237 Replies to “Weekend open thread: e-bikes could change cities forever”

    1. Don’t forget car share, Uber/Lyft, and WFH. And before that the internet!

      American cities have been remade so many times in the last 10 years that they are hardly recognizable. Half the time I barely know where I am anymore…….

  1. My e-bike enabled me to dump my car, since I can get to work without breaking a sweat. I still have my trusty single-speed beater from college, but the cargo capacity and ease that comes with the ebike has made it my primary mode of transportation outside of work. The only problem with e-bikes (or, at least, Rad Power Bikes’ offerings) is that they’re too heavy for bus racks, so if you blow a tire and need a ride home, you’re walking to the nearest bike shop (many of which are being slow to adopt servicing e-bikes) or stuck replacing your tube on a sidewalk.

    1. The Rad City is just light enough for local bike racks on transit, if you take the battery off and haven’t added anything to the bike. My guess is that the Rad Mission is light enough too. You can fold up Rad Minis and take them on the bus with you.

      1. Ah, yeah, the RadMission is probably light enough, since it has a smaller motor. Pain in the butt to have to take the battery off but if you run out of juice or need a ride due to a flat tire, then it’s good to know!

    2. My e-bike has been a surprisingly good mobility tool, to the point where I’ve routinely achieved door to door travel times better than riding the bus for trips as long as 10-15 miles.

      As an example, my home near downtown Kirkland to Discovery Park is a predictable 50 minutes on the e-bike. By bus, it’s a 3-seat ride taking over an hour. Total distance on the bike is just over 12 miles. Kirkland to Eastgate P&R takes about 30 minutes, which is actually faster than the one-seat ride on the 245. I’ve done this a couple of times to catch the Trailhead Direct bus, taking advantage of the park and ride’s secure bike lockers (my bike’s battery isn’t big enough to make it to North Bend and back in one go). Another trip, Kirkland to Issaquah, is about an hour on the e-bike, which pretty much matches the 250->240->554 combo, but without the half-hourly headway.

  2. Meh.

    First of all, e-bikes are nothing new. They have been around a long time now. Yes, the price is dropping, but it doesn’t change the main reason that people don’t use them in the U. S.: Safety. Scooters — the motorcycle type https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scooter_(motorcycle) — have been around a very long time. They are very easy to ride, and ubiquitous in large European cities. It has been that way for a very long time (they are common in La Dolce Vita — a movie that cam out in 1960). But they never made it big in America, because, well, this is America. The streets are designed for cars, and every other mode is an afterthought. Just watching the video shows a huge contrast. Riding along on that bike trail looks bucolic. Once he gets in the city, it looks terrifying. I’ve ridden a bike enough to know that at any moment, some idiot may endanger me. Keep in mind, this in the bike lane. It is even worse for a typical street. I told my wife I was thinking about buying an electric bike, and long story short, she said that while it is my decision, it would mean more biking, which means a greater chance that I will get hurt. It is fundamentally no different than a scooter (again, the motorcycle type) in that it is both dangerous, but economical and convenient.

    Oh, and about it being economical. Yeah, sure, compared to a car it certainly is. But the average American doesn’t have a thousand dollars to spend on a form of transportation that can easily be jacked, or is incapable of taking them on the freeway. Of course I expect more people using them, but the only way you are going to see European style use is our cities become more European, and for most American cities, that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

    They will see increased use on the West Coast, which tend to be more progressive (with regards to transportation) and have challenging terrain. But ultimately, it depends on what the city governments do in terms of providing safe passageways. Otherwise, only the young and the reckless will use them, and they seem to be flocking towards the other type of electric scooters. These are both cheap and portable. Who knows though — maybe in a few years we will have an updated version of Mods versus Rockers, with electric-bike riding mobs fighting with electric kick-scooters. One can only hope it leads to music that is half as good as Quadrophenia.

    1. He probably has secure bike parking at my office. I can’t see taking an e-bike and parking it in a sidewalk bike rack on Broadway to go to a supermarket like I used to do with my cheap used bike. I’d probably only take it just for the ride or to a park or somebody’s house or maybe Costco, but that’s only a fraction of my trips, and I’m not sure I’d get an e-bike just for that. When I had a bike it was my primary form of transportation and replaced many bus trips. But if it’s an expensive bike and I can’t park it securely, then I’d use it for only some of those trips, and then it raises the question of whether it’s worth having just for those trips. I could commute to work on it since my workplace has secure bike storage, but I’m looking forward to commuting on Northgate Link, and my transit-commute time gives me a block of time to read, that I don’t get to do as much of when offices are closed.

      1. I was like that a first after buying an e-bike, but eventually, I decided that an e-bike that never gets used out of fear of it being stolen isn’t much better than an e-bike that’s already been stolen. And, even if it does get stolen every few years, it’s still far cheaper than a car. In fact, your bike would have to be stolen and replaced *every few months* before the cost of all those bikes starts to reach that of car ownership.

        I still won’t leave my e-bike unattended for long periods of time, but I will leave it on the street, locked to a rack, for brief periods of time, such as running into a supermarket. Outside of Seattle, where the theft rate is lower, I’ll go a bit longer than that.

      2. That’s like the guy who when he buys a new luxury car, the first thing he does is to smash the hood medallion so he won’t be worried about the car losing value if it’s not kept pristine, because it has already lost value.

    2. About the “taking them on the freeway” part: The claim is for CITIES not necessarily for far out suburbs and exurbs where most trips will involve the freeway at some point. I live in a relatively close in suburb, and for many places I go to in “the city,” the freeway is not that much faster than the surface streets, except during late morning and late evenings when the freeway if free flowing. Sure, I’d still use the car for longer trips, but I’d have no qualms going in to the city with an e-Bike (Or e-Bike to a bus or train) instead of a car on the freeway, IF: 1) there were a safe, CONTINUOUS bike route, and 2) Theft risk was manageable either through anti-theft components (ability to “brick” it, which makes iPhone theft relatively pointless?), and/or an insurance option. I would even be in favor of a license plate (or more practical, an attachment to the frame) with GPS tracking IF the police would treat e-Bike theft as something closer to grand theft. I do not regard these IFs as insurmountable.

      1. Yes, but my point is, how is an electric bike better than a small motorcycle or a scooter (the motorcycle type)? They are electric, sure, but everyone who has ever owned a motorcycle or scooter will tell you they use very little gas. Yet American cities have very few motorcycles or scooters — I just don’t see it becoming the dominant transportation form for the same reason those modes of transport didn’t.

        Alex raises a good point, which is that you can use an electric bike on bike paths. But unless the city has a lot of bike paths, that limits your ability to get around. That really is my main point. Electric bikes won’t change cities, city officials will change cities. Add enough bike paths, and people will use them, with bikes (regular and electric), skateboards (regular and electric) and push scooters (regular and electric). The advantage of the last two is that they are more portable (you can take them on a bus). Its not the device, it is the infrastructure.

      2. Isn’t an electric bike like half the size of a moped? While heavier than a traditional bike, they are much narrower and lighter than even a small moped. I think that’s why people (and lawmakers) view them differently than mopeds from both a safety and ease of use standpoint.

      3. “how is an electric bike better than a small motorcycle”
        No driver’s license or insurance required, school age kids could use them. Also, less maintenance compared to internal combustion engine, cheaper to own.

        “Electric bikes won’t change cities, city officials will change cities. …. It’s not the device, it is the infrastructure.”
        I agree, safe cycling paths and theft deterrence/secure parking are big factors to widespread adoption of e-bikes. I didn’t buy a replacement bike after getting mine stolen maybe 15 years ago, until I bought my e-bike last year and found more useful bike paths and safe/healthy streets. I thought about buying an electric car, but the much higher e-mpg and much lower cost of an e-bike made a lot more sense for shorter trips to stores, errands, and parks, and soon a nearby light rail station.

        An e-bike seems to be a good compromise for those (a) who’d want but cannot afford a zero-emission electric car, (b) who thinks motorcycles/mopeds are too dangerous, (c) who finds electric kick scooters lacking in range or weight capacity. Bicycles (electric or not) seem, to me, the emerging international consensus of a device for which widespread transportation infrastructure should be built.

      4. Since this is a transit blog, the question I have is will e-bikes increase or decrease transit ridership?

        From the anecdotal evidence in this region e-bikes will reduce transit ridership more than trips in cars.

        On Mercer Island our comprehensive plan, like most cities’ plans, extolls the virtues of bikes and e-bikes for first/last mile access to our future light rail station, ironically because our park and ride is full by 7 am, and we have essentially no first/last mile feeder bus service on the Island.

        The first problem with this is how little secured, covered bike storage ST has built, at either Mercer Island light rail station entrance. There are some bike lockers at the park and ride, but they have a two year waiting list. The cost of a nice -e-bike (or non e-bike) makes leaving one chained to an outside bike rack in the rain just a short escalator from the train too risky. Why not just chain $3000 in hundred dollar bills to the bike rack?

        Do light rail stations in Seattle where there is more density have secured bike storage, and do bike owners trust that storage? I don’t see any bike storage at the Pioneer Square station.

        Then there is the weight of an e-bike, which makes them hard to take on transit, or up and down stairs or escalators.

        For non e-bikes, at least where I live, the topography is very steep, which would seem to favor e-bikes. But even when we tried a shared e-bike program it got very little commuter ridership to the bus stop, especially in poor weather or when it gets dark early. Shared e-bikes are not cheap when combined with transit fares, often not available in suburban neighborhoods, and usually not nearly as good as the bike in the garage, if you could store it safely.

        On paper you would think e-bikes would be the solution to first/last mile access to transit. After all, Mercer Island is very bike oriented, at least recreationally, so people have nice bikes.

        But if ST won’t build the infrastructure to safely secure your expensive bike or e-bike out of the rain then we will see what we see: rather than bikes and e-bikes being the natural first/last mile access to transit for many areas, we are seeing e-bikes take transit ridership away because of their range, cost, ability to navigate hills, and weight, although in the end bikes and e-bikes account for around 2% of all trips even in Seattle.

      5. Anecdotally, I use ebikes more as a transit replacement than a transit connector. Partly because transit hubs are bad places to leave an expensive bike out in the open, partly because it’s usually faster to just keep on riding to my destination.

        The locker problem you allude to is because mercer island uses an outdated locker technology. The new lockers, used at UW station, Eastgate, and other locations, rents lockers on demand, rather than by the year. This greatly increases the number of people that can use them.

        As to the shared ebikes, the rental companies charge far too much to make them economical for regular commutes. Seriously, just riding one of those things 10 minutes a day, twice a day, 20 times per month, costs at least as much as driving and parking in downtown Seattle. Much of these obscene prices covers the cost of paying people to chase after the bikes in their cars for recharging/rebalancing purposes, which is very expensive (imagine riding your own bike to work, then paying a gig worker to carry it back home in their car, and repeating that every day). The only way ebikes really work on a mainstream basis is for people to own their own bikes and have somewhere safe to store them at the destination.

    3. I’m in semi-rural British Columbia, and I’ve seen the use of e-bikes shoot up just in the last year since we moved to our current (and long-term) house. The main road to our house/farm has a narrow stretch with fairly heavy truck traffic (both logging trucks and traffic to the dump), and there’s actually quite a bit of e-bike traffic even without suitable infrastructure. I see people riding them to the beach routinely as well, and the demographic riding e-bikes here if anything skews older. This really does feel like a change to me, anecdotally. And in town, there is significant improvement in the bike infrastructure. Since gas mopeds (rightly) can’t use separated bike infrastructure in North America, e-bikes are fundamentally different from the mopeds that have been around forever (and are incredibly common in some North American places, particularly in my personal experience around the university in Madison, WI).

      1. (I commented before watching the video; I note that the opening map illustration is Madison. Heh.)

      2. I was in Amish country in Ohio several months ago, a very hilly & rural area, and the Amish community has embraced e-bikes. I saw as many Amish riding around on e-bikes as I did driving their traditional buggies. I thought it was a great illustration that if you either cannot or do not want to own a car (as the Amish choose to not own gas vehicles), e-bikes are often the next best option for traveling long distances.

      3. How do they charge them?

        I’ve heard the Amish evaluate technology based on its potential impacts to their social life. A bike doesn’t separate you from people much; I noted below how you can say hi to pedestrians and other cyclists and it’s similar to if you were walking, whereas in a car you’re more isolated.

      4. Solar panels, which I also saw everywhere. My understanding is their aversion to technology is mostly about community self-sufficiency; they can’t create their own gasoline so they aren’t keen on cars, but once they’ve acquired solar panels I’m guessing they are happy to acquire some eBikes b/c 1) they can charge them while remaining off the grid, and 2) they still work even without power.

        These are rural roads so the only non-Amish out there biking would be someone out for a big workout. I’d imagine if you were at an intersection on a bike, you can still exchange pleasantries. The Amish choose to live independently but they still value community greatly, so I’m guessing they value the ability to more easily travel between homesteads.

      5. Interesting re Amish. Of course, there is a range of Amish and Mennonite communities with varying degrees of adoption of technology and other aspects of majority society.

        That’s another way in which an e-bike is dramatically different than a moped; they are whisper quiet, whereas mopeds are rather obnoxious to be around (in my opinion) given the noise.

      6. Is an e-bike usable without power? I thought they’d be heavy and the pedals hard to turn.

      7. @mike orr: I can use zero power-assist on my radrunner (65lb ebike) even on a slight incline, so quite easy to pedal once the speed is around my natural cadence. Startup from complete stop or going uphill is where the bike weight becomes more of a factor, but that’s less than about 1/4 of the time and I learn to ration my power usage based on experience, I’ve never ran out of power even on a long ride.

        Also, there are free test rides at the RadPower store in Ballard if you want to get the feel, they have a newer, lighter RadMission.

      8. “I was in Amish country in Ohio several months ago…”

        Interesting comment, AJ.
        I was also in Amish country, in upstate NY, back in June to attend a family funeral. One of my siblings lives in the Mohawk Valley area about 45 min west of Albany. It’s very rural and quite hilly as this is the valley area wedged between the Catskills to the south and the Adirondacks to the north. It’s very fertile farmland with a decent growing season and thus it’s been a big draw for the Amish community in that region of the state for many years (since the decline of the NY dairy industry and the traditional small family farm model).

        The week I was there I saw plenty of Amish members going about their business in their buggies but I never saw any ebikes going up and down the hills in the area. I think Alex’s comment is on the money in that Amish communities are not all the same when it comes to the adoption of modern technologies. Then again, perhaps the ebike “wave” you witnessed in Ohio just hasn’t made its way to the upstate NY region just yet.

        One thing my brother, who is not part of the Amish community, did show me while I was there was a lumber mill that his Amish neighbors were presently building in response to the soaring lumber prices we’ve seen in the US over the last year or so. I’m not exactly sure how it will be powered as it was still under construction when we drove by it a few times on the way to my brother’s house. I’ll be back that way in a few months and by then I’m sure it will be a fully operational Amish-owned and run lumber mill, an important asset for their community and part of the larger local business network, and I’ll be able to ascertain what the power source is at that time. Additionally, from what I observed during my visit I don’t think this area has adopted solar panel technology to the extent other Amish communities have in other states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.

  3. A while back I noted how the Wayback Machine (AKA the Internet Archive) had often failed me when I searched for old route information. Sometimes I couldn’t find the route. Other times I could find it, but when I clicked on the schedule, or the route map, it would take a while, and often time out. I’ve discovered that the best bet is to look for the PDF. For example, https://web.archive.org/web/20200929113229/https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/metro/schedules/pdf/03212020/rt-071.pdf. This is essentially what you would grab on the bus, back in the day. It has everything, of course, which makes it handy. The format is obvious (three digits) which makes it trivial to search for other old routes. It doesn’t go way back, but I’ve had better luck finding route information from before Covid using this method.

  4. Regarding the ST3 realignment:

    Between the pandemic and national politics, I haven’t been paying as much attention to local politics and transit issues as I would have liked, so I don’t have a grasp on the tradeoffs and limitations involved. I have been struck by the incongruity of the increased talk of a climate “crisis” or “emergency”- especially during the recent heat waves and the fact that we’re delaying the major transit plan of the next few decades.

    To be clear, the set of projects in ST3 is not the set I would have selected personally, and if we want a major mode shift that will greatly reduce GHG emissions, then I suspect that much of it has to come from more frequent bus service and the reallocation of street space away from cars, but it doesn’t seem like we’re seeing any urgency for that either.

    I don’t doubt that- at least in some abstract sense- our politicians want to do as much as possible about global warming, but when it comes to transportation (and land use), the gap between their rhetoric and their actions seems rather large.

    1. Pres. Biden and Gov. Inslee are making significant pushes for EV’s, which have all the advantages of cars but none of the carbon emissions. Telling citizens to move to city cores with increasing crime and failing schools to stop global warming with Working From Home and EV’s is a failed solution.

      Today we see the opposite: a move to SFH’s in suburban or rural areas that create no carbon emissions due to WFH, and increasingly EV’s.

      Of course the electrification of Metro by 2026 may reduce coverage by 25%, so it is prudent to compare the carbon savings to the social impact.

      Addressing the carbon footprint from our electrical systems is the first step. Next is transportation, and that begins with EV’s and WFH. Housing has nothing to do with carbon emissions from EV’s and WFH.

      The impact to transit revenues from WFH, and the shift in revenue between subareas based on subarea equity, is unknown, but the real concern is subarea revenue will increasingly move to subareas that don’t prioritize transit, in part due to geography and topography, demographics (women and families), and shitty transit/first last mile access, excuse my French.

      Transit is a public good all by itself. It does not need global warming to justify transit, and the current issue du jour by developers to upzone for affordable housing is just a lot of well meaning but naive progressives taking the bait. You build where density is, not where you think it should be (especially next to an interstate). Too many transit users or advocates are afraid to admit transit is for those who need it. Otherwise why subsidize it so heavily.

      We will have the upzoning debate on this blog until the day I die, because it is really a class issue, and housing prices will not decrease in the region until I die, although based on some Seattle policies housing prices will increase much faster on the east side.

      Focus on transit. First/last mile access that even many very smart transit folks don’t understand starts at your doorstep (next to your garage where the car is parked), cost, safety (maybe #1), and whether transit is worth it.

      If you can’t afford a car transit is worth it, but what about first/last mile access. If the state and city want to make commuter parking too expensive markets and pandemics have unpredictable solutions. Like WFH.

      The future of transit and what it will it look like, and what can it afford just based on farebox recovery, if 10%, 35.%, or 40% of commuters never return is the great unknown. The commuter hates transit and will never vote for it if unnecessary.

      In one respect I worry we spent $131 billion to run light rail to Seattle when more and more commuters won’t go to Seattle. But at the same time ironically the spine may serve the new WFH.

      Great for the environment, great for workers who hate commuting on transit, great for workers who like to drive to the office, great for transit unless you built a 90 mile spine based on commuter revenue based on fantastical ridership estimates.

      I think we will look back at ST 2 and especially ST3 as a hubris of the past. Seattle will never become the metropolis ST is predicated on. Life will have changed too much by the time these exorbitantly expensive systems are completed.

      We will complete the spine, and then wonder why. Will anyone take Link from Redmond to Lynnwood when they would never take Link to the airport? No. Who builds a 90 mile commuter rail system with huge station spacing in basically a rural three county area?

      1. It doesn’t scale in the Puget Sound region, Daniel. The houses are at the foot of the mountains almost everywhere between the Snohomish and Green Rivers. Sure, there are still undeveloped patches; perhaps they’re 30% of the land area, so your prescription would accommodate at most a 30% increase in population, assuming roughly the same mix of multi-family and single-family housing that now exists in the more suburban portions of the ST service area.

        But Puget Sound is going to be faced with a one-hundred to one-hundred and fifty percent demand for housing in the next two decades. Do you actually believe that the fires in California (and here) are going to end? Do you think that the rains and snows will come happily back to California and the Colorado basin? You are far too intelligent to be that much of a climate denier.

        California is dying. Sure, there will still be millions of people living there, in houses surrounded by ash-covered cactus Xeroscaping, but those who want the “Green and Golden” California they sought as younger people or were born to will leave, and as many as can fit will come here.

      2. While I am in agreement about the spine not being an ideal use of transit funds, to the extent that the rest of this comment is comprehensible, it rests on Daniel confusing his personal distaste for and animosity against city life with some objective fact (cities are bad) or cultural universal (nobody wants to live in cities).

        I was out walking in Capitol Hill earlier today and the sidewalks, stores, restaurants, and parks are full of people and new buildings are going up. The 2020 census data came out this week. Seattle’s population grew by about 21% this past decade- even with the constraints of restrictive zoning. NYC’s population grew by about 7.7%. I don’t doubt doubt that after the pandemic is over, the percentage of people working from home will be higher than it was pre-pandemic- though it will still be a minority of workers- but if they are working from home, many people want to have their home in a neighborhood where people are out and about, and they can be one of those people.

      3. Pres. Biden and Gov. Inslee are making significant pushes for EV’s, which have all the advantages of cars but none of the carbon emissions.

        That’s a lie that’s used to push through government give-aways to companies like Tesla (direct deposit to Elon Musk). There’s no point pollution but but the energy comes from the grid and every marginal kilowatt is generated primarily by coal or gas fired power plants. And they don’t have “all the advantages of cars” since they are limited in range and take a long time to refuel. If it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors the US would have adopted European style regulations and diesel would have predominated over gasoline vehicles years ago. European diesels are quiet and produce far less greenhouse emissions than gasoline engines. An infrastructure deal would convert the current trucking fleet from diesel to natural gas. We’re flaring of natural gas now that could be replacing energy currently powering our freight network. Instead we’re taking about electric garbage trucks. How apropos!

      4. @Bernie,

        Ah, no, diesels have been a disaster for Europe and the US was lucky we didn’t repeat their mistakes.

        Diesel cars dominating Europe are the result of government policy and economics and not sound science. It all started after the oil embargo when European power generation (and some heating) switched from diesel to a combo of nuclear and natural gas. The result was a glut of diesel fuel. What’s a country to do?

        Enter government policy – burn it in cars! Even better that diesels seemed better than gasoline engines at the time per global warming.

        But ah, not true. Diesels are incredibly polluting. What they gain in efficiency and reduced CO2 output they more than offset in particulate (soot!) and NOX pollution. There is a reason that European cities are so polluted today compared to their American counterparts, and the diesel engine is the reason.

        And that soot they emit, it acts like a GHG. So the net effect is that diesels haven’t actually done much to help with global warming.

        And, yes, you can add clip-trap to a diesel engine to trap particulates and convert NOX, but all that adds cost and can be a maintenance nightmare. And if your government policy is to encourage consumption by keeping diesel fuel costs low, you still are encouraging unnecessary consumption and pollution.

        Diesel appears dead in Europe. Major urban cities are banning diesel from their roads and market share has dropped to about 30%.

        And diesel can’t compete with battery electric. The equivalent efficiency of battery electric is well beyond what you could ever hope to achieve with diesel, and they emit zero point of use pollution.

        Additionally, as power generation switches from carbon to renewables an all electric fleet gets even more environmentally friendly. You just can’t upgrade a 20 year old diesel in the same way.

      5. Um, er, ah, Bernie, Teslas are no longer eligible for EV tax credits.

        Musk is offensive, to be sure, but he is apparently a good engineer or at least, understands how to incentive and manage them.

      6. EV’s are definitely important. Even if some of the electricity, for now, comes from fossil fuels, they’re still a big improvement. A car lasts 10-20 years and the electricity grid will become cleaner over any car’s lifetime. Even with dirty power, EV’s still shift local pollution away from areas with lots of people around and, with proper equipment/incentives, EV drivers can shift their charging to times of day when electricity demand is low or output from wind and solar is high.

        What EV’s don’t solve, however, is problems related to traffic congestion, freeway noise, or dangerous drivers. These problems are inherent with any multi-ton vehicle moving on city streets, regardless of the power source. The only way to solve the latter problems is walking, bikes, and public transport.

        Working from home can also help as well, but only if the work trips don’t get replaced with new car trips for shopping, lunch, etc., motivated by people getting bored sitting at home.

      7. Working from home can also help as well, but only if the work trips don’t get replaced with new car trips for shopping, lunch, etc., motivated by people MOTU’s getting bored sitting at home.

        There, fixed it for you…. 😉

      8. https://news.stanford.edu/pr/02/jacobsonJGR1023.html

        This article is one of many that examine whether diesel cars may actually cause more global warming despite marginally lower carbon emissions. But the difference between diesel engines and gas engines from a global warming standpoint is negligible (although in general diesel gets better gas mileage than a straight gas engine, although not better than a hybrid), and in any case diesel never took off in the U.S.

