at least look at it.

        * The Red Line schedule before the pandemic:

      17. I believe there are zero people on this thread who think higher frequency doesn’t result in higher ridership. “If we take 100% of ST’s capital budget and run buses more often, bus ridership will go up” is both correct and uninteresting.

        It’s just a question of where best to invest incremental resources. Al makes a great point – it’s not obvious that spending $10MM on frequency is better than $10MM on improved station access.

        And again – read Alon’s post. He starts with 10 minute frequency and goes to 6 minutes to ensure the Manhattan trunks have sufficient capacity during rush hour. If NYC had infinite capacity in its trains (think Hermione’s purse), Alon might be OK with 10 minute branch frequency given financial constraints.

      18. You can’t compare Houston and Seattle directly because they’re apples and oranges. Houston has very different land-use patterns, distribution of destinations, and public beliefs about transit. You can only compare Houston to Houston. I.e., Houston 6-minute frequency to Houston 10-minute or 12-minute frequency. Except you don’t have the 10- and 12-minute data because Houston’s metro has never run at those levels. So the only thing we can say is that ridership would be lower at 10 or 12 minutes, because there are always people at the margin who could go equally one way or the other (transit, non-transit, foregoing the trip), and one little nudge would send them onto transit or off of transit. How much lower it would be we don’t know, although we can estimate from other cities. But the absolute level of ridership on Houston’s 6-minute service is probably due mostly to Houston-specific factors.

  4. Another good thing about this announcement is that the frequency improvement begins on June 12th.. that is the first full day of the NB I-5 shutdown.

    Traffic will be a mess that day, and northend buses will be stuck like glue in the resulting gridlock and general chaos. Only Link will be able to operate freely and normally.

    Which brings up an interesting question. Normally our local car oriented paper would be running around screaming bloody murder about the impending disaster and what an injustice it is to drivers. But so far? Crickets.

    Why isn’t the Seattle Times at least alerting drivers of the shutdown?

    1. Why isn’t the Seattle Times at least alerting drivers of the shutdown?

      They probably will. But as shutdowns go, it is relatively minor. It is a weekend shutdown (late Friday to early Monday) and it is just the express lanes.

      The SR 99 tunnel will also be closed over the weekend. This will hardly be “gridlock”, but just additional traffic on I-5. It will only effect you if you are traveling the direction that the express lanes normally go (e. g. northbound in the afternoon). Southbound drivers will experience the usual congestion.

      Here is a rundown of the closures:

      1. Get your facts right – it is all of NB I-5! That is where the span is going!

        But hey, it’s going to be gridlock for buses too, and we are going to see exactly how buses stick in traffic fail us in situations like this. Ya, it is the weekend.

        But people use transit on weekends too, and you shouldn’t be so quick to throw weekend transit riders under the bus. Weekend riders count too!

      2. @FrankJ,

        Interesting. Because the webpage says the following:

        “ June 12 and 13 – Northbound I-5 closure

        Northbound I-5 will close as early as 11:30 PM on Friday, June 11, and will reopen at 4:30 AM on Sunday, June 13. Traffic will be detoured onto Lake City Way NE (see details below).”

        Which is significant.

      3. I don’t believe Link is running during the hours of the full closure, through a few 512 busses may get delayed. Last similar full closure was I believe in Mountlake Terrace when they put up the scaffolding to build the Link crossing–wasn’t a big deal.

      4. WSDOT say it will only be the express lanes. That is why I linked to the site. The SDOT website to the bridge work says it will be an overnight closure: “To ensure the safety of crews and the traveling public, we’re closing northbound I-5 overnight on Saturday, June 12, and southbound I-5 overnight on Saturday, June 19.”

        But then it goes on to say “Northbound I-5 will close as early as 11:30 PM on Friday, June 11, and will reopen at 4:30 AM on Sunday, June 13. Traffic will be detoured onto Lake City Way NE (see details below).”

        The wording is contradictory, although maybe the hint is “as early as”. Maybe the main line will be closed on Friday night, not Saturday night, but in either case, just closed overnight, not in the middle of the day.

        In any event, I could do without the arrogance. You clearly don’t have your facts straight, and suggesting that I don’t care about weekend bus riders is complete bullshit, and especially hypocritical. The train won’t run every 7.5 minutes during the weekend. It looks like you are the one who needs to get his facts straight.

      5. Just an update: As expected, the mainline of I-5 will be only closed overnight. Specifically late tonight until tomorrow morning. I think they mentioned the word “overnight” several times to make it clear. Night owl service will be effected, but obviously no stops will be missed. It will be the type of adjustment that happens all the time with the 41, where the driver finds a different way downtown (using 5th, then the Lake City entrance) instead of the Northgate entrance.

        Meanwhile WSDOT has shut down the express lanes all weekend, and I don’t think it is related. This will definitely make traffic worse. Looking at the latest traffic maps ( it looks a little worse than usual northbound (as expected) but not horrible (a little bit of black over the ship canal, but then slogging along until Northgate). Basically it is the same bad traffic both directions, instead of just one.

    2. The comment on Houston’s non-peak ridership and frequency comes from asdf2 who is currently living in Houston.

      1. I live in Kirkland now. But, I did grow up in Houston and went to school there.

        When returning for family visits, I would occasionally take a bus from the airport to downtown and switch to the rail. The 6 minute frequency was extremely nice.

        Houston also *did* truncate their buses, with most major routes requiring a transfer to the rail to reach downtown. This is probably where most of the ridership comes from, as the number of homes along the rail line is not that much. There was some initial grumbling, but when the train is running every 6 minutes, the transfer really isn’t a big deal at all. The train was easily able to make up the time to wait for it just from signal priority.

        Should also note that the red line was run with one car trains during off peak hours, so the load factor was still decent.

        Unfortunately, the 6 minute frequency did not extend to evenings and weekends. Going home from an Astros game, the train ran every 18 minutes, which was not at all sufficient for postgame crowds. But still, at least their weekday frequency was very good, which is a place to start.

    3. FWIW, yesterday I did notice that the driver info signs on NB I-5 are now announcing the closure.

    4. If ST has the funds I would put them towards frequency, at least when Northgate Link opens and is running, and Seattle and other areas begin to reopen offices. Northgate Link is different than earlier stations north of downtown because so many of the riders will be peak hour commuters to downtown Seattle.

      I think it is critical Northgate Link succeed post pandemic because most of the rest of the spine will be commuter oriented, including East Link. There will be some hiccups with bus feeder service when the commuters return in full force, and I agreed with the cost to continue to run some express buses during peak hours, at least until truncation for those areas can be sorted out (and access to SLU). Work commuters can’t be late, and that is a critical factor.

      You only get one opening night on Broadway. Northgate Link may be ST’s last chance at a truly successful extension. It needs to work. That means total trip time, in an area where east-west feeder buses have issues and commuters are used to one seat rides in HOV lanes.

      My suspicion is ST is planning on blaming Metro if bus truncation runs into problems. So if a rider — especially commuter — arrives frustrated and late at the train station because the bus was late, but the train comes quickly (and the station is easy to access), that rider will allocate the blame or fault of truncation to Metro, and ask why can’t Metro feeder buses run with the same reliability and frequency as Link.

      If truncation and Northgate Link open and run seamlessly then no one will complain, but that is unlikely, and there is always the aggravation of a transfer. If not, the question is who gets the blame. If the trains run frequently and are on time then Metro gets the blame.

      Frequency probably does increase ridership, on a sliding scale, and cost is a factor of course long term, unless politics is the main issue. It may not be “cost effective”, but I would definitely run the trains as frequently as I could afford to run them if I were ST when Northgate Link first opens, so if there are issues with truncation it is Metro’s fault.

      Plus Northgate Link should give ST a good map of the problems it will run into with East Link when it comes to truncation since both are commuter oriented, although I doubt East Link will have the impact Northgate Link will, or the expectations.

      There hasn’t been a lot of good news for ST lately, so don’t blow the opening of Northgate Link with inadequate frequency, and that starts with day one, opening night so to speak. Too much Link frequency is better than too little if truncation has some early hiccups and someone has to be blamed. It is somewhat pointless for ST to worry about nickels and dimes when ST 3 in N. King Co. is probably $15 billion underfunded including the tunnel, and Northgate Link is likely the last real opportunity to have a grand opening and success.

      1. My own experience through there is the big problem is going to be reverse commuter traffic.

        The HOV lanes end right at Northgate, turning into the I-5 express lanes. Every time I have been through there, the peak direction traffic is really quite good, but the express lane closure + transition out of the HOV lane in the opposite direction is a huge mess.

        The reversible express lane concept worked fine when everyone worked in downtown Seattle and lived in Wallingford, but job locations and residential locations are far more diverse now.

        Extending the HOV lanes into the express lane kingdom would eliminate a bit of this tangle and allow buses from the north to be more reliable, transfer passengers to Link at Northgate, and then maybe continue on to South Lake Union or Kirkland or some other destination that isn’t covered by Link yet.

        Ideally, something like the Lynnwood median freeway station would exist for freeway Northgate transfers, or at least Northgate HOV off ramps so buses wouldn’t have to deal with the end of HOV lane mess quite as badly. I’m not sure how useful that would be once Link gets to Lynnwood. Would there be much demand post Lynnwood Link for something like a Lake City – Northgate – Lake Union – Seattle Center express?

      2. @Glenn — Yeah, traffic is worse in the afternoons and evenings, heading to downtown. The same is true on the weekends. If the express lanes are going your way, then it is fine. If not, you are screwed.

        Extending the HOV lanes into the express lane kingdom would eliminate a bit of this tangle and allow buses from the north to be more reliable, transfer passengers to Link at Northgate, and then maybe continue on to South Lake Union or Kirkland or some other destination that isn’t covered by Link yet.

        Two different things here. First, making a better connection between the HOV lanes and Northgate. This would definitely be worth it, if it wasn’t for the fact that Link will be extended to Lynnwood in a few years, and Lynnwood already has that. Buses coming from the north will have to muddle along by using the general purpose lanes to exit. Similarly, northbound buses will have to initially use the general purpose lane, and then move over into the HOV lane.

        As far as buses continuing downtown, that is the plan. Buses will go to South Lake Union then downtown, or buses will go to downtown then First Hill. These will be peak direction buses, so they won’t encounter the traffic that hampers the 41 when it heads downtown in the afternoon and evening. Even with that though, I think it is a terrible idea. We don’t have the money. This will drain needed funds (funds that could dramatically improve midday service levels) and be a very bad value (as similar express buses are). Riders should be asked to transfer, as it would be better overall (yes, some lose a one-seat ride, but many more get decent frequency).

      3. A few express buses in Link corridors will go to SLU or First Hill/Cherry Hill. Most will simply disappear. The SLU and First Hill routes can be considered an experiment. If riders don’t flock to them, they’ll be the first to disappear in the next recession.

      4. Experiment and insurance policy, I should say. Insurance in the sense that it’s a fallback in case the link transfer alternative is too unreasonable (both objectively and per riders’ attitudes). This depends on how good the last-mile transfers in central Seattle are. The 3/4 is awful; it gets caught in bottlenecks all the time. The Broadway routes are pretty good; some congestion but not like downtown; although their frequency is unimpressive. RapidRide G will be superior to existing buses, but its real-world performance still has to be proven. SLU I don’t know; how many people will be willing to transfer to the C, 17, 29, 40, 62, or 70. (Do the 17 and 29 still exist, and for how long? And is 17 the number of the 24th Ave NW-SPU-Sounder route? I think so but I don’t fully remember.) I go through the downtown-SLU segment on some alternatives of my commute, and I don’t think it’s that much overhead now. Link transfers will be revese-commuting, bottlnecks are rare, it’s a short trip, and all those routes add up to great frequency at least northbound where they share stops.

      5. We saw the same insurance mindset play out before. In U-Link express routes south of 55th were truncated, but the 74 and 76 and routes further north were retained until Northgate Link. The 10 was moved to Olive/John in case it was too much to yank all-day service from that street (parallel to Pine Street). This allowed people to vote with their feet and actual rider preferences emerge. The fear was that the transfer at UW Station was maybe too far, too long a walk, too prone to Montlake Blvd congestion for riders north of 55th to tolerate., especially when it adds up to a travel time of 45 minutes or more. It’s a judgment call how much inconvenience is reasonable, and Metro chose a middle path, truncating some routes but not all of them. It’s doing the same with Northgate Link.

      6. Glen: In addition to the HOV lane situation, another potential bottleneck may be the left turns from 1st Ave. NE to the I-5 ramps. I don’t know how typical this is, but the other day I was there at 4 PM leaving a doctor’s appointment, and it took me two light cycles to make the turn with the bus behind me having to technically run the red light to prevent it from being three cycles for everybody on board. Hopefully this will be addressed with some bus priority over-ride, as there will be many more busses making that turn. Fortunately, the busses can skip the queue at the ramp signal. And fortunately, it looks like only a few years before Lynnwood Link opens with the truncated busses having direct HOV ramp access.

      7. The obvious way to make a Northgate intercept work well is to widen the east side shoulder of the southbound-to-eastbound Northgate Way ramp and make it bus only and at the same time deny the SOV’s access to the curved turn to Ng Way during the morning peak. Make the SOV’s which want to go east on NG Way go around the triangle which holds the stop light support.,-122.3309665,3a,41.7y,263.68h,82.4t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sji-IIm41fIPyRomcwDj53w!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

        However, I believe that CT will continue running the majority of the 400’s to downtown Seattle until Lynnwood opens.

      8. “I believe that CT will continue running the majority of the 400’s to downtown Seattle until Lynnwood opens.”

        CT’s plan is to do that. The 4xx routes and the 510 to downtown will continue until Lynnwood opens. The other 5xx and 8xx routes to downtown and the U-District will be truncated at Northgate when it opens.

      9. We saw the same insurance mindset play out before. In U-Link express routes south of 55th were truncated, but the 74 and 76 and routes further north were retained until Northgate Link.

        Yeah, but that’s the difference. The 74 and 76 never got as far south as the UW Station. Not even close. Thus you could make the argument that going to the station (with its share of congestion) would take a long time. In contrast, Metro will be running express buses to downtown that go right by the station. With the 74 and 76 it was pretty clear — eventually these buses will go away, once Link has stations at 65th and the U-District, since the buses would be going right by there. In the case of some of these other routes, we may never get rid of them.

        There is also a much bigger investment in these routes compared to the old 74 and 76. I don’t think Metro shifted money to the 74 and 76 so they could run them more often during rush hour. It was clear that the savings went into better all-day service to the UW. But this time a lot of the money is going into additional rush-hour express routes and frequency. Pretty much all of it, from what I can tell.

      10. @Tom — I believe there was talk that SDOT would improve the connection to Northgate from I-5, in the area you mentioned. I don’t know if they are going to do that.

        It is worth noting that the 303 (which only runs peak direction) does this sort of thing. It goes on the freeway, gets off at Northgate Way, then works its way over to Northgate Transit Center before heading downtown again. So this isn’t really a new route, just a lot more buses doing it (including the entire 800 series from Snohomish County).

  5. Going from 12 to 10 is a 16.6% decrease. However, going from 10 to 12 is a 20% increase. Something to think about.

  6. Any chance of getting Judkins Park open before Bellevue if additional capacity is needed? That would be one way to short turn a few trains without them running down to Rainier Beach.

    1. That’s a question for the operations testing and permitting people.

      Surely, the wires will be installed and live for testing by the end of 2022 that would get non-revenue train sets from OMF East. Whether the tracks and wires (and systems like signals) are operational even partially before opening day is an open question. Ultimately, it may be a useful contingency strategy if parts of East Link aren’t allowed to open as planned due to problems found during testing — like there is something wrong with the I-90 bridge.

      It would seem possible to reverse some peak trains at the Stadium tail track or at the SODO OMF if absolutely needed.

      Still, I don’t expect North Seattle overcrowding during the first year after the Northgate extension opens. It usually takes at least a year or two for ridership to fully build. For example, Link annual ridership grew by about 15 percent between 2017 and 2019.

      Now that more people are set up to work from home, I expect many workers will have different commute habits going forward. It may be as slight as people working at home in the mornings and going to the office after lunch for example. Some flexible workers will simply use Link at a more off-peak time if they find the need to avoid crowded trains.

    2. There’s a tail track just west of the platforms. That’s a very strange place for one unless it is expected that trains will turn to the west of Judkins Park.

      1. That would make them East Link only trains. I may be they have put this in primarily for testing. They can run test trains on East Link without impacting Central Link operations.

      2. Bernie, when I said “turn to the west of Judkins Park”, I meant trains from the west. Yes, there probably will be East Link-only test trains from the east in 2022 which could turn there, but for this actual in-service use, they would come from IDS empty.

      3. It may be for when I-90 is closed. I said when, not if, because even if the light rail spans work as expected, the bridge still closes for high winds and the Blue Angels.

      4. They also install those at various locations in the event a train breaks down and must be moved out of the way. It looks like there aren’t any good places for one until you get to OMF East.

        And you really don’t need a third track to turn trains. Witness SeaTac airport, UW, and Angle Lake. You just need a double crossover between tracks.

      5. The tail track is in a good position to get a disabled train out of the way before it goes into IDCS. Seems smart to me.

      6. Guys, sure, there are multiple possible ongoing uses for a tail track between Judkins Park and IDS. One thing is certain, though, Judkins Park is not equipped to be a temporary multi-hour terminus for East Link. It ONLY has the tail track; there is no scissors cross-over, which means that turning trains can’t slot into alternating terminal tracks.

        A single-tail track cannot turn six-minute headway trains, and that’s what Link is expected to provide for Line 2 at the peaks in current plans. I think Daniel makes a good point that given the changes in work, East Link may never need six-minute headways, and maybe Lynnwood Link won’t need three-minute headways either. But they have to test the system to the plan of operations as it now stands.

        At Northgate ST has provided both scissors and a tail track. They know that after North Link opens but before Lynnwood Link does, there will simply be too many trains needing to turn to depend on the tail track. Right now ST is committed to running trains every eight minutes during peaks, though I don’t see how they can manage an all-four-car fleet with what will be available at that time. It will be touch-and-go.

        The point of this is to note that the one really good long-term use for a tail track west of Judkins Park is to turn “overflow” trains that can’t go on down the at-grade section south of Stadium. That might be mostly before East Link fully opens, but it’s entirely possible that all the stations north of Roosevelt will turn into mini-Westminsters and there will be a crying need for two-minute headways between IDS and Lynnwood in 2042. Those extra trains wouldn’t be able to cross the bridge and they couldn’t run down Rainier. Turning some at Stadium and some at Judkins Park could be a cheap, cheap, cheap lifesaver.

        And yes, Bernie is right that it will make testing East Link a lot easier, though the trains will almost certainly have to be double-crewed in order to turn that quickly at least through the turnback. I expect they’ll have an operator wait at Judkins Park, board the back end of the train at a brief stop, ride into the tail track while getting set up, then lead the train out of the tail track eastbound and become the train’s “new” operator. The now-rear-end-Charlie would get off at another brief Judkins Park stop and become the next waiting operator.

      7. I don’t think anyone builds a “tail track” in that type of location.

        Most likely, what Judkins Park is getting is a bi-directional siding, similar to what they installed for MAX here:,-122.5650194,230m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en


        or here:,-122.7554572,194m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

        or for Link, just south of Rainier Beach.
        North end:,-122.2799693,121m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en
        South end:,-122.2801364,121m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

        Such a siding can certainly be used just like a crossover, as it can be accessed from either direction at either end.

        As to weather they would be willing to do that, as these are obviously intended mostly for irregular out of service moves, is a different question.

      8. As far as whether 4-car trains will be needed at the time East Link opens, I don’t know if eastside ridership will require that. I’m pretty certain IDCS to Northgate won’t require an immediate doubling of capacity, unless the Community Transit commuter armada is suddenly detoured to Northgate. It wouldn’t be the end of the world to run 4-car peak trains slotted between 3-car all-day trains if the Siemens fleet preparation is behind schedule.

        Let’s just hope the pandemic is over by then.

      9. Glenn, yes, what is called a “tail track” in Link-land is indeed a bi-directional siding, and it can be accessed from either track in either direction. It can function as a cross-over, but less quickly than a simple scissors. The trains have to move through two sets of turnouts rather than one.

        Its big advantage is that it can store a train for later use or take it out of service safely.

    3. Probably not; Bellevue is scheduled to open in 2-3 years (2023 or 2024?). The construction schedule is based on all opening simultaneously to Redmond Tech Center. I don’t know whether Judkins Park is so far complete it could open early. But a new major segment would require nine months of testing, and that’s only 1.5-2.5 years away, so there’s not much to gain by accelerating it.

      In the worst-case scenario of overcrowding between Northgate Link and East Link, Metro’s remaining express routes (SLU, First Hill) would become needed fallbacks. And Metro and ST could always (re-)add other express buses if necessary, assuming they could afford it.

      1. East Link will open in 2023, and downtown Redmond in 2024, according to ST’s project pages.

    1. Most of Metro’s suspended routes are extra peak service which will be restored when/if needed. In Link’s case it’s Link’s core service, and Link is the core of large parts of the transit network. Link also has the ability to absorb periodic demand spikes and provide better social distancing, so it makes sense to get it up to maximum frequency now. Metro’s core service is already running, and frequency will improve as the economy improves. There are some coverage routes that need to be restored soon, like the north Bellevue Way route. Hopefully Metro will bring those back before it restores extra peak expresses. Metro may be waiting until the October service change, and assuming offices are timing for that too.

      1. I count 24 Metro express routes to downtown on the suspension list. Seven of those go away permanently on October 2, along with suspended duds 71 and 78.

        Before bringing back suspended routes 122 and 157, I wish Metro would redirect route 122 to terminate at TIBS, and maybe become all-day, and have route 157 terminate at Tukwila Sounder Station, and maybe become two-way, or interline it with route 153 to Boeing Field. If there are more productive alternatives to restoring long expresses that duplicate rail service, prioritize them over restoring duplicative express service.

      2. At the very least, 931 should be reactivated before uw bothell’s fall quarter starts in late September. There are probably some other routes that fall under this category.

  7. Link Light Rail may end up eating up most of the platform hours / operator full-time-equivalents that come available as operators get rehired and go through small-class retrainings. That’s not just to reach planned frequency, but also to move to having all trains go to Northgate, in the near future, for the full-schedule testing leading up to October 2.

    ST might have needed to claim the available FTEs while it could to ensure the opening plan would not run short of operators.

    However, that’s chump change compared to the near doubling of Link platform hours that will be required for the full-schedule testing of East Link, commencing months before platform hours are freed up by eliminating a few ST Express routes, and truncating all I-90 Metro express routes at Mercer Island Station.

    1. If I had extra money I would put it into feeder bus frequency. It is the feeder buses that will determine whether total trip time — now with an extra seat or two — is more or less than before Link, and for commuters that is what counts: total trip time. If total trip time is much more, plus the aggravation of an extra seat or two, we have seen Metro and ST are forced into continuing express buses.

      Riders, especially commuters, are going to arrive at a Link station in a frenzy if the feeder bus system is poor, and like Mike stated will become much more agitated towards wait times for Link if they are already running late, or have long walks or stairs to reach the platform.

      Waiting for a bus or train is aggravating enough, but if you (i.e. the bus) are late it is maddening. It won’t matter if headways for Link are 6, 8 or 10 minutes if you are already late, because the feeder bus was late. Riders will complain about the entire system. Link was always sold on a more certain, convenient, and FASTER total trip time, at an incredible cost. Few riders are going to pay attention to ST’s new criteria to determine productivity and service levels, which is just a determination of frequency which really comes down to money for ST, and total trip time for the rider. One question I have always wondered is does it make sense to have much greater frequency for Link than the feeder buses link depends on? I think ST, and some transit advocates, see Link and buses as somehow separate, rather than total trip time.

      Still no one has explained to me what a commuter on Link is suppose to do if they work in SLU, which has been massively developed. Right now the solution looks to be express buses during peak hours. I don’t think there is any chance any commuter will take a feeder bus before Link, and then after Link, to get to work. In the past the largest employer Amazon has run its own shuttles to deal with this problem.

      ST 2 and ST 3 were sold on gross ridership estimates, which of course were quite high even before the pandemic. Now it appears ST wants to break down each segment of Link to determine productivity and service quality (although I still think gross ridership, at least for that segment, will likely mirror the new productivity and service quality criteria). Let’s see if ST sticks with determining productivity per segment when East Link opens, and routes north of Northgate and south of the airport to Tacoma open.

      What is the point of determining productivity and service quality for segments of Link when the frequency has to be determined by the entire line? It isn’t as if frequency can change based on different segments of the same line.

      Another unknown is the necessary frequency for East Link. 8 minute headways are suppose to be the shortest headways possible. My guess is ridership on East Link will be so skewed towards commuters there will be huge gaps in ridership (and if ST’s estimated ridership of 43,000 to 52,000 riders/day is even remotely accurate capacity during peak hours will be a real problem). East Link is running rail through suburbia with little density and impossible feeder bus service.

      Other than peak hours my guess is ridership on East Link will be low, very low on some segments, for a very long run from Redmond to Seattle. I could see frequency for East Link going to 15 minutes or more during non-peak hours during the day, which as TT noted could open up capacity in the existing tunnel for W. Seattle without the risk of a second tunnel, at least for non-peak hours (and the reality the four other subareas will likely not contribute more than 1/2 of $2.2 billion while N. King Co. does not have the money to cover the true cost of the second tunnel). But I am not sure the eastside subarea will want to fund increased frequency if the result is simply shorter headways in downtown Seattle.

