Erica C. Barnett will be moderating a MASS Coalition & allies sponsored online events for both the Mayor’s race and city council position 9.

Mayor – Wednesday June 16 @ 5:30pm
(Facebook, Google Calendar)

Council District 9 – Tuesday June 22 @ 5pm
(Facebook, Google Calendar)

Open to all via Zoom.

46 Replies to “Transpo-focused Mayoral and Council fora in June”

  1. Transit ridership to and from downtown during what had been the morning and afternoon rush hours has dropped off a cliff. Offices that will reopen downtown have done so, and not many employees are being required to commute to and from those offices daily. Seattle’s business district now is just like Midtown Manhattan’s — largely underutilized because of the new normal of hybrid work, remote work, and hub/spoke offices. The transit policies here need to change, big time. Proceeding with the stalled ST3 planning will not induce demand to the levels that government told everyone to expect when it floated the ST3 measure. The true tax costs now should be estimated, realistic ridership projections should be developed, and the public should be told the truth. If that happens a revote won’t be needed — the board will confront the truth, the public will learn the truth, and the ST3 planning will be aborted.

    1. And yes, ST3 should be addressed at a forum of candidates for Seattle city council offices because they could be appointed to its board and Sound Transit’s plans — taxing, land use, transit service levels, station locations, etc. are critical factors to all of what the next city council will have to do in terms of its planning. They are not truly separate governments.

    2. I am waiting with bated breath for all the Anon, obviously petitioners to appear on all the street corners within the Sound Transit district inviting the outraged citizens of the ST voting district to do just that.

      Better yet, include a rollback on the last gas tax increase, and I might even consider signing!

      1. Residents of the RTA district have no right to petition to get a ballot measure qualified so we can vote to amend, repeal, or create ANY policies for Sound Transit. We can’t impose our will as residents of the district by voting for representatives, by initiative, or by referendum. Try to keep up . . ..

    3. I think it’s way too premature to draw any conclusions about transit ridership in the future.

      I also believe that ridership will eventually rebound, even if for a period of time here ridership is down. When ridership does rebound people will be thankful that we had the foresight to invest now, instead of waiting for later when it will be even more expensive.

      Also, traffic is already bad again and having an efficient way to get around the city, and the region, at all times of day is important.

      1. It is not important whether or not you try to draw conclusions about future transit ridership. What matters is that Sound Transit needs to update its wildly overblown ridership forecasts, the ones it used to determine whether each of the subareas needed new bus service and/or rail system extensions, and where such infrastructure should be located. There will be far fewer rush hour trips to/from urban cores, more all day service will be required outside growth areas, and bus lines might be far better for people NOW than promises of light rail service that are disappearing into the murky future decades from now when most of the ST3 voters will be dead.
        Sound Transit is not trying to obtain good information about future ridership or travel needs of the public generally now that remote working displaced many daily commutes to station areas in business districts.

      2. Anon, obviously – really impressive that you managed to contradict yourself within two sentences.

      3. Also, traffic is already bad again

        No it’s not. I’ve just started commuting the last two weeks to a new job. It’s 70+ mph on 405 & I-90 at peak commute. Few slow downs depending on exact time of day at on ramps but not a single metered ramp in effect. Ramp metering is happening mid-day when all the “work from home” people are out running personal errands.

      4. Also, traffic is already bad again

        No it’s not.

        It depends. I had to drive to work this morning, Ballard to downtown. I left at 7:45 and arrived just after 8. Unthinkable pre-COVID; I’d have to had left by 7:30 to have any hope to get to work by 8.

        However, from the north and the south (to/from and beyond the county lines), traffic seems just as terrible as it was. I’m sure if you ran the traffic counts, traffic is probably still statistically down, but anecdotally, I can’t tell the difference.

        And the Federal Way to Olympia Friday afternoon slog is back and starts at about 2 like before.

        Intercity and intercounty (King) traffic is probably still depressed because these workers are more than likely white collar with remote work options available.

      5. There will be far fewer rush hour trips to/from urban cores, more all day service will be required outside growth areas, and bus lines might be far better for people NOW than promises of light rail service that are disappearing into the murky future decades from now when most of the ST3 voters will be dead.

        Yes, but that was always true. Transit ridership was going up outside of rush hour *before* the pandemic: Most of the areas outside the urban core (i. e. “growth areas”) would definitely be better off with good all-day bus service. Nothing much has changed, really.

        I think the logical mistake you are making is that Sound Transit based ST3 on some sort of logical analysis. You assume they sat down, calculated how many people would commute from more distant areas, and said “The best thing to do is extend the subway from Everett to the Tacoma Dome, and build a new line from Issaquah to South Kirkland.”