        Technology for EV’s is advancing pretty rapidly. For example:

        1. Battery range has increased significantly. Whereas 250 miles was often considered the holy grail, EV’s now get 400 miles. https://amatosautobody.com/max-range-mileage-latest-tesla-models/

        2. Charging times have decreased, especially with rapid charging stations.

        3. Charging stations are becoming more ubiquitous, especially rapid charging stations.

        4. Updated apps now show the location of every nearby charging station. I have had friends drive their Tesla to LA and back with little problem. Drive for four hours, stop for lunch or coffee near a rapid charging station, and you have 75% of the batteries charge. https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-to-charge-a-tesla#:~:text=How%20long%20does%20it%20take%20to%20charge%20a,%207.2%20hours%20%20%208.02%20hours%20

        5. Folks who switch to EV’s are more likely to install solar panels on their houses. This makes the EV (and house) owner carbon free, for both home and transportation, something even light rail cannot claim.

        6. With smart metering EV’s can serve as a massive electricity storage platform. Many forms of electricity generation — nuclear, hydro, wind — continue to produce electricity during the night when demand is low. A large number of EV’s on smart meters store that electricity, and then can put it back into the system during peak loads.

        7. EV’s are less expensive to operate and to maintain.

        8. EV’s have tremendous acceleration, and are quiet.

        The key to EV’s is they don’t ask a car owner to change their lives in the least (depending on price). EV’s are designed to address carbon emissions, not change the dynamic of society, and I was surprised by the statement in Vic Bishop’s letter to the Seattle Times on Sunday that noted light rail accounts for 0.5% of all trips in the three country ST taxing district.

        According to EV advocates, when Ford makes a EV F-150 you will know the switch to EV’s is here. The main reason Tesla is ahead of the game is their battery technology which they plan to license, and they were the first to make a luxury EV, when other manufacturers saw EV’s as something for the lower classes.

        It’s true some companies like PSE still use carbon to create electricity, but the key is to shift drivers to EV’s while at the same time shifting these companies to less carbon intensive ways to create electricity. Whether the social dynamic between cars and transit happens will depend on whether more drivers switch to transit, which will have much more to do with transit, and probably working from home (the main factor for the difference in carbon footprint between urban and suburban areas is commuting by gas car). I know some anti-car folks worry that folks with EV’s will drive even more since it is carbon free, but I doubt that. Most people drive because they need to go somewhere, and the car is in their garage, which is zero first/last mile access.

        My guess is my next car will be an EV, if used car prices stop increasing so dramatically. I can charge it in the garage at night, or probably at work with so many new charging stations in the infrastructure bill, get 400 miles per charge when I usually drive 20 miles/day, less maintenance, and wouldn’t be surprised if I look at installing solar panels at the same time to go completely carbon neutral, all of that in the suburbs.

      9. 1. EVs are NOT zero emission. That claim is an accounting trick. Emissions don’t happen *at the tailpipe* but they do happen in resource extraction, production, and power generation–and the climate doesn’t care about these semantics. EVs are estimated to have 30-70% of the life time emissions of gas powered vehicles, closer to 70% in the US as we don’t have a heavy focus on renewables in our grid and will not for several decades. We need to transition to EVs, but this will put a dent in the climate crisis if we also increase vehicle use by 30-70% in the meanwhile!

        2. The Spine is indeed not the best use of taxpayer $$$. But it is at least partially “salvageable” if we develop/re-develop 15 minute cities centered on each of the “spine” stations. This seem unlikely given the politics of today, but The Spine is also an investment for 100 years or so. Similar to the Interstate Highway system, you gotta imagine that new development will tend to take advantage of the investment in The Spine. Traffic certainly isn’t getting any better (EVs do nothing to address the geometric scaling and congestion aspects of car dependence!).

      10. “EVs are NOT zero emission. That claim is an accounting trick. Emissions don’t happen *at the tailpipe* but they do happen in resource extraction, production, and power generation–and the climate doesn’t care about these semantics”.

        Yes, the old saying if you can’t grow it you have to dig for it.

        Of course, if you want to abolish all carbon emissions we will have to return to a hunter and gatherer society (except for the fires to cook things over and to keep warm, which of course work best with coal as used in most poor areas). That includes electric bikes, bikes, trains, buses, tractors, houses, cargo ships, MRI machines, hospitals, planes, computers, phones, concrete, and so on.

        Carbon neutrality looks at the whole. Without CO2 there is no life. A large part of tackling global warming is to capture more CO2, for example by preserving forests and the Amazon basin. Number one is reducing the carbon emissions from the generation of electricity, number two is transportation of all kinds, and few things create more source CO2 than the mining, manufacturing, and the building of light rail.

        EV’s and renewable forms of electricity generation have the benefit that they don’t ask people to change their lives, like lowering the thermostat to 65 in the winter, or moving to a small apartment in a dense city. The electricity coming into your home, and the function and look of the car in your garage, is the same, just with much less carbon.

        I have many friends on Mercer Island who have purchased EV’s and installed solar panels on their houses, and now sell electricity back into the grid. Just like any manufactured product there was carbon in the making of the EV and solar panels, but right now they produce no carbon for either their home or their car, and in fact reduce the carbon emissions from PSE by selling their clean solar electricity back into the grid, without having to change their lives in any way. How many other people can claim that.

        If the goal is to fundamentally change how people want to live in order to combat global warming that will never happen, and history proves that. Global warming is existential, so a bunch of unnecessary ideology is not something we can afford, including asking folks to change their lives when all that needs to be done is change how their electricity is generated (and not less of it) and how their car is powered.

      11. “I was surprised by the statement in Vic Bishop’s letter to the Seattle Times on Sunday that noted light rail accounts for 0.5% of all trips in the three country ST taxing district.”

        Why are you surprised? Only New York City has an extensive enough subway+commuter rail+bus network extensive enough to drive car mode share down to 30%. LA has an expanding subway network but it only gets a small mode share because it doesn’t reach most fo the metropolitan area.

        And ST2 Link isn’t open yet, which will be the biggest boost in ridership since U-Link. Most of the U-District isn’t even on Link yet; it has to use quasi-shuttle routes to get to UW Station, and for many trip pairs that’s not competitive with just taking the 49 or 70.

        Still, even with the full ST3 buildout, rail mode share or transit mode share will still be low, because we still won’t be like NYC or European/Asian countries where transit mode share is high.

      12. We need light rail, but it’s really not about climate change. It’s a combination of providing alternatives to congested roads, reducing the financial burden of basic mobility, and making the city more walkable and less noisy by not needing to design everything around huge car capacity.

        It helps a bit with carbon emissions too, but the reality is, you will never reduce carbon emissions by a meaningful amount without buy-in from the “I will never go anywhere without my car” crowd. And that means, to stop climate change, we need the cars to become electric. There’s no avoiding it.

      13. #6 – PNW is a winter, nighttime peaking region, so that doesn’t work like it might (in theory; I’m deeply skeptical in practice) in the sunbelt.

        When looking at how useful transit it wrt reducing carbon, passenger-miles and/or displaced VMT is a much more useful metric than % share of total trips.

      14. Without CO2 there is no life.

        Actually, while this is true here on Earth because photosynthesis requires it for as an “input”, what nature more broadly shows is that CO2 is widely found at high concentrations in the atmospheres of lifeless planets. It is the presence of free Oxygen that appears to be a prime marker of life processes.

        Oxygen is so reactive that it quickly — well “quickly” in geological timeframes — disappears from an atmosphere, normally into carbon dioxide.

    2. “Telling citizens to move to city cores with increasing crime and failing schools”

      You’re exaggerating. If by “city core” you mean just downtown, that’s too narrow. An urbanist lifestyle is available everywhere from Ballard, Roosevelt, the U-District, SLU, Uptown, downtown, western Capitol Hill, First Hill, the western CD, Little Saigon, Dearborn east of Goodwill, emerging Judkins Park, and down to Columbia City and Othello, and some other parts of Seattle. Downtown is just one small part of it. And some people who like living in urban villages don’t necessarily want to live where there’s “too much concrete” (i.e., downtown). Your impression of downtown lawlessness is biased by a few worst places (Pioneer Square and 3rd & Pine and to a lesser extent Belltown). That’s only a fraction of downtown, and a tiny fraction of all the urban villages in Seattle. 90% of urban Seattlites don’t live downtown and haven’t routinely gone downtown for decades, not because of crime but because they have produce shops and libraries and movie theaters and clothing stores and restaurants closer to them, and they only go to a symphony or museum or tourist attractions once or twice a year if that. Yet thousands of other people do go to these things downtown.

      “Today we see the opposite: a move to SFH’s in suburban or rural areas that create no carbon emissions due to WFH”

      That is already turning around. People who left San Francisco and Boston are partly moving back. Downtown Seattle’s apartments and hotels are getting more people. People are moving to both Seattle and the Eastside and the other suburbs. Some are choosing apartments/condos, others small-lot houses, others the largest-lot house they can find. In other words, similar to pre-pandemic moves. Only 25% of the workforce can telework, and only a fraction of those are moving to the exurbs so they can work from home in the country. (“Country” meaning not Seattle or the central half of Bellevue or Juanita or Kenmore, but further out than that.)

      1. When the Seattle apartment vacancy data was discussed a few weeks ago, it wasn’t highlighted how a good chunk of those vacancies (20-35%) could are probably due to universities not having in-person classes. That’s also probably a bit why King County vaccination rates for college age students appear slightly lower.

    3. No doubt that ST3 PR rested partly on helping the climate crisis. The dirty little secret is that no systems alternatives were simulated to see what the GHG impact would be with some variation. Instead, a political shopping list was assembled before they ran to the voters to pay much of the bill. And of course, running in a tunnel versus aerial versus surface does not directly change the overall GHG impact.

      And what if those proposed garages only held electric cars?

      On the other hand, some of the outer spine stations will have an easier time with taller and broader TOD than those in Seattle generally will (with 3 of only 12 new ST3 stations inside the Seattle city limits positioned with golf courses in station catchment areas). In places like Lynnwood and Federal Way, it requires some patience but I think building 20 story towers there will be politically easier than in Ballard or Alaska Junction.

      1. “They” are the voters. It was public demand that created Sound Transit to address inter-county and regional trips, which weren’t being met effectively at all with the existing transit. The 4xx routes were the only thing working, and that only helped you if you lived in Snohomish County and went downtown weekday mornings. Sound Transit was created with the express purpose of connecting Everett, Seattle, Redmond, and Tacoma. That was a large chunk of the politicians, voters, and non-voting public acting together, not just a “political shopping list” by a few pols. They didn’t “run to the voters to pay much of the bill”, they were the voters.

        Link’s marketing was primarily “give me an alternative to freeway congestion” because that’s what the most people care about. But it was also obvious that a region of three or four million needs high-capacity all-day trunk transit, like most well-functioning large cities have. That’s what motivated the Bogue Plan in 1912, Forward Thrust in 1968 and 1972, and Link in 1995/2008/2016. It’s not just for commuting or general mobility or the environment: it’s all of those together. Link could have been designed better, it could have been a two-level system (city subway, regional heavy rail), but even with its flaws it’s better than nothing.

        Imagine if the Bay Area didn’t have BART and Caltrain. Do you doubt they’d be seriously fucked? Instead of those they’d either have nothing, or two more freeways. They’d be like a larger version of Silicon Valley or cities in the southeast.

    4. “We will complete the spine, and then wonder why.”

      The population is increasing. More people mean more trips in every direction. And increasing traffic congestion that pushes more people to transit to avoid driving in it. Link serves a whole lot of trip pairs, not just going downtown 9-5 weekdays. Whatever the ridership is now, it will increase inevitably. And there’s increasing environmental awareness, which will increase more over time.

      “Will anyone take Link from Redmond to Lynnwood when they would never take Link to the airport?”

      You’re cherry-picking the most unlikely trip pairs (Redmond to Lynnwood) and making false assertions (nobody takes Link to the airport). From Redmond it’s actually difficult to get anywhere northwest on transit. How would you get from Redmond to Woodinville, Bothell, or Lynnwood now? I never thought of that because I haven’t spent much time in Redmond, but I encountered it when I wanted to go from Bellevue TC to Redmond TC one weekend, and there was nothing faster than the B, which takes quite a while. And during the 522 Stride planning, which revealed that most transit trips from Woodinville are to Seattle rather than to its Eastside backyard, and shuttle and peak-Bellevue service proposed, I thought, how would somebody get from Woodinville to Redmond on transit? And the answer is, there is no good way that I know of. But back to Link. There will actually be a reasonable transit path from Redmond to Bothell, by taking Link to downtown Bellevue and Stride North to Lynnwood. So it’s not Link all the way, but it’s Link part of the way. You may not ride it, but other people probably will. Even now during the pandemic, when I’ve taken the 545 to the Sammamish River Trail off-peak, I’ve seen a few people get on at each of Yarrow Point and Overlake TC and southwest Redmond. I didn’t expect anybody to ride it like that, but there they were.

      Link will be popular from Lynnwood to North Seattle, Lynnwood to the airport, Redmond to Bellevue, Redmond to Seattle, Seattle to Redmond, Seattle and Bellevue to the Spring District, Redmond to the Spring District, etc.

      Maybe not Redmond to the airport or Bellevue to the airport: that remains to be seen. There was some thought that more people might take Stride South to the airport rather than taking Link to Intl Dist and transferring. But that was when Stride was going directly to the airport. Now that it’s only going to TIB and you’d have to transfer to Link anyway, maybe more people will just take Link all the way. But the majority of Eastsiders will drive or Uber or shuttle to the airport, BECAUSE THEY’RE EASTSIDERS; i.e., the kind of people who don’t take transit outside commuting. But that’s not all the Eastsiders. Some do take transit to the airport, and will increasingly do so, although everything is thrown out of whack by the pandemic.

      Another thing to watch: the increasing Asian presence from the Eastside. People from countries where rail and bus transit is normal and used by everyone, who don’t have a knee-jerk reaction against it like earlier generations of Eastsiders did. Some of them will drive everywhere because they can here, but others will probably be riding Link and Stride when they open. Sam, can you do some investigative research on this?

      So I think all-day Link ridership will be robust in Seattle and Lynnwood, and at least the core of 550 and 545 riders on East Link. I know less about South King County and Pierce, and Link’s location is too far out of the way for large parts of them (e.g., Renton, Kent, Auburn), so I’m not as sure there. And I’m not as sure about intra-Eastside trips, because that’s where ridership has always been lowest. But again, East Link and Stride will make more trip combinations feasible on transit that aren’t now, and the population is increasing, and environmental awareness is increasing. That argues for core all-day ridership and gradually increasing ridership, even if the hordes going downtown 9-5 remain subdued. Whether that was Link’s intended purpose in 1995, 2008, or 2016 misses the point: what matters is now and the future. Metros of 4 million have robust trunk transit, and people travel everywhere all day. Even with work from home. So Pugetopolis definitely should have Link or Forward Thrust or a comparable subway between Lynnwood, Seattle, Redmond, and Federal Way. The far tails to Everett and Tacoma Dome are less clear. But given that the political demand is to build Link to Everett and Tacoma and it won’t be dissuaded, it will be built in any case, and when it’s there it will be better to have it than not to have it. Again, not for your, because you wouldn’t use it, but other people will. Like my friend in north Lynnwood (Ash Way). Or, possibly, somebody I knew who commuted from Uptown to Tacoma to work at his father’s newspaper.

    5. I’m only going to say a few words about Daniel’s racist remarks. “Failing schools” is merely a code word for a school with lots of black students, as just about everyone considers the Seattle Public Schools outstanding. These type of remarks are common from people who fled the cities during desegregation; it is “White Flight” folks trying to justify their departure.

      Phillip’s remarks are far more thoughtful. I agree, there is no sense of crisis, no call to action. To a certain extent, their hands are tied. The mayor and city council, for example, can only raise taxes so much. These are problems best dealt with a national level, and nationally, the political system is a mess. The Senate majority is razor thin, and major progress depends largely on the vote of Blue Dog Democrat from West Virginia. It is a frustrating situation, but it has been frustrating for years. The time to turn this ship around was in back in the 90s. It would have required less work, and we wouldn’t have as much damage. Now we are heading straight for the iceberg, and need to take dramatic action. As long as a huge portion of the country doesn’t believe there is a problem, or that we still have plenty of time, we are likely to respond with too little too late. To quote Winston Churchill, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else”.

      All that being said, I do expect the city to make progress on transit after the election. The state will keep chipping away at the problem, and so will the feds. But we won’t have the kind of action we should, because, well, this is America. Holy cow, we can’t even get ourselves vaccinated. A huge portion of the population are either too stupid to understand or too selfish to care that vaccination is for the good of the group, not the individual.

      1. When Ross said Daniel’s comment was racist, I fully read Daniel’s comment. He didn’t make racist remarks.

      2. Racism is a charge often used to deflect from the underlying issue. It can appear comical when used by white people, especially when they live in one of the whitest cities in the U.S.in a white neighborhood.

        Ross glosses over the fact Bellevue today is much less white than Seattle. Or that 22% of Seattle parents send their kids to private K—12 schools, second highest percentage in the nation after San Francisco. Anecdotal evidence suggests this figure is now 25%.

        More Seattle parents would send their kids to private schools if they could afford to, or the teachers’ union was not so opposed to charter schools or using state tuition for private schools. As many state on this blog when it comes to something as unimportant as parking requirements, let the market decide. But not K-12 education, probably the most important issue of all.

        Ross of course also avoids the school ratings themselves. Charging someone with racism is handy when the facts are against you, or only 3% of Black students in California public schools are grade proficient in math.

        Ross is correct that much of the migration out of Seattle to the Eastside beginning in 1970 was white, but that was because Seattle was such a white city back then (and the number of Black Seattle residents has hardly changed while the Eastside has become much less white). But those parents in 1970 were moving out of Seattle due to the public schools. Same thing today, but the migration is less white. Black parents would have moved to the eastside too, if they could have afforded to.

        Another excuse for Seattle schools has been funding, and Ross raises this issue when he bemoans Seattle’s low tax rate (although schools are funded by the state and through separate levies, so the mayor and council have little to with school funding). But after McCleary I believe Seattle students have the highest funding rate per pupil in the state.

        There are plenty of poor or mediocre K-12 schools in rural Washington too. To look at the issue through the lens of race makes less sense today with such higher minority populations on the Eastside. The issue is the quality of the schools, not whether some want to virtue signal, which really doesn’t help the kids.

        The fact is Seattle’s K-12 public schools are not as good overall as Eastside schools, and in many cases private K-12 schools are better than both. Some Eastside parents send their kids to private schools, especially after the school closures due to Covid, but nothing like Seattle.

        Schools are one of the top issues for parents when deciding where to live, including North Seattle v. South Seattle. When people like Ross reflexively claim racism or lack of funding (ironically for Seattle schools he claims are great) when other people try to point out some schools are failing their students it makes it very difficult to make changes. You can be sure Eastside parents of all races are keenly interested in the quality of their public and private schools, and don’t claim racism if they think their schools need to improve.

        I may not care about transit, but I am passionate about education, maybe because I have two kids who recently graduated from high school and my wife has devoted her life to our schools, which is why I think it is almost criminal this region will spend $131 billion on light rail. Talk about skewed priorities. If Ross thinks the issue is lack of funding for K-12 Seattle schools, that is where the money went.

      3. The word “Asian” encompasses two opposite realities, like a K-shaped recovery. Six-figure Asian tech workers are living upwardly-mobile luxury like their affluent white counterparts, while those who own struggling mom n pop restaurants or work in home health care or the like are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet and face discrimination like their black counterparts. The demographic pie chart is mainly used to track better-off/privileged “whites” and worse-off/non-privileged “brown people”, but it fails or gives misleading results when applied to Asians who are split down the middle. The experience of Bellevue’s Asian bourgeousie is very different from Asians living paycheck-to-paycheck in poorer neighborhoods, and implies different policy implications. Lumping them both together as “Asian” glosses over this and makes it hard to see. So there are more people from Asian ethnic groups in both Bellevue and South King County, yippee. What matters is that the poorer ones should get more government support to reduce inequality and poverty, just like their black and white counterparts, and the richer ones should be paying for it, again just like their black and white counterparts. The changing demographic pie chart is of cultural interest, but what matters from a policy perspective is minimizing inequality.

        The white flight from Seattle in the 1960s wasn’t just about better education quality in the suburbs, it was also about avoiding school integration and having black people in their schools, and much of that was hysteria as opposed to escaping a real problem. Seattle’s schools are average, not apocolyptic wastelands.

        But a funny thing happened in the suburbs, and I saw it in the 1970s when I was in school. A few Black and Asian families did move there in spite of the stereotype that it’s all white, and over time people got used to them and realized they weren’t a threat like they may have thought, and then the black and brown populations gradually increased without much incident, and that led to the diverse situation today.

      4. But those parents in 1970 were moving out of Seattle due to the public schools.

        Yes, because the public schools were becoming desegregated. White parents didn’t want their kids to be sent to black schools. Sorry to break it to you (and you too Sam), but this is racist. The schools didn’t get worse. They were still as great as they always were, they were just more integrated. This actually made them better, but White parents didn’t realize this (probably because of underlying racism). Regardless, it was this integration that they objected to. Not the quality of the schools, but the racial makeup.

        This is also what Daniel alludes to. No, he doesn’t come out and say it blatantly. Like Donald Trump, he just alludes to it. I’m not saying Daniel is as racist as Trump, but he is doing the same thing. He offers up no evidence for his assertion that Seattle schools are poor, but he says there is bad crime and failing schools. He might as well write about “the ghetto” or the “urban slums”. His attitude is out of date. He thinks that only the suburbs have changed, and that pimps in platform shoes roam every street corner south or east of downtown. The Seattle schools are outstanding, and have been outstanding for a very long time. Adjusted for income, even the test scores show this. Not to mention excellence in things like chess, jazz competitions, debate, and mock trials. This was always the case. My majority black high school kicked ass in chess and debate — way back in the 1970s, a time when white flight was just taking off.

        Oh, sure, you can say that Daniel’s comments have everything to do with class, and nothing to do with race. But to divorce race and class is to stick your head in the ground, and ignore our shared history. Might as well be on the board of education in Texas if you want to do that.

        The crazy part is, he doesn’t even *live* in Seattle. There he is, saying that the schools are terrible, but his kids don’t even go there! My kids did, and they all got a very high quality education. They went to Ballard, Ingraham and Nathan Hale. My step kids went to Roosevelt, Garfield and Nova. I have nieces and nephews that went to Sealth, West Seattle, Rainier Beach and Franklin. I went to Garfield, and have friends that went to Cleveland. Not a one complained about the school, or suggested they were “failing”. The only person that makes such an audacious claim offers up no evidence, and has very little experience with the schools. His comments — paired conveniently with comments about crime — might as well be taken from a Fox News broadcast. They aren’t based on fact, but are meant to conjure up an image of an urban wasteland — the type they never actually experienced, but saw portrayed on TV shows like The Wire.

        Is that racist? Hell yes.

      5. Oh, and Daniel, why the fuck do you insist on hijacking a thread with your Fox News Bullshit? This has absolutely nothing to do with the comment made by Phillip. He made a comment about the lack of urgency when it comes to addressing global warming, and yet you can’t resist writing about how terrible Seattle is, because its schools are failing, and criminals rule the streets. You then spend paragraph after paragraph talking about that subject, without once offering up a defense of your comment. Not even anecdotal! You can’t say “Oh, I knew someone who knew someone and they had a bad experience at some school in Seattle”. Only your unsubstantiated, bullshit claim that Seattle is a hell-hole, and that any sensible person of means should leave immediately. It is total crap, and you really should find a different blog to share your reactionary views, as they have little to nothing to do with transit.

      6. Typical Ross, ignores the facts and objective ratings, and then spends paragraphs reciting his anecdotal evidence, and then complains I don’t recite anecdotal evidence because I rely on objective ratings.

        You know Ross is losing the argument when the expletives comes out, as though an old man using profanity is going to make his argument better. My son and his friends use to use profanity to make their point, but then they were 13, until I told him to cut the swear words out because it made him sound stupid.

      7. School quality debates are problematic and useless in a transit blog. Every school is affected by the community composition, culture and funding. Perception of school quality elsewhere is taught often by parents and others who didn’t attend the school being affected — and that often has included racist tints.

        Finally, test scores is not a full measure of education. Learning about how others live — and having empathy or at least perspective — is also very valuable when living in the broader adult world.

        General comments about schools “failing” is just too general for specific counter comments. Instead, it indicates a narrow-minded perspective on why and how we educate children.

        There are many web sites that delve deeply in multiple quantitative dimensions of school rankings and quality. Some weight factors like race or income or funding or facilities — and others do not. Let’s simply take note of who has baseless negative opinions because it literally says a ton about their own ability to be objective (rather than dogmatic or delusional) — which ironically I consider a product of their education at school and home. There are plenty of people with advanced degrees who still can be pretty stupid — and they often do not understand that what was fed to them was tainted.

      8. Al, the transit point I was trying to make is that ridership (farebox recovery) and general fund tax revenues are subarea specific.

        The subareas were set up nearly 50 years ago. If the ridership and general fund tax revenue assumptions made then change it affects projects in different subareas.

        That is what we have seen in East King Co. When the subareas were formed no one anticipated the economic growth of the Eastside, which affects general fund tax revenues, and possibly ridership. Most assumed that economic growth would stay in Seattle. With uniform tax rates the more N. King Co. revenue declines — where the most expensive projects are, including the spine — the more revenue other subareas end up with in order to fund N. King Co. That is exactly what happened with ST 3, which caused the realignment.