      East Link won’t need 8, 10, 12 or even 15 minute headways during non-peak hours if capacity/ridership is the issue (and may not need 8 minute headways during peak hours with working from home), but such long headways would be aggravating for the few riders using East Link during non-peak hours. Most eastsiders will already be at work during non-peak hours, and those who are not will drive for most of their errands and trips, like now. The cost and convenience of driving on the eastside during non-peak hours is too great to take transit unless you absolutely must.

      The subarea could afford to run mostly empty trains with greater frequency, but does that make sense? And what about the optics of empty trains, which all the skeptics will jump on?

      I just don’t see increased frequency on Link during non-peak hours creating the induced demand for riders Ross notes because most will drive and the lack of population and density, and my guess is the feeder buses will be terrible on the eastside, especially during non-peak hours, Link serves such a tiny part of east King Co., and for those riding during non-peak hours the park and rides will be full. In reality the vast majority of non-peak trips on the eastside will probably not be on East Link, although the express buses running on 405 should have high ridership during peak hours.

      I wonder if the question for East Link during non-peak hours is what is the biggest headways between trains before it is too long for any rider, even the few riding East Link during non-peak hours. How many empty trains do you run per hour?

      1. You are nibbling at the ugly truth about ST East King subarea: It is geographically inequitable. All other subareas appear to have much more sizable transit dependent populations. East King is effectively a part of North King when it comes to economic/ equity linkages. As much as some Eastsiders like to believe it’s like a separate country, the forces that created and create the wealth — from a UW education to executive jobs in Downtown Seattle to patronizing sports teams and performances and even many restaurants — are intertwined with North King pretty heavily.

        To make matters worse, the most underserved part of East King in ST 3 is Renton yet this is probably where the biggest “need” exists. A replacement transit center, more parking for commuters and a Stride line mainly designed for commuting is all that Renton is getting.

        Count the Link stations upon ST3 completion:

        Bellevue = 9
        Redmond = 4

        Per capita this is way more than Seattle will have.

      2. “Still no one has explained to me what a commuter on Link is suppose to do if they work in SLU, which has been massively developed.”

        I’ll explain it right now. You ride Link to Westlake Station and walk. SLU is not a single point, and the largest office buildings are in the south part of SLU, where the walk is shorter. If you really want a ride to the north part of SLU, you have lots of choices. You can take the the C-line, the 40, or the streetcar. During peak hours, each of the routes, individually, run every 10 minutes or better, so the wait time for whichever comes first will be negligible.

        As to East Link…I don’t think the trains in the middle of the day will be empty. There’s actually a pretty decent residential population along the line, especially is you assume 2024 (after the downtown Redmond extension has opened) and count the housing currently under construction that hasn’t opened yet (but will, by the time Link does). This is on top of Link absorbing the combined ridership of today’s 550, 545, plus a good chunk of the B-line.

        And, yes, there is potential for induced demand. Take downtown Redmond to downtown Bellevue for example. Link will cut the transit travel time down from about 45 minutes to about 15 minutes. That’s huge. Of course, people will make the trip much more often when the time is that much faster. Link will also offer a travel time that starts to seriously compete with driving for the first time, especially after accounting for the time it takes to sit in the perennial backups on the ramp from 520 to 405 and drive through the ramps of Bellevue Square parking garage (which Google ignores in its travel-time estimates, but is still very real).

        Also, when you start thinking long term, people who don’t have cars consider the quality of transit when deciding where to live. Of course, you’re not going to see people who already live on the eastside suddenly selling their cars because Link has opened. But what you will see is people who don’t have cars and work on the eastside but live in Seattle start to consider the Bellevue/Redmond area when their lease is up, now that the transit has improved. Some of the ridership will also come from people who don’t even live in the Puget Sound area today, but will move from other parts of the country in response to job offers. Many of these people will be fresh out of school and might not have their own car yet, or might not want to pay for the cost of shipping it to Seattle – especially those arriving internationally.

        So, yes – over the long term, induced transit demand on the Eastside from Link will be a real thing. And if the all-day frequency were every 6 minutes instead of every 10, the effect would be even stronger. You just have to be patient and not judge the line a failure when every train isn’t packed from day 1.

      3. Count the Link stations upon ST3 completion:

        Bellevue = 9
        Redmond = 4

        Per capita this is way more than Seattle will have.

        This has as much to do with the infatuation with mileage as it does anything else. Seattle lies in the middle of the “spine”. If your goal is to finish the spine, you will ignore the potential ridership gains, and scrimp on stations in the city. This means no station at Campus Parkway, or 55th NE. Even the infill stations (like Graham Street) are considered low priority, despite their very high return on investment.

        The East Side didn’t have this problem. From a geographic standpoint, Redmond is similar to Lynnwood. It is actually closer as the crow flies, but to serve it with rail the distances are similar. The difference is that downtown Redmond is definitely the end of that line, while with Lynnwood the folks in charge consider it about half way there.

      4. Part of the reason there are more Stations per capita is Central Link is far far away from most areas in Seattle; Ballard, West Seattle, Magnolia, etc. Since Redmond and Bellevue together have less land area than Seattle it follows there will be more stations per capita. Central Link I believe also has a lot more nothing along it’s route. Nothing from SODO to Beacon Hill. Nothing from Ranier Valley until Tukwilla P&R. Plus it’s really expensive to add underground stations and much of what’s built in Seattle is tunneled. DT probably wouldn’t have as many stations as it does if it hadn’t mooched the bus tunnel.

        Another reason is East Link has stations that are essentially there only because of a P&R which Seattle doesn’t allow. There wouldn’t be a station in South Bellevue if not for the P&R. Ditto for 130th and the big ol’ garage they are building at Marymoor. Overlake Village will generate ridership beyond those using the P&R (the P&R will finally get used at capacity) but probably would have just been RTC Overlake Village P&R didn’t already exist. I’m not even sure if MI would have a station if it didn’t have a P&R. It’s a natural for bus transfers but even that would be hard if the P&R wasn’t there. Forced transfers could have been at BTC or Judkins Park.

      5. Part of the reason there are more Stations per capita is Central Link is far far away from most areas in Seattle. Since Redmond and Bellevue together have less land area than Seattle it follows there will be more stations per capita.

        I’m not sure there is that much difference. Bellevue is pretty big, and relatively little of the city will be close to a Link station. Redmond is smaller, and a bigger proportion of it will be covered. I get it though. Once you built on the East Side it would “cover” more of the smaller cities than Seattle, because Seattle has little in the way of coverage. But given that Seattle is denser, that begs the question: why is there so much in distant suburbs, and so little in the heart of the city?

        But even accounting for different sizes, this doesn’t explain why there are so few stations in Seattle. Link runs almost the entirety of Rainier Valley — about five miles. But there are only four stops. Between Westlake and the UW — one of the most urban parts of the state — there is only the one station. Heck, they got rid of the Convention Place Station, which means that sound of the ship canal there are the same number of stations (this is clearly an improvement, but not an addition). Between the UW Station and Northgate, there is only the U-District Station and Roosevelt. East Link only added one station in Seattle, etc. It is pretty easy to imagine Seattle with a lot more stops, given the fact that a lot more people live there.

        But that isn’t the goal. They aren’t trying to maximize ridership, provide the best value for the money, or otherwise create an ideal transit system. The goal is mileage — to connect the distance suburbs and cities with a very expensive subway line (what most experts would tell you is a very bad idea). As a result, stations were skipped in the urban core, where they would get the most riders.

        Even in Seattle, this mindset persists. West Seattle Link adds three stations, despite costing a fortune, and extending quite a ways. From a mileage standpoint it looks great. From a station standpoint, not so much (4.7 miles of new rail, and only three stations). From a cost benefit standpoint it is terrible. You really shouldn’t run through nothingness, especially if it costs you a bundle to do so.

      6. I somewhat agree that not having park-and-ride garages may slightly limit the number of Seattle stations — as well as the natural avoidance of more local stations on the spine. However, a bigger real cost reason is likely because most of Bellevue and Redmond segments are above ground while Seattle wants subways. Simply put, the current $12B+ cost of the WSBLE ($7B promised with the ST3 vote) could have been spent on a line mostly above ground and several more stations could have been built as infill or short extensions. (Honestly the $7B estimate never seemed a remotely realistic to me even in 2016 given the tunneling and bridge components.)

        Another issue is that Seattle has added higher percentages of residents since 2010 for the same geographic area.

        My rough calculations are that Seattle will have about 1 Link station for 28K residents after ST3 completion, Bellevue will have 1 for about every 15K residents and Redmond 1 for every 20K residents. This is a noteworthy discrepancy. Seattle deserves 10-30 more Link stations to be just similar — and that would almost certainly require the addition of another line or both major extensions and infill stations to the currently planed lines to achieve this. After all, this is not even beginning consideration of reaching jobs or reaching high-cost and parking-supply-challenged areas that are clearly more beneficial to transit and more prevalent within Seattle.

        Beginning with all ST3 stations built as promised, my first 10 wishes would have been:
        – two more stations between UW and Westlake
        – 12th and Dearborn on East Link
        – three more stations on the Ballard Line north of the ship canal (towards UW or Northgate)
        – three more stations in West Seattle further south
        – a new TOD neighborhood with a station south of Downtown (On First Ave? On MLK north of BAR?)

        The next 10 on my list would have been looking to new lines or branches that serve denser skipped areas like parts of the Aurora corridor, First Hill, Alki, Fremont or Belltown. I’m not averse to building and operating some short automated connections to these places.

      7. The goal is regional connection — to connect the cities with a moderately expensive line (at US costs) that runs mostly above ground but with a subway in our three primary urban centers (Seattle downtown, UW, and Bellevue), which is what most experts would tell you is good for a city of our size and condition (

        Al is right – Seattle’s station count is held by back by expansive use of tunneling. The tunneling is mostly good for the region (see link above on stadtbahn), which is why both tunnels are paid for by more than the N King subarea, but Seattle is still building significant subway mileage without any regional support (notably Westlake to Northgate in ST1/2 and Westlake to Ballard in ST3). At American costs, this subway construction displaces everything else.

        If the goal in ST4 is to boost Seattle’s station count, the obvious solution to me is to simply run at-grade (i.e. Rainier Valley) from Ballard to Northgate along 15th/Holman (probably some elevated alignment around I5), and perhaps throw in a branch line going up 24th or another arterial. This extension would be relatively cheap to construct and would replace several major bus routes (D, 40), which is generally the mark of a good transit upgrade.

        Seattle, however, is likely to prioritize Ballard-UW, a very important and useful line but also another subway line, which means Seattle’s station count will continue to lag the rest of the region in future investment regions.

      8. The goal was to connect the largest cities in the four counties, no more miles and no less. The cities are at fixed distances. This may seem strange from a Seattle/urbanist perspective but it makes sense from a suburban perspective. The suburbs have 3/4 of the population and political power, so what they say goes. And most of them think Seattle urbanists are crazy; they just want their houses and P&R spaces and high-capacity transit on highways, so there you go.

      9. given that Seattle is denser, that begs the question: why is there so much in distant suburbs, and so little in the heart of the city?

        As others have pointed out the parts of Central Link that go through the densest areas are underground. In the case of Capitol and Beacon Hill deeply underground. It’s a roller coaster ride just to get one station on Capitol Hill. I don’t think Beacon Hill generates enough ridership to justify it’s cost. The UW/U Dist probably has enough stations but the expense limits what cheap stations could have been built elsewhere.

        And as I pointed out, the first part of Central Link didn’t serve the density centers of Seattle other than what already existed with the Bus Tunnel. A cheap direct line to SEA with stops in George Town and Boeing Field would have accelerated U Link and saved money for stations points north. Saving the cost of the Beacon Hill tunnel and going surface as part of East Link would have been a great start on a spur through South Seattle to Renton/Tukwilla. In short, Seattle didn’t prioritize station coverage with their share of ST’s pot of gold.

        Contrast this with East Link where the alignment, after it gets to where there’s a there there, runs through DT Bellevue, the Spring District, Overlake/Microsoft, and DT Redmond. It has bus intercepts at Marymoor, BTC and Mercer Island. Central Links only original intercept point was Tukwilla which never got used.

      10. Isn’t Mt Baker Transit Center an intercept facility, Bernie?

        Also, the four stations on MLK plus Beacon Hill had over 14K average weekday boardings — or 28K (doubling for trips ending there) of the 81K riders on Link in Q4 of 2019. That’s a pretty good number that I doubt that a Georgetown alignment would have likely not gotten anywhere as high.

        As for Beacon Hill being a waster, the same report says that the station gets 2/3 of the use of Pioneer Square.

      11. “A cheap direct line to SEA with stops in George Town and Boeing Field would have accelerated U Link and saved money for stations points north”

        The best thing about Link in Seattle is it serves Broadway and University Way instead ot the I-5 express lanes, and it serves Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill instead of Georgetown. That’s where the people are, and transit has to be near pedestrian concentrations because those are the ones who are most likely to take transit and want it and need it.

        ST’s long-range plan did have a Georgetown bypass. It was deleted in the 2014 update as not worthwhile, and South King and Pierce didn’t say even one word in its defense that I heard. I’d tried to warn them many times that Link’s travel time to Federal Way and Tacoma would be slow, but they didn’t consider that important enough. They just wanted the extension to Federal Way and Tacoma Dome and Sounder South and Stride South, and didn’t care about a Georgetown bypass.

      12. As for Beacon Hill being a waster, the same report says that the station gets 2/3 of the use of Pioneer Square.
        Beacon Hill is very average for ridership. It’s not average in it’s cost to build. To justify the cost it would need ridership approaching Capitol Hill and UW. It’s not even half way there. I’m not saying the direct route via George Town and Boeing field would have generated more ridership. I’m saying it would have accelerated building to UW (the real spine) and left more money in the piggy bank to do other things. Bottom line is Seattle has less stations because it chose to build lots of expensive tunnels. But then went cheap in RV which kills travel times.

        What bus routes terminate at Mt Baker?

      13. “I don’t think Beacon Hill generates enough ridership to justify it’s cost.”

        You have a right to your opinion. My opinion is that as the cost recedes into the past, while the station has obvious ongoing benefits for decades and improves the city’s mobility, the cost is justified now and will increasingly be so. How much is each rider worth? I find that an unimportant question. What matters is that the urban villages are connected together so there’s a good transit trunk between them, as all cities with good transit mobility have. So that people find it easier to do most of their trips without a car. People who live in or go to these villages are more likely to take transit than those who don’t, so we should build on that tendency rather than neglecting it. Beacon Hill is an urban village, commercial center, and mixed-use area, even if it’s smaller than we’d like. And there are tons of apartments northwest of the station, which may not be visible from a casual glance.

      14. How much is each rider worth?

        The question to ask is why are Beacon Hill riders worth 4X Rainier Valley riders? That’s the difference in cost of a the deep bore tunnel station vs adding a Graham St station. And that’s not accounting for the on going operating costs which are much higher. Capitol Hill and UW have 3 to 4X the ridership of RV stations so it equals out. Plus the UW is a major destination that benefits people other than just those living close to the station. Capitol Hill also supports SCCC and an active business community. Beacon Hill, not so much. The opportunity cost is just lost. It doesn’t just fade away. And the operating costs are here to stay. Anyway, the question was why does Seattle have relatively few stations compared to East Link. Beacon Hill is exhibit A for why Central Link stations on average are much more expensive. More $$$ means less stations which means no Graham, Boeing Field, 130th, etc.

      15. The tunnel was going to be built anyway. The original proposal had Link going around the northeast side of Beacon Hill, but it was changed to the tunnel because Paul Allen wanted a Stadium station for his stadium, and then the city wanted SODO station for industrial workers, and oh yes the maintenance base. At first there was no station in the tunnel. Then activists got ST to include a shell for a future station. Then the community persuaded ST to include the station in the initial phase.

      16. How the tunnel and station got there is interesting but the fact is Seattle chose to build the tunnel and the station with a price tag of a little over $300M and foot the operating costs. That’s why Seattle has less stations. Stadium & SODO would have been build with a direct line to the airport. RV could have been reached the same way East Link is tying in with Central Link. There was ample area near Boeing field that would have been another saving vs the OMF built into a hillside. Seattle made choices. That’s the great thing about subareas. The eastside made choices that are very different than Seattle priorities. Some of those choices I think are silly but ST built what people think they want. #1 on the dumb list I’d put the Bellevue DT tunnel with no stations. Big bucks and zero net return. #2 I’d rank the South Bellevue P&R being treated as sacred ground. OTOH a big stretch between Bellevue & Redmond saved money with a freeway alignment that has no at grade crossings and still manages to have productive station locations (albeit the structured parking at Marymoor doesn’t pencil out unless ST starts charging for parking).

      17. A slightly different take on the Seattle Stations desert. Seattle is footing the bill for East Link from Judkins Park west. Would an additional station between Judkins Park and DT make any sense? I’m thinking near Dearborne & 12th Ave S. It’s about a 1/2 mile from Judkins Park so it would blanked that areas walkshed. Near the Judkins Park Station there are several large apartment/condo buildings and an new 8 story development in the works. I’m not sure what’s happening around Dearborne. To the south it’s freeway and parks so maybe not so good. And Dearborn doesn’t have any bus service??? But 12th does.

      18. “Would an additional station between Judkins Park and DT make any sense? I’m thinking near Dearborne & 12th Ave S.”

        Ross suggested it yesterday. I never thought about a station between Intl Dist and Judkins Park. It would be nice for going to Goodwill and my friends’ house there, but there was no vision for what that area would become when East Link was designed.

      19. The 42 milk run was on Dearborn until it was euthenized. The 226 and 235 from Bellevue and Kirkland used it when I-90 ended at Dearborn. (They took the Rainier exit just before it.) Since then there have been no buses on it.

      20. “Stadium & SODO would have been build with a direct line to the airport”

        There was never a proposal for that. The 1980s DSTT designers were vague about where rail would be south of downtown other than on I-90 to the Eastside. ST decided early to include Rainier Valley; I never saw an alignment scenario without it. The first Link draft I saw had it going around the northeast side of Beacon Hill to Rainier Valley.

        The Georgetown bypass concept would have been like what you’re talking about, but that was to be after the Spine was substantially completed. North King can’t do it now because it has much higher priorities (Ballard, West Seattle, 45th, Lake City Way, Metro 8 — although ST doesn’t recognize the last one as worthwhile). South King and Pierce would have been the primary beneficiaries of the bypass, but they were so uninterested in it they let it die without a wimper.)

      21. A 12th/ Dearborn Station would need to exit onto 12th at the bridge to attract riders. It would be under 1/2 mile for most of Yesler Terrace. And judging from what is happening with higher density residential south of Judkins Park these days, most of the area between Jackson and Dearborn would be pretty marketable for TOD redevelopment, starting with the Goodwill site. Finally, there has been an early proposal for HSR to follow I-5 and that would be an ideal place for it.

      22. Also, it’s highly important to cover all four quarters of Seattle — the X shape. That’s where the villages, institutions, residents, and retail businesses are — what every good subway should serve. Rainier Valley fulfills the southeast quarter.

      23. To be clear, I don’t know when the Georgetown concept was added to the long-range plan. It may have been there from the beginning, or it may have been added in ST2 planning.

      24. If the several billion dollars required to build the Georgetown Bypass were put into Sounder/Amtrak Cascades, you’d be able to get from Tacoma to Seattle in half an hour or so.

        If intercity speed is what you want, you don’t want to spend it on more lines limited to 55 mph operation (which is what Link is limited to). The Kent valley is straight and flat for mile upon mile. 79 mph is already the speed limit for most of it, and track and signal improvement could bring that up to 110 mph if you wanted. At speeds over 110 mph the FRA wants grade separation, but we’re talking an awful lot of money for a Link line. It may very well be enough to eliminate crossing and get up to the next track tier, which is 125 mph. 40 track miles, figure slowdowns at the Puyallup curve and a few other places, so maybe it becomes a 20 minute trip for the price of the Georgetown bypass?

      25. There was no talk of a station budget in ST1 that I heard, although I didn’t follow it as closely before STB started. The initial concept was a spine connecting downtown, Redmond, Everett, and Tacoma. Seattle demanded loudly that Broadway and University Way must be included, and that the Rainier Valley opportunity shouldn’t be missed (and that it would increase Link’s equity score for federal grants). That came with the assumption it would have stations every mile or two like the rest of Link. I think ST1’s size was set to fit the stations rather than the other way around.

        The first northern proposal at Portage Bay had three stations on Broadway, at Madison, Pine/John, and Roy, and one around 40th somewhere. Another Montlake alternative was like the current one, and didn’t have a counterpart to Roy station. ST mothballed the northern half and nixed the Portage Bay alternative because because of construction risk at Portage Bay and the UW’s concern about vibrations near its seismic monitors. In 2005-ish ST revived the northern half with the Montlake alternative and didn’t revisit the number of stations. Ross has convinced me that it would have been better with additional stations at Bellevue & Pine, 15th & Harrison, and 23rd & Aloha, but ST never considered these. (Ross also suggested a 520 station, which I don’t think has enough walk-ons or transfers to be worth it.)

      26. Would an additional station between Judkins Park and DT make any sense?

        Yes, of course. It is a very long distance between those two stations (well over a mile). It is a bad idea to have that much space between stations, as you are essentially wasting the opportunity to serve a neighborhood. Making the situation crazier, it is very close to downtown, which means it would likely get a ton of riders.

        Of course, sometimes you can’t help but have big stop spacing. Brooklyn to Manhattan, for example (nothing but water there). In this case, you do have a big mess of freeways, which I’m sure made things complicated. But I could see a sharp early curve and then going along Weller, or better yet King. If it was cut and cover, you might be able to squeeze a couple stations in there (12th and King, Rainier and Dearborn). Or maybe you split before I. D., which means a station at 12th and Jackson, as well as Rainier and Dearborn. I’m not saying it would have been easy, but it should have been looked at. Any time you have a situation which clearly looks flawed (like a big gap without a station, very close to downtown) you need to study the heck out of it to determine whether it can be avoided. Unfortunately, Link doesn’t think in those terms. They never look to maximize the value of this huge investment (e. g. they never seriously looked at adding a station in First Hill) but seem fixated in serving the most distant areas, regardless of overall ridership gains, or value added.

        I don’t think Beacon Hill generates enough ridership to justify it’s cost.

        That is reasonable. But it is worth pointing out that by going that way, we also got SoDo and Stadium stations and to a certain extent I. D. They were able to leverage a fair amount of cheap stations (existing or surface) with that tunnel. It isn’t clear to me whether there is an obvious better value than what they took. It wasn’t a horribly expensive tunnel or station, and there is nothing that seems like it is obviously a better value (unlike many of the other decisions that Link has made).

        The biggest problem, by far, is not enough stations. The stop spacing in Rainier Valley — the only place where it is really cheap to add stations — is terrible. Of course there should be more stops. But if you goal is distance, not ridership (or value added) this is the type of thing you get.

        Also, it’s highly important to cover all four quarters of Seattle — the X shape. Rainier Valley fulfills the southeast quarter.

        Sorry, that’s silly. That’s now how public transit works. Often times, you can be half a mile away from transit, and it is useless to you. For example, if you are on Rainier Avenue and want to get downtown, then Link is irrelevant. You are taking the 7.

        The reason Rainier Valley was served is because it was essentially “on the way”, and because it is relatively cheap to serve. Surface transit is really cheap. Even with the poor stop spacing, Rainier Valley is an excellent value. It would be much better if they added a bunch more stops. Bernie is right in that it is ridiculous that Seattle doesn’t have more stops, but that is because it was never a priority.

      27. “That’s now how public transit works. Often times, you can be half a mile away from transit, and it is useless to you. For example, if you are on Rainier Avenue and want to get downtown, then Link is irrelevant. You are taking the 7”

        Yes it is how it works. If you’re in North Seattle or anywhere else in the Link network going to Rainier Valley, you can take ultra-frequent, grade-separated or at least exclusive-lane transit to the southeast quarter of Seattle — which is Rainier Valley — and end up only a mile or two at most from your destination. If you took an arterial bus all the way or from Intl Dist or SODO (the Georgetown bypass concept), it would take significantly longer and be less reliable and less competitive with driving. The same applies from the rest of Link’s eventual network. That’s why cities have subway trunks, so there’s a fastest way to get around between the neighborhood centers. Maybe not ultra-fastest like Sounder, but faster than an arterial bus.

      28. Rainier Valley opportunity shouldn’t be missed (and that it would increase Link’s equity score

        That’s how I remember it. To the Seattle politicians that determined Central Link’s route, RV was a must have for social equity. OTOH, everyone outside of Seattle saw it as a line to the airport. I’m not suggesting a Georgetown bypass be built now. I’m just using it as an alternative that would have been way cheaper. Or if RV was a must then using the East Link route was another way to trade the expense of a tunnel for closer station spacing.

        Looking at Google Maps it looks like the area at 12th and Dearborn is a construction site for East Link. So I suspect ST already owns the land unless it’s owned by the City or WSDOT. Either way that parcel should be kept in reserve for a future station. It looks like the tracks are at grade here which makes a station really cheap. There’s not much there now but with all the development around Judkins Park Station 12th and Dearborn probably gets high density at some point in the future. It would also be a heck of a lot closer to the Pac Med building than Beacon Hill Station. Less than a 1/2 mile walk if stairs or ramp from the 12th Ave Bridge is included.

