Ready the Ballot Box: Seattle Wants Northgate-Style Light Rail Expansion Citywide
On Oct 2nd, thousands of Seattlites will flood three new light rail stations as the Northgate Link extension opens. While Seattleites will be excited about the new stations, almost everyone in the city seems to agree that neither Northgate Link nor the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions funded by Sound Transit 3 (ST3) are enough Link expansion for the City.
A recent Change Research poll of likely Seattle voters found overwhelming support for an expanded Link: 76% would support a new transit funding measure to expand Link light rail, including 48% who ‘Strongly Support’ the measure.The most confident supporters of Link expansion could almost carry the ballot box on their own.
The poll reveals that 18-34 year olds support expansion at a whopping 90% (with 66% indicating strong support). Their monumental 90% support speaks to a clear fact: despite Seattle’s increasingly pro-transit voting history, we’ll be even more pro-transit in the future. And it’s not just younger people who support Link expansion; voters ages 65 and over came in at 71% support. In fact, of the 20 demographic groups evaluated by Change Research, only Seattle’s very small population of Republican voters registered net opposition to a new funding measure for Link expansion.
The evidence confirms what many of us have known for years: Seattle needs a citywide plan for high quality rail expansion and, though ST3 is a start, the system we’ll have once ST3 is done is a long way from “done” for Seattle. Seattleites are on board for good reason: Post ST3 nearly 60% of the densest neighborhoods will remain outside the reach of light rail and neither the City nor Sound Transit currently have a plan to resolve that.
For reasons we’ve pointed out many times before, time is running out to get a system built the right way. To get us on the right track for expansion, two things need to happen in short order:
- Seattle needs to produce a citywide Link expansion plan by early 2023. The current city plan is obsolete and Sound Transit’s plan is incomplete. Neither offers the post-ST3 roadmap that voters are demanding. If Sound Transit finalizes ST3 designs blind to future expansion, the choices made in the name of expediency will also be a premature death sentence to many voter-desired expansion lines (see article and map).
- The WA state legislature needs to give Seattle the funding authority we need before 2024 so Seattle can vote to fund expansion of additional in-city light rail lines that would be operated by Sound Transit. It’s true that other potential funding approaches exist: Sound Transit could advance a full regional ST4 measure (also requires additional legislative funding authority), or King County could propose a TBD (Transportation Benefit District) to expand rail. However, both appear unlikely. This leaves the Seattle-only approach as the most viable. Failure to act with urgency will leave many deserving neighborhoods forever locked out of future light rail expansion.
While there is a clear path to meet the public’s appetite for Link expansion, now comes the hard part: getting the people who represent you to listen.
When something is this popular with voters, why doesn’t it happen? The state refuses to fund transit and leans heavily on local voters in Seattle to fund all transit needs directly. Meanwhile, Seattle-area legislators have not united to demand an expansive approach to better transit as part of any future transportation package—recent proposals are laden with carbon-intensive highway expansion and ignore transit yet again. If the Seattle delegation of legislators unified to fix this, it would happen. Seattle votes are needed to pass anything at the state level. Either your legislators are unaware of how much Seattle voters want rail expansion, or they don’t care. We can fix the first part of that problem.
Nearly every sitting council member, council candidate, and mayor candidate has expressed support for citywide link planning and ST4. We have receipts. It’s time for urgent action.
We need your help. Use this quick/easy form to contact your City Council and State Representatives to let them know that you want them to act now.
130 Replies to “Ready the ballot box: Seattle wants Northgate-style light rail expansion citywide”
It’s really amazing that Seattle has never completed a citywide plan for Light Rail expansion. Shouldn’t that be step 1?
No. Light rail is a regional asset and the relevant planning body would be KCM or PSRC.
If we want to leave critical city planning to others, that’s a great way to do it.
Seattle only has billions of dollars of investment riding on it, why plan for ourselves?
That logic is exactly why the City of Seattle can’t get nicer things. The city needs far more light rail than the rest of the region, the city has higher population, but no! We should leave it to the region that literally doesn’t have any incentive to care about the city’s higher needs.
We’ve already gotten (or voted to fund) about all the rail we can reasonably get on a regionwide vote. The Puget Sound region is just too big, with transit needs to diverse, for it to make sense for people in Orting and Bonney Lake to vote on (or pay taxes to fund) in-city subway projects, such as UW/Ballard or Seattle Center/SLU/Capitol Hill/First Hill.
The only way any further progress gets made is for the legislature change the law to allow Seattle to raise money on its own for its own projects.
This seems like such a short-sighted comment. I think the region’s voters have voted for about as much regional rail as they have the appetite to do. Some of the ST3 projects outside Seattle really seem to be reaching a bit toward the bottom of the barrel in terms of utility and value. What would a regional ST4 package even look like?
Meanwhile this survey shows that the voters of Seattle want more than this. Why then would it be inappropriate for planning to occur on a city level for what we might want to add to the regional system on our own?
I support cities being able to tax themselves and fund both capital and O&M at higher rates than their neighbors. It doesn’t follow that Seattle should go and design its own rail system. Seattle doesn’t need its own bus planners; it just sets some guidelines and write a check to KCM to plan & deploy more buses.
Mike is correct. The city (and KCM) have long identified key transit corridors within the city. The modes have evolved but the underlying corridors haven’t changed much. The city (through SDOT) has plenty of authority to fund improvements in those corridors.
Seattle’s plan was to get Sound Transit passed. That was Schell’s, Nickels’, and McGinn’s main goal. In 2000 the city went on a rabbit-hole exercise with a Ballard-West Seattle monorail, and drew up a long-range plan of a half-dozen monorail lines, all carefully not overlapping with the Central Link corridor. The monorail project fell apart, and Seattle replaced its half-dozen line plan with RapidRide and streetcars, and then Murray replace the streetcar plans (Westlake, Eastlake, North Rainier) with RapidRide.
The corridors are more or less well known; every plan since the 1980s has had priority transit in similar corridors.
Agreed. The city has long had a plan. It needs to first fully fund bus improvements on the corridors. Any light rail work beyond ST3 would be to upgrade existing high frequency bus corridors.
The primary issue is that there is no current/official plan for Link expansion. It means Sound Transit can’t react to or plan for what Seattle wants long term and it means each Link expansion is subject to the whims of whatever politician from Seattle ends up on their board.
We think there is a much better way to do this.
But there *is* a long range plan, and Ballard-UW is on it. Considering that’s the only additional Seattle line that makes economic sense to build, that’s a fortunate coincidence.
I can see the point in a long-term metro rail plan for Seattle, and bus network plans for both with and without it. I just find it difficult to come up with a particular network, or to believe the city could find something that has broad consensus at this point. There are so many mutually-exclusive demands. “Maximum rail! Minimum rail! Metro 8 before 45th! 45th before Metro 8! West Seattle yes! West Seattle no! Ballard-Lake City is worthwhile! Ballard-Lake City is not worthwhile!”No matter what the city chooses, it would please a third of the people and displease another third. If the city adopts the Seattle Subway network, it would have its advantages and disadvantages, proponents and detractors. If it chooses something else, it may be much worse than anything suggested on STB. \
Fifteen years ago when we were building ST1 and debating ST2, it was easy to picture expansions beyond that and there was more consensus on what a high-quality network would look like. Now it has gotten more fragmented, with different people pushing mutually-incompatible visions. And the mediocrity of ST3’s post-2016 designs make me wonder if we really want more like that. And when the full ST2 is open, we won’t need expansions beyond it as much as we do right now. Some of the griping about how hard and time-consuming it is to get to Ballard or Lake City or Greenwood or Shoreline or Lynnwood or Bellevue or Redmond from various starting points is because we don’t have ST2 Link yet. You can’t buzz to U-District and take a short 44 run to Ballard, you have to take the D or or a bus from UW Station, or the 49 or 70 to the transfer point, or maybe you’re lucky and a 512 is departing now, if it’s not delayed in traffic. But when you can take a short 44 from U-District station, or something at Judkins Park, then things get easier, even without additional expansions.
Ron’s comment illustrates my point. Some people think ST’s long-range plan has all the right Seattle lines, or even that 45th is on top, while others think ST’s LRP misses the most critical corridors. The city council will go with one influence or another, and which will it be? It can only go with one influence, and will any one of them really be the best and an excellent network?
Mike – The public largely agrees with our vision (or something close to it) so comments like “ST’s long range plan is good enough” are in direct conflict with public opinion.
We’re talking about long range planning, so there are a lot of interim plans that have to happen and no one is saying the whole thing will be built tomorrow — but absence of a real citywide rail plan is a major failure.
As you note in other comments, these corridors aren’t new. There has already been decades of work towards building consensus.
The “public agrees with your vision” because there is no price tag attached to it.
The monorail tax authority couldn’t even support bonding a $2bn project without prohibitive amounts of interest. That’s the only low hanging fruit for the city to finance anything by itself in the foreseeable future.
The best case for city financing is to get that authority usable to build a value engineered 45th crosstown line.
And that provides enough rail construction for the city to chew on well into the 2040s.
Ron – Please refer to our graphic of the recent history of transit votes in Seattle.
Ron is right on both accounts.
1. We have a long range plan. If you don’t like it, agitate to improve it. It is THE plan. It’s not ‘interim,’ it’s approved and funded (https://st32.blob.core.windows.net/media/Default/InteractiveMap/Templates/July1/HCTPlanningStudies-1.pdf).
2. Seattle voters are like a homeowner steadily improving their home. Seattle Subway’s vision is beachfront property in Malibu. Would Seattle voters like to live on the beach in Malibu? Sure. But just because they are building a she-shed and putting solar panels on the roof doesn’t mean they are interesting in, let alone capable of, dropping $10MM on a 2nd home in Malibu.
“Link expansion is subject to the whims of whatever politician from Seattle ends up on their board.” Not to be confused with the whims of whatever activists happen to be on the board of Seattle Subway?