        WFH and where people choose to live will influence where businesses put their offices, and ST subarea tax revenues.

        It isn’t possible to change subareas today. For 50 years families have left Seattle for Eastside schools, and schools are one of the top considerations where to live. More and more that will determine where businesses locate.

        In the end that means fewer projects in N. King Co. although that subarea has the most density for transit, and too much revenue for east KC the N. King Co. subarea can’t borrow forever.

        People and businesses can move. With WFH that will be especially true. Public safety, schools, business environment, and taxes influence where people live and where businesses locate.

        There won’t be a ST 4 because the four other subareas don’t need the revenue. So N. King Co. is going to have to generate and grow its own ST revenue if it wants to complete its ST 3 projects, or what is left of them. That will depend on where people choose to live, work and shop.

        The main factor that determines transit is money. Subarea equity and uniform tax rates complicate that. If schools for 50 years have attracted families to the Eastside that is definitely an issue that will affect transit because it will determine tax revenue.

      9. Daniel, the existence of subarea boundaries is not fixed in perpetuity. ST makes changes to district boundaries as needed, usually annually. It may be politically difficult and messy for accounting, but it’s possible. It’s much easier to more subarea boundaries than it is to consolidate or divide local government units — but even those boundaries change with things like annexation and incorporation.

        Plus Sound Transit was created in 1993, 28 years ago. How can its subareas be 50 years old? Not checking facts can hurt one’s credibility.

      10. When the subareas were formed no one anticipated the economic growth of the Eastside, which affects general fund tax revenues, and possibly ridership. Most assumed that economic growth would stay in Seattle.

        That is ridiculous. Sound Transit was formed in 1993. Microsoft was already one of the fastest growing companies in the world. Eastside cities were booming. Not only in terms of population, but in terms of commerce. The suburban office park movement was near its peak. It would be reasonable to assume the suburban cities would continue to grow and prosper. For those who have a Nixonian mindset, it would also be easy to assume that Seattle would wither away, as crime and failing schools took their toll. The former happened, of course; the latter didn’t.

        The suburban office park experiment started to die out. It had two flaws. First, not everyone wants to live in the suburbs. Second, the increase in two-income households made it more difficult to appeal to a lot of workers. Imagine you live in the Central Area, and commute to Harborview (a great commute). Now imagine your spouse is looking for a software related job. Downtown Seattle sounds great; Bellevue is barely tolerable; Factoria is miserable (been there, done that). As a result, suburban office parks have lost favor. Perhaps the best example of this is Weyerhaeuser. By the very nature of its business it should attract more rural/suburban commuters. But at the end of the day, it was just more convenient to move headquarters to the big city. It is just easier for more people to get there.

        The East Side has strong business inertia, fueled by Microsoft. It is the number one employer in Redmond, Bellevue, and I believe Kirkland. But Amazon’s decision to move to Seattle (a wise one) change the nature of the tech business, and the city. The schools remained strong, as did the various neighborhoods, and downtown boomed, in every respect. It took a big hit with Covid, but has already shown signs of rebuilding. The Pike Place/Waterfront makeover should be a huge boom for retail and tourist industries, while eventually everyone will go back to their jobs in the office.

        The rise of the East Side was predictable. Fox News watching conservatives predicted Seattle would fall, but it didn’t — quite the opposite. About the only thing that mainstream thinkers didn’t predict very well was the fall of Boeing, and the toll it is likely to take on Everett. Of course Everett could rebound, and transition towards a more diverse economy (which would be good in the long run) even if it lags Seattle and the East Side.

        In any event, your comments about the schools failing in Seattle is just complete bullshit. All these words about the subject, yet you haven’t offered up one shred of evidence supporting that argument. From what I can tell, you have no relationship with them. Your kids didn’t go there, nor did your grandkids, nieces or nephews. You don’t know any teachers or administrators who work in the district. You’ve never taken the time to talk to principals, or the teachers who actually do the work. As someone who has done all of that, I can tell you that your comments on the subject show a profound level of ignorance — like a poodle’s opinion on quantum mechanics. This would be laughable if it didn’t perpetuate the racist, anti-urban stereotypes of right wing media.

      11. King County in the 1960s decided to channel growth to the Eastside. Forward Thrust in 1968 and 1972 outlined a subway network in Seattle and Bellevue/Redmond, conspicuously leaving out Kent or Federal Way or Lynnwood. In the 1970s Bellevue planned for downtown highrises. They started appearing on the ground in the 1990s. In case there was any doubt, 520 was built out to 405 in the early 70s funded partly by bridge tolls, and the tolls were removed seven years early because the Eastside grew much faster than expected. Microsoft moved to Bellevue in 1979 (near the South Bellevue P&R), and Redmond in 1986. While we deride Microsoft for locating in a greenfield office park cluster, it was just following King County’s growth policies from the 1960s. All this was decade(s) before Sound Transit was created in 1993 and planned the Spine a couple years later.

      12. “Microsoft moved to Bellevue in 1979 (near the South Bellevue P&R)”

        Sorry to nitpick, but do you mean the South Kirkland P&R? I remember them being in an office park on 112th on the west side of 520.

      13. It was on Northup Way where those midrise office buildings are around 108th, or possibly in the smaller cluster south of 520 east of Bellevue Way. I just said South Bellevue P&R because it’s the closest identifiable location. It’s been thirty years since I lived in 29th and could see the buildings whenever I crossed Northup Way, so I don’t remember exactly which building it was.

      14. It also wasn’t inevitable that Microsoft was going to make it big. If they stuck with what they originally were doing (making compilers) then no one would care where they are. But IBM came knocking, they rolled out the red carpet, and the rest is history.

      15. So my second guess was right, south of 520 east of Bellevue Way. I remember there were tech companies in there but I don’t remember which ones. Yes, 112th Ave NE in Bellevue curves and becomes 108th Ave NE in Kirkland. It’s the same street.

      16. There are three classes of e-bikes. https://www.railstotrails.org/build-trails/trail-building-toolbox/management-and-maintenance/e-bikes/#:~:text=Today%2C%20the%20City%20allows%20e-bikes%20on%20all%20paved,are%20permitted%20is%20available%20on%20the%20city%20website.

        Class I and II are usually allowed to ride on bike and mixed-use trails. Class III are not, and are really more like scooters, although class II can reach 20 mph without any pedaling.

        We had this discussion on the Aubrey Davis Park Trail that is part of the Sound to Mountains trail through Mercer Island.

        The conflicts occur when you mix pedestrians who have an average speed of 2- 3 mph with any bike going over 10 mph. Part of the Lid Park has a steep decline and bikes can easily reach 30 mph. The trail is not wide, around 12′ which is WSDOT standard, but with bikes and pedestrians going both ways that is not much for someone going 25 mph downhill. During the pandemic with so many people biking and using the parks the conflicts worsened. Few of these bikers are commuting to work or transit. Mostly recreational.

        Pedestrians in a park are unpredictable, and part of the reason they are in a park is to walk and not think about where they are walking. Or just standing. They have the right of way. They can do whatever they want. Then there are kids and dogs, and on a 12′ wide path a dog on a leash and one not on a leash is not all that less unpredictable for a speeding bicyclist, and most actual collisions have been dogs and bicyclists, with the dogs coming out the better.

        Experienced bikers who ride road bikes don’t like e-bikes because they complain the riders can go the same speed but have much less skill and pay less attention for the speed they are going, and passing one is terrifying because e-bike speeds can change quickly. Plus pedestrians are not accustomed to someone going 20 mph uphill, especially behind them, and the disparity of speeds uphill with non-e-bikes makes for a lot of passing, where the conflicts tend to occur.. Usually the experienced road bikers stick to the road.

        At this point the city is looking at a series of round abouts in the trail to slow bikes, with a 10 mph speed limit, or banning bikes altogether due to the slope. Education hasn’t worked. The pedestrians are usually from the Island and the bikers from Seattle, so that is going to give the pedestrians the edge, and the bikers’ language and attitude towards the pedestrians has put off a lot of residents. Bicyclists hoped for a separate dedicated bike path, except you can’t prohibit pedestrians from the trail, it was too expensive, and it would have removed too many trees and green spaces from the park.

        Since this is summer Mercer Island is covered with recreational bicyclists like locusts, and of course our Nextdoor is up in arms over the bicyclists. But these are almost all recreational bicyclists riding around the Island to the Roanoke.

        Like Ross, my opinion is if motorcycles (and there are a hundred different types and sizes of motorcycles and scooters) have not taken urban cities by storm, and neither have regular bikes (I think 2% of all trips in Seattle are by bike) neither will e-bikes, in part because at $2000 to $5000 per e-bike where do you leave your e-bike when get to transit or your destination. If you don’t have car insurance you don’t have PIP, UIM, or insurance if your bike is stolen, so keep that in mind.

      17. @RossB
        “It can dramatically reduce the time it takes to actually get to our destination,…”

        I think you meant to say “increase the time” in this paragrah if I’m understanding you correctly.

        @Daniel T
        Thanks for sharing your personal observations regarding ebikes on MI and the park on the lid. That was interesting to read. I just recently returned from a trip to Orange County, CA to attend a college graduation. My spouse and I stayed in Newport Beach and while there spent some time strolling along the promenade along the beach. I definitely noticed the increase in the number of ebikes in use along the thoroughfare since the last time we were there. I believe most of them were rentals being used by other visitors and frankly they just seemed inappropriate for the setting. We did witness one collision between an ebike user and a child and thankfully both seemed to be ok.

        There is a small subset of P/C insurers for ebikes. I don’t know enough about the policies they offer, if they are indeed offered in WA state, to render an opinion on whether they are a legit option for ebike owners. For example, because of the deductible involved, does it only make sense to have coverage for loss/theft for the first couple of years of ownership? Perhaps there are other blog readers more knowledgeable on the subject matter who could weigh in.


      18. @Tlsgwm — Yes, you are correct. I wrote it backwards. Thanks for figuring that out, and mentioning it. Sorry for any confusion it might have caused.

    6. Even a 250 mile range is really more than plenty for the average person. I tried out a Chevy Bolt to go hiking a few weeks ago, and completed a 160 mile round trip with half a battery left. If you drive efficiently, the advertised range is actually quite conservative (tip: Use one pedal driving and obey the speed limit on freeways; it makes a big difference).

      The catch today is that EVs with over 200 miles of range currently start at over $30k, with 300 miles of ranged largely limited to Teslas costing $45-50k. But, the assumption is that, over time, prices will go down and that will change.

      I definitely agree with DT on the advantages of EVs over gas and diesel, even if we disagree on the merits of excessive cars of any type clogging cities.

      1. So Tom, are you trying to taunt me for questioning the truthfulness of a “realignment” that adds years to completion schedules, and requires an additional $35 billion to complete the projects originally promised in ST 2, and ST 3 that was only estimated and passed in late 2016?

        As Joni Earl famously said:

        “Optimism is not our friend”:

        “Sound Transit started out in scandal. The agency faced a crisis of financial mismanagement and poor planning, and federal officials ordered an audit in 2000 and pulled promised funding. After a series of executives resigned in 2001, Joni Earl took the helm and is widely credited with saving the agency. Largely, this was by being more realistic and being more honest with the public — reportedly she used the slogan “Optimism is not our friend.” Largely due to her efforts, by 2003 Sound Transit received a clean financial audit, and was re-rewarded the funding lost two years earlier. Despite this, the earlier crisis required Earl to drop about one-third of the originally promised light rail line.[27″


        Of course, ST 1 was 84% over estimated budget, and eliminated some promised and key stations. Memories are short among transit advocates, I guess.

        Do I think this is the last “realignment”. No, not if DSTT2 is part of the project list.

        Let me explain some of the reasons I am skeptical of this realignment (other than past budgeting/cost estimating errors):

        1. The estimated budget deficit went from $12.5 billion to $6.5 billion from the beginning of 2021 to the middle of 2021, when the $6.5 billion is the figure ST claims allows it to extend some projects up to five years and still complete all projects, a political goal. I have no idea what changed in the assumptions in six months to account for a change of $6 billion, an enormous change. What economically has changed in that six months, during a pandemic?

        2. The realignment still does not address what I think will be less future ridership and farebox recovery over the next 23 years. ST’s ridership estimates pre-pandemic were based on large population gains, TOD, first/last mile access, and more commuting to urban offices, or “optimism”, to quote Earl. At some point I would like someone to begin to ask whether $131 billion is worth the actual future ridership. Increasing the taxes so dramatically, but then claiming ST is delivering the same projects promised for the revenue in ST 2 and 3, is not keeping ST’s promises in the levies.

        3. I don’t think the realignment is realistic about reallocation of general fund revenues like sales taxes among subareas post pandemic, namely reallocation from N. King Co. to the eastside, and this realignment is all about N. King Co. But I know no one can estimate that right now, so how is ST estimating it?

        4. The actual station plans for West Seattle and Ballard are unclear to me in the realignment. What assumptions is ST using for those costs? Will West Seattle and Ballard really agree to run rail along their surface streets with surface stations, or elevated stations, in these residential neighborhoods, especially in less than ideal areas? Is light rail that will take 90 minutes from Ballard to Tacoma really worth destroying the commercial core of these neighborhoods? Think of the diminution of property value for those properties abutting a surface train running 20 hours/day.

        5. What is the cost for the bridges to run rail to West Seattle and Ballard, and who will pay for those.

        6. Why won’t ST explicitly state what it is currently estimating to complete DSTT2 as designed, and whether the four other subareas will agree to pay more than 1/2 the original estimated price of $2.2 billion, when virtually no one thinks $2.2 billion is accurate, or was in 2016?

        7. Why do you spend so much time on DSTT2 alternatives — including scrapping it and using DSTT1 for the WSBLE — and then accuse me, and others, for questioning the accuracy and need of the realignment?

        The scandals of the early 2000’s are no different to me than the realignment today. I agree with Joni Earl optimism is not the voters’ friend, and an agency needs to be honest.

        For the record, you don’t need a class to file suit to challenge a tax. Any citizen subject to the tax has standing as an aggrieved party, and is presumed to have suffered harm.

        I do hope someone does file suit to question whether the Board basically has unlimited taxing authority. Can an agency and Board knowingly place false cost estimates and future revenue estimates on a levy ballot, and when those false estimates are exposed a few years later simply extend the taxing authority for as long as it takes to complete the projects that were falsely estimated in the levy?

        I hope not, because this rule would apply to any agency or ballot. I would hope a court would require ST to return to the ballot for authority for this kind of tax increase, whether the gross estimating errors were mistakes or deceit, which the ST taxing district may or may not vote for.

      2. Talk about spin? This gem of a line is in the staff report:

        “ Staff noted that continuing project development had identified challenges not accounted for in the initial planning level estimates developed as part of the ST3 system planning effort or the comparative estimates developed during the Phase 1 alternatives development effort.”

        That says so much!

        1. The ST3 project description for Ballard/SLU was not studied to create reasonable cost estimates.

        2. The audit reported that the low cost estimates was bad cost estimation rather than vague “additional challenges”.

        3. Contingencies exist to cover “additional challenges” which ST be set artificially low to make the costs match anticipated revenues.

        4. HNTB did Phase 1 of the WSBLE project. The Phase 1 comparative estimates led to ST board tossing several alignment options as “too expensive” like the Pigeon Ridge/ lower Delridge station option. Yet HNTB is rewarded with more budget yet there is no companion plan to broaden the alternatives to those already tossed.

        I personally think that no budget adjustments should occur until the DEIS is released. It’s only a few months away. Then, a budget amendment to further study and modify the project alternatives can be logically executed. But doing it now gives no one any indication of what else could be done to reduce cost or improve the design.

      3. It’s your consistent and predictable negativity with NO ATTEMPT TO IMPROVE THINGS. That’s why I “taunt” you. You talk hugely about how awful Sound Transit is and DO NOTHING. NOTHING. NOTHING to change it.

        Since you think it is a monstrous scam, at least sue them! You say you have standing yourself. You’re a lawyer. You don’t have to pay anyone else to do it. Sue them and if you win, maybe you can get your dream — secession from the rest of King County. Who knows?

        And just for the record, the answer to #1 is “the economy has improved waaaaaayyyyy more rapidly than anyone thought it would when the financial consultants did the original panicked re-evaluation.” Remember this is over 25 more years. Small changes now result in large changes cumulatively. That’s the way compound “interest” (or in this case “revenues from taxes” work).

      4. “And just for the record, the answer to #1 is “the economy has improved waaaaaayyyyy more rapidly than anyone thought it would when the financial consultants did the original panicked re-evaluation.” ”

        What “panicked re-evaluation” would that be? The Jan 2021 financial plan update announcing the $11.5B affordability shortfall was made by the agency’s own financial team. The consultant was hired and brought in later to determine the accuracy of the capital program updated estimates and assessing the cost estimating processes that the agency utilizes. Please keep in mind that senior management and the entire ST board were both fully aware of the growing affordability program last year, with the latter signing off on the fall update to the agency’s financial plan (included in the 2021 budget cycle) in Dec 2020. That plan was out of balance by more than $2.7 billion.

        This is the sequence of events with regard to the affordability gap announcements so far this year, and thus how we get to the current figure of $6.5B.

        Jan 2021 affordability gap:
        ($11.5B), 2017-2041

        Apr 2021 update:
        Increased tax revenues, +$4.6B
        Increased grant revenue,
        Added together, +$5.1B
        Bringing the gap down to ($6.4B) temporarily.
        This is offset by increases on the costs side:
        Increased cap exp, +$0.6B
        Increased other exp, +$0.9B
        Added together, +$1.5B

        New Apr 2021 affordability gap figure:
        ($7.9B), 2017-2041

        Jul 2021 update:
        Increased tax revenues, +$2.1B
        Bringing the gap down to ($5.8B) temporarily.
        Again, this is offset by increases on the costs side:
        Increased cap exp, +$0.2B
        Increased other exp, +$0.5B
        Added together, +$0.7B

        New Jul 2021 affordability gap figure:
        ($6.5B), 2017-2041

        Finally, for those keeping score, the consolidated changes for this six-month period look like this:

        Increased tax and grant revenues, +$7.2B
        Offset by increased capex and other exp costs, +$2.2B

        Jan 2021 gap est: ($11.5B), plus $7.2B = ($4.3B),
        plus ($2.2B) = ($6.5B),
        Jul 2021 gap estimate.

      5. Tlsgwm, OK so “panicked” was hyperbole, but exactly what I said is what happened: projected revenues grew much more rapidly than projected costs grew. Thank you for providing an accurate and comprehensive summary. Whatever the rules are for estimating future revenues, they clearly are highly leveraged over the life of the project and seem to be formally constrained by the last quarter’s results.

        Daniel doesn’t see it that way. He has decided that the twelve billion shortfall is “The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth, So Help Him God!” Implicitly then, the imputed positive six billion dollar recovery is all Damned Lies from the Maw of Hell. And perjury to boot.

        THIS is why, although many of the points he makes are factually accurate, his overall bigotry about transit warps everything he writes.

      6. Not bigotry Tom Terrific, skepticism. The same skepticism the federal auditors had in 2001 that almost shut ST down, and the same skepticism Joni Earl had that saved ST. Federal regulators like honesty. ST has a long history that warrants skepticism.

        When it came to ST 3, subarea equity and uniform tax rates incentivized ST to underestimate project costs. ST needed ST 3 to complete ST 2 in the N. King Co. and S. King Co. subareas, but also loaded ST 3 up with very expensive projects to: 1. sell ST 3 to skeptical subareas; and 2. frontload those projects in case there wasn’t a ST 4.

        The catch-22 for ST was if it accurately estimated the costs for DSTT2 and WSBLE in N. King Co. the tax increase necessary to complete those projects due to uniform tax rates would be so high it could lead the other subareas to vote no. So instead ST underestimated the project costs in N. King Co., hoping ridership/farebox recovery, federal grants, increased revenue in Seattle, or just a miracle would fashion a solution, down the road. What ST did not expect was a pandemic to force its hand early.

        The realignment was always going to happen, even without a pandemic. People on the eastside (true skeptics because they don’t like ST or transit, but that is what you want if you want the both sides of an argument) predicted the realignment before the vote on ST 3. DSTT2 was never going to cost $2.2 billion, or even close. The ridership estimates — pre-pandemic — were fantastical based on the current ridership, certainly for East Link.

        The irony in tisgwm’s excellent reporting on ST’s ever shifting numbers is you forgive ST for significantly underestimating something fairly predictable like ROW/construction project costs four years ago in ST 3, but then fully trust ST’s ever changing current revenue estimates which require huge assumptions over 23 years (during a pandemic) for future revenue streams.

        The reality is ST started (or got to) with a deficit number it needed ($6.5 billion) that would allow an “extension” in project costs for a time period citizens would accept, and raise $35 billion. The $11.5 billion figure is probably correct including DSTT2 and WSBLE, and was the one figure not “panicked”. But as tisgwm’s post proves, and I have pointed out many times before, yes, extensions in projects result in more revenue, but at the same time the ROW, construction and soft costs increase each year as well, often more than the revenue. (Which is why many transit advocates complain we should have built light rail sooner).

        The harm is two fold:

        1. Many of the projects that won’t get built — a first hill station, DSTT2 which means a S. Lake Union station, real urban rail — badly damage the coverage of light rail in the densest areas.

        2. $131 billion sucks all the revenue out of the system for things like affordable housing, emergency housing, education, Metro, other transportation needs like bridges, and a whole host of social needs. Next time you post one of your class warfare polemics ask yourself what $35 billion could do. That alone is 10 times the amount of the unfunded bridge repair/maintenance backlog, and probably 10 times Charter Amendment 29 Seattle cannot afford.

        The realignment makes perfect sense to me if it assumes DSTT2 won’t get built. Then you have a spine running from Everett to Seattle to Tacoma to Redmond (including stations at 130th and Graham St., and park and rides on the eastside and Kenmore) , for a cost of $131 billion.

        I hope in the long run the eastside reallocates the revenue for the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line, because I just don’t see the ridership/dollar on that very expensive route, and think it is ideology (transit) over reality (cars) for that area, because there is no real first/last mile access except a car.

        According to Vic Bishop’s letter to the Times, pre-pandemic ridership on light rail was about 67% of that predicted by ST in its levies. That includes all the densest areas including UW where transit has advantages. Will ridership on the rest of the line that is heavily commuter oriented reach 67% or ridership estimates. Probably not. East Link might be 50% of the predicted 43,000 to 52,000 boardings/day.

        In the end, the one figure ST does not want to publicize is the cost per rider per mile on light rail, because if farebox recovery really were 40% the cost would be too high to ride.

        Here are the next tea leaves to read:

        The EIS on DSTT2 and WSBLE. You know and I know Ballard and West Seattle are assuming underground rail and stations, because no one runs surface trains and stations through an expensive residential area. After all, these neighborhoods are not RV, and Capitol Hill, the UW, and even Roosevelt and Northgate for God’s sake got tunnels. When Bellevue was given this option they did what cities always do: tunnel, or move the line next to the freeway, except Ballard and West Seattle really don’t have that option.

        If you have ever been involved in a large EIS you learn the assumptions are heavily managed by the agency creating the EIS. Hence litigation over EIS’s. Usually the assumptions favor the proposed development. But look to see if ST uses this EIS to wiggle out of DSTT2 and ghastly expensive stations and tunnels in Ballard and West Seattle, because there is no way ST is going to simply tell Ballard and West Seattle it is going to run surface rail and surface stations through the heart of those neighborhoods to a stub in Smith Cove or Sodo, and that is not what Dow wants.

        This may be the rare opportunity to see an agency prepare an EIS that actually argues against the project.

      7. Again, a torrent of words implicating the Sound Transit Board, employees and contractors in a scam which by its size, complexity and involvement of Federal funds, MUST meet the standards as a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization.

        Have you contacted Brian Moran with your evidence and urged him to open an investigation? The law and its application is your specialty. Are the cobbler’s children to run barefoot forever?

        And, as an aside, do you sell words to your clients retail, or are there volume discounts?

      8. You are a very silly person, Tom Terrific. Very hard to have any kind of serious discussion with you, and rather pointless.

        I suggest you read the wiki link on ST I linked to above to try and understand the history, and try and concentrate on the facts, like why ST 1 was 84% underestimated.

        Then begin with why an agency with many estimating experts needed an additional $35 billion to complete ST 2 and 3 four years after ST 3 was voted on, and why so many — at least on the eastside — knew this before ST 3 was voted on. Are all these skeptics smarter than ST, because if they are that is worse than smart people manipulating cost estimates to pass a levy with subarea equity and uniform tax rates.

        I can tell you this: after reading your recent posts I totally discount anything you post on tunneling. You just are not serious enough to have any kind of expertise on such an esoteric issue.

      9. IIRC, US. Attorney Brian Moran left his post to return to private practice earlier this year. (Whether that’s correct or not doesn’t really matter since I’m reading your RICO comments as snark anyway.)