        That isn’t how they came up with the proposal. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why you would think that. You assume that the agency, faced with spending an enormous sum of money (especially for a region this small) sat down, and did a comparative study. That would be the responsible thing to do. It is what you or I would do. But that didn’t happen. There was no analysis. Instead, they basically just went “You know what would be cool — trains to Everett, and the Tacoma Dome.” That is how they came up with the idea of the “spine” in the first place.

        So the fact that there will be fewer rush hour riders doesn’t change anything. It was never based on ridership. It was never based on saving the most people the most time. It was never based on providing the most transit benefit for the money. It was always based on building things they wanted to build, and what they wanted to build was always arbitrary.

      6. Seattle & Bellevue office workers are still WFH, but everyone else is back at work. I’d imagine I5 in Tacoma is much worse than in Seattle because Tacoma’s downtown office workers are a much smaller share of commute traffic. The Federal Way to Olympia afternoon slog is an every weekday problem as soon as JBLM calls its civilian staff back to work; it’s Friday only for the Seattleites for whom Pierce and Thurston are flyover country.

      7. I-5 has returned to congestion from noon to 7pm southbound between Northgate and downtown. Pity those who ride the 41, 512, and 522.

      8. Most of the “congestion” you’re seeing now is not the traditional peaks. People are “working” from home but running trips to Home Dopy to remodel. There’s more cars on the road but the “peak” no longer exists.

        That said, I’ve got a speed limit + commute from the eastside into Seattle anytime between 6:30-8:00 AM. NB 405 into Bellevue not so much but it seems to be a few really hard to understand choke points. On I-90 it appears that more people are traveling east (to Bellevue) in the AM than WB. Hard to say just looking at traffic but both directions are WAY above speed limit commutes.

    4. My downtown office is opening in another 3-4 depending on the pandemic situation, and I’ll bet that others are as cautious as ours and are waiting to see if the downward trend continues and holds before they open up. So I anticipate downtown and the transit to and from it will get much busier in the fall.

      1. We’re living in the new normal now. In other metro areas rush hour transit to business districts is up strongly from 2020 lows. Not here though . . . the tech- and admin- and government-heavy workforces commuting to/from the station areas are functioning productively and contentedly without the soul-sucking commutes. That won’t change much — it’s too productive and efficient.

      2. @Anon, obv,

        Hold it! Let me get this straight. You are saying that government won’t change because it is, hold it, wait for it, “too productive and efficient”?

        “Too productive and efficient”? Government? What parallel universe are you talking about here?

        Na, transit ridership is coming back, downtown offices are beginning to fill up, resturants are planning to reopen at 100% capacity, and cruises from DT Seattle are getting ready to sail again.

        It might take some time, but things will return to a pre-pandemic normal. And ST will be shown to have done the right thing by staying the course and building for the future.

        The next 5 years will bring massive changes for the better in local rail transit. My recommendation to you is to sit back and enjoy the ride, because the course is set and the future is bright! (I should go get some shades!)

    5. Current peak ridership is below pre-covid but higher than current midday ridership. We don’t know when offices will reopen or how many days a week the average commute will be. We’ll know more by the end of the year. Post-covid peak ridership will probably be lower than pre-covid, maybe 20%, but it’s unclear how much, and it’s highly unlikely to completely disappear.

      ST3 construction beyond Federal Way and Redmond won’t start until ST2 is finished around 2025 because 2/3 of the tax revenue is going to ST2 until then. So we’ve got a few years before changes to ST3’s schedule must be finalized. The ST3 spending now is just on planning, which is much cheaper than construction.

      Metro and ST already have a plan to respond to the peak recovery: they’ll just unsuspend routes and runs that are currently suspended as ridership increases, and stop when it stops increasing.

  2. Traffic on 520 heading into Seattle is also still way down, so to be consistent, you’d have to also halt the widening work over there too.

    More seriously, a lot of offices have not yet opened up and those that have are still at temporary reduced capacity. Even if 1-2 days work from home does become a new long term normal (way too early to tell that yet), that doesn’t mean anything empty downtown. One could just as easily argue that total number of downtown office workers will grow, to the point where even if each one only comes in 3 times per week, downtown is still full.

    It’s too early to say what will happen, but I can definitely say this. Stopping ST3 and restarting it again later will cost taxpayers more money in the long run than just building it. You can never build anything if it’s going to be abandoned at the slightest provocation.

    1. My wife’s company (DT Seattle) just announced that they are going back to 100% in-office in September. I’m sure they aren’t the only one. Even Boeing is starting to phase out WFH.

      With NG Link opening on schedule in October I think we will see a steady rebound in transit ridership.

    2. There’s no need to stop and restart ST3; major spending won’t start on it until 2025 when the ST2 projects are finished. Right now it’s just planning and early deliverables, and the early deliverables have been delayed.