The public largely agrees with our vision
Wait, what??? You mean this? What evidence do you have of that? Did you compare it with other (more realistic) proposals? Holy cow, the thing has hundreds of miles of light rail — not one, but two lines to Woodinville — yet it doesn’t manage to connect the Metro 8 subway with the main line! It is laughable. We would have the most expensive rail system in North America, and a trip from the C. D. to the UW would still occur on the 48.
Please refer to our graphic of the recent history of transit votes in Seattle.
Yep, people like spending money in Seattle. You completely ignore the other measures that have passed during that time period. In 2018 we passed a bill which “expanded early learning and preschool, college and K-12 education support, K-1 2 student health, and job readiness opportunities.”. The following year we passed a levy for school operations and a separate measure for school construction. We passed money for libraries, low income housing and fingerprinting. Since 2105, every Seattle measure passed. Many of these were in off-year elections (when voters tend to be more conservative). If I’m not mistaken, the *only* city proposal to fail in the last ten years was a car tab tax for transit (https://ballotpedia.org/Seattle_Car-Tab_Fee_Implementation_(November_2011)).
There is a definite trend towards spending more money in this city. That includes transit. But it is definitely not geared towards light rail spending. The measure that got the highest support was entirely about giving money for buses.
AJ – I’m not sure why anyone on this blog thinks that we think we’re going to design the future system. We want professional planners and the public to do that.
Sound Transit’s LRP is a myopic this-line-and-the-next regional process done in service of the next regional package. We’re equally confused by why anyone would find a call to plan a citywide Link system threatening.
Professional planners and the public already are designing our light rail system, thought an iterative process between the PSRC’s regional transportation plans and Sound Transit levies. Presumably Seattle Subway wants something different, e.g. , “Seattle needs to produce a citywide Link expansion plan by early 2023.”
My snark around whims was me laughing every time a hear an activist insist their vision is more righteous because it has public support after dismissing the publicly held positions of duly elected representatives, because apparently they don’t believe in representative democracy.
I certainly hope no one from Seattle Subway is directly involved in professional planning of any form. You are ‘confused’ because you don’t understand how intergenerational and inter-bureaucratic planning should work. Drawing lines on a map is the last step, not the first step, of a thoughtful regional transportation plan. Determining the mode to serve a corridor should always occur after the corridor itself it identified. A citywide Link expansion plan is crap because it does both of these things backwards. Go spend $10 and read Human Transit by Jarrett Walker.
We need to start by admitting that West Seattle – Ballard light rail is teetering on the edge of failure. The cost has ballooned to over $1 billion per mile with $2 billion in overruns that are still unaccounted for, even after “realignment”.
The politicians on the board in charge of making the decisions have rearranged the finances so that ground can be broken on the West Seattle-SODO spur ASAP which, by 2024, will give the public the misleading appearance that the project is on track. But other than that, they basically bought some time to try and figure out how to come up with the $2 billion to finish what they promised, while the rest of Seattle’s infrastructure continues to crumble. Sound Transit and SDOT do not work together, so obvious synergies like the 4th Ave viaduct, Ballard bridge, and West Seattle bridge, will continue to be looming budget disasters for the city of Seattle while Sound Transit builds parallel right-of-ways to all of them.
What nobody is saying is that unless there is a budget miracle or an ST4, light rail is not coming to Ballard under ST3, and the primary deliverable from ST3 will be a West Seattle – SODO spur that in many ways will lower-quality transit than the existing rapid ride lines along the same corridor. There will be a couple billion in funds leftover to start on the Ballard spur or the downtown tunnel, but not both.
So, the first priority in any ballot measure needs to be to fill the ST3 funding gap, which will probably take up an entire ballot measure. If we’re going to start talking about additional lines, there needs to be a massive rethink of what the cost-benefit analysis is of building subways in a city that is basically a giant suburb outside of an urban core and two or three other neighborhoods that will already be connected to light rail by the 2040s. Plus several other corridors where costly Rapid Ride conversions will have been completed by then. Should we study what a Seattle light rail expansion should look like? Absolutely. But I, like others here, am worried that it’s going to be too costly, and that key organizations won’t be happy with the compromises that are needed to make the cost-benefit work. We’re not going to be building 10 or 20 new subway stations in Seattle unless we find a way to make them way, way cheaper than the way Sound Transit builds them.
The expansion talk seems a bit premature when Ballard Link has a $2 billion funding gap that has yet to be covered. But it certainly would be worth the effort to come up with a Seattle-only “wish list” of one or two additional lines and start drumming up public support.
I would stay away from subways as much as possible and target at-grade or elevated lines that can replace existing roadways and make for easy bus transfers. Sound Transit’s station designs are a poor fit for a city that depend on its bus network and 2 seat rides. Aurora would be an obvious choice. The other line that I would run would be Sand Point Way -> 23rd, terminating at Mt Baker station with an easy transfer at Madison rapid ride.
ST4 wouldn’t happen until 3 years later in 2024. There’s a ton of time for new federal funding to come thru. And moreover, more than 71 percent of Seattle would be willing to support more funding to expedite rail. That’s how passionate Seattlites are about funding their transit!
Also count me out of ANY new at grade light rail expansion. That’s why the Rainier Valley line goes so slow and hits so many pedestrians and cars. Tunnel or elevated only!!
At-grade does not mean there have to be car and/or pedestrian crossings. Those are design choices made in order to accommodate cars. Cars could have been removed from MLK entirely and the remaining car/pedestrian crossings could have gone above/below the tracks. Those were intentional design choices. The riders on MLK benefit from not having to take 2-3 escalators to reach the train.
+ 1 to Joe Z here. At grade does NOT guarantee low quality. The fact that the MLK segment of Line 1 is low quality was a policy choice, NOT a predestination.
I agree — surface does not mean low quality. As it is, the worst mistake made in Rainier Valley was the location of the Mount Baker Station (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2012/04/18/the-awfulness-of-mt-baker-station/). Well that, and the lack of stations. Oh, and it doesn’t go down Rainier Avenue.
Anyway, the decision to go on the surface was a good one. There is a limited amount of money, and if they spent it all on burying the line in Rainier Valley, they wouldn’t be able to do as much elsewhere. Of all the flaws with our system, running down the surface in Rainier Valley ranks well down on the list. Every system involves cost/benefit trade-offs, and I would much rather have a station in First Hill and Campus Parkway before burying the line in Rainier Valley.
I don’t think the location of Mt. Baker station was the big problem per say, and it probably saved on construction costs not having the line cross Rainier twice. The problems with the station are the lack of escalator at the north end of the platform, lack of direct connectivity to the ped bridge, and the transit center being located on the other side of Rainier.
Metro could have and should have put the Mt. Baker transit center on-street, west of Rainier. They just didn’t because doing so would have displaced some car parking, and car parking is sacred. The site of the current transit center should be housing.
I don’t think the location of Mt. Baker station was the big problem per say
I disagree. Put the station where the transit center is (between Rainier and MLK, north of the crossing) and all the little annoyances go away. Transfers are trivial. Half the time you don’t cross the street, whether you are riding a bus on MLK or Rainier. The other half of the time you cross one street. The buses that terminate there can easily access the transit center, and it is right next to the station. You connect to the where the people are — to the east. You are further away from the greenbelt to the west.
it probably saved on construction costs not having the line cross Rainier twice
It definitely saved some money. But the savings are minimal compared to the cost of burying the line on MLK. It just wouldn’t be that expensive to dramatically improve the value of that stop, whereas burying the line would be extremely expensive, and improve things only a little bit.
I would like to see cut and cover for the stops in Rainier Valley, but it is nowhere near the most cost effective improvement we could have made, even in Rainier Valley.
I fail to see how east of Rainier is so much better than west of Rainier. As long as the station and bus stops are on the same side, who cares?
The current location also works better with the ped bridge, which can be used by riders transferring from the northbound #7. Move the station to the transit center site, every person getting in or out on foot has to wait for a long light to cross either Rainier or MLK. I guess they could have fixed that by building an extension to the bridge. I just don’t see how that’s better than simply having the station where it is and just moving the transit center.
I fail to see how east of Rainier is so much better than west of Rainier.
You should read Martin’s article. It lays it out quite well:
The station is placed west of Rainier and MLK, and therefore across busy arterials from nearly everything of interest. The street grid does nothing to guide buses to the station location, which is partially responsible for the Transit Center and its nearby stops sitting across those busy arterials and well away from any station entrance.
It isn’t good for buses, and it isn’t good for pedestrians.
I just don’t see how that’s better than simply having the station where it is and just moving the transit center.
That just makes it harder for the buses. To quote Martin’s article, “Having [the transit center] on the west side presented issues for NB buses having to make a left across Rainier and severely impacted their travel times.” It is much easier for the buses to connect to the transit center where it is now. The problem is, the train isn’t there.
Oh, and of course people will have to cross the street to access the station. But it would be one street, not two. It would be no different than how people will access the Roosevelt Station via the 522 (or any bus traveling on Roosevelt Avenue). Southbound, you have to cross the busy street. Northbound, the stop is right there. There is no need for pedestrian bridges (that people don’t use) just a cross walk with a traffic light.
EVERY ST measure since Sound Move has included money to close funding gaps from the previous measure. Two things are true:
1. To get moving on ST4, the measure has to also keep ST3 on time or faster than promised.
2. It’s political wisdom that you cannot easily pass a measure to just build what everyone voted to already build 4-8 years ago. Instead, you close the existing finding gap AND build new stuff. Ergo, ST4 is a solution to both our problems.
Each funding levy has both backfilled prior projects and removed/deferred deprioritized projects. It would be consistent with prior levies to use the ST4 vote to delete or descope projects that have been deemed not longer a priority.
If Seattle wanted to fund light rail all it would need to do is impose a licensing tax on the most profitable companies. That kind of tax does not have any uniformity requirement, so it could target the profitable companies that could pay it easily. No need for more regressive taxing for transit — there’s far too much of that as is.