        Imo, Daniel T. has made several valid points in his commentary above. (Fwiw, I don’t mind reading long comments from other readers, as long as they are written in a fairly cogent style, or at least with that intent in mind.) It is quite concerning to this observer as well that ST’s financial projections have been all over the place in such a short window. The board adopted its 2021 updated financial plan in Dec 2020 with the plan out of balance, reflecting an affordability gap of more than $2.7 billion. Then the very next month, in Jan 2021, the agency announces an affordability gap of $11.5 billion. Huh? Which numbers are we to believe are closer to reality?

        Frankly, I’ve always been more concerned with the expense side of the equation anyway and have largely ignored ST’s focus on the revenue situation since that’s mostly driven by politics and their desire to spin the narrative. We’ve seen this movie before. What’s different this time around is the magnitude of the capital program cost estimation miss. I wish I could say that I’m surprised but that’s just not the case. Like Daniel indicated in his reply, many of us realized long before the ST3 vote that the cost estimates were crap. Whether this was done deliberately to sell a new levy request or just the result of incompetence and lack of due diligence, or some combination of both, is open to debate. The capital program portion of the financial plan “uses” published in Oct 2017 listed the total at $48.3B. Jump ahead just four years and that figure has grown to $69.2B (as shown in the board chair’s draft version which extends the plan to 2046). That’s an increase of almost $21B or roughly 43% since passage of ST3. To put this into perspective, this increase alone is some $7.5B more than the entire capital program outlay that was outlined in the original ST2 package (~$13.5B).*

        So, yeah, include me in the group of interested observers who are quite skeptical of the agency’s ability to provide (decently) reliable estimates.

        *Even accounting for inflation for the period between the two program end dates, i.e., 2023 and 2041, the size of the $21B increase is enormously significant.

      10. Learn about tunnels yourself, then, Daniel. But until you have some understanding of how bored tubes are created and how they support themselves, don’t blather on “pricing” their construction.

        To both of you, certainly, costs have clearly been underestimated. There will have to be value engineering applied to the WSBLE project, at both ends and probably in the middle.

        But you, Daniel, are essentially arguing for complete abandonment of anything in North King County because you’re whining about the 12.5% (one fourth of one half) of increased costs of the tunnel to be borne by East King. You ignore ALL the revenues estimated to be raised in North King which will not be spent within the subarea if no WSBLE is built.

        Where else can they be spent? The two North King add-on stations together are about $250 million. Even if ST underwrote the full capital expenses of all proposed Rapid Ride lines running within the North King subarea, it wouldn’t come anywhere near the amount North King will contribute to ST3. Less than a third.

        If your goal is strict adherence to the subarea equity concept, you certainly have a biased tactic by which to achieve it. Your conception of the value of one East King taxpayer contrasted to that one North King taxpayer is obviously slanted.

        So what is your alternative? The only conclusion that one would make is “Cancel ST3”. Given that bonds have been sold, I don’t know how that works, but go ahead, come out and say it. Be honest.

      11. The end result, IMO, is simple Tom: DSTT2 will not be built. What ST will do for access to West Seattle and Ballard I don’t know, but both expect it to be underground. N. King Co. is obligated to pay 1/2 of DSTT2, and will have on paper $1.1 billion to allocate to other projects, which is about what it needs to cover what is already planned.

        I suppose the four other subareas will each be credited $275 million for their subarea from the cancellation of DSTT2, but it was their money to begin with, and some need it. Has N. King Co. agreed to use any of its funds for other subareas? I don’t think so, even though E. King Co. has been kind enough to lend N. King Co. money.

        Wait for the EIS. It will include the incredibly expensive and unaffordable station and tunnel options West Seattle and Ballard prefer and are demanding, along with a more “affordable” option on the surface or elevated, which both neighborhoods will reject, and that will be that.

        No need for DSTT2 — which the EIS will reveal has magically increased in cost to around $4 billion with 50% contingency — because West Seattle and Ballard won’t accept the affordable station and surface rail options (and of course Seattle won’t accept surface rail down 3rd Ave., which would give Bellevue a big laugh if it did).

        No need for tunnel alternatives if there is not going to be a tunnel. I would not be surprised if the current ST engineers are sitting around looking at the design for DSTT2 in ST 3 and wondering WTF were they thinking? How do we kill this?

        Easy. Give West Seattle and Ballard station and surface rail designs neither would ever accept, because their communities are more important than light rail. There are other ways to get from A to B, and just about everyone in West Seattle and Ballard has a car, and bus service from W. Seattle across the bridge is very good.

        First rule in politics: make West Seattle and Ballard kill DSTT2. It looks like the gondola is looking better all the time, and has just enough “bling” out over the water it might appeal to West Seattle. If the money is there for a gondola, although ST does not like novel ideas.

      12. “a more “affordable” option on the surface or elevated, which both neighborhoods will reject”

        The neighborhoods don’t have veto power over Link. And they voted for the elevated option.

      13. Rather than step into the silliness of revenue projection swings or the terrible cost/ expense estimating that have been often described, I’m going to ask the question that a responsible taxpayer and rider should ask: What is the benefit of each $1B spent? Does it save aggregate travel time? Will the trains have too few — or too many — riders (and the same train may be empty in Fife and overcrowded under Beacon Hill), and what is the expected daily demand? What is the general layout of these stations 100 feet in the air or 100 feet under the ground — and will there be enough riders to justify massive excavation holes or tall structures or will this vertical distance suppress ridership? How many millions of square feet of offices or thousands of dwelling units will be walkable to each station?

        It’s a tough perspective to break, but even here we discuss lots of geographic biases rather than look to performance measures to tell is what investment is most strategic. And so many projects in ST3 went from “representative” to “promised” without proper study. For example: Why must West Seattle have three stations and Ballard just one? Why must Westlake be the transfer station and not University Street? There has been a dearth of studying performance measures and alternatives. When LAX was planning their people mover, they began with 17 alternatives!

        I simply want our rail investments to be useful. That’s looking to analyses to inform where our priorities should be and giving credence to studying multiple solutions before picking a preferred alternative and ramming it through.

        During the realignment discussion, Durkan and Balducci made great points about needing more information. Then suddenly, a realignment was put on the table and the request for more data was summarily forgotten. More than the problems with costs and revenues, this ignoring of analyzing usefulness is the most appalling outcome of ST spending our taxpayer funds to me — and the realignment episode ended in just another backroom scheme described using only cost and revenues but no information on usefulness .

      14. Well, in your “let West Seattle and Ballard kill DSTT2” you end up with exactly the situation I described: In 2019 North King generated $750 million in taxes and grant funds. They spent just under $100 million operating Link (no costs for ST Express are charged against North King). They also spent $475 million on Capital expenses, almost all of it on construction and a few dozen million on debt service.

        Construction will move completely out of North King, except for work on 130th, some time in 2024. Assuming that North King’s tax revenues continue something on the order of 3/4 of a billion and Link operations rise by 50% to $150 million, the subarea will accumulate $600 million per year for twenty-five years. Quick math says that will be $15 billion dollars, though it’s likely that simple price inflation on taxable items and car tabs would boost that at least to $20 billion.

        ST plans to spend about $200 million on Graham Street when they get A Round Tuit, so we’re looking at something on the order of $19.8 billion looking for a home. Strip off a couple billion for Rapid Ride capital expenditures, leaving about $18 billion.

        Please, Please, Please go before the Sound Transit Board in some public meeting and urge them to spend that $18 billion on gondolas. You’ll be a hero.

      15. Well Tom, I am confused.

        First Mike Orr posts about my comment that Ballard will not agree to an elevated or maybe even surface station and line:

        “a more “affordable” option on the surface or elevated, which both neighborhoods will reject”

        “The neighborhoods don’t have veto power over Link. And they voted for the elevated option.”

        But you have previously posted that the Ballard community has made it clear they adamantly oppose an elevated station (and presumably line). I have probably read over 100 posts on this blog about the different station locations and styles for Ballard and West Seattle, from 14th to 15th to 20th, and same in West Seattle. So are the stations and location of the lines for West Seattle and Ballard written in stone or not? Is that what Ballard and West Seattle voted for. Did West Seattle vote for a stub in ST 3?

        I know Bellevue, Issaquah and Kirkland had quite a bit of say in their station location and style, and the route for East Link. Generally their approach was if it isn’t underground it won’t be in the city core. Capitol Hill got a tunnel and underground station, so did UW, even Roosevelt to Northgate. But West Seattle (where the county exec. lives) and Ballard will get elevated or surface lines and stations through the heart of their communities bulldozing hundreds of homes, because they voted for that? Ok, I will wait for the EIS, and then the politics.

        Then you write:

        “Construction will move completely out of North King, except for work on 130th, some time in 2024. Assuming that North King’s tax revenues continue something on the order of 3/4 of a billion and Link operations rise by 50% to $150 million, the subarea will accumulate $600 million per year for twenty-five years. Quick math says that will be $15 billion dollars, though it’s likely that simple price inflation on taxable items and car tabs would boost that at least to $20 billion.”

        “ST plans to spend about $200 million on Graham Street when they get A Round Tuit, so we’re looking at something on the order of $19.8 billion looking for a home. Strip off a couple billion for Rapid Ride capital expenditures, leaving about $18 billion.”

        I don’t have tisgwm’s grasp of the numbers, but if this is true why did we undergo the realignment? Why are East King Co. projects being delayed for N. King Co. projects when East King Co. definitely has the money for its park and rides if N. King Co. is sitting on $18 billion? Does ST not understand it has a huge surplus in N. King Co. based on your calculations. I know I have criticized ST’s numbers, but this takes the cake. Why didn’t the Board understand this?

        I believe West Seattle and Ballard thought they would get underground stations and lines when they voted for ST 3, like the rest of (north) Seattle. It makes sense to run elevated lines with elevated stations along I-5 once out of the city core, but not through residential neighborhoods like Ballard and West Seattle.

        Now, according to your numbers, underground lines and stations are affordable in West Seattle and Ballard, so I don’t quite understand ST’s reluctance to agree to that, or why ST would not want to build underground stations and lines in these two residential neighborhoods if ST has the money, and DSTT2 as designed.

        All of my comments are based on the assumption ST does not have the funds for the true cost of DSTT2, and neither do the four other subareas who must pay 1/2, or for underground stations and lines in Ballard and West Seattle. For me, these assumptions were confirmed by the realignment, and shifting ST budget deficit estimates.

        If you are correct, my assumptions were wrong, the realignment was unnecessary, and ST will have $18 billion in the N. King Co. subarea left over to spend. In that case my assumptions and my comments are wrong, and Ballard and West Seattle will get DSTT2, underground stations and lines, although for some odd reason West Seattle will begin with a stub to Sodo.

        Wait for the EIS. Then we will see if West Seattle and Ballard agreed to elevated lines and stations in ST 3, while the rest of funkier neighborhoods (as viewed by West Seattle and Ballard) in Seattle got underground stations and tunnels.

      16. Al, to paraphrase Ross, build it where they are, not where they might be in the future, because density will like increase more where people have chosen to live and work today than where they have chosen to not live and work. Manufacturing ridership is a fool’s game.

        The problem is the three counties in the ST taxing district are huge, and so are the distances between the “major” cities between counties. To “connect” Everett to Seattle to Tacoma to Redmond you have to run trains through a lot of undense areas (and Everett, Tacoma, and much of East Link are not dense to begin with). I doubt zoning will change that because who wants to live next to I-5, and the projected future population gains from the PSRC and ST were unrealistic because they were political.

        Not much we can do about the spine now. It isn’t as if the station at Angle Lake is at the wrong location, and just down the road there is a huge population center. So many of these stations are “just on the way”.

        When you write:

        “Rather than step into the silliness of revenue projection swings or the terrible cost/ expense estimating that have been often described, I’m going to ask the question that a responsible taxpayer and rider should ask: What is the benefit of each $1B spent”.

        you miss the point that it begins and ends with the amount of revenue vs. costs, and you have to estimate those (ideally accurately) or how do you know what to plan for and build.

        ST does not have the money in a bank account: it has to project revenue estimates — farebox recovery and general fund tax revenues, out over 23 or more years. The problem with ST is it began with what it and the voters wanted for projects (to sell levies), rather than the cost analysis you describe, and it is too late to reverse course.

        There is nothing silly about revenue projections, just the opposite, and if there is one thing I might disagree with tisgwm on it is that true future revenue projections in N. King Co. are driving realignment 1.0 as much as increasing costs, in part because ROW and construction costs increase as fast or faster each year than annual revenue from extending projects, so you go nowhere, or go backwards. A lot of folks were right when they complained we should have done this long ago when it would have been much cheaper, even when adjusted for inflation.

        The ridership/mile/dollar is something many on this blog have complained should have been done long ago, because it probably would have ruled out the spine. But as Henry Miller once said, the river’s course is fixed.

      17. It looks to me that the purpose of the “realignment” was ultimately to correct for ST3 mistakes or misinformation in 2016:

        1. Bad cost estimates (much more so than the “unit cost inflation” spin)

        2. Bad estimates of station footprints (again much more so than “unit cost inflation” spin)

        3. Over-promised opening dates set in ST3

        It never ventured into larger discussions of alternative systems or value engineering even though that was what the term implied. Its primary value seems to be put more realism than what the public was told in 2016 — but done in a way to politically mask the past mistakes/ misinformation by blaming the pandemic.

      18. @Al S.
        “It looks to me that the purpose of the “realignment” was ultimately to correct for ST3 mistakes or misinformation in 2016:..”

        Al, I completely agree with your remarks above as this has been my overall takeaway from this “realignment” process we (those of us that have been following along) have witnessed over the last several months. In the end, we are just going to end up with a new extended schedule that, along with some “value engineering” exercises, will seemingly solve the agency’s affordability gap problem…at least for the time being. In other words, the agency and the board are apparently doubling down on the slate of ST3 projects approved in the 2016 measure regardless of any updated or new metric data that may shed new light on the wisdom of any of these included projects. I can’t help but wonder how the board chair’s proposal for realignment, which was just unveiled a couple of months ago, suddenly got all this momentum behind it and now here we are. Transparency, my ass. This whole process reeks of a board trying desperately to save face.

        And, finally, to answer Tom T’s question above about the bonding tied to ST3 taxing authority, this really isn’t that big of an obstacle. There has only been one issuance of new debt since passage of ST3, the $400M par of “green” parity bonds that ST had underwritten in Dec 2016 that brought in $477M in net cash. To my knowledge the agency has not taken any draws against the proceeds thus far and like all previous debt offerings ST has done, this issuance included standard defeasement provisions.

      19. Daniel, I can’t tell if you are deliberately obfuscating because you can’t rebut the point, your reading comprehension is failing rather early or you can’t do basic arithmetic. The point you’re missing is that the $18 billion [estimated] “surplus” only comes into being if YOUR forecast that surface operation at the very ends of the West Seattle and Ballard lines in order to place the stations in the respective centers of activity so offends the community that nothing gets built.

        That’s YOUR scenario, not mine.

        You are correct that North King does not have enough money to do all of:

        1) build an extension to the Alaska Junction from SoDo with three elevated or subway stations at Delridge, 35th and Avalon and within a block of The Junction;

        2) replace the SoDo Busway with an elevated trackway for the West Seattle extension, and possible future extention(s) southward;

        3) dig DSTT2 from Massachusetts Street to a portal around Elliott and Mercer Way including six underground stations;

        4) build an elevated extension to Ballard from the portal of the new downtown tunnel with three stations.

        All that cannot fit into $18 — or probably even $25 — billion.

        I personally don’t believe that the citizens of Seattle are so blinkered that they would refuse at-grade access to these high-activity centers if subways can’t be afforded. I can see them up in arms if the only stations were surface at 14th NW and on California east of Fauntleroy. But even that wouldn’t stop the projects.

        Maybe Midtown will have to be delayed because of the enormous amount of overburden that has to be cleared and the trains will simply run through downtown as Al suggested, connecting the two parts of town to SLU and the retail district, but otherwise serving the Financial District only via a transfer to the old tunnel.

        No, that’s clearly not ideal, but the combination might just make the overall project fit within the available funds.

      20. “So are the stations and location of the lines for West Seattle and Ballard written in stone or not?”

        No. They’re written in stone when ST sends an alignment to construction. That happens after the EIS is finished. ST can choose any combination of options studied in the EIS for construction. Or if it wants something not in the EIS, it has to issue a supplemental EIS to study it.

        “Is that what Ballard and West Seattle voted for.”

        We all voted for a representative project with elevated lines in Ballard and West Seattle, and the ST3 budget was scaled to that. ST can change it after further study, as long as it writes a statement justifying deviating from the representative alignment.

        “Did West Seattle vote for a stub in ST 3?”

        Yes. The WSJ-SODO stub was scheduled for 2030. DSTT2 and Ballard was scheduled for 2036.

        West Seattle and Ballard, and Seattle in general, is trying to get Ballard and West Seattle tunnels after the fact. If they’d wanted tunnels they should have gotten it into the ballot measure and had ST3 scaled up sufficiently for them. Now that ST has a budget shortfall and no third party has stepped forward to fund the tunnels, so it seems that tunnels are unlikely, unless ST pushes it through and delays the end date to pay for them. West Seattle can scream up and down that elevated is unacceptable and would ruin their neighborhood, but they should have brought that up before ST3 was written. At the time it seemed like they wanted light rail so much they were willing to accept elevated. Then after the vote suddenly elevated is unacceptable? That’s not how it works.

      21. Thanks for the info, Tlsgwm, so it’s still possible to repeal ST3? I guess the holders of those bonds would need to be made whole, but it’s not much money yet.

      22. Daniel, the community has rejected an elevated station in the middle of ‘Old Ballard’. I don’t think anyone has objected to the elevated station proposals at 15th and 14th because they’re elevated. They object because of the location.

        Why in the world do you think that a surface line would bulldoze “hundreds of homes”? The point of a surface alignment is to follow street rights-of-ways except where an available alternative at-grade right-of-way that requires little to no demolition exists. It’s newbie cluelessness like this that calls so much of your posting into question. It’s just opinion no matter how decorated with “facts” and “figures” you attempt to make it.

        In fact I’ve been arguing for six years or so that an at-grade alignment alongside the BNSF railyard through Interbay makes perfect sense. It’s already graded, a station under Dravus would be midway between the West Queen Anne hillside and the east Magnolia hill. Since there are no “views” in East Magnolia, at least around Dravus, it’s a good place for some step-up density. ST has sort-of kinda adopted the idea, but it proposes to pass over Dravus instead of under it, increasing the cost.

        Similarly, there is the opportunity for an at-grade alignment south of the Magnolia Bridge, with the trackway replacing the existing loop from Elliott to westbound Garfield. While there will always be a bit of traffic headed for the Cruise Ship dock at Pier 91, it won’t be enough to require a fly-over. The train can use the space much better.

        Down to the Helix Bridge the alignment can go behind the buildings fronting Elliott; one business set back would have to be eliminated, but everything else can simply remain as is. A block of so south of the Helix the space shrinks and two blocks worth of businesses would need to be removed.

        The crossing to Ballard itself can be completed much more cheaply at 14th; the crossing is roughly half as long shore to shore and there is no entanglement in Fishermen’s Terminal. As Ross has argued vociferously, there is no need for the iconic but Uber-expensive high bridge at 14th. A mid-level opening bridge would be perfectly acceptable. But of course 14th alone is unacceptable to most transit advocates, whether elevated, surface or underground.

        So 14th needs the turn into Market, and descent somewhere west of 15th to a surface station just east of Leary. The monies saved by running at-grade for most of the way from the tunnel portal to the bridgehead can pay for the at-grade station in Old Ballard.

        A similar strategy works in West Seattle. The stations at Delridge and 35th and Avalon still have to be elevated, and the supports would continue down the middle of Fauntleroy to Alaska, turn and immediately descend to street level. The station would be just east of California.

        These would both have to be full-size, center-platform stations, and Ross have validated that they can fit. It would be absolutely great for WSBLE to use shorter trains, but that leaves the trains from Tacoma and Everett with nowhere to go. Everett trains could probably turn at the Forest Street Maintenance Facility, but Tacoma Trains will operate too frequently to turn using the tail track at Northgate. If ST is willing to rebuild the turnback at Northgate to two tracks to reverse Tacoma trains — either by adding a second level or widening the alignment — then WSBLE can be “stand-alone” with smaller trains, as AJ has proposed.

        The realignment makes perfect sense to me if it assumes DSTT2 won’t get built. Then you have a spine running from Everett to Seattle to Tacoma to Redmond (including stations at 130th and Graham St., and park and rides on the eastside and Kenmore) , for a cost of $131 billion.

        Except that without WSBLE the total cost would be far less than $131 billion, probably less than $100 billion. How much do you think it will cost to built structure from Lynnwood to Northgate? ST proposes some fairly long sections of at-grade construction where there are no cross-streets.

        Even with ST’s profligate spending habits, an elevated Light Rail line costs less than a billion per two-track mile. It’s about 25 miles from Lynnwood to Everett. That’s roughly $25 billion. Yes, there are six stations at around a billion each (ST definitely has an edifice complex), but that just bumps it up to $31 billion.

        Federal Way to Tacoma is only eleven miles and two stations away, so maybe $15 billion? Overlake to Redmond Downtown is only about Dude, that’s just $40 billion is about four and a half miles via ST’s creative route and, again, two stations away. So $10 billion?

        OK, so we’ve completed the spine for $50 billion; add another ten for the new maintenance facilities and ten for the BRT lines. Le grande total, Monsieur?” Seventy billion dollars, slightly more than half your “estimate”.

        I can certainly be underestimating the cost of structure; concrete is getting expensive quickly, and “climate concrete” is a lot more expensive than the plain vanilla “cook the planet” variety.

        But in the wildest imaginings, completing the Spine and STRide is not going to cost a penny more than $100 billion.

        I think that with the value engineering mentioned above, ST can fit WSBLE within the $31 billion you calculate will be available.

  5. One unsung benefit of e-bikes it that it opens up new routing options. Many areas, the flattest street is the arterial, so you have to choose between riding with cars or huffing and puffing up a steep hill. If you have an e-bike, it’s now easy to just take the traffic-calmed route, since you can motor up the hill.

    If e-bikes eventually become more popular than pedal bikes, this can start to affect transportation planning. Instead of pitting bikes against buses for space on the arterial because it’s the only flat street in the area, the arterial can be prioritized for bus lanes, and a neighborhood greenway on the hilly street one block over starts to become a viable alternative.

    1. I agree. But hill or no hill, going on the residential streets are slower. Thus you have competing interests just amongst the biking community. There are riders who want the fastest route which also usually goes by the businesses. Then there are riders who just want the safest route.

      This was part of the problem with 35th (in Seattle). Not only was 35th the fastest way, but it was also the way that avoided the most elevation change. If you assume that everyone doesn’t care about the latter, they still might care about the former. There are other issues. If you make a bike lane in a residential street, you are taking away parking in front of people’s houses. You could probably do that on one side of the street, but not both. That means a bidirectional bike path on one side of the street. I think it is worth pursuing, but the city didn’t.

      Like most of the bike issues though, it really comes down to political will, not geography. Running bike paths in residential streets would be popular with a lot of bikers — it makes sense now. It shouldn’t be that difficult, but there simply isn’t the money or political effort to make it happen. Even if they do that, there will be plenty of bikers who want to take the more direct path. Ignoring their interests (just throwing up our hands and saying “use the slower, safer path”) is a recipe for disaster.

      1. Ross, you don’t need to paint bike lanes to make a residential street an efficient bikeway. Simply put roundabout-like-dividers which force right turns away from the bikeway street every third block with three foot wide cut-through’s across them. The roundabouts would allow cars coming from the cross-street to continue straight or turn right, but not to turn left.

        Put stop signs for the cross-streets at all intervening corners. Allow “jay-parking” in the intervening blocks.

        This way bikes get the same effective speed that they do on arterials with much less traffic, and people in one of the blocks adjacent to a structure who expect to exit the neighborhood by the “other” adjacent arterial can jay-park in preparation.

      2. Portland uses concrete barriers to prevent through traffic on the bikeway streets.

      3. Glenn, yes, that’s what I was trying to describe, though slightly modified to be like the the roundabouts common in Seattle neighborhoods.

      4. Ross, you don’t need to paint bike lanes to make a residential street an efficient bikeway. Simply put roundabout-like-dividers …

        Sure, there are a 101 ways to build a bike corridor. Some work better than others. Some cost more. Painting bike lanes is much cheaper than building new roundabouts. Making streets one-way (which I almost wrote about, but decided not to) can be unpopular. Lots of people have proposed them in residential neighborhoods (to reduce the number of people who “cut through”) but the city is afraid of upsetting the folks that would have to drive farther. My point is that they all cost money, and they all can be opposed by the locals. The fact that the city did not do that with 35th — where there was a perfect opportunity — just shows how reluctant they are to make those sorts of changes.

      5. In the specific case of 35th, the original design that Durkin canceled was all around safer. The new design encourages speeding, with largely empty center lanes being used for passing.