      1. I generally agree that it’s possible to wait on major ST3 expenditures.

        The exception is with property acquisition. In particular, the Youngstown buyout. The West Seattle schedule by 2030 assumed no tunnel and no large-scale property purchase — all for a line destined to be a stub for several years.

        I hope ST can make it clear that West Seattle should get delayed. It seems like a no-brainer even though it’s politically problematic to admit the delay.

      2. A question, and a serious one.

        Assume that ST went ahead and built West Seattle as a “stub”. Does it really have to be a stub? With four-car trains is it not possible that the stretch of at-grade north of SoDo could support an additional train between Lynnwood and West Seattle, running opposite to East Link?

        Assume three-minute headways between Lynnwood and IDS and six-minute headways on Rainier. If East Link is the abysmal failure Daniel predicts, it could run every twelve minutes in the three-minute slot and the stub could run every twelve minutes in the opposite nine-minute one.

        I realize that some sort of connection would have to be made between the West Seattle trackage and the existing at-grade line, but it might turn out that’s all that’s ever needed if Lander and Holgate are over-passed.

        Seriously. There is supposed to be a connection between the West Seattle line and Forest Street, probably along Hinds. Inbound trains could simply follow it and use the outer-loop to swing around the MF and come up the ramp at Sixth South. You’ve got your flying junction.

        Outbound trains would just launch straight from the curve south of Lander. Trains can certainly run on that at-grade trackage nor th of Lander up to Royal Brougham with as little as two minutes between them if there is no cross-traffic.

        If it’s not a stub it might be worth doing and maybe no second tunnel is needed.

        Grant that leaves Ballard hanging, there are some grantedly kludgy ways we’ve projected to connect a north end tunnel.

      3. WS Link is supposed to run through the current tunnel, so I suppose it could if you stole the the slots from East Link, but if East Link is only requiring 12 minute headways at peak, we have far greater problems.

      4. I would point out that this leaves the busway intact for Renton, Burien service and “overflow” express buses should the Federal Way line generate demand in excess of what the six-minute headways on Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard can accommodate.

        What I see south of Lander is that the supports for the new elevated West Seattle Line would straddle the busway. It can’t be along the eastern edge of the street, because there’s a freight track south of Hanford. So the connection between the curve and the “permanent” trackage would just diagonal across the busway to whatever is the permanent alignment and join the southbound track. The curve into the MF would be exactly as it is currently engineered. The only difference between the “stub” and this idea is the diagonal and that were would be no need for separate platforms at Lander Street for the new line.

        The cost should actually be lower than the stub plan because no elaborate elevated station would need to be built.

      5. AJ, I think East Link will be more successful than Daniel does, but mostly between Redmond and South Main Street. In fact, I will bet a good amount of money that if the Issaquah line is ever built, it will have trains that make the “U”. There is going to be a solid strip of high employment and residential urbanism along it. There are four stations between 112th and 148th. In fact, ST may just abandon the idea of the little stub to “South Kirkland”.

        There may never be a need for cross-lake trains more frequently than every twelve minutes, but they’ll be needed every six north of South Main.

        Nowhere in Seattle are stations so frequent except downtown and (perhaps) in SLU.

      6. The issue is the track configurations in SODO, Tom. ST has not been inclined to discuss interlined tracks in SODO thus far. The stub plan appears to have tail tracks to the OMF but no switching tracks. The WS stub is even aerial in one alternative.

        The stub would not be so bad if SODO was to have trains from both places on opposite sides of a platform so that riders could have 16 train doors across from 16 train doors so transferring 20 feet would be almost seamless. I talk about lobbying ST to build this but I still haven’t been able to make enough people aware of how seamless it should be.

      7. You would probably just split the thing in thirds. East, South and West Seattle get trains running every 9 minutes. You could just run it that way all day, or slide to running every ten minutes if you prefer an easier to remember schedule (it wouldn’t matter in the combined section).

        I don’t see that happening though. ST is paranoid about crowding. There is also very little benefit. West Seattle is not a great line. It won’t carry that many riders. It is highly dependent on transfers, which means that to stand any chance of success, that transfer has to be easy and frequent. We already know that won’t happen most of the day, and if it doesn’t happen during rush hour, it is doomed to extremely low ridership. Imagine you take the 120 during rush hour to downtown. Would they truncate it? If they do, you are pissed. You have to put with an arduous transfer (to a high rise tower?) followed by a long wait. You get nothing out of it, and neither does anyone else (hardly anyone gets off the bus at SoDo). Even if Metro kills the express through downtown, they will come up with alternative expresses to downtown during rush hour. This means buses that first go to First Hill, or go to South Lake Union and loop around. These become the buses that rush hour commuters use, while those that travel in the middle of the day switch to driving (those that can, anyway). You certainly don’t get *more* all-day riders, or more rush hour riders, which means ridership sucks.