I once asked the horde in an open thread if they thought a “Head tax” for transit would survive (after the “Head tax” for homeless fell to the angry hordes). There didn’t seem like there was a big appetite for it. This is before Amazon spent more money (although it only worked to get anti-ST3 Pedersen elected over a pro transit candidate) on the Seattle City Council elections than it did to defeat I-976.
A similar measure would lead to Big Tech waging another expenditure in the next Seattle election.
A head tax has bad political connotations because it sounds like you’re taxing jobs, which you are. Don’t we want to maximize the number of jobs rather than minimize it?
The old head tax had the problem of being flat, which ended up hitting employers for low income jobs *harder* than high ones ($400 out of $30,000 is a lot more percentage-wise than $400 out of $100,000.)
A percentage payroll tax would’ve been a better sell.
When I first saw Republican support at 36% rather than 0%, my initial reaction was quite a bit of surprise. However, after a quick round of googling, I found polls showing Republican support for Medicare For All (22%) and a Public Option (56%) isn’t zero either, which suggests that there are actually quite a few Republican voters who are far more liberal on fiscal issues than Republican politicians. (I guess, such voters are drawn to the Republican party by other issues, such as guns, abortion, or immigration). Combining the above with the fact that this poll is specifically about Seattle residents, who are in a far better position to actually see or ride transit than the typical Republican voter who lives in an exurban/rural area, the 36% figure does seem somewhat believable.
That said, it is important to use extreme caution when interpreting the crosstabs of any poll, especially crosstabs such as this which represent a small slice of the overall electorate. For example, if the poll had 400 voters, the overall margin of error is +/-4.9%, but if only 40 of those 400 voters are Republicans, the margin of error of the Republican crosstab is +/-15.5%. If the pollster was only able to reach 10 Republican voters and needed to upweight them to keep the party composition representative, the margin of error becomes even higher, as the preferences of just one voter can now single-handedly skew the crosstab by 10%.
Even the liberalest East Seattle districts are 30% Republican.
My guess is Seattle has quite a few liberal Republicans. They stick with the party, despite all of the obvious failures over the years. They call themselves “mainstream”, even though they are anything but (yeah, maybe 50 years ago, but not now). https://www.washingtonmainstream.org/. Jon Nehring — the mayor of Marysville — is head of that organization, and he is also chair of Community Transit. My guess is he is an “all of the above” person, in that he wants freeway and transit expansion. He is probably more skeptical of transit spending than freeway spending though.
Not sure why you think there are no Republican politicians who support transit. Transit gets bipartisan support locally and nationally from politicians representing metros with significant transit. Rural republicans tend to support Federal funding for lifeline transit in rural areas.
Support for Amtrak, at least in its bare bones form, has generally been bipartisan. I know at least that Republican senators in Montana and North Dakota did go on record complaining about the Empire Builder, which goes through their states, being cut below once per day during the pandemic. Which is something.
But politician support for any form of public transit beyond the bare minimum is usually the domain of Democrats, especially when big cities are involved. For instance, the Republican delegation in the WA legislature has always been unanimously opposed to allowing Seattle to raise funds to improve its own transit, even though the impact on their own constituents taxes would have been $0.00. The Republican party as a whole is deeply suspicious of large cities, and views them as lawless beasts that need to be controlled (a trend that has been greatly amplified over the past 4 years). They want Seattle to fail as a city in order to bolster this message.
It possible that what few Republicans actually live in large cities are exceptions to this. Or it’s possible that they are only grudgingly living in a city because they have to to avoid a grueling commute, and aim to quickly decamp for the countryside at the first opportunity. Which, I don’t know, nor do I know anybody to ask.
“Ford to city: drop dead.”
It’s possible to support transit and still be a fiscal conservative. Spend some time engaging with the Strong Towns movement; you’ll find plenty of people who love cities and love transit but would be immediately branded ‘Republican’ in Seattle politics.
President Ford’s position on NYC’s bankruptcy was about OPM, not pro/anti transit. Alon Levy frequently tells NYC’s current political class to drop dead.
✅ Hell yes, let’s go Sound Transit 4!! 🎉
It’s honestly about time Belltown, First Hill, and Denny Triangle get stations. It’s beyond time we connect Ballard to U District East and West. And the South Park/Georgetown line looks dope to travel express to the airport faster. We need to make our regional rail spine into a true inner city network where we can zoom fast between every major neighborhood and relinquish the need for people to ever really need to own a car.
Traffic won’t get any better 100 years from now. And I don’t want to wait till I’m 99 years old to ride ST4 trains. Should a subway system have been built long ago? Sure. But the second best time to build this is right effin’ now. We need light rail to more neighborhoods and we need to approve it now. Thank god 76 percent support it.
Sign me UP! 💥
Any group can say that they “plan”. I can’t help but think that the challenge is how to develop a good plan. Let me explain…
First and foremost, a good plan has analyzed many alternatives. I don’t mean whether to use street one or street two, but whether 1 of 10 different configurations are best.
A good plan is based on objective criteria more so than interest group lobbying or elected official preferences. Things like percent of population and jobs within walking distance from a station and percent of destinations within 20 minutes get presented and compared.
A good plan develops reasonable design requirements, land purchase requirements and subsequent capital costs rather than bare-bones schemes combined with low contingencies to get overly optimistic plans funded by voters.
A good plan evaluates different technologies rather than assumes universal application of one transit technology everywhere.
A good plan presents stations in 3-D rather than just put a 2-D rectangle on a map — including where entrances, elevators and escalators go.
I’m sure others have other aspects that would improve plans.
In the abstract, citizens will support great transit here as the polls show. Still, getting there requires objective analysis and honesty about what the proposal is. It’s how we ended up with the monorail debacle of several years ago or the irritatingly slow FHSC that can’t handle much more than an articulated bus and travels slower.
It’s not our ability to dream. It’s about our ability to realistically execute the dream that seems to be our Achilles heel.
Al, great point! PSRC looked at transit technologies in 2004, ST updated it a bit in 2014, but I would like to see get an update including carbon footprint comparison (like how much concrete/steel construction requires) and operational cost, none of that has been evaluated. Then I would like to see the right mix of modes (rail, bus, aerial gondolas…) and alignment proposals to serve riders in different neighborhoods and what the population increases in those neighborhoods require. Seattle Subway vision is helpful for a rail spine, but that vision doesn’t answer how we evolve from where we currently are to identify the next set of steps to evolve our network.
If Seattle cared enough about transit to make such a city-wide extravaganza of expensive rail lines even infinitesimally feasible, there would be adjacent bus lanes — not BAT, full bus-only with island platforms for the middle-of-the-street lane — on 45th from Aurora to Fifth Northeast under construction. Then from Fifth to Fifteenth NE they’d be curbside with no turns from the center car lanes allowed except at Roosevelt and Eleventh.
There would already a Southside bus-only curb lane on Northgate Way from Corliss to First NE, and on Link Day the second southbound off-ramp from I-5 (the loop back northward) would become bus-only, at least during the peaks.
Third Avenue would bus-only from Yesler to Denny and there would be effective action against non-riders loitering there.
The 7 would have BAT lanes at least as far south as Orcas and would terminate at RBS. The bus lanes for the 40 through Fremont would have been there for a decade now.
The City would be suing Simon over its plan to put an ice rink in the center of the highest-zoned block of North Seattle.
Since none of these things is true, Seattle’s supposed “love for” and eternal “commitment to” transit does not exist anywhere but on this blog.
Hell, the stupid City leaders even acquiesced to the State filling up both halves of the Battery Street tunnel, when one half would have been a GREAT way to run an automated shuttle from the Denny Way Link station into Belltown.
This thirteen-year-old boy’s fantasy of tracks everywhere will not come to pass. The City can’t afford it and would burn down City Hall if enough peanut-butter density needed to support it came about.
A lot of that costs money, and Seattle just doesn’t have it. We can barely keep the bridges from falling down.
Move Seattle was supposed to pay for a lot of it. Unfortunately, the projects were just too expensive. If you look at the plans: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/, they were pretty damn good. They would do more for transit in Seattle than ST3 will. But again, they just didn’t have the money, and so most of those projects were scrapped.
Of course, Ross. The City “just doesn’t have the money” because transit doesn’t get people elected or thrown out of office. It’s about number seven on most voters’ priority list.
If the City “just doesn’t have the money” to declare Third Avenue a transit street (which costs whatever forty “Do Not Enter (Except Transit and Emergency Vehicles)” signs cost, it SURE doesn’t have the money for Ballard-Woodinville —- WOODINVILLE!!!
I guess it IS on the way to Carnation….
No, the city doesn’t have the money because the state limits their ability to tax and spend money. Just look at the second bullet point in this essay:
2. The WA state legislature needs to give Seattle the funding authority we need before 2024.
If the city could just spend money (the way the state spends money) then this would be completely unnecessary. Seattle Subway would be asking the city council to just spend the money. But they can’t. Nor can they spend unlimited funds making the buses faster. Or add bike lanes. Or add sidewalks. All of that costs money, and Seattle is maxed out. It could shift money, but that could lead to more suffering (less money for support services, less money for day care, etc.). It is a zero sum game, and Seattle just doesn’t have the money.
The only way it can get a significant amount of more money is if the state gives us additional funding authority. Otherwise, we have to wait for the next Move Seattle levy, and keep chipping away at the problem. Move Seattle passed easily, and would again, even it was a much bigger amount.
Just here to speak the truth. Seattle has needs for more transit like a link expansion. But Renton gets the bad end of the stick in every regional plan. Lets stop treating Renton like the backwater hickville stereotype from the 1990s. Renton deserves Respect!
It’s purely East King politics that places a South Kirkland Station (at 1100 boardings in 2040) ahead of Renton connectivity (South Renton at 3000 boardings for 405 BRT that doesn’t even go directly to Downtown Seattle at a stop that makes buses leave the express lanes). (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2020/01/27/sound-transits-station-ridership-in-2040/)
Still, the poll and post is Seattle focused.
