Curt Milton/Flickr

[UPDATE: the John Lewis Bridge was a hypothetical example, but SDOT would like me to say that it was a minor miracle it opened as soon as it did. Point taken.]

When U-Link opened in 2016, trains operated after a 9am opening ceremony and about $858,000 in additional festivities. This of course brought out the bad-faith complaints ($) from anti-transit people pretending not to understand marketing. But they did us a favor: Sound Transit should just operate things when they’re complete.

For last weekend’s big event, die-hards showed up for the first 4:51am departure before any formal event. At a more reasonable hour, the U-District business community did a great job of providing all the lookie-loos like me something to do. And it was fine.

More than that, transit’s purpose, to give people better alternatives, was fulfilled that much faster. Certainly, someone had an easier commute or airport trip because the train didn’t wait a few hours for a ribbon cutting.

This lesson is more broadly applicable: certainly the John Lewis Bridge, if SDOT had opened it a few days early, would have improved access to the Northgate Transit Center that was already there, instead of waiting for the ribbon cutting Saturday. So why not open it?

I’ll take it even further: whenever East Link is ready, they should start operating it. Perhaps Metro will have the flexibility to implement a service change at that date instead of their usual, collectively bargained changeover, or not. But even if the supporting bus service has to follow a bit later, fast high-capacity transit to the Eastside can start helping people immediately.

106 Replies to “Open things when they’re ready”

  1. I really can’t see why East Link can’t be operating by late next year? It is basically done. Just systems and electrical power being installed now. I guess the only thing that would push it back would be having enough trains to operate it?

    1. The system also needs to be qualified for passengers, that will add a few months to the schedule. As soon we see trains zipping across the floating bridge it won’t be long.

    2. Systems ARE the hard part. Between installation, testing, and demonstration they take forever and are where problems are typically discovered.

      But I’m still hoping that there is a lot of unused float. Opening early would be great.

      1. I’d say heavy civil is the ‘hard’ part. Only once East Link completed I90 post-tensioning and the Bellevue tunnel was it highly likely the project would be completed. But yes, the systems work can have high uncertainly around timing, which is why staff won’t release the 9 months of float until the systems work is much further along.

      2. I mean, systems work is pretty much why London Crossrail is what, 3 years late and counting?


      Check out page 29. Looks like still 9 months of float, which does suggest late next year. It may not be likely, but it is plausible for a winter 2022 opening.

      It’s also functionally a half dozen of so separate projects collectively branded “East Link.” So one segment might might appear complete but the adjacent segment might have significant work, due to differences in project timing, that prevent in-service operations from occurring.

      I do expect some of the P&Rs to open before Link.

    4. Except it’s not basically done… They haven’t even completed all the tracks yet in some parts.

  2. The ped/bike bridge over SR520 at the Overlake Village station has been visibly complete for at least a year, but still no word on whether it will open before the station itself in 2023.

    1. I’ve been told that it will likely open this fall, after some legal passing of papers with Redmond is completed. However, there is a building code problem requiring some rework on the stairs. That has to finish before things can be signed.

  3. Metro’s contract with ATU Local 587 calls for two service changes per year, in March and September, for which operators show up to a “Pick”, in seniority order (i.e. who has worked in that job the longest) about a month or so ahead. The other agecies’ contracts with the their respective ATU locals call for three service changes per year, generally March, June, and September, like 587 used to do.

    Local 587 was quite reasonable in allowing the service change to wait until October 2.

    In addition to this full re-picking of work assignments, the unions and the agency hold “move-ups” to fill vacancies in work assignments as operators move on from the job. These “move-ups” can also be done for sudden new work, like needed extra train operators to begin full-line non-revenue testing of new Link segments.

    In the case of East Link, that will mean suddenly needing twice as many train operators as are already on that work assignment. It will be the single-most schedule-disruptive rollout of new Link service since the opening of Central Link, and probably more. There will never be a new Link service rollout quite as disruptive again. (And hopefully there will never again be a new segment causing quite so much disruption of transit service, for so many passengers, for the years-long construction period.)

    The lead time for this move-up or “Pick” will be more than the usual, as all these new train operators have to go through special training for operating the train, which is much more than getting “qualified” to drive a bus route they have not driven before.

    That said, every Pick involves some disruption and some overtime as current operators train new operators on their route, and then, if they are also moving to a different route, coming in on other days to be trained on their new routes. Most will stick with route they have.

    Sound Transit has no immediate plans to directly hire its Link Light Rail operators. But as the line grows into Snohomish and Pierce County, and new bases are opened in those counties, that will become more and more of an issue. But then, ST already contracts with Community Transit (which in turn contracts with First Transit) and Pierce Transit to operate several ST Express routes that run mostly or entirely in King County. Metro tends to pay the operators a little more than the suburban bus agencies do, so ST prefers saving money with slightly cheaper operators over minimizing the carbon footprint of operating the route. Metro is certainly capable of operating the Link Light Rail bases in the other counties, and will get the cream of the crop among transit operators to work out of those bases.

    The lead-time issues for having operators pick work assignments on Link will be pretty much identical whether the base personnel operations are run by Metro, PT, CT, or Sound Transit, with the assumption that if ST moves to direct-hire of its train operators, they will vote to be represented by ATU. That said, there is no guarantee that is who the operators in the new bargaining unit would choose to represent them.

    At any rate, ST will need a bulge in operators operating the 2 Line during the testing period, and will still have to cover the full schedule on routes 545, 550, 556 etc. up until the day the 2 Line opens to the public, regardless of whether the opening coincides with an agency-wide work assignment change or a mere move-up. But the precedent has been set that ATU is quite reasonable about accommodating the need for a service change outside of March or September. Thank you, ATU Local 587!

    1. Great walk through of the labor complexities and the sequencing of the various changes.

      I will quibble that the primary reason ST prefers to operate ST Express with CT and PT rather than KCM is due to KCM’s (and KC’s) higher overhead costs, rather than the slightly higher direct labor costs.

      1. Then how come nearly all the operators of ST Express routes within king county are operated by KCM?

      2. JJB: I believe only the east King County routes are operated by King County Metro. The south King County routes (560, 566, 577, 578) are operated by Pierce Transit.

    2. “ It will be the single-most schedule-disruptive rollout of new Link service since the opening of Central Link, and probably more. There will never be a new Link service rollout quite as disruptive again. (And hopefully there will never again be a new segment causing quite so much disruption of transit service,”

      Wow. That is a lot to get a persons head around. Adding miles of new high capacity, reliable, fast and congestion free service is now “disruptive”, and the most disruptive, etc etc etc.

      Sorry, but the riders will have no trouble at all adapting rapidly to this new service and capability, as has already been demonstrated with the rapid adoption of NG Link in just a few days time.

      If the professional operators at Metro can’t adapt to this change as well as the riders, then I’m just not sure where that leaves us.

      But change is coming. They either need to adapt to get out of the way. Because the the era where Metro ran the same old buses on the same old routes decade after monotonous decade is over. It’s just the reality.

      Bit two things work in ST’s favor:

      1). They can open East Link before Metro does their restructure. This gives Metro time to be slow, but also opens them up to public criticism for being slow.

      2). ST/Metro will probably need hire new operators to cover the need for Link operators. These new employees can be placed where needed to relieve the “disruptive” stress that you assert the current operators will feel.

      But let’s just get it open.

      1. East Link will certainly be disruptive. Disruption need not be negative. But Brent post was specifically about disruption to transit operations and the need to effectively double staff around a massive change to operations. Opening major rail lines and redeploying bus networks is certainly disruptive and stressful for all involved, even if the end product is clearly better for all involved.

      2. Clearly, I meant the whole process leading up to the opening, including all the years 550 and 554 riders have had to suffer general traffic and significantly out-of-the-way re-routes.

        I’m sorry I said anything you could misconstrue as critical of Sound Transit. I know such blasphemy can’t be abided, not one word.

      3. @BW,

        That is your definition of this supposedly intolerable level of “disruption”? That the riders of 550 and 554 had to “suffer general traffic” and some reroutes during construction? I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t seem to rise to the level of the significant disruption that you imply.

        And by the way, buses almost always run in “general traffic.” The whole point of building Link is to finally have a system that is mainly free of traffic. That is the point.

        Ya, construction is hard and can be messy. Get used to it. Because it is hard to build something completely new without a little temporary disruption here and there.

        And that does not make me a ST apologist. It makes me a realist.

      4. Lazarus,

        Congratulations on undermining Martin’s argument for the urgency of getting East Link open. Those entitled 550/554 riders will be just fine.

        To be fair, the only entitlement I’ve seen from eastside commuters was SOV drivers wanting access to the HOV lanes. Of course, we saw some of that in Seattle when drivers were complaining about the BAT lanes on 15th Ave W. The local county councilmember who signed onto their cause paid a heavy political price when he got trounced running for the open county executive seat.

        At any rate, the dismal state of bus commuting on I-90 is probably the largest argument for getting East Link open ASAP. ST and Metro are losing riders. Many of those who run out of patience go buy cars. ST will never get some of them back. The longer the wait, the more potential ridership the 2 Line will lose.

        Sorry for being a realist.

      5. 550 ridership collapsed pre-COVID during East Link construction, hurt by the triple impact of P&R closures, exiting the DSTT, and significantly increased congestion delays due to lack of access to various HOV lanes (MI on/off ramps, D2 roadway, etc.). Clearly, taking ST’s best preforming route and making it slower, less reliable, and less useful reduced ridership. East Link will be a significant improvement, but it will take time for some ridership to reemerged as riders have been abandoning the 550 for years.

        I don’t understand Lazarus’s snark. Bringing East Link online will be hard, but no-one said ‘intolerable.’ I don’t think anyone is thinking, “who cares if KCM operations are FUBAR for 3 months because we screw up the transition! Transit will be awesome in 2025 so just ignore all the blood, sweat, and tears endured by public workers, riders, and the general public!” That’s like driving through the 99 tunnel today and saying, “gee, why were people so upset this was a hole in the ground for years? This tunnel is so good for me right now, I can’t believe those people couldn’t just have some perspective.”