        Would ST risk crowding for a line that sucks? Of course not. West Seattle Link was symbolic — a line to please the county executive. It is not East Link.

        By the way, the strength of East Link is downtown Bellevue/Microsoft. Downtown Redmond and some of the other stops are also nice additions but without downtown Bellevue, it would be hard to justify the line. Every day, the trains going to the East Side in the morning will have plenty of people. There will be plenty of riders making business (and non-business) trips in the middle of the day, both directions. Not huge (not like between Northgate and downtown Seattle) but still significant.

        This just won’t happen with West Seattle Link. The morning train towards West Seattle will be mostly empty. In the middle of the day, there will be some riders, but probably fewer than on the buses before the pandemic, since their ride will be worse. Unlike downtown Bellevue (or even Microsoft) the West Seattle Junction is simply not a major destination (and the other two stops are much weaker).

      8. Probably the biggest challenge in running three lines with a train every 3 minutes on Link is turning trains around north of Downtown. A tail track at Northgate may not be enough if the schedule gets even slightly disrupted. However, once Lynnwood opens, riders in North Seattle may not be able to squeeze on a crowded train. The same is true for SE Seattle — and ST forecasts show the highest crowding per train will be in the Beacon Hill tunnel.

        In other words, the most strategic line addition would be a “City line” from Northgate to Rainier Beach if crowding is a problem. However, the tail tracks and MLK disruption would make that a challenge.

        In that case, having three lines between ID and Northgate may be conceptually even better for riders in current corridors than the second Downtown tunnel would be. That however leaves the operating question of what to do with SLU-Ballard. If this line was a fully-automated stand-alone line with higher frequencies and shorter trains, it would seem to result in a viable operational alternative — and the cost savings from smaller tunnels without catenaries and with shorter platforms would seem to be significant.

        The case study is the operational problems that Muni Metro had at Embarcadero in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The tunnel problem wasn’t running three-minute trains but turning them around. It was an unforeseen problem that proved to be major.

      9. Al is right about the problem at Northgate. The single tail track would be very hard-pressed to turn a train every nine minutes, at least, not without hot-seating the rear cab and that get expensive for an all-day line. It would be fine for an overlay, though, which is when the extra capacity within the city would be needed.

        Remember, it’s not impossible to widen the overhead structure for the length of the tail and put a second parallel reversing track in the middle. That would easily accommodate an in-service turnback there.

        That’s not cheap though — probably forty million or more because it would have to straddle First Northeast — but it could certainly be done. There is a scissors south of the platform to allow for reversing during the three years before Lynnwood opens. The trackage north of the platform will be visited only rarely during that time, mostly to remove poorly-performing trains from service.

    3. I don’t know if things will return to pre-pandemic levels (2019 was a record year at the end of a very long bull run), and the article I cited concluded with the warning that employees are going to resist spending their lives commuting into urban cores for work in the future. I hope the cruise ship industry rebounds fully, the convention center remodel is completed, and Seattle’s retail and restaurants get going, but it would be unwise to think there are not headwinds (and maybe Charter Amendment 29 will help solve some of those headwinds).

      I don’t know why anyone would think forcing workers to take packed transit for over an hour each day is fair or productive when most of us can’t live in a shoebox in the city. Working from home has made massive changes for the better for workers, if not transit, even if it is for 1, 2, or 3 days/week. The housing market and strong shift to SFH suggests a move away from urban cores by workers, because they don’t like commuting. In fact it might be the one thing in life they hate the most.

      Northgate Link and East Link will bring changes, but not “massive” changes. In the end we are simply converting buses to rail, and as AJ noted “[i}t will be a bummer when a bunch of people find out their commute isn’t shorter post-Link”.

      Northgate Link should succeed because it serves a dense urban area (Roosevelt, UW, Capitol Hill) that is difficult to drive, and as Ross has pointed out many times Link should have begun with this route, but it does not serve SLU or First Hill, massive omissions, and still will require express buses from Lake City because the commute will be too much of a bummer, and going east–west in this area is very difficult. You have to get to Link to use it, and in the end the test is total trip time. After Northgate, each station going north gets less and less productive, and mirrors I-5.

      East Link IMO will have little effect on the eastside. It is a car culture, there is little density, it is one single track through an enormous geographic area, and there is virtually no way Metro can provide adequate first/last mile access to East Link. Most eastside cities have elected to not run East Link through their major cores.

      Plus these commuter/riders have memories of the 550 that accessed the center roadway and transit tunnel, and the 554 that had grade separated roadways, usually with one seat.