Sometimes I’ve wondered if a way to absorb nearby cities to create a Seattle of over 1M and growing would be better or worse. If Renton was annexed to become a Seattle neighborhood, I think Link to Renton would be a higher priority.
South Kirkland station will open 20 years after the South Renton station, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say Kirkland is prioritized above Renton.
The Renton station locations are purely an outcome of local Renton politics. South and East King regional politics supported the Stride approach, but Renton itself identified the two station locations for priority. I would have preferred Renton to prioritize direct access lanes at Southport rather than 44th, as both are in the 405 Master Plan, but the decision to prioritize 44th is solely the decision of Renton; WSDOT and ST are simply reacting to the expressed decisions of Renton’s local government. Same with South Renton; the city asked for the TC to move to adjacent to the freeway.
Perhaps Jon would have preferred Renton to focus on direct connections to Seattle over connections to south King (TIBS, Burien) and Bellevue, but I think Renton views itself as a hub for south King and a satellite of East King, rather than a commuter suburb of Seattle.
South Kirkland’s not a great station, but it’s only a few thousand more feet of track beyond the OMF-E. Renton is many miles and several billions and the train would still be slower than the BRT.
Whining about Renton being underserved is more rail bias than any substantive complaint about the quality of your transit.
What Dan said. I also think you have to consider the politics. Dan wrote some excellent articles about it, and can correct me if I get the history wrong. Kirkland hired an independent transit consultant to look at transit for the city. They recommended BRT on the CKC. Some locals objected. Sound Transit wanted rail (even though the locals would object to that too). The city of Kirkland went ahead and pushed for BRT, but ST wouldn’t fund it. Eventually, they wouldn’t fund anything on the CKC. Issaquah, meanwhile, wanted rail, and ST was glad to push it. So the tiny extension was merely throwing Kirkland a bone.
Renton shouldn’t be jealous of Kirkland, they should be jealous of Issaquah. Or at least, the amount of money being proposed for Issaquah rail. Issaquah won’t get that much out of it, but there is a lot of money being spent there.
See AJ, the decision as you say was political – not analytically logical. The South Renton station was chosen for parking cars, not serving 405 Stride buses or eventual light rail. This is a microcosm of the systemic regional problem: elected officials have too much power and don’t give a crap about logic. When you justify what they decide, you don’t care about logic and analysis either.
Look at the link above. South Kirkland has the lowest number of 2040 boardings for any in the primary Link system. Further, having the Issaquah trains will require not only Kirkland track but also a very messy and expensive wye south of East Main — so it’s much bigger and costlier than you say.
If, on the wither hand, the Eastgate/ Issaquah branch was automated, some of the line could be single-tracked in environmentally sensitive areas. The transfer station could be built atop East Main and a train could idle there with open doors ready to serve either Bellevue or Seattle riders.
Ross is correct that Issaquah is four miles from Eastgate and that’s quite costly given the addition of only 4K riders.
It almost appears that Eastgate and Issaquah should have gotten Stride and Link Line 4 should be light rail (ignoring design and land constraints).
The political problem connecting Renton is a subarea problem too. If the ST eventual sketch (and Seattle Subway vision) of following 405 from South Renton to Burien was changed to a rail line following SR 900 to BAR Link as a transfer station, it could be fully funded by East King — except Skyway is in South King. No other East King cities would benefit and South King kind of ignores Skyway. This is one way how subarea politics doesn’t optimize the greater hood of transit mobility.
“Renton shouldn’t be jealous of Kirkland, they should be jealous of Issaquah.”
Exactly. Issaquah is getting Link because its mayor was on the ST board and championed Issaquah and Link expansion for years. It made a case, compelling or not, that Issaquah really needed Link, its size and location and potential growth justified it being next, it’s so far from East Link that another line is needed, and the I-90 corridor is a natural location for a second line. The I-90 corridor was in Forward Thrust in the 1970s, and it was assumed that much of the Eastside’s growth would occur on Factoria/Eastgate and Issaquah. That’s what led to the T-Mobile office towers in Eastgate. The full growth didn’t occur because more growth went to other parts of the Eastside instead, and the county eventually stopped emphasizing the I-90 corridor and neglected it. But Issaquah essentially dredged up and leveraged that old argument that the I-90 corridor is a major opportunity for growth and is the most logical place for a second line.
Renton keeps getting the short end of the stick because it’s more working-class and less fashionable, and isn’t near I-90 or 520. It also has a fundamental geographical problem that it’s not on the way to anywhere. It’s too far east of the 99 and West Valley Highway corridors, it’s not near the east-west I-90 corridor, the 405 corridor is a relatively weak transit market (downtown Bellevue is the only major destination), and a line going southeast from Seattle to Renton and continuing on would only get to low-density Maple Valley.
One thing Renton has going for it is that if the WSJ-Burien-Renton extension is ever built, the travel time from Renton to Seattle would be a surprisingly short 40 minutes, comparable to the 101. The West Seattle detour looks like a long time suck but at grade-separated speed it’s not.
Mike, Renton would be easy to reach if the Rainier line gets redirected through Skyway and it could be extended further towards Enumclaw.
But then the South Park express would be necessary which would be much faster/cheaper to build than a West Seattle detour.
“If… Eastgate/ Issaquah branch was automated, some of the line could be single-tracked in environmentally sensitive areas. The transfer station could be built atop East Main and a train could idle there with open doors ready to serve either Bellevue or Seattle riders.” I think it’s very possible this is was is ultimately built; when I was at ST some of the engineers thought this was the 3rd party consultant’s ultimate vision and they called it ‘Link’ simply as a placeholder for the ST3 vote. The Kirkland branch could then be used as a way to boost frequency on East Link between Seattle & Wilburton.
It’s also very possible for Eastgate/Issaquah to evolve into a Stride line, particularly if the S3 Stride lines are viewed as successful.
Seattle survey respondents always say yes when asked if they want more transit. You might get a different answer if you say it will cost the $XX Billion and it will cost each household $X,XXX more per year in taxes.
Or when you tell them what exactly the lines would be.
If you focus on the cost per household, then you also have to mention all the other costs and benefits to be fair. People have fanciful assumptions that driving subsidies aren’t several times higher than transit subsidies, that free parking spaces are inexpensive to provide, that cars aren’t pushing things apart and harming people’s quality of life, that the amount they spend every year on gas/insurance/maintenance doesn’t add up that much. So when you give them a statistic in isolation that a transit project would cost $X,XXX per year, they compare it to zero rather than to the (X,XXX / 2) that the alternative might be.
It seems like all these “ST4 now!” fanboys are pretending the last three years didn’t exist. It’s like reading comments from 2017. I thought I was strongly pro-rail, but… Yes, a multi-line subway network like New York would be ideal and we should have started building it out in 1912 like Chicago did. ST1 and ST2 were great. But ST3 has been so mediocre and we’ve got such a backlog of approved but not-yet-built stuff and the ST3 tax rate is effectively ST1+2+3 combined, that I’m inclined to go more slowly and look at bus solutions more than I would have in the past. Ballard’s 14th station alternative getting to the top of the list has shaken my faith that more Link is necessarily the solution, or that Ballard Link is even worthwhile. It would be worthwhile if it went directly to 20th & Market where the concentration of pedestrians is, and it’s marginally tolerable on 15th, but Link with a station on 14th makes me wonder if it’s worth it in the first place. If most people are taking the 40 because Link is too far away, then it isn’t really serving Ballard. The favored West Seattle alternatives also aren’t the best, and it has always been questionable whether light rail in West Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Issaquah is the right thing. So do I really want more of that.
Then there’s the speed of the 44 and D, and routes like them. They suck, but if they get the proper street improvements their travel time could drop to 20 minutes, which would make Link less necessary. If only the city would prioritize transit and peds first and cars last like Paris and The Netherlands do, then we could have an excellent surface network.
We’re pretty disappointed about the location of the Ballard station too.
The more I think about it, the more I attribute this to a lack of long range planning and a mission gap.
Sound Transit’s goal was is plan and build a station in “Ballard.”
Their goal should be: “Plan and build a station that makes sense in the larger context of building a system, long term, the serves as many Seattleites as reasonably possible.”
The goal they have makes 14th ok in their minds with some hand waving about future upzoning and lets just forget about how far it is from Ballard Ave and 24th.
The goal the way I said it makes 20th the furthest east you would even consider with the knowledge you will eventually interline to the north and east and likely build another station around 8th.
Side note: The last few years have been rough for bus ROW too. Remember when Move Seattle was going to create 7 rapid rise “plus” lines? I don’t think we have much reason to be super optimistic about the future on that front.
Move Seattle was hugely disappointing, but it was dealing with a lot less money.
RapidRide G will be extremely expensive per mile. So expensive, that a lot of Metro planners question the relative value, even though it will enable buses to run very quickly, with six minute headways all day. But despite the high cost, it is nothing compared to light rail costs. For just one segment of one of the new lines, you could fully fund all of the Move Seattle projects (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/) and have a ton of money left over.
I’m not saying we should give up hope of ever having another rail line after ST3 (Ballard to UW is short enough, and valuable enough to be realistic). But if we can’t afford even relatively cheap improvements to the bus system, there is no way we can afford, say, an extension of West Seattle rail.
I wish they would have looked at a gondola for Madison. It might have been a bit more expensive, but I bet less expensive to operate than running buses every 6min and would use clean energy rather than diesel.
Same for West Seattle, I would rather use $3.2b to do the South Park airport express and connect the Rainier line to Renton to allow for further Southern extension, West Seattle could be served by gondola far sooner and plenty of capacity throughout the day.
Sorry homeless, your housing is going to have to wait. A bigger crisis has popped up. Belltown doesn’t have light rail.
Housing and transit are both essential. Saying we should postpone transit improvements for a decade or forever until everyone has housing is not the way to run a city. We should do both, as Finland has done.