      6. There is a lot of work yet to do on East Link. Almost none of the wire it up on the floating bridge. I don’t think it’s up yet on the elevated portion from BTC to the Spring District. What tells me it will be late it the insistence that OMF-E had to be completed last year so that assembly of the trains could begin. OMF-E was done but now it’s sitting empty. Seems whatever money/resources that were supposed to be working on East Link were diverted to the Central Link expansion. A lot of the specialized equipment means that each car will have to be substantially complete before starting on the next one.

        FWIW, when I was stuck on Mercer Island a week or so ago because of wreck on I-90 I got a good look at the OCS. I appears all of the tensioning on that portion is done with weights not springs.

      7. I thought “disruption” meant future impacts to existing Link service. I don’t think there will be any. Installing the East Link turn tracks was done in early 2020. Test trains will run in between regular trains, and that’s the pattern they’ll be testing. They either will or won’t accept passengers north of Intl Dist. If they don’t, it’s no worse than existing service. If they do, it’s a benefit, and was how all the previous extensions were tested. There’s no need for station closures or single-tracking on the shared segment.

        As for bus and car reroutes around new stations and trackway, that’s obviously necessary and has been happening for a couple years. People know what would happen: the 550 would go to 405 or 520 or the Rainier freeway station or car exit would be closed temporarily.

      8. Ironically, Connect 2020 may have saved countless lives among the white collar set that switched to working from home, as well as others who did not come in secondary or tertiary contact with them.

        The virus was already spreading in Washington in December of 2019, but not diagnosed at the time as being the same one spreading in Wuhan.

        It could have gotten a lot worse if Connect2020 had been completed before the WHO pushed the panic button.

  4. Opening transit isn’t like opening a street that adds less than 1 percent to the system. East Link involves opening 10 stations and miles of tracks — probably about a third of the system and more than a third of new train sets.

    To do that, a large new number of trained employees are needed. That not only includes train drivers, but all last maintenance and security and control center personnel. That makes a partial opening very difficult.

    I do see a few things that could open early:

    – The parking and curbs can open several months early. For example, I think South Bellevue can start offering parking soon — once the garage elevators and systems have passed inspections. I think ST plans on doing this.

    – Similarly, access that isn’t essential for train operation could open. Sidewalks, plazas and things like that probably don’t need to wait.

    – As a second line, it’s typical for testing to have simulated service several weeks before opening. Since 2 Line will start at Northgate, it would seem that the 5- minute service down to the DSTT could open early. After all, the simulated service to Northgate still took riders to UW.

    – I could see special advance opening events for things like a Seahawks game. Many staff could just get overtime to come in and work an extra day. Maybe only select stations could be opened.

    – If some minor part of East Link gets delayed for at least a few months, it would seem silly not to open it for everything else. For example, if a station fails inspections, skip the station temporarily rather than postpone the entire opening.

    – If a deficiency needs early relief, I could see usefulness in a partial early opening. For example, if DSTT trains are too crowded, add the train sets and use East Link tracks in Seattle as a rail siding for extra trains once the systems pass inspection.

    But overall, I have little issue with sticking to the planned schedule.

    1. “– As a second line, it’s typical for testing to have simulated service several weeks before opening. Since 2 Line will start at Northgate, it would seem that the 5- minute service down to the DSTT could open early. After all, the simulated service to Northgate still took riders to UW.
      – I could see special advance opening events for things like a Seahawks game. Many staff could just get overtime to come in and work an extra day. Maybe only select stations could be opened.”

      They could do this at any time the ridership increased enough to indicate that additional trains are necessary. Just run a ‘2 line’ train from Northgate to the turn back track at… hmm. . sodo? Stadium? someone here knows where it would be I’m sure.

      I kind of doubt though that in this pandemic world of WFH, that ridership is going to increase enough in the next year or two to warrant such increased frequency on such a short line.

      1. When asked this question at a Mercer Island open house ST stated all the electrical systems had to be in place and tested together before East Link opens, because otherwise East Link serving Mercer Island could open much sooner (and back then MI was expected to be the main bus intercept, not S. Bellevue, pre-litigation and restructure).

        At this time, due to the pandemic, talk of East Link is not an issue on the eastside, (and neither is the restructure), and there is little anticipation about the opening date in July 2023. I guess one benefit of the pandemic is few complain about delays in opening East Link. At the same time, in the current work from home environment, I think most eastsiders have a hard time seeing how East Link will change their lives, and most of the park and rides are empty.

        The S. Bellevue Park and Ride was scheduled to open in Sept. 2021 and some of us wanted to see how reopening the S. Bellevue Park and Ride and its 1500 stalls would affect ridership on the 550 and commuting in general, especially cross lake, but then the Delta variant arrived, there is no one on the 550 during peak times, and the opening date for unknown reasons has been moved to May 2022.

      2. If the 255 is a precedent, park and ridership is much slower recovering from COVID than walkup ridership.

        Is Mercer Island park and ride even full right now to begin with, or are there empty spaces?

      3. The Mercer Island park and ride is mostly empty, even during weekdays (handy if you want to visit Luther Burbank Park). So are the 550 and 554, and if the buses are empty I can’t see why anyone would drive to MI’s park and ride.

        To Lazarus’s point, I don’t know how ST opens East Link “early”. As I noted, according to ST the entire electrical system must be installed and tested before East Link could open. Even opening East Link just to Mercer Island would make little sense during a pandemic, and when the restructure routes so few buses to MI, and the 550 and 554 continue to Seattle, but mostly empty.

        Plus at this point post pandemic I see East Link — and most transit on the eastside — oriented towards the eastside and not cross lake ridership, and I think the restructure reflects that, so that means from Bellevue to east of Bellevue.

        I don’t know if Lazarus lives in East King Co., but if feeder buses don’t adequately and frequently serve East Link there won’t be many riders on East Link. You don’t just walk from the Highlands to an East Link station, or from Mercer Island to a station. I think Lazarus makes the same error ST has made over and over, and that is thinking feeder buses — and Metro’s budget — does not affect it. Personally I think the only really effective form of first/last mile access are park and rides, but not at remote bus stations but right next to East Link like S. Bellevue, but there are too few of those.

        Maybe if you live in a shoebox next to I-5 and a light rail station and can walk to Link, but if you live in East King Co. any light rail station is miles away, and even if you live in downtown Bellevue the light rail station is on 112th. Metro was given an almost impossible task in serving East Link (and north of Northgate too, and in Pierce Co.) but if you can’t get to Link you can’t ride it, and ridership on East Link post pandemic already looks like it will be a problem with so many other options like driving, subsidized parking and WFH.

      4. “ I kind of doubt though that in this pandemic world of WFH, that ridership is going to increase enough in the next year or two to warrant such increased frequency on such a short line.”

        Yes in this reality it seems highly unlikely.

        If in an alternative universe where Lynnwood Link opens first before East Link, the additional train sets could however be needed to ease overcrowding. Hopefully, unanticipated delays won’t happen on East Link.

        I wouldn’t describe a 9-station segment of about 10 miles from Northgate to ID as “short”.

      5. I’m that case, opening up the south Bellevue parking early won’t help; those that want to drive to the 550 already have Mercer Island.

        With regards to the comment about better feeder service, I’d suggest taking the restructure survey about the 240. The proposed design making you zigzag to Eastgate and downtown Bellevue before you can get on Link is a terrible way to do feeder service for people coming from the south. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that if Metro is going to ask you to transfer that the feeder bus run in a straight line and take you to the closest station, not meander back and forth before dropping you off at a further away station.

      6. “I wouldn’t describe a 9-station segment of about 10 miles from Northgate to ID as “short””

        It’s about 18 min. That’s pretty short vis-a-vis 53 minutes from end to end in my opinion.

        It would be a long way to walk though for sure.

      7. Daniel has brought all of us great news: there’s nothing that warms the cockles of my heart than the secure knowledge that MOTUs’ dollars are being taken by an overweening government and wasted!

    2. I don’t see having riders on half of the test trains. The point of testing is to search for and troubleshoot problems. Introducing

      I could see ST run turnback trains Northgate-ID during peak, if/when there is sufficient fleet to provide that service, but can’t they do that now? I don’t think the East Link spur is necessary for that kind of operations, plus I’d imagine staff would rather turn back the train at SoDo (as Jas suggests). Trying to clear all the passengers off a train while idling at ID Station during peak time seems like a recipe for disaster.

      1. SoDo has no tail track nor crossovers. Trains could turn using the outer loop at the MF, but that would require signaling the loop. That’s not something to undertake for occasional use, but might make sense lon-term if short-turns for the nort end are necessary.

    3. A “special advance opening events” would be exactly the opposite of what Martin is arguing for here. Don’t get cute and wait to open to time with a major event. Open it as soon as ready.

  5. I’m pretty sure that several new US urban rail project openings were supposed to predate Northgate opening if we go back and look at anticipated dates in 2017. That includes SF Central Subway, Crenshaw Line and Dulles Metro Phase 2. These three major projects are still not open!

    Let’s be grateful that the target dates for Northgate could be kept!

  6. I am rather surprised that ST didn’t start showing extensions on its station maps and operating diagrams inside trains starting this weekend. For that matter I’m also a bit surprised that the Northgate Link stations opened without all the (East Link) Line 2 signage in place but covered up.

    I remember how DC rolled out their system map in every station and train decades before it was completed. BART has done the same. This is generally done when once construction is underway in most systems. It “pre-sells” the line before opening day. While those near stations can see them being built, the general ST riding public is not introduced to the expansions until just a few months before they open.

    I can’t tell you how many people are unaware of what the 2024/5 system will be and ask me where it will soon go. They hear news stories about different projects getting delayed — and with four more Link extensions under construction combined with at least three more in planning as well as three Stride lines, it gets confusing to anyone who doesn’t follow the system expansion closely to start considering how to use the future expanded system.

    1. Has University Street station been officially renamed yet? I wonder if they are waiting until they have to replace all the permanent signage anyways to introduce those maps.

