On June 24th, ST Board Chair Kent Keel presented a proposed “realignment” plan that pushes back projects to account for dramatically inflated cost estimates (video, materials). This is a “starting point”, in his words, but we are past the point of staff-driven alternatives and indecisive argument about principles and priorities.

Virtually all projects have suffered roughly 2 years of Covid-related planning delay. Tier 1 projects are full-speed ahead except for that. Tier 2 projects will execute planning and right-of-way acquisition on schedule, getting them to “shovel-ready” as quickly as possible in case more money comes in. But the plan assumes up to 4 years of delay waiting for money to accumulate (for a total of 6). Tier 3 doesn’t pause until after purchase of “strategic ROW”, with up to 9 total years of delay. ST would pause Tier 4 immediately, leading to at least 10 years of total delay. The end of ST3 moves from 2041 to 2046 — a 30 year program.

If realignment skeptics like Dow Constantine are right, and revenue increases more than models currently say, we could expect all of the light rail and Stride to see no more than the current 2-year delay.

Briefly, Link and BRT fill up the first two tiers. Sounder stuff is Tier 3, and Tier 4 includes all the parking and most bus projects that are not Stride. The exception is Kent, Auburn and Sumner parking and access improvements in Tier 1, the highest priority for the South King delegation and soon to arrive in absolute terms.

Overall, the Board saw this as a balanced response to their dilemma. Claudia Balducci said she is “closing in” on a modified proposal that focuses on “maintaining schedule as much as possible,” but didn’t offer more detail.

It’s regrettable that the second downtown tunnel, by far the highest-ridership piece in the entire program, slides to Tier 2. However, in 2016 Seattle convinced all subareas to fund the tunnel because it was in the interest of all. When asked to trade that off against their well-understood highest priorities, especially the spine, those subareas made an unsurprising choice.

Meanwhile, the environmentally inclined (as well as those optimistic about the future of autonomous vehicles) can applaud the deferral of parking garages into the far future.

The plan is to pass a resolution with the tiers in July.

137 Replies to “Realignment grinds towards a conclusion”

  1. A few thoughts:

    #1. I don’t want to read too much bellyaching UNLESS you are willing to commit to a peaceful protest at the plaza in front of Sound Transit HQ next month. Otherwise, the fix is in because the public doesn’t care. The Board sees that, and this activist sees that.

    #2. I am a bit worried about South subarea/Pierce leaving the table in the 2030s. I hope the politics change down there. But if this is the fix, then this Northerner is barely OK with it. Barely.

    #3. Like I said, the fix seems in. Unless a critical mass want to commit to protesting it outside of Sound Transit HQ that is. Over to you.

    1. I think this article is the proverbial “Bat Signal” for Seattle Subway to come out and demand sticking to the original timetable.

      1. See #1. We’re drowning in words and words on the internets aren’t working. We need a protest, you know some of that climate action!

      2. And that’s impossible with the projected revenue loss. It would only happen if the revenue recovers before the original schedule spends it (Dow’s hypothesis). In that case the delay would automatically go away and there would be nothing for Seattle Subway to do.

    2. The Pierce boardmember (Dammler or Keel?) said he’d support secession if Tacoma Dome Link isn’t on time. It was scheduled for 2030, and this 2-year delay is because of reductions that have already occurred, so I assume he’ll be OK with that. Some Pierce taxpayers want to get out of ST now; those are mostly in southeast Pierce.

      It still hasn’t been explained what would happen to their existing debt or Sounder service if part or all of Pierce secedes. Presumably they’d have to continue paying the bonds, so they’d still be paying taxes for years. If all of Pierce secedes, Sounder could be truncated at Auburn if South King can pay all its operations. If Puyallup and Sumner secede but Tacoma and Lakewood remain, then Sounder could skip those stations. In both cases you’d get free-riders driving to Auburn or Tacoma Dome to ride Sounder, so they’d be having their cake and eating it too while Tacoma, Lakewood, and South King County subsidize them. I’m sure they’d like that situation just fine.

  2. COVID is being used as a convenient excuse for projects that were destined to become way behind schedule and over budget with the situation only continuing to get worse. How do you get a 2 year COVID delay? Everybody was basically adjusted to the new normal within a couple months of the lockdowns last spring.

    It’s pretty clear that many of these ST3 projects are headed the way of ST1 due to cost overruns. The delays make sure that the fallout and blame are the responsibility of future generations of ST staff and board members, but only a fraction of these projects will ever be completed. WSBLE is estimated to cost over $1 billion per mile and nearly half the expense is unaccounted for. There’s no way they are ever going to come up with the funds to build to both West Seattle and Ballard.

    1. The ST 3 projects in the N. King Co. subarea — along with completing ST2 projects — drove ST3. No one needed a $4.5 billion line from Issaquah to “south” Kirkland, but that was the reality of uniform tax rates among subareas.

      ST 3 costs in N. King Co. were estimated low to sell ST 3, a common deceit for ST that finally was exposed. ST hoped population and general revenue growth would solve that, or a ST 4, except ST 3 revenue was being used to complete ST 2 in N. King Co. and the growth estimates were unrealistic, and often silly like TOD’s next to I-5, or worse very expensive TOD in Bellevue with huge parking requirements would manufacture ridership and density that never existed.

      The importance of the pandemic wasn’t the short term loss of revenue, It was the realization that fare box revenue AND general fund tax revenues would likely decline over the long term due to ridership declines and WFH, when ST had wildly overestimated ridership and general tax revenue hoping to cover the cost underestimation to sell ST 3. The hope was to have this reality come later, when the original sponsors were retired.

      ST will complete the spine, and that was the primary promise. Personally I think spending $90 billion to run and operate commuter rail from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond makes poor economic sense, but that ship has passed, unless 20 million citizens move to the ST three county taxing district, or suddenly riders from Redmond are willing to take rail to Everett, Lynnwood, or Tacoma when driving is faster and often cheaper.

      That’s it. There won’t be a ST 4, a HB1304 levy is chump change like Move Seattle, and no one has the balls or insanity to begin digging 300 sf under 5th Ave. ST ignored first/last mile access on both ends, and totally misunderstood the size and topography of East KC.

      The money has run out. There is enough to complete the spine, some park and rides in East KC along with some good express buses, but not nearly enough for frequent first/last mile access.

      Politically ST and the Board will claim an extension of completion dates will deliver all the promises in ST 3 because politics is the short term lie, but the increasing costs of ROW and construction outpace revenues, and inflated ridership projections will become apparent soon.

      So that’s it folks. There will be the spine and mostly poor feeder bus service because there is so little density between Everett and Tacoma and Redmond. The real issue IMO is the steep decline in Metro funding and farebox recovery, which light rail depends upon.

      The line in the sand is the second transit tunnel. One because after Bertha the costs and risks are unknown but terrifying. Second because the four other subareas only agreed to pay 1/2 of $2.2 billion, not $4 or $5 billion.

      1. I would say to you from the North that:

        a) We the North are the most enthusiastic about light rail
        b) We didn’t back I-947, we backed ST3. Another subarea had a County Executive intervene in court against Sound Transit.
        c) We got some real needs up here too.
        d) Sniping at supportive subareas by supportive subareas just pleases anti-transit folks.
        e) The fact we’re not effectively supporting each other is why we’re here. Just as much Covid19 and land value skyrocketing past the contingency in ST3.

      2. I think this is a bit dramatic.

        Metro ridership will obviously increase dramatically as the pandemic ends. Seattle is still one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

        The idea that everyone is going to work from home forever is pretty silly. Companies are giving slightly more flexibility now than before, but not dramatically more so. Amazon is only allows employees to WFH 2 days a week.

        The reality is that long term the pandemic will not change much, and pre-pandemic trends like rising population and traffic will reassert themselves pretty quickly. That means continuing rising demand for transit.

      3. The bigger long term threat to sound transit is the continuing rising cost of land due to rising population. My understanding is this has been the primary driver of cost overruns.

      4. When it comes to why there are cost overruns, watch the other presentation about the ST3 costs at this meeting! In it are slides that estimate that 40 percent of the higher cost is caused by bad original construction cost estimating and another 20 percent are because ST will need more right of way than they told voters. These factors have nothing to do with inflation.

      5. > The ST 3 projects in the N. King Co. subarea — along with completing ST2 projects — drove ST3.

        This vastly underestimates the extent that political leaders in Pierce and Snohomish Counties think it is extremely important to extend Link to Everett and Tacoma.

        If this enthusiasm didn’t exist, there would not have been a region-wide ST3.

      6. The West Seattle cost overruns are as follows (from ST slide deck ):
        $2.13 billion for right-of-way acquisition, including acquiring newer commercial or multi-family developments.
        $1.27 billion for construction, including larger aerial guideways, higher mined station costs, and improved understanding of utilities and environmental work.
        $775 million in corresponding increases to soft costs and contingencies.

        The example cited was the Huxley building in West Seattle which was expected to be a $76 million purchase of a parking lot and is now a $250 million purchase of a brand new apartment building.

        The obvious response to such a change would be to change the alignment of the light rail to avoid the expensive properties and mitigate the construction challenges. And that may be the reason why the draft EIS is delayed, since they clearly are going to have to make significant adjustments. But there is only so much you can do without completely reimagining the plan, which is why I’m skeptical that the original plan will ever be completed.

        Seattle Subway can complain all they want, but they are the ones that pushed everyone for a fully grade-separated ST3 and now we’re dealing with the consequences of having to construct an entirely new right-of-way instead of using the median of existing roads like Fauntleroy in West Seattle and 15th in Interbay/Ballard.

        Source: https://westseattleblog.com/2021/01/light-rail-west-seattle-ballard-project-will-cost-a-lot-more-than-expected-sound-transit-board-told/#:~:text=The%20ST%20Board's%20Executive%20Committee,up%20from%20%247%20billion%20when

      7. Yes, the Seattle Subway reaps what it sows. The West Seattle stub is nearly a textbook tram-train, no one is riding Link beyond WS so its more useful for the train be at-grade for quick & easy transfers.

        I’m mildly optimistic that as they get through the EIS and into early design, technical staff will present a median running option and the cost savings will be enormous.

      8. Joe Z, it will be remarkably easy to solve this issue by using the enormous, publicly-owned right-of-way right in the heart of West Seattle: Fauntleroy Way. Yes, cars would be removed entirely from the boulevard. Yes, they would deal with it, just like they’ve dealt with not having their dumb bridge for a year. Yes, there would be adaptations. They can maintain grade separation, as well, perhaps with an automobile underpass in the Fauntleroy/35th/Avalon area. Mostly, we don’t need to engage in scare tactics about the cost of tearing down a brand new apartment building … we have public land readily available for the light rail, it is just a simple and uncomplicated matter of repurposing that land away from cars and toward light rail. It doesn’t even need to be elevated. It can run right down Fauntleroy. The same Fauntleroy, by the way, that is presently flanked by run-down, one-story buildings. Not brand new apartment buildings.

        When we say “grade separated,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that we must elevate or tunnel the light rail. We can ALSO – *very easily* – use public streets and remove cars from them entirely.

      9. I find it remarkable how negative the comments section has become about light rail. A couple of years ago everyone was predicting that ST3 would be done early and under budget.

        The reality is that large engineering projects almost always go over budget, especially if land values are increasing. Yet, somehow the world keeps spinning. The reality is that no matter what, you have to build infrastructure, and complaining about the cost won’t change that.

        Seattle in particular HAS to have mass transit to deal a rapidly expanding population. The price is almost irrelevant. It’s like arguing about whether we are spending too much money on sewage or drinking water. They aren’t optional expenses.

        The state can obviously come up with more money to fund this is if it really wants to. More federal money is likely coming down the pipe as well. No need to overreact.

      10. @Martin — Yeah, sure, there was support from the politicians for extending the train well beyond where it is really useful. There has been for a long time. But the voters supported the projects because of what was in the N. King Co. subarea — along with completing ST2 projects.

        @Brendan Seattle in particular HAS to have mass transit to deal a rapidly expanding population. The price is almost irrelevant.

        Nonsense. Seattle could survive quite well with ST2, but without ST3. The money could be put into what it really needs: more bus service. I’m not saying it would be the best use of money, but given the exorbitant costs, and what little ST3 will add for the city, it is easy to make the case that it would be better. Before the pandemic, the 40 ran every 15 minutes, and the D ran every 10. This is on the corridor that is by far the most productive part of ST3. Now those riders will take a slightly more frequent bus (or not — see the Northgate restructure) followed by a train that probably runs every 10 minutes. A little better? Maybe. But not spectacular.

        For the same amount of money, you could run the RapidRide buses every six minutes (like real BRT). You could run an all day version of the 18 every ten minutes, opposite the 40 running every ten minutes (which means Ballard riders headed downtown wouldn’t have to detour to Queen Anne). You could run the 21 every ten minutes (or better) instead of every fifteen. You could transform transit in both West Seattle and Ballard (as well as more densely populated areas like the Central Area). You could leverage the existing light rail line which covers the only area in Seattle that really needed to be light rail (downtown to the UW) while at the same time improve the transit that the vast majority of people in the region will use.

        That’s not going to happen. People are upset because what little in ST3 had real value is being pushed to the back, while projects that really don’t make much sense are going to the front. This isn’t about cost overruns, this is about priorities. The fact that the infill stations — by far the best projects in terms of ridership per dollar, ridership time saved per dollar spent, and the overall improvement to the transit network — are pushed to the back shows that the organization is dysfunctional.

      11. Three different financial problems are happening simultaneously.
        1. The covid recession gutted sales-tax revenue and fare revenue, and ST was free for several months.
        2. Ballard and West Seattle want tunnels that weren’t in the ST3 budget. They said they were fine with the representative alignment, but after the vote they changed their mind.
        3. Property-acquisition costs increased substantially in the Lynnwood, Ballard, and West Seattle corridors.

        ST’s marketing may emphasize #1 and neglect to mention #2 and #3, but that’s typical project marketing across the US. And #2 isn’t really set yet because the board hasn’t approved those tunnel alternatives yet.

        “No one needed a $4.5 billion line from Issaquah to “south” Kirkland”

        Issaquah’s mayor thought East King really needed it, and convinced the rest of the board of this. Otherwise East King could have spent that money on something else like: multi-line Stride North, more frequent Stride South, Issaquah Stride. How about a Renton Highlands – Renton – Bellevue – Issaquah line? Or additional Bellevue-Renton frequency, to be later extended to Auburn when South King can afford it.

        Each subarea has different concerns. The north is uniquely bottlenecked with few highways. The south (Pierce and South King) is the most adverse to taxes. Pierce is the most secessionist, while Snohomish is medium. (Eyman lives in Mukilteo.) Tacoma Dome is inexpensive because it’s a short distance from Federal Way and elevated on public highways. Everett is expensive because it’s twice as far to Lynnwood and the Paine Field detour adds additional miles. The size of ST3 is based on North King’s and Snohomish’s demands; specifically, both Ballard and West Seattle, and Everett and the Paine Field detour. East King could have gone with a smaller one if it had just said no to Issaquah. Or it could have spent the Issaquah money in Renton, which is the second-largest city (surprisingly) and has the most equity-deserving demographics.