      If anything, East Link will be a small change for $5.5 billion (not including the section to Redmond), and many commutes will get worse with East Link. ST’s estimated ridership for East Link pre-pandemic was so dishonest it was nearly criminal. Had East Link ended up from downtown Bellevue with a tunnel to downtown Seattle with a tunnel, considering much of the path is in right of ways or greenbelts, then that I could understand (at least in 2004 when Bellevue and Microsoft were interested in bringing Seattle to Bellevue).

      Where Anon makes a mistake is arguing ST 3 should be terminated because it is not needed in the future. In fact, ST 3 whether needed or not is not affordable in most subareas. It isn’t an issue of starting and then stopping ST 3; it won’t start period, because it begins with an unknown and terrifying transit tunnel under 5th Ave. that once again was dishonestly cost estimated, and the four other subareas won’t contribute to the true cost.

      My guess is the spine is it, and from an urbanist point of view I can’t think of anything that promotes sprawl more than 90 miles of rail from Everett to Angle Lake to Tacoma to Redmond (but not Graham St., 130th, West Seattle, Ballard, First Hill, SLU, Madison Park, and so on).

      I don’t have any animosity towards Link because it does not affect me, although I do think its cost — that comes from other needs (including the homeless and bridges and education) — is excessive outside the urban core, and ST was negligent not understanding or caring about first/last mile access. But I don’t think Link will change life as we know it, and in some cases will make trips worse, with longer trip times and more transfers. I believe transit should serve life, and housing, not the other way around or ideology, but then I don’t love transit, or hate it, and try to avoid it.

      So I would hold off on the shades just yet, although the return of the cruise ships is some sunshine (especially for a longshoreman), although there are real questions where the cruise lines will suggest their patrons stay pre and post cruise, Seattle or Bellevue.

      1. Lots depends on commute parking costs. Both Downtown Seattle and Downtown Bellevue are expensive places to park.

        A secondary factor will be Microsoft and Amazon on the Eastside.

        I think that if Downtown Bellevue continues having expensive parking, the two garages at South Bellevue and SE Redmond will fill up and that’s 6000+ riders (3000 spaces x 2 daily trips) from those alone. Adding in Judkins Park and riders at other places and feeder buses including Stride , I can see that 25K is a floor with the 43K-52K at most being 25 percent off — and that is much closer than the ST3 cost estimates.

      2. Al, so far as commute parking, has ST considered allowing people to “register” a vehicle to their ORCA card? Someone who drives in would be license plated and charged for parking there, details to be decided.

        But if the plate is registered to an ORCA AND that ORCA is used to make a Link round trip of essentially the duration of the parking period, all / most / some of the parking revenue would be refunded.

        Maybe they already do this and I just don’t know about it, but it seems like a very easy thing to program while getting rid of the “free parker” [they aren’t “riders”….] problem.

      3. Tom – I believe the HOV permit parking system associates ORCA cards with license plates; permit holders have to have a minimum number of ORCA taps per month to have an active permit. I would imagine SOV paid parking will work the same, with daily parking paid directly through Orca and no physical ‘permit.’

        But rather than give a discount for transit riders, wouldn’t it be more straightforward to simply ban non-rider parking? That’s what we already do at P&Rs; I don’t see why charging for parking would mean ST would suddenly be OK with non-riders parking, at least during peak.

        (There are non-peak use cases for ST or KCM to coordinate with local entities to allow for evening/weekend uses for garages, but that can all be managed on a case-by-case basis)

      4. AJ, how does ST (or Metro in its case) “ban” non-rider parking? I hear about people visiting Northgate using the P&R slots.

        Is that just a rumor?

      5. Good question, Tom!

        BART has a kiosk inside the fare gates for registering a parking spot number. However, Link has no fare gates.

        As a deterrent, a space registration kiosk could be positioned well inside a station. It wouldn’t prevent the problem but it would make it harder to park and then not use Link.

        Another strategy is to have a paid fare gate to exit the garage — with an Orca card payment option that has been tapped elsewhere in the system resulting in a $0.00 additional fare as an option to leave the garage. Then, non-riders would still have to pay a transit fare so ST still gets their money even if they don’t ride. You park — and you have to tap somewhere.

      6. I think they just have signs and will tow/boot your car if you break the rules. To me, it’s like parking illegally on the street … you can probably get away with here or there, or you know the times no-one is checking, but if you do it all the time you’ll eventually get caught.

        Given that parking permits only give you priority until 9.30am, I think ST can just have a team spot check garages 9-9.30am and scan license plate and issue tickets. Enforcement only needs to be strong enough to deter repeat offenders.


    This is a pretty good article from March 4, 2021 on companies’ plans post pandemic.