      Also, as nice as it is to preview the routes, introducing East Link completely changes the legibility of the map; it’s very different design than hinting at a modest extension like U Link, NG, or Angle Lake. I’m OK with showing a simpler, easier to follow rail map in the short term.

      1. “Now approaching University Street. Stay on board to continue to the University of Washington.” Or something like that. I did not write it down. Nice update to the inner voice of Link!

      2. They fell back to “oh we use the USS abbreviation internally for a few things so we can’t rename it” bullshit excuse.

        So we’ve now got 3 University stations, congrats Seattle!

        Maybe we can get the UW Tacoma station to have the same name, for even more confusion!

      3. ST had a survey on potential names for University Street Station but I haven’t heard anything since.

        I’m leaning toward Seneca Station.

      4. The Post Office is close by so how about Post Office Station, or PO Station for short.

        It would be very clear to out of towners where they could find a post office anyway.

      5. So the renamed Symphony Station emerges in 2023. Finally!

        (That assumes that no other surprises emerge with the approval process next month.)


        I found the 26 character maximum interesting in the new guidelines. I think that’s to accommodate the upcoming long names of Lynnwood City Center and Redmond Technology Center. As end stations (the latter for just a year or two), I think these are still unnecessarily too long. I don’t see the full names fitting on the onboard train destination signs. Hello scrolling signs, my friends!

        What’s the maximum number of letters that fit on an electronic train destination sign? That should set the maximum number of allowed characters.

  7. Martin, when you served on the sounding board, the initial Link segment opened in July and the bus changes were made in September; the airport station opened in December and their bus changes were made in February. The bus changes have to be made at the operator bid change times.

    Yes, the Northgate ped-bike bridge would have helped before Link. Perhaps the agencies like the splash of simultaneous launches.

    With East Link, many of the bus hours that will be redeployed are in the I-90 peak routes 212, 214, 216, 217, 218, and 219; routes 550 and 554 are also at issue. The bus changes have to be made at the operator bid times. How much sense it make for the I-90 bus routes to duplicate Link for a significant time? so what length of overlap is acceptable? The buses, hours, and operators can only be used on one network at a time. The new network may have bus routes that are helpful to access Link.

    1. Commentators’ reports suggest the ped bridge was just barely finished in time for the opening date, and some unfinished things were given temporary patches so that it could open on time. That makes it sound like the bridge couldn’t have opened earlier.

      There should have been clearer wording on when exactly the bridge would open. I wasn’t sure if it would be open until the middle of the ceremony. As it turned out, the ceremony was on the west side of the bridge, so transit riders had to cross it to get to the ceremony. And for hundreds of people to cross it, especially in a socially-distanced manner due the pandemic, the bridge would have to be opened at least a couple hours before the ceremony. And I guess from anecdotal reports it was open early in the morning. Still, I didn’t see it publicized that the bridge was open all morning, or even where the ceremony would be. I saw a cluster of people on the bridge and thought that was the ceremony, but when I got to it I saw the ceremony was actually on the west side and people were walking to it.

      1. I walked across it today. There were a swarm of workers on it. Access panels were open, wiring was strewn on the deck, metal work was being performed.

        Barely getting it open was an understatement. It I was there early in the morning and walked across it at 8:30ish. They were still setting up for the 10:00 ceremony.

  8. Martin,
    I hear you. My only issues are bus integration and almost all politics are local.
    I understand Community Transit is very much working on CT 2024 in 2022 so they have 2023 to get ready for a March 2024 or July 2024 LynnwoodLink launch so the buses feed the light rail spine. It takes a lot of stakeholdering & consulting to get to the destination, and as someone w/ let’s just say helping another transit agency to your North – not CT – beginning this work I ask you feel free to reach out for a better explanation. I can also recommend hailing Luke Distelhorst and he can give better explanations for CT’s work.
    Something to keep in mind.

  9. I can attest to the fact that SDOT barely made their targeted opening date.

    I was there the day before the opening and the bridge was a swarm of workers, and workers doing some pretty fundamental things (railings, wiring, etc) at that. In fact, a lot of work actually got pushed off until AFTER the opening. I was there yesterday and the bridge was again a swarm of workers.

    So this narrative that SDOT somehow delayed the bridge opening until the date of the ceremony is just false. In fact, on the day of the opening they opened the bridge to ped traffic well before the ceremony. I know because I crossed it and they were still setting up.

    Likewise ST does not delay Link openings to coincide with Metro’s regular service change dates. That narrative is false. It’s nice when the Metro service change happens shortly after Link opens, but Link can operate just fine on its own until such time as Metro makes their changes.

    That said, the reason the Metro restructure and the opening of Link coincided this time is because Metro delayed their regular service change date so that it coincided with the Link opening. This is unusual.

    I think the reason that Metro delayed this time was one of optics. The schedules were only a few weeks off, which would mean that Metro would need to continue using their old facility for almost 6 full months if they were to stick to their normal schedule and policy.

    The optics of Metro staying in their tired old facility with a brand new one within sight was just to much for Metro to defend, particularly since it appeared the other bus services would be using the new facility on day one.

    1. I don’t know what Metro facility Lazarus is talking about. That’s also insider stuff to me.

      U-Link opened with the March Metro service change. Angle Lake Station opened with the fall service change, not that either ST or Metro took advantage of any opportunity for a route restructure. Northgate Link opened with Metro’s fall service change, negotiated to happen a couple days after the Local 587’s contract requires. I’m sure there were legal and safety reasons that justified not rushing the opening a week (and hopefully it wasn’t just to wait for the John Lewis Memorial Bridge to be sufficiently ready). That’s three out of five Link opening days so far, and the three most recent. That does not meet the definition “unusual” in any dictionary I’ve read.

      Regardless, again, you are arguing with Martin on this post, not with Metro. The entity to which Martin is praying for transit rider relief is Sound Transit. Do you disagree that East Link should open as soon as it is ready, regardless of Metro’s service change dates?

    2. Lazarus: it does not seem to be optics, but practicality. In 2021, only one bus network can be operated at a time. If routes 41, 74, 76, 77, 301, 304, 312, 304, and 312 are on I-5 using up coaches, operators, and hours, they cannot also be used to improve connectivity with Link.

      In March 2016, Metro delayed its service change to be coincident with ST Link. Link was a bit late.

      Better together.

  10. Ah, now I get it. Lazarus doesn’t think Metro is capable of having a temporary re-route to have buses serve Northgate Transit Center for a week or two, but publish schedules based on bays at the foot of Northgate Station.

    I’m actually an apologist for the continued use of Northgate Transit Center, not just as a layover site, but as a way to enable even more Snohomish County buses to connect to Northgate Station. It is a very short walk between the south entrance of the station and the old transit center. If the space available at the foot of the station was the limiting factor in how many commuter buses would go to Northgate vs. downtown, then I hope they reconsider the mothballing of Northgate TC, and allow even more commuter buses to switch to Northgate, using the bays at Northgate TC.

    Gads, it sure would be nice to redirect the whole CT commuter armada there, and convert one of the numerous parking lots there into the new CT daytime bus storage yard. Once the 2 Line opens, the overlapping portion of the lines will have all the train throughput-per-hour it will ever get. But even before then, redirecting ST Express 510 to Northgate would solve a bunch of scheduling problems.

    Follow-up route restructures after Link and BRT openings are not unprecedented.

    The optics of not using some of that ample acres of parking sewer for storing buses instead of SOVs …

    Put your glasses on straight, and you’ll realize they are actually half full (to mix metaphors).

  11. I went past the Northgate Station this morning. It was interesting to see a line of busses on 1st Ne heading to the I-5 north bound entrance. Most of them were Sound Transit. One was Metro. I have never seen that many busses on that road that early in the morning. I knew about the routes that were going to be truncated here, but it was still interesting to see the change that one new station has on bus traffic.

  12. “I’ll take it even further: whenever East Link is ready, they should start operating it. Perhaps Metro will have the flexibility to implement a service change at that date instead of their usual, collectively bargained changeover, or not. But even if the supporting bus service has to follow a bit later, fast high-capacity transit to the Eastside can start helping people immediately.”

    I still don’t get Martin’s statement above. Obviously he is not arguing that East Link should open before it is structurally tested. ST has stated it cannot open parts of East Link, say from Mercer Island to Seattle, earlier than other sections because the entire electrical system has to be installed and tested. 9 months was the original testing schedule and still is, and with the post tensioning of I-90 I hope a lot of testing is done. This is the first time a floating bridge has had post tensioning (the key term being “post”), and I was interviewed by King 5 news on this issue when ST finally discovered the need and announced the solution.

    Let’s not forget the number of trips across Lake Washington by transit on East Link will be maybe 10% of total trips, much less if the peak commuter to Seattle does not return (which Metro and I seem to believe it won’t), and all our west-east freight from the port is on I-90. I-90 is much, much more important than East Link, especially since post tensioning eliminated any kind of co-transit in the center lane.

    East Link is suburban and commuter rail. 70% of the line travels through nothingness. It is based on the peak hour commuter. Right now that rider is not taking transit on the eastside. The 550 and 554 sail to downtown Seattle without any traffic, but no one wants to take the 550 and 554 to downtown Seattle right now. If this is how the 554 and 550 had been in 2008 East Link would have never passed, especially when the 550 access

    I don’t see how you could open East Link without the feeder buses, which IMO come first, unless ST plans on a quick and massive expansion of park and rides next to East Link. But the issue for Metro is no one knows where the riders will be post pandemic on the eastside, how many, and where they might be going, which will be peak hours.

    IF the peak commuter returns, especially across Lake Washington, many will be pissed anyway at the new transfers on East Link. Telling them at the beginning of East Link there are no feeder buses to East Link (and only East Link crosses Lake Washington) will send them directly to their councils, and give them more ammunition to demand subsidized parking from the their employers or working from home, which they have been doing pretty successfully for going on two years.

    In really disagree with this arrogant approach ST and its advocates take that society and riders conform to light rail. East Link won’t be better than the 550 and 554 during the pandemic, although there is no traffic congestion. Without traffic congestion face it there is no point to the exorbitant cost of rail.