      29. If you’re in North Seattle or anywhere else in the Link network going to Rainier Valley, you can take ultra-frequent, grade-separated or at least exclusive-lane transit to the southeast quarter of Seattle — which is Rainier Valley — and end up only a mile or two at most from your destination.

        Oh come on. If you are in Greenwood, Phinney Ridge, Fremont or Ballard — all places considered North Seattle — you aren’t going to work your way over to Link to go downtown (or to Rainier Valley), even when it gets to Northgate. You certainly aren’t going to take Link if it gets you a mile or two away from your destination in Rainier Valley. People aren’t going to walk that far ( Taking a connecting bus doesn’t make sense, if the 7 is reasonably fast, and frequent (which it is). Want to know why the Rainier Beach station has disappointing numbers? Because it doesn’t serve Rainier Beach. It is too far away from the cultural and population center of the area (a nice warning for Ballard Link that Sound Transit will likely ignore). Speaking of which, no one is going to walk from Phinney Ridge down to the Ballard station, just so they can ride the train, even though it is less than a mile. It just doesn’t work that way.

        Of course there are situations where a bus/train connection can serve a wide area. But those tend to be more distant, or areas with otherwise awkward connections. For example, the 130th station would dramatically change transit for folks east of the station (in the greater Bitter Lake area). Getting to Northgate is very difficult, but getting to that station would be easy. As a result, they would have dramatically faster trip times to the UW and Capitol Hill, and (depending on where you are) downtown. But these connections are rare. Like 130th, the argument is for the station itself, not the line. East Link could not be justified if it ended at Mercer Island, even though the station will be a major feeder. The line is being built because of downtown Bellevue.

        This regionalism is a major problem, and the cause of a lot our mistakes. Subway lines don’t serve cities, or even broad areas (like West Seattle). They serve neighborhoods. This is why the most successful systems have lots and lots of stops, fairly close together, while the opposite leads to poor ridership ( Furthermore, there are areas where a transit line *can* play a huge role in connecting other transit service, and thus serve a much broader area than expected. Unfortunately, both these concepts were ignored, which is why we ended up with West Seattle rail instead of UW-Ballard. This desire for an ‘X’ treats the subway stops like they are community centers. By spreading them around, it won’t be hard to get to one. But the stops are just means to an end. If you are close to them, then it is great. But if you have to transfer from a bus, often it is faster to just keep going on the bus (which is clearly the case with most of West Seattle, making it a much better choice for BRT).

      30. NOT at 12th and Dearborn. There’s no “there” there down in the trench, and the Twelfth Avenue bridge is 70 feet in the air. ST is NOT going to build an elevator to it.

        The right place is at the foot of Dean Street is the right place. There’s a nice arc of developable land between Rainier and the freeway from about Norman Street around the curve. Plus, there are a bunch of apartments between Raininer and 18th on both sides of Dearborn. Those would be just barely within the walkshed from the foot of Dean, but not a station under Twelfth.

        The freeway is elevated a bit below the level of Sturgus Park. A walkway under it might be noisy but it could go up a flight of stairs between the freeway structure and the retaining wall for the park. Then the connection between 12th and the I-90 path would be a walkway to Pacific Medical.

      31. “Stadium & SODO would have been build with a direct line to the airport”

        There was never a proposal for that.

        While I suspect this response will get lost in the reply labyrinth, this isn’t quite true. The Stranger advocated for a much more direct line to the airport, and while their map didn’t list all the places they’d put stops, it likely would have included TIBS and BAR.

        They didn’t forget the Rainier Valley though. They put it on an east running line, either to Kent or Renton (it’s been a while). And while the two separate lines would have been more expensive overall, I maintain it made much more sense. It also retained this concept of the Seattle X, with the airport line running between the southeast and southwest (West Seattle, running south ) spurs. Sadly it was not to be. The X with a north south spine really was the best idea, and the first one rejected.

      32. Yes, the RV light rail, when ever it was built, should have continued to Renton just like the bus routes do. And yes should probably have been put on Rainier instead of MLK. What’s done is done but lessons learned… hopefully. Problem was it had to be social equity and a line to the airport. Ended up being a poor job at both and a legacy that’s going to bite for a long long time.

      33. The right place is at the foot of Dean Street is the right place. There’s a nice arc of developable land between Rainier and the freeway from about Norman Street around the curve.

        The curve presents a problem. ST doesn’t build platforms on a curve. The same issue presents with 12th & Dearborn but at least it’s near the tangent to the curve. Dean St is at the east end of the same construction zone. It’s so close to Judkins Park as to be a why bother and it has no bus connections. Yes, a ramp and or stairs would be necessary for 12th but not an elevator. Because it’s all green belt a long ramp is easy and cheap to build.

        The develop-able land you speak of would be evenly split between 12th and Judkins Park. Dean would be a longer hike from points north of Dearborn. The current development east of Rainier would still use Judkins Park even if the walk was slightly longer because its all more pedestrian friendly.

      34. If Seattle had more liberal zoning, the RV neighborhoods would organically drift west in response to the new Link stations, just like neighborhoods have always drifted and evolved in response to new public infrastructure. But since we are stuck with 20th century zoning practices, the neighborhood centers are treated a fixed objects and the stations are declared to be in the ‘wrong’ place.

        Today King Street station is in the ‘wrong’ place for intercity rail, but when the station was built it was in the ‘right’ place, then Seattle urban core surged northward the following decades.

        It’s the same with the fretting about the Ballard station location. If the station is at 14th but Seattle allows highrise in the immediately vicinity and then midrise across the full 15 minute station walkshed, a ‘new Ballard’ will emerge centered on the station. ‘Old Ballard’ will still be a great neighborhood with awesome urban fabric, but it will no longer be the center of greater Ballard.

      35. It’s the same with the fretting about the Ballard station location. If the station is at 14th but Seattle allows highrise in the immediately vicinity and then midrise across the full 15 minute station walkshed, a ‘new Ballard’ will emerge centered on the station. ‘Old Ballard’ will still be a great neighborhood with awesome urban fabric, but it will no longer be the center of greater Ballard.

        Very well said, AJ. Do people think that the string of clusters around the original Skytrain line were there before it was built? Hint: they weren’t.

        Now that doesn’t guarantee that Seattle will have the vision and political fortitude to make a lot of people in those dreaded “recent townhouses” rich, but if it did, West Woodland could become the happenin’ place.

      36. f Seattle had more liberal zoning, the RV neighborhoods would organically drift west in response to the new Link stations.

        Oh really. So Rainier Beach High School would just pick up and move west. So would the community center. And the beach that the neighborhood is named after. The green belt, which restricts development by the station, would suddenly disappear. The same would happen all along there, and suddenly Mount Baker Station wouldn’t be awful. Oh, and while we are at it, UW Station would suddenly get good as they bulldoze Husky Stadium, and add replace it with a hospital.

        Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. To develop, the city has to allow it, but there also has to be demand. For a lot of these places, there simply isn’t that much demand for the land (or there wasn’t until recently). People would much rather live in the cultural centers to the east. With Ballard, there is the demand, but much of the land around 14th is zoned industrial.

        It also begs the question: Why should be build in hopes that a “second Ballard” will arise in West Woodland, while short changing the real Ballard?

      37. It makes sense under the context of massive demand for more housing. Sure, if Seattle was a no-growth economy like Dayton or Duluth, then new Ballard might cannibalize old Ballard’s economic vitality, but that’s not the reality. New Ballard will cannibalize growth away from Marysville or Boise, which hopefully answers your begged question.

        As for your examples, other than the beach, sure why not? It will take time but generational investments take generations to unfold. The school won’t literally move, but could a new school be built closer to the station and then decades later the old school be decommissioned? Sure.

        The greenbelt is a great example; it’s no different than building 130th station and then insisting the park boundary is untouchable. It’s a purely political decision. As for stadium, we don’t need to tear it down but just use it better. Have festivals & concerts in the venue year-round. Use the parking lot as a giant bike parking corral for weekday burke gilman commuters. Etc.

        If Mt Baker station was surrounded by ‘missing large housing,’ would it be that bad? The problems Martin highlights are not about station placement but about station design and station access design in particular. It’s more important that Ballard station have good design than if it’s at 14th or 15th.

        And your comment about cultural centers is facile. Do you think someone walking down Cap Hill’s gasoline alley in the 1920s thought, “oh man this is going to be a great place for grunge in 50 years and then in the 21st century it’ll be filled with wealthy techies.” My central point is that ‘cultural centers’ physically move because the built environment evolves.

      38. Isn’t “The Greenbelt” the Tolt Aqueduct ROW? I doubt the City would allow it to be covered up. And who wants to live under 100KV lines?

        The station is unfortunately sited.

      39. Oh really. So Rainier Beach High School would just pick up and move west. So would the community center. And the beach that the neighborhood is named after.

        I agree with RossB (a lot more than he does with me). You don’t change development by changing zoning after you make a bad decision on a major infrastructure investment. That seems to be the lesson never learned by the politicos that decide alignments. The RV alignment was spork and it’s a failure in many ways. Eventually it will work out but that’s decades after what was built as the first example of how light rail was supposed to be a good thing.

      40. You can’t expect identical outcomes in different locations, and you can’t fully predict what people will do. Rainier Valley’s post-Link development patterns say more about Rainier Valley than about Link.

        Development falls the further you get from downtown, because the distance to work and attractions gets longer. Rainier Beach is the furthest from downtown you can get in the south end. Rainier Valley was redlined, and fewer people are willing to live or shop there than in North Seattle or the Eastside. That’s why development is slower there than in other areas.

        Several large apartment buildings have sprouted up around all MLK stations. The growth rate may be higher on MLK than on Rainier, although Rainier is starting from a denser base.

        Developers seem incapable of building new neighborhoods that are as cozy and inviting as pre-WWII neighborhoods, except when they do like Old Bellevue Main Street. The new developments at Columbia City station are somewhat sterile and uninviting compared to Real Columbia City three blocks east. That’s why the center of neighborhoods isn’t moving.

        Rainier Beach’s upzoning is being explicitly slowed to minimize displacement during its transition to a higher-density area. This would be problematic if it were at Mt Baker or Columbia City, but Rainier Beach is far enough away that developer interest is muted anyway, so it’s not as objectionable.

        There has also been talk of creating an equity-supporting institution near Rainier Beach Station, like a community college outpost or food-security something. That was before the slow-growth policy was adopted; I don’t know how much it’s being pursued now, but it would be great if it happens.

    2. Daniel,

      Why would “the feeder bus” be “late”? Won’t those East King Subarea feeder buses be running in the Utopia which is as you describe it the hyper-low-density East King Subarea? Why would they be late?

      Please be specific.

      1. TT, I was actually speaking of Northgate Link when I suggested feeder buses might be behind schedule. This part of Seattle is notorious for difficult traffic east-west. These are peak hour commuters who have to be at work on time. I think some on this blog who don’t work don’t understand that pressure, every single work day.

        When it comes to East Link the issues with feeder buses are the distances, and lack of density which require a lot of stops (unless the bus serves a park and ride, except why not just drive to a park and ride that serves Link).

        Plus Metro does not fund eastside bus service commensurately with the geographical area, especially intra-eastside. When you combine frequency for feeder buses, distances on the eastside the buses will travel, and the frequency of East Link, that is a hell of a lot of time just to get out of the eastside when that same commuter can just point there car down I-90 or 520 towards Seattle and be there in less than 20 minutes depending on traffic.

        You accidently stumbled on the fundamental issue with running rail on the eastside to Redmond: “hyper-low-density”. The other is a single line running sharply NE because Microsoft is along the route (but apparently has lost interest in East Link with its new 3 million sf parking garage) that serves a tiny sliver geographically of east King Co. with very few able to walk to East Link. It is a very long way from Sammamish/Issaquah to East Link.

        asdf2: you write:

        “I’ll explain it right now. You ride Link to Westlake Station and walk. SLU is not a single point, and the largest office buildings are in the south part of SLU, where the walk is shorter. If you really want a ride to the north part of SLU, you have lots of choices. You can take the the C-line, the 40, or the streetcar. During peak hours, each of the routes, individually, run every 10 minutes or better, so the wait time for whichever comes first will be negligible.”

        What you gave me are possibilities. Sure you can walk, run, jog in high heels, scooter, rent a bike, crawl, skateboard, or hitchhike. These will not be seen as viable last mile options by commuters who just spent tens of billions of dollars on Link, and now will have a transfer to Link, and from Link. Three seat rides are not what voters expected when they decided to spend a fortune on rail, and they will raise a stink.

        The realistic option ST and Metro chose is to continue express commuter buses to some parts of Seattle. The other is for major employers like Amazon to continue to run its own shuttles, from north and east of SLU, which removes all those workers from transit. To me, both options are failures. Either ST should have run Link to SLU, or Seattle should have considered transit/Link when zoning SLU (or Interbay) rather than worrying so much about mild upzones of the residential neighborhoods. Imagine if lower Manhattan was not served by the subway. Would you just tell riders to walk or catch a bus the rest of the way?

      2. I do disagree with your description of Overlake as empty. It’s not and will increasingly be a strip of density similar to Wilshire Boulevard, which very nicely supports the Purple Line. No, the hinterlands to the north and south won’t be like a mile north and south of Wilshire; there will never be the need for a “Rapid” every half mile as there is along Wilshire. But whether you believe that they will be there or not, there will be parallel feeders on 120th, 140th and 148th. I don’t know about the 130th station; perhaps the 140th feeders will jog over to serve it.

      3. If the issue is not being able to walk more than a few feet in high heels, there’s an easy solution – do the commute in normal tennis shoes, and change footwear once you get there.

  8. Seems like there’s a fairly complex calculus in terms of resources used to benefits gained.

    1 train / hour = 60 minute headway = 30 minute average wait
    2 trains/hour = 30 minute headway = 15 minute wait
    3 trains/hour = 20 minute headway = 10 minute wait
    4 trains/hour = 15 minute headway = 7.5 minute wait
    5 trains/hour = 12 minute headway = 6 minute wait
    6 trains/hour = 10 minute headway = 5 minute wait
    8 trains/hour = 7.5 minute headway = 3.8 minute wait
    10 trains/hour = 6 minute headway = 3 minute wait
    12 trains/hour = 5 minute headway = 2.5 minute wait

    Somewhat paradoxically, the more frequent a route is, the more resources you have to invest to see a noticeable improvement. So clearly there comes a point when the added investment of trains and operators no longer makes up for increased convenience and ridership. Where is that point? I don’t know, but anecdotally it feels like about every 10-15 minutes for buses and 6-8 minutes for trains.

    1. “You are nibbling at the ugly truth about ST East King subarea: It is geographically inequitable.”

      Al, the east King Co. subarea paid for 100% of East Link, plus the express buses east-west until East Link opens, which will end up costing close to $1 billion alone. There is no possible way to run light rail anywhere in East King Co. and not have it be “geographically inequitable” due to the area, population and density of East King Co. What you really mean with “geographically inequitable” is rail probably did not make sense on the eastside, certainly past Bellevue, and I agree. But subarea equity made it financially possible, and ST loves trains.

      Rather than comparing the number of stops between East Link and N. King Co., look at the length of distance between stops. East Link has very long segments despite the number of stops, and not much density along the segments. It is like “rural commuter” rail. Expensive per rider.

      The inequity was in requiring the N. King Co. subarea to fund “commuter” rail to the Snohomish Co. border and all the way to S. King Co., when that money should have been spent on rail in the more dense areas of Seattle, including First Hill, SLU, W. Seattle and Ballard, Graham St., and some additional stops Ross has listed before, and not north of Northgate, certainly north of 130th, and then all the way to S. King Co.

      If you are downtown Seattle what do you care about access to Lynnwood, Tacoma, Federal Way, Everett or any of these other cities. Whoever goes — let alone commutes — from downtown Seattle to these other cities, and if they do they drive. They won’t take an hour long train.

      I think the mistake ST made is not understanding how huge King Co. — east and west — are, and somehow thinking of the enormous three country area as a “region”, and using that for subarea equity, as though 10 million people will be moving here over the next 30 years. Snohomish Co. is large too, but only a tiny bit of it will access light rail. ST should have thought about cities and intra-city rail when it thought about subarea equity, not one of the largest counties in the U.S.

      N. King Co. effectively paid for Snohomish Co. and Everett, and Tacoma and S./Pierce Co. to have light rail access to downtown Seattle, because downtown Seattle is the hub. Like East Link, those other subareas should have paid more for the benefit of rail to downtown Seattle, because few will be taking rail from Seattle to these areas except to go home.

      Those other subareas would have likely decided funding light rail all the way to the outskirts of Seattle was not affordable, which is correct if it wasn’t N. King Co.’s money. Personally I would have built rail throughout Seattle if I were N. King Co., and then very large park and rides around 130th and near the airport to access rail into Seattle and back out, but ST’s planners and transit advocates hatred of the car and love of “urbanism” probable made that impossible. Rail is about dense vibrant cities and workers, and getting around them, just as much as to them, if not more so.

      Anyway that is how I would have done it. My guess is the eastside would have still built East Link (to downtown Seattle) because Seattle had rail so Bellevue had to have it too and a direct shot to downtown Seattle is value for the eastside, but probably not past Bellevue (which was Microsoft’s doing, and now it is building a 3 million sf parking garage (for EV’s they claim)). Some surprise: what Microsoft worker is not going to drive to Microsoft if it is a campus, with free parking, in a pretty undense area, and most its workers on the eastside live in SFH zones with little or no feeder bus service (which is why Microsoft used to run its own shuttles).

      Pretty much all of Link outside Seattle’s dense cores is geographically inequitable, because the area is too large and the density too sparse, and frequency can’t create population. Maybe today rail from downtown Bellevue to Seattle makes sense since it is mostly rights of way, but still from Bellevue to downtown Seattle there isn’t much, unless you call Judkins Park, Mercer island (which has a stop because it is the Island East Link must cross) and Beaux Arts much.

      There was never the population nor the density for a $90 billion spine throughout three very large and undense counties, that ironically ran out of money before completing rail throughout Seattle, the one place it makes sense. You focus I think on “inequitable”, when you should focus on “geographical”. The three county region is just too large and undense for rail from one end to the other. It is the geography, not the equity, that is the issue.

      1. Daniel, your plan is EXACTLY the Forward Thrust plan of the 1970’s: there was the “Big-X” in Seattle with stubs to Bellevue and Renton. It was all buses all the time outside that urban core.

        All paid for largely by Uncle Sugar. Instead Atlanta has a big metro to which people in the surrounding counties build barricades against extension.

        Go figure.

    2. Yeah, at some point improving headways is more about meeting capacity needs than reducing wait times. Remains to be seen whether Link will have capacity issues when Northgate and later Lynnwood Link open up, but some have been anticipating issues.

    3. You are correct, but my guess is, most people understand that. This “diminishing returns” explains why ridership and frequency are not completely elastic — it is a curve. Adding a bus when it runs every hour is a lot bigger improvement than adding one when it is running every five minutes.

      But what is clear — from the available research — is that elasticity does not go to zero, but sits above 0.2 for every situation studied. That means that even if the trains are running every 6 minutes, doubling frequency (so they run every 3) will get you an increase in ridership of over 20%.

      Then there is the question as to why this is. It is quite possible that people don’t think in terms of average wait time, but worst case scenario. People often talk about traffic in these terms. “My commute isn’t bad — it only takes about a half hour” or “My commute sucks, sometimes it takes 45 minutes to get there”. They may be talking about the same commute, but what really bothers them is the worst case scenario. This is highly likely for transit. Having to wait 10 minutes isn’t nearly as bad as waiting 12 or 15.

      Worst case scenarios change behavior. Riders catching a 10 minute train will try and time it so they can get there a couple minutes early. Riders catching a 5 minute train will simply take their chances. With a transfer, or course, you can’t time it. There is some evidence that people view the time spent waiting after a transfer as worse than the time spent waiting for the initial vehicle.

      Then there are other issues. For example, assume that you need to be at work at 9:00 AM sharp. Again, the possibility of a worst-case-scenario rears its ugly head. The train may get you there 1 minute late, or 9 minutes early — neither is ideal. If the train runs every 8 minutes, that might put you in the sweet spot.

      So far as know, no one has done any studies as to why transit frequency is important. What is clear is that it is, even at frequencies below six minutes. In our case, it is a moot point — our trains can’t run more often than six minutes.

      So clearly there comes a point when the added investment of trains and operators no longer makes up for increased convenience and ridership. Where is that point? I don’t know, but anecdotally it feels like about every 10-15 minutes for buses and 6-8 minutes for trains.

      As noted above, it really depends. For trains, 6 minutes does seem to be a bit of a standard, although German speaking countries seem to settle on 5. The latter may be because of their infatuation with clocks and well known punctuality. In most of the world, 6 seems to be the standard (with frequency below that to deal with crowding), which has as much to do with our number and time system as anything else. It is a nice round number, unlike one less (6 and 2/3) or one more (5 and 6/11).

      With buses there are other issues, such as reliability. For many routes, you run across the possibility of bus bunching. The same holds true for some branched rail routes as well. But there are also plenty of bus routes where this isn’t an issue. Madison BRT, for example, will run every six minutes, all day long. They actually considered running every five minutes during rush hour, and every ten minutes the rest of the day, but went with six minutes all day instead. Clearly there are ridership benefits from running more than every ten minutes, even with a bus.

      But this is rare. Most agencies don’t have the money to spend on bus service, and if they do, they would spread the money around. That’s because it is rare for one bus to be that exceptional — to carry way more riders per hour than any other bus. If you have a city like Seattle (where we still have plenty of buses running every half hour) the case for ever more frequency on a particular bus is not that strong. That is why people talk about “a six minute city”, meaning *all* (or at the very least, almost all) the buses running every six minutes, all day long ( Their proposal is based on Barcelona, a city that saw “ridership rise sharply” when average frequency went from 12 minutes to 6. This again shows the value of reducing frequency below the level people in America often consider “good enough”.

      Back to Seattle, that isn’t what we are talking about. We aren’t talking about running the Metro 7 every six minutes, while continuing to run the 14 every fifteen minutes. That is because the 7 is not that much better than the 14. No bus is. There is only line in the entire region that carries way more people per hour than an average bus: Link light rail.

      For all its faults, it carries way more people per hour than any other bus, all day long. In the middle of the day, the E carries around 56 riders per hour of service. This is the highest in our system. The bus takes a little bit less than an hour to complete its run, which means that it gets around 60 riders per bus. Link gets about 300 per train. This will only go up as it gets to Northgate, even though it will still take less than an hour to complete the entire trip. In short, we would get way more from increasing frequency on Link than any other bus, and it isn’t even close.

      1. So….. I freely admit that I did not read your full post and that I will not read your full post, because, simply stated, it is my experience that the longer the post the less meaningful information it contains.

        But holy cow, do you even read what you write? Because you just made the case for reduced frequencies.

        The second paragraph caught my eye because it contains numbers, and I’m a data sort of guy.

        I don’t believe your “data” for a second because the issue at hand is clearly nonlinear and you don’t seem to understand that, but if your data is correct, why would any transit agency in the world double their frequency for only a 20% gain in ridership? Doubling frequency is doubling O&M cost, and doubling that for just a 20% gain is a losing proposition.

        In fact, any transit agency that bought into your numbers might be tempted to go the other way – reduce frequency slightly for a huge savings in O&M costs.

        And that is no small thing, because as Al says, money can be spent elsewhere to achieve the same goal of increased ridership. It might be that improved access generates more ridership than a doubling of O&M costs would.

      2. I freely admit that I did not read your full post

        Nor have you bothered to read books on the subject, or research papers, or articles that reference those, or much of anything about the subject. I get it. You would rather wallow in your ignorance, and make unsubstantiated contrarian claims because it suits your fancy. I guess that is the nature of internet discourse. Instead of thoughtful arguments, people like you are reduced to saying nothing more than “Oh yeah, well, I don’t think so, so there!”. Worse yet, you make bullshit claims about the person calmly and patiently explaining a subject to those willing to learn. For example:

        I don’t believe your “data” for a second because the issue at hand is clearly nonlinear and you don’t seem to understand that

        OK, first of all, the data comes from a published paper. If you have a problem with the data, then you should take it up with the publisher. But most scientists and peer researchers felt it was OK, so good luck with that, given that critique consists of “I don’t believe it, so there”.

        Secondly, and this is very important: No one said it was linear. Not me, not the researcher, no one. Not a single article I referenced suggested the relationship was linear. So stop with the bullshit straw man arguments.

      3. Actually, speaking as someone who actually has peer reviewed papers in both the scientific and transportation fields, I think I am more than capable of recognizing real data, knowing when that data is applicable and when it is not, and knowing when supposed data is just a smokescreen being used to support existing bias.

        And you conveniently (intentionally?) ignore my main critic. Simply stated, the supposed “data” you present argues against an increase in frequency. No transit agency anywhere should willfully accept a doubling of O&M costs in pursuit of a measly 20% increase in ridership that may, or may not, materialize. Public transit agencies need to be good stewards of the public’s tax dollars. Period.

        But hey, as my mom used to say when she was amongst the living, “If you have to resort to profanity then you have already lost the argument.” I think she was right.