    So far downtown Seattle is pretty quiet based on my observation, but I imagine that will change towards the end of summer as more workers return to in office work, federal unemployment benefits expire, and schools reopen and start, which is a big part of daycare.

    Whether workers will feel comfortable riding transit is a separate issue, and will probably depend on the number of cases. Whether downtown Seattle retail/restaurants return is also a separate issue, because right now there is a big difference in vibrancy between the eastside and DT Seattle, so I doubt the difference is based on the pandemic.

    Seattle had a record level of commercial property sales in 2020-21 so Asian money is banking on a strong rebound in commercial space (unless sales were forced). A key test will take around 5 years as leases begin to expire, and companies reset the amount of office space they need, and where that space needs to be. As a lawyer I have learned I can do quite a bit of my work remotely, and most of the legal system has adapted to remote work.

    I think requiring massive amounts of workers to commute to an urban core, all at the same time M-F, on transit because they can’t afford parking, and to spend so much of their lives commuting is an abuse I hope the pandemic and working from home highlights.

    We simply should not be spending so much of our lives commuting, because it is probably the most worthless waste of time in people’s lives. Urbanism makes sense if it means living in a vibrant urban core, but it shouldn’t mean forcing people who choose to live outside an urban core because they have families to commute five days/week to that urban core just to work.

    If nothing else move the offices closer to the workers. For example, there is little reason for someone on the eastside to work in downtown Seattle, when they can work from home, or from an eastside city. If we want to get serious about global warming begin with the commute, by ending it.

    1. Mercer Island has been dealing with park and ride issues as long as any park and ride, in part because it is fairly small (453 stalls), gets over 50% off-Island use, sits between Seattle and Bellevue, there is so little intra-Island transit for first/last mile access, and the topography and demography make multi-modal first/last mile access difficult.

      The first thing you learn is ST polices nothing. Not the vegetation, watering, use of stalls, crime, vomit, trash, cameras, drug sales, etc. One of the reasons for the litigation between Mercer Island and ST over the bus intercept is Mercer Island learned never to trust ST promises about monitoring or enforcement, let alone policing, of the park and ride, and Mercer Island knew it would end up owning the costs of the bus intercept.

      Although for many years ST claimed federal law prohibited them from reserving parking spots, at least based on geography/location, apparently it does allow ST to charge for park and rides according to ST (right around the time ST’s costs estimates started to go into the toilet). So ST came up with a two tiered plan: $80/month for a reserved SOV stall in less affluent or less crowded park and rides, and $120/month for Mercer Island and a few other park and rides. Plus a discount for HOV’s.

      As noted above, the stall had to be filled by 9:30 am or it would become available to the general public despite paying $120/month, because ST had no intent of monitoring the parking, and assumed if not filled by 9:30 the user was not a commuter. If you paid $120/month and there was no stall before 9:30 am ST had no intent of doing anything about that.

      I thought this would be very popular for Mercer Island residents, and even suggested the city reserve as many stalls as possible to form a pool even if it had to enforce them. Half of the stalls were to be reserved. In fact, the program was a dud.

      First, for HOV vehicles they get priority driving to work in the HOV lanes and parking at work, so there was little point in paying for and using a park and ride, and still have 2 or 3 riders pay for transit when that costs more than the HOV parking at work (and probably close to SOV parking if there are 3 riders compared to roundtrip transit).

      Second, it turned out those wealthy enough to drive to work and park do so. They don’t take transit. The folks taking transit can’t afford to park in downtown Seattle, whether that is Islanders or off-Islanders. These working folks can’t afford $120/month on top of round trip transit, which is not much less than just parking at work 20 days/month (and during the pandemic many employers who needed in office staff subsidized parking rather than transit, which may be an option post pandemic, especially for HOV’s, and especially if there is lingering fear over fellow employees using transit to get to work due to Covid-19).

      It also did not help the one demographic that gets screwed with open park and rides that are full by 7am: working moms who have to get kids to school, and so arrive after the lot is full.

      Instead ST, in its usual stupidity, saw the opportunity to raise more money, when the issue was oversubscribed park and rides when most commuters cannot pay more to commute each day, not because ST lied about cost estimates and desperately needs revenue (in some subareas but not east King Co.), and probably rely on employer transit subsidies although the 2017 Tax Act eliminated the employer’s deduction for those subsidies.

      What the reservation system did do is piss everyone off, which probably led to the demand by eastside cities that ST complete the park and rides on the eastside promised in ST 3 because we know Metro will provide shitty first/last mile access (if any), and highlight why ST’s arrogance is its Achilles heel.