    That is not how it happens, and the pandemic proved that. Getting eastsiders out of their cars is not easy, and the only reason they took transit to begin with was because of traffic congestion and the costs of parking in Seattle. What they really covet now is WFH. Charging for park and ride space or crummy first/last mile access will give them the ammunition to demand WFH, with subsidized parking, because most won’t ever return to a five day in office work schedule, and they want WFH.

    Ross has pointed out before this is a very demanding demographic. Every one has a car, and every one drives during non-peak times. Ridership estimates on East Link have always been fantastical, and those will be much lower post pandemic no matter what. But still providing first/last mile access to east King Co. was an impossible mission to begin with.

    ST has to sell East Link baby, or it will fail, and there is one opening curtain. I doubt any eastsiders will get up to catch the 4:15 am inaugural ride on East Link. It is a tool, and if it is not better than the tools already in the box like WFH or subsidized parking no one will use it. Some on this blog think because it is rail it is holy, whereas on the eastside it is one of the least favorite forms of transportation, after the car, WFH, subsidized parking, and just about anything else (except bikes).

    I have said this many times before but will say it again: first/last mile access begins at your doorstep. If you have a one mile steep walk in the rain to a feeder bus transit ends for you at your doorstep. If you charge for a park and ride it ends at your doorstep. If you need to go to SLU or First Hill, or need transfers to get to downtown Seattle, East Link probably ends at your doorstep.

    So stop thinking about East Link from the East Link station or the destination (assuming East Link goes there). Begin at the doorstep of a huge and undense part of the county that is agnostic about any transit, and then you will understand the issues facing East Link. Running some rail across a bridge and through green belts and open areas is not that difficult or expensive. Getting folks to East Link still in a happy mood is the tough part, or they won’t use it, and right now ridership on East Link post pandemic is looking to be around 1/2 of ST’s estimates of 43,000 to 52,000 boardings/day by 2026.

    I will repeat a refrain repeated often on this blog: think about the rider. Except these are not captive poor riders on some infrequent bus. They have options, and one (WFH) is inside their home, and the other (their car) is inside their garage. Pretty hard to compete with unless traffic congestion returns to 2019 levels, and that is unlikely.

    1. I agree with everything you said. Hybrid remote work is a game changer. Plus, more companies are moving to Bellevue to avoid downtown Seattle crime and anti corporate city council

    2. The theory as presented by DT focuses on how much Eastsiders aren’t, and won’t use Link.

      Let’s not forget that we don’t really know how the post pandemic work pattern will work out, but we do know that Amazon, and likely other firms, are putting more money into expansion on the Eastside now, than on the westside.

      Could it be that we end up needing East Link in the future to get workers who live on the Westside to their jobs on the Eastside just as much as the other way around?

      1. I am expecting East Link will have more ‘inbound’ than ‘outbound’ traffic across Lake Washington on a workday morning, but yeah as Bellevue downtown booms, I think East Link will be just a critical to moving people into, out of, and through the Bellevue CBD each workday as the DSTT is for Seattle’s CBD.

      2. Exactly. If Amazon expands in Bellevue, workers will commute to it from Seattle. Not all tech workers want to live in the Eastside. Otherwise the 545 reverse commute wouldn’t be busy.

        I-90 car traffic was mostly to Seattle in morning in the 1980s, but now it’s similar in both directions.

      3. Everyone should want “transit” to succeed, especially for the money that is being spent. But it is a big mistake to think rail is somehow separate or not dependent on buses.

        Link has three key advantages:

        1. It is grade separated.

        2. Which means its schedule is quite accurate.

        3. It can carry lots of riders.

        (Also some probably consider Link stations safer, at least during peak times).

        Link also has some operational disadvantages (other than cost to build and operate):

        1. Its course is fixed, and so far that course is very limited compared to the three county area.

        2. The course chosen has decided to omit some key stations in urban areas like S. Lake Union and First Hill that are necessary, and compared to a subway (even in downtown Seattle) stations are pretty far from one another. A transfer AFTER Link is infinitely more frustrating than a transfer to get to Link because it highlight’s Link’s failings.

        3. Link’s success will depend on: A. first/last mile access; and B. buses, because those will determine total trip time.

        4. It doesn’t run 24/7.

        First/last mile access is NOT the feeder transit to Link. First/last mile access is the very first form of transportation from your front door, whether that is a walk to a bus, or to Link, or driving to a park and ride, or directly to Link. The feeder bus is the “second” seat.

        Link is also two different things: 1. urban rail in the denser areas of Seattle that have been completed first (and I get the feeling most people on this blog only understand this part of Link); and 2. suburban and really rural rail outside Seattle that mostly follows the interstate for reasons of ROW, cost, and lack of density.

        What makes East Link a little different is it was designed definitely to be suburban commuter rail, mostly from the eastside to Seattle, which plays to Link’s advantages of grade separation, accurate schedule, transit tunnel, and it can carry lots of riders. Plus fare cost is not really an issue with these riders. Commuters are also easier to serve with first/last mile access if there are park and rides, and the feeder buses have short schedules and are packed with mostly full fare paying riders going from A to B.

        Now it looks like East Link’s ridership will be much different than envisioned in 2008, or even 2019. Link will be more intra-eastside, less A to B, and will end up serving more off-peak riders, which kind of negates Link’s advantages, and increases the costs to feed Link because coverage for East King Co. actually increases over peak riders because now the riders are spread out over a huge area, and may not be going to where East Link is going. East Link was designed around the ultimate destination, Seattle.

        I sense there is a sort of superiority among some Link advocates over buses or Metro. After all, trains are cool, and transit riders can feel superior to those driving cars even. But Link’s success will depend directly on first/last mile access — which can be damn frustrating to begin your trip on transit — followed by feeder bus service, which with a transfer means Link starts with a huge disadvantage. The first two seats on any Link trip begin with Metro because Metro determines coverage which determines first/last mile access and frequency of the feeder bus, unless you drive directly to a park and ride that serves Link, so really Link inherits those issues by the time riders reach Link.

        Some think that in 50 years everyone will have moved to within walking distance of a Link station, which outside Seattle means along I-5. Maybe, but we are talking about now. Plus the Seattle Times has an article today noting people are deurbanizing.

        I think ST will learn, now that Link is reaching the suburban and rural parts of Link, that its success will depend directly on buses feeding Link. This approach by ST that if feeder buses suck it isn’t ST’s fault misses the whole point: the rider will disappear if they have other options, and already Link is looking at large losses of peak commuter riders. Especially considering Link has sucked all the transit dollars out of the system.

        Some on this blog counter my argument that some rail like East Link will see many fewer peak commuters by arguing that is no longer East Link’s mission, which now is serving intra-eastside off-peak riders, but I don’t think they consider the logistical problems that ridership places on first/last mile access, and feeder buses throughout the day. The fact is feeder buses during off-peak times are not frequent on the eastside due to cost, so the trip will be long and frustrating, including the wait and transfer.

        Taking Northgate Link to downtown Seattle during peak hours makes good sense, if you can get to NG Link, and peak hour commuters return. But serving non-peak riders on the eastside was never really a goal of East Link, because of the area and lack of density, which means cost. Off peak it will take a long time to get to Link if you need to get a feeder bus and catch a feeder bus.

        NG will be a good test for East Link: if NG Link has issues with first/last mile access, followed by feeder buses, then East Link will have those issues in spades. Really NG Link is the twilight zone where urban Link becomes suburban Link to the north, if you want to go downtown. East Link is pure suburban Link, or was originally designed that way, although it probably will have to change.

        I don’t know if a Metro levy would pass on the eastside today, but that is what is needed, more than $4.5 billion lines from Issaquah to S. Kirkland or ST 4, if East Link is going to have any hope of succeeding in an undense area with a strong car culture and declining peak commuters, because after all the whole goal of Link is that it will supposedly get car drivers to switch to transit rather than just switch bus riders to Link (plus a bus ride).

        I live in a city of car drivers where you can’t get to Link even though we have a station right in our urban core. That is the parable of East Link.

      4. Daniel, one aspect about Link usage personally concerns me that never gets enough discussion about last-mile access. That aspect is the drop-off and pick-up access by other household members.

        Many Seattle households are single-person. Even when it’s two-person, the distances to Link and the availability of frequent buses make such occurrences less popular. It seems to off the radar for many hardcore transit advocates within Seattle.

        On the other hand, there is a higher proportion of Eastside households with multiple cars and drivers. Those drivers may be quite hesitant to commit the time it takes to get on a freeway to come into Seattle or to drive through an Eastside bottleneck. Plus, buses are just not as frequent and stops are not as close.

        With East Link open, it becomes much easier to say “I’ll text you from the Link train so that you can pick me up” or “Can you drop me off at Link on the way to (wherever)?” and think little of the 5-10 minute inconvenience.

        Here is the link to BART’s Station Profile reports (albeit from 2015 so it feels a bit dated) quantifying things for them. (

        Take a look at Orinda as an example. It’s akin to Mercer Island (median freeway station serving a mostly low-density area) except the station parking lot is much bigger. The home origin report shows that 24 percent are getting dropped off or picked up — which is higher than bicycling, walking and bus transit transfers combined there.

        Curb management, people parking in nearby lots for a few minutes while they wait, riders jumping out of cars a block or two from the station entrance are going to become increased daily aggravations on MI. On the other hand, smart entrepreneurs (like coffee shops and convenience retail) can increase their sales by anticipating this emerging market.

        I could see this already happening with I-90 bus riders, however the much higher frequency, speed and distance by which a Link rider will be able to experience will make this way to travel more popular.

      5. Al, the bus stop on Mercer Island pre-pandemic did have a lot of drop offs, and the two station entrances for East Link have cut outs for drop offs. But the secret is Sunset Highway, which ends in a cul-de-sac at 80th to the south of I-90. Most drop offs and pick ups occur here, and probably will when East Link opens. This works best with a household with one spouse who does not work.

        Bus stops and East Link won’t affect retail on Mercer Island, and never have. The grocery stores are popular with off-islanders who use the park and ride, especially those from Seattle, but commuters just want to get home.