        And that folks is the sound of RossB munching headgear.

      4. You are ignoring the fact that I did respond to your argument. It was the last sentence of my comment (maybe you didn’t make it that far — with your short attention span and all). Fair enough. I’ll repeat it, this time in bold:

        So stop with the bullshit straw man arguments.

        Your case — where an agency doubles frequency, from four minutes to two minutes, for only the sake of a ridership gain doesn’t exist. That is a bullshit straw man argument.

        What they will do, and do all over the world, is go from ten minutes to six minutes. From Barcelona to Berlin, from Houston to Vancouver, agencies do this. Partly this is because the ridership gains are higher than 20% (as the peer researched data shows). Partly it is because it benefits riders. Often it *does* pay for itself, in a high ridership, low cost system (such as a subway line). For all of its faults, Link is actually that type of line. The cost to operate it per rider is not that high. They have more than enough train cars (they would simply run smaller train sets). The big costs come from new construction, or new trains, or new operations and management facilities that are part of that. To actually just run the same trains a bit more often is not that expensive, especially when it attracts a significant number of new riders, and gives every rider a significantly better transit experience.

        I also think it is funny that you argue that “Public transit agencies need to be good stewards of the public’s tax dollars. Period.”, given your support of ST3. Does this look like good stewardship: Project after project with a subsidized rider cost of well over $10, and one over $30. This is *before* the recent cost overruns. Yeah, good stewards of the public’s tax dollars my ass.

      5. “No transit agency anywhere should willfully accept a doubling of O&M costs in pursuit of a measly 20% increase in ridership that may, or may not, materialize.”

        That depends. You could make the same argument against upgrading a bus route from once an hour to twice an hour. Or, running a bus route on evenings and weekends that was previously available only daytime Monday-Friday.

        If you are never willing to improve service without proof that the change will increase ridership enough to make the cost per rider go down, then you will never, ever be able to improve service. At some point, you have to be willing to take a chance, or the quality of transit service will forever be crap.

    4. The more frequent a train is, and especially where lines merge or one line reverses midway, the more likely trains will be off-schedule when actually operating. This is particularly true where train arrivals can vary by a minute or two because of surface median operations and mingling with traffic signals.

      Two lines operating at six minutes in North Seattle merging into one track is quite tight. If a RV train is two minutes late (some driver shift changes), it would begin to interfere with the East Link schedule. At three minute delay, both trains definitely get delayed by a minute. Getting to four minute delays (like game days) start building delays for later trains. By the time it reaches a ten minute delay (like a minor crash at MLK), the entire system schedule becomes very time consuming to recover. It further compounds because of having to accommodate driver breaks at the ends.

      So a 3/6 minute schedule conceptually looks better than a 4/8 schedule — but daily realities of operations and disruptions can make this unrealistic in the real world unless the entire track is protected from disruptions and probably fully automated. Of course, Link isn’t designed for conflict/ delay prevention at high frequencies.

      I have serious doubts that Link could maintain a reliable 3/6 minute schedule given the real-world time delay challenges facing each line separately. I could see usefulness of offering an occasional extra train set to ease overcrowding — but three hours of three minute trains (60 trains in each direction in a three hour period) seems wonderful in theory but almost impossible in actual operation given other Link design constraints.

  9. The RossB and Jarrett Walker comments on service frequency, headway, and waiting are sound. In ridership modeling, the industry estimates that the coefficient for waiting is twice as high as that for walking or in-vehicle time.

    ST is being cheap on service hours just as its network could really take off. Link headway could be six-minutes as it was before Covid. If demand is low, use fewer LRV per train. The maximum off-peak headway could be 10 minutes; midday headway could also be less than 10 minutes. Per RossB comment, we spent billions on Link. It would be a much more powerful “spine” if waits were short.

    What headway does TransLink provide on Route 99B or its best electric trolleybus routes?

    1. How much more would it cost to run 2 car trains twice as frequently as four car trains? How much does ST save for each increment of frequency, ie 6, 8, 10, 12 or 15 minutes, if anyone knows.

      1. Maintenance costs are essentially the same, but operator costs double. Rail operators make about $25/hour I believe so it’s not chump change, but nor is it a bank-breaker.

      2. I would bet that it costs more to employ the drivers. Either way, there is a good chance that it wouldn’t cost that much to increase frequency, especially as ridership gets back to normal. There would be a significant increase in fare recovery, for one thing.

        Going from 8 trains an hour to 10 trains an hour is a 25% increase. Figure a 20% elasticity (below what would be expected, but nice round math). That works out to a 5% increase in ridership. I don’t know the average ridership per hour during rush hour, but from the graphs, I think 5,000 is being conservative. That works out to 250 additional riders an hour. Given the standard return of $2 a rider, that works out to $500 an hour in additional revenue.

        Where it gets trick is the cost. I’ll start by assuming it takes an hour to do a run (including break). Two additional trains an hour means two additional operators, each direction. So that is an additional four operators an hour. I would assume that with benefits and our market, the cost is much higher, closer to $100 an hour. So that would be $400 an hour. This is very much napkin math, and I could see how this would be significantly higher (maybe you need six drivers, or maybe it costs more to employ them).

        I also think it is oversimplifying things to say that there is no cost, other than driver cost, to run more often. There would be no additional train cost, but a bit more in track maintenance cost. The contract with the fare enforcers may be based on frequency (not allowing them to be just spread a little thinner). Still, it is clear that the total cost, to Sound Transit, would not be huge, and might even pay for itself (or at the very least, come close).

        What bothers me the most — and I’ve said this many times — is that no one is studying this. No one is doing the math, and saying that going to six minutes during rush hour — or eight or six minutes all day long — will cost this much, but we expect this amount of additional revenue. Only ST can do this, because only they know how much the additional cost would be.

      3. Ross, the hypothetical is the same number of cars in twice as many trains. Track costs would be identical, because the same number of wheels would be passing in a day.

      4. It’s really hard to determine the costs of increasing frequency because there are a bunch of fixed costs. National Transit Database numbers are based on per rider or per hour, with the fixed costs of escalator and elevator maintenance, vending machines, station cleaning, etc averaged in to all that.

        When they opened University Link, the operating cost per passenger mile dropped to a fraction of what it was prior. Take a look at the graph:

        That implies to me adding a little extra train operating expense (train trips are several miles longer) is maybe not so large a factor as the fixed expense.

  10. Huh? you are running 4 additional trainsets — those additional drivers need something to drive — those need to be maintained too.

    1. The hypothetical was running more trains with fewer cars per train so that the same number of cars passed a station within an hour. Hence, NO EXTRA CARS for those four drivers.

      There is no more wear on the track, because the same number of wheels pass a given location in a day as would with fewer longer trains. The hours of service would be the same, so the maintenance cost for the vehicles would also be the same. There would be more maintenance required for turnouts which are operated for the extra trains, but that’s a pretty minor thing.

      Basically, the difference is the operators’ wages and benefits.

  11. At some point — probably when large ST3 segments begin to open — the service frequency is going to have to negotiate the topic of low performance at the ends with possibly overcrowded trains near Downtown Seattle.

    If ST runs six minutes or eight minutes for a whole line, we could end up with an underutilized train in Everett that is overcrowded after Roosevelt. Is the solution to run even emptier trains for long segments just to have enough capacity for a handful of over – capacity segments?

    Maybe the operation should have a “base” headway with additional service run at shorter distances.

    I can’t recommend how best to do this, but it’s certainly possible as budgets and crowding pull service choices in opposite directions.

    1. Since Link is a combination of urban subway between Mt. Baker and Northgate and suburban commuter rail outside that segment, it makes sense to run overlay short-turns between Northgate and as close to Mt. Baker as you can get, which would be the Forest Street MF.

      Call it Linea Quatro [Line 4].

      This would require overpassing Holgate and Lander and barricading Lower Royal Brougham at the crossing.

    2. One of the comments I sent to ST about their “realignment of ST3” was, based on their own ridership estimates, they could get by with single tracking the line north of Everett for at least 10 years. If they were looking for stuff to cut, they could easily install a bunch of that track later, as money allows.

      So, the obvious turnback point on that line is Lynnwood. Seriously: Lynnwood to Everett in 2040 is about as busy as a decent King County Metro bus route.
      See figure 2 (for lack of a better term):

      (TriMet, by the way, operated the line between Ruby Junction and Gresham as a single track line with passing sidings. It worked ok at 7.5 minute headways, but the big problem was wheelchair lifts and the Steel Bridge throwing the schedule off bad enough to make it difficult on some days. Link has neither drawbridges nor wheelchair lifts. There are some fairly busy lines in Japan and Europe that manage single track operation too.)

      1. Sorry. First paragraph should read “north of Lynnwood” not Everett.

    3. ST debated whether to terminate East Link trains at Northgate, Lynnwood, 128th, or Everett. It first chose Northgate off-peak, then Lynnwood, then 128th. It could change its mind again and re-truncate it. It’s all about how much capacity is needed north of Northgate and what a minimum reasonable travel time should be. ST is saying 10-12 minutes is minimum for each line. So which areas need double frequency? Northgate clearly does. And maybe 145th for short Stride transfers. After that it gets iffy. I can’t see ST thinking Lynnwood or Everett is urban enough to need double frequency for convenience even it the trains aren’t full. ST has implicitly promised Lynnwood and 128th double frequency, but it could wiggle out of that if it wanted to, and I don’t think it would have a heart attack like it would if the U-District or Roosevelt or Northgate didn’t get double-frequency. After all, Bellevue and Redmond and Federal Way are getting only single frequency, as is Ballard and West Seattle. So what special snowflake are Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, and Shoreline? I don’t expect ST to truncate East Link easily, but it’s not unthinkable that it might.

      1. There is a bit of a challenge to turn around a train before the end station as other trains continue on the line in both directions. Drivers need to change train ends — an sometimes they need a longer break.

        If there is a train every five minutes, it seems pretty easy if there is a siding with a walkway. Four minutes becomes more risky, and three minutes could be quite challenging since all trains would need station dwell time nearby.

        On paper, reversing should not be a problem. However the tighter the frequency, the more likely a single slightly off-schedule train can create repercussions on all of the other trains operating on the tracks.

        I even would expect that the turn-around time requirements will play a huge role in setting overall peak frequencies.

      2. Exactly what I’ve been saying Al. This is why stations which are planned to be used for in-service reversing have a scissors cross-over on the approach side which places an arriving train in whichever track is available. If the driver is immediately reversing — something that doesn’t happen often at “stubs” — she or he at least has the platform on which to make the walk.

        There is one thing that can be done more safely in a tail track, though, which is “hot-cabbing”. That is, if a farside tail track is used, when a reversing train enters the last station, an operator who has just had a break boards the rear car and enters the rear-facing cab in the rear car. He or she then boots up the controls while the operator who brought the train into the station takes it into the siding.

        As soon as the train clears the “wye” switch at the incoming end of the siding/tail track and halts, the front operator disables the cab at what was the front and the rear operator engages his or her cab in control operation. In the meantime, the now-rear operator has shut down that cab, stepped out and locked the door, and made him or herself ready to deboard.

        When the TCS throws the wye turnout to the departing side and gives the train a green board, the now-lead operator takes the train into the station and stops. The now-rear operator takes his or her grip and deboards for her or his break. After the break she or he stands at the ready to take the next incoming turnback train and become the rear-end operator.

    4. “Since Link is a combination of urban subway between Mt. Baker and Northgate”

      Rainier Beach to Northgate. And I’d include Bellevue and Redmond, because they’re like Oakland and Berkeley or the outer parts of the New York or Chicago subways. Not the low-density part between Judkins Park and East Main, but the higher-density part between East Main and Redmond Downtown. The low-density part is like a lake that must be traversed to connect the communities like Minneapolis and St Paul (although I’ve never been there) or San Francisco and Berkeley, and part of it actually is a lake. I’d extend that to Lynnwood to give a good core of transit. Outside that area it’s more questionable.

      “suburban commuter rail outside that segment”

      That gets into terminology, metro vs commuter rail. I hesitate to say commuter rail because Americans have this idea that if it’s commuter rail it only needs to run every half hour or hour or peak only. That’s not how to provide mobility that competes with driving. I would support half-hourly Sounder instead of Link south of the airport, but other than that I’d rather err on the side of too much frequency rather than too little. Too little transit is precisely the wrong way the US has gone since WWII, and we don’t need to keep making the same mistake, we need to turn around.

      1. Not sure where you came up with $5.5B, Wikipedia puts it at $3.7B with a third of that coming from the Feds. North King (aka Seattle) picked up the cost of Judkins Park west. Of course it doesn’t make sense to add a station to serve Goodwill. What makes sense is to keep the site currently used for construction staging for a time when that huge Goodwill site turns into something akin to the Spring District. Goodwill alone has 8 acres and it’s surrounded by other large industrial use parcels.

        Looks like this area is within the WSDOT ROW for I-90. One possible issue is I think this section of track is on a curve. Planning ahead would have worked in a straight section long enough for a platform.

        what do you do when you get to stations other than maybe downtown Seattle and Microsoft without a car? How many riders eastbound are expected to board at Judkins Park?
        Lots of people commute currently via bus to DT Bellevue, no car required. The Spring District has lots of employment already and more mixed use already under construction or in the planning stage. When the extension opens DT Redmond has loads of housing, shopping and office space within walking distance and more an easy bike ride north on the SRT. Eastrail should be open from Renton to Woodinville by the time East Link opens. The trail literally goes through the Wilburton Station plaza. And there’s RR-B serving Crossroads.

        Judging from the few times I’ve ridden the bus across I-90 quite a few Seattle riders get on at Judkins Park. I think a lot of service works commute to jobs in Bellevue. It connects with Metro route 7; one of Metros most productive routes. In fact it’s #1 in night rides per platform hour. I’m working a short walk from the stop so can’t wait for the train. I’d take the bus if it didn’t require a transfer at MI now because of Link construction. The area around the station is developing fast.

      2. I think people use terms like “Goodwill” not as justification for the station, but merely as a place holder. It is similar to talking about a station on a Ballard-UW line as “Zoo”. You aren’t trying to get riders to the zoo, you are serving the neighborhood close to the zoo. In this case, while the Goodwill side of the street doesn’t have much, the other side already has significant housing ( with more along the way.

        Yeah, Judkins Park will do OK. It is an awkward spot, but it will connect the buses from north and south (7, 48, 106) to downtown Bellevue.

      3. I’ll repeat a bit of my comment below, but I think stadtbahn better than either subway or metro. I’d call only ID to Northgate the urban subway because only when the two branch lines overlap does Link provide the frequency of a proper urban subway. South of the ID, Link is a pretty typical stadtbahn branch line primarily running along the surface (arterial in Seattle, freeway shoulder in south King), only tunneling or elevating when needed to cross a barrier (Beacon Hill, I5, etc.)

        I wouldn’t call Link commuter rail anywhere because it lacks the express station placement (or express bypass) or limited span of service typical of most commuter rail systems.

      4. I’d call only ID to Northgate the urban subway because only when the two branch lines overlap does Link provide the frequency of a proper urban subway.

        Exactly. ST’s decision to run the train infrequently has basically turned a subway into something second rate. Maybe that should be the rallying cry: Make Rainier Valley Link a subway! Run the trains more often!

        OK, not exactly catchy — it needs work.

      5. Haha – “make Rainer Valley a subway” is actually pretty good. It’s not literally correct but I think it gets to the spirit of my point. If the quest is to dramatically improve the frequency in the RV, then the line needs to be upgraded from a branch to a trunk, where ‘subway’ is a rhetoric for trunk service. This could involve burying the line, but more likely it just needs some grade separated crossing for some of the arterial cross streets before SDOT will sign off on significantly increased frequency.

        The actual subway (ID to Northgate) is simply in a frequency interregnum between joint bus operations and East Link opening. In other words, the ‘low’ frequency is simply a construction impact, as the primary reason buses left the tunnel was to facilitate East Link operations. Pre-Covid, there was a regional driver shortage and the trains were generally at capacity during peak, so I don’t think your “just run shorter trains more frequently” was on the table for KCM, and right now during the lockdown ridership is dramatically deflated. One Northgate opens, ST will need to fully deploy 4-car trains to handle peak loads, so the only thing you have left to argue for is higher off-peak frequency until East Link opens.

      6. One Northgate opens, ST will need to fully deploy 4-car trains to handle peak loads, so the only thing you have left to argue for is higher off-peak frequency until East Link opens.

        4-car trains running every 8 minutes = 30 cars per hour.
        3-car trains running every 6 minutes = 30 cars per hour.

        I’m arguing for the latter. I’m arguing for it all day long. I’m even arguing for it after East Link gets here. Yes, that means “excessive” frequency to Northgate. The same things happens on the Expo line. It runs every 3 minutes in the middle of the day, only because it allows the two branches to run every 6 minutes. Those two branches have far fewer stations and are much further away from downtown than the stations that make up our branches. This means that we take a bigger ridership hit by running every 10 minutes than they would.

        As is so often the case, we should to our neighbors to the north for tips on how to build a really good public transit system.

  12. Re: a station at Dearborn, the Eastside subarea will spend $5.5 billion (not including the extension to downtown Redmond) to run rail to Judkins Park to then go to downtown Seattle. This includes the cost of carrying all the Seattle riders east, and nearly $1 billion for the West-East buses until East Link opens.

    My guess is not many eastsiders will take East Link to take central link south so there is little comity between the east and N. King Co. subareas when it comes to sharing lines. The Feds paid for the current tunnel. I wonder how many north Seattle residents will take Link to RV when Northgate Link opens as Mike discussed?

    Every train traveling across the bridge span westbound will have mostly eastsiders. I doubt many — if any — will exit at Judkins Park, and none at a station on Dearborn to shop at Goodwill. That is not the purpose of East Link. These will be work commuters anxious to get to work on time,on the rail system they paid for, especially if a feeder bus seat was added to their commute, or they still have to figure out how to get to SLU.

    The main issue for Seattle or Judkins Park riders taking East Link eastbound is what do you do when you get to stations other than maybe downtown Seattle and Microsoft without a car? How many riders eastbound are expected to board at Judkins Park?

    Eastsiders are going downtown, mostly for work, or at least that was the plan in 2004. Even UW students will be better served by express buses across 520 from nearly every part of East Link. I would hazard a guess not a single eastsider will continue on East Link to Roosevelt or Northgate. Why?

    I understand and agree with Ross’s distinction between commuter rail and urban subways. Personally I would have started with an urban subway system in Seattle and worked out. Unfortunately the N. King Co. subarea ran out of money to complete the urban part because it ran commuter rail to Snohomish Co. and S. King Co.

    East Link is commuter rail. It would not have been built without the connection to downtown Seattle. It’s goal at the time was to connect Bellevue, and the Eastside through park and rides, with downtown Seattle.

    Adding a bunch of stops between the Mount Baker tunnel and downtown Seattle defeats the purpose of East Link. Once the East Link trains get to Westlake I suppose the N. King Co. subarea can do what they want with them, as long as East Link has 8 minute headways on the Eastside, although my guess is the Eastside would object to not continuing a direct ride to UW (some have suggested continuing the line to Ballard).

    I am not a fan of 90 miles of spine, and as Bernie has noted station and route locations have tradeoffs for subareas because it turns out funding is not unlimited for transit.

    Seattle will end up with a hub and spoke rail system, but very little intra-city light rail, and that is the purpose of East Link. IMO I think few areas in Seattle have the true density or ridership for expensive tunnels and underground stations anyway, and way too much effort is made to manufacture that ridership, except you can’t zone population growth (or light rail that doesn’t serve SLU) but that ship has sailed.

    IMO the number of stops from Everett to Tacoma will be a turnoff for many riders. Sure, lots of stops in Paris are fine, but Everett to Seattle to the airport to Tacoma is not Paris. I don’t like the train to the airport because of all the stops.

    Good or bad ST built commuter rail, and then ran out of money. If you want to get shoppers at Goodwill or residents from Dearborn to downtown Seattle or to a light rail station run a bus, if the ridership supports even a bus, because a light rail station won’t be inexpensive for a subarea with huge funding deficits, and East Link is predicated and paid for based on a straight shot from the Mt. Baker tunnel to downtown Seattle, not unlike the station spacing on the Eastside.

    1. The assumption that a 12th/ Dearborn station is only to benefit Goodwill shoppers is ridiculous. That’s like saying that no Spring District Station or BelRed Station in Bellevue should have been built given the current land uses near both of those stations in 2008. Goodwill would sell out to a developer in a New York minute and move their store and facility.

      An elevator up to the 12th Ave sidewalks at the bridge would also open up everything south of Yesler to being walking distance of the station. This area is already a hotbed of 6-8 story new residential buildings.

      I could even see the FHSC terminating at this station rather than at the ID.

      1. Then run a bus from Dearborn and build an elevator to 12th. Now. I wasn’t the one who supported a station on Dearborn because it would allow him to shop at Goodwill.

        And yes, I have my doubts about all the stations east of Bellevue, based on estimated future increases in density, when I doubt that density based on demographics will result automatically to higher transit ridership. Especially with WFH.

        East Link was not designed for intra-Eastside transit. It was designed long ago to go directly to downtown Seattle. Commuter rail.

        The difference however is the Eastside subarea has the funding for questionable stations and lines, whereas N. King Co. does not, and East Link was not paid for by the Eastside to take a milk run through Dearborn.

      2. I wouldn’t call adding one station turning a light rail line a “milk run” — particularly when the station spacing between the seven stations between Overlake and East Main is so short (only one gap more than 1/2 mile and non over a mile) and it’s pretty far (about 1.5 miles) from Judkins Park to ID.

        Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that East Link doesn’t have a Bellefield Station given its enthusiasm for such close station spacing. To match the Link spacing in central / northeast Bellevue, MLK should probably have three infill stations rather than just Graham.

      3. ” It’s goal at the time was to connect Bellevue, and the Eastside through park and rides, with downtown Seattle.”

        Its goal was to connect downtown Bellevue, Overlake, Microsoft, and downtown Redmond with downtown Seattle and the rest of the Link network. The only major P&Rs are South Bellevue and Overlake, that’s two. Mecer Island is only included because it’s on the way. Saying that East Link is mostly about P&Rs ignores the pedestrians coming from downtown Bellevue and the Spring District and Redmond, the bus transferres from Stride and the B and 240 and other bus routes, and people going from Seattle to downtown Bellevue or Redmond Tech center for work or shopping. All of these groups are major chunks of riders, and they don’t use the Eastside P&Rs.

        Also, although East Link will be primarily about going to Seattle or downtown Bellevue or Microsoft, it’s hoped that in the future there will be more intra-Eastside Link trips like real cities have. That may or may not happen, but Link creates the possibility for it, and it’s up to policymakers and citizens to cultivate it from there.

      4. There will be some intra-Eastside ridership right off the bat. If you’re going from downtown Bellevue to the Spring District or vice-versa, what’s the best way to go? If your neighbor on Mercer Island wants to go to downtown Bellevue or Overlake and doesn’t want to drive, what’s the best way to go?

        I never thought about the transit options from downtown Bellevue to downtown Redmond until last year because I don’t go to Redmond much. But one day I was in Bellevue and wanted to walk the Sammamish River Trail. I knew there’s an ST Express route but I didn’t know how much it ran. When I looked at the schedule, I think it was only peak hours. I don’t remember the route number and I don’t see it on the schedule now so maybe it’s suspended. But other than that, there’s nothing faster off-peak between downtown Bellevue and downtown Redmond than the B. That’s slow for two relatively major cities. East Link will rectify that.

      5. There will be some intra-Eastside ridership right off the bat.

        Yes, absolutely. It is one of the strongest arguments for East Link, and to me the tipping point (the point in which it makes more sense to build rail). Consider the various trips, if we decided to just add a bunch of buses:

        1) Downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue. This could be done quite well with buses. Not the way that Sound Transit does it, but by staying on the freeway(s) the whole way. You still have the Rainier Avenue and Mercer Island stops, but then it goes on I-90 to 405 (via HOV lanes) and then right to downtown Bellevue.

        2) Downtown Seattle to Microsoft. Express bus to the UW (via 520). It requires a transfer, but at a major destination, which means you kill two birds with one stone. Eventually you could have express service right from downtown (when they finish the 520 project). That would be redundant, but a bus of bunches is still cheaper than East Link.

        3) Trips within the East Side. This is where things get tricky. You can connect some of the areas with express buses, but I think it would get messy. I don’t think there are HOV lanes connecting 520 (Redmond) to 405 (Bellevue). The B is clearly designed to complement Link. You could take a more straightforward path via Bel-Red Road, but that would require taking lanes, or having the bus stuck in traffic. You also wouldn’t rebuild the Spring District, but build along Bel-Road instead. It would be a very different project, and probably not the one that Bellevue leaders want.

        At the end of the day, you lose some stops (like East Main, South Bellevue) but those are fairly minor stops (the case for East Link would be a lot stronger with station(s) along Bellevue Way).

        It really is the combination that makes the case for East Link strong. You probably could do the whole thing with buses (and I would love to see a proposal, along with a financial comparison) but it looks like it wouldn’t be as good, or much cheaper (it would require a lot of different routes). So even though the biggest set of riders is likely going to be between downtown Bellevue and Seattle (riders that would be just fine with good bus service) it isn’t really what makes the case strong.