        It is still also true that fixing 35th doesn’t have the same level of urgency when you’re on and e-bike and avoid dealing with it by moving a block over and going up the hill with a twist of a throttle. Of course, 36th doesn’t have the traffic lights to cross 65th/70th/etc. that 35th does, which is quite annoying. But that’s a problem that the city can fix.

      6. Ross you said yourself in another post on this page that you feel threatened by cars “and that’s in the bike lane”. I don’t say this to be argumentative, but I think more bike riders prefer neighborhood greenways to arterial bike lanes for just that reason.

        No, the Spandex Mafia doesn’t, but there are far more casual riders than members of their group.

        The money for traffic calming devices on “close-to-an-arterial” streets around Seattle isn’t that great.

      7. I think more bike riders prefer neighborhood greenways to arterial bike lanes for just that reason.

        I agree. But I think there are clearly two types of riders. There are riders like me, that are old, and focused on safety. We aren’t in a big hurry, even if we have to get to work. Then there are younger riders, who are in a hurry. They want to get there as soon as possible. I was that way when I was young.

        It is hard to balance those two interests. In the case of 35th, they failed miserably. As mentioned, it is more dangerous than ever. Yet the alternative (the side streets) are terrible too. Not only does a regular bike have to expend a lot of extra energy (going up and down) but there is no guarantee that some maniac won’t be barreling down a residential street at 30. If I rode in that neighborhood I would take the side streets (and pay the exertion penalty) but I certainly wouldn’t feel safe, like I do for most of the Burke Gilman, or even how I feel on some bike lanes. Residential streets with few bikes become dangerous because drivers don’t look for bikes, and don’t see bikes when they are there. That is why a designated bike street helps, but I don’t think the biking community is thrilled when Seattle does the minimum (and calls a street a “Greenway”). It has to do more, whether it is to create bike lanes on the side streets, one way streets, etc.

        Oh, and then you have the issue of access. If the only way to get around is on residential streets, then you it is difficult to get to your job, a grocery store, restaurant, etc. This isn’t as bad for a rider like me — worse case scenario we walk the bike — but it isn’t ideal. It can dramatically reduce the time it takes to actually get to our destination, which in turn makes riding a bike less desirable. This in turn makes for fewer bikes, which increases the risk to those who do bike.

        You really need both, and the city should try to do both. Keeping mind, however, that many corridors make way more sense as transit corridors than bike corridors, and it is especially tricky to mix the two. Overall, there appears to be know sense of nuance, with the bike leadership screaming “Follow the Master Plan” and the city choosing to implement bits and pieces with little regard to transit, or other important priorities. 65th, for example, is an area where parallel bike paths (on both sides) should be used while the arterial adds bus lanes, but instead the sidewalks are shorter, the buses are stuck in traffic, and the bike lanes end where they are needed most (to the east, where people drive fastest).

    1. What implications? If Pugetopolis gets more grant money it will go to the existing projects (especially Lynnwood, Federal Way, and the various ST3 projects). I assume we’ll get a modest amount and it will make a modest difference, not huge implications. The FTA will want to spread the money across the whole country. Fortunately, all these projects have EISes (SEPA) anyway, so that won’t be a hurdle.

      My concern right now is the infrastructure bill may collapse in the House, with one group saying they won’t vote for it unless the reconciliation bill passes the Senate first, and another group saying they won’t vote for it unless it comes up now before the reconciliation bill (if I understand that right). That could lead the whole thing to collapse. Really, they should pass the bill that’s ready now. Tomorrow a few members may die or be hospitalized or assasinated and that might change the balance of power.

      But my biggest concern is the voting-rights emergency: Congress should be focusing on that first. If Republicans manage to retake Congress and/or the presidency in 2022 or 2024 due to gerrymandering or voter suppression or legislature nullification of voting results, they might repeal the infrastructure bills in their entirety, or repeal everything except highways and fossil-fuel subsidies. And preparations for the 2022 election are being made right now, and it will be harder to fix them the longer Congress waits. Especially if any challenges get tied up in the courts for years and go past the next election before being resolved.

      1. Well, let’s assume Seattle gets a major portion of the money shotgun. I don’t think this is all that unrealistic, as Seattle is one of a few systems that would be ready to receive federal dollars and do something with them on a shortish timetable.

        The good part of the implications would be that we might be talking about accelerating ST3, rather than figuring out how to delay it.

        The bad part being how trying to rush for Federal dollars might bake in really bad stuff like NW 14th, and the deep-bore alignment on 5th.

        I’m not 100% sure how things at the federal level will play out, what with the COVID situation deteriorating. And that extra money (if it does happen) might get eaten up by other stuff.

      2. That’s where ST had better make forward-thinking and flexible decisions. You’re right that 14th would be a major lost opportunity, just like not having that ped bridge at TIB or down escalators at Lynnwood will be, or postponing projects irrevocably “just because”. Hopefully we can steer ST away from the worst of these dead ends, although our success will probably be mixed or disappointing.

        If Metro gets some of these funds it could reactivate the deferred RapidRide expansions. That would be a win-win. Capital funds can’t be used for operations (e.g., to increase frequency), but RapidRide’s minimum definition is frequent, so that can be a way to guarantee full-time frequency in corridors that don’t yet have it (or lost it in 2020).

      3. Fourteenth NW is not a “really bad thing”, if it’s at 53rd. Local Seattle funds could then pay for an elevated extension turning into Market, crossing 15th and 17th and then coming down to an at-grade “streetcar” station just east of Leary Way. If Ninth and Irving — a historic district much larger and older than the two blocks of Ballard Avenue comprising “Old Ballard” — a place where the N Judah running every four or five minutes at rush hour turns left in mixed traffic can live with at-grade light rail, “Old Ballard” can life with at-grade light rail.

        Remember that trains on Ballard-downtown will never run more frequently than every six minutes because of the Rainier Valley, and won’t need to.

        I would hope ST would make the 14th Avenue station “stacked” so that there can be a connection toward the north added later. The tracks can come to the same level in the block between 15th and 17th, making the footprint at 15th and Market taller but narrower.

      4. I should have added that the trains for such a northwest extension, ideally at least to somewhere in Shoreline, would go somewhere else than the Rainier Valley at the south end, unless the cross-streets in the RV were bridged.

      5. I’m predicting RV possible overcrowding once Federal Way and Tacoma Dome extensions open, Tom. ST’s own forecast show that on a per train basis, it will be worse than DSTT even without a DSTT2. It will begin by never getting a seat then to squeezing on trains and then to having to wait for the next train or two or three or four. It’s a common problem in many large cities with long Metro lines.

        When that gets intolerable, a RV bypass in some form will be planned or MLK will be redesigned to handle trains every 3-4 minutes (like a full grade separation) as you suggested. Since TDLE will open before DSTT2 by several years, we will be aware of the magnitude of overcrowding that could materialize.

        Popular opinion is that a arc bypass is wanted to avoid riding with “those people” in the RV in order to get to the airport a few minutes faster. That’s hardly going to an issue when compared to the outcry of having trains that are too crowded. RV riders will want a bypass so they can get a seat on their local trains.

      6. A couple billion from the Feds won’t impact the EIS schedule for WSBLE, so is likely won’t impact the decision on station locations. Without another ST vote, Federal largess is unlikely to do much besides accelerate the timelines of the keystone ST3 (sub)projects that have been delayed, notably Ballard-Smith Cove, Everett Phase II, and perhaps Sounder capacity expansion (or Streetcar Phase III, I suppose).

      7. @Mike Orr: Yeah, King County Metro could reactivate the “turn everything into Rapidride” plan of a few years back. That would be a good way of building ridership in the short term ahead of Link.

        @Tom Terrific: 9th and Irving is tolerated because San Francisco has sclerotic politics, not because it works. It’s a terrible, time sucking intersection that should been made into a Subway a half Century ago.

        And that area is more like Capitol Hill in terms of density. Its apples and oranges.

        @Al S.: And I think came upon a cheap hack that could unlock more core capacity in the near term, a spur to King Street Station.

      8. There is almost no “density” in Old Ballard. It’s almost all restaurants, bars and stores, remarkably like Ninth and Irving.

        So far as making a short section of subway for the N, sure, it would be great for the through riders. It probably should extend from Carl and Cole to about 10th and Judah with a station for the Med Center and maybe between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.

        The thing is, a surface LR station in Market between 17th and Leary would have no through riders. It would fit right in with the neighborhood and drive cars from that paer of Market.

      9. The density in Ballard is at and east of Fifteenth and at and west of 24th. The station would be right between them.

        The 53rd and Market station could serve “New Ballard”.

      10. Al, if the RV gets re-engineered or bypassed some of those trains can go to Northgate. To fit into the fast-paced flow there, they’d have to be double-seated for the turnback, but it is doable.

        I’m not going to describe “double-seating” again. I explained it a month ago. I’ll try to find the post and link it in a reply.

      11. I’m predicting RV possible overcrowding once Federal Way and Tacoma Dome extensions open …

        When that gets intolerable, a RV bypass in some form will be planned or MLK will be redesigned to handle trains every 3-4 minutes (like a full grade separation) as you suggested …

        Or they will simply run express buses during rush hour, which lots of people will prefer. Even if they cancel all the express buses, it is unlikely that the trains will be full. But in the unlikely event that you are right, it would make more sense to simply restart the express buses.

      12. There is almost no “density” in Old Ballard. It’s almost all restaurants, bars and stores

        Right, you mean places people want to visit, day and night (i. e. places that lead to increased ridership). North of old Ballard is where the density is. Then you also have the hospital area just east of Old Ballard (but west of 15th). In short, the destination center of the area is 20th and Ballard. This was written about extensively before (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2019/03/21/a-better-ballard-option/). To quote the opening paragraph:

        The best possible ridership puts the station location in the center of the urban village, at 20th Avenue and Market Street. This location is closest to all of the current density, and closest to potential future development.

        The farther away from that spot, the worse it gets. 15th is bad enough; 14th would be terrible.

      13. I think a public purchase of the South Sounder tracks (even leaving adjacent tracks for freight) would be the obvious game changer. We instead propose billions pursuing costly alternatives or pushing teeny incremental improvements that add a car to a train or two new daily train sets — when repurposing the tracks would open up so many amazing rail transit possibilities at a much lower cost. Sometimes I even wonder if we should just bore a very long tunnel for freight (no stations) running underneath Seattle or maybe the near Eastside and promote electric engines — freeing the current corridor for passenger rail in a myriad of forms from short-distance DMUs to high speed rail.

      14. Ross, at least read The Whole Idea. This is about having an at-grade stub station just east of the Leary Way intersection, in the middle of Market. It’s one block and a few yards from the big apartment strip that starts at Market and goes up 24th. It’s right at THE END of Ballard Avenue. Right there.

        It gets you your station in Old Ballard — THE MIDDLE of Old Ballard — without a neighborhood-destroying elevated station OR a necessarily fairly deep if bored (because of the sewer trunk tunnel) subway station.

        If the neighborhood simply can’t stand the idea, then move the New Ballard station a block south and descend from its north boundary into a cut-and-cover tunnel using the middle of 14th NW, then continue under Market west to where ever is the best point. I’d still vote for “just east of Leary” so Market wouldn’t have to be dug up through that very important bypass point. But some may think 24th is important.

        I don’t care how it happens, but I believe Ballard needs two stations, one east of 15th to accommodate and stimulate growth there and one in Old Ballard.

      15. “I think a public purchase of the South Sounder tracks (even leaving adjacent tracks for freight) would be the obvious game changer.”

        That’s what we’ve been asking the state to do for a decade. That would give plenty of capacity for half-hourly Sounder and expanded Cascades and the Coast Starlight, and it would at least help the HSR situation (especially if HSR replaces Cascades rather than being in addition to it). But the state hasn’t given sufficient priority to passenger rail. In the 1990s it made an ambitious long-term plan to increase Cascades speeds to 90 mph and then 110 mph. It has been on-again, off-again in implementing incremental improvements towards that, but there’s still no timeline for completion. The state could also help build a new track in the BNSF corridor that would expand capacity for passenger trains without affecting existing freight usage, and could get BNSF to charge lower fees on that track since BNSF didn’t fully pay the capital costs.

      16. Tom, I think the core challenge is that ST3 gave Ballard only one station. That decision was arbitrary – because the SLU/ Ballard Link line was not studied. It was drawn up in a back room based on a prior study.

        I’d gladly trade in 130th for two stations in Ballard, or trade in one of the three West Seattle stations for two stations in Ballard — but that’s just me. The question is this: Is anyone with a stake in this creative enough to repose two stations – one for now and one for later?

      17. “I’d gladly trade in 130th for two stations in Ballard”

        So we should cut off the fifth-largest urban village to give the fourth-largest urban village two stations?

        The problem is that ST thought getting a station anywhere on Market Street was “serving Ballard” — the entire village from 24th NW to 14th and the Ship Canal to 65th. A northern extension was outlined with stations at 65tn and 85th. ST seems to have forgotten about that, because 14th ends hard at 65th where it runs into Ballard High School. There’s no way they would build it through the school property, so it would have to make two right turns to get to 15th to continue north.

        The ironic thing is, Ballard became must-serve because the southern Ballard industrial area is a PSRC industrial growth center, but the station is further north so it serves more of the residential/retail area than the industrial area. All these city/state/PSRC policies are complicated and interact in strange ways.

      18. Mike, putting a station on 14th at 53rd (or 52nd if it needs to go into subway before Market — see AUGUST 16, 2021 AT 11:42 AM) serves the “Ballard Industrial District” well. Of course, once the station were there the neighborhood would be bulldozed and lots of housing built. And you know what? All those quasi-“industrial” businesses could be on the ground floors of those apartments and condos. Most are actually vendors who sell industrial materials or tools, not really “factories”. Unless they make beer.

        Al, I said in the original comment “and then Seattle could pay for ….”. The idea is to get ST across the water relatively inexpensively (and without irritating the Harbormaster at 15th) and then let Seattle use a modified Monorail authority to build the trackway and surface station in the Ballard core. I don’t know if a billion would do it in the cut-and-cover option, but it might come close if the Old Ballard station is simple enough. With Seattle designing it, it might be.

      19. There won’t be apartments in industrial zoned lots. That’s what industrial zoning means. Seattle has been protective of its industrial zones in SODO and Ballard. It could change its mind someday but so far it hasn’t.

      20. Ross, at least read The Whole Idea. This is about having an at-grade stub station just east of the Leary Way intersection, in the middle of Market.

        OK, yeah, sorry. I am a proponent of that idea, having described it way back when, in detail (it would be surface on Market, even single track, since it is the end). Yes, absolutely — that would be great.

        But that certainly isn’t what they are planning. To make that work, the stop at 14th has to be considerably south of Market, to allow for the turn (now I see why you specified 53rd, and where exactly 53rd is). That makes the stop at 14th largely a secondary stop. It would be an Avalon to the Junction — still worth it, as a few riders in apartments make there way over there. The big payoff is with the station in the heart of Ballard, on the surface, somewhere around Leary.

        Yeah, OK, I would be all in favor of that. Count me in. I would attend meetings, write letters, you name it. Unfortunately, I think that is well beyond the creative capabilities of the Sound Transit crew. If they build a station at 14th, it will probably be heading straight north, and it might even be underground, dramatically increasing the cost of any extension. I would love to see them study this idea, but I’m a bit cynical, seeing how ST has blown chance after chance to make similar, far less creative improvements (such as a First Hill station with the new tunnel, or building a new bus tunnel initially).

      21. Thank you for reading again, Ross. I agree that ST would likely not do this itself. It violates their wish to avoid more at-grade traffic crossings [though they are adding two in the Spring District]. As I mentioned, this might be “right-sized” for the Monorail Authority, if the Leg is willing to remove the interdiction on Light Rail.

        That still, of course, requires that ST agrees to run its trains on the stub. In the stub’s favor, though it would have no cross-traffic. The station would have to straddle 20th a bit to fit full trains. The grade up to 17th would be interesting…. Chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka…… [/joke].

      22. I’m optimistic ST will be open to the idea of the Market station incorporating a junction because the both the extension north to 65th and east to UW are in the ST3 plan. This is where delaying Smith Cove to Ballard is most helpful, if Seattle / other activists can get the Lake Washington crossing study done prior to the Ballard station moving to final design, then staff will incorporate it into the design (or, determine that we don’t want Ballard-UW to use Link technology … but even then I really like Tom’s idea if it’s a spur to old Ballard and the ‘main’ line heads up to 65th)

      23. I’m sorry. I mis-typed when I wrote “53rd and Market”. It should have said 53rd and 14th”.

      24. Mike, nor can it, unless the Legislature orders the UW trustees to allow a major construction site “on campus”. Even a non-revenue, “service” connection tailing to the north would be extremely difficult to create in the rapidly re-building north U-District.

        It’s probably possible to break through some wall in one of the mezzanine levels to add an underground pedestrian passage to an adjacent station box for a Ballard-UW (and beyond) line, but it’s not certain by any means. A transfer there may require traveling to the surface and back down a level or more.

      25. Ross, a caveat: it can’t be single track unless it’s is planned to serve only half the trains which come north of Smith Cove, assuming a “short-turn” facility there. If this branch is to receive six-minute headways, a single track can’t allow a train to occupy it more than four minutes and retain schedule reliability. The train can’t be emptied, checked and filled in that time, even assuming replacement of the operator. Tri-Met considers 15 minutes the minimum headway for such a single-trzck stub station. Both ends of the Red Line have single-track tails; Tri-Met has never tried operating the Red Line more frequently, even when it needed the capacity before the Green Line. Grant, the single-track section at the airport is considerably longer than the station trackage.

        I admit it would make station design much easier.

      26. U-District Station doesn’t need a junction if the junction is in Ballard? I’m with Tom – the transfer between the U-District station and a presumptive east-west line will occur at the mezzanine or on the surface. It’s even possible that ST might decided to surface the line in Wallingford (I’d assume there would at least need to a tunnel under Phinney Ridge b/c of the slope) if it’s better to avoid going under I5, and then just run elevated along 45th.

        Tom, good point on the turnaround time, I had not considered that. How fast does the monorail turn vehicles when it’s running a max capacity?

      27. Tom: TriMet can’t operate single track sections reliably due to Steel Bridge lifts. It doesn’t happen as much as in the 1980s, but that was their primary reason for getting rid of the single track segments (which were quite long) east of Ruby Junction.

        TriMet also has to deal with surface signals in downtown Portland that can wander out of synchronization, delaying trains fairly significantly. I’ve been on trains that have had to wait at every single traffic light between Goose Hollow and 1st.

        Link isn’t built that way.

        You would definitely want the station itself to be at least double track, but the track leading to the station could be single track. The number of very frequent railroads in Japan and Europe that are able to operate single track sections effectively illustrate that, if you eliminate the limitations TriMet must work with, it is possible to do single track where necessary.

      28. The station would have to straddle 20th a bit to fit full trains.

        I think it could fit between 20th and Leary. Google puts that distance as over 500 feet, which I believe is more than adequate. It would mean closing off Russell, but that would actually be a good thing (it should be a one-way street, with a dead end at Market).

        I think the bigger question is how you lose elevation (and get to the surface). You don’t want to cross at the surface at 15th (too busy) but as soon as it crosses there, it should immediately start going down. As a result, it could block off 17th or 20th to high clearance vehicles, or all traffic. Ideally it reaches the ground before 20th, leaving that street open. But it isn’t essential — the only essential north-south streets are 15th and 24th. 20th is an arterial, but not a major one. It too could be closed off at Market (from both sides) allowing access from the northern and southern arterials, but no through traffic. 17th is a minor street.

        Good point about single-track. I forgot about switching drivers. This is another reason why Ballard should be connected to West Seattle. That would be a short enough trip to just have the drivers switch at West Seattle (and only West Seattle). In any event, SkyTrain’s Canada Line has single track for both of its southern branches. Both run every six minutes. I have no idea if they switch drivers there, but it seems reasonable. The shared part of the line is double tracked to enable 3 minute headways. With lots of surface crossing (TriMet) I’m sure you need a bigger buffer, but in this case you have at most one (20th) and signal priority there would be trivial.

        There is a lot of speculation here, and what really needs to be done is an actual study. I do think it has the best chance of providing an affordable solution to getting to the main part of Ballard, with a second station to boot.

      29. Skytrain is driverless. If Link converted to driverless it would also solve the driver problem.

        Why does the station need to be at-grade? Slightly better station access, but I think I’d rather just keep it elevated and designed for a further extension, ideally to turn onto 24th and then transition to at-grade along 24th. No reason for this ‘spur’ station to be a permanent terminus?

      30. Ross, the Canada line doesn’t have to worry about the driver changing ends.

        Like the other two SkyTrain lines in Metro Vancouver, it [ed note: “The Canada Line”] is also light metro rapid transit, using fully automated trains on grade-separated guideways.–Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_Line

        Please believe me; there’s no way to reverse a crewed LR train (even one with only two cars) in a four minute window without a very quick dance between two drivers. If the reversal happens with a single operator it takes longer than if two do it.

        A single operator has to “shut down” the train, remove his or her controller from the “front” cab, close and lock it, then walk the train to the “rear” [now “front”] car, open the cab, insert the controller and then exercise all the control functions before he or she is ready to depart.

        Two operators can overlap the time significantly. By the time that the boarding operator gets to the “rear” cab, opens it and inserts her or his controller, the operator in the “front” will have initiated shutdown and is ready to depart that cab. The time to walk between the two cabs, at a minimum, is eliminated.

        You can’t do all that in four minutes with one operator. So a “single-track” station would require double-seating for all time whether the arriving operator will be taking a break or not.

        Thanks for the information that the platform can be placed completely between Leary and 20th. That’s good news.

        So far as the profile, I said specifically that 15th and 17th would be overpassed on structure and that the structure would come to grade between 17th and 20th. That would be a fairly steep descent, but certainly manageable; trains might have to sand in snowy weather. It’s good to know that it might be possible for 20th to remain open to assuage neighborhood concerns, but I’d prefer to close it across the tracks to right-on right-off only, even if the trackway is already at grade. It would be a great place for an eastside access to a center platform. We don’t want even low-speed crashes to tie up the line.

        There isn’t going to be much roadway left, though, just a single lane in each direction along the curbside. Since there would be huge volumes of pedestrians at train arrival, speed limits must be very low on this stretch of Market, no more than 20 mph.

        Glenn, you said “you’d definitely want the station to be double track” and that’s exactly my point to Ross. A train simply can’t be turned in the four minutes that a six-minute headway would require with a single-track station. An arriving train has to wait for the departing train to clear the wye before it can enter the station unlike the operation at a scissors where the arriving train darts into the empty track. I’m assuming that the structure over Market would be double track all the way to the station throat.

        But the inability to use a single platform with short-headways means any terminal station on a six-minute line must be double-track.

      31. 17th is a minor street, so the train has the entire stretch (from 20th to 15th) to work with. Closing 20th becomes a judgment call — but it shouldn’t be taken as being anything like Rainier Valley. If cars (and trucks) are allowed, it will be easy to shut down that street at any time. It is also very unlikely that there will be an accident, since speeds are much lower there. They could always start by having the street open, and if problems occur, close it off.

        @AJ — Surface would be much easier to access, and much cheaper to build. Either way it could be extended, but realistically, it won’t.

        The same is true for single track — the savings are signficant. If they have to change drivers there, then maybe it won’t work. But I don’t see why they need to change drivers there.

        Again, this all should be studied. If it is cheap to add two tracks, then that would be nice. But that also means that the tracks go much further, and the train turns around west of the station. Now you are definitely crossing Leary (and maybe 24th), although with a train out of service. You are also taking more of Market, which is also used by buses. I suppose the train and bus can share the same lane, but that has issues as well (since the train is switching lanes). The point being that single track is just a lot simpler, and a lot cheaper. My guess is the savings are bigger than the savings that come from pairing Ballard with the south line. You also upset fewer riders (who were used to having their train go from say, Rainier Valley to the UW).

        But again, all of this should be studied.

      32. But that also means that the tracks go much further, and the train turns around west of the station.Ross, you are saying that a two-track station has to have tail tracks. That is not true at all. What it needs is a scissors cross-over before or after the terminal station.

        I know that ST mostly uses tails at elevated stations, but look at the operations at Huskey Stadium. The scissors is “upstream” of the station for an arriving train. If the left-hand track is empty when the train arrives, the train takes the cross-over and enters the empty track bay; if the right-hand track is empty, the train continues straight. The opposite is true for departing trains.

        This is normal for stub-end rail stations all over the country; heck, all over the world Tri-Met uses that format at Expo Center, PDX, Clackamas Town Center, and Hillsboro Government Center. Tail tracks like ST is proposing for Ballard are an expensive luxury.

        And you’re not getting the turn-around issue: whether the operator who brings the train is the operator who takes it out or not, the train is reversing direction!!! The operator who takes the train out has to be in the cab at what was the rear end of the train.

        It’s faster for two people to make that change, but it means that every train running in such “hot” times has to leave the operator who brought it in behind. So Ballard and a similarly at-grade Alaska Junction Station linked to similarly long-running Everett Trains would be natural places to double seat trains being reversed, certainly at peak hours.