        If someone working in Seattle wants a drink or something to eat after work he or she will do that in Seattle, or they will wait until they get back home to their eastside city which all have better shopping and restaurants than MI. They almost never break up their commute to stop and shop or dine.

        MI is a housing community. Commuters want to get home, pour a drink, see the kids and dog, work in the yard, and have dinner or go to a sporting event for the kids. For 26,000 fairly affluent residents and 3000 in the town center MI has a very weak retail and restaurant scene.

      6. “With East Link open, it becomes much easier to say “I’ll text you from the Link train so that you can pick me up” or “Can you drop me off at Link on the way to (wherever)?”

        That’s exactly what happens in cities with more extensive transit systems. In Vancouver in the early 90s there was an Orthodox church in Cloverdale I visited a few times. Cloverdale is in outer Surrey and at the time was rural like Vashon Island. People from Vancouver would take the Skytrain to Scott Road, its terminus at the time just east of the Fraser River, like UW Station was for North Seattle. Others would pick them up at Scott Road to go the rest of the way to the church.

        Another time, I was staying with somebody in the Virginia DC suburbs. One morning he drove to work and dropped me off at Anacostia metro station on the way. Similarly, although not with cars, I’ve seen people gather at the Broadway Skytrain station in Vancouver or the Ring Line metro stations in Moscow, to go to an event or meet somebody. This even happens here to a lesser extent; somebody will meet somebody at a transit center or P&R. As transit trunks become more extensive, people will do that more and it will be more visible and common.

      7. “I live in a city of car drivers where you can’t get to Link even though we have a station right in our urban core. That is the parable of East Link.”

        Because Mercer Island specifically asked for access to be difficult. Diverting a few buses that terminate at the Link station wouldn’t have been that difficult, but Mercer Island doesn’t want transit to be better for itself, or anyone else in the east county region, apparently.

        “Some think that in 50 years everyone will have moved to within walking distance of a Link station, which outside Seattle means along I-5. Maybe, but we are talking about now. Plus the Seattle Times has an article today noting people are deurbanizing.”

        Are you sure you’re not confusing posts on Nextdoor with this web site? Nobody has ever said everyone is going to move next to Link stations. What we do want is better land use near all the Link stations, so that those who choose to live there can do so. This is how any city with any brains does it, and even some without brains do it too.

        As far as this “deurbanizing” thing you keep talking about, the real problem is the lack of places to live. Even last year, the average time on the market for a house in the city of Seattle was 6 days. I’ve given you the link to the articles that discuss that before, so I’m not doing it again. People are moving to places further away from Seattle because there isn’t anywhere else to live. If this “deurbanizing” were actually a thing in the Seattle area, the time homes are on the market would be going down, and there would actually be some vacancies, and it would be easier to find housing.

        There might not be enough along East Link to make it seem useful to you today, but once it is operating things will start to change for the better. This is what the auto-dominated hellhole of my area of Portland looked like in 2007:,-122.5673427,3a,75y,252.63h,88.26t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s0uv6wCwVJJLnbVm1uhWkMg!2e0!5s20070701T000000!7i3328!8i1664?hl=en

        MAX green line opened in 2009. It now looks like this:,-122.567353,3a,75y,252.63h,88.26t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sIXiJ9OC-ycTa3D8Q3beFeQ!2e0!5s20210801T000000!7i16384!8i8192?hl=en
        Sure, it’s still an auto-dominated hellhole, but there are a lot more things near the stations than before there were light rail stations.

      8. The Times article ($) profiles choice exurbanites using the opportunity of telework to move to Bellingham, Spanaway, Poulsbo, and Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston Counties. The people profiled say they moved for the location, nearby family, and/or access to the outdoors. Other people are moving to South King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston Counties purely because they can’t afford to live in central King County or can’t afford a house there. Still, if we untangle it, the pandemic-era uptick of moving outward by choice is still small and diffuse, not enough to change the relative sizes of the cities. And they don’t profile people who moved to Seattle or inner King County or moved out of state. Because the Times readership skews toward people with houses or are eagerly looking for a house and want to read about that real estate market. The uptick is only a year old, so it’s too early to tell if it will be a longer-term trend. Some people who moved to exurbs or smaller towns last year are now moving back because it’s too boring or isolated or inconvenient. There have been articles about that about people moving back to Boston or San Francisco, or at least back to the inner Bay Area.

      9. “I live in a city of car drivers where you can’t get to Link even though we have a station right in our urban core. That is the parable of East Link.”

        “Because Mercer Island specifically asked for access to be difficult. Diverting a few buses that terminate at the Link station wouldn’t have been that difficult, but Mercer Island doesn’t want transit to be better for itself, or anyone else in the east county region, apparently.”

        I don’t think you know what you are talking about Glenn in Portland?

        Do you understand the difference between intra-Island buses (those are buses that travel “within” the borders of Mercer Island and take people to the light rail station like the discontinued 201, or what we sometimes call feeder buses) and a bus intercept from off-Island? Are you suggesting someone living on Mercer Island drive to a park and ride in Issaquah that might not be full and catch a bus to MI to catch East Link?

        Did you review the transit restructure on the eastside at all? I doubt you have an understanding of the Nov. 2017 settlement agreement between MI and ST, or any issues in the litigation. ST decided to run the 554 to Bellevue and not MI when East Link opens, and Metro is running three peak only buses from Issaquah to MI that combined will have a total headway much less than MI agreed to pre-restructure for the intercept, because Metro (and MI) realized ST’s ridership estimates on East Link were dishonest, and transit patterns have fundamentally changed due to the pandemic.

        Still the three peak only buses feeding MI from Issaquah doesn’t help an Islander trying to get to the rail station, does it?

        The deurbanizing “thing” I am talking about is from an article in today’s Seattle Times.

        Properties outside Seattle are appreciating much faster than in Seattle. When you include King Co., Snohomish Co., Pierce Co. and Kitsap County you have the same land mass as many U.S. states, so there is enough space for people to live, whether 4 million or 10 million. There are plenty of places to live; some are just expensive, depending on where you want to live, and where you need to go. South Seattle is pretty reasonable. Medina not so much. It has nothing to do with transit. In fact just the opposite.

        By the way the average time on the market in Seattle is 39 days, and the reasons for high prices are low interest rates, and low inventory because people don’t want to move during a pandemic.

        Property values and vacancies have many different factors. For example there was a recent article in Crosscut noting 72,000 apartments are vacant in Seattle. Probably landlords waiting for the eviction moratoria to expire. Where I live property values in 2021 have increased 37%. Why? My guess is schools, public safety, low inventory, location, and Seattle families moving out, and rising incomes in the area. Still 37% in 2021 seems odd to me, but my neighbor just sold their house for more than double what they paid in 2012. These are the same reasons affecting the value of all property. Certainly not transit on MI.

        Although I repeat it enough I still think some like you don’t get what I am saying. I am saying transit serves people, and the real things they want in life. Transit is just a form of transportation. It is not morally superior. And transit begins at the doorstep, because that is where the competition for transit begins.

        When you use terms like ‘auto-dominated hellhole” I know you do not understand this, and are like the Jesus freaks on the street yelling bible quotes at me. Transit does not dictate life, where people work, or where they live. Bigger things do.

        WFH won’t end transit, and Link won’t change lives. All WFH will do is create more competition for transit, and transit now is going to have to compete for riders (when they come back), especially the high value peak commuter, on the things that matter for any mode of transportation: safety, convenience, time of trip, cost, ability to carry things, door to door service, first/last mile access, and maybe now health.

        Don’t expect Angle Lake to become the next metropolis. Very, very few people choose where to live based on transit, because so few use transit. That means feeder transit, and first/last mile access, are the Achilles Heel for Link, so don’t ignore them if you are ST.

      10. “On average, homes in Seattle sell after 8 days on the market compared to 7 days last year.”

        Redfin looks at a pretty extensive set of trends to get its numbers. So, they’re down a couple days over last time I checked. That’s still a horrifically short time, and one of the reasons why homelessness is such a crisis.

        I’m well aware that Mercer Island chased out a bunch of bus transfers. It was discussed here a number of times. Each of those buses would need to turn around at the end of the trip. Mercer Island could have asked for those buses to make a loop around the island or otherwise improve the last mile problem.

        But…’re the Mercer Island resident going on about last mile access……

      11. Amazon is not moving to the Eastside. Not even a little. The only way it can even be technically said that it is investing more in the Eastside now is because their massive, 1/2 city block Amazon Spheres HQ was only completed mid 2018. When you just invested that much in a city, you don’t have to invest more for 5-10 years or more.

      12. @Daniel — I agree with many of your points. It is why Link is a mixed bag, and not a great value. It is extremely expensive, has too few stations, and a lot of it will be next to the freeway.

        But I disagree with you as to the definition of East Link. If I thought for a second that it was “commuter rail for the East Side” I would oppose it, with great vigor. But I don’t, because it isn’t. That is only one small part of East Link. The most important part is connecting downtown Bellevue with downtown Seattle. There will be thousands of workers and other riders traveling back and forth as a result. There will also be thousands of workers commuting from Seattle (with “first mile” problems that would be the envy of any Eastsider). Yes, the bus works, but it wasn’t as frequent, or as obvious. Don’t forget Microsoft, of course. Then there are the growing number of Bellevue residents who treat it as an urban location. These are folks who don’t drive, or drive rarely (to get to the mountains, etc.). They will definitely use East Link to get around. The suburban commuter aspect of East Link is a side issue. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter if commuters from Issaquah to Seattle are happy or sad with the train, as they will make up a tiny amount of ridership either way.

      13. Fair enough Ross. I definitely think connecting Bellevue to Seattle was part of Bellevue’s interests in 2008, and likely will be in the future. Whether thousands of workers will take Link between the two cities during work hours, and use East Link for that trip, is unknown. I think the restructure assumes more eastsiders will work in Bellevue or on the eastside, and Seattle residents will work in Seattle, so there will be less peak cross lake commuting, but there could be many trips across the lake between Seattle and Bellevue workers. That still leaves the issue of first/last mile access to East Link for eastside workers, which you have discussed before. You and I both think it is a mistake for rail advocates to think Link can exist let alone succeed without feeder buses.