      6. I think that the key market for East Link are those people working in Downtown Bellevue offices. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, daily parking in Downtown Bellevue is notably expensive. Eastside residents can use it as a remote parking shuttle (from free South Bellevue or SE Redmond garages) and many Seattle residents will use Link to get to work there. As long as daily parking is significantly more expensive than two Link trips, this market will be major.

        There are other smaller secondary markets beyond Microsoft or Downtown Seattle and Bellevue commuters — distributing non-work Eastside trips, serving UW directly (soon to be two stations!), connecting several medical facilities in the corridor and distributing trips being fed by Stride and other buses into the BTC. And of course, Judkins Park adds quick service into Downtown Seattle that will also “add” to East Link ridership.

        As others have said, this Line will serve many types of trips at different times and in different places, as a high-cost high-frequency transit rail line should.

        I think the most disappointing “market” will be the Redmond Town Center. It’s the lowest station ridership in the 2040 forecast — and it’s an end-of-line station (normally a feature that adds rail riders)! Parking is free and the non-residential uses near that station don’t look much like regional attractors. (

    2. IMO the number of stops from Everett to Tacoma will be a turnoff for many riders. Sure, lots of stops in Paris are fine, but Everett to Seattle to the airport to Tacoma is not Paris. I don’t like the train to the airport because of all the stops.

      There are already several private bus companies that provide direct SeaTac to downtown Seattle several times per day. You could use those instead.

      Oh, wait! They don’t operate that often so they’re inconvenient.

      The reason they only operate several times per day is there isn’t enough demand from one point on the map to the airport to maintain 10 minute frequency.

      By having a bunch of stations, Link serves a bunch of different needs, and gathers more airport passengers from more places than the one downtown location.

      Your experience of living on the east side and working in downtown Seattle is one experience, but it isn’t even the majority of the experiences riding Link. At least 75% of the trains will operate outside normal commute hours. If not for those passengers, then Link isn’t worth building and you might as well run several express buses a day.

      Your assumption that the only Eastside beneficiaries will be those that commute to downtown Seattle also completely ignores the reality of the tax situation. Unless they have some sort of weird billionaire discount (and I suppose they might), businesses on the east side pay into the property taxes that pay for the SoundTransit bonds, just like residential property taxpayers do. Therefore, their commuters have just as much a right to ride the train from southeast Seattle as you do to ride the train to downtown Seattle.

      1. Glenn, I am not sure you understand subarea equity. Money raised in one subarea must be spent in that subarea.

        That is why intersubarea projects like the second tunnel are tricky: different subareas receive different benefit levels.

        What the four other subareas have recently learned is there is almost no benefit to them from the astronomical cost of the second tunnel, which is really to support W. Seattle to Ballard, which is why I don’t think the second tunnel gets built. Plus N. King Co. cannot afford its 1/2.

        Buses from the airport are unpopular because they are slow, although the pre-pandemic express bus from DT was faster than Link.

        What hurts bus service to the airport is UberLyft, and parking. Faster, safer, use the HOV lane, more convenient with luggage, especially if it is a business deduction.

        I am talking about East Link. East Link was designed in 2004 as peak hour commuter transit across the lake, and now Amazon is saying it will permanently go to a partial WFH model, and Microsoft is building a 3 million sf parking garage for EV’s. These are two visionary employees.

        Different parts of Link serve different riders and uses. Some need park and rides, some need closer stations. I just don’t see a lot of Eastsiders taking East Link to downtown Seattle to then transfer to central link or continue north of UW. Why?

        Mike wonders why express bus service between downtown Bellevue and downtown Redmond is so infrequent, and thinks it is because it is a bus and not a train. It is because people prefer to drive that route, and going from a bus to a train won’t change that.

        Look, if transit or a station on Dearborn is a good idea build an elevator to 12th today and run a bus for a fraction of the cost of a station when East Link was never designed or agreed to stop on Dearborn.

        I think Ross has pointed out well we gave a hybrid system, with some long commuter rail and some urban “subway”. It isn’t ideal, but at least recognize which parts of Link are which, and don’t try to merge the two. The key about commuter rail is people have to get someplace crowded by a certain time, usually fairly long distances, do don’t unnecessarily make the trip longer. No one on the Eastside is going to Dearborn.

      2. Microsoft’s underground parking was built to replace surface lots that have become new office towers. Amazon is actively expanding in DT Bellevue and it’s a good bet that many of the employees will live in Seattle. Commuting now on I-90 it appears the eastbound AM traffic exceeds the westbound or they are at least equal. What East Link won’t do anything for is the slog on 405 from Renton to Bellevue. STride may help but that’s not high capacity transit. What doesn’t scale on East Link is the P&R model. It was already at capacity prior to Link construction. People in Seattle are much more likely to be able to access Link without having to drive. If fact driving doesn’t work unless your dropped off at a transit stop. While there will be large numbers of people on the eastside that can access Link w/o a car the actual growth in absolute numbers suggest west to east commuting will increase faster than the traditional east to west. The 2004 mentality can be summed up as “Link will take a bunch of people off the road so my commute won’t be congested.” It never was based in reality.

      3. “What the four other subareas have recently learned is there is almost no benefit to them from the astronomical cost of the second tunnel”

        You’re projecting a few people’s opinion on entire subareas. If the four subareas as a whole really believe that, they could say so and then the realignment process would take a very different direction. If some mayors or county councils said that, ST would sit up and take notice.

        “which is really to support W. Seattle to Ballard”

        That’s your opinion, but ST has taken the position that downtown Seattle and whatever number of downtown tunnels there are are essential to all subareas. The fact that two lines are in the old tunnel and another line is in the new tunnel shouldn’t mean the third line should pay the entire cost of the new tunnel. It was an arbitrary ST decision to put Everett, Redmond, and West Seattle in the old tunnel, and Tacoma and Ballard in the new tunnel. It could have equally gone another way, so does that mean that suddenly another subarea should pay the entire cost of the second tunnel? I could say, “Ballard and Tacoma should stay in the old tunnel so that they don’t have to pay the cost of the new tunnel.” Is that fair? ST rightly said no. In fact, ST is charging the subareas based on their use of both tunnels. All lines serve North King, so North King will pay proportionally for that. Part of the reason for the second tunnel is not just the added Ballard and West Seattle riders, but also the added Everett and Tacoma riders. And SLU is on the second tunnel, and all subareas go to SLU.

        “which is why I don’t think the second tunnel gets built. Plus N. King Co. cannot afford its 1/2.”

        We’ll see. It’s all up in the air. It’s not worth predicting which way it will go until we get some definitive indication of which way the board is leaning, and then we can support or oppose that strategy.

        Buses from the airport are unpopular because they are slow, although the pre-pandemic express bus from DT was faster than Link.

        What hurts bus service to the airport is UberLyft, and parking. Faster, safer, use the HOV lane, more convenient with luggage, especially if it is a business deduction.

        I am talking about East Link. East Link was designed in 2004 as peak hour commuter transit across the lake, and now Amazon is saying it will permanently go to a partial WFH model, and Microsoft is building a 3 million sf parking garage for EV’s. These are two visionary employees.

        Different parts of Link serve different riders and uses. Some need park and rides, some need closer stations. I just don’t see a lot of Eastsiders taking East Link to downtown Seattle to then transfer to central link or continue north of UW. Why?

      4. I am not sure you understand subarea equity. Money raised in one subarea must be spent in that subarea.

        Yes, they must be spent in the subarea, but that doesn’t mean residents (as opposed to employers) are the only ones who should benefit from the construction in that subarea. Indeed, as many people as possible across the region should benefit.

        Indeed, if work from home works out as well as you think it should, then that is all the more reason to build a station there. Fewer commuters means the system can concentrate on more all day ridership.

        As far as auto use scaling really well, please do the math on that. You get maybe 9 people per lane per city block, if traffic is completely stopped. Places like Puyallup have huge areas of their city dedicated to parking, yet they aren’t especially easy to get around in because even just a little traffic can make a mess of things.

      5. IMO the number of stops from Everett to Tacoma will be a turnoff for many riders. Sure, lots of stops in Paris are fine, but Everett to Seattle to Tacoma is not Paris.


        With every new stop, there is a trade-off. You reduce the travel time for through-riders, but you increase the network effect. For example, with Northgate Link, the ride to downtown will often be slower. But you will get lots of riders going from Northgate to Roosevelt, U-District, Husky Stadium, Capitol Hill and the stations beyond downtown. You also get lots of riders from Roosevelt to U-District, etc. In contrast, there just aren’t that many people trying to get from Ash Way to Fife.

        That is why building what we are building is rare, and misguided. Too many stops for a long distance trip, too few stops to maximize value. What works is to have a subway system with lots of stops in the urban core, and serve the more distant destinations with express service. This consists of either buses, or rail that leverages existing track, and has wide stop spacing (like Sounder). On occasion, these can be combined, which is basically what the S-Bahn is about. In our case, that would mean digging an additional tunnel through downtown (to say, First Hill) and then running the Sounder trains through there and running the trains frequently. (In our case the S-Bahn model doesn’t work really well, because we have so little in the way of existing rail, and we don’t own it.)

        Someone traveling between downtown and the UW might complain about stopping at First Hill, and 23rd/Madison, but they would also notice that lots of people get on and off the train all day long at those stops. In contrast, someone headed to Tacoma might complain about the folks in TIBS, Angle Lake, and all of the suburban stations, while noting that hardly anyone gets on there in the afternoon. Once you get beyond a certain point, there is very little in the way of a network effect, and the vast majority of riders would be better off with an express bus or train.

      6. Ross:

        It does depend a bit on what you are talking about.
        Belin map of S-bahn, U-bahn and Regio trains, as an example of how one area handles it:

        The RE trains are what you would see for stuff like Everett-Seattle-Tacoma. They are intercity trains that make a few local stops. Usually something like 5-7 double decker coaches with a single first class car and a locomotive, running every half hour and a maximum speed of 100 mph or so.

        So, basically picture something like Sounder operating as a Cascades train every half hour, with much faster maximum speed, with a few more local stops, and a ticket policy that allows you to board it with the same fare as a SoundTransit express bus (because regional tickets cover everything, local bus up to the RE trains, so long as you are traveling inside the fare zone).

        You could get from central Berlin to Potsdam by S-bahn 7, but your regional ticket also covers the same distance on RE1 to as far as Werder / Havel, and gets you there much faster than anything, even driving non-stop.

        Link could make a halfway decent S-bahn with a few more stations added, but the piece that’s missing is the Regio trains that serve both the short distance intercity and commuter traffic. Getting there means Cascades every half hour and opening it to payment inside the local area with Orca card, not just a monthly pass.

      7. ORCA already works on Cascades for trips that would be within Sounder North/Sounder; the interface is a bit clunky (a few years ago, you needed to use Orca to purchase a single Amtrak ticket at the kiosk, rather than just using ORCA directly with Amtrak, but that’s an Amtrack ticketing system issue.

        Let’s say Sound Transit owned 100% of the BNSF trackage and there was no freight interference. What kind of system would we operate? I’d imagine there would be two lines, one regional and one intercity. The intercity trains (aka Cascades) would have stations at Tacoma, Tukwila/BAR, Seattle, and Everett and run at least hourly, half hourly most of the day, while the regional trains (aka Sounder) would run every 15 minutes (more frequent at peak) have stations at Dupont, Tillicum, Lakewood, South Tacoma, Tacoma Dome, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, BAR, King Station, Interbay, Ballard(?), Edmonds, Mukilteo, Everett, and probably onward to some Marysville and Arlington stations.

        As illustrated, while Sounder would run >55 mph on some segments, it would still stop very frequently and only be marginally faster (~10 minutes) than Link from Seattle to Tacoma, particularly as there would be a steady diet of infill stations if the ROW was 100% publicly owned (BAR, Georgetown, Emerald Downs, etc.). Ultimately, it’s service pattern and stop spacing wouldn’t look that different than Link between Seattle and Tacoma.

        Would people say, “this is dumb, why does it take so long to get from Tacoma to Seattle???” and then never ride it. No, they would take the half hourly Cascades train if they wanted speed. The theoretical Sounder line would get much higher ridership than the theoretical Cascades line.

        Similarly, Link’s slow end to end speed isn’t a problem, it simply highlights the mediocre level of service we have right now from WSDOT/Amtrak for Cascades service.

      8. Link could make a halfway decent S-bahn with a few more stations added, but the piece that’s missing is the Regio trains that serve both the short distance intercity and commuter traffic.

        Sure, but that’s not the biggest piece that is missing. The big piece that is missing is a U-Bahn. It would be crazy to build an S-Bahn without a U-Bahn, especially if the S-Bahn could use a few more stations.

        Of course it would be nice if we had good intercity transit. The ability to take a train every half hour from Tacoma or Auburn would be wonderful. But in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t that important. Running Link to Tacoma is even less important (whether you call it an S-Bahn, BART del Norte, or just another misguided American light rail project). Worse case scenario, you run express buses every 15 minutes, since most of the day, these are faster than the trains.

        But more to the point, without a very good subway system covering the core, everything else is fluff. Some folks in Auburn get a nice ride into the city, but they can’t get to where they want to go, because it takes too long to travel within the city. The vast majority of people who take transit just muddle along with the old bus system (and wish it was better). If it was the result of happenstance (i. e. an old railroad line that could be easily leveraged) then it would be one thing. But the fact that we’ve spent so much money on the wrong thing is deplorable, and it will forever reduce the effectiveness of our public transportation system.

      9. ORCA worked for two Cascades trains only, neither of which are currently running. Thus, it really can’t be considered part of the regular system.

        With the regio trains, it’s truly integrated into the rest of the system rather than just select trips on select routes, and all types of valid tickets are accepted (eg, you can’t use a local transit ticket to get into the first class car).

        If you were to add a regio type overlay to the Cascades, you’d probably have a stop somewhere near Expedia to transfer to a bunch of different bus routes (8, D, etc), and maybe Ballard (the main line is quite far from any urban centers there, so you might not), but the piece that you are missing is that it goes off the side of the Berlin map. It serves a certain amount of intercity traffic too, so you would pick up places like Stanwood and Marysville, and probably a few other places on its way to Bellingham. Right now, you are only utilizing all the capital expenses, as well as an entire crew’s operating day, for two hours of train operation. The idea here is to use “commuter” equipment to meet both intercity and local needs. They’re pretty popular trains as they typically wind up being faster than driving over the same distance. While you do have to transfer to local transit once at those stations served, doing so is, in many cases, faster than taking a slower train that has more frequent stops.

        Potsdam’s main railway station is 25 minutes from Berlin’s main railway station by RE1, and 35 minutes by s-bahn 7, which is slower and has more frequent stops. Driving it takes about 30 minutes in the best traffic, but can take an hour. It is only about 15 miles.

        Agreed that the u-bahn part is certainly missing, but there’s only so much money for tunneling. That’s not what Daniel was complaining about, however.

      10. Link’s slow end to end speed isn’t a problem, it simply highlights the mediocre level of service we have right now from WSDOT/Amtrak for Cascades service.

        You know what is faster than the train, most of the day: a bus. A bus can run right from downtown Tacoma, right through downtown Seattle, operating just like an S-Bahn. So instead of two transfers, with a long subway ride in the middle, you take one bus and get there sooner. Tacoma Dome Link is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. It has little to do with the existing rail line, and more to do with the attitude of those in charge. It is sad, because what Tacoma really needs is better local bus service.

        It is around this time in the argument when someone typically says “But Ross, it isn’t about Tacoma to Seattle, it is about Tacoma to all of the other places on Link, like Federal Way and Fife”. Yeah, sure. Except look at the ridership of Pierce Transit (page 80 of this document: The two most popular routes are the 1 and the 2 (with 5,300 and 2,500 riders). Buses heading out towards Federal Way make up a tiny portion of the system, with very few riders. The closest thing to that route is the 500, with about 1,200 riders. The bus has lots more stops, and directly serves downtown Tacoma, so it is probably not the best comparison. The closest to it is the 574, which connects to SeaTac, and pretty much all the freeway stops along the way (similar to what Link will do). It carries a whopping 400 riders a day from the Tacoma Dome.

        But wait, isn’t that bus infrequent? Yes, absolutely. ST should run that bus more often, instead of pouring money into Link. But even if it did, you wouldn’t get that many riders. Even if doubling the frequency doubled the ridership (which is highly unlikely) this is only 800 riders.

        This is why Tacoma Dome Link is a really bad project. Ridership in Tacoma can be thought of in two broad categories: Those headed to Seattle, and those headed elsewhere. For the first group, the combination of Sounder and express buses is better than Link. For the second group, Link will provide a tiny subset of what people use.

      11. the piece that you are missing is that it goes off the side of the Berlin map

        No, I get it. It is intercity rail. Again, this would be cool. It would be nice to be able to quickly and easily take a train to Olympia, as well as Auburn. But that still won’t make up a huge portion of transit ridership.

        My point is, it is the least important part of the Berlin transit system. The most important is the U-Bahn, followed by the S-Bahn, followed by intercity transit. In all cases you can muddle along with buses. But things get progressively worse the more urban you get. A bus from Bellingham is fine, especially if it ran consistently (e. g. every hour on the hour). But a bus from Ballard to the UW is extremely slow. The fact that the slowest trip also has the most people shows the great potential of such an investment. To be clear, it is quite possible that a relatively small amount of money spent on regional/intercity rail could really improve things. But that isn’t what ST is doing. They are investing heavily in the least important aspect of a transit system.

        I would also add that from what I can tell, Berlin is well suited for this type of approach. Unlike many European (and Asian) cities, it doesn’t have areas of really high density, but is widely covered with good density. Check out this density map, and hover over Brussels and Berlin — Notice that Berlin has a wide area of blue (and no red), reflected in the chart. Almost the entire city is in the 4K to 8K range. With Brussels, there are plenty of people who live in really high density neighborhoods, all the way up to the 18K to 22K range. At the same time, many of the towns surrounding it have a strong center, built up around the train station. Seattle (and the region) really isn’t like that.

      12. “Worse case scenario, you run express buses every 15 minutes, since most of the day, these are faster than the trains.”

        Not if they make all the stops the train does. Buses get caught in traffic, they have to get from freeway exits to bus stops, they have to stop and turn at traffic lights, and they can’t get to neighborhoods not next to the freeway without slowing down to 25 mph (in Seattle now). The only way to make express buses match the performance of trains is to give them dedicated lans and in-lane stops and no level crossings, like we’re doing with Stride. the 512 matches ST’s Everett-Downtown speed because it skips Northgate, Roosevelt, the Ave, and Broadway — some of the highest-ridership stops in Seattle. When the 512 stops at 45th you have to walk to the freeway entrance at the edge of the neighborhood to get it. The 577 and 594 are faster than Link because they skip most of South King County and South Seattle. The 574 is the closest to Link. and it has to stop and turn repeatedly to get to Federal Way TC and Redondo P&R and SeaTac. You can deal with it with multiple express routes like the 577 and former 194, but there will never be express buses from Rainier Valley to the airport or other combinations, so their needs are just ignored. Sounder gets to Auburn in 30 minutes, while the 578 takes 45 minutes. The Seattle-Kent-Auburn express Metro is thinking about would probably be as slow as the 578 and slower than Sounder.

      13. My comment started as a response to Daniel, who wants fewer stops on Link so that the transit service he doesn’t use (as stated in his responses) will go to the places he never goes (as stated in his responses) more quickly.

        My point was to point out that pushing for that using Link is a poor solution, since the train speed is only 55 mph anyway. What he should be pushing for is something other than Link if that is what he wants to see.

        However, I would disagree that the adaptation of inter-city service to also serve some of the urban and commuter needs is the least important piece. It is what was changed for the Munich Olympics when they realized that there was no way they would be able to handle the crowds with the transit service they had, and needed to attract vast crowds out of their cars.

        Ballard to downtown Seattle currently takes around 40 minutes on the D. If a regio train were added, you could do this in about 10 or so. This has the same impact of shrinking all the distances and time of all the connecting services. Yeah, it would be annoying to have to go all the way out to the marina to transfer, but it is so much faster than the D it still gives it an advantage of going out of the way.

        Sure, the distances are not as great as what you would see on the Berlin map, but the time map of the current transit system is similar.

        The urban subway piece of SoundTranit has also been determined for the next 30 years or so.

        Cascades / Sounder and how the fares are implemented and how it is integrated into the rest of the system is something that can actually be pushed for now, before that also gets locked in for another 30 years.

        Also, once Daniel and the other squeaky wheels get the service that they are yelling for (but won’t ever actually use) then maybe it will be possible to concentrate on the urban subway part.

      14. Remember, MAX east and west were built out to farmland and small towns in preparation for growth in Gresham, Beaverton, and Hillsboro.

        This isn’t entirely true.

        There was a lot of undeveloped land between Hillsboro and Beaverton, but bus route 57 from Portland to Beaverton and then Forest Grove was also one of TriMet’s busiest routes. Hillsboro, on the other side of all that farmland from Beaverton, was somewhere around the 7th most populous city in Oregon and growing quickly.

        So, picture something more like Seattle-Bellevue-Renton, with Lake Washington being farmland and an ex-interurban railroad line hitting a bunch of populated clusters in that farmland, located halfway between I-90 and 520.

        Gresham was similar when MAX was built to the east, though far more of the land was suburban single family in unincorporated areas. When that MAX line was built, Gresham was the 2nd most populous city in the Portland area and despite the square miles of not much from 130th to about 182nd, the buses between Gresham and Portland were really busy.

        So, there was already a fair amount of traffic potential for both of those lines to grab onto, even though they also went through a bunch of undeveloped stuff.

        The only parallel you have in Seattle would be to turn the clock back to the 1980s in the Kent valley with lots of farmland still there, and turn Kent into one of the most populous cities in the state, with no Sumner, Puyallup, or Tacoma beyond it. Then, give it a freight railroad with a willing seller.

        Oh, and connect the two with a highway that has no geological way of economic expansion.

        Under these conditions it becomes pretty obvious where Link would go.

      15. The first time I took Max it was built out to Beaverton. I took it to the western end, and found empty farmland around the last stations. There were some buildings too, I don’t remember clearly, but probably of the 1-2 story type. I remember the farm lots because when the train started west, it stopped at an arterial for a signal, and then did that another couple times at arterials, so I had ample time to see the empty lots.

        Gresham I didn’t see firsthand until later; this is just what I read, that it was similarly empty, and the outer part of the line was for future growth.

      16. when the train started west east

        I mean, when it started returning from its western terminus.

      17. Did Westside MAX get more protection from level crossings later? The last time I was in Portland in the early 2010s, I took MAX to Hillsboro and didn’t see the waiting at arterials I’d seen on my first trip.

      18. Yeah, they built MAX all the way through downtown Hillsboro, so people headed to MAX from Forest Grove and route 57 didn’t have to go through town. So the train would get to Hatfield at the end of the line, and there would be a 3 story office building and across the street to the west was farmland. Washington County has strange development pattens. There’ll be square miles of farmland, and sitting in the center will be a massive Intel chip fab.

        The Nike campus, Tektronix, and several other large employment places between Beaverton and Hillsboro were already there before MAX went in, so those weren’t vacant but a bunch of other stuff was.

        East of Hillsboro there is still a bunch of empty space near MAX. That’s the Washington County Fairgrounds / crash landing area for the Hillsboro airport. That will probably always be empty.

        It doesn’t show up too well on the map, but this is doentown Hillsboro. It looks tiny, but even in the 1970s almost everything north of downtown was single family residential. When the satellite technology got better, suddenly all of that becomes more clear, as if they built it all overnight:,-122.96779,11.858,latLng&t=0&ps=50&bt=19840101&et=20201231&startDwell=0&endDwell=0

        You can also see the abrupt change from farmland to downtown Hillsboro just west of town.

        I wish they’d give MAX better signal priority. Traffic signals can drift out of synchronization apparently so that sometimes you get the intended non-stop action, and other times you have to wait. I’d be quite happy if, rather than try to figure out self-driving cars, we could just do some stuff like solve traffic light technology.

      19. @Ross: On U-Bahn, once we have the S-Bahn with 4-minute frequency ID-Northgate, where do we need a U-Bahn? I could certainly see Ballard-UW as a standalone line with short trains & high frequency rather than a Link spur (we’ve highlighted this on STB and Urbanist threads), but otherwise where is one missing? Madison BRT will take care of one corridor, and for the ‘Metro-8’ I think the 8 just needs a dedicated busway rather than a subway. If you want better frequency on the 2nd S-Bahn tunnel, then I would just invest in expanded OMF-C capacity to allow for ST to run a Ballard-SoDo overlay line before I’d make any ROW investments south of SoDo.
        When you say U-Bahn is ‘most important,’ you are pointing to total ridership & productivity, but for capital projects what is ‘most important’ is improvement over the status quo. Post ST3, aside from Ballard-UW I don’t see a U-Bahn project that is transformative, mostly because I don’t support Metro-8 or Aurora rail lines, and instead foresee only incremental S-Bahn extensions alongside the keystone Ballard-UW project. Within the ST3 timeline, I don’t think technical staff would support completing a Ballard-UW U-Bahn before the Ballard-downtown S-Bahn was complete because they would be worried about overwhelming the UW-downtown S-Bahn with induced demand.