        The trains and buses cannot share the trackway. Trains leaving the station from the north-side Bay would be going against the flow, and in any case, most trains will be sitting still for at least five minutes even if they’re double-seated. That’s nine minutes off-peak with 10 minute headways.

        Market would essentially become a transitway between 17th and Leary Way.

        And finally and emphatically, I explained above why you cannot reliably reverse a train in the four minute window that a optimallly scheduled and perfectly operated line with six-minute headways would give you.

        If you can convince ST to rebuild the turnback at Northgate to be a two track tail with a trailing scissors, you have a decent shot at saving a bunch of money on WSBLE at the terminal stations. You can probably reliably turn trains in single track stubs at six-, certainly in eight-minute headways, but you’d have to double-seat at six I believe.

        Building an upper level double-track turnback at Northgate shouldn’t be ruinous, but it’ll be a great edifice for somebody’s complex. If it’s possible to widen the current three- track se tion, that would be better. That might be hard to add to the existing three-track structure.

        This is NOT a “nice to have”; Drivers can’t go from Tacoma even as far as Lynnwood reliably.

      33. Terrible. Didn’t close the blockquote OR the bold properly. A new low in proofreading.

      34. @Mike Orr
        “Seattle has been protective of its industrial zones in SODO and Ballard.”

        The following is an excerpt from a recent publicola.com piece that I think you’ll find an interesting read:

        “Under a new strategy created at the behest of Mayor Jenny Durkan, however, innovation in these areas would be restricted to small edge zones on the outskirts of industrial districts—and housing would continue to be banned altogether.

        “In addition to those new restrictions, a proposed amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan (the document that governs land use and zoning in Seattle) would make it virtually impossible to take land out of industrial use for any reason—a zoning restriction on par with laws preserving Seattle’s exclusive single-family zones.”


      35. Vehicles the homeless sleep in have been declared by the courts to be housing. There are dozens, if not hundreds, homeless living in RV’s and cars in the Industrial District. It’s inaccurate to say housing isn’t allowed in industrial areas of Seattle.

      36. Tisgwm, thanks for the link. If there’s no article on this we can bring it up in the next open thread. This one is getting too long for another large number of issues. I’ve agreed with the city’s approach of protecting the industrial areas, but one idea in Erica’s article stood out: adding housing in Link station areas within industrial zones. That could be workable.

        I’m not concerned about a one-way commute to industrial zones, because it’s a small number of people and a small number of non-downtown stations. We always knew SODO and Stadium Stations would have one-way commutes — because there’s no housing there!

        There will be a new mayor in five months to make this decision, if Durkin doesn’t tie his/her hands. I assume nothing can be tied down so quickly anyway.

        The elephant in the room is that there’s several times more single-family land than industrial land. So if we were more flexible with single-family land we wouldn’t have to change industrial land. Industries generate jobs and employees. Houses are just houses, people selfishly taking the undensest lots for themselves. So it’s ludicrous to think of adding housing to industrial land because single-family land is hands-off — it should be the other way round.

      37. The thing about that Ballard “Industrial” land…it’s not — “industrial” that is, except the strip along the water. Is it “commercial”? Absolutely, and probably generates a lot of B&O taxes for the city, though not so many sales taxes.

        It’s not “retail” in the common sense, but it is, largely, “B-to-B retail”. There are dozens of “Blah-Blah Supply” stores where the Blah-Blah can be anything industrial or commercial. The point is they aren’t manufacturing or processing anything!, again, except along the waterfront strip. Many of those sorts of commercial establishments can be “first floor storefronts”, though it’s true that such establishments often need a “yard” to store large stock and equipment.

        To set the area in amber is short-sighted in the extreme.

    2. Speaking of LA, I like the way LA MTA handles their properties. LA leases its land to developers, ensuring a large yearly lease payment. And, the development is often mixed, with affordable housing, market housing, plus office and commercial, ensuring yearly property tax payments.

      ST dumbly gives away its surplus land to non-profits, preventing future lease and property tax revenue.

    3. AJ, the neighborhood has expressed an implacable rejection of an elevated station in Old Ballard. They’re fine with a subway station and, to my knowledge, have not expressed an opinion on an at-grade one. But they firmly and I believe irrevocably reject an elevated one over Market.

      Can that be “trumped” by the rest of the city? Maybe, but it would be a big fight and, really, the rest of the city probably doesn’t care.

  6. The US has spent $2.26 trillion dollars on Afghanistan in the last 20 years. We have a homeless problem not because billionaires don’t pay their fair share. The government receives more than enough revenue from its citizens. It just misspends it.

    1. The tax laws were changed in the 1970s to slash taxes on the top 1% and funnel everybody’s productivity gains to them. Many billionaires are paying essentially zero income taxes due to loopholes, so they’re not paying their fair share. They’re also trying to get inheritance tax repealed so they can build multi-generational untaxed wealth. They’re buying politicians to keep their tax rates disproportionately low. That’s not paying their fair share. $2.26 trillion sounds like a lot but the US GDP is $22.8 trillion every year. So don’t throw around large numbers out of context to make them sound larger and more outlying than they are. The rich could certainly be taxed like in Scandinavian countries or the US before the late 1970s, and the money used in ways that would make us all better off, even the billionaires, even if they grumble that they should have the “freedom” to amass their Ayn Randian colossal empires. Because living in a society that has high poverty and inequality and housing insecurity causes problems and mental stress for everybody, even those who can wall themselves behind mansions and limousines and jets. Billionaires being afraid to walk past the park next to the courthouse is one example.

    2. And you can’t just throw out an arbitrary amount of money without looking at what would be needed to fix the problem. Conservatives say, “We spent billions trying to eliminate poverty but poverty increased, so clearly the programs didn’t work and we shouldn’t try.” No, the problem is they didn’t spend enough. The problem is they cut it off in the middle and didn’t finish the job, and ignored the fact that the above inequality and deindustrialization was creating more poor people than they were helping. It’s like emptying a box of sand where every time you take out one grain somebody else puts two grains in. It only works if you really empty the box. Like Vienna did by building public housing for a third of its population, or Germany did with state-wide rent controls, or Finland did by funding robust K-to-college education for everybody (“investing in its citizens”) and universal baby boxes and daycare and parental leave for new parents.

      With proper taxation and good social programs and ubiquidous good public transportation, we could both combat poverty and afford the $2.7 trillion that we maybe shouldn’t have been spent on Afghanistan — a case of guns and butter. Hopefully in the future we’ll have robust social programs and a less expensive but still present military posture around the world.

      1. It is not uncommon for someone like me to pay over 50% of my income in federal, state and local taxes including levies. That means I work up to six days/week from January 1 to June 30 just to pay my taxes (and another three months to pay out of state college tuition). When do I get to get off this rat wheel and into the luxury of not working like so many others. When do the horses pulling the cart get a breather in the cart?

      2. Mike, we are talking about the same thing. Let’s spend more on social service programs, etc. But I’m saying, let’s first reexamine how the taxes the US already receives is being spent. Does the US really need 800 military bases covering the globe? Does the US need to spend $750 billion a year on the military? Then, after we’ve redirected and reprioritized spending to better uses, we still need more revenue, then, yes, let’s raise taxes. Taxing billionaires might make demagogues like Elizabeth Warren and AOC, and their brain-dead followers feel good, but it will just be throwing good money after bad if we allow the current spending status quo to continue.

      3. It is not uncommon for someone like me to pay over 50% of my income in federal, state and local taxes including levies.

        Wait, I thought you lived in Washington State. We don’t have an income tax. The top marginal rate is 37%. That is quite a bit less than 50%. Oh, and that is for every dollar you make over $523,600. Boo Hoo.

      4. Geez Ross, do you think the only tax is the federal income tax. With that comment I am guessing you are someone in the cart.

        There are property taxes, sales taxes, levies, gas taxes, utility taxes, use taxes, capital gains taxes. business taxes, social security and Medicare taxes, the taxes I pay on our employees…. I could go on.

      5. Taxing billionaires might make demagogues like Elizabeth Warren and AOC, and their brain-dead followers feel good

        @Sam — Wait, followers of Elizabeth Warren — by far the smartest person to run for president this year — are brain-dead? Interesting.

        Silly brain-dead followers; we should ignore the opinions of someone who was the only public university graduate to teach law at Harvard. Someone whose expertise on the economy was respected enough to warrant several high level appointments, ultimately leading to her being named head of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the implementation of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (i. e. she oversaw the rescue of the economy, especially the banking system). We are brain-dead for caring what she thinks, even though she was the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

        Warren is not a demagogue. She knows more about various important subjects (the economy in general, but especially bankruptcy) than just about anyone else in this country. All of us are brain-dead for following recommendations by really smart, accomplished people. Uh, right.

      6. There are property taxes, sales taxes, levies, gas taxes, utility taxes, use taxes, capital gains taxes. business taxes, social security and Medicare taxes, the taxes I pay on our employees…. I could go on.

        The taxes you pay on your employees are not your income. A capital gains tax is on your capital gains, not your income. You never pay both on the money you make. Property taxes are a tax on wealth, not income. Social Security and Medicare taxes max out well before your income taxes max out. They aren’t that high, meaning the combined income tax and FICA tax are well below 50%. B and O taxes (along with utility and gas taxes) are relatively low, and flat (not progressive).

        You aren’t paying over 50% of your income on taxes, unless you believe that you are entitled to every dollar your employee earns. Again, boo hoo.

      7. And state and local income taxes are deductible from your federal income taxes, as are property taxes and sales taxes (unless you deduct state and local income tax).

        But, if you are having to rent, the part of your rent going to property taxes isn’t deductible.

      8. I really dislike the term “taxes” in a broad context as if they are unnecessary or distinguishable from non-taxes. For example, gas taxes are often called a tax even though it’s a distance-based user fee, while distance-based transit fares are not considered taxes.

        Plus SS and Medicare deductions are merely mandatory retirement savings that come back to you depending on how much you paid into them.

        To me, it’s more about the effectiveness and efficiency of the service delivered by a tax that matters. Take a non-transit topic: police. Are we better served by hiring more police or by making each hired hour of policing more effective? In some cases it is the former and in some cases it’s the latter. Every service that benefits a society has a optimum state that most people can agree to even though we have different individual values that put that optimization in different places on multiple spectrums.

        Saying taxes generally are “too high” or “too low” is useless dogma. The issues should instead be about how they are assessed, how they are distributed and how much accountability elected leaders should have to determine or change collecting and spending.

      9. Poor Daniel… pays so much in taxes that he can only afford to live in the utopia of Mercer Island away from the hell-hole of Seattle. I really pity you, Daniel – you have such a tough and challenging life. God bless you – I hope things turn around for you someday.

      10. I think there’s a sense among many that – yes, billionaires aren’t paying nearly as much in taxes as they should, but fixing it is nearly impossible because, like it or not, it’s the billionaires that have all the lawyers and accountants to find ways to get off, whether that means moving assets overseas or borrowing against appreciated stock to avoid capital gains from selling it. Yes, congress can close the loopholes we know about, but it just becomes a game of whack-a-mole as they simply find new ones. Taxing billionaires on the state level is even harder than on the national level, as billionaires can pit states against one another and shift money/income to states that have the lowest tax burden.

        That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Raising the capital gains tax for high earners, as Biden proposed, feels like a good place to start, as the super-wealthy get the bulk of their income from capital gains. But even then, I’m not totally sold on the idea that the money should fund new social programs vs. simply lower taxes on the lower/middle class. For instance, a tax swap that treats capital gains as ordinary income for those whose income exceeds $1 million, in exchange for another doubling of the standard deduction (assuming, for the sake of argument, that it’s budget neutral, which I’m not sure it is), doesn’t seem like a horrible idea.

      11. “It is not uncommon for someone like me to pay over 50% of my income in federal, state and local taxes including levies.”

        This is about federal income taxes (and indirectly federal capital-gains taxes). It was the federal income tax and capital-gains tax and inheritance tax rates that were reduced in the 1970s and repeatedly after that. Adding the other taxes is moving the goalposts.

      12. “I’m not totally sold on the idea that the money should fund new social programs vs. simply lower taxes on the lower/middle class.”

        Lowering taxes doesn’t help people who don’t make enough money to afford an apartment or medical expenses or education regardless of what the tax rate is. That’s what the social programs are intended to address. If you make $50K a year but the minimum income to qualify for an apartment lease is $70K, no amount of tax reduction alone will help.

      13. “This is about federal income taxes (and indirectly federal capital-gains taxes). It was the federal income tax and capital-gains tax and inheritance tax rates that were reduced in the 1970s and repeatedly after that. Adding the other taxes is moving the goalposts.”

        The “goalposts” are how many months/year I have to work 5 and 6 days/week just to pay my federal, state, and local taxes. It really doesn’t matter to me who is levying the tax. I have to pay it, which means I have to work to pay it. Total taxes have not declined since the 1970’s just because income tax rates were reduced.

        Look, if someone works the same amount of time to pay their tax obligation even though they earn a lower hourly wage I am with them. We just want to work fewer months/year to have to pay our tax bills, which means: 1. some need to pay more; 2. some need to contribute more (or just some); and 3. government has to spend less and become more efficient.

        Maybe working four months per year full time to pay my total tax bill rather than 6 months, when many pay nothing, or earn so much they don’t have to work at all to pay their tax bill. Meanwhile the working stiff gets the shaft.

      14. “We just want to work fewer months/year to have to pay our tax bills”

        I want everyone in the US to have a decent minimum standard of living. That would make the country function better and minimize violence, stress-induced reactions, mental health decay, and political extremism and anti-democratic movements. That in turn would benefit those paying the higher taxes.

      15. I have to pay it, which means I have to work to pay it.

        Not really. If you work less, you pay less income tax and FICA. If your investments make less money, you pay less in capital gains. If you spend less, you pay less sales tax. If you live in a cheaper place, you pay less in property tax. For a rich guy, I’m surprised you haven’t figured that out. There are plenty of rich people that manage to pay little in taxes.

        Total taxes have not declined since the 1970’s just because income tax rates were reduced.

        Right, it has shifted from wealthy people to poor people. FICA taxes have increased, while income taxes have gone down. New Federalism shifted tax burdens to the state, which means for a state like Washington (the most regressive state in the country when it comes to taxes) the burden shifted to the poor.

      16. I think you misunderstand the term “rich”.

        I live on Mercer Island because my wife and I bought a fixer upper in 1993. I had just left a large firm and started my own firm with very little income, and she had just started in the call center at U.S. West. We had very little money, but saved what we could.

        We lived in that house until 2009, and remodeled as we could. My firm grew bit by bit, and my wife moved up the ladder to major accounts manager. In 2009 we bought our current house, but could not sell our old house, for any price. We rented it out for three years, which was misery dealing with tenants and juggling over $1 million in mortgages, and sold it in 2012 for 1/2 what it sold for a year ago.

        We borrowed heavily to buy our current house. From 2009 through 2015 it declined in assessed value. Then beginning in 2016 for reasons I don’t really understand it doubled in value to today. That is our one big asset, except 30 years of contributions to a 401k and the magic of investment returns, which also tanked through 2015 until taking off (helped by some Microsoft stock I held since Bill Gates dad hired me out of law school). Of course we have worked and paid property taxes and maintenance (always be careful buying a house 20 years old because that is when the systems need to be replaced).

        When I retire we probably won’t be able to afford our current house because of the property taxes, and of course the state just raised the REET tax.

        At the same time who would have imagined the AMI for all of King Co. would be $97,000, and $127,000 for Bellevue, which really excludes the really wealthy.

        Ross is probably richer than 99.999% in the world. He is probably richer than 90% of the U.S. And he is richer than 1/2 of those in King Co. if assets are counted, not just income. He owns a house in Seattle which alone makes him richer than most on this blog. But he doesn’t include himself in the class of “rich” who should work harder and pay more, and people who don’t place themselves in that category tend to be more generous with other people’s money and time.

        Taxes have not shifted to the “poor” because they are the poor. There is little point in taxing the poor, and over 1/2 of Americans pay no income tax, although they do pay FICA taxes because we have an overly generous retirement system in this country. It is the elderly who are killing the working poor with FICA taxes.

        No the taxes as always are paid by the middle and upper middle class, because that is the largest pool, they don’t have the lawyers and accountants to avoid taxes, and their income is easily traced and taxed. Yes wealth for billionaires has gone up and their taxes may have gone down, but the benefits for the poor (and elderly) have exploded. So pays for that. The working middle and upper middle class, as always.

      17. “It is not uncommon for someone like me to pay over 50% of my income in federal, state and local taxes including levies. That means I work up to six days/week from January 1 to June 30 just to pay my taxes (and another three months to pay out of state college tuition).”

        That’s precisely backwards. Considering income taxes (because they’re easiest to tie to work), you pay no income tax on the first $13k of income (the standard deduction, assuming filing single or splitting married filing jointly; $26k if you’re the sole or primary earner and married filing jointly). Then 12% on the next $40k, etc. It’s only once you’ve earned something over $200k that you’re paying 50% or more of your income in combined taxes, so it’s only your work in the second half of the year that’s heavily taxed.

        (Yes, it’s a bit more complicated for property tax, which you pay no matter your income, and sales tax, which you pay whenever you buy something taxable. But the claim that you don’t get take-home pay until June is false.)

      18. “wealth for billionaires has gone up and their taxes may have gone down”

        May have gone down? What do you think all the tax cuts since 1980 including the 2017 cuts were about? The benefit is an exponential curve to the top 10%, 1%, 0.1%, with the richest hundred families in the US getting by far a disproportionately large benefit. Warren Buffett talks about how he pays less taxes than his secretary. Huge corporations making billions of dollars a year pay zero federal taxes. The infrastructure bill even had an item to fully staff the IRS so it could audit the rich, which was expected to recover over a trillion dollars a year in owed but unpaid taxes, although it was struck out of the bill due to pressure by those same tax cheats. Then there’s the legal tax avoidance schemes on top of that; as you pointed out, only the top 10% can hire the right kind of lawyers to get them that.

        “the benefits for the poor (and elderly) have exploded.”

        Then why are they worse off now than they were in the 1960s?

      19. “If you make $50K a year but the minimum income to qualify for an apartment lease is $70K, no amount of tax reduction alone will help.”

        Seems true on the surface, but you then have to get into why the income/rent ratio to qualify for a lease is so high to begin with. Taxes play a role here, since the more tax you pay, the less money is leftover to pay rent. Landlords know this and must compensate by increasing the gross income required.

        Another reason why the qualification ratio is so high is the costs of car ownership, which is typical American’s largest expense after housing. Since so many are addicted to their cars to the point where they’ll fall behind on rent to make car payments, landlords must set the qualification ratio high enough that every tenant has enough money leftover after rent to pay for a car – whether they own a car or not.

        A third reason why it’s so difficult to qualify for an apartment is that we have a city council that makes evicting non-paying tenants very difficult, so a landlord needs to be very careful to make sure that they don’t have a nonpaying tenant they might be stuck with for months or years. Which means increasing the income qualification threshold further.

        Assuming there is sufficient competition in the housing parking, the combination of lower taxes (leaves more money leftover for rent), better transit (don’t need to set qualification ratio high enough to assume that every tenant has a car), and normal eviction laws (making nonpaying tenants less costly for the landlord), competition should force the minimum income/rent ratios down to the point where a $50k income qualifies for something again.

      20. The top 1% pays 37% of all federal income taxes. The bottom 50% pays only 3% of all federal income taxes. The top 50% pays 97% of all federal income taxes.

      21. “The top 1% pays 37% of all federal income taxes. The bottom 50% pays only 3% of all federal income taxes.”

        That’s aggregate. What matters is the impact on individuals. Lower-income people need all the cash they have and more for necessities and the basics of an American life. Billionaires wouldn’t even notice it unless they have an obsession with taxes. Yet our tax structure is inverted: we tax the lower-income to give to the higher-income.

  7. Does anyone have any predictions about transit use by students after various schools and colleges open over the next couples of weeks and months? Will use be down from Fall 2019 levels? If so, by how much? Does anyone anticipate a lot of parents, who haven’t taken transit themselves in a year and a half, will be fearful of their kids taking it?

    1. If they go to college in person, many of them will have to take transit because there’s not enough parking or taxis or lane space for all of them. It’s silly to not care about being in class all day but then worry about a half hour trip to and from school. People have been riding transit for a year and a half, and a lot more in other countries, and it hasn’t been a superspreader event. Still, some people can be irrationally fearful about anything, as we saw above in the discussions about Seattle and Seattle’s schools. So some will doubtless fear the bus. Others will notice Northgate Link opening and how it’s easier to spread out on a train.

      It’s a fool’s errand to predict what people will do in the future, what percent will return and what won’t. It’s better to just wait and see. It’s millions of individual decisions, and the individuals themselves may not know yet, or may change their minds at the last minute.

      I’m concerned about children in school in low-vaccination areas and in states that prohibit mask mandates. That may be the next shoe to drop.

    2. Tons of fear on Twitter etc. But Twitter is not real-life – I don’t think fear that widespread.

      The bigger threat to student transit use is probably that parents working from home can drive them to school easier than before.

      Fully expect WA to impose capacity limits again, targeting larger groups (Health Secretary was suggesting as much in a recent story). However whether that would close down schools again is unclear.

  8. My son & I took a trip to Tacoma this Saturday. Less transit intensive than our trip to Portland last month but we parked at the T Dome transit center and hiked up the hill to the LeMay Museum. On the way we peaked in at the new Sounder & Amtrak station that has been built into Freighthouse Square. It’s a pretty deluxe station. I couldn’t figure out if they had “renovated” a portion of the building or just destroyed a few hundred feet and built the Station. It looks more like the later. There are separate entrances for Sounder and Amtrak. That should help with the AM commute and the Cascades departures. Looks like the interior is very well done with RR themed tiles and murals; something lacking in East Link station design.

    We were early for the 10AM opening of the LeMay Museum but there’s nothing, nada to do that time of day on a Saturday so we read the tiles in the entry courtyard at the Museum. Best brick; in loving memory of Gramma… heart of gold, lead foot!

    Didn’t finish looking at cool, not so cool and amazing cars until after 2PM. Walked back to Freighthouse Square with a cool breeze coming up off Commencement Bay. Would have been nice to have had the time to look at what was open and grab a bite to eat but our other mission was to view the Just the Ticket exhibit at the Washington State History Museum which closes at 5PM. So we hopped on Tacoma Link just as we got to the platform. Two stops away we were dropped off right in front of our destination. Still no fare on T Link but signs saying to attend citizen meetings regarding fares starting in 2022 when the Hill Top extension opens. That seems like a really sort period from vote to design/construction and testing to being open. Kudos to ST on that one if they pull it off. Extra Kudos if they can do the same with East Link.

    Just the Ticket was interesting but also disappointing. It was a very small exhibit both in floor area and the items on display. Several old time tables and passenger train menus that were impossible to read. Half the stuff wasn’t even RR connected but just points of interest in Tacoma, Yakima and Spokane that happened because of the growth the railroads created. Most of WSHM is devoted to Woke exhibits. Not that those were all bad. Telling the story of WWII is important but even that part of it wasn’t really well done. To be fair they are in the reopening phase after being shut down by Covid. Had for instance the food service been active we would have grabbed lunch there.

    The star of the the WSHM remains the model RR. It is mostly Tacoma but also has details in Puyallup, Auburn and the mountain passes. I don’t know if there’s any plans to expand this but it is a big hit with kids of all ages. When you watch model trains run everyone is transported back to being 6 years old again. One question I need to research is on the beautifully modeled Tacoma Union Station there is a distinct Northern Pacific logo in the lead work that divides the panes of glass over the main entrance. Did UP and NP share this station? Or did the Union Station name have nothing to do with the Union Pacific. Same question then for Portland Union Station which I think may have also been the stop for the Southern Pacific Daylight Special. We went to see the Just the Ticket exhibit and the model railroad and learned a lot but came away with more questions than answers. That’s a good thing in that it creates a thirst for knowledge.

    We’d hoped to also drive out to the SF ferry that’s moored at the north end of Ruston Way we saw on our Portland trip but were out of time. Like MacArthur we shall return. Next trip will be the Foss Waterway Seaport. Bonus! They have a G scale model RR and we’ll scope out the ferry on Ruston Way. We’ll drive to the T Dome P&R and given the drive times will probably use that the next time we take Amtrak to Portland or points south. It’s a 40 min cruise to get there and with the avoidance of a bus transfer into DT Seattle is at least time neutral and at worst (our record heatwave trip to Portland) an assurance that Amtrak will drop us off at our automobile rather than a bus stop that has ended service for the night.

    1. Typically the “Union Station” moniker was applied wherever two or more railroads shared a station, usually operated by a separate entity.

      Seattle’s Union Station served the Milwaukee Road and UP, Portland’s served the Burlington Northern, Southern Pacific, and the UP.

      1. Thanks for that tidbit. Before we went down to visit the Oregon Rail Heritage Center I didn’t understand why Portland ended up with SP 4449, the Daylight Special. The SP&S was a subsibary of the NP IIRC; sort of like Horizon is part of Alaska Airlines. Makes sense now that the NP logo is in the station glass lead work. There was some interesting historic maps on a flip board that showed the political boundaries as Oregon, Washington and then Idaho became States. The RR maps were very disappointingly hard to follow; they were tiny and not well labeled. This could/should have been a great interactive exhibit. But, again to be fare the WSHM is just trying to survive post Covid.