    3. “ Let’s not forget the number of trips across Lake Washington by transit on East Link will be maybe 10% of total trips, much less if the peak commuter to Seattle does not return…”

      This is completely speculative. Prove it!

      While you’re at it, what about these contributing factors:

      1. More than 9-5 office workers will use Link. It will run from 5 AM to 10 PM with 10 minute service so people with non-desk jobs can start using it. Those jobs are mostly going to require showing up at a work location. Plus, the all-day service means that most workers using it are not restricted by limited hours like with frequent express buses.

      2. College and even some high school students will use Link. With all-day direct service to UW on the 2 Line (no direct service today) and transit passes included in student fees, there is an increased structural incentive for college students to use transit.

      3. Downtown Bellevue commuter parking is as expensive as many downtowns in America. DT ignores this fact every time I point this out.

      4. Every time that I’ve used I-90 while driving, I see backups at both the I-5 and I-405 interchanges. I see it in the early afternoon as well as other times of day. While I-90 in Mercer Island historically flows well, it slows down at these places at it has in the past. Congestion exists again and it lasts several hours.

      Data from ST showed the highest percent decline in commute-focused service mainly running at peak commute hours. This is not what Link is and how Link operates. It’s a day-long high-frequency service.

      It’s clear that DT has no intention of riding Link. However, it’s the universe of local travel that has to be considered — and not just one person. Please remember that your preferences and commuting circumstances (location and time of day) are only yours, Daniel.

      1. Oh… the ST forecast includes the opening of the Downtown and SE Redmond stations as well as Judkins Park in Seattle. ST doesn’t detail what trips are being made from those places, but it’s probably at least 1/4 of all 2026 Link riders.

      2. This is from a conservative group from 2019:

        “4. Autos are used by more than two-thirds of commuters to work trip locations throughout the Puget Sound, with a three-quarters share outside the city of Seattle and just shy of a 50 percent share in the city of Seattle.”

        “5. Transit destinations are concentrated in the city of Seattle, with a 48 percent transit work trip market share to downtown, and a 9.3 percent share to the rest of the city. Only 3.5 percent of work trips to destinations in the rest of the Puget Sound are on transit.”,are%20on%20transit.%206.%20Downtown%20dominates%20transit%20commuting.

        This WSDOT site shows transit on I-5 during peak commutes in 2019 averaged 27% to 20% depending on time of day.

        So yes, I think a 10% figure for transit trips across I-90 for all hours is close, at least pre-pandemic. Not today with such low transit ridership across I-90. Today maybe 1%. That I can prove.

        Let’s not forget the original points of my post: if East Link is going to have any chance of success then first/last mile access is the most important issue. I was disagreeing with those who just say open East Link whenever, whether Metro is ready or not. Riders will have options, and will always choose the most convenient, safe and cost effective, which usually is the car on the eastside, and now WFH. Second, peak work commuting to Seattle will decline for reasons specific to Seattle.

        I might ride East Link when it opens. It depends on whether it is more convenient, and cost, certainly if there is a cost for the park and ride, and if it is going to where I want to go. East King Co. is a big, big area. I can walk to the station although it is a bit of a hike. By that time our office will be on the eastside (maybe on Mercer Island) so I won’t take East Link to Seattle for work. If there is park and ride space that might make a difference, but if I am already in my car I will probably just drive to my ultimate destination.

        Of course students and off-peak riders will use East Link, but those will not come close to the ridership estimates ST has estimated, which are based on the peak work commuter, mainly to Seattle.

        “Data from ST showed the highest percent decline in commute-focused service mainly running at peak commute hours. This is not what Link is and how Link operates. It’s a day-long high-frequency service.”

        The problem with this quote from Al is Link is different things depending on the area and ridership. East Link was about peak commuters, mostly to Seattle. Who builds a $5.5 billion light rail line that will cost $4 one way plus the cost to park in the park and ride to serve non-peak riders in an area as large as East King Co. with mostly free parking off-peak, when that line serves such a tiny percentage of the eastside? Transit on buses will still dominate after East Link opens.

        I don’t think most of those peak commuters are coming back, and I think more and more commuters to Seattle from the Issaquah region will be going to Bellevue. That is what Bellevue hopes, and why the 554 will run to Bellevue and not Mercer Island (which is just a stop on the way to Seattle).

        The irony is I joined this blog to learn more so I could understand and fight the plan for the optimal service bus intercept on Mercer Island (20 articulated peak buses per peak hour), and the restructure and pandemic have made that irrelevant, and pretty much eliminated non-peak bus service to MI. Why? Because East Link is all about the peak hour commuter. If you are a non-peak rider on Mercer Island you better be going to where East Link goes.

        Originally I bought into the McKinsey and Gates Foundation estimates that around 20% to 25% of commuters would WFH post pandemic. Now I lean towards the Stanford study that has the figure at closer to 40% since WFH has gone on for nearly two years, and people and employers are used to it. If you live in an area like East King Co. where Link ridership estimates were based heavily on the peak commuter that 40% could be higher, and maybe more than 50% compared to ST’s “optimistic” ridership estimates to sell ST 2 and 3. Not a 100% decline of course, but closer to 50%, which will cause issues with farebox recovery and operations budgets.

        So if I have any advice for ST when it comes to East Link it is ST cannot afford its usual arrogance and dismissive treatment of the rider, or delusion that first/last mile access is not its problem. How will East Link compete against WFH or cars in East King Co.? About the only rider it can compete for is the peak work commuter travelling to someplace with expensive parking and lots of congestion (unless you are a partner or executive), and WFH and subsidized parking are tough competition.

      3. Ok, I see that you meant 10 percent of all I-90 trips. I read this as 10 percent of East Link trips. “Total trips” was an ambiguous term in your post.

      4. If East Link opens early, it would be in addition to the existing bus routes. Nobody would be inconvenienced because their existing bus routes would still be running. But they would have the option to start using Link immediately. For some people their origin or current bus route would be usable for it, even if not optimal.

      5. By “early” I mean if Line 2 opens before its bus restructure. If the bus restructure is advanced to coincide with an early Link opening (e.g., from September to the previous March), then this would be moot.

      6. Daniel: the statistics you quote are quite meaningless.

        Of course transit only carries a small fraction of the commuters on the east side. East county goes all the way to Snoqualmie Pass. There are probably hundreds of thousands of people that don’t work or live anywhere near a transit route, or even a transit served city.

        A much more interesting figure would be those taking transit in places where transit actually exists.

        As far as work from home goes, there are an awful lot of people that have jobs that don’t allow work from home.

        You mention cost and travel time as part of the calculation for driving vs transit, but you do not factor in what a huge waste of time driving is. Travel time may be higher, but with mobile technology it’s possible to do a whole lot more on transit than it is while driving – at least do it safely anyway. My commute wastes about 20 minutes each way if I drive, but if I take the bus it’s only about 3 minutes that I spend not doing anything.

      7. Another factor is the quality of the infrastructure. People say bicycles account for only 3% or whatever of trips so why do we need cycletracks, but it’s the lack of more extensive cycletracks that’s holding back the mode share. In countries and cities with more extensive bicycle infrastructure, they do have more ridership. Since I’m rereading “Walkable City” now, a quote about Portland from 2012: “Portland has spent roughly $65 million on bicycle facilities over the past several decades. That’s not a lot of money by infrastructure standards — It costs more than $140 million to rebuild just one of the city’s freeway interchanges. [It boosted[ the number of bicyclists from near normal to fifteen times the national average.”

        The same for transit. It’s the lack of high-quality transit infrastructure that’s holding back mode share. I’ve gone to Northgate and Roosevelt a couple times now, and I can say it’s much easier to get to them from central Seattle now than it was before. I overheard one woman new to the city going from Northgate to Beacon Hill, and there’s one commentator commuting from Shoreline to Mt Baker. That’s even more of a game-changer than my trip from central Seattle, since I’d had a one-seat express 41 from downtown, while there has never been a comparable bus alternative to southeast Seattle (whether one-seat or two-seat). And if it’s easier to take Link for these, it’s also easier to take Link and transfer to the 106 at the south end or to the 40 or 346 at the north end for trips further out, like Kubota Garden or the Meridian busineses, compared to an all-bus alternative. The Eastside will evolve similarly over time. Even if there are flaws in the surrounding bus network, or the bus network isn’t as extensive as it should be. Because it also has some non-flawed routes, and the flaws and limitations can be improved over time. But without the Link or Stride or RapidRide or similar lines it can’t get… easier as I said.

    4. Link is a 100 year investment. To argue that it’s a waste of money because there’s no congestion *now* is very shortsighted. In another 10 years, the congestion will return (induced demand; is always does) and Link will be there. It would be beyond stupidity to just cancel East Link now because of low ridership during covid, after billions of dollars have already been put into it.

      Yes, every trip begins at one’s doorstep, but not ever Eastsider is living in a remote cul de sac. There are plenty of people that live in more urban locations, such as downtown Bellevue and Redmond, a number that only increase as all that new housing in the spring district comes online. There are also many more homes a short hop away from a station on a frequent bus, such as the B line.

      Sure, there will always be people whose remote locations make providing them good feeder service prohibitively expensive. But that doesn’t intrinsically make Link a failure. It just means that people who live in locations that are easier for transit to serve will pick up the slack.

  13. Hi Alex, I have been saying this for a while as someone who has worked in downtown Seattle for 31 years but is moving our firm to the eastside, although some on this blog disagree. The scene in downtown Seattle today is much, much more than just Covid, because there is Covid on the eastside too. It is a shame because there was a point I thought Seattle was on the verge of becoming a world class city. I don’t think Bellevue can ever become a world class city, although it wants to.

    What really surprised me was Metro’s eastside restructure. Metro gets it, and Metro really does not have the budget in East King Co. to not get it. There won’t be 43,000 to 52,000 boardings on East Link in 2026, and cross lake ridership — at least from east to west — will be much lower than anticipated. If people do ride transit they will be going to Bellevue or areas east of Bellevue. Kudos to Metro for rejecting ST’s dreams. I guess I should have suspected this when Bellevue ran East Link along 112th.