        @Glenn: On Regio, would a ‘regio type overlay to the Cascades’ just be all-day Sounder?
        On Tacoma Dome Link (TDLE), Ross elides the argument about ‘should TDLE get high capacity transit’ with ‘should TDLE be Link.’ Ross doesn’t think Tacoma Dome to Federal Way merits HCT at all, so he would presumably also argue against Stride between Tacoma and FW; Ross sees no need to invest beyond STX and Sounder for that corridor.
        And of course PT route 1 is important. It is literally being prioritized ahead of Link. It’s the very first ST3 project to be funded in Pierce and the only Pierce project not impacted by realignment! Lost amid all the kvetching about TDLE is the fact that while both TDLE and Stream ( are in EIS, Stream is past 60% design and on track to launch in 2024, while TDLE is still selecting preferred alignments and opening is penciled in 2032. IMO, the primary error by Pierce in ST3 is choosing T-Link Phase III over an east-west Stream line to connect TCC to Tacoma downtown. I think T-Link Phase III is a terrible project but would definitely support Stream between TCC and downtown and would happily further defer TDLE a few years to create additional Stream lines asap.

        This has been delightfully wide ranging for a non open thread post, but frequency truly does touch everything.

    3. “ Every train traveling across the bridge span westbound will have mostly eastsiders. ”

      Given the tens of thousands of workers in Downtown Bellevue that mostly must pay for high-cost commute parking, I expect there will be many Seattle residents on East Link. This market attractiveness is currently a force driving the significant development currently occurring south of Judkins Park station. It’s a very attractive lifestyle for a young single to have a tech job on the Eastside yet live in the “adult playground” of central Seattle.

      Plus, about 15 percent of the total East Link ridership is forecast to use Judkins Park station. East Link needs those riders to get enough riders to make the line productive.

      Finally, if East Link didn’t exist, there would be no reason to build the expensive second light rail tunnel in Downtown Seattle. In this way, East King benefits more than any other subarea outside of North King for the second tunnel and should probably be kicking in more than the other subareas outside of North King for it.

      1. ST claimed during ST 3 that a second tunnel was necessary to meet capacity for East Link ((and the other subareas) to get them to pay 1/2 the cost of the second tunnel.

        None of that was true.

        First, ST’s ridership estimates for East Link across the bridge span were wildly inflated, even pre-pandemic, and after terminating all buses on MI in 2018 to goose ridership. Ridership on the 550 dropped 1/3 pre-pandemic.

        Second, there won’t be a second transit tunnel, that was only necessary for the West Seattle to Ballard line, and East Link will meet its maximum 8 minute headways with the current tunnel the federal government paid for, although I am not sure 8 minutes will be necessary, certainly off-peak (including peak express buses from Issaquah).

        The Eastside subarea will have paid nearly $1 billion for east-west express buses Seattleites going East use, and my guess is Eastside use of Central to Northgate Link is and will be weak.

        I will wait to see how many Bellevue high wage workers choose to live south of Judkins Park for the “playground” of “central” Seattle. Capitol Hill maybe, but Bellevue today is a much more vibrant urban scene than anywhere in Seattle, even if single. Maybe low wage Bellevue workers will choose south of Judkins Park due to housing costs on the Eastside, but not tens of thousands of workers.

        I am not sure where you get get 15% of East Link ridership will use the Judkins Park station. Where does that estimate come from. Are you talking east or westbound?

      2. I agree with Bernie’s (accurate) quip that ST 2 was sold as everyone else will take transit so my car commute will get better. It still isn’t based in reality. Most prefer to drive.

        Traffic congestion on I-90 improved dramatically pre-pandemic with RA-8 that increased the number of lanes to four in each direction, and eliminated a number of lane restrictions. Of course you now zip across the bridge span only to run into 405 or I-5, which has caused issueS with ramp metering. Congestion is still much heavier in peak directions, unless there is a sporting event.

        405 is simply over capacity including all the growth on 167. But many of these folks need to drive for work, and need tools. Rail and buses don’t serve them.

        I-5 is simply a dysfunction ally designed freeway, including the stupid decision to narrow lanes for the convention center, lane narrowing at the bridge, and left hand entrances and exits onto 520. At least some work is being done on the merge from I-90 northbound.

        First/last mile access is the great unknown for Northgate Link and East Link because these are the first two, major, peak commuter runs. These are not folks who are riding transit because they want to, or can be late.

        Park and rides are very popular on the Eastside. If someone has a better and more popular first/last mile mode for east King Co. I am all ears. Metro pretty much sucks here, and the geography and topography make walking to a bus stop too difficult (and please no replies about increasing zoning density to salvage an overpriced and questionable light rail system).

        Commuters like water take the easiest path. WFH could be a ground changer because it could allow more staff to drive on alternating days and allow employers to subsidize parking rather than transit.

        There is also driving, driving to a park and ride served by Link, driving to a park and ride to catch a feeder bus, wait for a feeder bus (if you can walk to one, which isn’t Mercer Island), live close enough to walk, or have ST//Metro continue peak hour express buses ;(from park and rides). It’s pretty much the 550 and 554, with an extra seat (two if you are going to SLU).

        I also see a move away from commuting to major urban centers like Seattle and Bellevue, and a greater dispersion of work sites like REI.

        Ideally 50% of commuters and commuting are eliminated. It is an awful process, most commuter transit is arrogant and slow and expensive, and it is a waste of life that mainly falls on lower income workers.

        The fact is, other than peak hours cars scale very well. Congestion is light, and most large retailers and malls have free parking.

        If we eliminated 25% to 50% of commuting during peak hours all our problems would be solved, although ridership on East Link would be under 10,000/day, but who cares. We are ruining our neighborhoods and going bankrupt trying to manufacture the ridership for Link that the regional population doesn’t really support so that poor souls are forced onto packed buses and trains all going to the same place at the same time.

        It isn’t transit that is the problem, it is peak hour commuting we need to end, and it took a pandemic to force employees to implement the systems to WFH.

      3. “ST claimed during ST 3 that a second tunnel was necessary to meet capacity for East Link ((and the other subareas)”

        ST claimed that all subareas have a moral responsibility to pay for general north-south downtown circulation, and for their trains’ share of the cost of all downtown tunnels, regardless of whether their trains are in the first or second tunnel. The reason for the second tunnel is the totality of north-south Link trips, both those going to northeast Seattle and Snohomish County, those going to the Eastside, those going to southeast Seattle and Tacoma and West Seattle, and those making intra-downtown trips. All of them are riders, and Link needs capacity for all of them so it doesn’t melt down with overcrowding or be non-viable for their trips.

        You do realize that if the Snohomish boardmembers were to say, “We don’t really want the Everett extension or Paine Field detour after all, especially if we have to pay for the second downtown tunnel because of it?”, or the Pierce were to say, “We don’t want the Tacoma Dome extension after all, especially if we have to pay for the second downtown tunnel because of it?”, or the East King boardmembers were to say, “We don’t want the Issaquah line after all, and we’re not sure we want anything from ST3. Oh wait, we want the three Stride lines and the downtown Redmond extension,” — then ST3 would immediately delete those projects from the plan and start thinking about replacement BRT service for those corridors. If the Everett, Lynnwood, Bellevue, Redmond, or Tacoma mayors or their county executives were to say this. ST would think strongly about doing it. But that’s not the message coming from any of the boardmembers or mayors or county executives or the majority of public feedback or other large indicators of community attitudes. Instead it’s, “I want my Everett and Paine Field and P&Rs”, and similar in the other subareas. The next-largest contingent just wants transit on highways in general and doesn’t know much about where stops other than theirs should be or how a rail network functions. The next-largest contingent doesn’t want to pay any taxes and doesn’t think any transit is important. The number of people saying specific things like “Ballard is worth it but West Seattle isn’t”, or “Lynnwood and Ballard and West Seattle are worth it but Everett isn’t, or other variations, is much smaller.

      4. If we eliminated 25% to 50% of commuting during peak hours all our problems would be solved,

        I’ve often posted that our freeways don’t have a capacity problem they have a peak capacity problem. 3am there’s virtually nobody on the roads. I expect WFH to significantly reduce the peak capacity traffic for a time. Thing is, the area is growing faster than the freeways. So in 10-15 years we’re right back to gridlock even with a significant WFH demographic. Autonomous driving trucks could be a game changer but deliveries still need someone at work to offload.

        You’ve also made a big deal of “workers who have to be on time”. That just doesn’t happen with freeways. An incident anywhere spills over to everywhere really fast. Even now with the lightest traffic we’re likely to ever see commute times reported on the radio are oftern +30 to +90 “normal”.

        Houston may not have a problem but Seattle and the Eastside do. Freeways consume a huge amount of resources to increase capacity. A rail line can pretty much absorb whatever you throw at it without building new ROW. Buses are better than SOV but still suffer the same issue of scale and have reliability issues the same as cars even where there are HOV lanes.

        driving to a park and ride served by Link

        The most expensive option there is and doesn’t scale. Start charging market rate for parking and see how much demand shifts to Lift/Uber/Van Pools/et al.

        The fact is, other than peak hours cars scale very well.

        Did Yogi Berra say that? The fact is pre-pandemic the peak was 3 hours in the AM and 4 hours in the PM. That leaves a small mid-day window when they actually work. Except when they don’t because of construction, accidents, etc.

        I will wait to see how many Bellevue high wage workers choose to live south of Judkins Park

        FWIW, I’m seeing significant development North of Judkins Park. Haven’t been south of I-90. In the past I would agree that the vast majority of people I’ve worked with on the eastside have lived on the eastside. That, like DT Bellevue, Redmond and the Spring District is changing. It’s not just “urban playground”. A lot has to do with the cost of housing and the cost of owning a car. If you have equity (i.e. old fart like me) it’s not much of an issue. If you’re just starting a career the cost of housing and owning a car is a big deal. High tech programmers may pull down six figure salaries but mechanical engineers, civil engineers, teachers, etc. don’t.

      5. I-5 is simply a dysfunctionally designed freeway, including the stupid decision to narrow lanes for the convention center, lane narrowing at the bridge, and left hand entrances and exits onto 520. At least some work is being done on the merge from I-90 northbound.

        Yep, the finest 1960’s technology we had for small town Seattle. Seattle grew so the 405 “bypass” was built. Worked great for most of the 70’s. Never understood that huge spaghetti junction out by Bothell; there’ll never be anything way out here. Then Bellevue had more than one building that was more than two stories and Redmond got more than one traffic light (honest, I remember that).

        Bottom line, freeways are always behind the curve. For decades “grown ups” complained that they were never built for the future. But nobody ever could say just how many lanes should be built (or how they should be paid for) and past four GP lanes the weave just negates any additional pavement. Freeways induce sprawl which freeways can never keep up with. And they are an obnoxious blight on the environment.

        Gawd, I sound like a “progressive”.

      6. The Federal Government did not “pay for” the DSTT. The project was funded almost exactly 50% by UMTA funds, so the Feds were certainly involved. But your phrase sounds like the Federal Government was the majority funder. It was not; King County provided its half and then the overruns.

        It was certainly worth it.

      7. East Link didn’t exist, there would be no reason to build the expensive second light rail tunnel in Downtown Seattle.

        I suppose, but you could say the same thing about West Seattle or Ballard Link. They didn’t want that many trains in the tunnel. For example, if they built the WSTT (a transit tunnel with buses instead of trains) then East Link would have been irrelevant to the situation.

        If there was no West Seattle Link, then East Link is fine. Ballard Link could have just ended at Westlake (no interlining) or it could have interlined there. That means Ballard to Bellevue, Northgate to SeaTac. From a geographic standpoint, that would have made the most sense (since East Side to UW is often better with a bus). Or it could have been extended to First Hill (and not looped back to I. D.). That would not have been ideal, but it would have been a relatively cheap way to add really popular station(s). Even though it would mean backtracking, I could definitely see folks from the south or east transferring at Westlake to get to First Hill (along with plenty of people from the north).

        I think the area that benefits the most from a new tunnel is West Seattle. Instead of a transfer (at say, I. D.) those riders get a one seat ride to the most popular stations (downtown, Capitol Hill, and the U-District).

        Meanwhile, the north end benefits from East Link, since it seems like the only way for Sound Transit to provide decent frequency is to have interlining.

      8. Glenn, my point was pretty much the same as others on this blog: “Link” has several different modes: commuter, urban, a hybrid of the two. It is a mistake to think of Link as one mode serving one need.

        I agree with those who argue we should have run fast or semi-fast intercity rail between Everett, Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue, with many fewer stops, (really how many riders are going from Everett to 145th), probably with park and rides at the more remote stops along the way. But Ross is correct: how many people really travel between these cities each day, and will on transit? Very few. ST got drunk on a vision of this HUGE three county region suddenly quadrupling in size (when most of those will still live in urban areas and need urban rail). So ST confused commuter with urban rail.

        Then, more importantly which is why ST should have completed this step first, you need within the city an urban rail and bus system with more stops (keeping in mind Bernie’s point that you can afford many more above ground stations for each underground station, although Seattle is quite hilly). But ST didn’t, and so the ride from Everett to Seattle to Tacoma to Redmond will be pretty slow, certainly compared to a car, Link’s main competition, although total ridership will pale in comparison to intra-city transit.

        I mostly drive because the city I live in basically has no feeder transit, the transit on and off the Island is not as convenient as driving, and the eastside (and much of Seattle) are well set up for driving, with many places having free parking (although I pay to park at work, which is a business deduction). I would say I am typical of the eastside citizen. We tend to do what is easiest, safest, fastest when going from A to B.

        You are correct I don’t use East Link, since it doesn’t exist. But I certainly want it to succeed for those who will use it since it cost a fortune, and they will be the squeaky wheels you mention if it doesn’t succeed, and not on STB but to their elected representatives. Or they will work from home which will devastate the funding and ridership assumptions to support East Link, or drive. There are alternatives to transit if transit sucks.

        I guess you could call Redmond to Bellevue “urban” rail (at least for east King Co.), although that is weird if you know the open places in between (and I doubt this section will get much ridership but this was really an afterthought for East Link based on Microsoft, and of course extending East Link to Redmond was not part of ST 2).

        But Bellevue to DOWNTOWN SEATTLE is intercity commuter rail. There are few stops along the way. The riders are work commuters. That is what the eastside wanted, and why it voted for East Link. Not so someone in Issaquah could take rail to S. Kirkland (which is just a function of a subarea having too much money) or the Spring District to Redmond which most will drive, like today.

        East Link (ST 2) is about people in Bellevue going to downtown Seattle and vice versa. No one is going to Mercer Island, or Beaux Arts, or S. Bellevue (or really Redmond) unless they live there. A stop at Judkins Park I can understand for equity purposes, but not on Dearborn where there is nothing, the anti-thesis of commuter rail, because you (Glenn) don’t separate commuter and urban Link.

        You write:

        “The urban subway piece of SoundTranit has also been determined for the next 30 years or so.”

        This is correct, except it hasn’t just been determined it has been “completed” because the funding has run out without a very good urban rail system, and this is what most are complaining about, because ST ran out of funding to complete the most important part of Link: urban rail in Seattle, which due to population density, ridership willingness, and difficulty getting around the city is where rail would get its most riders. The point is Link from Bellevue to Redmond really should not have closer station spacing than in urban Seattle.

        Finally you write:

        “Also, once Daniel and the other squeaky wheels get the service that they are yelling for (but won’t ever actually use) then maybe it will be possible to concentrate on the urban subway part.”

        No, this is missing the entire point. First, giving users of East Link what they paid for it the whole point, which for East Link is intercity commuter rail. Second, the urban part is not coming next. There isn’t the money for it, because ST and the N. King Co, subarea spent their wad building commuter rail all the way to the Snohomish Co. Line and S. King Co., which will be slow and not serve a number of key areas of downtown Seattle.

        If there was enough money to really complete true urban rail in Seattle, and to some extent Bellevue and Tacoma, then I would agree the only issue with ST is the intercity commuter rail between these cities will be too slow. But the real issue is there isn’t enough money to complete the urban rail system, and slow commuter rail is what you get. So don’t make it even slower with pointless stops on Dearborn next to a Goodwill for eastsiders trying to get to downtown Seattle where the action is. That thinking is the fundamental problem with the entire Link system.

      9. “ST got drunk on a vision of this HUGE three county region suddenly quadrupling in size (when most of those will still live in urban areas and need urban rail).”

        No it didn’t. Link is predicated on the region’s current population and planned upzones (e.g., Everett and Totem Lake have definite plans). Not only the current population, but the population as it was in the early 1990s when Link was drafted. It’s a judgement call how much population and density justifies a train, and the people who were calling for the spine thought they already had it.

        I’ve said repeatedly that cross-lake rail was justified in the 1970s, and in the 1990s, and in 2008 when we voted for it, and in 2021. Because that’s what proper urban areas do: they build transit and satellite cities at the same time, they don’t wait until decades later for the transit. King County clearly planned to channel growth to the Eastside in the 1970s and 80s.

        It’s not for some imaginary dream of 12 million people in 2100. It’s for the 4 million people now, and the next million after that. If we had 12 million people, ST3 Link would be hopelessly inadequate; we’d need Seattle Subway at least.

      10. Remember, MAX east and west were built out to farmland and small towns in preparation for growth in Gresham, Beaverton, and Hillsboro. That’s similar to what the Eastside would have been with Forward Thrust. And we might have had a chance for a more transit-oriented public and demands for more housing at stations if it were there. It would have gone to Renton too, so it could have become the region’s Surrey.

      11. “Intercity rail” means connecting main cities like New York and Chicago. Regional rail is things like Cascades and Regio. Amtrak’s northeast corridor you could argue both ways, is it short enough to be regional or long enough to be intercity. We have such a long distance between Portland and San Francisco that “intercity” in the northeastern or European sense is problematic here, and Spokane is arguably too small to be an “intercity” target.

        Commuter rail is usually longer distance than urban metros, with fewer stops, and at best 10-15 minute frequency rather than the 2-5 minute frequency of metros; this can be scaled down to 10 minutes for metro and 30 minutes for commuter rail, but when you get less frequent than that, the transit network becomes less useful and less able to fulfill its potential. The term “commuter rail” in the US is problematic because people often assume it can be infrequent, and usually grossly infrequent. Link is not pure commuter rail because of the inner-city stations. Commuter rail may have a UW station but it would not have Roosevelt or Othello Stations. Link is a hybrid between an urban metro and commuter rail, as BART is. As such it’s somewhere in the middle, is less useful than a two-tier network, but gives the outer areas more frequency than typical commuter rails. In Germany there would be a U-Bahn to Northgate’ 15-30 minute S-Bahns to Everett, and Tacoma; and 30-60 minute Regio to Bellingham, Portland, and Spokane. I’m not sure how they’d handle Lynnwood and Bellevue-Redmond; there arguments both ways for U-Bahn or S-Bahn. And they would have included Renton too, especially with its 100K population and lower-income status.

      12. U-Bahn means both true tube trains and U-Stadtbahn (like Link on MLK and DSTT). So that’s where the middle-of-the-road U-Stadtbahn could take care of Lynnwood, Bellevue-Redmond, and Renton. Of course, Germany has legacy railroad ROW it could use for these.

      13. You can’t just lump Seattle->Bellevue in the same category as Seattle->Tacoma. Seattle->Bellevue is much shorter, so people will make the trip much more often. This is indeed the case on the bus – the 550 gets far more ridership than the 594 – and it will be true on rail as well.

        You also overgeneralize that everyone in every single corner of the eastside is like you, and ignore the fact that people who care about transit consider the quality of transit in deciding where to live. Today, people who care about transit will not choose to live in the Spring District. But, in a few years, some of them might – especially those that work near another Link station along the line.

      14. Daniel ENOUGH with tyhe ahistorical sneering about what “North King” stupidly did. You seem to know nothing about the politics of Washington State and the restrictions on taxation placed on municipalities by the Legislature and State Constitution.

        I would have thought those quirks might have been mentioned some time during your tenure at UW Law.

        “North King” or Seattle” would not have any rail system had the Leg not allowed for the creation of a regional transit provider with autonomous bonding authority. An ST bond might build a few feet of tunnel in Seattle but it doesn’t consume the City’s bonding capacity. Sweet!

        But along with the buckos comes a governance structure intentionally packed with suburban elected officials who call the shots.

        Dudes from Auburn and gals from Mountlake Terrace don’t really think about what Seattle might need for full mobility. Rebuilding the Seattle-Everett and Seattle-Tacoma Interurbans on stilts sounds really cool and helps out everyone running for re-election.

        So the Spine was a take-it-or-leave-it Cannoli from the Leg to Seattle.

    4. It’s one integrated network. That’s why it works. Transportation is to get you from one place to another through other people’s land. The best subway networks go from almost everywhere to almost everywhere, and almost everyone is within a 10-minute walk of a station. London, Manhattan, and Paris come close to that. Link obviously doesn’t, but it does some of it. (I.e.. connecting urban villages like I keep talking about.) Funding is based on which district you live in. Most services are like that. If you live in Shoreline and go to Greenlake and buy a bike headline at Gregg’s Cycle, Seattle residents pay for the park maintenance and you pay Seattle’s sales tax rate. If you take an express bus from Kenmore to UW, it’s funded by people in Kenmore because they’re the majority beneficiaries of it. Some routes like the 550 have become equal both ways, so maybe it should be funded 50/50, but it’s a temporary situation until East Link, and the Eastside as a whole depends on Seattle rather than the other way around, so it makes sense that the Eastside pays more of shared costs.

      East Link was originally going to be paid by East King from Intl Dist. Judkins Park was only there to avoid too-wide stop spacing. North King didn’t consider it a priority, and wouldn’t have built a line to it if there hadn’t been an Eastside extension. Later North King took on the Intl Dist-Judkins Park cost. It did it not for some moral or subarea equity reason, but because East King begged it to so that East King could spend the money on a downtown Bellevue tunnel, which Bellevue was insisting on. Later still — just a few years ago — there was a growing realization that Judkins Park could have a major benefit to Rainier Valley and the CD and make up for some flaws in South Link (the surface alignment in SODO and MLK), and realizing that both the 7 and 48 would be adjacent to it, and the 8 is only five blocks away, so that could improve mobility in the area more than people initially thought. That late recognition was similar to 130th. At first people thought Lake City was screwed and nothing could be done. Then they realized a 130th station and a feeder to it would improve the situation significantly. The idea was actually Sound Transit’s: it had a 130th Station in the Aurora alternative for Bitter Lake. Activists realized that if one alternative could have an extra station, the other alternative could too. But although North King belatedly realized some benefits of Judkins Park Station, it was not the motivation for the line, and postdates the decision to build the line.

      “Adding a bunch of stops between the Mount Baker tunnel and downtown Seattle defeats the purpose of East Link.”

      Are you talking about East Link or South Link? In South Link, all three stations were in the original Beacon tunnel alternative. In East Link, only one additional station has been suggested, at 12th & Dearborn. Not “a bunch of stops”. Each station adds 20 seconds of travel time, an insignificant amount. The problem is not adding one or two stations, it’s adding ten or a dozen stations. Sometimes transit fans miss this, including myself. I used to be really negative about adding even one station until I realized this.

      I’m still not fully convinced 12th & Dearborn is important, and it has little chance of ST approval, even just a reserved space for a future station. Those who think it’s important had better start telling ST and your Seattle boardmembers about it now, and maybe start a petition, before it’s too late and ST makes other plans for that construction area. The reason I’m unconvinced is the lack of a vision for the Goodwill area, and the walking distance from Dearborn Street on the Jose Rizal Bridge to Jackson Street. There’s no plans for a supermarket anchor or any similar neighborhood center in the Goodwill area; all that’s gone up is a few buildings without much thought. Goodwill could vacate and turn it over to a master-plan developer, but that’s unlikely because Goodwill would have to find another large space elsewhere, and there aren’t many such large spaces around. Plus it would be expensive to buy the land and relocate. And it would be hard on its heavily transit-dependent customers and workers to be further from Central Seattle and so many nearby transit options. And there wouldn’t be much benefit to Goodwill. Goodwill has an awesome location near downtown, right near I-90 and several frequent transit routes, and you don’t give that up easily.

      “I would hazard a guess not a single eastsider will continue on East Link to Roosevelt or Northgate.”

      You would be wrong. If you’d said “not many” instead of “not a single” I would have agreed with you. Route-miles and travel time are just two factors, not the only factors. If Link is a one-seat ride and two buses are a two-seat ride, some people will value that. If the 271 meanders maddeningly through Medina and pokes along in Montlake and on Pacific Street/15th, that’s another. If it’s less convenient to transfer between bus-bus or train-bus than it is to transfer train-train or a one-seat train ride, that’s another factor. If you like traveling fast underground and the ambience of a train and not seeing cars, that’s another. It also depends on where in the Eastside you’re starting from, and what the bus alternatives are from there. Thousands of people will weigh these factors differently and come to different conclusions.

      But it’s also irrelevant. Link’s primary purpose isn’t to go from Bellevue or Redmond to Roosevelt or Northgate or Lynnwood; its primary purpose to go from Bellevue or Redmond to downtown or UW. The fact that North Link and East Link are interlined rather than both terminating at Westlake is for overlapping trips. Some people are going from Bellevue or Redmond to downtown or UW. Others are going from Bellevue to Roosevelt (to walk around Greenlake) or Northgate (because their friend lives there or their club meets there or to watch hockey). Others are going from Roosevelt to Capitol Hill. or from Capitol Hill to Intl Dist. (I live on Capitol Hill and shop at Uwajimaya and Little Saigon.) An interlined line serves all these kinds of trips simultaneously. Grade separation means it can serve additional stops along the way as fast as a bus can with fewer stops.