      First, a train is not that much different from a bus for a commuter, and that commuter would probably rather be anywhere else on earth than on that bus or train. So the competition is the car, and on the eastside anyone driving to a park and ride is already in a car, their preferred mode of transportation. The only two things transit can compete against cars with is cost and congestion. HOV’s can use HOV lanes, and even with free park and rides two or three round trip transit fares are pretty close to parking at work. Once you add in $120/month for a reserved park and ride stall the cost of parking at work is not worth the hassle of transit.

      Second, first/last mile access by feeder bus is awful on the eastside, and at best begins at a park and ride. Either the bus is going directly to Seattle, or after East Link opens to a station served by East Link. Look at Mercer Island: there is effectively no feeder bus service at all. The park and rides that serve East Link will be full by 7 am, even if they have 1500 stalls like S. Bellevue, or commuters will decide to just park at work and demand employer subsidies for parking rather than transit.

      Third, using park and rides to raise revenue is stupid. It would be like charging a commuter separately for the feeder bus and Link. Those wealthy enough to pay $120/month for a park and ride stall plus the cost of transit are not going to take transit no matter how much the savings are (even before they take tax deductions for miles and parking). All you do is disadvantage the one group transit is designed for, whether commuters or non-peak riders: those who have to use transit due to cost.

      Fourth, it made eastsiders hate ST even more, although I was not sure that was possible, and motivated eastside cities to demand the park and rides promised in ST 3 get built because obviously we need more park and rides.

      Fifth, it missed the whole point: a reservation system, like they use on some ferries like Keystone to Port Townshend that have transformed usage by providing certainty, managing users so moms with kids can get a spot, and eliminated employee parking or other non-rider usage ST never enforces. The issue was managing and enforcing park and ride parking to effectively increase capacity, not making a buck.

      My guess is post-pandemic we will see much more employer subsidized parking for the rank and file employees, and maybe free if HOV, and fewer transit subsidies. Depending on congestion employees much prefer parking subsidies, and if East Link adds a seat or two on each end of the trip and the Mercer Island and S. Bellevue park and ride stalls are full by 7 am look for staff — especially moms — to demand parking subsidies they got used to during the pandemic. Or working from home more. Up to the employer whether they want to pay for the parking to have staff come into the office.

      I don’t know if ST’s intent is/was to incentivize more driving to work but they sure are trying.

  4. Al, that’s exactly why I went into all that hoo-raw about using the loop. Of course the stub would be bad. A big majority of trips would be three seat — or even four if the destination were not within walking distance of Link.

    Using the loop means that whichever version of the West Seattle trackage they choose — elevated or at-grade — the connection between the inbound track and Forest Street can be used to make the northbound connection. ST has to build that connection.

    If the WSE is to be built elevated, the permanent tracks would temporarily stop in the air perhaps halfway between Forest and Hanford and a temporary viaduct would connect a turnout at the curve from the busway into Forest Street to that end of track.

    If they decide on at-grade for the new pair, the tracks would come to about halfway between Lander and Forest with the turnout to the temporary connection just south of Lander before the ramp up.

    Northbound trains would take perhaps two and a half minutes to make the trip around the MF, but I am sure they’d trade it for a level change transfer in the planned stub operation.

    1. Last sentence should read “riders would prefer it to” instead of “they’d trade it for”

    2. I’m not a track designer, but the solution to me would be to put the WS tracks in the middle and the South King tracks on the outsides. Build the outermost southbound South King track over crossing first on the western edge of the corridor. Then put the WS tracks in the middle. Finally realign the northbound tracks for a center platform.

      Then, it would be easy to alternate the stub between the two lines as required during construction.

      In an alternate universe, East Link would be in the new Downtown tunnel and connect to SLU and Ballard. Then ST could leave the SODO busway and tracks alone. ST would need to thread through the ID differently

      1. If you put the West Seattle (WS) stub between the tracks of the Rainier Valley (RV) line you have to over- or under-pass the WS tracks with the southbound (SB) RV track. Twice.

        The ramp up to Forest Street in the existing trackway is fairly steep; if you had an all-elevated four-track station you could probably get away with having the platforms at the level of the Forest Street ramp, with West Seattle descending to pass under a new level SB RV track and then climbing back up to elevated south of there.

        However, that would mean rebuilding the RV line from the top of the existing ramp all the way through the station and then descending to grade. That would require quite a long interruption of service.

        If all four tracks and the two platforms were at-grade and Lander over-passed the tracks, a new SB RV track could rise up south of Lander at the same gradient as it does now, but moved over twenty feet to the existing southbound bus lane. It would then make the curve over the still-at-grade West Seattle tracks. That could be done with a pretty short interruption to connect the new SB RV track to the end of the existing curve.

        This would mean that Holgate would have to over-pass the tracks as well, and the SB new tunnel portal would be separated from the northbound (NB) new tunnel portal. The SB portal would be in the southbound bus lane somewhere south of Stadium but north of Holgate. There’s a pretty much defunct old spur track over there that could probably be taken to move the track over a bit to accommodate the ramp down.