        You can’t blame ST3 on Seattle Subway. The decision was made by politicians and voters. Most of them didn’t buy the Seattle Subway vision; they just wanted their parts of ST3 Link. If Seattle Subway had had its way (and the legislature fully cooperated), the rail additions would have been two or three times the size of ST3. No politician advocated that, and transit fans were divided on it.

        “I find it remarkable how negative the comments section has become about light rail. A couple of years ago everyone was predicting that ST3 would be done early and under budget.”

        It is remarkable. I was fully for ST1/2/3 and some of Seattle Subway’s concepts. But ST3 has turned out disappointing. ST is favoring a 14th Ave Ballard station which would decimate the walkshed’s potential. It’s favoring more expensive alternatives in West Seattle, which has the lowest ridership and density of Seattle’s Link corridors. Everett and Tacoma Dome have always been unnecessary. With Ballard 15 years away by the original schedule, it’s hard to think of its benefits, because you’re thinking so much of having to take the D and 44 for fifteen more years. All that has made me feel like, why don’t we just digest ST2 and ST3 for now and focus on increasing feeder/crosstown buses. Riding the 44 sucks but it’s not the end of the world. Hopefully SDOT will get around to those transit-priority improvements someday, and the 44’s worst-case travel time will go down from 45 minutes to 30 or 20. That would make it easier to live with.

      12. Don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but the current plan for an elevated line in West Seattle, which requires demolition of existing housing, some of it dense housing, instead of running right in the middle of Fauntleroy itself (elevated or otherwise), is just plain stupidity. At first, it at least had the benefit of being stupidity that we thought we could afford. This is no longer the case.

      13. Joe, Daniel is “the anti-transit folks”, although he is by far the smartest and most subtle of their ilk.

      14. “A couple of years ago everyone was predicting that ST3 would be done early and under budget.”

        Huh? Who is this “everyone” you’re referencing here?

        Some of us were screaming loudly back in 2016 that the ST3 cost estimates were absolute BS and that if the ballot measure passes this colossal miss in cost estimating would soon be borne out. Well, here we are.

  3. I continue to be disappointed that the board thinks there’s any wisdom at all in building a light rail line with one station missing (at 130th), only to plan to add that station, at higher cost, a decade later. That’s not fiscal responsibility.

    1. Disappointment is putting it mildly. Try appalled. There is no attempt to focus on what can provide the most benefit the earliest. Graham and 130th are by far the most cost effective additions to Link in ST3. They should have been part of the original lines. Yet under this plan they don’t get built for 16 years.

      That’s not the only ridiculous part of this plan. Money for RapidRide C and D will appear 5 years after West Seattle to Ballard Link is complete. This means that ST will spend money on the C and D five years after they are eliminated. The first significant improvement in Seattle won’t appear until 2032, and it will be useless. Light rail from West Seattle to SoDo will be ignored by riders and Metro alike. It isn’t until 2038 that Seattle gets a significant improvement in transit, as West Seattle will get its light rail line to downtown. It isn’t until two years later (2040) that Ballard Link is completed, despite being the second most cost effective project (after the infill stations). It is as if they are purposely trying to keep ridership low as long as they can.

      It isn’t just Seattle where this nonsense exists. Buses running on the shoulder — avoiding congestion — is a very cheap, very effective way of making transit faster. Yet this gets delayed until 2045, long after the buses stop running on the freeway. No one is looking at the dates from a system standpoint. They are simply throwing various projects into different tiers, without bothering to ask whether the new dates make sense or not. It isn’t disappointing, it is appalling.

      1. Concur 100%. I think the ST board is focused on making points about which cities/sub-areas have more clout than others, not what makes the most sense for riders.

        A West Seattle->SODO rail that doesn’t go downtown is nearly useless. Delaying 130th St. and having to disrupt a running line to build it later accomplishes nothing except making a political point about about how Everett and Tacoma are the most important ST members and everyone else needs to share in the pain.

        Perhaps SDOT should just offer to loan Sound Transit the money to build 130th now and have the loan be repaid in 2035 when Sound Transit would have built it. The savings by not needing to bring out construction crews twice and disrupt a running line and be used to cover interest on the loan.

      2. asdf2;
        #1.. “A West Seattle->SODO rail that doesn’t go downtown is nearly useless” except you can transfer at SODO. So please…
        #2. “Everett and Tacoma are the most important ST members and everyone else needs to share in the pain.” Oh spare me… nobody here would like it if I sniped at Seattle and some had to change my mind about West Seattle being more than elite service considering how many powerful politicians & staffers live there.

      3. Perhaps SDOT should just offer to loan Sound Transit the money to build 130th now and have the loan be repaid in 2035 when Sound Transit would have built it.

        I have a feeling that may be the plan (along with Graham Street). The board is actually trying to squeeze additional money out of Seattle, by putting the most cost effective projects last.

      4. A positive spin could be that Dow is setting up Seattle for political success. If Seattle include $200M for WSBLE in the next levy, the schedule dates basically don’t change so voters might think “what’s the point?”, but for $200M Seattle can get both 130th open nearly immediately* and Graham open much sooner. It’s a much cleaner story to sell to the voters. I would suspect that Dow is coordinating with his fellow Seattle politicians, rather than ‘squeezing’ them. Staff is likely indifferent where the money comes from.

        *Last night 130th was covered, sounded like staff was going to recommend funding ‘phase 2’ of 130th prior to Lynnwood operation, leaving SDOT only needing to cover vertical conveyance, signage, ticketing machines, and some other odds & ends. There are no construction cost “savings” to be found by accelerating 130th further aside from avoiding inflation.

        If the $200MM is a loan, then SDOT can still use the money for some projects at the very end of the city levy’s timeframe.

      5. sounded like staff was going to recommend funding ‘phase 2’ of 130th prior to Lynnwood operation, leaving SDOT only needing to cover vertical conveyance, signage, ticketing machines, and some other odds & ends.

        Right, but that costs a lot less than $200 million. It is quite likely that increased fare revenue would pay for it very quickly, which means that ST would make money if it built it sooner rather than later.

      6. RossB: My prediction is the Tier 4 projects, except for SR 162 BRT, are never built.

      7. Martin with the hot take on the N Sammamish P&R.

        I think Martin is right; aside from perhaps some service to Orting, if it is still in the ST taxing area, I think all of these projects are dropped in ST4. I think the near-permanent removal nearly $1B worth of structured parking is a major achievement.

      8. 130th is mostly about bus transfers, so unless Seattle creates an urban village the incremental transit revenue will be de minimis. Higher revenue only comes from a rider who is not using a monthly pass nor is transferring from an existing transit mode; even if 130th is a very successful station, this strikes me as a rather small population.

      9. 130th as it stands right now, in 2021, is an urbanist fantasyland station that relies on massive upzoning and repurposing a golf course to be useful. So far there’s been no upzoning and the best case scenario for the golf course is that it eventually becomes a regular park. Without any of that, it’s just a freeway station with the most pathetic walkshed of almost any station in the ST system.

        I know there’s potential, but when it’s budget cutting time there’s nobody to fight for it other than hypothetical future riders, it’s dead meat.

      10. And the project with the least benefit and the highest cost (DSTT 2) is still given almost immediate priority, despite numerous measures and worldwide experience that demonstrate what can be done to increase capacity of the existing tunnel.

      11. DSTT2 is needed for capacity reasons. It’s either needed or it’s not. If you believe there won’t be the ridership, or are convinced there would be a Westlake junction and all 3 lines could run through the existing DSTT, then there is no argument in favor of DSTT2. Clearly, the board thinks there will be long term ridership growth.

      12. “Graham and 130th are by far the most cost effective additions to Link in ST3.”

        Hardly. If that was true they wouldn’t be sitting at the end of the schedule. A few hundred million to add a few hundred riders while slowing the system down for everyone else? Lol.

        And the fallacy of the city taking those capital costs off ST’s books: adding those stations increases fleet costs and operating & maintenance costs for everyone else while increasing travel time systemwide. Is the city going to cover those costs too? If not, who will?

      13. DSTT2 is needed for capacity reasons. It’s either needed or it’s not. If you believe there won’t be the ridership, or are convinced there would be a Westlake junction and all 3 lines could run through the existing DSTT, then there is no argument in favor of DSTT2.

        Current long term projects wind up in 2045.

        Chicago operates trains on the loop approximately the same length as Link, with lower capacity as each short car had a cab. Each line operates very frequently, and while some are counter-clockwise and some are clockwise, they all must go through level junctions.

        Link has a flying junction between the south and east lines, increasing its ability to handle traffic over the loop.

        Under what ridership scenario does Link become The Loop before 2045?

        This doesn’t even include advanced in signal technology that further increase line capacity.

      14. @ Another engineer – the O&M and SOGR impact of every project, including the infill stations, are accounted for in the ST staff financial models and are adjusted in each alignment scenario. For Link, I would imagine ST would be on the hook for O&M and SOGR even if SDOT cut the check for capital projects; the inverse is true when ST cuts the check for WSDOT projects (I90 bridge, freeway stations, etc.), with WSDOT on the hook for all future maintenance cost. Most station costs are allocated to their subarea, so ultimately North King would be accountable for these long term costs.

        @Glenn – Chicago’s two highest ridership routes have dedicated subway tubes; neither the Red nor Blue lines use the Loop. While ridership on the various lines that use the loop exceeds 200K on weekdays, the ridership through the Loop itself is ~70K (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Loop_(CTA), while ST’s projections exceed 200K for the downtown core (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2019/01/30/link-riders-2040/). In other words, each Seattle transit tunnel will handle more daily ridership that Chicago’s Loop.

        From Wikipedia, “Upon its completion ridership on the Loop was incredibly high, such that the lines that had closed their terminals outside of downtown had to reopen them to accommodate the surplus rush-hour traffic.” Would be a bummer to have the same thing happen to Seattle.

      15. “ DSTT2 is needed for capacity reasons. It’s either needed or it’s not. If you believe there won’t be the ridership, ”

        As I’ve noted before, there are more forecasted riders between Westlake and Capitol Hill than between Westlake and University Street and Westlake and Midtown added together. The “capacity” justification is a vague argument for this reason.

        Of course, more modern vehicle design would also increase capacity. Eliminating all the unneeded driver cabs on a train and allowing passengers to occupy that space would add 10 to 20 percent more capacity.

        The blunt truth is that the capacity issue has never gotten the scrutiny that I think the issue deserves. We all speculate as to why we need such an expensive second tunnel — but given the cost overrun it should get a closer look. Where is the study on different interlining and platform position options?

        I also wonder how much could be saved eliminating Midtown station. It’s going to be way deep. It will be a long elevator ride unless a rider uses some very long escalators. Is the station needed to ease overcrowding or not? Certainly, a diagonal approach to connect existing stations should be considered.

        Cynically, I doubt most ofthe Board cares. They just see lines on a map. They don’t see themselves and thousands of their neighbors actually using Link. Their aim is to apparently respond to populist transit ideas of showing service on a map.

      16. “neither the Red nor Blue lines use the Loop.”

        Normallly, yes. Red line trains may be rerouted to the loop, and have been at times.

        What matters more for this discussion than ridership numbers are train throughput. That’s the limiting factor.

        And I never said DSTT2 shouldn’t be built. I said it probably didn’t deserve to be so highly placed in the schedule.

      17. “130th as it stands right now, in 2021, is an urbanist fantasyland station that relies on massive upzoning and repurposing a golf course to be useful.”

        That’s not the point. The primary purpose of 130th station is for a bus feeder to Lake City and Bitter Lake. Lake City is a de facto urban center with dozens of apartment buildings and a mixture of jobs already. Link can’t serve it directly so it should at least serve it indirectly. The upzone at 130th station is just a modest addition to avoid being completely nimby. The golf course didn’t stop 145th station, so why should it stop 130th?

      18. 130th is mostly about bus transfers, so unless Seattle creates an urban village the incremental transit revenue will be de minimis. Higher revenue only comes from a rider who is not using a monthly pass nor is transferring from an existing transit mode; even if 130th is a very successful station, this strikes me as a rather small population.

        130th as it stands right now, in 2021, is an urbanist fantasyland station that relies on massive upzoning and repurposing a golf course to be useful.

        Neither of you seem to understand why 130th is important. I’ve gone over this many times, but I’ll do it again: It isn’t about the walk-up riders. I realize that suggests that very few people will use it. Wrong. People will transfer from the bus to the train, just as they do at 145th. But there are important differences. First, it will serve way more people. Second, it will save many of them a lot more time. Finally, for many they will switch from just using Metro, to using Metro and Link.

        First of all, you will get increased ridership. Studies show that ridership increases when you save people time. People from Lake City (and there are a lot of them) will save a significant amount of time transferring at 130th instead of at Northgate or Roosevelt. That means more people using Link. But the biggest difference will be people along the 130th and Greenwood corridor. Look at what will likely be part of a future bus line: https://goo.gl/maps/hy6Tc5CzRFjWmu9H6. As you head west (from Lake City to Pinehurst) you save riders quite a bit of time. But as you get to Aurora, you change their world. If you are headed from Bitter Lake to downtown, Northgate Link is useless to you. The bus to Northgate is infrequent, slow and indirect. You are better off sticking to the buses (the 5 and E). The same goes for trips to the Roosevelt, the U-District or Capitol Hill. You give all your money to Metro (or the gas station), and not a dime to Sound Transit.

        In contrast, if the station is added at 130th (and that frequent route is added) suddenly that becomes your best option. Instead of taking the 5 or the E all the way downtown (or to 45th to then take the 44) you take that bus to 130th, and then the train. Sound Transit gets half your money. From Sound Transit’s standpoint, this is a good thing. Lest you feel sorry for Metro, they will likely make up for the loss of revenue with increased ridership along that corridor (e. g. Bitter Lake to Lake City, which is so bad, it drives people to, well, buy a car and drive).

        This is the value of that station. It is really the value of the stations north of Northgate. All of them are by the freeway, and thus dependent on bus connections. But this station will perform better than most because it is closer to more places, and conveniently located. The corridor I linked to is has lots of density. All of the people along that corridor want a fast ride to the other stops that light rail will have (Northgate, Roosevelt, U-District, UW, Capitol Hill, downtown, etc.) and by far the best way to give them that is with a station at 130th.

      19. “Graham and 130th are by far the most cost effective additions to Link in ST3.”

        Hardly. If that was true they wouldn’t be sitting at the end of the schedule.