      This is especially apparent with North Link. Everything from Everett to Intl Dist is as fast on Link as it is on a bus. It’s the midrange of ST Express: slower than Sunday morning but faster than rush hour. Yet Link serves Northgate, Roosevelt, and Capitol Hill, which no north end express bus ever did. And it allows trips like Roosevelt to Capitol Hill at the same level of service as an express bus from Northgate to downtown. East Link will be slightly faster than the 550, and the interlining creates a new north-east corridor that never existed before. The Bellevue-Greenlake ST Express makes a token attempt to do that part of the time, but it’s clunky and slow and doesn’t serve the entire Link corridor. South Link is the opposite situation, because Link is slower than the former 194 or the 577 or 594; it’s more like the 574, which doesn’t go north of SeaTac. But the 577 and 594 aren’t like the 512 either, and Link is like the 512.

      “I am not a fan of 90 miles of spine”

      I know you love that talking point, but Redmond to downtown or Redmond to Northgate is not 90 miles. The rest of Link is irrelevant to that, the majority of Eastside east-west transit trips. Some parts of that 90 miles are more essential or worthwhile than other parts; it’s not all the same throughout Link.

      “ST built commuter rail, and then ran out of money.”

      “Ran out of money” is a strange way to describe a smallish and temporary budget gap. The phrase implies ST can’t afford any more of ST3 and has to abandon the whole thing. That’s not at all what is happening. ST could drop 10-20% of the investments and build the rest on time. Or it could delay some things by a few years to avoid dropping anything, as it will probably do. If ST makes the wisest choices (which I have no confidence it will do), it keep Redmond, Lynnwood, and Federal Way on schedule (as it plans to do), keep the three Stride Lines and 130th Station on schedule, and then do some combination of Ballard and West Seattle on one or two tiers, Everett/Paine (sadly) on the same or next tiers, Tacoma (sadly) on the same or next tiers, and then get to Issaquah at the end or preferably downgrade it to Stride.

      1. Goodwill could vacate and turn it over to a master-plan developer, but that’s unlikely because Goodwill would have to find another large space elsewhere,

        Goodwill is sitting on land that’s currently appraised at over $70M. The way commercial real estate is valued that means it’s probably worth more like $150M. Half of the land right now is parking lot and they’re parked out a large portion of the time. For the same square footage parcels south of Rainier Beach Station (where’s the beach?) are currently appraised at ~$4M. Or just add to their facility in SODO where land is half the cost of the Dearborn area. That’s a pretty nice chuck of change and selling would likely include a mandate to build a certain amount of low income housing.

      2. If Goodwill were going to move, why hasn’t it already done it or at least announced a plan? Why did it build that office building on the corner?

      3. “The Federal Government did not “pay for” the DSTT. The project was funded almost exactly 50% by UMTA funds, so the Feds were certainly involved. But your phrase sounds like the Federal Government was the majority funder. It was not; King County provided its half and then the overruns.”

        “It was certainly worth it.”

        Fair enough TT.

        The point I was trying to make is the N. King Co. subarea or Seattle did not pay for the tunnel so that it/they should receive some kind of consideration for the cost of the second tunnel. In fact, since buses were removed from the tunnel east King Co. has received little benefit from the existing tunnel, at least until East Link opens.

        Based on current ridership estimates there will be capacity in the existing tunnel for the spine, including East Link, and frequency through the core of Seattle should be excellent. The estimated cost of a second tunnel has risen from $2.2 billion to around $3.65 billion, and as the Wiki link above and recent tunneling in Seattle have shown, cost overruns are the norm.

        So at $3.65 billion (if the subareas even had that money and all goes well) does it make more sense to release the $1.1 billion to the four other subareas to complete projects in their subarea, and $1.1 billion to N. King Co. for other projects, or to construct the tunnel for a West Seattle to Ballard line that is probably also not affordable. My memory is the second tunnel and sharing its cost was sold on the basis it was necessary to meet capacity, especially for East Link, although Bellevue had to pay 1/2 for its tunnel, and the eastside subarea the other half. I think most now understand the second tunnel is necessary for West Seattle and Ballard.

        Since I don’t think the four other subareas have the funds above the original estimated cost of $2.2 billion, and neither does N. King Co., maybe a list of alternative projects should be prepared for that funding — especially for N. King Co. since it will lose rail from West Seattle to Ballard. 130th, Graham St., there are probably six worthy projects Ross could come up with for that $1.1 billion in N. King Co. that would make light rail better much sooner.

        Yes, Durkan, Seattle, Seattle Subway, and Constantine will complain because they live in West Seattle or are delusional about money, but the other option is a surface line through downtown Seattle, like most of the rest of the region. If the money can be found for the actual rail from W. Seattle to Ballard, and N. King Co. determines this is the best use of money, then use the $2.2 billion to build surface rail along 3rd Ave. and surface rail and stations in West Seattle and Ballard.

        The problem with the argument that if we just extend completion and beginning dates on the tunnel and West Seattle to Ballard lines there will be adequate revenue to cover the cost increases is the cost increases increase faster than the revenue. That is what we are seeing now. That is why some argue buy the land now, or start the tunnel now, except with the tunnel no one knows where the cost will end up, and could drain the entire ST fund for all subareas if things go badly. Imagine telling the subareas they somehow have to come up with another $2 billion to complete their tunnel. That would decimate their projects.

        I think at this point the spine is probably what the funding can afford, except that if we free up the $2.2 billion the spine can be enhanced with more stations, and maybe more frequency. I include the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line I doubt will ever get built. There are much, much better uses of that $4.5 billion just along the East Link spine, including stations, and God forbid park and rides.

        Right now the doom and gloom for ST and the Board is what can’t be afforded, rather than someone coming in and saying ok, with the money we do have, if we don’t do the second tunnel (which is terrifying) or rail from West Seattle to Ballard, tell me what other projects we can do so we have something to sell and get excited about.

        This includes the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line, which is why peak hour express buses to Seattle will be critical if first/last mile access to East Link or SLU is poor. Otherwise Issaquah and Sammamish will demand the line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland be started early, because they will be pissed off, when what we really want them thinking is that line really is not necessary, and like every other city on the eastside they won’t zone for it.

      4. “since buses were removed from the tunnel east King Co. has received little benefit from the existing tunnel, at least until East Link opens.”

        King County received however much money ST paid for the tunnel, and release from its remaining debt payments. It was already making reduced payments because ST was paying for its portion of trains/buses. That ended when buses were kicked out of the tunnel and the tunnel’s sale was finalized.

      5. Daniel, will you actually read what I write? I have been proposing alternatives to building an entire second tunnel for months to which you are replied NOT ONE WORD. I do believe that some sort of tunnel needs to be pushed through SLU, but if it can be interlined, I’m for it.

        I’m not the bad guy here, trying to ram a”useless” new tunnel down East King’s capacious maw. So don’t lecture me about what a terrible thing I and other “Urbanists” are trying to foist on East King.

        If the existing tunnel can accommodate all three lines for the relatively modest cost of ventilation and signaling upgrades and some way can be identified to attach an SLU/Ballard line without too much disruptive digging or messing up Symphony Station too badly, that is what should happen.

        All of Ross’s complaints about the new tunnel being redundant would go away. All of your complaints about the new tunnel being too expensive would go away. All the complaints from a lot of people about the difficulty of transferring at IDS and Westlake given the design of the new tunnel would go away, at least for “in-direction” transfers. The mezzanines at Symphony and Pioneer Square are so far above the platforms that reversing in either of those stations is a PITA, but Westlake isn’t as deep nor is existing IDS, so wise folks making an out-of-direction transfer would use them.

        A junction along Pine Street seems out of reach because the builders of the original tunnel narrowed the roadway east of Westlake, so a third track can’t be attached there. That would have been very elegant and allowed for a station in the huge new cluster of buildings just northeast of the Convention Center.

        It would be possible to add a turnout and third track in the middle of Symphony, go through the north wall of the Platform level and then dive under the Westlake station box for northbound Ballard trains, but that would mean those trains could not serve the platform at Symphony. Southbound they could because they’d already be on the shared track and there’d have to be an extension to Westlake station under Third just north of Pine. That station would probably be stacked because the northbound track would be a level deeper and the tracks need to be at the west edge of the street to make a turn into the Stewart right of way.

        If a rider on a train from the east or south that will head to Ballard wanted to use Symphony, she or he could simply get off at Pioneer Square and wait for the next train to go one station. It’s not great, and riders wishing to board for Ballard would have to walk north to New Westlake, but at least it’s flat.

        This is certainly a weakness for an interlined DSTT, but it’s affordable and if you are right about the future weakness of suburban ridership, then there should be plenty of capacity in the single tunnel.

      6. Continuing,

        If Seattle would be amenable to opening Third Avenue just north of the Symphony station box, it would be just barely possible to make the junction for the northbound trains immediately north of the Symphony platform. The dive downward to pass under the Westlake station box would have to be quite steep, but it is downhill with no curves so it wouldn’t be a safety hazard. Folks might seek out the ride to Ballard for the thrill!

        It would require a brand new junction box just north of Symphony, though, because — once again — you can’t break into bored tubes without constructing an enclosing shell, supporting the tube structure and removing the upper 3/4 of the compression rings one at a time. It would be a pretty exciting thing for people on trains riding through to watch the progress from month to month, but it should be doable. Carefully.

        It would also be quite expensive and would really mess up Third Avenue for two or three years. But it would make the tunnel fully functional, making all stops along Third Avenue in the northbound direction for Ballard trains.

      7. “If the existing tunnel can accommodate all three lines for the relatively modest cost of ventilation and signaling upgrades”

        There might be a slim opportunity for this. The ST3 candidate list had a project to increase DSTT1’s capacity from 3 minutes to 1.5 minutes. It was deselected when ST chose a second tunnel instead. But now that costs have become a larger issue and post-covid ridership will probably be somewhat less or grow more slowly, it may be worth revisiting the issue. Since it was on ST’s list, ST already has a concept for it and some acceptance of it. It was deselected not because it was bad but because there was a shiny Christmas gift next door. Now that circumstances have raised doubts about the shiny gift, there may be some openness to reevaluate the retrofitting concept.

        “and some way can be identified to attach an SLU/Ballard line without too much disruptive digging or messing up Symphony Station too badly, that is what should happen.”

        Oh yes, Ballard would need a branch that doesn’t exist. ST never identified how this might work because it switched to the second tunnel before getting that far. It could have gone out the Convention Place portal but that’s gone now.

        My main concern is how long Link would have to be shut down to upgrade the signaling. After the disruptions this year, one more shutdown seems like the least of our problems. But if it’s shut down for nine months, that would be frustrating.

      8. “The ST3 candidate list had a project to increase DSTT1’s capacity from 3 minutes to 1.5 minutes. ” Can someone share a link to this study? I thought this got dropped because it was determined to not be feasible. I thought the stations couldn’t handle the passenger loads if an entirely incremental 6-minute, 4-car line was added to the peak load.

      9. Thanks, Mike, for your reasoned reply.

        Daniel, when DSTT was built King County as a whole was on the hook for the bond debt, but King County was a much different beast when the vote was taken in 1983. Boeing, WaMu and SeaFirst were the big economic enchiladas. Microsoft growing rapidly, but Windows was still a screen artifact floating on DOS. Google and Amazon were a decade and Facebook one and half in the future. Microsoft didn’t have its campus until 1986, just the original building next to I-405 and SR520 and others scattered around both sides of Lake Washington.

        The voters of King County undertook the indebtedness for the DSTT willingly and, I would submit, were happy when it opened and don’t regret having built it.

        I’m not quite clear what you mean when you say that East King no longer gets “much benefit” from the DSTT now that it’s rail only. Are you saying that North King “owes” East King some special consideration because it had nice bus access with the 550 and some Metro expresses in the tunnel but no longer does? I ask because, well, all those North King expresses that used to be in the tunnel aren’t either. Nobody is persecuting the East King Subarea.

        In fact, the subareas didn’t exist for a long time after it was dug. It was a county-wide project, because downtown Seattle was, and remains, a major driver of employment in the County. A lot of support jobs in other places serve those office towers downtown.

      10. AJ, the stations could handle the load if center platforms were included in the bus passing lane. That’s fairly expensive because of ADA requirements, and it would make the stations less elegant. It certainly isn’t compatible with a turnout within Symphony Station.

        But I would submit that ST had better be studying some way to build Ballard-Downtown without boring both directions of the deep tunnel and without Midtown and New IDS. If a plunging northbound junction just north of Symphony isn’t feasible then Al’s idea of just digging a single track tunnel between New Westlake and New IDS should be in the mix.

        Otherwise, the plunging northbound and level-at-the-Westlake-curve model of a connector to the SLU line could work, disruptive though it would be.

      11. “No it didn’t. Link is predicated on the region’s current population and planned upzones (e.g., Everett and Totem Lake have definite plans). Not only the current population, but the population as it was in the early 1990s when Link was drafted. It’s a judgement call how much population and density justifies a train, and the people who were calling for the spine thought they already had it”.

        Except you ran out of money, Mike, unless the commuter spine is all that was intended. Four million residents with a much smaller number of transit riders can’t fund 90 miles of light rail plus an expensive urban rail system in a city with lots of hills and bridges. Of course Snohomish Co., S. King Co., Pierce and King Co. were calling for rail to Seattle, because Seattle paid for most of it (except East Link).

        ST made a choice whether they understood it or not based on how far the money would go: commuter rail over urban rail. It should have begun with the urban rail IMO because running buses on interstates to intersect with urban rail is not a bad alternative to 90 miles of spine, and it was mostly Seattle money funding the north/south spine.

        “I’ve said repeatedly that cross-lake rail was justified in the 1970s, and in the 1990s, and in 2008 when we voted for it, and in 2021. Because that’s what proper urban areas do: they build transit and satellite cities at the same time, they don’t wait until decades later for the transit. King County clearly planned to channel growth to the Eastside in the 1970s and 80s.”

        I don’t know who “we” are who voted for East Link, but the eastside citizens voted for it because Bellevue wanted a direct connection to downtown Seattle, because back then Seattle was where the action was. Bellevue was nowhere in 2004.

        No one is arguing cross-lake rail was not “justified” (although the benefit compared to buses in the center roadway with access to the transit tunnel and rail is small, but the subarea had to spend the money somewhere). That is why a majority of eastsiders voted for ST 2. What else would we build with the money?

        The issue is WHAT we voted for. We voted for commuter rail from Bellevue (and the eastside) to downtown Seattle, not Dearborn, and commuter rail has fewer stops. I mean, if not a single eastside resident would ever get off East Link on Dearborn is that a good stop for a rail line they paid the majority of?

        “King County clearly planned to channel growth to the Eastside in the 1970s and 80s.”

        King Co. had little to do with eastside growth. (In fact poor planning in unincorporated areas of King Co. under Ron Sims is why most unincorporated areas were annexed or incorporated on the eastside). I was 12 when my family moved from Seattle to Mercer Island, and there was virtually no “eastside”. The eastside was born out of dissatisfaction with Seattle public schools, and the issues with crime in Seattle at the time, which in the 1970’s was not a pleasant city. Then Microsoft opened and grew, and now Bellevue’s growth is due to the same factors in Seattle as in the 1970’s.

        Which is why interest in cross lake travel on East Link is waning on the eastside, but no matter what we had to spend the money someplace, and just about any place is better than Issaquah to S. Kirkland.

        My entire point is understand what KIND of rail East Link is, which is commuter rail, because pretty much only the Bellevue to Seattle run justifies the cost of rail over buses in dedicated lanes, or adding a transfer to half of eastside commuters.

      12. “Can someone share a link to this study? I thought this got dropped because it was determined to not be feasible.”

        It wasn’t a study, it was a list of candidate projects passed out at the December 2015 board meeting. I don’t know whether there was a study or what it might have shown. ST just stopped pursuing it when it decided to go with the second tunnel instead in early 2016. That may have been because it thought an augmented tunnel might still not have enough capacity or there was a possibility of that, or that the second tunnel definitely has more capacity (and could accommodate an additional line in the future), or for redundancy to avoid depending on one point of failure (a single tunnel), or because it liked two tunnels, I don’t know.

        “Except you ran out of money, Mike, unless the commuter spine is all that was intended. Four million residents with a much smaller number of transit riders can’t fund 90 miles of light rail plus an expensive urban rail system in a city with lots of hills and bridges.”

        You’re making lots of assumptions. Other countries do it.

        “ST made a choice whether they understood it or not based on how far the money would go: commuter rail over urban rail.”

        It’s not commuter rail. Sounder was a separate project and was understood by voters as commuter rail. ST chose light rail not because of cost but because it’s compatible with all three alingment choices: street-running, elevated, and underground. Heavy rail and third rail are incompatible with street-running, and ST initially envisioned a lot more MLK-like segments than actually happened (as all American light rails before it since the 1970s had been). ST chose non-commuter-rail specs and frequency. BART goes up to 85 mph; Link is limited to 55 mph because of its spec: the track curves and inclines and train quality didn’t specify it must be capable of higher than 55. That causes a logic gap between 55 mph and the distance to Tacoma and Everett (an hour or more with a train’s stops and detours), but that’s where ST didn’t fully think it through.

        In the 1980s when the DSTT was planned, “the region” was within King County, between Kent and Bothell and Redmond, and you could possibly argue for extending it up to Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood. 90% of the population was within that area, and Tacoma and Everett were separate job markets. Boeing workers were about the only ones who commuted 30-60 miles, because Boeing yanked groups between campuses repeatedly with little warning.

      13. Daniel, Bellevue (all stations) to Seattle ridership will be dwarfed by East Main to Redmond Downtown ridership by 2035. ST will be running turnback trains using the stub for the line to Issaquah which will be under torrid construction by then. It will have reached a properly-sited (not “Richards Road”) station in Factoria a year or two earlier.

        The lavish, self-indulgent suburban lifestyle is about to come to a screeching halt — literally. The 120 degree summer that’s facing us as far north as the Central Valley of California says “NO MORE GAS BUGGIES” loud and clear. But there isn’t enough lithium and rare earth elements for everyone who wants an eCar to have one. Oopsie! East King Masters of the Universe® will be riding scooters to the stations in fifteen years and saying “Thank you, Lord, that I live near that station!”

      14. “Bellevue (all stations) to Seattle ridership will be dwarfed by East Main to Redmond Downtown ridership by 2035.”

        Even if cross-lake travel turns out to be unexpectedly low, or lower than intra-subarea travel, we should still have a rail line across the lake, to connect the two largest cities. That’s what a metropolis needs to function well. In any case, the reverse commute from Seattle to Bellevue/Redmond will continue to be large. There will still be many people who work on the Eastside but prefer to live in pre-WWII/central-city urbanity. Because the Eastside has not shown itself capable of imitating that. (Except one partial counterexample of Old Bellevue Main Street.)

      15. Mike, well sure, of course there should be a cross-lake line to connect the two largest cities in the region. But I truly believe that there will be much more ridership centered on Bellevue than on Seattle after a few years of development along the new line. That’s what happens with transit: people take more short trips than long trips.

      16. Bel-Red might get better ‘per capita’ ridership due to the short distances, but the sheer size of Seattle should be more riders across the lake than between Bellevue and Redmond, unless we think those office towers in Seattle are going to be empty in perpetuity.

        On a weekend with no major events in Seattle, sure the cross lake ridership might be lower than within Bellevue/Redmond.

      17. If there is more intra-Eastside ridership than cross-lake ridership, that’s a strategic win, because it means people are keeping their travel miles low and using transit more even in the suburbs.

        My main concern is countering the view that East Link shouldn’t have been built or Forward Thrust’s Eastside plan before it. That would just leave us behind in 20th-century car centrism and limited mobility and high energy use while other countries race further ahead. Link isn’t perfect but it’s the best thing transit-wise this region has ever done.

      18. “But along with the buckos comes a governance structure intentionally packed with suburban elected officials who call the shots.”

        TT, even if this statement were true, if neglects to consider subarea equity. “Suburban elected officials” may call the shots, but in their own subarea (depending on funding). Seattle is the big dog, especially in its own subarea. The real issue was when ST 1 and 2 were first considered only the core of Seattle had the funds to run rail to distant cities and neighborhoods.

        “Dudes from Auburn and gals from Mountlake Terrace don’t really think about what Seattle might need for full mobility. Rebuilding the Seattle-Everett and Seattle-Tacoma Interurbans on stilts sounds really cool and helps out everyone running for re-election.”

        Of course Auburn and Mountlake Terrace don’t consider Seattle in their transit decisions. It isn’t dudes from Auburn or gals from Mountlake Terrace’s job to negotiate for Seattle, and ST was not all that popular in those areas. If Seattle gets rolled by Auburn and Mountlake Terrace whose fault is that?

        Cities and subareas decide what is best for them. I doubt many candidates were running on ST 2 or 3 in Auburn, or Mountlake Terrace. But if Seattle was going to spend a fortune to run rail to them, why not accept that gift. Of course suburban cities want “commuter rail”, rather than urban rail, because they are trying to get to downtown Seattle where the action is, and prefer that others pay for most of it if possible.

        “So the Spine was a take-it-or-leave-it Cannoli from the Leg to Seattle”.

        Again you misunderstand subarea equity, and you misunderstand the structure of the ST Board. It certainly was not “take-it-or-leave-it Cannoli” for the eastside subarea. Bellevue determined the route through Bellevue, Microsoft determined East Link would continue to Microsoft, and Issaquah determined a very expensive and questionable line would run from Issaquah to S. Kirkland. Seattle dominates the legislature, and should have understood the different costs and needs between urban and suburban (commuter) rail.

        These were political decisions, and if Seattle transit advocates had not been so enamored with a regional Seattle Subway kind of fantasy and ST 4 (and ST had been moderately honest with cost estimates, although after the 84% cost overruns on ST 1 and the obvious underestimation in ST 3 for the second tunnel and West Seattle to Ballard lines the rose colored glasses should have come off) they would have understood what some understand now: begin and complete the urban subway first if you are Seattle and paying for it because that is where the ridership and money are, then begin to run commuter rail to the outer areas at less cost. Really, who the fuck on the eastside or in Seattle wants to go to Auburn?

        When you write (at 3:21 am): “Rebuilding the Seattle-Everett and Seattle-Tacoma Interurbans on stilts sounds really cool and helps out everyone running for re-election [in Auburn and Mountlake Terrace)” you miss the entire point I was trying to make, and that others have made before me: ST is a strange hybrid, part urban subway (that has run out of money to complete service within Seattle’s core neighborhoods), and then commuter rail outside that, which is why it is elevated (cost) and runs along the major highways (commuters).

        All I am arguing for now is to understand which is commuter rail (East Link, although maybe population growth in future decades or WFH will change that) and which is urban rail, because they have different goals and different needs.

        And that since a ST 4 is unlikely how to complete some promised projects with the money on hand, which is why I find your (daytime) posts about using the existing tunnel for rail to W. Seattle and Ballard plus central and East Link, intriguing, and would not be surprised if that idea is considered by the Board because it is the best “political” outcome, because ST and its priorities are simply politics because…drum roll….the board is made up of politicians.

      19. Daniel, “Seattle” did NOT decide on the route or extent of “The Spine”. It was essentially decided by the Legislature when it included Snohomish and Pierce Counties in the regional agency. If the train was supposed to be entirely within North King — e.g. “the Urban core” — why are they there? Hmmm?

        Then of course the ST Board, which indeed is dominated by King County members, but not those from Seattle, chose the specific routing through the U-District and Roosevelt, all underground from IDS to the portal at 95th. The ST Board decided that the first segment would be in the Rainier Valley, expecting that it would round the horn next to I-90 and run down Rainier. That proved to be too disruptive since Rainier is too narrow and there are way too many pedestrians to run over, so they moved it to Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard which they spent $100 million widening and renewing.

        Now I don’t know what the board composition was when the decision to go down King Boulevard was made, but right now there are four members who might be construed as “Seattle” representatives, though only two, the Mayor and a City Councilor, are explicitly so identified. The King County Chair lives in Seattle and there is a King County Councilmember who represents a district largely within the City, but that’s four out of seventeen. That’s only a majority in Donald Trump’s brain.

        Seattle dominates the legislature

        ROTFLMAO! There are only two legislative districts which are entirely within the City of Seattle. Three more have most or at least more than half within the City. Three have tiny, crack-and-pack slivers at the end of long skinny fingers pointing at the City. So five of forty-nine are “Seattle districts”. Again, a majority only in the mind of Donald Trump.

        A lot of what you assert is valuable and certainly needs to be considered before a second tunnel is launched or rights of way that demand it are obtained. But with Big Lie-level mis-statements like you made in your most recent post about the Legislature and Board, you seriously undermine your credibility.

      20. Apologies to all for not closing the initial bold.

        I notice with some sense of schadenfreude that you completely skipped over ST2 when railing against ST’s propensity to under-estimate projects. Yes, the Great Recession meant that Federal Way and Redmond Downtown was chopped from the project list, but ST did it quickly and appropriately when it became clear that the expected revenues were not coming.

        So far as the actual projects completed under ST2 with the exception of the Bellevue tunnel add-on, they all came in below the original estimates. Yes, that’s mostly because of the same Great Recession which made contractors very hungry for big projects. But not entirely. The actual cost of the Convention Center to Husky Stadium tunneling was about 90% of the estimate. That’s pretty good engineering.