    I agree post pandemic the hybrid model will dominate. I think most workers will want to get to the office a few days/week, especially if they don’t have to take transit, which means subsidized parking (which for an employer is the same cost as subsidizing an ORCA card when one is deductible and one is not, which makes little sense for someone commuting to the office two days/week when a parking stall can be shared).

    People on this blog like transit. They like trains. They think transit will change the world. But my guess is not many commute to work during peak times, or have young kids. Peak commuters don’t like transit because they don’t like commuting. Who does? It’s just the pandemic forced companies and employees to finally learn how to work from home, and it does work. Even I learned. A lot of time is wasted going to and from meetings or depositions or whatever, and now that is done by Zoom.

    The eastside is different, and ST and many Seattle transit advocates don’t understand the eastside, in part because they think of it in terms of caricatures. It is a car culture because it is very female and family oriented, so that basically kills transit during non-peak times because most parking is free and there is little car congestion, and you have kids in the car or bags and bags of groceries and pet food.

    Re: peak transit use the reality is the worker does not want to commute, not five days/week, which seems abusive today, and not during peak times if you have school age kids, and if you have to drive to a park and ride to catch a bus to catch a train when you can just drive to the worksite, which is probably what Microsoft is thinking with its 3 million sf parking garage.

    Transit advocates have expended so much energy trying to eliminate the car to advantage transit they missed the fact commuters were just as keen on eliminating the commute, by car or transit, and with lower congestion and subsidized parking if they do have to commute to work they would prefer to drive, although like transit advocates they would prefer no commute, car or transit.

    ST will spend $131 billion on what it arrogantly thought was a captive customer. That is really going to hurt operations and farebox recovery in the long run, which will depend on subarea.

    ST and transit in general thought they could make riders and citizens do what they didn’t want to do, because they have mostly served the poor, arrogantly and not very well. They changed the mode of transit, but people eliminated the need for transit for the work commuter.

    The idea the 554 and 550 will go from two peak riders/bus to a packed East Link train post pandemic is not realistic IMO, and why the 554 will go to Bellevue and not Mercer Island. Just like when riders abandoned the 550 when it was removed from DSTT1 they have found alternatives, and generally don’t return.

    Transit is just not important enough in people’s lives to change their lives. Love, kids, family, pets, the desire for a single family house and yard, nice neighborhoods with big trees, parks, safety, crime, good retail and restaurants, jobs, these are the things that change people’s lives and where they live if they can, and the peak commuter can. Transit is just a tool to serve them, not change them.

      1. Interesting survey Al. Some cities really jack up hourly rates but have more reasonable monthly rates, which I think hurts retail, and others have lower hourly rates and higher monthly rates. I was surprised Atlanta was so low: $6/hr. and $105/month.

        Seattle’s rates are about right based on my experience if you are in the commercial core like the Columbia Center. It is less say in Pioneer Square. I don’t know about downtown Bellevue. Whenever I go there parking is free (non-work). In the office complexes to the north of Bellevue parking is free.

        Just as interesting is the fact the monthly cost of a parking stall in downtown Seattle is more than the maximum transit subsidy an employer can give an employee before it becomes income to the employee (which is not tax deductible to the employer after the 2017 tax act) whereas in Bellevue the cost of a monthly stall is less than the maximum ORCA subsidy. ($265 for 2019,and%20employee%20contributions%20count%20toward%20the%20%24265%20limit.)

        So depending on traffic why wouldn’t an employee prefer a subsidized parking stall rather than a subsidized Orca pass if the employer is offering either? If you are an employer and staff are coming into the office half the time then a parking stall subsidizes two staff.

      2. Agreed, Dan – post pandemic many will prefer to drive, if possible, and even willing to pay for parking if they only have to come into the office three days a week.

      3. A couple weeks ago, I was visiting a friend in downtown Bellevue at lunchtime on a Wednesday and had no trouble whatsoever finding $0.00 parking on the street (granted, the place where I parked had a 2-hour parking limit, but still…). I’m sure eventually, that will change, but downtown Bellevue still has quite a ways to go before the parking situation becomes anything like downtown Seattle.

        Even in places where parking is traditionally regarded as expensive, it is usually possible for people willing to walk to find good deals – in many areas, free street parking is still available within a 2-mile radius for those willing to walk/run that far who know where to look. (In the case of downtown Seattle, that would be near the tops of Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, where parking is much easier than lower down the hills, closer to downtown).

        Of course, much of the reason why such parking is available at all is because we have a good enough transit system that the vast majority of people too cheap to pay for downtown parking have better options. There are very few points of origin where driving to one of the above places and walking downtown would be faster than just riding the transit system or driving to a park and ride to ride the transit system.

      4. When I worked in Bellevue, it was always easy to park for a few hours, but very expensive to park for a full day. There are dozen of lots that cater to shoppers/diners, so if can be cheap to park for lunch but still very expensive for commuters. Even the public library and city hall garages provide free parking but will tow/ticket you if you park for more than a few hours.

        Also, basically all of the strip malls in downtown Bellevue will be towers with underground* garages in a few short years, so the parking situation is going to rapidly evolve due to redevelopment, to say nothing of how the situation will change when WFH ends.

        *i.e. controlled access. Many of the surface lots prohibit park & hide, but you can easily get away with it for a quick visit, or if you are parking on nights/weekends. That likely changes when all the parking moves underground.

      5. Also, it will be interesting to see how cheaper parking in Bellevue might actually *encourage* East Link ridership. On nights/weekends, if parking is free & abundant in downtown, it becomes a good option for eastsiders to park & ride into Seattle, particularly when there a big events that might fill up the official P&Rs.

    1. “many Seattle transit advocates don’t understand the eastside, in part because they think of it in terms of caricatures. It is a car culture because it is very female and family oriented, so that basically kills transit during non-peak times because most parking is free and there is little car congestion, and you have kids in the car or bags and bags of groceries and pet food.”

      The difference is cultural. Some women and families live in the city with its conveniences, problems, and aesthetics; while others live in the suburbs with its different conveniences, problems, and aesthetics. Some live in the city and drive everywhere like they would in the suburbs, others don’t drive as much yet still manage to get groceries and pet food. The cultural decision came first, not the needs of a family. The needs of a family can be accommodated in different ways in different situations.

  14. Thompson is too focused on translink travel and the current pandemic. Post pandemic, travel demand will probably increase again. Amazon wants its work force to meet and interact and innovate in person. There will be a range of employer response. It will change over time. East Link will improve intra Eastside transit. Link will be a pneumatic tube with speed and reliability connecting Mercer Island and Redmond via Bellevue and Overlake. If ST is smart enough to run it with short headway and waits, it will be a powerful improvement in transit mobility. East Link serve several pedestrian places. Several others will have good bus connections with East Link (e.g., downtown Kirkland, Crossroads, BC, Factoria, Issaquah). The quality of those connections is the discussion of the current outreach. Parking will not have much to do with it. The lots will probably fill in the morning. for the rest of the day, Link ridership will largely be bus and pedestrian access. Downtown Bellevue and the Spring District seem like they will be healthy office markets and Link will help them. Note the prime objective of transit is to extend the range of pedestrians.

    1. Also, don’t forget that trans lake travel works both directions. If more jobs shift to the Eastside, people who live in Seattle will need to get to them, and Link will play a big role in that.

      There are plenty of reasons why people who work on the Eastside might want to live in Seattle, such as better nightlife or the presence of a significant other that lives and works in Seattle.

      More jobs on the Eastside does not really eliminate cross lake commutes. It just shifts them to be more bidirectional in nature, rather than everybody going into the city in the morning and back out in the evening.

  15. What if the rails are ready, but not quite ready for Link service, perhaps ST can meet us halfway in terms of opening by allowing people to build their own railroad handcars, those things from the olden days two people would stand on and and alternate pushing down on opposing handles to make the car move?

    1. Why hasn’t there been a fitness craze devoted to this? You would think someone with a lot of money and an idea could build a private railway track and have exercise classes with multiple people going around on hand pump cars. brilliant!

  16. The Overlake Village Station Pedestrian Bridge was supposed to open this spring, but I hear it will now open sometime this winter.

    The 1100 foot long Redmond Technology Station Pedestrian Bridge is supposed open to the public in the spring of 2022.

  17. My guess is they did (open things when they were ready).

    I think it is important to understand that there were several estimates for this project. The U-District station was originally supposed to be done 15 years ago. As time goes on, there are more and more estimates and they get more and more accurate. They estimate by year, then season (e. g. Autumn 2021). Then this date is further refined, and they come with an actual opening date. At this point, they make sure all the necessary personnel are there (drivers, security, etc.). It is relatively easy (although expensive) to delay. It is difficult to move things up. From a physical standpoint, things may have been ready a day or two before it opened, but from a personnel standpoint, they opened it when they were ready.

  18. I’m not “anti-transit,” I’d much rather see $858,000 spent on providing service and/or better amenities like shelters and lighting to people who ride the system. The “need” to spend tax dollars on party favors that most people tossed away or buried like an old video tape of their childhood trip to Disneyland was unnecessary when the media was providing plenty of free publicity already. People who don’t understand this don’t understand marketing or care about how public funds are spent. Rule one is get free when possible. Proof? This time, ST easily got sponsors to foot some of the bill. Public dollars should be more of a potluck than dining at Canlis.

    Similarly, if a transit line is duplicative and doesn’t pencil out, those monies are better spent elsewhere and would yield huge PR for the applicable transit system(s). For example, Sounder North doesn’t provide origin/destination pairs that express buses don’t, in some cases now bus/light rail combinations. I’d much rather those funds be utilized in getting Link further north faster instead, with the priority being Mariner (to connect to Swift Green) and not southwest Everett, where Swift Green, ET’s #12, and Swift Blue cover quite well.

    Somebody isn’t “anti-transit” when they want to see our tax dollars spent wisely, Martin! It’s called “accountability.”