        Ha! You probably believe that. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you are totally wrong. This is a somewhat dated independent assessment of ST3 from a cost/ benefit standpoint (https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/06/youve-got-50-billion-for-transit-now-how-should-you-spend-it/). Sort the second table by the last column (Construction cost per daily rider), the third column (Construction cost/population and jobs served) or the last column (Subsidized cost). Lower is better. In all cases, Graham Street appears as one of the best. Now consider that Ballard Link is way over budget, and the ridership estimates for Graham went up 50% (from 2,000 to 3,000 a day). Clearly Graham is the best Link project, with its only rival the BRT plans.

        With 130th the numbers are similar. Ridership would likely be much higher, and costs would not. Now consider how much time is saved with some projects, versus Graham or 130th. Those stations are at the top in all meaningful metrics.

        If you think this doesn’t make sense from a planning standpoint, you just had an epiphany. You figured out what many have been saying for a while now: Sound Transit isn’t interested in cost effectiveness. Ridership per dollar, subsidized cost, rider time saves per dollar spent — none of these mean a thing to Sound Transit. They have never been concerned with value. They have always been concerned with making symbolic improves to transit in the region. Do you really think they sat down and concluded that West Seattle Link (let alone Link to the Tacoma Dome) was the biggest bang for the buck from a transit standpoint? Please. Even when faced with independent research showing that the best value for Kirkland was BRT on the CKC they rejected it, so they could run trains along the freeway from Issaquah to the South Kirkland Park and Ride.

        It is frustrating and seemingly nonsensical. Welcome to the world of Sound Transit.

    2. “Joe Z, it will be remarkably easy to solve this issue by using the enormous, publicly-owned right-of-way right in the heart of West Seattle: Fauntleroy Way. Yes, cars would be removed entirely from the boulevard. Yes, they would deal with it, just like they’ve dealt with not having their dumb bridge for a year. Yes, there would be adaptations”.

      It is this kind of transit focused myopia in which transit advocates finally slay their nemesis — cars — that runs into roadblocks that result in less than ideal solutions, and concerns me about any HB1304 levy.

      For example, the reason the West Seattle Bridge is being repaired and not replaced with capacity for light rail (and only light rail according to The Urbanist) is because West Seattle citizens demanded no loss of car capacity in any new bridge, which meant a very wide bridge with light rail, which was not affordable. And they didn’t want to wait long to get car access back on their dumb bridge.

      The loss of car access to the West Seattle bridge during the repair has only convinced West Seattle residents of the need for no loss of car capacity in any new bridge. I doubt their new “stub” will convince them otherwise, but will convince them to never believe the dreams of rail advocates. If forced to choose, a large majority of West Seattle residents will choose car capacity over rail for any bridge, because the West Seattle Bridge is very good access to I-5 and I-90, as do most neighborhoods, which is why so much of rail is underground through Seattle.

      Imagine telling West Seattle businesses and residents (if you are one of them like Dow) you are closing Fauntleroy to cars to build a surface station and run rail to that metropolis Sodo, because ST ran out of money because it “underestimated” project costs. It is like The Urbanist coming up with plans to convert I-5 into housing, and then getting snotty when everyone laughs.

      If you believe in rail don’t pick fights you can’t win, especially if you have to tell your subarea you ran out of money. A 130th station is good because it is wasteland next to I-5 and doesn’t impact cars, but of course has little hope of housing density near it. Graham St. is fairly urban and serves many without cars, but again does not impact cars, and appears “equitable”.

      Choose future select rail projects in N. King Co. that don’t set up huge fights rail can’t win.

      Now on the eastside they have to convince Issaquah a $4.5 billion line to S. Kirkland — which ironically the subarea probably can afford — is a stupid idea, which will mean continued express peak buses to Seattle using existing park and rides unless ST wants to build all those park and rides in ST 3. But where else to spend that $4.5 billion. If you know the eastside the answer is easy: somewhere along 405, probably north to the chagrin of Renton once again, with large park and rides.

      1. Fauntleroy is plenty wide enough to accommodate both surface running light rail and car traffic. If you really need to squeeze that much more space out of it for cars, either have part of it be a single lane/track section at the end, or elevate parts of it above Fauntleroy. Absolutely no reason to send the bulldozers through the neighborhood while Fauntleroy exists as the main thoroughfare in the area. Oh, and Fauntleroy also curves to the south in case you ever wanted to extend the line south.

    3. Thanks Tom, I guess. I don’t love transit, which I think sometimes helps. I also intrinsically question government agencies, and any cost estimates in any levy, whether it is Move Seattle, ST 3, or Seattle Subway.

      I think some transit advocates who do love transit are really surprised and hurt by ST’s duplicity when it comes to estimating costs in ST 3 in order to pass ST 3. Maybe because I am a lawyer, or listened to admittedly non-transit loving eastsiders, I was not surprised, but even I am shocked at the degree of underestimating costs, just from 2016. But I think ST felt no matter what it took ST 3 was necessary to complete ST 2 and the spine, so a little dishonesty wouldn’t hurt the public, and never expected a pandemic to change future revenue models.

      I must say I have learned a ton on this blog, and the reason I first tuned in was to learn more for the litigation between ST and Mercer Island over the bus intercept, which I am beginning to suspect may be moot based on post-pandemic transit ridership on the eastside. How quickly things change in a pandemic. The bus intercept is the least of ST’s problems.

      If there is one thing I have learned but maybe others don’t see is Link is different things in different areas, mostly based on 1. total area; 2. topography; 3. density; 4. subarea funding; and 5. how much of a car culture exists, which means the infrastructure like on the eastside has been designed for cars.

      Most on this blog are urbanists, and live in urban areas, and some never drive, and so they see Link as urban rail, but once you get to Northgate and to Bellevue Link is commuter rail, and commuters rarely love transit for transit. I don’t think they understand Link outside urban Seattle.

      Whether one is anti or pro transit is really irrelevant. What is relevant is how much money you have. Personally I think in the long run the recent “realignment” is the best thing to happen. One because it lays bare a very dishonest agency. Two it gives real transit experts one last chance to use the money available when the second tunnel and WSDLE are eliminated to do something better.

      We all are damn lucky this reckoning — due to a pandemic — and “realignment” came before shovels were put in the ground on 5th Ave.

  4. ST3 is so far out in the future any projected cost is just a SWAG. If said SWAG is based on current costs of construction it’s likely the actual inflation adjusted cost will be less because construction costs are out of control right now. Hard to know with land acquisition costs. Generally/Long term better to buy now and hold. But if Seattle has an economic down turn it might (unlikely) be cheaper to buy in the future. A big problem seems to be the buy and lease back option that doesn’t seem to exist. The financial restraints on ST money should be very conservative but holding land in the ROW you think you might need seems like a great hedge. The sticking point seems to be no ability to buy land and lease it back. Once bought current regs seem to suggest it has to be bought outright and fenced off. That’s not the way any commercial developer would operate.

  5. I found the drama of merely delaying opening dates to be manufactured. I am amazed that projects were not rescoped. It’s been discussed for many months and it comes down to schedule juggling?

    Changing opening days is not “realignment”. It’s merely “rescheduling”.

    Balducci said she is close to having a different approach. Stay tuned! I wonder if the compromise is to pre-empt her proposal.

    PS. The Durkan/ Constantine grandstanding appears to be a stunt to put all three stations in West Seattle in front. Meanwhile, Graham — which also has $10M from Move Seattle already gets pushed 6 years as does 130th. Fun fact: Graham is further from Othello than Alaska Junction is from Avalon.

    1. Realignment has always been about rescheduling and deferring projects. Rescoping has never been on the table. You can’t redefine ‘realignment’ to be want you want it to be.

      Delaying WS to open after DSTT2 was the best thing to come out of the staff scenarios – disappointing to see the chair’s proposal completely whiff on this front.

      1. Everything about this is a complete whiff. None of it makes any sense. You should build things to provide the most benefit the soonest. This does the opposite. The C and D get improvements 5 years after they become obselete. Buses will be able to run on the freeway shoulder 3 years after they stop using the freeway. Link will connect West Seattle with SoDo 6 years before it is connected to downtown. Stations that should have been part of the original line get built decades after the fact. There is no attempt to be cost effective, or make timely improvements. It is like building additions to your house first (so that people can admire them) and then 30 years later building the actual house.

      2. Deferring nearly all the parking to Tier 4 is a nice win. It’s also good to see the OMFs prioritized, so even if TDLE or Lynnwood to SW Everett go sideways, the agency will still be marching to standing up the OMFs and acquiring the Series III fleet, which will be important if you want to add frequency in the core. Both OMFs are proposed to open several years prior to their corresponding Link segments, which I think is notable.

        I’m bullish on Sounder but I think putting it in Tier 3 and not moving past ROW acquisition until we have a clear understanding of future commuter patterns is also a good move. If peak commuting strongly rebounds, the board can pivot accordingly.

      3. The Sounder improvements were always the worst value. Parking is really expensive for how many riders it gets, and extending further south won’t get you that many riders*. Building the OMFs before the extension doesn’t get you much except that it reduces the chance of big cost overruns. More trains simply adds capacity, not frequency. You can always run smaller trains more often (e. g. 2-car trains every 5 minutes, instead of a 4-car train every 10). Since the biggest problem is likely to be all-day frequency, the number of trains doesn’t matter much (just run at peak frequency all day long).

        * This report (https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/06/youve-got-50-billion-for-transit-now-how-should-you-spend-it/) looks at Sounder to Dupont, not Lakewood. To Dupont it is the absolute worst project (with a subsidized cost of over $30 per riders (!)). But Lakewood probably performs a bit better.

      4. “ Delaying WS to open after DSTT2 was the best thing to come out of the staff scenarios.”

        I liked how the staff proposed a Delridge earlier phase option. The additional cost and disruption/ effort of going those next two stations — particularly Alaska Junction — is quite significant.

      5. AJ: the ST Board has the power to rescope. You may be forecasting that they will not. Both Sound Move and ST2 were rescoped. In Sound Move: the Link stations at NE 45th Street, First Hill, South Graham Street, and Boeing Access were dropped; the two-way I-90 busway was dropped; the NE 85th Street center access ramp was dropped and other Kirkland projects substituted; north Sounder became one-way and peak-only. In ST2, bus service was reduced; a Renton bus ramp and Bothell parking were cut. Link lines were delayed. We do not know what the ST board will do. The RossB points on cost-effectiveness and timing seem sound.

      6. I would consider the Tier 4 projects to be functionally descoped as all work is halted. They won’t be technically cancelled until they are dropped from the next levy.

      7. “ The Sounder improvements were always the worst value.”

        I have to generally agree about this. I know that Sounder fans love their niche service, but with Link just a few miles away running at high frequency, I can’t help but think that high-frequency bus connections to Link would be better. For example, a bus on SR 18 between Auburn and South Federal Way or a bus on the planned 167 extension between Puyallup and Fife. Those buses could run from Link to Sounder with no or few stops — and then serve other parts of those cities so that the parking garages would not be as needed at either Link or Sounder stations.

        Another issue with the South Sounder garages are that a noticeable proportion do not live in the ST racing district. If the free station parking was limited to those vehicles that have car tabs, the demand at free garages would drop. It’s not fair that an Auburn Sounder rider who paid car tabs has trouble parking because a Maple Valley rider who didn’t pay car tabs is already in their free parking space.

        I know that it’s not as fast as Sounder is — but most of those Sounder riders have to hop onto Link or a Metro bus eventually anyway to go north of James St.

      8. “I know that Sounder fans love their niche service, but with Link just a few miles away running at high frequency,”

        You haven’t looked at south central/east King County then. Sounder’s travel time to Kent is 20 minutes, Auburn 27 minutes. The 578 to Auburn is 45-63 minutes, and is about as fast as a bus can get. Link to Angle Lake is currently 40 minutes. Link to KDM will probably be 45 minutes and Federal Way 55 minutes. So if you posit that 30-45 minutes is a reasonable travel time to Kent and Auburn given their distance and size, that gives zero minutes for a KDM-Kent bus or a FW-Auburn bus, plus you have to add transfer time. So already Link+feeder service to Kent and Auburn is unacceptable and they need something better. The Sounder stations are at the center of where the bulk of the population lives. And Renton is left out of all of this.

        Sounder North is a different matter. Cancel it now. Half the stations’ walksheds/drivesheds is underwater, and the bulk of the population lives east of the stations up the hill around 99 and I-5, where Link and Swift Blue serve them better. And North Link to Everett has the same travel time as Sounder and ST Express.

      9. Just to be clear, when I wrote that the Sounder improvements were the worst value, I was referring to the ST3 Sounder improvements as a whole. This was based on the data at hand. I was not referring to Sounder as it exists now. Nor was I referring to Sounder if it was a bit more frequent or predictable (e. g. hourly service midday either direction). Sounder as it exists now is just fine (so far as I know — I haven’t compared the costs/benefits versus just running more buses). But based on the available data (the document I keep referring to*) the extension to Dupont is the absolute worst value in ST3. The extension just to Lakewood might be better, but I doubt it is much better.


      10. Gah! Ross! Sounder!

        I was staying with a friend in Shoreline. The thing Google maps suggests to get around always involved a torturous, long slog on the E for almost everything.

        I looked at taking the 130 down the hill to Edmonds Sounder and taking Sounder North into Seattle, but the bus arrives ≈7 minutes after the train leaves.

        Well designed feeders are….not particularly good at feeding the North line, it seems.

        I’m pretty sure a DuPont to Tacoma half-hourly Sounder train could be really popular because of the constant traffic issue on I-5 through there the buses deal with. One Sounder coach paired with a Nippon-Sharyo DMU similar to those on Sonoma-Marin’s service could do nicely. More expensive than a bus, certainly , but SoundTransit owns the tracks so no BNSF tangle. It could be so much faster than the current bus service too.

    2. Rescoping means some subareas and boardmembers would lose projects while others wouldn’t. Naturally they don’t want to lose them, so the board is avoiding this showdown. The tiering is a kind of showdown, but since it’s merely delaying rather than deleting/deferring, it’s easier for the losers to swallow and accept.

      I think it’s right that ST put the lowest-priority projects last at 2041, and is now kicking some projects to 4th tier, with the expectation that a later board may delete or defer them. In that case, it’s good that the parking is in Tier 4, and we won’t need the RapidRide C/D improvements then anyway, The purpose of the C/D improvements was as a stopgap before Ballard and West Seattle Link.

      1. Mike Orr, don’t suggest I think a ST 4 levy will pass. That is AJ’s dream. I think the chances a ST 4 levy would pass so ST could complete the promised ST 3 projects is about 1%, with a higher likelihood one or two subareas would secede from ST if there were a ST 4.

        ST placed park and rides in Tier 4 for the East King Co. subarea because every subarea had to have some Tier 4 projects politically so N. King Co. doesn’t look like beggars, and putting the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line in Tier 4 would start a fight that would prove there are no Tier 4 projects in East King Co. because it has the funding to build even the preposterous Issaquah to S. Kirkland line.