        I made mention of how the WSHM was focused on being Woke. When we visited the ORHC they had a great exhibit on how the Pullman Company and black americans were part of RR history. They also pointed out Oregon was a Jim Crow State without making race instead of RR history the focal point. Something like that would have been a welcome addition to the WSHM attempt to showcase RR history.

      2. It gets complicated.

        NP, GN, SP&S and a few others had a common owner: James Hill. SP&S was somewhat more closely related to GN, but it was mostly an independent company. Though, it was originally chartered to be the Spokane to Portland link for GN. The NP already had a parallel line from Pasco to Spokane but it was (is!) an older, curvy route.

        Hill incorporated it separately originally but at one point I think NP and SP&S wound up as joint owners.

        NP is in the glass work of Portland Union Station because the railroad that built it was the North Pacific Terminal Railroad. This company pre-dated Hill’s involvement with the Northern Pacific. At that time, a single owner owned all three railroads (NP, Oregon Navigation {later owned by UP} and O&C {later became part of SP}). NP Terminal was to build the station serving all three railroads. It was later renamed Portland Terminal Railroad, which it remains today.

        Eventually the owner lost control of his little Portland railroad empire, Northern Pacific got bought up by Hill, and Harriman wound up with the SP and UP (or, the Oregon lines that would later become parts of those companies).

        I can’t remember if Hill had gotten control of the NP before he started the SP&S, or after.

    2. The Tacoma Station did indeed have the Monad in the glass. UP was a tenant on the NP’s line from Tacoma Junction to North Portland so all three railroads’ pool trains used the NP station in Tacoma.

      1. The third railroad was the GN which was a tenant on NP also, all the way from King Street to Portland. I believe it was GN who owned the current BNSF yard in Portland; NP yarded in Vancouver. I don’t know where SP&S yarded.

      2. It’s a bit more complicated.

        The current yard in Portland on the north end along the BNSF is owned and operated by Portland Terminal, which is jointly owned by all railroads serving Portland (NP, SP&S, SP, UP in the early days, now just UP and BNSF.

        The original NP main line was on the west side of the Columbia River, crossing at Goble to Kalama by ferry. When the SP&S was built in 1905, the new main line was built to the Columbia River in Vancouver. I’ve always heard the big Vancouver yard as belonging to SP&S.

        UP used the Milwaukee Road north of Chehalis, but had its own line south of the to Longview into the 1920s. A big storm nocked out a bunch of their track, and this line is completely gone now, except for a short industrial branch into downtown Longview from the south. It’s on the east side of highway 411 for a short distance. They decided trackage rights over the NP / SP&S was better than rebuilding. As the Milwaukee track got worse, they switched their trains to the NP/BN line north of Chehalis.
        The GN never owned any significant track south of King Street Station, but they did participate in the Seattle-Portland “pool” trains. I’m not entirely certain how the pool trains worked, other than all the railroads in the region cooperated to provide a certain amount of equipment and service over the line, which after the UP line went away was the only line between Kelso and Chehalis. Based on photos, you could have a Union Pacific train with Milwaukee Road locomotives, and some of the cars owned by Southern Pacific (because those cars originated south of Portland).

        If anyone protested the cooperative arrangement as part of an anti-trust suit, it doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere.

      3. Based on photos, you could have a Union Pacific train with Milwaukee Road locomotives, and some of the cars owned by Southern Pacific (because those cars originated south of Portland).

        And on the model RR exhibit there were passenger trains with different RR names. The people that built and run the exhibit are pretty anal about getting details right so I was surprised to see some passenger trains depicted with competing brands. I’m thinking now this may have actually been the case between Seattle, Portland and Tacoma.

      4. Competition in the railroad industry is complicated. In many markets, it doesn’t really exist. Eg, Portland to Seattle: it was too expensive for anyone to build two parallel main lines. Few industries are large enough to be served by more than one siding from one company. Hell, many cities aren’t big enough to be served by more than one company.

        There is competition for things like containers from port cities to inland cities, because that’s one of the few situations where it doesn’t matter if there’s track right to the building.

        One of the OWR&N (now UP) history books has some good photos of the various stuff that happened just on that company. One example was a Milwaukee Road electric painted in UP colors so it would pull UP trains over its lines in Washington without looking incongruous. However, about halfway down the train were some raw stainless steel cars, which were never used by any northwestern USA railroad (Canadian Pacific had them). Turns out several days a week there were a couple of through cars into Seattle from Portland on the UP that came from one of the eastern roads (I think it was Norfolk & Western maybe?) at Saint Louis or some such. Tossed into the regular pool trains with everything else.

      5. “Competition in the railroad industry is complicated. In many markets, it doesn’t really exist. Eg, Portland to Seattle: it was too expensive for anyone to build two parallel main lines.”

        Isn’t that what the BNSF and UP tracks are, two parallel main lines by different companies? How is there not competition? I(s it because there’s so much freight clients can’t choose one or the other but has to take whichever one has spare capacity?

        “Few industries are large enough to be served by more than one siding from one company.”

        What does siding mean in this case? I think of siding as a kind of passing lane where a train can stop at a station or wait for another train to pass it. What does that have to do with industries?

      6. The lines are parallel, but railroads aren’t airline companies, where stuff goes to a single point, unless it’s intermodal stuff.

        If you are served by a siding off the Union Pacific in the Kent Valley, you are a Union Pacific customer. You aren’t going to get service from BNSF. UP service has to happen over the BNSF south of Tacoma anyway, so the cost of maintaining the BNSF main line is the controlling price for the Kent Valley, no matter which company you are served by.

        Two main lines that close is a rarity anyway.

        Intermodal is ok for ship to truck to train, but for many shipments it’s more expensive than using freight cars the whole way. It can be several times more expensive. So, truck to train to truck really isn’t competitive for a lot of stuff.

      7. There’s no UP track between Tacoma and Portland? I thought Portland was where Union Pacific switched to Southern Pacific. Why is there a Union Pacific track to Tacoma then, and where is its other end? Is it just a Seattle-Tacoma track? Why would that exist and be owned by UP?

      8. Glenn, interesting information about the pool operation. I didn’t live here then ever to have seen it in operation. It MAY have been “Norfolk & Western” that had those pure stainless steel cars, but I think more likely the CB&Q or CP. They were famous for unpainted “streamliners”.

        You’re right that the Wabash/N&W forwarded the City of St. Louis train between Kansas City and St. Louis. But every photo I’ve ever seen of it was Yellow and Red from headlight to red light, and Wabash trains were “Bluebird Blue”.

        I wonder if the line that used to go up the Cowlitz valley east of Onalaska was connected to the UP line, especially since you mentioned that UP was a tenant on the MILW until its line got washed out. I grant that it’s much shorter than “going around”, but it has seemed strange to me that NP chose to go over Napavine Hill and down the steep section south of Vader instead of just staying along the Cowlitz past Toledo and running over the mostly-flat prairie to Onalaska and into Chehalis along the Chehalis River as that Milwaukee line did. I would imagine, given the line to Onalaska, that UP might have done just that. And since the NP was “already there” on the east bank south of Olequa, it went down the west bank through the edge of Kelso.

        If you look at Highway 411 (the “Westside Highway”) on Google Earth, it has the profile of a rail line, not a 1930’s highway. There are no sharp curves anywhere; it’s like half of an interstate in its profile. It was probably built on top of the UP. Especially look at the curve to follow the river west of Castle Rock. The parallel county roads all have sharp bends, but that highway looks like a railroad….

        Very interesting information.

        N&W bought the Wabash and Nickel Plate in 1963 or 4.

        So far as the yard along the Willamette, the gate says “BNSF Railroad”. Google Earth shows “Portland Terminal Railway” at the eastern end where the loop track is. From riding Cascades I remember that PT has signs on the buildings on the south side of the “main line” but the north side is all BNSF signed buildings and loads of BNSF engines. That’s the part that I think was owned by the GN.

      9. Mike, yes, there is “just a UP track between Seattle and Tacoma” and none between Tacoma and Portland, specifically a point called “North Portland Junction” just south of the Willamette River, where it diverges to the left (southbound) and takes its own route through a tunnel into the downtown Portland area by Swan Island.

        Glenn told you why there is no UP line between Tacoma and North Portland Junction: it got washed out in 1920. He stated that UP used the Milwaukee, now owned by the Port of Tacoma Railroad which runs alongside I-5 between Chehalis and Maytown. That got the UP to Chehalis and then apparently they had their own track on south to Kelso/Longview. I had never known that. I guess UP must have use a car ferry between the Port of Longview and Portland, or it was a tenant on the NP.

        It is now a tenant on the “NP” [e.g. “BNSF”] all the way from North Portland Junction to the complex junction underneath I-5 just west of the Puyallup River in Tacoma. I believe it is marked as “Tacoma Junction”. At that junction, which is where Sound Transit’s and Port of Tacoma Railway’s rights of way connect from the west, the UP diverges to the east and immediately crosses the Puyallup River to its yard south of I-5. This continues on the north side of the river in an almost perfectly straight heading to a fairly sharp curve north of Puyallup city and then goes up the west side the Green River Valley to Tukwila. At a railroad point called “Black River Junction” it used to diagonal across the old NP and continue adjacent up to Georgetown where it crossed NP again into Argo Yard. Now, however, the two main tracks of BNSF and the main track of UP are all operated under BNSF dispatching as a single railroad; all tracks are available to all trains of either railroad and to Sound Transit and Amtrak passenger runs.

      10. Mike, I forgot to tell you about the UP in Portland. The Southern Pacific was in Portland because it inherited the Oregon and California road, begun in 1869 but not finished until 1887. The SP has become a part of UP now.

        The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company built out of Portland eastward up the Columbia River Gorge with the ambition to connect with a westward building transcontinental. That turned out to be the Union Pacific.

        The “Oregon Short Line” was built from Kemmerer Wyoming to a junction in Huntington, Oregon, with the OR&N line extended to over the Blue Mountains to meet it. UP got control of the OR&N to create its first line to the Pacific states. Portland was as viable a Pacific port as Puget Sound in those days of much smaller oceangoing vessels. Everything afloat could come up the Columbia River as far as Portland.

      11. Mike, your understanding of “siding” is correct. Technically, it’s a parallel track which has a connection to the mainline at both of its ends. In the countryside it is usually used for trains to meet or pass one another. A siding is usually is directly adjacent to the main line, but sometimes an older alignment with more curves will be preserved as a siding when a relocation straightens the mainline.

        The single-ended tracks that fan out to serve industrial customers are technically named “spur” tracks.

        But railroaders use “siding” and “spur” pretty interchangeably for industrial tracks because in many cases such an industrial track will be adjacent to the main line and will have an entrance at each end allowing it to serve as a siding. I expect that most of those in the Green River Valley are of that nature because the facilities served were built more recently than the rail lines.

        Glenn’s explanation of how the location of an industrial facility determines which railroad(s) can serve it is spot on. The Federal Center West was sited between UP and NP specifically to allow it to be served by the two mainlines. There are large industrial facilities throughout the Southeastern states and in Texas located at places where two rail lines cross or closely parallel. The industry has spur connection to both carriers. The facility owns the tracks within the gates and hosts the carriers’ switching runs free of “wheelage” in order to have service from them.

      12. The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company built out of Portland eastward up the Columbia River Gorge with the ambition to connect with a westward building transcontinental. That turned out to be the Union Pacific.

        It gets more complicated than that.

        Originally, the NP served as the transcontinental connection, then UP connected as well. There was a period of joint trackage rights where either line had rights to get into Portland. NP later completed the line over Stampede Pass to Tacoma.

        In looking through this history, it doesn’t look like the UP lines north of Longview went very far, and the UP trackage rights from Portland to Tacoma were the first thing they got (1909), but I’m not seeing much mention there of the various UP/Milwaukee Road branches.

        I’ll have to see if I can figure out what the UP line running north from Longview did. I don’t have much UP/OWR&N detail books in my collection.

      13. about halfway down the train were some raw stainless steel cars, which were never used by any northwestern USA railroad

        SP I believe used SS coaches. I’d never thought about them as a NW railroad but they most certainly were. Service to Portland for sure but I think they also extended to Tacoma and/or Seattle; perhaps as part of these “union” trains. Interesting history but I think going forward this sort of cooperation would be key to privatizing passenger RR transport in the way air travel works.

      14. Bernie, I don’t think so. There’s a locomotive parked in the old SP roundhouse near OMSI which is in “Daylight Colors” [red and black with yellow highlights]. All the pictures of SP trains show them painted that way. The heavy-weight equipment on the Owl and San Fernando Valley locals were black I believe. Now maybe the Golden State was stainless, because it was through routed with the CRI&P (“The Rock Island Line”) east of Tucumcari. But it didn’t come north of LA.

      15. There’s a locomotive parked in the old SP roundhouse near OMSI which is in “Daylight Colors”

        I think the loco you’re think about is #4449. It’s at the ORHF. They are currently working on reinstalling the turntable used at old roundhouse at Union Pacific’s Brooklyn railyard. I have a set of SS SP passenger cars in HO gauge from my youth and they had them on display at WSHM. The RR enthusiasts that belong to the PSMRE are pretty anal about the details and they had SS SP coaches in a mix consist passenger train. I’d hoped for a lot more from the “Just the Ticket” exhibit. But at least it was the only exhibit that wasn’t a “try” for PC. The model RR stands by it’s self and, as they advertise it, is primarily a Tacoma and surrounding communities layout.

      16. It is, indeed. My wife and I got to ride behind it on the round trip to Bend twenty years ago. It did the hill out of the Deschutes Gorge without diesel assistance. Wow! That was one barking exhaust. A great trip.

  9. This is a pure hypothetical: let’s say you have a small to medium sized lot in Seattle within a quarter-mile of a Link station. You can build whatever you want on it, and you have to live on the property when it’s done. What do you build? A SFH, triplex, townhomes, larger apartment building? I’m just curious how people combine their ideas of ideal density and their own preferences for the kind of housing they live in.

    1. This would depend a bit on where, as well as total financial resources available, to me.

      If close to UW or Capitol Hill, I would probably go for a mixed use complex with retail on the ground floor. If downtown proper, I’d mix in some offices too, similar to John Handcock’s Chicago building.

      If up towards Shoreline, that becomes a bit more complicated, but even Shoreline has some 5 story condos. How difficult is it to get to/from Link and other transit routes due to nearby busy streets?

      If Mercer Island, I’d definitely build a huge skyscraper complex shaped like a middle finger aimed at the south side of the Island.

    2. One model is like outer Vancouver BC with highrise clusters around stations. That allows the maximum number of people to live within a block or two of the station. A quarter-mile is further out and maybe highrises aren’t necessary that far. If we had enough lowrise (3-7 story) and midrise (8-15 story) buildings we wouldn’t need highrises as all.

      I’d like to live in a seven-story building or missing-middle building, the latter like those 1960s two-story courtyard apartments.

    3. While it is outside of Seattle city limits, I live in a SFH within 1/4 mile of a Link light rail station. Due to a low income housing complex between myself and it, there are no plans for TOD anywhere near me. Even though I wouldn’t, I couldn’t build a multifamily development here no matter what I wanted.

  10. A friend runs a Cascade Bike ride on Capital Hill. It’s a low key ride geared mostly toward retired. He told me one of the rides there were seven people (including him) and he was the only one that wasn’t on a e-bike. I get it as a cargo bike but it you’re using it for fitness why not just pick more appropriate routes? But, then again, if your on a “Hill” why load the bike on the car instead of just using an e-bike and riding locally. I just can’t do it. If it was a commute vehicle maybe but as a fitness aid I’ll just use a stationary trainer.

    1. I had a bike for fourteen years and used it for transportation and to enjoy the view, not for fitness per se. I got rid of it when I moved to First Hill and every direction was a steep downhill. If e-bikes were available then I might have continued biking. There are many reasons for riding a bike besides fitness: low-cost transportation, environmentally friendly, easy to do short errands on it, goes where buses don’t, is quiet, and it’s social (you can say hi to fellow cyclists and pedestrians around you without a window or level difference in between).

  11. A little (and I mean little) bit of good news for Sound Transit…


    Some needed perspective however….

    Per the draft updated financial plan recently presented during the board’s special realignment meeting earlier this month (Resolution No. R2021-05
    Substitute Exhibit C), the total debt service expense for the next 25 years totals some $19.062B. Thus, the TIFIA loan savings highlighted in the ST press release represents only about 2.6% of the total debt servicing costs through this time period (and even less through the loan period since the denominator increases). As a percentage of the total agency uses through the next 25 years, which is shown on the financial plan at over $131.3B, this savings represents less than .4% of the total.

    So, yeah, there’s that good news…..I guess.

    1. Tlsgwm, the agency is not going to use $131.3 billion dollars in the next twenty-five years; it simply won’t happen. New lines will step down off their rows of struts, stations will get less opulent, bidding will be opened to foreign tender. Perhaps Seattle will even choose a surface alignment through downtown for WSBLE and figure out a way to turn Tacoma Trains at Northgate.

      At this time we can’t envision exactly how the proposed system will be rationalized, but it will not cost $131 billion. This is a wish-list that can be trimmed. It will probably spend $100 billion in YOE dollars, but little more.

      1. “It will probably spend $100 billion in YOE dollars,…”

        Interesting take. So, the ensuing question I must now ask is, where exactly are you reducing the agency’s figures to arrive at this $30B reduction? Here are the buckets as stated on the aforementioned updated financial plan:

        Cap Exp $69.172B (includes $57.798B for Link)
        O&M Exp $32.526B
        SOGR $8.970B
        Reserve Cont $1.692B
        Debt Serv Exp $19.062B

        Please keep in mind that some of these costs are already baked in as the plan includes realized ST2 project expenditures since 2017.

      2. Tlsgwm,

        I outlined how I think it will happen: a surface alignment between the west portal of the SLU tunnel and the Ballard Bridge [with an elevated over-crossing of 15th West in the footprint of the existing westbound Magnolia Bridge ramp; a mid-level Ballard Bridge that opens; a surface station at Market and Leary Way with a spartan elevated one at 14th and 53rd; similar treatment in West Seattle with spartan elevated stations at Delridge and 35th and Avalon, and a step down west of Fauntleroy on Alaska to a surface station just west of California.

        I expect that Daniel is correct that East King will axe the foolishness between South Kirkland and Bellevue, and maybe the extension to Issaquah altogether, but if they do build that portion of the planned system, the Issaquah trains should just continue on to Overlake and turnback there.

        If necessary Seattle can run elevated through South Lake Union and enter tunnel somewhere along Westlake, which ought to be like Market Street anyway.

        The O&M expenses are ridiculous. They should be able to save 20% through automation of the main Spine line. Obviously, that requires that Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and the two level crossings in The Spring District be addressed, probably by the respective cities.

        Doing all these things would likely chop $20 billion and the rest would come from lower debt service as a result.

        The reality is that if something cannot continue the way it is going, it will change. Spending $133 billion dollars on regional transit over the next twenty-five years is a stupid use of funds. One hundred billion might make sense.

      3. Tom, a government is like an organism. It’s primary goal is to obtain as much funding as possible and spend that money. The amount of funding and spending it determine the importance of the agency, the folks in the agency, and their job security and legacy. They never consider whether theirs is the best use of limited tax resources, because that is not their job.

        ST will spend every dime it can raise. The real questions are: 1. how much will it actually raise with the current extension (assuming a legal challenge is not mounted to the extension without a vote); 2. what will that actual funding build and operate; and 3. what happens if the funding actually obtained does not complete the ST 3 projects and their operation.

        1. How Much Will ST Actually Raise In Funding?

        My guess is less than $131 billion based on the extension. I think ridership and farebox recovery will be less than estimated in ST 2 and 3 (pre-pandemic) which were very “optimistic” estimates to paraphrase Joni Earl.

        ST has a pretty high 40% farebox recovery goal, probably to make general fund tax increases appear lower for the ST 2 and 3 levies, but at some point ST is going to have to be more realistic about ridership and farebox recovery projections, especially on East Link, which will really hit hard at an estimated 40% recovery goal. The PSRC’s population estimates look off through 2050, and TOD won’t manufacture ridership because most of Link is along freeways. When it comes to federal grants those are hard to predict. After Afghanistan I am almost certain the Republicans will take back the House in 2022, and I doubt the $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill can pass now, or even before. I guess that leaves very high fares on Link if 40% is really the goal.

        It does concern me that every time this blog moves to a new area (Lakewood, Tacoma, Northgate, Issaquah) Link is the slowest of all the transportation options, and comes with one, two or three transfers to get from A to B. As Ross’s ridership numbers for Lakewood highlight, people generally travel between the major population centers, and all those stops on Link make it sloooooooow. If Northgate Link and East Link are not huge successes that will be bad, because those are the two lines that should be huge successes, but not if there are endless transfers and trains that don’t go to SLU. Cascadia fans are claiming it will be quicker to get from Seattle to Portland than Ballard to Tacoma.

        2. What Will The Money Actually Raised Fund?

        I think in many ways this is subarea specific when it comes to general fund taxes like sales tax and vehicle taxes. Overall, if Seattle gets its mojo back when it comes to tourism and retail it should rebound, although I am pretty sure the out-of-Seattle work commuter will decline, and that will hurt sales taxes and other work related taxes in N. King Co.

        The reality is the spine and most subarea projects look affordable (at least to build), and the focus is really on DSTT2 and WSBLE. I hope the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line is not built, but then where else to spend the revenue in this subarea which was based on the revenue needed to complete ST 2 and 3 in N. King Co., because no way ST will ever return money that to taxpayers.

        My guess is Issaquah, Sammamish, Mercer Island, and Bellevue will demand the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line to end the bus intercept program.

        3. What Happens If The Actual Funding Obtained Does Not Cover The Projects In The Realignment (which is just ST 3).

        This is the interesting question. Can an agency like ST extend taxes forever? $131 billion is a tremendous amount of money to remove from the region for light rail when there are so many other needs, especially when in so many of the less urban areas rail is a very expensive, and slow, form of transit. I hope someone does litigate this issue.

        I don’t see ST 4 because only N. King Co. will really need ST 4. The other subareas will argue just cancel DSTT2 and N. King Co. pockets $1.1 billion, and the four other subareas pocket $275 each, probably not the argument Seattle wants to have. If necessary run rail down 3rd Ave. which is already a transit mall and the most blighted part of Seattle.

        What will make the EIS interesting is first, what ST includes in it which defines what can be scoped and built, and second whether ST honestly estimates the costs of each project which will wildly exceed the realignment revenue (whether $131 billion or less) depending on the projects themselves.

        Seattle won’t agree to surface rail through downtown Seattle (if Bellevue and Kirkland did not). I think Ballard and West Seattle will argue they are residential neighborhoods and deserve what Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt, and Northgate got: tunnels and underground stations.

        ST is probably smart enough to understand it won’t actually raise $131 billion, and the desires of Seattle (DSTT2), and Ballard and West Seattle, are not affordable, and a ST 4 or another extension would receive pushback by the other subareas.

        However since the Board is made up of politicians, my guess is ST will — again — underestimate project costs in the EIS and overpromise Seattle the DSTT2, and West Seattle and Ballard expensive stations and tunnels, and wait until the funding gap hits and someone else has to extend taxes further (although that is a marginal gain since project costs like ROW and construction increase each year too) or claim it has run out of money for operations.

        Although it is pretty to think so, it is not realistic to think an agency like ST that has been so dishonest in the past when it comes to project costs and future revenue and EIS’s will suddenly be honest in the next EIS. Hopefully someone other than ST will actually do an estimate of the total cost of the projects ST claims the EIS supports, which is DSTT2 and WSBLE with underground stations, which is probably closer to $175 billion.

      4. Seattle won’t agree to surface rail through downtown Seattle (if Bellevue and Kirkland did not). I think Ballard and West Seattle will argue they are residential neighborhoods and deserve what Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt, and Northgate got: tunnels and underground stations.

        There you go again, “reading the minds” of Seattle residents like some cheap Swami gulling the rubes at the fair. The fact is that you DO. NOT. KNOW. what the North King area will do in response to the need for value engineering. You can only assume that they will be as selfish and self-centered as you.

        I believe that Ballard would be ecstatic to have a surface station in the heart of “Old Ballard” and an elevated “bus intercept” station on the outskirts of the business district. Buses from farther north on 15th and 24th could make a “U” shaped route using 24th, Leary, 14th, 56th (southbound) and 57th (northbound), and 15th, and riders from both could then access both stations. There would need to be transit-only bus-actuated turn pockets and lights at 56th and 57th and 15th, but it would work and get the buses out of the mess at 15th and Market.

        I think you’re right about the surface rail through downtown, for the simple reason that there aren’t enough lanes on First through Sixth Avenues to support it. Nor would downtown accept an elevated right of way. But the City might very well be amenable to elevated between a portal at Lenora and Westlake and Sixth North and Mercer through SLU.