    1. The money spent on the party for the opening of Capitol Hill was worth $10 million of bad publicity. It highlighted a public perception of profligacy by ST the public already felt.

  19. When you include King Co., Snohomish Co., Pierce Co. and Kitsap County you have the same land mass as many U.S. states, so there is enough space for people to live, whether 4 million or 10 million.

    No, there isn’t, because so much of Snohomish, King, and Pierce Counties are on a “non-level gradient” known as “The Cascade Mountains”, and Kitsap is reachable from the economic center of the region (Seattle and Bellevue) only by ferry or an eighty mile land journey.

    Yes, the area of King County southeast of Renton and the adjacent slice of Pierce County can house more people, and some more can fit within Snohomish east of its current developed areas. But even if you get your dream of paving the entirety of the land in the Tri-County area with a slope of less than ten degrees and filling it with MOTU McMansions, how will everyone get around?

    There is no more room to build new “greenfield” freeways anywhere between Marysville and Dupont within twenty miles of the Puget Sound shoreline — and twenty miles is just about the place where those “non-level gradients” begin. The cost of assembling the requisite rights-of-way to build one through developed land would be entirely out of the question, not to mention the lynching parties in front of the homes of politicians who proposed one. Most properties come at a cost of a million per lot. A freeway takes a band of at least a block’s width of those properties for every hundred feet it advances.

    I concede that you might squeeze one in right at the base of the mountains (“I-805”?) but functionally connecting it to the existing network would be sketchy.

    Cars simply DO. NOT. SCALE. in any urban geography other than a radial sprawl city with multiple ring roads such as Houston, D-FW or Phoenix. LA sort of works because it’s somewhat radial and has dozens of employment centers in the legacy cities scattered over its hundred+ mile width. The narrow confine between the Cascades and the Sound — further fragmented by the two lakes — makes Central Puget Sound the “anti-radial” city.

    Your objections to East Link make a lot of sense, and I would be perfectly happy with just dispensing with the feeder buses and letting the train be a means for tech workers in Seattle to get to jobs at MS and Google. The money has been spent, and there’s no point in pouring more down the rathole of “sunk costs” to pay for unused bus service.

    The taxes to pay the construction bonds are baked in, and running the thing to Redmond Downtown from IDS won’t ever cost very much, so welcome to the “MOTU’s Own” White Elephant.

    1. Agreed. don’t quite understand the concept.

      “People are moving away from these tangled suburban hellholes in states back east, so we should make the northwest look exactly like the hellhole places they are leaving.”

      1. What hellhole are you referring to Glenn from Portland. Certainly not the Eastside. I just got notice my house increased in value $700,000 in 2021. Of course I bought it in 2009 and it took until almost 2016 before the assessed value returned to what I paid for it.

        But I don’t see people fleeing the Eastside suburbs. I hope not, for East Link’s sakes.

        Cars don’t “scale” only during peak hours to certain work destinations. Other hours they scale wonderfully, which is why everyone drives on the Eastside during non-peak times. Even pre-pandemic ridership on East Link during non-peak hours was estimated to be very low.

        Property values tend to follow location to work centers, plus other factors. For example Mercer Island is the closest suburb to Seattle with great schools and more public safety. But with WFH MI loses some of this advantage, and the emergence of Bellevue as a jobs center has diminished this advantage compared to cities like Issaquah, Yarrow Point and Clyde Hill.

        WFH solves both of these problems. Housing becomes much more affordable the farther away you get from urban cores if you don’t need to commute five days/week, or during peak hours.

        Plus WFH relieves the peak hour traffic congestion to urban job centers.

        At the same time the exodus of these workers reduces price pressures on urban property prices.

        How could anyone be opposed to WFH being part of the work life.

        I can’t understand how anyone would see WFH as a negative. All the available land in Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap Counties I am talking about is already zoned residential. No one will be pouring new concrete. I am not talking about rezoning land for housing as this four county area is huge, and has enormous amounts of residentially zoned land that is affordable. If you only have to commute to Seattle once or twice per week a ferry is a pleasant commute.

        Plus you have the property for a dog and to raise kids, and don’t have to live in a shoebox next to I-5 if you don’t want to. And have room for a garage and work shop.

        The one downside this region saw in the past from CA migration when it became an urban hellhole is this drives up prices in these outlying regions, and according to them brings the same politics that created the urban hellholes these folks are fleeing. You see that a lot on waterfront property on Whidbey Island and the San Juan Islands whose owners are from King Co., which is why those areas raise all their taxes from property taxes.

        Spreading out our populations is a good thing. There are 2.3 billion acres in the U. S. and 3% of that is urban, so the environment will be fine, especially with the dramatic drop in birth rates. In 50 years (really 20) first world countries will have population shortages because of the burden of the disproportionate number of elderly living into their 80’s and 90’s.

        What these outlying areas don’t have is the retail/restaurant/cultural vibrancy a large city has. Large cities in the future will have to reinvent themselves away from from the captive work commuter. That is why I think Seattle’s zoning is backwards and Bellevue has it right. You want REAL density in a tight walkable core with real retail density, not mild density throughout a city as large as Seattle that tends to hollow out the core. From what I can see Seattle doesn’t have any real urbanists, although the downtown core is not very inviting to live in these days. Maybe Portland is better, but it doesn’t look like it on TV. It looks like a hellhole.

      2. Daniel, I’ll keep the snark down because your reply was so temperate. Of course the “scaling” problem is worse at the rush hour. But I don’t think you realize how quickly even off-peak freeways can knot up. It doesn’t take much at all to shift them from free-flowing to “stau”. I-405 is a MESS between Renton and Bellevue through most of the day, even in today’s “post-pandemic” world. Imagine how much worse it would be when Maple Valley and Covington each have 50,000 residents.

        I do not believe that the constricted pathways in the Puget Sound region can take much more population, but that population is coming! Folks from California are not going to move the Texas and worry about their family planning future and some gun-nut shooting up the local high school. They’ll come to Washington and Oregon.

        You put your first emphasis on rearing children, and I say, congratulations. It’s probably the most important job on Earth. But those kids would be treated like trash in Texas. The state essentially ignores their education.

        Sure, you’d live in a rich suburb with great schools, but, like Gautama, they’d look around and see the willful poverty and deprivation and rebel.

      3. I don’t think you realize how quickly even off-peak freeways can knot up…. I-405 is a MESS between Renton and Bellevue through most of the day, even in today’s “post-pandemic” world.

        yep, pretty much; but nothing, especially off peak that transit can fix.

        Imagine how much worse it would be when Maple Valley and Covington each have 50,000 residents.

        Well, there won’t be (50,000+ people trying to use 405) if you just do nothing. This is classic WSF creating sprawl by spending on peak commute “transit”. That trick never works.

        I do not believe that the constricted pathways in the Puget Sound region can take much more population, but that population is coming! Folks from California are not going to move the Texas

        Tesla HQ moved to TX. Don’t make it easy to drive and less people will move here. Join the Lesser Seattle movement. Too much of a good thing is… well, too much.

      4. The non-scalability of cars is not just traffic congestion, it’s fixed infrastructure too. First, there is congestion off-peak, as you can see on I-5 southbound between Northgate and downtown from 12:30pm to 7pm almost every day. The 41, 512, and 522 often got caught in it until Northgate Link obviated that. I think 405 is similarly congested. Second, to the extent that there’s “little” congestion off-peak, that’s because we’ve built the highways and arterials for peak demand.

        A car is at least eight times larger than a person, and it requires space around it when moving and to get out of parking spaces. If a hundred people walk they can walk close together, but if they drive SOVs they’re exponentially spread out. That’s what necessitates eight-lane highways, five-lane arterials, large parking lots, exit ramps and the no-man’s-land around them, 2-3 car garages, ugly gas stations and mini-marts, etc. All this pushes everything apart, which makes it harder to walk to things, harder for transit to serve places, creates an alienating landscape, and makes people feel like they have to drive because everything is so damn far away.

        The exodus from California is primarily due to high housing costs, and the reason for that is a severe housing shortage caused by extremely strict zoning and the tax distortions of Prop 13. Pugetopolis’ zoning is bad but it’s more lenient than many California cities. (If California has abolished single-family zoning as I heard from one source, that’s a major step in the right direction.) And it’s not everyone moving from California. It’s a relatively small number of people, suburban-minded in that they want a 2000 sq ft house, affluent enough to move, but not affluent enough to afford a California house the same size. At the same time, other people are moving to California, both people taking California jobs and immigrants. It’s misleading to talk about the outflux in a vacuum without subtracting the influx, and without noting the narrow demographics of those leaving. Some people say they’re leaving due to taxes, but those are the same people who use taxes as an excuse for everything and overstate the tax impact. Prop 13 is another issue: it means people who’ve had the same house since the 1980s pay practically zero property tax, and everybody else has to pay more to make up for it. That in itself can lead to a disproportionate tax burden and incentivize moving out-of-state.

        Work from home is mostly a positive. Anything that reduces peak-hour crowding is a good thing. Peak transit service is the most expensive to operate, especially buses. With Link the cost is fixed: we agreed when Link was approved that it would run every 6-8 minutes peak hours (3-4 minutes where two lines overlap). The more we can get butts into those fixed-cost seats, the more we can eliminate extra peak bus runs and deadheading. The freed-up hours can go to additional all-day frequency and coverage (my preference) or reducing the tax rate (ha ha).

        Still, we mustn’t overestimate work from home. There will probably be a modest reduction in work commutes, maybe 20%, maybe three days a week, but not a radical shift. And 75% of jobs are not telework-compatible. People focus on tech workers as if that’s all there are, but that misses most of the workforce.

        And the 75% of non-telework workers also need transit, and we’re trying to provide a viable alternative to car driving, to catch up with other industrialized countries and improve the climate and people’s health. All those non-telework riders and non-work-trip riders need transit going everywhere and relatively frequent. That’s one of the reasons Link is being built, and why we need more bus hours.

      5. Bernie, Musk fancies himself John Galt, and moving to Texas was his version of “Going Galt.” Not really true of most Californians.

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