        ST just knew that if it put park and rides in the Tier 4 bucket for East King Co. transit nuts would buy it without baiting the hook, and wouldn’t realize “realignment” is only about subareas that don’t have the money to complete their projects. There is no “realignment” on the Eastside.

        Why delay park and rides on the Eastside if they were part of ST 3 and the money is there to build them? Because you don’t understand the Eastside?

        It isn’t as if the park and rides will be replaced by another project. Realignment means that if the money somehow magically materializes the projects listed in ST 3 will get built. There won’t be different projects.

        There is already the money for the Eastside park and rides. They are part of ST 3 for a reason, and will be demanded even more when feeder bus service for East Link is a dud, along with express peak buses.

        Some might not like park and rides, but those subareas have their own bigger problems. East King Co. likes park and rides, they are prioritized in ST 3, and the subarea has more than enough money to build them, plus a $4.5 billion line from Issaquah to Kirkland some transit folks think is a better idea because it is “rail”, rather than rapid ride buses serving Eastside citizens needing to use transit.

        It really blows me away when Seattle transit advocates criticize park and rides for very economical RR on the Eastside, but have no problem with a $4.5 billion line between Issaquah to S. Kirkland, which is the same mindset that has the N. King Co. subarea in the pickle it is in, or a fucking stub from West Seattle to Sodo. Beam me up, Scotty.

      2. “It really blows me away when Seattle transit advocates criticize park and rides for very economical RR on the Eastside, but have no problem with a $4.5 billion line between Issaquah to S. Kirkland”

        Seattle transit advocates have a big problem with the Issaquah-South Kirkland line. We just lost this battle, like we lost the Everett and Tacoma Dome extensions. So we keep quiet about them because that was the compromise: Issaquah and Everett and Tacoma for the North King projects and Stride. We’re still honoring that compromise by not interfering in those projects. But if the subareas themselves change their minds about Issaquah, Everett, and Tacoma, we’d applaud them and suggest alternatives. The two-phase proposal for Everett is a good one, to serve the most-useful half first. And feeders to 128th would be short, y’know.

        My focus is on decisions that haven’t been solidified yet, where we have a chance to influence the outcome. It’s futile to rail against decisions that have already been made; that’s like shouting at a stone wall. The wall won’t move. But we can still lament the lost opportunities.

        P&Rs have the least value-per-dollar of any transit project, by far. A train holds 480 people per run (120 x 4 cars), 2880-9600 per hour (3-10 minute frequency), 46080-153600 per day (6am-10pm, ignoring off-hours). But 100 parking spaces can hold only 100 cars, assuming they remain there from 8 am to 5pm. So only a small fraction of riders can use P&Rs. And every parking space costs $30,000-120,000. That’s a lot of money for one rider, and a gigantic subsidy to them from those who bus/walk/bike to Link. In the east coast, transit agencies pay for the stations and cities pay for P&Rs if they want them. That’s a fairer model. So P&Rs absolutely should be last if ST is expected to pay for them.

      3. Park and Ride lots *can* be economical if it’s parking that is already wasted parking space. Eg: church parking lots only used one day a week and otherwise mostly empty.

        However, that’s a bit different than this.

  6. I’m not so bothered about the second tunnel opening day being pushed back. Judging from the years of delay for new downtown tunnels in LA and SF, I’m thinking that it will be 10 years of construction AFTER the station vaults have been designed, property bought and construction mitigation developed and implemented. U-Link construction was 7+ years and traffic disruption was minimal but that’s an example of what these giant station vaults and the acres needed for them will need to be like.

    The one silver lining is that the long 9-year gap with a West Seattle stub may finally get leaders interested in cross-platform transfers at SODO. West Seattlites won’t take too kindly to walking to the end of the platform and doing two level changes as now planned if the could have a 20 foot stroll from any of the 16 sets of doors to another 16 sets of doors on the other train.

    1. I don’t see the longer gap between WS and DSTT2 as a silver lining. That gap is probably the worst aspect of the Chair’s proposal. Would be much better to defer WS to allow for DSTT2 to open earlier, or at least before WS.

      1. I agree with AJ. There is no value in building West Seattle to SoDo first. Riders and Metro will simply ignore that line. It will probably run every 10 to 20 minutes during the day. At best it is a shuttle for ball games. It is like building Tacoma Dome to Federal Way first, then eventually connecting the main line to it. It is completely backwards.

        That being said, the worst part of the plan is to delay the bus improvements and infill stations. These are by far the most cost effective improvements, and they are delayed for decades. Both 130th and Graham should have been part of the original line. 130th should be built as part of Lynnwood Link, and Graham should be built at soon as possible. Improvements to the C and D should happen as soon as possible, since it will be a very long time before we have any improvement along that corridor.

      2. I’m baffled that 130th gets political support from the Seattle council but Graham does not. Neither are regionally significant, but both are high quality projects for Seattle, so it’s up to Seattle’s reps on the board to support it. Fundamentally, North King is prioritizing WS Link over infill stations.

        For the bus improvements, I see their move to Tier 4 as a first step to killing off those projects. I would expect to see these projects eliminated in ST4 as a means to create capacity to finish WSBLE and build Ballard-UW. If North King is looking for ‘3rd party funding,’ it seems pretty straightforward for Seattle to just take these projects off ST’s plate and fund them directly (perhaps in the next Move Seattle levy?), given it was just going to be ST cutting a check to SDOT.

      3. Oh I agree that it’s wildly ineffective to build the full West Seattle connection first. It gets to West Seattle Link politically even though it would make little sense to force double transfers onto riders. Silver linings require clouds to exist.

      4. Both 130th and Graham get support from the council. Boeing Access Road, not so much. There is probably more noise around 130th for several reasons. First, folks pushed to have it built with Lynnwood Link. This just makes sense, as it costs less, and is less disruptive. It is quite likely that fare revenue alone would make up for the difference, and ST would make money if they built it sooner. Second, it was a big issue with the city council race, and Juarez not only supported it strongly, but made it clear she would fight hard for it. Third, Juarez is on the ST board. In contrast, Morales is relatively new to the council (not on the ST board) and while I’m sure she supports it, she hasn’t been fighting for it for years.

        I guess there is another issue. 130th effects people in a wider area. Thus you have more community groups (Bitter Lake, Pinehurst, Lake City) fighting for it, which sounds more impressive, even if the number of people advocating for it is similar. You also have Metro, which desperately wants 130th, as it will enable a much more productive network in the north end of Seattle. Graham would be great, but it doesn’t really change the bus network there (you still need a bus down MLK, as the stations are still too far apart).

      5. “ I’m baffled that 130th gets political support from the Seattle council but Graham does not. ”

        I’m not baffled. Seattle decisions are often lobbied by stakeholders, who are often white Seattle natives. Serving an area with non-participating immigrants and less vocal non-English -speaking residents just doesn’t have the same impact politically.

        We have set up a decision system that rewards lobbying before objective data — and a system like that will always favor natives with money or influence. It borderlines on being structurally a white privilege aspect of our “Seattle Process”. If Alaska Junction users were dominated by immigrant people of color, it would be pushed to a later phase. Just look at how serving Harborview ghastly gone from deferred to erased for another long-time example.
        Heck, just look at who mise of the WSBLE “stakeholders” are: neighborhood groups, property owners and targeted vocal advocates — but not riders or drivers that understand the nuances better.

      6. “I’m baffled that 130th gets political support from the Seattle council but Graham does not.”

        130th serves two urban villages with tens of thousands of people. Graham has nothing like that. Lake City is Seattle’s fifth-largest urban village, so it’s a scandal it was left out of Link. A Graham route would serve areas that are lower-population than Mt Baker or Othello, which already have Link.

      7. At this point, I think it’s important to point out that the 130th station ridership numbers neglect any passengers from Metro buses. It’s because it’s two different agencies and therefore they have to discount anything the other agency does.

        Or something like that. It was explained in the comments section some years back.

        So, that’s why the ridership estimates show as being really low.

      8. The biggest argument against 130th is that it depends on Metro creating a new bus route that does not exist today in order to be useful. RossB has, many times, made a very convincing argument why Metro *should* run a bus from Lake City to Bitter Lake that serves it, and I agree with it. However, just because Metro *should* run such a bus doesn’t necessarily mean that they will. There could be all sorts of reasons related to politics/inertia/etc. why they don’t. And if they don’t run it, or don’t run it frequently enough, 130th station starts to look like a white elephant.

        So far, Sound Transit seems to be going too far other way and treating any future bus restructures as purely speculative, which is why their studies show so little ridership at 130th. The only way out of this is for Metro to somehow make a promise that Sound Transit can trust that if 130th station is built that they will run a Lake City->bitter lake bus that serves it, and they will run it every 10-15 minutes 18 hours per day, 7 days per week. Otherwise, the argument that new bus service is speculative will never be put to rest.

      9. ST has to include a list of representative bus routes for the EIS, and that’s partly why Metro wrote its 2025 and 2040 plans. Previously ST just got a few routes with no thought to the surrounding network, but Metro in 2016 supplied an integrated network and aspirational funding levels for it. If the funding is less, the frequency may be lower, but I don’t think Metro would drop a Lake City-Bitter Lake route entirely just to keep the 75 and 20 going to Northgate. It would have some other routes on Northgate Way and 5th Ave NE instead. Metro’s long-range plan suggests the Fred Meyer to Fred Meyer route for Northgate Way, and a coverage route on 5th (Roosevelt- Meridian-Aurora Village). So this gives enough justification for ST to say there will probably be a Lake City-Bitter Lake route.

        Similarly, ST can count approved and near-approval zoned capacity, but it can’t count speculative upzones beyond that. In ST2 there was no upzoning planned for 130th & 5th. In ST3 the city finally added it just in time.

        In any case, ST’s estimate is that zero additional riders would come from a 130th station compared to them transferring at Northgate. That’s based on the assumption that everybody who would use 130th is already on a bus to Northgate (even if they grumble about it). This ignores the fact that even if there’s no increase, it would make transit more convenient for Seattle’s fifth-largest urban village (Lake City) and a notable follower (Bitter Lake). More convenience means the network will be more useful to people and people will have higher satisfaction with the network, ST, Metro, and the governments. That’s the point: to make transit more competitive with driving and increase people’s satisfaction with their government. That’s what other countries do and why they’re so successful at transit. Additional riders is a bonus on top of that. And we can speculate (although ST can’t include) that ridership will rise beyond that as people decide to use transit more, those who want transit gravitate to those areas, more upzones might occur, and people become more climate aware.

      10. I’ve talked to Metro planners (i. e. people who actually create the routes). What is clear is that they really want the 130th station. They may argue about how best to serve it, but they definitely want it. Of course they will serve it.

        Partly this is due to geography. Lots of buses have to go to Northgate, and Northgate is hard to get to. They go there now because of the 41 (the only frequent all-day express bus to downtown in the area). In a few months, they will go there because of Link. But one Link station is as good as any other, and for a lot of people, 130th would save them (and Metro) a lot of time. Northgate is a significant destination, but riders from the two main areas along 125th (Pinehurst and Lake City) will still have a one-seat connection to Northgate (via the 347/348 and the new 20) so you haven’t lost much. Meanwhile, riders along that part of the 40 gain the connection to Bitter Lake, along with connections to the E and the 5. Those in greater Bitter Lake gain a connection to Lake City, which is a significant destination as well along with a one-seat ride to Sand Point, Children’s Hospital and the UW.

        Put it another way: Imagine there is no Link, and no I-5. This means that various buses go north-south to downtown (along Lake City Way, 15th NE, etc.). The 75 would not make the seemingly nonsensical turn on 5th (to get to Northgate). It would instead continue its sweeping (and fast) arc across the north end to its logical conclusion, Greenwood Avenue and Shoreline CC.

        If there is a station at 130th it wouldn’t “draw” buses to it, but merely restore a more natural alignment of the buses. Instead of so many buses bending to serve Northgate, they would simply connect to Link at 130th — a stop that would be “on the way”. To suggest that Metro planners don’t understand this is absurd. Every planner I’ve talked to gets this, and is eager for that station. Without it, they are stuck with the muddled mess that exists now.

        Keep in mind, this is not like a truncation. With a truncation, there is an obvious trade-off. You have a one-seat ride to downtown, versus a two-seat ride via Link. Community Transit made their choice with Northgate Link, and decided to keep sending buses downtown. It is quite possible that even after West Seattle Link is connected to downtown, Metro will run the 120 to downtown, making the Delridge Station largely useless. It is unlikely, but still possible that they keep the C and 21 running downtown as well. Without the truncations, West Seattle Link becomes a horrible value. It gets more walk-up riders than 130th, but it costs way more (making it worse from a ridership/cost perspective). The point is, we could play this game all over the system. If you run the train along the freeway then you will never get a huge number of walk-up riders. Your only chance for decent ridership is with connecting buses, and with 130th, it is more of a certainty than anywhere else.

    2. > I’m thinking that it will be 10 years of construction AFTER the station vaults have been designed

      The realignment plan suggest we’re going to delay the start of spending construction dollars; so if it takes longer than expected to construct that’s additional delay compared to what we see here.

    3. “I would consider the Tier 4 projects to be functionally descoped as all work is halted. They won’t be technically cancelled until they are dropped from the next levy.”

      AJ, if there is going to be another levy — ST 4 or a huge HB1304 levy in Seattle — why go through this realignment at all, let alone eliminate Tier 4 projects in ST subareas that can afford them? Do you think ST 4 would pass on the eastside if you told the eastside subarea their park and rides will be eliminated if ST 4 passes, and they will have more money than they know what to do with?

      I think it is important to distinguish between politics and finances in the realignment. “Realignment” only applies to subareas without the funding to complete their promised projects, and mostly that is the N. King Co. subarea.

      There are no “Tier 4” projects in the East King Co. subarea if the eastside cities demand them, and if the Issaquah to Kirkland line is Tier 2 you know the realignment on the eastside is politics. ST simply added a bunch of park and rides in Tier 4 because it knew transit advocates in Seattle, who are losing most of their ST 3 projects, would lap that up.

      I would bet the park and rides (at least the Stride park and rides) get completed before the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line, unless of course express buses solve the point of the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line. The park and rides on the eastside are much more important and have greater demand than the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line that I doubt will get built, which will leave an extra $4.5 billion lying around anyway.

      1. South Kirkland is projected to have few riders. The East Main junction looks messy.

        It would seem logical to consider an automated single track line with some bypasses that just sits at its own platform waiting for transferring riders on Line 2 from either Downtown Bellevue or Seattle. Bonus points if the single-track layout could enable the transfer point to be at South Bellevue as the impact to MercerSlough could be greatly lessened..