How about a 25 cent tax on non-low income transit fares and bridge tolls to help fund affordable housing. Surely transit riders who have not qualified as low income are willing to help contribute to affordable housing considering how much ST and Metro have sucked out of the system for social programs like housing.
Mike, your city has failed miserably in addressing its homeless crisis ever since it was declared an emergency years ago. Now you claim that Seattle is capable of multitasking: Spending billions of dollars on a new citywide light rail project, and fund housing for the homeless at the same time. Where’s the proof? Oh, right, it’s over in Finland.
I would wait until the DEIS for WSBLE and DSTT2 are completed. At that point the demands by West Seattle and Ballard will be better known, and general fund tax revenue post pandemic in the N. King Co. subarea (and whether all four other subareas actually have their funding for 1/2 of DSTT2). The area will also know what the federal Congress looks like, which will help estimate federal grants for transit.
At that point Seattle (N. King Co.) will have completed the spine in its subarea, and will know what if anything is needed to complete WSBLE and DSTT2 based on the adopted design (and all subareas will have a better understanding of farebox recovery post pandemic).
My hunch is WSBLE and DSTT2 will need additional funding beyond ST 3 and the realignment, depending on the designs West Seattle and Ballard demand. If the amount is very small, say $1 billion, then a Move Seattle type levy could cover the shortfall. If however the shortfall is several billion dollars to complete ST 3 in N. King Co. then any levy in Seattle alone will be very large, and so will the taxes, and nothing “new” will be built with the levy money in the voter’s eyes.
The issue with Seattle Subway, or any updated transit plan for Seattle, is just like Move Seattle, and ST 2 and 3 (and ST 1) the project costs are ALWAYS underestimated to sell the levy. The levy advocates refer to it as “optimism” when really it is deceit. The ST Board had the luxury of simply extending the taxes to complete ST 3 by five years, whereas the Move Seattle levy did not have that luxury and had to cut half the projects, not unlike ST 1.
The ST “realignment” raised an addtional $35 billion just to complete the projects in ST 3. Think about that figure. Imagine going to Seattle voters and asking them to approve 35 Move Seattle’s in one levy.
I don’t think many transit advocates understand the size of these budgets, and just how much one billion dollars is. The plan for Seattle Subway is something out of a Jetson’s cartoon the cost is so prohibitive.
Most transit advocates are progressives, but they have little remorse over removing $131 billion from the tax pie to fund middle class and upper middle class rail from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond, and how foolish that spine is. Every other social need will suffer from that $131 billion sucked out to build trains when buses work just as well for any area outside the urban core.
And then you have two other unfortunate realities:
1. Seattle does not have the funds to repair or replace $3.5 billion in bridges. When bridges fail, or are determined unsafe like West Seattle, they fail spectacularly, and bridges are how we move freight and goods, create jobs, and only 10% of trips are by transit. The responsible thing to do would be to put a $3.5 billion levy on the ballot (3.5 Move Seattle’s) to fix the bridges, but hey this is Seattle so wait until the bridges fail, and act shocked the number one demand by neighborhoods like West Seattle and Ballard is for no loss of car capacity for any bridge, even if like West Seattle that means no rail across a new bridge.
2. You have to fund operations after you build light rail, and of course nearly every other U.S. subway type system does that in part by neglecting replacement costs, which is easy if your trains are new, but actually many ST trains are not new any longer.
ST operations are predicated on a 40% farebox recovery rate and very optimistic ridership estimates. My hunch again is a levy to fund operations for Metro which has to afford first/last mile access, and ST, will be a more pressing need in the next five years (now that the “realignment” is completed) than building more tunnels and subways to nowhere.
The irony is when it comes to farebox recovery which comes down to ridership unless transit riders want to kick in more with fare increases ST has already built in what it considers the heaviest ridership areas (with much of the system above ground), based on huge costs for first/last mile access, so Seattle Subway is going to build underground to areas with even lower ridership and again without any consideration for first/last mile access, because hey if you are a rail advocate that is not your responsibility.
Look, I don’t live in Seattle so I am for giving Seattle authority to raise its own transportation levies. Otherwise folks like me who live in the east King Co. subarea end up with ridiculous $4.5 billion lines from Issaquah to S. Kirkland no one will ever ride because we have to fund Seattle’s crazy light rail costs, extensions in our park and rides folks would use to meet N. King Co.’s debt ceiling, and tunnels from IDS to Northgate, and now to West Seattle and Ballard. I don’t want another Issaquah to S. Kirkland line in East King Co. because that money could be spent so much wiser.
I guess all I ask is first make sure the bridge repair and replacement funding is in place because buses and trains don’t fly, second make sure this is a Seattle only levy, third make sure operations for light rail and Metro are truly secure through 2044, and then please estimate project costs accurately, and the one sure way to do that is include a 50% cost contingency in the project costs and taxes.
Reading between the lines, the reason Seattle Subway is proposing it now is to time it with the Northgate Link opening, when public support for more Link will be highest. The next opportunities after that will be the Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way openings in 2022-2024, and then the window will close for a decade. But those other openings are mostly not in Seattle, so they won’t generate as much Seattle enthusiasm as Northgate Link will.
I’m worried that our current paradigm, of a “spine” of rail connecting to outlying neighborhoods by bus, is unsustainable. Seattle is a high-wage metro, with wages still going higher, and the cost of bus service is going to become infeasible over time. Expanding the rail network, as well as converting it into a driverless system, is imperative.
All buses will soon be electric, with simpler motors that last longer. So they’ll be the same as Link in that respect. While I think we should wait until current buses’ end-of-life to replace them, if you’re looking 20-30 years into the future then all remaining buses in corridors Link doesn’t serve will be electric.
As for the cost of wages and competition for employees, who knows what things will be like then? The increasing unaffordability of labor and the falling purchasing power of wages are all due to federal and state policies, which could change. It may seem like we can’t go in a European/Canadian-like direction, but twenty years is a long time (equivalent to five presidential terms).
Re driverless, ST should be pursuing it on Link but it has repeatedly refused to. In the run-up to ST3 it talked about possibly making the new lines driverless but it never pursued it. So it’s an uphill battle. And driverless buses and cars on regular streets are still an unproven technology in spite of the hype. They can work in limited corridors that are made extra-safe and monitored, but not on every random street. And there’s absolutely no way Link or streetcars could replace all bus routes or even most bus routes. Even cities with comprehensive multi-line subways and regional rail have several times more bus routes for all the in-between and oblique corridors. With East Link on NE 16th Street, there will never be Link on NE 8th Street, so buses will have to fill in there. With Northgate Link stations at 45th, 65th, and 103rd, the 67 is necessary for in-between stops.
I assume driverless Link trains would pick a fight with the drivers’ union that ST simply does not want to pick. If they tried it, their bus drivers might all go on strike.
Or, if the train runs driverlessly, but they have to pay a driver to sit in the base and play cards while it’s running to make the union happy, there’s no advantage in going driverless in the first place. The whole point of driverless trains is to save on labor costs.
Driverless trains will also be safer, with quicker response times to brake when there are issues.
If Paris can automate trains over the objection of unions, surely Seattle can too. I think the existence of driverless trains in Vancouver will greatly help.
https://pedestrianobservations.com/2021/09/04/whats-frustrating-about-bus-redesigns/ points out that buses will get unaffordable, subways look a lot better as the ratio of rider to driver is much better. A driverless train or gondola will become more and more attractive as wages keep rising while I think autonomous vans will have a hard time to live up to the hype.
I like a lot of Alon’s essays, but that one is absurd. The vast majority of corridors in the vast majority of cities in the United States will never be appropriate for rail. They simply won’t have the people. This is definitely true of Seattle, as well as the surrounding areas.
Ross, not all routes have enough ridership to justify rail, but any driverless transit systems such as gondolas and cable liners also provide such operational cost benefit. Kirkland for example just finished a study to connect downtown with the the 85th Stride station and the Google properties along the way.
A big drawback of Seattle Subway’s vision map is that the organization presents a single alternative. One of the strengths of having multiple rail lines using the same technology is the flexibility of service options. They should have at least three vision maps to drive home the point of flexibility and strategic investments.
To be clear: VISIONING IS NOT PLANNING. This difference seems unfathomable to many Seattle transit advocates. I think we shouldn’t be adding taxes until a more thorough planning and design process has been followed.
I’m reminded of how the SLU/ Ballard corridor alternative was drawn up by Kubly and Murray, and doesn’t match any of the alternatives that were studied technically just before it evolved.
Even in this post, “plan” and “funding” sequences are not clearly presented or clarified. Can we think rationally about planning things before making a mad dash to the ballot box like we did in 2016?
More alternatives would be good. On the other hand, wouldn’t you want to put all your best ideas into one plan, and then all the other plans would be your second-best or unwanted ideas? Metro put everything its planners thought was best into one Metro Connects plan and didn’t offer another. When organizations have offered multiple plans — as Metro did in the U-Link restructure and Jarrett Walker does in multiple cities — it’s usually to compare a best plan to a status-quo plan, or to illustrate different sets of values like emphasizing frequency vs coverage. In this case, there’s one set of values, the Seattle Subway set, or the transit-best-practices. You can design two different networks from the same set of values, but how much is it worth it for one team to do so? Inevitably they’ll have a favored pattern, so it will devolve into a best- and second-best proposal.
What could be added to a single proposal is a discussion of the design decisions and tradeoffs. Those can be evaluated without drawing up a complete alternative network.
The deadline for the November ballot was August, so it’s too late for a vote this year. And ST would need three years’ lead time to draw up an ST4. First it would update the Long-Range plan, then it would consult the cities, then make a list of potential candidate projects, then choose which ones to include in the ballot measure, then finalize the measure in April or June for the next November’s ballot. If it wants additional taxes (which it would have to because the ST1/2/3 tax streams are maxed out through 2041 or whenever ST3 ends), it would have to beg the legislature for permission, and that would take months and have to be scheduled during a legislative session. Plus there are corridor studies in ST3 for potential ST4 corridors, so those should logically be done first, because the board declared in 2016 that these are the most promising next corridors and should be at the head of the line for consideration.