        And what’s wrong with posting at 0321? I’m retired and like to be outside during the day. I haven’t got many summers left.

    5. “ IMO the number of stops from Everett to Tacoma will be a turnoff for many riders. Sure, lots of stops in Paris are fine, but Everett to Seattle to the airport to Tacoma is not Paris. I don’t like the train to the airport because of all the stops.”

      Paris has trams, local separated rail (Metro), regional rail (RER) and intercity rail. The regional rail system has all-day frequent trains. Each system is designed for a different trip length.

      ST is trying to make Link into a tram, local separated rail and regional rail at the same time. The result is mediocre service for any of these singularly.

      I really believe that the regional rail function should instead set the stage for higher speed intercity rail on government owned tracks. Even with fewer stations, the Link trains from Everett and Tacoma will still take a long time to ride because Link has a 55 mph top speed.

      The solution is to begin to plan tracks — or at least reserve space — in segments that can be used by faster trains as well as shorter distance service, like having express tracks and local tracks.

      1. ST is trying to make Link into a tram, local separated rail and regional rail at the same time. The result is mediocre service for any of these singularly.

        I agree in general, but I would add a few points: It really isn’t much of a tram. Trams usually operate like buses, they just carry a lot more people (or they can). So that means short stop spacing. For example, this map of the Toronto Streetcar system shows the tram stops as being quite close together: These are more like the North American standard for stop spacing (200 to 300 meters) than the international standard (400). Trams are usually a bit smaller. While Toronto’s streetcar are bigger than our streetcars (and buses) they are still nowhere near as big as our light rail trains.

        When trams have wider stop spacing, often they are taking advantage of existing railways. In that sense, they are acting like regional rail. There may be gaps, but building the rail is relatively cheap, and thus just something you accept.

        Speaking of which, most regional rail does the same thing. It takes advantage of existing rail lines. In some cases (high speed) there is a huge amount of work to make it fast, but even that is relatively rare. The best regional train service in this country is probably between Baltimore and DC. It is fast and frequent, but didn’t require massive spending.

        We are building a hybrid system. It is somewhat like a subway line, in that it is very expensive to build, and is the only such system serving the biggest city (Seattle). But the stop spacing is very poor, and clearly doesn’t follow best practices. As regional rail it is extremely expensive, but without the benefits of high speed rail. It is a subway/regional rail hybrid, with the worst characteristics of both.

        One last thing. Regional rail doesn’t get that many riders. The MARC trains I mentioned (connecting Baltimore and D. C., and many places along the way) gets about 40,000 riders a day. The DC Metro gets around 750,000. The buses in DC get about 350,000, while the buses in Baltimore get around 270,000.

        As cool as high speed rail for the region would be, it would not make that much difference in the daily lives of people. The Shinkansen is one of the nicest, most popular high speed rail system in the world (only recently surpassed by the Chinese system in ridership). It carries about 350 million a year. The Osaka Metro gets around 870 million. The three Tokyo subways get about 4 billion.

        It is great to be able to travel from city to city, or from the suburb to the big city. But if you are going to spend the big bucks, the first priority should be on making travel within the city much better. More people use it. More people (including those from outside the city) will depend on it. And finally, it adds the most value (as you wrote). Link to the Tacoma Dome is worse for getting to downtown than the existing options (Sounder + express buses) and there simply won’t be that many people going to the places in between. It wasn’t worth the money, and not what Tacoma needs most (which is better bus service).

      2. Ross, in many major cities, there are four subway tracks rather than just two. This is how parts of Chicago’s and New York’s subway systems are operated. It’s an alternative to having a stand-alone regional rail system like Paris.

        The larger point is simply about what we have planned is mediocre and incremental. It’s not terrible — but it’s not ideal or visionary either.

        Consider that Paris can be developed 360 degrees outward from the core. With Seattle’s natural constraints (Puget Sound, Lake Washington and ultimately the Cascades and closer in mountains), Seattle doesn’t have that. 5 million people here have to extend outward as far as a city of probably 10-15M with no natural constraints. Services for different trip lengths seem to have a place given our elongated geography.

        I’m not suggesting a solution. I’m simply observing the system we created. Compromising and incremental improvements by segment are a good things politically — but that also results in a mediocre transit system.

      3. Link is best described as a Stadtbahn system ( The only wrinkle is significant grade separation outside the city along freeway alignments, but underscored in the quote at the start of this thread (‘lots of stops…turnoff”), Link will still be ‘slow’ outside the core relative to typical express bus or commuter rail modes that would serve the relevant regional trip pairs, so I think the stadtbahn framework still applies as Alon’s 2*2 grid says nothing about grade separation.

        I don’t think looking at ridership for other American regional rail systems is a good comp because Link is designed to fix the major drawback of nearly all America regional rail: frequency, presumably the original topic of this post. Link will be like many other regional rail network in speed & alignment but with excellent, world class all day frequency for regional trips, while also having solid 4 minutes frequency in the urban core by overlaying multiple branches, a classic feature of stadtbahn systems.

        The Rainer Valley segment is properly thought of as a stadtbahn branch line serving SW King and onwards to Tacoma, not a “U-bahn” meriting all-day sub 5 minute frequency. The proper way to increase frequency south of the ID junction would be to overlay an addition branch service (to Renton? to Burien? to Southcenter?)

        Sound Transit isn’t building out a regional rail network on existing rail corridors because they mostly don’t exist (or were repurposed, often for bike corridors), except for Tacoma to Seattle where the cost of all day frequency is in the same order of magnitude (~$10B) of Link from SeaTac to Tacoma (the relevant comparison since a stadtbahn Seattle to SeaTac should be built either way)

      4. The stadtbahn framework also strongly suggests that as soon as there isn’t a cheap freeway alignment (I5, SR520) to leverage, the rail should run at grade along arterials, elevated only if needed to resolve perpendicular congestion. This would apply to Faulterory or 15th Ave in Seattle just as much as Airport Road or Pine Street (Tacoma).

        Intercity rail should remain on the Cascades/Sounder alignment south of King Station. North of King Station, Washington State eventually needs to build an entirely new alignment; given the Link frequency anticipated between Lynnwood and Seattle and the full capacity of the Northgate to downtown tunnel, leveraging Link’s rail north of King station for intercity trains was never on the table.

      5. Tom, I have read your posts on tunnel alternatives. Some of the engineering I don’t really understand, but I read your posts and know you are looking at alternatives even if I don’t reply, in part because I don’t understand the engineering. I know very little about tunnel engineering, except tunneling tends to cost more than anticipated. Whether ST would ever think outside the box and consider your alternatives who knows.

        You write:

        “I’m not the bad guy here, trying to ram a”useless” new tunnel down East King’s capacious maw. So don’t lecture me about what a terrible thing I and other “Urbanists” are trying to foist on East King.”

        Although I think ST was a little duplicitous with ridership estimates in ST 3 to sell the four other subareas on splitting the cost of the second tunnel with N. King Co., what I am saying now is the fly in the ointment is the tunnel’s cost is no longer $2.2 billion, with a B, but probably closer to twice that when done.

        If the cost of the tunnel was really $2.2 billion, and N. King Co. had the funding for the stations and rail from West Seattle to Ballard, we would not be having this discussion. East King Co. like the three other subareas are contracted to pay $1.1 billion towards a second tunnel. East King Co. would pony up its $275 million and that would be the end of it. But that is not enough, and N. King Co. does not have the funding for the stations and rail lines from West Seattle to Ballard, so I don’t know what to tell you, except it isn’t personal between subareas, or for me.

        There just isn’t enough money, and to start on a tunnel deep under 5th Ave. with very deep stations because the train is limited to a 3% grade (see, I do read your posts) with uncertain costs and no plan to pay for the stations and rail from West Seattle to Ballard is very unwise IMO.

        Even then, IF there were enough money for the tunnel and rail from W. Seattle to Ballard, Ross makes some compelling arguments about what else could be done with that money, and that includes the line from Issaquah to S. Kirkland, which as you know is in the east King Co. subarea. Bernie makes some good points about how many surface stations you get for each underground station.

        Think what else could be done in East King Co. transit wise with $4.5 billion, and I think a few peak express buses from Issaquah to Seattle when East Link opens just might convince Issaquah it doesn’t really need a $4.5 billion line (knowing of course Issaquah and Sammamish will want a fair cut of the $4.5 billion).

        So while I read your posts about tunnel alternatives that would be less expensive so rail from West Seattle to Ballard could work (depending on the stations) I also read Ross’s posts about all the other things that could be afforded with that money, from Graham St. to 130th to more frequency. In the end, if I were ST I would really be hesitant to start a tunnel under 5th Ave., remembering the Big Dig and just our own tunneling experiences, including the existing transit tunnel.

        I also wonder if rail from West Seattle would have been part of ST 3 if Constantine and Durkan didn’t live there. Geez, before looking for tunnel alternatives don’t you have to figure out a new West Seattle bridge for light rail, AND that does not cut car capacity, and same for Ballard?

      6. ST’s own projections say that there will be more riders between Westlake and Capitol Hill than between Westlake and Symphony and Westlake and Midtown added together. The justification of the second tunnel does not appear to be max capacity or it would have crossed at Capitol Hill (and included a First Hill station). It’s to serve the SLU area and provide tracks to a maintenance and storage yard fir that segment.

        Also, the peak load number never seems to get presented, questioned or updated. Many of the original projections use data from either 2010 or even 2000 and flex hours was much less popular then. Seattle has had a huge residential boom (25% more residents since 2010) and office space boom in the past several years yet ST never seems to announce new load forecasts. The irony is that ST has 2018 and 2019 real world usage data to more accurately portray peak loads.

        Frankly, new forecasts is a high level need that Board members should be demanding. There is already considerable complaining from some board members that that ST staff is forcing the board to choose options without providing ridership data.

        Of course, ST staff is only letting the board play around with opening years and not actual project definitions. It’s hard to say if the board accepts being kept in the dark because it gives them political cover or because they are merely letting the staff jerk then around.

      7. It is about max capacity because even with a magical junction at Westlake, the Westlake to ID section can’t handle the volume of trains needed to provide solid frequency QA to Westlake while also providing the needed capacity UW to Westlake; it’s the combination of capacity WL-UW and frequency WL-QA. Staff simply doesn’t think they can run 50% more trains through the DSTT1 to meet both needs. With a single tunnel, there would either be crowding at Cap Hill or mediocre frequency in SLU.

      8. Ross, I think you’re forgetting NJDOT, which does essentially the same thing as MARC but between Trenton and New York. It’s a step down from Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service, both in travel time (longer) and price (“shorter”). It is much more frequent than MARC. It essentially never quits. The last departure that runs all the way to Trenton from NY Penn is 1:22 and service starts again at 4:33. Yes, that’s a three hour gap, but that’s pretty short in a 100 mile service.

      9. Ross, in many major cities, there are four subway tracks rather than just two.

        Yes, absolutely. But they don’t go out as far as what we are building. Look at the “El” in Chicago, or the New City Subway system. These are massive cities that dwarf us in population. Yet in both cases, the subways only go out about 15 miles.

        Services for different trip lengths seem to have a place given our elongated geography.

        Sorry, that’s a silly argument. Look at Chicago, and it is the same thing. The subway system doesn’t go east, because there is lake there. Nor are we L. A., with density spread out over a large region. Almost all of the density is within the city, and most of what isn’t is going to be well served by East Link. There is nothing special about our geography that suggests they type of system we are building. Far from it. Unlike a lot of newer cities, we actually do have a very strong center, with a lot of density there. We aren’t Phoenix or Denver. Speaking of which, even places like Denver find that a model like ours just doesn’t work. If you send light rail miles and miles from the urban core, it doesn’t work (even if your urban core isn’t that strong). There is simply no good reason to build what we are building.

      10. Ross, I think you’re forgetting NJDOT

        I didn’t forget anything. I chose MARC because it was at least in the same ballpark as the cities we are talking about. Trenton is small, New York is huge. The reason that train runs so often is all about the latter. Same with the most popular, most frequent commuter line in the United States, the famous Long Island Railroad (or LIRR). It carries over 350,000 people a day, serving much of the city along the way. That sounds impressive, until you consider that the New York Subway carries 5.5 million, and the buses carry 2.2 million.

        We aren’t that kind of city. Nor are as big as DC, but we are closer. Likewise, Baltimore dwarfs Tacoma in size, but at least the ratio between the two cities is somewhat similar. The point being that there are plenty of people from DC who travel to Baltimore and vice versa. Yet even with all of that, and even with very good service between them (way better than you could ever expect between Seattle and Tacoma, given our size) the trains don’t carry that much. Like New York City, they are a small subset of the overall transit ridership.

      11. The best regional train service in this country is probably between Baltimore and DC. It is fast and frequent, but didn’t require massive spending.

        Um, the best? Or, as made clear in your defense, the “most like what I’m thinking about right this instant”?

      12. And not to put too fine a point on it, but MARC’s Penn Line on the NEC runs every two hours through the base service period. The Camden (e.g. CSX) line runs four times a day with only one run in the off-peak direction each way.

        Maybe the “nicest”; I haven’t ridden it. Definitely fast! Hardly “the best”.

      13. AJ, you are correct that the capacity of the single tunnel would be exceeded if the original ridership projections are correct. However, Daniel makes some excellent points that work-from-home may indeed take the point off the peaks, and if it does, spending $4 billion on a new tunnel — if indeed it comes in at that relatively low price — would be a poor investment.

        I believe that ST needs to keep the alternative of upgrading the traffic control and ventilation of the existing tunnel and linking the SLU/Ballard line to it somehow in their back pocket. Come 2025 when things have stabilized a bit, the future of working in downtown Seattle will be much clearer.

      14. However, Daniel makes some excellent points that work-from-home may indeed take the point off the peaks, and if it does, spending $4 billion on a new tunnel — if indeed it comes in at that relatively low price — would be a poor investment.

        $4 billion buys one hell of a signal system.

        There are some incredibly busy two track railroads out there. On some of those lines, a train is arriving at the platform 100 feet behind the one leaving.

        Maybe the last piece of ST3 that needs to be built is the second downtown tunnel, with Ballard link joining the existing line at Westlake rather than Stadium?

        Peak period, MAX does 32 trains per hour per direction over the Steel Bridge, and that’s WITH complex surface intersections plagued with auto traffic.

        East Link: 6 trains per hour
        SeaTac Link: 6 trains per hour
        West Seattle Link: 6 trains per hour.
        That’s still 18 trains per hour.

        Knock that up to 8 trains per hour on each line (7.5 minute headways) and you still get a train every 2.5 minutes (24 trains per hour total). Other systems do this frequency quite well.

        Despite there being very densely populated places, I can’t think of that many that have had to built two parallel subway lines just for capacity. Certainly, some places have done this to serve different nearby neighborhoods, and a few places need extra tracks for express / local trains, but two lines two blocks apart? Seems very rare.

      15. “Daniel makes some excellent points that work-from-home may indeed take the point off the peaks, and if it does, spending $4 billion on a new tunnel — if indeed it comes in at that relatively low price — would be a poor investment.”

        Even if this is true, it was not known in 2016 when we voted for ST3. Currently there’s uncertainty: how will post-covid commuting be different from pre-covid commuting. The most we know is that some companies are leaning toward a hybrid schedule, and a few companies are leaning toward allowing full-time telework. The companies may change their mind again before they finalize it. In this environment, the only wise thing to do is continue our plans, and we’ll have more clarity in 2022 and 2023 which way the workforce is going. Major ST3 construction won’t start until after after Lynnwood, Federal Way, and downtown Redmond are finished, because 2/3 of the tax revenue is going to them until then. So ST doesn’t have to make a final decision until 2024 at the earliest.

        If we downsize Link assuming there will be a 40% drop in commuting and then it doesn’t happen, then we’ll have overcrowding and ST would have been faithless to the 2016 voters who voted for the second tunnel and all that. Conversely, if ST absolutely can’t afford the entire representative alignment, it will have to cut. But ST doesn’t believe it’s that dire: it believes it can delay some projects a few years and complete all of it. Some may not believe that, but how many of them are accountants and have expertise in the transit industry?

        Separately, Ballard and West Seattle are subject to community-driven scope increase and land-price driven price increases, that may require something further to be done to the Ballard-DSTT2-WS plans. Some speculate they’re flat-out unaffordable and ST will have to ditch the tunnel, and I don’t know what that would mean for Ballard and West Seattle and Everett/Tacoma-caused crowding. That’s all speculation, and the real situation is completely up in the air. We’ll see eventually which way the board is leaning, and which delay schedule or other modification it favors, and then we can decide whether it’s good or bad. This will inevitably require boardmembers to reprioritize each other’s home projects, and that’s an unpredictable battle that we don’t know which way the cards will fall.

      16. So ST doesn’t have to make a final decision until 2024 at the earliest.

        Of course it doesn’t. I estimated 2025 but maybe it will be clear in 2024; that would be nice.

        The point is to start a conversation about what to do if WFH turns out to be a continuing thing. If there’s any industry where it will take hold, it’s software. Good coders are extreme introverts, and meetings — especially those horrid “stand-ups” where everyone has to report on their latest wonderful idea in public — are torture for them.

        I will grant that the breakroom effect is strong in I/T, because most solutions need multiple points of view to achieve an optimized solution. Even the most brilliant programmer is going to miss the edge cases occasionally. But Zoom, Teams and other tools can go a good way toward replacing the breakroom.

      17. Glenn, thank you for your illustrations that MAX and other light rail lines throughout the world which run trains considerable more frequently than every three minutes. Given ST’s insistence that junctions in the main stem of “The Spine” not have level-crossings of revenue-service trains, more frequent service is easily within reach within that main stem.

        It’s important to remember that Sound Transit sees itself as a capital investment construction agency whose primary focus is building rail lines between the six or so really large “urban centers” in the three-county region. It has a secondary responsibility to operate trains over the lines it builds. It’s a carpenter with a very good hammer but no circular saw: hence every problem looks like a nail.

        There’s a reason for that: it is legislatively required to use buses only for “temporary” service before those rail lines are completed or as peripheral short-cuts between large activity centers that will not be directly linked by rail for decades if ever. Examples would be the BRT lines to run between Lynnwood and Bellevue via Bothell and the mooted express between Bellevue and UW bypassing Medina. It is also allowed to link less important centers to the rail core using buses, as in 522 STRide.

        But it was not the Legislature’s intent that it be a primary bus-service provider. So actions like “funding Pierce County’s Stream network” while certainly making transit design sense are really not a part of its mandate. An argument might be made that ST can pay for arterial upgrades to support Stream, but not the daily operations. The same would be true for the operation of Metro’s RapidRide network.

      18. “ It’s important to remember that Sound Transit sees itself as a capital investment construction agency whose primary focus is building rail lines between the six or so really large “urban centers” in the three-county region. It has a secondary responsibility to operate trains over the lines it builds.”

        I agree that ST is currently viewed as a “builder” more than an “operator”. However, the public will quickly force the focus change to operator mode after 2025 when many ST extensions are finally operating.

        In 2026, the major active projects nearing or in construction are just TDLE and WSBLE. It looks like these will get delayed further because of higher costs. None of these new stations are serving highlighted regionally desired destination outside of SLU and Seattle Center. Plus, Link ridership will probably be nearly triple of 2019 rider counts (well over 200K weekday average riders).

        The escalator reliability issue of 2027-18 is a harbinger of the kinds of future ST issues that I think will evolve after 2025. At that point, I think that Link will be seen as an operator first. I even expect fundamental changes to administrative structure and required senior staff skills about a year after the many 2024-5 ribbon cuttings. I expect the Board meetings will be dominated by operational challenges.

        Finally, I expect that some issues that get little attention — like station circulation and congestion, service disruptions, possible overcrowding and equipment failures — will be front an center.

        It’s always more “fun” and “hopeful” to build something new than to operate and even refine existing systems. The current Board and senior staff may not realize it, but these next four years are the most hopeful and exciting that ST will have moving forward.

  13. Orr commented on South Dearborn Street service. Routes 226 and 235 served Bellevue, Beaux Arts, and Mercer Island, but not Kirkland. Route 226 was consolidated in fall 1997; ST Route 550 later absorbed it. For several years before the initial Link line in 2009, routes 7X and 34 (former Route 39X) ran on South Dearborn Street. With PBL, it is costly to have bus stops.

    1. The 235 did go to Kirkland and Totem Lake in the early 80s. My friends rode it from a junior high at Bellevue High School home to Kirkland, and later I lived on north Bellevue Way and took it to Kirkland and downtown Bellevue. It was also the route that served Beaux Arts. Other than that my home route was the 226, which didn’t serve Beaux Arts. I think it terminated at Overlake Village and was later extended to Redmond. I moved to Seattle in 1985 and didn’t follow the routes as closely then, but I thought they remained like that until the 550 started in the 90s. When the 550 took over Bellevue-Seattle, the northern tails were joined into a route 230 (Totem Lake-Kirkland-Bellevue-Crossroads-Overlake-Redmond.) Then the eastern half was renumbered to 231 although they were still interlined (at least weekends when I rode them). That lasted until RapidRide B replaced the 231 and 253 in the early 2000s. A new coverage route was added for the far eastern part of the 231 (east of 156th); I don’t remember whether it launched with number 226 but it has that now. It now goes the opposite way on Bel-Red Road, whereas earlier it was on 8th.

  14. If I were on the ST Board, TT’s ideas about using the existing transit tunnel to handle the West Seattle to Ballard line would be the most interesting politically (I don’t know enough to comment on the engineering).

    First it means I don’t have to tell West Seattle and Ballard they won’t get rail, or will get it 50 years from now.

    Second, it gives me leverage to tell Ballard and West Seattle to get real about stations and locations.

    Third, it removes the risk and uncertainty of a second, very deep, tunnel under 5th Ave. that really has no cost estimate because tunneling is so unpredictable, or to tell the four other subareas they may have to contribute twice their original estimated contribution which they don’t have.

    Fourth it frees up $1.1 billion for the N. King Co. subarea that can be used to pay for rail and stations for W. Seattle and Ballard, and $275 million for the four other subareas to complete their ST 3 projects, although I would have the four other subareas contribute to the rehab costs of the existing tunnel Metro has ignored.

    Fifth, the idea of getting credited with $275 million for each subarea (less rehab of the existing tunnel) if a second tunnel is not completed will likely quell threats to withdraw from ST(3).

    Sixth it means I don’t need to sell a ST 4, or tell the public ST 3 taxes will go on forever because like car valuations the voters failed to read the fine print..

    Seventh I wouldn’t have to tell Seattle the other option is a surface line down 3rd Ave. in a major city.

    Eighth I could tell Seattle Subway ST does not need a HB1304 type levy, and good luck on funding your dreams (although my advice would be to avoid tunnels at all costs).

    To be honest, I don’t know what maximum frequency would be in the existing tunnel. But I am also pretty sure different subareas will have different frequency needs.

    For example, I think East Link is limited to 8 minute headways anyway, and ridership across the lake will drop off dramatically during non-peak times, and ridership will not be 43,000 to 52,000/day, certainly with WFH. East Link could get by with 15 minute headways off peak. But if ridership were lower than estimated (which it will be on East Link) I could then argue good, we need it for capacity in the one existing tunnel (and the eastside subarea just picked up an extra $275 million). Still, frequency in the very core would be very high, and then adjusted depending on need for the lines outside the core, both with frequency and number of train cars.

    If the area booms in population or ridership is truly higher than anticipated through the downtown Seattle core then the next generation can look at a second tunnel. If I am an elected official on the ST Board I just want this ST saga to end. Open Northgate Link, open East Link, see where the ridership is, and tell West Seattle and Ballard they will get rail if the stations and locations (and surface lines) cost X.

    I am not an engineer or transit expert, but this is how politicians think.

    1. Daniel, thank you. I would agree that any SLU tunnel connected in some way to the DSTT should be designed and built with simple demising walls for future connection to a second tunnel should the need arise. One of the most painful errors Sound Transit has made is not to “future-proof” what it builds.

      For instance — and this is not ST’s fault; it long predates the agency — there cannot be an easily attached connection to the DSTT for a line through SLU or Belltown because no bellmouth was included in the northbound tube for a diverging line. A southbound link is easy to provide: just break through the north wall of the extended Westlake Station box at the curve west of the platforms and put a south-facing turnout in the southbound track. Easy-peasy, though it would probably require a relatively brief single-lane excavation in Third Avenue to support the wall during demolition and to remove the debris. I doubt it was designed as a demisable structure that a TBM could chew through as at the Pine Street connection.

      The northbound connection would require construction of a station-like cavern in which supports for the existing tube and the new diverging one would be constructed, the compression rings of the existing tunnel removed and a turnout to the diverging line placed in the existing northbound track. Doing those things would demand a considerably larger excavation in Third Avenue and for a much longer time.

      It would not be an easy thing to link Ballard/SLU to the existing tunnel. I expect that is exactly why ST chose the second tunnel option. They don’t want the hassle and potential perils of breaking into a bored tube tunnel. It’s hard to do.

      But it would be a LOT cheaper than a new tunnel with three new deep stations. (“New Westlake” and “New IDS” would essentially be new “stand-alone” stations with underground passages connecting them to the existing platforms). Boring the actual tubes themselves wouldn’t be expensive at all; it’s the new
      stations that run up the cost.

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