      2. It’s not worth speculating on ST4 at this point. With ST3 continuing for 23 more years (by the above proposal), and charging the full ST1/2/3 tax rate until then, and the disappointments at ST3’s mediocracy, I can’t see the board considering an ST4 vote until the 2040s when ST3 ends. By that time it will be a different generation making the decisions, and they’ll probably have different priorities. The exurban/car-dependent vision may have collapsed by then, so they may not want P&Rs or extensions to Tacoma Mall.

        I also can’t see an ST4 in the 2020s/2030s to backfill ST3. Not when the ST1/2/3 total tax is still in effect. A more likely scenario would be city-funded grants or loans to accelerate specific projects.

      3. “if there is going to be another levy — ST 4 or a huge HB1304 levy in Seattle — why go through this realignment at all,”

        ST can’t count on money that hasn’t been voted for yet. There’s no indication that ST is planning an ST4 to backfill ST3 before the 2040s; you’re the only one saying that. Seattle hasn’t said it will propose an HB1304 measure or what might be in it.

      4. I never understood a proposal for any kind of light rail to Kirkland. It’s a SFH enclave. Less density than the hated West Seattle:). I know people there. Everybody drives; they don’t do no stinkin public transportation.

      5. Downtown Kirkland is multifamily and is a walkable downtown. Kirkland led the way in Eastside urbanism in the 1980s: the condos downtown and along the waterfront south of it. Unfortunately it lost its way later when it yielded to NIMBYs on 108th south of 68th, kept downtown low, and kicked growth to Totem Lake where no Kirklander wanted to go. It was one of the three largest Eastside cities until Renton somehow managed to surpass it, and I’m still not sure how that happened. (Did Renton annex more than other cities?)

        So regional transit should serve downtown Kirkland. But it’s hard to get to. And Kirkland tries to keep people away with low zoning downtown and McMansion 108th. so students and workforce people can’t afford to live there. Which suits the 108th nimbys fine. Then there’s the issue of the legacy rail corridor. Regional transit would have to (A) go on 405-68th-108th-downtown-85th, (B) 405-85th-downtown-85th, (C) South Kirkland-rail corridor, or (D) South Kirkland-108th. A is potentially slow, B is a lame detour, C loses the excellent trail and is opposed by the “Save Our Trail” nimbys, and D would probably be opposed by them too. And I agree that the north-south trail is an important amenity, and rail or a busway would ruin it.

        So originally Issaquah Link would have extended to downtown Kirkland. But ST, Kirkland, and Save Our Trails got into a three-way disagreement about the legacy rail corridor, so ST just backed off and truncated it at South Kirkland in ST3, and deferred a downtown Kirkland alignment/mode for ST4 or later. Kirkland was the loser in this since it limits Kirklanders’ mobility. But influential Kirklandites don’t care because they drive and don’t want lower-income neighbors.

      6. Mike: for what it’s worth, next time you’re in Portland, you might try visiting a few of the bike paths next to MAX. Places such as Orange Line north of Park to River Road seem to be really good in terms of noise. In places such as the I-205 corridor where they put a noise wall, you don’t even really notice the trains, except at bridges where they mounted the track to the concrete so the whole thing is a giant noise amplifier (eg, Foster Road). It’s easiest to hear the amount of noise in places without so much auto noise, such as the Tualatin Hills Nature Park.

  7. I think the “realignment” makes sense if you assume a few things:

    1. DSTT 2 is never going to be built. There isn’t the money, the four other subareas won’t or can’t contribute more than $1.1 billion, and the risk is too great. So that explains building a West Seattle stub “before” the second tunnel. There won’t be a second tunnel. It also means no rail to Ballard, and a real coverage gap for SLU.

    2. Constantine and Durkan live in West Seattle. Better the truth about the second tunnel comes out after they have moved on (either to retirement, or for Constantine to state office). But the last thing Constantine is going to do is begin an unknowable and risky second tunnel before his run for governor. Everyone remembers Bertha.

    3. “Tier 2 projects will execute planning and right-of-way acquisition on schedule, getting them to “shovel-ready” as quickly as possible in case more money comes in. But the plan assumes up to 4 years of delay waiting for money to accumulate (for a total of 6).” Well, yes, if there is the money we will complete the projects, although we know there will never be the money for the second tunnel and rail between West Seattle and Ballard even though most of it is in public right of way (duh). As someone else has noted, to me this is ST telling Seattle and Seattle Subway prioritize what you want in any HB1304 levy. Once you remove the astronomical costs of the second tunnel and West Seattle to Ballard line, additional levy money in N. King Co. can build stations at Graham St. or 130th (or bike lanes), but not the fantastical tunnels in Seattle Subway’s plan. HB1304 was always about ST 3 projects in N. King Co.

    4. Tier 1 is basically the spine, and there is money to finish that except my suspicion is ST 3 money is being exhausted in N. King Co. to complete the spine. But once you eliminate a second tunnel (a $1.1 billion windfall for N. King Co.) and rail from West Seattle to Ballard, there is money left over for some infill stations (and maybe the stub from West Seattle few will ride). It isn’t a complete urban rail system but more of a commuter rail system, with glaring holes at First Hill and SLU, but 130th and Graham St. are affordable if that is what Seattle wants. The nice thing about a HB1304 levy is only Seattle will decide projects, which is also the bad thing because we might just get another Move Seattle.

    5. Ross is correct IMO: Tier 4 is basically saying tier 4 projects are being eliminated without saying tier 4 projects are being eliminated. If I were on the board I probably would have wanted to be a little more clever than adding bus shoulders in 2045 when they will be obsolete, and I would bet parking garages in the E. King Co. subarea will move up in the Tier system except it was awkward for ST and the Board to make these garages Tier 1 or 2 projects because the subarea has the money when the key ST 3 project in N. King Co. is basically getting eliminated, and Seattle transit folks are so prickly about cars. Better to have the eastside subarea insist on the parking garages because the money is there (except maybe N. Sammamish that will probably end up with peak express commuter buses to Seattle like Northgate).

    6. “If realignment skeptics like Dow Constantine are right, and revenue increases more than models currently say, we could expect all of the light rail and Stride to see no more than the current 2-year delay.” Dow is a politician and knows the models are correct, and maybe optimistic (a ST habit), but he really plans on being governor when this truth comes out. In this case realignment means reschedule means political denial.

    7. “Concur 100%. I think the ST board is focused on making points about which cities/sub-areas have more clout than others, not what makes the most sense for riders.” (from asdf2). Clout is money when it comes to subareas. Any subarea can have whatever transit projects it wants (including park and rides or express buses) if it has the money, or is willing to modify projects (like surface rail through downtown Seattle rather than a tunnel). It looks like the N. King Co. subarea needs to raise more money for its projects, except the second tunnel is too expensive. So what else does Seattle want in a HB1304 levy?

    In summary, this is realignment, sold as rescheduling for political purposes because right of way costs are increasing too fast, and the cost estimates are still way underestimated in N. King Co.

    ST and the ST Board, and Constantine, want someone else to tell Seattle what has been evident for a while (for some since before ST 3): if you can’t afford the second tunnel then rail through Seattle between West Seattle to Ballard is not doable, no one wants surface rail along 5th Ave., but eliminating the second tunnel frees up a ton of money, and if Seattle does float its own Seattle Subway/HB1304 levy make sure it dedicates funding for Graham St. and 130th and not more fantastical visions of tunnels everywhere.

    My guess is also they looked damn hard at TT’s plans to use the existing tunnel for the line from West Seattle to Ballard because what a perfect solution, but it doesn’t work.

    All in all about what I expected if you look behind the curtain.

    1. 1. Interesting take. So you think that the West Seattle stub operations is a feature, not a bug, of the ST3 project phasing? I’ve always consider it a design flaw, but if Dow is that cynical about DSTT2, that could be his logic.

      WS Link then becomes a prototype for Ballard-UW: a short segment where ST runs Link in shorter trains but higher frequency. Having to design WS Link for 4-car trains from Everett that will never arrive then becomes an enormous waste of money.

      1. I begin with the reality the second tunnel is not affordable, for N. King Co. or the four other subareas.

        So that frees up $1.1 billion for N. King Co., and $1.1 billion split among the four other subareas they would have paid for the second tunnel.

        Add in N. King Co.’s $1.1 billion, and a HB1304 levy that is specifically dedicated to Seattle transit projects, and you definitely have the money for the West Seattle Stub, and some infill stations.

        My only concern, and I think ST’s concern, is any HB1304 levy in Seattle would become ideological and politicized, with Seattle Subway claiming it can tunnel throughout King Co. for the money (and Seattle voters tend to like dreams over reality), bike groups claiming cars and transit need to be subordinated, “equity” advocates demanding projects (which might be Graham St.), and West Seattle and Ballard claiming to be first in line (which might make sense if it created a Ballard to UW route).

        There would be a real fight between ST’s supporters who would argue any HB1304 levy money should go to augment existing light rail — which are Graham St. and 130th IMO, — and Seattle Subway which would argue why give the levy money to an organization to complete some projects it claimed it could complete without a HB1304 levy, which is not a bad argument except Seattle Subway’s play is delusional when it comes to cost effectiveness. Of course infill stations like 130th based on future population density or developing the golf course may appear delusional to some too.

        If the second tunnel and West Seattle to Ballard line are scrapped it definitely would afford other opportunities in N. King Co., if Seattle could agree on what to afford and prioritize, which is a big if.

      2. “Tier 1 is basically the spine”

        Almost. It only goes to “SW Everett”, which I assumes means Mariner/128th. That brings in the higher-ridership areas of Alderwood Mall, Ash Way transfers, Mariner transfers, and Swift Green access (Boeing, Mill Creek, Canyon Park). But it doesn’t fulfill the vision of going to Everett Station.

        “DSTT 2 is never going to be built.”

        If you look at the opening dates, SW Everett and DSTT2 are simultaneous in 2038. They’re only in different tiers because Snohomish has fewer things to spend its money on, so it can start extending it north as soon as Lynnwood opens. So this doesn’t prove ST no longer things DSTT2 is essential for capacity. If DSTT2 is delayed further, SW Everett might be delayed with it.

        The West Seattle stub is curious, but I’m assuming ST knows it will have few riders and so won’t increase DSTT1 demand. Most people will continue taking the C, 21, 120, and 55, so they’ll be outside the tunnel.

      3. The West Seattle stub is done in that order to guarantee that it is done. Just imagine if they did it in the opposite order (the order that makes sense). They could very easily look at West Seattle and say “Sorry, we ran out of money. Besides, it won’t add much value. Here is a streetcar (or something)”. That won’t happen if you build it first.

      4. Please, RapidRide instead of a streetcar! We can always beef up the C and 120, upgrade the 21, and do something or Alki and Admiral. Hmm, if we extend the 55 to Alki, would that be enough to justify running it all day overlapping the C? If it’s timed halfway between the C runs, it would be like double-frequency in the highest-ridership area.

      5. I read SW Everett as getting to the Paine MIC, to connect to the OMF-N. But since the Airport road station is provisional and SW Everett industrial center station is likely on the northern edge of the MIC, Mariner may very well be the northern most station open at that time, even if the Link alignment goes several miles further.

      6. Please, RapidRide instead of a streetcar!

        Yeah, I was joking about the streetcar. I was simply referring to what happened to First Hill (they were denied a Link station twice, but got a silly streetcar instead).

        Yes, you are right, what would make more sense for West Seattle is just more bus service. Even before the pandemic service wasn’t great. The 21 only ran every 15 minutes even though it connects to High Point (the highest density area in West Seattle as of the last census). Alki (another high density area) is even more in need. They don’t have a one-seat ride to downtown most of the day. Likewise with Admiral Junction and all of California north of Alaska Junction. The 128 runs only every half hour (before the pandemic) making South Seattle College by far the least accessible of Seattle’s colleges. Even the C and 120 only run every 12 minutes. In general, West Seattle Transit is pretty poor. A big reason is because there simply aren’t that many potential riders. Flooding it with bus service may seem like a stretch, but is not nearly as crazy as spending billions on a light rail line that adds nothing in the way of new connections and isn’t much faster than the bus most of the day.

  8. What is WS Link for? Why does the ST3 plan include stub operation? SDOT controls the high level bridge. If it wanted to provide great bus speed and reliability, it has the power to do so when the repaired bridge reopens. SDOT has opened the South Lander Street overcrossing. The stub operation set up transfers in West Seattle and in SODO.

    1. What is WS Link for?

      It is so that people can take a three-seat ride to downtown. It will take a lot longer, and be a lot more work, but you get to ride on a choo-choo.

      Very few will ride it. Metro will ignore it. There is no point unless it connects to downtown.

    2. It’s because West Seattle thinks of itself as a middle-class white suburban area like Bellevue, so it should get light rail first because that’s the American Dream. And several current and former mayors/councilmembers/executives live in West Seattle, so they put their thumb on the scale. Lately there’s a contradictory argument that West Seattle has a high level of equity-deserving residents (poor/minority/transit-dependent). That’s mostly on Delridge and 35th, so if we take that argument seriously we could truncate Link at 35th. But that area is also pretty low density, with some apartments but a lot of houses and practically no businesses or reverse-trip destinations. Whereas the Junction is clearly the center of the urban village and highest density. But even that is pretty low compared to Seattle as a whole.

    3. I’ll take a stab at a good faith answer on “what is the purpose of WS Link:

      First, the new rail bridge provides redundancy for a car bridge that has already failed and will be near end of life by the time WS Link opens. Ideally, WS Link will allow for the freeway bridge to simply be removed at end of life.

      Second, WS Link will allow for the bus network to shift away from express service to the CBD into a local grid intersecting perpendicularly with the Link ‘spine.’ Aside from the Delridge Rapid Ride (which becomes the local bus shadow between Delridge and the ID), there should be no KCM buses crossing the high or low bridge to head north towards the ID. After WS Link, the bus grid should be much better for trips within West Seattle, which should be important unless you view West Seattle as nothing more than a bedroom community for downtown.

      If KCM chooses to continue to run express service into downtown, much of the value is destroyed, similar to how FW Link and Lynnwood Link are dramatically less impactful if Pierce or Snohomish decline to truncate routes.

      Unlike FW or Lynnwood, WS truncations will occur close to the final destination of most trips, so they will need to be high quality transfer to succeed. If it’s a stub, that probably means running 1 or 2 car trains at <5 minutes frequency all day, almost like a 'people mover' shuttle. If it's fully integrated with the DSTT, that means solid frequency and a high quality transfer environment (i.e not Mt Baker).

      Third, the views on the high bridge will be dope.

      1. The WS Link, or better the WSBLE, is a fine idea if it didn’t require a second tunnel, and there was the money for it. West Seattle has 70,000 citizens and kind of a retail core, and Ballard is very hard to reach by car, and both are urban neighborhoods (at least by my standards, which means some density around the commercial core).