I don’t remember what all those next corridors are, but they probably include the 45th line, the Tacoma Mall extension, the Everett College extension, the WSJ-Burien-Renton line, the Northgate-Lake City-Bothell line, and something vague for downtown Kirkland. (Kirkland concepts ST has considered include extending Issaquah Link north, extending the 45th line to a Sand Point-Kirkland lake crossing, and a line from the U-District north to Bothell and back south to Kirkland [overlapping the Lake City-Bothell concept]).
The 45th line (Ballard-UDistrict) and WSJ-Burien-Renton lines were studied in ST2 so the may have extra-extra priority, if the board still feels as it did then. Especially with everybody saying Renton keeps getting shortchanged and should get more priority. Renton became East King’s second-largest city when nobody was looking, and it’s widely viewed as deserving equity priority.
“I’m reminded of how the SLU/ Ballard corridor alternative was drawn up by Kubly and Murray, and doesn’t match any of the alternatives that were studied technically just before it evolved.”
That shows how ST defers to cities’ and counties’ wishes first.
These poll results say that the fundamentals for voter approval are still there within the city limits.
So why rush? There is no urgency. It’s not like the support will evaporate in 12 months. Instead, I suggest that Seattle puts the effort into doing it logically correct — analytical studies of many alternatives and technology combinations. Then, it can be time for a funding discussion no sooner than 2024 or 2028.
The urgency is related to what is being planned/built as part of ST3. If ST3 isn’t built for expansion some of the best lines on our map will likely never exist.
We need the city council/a Seattle level plan helps us move the legislature, who generally take a “skepticism first” approach to transit — including Seattle based legislators.
Sound Transit won’t take any action without it being blessed by the city and funded.
So – it goes: City Council/SDOT to Legislature to voters to Sound Transit. That said – if we get well along this path and get the city on board, we may be able to influence better outcomes with Sound Transit before getting all the way to voters.
“The urgency is related to what is being planned/built as part of ST3. If ST3 isn’t built for expansion some of the best lines on our map will likely never exist.”
That’s a good point. Expandability has always been one of ST’s weak points. U-District Station was not designed with a stub interface to a potential cross line even though it’s in ST’s long-range plan. ST has had fifteen years since station design started and it still hasn’t put it in. So how good would transfers be to an east-west line? Nobody knows. Even though it’s the biggest east-west travel corridor in North Seattle.
Seattle Subway’s messaging, even when just sensible incremental steps and future-proofing, gets lost in listeners’ assumptions that “OMG, they’re asking for an unrealistic moon right now!”
So Mr Subway, is it to backfill the ST3 shortage, fund future expansion at least with the right switches abd rail tracks? If it’s both, what’s the right proportions? What about not only Belltown, First Hill and Fremont, but also Lake City, Morgan Junction, Georgetown, South Park, Cherry Hill, Admiral, Alki, Greenwood and U-Village/ Children’s Hospital?
I’d agree that a citywide plan has merit. However it’s more than regurgitating the same corridors. After all, we have added 30% more population just since 2000 — and growth has been inconsistent in different areas.
Technology too has changed. Driverless is attainable — even with a few grade crossings. Just slow down in possibly dangerous crossings.
So yes we need a comprehensive look. However, Seattle Subway clings to current light rail running on long grade-separated lines and won’t consider automated rail or rubber tired shuttles feeding the spine, neighborhood street cars, gondolas or cable-pulled systems for last mile services. If Seattle Subway wants this, the group has to let go of their ideal vision map and be flexible about what is best to do. The NYC 1910 Subway system version with light rail trains may not be the right thing to do.
“More alternatives would be good”
Interestingly, ST staff had the exactly opposite takeaway from the ST3 public outreach. Public comment boiled down to, ‘just build the darn thing as quickly as possible,’ so the EIS process for WSBLE, TDLE, and Everett Link have explicitly included fewer alternatives to avoid the planning delays that plagued ST1 and ST2.
Seattle has limited taxing authority. If the poll was about transit in general, you would probably get similar numbers. The same is true for just about everything the city funds. Parks, public housing, schools — they are all quite popular. The police might not be, but if you were to propose social spending that would make it easier for the police to do their job (and for the city to have fewer police) it would be quite popular (now that so many voters have figured that situation out). Even roads, given the proper context, are popular. Ask West Seattle whether they want to fix the bridge, or just wait until West Seattle Link. Does anyone really think they are OK with the way things are now, even though transit and freight are functioning just fine?
Creating a transit district similar to Sound Transit, but just for Seattle, is a great idea. But it would be nuts to focus on one mode, or focus on an implementation of one mode (the last legislative attempt did both). An agency needs to be flexible. It needs to spend money as it sees fit. Realistically, for a city like Seattle, that means a lot more money for buses, and a handful of carefully selected rail projects.
It is rare that a city will have more rail riders than bus riders. Consider Chicago. It has one of the finest rail systems in North America. It has the fifth biggest system in North America, just barely behind BART. But the ‘El’ dwarfs BART in terms of ridership. It is third in North America in terms of stations. It serves the urban core and connects to dozens of Chicago neighborhoods, leaving no huge gaps in city coverage. But it also extends into the suburbs, connecting to *both* airports and the suburban communities on the way. And yet with all of that, the buses carry more people. It is not that the rail system has any major flaw (it isn’t BART) it is just that it can’t do everything, and for that, we have buses.
Or consider Vancouver. I am jealous of SkyTrain. I fell like they did everything right, and only need to do the UBC/Broadway line to be “done”. But again, if you look at the numbers, less than half a million take the train, while three quarters of a million take the bus. It is the combination that really makes me jealous.
Seattle is even less likely to be a city dominated by rail. Our rail costs are extremely high. We are paying more per capita for transit than anywhere in the country*. You can blame ST all you want, but a lot of it is simply our geography. There are very few places where cut-and-cover or surface rail would work (and for whatever reason, we ignored those with ST3). As a result, we are not only paying way too much, but we are making mistakes, and leaving gaps where there shouldn’t be. Some of that is the infatuation with distance (quantity over quality) but some of it is just cost. ST3 is over budget, which means that in Interbay, Ballard and West Seattle, the line appears to be worse than what people voted for (and what we voted for was a compromise). These are problems that can’t be easily corrected. There is simply no way that a Seattle Transit Agency is going to build a new set of subway lines so that it functions like the Paris Metro. Our future depends a lot on our bus system. Spending money on it, and *some* rail, is quite reasonable, given the political realities that exist.
It is also extremely difficult to come up with a system that allows most of the people in the city to get around via only rail. The “urban village” concept, while full of faults**, could at least provide that. But it doesn’t. If you try and connect all of the various “villages” with rail, you spend a fortune. Meanwhile, the trend (both locally and nationally) is to reject the concept. It is highly likely that when Ballard Link is finally built, single family zoning will be a distant memory, and the standard will be low rise, multi-family development. If Magnolia triples in size it doesn’t mean it should have rail — it means it should have better bus service.
In an ideal world the city would have the option of using any tax to apply for any purpose. We don’t live in that world, so creating a transit agency with special taxing powers (above and beyond the very limited ones for the city) would be great. But they should be able to spend that money on anything transit related.
“Creating a transit district similar to Sound Transit, but just for Seattle, is a great idea.”
Isn’t that what Seattle’s transit benefit district is? It just needs more flexibility in tax authority. And the city voluntarily downsized it in 2020, which it didn’t have to do. and left money and frequency on the table. The casualties were my 15-mintue 11, evening frequency on the 20N, and the alternative Lake City-North Ballard route, among others.
Metro was formed to bail out Seattle’s bus system. For years the rest of the county paid to keep Seattle bus service running and meet the pension obligations that had been promised. That’s why there was a mandate for an increased proportion of the spending be earmarked for the eastside (which included Renton). Seattle has lofty goals and liberal politics but consistently over promises and under delivers.
Or Metro was formed to preserve suburban bus service when the private companies were going bankrupt. The suburbs wanted the 40/40/20 rule so they would gradually get more service hours to equalize the level of service with Seattle — even though Seattle is denser and has higher ridership per capita. It’s really rich for the Eastside to complain when it has the lowest ridership per capita.
(The 40/40/20 rule said that service-hour increases would be allocated 40% to the Eastside, 40% to South King County, and 20% to Seattle. A converse rule applied to service-hour decreases, again shafting Seattle. They were repealed in 2012.)
There’s no “Or” except the Mike Orr imaginary version of history.
“Creating a transit district similar to Sound Transit, but just for Seattle, is a great idea.”
Isn’t that what Seattle’s transit benefit district is? It just needs more flexibility in tax authority.
Good point, and one I realized about an hour after I wrote that comment. We don’t need a new agency. The existing one is just fine. Looking at the original bill (http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/search/ordinances/123397):
The transportation improvements funded by the district shall be made in an effort to preserve and maintain transportation infrastructure, improve public safety, implement projects identified in the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) planning documents and Capital Improvement Program (CIP), invest in bicycle, pedestrian, freight mobility and transit enhancements and provide people with choices to meet their mobility needs.
Additional light rail, just like additional bus service, is clearly within their scope (it is all transit). You are 100% correct — we don’t need another agency.
As far as revenue goes,
The Board shall have the authority to establish fees and other revenue sources consistent with RCW 36.73.065.
That is listed here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=36.73.065. That is the part that could be amended, to allow Seattle to fund more transit (or use different funding sources).