        This would work and it would get you the cross-platform in-direction transfers that that would be so desirable.

        But my point about using the MF loop is for West Seattle to have access to the tunnel immediately upon opening. It requires only a few yards of temporary diagonal connector between the existing SB RV track and the new WS line, either just south of Lander if WS is decided to be at-grade on the busway or from the apex of the curve to Forest if WS is to be elevated above the busway. In the case of an at-grade WS, it is cheap, cheap, cheap, little more than a well-constructed “shoo-fly” with a turnout. If WS is to be elevated, it could use the supports and diagonal for the new line with a similar shoo-fly diagonally across it to the SB alignment. There would have to be a few feet of temporary structure to join the existing and new elevated structures. The support for it could be included in the new supports for WS. In fact, having a connection between the two lines at that point might be very useful for future use. There would be a trailing-point crossover just to the south and the connection would be between the NB WS track and the SB RV track. There’s room for a matching trailing-point cross-over between the point at which the ramp lands and Lander Street.

      2. Thanks for thinking about this, Tom.

        The additional cost of rebuilding the curve ramp has some cost savings even though ST would be out the extra cost of building a new crossing. Because both tracks of the WS line has to cross the RV line somewhere , current plans have the subway tunnels with both RV tracks beginning at Holgate to get those trains under the two WS tracks south of Royal Brougham. By putting the northbound RV tracks on the eastmost outside, that tunnel can be shorter. So, it’s trading a longer tunnel segment north of Holgate for a new overpass for Southbound RV trains south of Lander.

        Another advantage is with construction phasing. ST3 plans a WS stub for many years. However, with cross platform access, the option of a RV line that temporarily begins/ ends at SODO to allow for construction further north as needed. A “Connect 2020” scenario but with a permanent transfer platform could be used during construction (and well-placed switching tracks could mean little disruption in frequencies). Maybe a bypass track alignment through the MF could be created and used. As a last resort, a Judkins Park to Mt Baker bus bridge is very doable during construction.

        Again, the gains of having 16 sets of doors and a mere level 20-foot walk to change trains is wildly more convenient for transferring riders than walking a few hundred feet to the end of a platform and using one or two different sets of stairs, escalators or stairs before walking another few hundred feet back to the other line’s platform — all in a platoon of other people making the same path when transferring creating a further slowdown for a rider. It would have the same benefit as increasing system train frequencies by a minute or two for those riders.

        And of course the easier switching configuration — with two northbound tracks on the east and two southbound tracks on the west — would give much more operational flexibility for all lines either during disruptions or if ST wanted to create options to mix/match WS and RV segments with Northgate and Ballard segments.

  5. Did anyone watch the forum video? I just watched the replay.

    I’m not feeling too encouraged by the candidates.

    – There was lots of candidate bashing about Move Seattle — and it incredulously focused on “delays” rather than on bad cost estimates that limited what could be built. The bad cost estimates led to delays — and it’s pretty appalling and unfair to blame the current mayor for being handed an unrealistically funded ballot measure developed by the one before. To not even mention the bad cost estimates shows how unqualified the candidates are and how they are running campaigns as if Durkan is on the ballot — and she isn’t.

    – The questions put candidates in hypocrisy positions. You can’t suggest better teamwork within unimpowered communities while simultaneously deciding their transportation system changes for them. It’s like saying that a community should choose what food they want to eat while telling them that it can only be cheese pizza. I sensed some candidates wrestled with this hypocrisy but others were pretty smug about forcing non-consensual transportation changes on neighborhoods without input.

    – The free transit discussion was terribly “feel good”. Some candidates were happy to wave a wand and make all transit free and ignore the complex equity and safety issues around it. Others wanted to explain the complexity of the issue but didn’t have time.

    – Even though 10 of the 24 traffic fatalities in Seattle during 2020 were people in or on vehicles, the Vision Zero discussion implied they were all walking or bicycling. The concept has been around enough that it’s time to look at what works and what doesn’t — and what the causes actually are (Bad lighting? Foliage blocking sight lines? Using cell phones when entering crosswalks? Jaywalking? Speeding traffic or turning traffic?). Generic solutions should no longer be valid and yet MASS and candidates want to remain in the “just blame the cars and not the driver/ walker/ bicyclist or bad plant/ design” alternative reality.

    – There was this odd “smaller buses” generic question that seemed kind of silly. There was no mention of technology applications for last mile services to create slow-speed driverless shuttles or on-demand service programs.

    Ultimately, I don’t view this particular election is about transportation but is instead much more about homelessness and policing. For that reason, I don’t think any candidate was helped or hurt by this forum.

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