        I didn’t see a big issue when WSBLE was included in ST 3 and thought both stations made more sense than 145th or 130th, maybe because I live in a subarea that included a $4.5 billion (estimated) Issaquah to S. Kirkland line as part of ST 3 (and both are bigger than the shed for 130th and 145th when Sammamish is included), that is Tier 2, if you can believe that. I also figured both West Seattle and Ballard would have a lot of commuters to downtown Seattle.

        I get the land use argument, but see it slightly differently when it comes to Link, especially urban Link.

        Some see TOD and greater HOUSING density near light rail stations as a way to build or manufacture ridership, or maybe create an urban utopia around originating stations. But that will require either population growth (of transit riders), or moving more folks from SOV or even HOV onto transit, or into TOD.

        Right now population growth is pretty low and was beginning to decline in 2019, and much of that growth is moving to less urban areas in an enormous three country region (plus Kitsap), exacerbated by WFH and the pandemic. Plus ST has always been very, very optimistic when it comes to future ridership estimates when it is selling a levy. Ridership in 2019, a boom year but without new stations, was very modest.

        As far as moving folks from cars to transit, I am not sure I see that, and total transit ridership with Link and feeder buses will likely be around the same as before, with buses alone. I think some made a mistake thinking transit would replace cars, or needed to to justify rail, which is part of ST’s problem, when transit will always supplement cars. After all, buses still provide the majority of transit mobility, and people who take transit often have to anyway, and so already do, including commuters which will likely decline.

        And I personally don’t see the allure of TOD’s next to I-5 or other major highways that are close enough to a rail station to walk, which is around 4 blocks max. Unless it is subsidized affordable housing and people have to live there, which does not suggest an urban retail utopia to me. TOD in the Spring District will still be car centric because of the cost of the new housing, and Bellevue’s requirement for onsite parking. The truth is rich people drive.

        No, I see the land use density for Link from the point of the destination, not the origination, in part because I think more riders are willing to take feeder buses to reach Link because they want to live in a SFH or away from a major interstate, or in a less dense neighborhood, but won’t take a feeder bus from Link to their destination which is either work or retail/commercial. The end Link station needs to be the destination, with the density.

        That means work, commercial, retail, restaurants, UW, Capitol Hill for visitors, a lot of things within walking distance of the station WHEN YOU GET THERE.

        So I don’t think Link makes any sense for say Issaquah, because even asdf2 could not walk Issaquah’s commercial “core”, and the rest is and will always be SFH neighborhoods spread out over a very great area because it turns out people like that, and are even willing to commute for that. I don’t see Issaquah changing its commercial core either because eastside suburban women love the car centric design and buy most of the stuff in America. What is the point of transit to a city if it doesn’t make the city money? Don’t get me wrong, from a retail standpoint Issaquah is fantastic and better than 99% of Link stations; you just need a car when you get there.

        Downtown Bellevue will be a draw, even with stations that don’t really serve Mainstreet and Bellevue Way, but mostly if parking isn’t free (which is work hours except at the mall). Redmond won’t, because it is after Bellevue. Either you are already in Redmond, or you are taking transit (or 520) west. Few will go TO the Spring District or Wilburton because few do now, and they are after downtown Bellevue.

        The greatest destination for Link (the hub) is downtown Seattle. SLU is part zoning flaw, and part ST flaw for running out of money. Seattle has some of the most attractive scenery in the world, is building a waterfront park, has temperate climate in the summer when the rest of the country is too hot, cruise ships, educated and wealthy workforce, and historically has been safe and relatively clean, which is why it ranks so high on rankings of cities.

        Even though there are only four stations in downtown Seattle including the International District, and it is hilly, when you get off the train in Seattle you are “there”, and I have worked here for the last 30 years. Most people are taking Link TO downtown Seattle, because otherwise why take Link at all.

        Which is why this November’s elections are so critical. I will never take light rail to West Seattle, Redmond, Northgate, Issaquah, and just about every other stop, and say “I am there”, so what do I care about density at these stations? I like Ballard, but why would I ride through downtown Seattle to get to Ballard? In fact why would I take Link anywhere except downtown Seattle or downtown Bellevue (since I am not a student at UW)?

        Unfortunately downtown Seattle is not that uber destination right now everyone wants to go to, and that is a big problem for Link if downtown is suppose to be THE hub. Do eastsiders want to take Link to Judkins Park, or any other Link stop other than downtown Seattle or Bellevue? Not really. How many folks north of Northgate want to take Link anywhere south of Seattle, or anywhere really except maybe UW, and downtown Seattle?

        In the end light rail is all commuter rail because people are taking it for the destination, whether Manhattan, Chicago, or downtown Seattle. They are going for work, shopping, drinking, culture, art, dining, etc. because 130th and 145th and Mercer Island don’t have those things ( but they have SFH and good schools, the necessity of parents ).

        Unless downtown Seattle is the “THERE” destination, Link really makes little sense for many, certainly the discretionary rider, and especially the cost for grade separated transit to avoid congestion. Did the eastside really build East Link to take rail from Redmond to The Spring District? No.

        Right now Seattle is not that destination, and that throws a real kink into Link, because in the end we built Link to get into downtown Seattle because downtown Seattle was one of the fastest growing and hottest cities in the country. If a rider — commuter or not — really does not want to go to downtown Seattle Link makes little sense, and loses a lot of advantages to cars, which means riders.

        Transit is the backbone of Urbanism, but both begin with safe streets and retail/commercial density at the end destination. A multi-family TOD at 130th next to I-5 will have very little retail or jobs, and zero culture, which is why riders boarding at 130th are going someplace else. Otherwise they are not going anywhere, certainly on transit.

        ST has made some colossal errors, but there is nothing ST can do if downtown Seattle is not THE ultimate destination for the rest of the region and tourists, and most using Link. Otherwise there just isn’t any point to Link, certainly over buses or cars. I can live easily without West Seattle or Ballard, or Graham St. or Issaquah to S. Kirkland, but not if downtown Seattle is not the one Link destination I would consider walking to our Link station to ride East Link into downtown Seattle, because I am driving to downtown Bellevue, and any other location with a Link station.

        Seattle’s council has to do its part too if Link is going to work, and Seattle is going to be that hub.

      2. A west Seattle bus network change is not link dependent. Treat the C and H lines like rail; provide a frequent grid; use Lander.

      3. The C and H will have transit lanes on Alaskan Way when the rebuild is finished.

  9. It’s more useful from a passengers’ perspective to look at the opening phases.

    What will be running in 9 years (2030)? The three Strides, Federal Way, Redmond Downtown. (ST2, Tier 1, Tier 2)

    What will be running in 15 years (2036)? WSJ-SODO stub, Tacoma Dome. (Tier 1)

    What will be running in 19 years (2040)? DSTT2, SW Everett, Ballard, three infills (130th, Graham, BAR). (Tier 1, Tier 2)

    What will be running in 24 years (2045)? Tacoma Link (19th Ave), Everett/Paine, Issaquah-SKirkland, DuPont Sounder, more Sounder trips, SR 162, “RapidRide C/D” improvements.

    I left out the bases, parking, and platform lengths because they don’t improve non-drivers’ mobility choices directly. Apologies if I’ve miscategorized or omitted any other project; it was hard to translate ST’s chart to opening years and I had to correct several mistakes.

    I’m surprised the WSJ-SODO stub lives on like a zombie. It was a political sop to give a self-privileged area the priority it thinks it deserves and because several VIP politicians live there. You’d think ST would say, “OK, we gave you your symbolic respect, but we can’t afford to continue it with this recession.” Few people will ride the stub because it would be a 2-mile seat + a 2-mile seat. Transfers are more acceptable when each seat is longer. (That’s why transferring at U-District or Mercer Island is more acceptable than at SODO or 12th & Jackson.) Metro’s long-term plan continues the C, 21, and 55 to downtown until the full West Seattle-downtown Link is finished.

    My wish would be to postpone the West Seattle stub and advance 130th and the RapidRide C/D improvements. DSTT2 and Ballard could also open a few years sooner if West Seattle opened at the same time or after instead of before. I’m undecided about Graham.

    ST has probably positioned Tier 4 as the most likely to cut, the same way it originally scheduled certain projects in 2041 (Issaquah, Tacoma Link). That doesn’t mean it will cut them, but it’s leaving room for a future board to do it.

    The “RapidRide C/D improvements” is a joke if it’s after Ballard/WS Link. The C and D won’t exist then. So will the money go to other Ballard and West Seattle routes? Metro’s 2040 plan has no route crossing the Ballard Bridge except a Magnolia route (downtown-Magnolia-8thAveNW-3rdAveNW-145th). The West Seattle bridge has a Rapid 120, Express Fauntleroy-WSJ-SLU (not downtown), and a Local 50-like route (North Admiral -Western West Seattle – WSJ – SODO – Columbia City – 14’s Mt Baker Tail). So would the money go to one of those? Or the Fred Meyer to Fred Meyer route (Ballard-Lake City)? Or the Rapid 40?

    (Note: Some of these Rapids may be downgraded to Frequent due to SDOT’s/Metro’s recession losses and the lowering of Seattle’s TBD. And I think some routes were always fancifully optimistic, like the Aloha Street routes and the sort-of 25 revival.)

    1. It’s more useful from a passengers’ perspective to look at the opening phases.

      Yes, absolutely. I think your list makes things very clear.

      My wish would be to postpone the West Seattle stub and advance 130th and the RapidRide C/D improvements. DSTT2 and Ballard could also open a few years sooner if West Seattle opened at the same time or after instead of before.

      Yes, I agree. So do most of the informed public (including most of the folks on this blog, the mayor, city council, and other representatives). It is interesting how easy it is to reach a consensus on this blog — from folks who disagree vehemently about various aspects of transit — while the board can’t came up with a similar, sensible plan for Seattle.

      I’m undecided about Graham.

      Graham is solid, and should open as soon as possible. It is a fairly cheap station. ST estimates around 1,500 to 2,000 riders, which sounds conservative. Prior to the pandemic, every Rainier Valley station was in that 2 to 3 thousand range. The lowest was Rainier Beach, at 2,250. Until recently, there wasn’t much development around the station (there still isn’t that much, as most of the development is to the east, along Rainier). But even a few years ago, ridership was still around 2,000. Graham has a similar amount of development — some apartments as well as some retail, but nothing huge. If anything, it is stronger than Rainier Beach Station in that regard (not to be confused with the neighborhood of Rainier Beach, which lies to the east, along Rainier). Rainier Beach Station gets some riders because it is the logical transfer point for the 106 and 107, but only a handful of people do that (around 150 on each bus at the most). Graham is far enough from the other stations to not poach riders, while getting additional rides within Rainier Valley (the network effect). It would get around 2,000 riders, which makes it an excellent value.

      The only weak infill station is Boeing Access Road (BAR). I don’t mind delaying it until there is a clearer plan for how it would be used. Would there be a freeway station, so that buses like the 101 could stop there painlessly along the way? Would they add a Sounder Station? Unless the answers to both questions are “yes”, I don’t see much point. It is highly unlikely that Metro truncates any buses there (if they wanted to do that, they would truncate the buses at Rainier Beach now). There isn’t that much potential in terms of crossing routes either (again, if they wanted to connect to Link they could do that now). Nor is there much potential for walk-up ridership or TOD. BAR has potential, but only if they build a freeway bus stop and/or a Sounder Station. I don’t mind seeing it delayed indefinitely (as this plan does).

      1. The main value of the BAR location is its possible connectivity to Sounder — and bring more visionary Amtrak — along with connectivity to Renton and SouthCenter and maybe a RapidRide A extension. Unless some active destination can be built there (no one should live at the end of a runway) or a new station on the Sounder tracks can be added, it would probably be more beneficial to be at 133rd/ Gateway. Of course, BAR is on South King’s funding list (not North King) so it can be debated along with Sounder expansions for its validity.

      2. Metro absolutely refuses to truncate the 101. It refused to in the 2014 cuts and in all subsequent restructures, and its 2040 plan has an Express route that looks suspiciously like the 101. And now that Metro is making decisions based mostly on equity, Renton is high in the priorities to keep its downtown express.

        it’s a judgment call how far east a transfer to Link becomes excessive. Metro plans to have the A, 124, and a truncated 150 serve BAR. But not the 101.

        A BAR Sounder station was in the ST3 candidate list but was not selected. South King has a lot of other transit priorities and needs and little money, so I expect those will all come before a BAR Sounder station. I don’t even think Sounder-Link transfers are that realistic. Who would do it on what trips? The only concrete example I’ve heard of is going from Kent, Auburn, Sumner, or Puyallup to the airport. That hardly seems likely, especially if you just miss Sounder when transferring. In other cities that have commuter rail to the airport, it runs every 10-20 minutes.

      3. The main value of the BAR location is its possible connectivity to Sounder

        Sure, but that’s my point. You can’t make the connection without both.

        Metro absolutely refuses to truncate the 101.

        I don’t blame them. I’m not talking about truncating anything. I’m talking about the 101 making a stop there (on the freeway, in a bus-only lane off the HOV lane, like Mountlake Terrace) and then continuing to downtown Seattle (or Renton). That would enable Renton riders to have an alternative to the 106/107 for trips to Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill. It wouldn’t just be the 101 — you also have the 150, and really every express bus from the south that Metro decided to run in the future. You wouldn’t get a huge number of riders, but you could cobble together enough to make it worth it.

        My point is that unless you build a BAR Sounder station and/or a BAR freeway bus station, there is no point in a BAR Link station.

    2. The utility of Graham should be looked at for its TOD and connecting bus potential rather than what’s there today. We do this for all the other planned stations, so why not Graham?

      Also, there is clearly more going on near Graham than near 130th today. There is more developable land within walking distance (no golf course of freeway property strip). Graham is probably the best street in SE Seattle to connect to points further west than I-5. So to say that 130th is somehow more legitimate is somewhere between unfair and total BS.

      1. There’s nothing west or east of Graham. The only route Metro could come up with is a zigzaggy route that goes north to the Lucile freeway crossing, south to King County airport, and west on Cloverdale and Roxbury to Westwood Village. The other Rainier Valley routes all seem to be more productive going to other Link stations instead of Graham. Do you see any other possibilities on the map?

        130th Station is not for the immediate station area; it’s for the large urban village in Lake City and the smaller one in Bitter Lake. Graham doesn’t have anything like that except Westwood Village at the far end. And do you really think people in West Seattle will take a meandering route end-to-end to get to Link at Graham? We can ask Brent who lives in South Park along the route. South Park has the 60 to Beacon Hill, and in future restructures it might be replaced by this route to Graham.

  10. https://st32.blob.core.windows.net/media/Default/InteractiveMap/Templates/July1/LRT_SouthKirklandtoIssaquah.pdf This is a very weak and somewhat silly ST3 project. It is very distant in the schedule. We can hope it will be rescoped. It seems to have the wrong mode in the wrong markets with little network advantage. There is little pressure to do something now. Two separate electric bus lanes may make more sense with the Kirkland one extended north to downtown and the CKC improved and reshaped.