“We are paying more per capita for transit than anywhere in the country”
We’re getting higher quality for it. Costs are proportional to the new right of way, which allow it to run fast and not wait at level crossings. Link is mostly grade-separated, with the unfortunate exceptions of MLK and SODO. Other light rails like in Portland, San Diego, and Dallas are 95% surface and slower. MAX and Dallas crawl through downtown, while Link is more like the el. In an age when most people have cars and drive on 65 mph grade-separated freeways, transit has to be at least semi-competitive with that. When it takes twice as long to get somewhere on transit than driving, you lose some ridership, and the capital investment isn’t as effective as it could have been, and that other countries have.
I think you missed my point. We are paying a huge amount for transit per capita. Yet despite that, there are obvious shortcomings. There are missed stations. It travels in the freeway right-of-way for miles. There are clear and obvious cases of cost-cutting — for the most important sections — and yet we are spending a fortune. There is no way we will have a comprehensive rail system — it is just too expensive.
The only way we will ever have a high quality transit system is if we invest in a high quality bus system.
On long routes with sufficient ridership, rail is a good investment. As Alon explained, running a high frequency bus network gets expensive, Ross. For low frequency routes, buses may still be the only option. For high frequency feeders, gondola technology is a lot more affordable and operation is much lower cost than buses or even rail so that you can even run the gondola during hours of low traffic. Latest gondola technology can even add/remove cabins automatically on demand.
Ross, yes, a transit agency should have flexibility. The monorail taxing authority needs to be more flexible: pay for extensibility of our rail spine, allow gondola lines to add East/West connections which often are challenged by topography, or any other transit related expenses, like RapidRide if that’s what makes the most sense.
They are the only ones that will be alive to benefit from years of taxation. They’re also currently paying less in taxes.
Heavens forbid we invest in something that will improve the future but won’t all see the use of ourselves
Seattle Times reports Board won’t renew Rogoff’s contract.
Interesting. I wonder who will be next, or what criteria ST will use to decide it.
Some have suggested Kevin Desmond, Metro’s former general manager who went to Translink in Vancouver. He would be a good choice. He probably doesn’t want it, but I don’t think it’s that he stormed out of Seattle vowing never to return. Translink and Vancouver are one of the best transit networks and most supportive transit regions in North America, so what transit administrator wouldn’t want to go there? It’s like when Rahm Emmanuel went from the US House to Chicago’s mayor; many people scratched their heads and thought, “You went from Congress to a lowly mayorship?” But Chicago is one of the top 3 cities in the country, so it’s not an ordinary mayorship. Similarly with Translink and Vancouver. It would be nice if somebody like Desmond came from Translink and made ST more like Translink. One can dream. Likes to that new BRT in Surrey with exclusive center transit lanes. If only we could have more of that here.
I wonder if they have a replacement– I would ask the guy who left Metro to go to Vancouver BC if he wants the job.
Apparently ST doesn’t read STB– when I asked the horde in the open thread whether they would can Rogoff–linking to Erica Barnett’s work, there wasn’t a lot of impetus to can him.
BTW, if STB is going to be an absentee blog, can you at least hire Erica Barnett to write a few pieces– or at least link to her work (and pay her)?
Was it the Seattle Times or ECB who broke the story?
Several ST boardmembers and staff read STB; they’ve told us individually and said so at public forums. Dow Constantine said at a transit forum that he really likes some of STB’s ideas and forwards them to his staff to see if they can be done. The problem for the entire board is there are other political considerations and cities’ preferences and inertia, or they can’t get the majority of the board to agree with it, so many good ideas end up getting buried in the prevailing counterforces. They don’t necessarily see every last comment, but they know generally the direction of the articles and the major commentariat viewpoints.
Erica is writing about transit on her blog, because she’s a transit activist. People can support her work there. We don’t necessarily need them in STB, although it would be great if she did write for us again.
“Apparently ST doesn’t read STB– when I asked the horde in the open thread whether they would can Rogoff–linking to Erica Barnett’s work, there wasn’t a lot of impetus to can him.”
When ST released its $11.5 billion deficit estimate I posted on this blog Rogoff would be gone by the end of 2021. Many of the ST believers on this blog were unhappy at my comment.
But when the deficit magically declined to $6.5 billion, and magically could fund every project plus accelerate Graham St. and 130th (which I think are good investments) with a five year extension in taxes, without considering the increase in ROW and construction costs over those five years, I replied directly to your question that since it was a political decision I would probably keep Rogoff, and the ST Board would keep him because otherwise it would suggest the realignment was a fiction, and crowd out the good publicity over Northgate Link, East Link, and Federal Way Link. Plus who better to give the bad news to Ballard and West Seattle about WSBLE.
Well, Rogoff is gone (with a golden parachute for his silence), for the reasons quoted below from the release, but really — as I noted in my reply to your question — because he publicly released the $11.5 billion correct deficit estimate, when there really was no solution for that kind of figure, because I think Rogoff was hoping to corner the Board into a ST 4. How else do you keep a Ponzi scheme going. Plus Rogoff was a complete ass, not good if you need to pass ST 4.
Like Louis Renault, was the Board really SHOCKED at the underestimated cost estimates in ST 3 in 2016 after ST 1 and 2, and when half of the eastside knew in 2016 the estimate for DSTT2 was about half of the true cost? No, but the first rule in politics is there always has to be a fall guy.
What Rogoff’s firing tells us is the realignment was a political fiction, and the Board is going to deal with that fiction in the DEIS for WSBLE and DSTT2, rather than waiting for the project bids, because there won’t be a ST 4 to keep the Ponzi scheme rolling, and because my guess is the four other subareas told N. King Co. their maximum contribution to DSTT2 is $275 million each based on the original cost estimate of $2.2 billion.
The deficit was and is $11.5 billion to complete ST 3, so if you are Seattle Subway or any of the advocates or ST believers on this Blog calling for Seattle’s own transit levy Good News, you will get that: figure around $10 billion (10 Move Seattle’s) to complete ST 3 in N. King Co., unless of course Ballard and West Seattle demand tunnels like IDS to Northgate, and DSTT2 does not go well. After the first $10 billion you can begin to dream about new lines, tunnels, and underground stations.
“Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, whose three-year contract is up for its first one-year renewal this year, is reportedly facing internal criticism from Sound Transit board members who have felt blindsided by revelations over the past year and a half that the Sound Transit 3 program, which includes light rail to West Seattle and Ballard, will cost far more than originally estimated.
“Last week, the board met in executive (closed) session for nearly two hours before returning and, without explanation, removing Rogoff’s contract renewal from the agenda. The board has until the end of September to decide whether to renew Rogoff’s contract, although Rogoff himself can extend that timeline by requesting an additional month for board consideration.
“Board members have raised concerns in the past about Rogoff’s on-the-job behavior, including alleged inappropriate behavior toward female employees and an abrasive communications style, and the board agreed in 2018 to pay for a $550-an-hour coach to improve his approach to leading the agency. What’s in question now, though, is his job performance.”
“Was it the Seattle Times or ECB who broke the story?”
It’s a public meeting, viewable online. Anybody could watch, and several of us did.
Is Northgate Link really opening in just over a week? Pinch me I must be dreaming. It’s been more than a month away for for so long that I hadn’t realized how close it is.
There’s a new audio announcement on the platforms. “Trains are running every 8 minutes.” That must be to mitigate the non-functoning next-arrival displays. There’s also an annoucement saying service to Northgate starts October 2nd, and until then all passengers must get off at UW Station. I heard both of those at SODO this afternoon. ST does do a better job than Metro of publicizing new service and weekend outages than Metro does when it gets around to it. (It just doesn’t always get around to it.)
If Seattle really wanted to be revolutionary, then they would recognize that the real problem to extending the Light Rail is right in front of them. The thing that drives the cost of building the light rail the. most is simple – land. The US has already learned the hard way what happens when a transportation system is build through neighborhoods. When the US Interstate program was built, the construction cut off huge sections of neighborhoods from each other – primarily neighborhoods with high levels of POC. So what’s the answer? It’s so simple. Rather that constantly looking to dig under building, acquire property and tear down more building, we should just reconsider the entire I-5 corridor. The city should focus the I-5 corridor only on those driving completely through the city and begin to eliminate cars as a mode of transportation with the exception of bus lanes that could be shared by HOV or all electric vehicles only. Then make use of the constant widening projects to repurpose several lanes for light rail instead. Not only would this significantly decrease the cost of the light rail, it would force more Seattleites into public transportation and reduce the climate impact of the city in a much greater way.
I’m not sure what advantage there is to locating a light rail line on I-5 is. No walk-shed to speak of. It would be hard to get to, and not necessarily near any shops or anywhere anyone wants to go really. And there already is, and largely be, a light rail line near I-5 from Tacoma to Everett. So … why again put another light rail line on I-5?
I think Marston is talking about downgrading I-5 in parts of Seattle to a boulevard. Some have suggested making 405 the main freeway, splitting I-5 into north and south roads, and narrowing it and turning parts of it into a boulevard, which would be a better neighbor to the surrounding neighborhoods and make it easier to get across. Cities without freeways generally have wide boulevards instead.
“Cities without freeways generally have wide boulevards instead.”
Cities without freeways generally don’t have deep saltwater ports.
There is one large North American city that doesn’t have a major freeway, Vancouver, and it has a deepwater port.
What does that have to do with it? If you mean a freight highway would be necessary, we could have built something much smaller than I-5. 99 goes near most of the freight terminals and was built in the 1930s, so it could have been improved just for freight. I-5 was not built because of the ports. It was built because the interstate highway act was dangling 90% federal funding for a Seattle freeway, and the city thought that would be useful for commuters and people driving through and keep people living and shopping in the city.
I don’t know how you define a freeway but the picture in this link looks like a freeway to me. Plus see all the access projects in planning.
That’s a marginal road on the extreme industrial edge, like Harbor Island or West Marginal Way. It doesn’t go through the middle of the city, doesn’t connect populated areas, and is irrelevant to almost everybody. I forgot that Vancouver has a tiny freeway segment where the Trans-Canada Highway just barely inside the notheast corner, like Highway 2 in King County. But the other freeways like 99 and 1A turn into boulevards in the city.