        Just to get the possibility on the floor, here’s a useful and “doable” alignment:

        1) After portaling just north of Lenora the alignment would rise onto structure and enter a station straddling Denny Way a story-and-a-half above Westlake to allow for four corners walkways and direct connections to some buildings. Just to the north it would turn into the John Street right of way using the parking lot in the southwest quadrant.

        2) The alignment would continue west to Seventh (historic Aurora) which is a BIG WIDE ROAD still, allowing the structure to curve northward again. A station would be placed between Thomas and Harrison overlapping Thomas a bit.

        3) The structure would curve alongside the Highway 99 on-ramp, clear Highway 99 and Sixth North rising to meet it and then dive into a portal in the land north of the Gates Foundation buildings.

        5) A cut-and-cover tunnel would be dug under Mercer to the jog at West Mercer Way, with the west portal in the hill between Sixth North and the end of West Mercer Street, rising onto structure in the triangular block currently housing Chen’s Village.

        6) The structure would turn northwest along Elliott with the supports in the center refuge lane to cross the intersection with West Mercer Way and then transition to the north-east side of Elliott and descend to at-grade as I’ve written about before.

        Would the City — and ST who’d have to operate it — go for this “wigglier” alignment with two sets of transitions between elevated and subway? It’s not certain, but it has the enormously beneficial effect of putting two of the three “SLU” stations in the air, where they are less expensive than underground. Fortunately the two sharp curves onto and off of John are within a half block of station platforms so speeds would be slow anyway.

        Value Engineering; it’s a good thing. Sometimes folks have to take a swallow of vinegar with the honey.

      5. Just to be clear, there is one possible unknown difficulty with the scenario above. We do not know where and how deep the platforms for “New Westlake” will be. I and everyone else have been assuming that they will be deep, deep, deep, to underrun the platform level at Westlake Center.

        If they are, then achieving the surface by the north side of Lenora might be difficult. The north edge of the New Westlake platform will probably come close to Stewart.

        But there is the possibility that a cut-and-cover station under Sixth Avenue could have platforms above the tunnel box projecting up Pine Street. The official map of the tunnel shows the platforms at Westlake Center ending about the middle of the block between Fifth and Sixth, and the tunnel box begins at the end of the platforms. It remains at the same depth for perhaps ten yards east before it transitions to the two or so percent grade up to the former Convention Center station to the north and the portal of the Capitol Hill tunnel to the south.

        The walkway supports of the Mezzanine level appear to be about six feet thick and the headroom in the Mezzanine is at least ten feet, so it might be possible to squeeze platforms under Sixth Avenue between the tunnel box below and the street above, but there could be no Mezzanine. A center platform would have to have direct stairs for access to and from the street at Sixth and Pike / Pine / Stewart.

        BUT, it could have direct platform-to-platform transfers by ramps descending from its platform to the level of the Westlake Center platforms and connecting directly at the east wall of the platforms.

        This would be the best possible transfer experience for riders.

        For access to the Westlake Center cluster of buildings a second platform on the west side of the southbound track at New Westlake could be included, but that would only connect passengers boarding or alighting southbound. That’s better than nothing, but not the absolute best. It would probably be possible for a stair or ramp also to meet the ramp between the center platform and one side or the other of the Westlake Center platforms so that folks arriving or departing on northbound trains could also move directly to the Mezzanine, though it would involve a half-story vertical movement down and then up.

        Such a station and the tunnel between the north wall and Lenora would be cut-and-cover, with the obvious disturbance to downtown. But it would be shallow, and that potentially moves the platforms at Midtown two stories higher than they would otherwise be. That would be an enormous saving on it. Huge.

        Yes, the grade from New IDS to Midtown would then have to be steeper, but since it would never be rained on and essentially permanently water-tight, four percent is not out of the question. ST could make the problem less severe by cutting-and-covering a shallow station at New IDS as well.

      6. And “Yes”, I do understand the politics of a cut-and-cover tunnel under Mercer, especially that first block that was recently rebuilt. The street is an important connection to I-5 for northwest Seattle.

        So, clearly, the costs versus the benefits of having a bored tunnel there should be considered. Either would work for the purposes.

      7. Tom, I said I think, not that I know, what West Seattle and Ballard hope for their stations, and that includes Dow. That is why my advice is to wait for the EIS. The EIS will show you the tea leaves.

        I am sure Ballard and West Seattle have community organizations and their local council member who can advocate for what they want. If you think Seattle will consider surface rail through Seattle good luck. Didn’t they try that with the monorail?

        “Would the City — and ST who’d have to operate it — go for this “wigglier” alignment with two sets of transitions between elevated and subway?”

        Of course not. You are being politically naïve. I don’t think you have any idea what any of the savings or costs for your alternatives would be. This is all back of the envelope — and really not even that — estimating, when we are talking billions.

        Last post you stated flatly ST would spend no more than $100 billion. Where did that come from? You haven’t come close to identifying $31 billion in cuts, IF the realignment actually raises $131 billion. Altruism from ST, West Seattle, or Ballard? You really don’t understand how inter-subarea and inter-city politics work.

        I don’t think the “realignment” is done. ST won’t raise $131 billion with the extension, and the realignment plan which cuts nothing will likely cost more than $131 billion when you factor in the increase in project costs during the extension. So you raise more money (the “realignment” less inflation) or you cut like in ST 1.

        But that doesn’t mean ST and the Board will admit that in the upcoming EIS. The primary option in the EIS will be DSTT2 as designed in ST 3, three stations in West Seattle probably underground, and probably an underground station in Ballard (although ST is pretty much is bound to the $2.2 billion estimate for DSTT2 in ST 3 so the other subareas don’t revolt no matter how false that figure is). I mean, if ST is just making the numbers up why not promise the folks what they want. After all, that is what they did in ST 1, 2 and 3.

        If any of your alternatives are in the EIS I will: 1. be very surprised; 2. be even more surprised if Seattle, West Seattle, or Ballard agree to the proposals, or to take a swig “of the vinegar with the honey”. After all, what does Ballard get? A train that takes nearly two hours to reach Tacoma, and 40 minutes to reach downtown Seattle.

        “I believe that Ballard would be ecstatic to have a surface station in the heart of “Old Ballard” and an elevated “bus intercept” station on the outskirts of the business district.” Just like Mercer Island and Bellevue were ecstatic to serve as bus intercepts, and there stations are underground. Now who is projecting their beliefs onto this neighborhoods?

        When you write, “You can only assume that they will be as selfish and self-centered as you” it makes me think you are delightfully naïve, and have not been paying attention the last 18 years, beginning with subarea equity. God damn right different subareas and cities are selfish with their money. Why do you think we have subarea equity? Do you really think West Seattle worries about what is best for Ballard, or Seattle cares about what is best for Tacoma or Everett, or Bellevue cares about any of these areas? Do you really think WSBLE or DSTT2 are some kind of moral prerogative, because it wasn’t when Bellevue wanted a tunnel through Bellevue, and the subarea had the money for it, so now it is along 112th.

      8. And, Daniel, enough with the Libertarian garbage about government agencies. Again, you are charging the elected officials of the Puget Sound region of willful dissembling to the people who elected them. That’s a pretty serious charge.

        Bring your evidence before a court of law or STFU.

      9. The monorail was to have been elevated throughout. It is certainly possible to have a straddle-beam monorail mounted on little short supports so that it looks like it’s “at-grade”, but it can never have cross-traffic.

        So, no, “they” didn’t “try that with the monorail.” Have you ever ridden it? It’s pretty obvious that that three foot beam would be a bit of a problem for cars to cross.

    2. “stations will get less opulent”

      Less opulent stations translates to no down escalators.

      1. No elevated Mezzanines. Maybe they’re high enough that seven-and-a-half-foot clearance walkways can join underneath the platform deck, to allow transfers “across the street”, but no big Mezzanines.

    3. a train that takes 40 minutes to reach downtown Seattle

      WHAT the effyouseek are you talking about? The alignment I propose is elevated, subway or at-grade with no road crossings throughout. Can’t you read at all? The only stations to be at-grade are the two at the end points in historic districts with interesting architecture that people want to preserve. It doesn’t take any longer to enter an at-grade station than it does to enter an elevated or subway station as long as there are no cross-roads adjacent to the platforms. Link smokes into Rainier Beach to and from the south where the train is running faster because the speed limit is higher on that part of Martin Luther King Boulevard. It is slower to and from the north of course because of the Henderson intersection.

      These two stations are the ends of their respective lines so trains will be slowing for the scissors anyway.

      It’s roughly five miles between Old Ballard and Westlake Center (what most people think of as “Downtown Seattle”). Link has a top speed of 55 I believe and it will probably achieve it only alongside the BNSF south of Dravus, at-grade or on structure it doesn’t matter. And maybe along Elliott south of the Helix Bridge. Elsewhere the stations are too close together to achieve that speed.

      It’s end-to-end average speed when moving is roughly 25 miles an hour or a mile every 144 seconds (2.4 minutes). Then add the dwell time at stops at roughly a minute or so per. Between Old Ballard and New Westlake there would be six intermediate stops. Five times 144 is 720 seconds, or twelve minutes plus the six minutes for stops. It will certainly be less than twenty minutes Old Ballard to New Westlake and another two to Midtown.

      My point in all this is that since you are probably right that the system as currently proposed can’t fit into $131 billion, changes will be made to make it fit. Nobody is proposing a simple streetcar between Ballard and Downtown, even though McGinn thought it would be a useful compromise. SLU is too big an employment and residential center for it to be streetcar only and West Seattle has so many physical challenges that structure is required throughout most of the alignment anyway, so there’s less opportunity to save by at-grade reservation on its project, but the endpoint station can be at-grade very nicely.

      1. It is becoming clearer and clearer than your objective here is to sabotage any plans for Link within the City of Seattle. I don’t know why you want that so badly, but it is unattractive to say the least.

  12. Is there an estimated month in 2023 that East Link will open? I’m curious if it’s closer to the beginning or end of the year.

  13. Some damning and frank new tweets* from STB contributor Dan Ryan….

    >>“The current ST organization has not been providing the necessary program level oversight functions needed for this large complex mega program”. Why West Seattle to Ballard #ST3 Link costs blew up so badly, and what #SoundTransit needs to fix its management failures.<>IMO, the screw-up is as much a Board failure as staff. Being so blindsided by several billions of cost over-runs only possible with a politician-dominated Board that doesn’t know how to do financial oversight.<>Professional-izing the Board (having at least some members who can read the financials or the engineering beyond a rudimentary level) would require displacing some of the local pols, and therefore isn’t on anybody’s agenda.<<

    *Not sure if direct twitter links are allowed in this forum.

      1. Thanks for the link, Tlsgwm. Dan doesn’t say who is the source of the rather “internal document”-sounding text that he included as an image. That would be really good to know.

      2. “Hopefully there will be a forthright presentation to the Board of the contents.”


        This is the time when Rogoff and the rest of his senior management team need to actually “walk the walk” with regard to their often touted commitment to transparency and accountability.

        Thanks for the clarification, Dan.

        As a side note, hopefully we will see your pieces back on this blog in the near future.

      3. It is a very long report. I particularly liked this nugget from page 5: “ST has a plethora of Policies & Procedures and program-wide Plans and Policies”.

        Or: “The Agency and Program team organizations are robust and staffed with highly qualified professionals and subject matter experts.”

        This is the kind of gobbledygook you get from the report:

        “The Phase Gate Program is employed by the agency to progress projects through various phases of development and milestone “gates”. The current program consists of eight (8) different gates which represent major milestones in the project development such as initiation, design, construction, operations, and others. Some gates may require Board
        approval to proceed or formal funding appropriation. The Phase Gate Committee is responsible for implementation of Phase Gate activities and is comprised of agency-wide representation as determined for the individual project needs by the Phase Gate program facilitator. The Phase Gate executive sponsor is the Executive Director of PSO.”

        Most interesting to me is ST’s apparent attempt to distance the WSBLE (which includes DSTT2) from the realignment:

        “The WSBLE organization that was implemented in the planning phase (Phase 2) for WSBLE remains intact and was not specifically subjected to the re-organization earlier this year. Phase 2 specifically includes development of the DEIS and conceptual design work and is supported by a consultant team led by HNTB. The program delivery organization is a cross-functional team comprised of ST staff and consultants and is intended to be co-located subject to restrictions imposed by COVID-19. The Phase 2 Project Management Plan (PMP) for WSBLE is in place and serves as the prime reference for managing the current phase of WSBLE. It is intended that the PMP will be amended periodically as needed while progressing through the various phases of development.”

        And later:

        “All parties should recognize that the planning phase provides the greatest opportunities for significant cost savings. Once the environmental process is complete and memorialized in a Record of Decision (ROD), opportunities for change are limited and are more technical and incremental in nature. Selection of alignment (at-grade, overhead, tunnel), grade separations, etc., are the most significant drivers of cost. To the extent feasible and acceptable to communities, the EIS process should have a major focus on the evaluation of alignment types.”

        Then the report quotes PCPP-13:

        “It [ Project Risk Management] is intended to provide a complete and consistent approach for project risk management planning as well as identify, categorizing, qualitatively assessing, prioritize, quantitatively analyzing, planning response for, allocating, monitoring, responding to, and controlling project risk through the design and construction of the project”. Furthermore, PCPP states, “Risk management planning ensures that the level or scale, type, and visibility of risk management are commensurate with the nature and extent of a project’s complexity, risk profile, and importance to the organization, the project’s stakeholders, and its funding partners. Through planning, resource requirements for risk management are identified and the basis for evaluating and managing risk is defined. The risk management planning process is initiated early during project planning to ensure that risk management resources are available that the risk management standards can be effectively implemented.”

        In the end it will be only the RFP’s for WSBLE and DSTT2 that matter. What will the few construction teams that can build such a project — and therefore can build many other major projects — charge to build DSTT2 and WSBLE, and what will they demand as a cost contingency, especially for DSTT2. The realignment basically promised West Seattle and Ballard everything is affordable; all you have to do is extend the tax schedule, again.

        The fact is none of the crap quoted above was part of ST 3, which is the source of all of this. The only project risk management in ST 3 (and ST 2 and 1) was to reduce the general fund tax increases by manipulating ridership, farebox recovery, project cost estimates, and general fund revenues, to sell ST 3 to the four other subareas. You can’t perform “Project Risk Management” after the levy passes with all its fantastical promises, even after a realignment, which by itself makes all the gobbledygook in the report hilarious.

        You couldn;t make up the conclusion if you tried:

        “ST should recognize and budget for programmatic needs which do not always fit nicely with projects (i.e. megaprojects in transit take a long time to design and build, plus, given their complexity, there will always be late
        changes that are necessary for technical compliance or to enhance the passenger experience). Also, consider “completion contracts” that have enough capacity to install such enhancements. This could alleviate reassures on baseline projects.”

        For the four other subareas the failsafe from ST’s cost estimating could not be simpler: limit their contribution for DSTT2 to the $275 million each promised in ST 3. I doubt the eastside will allow even Balducci to expand the eastside subarea’s contribution, and highly doubt Snohomish or Pierce Counties would agree to pay more than $275 million each, considering each also has its own funding issues.

        So for those of us who live outside the N. King Co. subarea this is a kind of tragic-comedy.

      4. “Hopefully there will be a forthright presentation to the Board of the contents.”

        Staff serves at the pleasure of the board. Mostly it is young people just trying to build a resume. Rogoff OTOH is a master of pulling in a six figure salary doing government work; don’t rock the boat. “Staff” will publish whatever and change it with no consideration of data. That’s why it’s all in political double speak. ST is a political creature with far less pressure to provide actual transit than KC Metro which lately has been more about “equity” than transit.

    1. Thanks tisgwm. I think the “realignment” said it all: the Board was looking for a political solution that avoided admitting what Dan Ryan has tweeted.

      Every experienced person in transit I know (and I am no expert and knew even less back then) told me in 2016 the project cost estimates were rubbish in ST 3 (and we already knew that for ST 2 and East Link at the time), and so were the pre-pandemic future ridership estimates (ST obviously did not foresee a two year pandemic switching much of the workforce to WFH, and the incredible growth of Bellevue in a subarea that does not need addtional ST revenue).

      I think the EIS for WSBLE will be very interesting. At this point the Board and ST have claimed the extension allows them to complete ST 2 and 3 as designed, at a total cost of $131 billion, and the extension will allow ST to raise $131 billion total. This is certainly going to embolden West Seattle, Ballard, and Seattle when it comes to DSTT2, to demand what other subareas got, and other neighborhoods in Seattle got: tunnels and underground stations.

      I think the Board has boxed itself in when it comes to the EIS. Personally I would have used the EIS to force Ballard and West Seattle to be more realistic about stations and DSTT2, and to look at alternatives, but after the realignment the Board told these communities with just a wave of the wand it can extend taxes indefinitely, and nothing is unaffordable.

      Meanwhile, the four other subareas will want a guarantee their contribution is capped at 1/2 of DSTT2 or $1.1 billion so they don’t have to worry about ST’s dishonest project cost and revenue assumptions in the EIS .

      At one point I thought perhaps ST would use the EIS to force WS and Ballard, and Seattle, to realize what is financially possible in N. King Co., but the realignment tells me the Board has no intent of facing the music, not with Dow eyeing a run for governor in 2024.

      The one factor the EIS will probably have trouble avoiding will be actual ridership numbers post-pandemic on Northgate Link and East Link, and around 2024 Federal Way Link, compared to ST projections in ST 2 and ST 3, with a very high farebox recovery goal of 40%. ST won’t be able to ignore the numbers, or manipulate the numbers like it does on project costs and general fund tax revenues, because ridership numbers post-pandemic will be known, and ST assumed a very high 40% farebox recovery rate in ST 2 and 3 to keep general fund tax increases low in order to pass ST 3.

      If the EIS is truthful and honestly estimates the cost of DSTT2 and what West Seattle and Ballard want, and the actual ridership, it will prove the realignment was phony. If the EIS has dishonest numbers, again, then someone else on the Board will have to deal with that down the line, and West Seattle and Ballard, and Seattle, will argue just extend the taxes another 5 or 10 years, except just like this realignment the rub is project costs (inflation) rise as fast as revenue for projects that are extended.

      If the Board and senior ST management are not replaced we will be doing realignments and tax extensions forever. I hope someone does file suit on the Board’s authority to extend ST taxes, and require a ST 4 to extend those taxes. $131 billion is a huge amount to suck out of a region and from all the other social needs for light rail that is designed to serve middle class and upper middle class commuters who might not use it anymore with WFH. Anyone who thinks light rail was about the poor is a fool.

      1. Dan wrote that “The Board” should be augmented or in part replaced with professional engineers and auditors, and you wrote the same post you always write accusing the Board of Machiavellian Manipulations. Did Dow Constantine beat you up in Junior High?

        And, if you weren’t aware of it, “the four other subareas” actually have representatives on the Sound Transit Board! Imagine that. Did you know that the Chairperson of the Board is actually a guy from PIERCE COUNTY! Whoa up, Daddy! And he’s a guy from the only MOTU slice of Pierce County to boot.

        A total of twelve members represent constituencies other than Seattle or King County or are King County Council Members from East King or South King. Imagine THAT!!!!

        HOW in the world are the five North King members gulling more than twice as many board members from other places into funneling these corrupt billions into North King’s ravenous maw? It is truly an amazing spectacle of political mastery. What Pros!

      2. “Dan wrote that “The Board” should be augmented or in part replaced with professional engineers and auditors, and you wrote the same post you always write accusing the Board of Machiavellian Manipulations. Did Dow Constantine beat you up in Junior High?”

        “HOW in the world are the five North King members gulling more than twice as many board members from other places into funneling these corrupt billions into North King’s ravenous maw? It is truly an amazing spectacle of political mastery. What Pros!”

        TT, you misunderstand what Dan Ryan and I wrote.

        I wrote that ST manipulated ST 3 (and ST 1 and 2) by: 1. adopting a 40% Farebox Recovery assumption when Metro’s is 20%; 2. inflated future ridership; and 3. underestimated project costs so that the general fund tax increases would be lower so the levies would have a better chance of passing in four of the subareas. It was the long term effects of the pandemic that really threw off ST’s general fund tax revenue assumptions, and which subarea(s) would benefit and which would suffer.

        Dan wrote that the lack of expertise and qualification on the Board about project and revenue projections meant ST effectively has no oversight. I agree with Dan.

        For the Board I think Joni Earl had it correct: “Optimism is not our friend”. For ST management it is much closer to deceit.

        The issue however is the rubber meets the road when project bids are requested. As we have learned an EIS can easily be manipulated when it comes to costs. ST can claim it will cost $2.2 billion to build DSTT2 in 2016, but if no one will build it for less than $4.4 billion with the 50% cost overrun contingency then at some point the deceit has to be acknowledged, unless ST staff plan on building DSTT2 for $2.2 billion themselves.

        The issue with the realignment is once again an “optimistic” Board looking for a political solution WANTED to believe ST’s new deficit estimate of $6.5 billion (down from $11.5 billion a few months ago), and wanted to believe that all ST 2 and 3 projects could be built by simply extending tax revenues by five or so years.

        A real expert — on the Board or a third party auditor — would have begun with ST’s new assumption the deficit estimate declined by $5 billion in less than 6 months, the real cost of WSBLE and DSTT2, actual ridership post pandemic, a 40% farebox recovery assumption, the shift in general fund tax revenues among subareas, and the NET revenue from extending projects less inflation during the extension period.

        My belief is that an independent audit would have cautioned the Board against accepting ST’s recommendation that the realignment will raise $131 billion in total revenue, that all ST 2 and 3 projects can be built and operated for $131 billion, or the actual total revenue that will ACTUALLY be received, and would have strongly suggested the EIS honestly address this.

        The problem with the “realignment” by a lay Board is it signals to the most expensive projects (WSBLE and DSTT2), in the subarea with likely the largest funding deficit from loss of revenue and project costs, that all things are affordable. West Seattle and Ballard are going to demand what Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt and Northgate got, not what RV got, and Seattle will demand DSTT2, no matter what it costs.

        The realignment IMO will infect the EIS. There really is nothing that is not affordable if taxes can be extended indefinitely, although with subarea equity the eastside is going to be awash with cash with few places to spend it wisely. You make a tragic mistake to expect altruism from different subareas or even cities/neighborhoods within subareas.

        This is not about subarea equity in that each subarea must fund its own projects with its own revenue, although I do think Balducci is a poor advocate for east King Co., but then East King Co. really does not care about trains or transit, although I still would like to see a funding mechanism for that “equal alternative last/mile access” the mayor of Kenmore demanded for delaying eastside park and rides.

        All the four other subareas need to do is limit their contribution to DSTT2 to $275 million each and they are protected from ST’s dishonest cost projections and the “realignment”.

        After all, you would not suggest Snohomish Co., Pierce Co., S. King Co, and even East King Co. based on the actual, much lower cross lake ridership on East Link, should double their contributions to $550 million for DSTT2. Now that would be “the five North King members gulling more than twice as many board members from other places into funneling these corrupt billions into North King’s ravenous maw?, except that it is so easily preventable by limiting the four other subareas’ contribution to DSTT2 to the original $275 million each. Like Bellevue’s tunnel, Seattle and the rest of N. King Co. can cover the rest of the cost for DSTT2, and whatever West Seattle and Ballard want.

      3. So this morning you’ve subtly changed your tune. It’s no longer the ST Board which is driving the car over the cliff. Suddenly it’s unnamed but nefarious “staff” who are deceiving the helpless Board. That is indeed closer to what Dan wrote, but with your usual dark implications of corruption and self-dealing.

        I think that if New Westlake’s platforms can be squeezed in above the c-n-c tunnel east of Westlake Center making both New Westlake and Midtown much cheaper than they looks to be now [not certain at all and more disruptive], they might actually bring DSTT2 (defined as Massachusetts Street to the north wall of the New Westlake Station box) in for under $3 billion. Yes, that’s more than $2.2 obviously, but enough less of an overage that Seattle could pay for it.

        With other reasonable station and alignment changes, WSBLE can then be built. We all know that t would be intensely painful to you to see “teh Libs” succeed at this, but somebody’s got to cry for pretty much everything that happens.

        Will the consultants recommend changes they did not originally propose themselves — i.e. can they avoid “not invented here”? Who knows? I would note that it was apparently public input that got the alignment through Interbay moved over next to BNSF and produced the loop through South Lake Union. Those were both talked about here before they showed up as alternatives. So maybe they DO read the blog?

      4. Dan wrote that “The Board” should be augmented or in part replaced with professional engineers and auditors,

        That is the reason WSDOT gets a seat at the table. Problem is, that’s not often a transit expert and even if they give sage advise the rest of the board is voting what’s going to get them elected even if they know it’s dead wrong (hey, they don’t ride transit so WTF).

    2. Interesting.

      I’ve long been a supporter of the “California model” of countywide transportation funding oversight. There, a separate agency collects the local sales taxes and can question whether each transit agency has realistic budgets or the optimized project alternative. It’s not a full solution but it is another checkpoint for realism. ST appears to not have to really answer to anyone.

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