    1. It remains outrageous to me that a day-long congested corridor like 405 between Renton and Bellevue gets a BRT line shared with traffic while a free-flowing corridor like 90 gets light rail. It becomes more ridiculous when it will take longer to use this train to get from Issaquah to get to Downtown Seattle than a freeway bus to East Link will take — and East Main isn’t designed for opposite direction transfers meaning even more walking and more travel time.

      1. 405 has HOT lanes and direct access to Bellevue TC, I90 does not. 405 only required stations and rolling stock. I90 requires stations, rolling stock, and ROW. The significant difference is WSDOT funded the (shared) ROW on 405 while ST is funding the dedicated ROW on I90. I90 is manifestly not free flowing in Issaquah or in the 405 interchange; the HOV lanes only work well between Eastgate and Mercer Island but are useless to connect Eastgate & Issqauah to Bellevue CBD. For the 1,000ths time, Issaquah Link has little to do with connections to Seattle; STX does that just fine and will continue to connect Issaquah to Seattle just like STX will continue to connect Redmond to UW even after Link reaches Redmond.

        Stride on I90 is still very plausible. As an Issaquah booster, I’m open to 405 Stride being a smashing success and ST being able to go to Bellevue and Issaquah and say, “look, this is really good and can be deployed much sooner,” in particular if WSDOT is looking to rebuild the 405-90 interchange.

      2. “STX … will continue to connect Issaquah to Seattle just like STX will continue to connect Redmond to UW even after Link reaches Redmond. ”

        Issaquah to downtown is not in STEX’s 2016 planning scenarios nor in Metro’s 2040 vision, the closest we have to the future routes (which haven’t been finalized). None of the scenarios have an Issaquah to downtown route. Daniel believes ST or Metro will end up having to run Issaquah-Seattle and North Renton-Seattle routes due to overwhelming public demand, and ST has plenty of money to keep running the 554, but those are just armchair amateur speculations.

        In contrast, the 542 (Redmond-UW) is in all scenarios. Metro’s 2040 plan has a Bellevue-UW STEX, which ST must have advised Metro on.

      3. Is the 21X series still in Metro’s 2040 vision? Running peak orient 21X makes more sense than running something all-day like a 554 shadow, if the goal is a 2-seat ride to downtown Seattle. The 212 may completely disappear, but the 216 and 219 create useful transfers to Link at Eastgate in addition to providing the direct connection to East Link.

      4. “ 405 has HOT lanes and direct access to Bellevue TC, I90 does not. 405 only required stations and rolling stock. I90 requires stations, rolling stock, and ROW.”

        There are HOV ramps with median stations already at Eastgate and Mercer Island. It appears pretty easy to simply add another median station at Costco HQ on 90 and maybe one or two in between as needed. This line could easily open before 2030.

        And just change the HOV lane to an HOT lane if it gets too congested.

        As for Bellevue TC riders, they would probably not want to change modes twice (feeder bus to light rail) just to go a few miles on the Eastside.

      5. That’s my point – replacing Issaquah Link with a handful of freeway stations would be like replacing TDLE with a handful of freeway stations. Many on this blog advocate for doing exactly that along I5, mostly because they believe HOV lanes are free flowing during peak hours and HOV congestion will not get worse in future decades. If you view is “Let them ride buses” but don’t ensure quality ROW, you might as well give them cake to eat while their buses grind through HOV traffic.

        HOT lanes are designed to maintain >40 mph speeds regardless of the level of freeway demand. It’s a completely different ROW context than I90 between Bellevue and Issaquah or I5 between Federal Way and Tacoma, which is why the 405 HCT corridor is address with a different mode than the Bellevue-Issaquah and FW-Tacoma HCT corridors.

    2. The mayor of Issaquah was on the ST board in the early and mid 2010s and pushed hard for this line, saying it’s essential to Issaquah’s economic growth and would serve a new urban growth center planned in northwest Issaquah. The other East King boardmembers were convinced and included it in their ST3 ask. As you know, the ST board consists of the county executives and certain mayors and councilmembers, including Seattle and Bellevue and a sampling of the other cities in each subarea. So when a city has a boardmember, they can direct resources to that city. They’re supposed to represent the entire subarea fairly, but that doesn’t always happen. Renton was the one really shortchanged because it’s the second-largest city in East King and has the highest equity-deserving demographics. But East King didn’t really notice this and listened to Issaquah’s smooth talking.

      The corridor between Bellevue and Issaquah is so wide-open and Issaquah’s population is so low that Stride would be fine. But Issaquah didn’t want to get left out of the Link network. That’s based on a general belief that companies and affluent workers will gravitate to cities with Link and shun cities without it, which sets up the non-Link cities to potentially become the future slums. Issaquah doesn’t want that and it wants the sales tax revenue that more companies would bring, and it believes companies would be more attracted to Issaquah if it’s on Link.

      1. Fred Butler absolutely helped, but Issaquah Link is more about connecting Eastgate to Bellevue CBD, just like Ballard Link is more about building a subway through SLU and Uptown.

      2. “Stride on I90 is still very plausible. As an Issaquah booster, I’m open to 405 Stride being a smashing success and ST being able to go to Bellevue and Issaquah and say, “look, this is really good and can be deployed much sooner,” in particular if WSDOT is looking to rebuild the 405-90 interchange.”

        Agree with AJ on this one. The key is although ST promised Issaquah a $4.5 billion line to S. Kirkland, it really does not want to build it, and it makes little economic sense.

        What ST and many on the eastside are hoping for is Issaquah will realize rail to S. Kirkland is not really what it needs, or wants, and buses will be much, much cheaper, quicker, and more convenient. Some talk about express buses from Issaquah to downtown Seattle (or from Northgate) as being wasted money for the privileged, but what do you call a $4.5 billion (estimated cost) rail line to S. Kirkland that is now Tier 2? Do these folks have any idea how much $4.5 billion is, for an area that is so heavily car focused?

        I-90 is a very good highway, even with the loss of the center roadway to East Link. RA-8 that increased lanes in each direction to 4 made a huge difference in reducing congestion, especially with the lane restrictions that existed on I-90, some on MI. From Seattle to Issaquah most of the time I-90 is pretty good, and when you get to Issaquah you realize that it is unwalkable (and unbikeable).

        The town center is huge, all one story, with huge parking lots that creates a ton of sales tax revenue. Eastside women in SUV’s who tend to buy everything love Issaquah: safe, easy to get to, easy to park, huge box stores, cute stores in “villages”, nice restaurants. No one is clamoring for downtown Issaquah to change. REI proves businesses are moving to Issaquah, rather then Issaquah residents going to REI.

        405 however is terrible, and the issues with I-90 have to do with the exits onto 405 north and south. They keep widening 405, and install HOT lanes, and try to deal with problematic intersections like 167, but the growth south of 167 has overwhelmed the capacity of 405 (whereas much of I-5’s congestion through Seattle is due to poor design). But most of that traffic can’t take transit; they are not going to offices.

        Supposedly WSDOT will complete part two of the redesign for 405 south of SE 8th St. to Renton A WSDOT rep. spoke to the Mercer Island City Council a few years ago and said the $800 million redesign would end all congestion on 405, even during peak hours. Anyone really believe that?

        Something has to be done about the entrances north and south onto 405 from I-90, but what I don’t know, certainly not single lanes for both; the congestion comes from 405, not the entrances from I-90. For example, on a recent Friday afternoon I was returning from Issaquah and I-90 was wide open (in part due to the pandemic), but the exit from I-90 onto 405 north and south (it is the same lane from 405) was backed up for miles.

        But on the eastside most residents would rather sit in traffic in their cars if they have one than take a bus, or train. East Link won’t change much, unless maybe you can access a park and ride and are going to downtown Seattle, but few eastsiders are anymore. They are going to Bellevue, Issaquah, Redmond, Kirkland, and so on, on highways with lots of free parking.

      3. Hope you enjoyed the overture to “Northwest Burning”, a new opera written by “Biggy” Oils and his backup band “The Cars”. They’ve booked return concerts in late July and mid-August.

        Good Times! Good Times!

  11. “It remains outrageous to me that a day-long congested corridor like 405 between Renton and Bellevue gets a BRT line shared with traffic while a free-flowing corridor like 90 gets light rail. It becomes more ridiculous when it will take longer to use this train to get from Issaquah to get to Downtown Seattle than a freeway bus to East Link will take — and East Main isn’t designed for opposite direction transfers meaning even more walking and more travel time.”

    Bellevue and Microsoft did not want to connect to Renton; they wanted to connect with downtown Seattle. If the route for East Link was intra-eastside only — Bellevue, Microsoft, Redmond to Renton — it would have never been built. (Continuing East Link past Bellevue never made sense to me either). The congestion on 405 is horrendous, because it serves too many areas south, and so many need to drive for work.

    Rail — even when mostly in public rights of way or greenbelts like East Link — is very expensive. Rapid Ride buses with center highway stations are not. Part of the reason the eastside subarea is in good financial shape is it chose modes that make economic sense (mostly because eastside cities are laissez fair about rail, certainly in the prime downtown cores).

    I do agree though that spending $4.5 billion to go from Issaquah to S. Bellevue or Main St. makes little sense, but Issaquah has a lot of clout on the eastside and wanted “rail” too, just like West Seattle and Ballard.

    But like West Seattle Issaquah has great access to freeways like I-90 (Ballard is basically inaccessible by car). When East Link opens, and one-seat express peak buses continue from Issaquah to downtown Seattle (with fewer riders due to WFH) Issaquah will realize what you are saying: for the few taking transit from Issaquah to some other eastside city a bus is a better choice, and for commuters going downtown one-seat express buses are a better choice. Voila, the eastside subarea suddenly has an extra $4.5 billion to spend on transit someplace else, hopefully rapid ride.

    1. Stride is mostly in HOT/HOV lanes so cars are limited. WSDOT is supposed to manage the toll rate to keep the HOT lanes at a minimum 40 mph for buses. It doesn’t always do that, but it’s not like Stride will be sitting still like the GP lanes.

      This has nothing to do with East Link or Microsoft. East Link was approved in the previous phase in 2008. It’s clearly higher priority than Stride or Issaquah Link, and is being treated accordingly.

      In any case, it doesn’t matter just what Microsoft wants; what matters is East King’s overall transit mobility. 405 is clearly the most important corridor after East Link, and is as wide and congested as I-5. ST decided 405 wouldn’t meet Link’s ridership minimum for several decades so it went with BRT. And Stride North and South are much longer than Issaquah Link, so building Link on Lynnwood-Bellevue-Burien would be a much larger investment. Issaquah Link is a small throwaway project in comparison. And its biggest ridership segment is actually between the Spring District and Bellevue College.

      As for bus restructures after Link, some trips will simply replace bus with Link to mostly the same stops. This includes current 550 trips. Others will add a feeder to their trip, like Issaquah to Seattle. But East Link also creates new one-seat rides like Spring District to UW, Roosevelt, and Northgate, and Overlake Village to Capitol Hill. Some people will benefit from these new one-seat rides, and some will be glad to take an Eastside feeder to Link for them. If you focus only on keeping a one-seat ride to Seattle for those currently taking the 554, 21x, or 111 to Seattle, you’re privileging a minority of riders out of proportion to their numbers. Issaquahites don’t just travel to downtown Seattle, they also travel to Bellevue and Kirkland and Capitol Hill and North Seattle.

  12. I just remembered, the first East Link bus restructure proposal is exepected this summer, so we’ll know soon what Metro/ST’s initial intentions are. The sounding board is empaneled from April through November so they’ve already started.

  13. “I just remembered, the first East Link bus restructure proposal is expected this summer, so we’ll know soon what Metro/ST’s initial intentions are. The sounding board is empaneled from April through November so they’ve already started.”

    The problem is no one knows what the ridership will be post pandemic, on East Link or on buses, and how much cross lake ridership there will be (on Link or express buses). Even before the pandemic the 550 ridership was down by 1/3, and the 554 by 17%.

    There is also the litigation with Mercer Island, that looks to be going well for Mercer Island based on some early rulings and ST’s recent chumminess, except it may be moot if ridership levels are below any of the proposed bus intercept configurations, one of which (the “original” or limited, which is maximum 12 articulated buses per peak hour) Mercer Island has already agreed to. The other issue is whether Mercer Island serves as a bus layover area for Metro’s incredibly generous driver breaks.

    Until the S. Bellevue Park and Ride reopens and the 550 runs post pandemic after offices begin to reopen it is impossible to determine any kind of bus coverage or frequency for buses on the eastside. On Monday my brother took the 550 from Mercer Island to work in Pioneer Square, and at 8:30 am he was the only passenger on the bus. How do you restructure buses on the eastside based on that?

    1. East Link’s frequency and capacity is already set, 10-12 minutes off-peak with 4-car trains. Link remained at 10 minutes from 2009 until covid even when it had one-car trains, and it restored 10-minute frequency this week. At worst East Link’s ridership will be like Rainier Valley was in the evenings in 2010: one or two on/offs per station. It rarely drops to zero, and even if it does at the isolated P&Rs, they’re only a couple stations. Mercer Island won’t be zero because it’s the only transit off the island, as compared to South Bellevue where non-parkers might go to East Main or Bellevue instead. The frequency must also be balanced evenly with Central Link and give adequate service in central and north Seattle. The west half of the line may subsidize the east half the way the west half of the 62 subsidizes the east half; i.e., ridership is higher west of Roosevelt.

      This restructure is about the buses around Link. For Metro it’s a revenue-neutral restructure; for ST Express it’s the number of hours budgeted in ST2 and ST3. So the question is how to distribute those hours.

      The 550 lost riders before covid because it lost the DSTT, the South Bellevue P&R, and the Rainier freeway station. The Eastside has always been lower-ridership than Seattle or South King County because so many people are affluent and living the American car dream. The numbers are really low now, not only on the 550 but also the 250, 226, and other Kirkland routes, to name just the ones I know or have heard on this blog. The B is often low but several times in the past couple years it has surprised me by being higher than I expected. So it may be the one exception in the Eastside. Last week I took the 550 eastbound in the PM peak twice and I was afraid I maybe couldn’t get on, but there were only four people in the bus, at rush hour! That’s how much cross-lake commuting has fallen with covid. The 550 was the highest-ridership ST Express route for many years but now the 512 has surpassed it. Still, the 550’s frequency doesn’t matter for this because the 550 won’t exist and Link’s frequency is set above.

      Even if there’s uncertainty about what the remaining bus frequencies should be, the route alignments still need to be decided. Merely keeping the pre-Link route patterns doesn’t make sense; there are new opportunities and trip patterns, and a few new challenges.