Not only that, but in hilly Seattle the arterial streets generally take the smoothest grade. Look at what they are trying to do in West Seattle–taking light rail straight up one of the steepest hills in the city rather than following the existing, smoothly graded road corridor. It’s ludicrous!
Simply replacing I-5 with a lower capacity surface boulevard is one of those wildly impractical ideas that doesn’t exist outside urbanist dreaming. But there is a version of the idea (in a great book by Cheval Tepier), that suggests a tunneled replacement for I-5 that would handle the through-traffic. The demand for local access to downtown is sufficiently smaller that it could be handled by a surface boulevard within the current I-5 footprint, freeing space for development and transit right of way – he suggests the second Link line could be a surface route along this corridor, which would be a huge money-saver if it were feasible to have quick agreement on an I-5 replacement.
The problem with I-5 through Seattle is basically it is a tunnel with the Convention Center and overpasses. Plus it has terrible exits and entrances in both directions, bridge constrictions, lane narrowings, etc.
The four biggest mistakes are the left hand entrance and exit for Mercer vs. the right hand entrance to 520 and the same going south at 45th, the unmetered entrance from I-90, and the decision to build the Convention Center over I-5 because it was “free land”.
First these design errors need to be corrected. When I-90 went to four lanes it removed a number of lane narrowings which dramatically improved congestion (until you reach 405 or I-5). Then I-5 needs to be widened to four straight lanes through all of Seattle, except that is not possible with the Convention Center.
Cars and trucks are not going anywhere because they make up 90% of trips, and how we get goods to places and create jobs. In fact what we will see and have seen from I-90 to 405 is increasing lanes and capacity on the major freeways, except we can’t do that on I-5 through Seattle, although we could address the dysfunctional entrances and exits.
If money was not an issue — a luxury for transit advocates — yes bury I-5 and increase the lanes to its boundaries so five or six lanes in each direction could be created through Seattle with a much better design, but money is an issue so unfortunately about all we can do for I-5 through Seattle is try and remedy some of the entrances, and widen the bridges.
Money shouldn’t be an issue.
Just put together the I-5 Master Plan, just like what was done for I-405, scope out the project and the costs, and do what Sound Transit has must do to build infrastructure….
Put it up for a vote.
I’d like to make a general point about the great transit cities of the world. New York, San Francisco, London and many others which began service before 1930 had many lines built by private capital. The cities bought the companies out of bankruptcy when no one else wanted to subsidize their operation. They got them for a song.
Nowadays, especially in the United States, we have an unholy alliance between the cat-callers of the construction trades, specialist rail “planning” consultancies, and ribbon-cutting yokels who love the limelight of a station opening.
It’s a mess.
The private sector gravitates to profit, which in the transit era was driven by fare revenue so that riders per billion dollars spent would be a close measure. It may be greedy, but at least it was analytical! It was how so many aerial or surface sections were built to serve neighborhoods in Chicago and New York and other places*. There was also a real estate value added motive as many transit builders had land they were developing and wanted to make money from that — creating a market force to build TOD. (*San Francisco’s Twin Peaks tunnel was in contrast an early public sector investment.)
A challenge when governments decide transit as opposed to the private sector is that performance measures related to profit are no longer required. This is chaos! It’s mob rule and not analytical. It may be one mob of transit nerds who have a hot graphics app and talent, but in lieu of a profit motive, a transit vision without first analyzing performance measures about usefulness, productivity and cost should not be adopted.
I would love to see more expansion of the light rail system but does Seattle have the density that would make the light rail the best choice?
I’m all for thinking into the future but density is something that we should address by changing zoning boundaries. What are your thoughts?
I would love to see more expansion of the light rail system but does Seattle have the density that would make the light rail the best choice?
For the most part, no. It does get more complicated than that, though. Cost varies greatly depending on what sort of rail you are building. Potential ridership varies greatly depending on how the line is built. Replace the 7 with a surface light rail line, and ridership is similar (very good for a bus, very poor for a train). Replace it with a subway and you get better ridership, but costs escalate quickly. The best value is likely just BRT, simply because surface running is relatively cheap, the corridor can be made relatively fast, and capacity is likely not a major issue.
The same is true for most of Seattle, since as of next week, we’ll have covered the most important sections. I still think there are two corridors that are worthy of rail though. The first is Ballard to UW. The existing corridor is extremely slow, and making it really fast (for buses) would require a lot of spending (similar to RapidRide G). That still wouldn’t be as fast as a subway. If you made it as fast as a subway, then you might have ridership justifying a train (if not the expensive of building it) as there would be a huge number of transfers. However, the existence of the other line to Ballard takes away some of the potential ridership. If Ballard to UW interlined at the UW, it would be a good way for people in Ballard to get to Capitol Hill, First Hill and downtown. It is unlikely that the lines would interline now, and even if they did, some riders would prefer the other line. Despite the issues, I could still see it being built. It would dramatically change transit in the area, and the UW is a major destination. If the Ballard line ends in West Woodland (with no possible extension to Ballard) I could see the other line gaining ridership simply by directly serving Ballard.
The other route is a “Metro 8” line. It isn’t clear what the best option is. Unless you ran cut-and-cover (keeping costs really low) it wouldn’t make sense to follow 23rd very far. You could cut over early to cover First Hill (finally) but you still need to make that connection with Capitol Hill. Then what? You can serve more of South Lake Union, and loop around to serve Belltown. I could see this working, but it isn’t an obvious route.
Previous decisions hamper the value of a bigger network. This is what I would have built in the long term (after ST2): https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1J3ZCe7JgvAw-_pRA3arlf-WuwBicJT4v&usp=sharing. Green and blue are trains, red is buses. There is a split at the UW, but the line from Mount Baker Station to Uptown is completely separate.
This is the best I’ve come up with for a Metro 8, given what we are actually building: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=19pwUFBe-I8-LeP6jdbhj-IM_nfcQdrNH&usp=sharing. Notice there are two variations (one that serves First Hill, and one that serves the Central Area). Either way, it loops around (to serve Belltown) and that makes it messy.
I still think there is a case for more rail, it just isn’t that strong. I would pursue major bus improvements, and if the buses get really crowded, move to rail. This is what Vancouver has done. They made the 99 B-Line fast and frequent, and it clearly should be converted to rail. Do that for the 44. Do that for a bus on Boren (connecting Mount Baker with South Lake Union). They won’t be exactly what a subway line would look like (since a subway line can ignore the street grid) but they could be enough of an improvement to then justify rail. In the meantime, we would have a big improvement in transit mobility years before we broke ground on a rail line.
As far as zoning goes, the most important thing is to get rid of single family zoning, and replace it with low-rise. This would result in higher density in most of the city, but not the kind of density that automatically suggests rail. I use Magnolia as an example. I seriously doubt it will ever make sense to run rail there. However, if the population of Magnolia triples, then the Interbay station would have a lot more riders, and be a lot easier to justify. Magnolia gets much more frequent bus service to the UW, as well as the connection to Link. The same is true for other neighborhoods, and other potential lines, especially Ballard to UW.
Has anybody actually checked the feasibility of a “Metro 8” subway line? I bet it would be too steep to get from Capitol Hill to SoDo. Probably the reason https://www.seattlesubway.org/regional-map/ doesn’t show the lines connecting on Capitol Hill anymore…
The big question is where additional density will happen. If Central District gets denser (as it’s already happening along 23rd at Yesler, Union…), then a line along 23rd makes sense. I also think that housing density in the South will increase which makes Renton interesting as it would connect various bus lines.
Building on the Metro-8 debate, I find the idea has merit conceptually but it lacks technical study. A fresh systems study is what I think is needed as opposed to merely a corridor engineering study.
For example, the FHSC line could be the basis for some route extensions and changes. It could use John to 15th or maybe 19th — and the line could turn north or south as needed. Alternatively, it could be split into two lines near 14th and Jackson/ Yesler — freeing up two fingers that each could head to an important area.
The East Link tracks may be able to be branched near the Goodwill store on Dearborn or maybe further west near I-5, with a branch to the north. This gets up to First Hill at a gentler grade.
A cable-liner aerial or subway line (maybe funicular) could run from Pioneer Square to Harborview — and maybe continue to Cherry Hill somewhere. Cable-liner systems can run on steeper grades.
So that’s at least three different vehicle technologies and concepts to study. And none of these match the visions that Seattle Subway and RossB already have conceived.
I don’t have a conclusive opinion on what’s right. I do think that it’s a dense enough area with parking challenges to merit a systems study though.
Metro bus route 8 doesn’t go to SoDo. It goes to Mt Baker. I don’t see any impractical things about it.
It has many interesting possibilities. Imagine connections at Judkins Park and Mt Baker. Instead of taking a second parallel transit tunnel, a certain number of eastside trains could instead go directly to First Hill, South Lake Union and on to Ballard. Put some investment into the ML King corridor so trains can be more frequent, and you could extend a branch to Renton.
Glen, route 8 goes along MLK and then on towards Seattle Center on Denny, I was talking about the Denny hill. Plenty of ridership but buses keep getting stuck in the traffic between SoDo and CapHill.
Al, I agree that our hills warrant a mode study: subway, cable-line, gondola are all options. I could imagine a “hospital” gondola line or cableliner from the ferry terminal, via Pioneer Sq Link station, Harborview, connecting both Swedish hospitals (First & Cherry Hill) to Garfield to replace Metro 3/4. It could connect the existing Link line with a future line along 23rd.
The elephant in the living room is the poor planning by a Sound Transit that led to including another tunnel under downtown Seattle in ST3 rather than connecting the Ballard segment to the existing tunnel and planning a new tunnel when it is actually needed.
An argument by Seattle Subway on this blog in an article earlier this year noted that typical systems have 3-4 lines at 90 second intervals.
Why can’t we build our system like this? If this wasteful tunnel wasn’t getting built we wouldn’t be billions behind in these projects!
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