      If ridership is majorly low in 2023, Metro and ST may suspend routes and runs like it’s doing now under covid. But even if there’s a post-covid ridership loss, it will be gradually gained back as the population continues to increase and more people decide to take transit, not just for work but for other things. And people are moving here from places where transit is a normal part of middle-class life, and they often keep that attitude here. Long-term ridership has been increasing in the Eastside and throughout the region for thirty years, so it’s unlikely that it would plummet and stay as low forever. Especially as the county and country get more serious about climate change.

  14. Serious comment: how about “double decking” the three southernmost stations of DSTT1? Yes, the station shells would have to be mined, and there are probably sills supporting the current boxes beneath the platform level.

    BUT, if the supporting sills are extensions of the platform level side walls — not unlikely — and the space between is clear within ten or fifteen feet below track level, all that would have to be mined is the platfoms themselves. Center platforms at PSS and Symphony could have escalators passing through the bus passing lane of the existing stations to the Mezzanine, like the BART escalators pass through the Muni level. There could be stairs between the platforms for folks who want quick transfers and xan climb stairs. The ADA elevators would be at the ends of the lower deck platforms and would also rise through the bus passing lanes.

    IDS would have side platforms because the bus passing lane is now a siding and the connection to the Mezzanine would be through the existing platform access.

    Only Westlake would require a complete statiin box with Mezzanine diagonaling under Westlake pointing at Westlake Avenue just north of the existing station, like the Monorail.

    By double-decking the DSTT2 tubes would be deep enough to make the diagonal between Third and Union and Fourth and Pine. There aren’t any really tall buildings in those two blocks.

    Boring the tunnels would be pretty boring, because they’ve already been through the territory once already.

    IF this is possible it allows ST to make the single-tunnel gamble, because they can try running three lines through the upgraded old tunnel.
    If ridership proves that a new tunnel is needed, they can then bore the tunnel and mine the platform caverns in less time than it would take to mine the enormous Midtown station.

    Yes, the connections of West Seattle and Ballard to the old tunnel would be “wasted,except that there would be service to SLU more quickly and transfers would be much easier.

    I realize this does not expand the rail walkshed at all.

    I hope ST will study this possibility.

    1. Actually, there is that big building in the northeast quadrant of Third and Pike, so no diagonal to Westlake. The lower tunnel would have to turn into the Stewart right of way with the station between Fourth and Westlake, under Olive Way.

      Not so wonderful, but still doable.

    2. For reference, here is a summary presentation of the studies leading to ST3:


      Note that there was never a study of different alternatives to go through Downtown Seattle south of Westlake! Never!

      — The Ballard-to-Downtown study stopped at Westlake and the ST3 project was not one of the analyzed alternatives.

      – The South King HCT study had no alternatives north of SODO.

      That’s right folks! The entire middle project is entirely a political creation and never even had studied alternatives! It’s now billions over budget (the budget overage alone is well over the total cost of the $2.1B 99 tunnel) and slated for long delays with no end in sight.

      It’s the height of fiscal irresponsibility!

      1. I don’t see how a corridor study would have provided any information on the cost of a tunnel, downtown or otherwise.

        The failure to do a corridor study prevented ST from being open to a Midtown station east of I5, but moving the Midtown station to First Hill would mean cost estimates even higher than what we see today.

        The Ballard Level 2 analysis included elevated options through Uptown and Belltown. Once it was determined Uptown & Belltown (later changed to SLU) would be a subway, the decision was made for the Westlake to ID alignment. Perhaps there should have been an alternative C-2 where Link was elevated, rather than at-grade, through Belltown, but otherwise I don’t see how including a downtown segment in a corridor study would have impacted 2015 decision making, and it certainly wouldn’t have impacted 2015 cost estimates.

      2. “ I don’t see how a corridor study would have provided any information on the cost of a tunnel, downtown or otherwise.”

        The resulting ST3 project description for the second tunnel was never studied. It’s not so much about generating costs as it is about limiting alternatives. The studies implied that they were exploratory — but the ST3 measure implied it was deemed inflexible. The WSBLE has all been based on this inflexibility — not only about First Hill (is four blocks really a different project?) but about the entire tunnel.

        If the tunnel project was a modest amount or using an existing corridor, it would be acceptable. But this is a new very expensive alignment decided without alternatives.

      3. But what alternative would have been cheaper? It’s a straight tunnel. There are some interesting ideas around moving the midtown station, but those can be sorted through in EIS. The corridor study would have never recommended dropping the Midtown station; that will only occur during value engineering if ST finds they need to make the budget work.

        “Run all 3 lines through DSTT1” has never been on the table for technical reasons, simillar to how “Do Ballard-UW as a branch line off of the UW tunnel” has never been on the table.

  15. Drop the branch off from Mariner P&R to Seaway TC to Everett Station. Have the Train go directly to Everett Station. Add a swift or stride line between Everett Station and, Boeing, and Seaway.

    1. That’s what many of us have told ST for years: replace the Paine detour with bus service. Snohomish’s boardmembers and county and city governments have been adamant against that: they say having both Paine and Everett on Link is essential to attracting more jobs to Snohomish County and addressing the imbalance that some 70% of Snohomans work in King County. My attitude is to see whether Snohomish’s position on this eventually shifts, since I’ve already told ST many times what I think, and it’s the Snohomish Subarea’s decision to make.

      My guess is Snohomish will rally around the two-phase approach as the least-bad option: to expedite the extension to 128th, and let Paine and Everett take “as long as necessary” to get the representative alignment. Because they were the ones who said this alignment was necessary and the best.

      I would either truncate Link at 128th or send it straight to Everett, and have some kind of Mariner-Paine and Everett-Paine express buses. I’m indifferent whether it’s called ST Express, Swift, or Stride as long as it’s sufficiently frequent. The 512 runs every 15 minutes at least weekdays, so it is possible to have frequent ST Express. My hope has always been that the Link feeders in Snohomish and Pierce would become 15 minutes instead of the current half-hourly routes.

      Mariner-Paine Swift already exists (Swift Green goes to Boeing, Mill Creek, and Canyon Park), so the issue would be to increase frequency or add an express overlay. Since Swift is already pretty fast I assume an express overlay would be justified only peak hours.

      Everett-Paine doesn’t even have that, and we’re also leaving out the Mukilteo ferry terminal. The ferry runs half-hourly but then you have to wait for an hourly local bus that meanders and takes a long time to get to Lynnwood TC, and is weekday-only to Everett. So I would extend one or two of the express routes, 128th-Paine-Mukilteo or Everett-Paine-Mukilteo to take care of that. And get something from Mukilteo to Link in the interim; e.g., Mukilteo-Paine-Lynnwood Station. Swift Green doesn’t connect to Link or ST Express at all, making it a three-seat ride to get from most of King County to anywhere on the Swift corridor, and the middle part is an infrequent route (between the 512 and Mariner P&R).

      If Snohomish deleted the Paine Field detour or Sounder North, it would have plenty of money for compensatory service. Especially with Northgate Link opening in three months and Lynnwood Link opening in a couple years.

      1. Everett I5 service doesn’t need Swift; ST Express along that corridor should get a nice boost in all-day frequency with Northgate and then Lynnwood (check out the recent Urbanist post), which should be sufficient. Upgrading Everett-128th to Stride or Swift would mostly be about nicer stations and perhaps some infill freeway stations (i.e the mall); the improvement in frequency and ROW would be minimal.

        I think the proposed two-phase approach is a much better outcome for Snohomish than the initial ST3 plan and was always going to happen because Everett Link was simply too big to be a single project. Now, Snohomish is going to get the best part of the project (Link to 128th, no parking) and can defer the rest. Another generation of Snohomish leaders can decide what to do after 128th. Additionally, the “as long as necessary” approach allows for ST to provide robust funding for ST Express in Snohomish over the life of ST3, no matter when or how Everett Link is completed.

        Personally, I think it’s highly likely for Link to turn towards Paine Field simply because that’s where the OMF is going to be, so the tail track between Mariner to the MIC will be built anyways, which then likely predetermines the operational routing.

        Link along I5 doesn’t provide a major improvement over bus service (unless the HOV lanes become insufficient), and there isn’t a major east-west bus transfer north of 148th, in contrast to Alderwood, Ash Way, and Mariner, all of which will have Swift transfers. Instead, I think creating the transfer with Swift Blue at 99/Airport Road is far more useful than creating more transit capacity along I5.

        Additionally, the Paine Field alignment is about creating a transit corridor along 526 and I5 to better connect Seaway TC and downtown Everett. Everett Link on I5 does nothing for that corridor. Is there an opportunity to invest is bus infrastructure in lieu of Link? Perhaps. But advocating for Link along I5 completely misses out on the fact that the Paine Field alignment is about both connecting Paine Field to destinations south (which Swift Green will do OK once Link gets to 148th) AND Paine Field to destinations north. Any proposal for Everett Link along I5 will need to have a tangible solution for this corridor. Stephen* did this by inventing a Stride line and connecting it to Everett Mall, which is OK but perhaps not compelling for the decision makers sitting in downtown Everett.


      2. Yaay! This is what I wanted, frequent ST Express. ST has talked about it with ST2 and ST3 but never gave a concrete commitment to it, and the article is still slippery on whether it would really include Sundays and how late into the evening it would go. The 550 is 15-minutes Monday-Saturday until 7:30pm. This makes me avoid other times to avoid half-hourly buses. The 2016 ST2 truncation scenarios (before ST3 was solidified) implied greater frequency but there was no specific commitment. Then in ST3, ST chose the “low” option for ST Express service hours, implying that there may not be any frequency increase after all for the feeders, but that the hours replaced by Link would simply be lost. That would be bad for the network. This is the first time since then that I’ve seen ST take a concrete step toward increasing ST Express frequency on anything beyond the 522.

        “Data from March showed that South ST Express had 35% of pre-pandemic weekday ridership levels compared to 23% for Link, 22% for North ST Express, 16% for East ST Express, 14% for South Sounder, and 4% for North Sounder.”

        Yes, but they’re starting from a lower base. If a city with one resident adds a second resident, that’s a 50% increase. If a city with 500,000 residents adds one resident, the percent increase is essentially zero, yet the second city ends up with more inhabitants than the first city does. The 550 is articulated and the 512 is double-decker and they often need it, while the 594 is single and never seems to get full (although I haven’t seen it much). One difference is that ridership in the south corridor is split between the 594 and 577/578 (and 574 and 59x) so you can’t see all of it at once, whereas the 550 is only the 550 so everyone is on it. A similar issue happens with the 512, that peak hours riders are split between the 512, 510 and 511 (and 513, and 4xx), so it’s harder to see what the total ridership is.

      3. I thought the point about the % declines was more about highlighting the need for better all-day transit for that corridor, relative to other corridors, rather than highlighting the total ridership potential of the corridor.
        More or less the point Walker made in this post:

        But yes, great to see ST increase service hours for a reason other than mitigating crowding or congestion.

        Also, they are looking at corridors, so the 59x and 57x are grouped and the 51x are grouped, so the dispersion of riders across multiple unique route numbers shouldn’t be an issue?

    2. Like many other ST3 elements, there are many alternatives to the current plan. In addition to yours:

      1. Serve Seaway TC and Paine Field with more of a tram or automated aerial rail line that can stop in more places without making Downtown Everett riders spend extra time on the train. Running light rail through a large employment district without frequent multiple stops is pretty ineffective.

      2. Since ST plans on having two trains as far as Mariner, just split the lines. ST is going to have to reverse one line anyway, and it’s much easier to do if each turn-around is at the end of a line rather than in the middle of it (especially in the Mariner area where the constrained proposed station site is surrounded by existing development).

      3. Build a Snohomish/ Everett only line (Line E). Rather than use light rail, look at faster battery-powered trains. Design it to go 70 mph max speed. It would be like Tacoma Link (line T) but much faster. Almost everyone would get to Seattle faster even with the transfer.

      This talk is unfortunately pretty useless unless the Board decides that the “representative project” needs to adhere to the schedule more than the line proposals. Did the public vote for rail by 2036 or for rail from Mariner to Seaway to Downtown Everett that is delayed by six more years? This is what happens when almost all of the stakeholders and elected officials look at rail like a conceptual monument rather than an expensive operating system that serves people.

      1. 1 & 2 are still on the table with a Phase 1 build out to 148th. Not sure I follow #3 – you want to build an entirely different mode from where to where?

        For #1, why not just run Link at-grade, like in Rainier, with the closer stop spacing to serve trips within Snohomish county (again, the whole point of the alignment is for travel within the subarea), and then just run buses between Everett downtown and Lynnwood (or Ash Way or whatever) as the express bypass. This would be comparable to ST running buses from Redmond to UW to avoid going the “long way around” on Link.

        For #2, I could see a future in which Snohomish decides to slowly build both Link branches a gradually get to downtown Everett over a much longer time period. In 2050, have Link service to Paine Field and South Everett Mall, and then get to Everett downtown in … 2060? I think once riders realize how effective the bus service is on I5 from Everett to Lynnwood and then later Everett to Ash Way, Snohomish will be keen to use Link to improve service on corridors other that I5.

      2. The extension problem beyond 128th (not 148th, right?) is that the preferred station site isn’t parallel and adjacent to I-5. It pretty much points the train to complete the curve towards Paine Field. It’s also pretty tight, so installing extra reversal tracks north of the station to do that is difficult. What happens at Mariner casts a mold for the extension.

        I didn’t suggest an option 3 alignment because it could take many forms. It could follow the existing one but with faster trains. It could be a “v” (Seaway-Mariner-Downtown) or a “d” (Everett Mall-Seaway-Mariner-Downtown Everett) or something entirely different. It could have extensions. That’s the beauty of that option — ST’s Snohomish delegation can tailor it based on further studies. They could also possibly choose an automated technology or a partially single-track system.

      3. Yeah, 128th, thanks.

        I agree a future junction would need to be anticipated, but I don’t think the station placement needs to change. The Mariner station should be positioned to optimize TOD and the bus transfer environment. It’s OK if the Link transfer to I5 buses occurs at Ash Way instead of Mariner, and in turn it’s OK if Link-Link branch transfers occur at Ash Way station if the I5 branch doesn’t serve Mariner station.

        Why you are pushing for an alternative mode? If the goal is speed, just stick with express freeway buses; choosing the Paine alignment is an explicit decision to not prioritize end-to-end speed. Any rail alignment would include multiple stops between Mariner and Everett, even the I5 options, and both alignments have good opportunity for at-grade operations, the primary value of light rail.

        My #2 vision is to start with a Y junction and eventually build out do a D with the branches converging (reverse branching) before Everett downtown, though Alon Levy generally frowns upon reverse branching so I don’t know what the best operating pattern would be. I would imagine the D shape would never get completed, with only 1 branch making it to Everett station, but the decision on which branch finishes the job could be left for future generations.

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