Washington State Capitol

Sound Transit 3’s cost explosion has forced the politicians in charge to make tough decisions that displease constituents. In the ‘realignment’ endgame, Mayor Durkan produced a “cost savings amendment” to create regular reports about costs, hire outside consultants, and tell the Board “where any delays in these pre-construction activities are likely to trigger a delay in the final delivery date of any project” (see page 7 of this).

The last bit is especially rich from a Mayor whose office ignored Sound Transit’s pleas to quickly produce a single preferred alternative from West Seattle to Ballard, instead blowing it up into dozens of combinations (still unresolved) and picking entirely new fights like a very deep station under Chinatown that raises costs and worsens transit outcomes. Indeed, the City is still pining for an added revenue options to chase its dream of a tunnel to West Seattle, that, again, raises costs and does not improve transit outcomes — unless process mismanagement has erased the cost difference.

I have no doubt that a project spending over $54 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars will have some suboptimal line items a consultant can flag. With luck, that consultant might even pay for itself. But the effort to close the budget gap by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse isn’t nearly ambitious enough. The real savings is in treating Sound Transit like a transit project instead of a vessel for a series of community objectives. A change in mindset from relevant leaders would be useful, but ultimately legislation in Olympia is necessary.

Jerusalem Demsas’s comprehensive report on high U.S. transit construction costs gives clues as to what that might look like. What are the root causes of Americans paying several times more per mile than similarly wealthy European and East Asian nations?

Brooks, the George Washington University economist, explained that the case of the [Maryland] Purple Line explain many of the cost increases we’ve seen over the decades. What does she call this phenomenon? “We call this the rise of citizen voice.”

Brooks ruled out the “perfectly reasonable explanations” like paying workers more or the increased cost of highway materials as driving much of the cost increase. Instead, she says, judicial, statutory, and administrative changes — in particular the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1970 — have led to increased power for citizens.

For example, one important dynamic is that cities have leverage over Sound Transit because they control permitting. As most municipal governments are extremely responsive to small business complaints, they prioritize their concerns about “impacts” (see: the Chinatown deep station) during construction over the quality and quantity of what is built. And so you have Sound Transit not only building Link on MLK, but rebuilding the roadway to be much nicer than it was before, providing the same number of car lanes, and handing out money to local businesses.

ST lobbying doesn’t have much leverage over NEPA, but there’s also a SEPA, and this “environmental” legislation provides the tools to sue to delay transit and land use projects that would have large scale benefits for the environment.

Zee (née Zach) said this quite eloquently over 5 years ago: we could build transit quickly and cheaply if we decided that was more important than other stuff. Not all of his examples are ones that should move forward. But a Sound Transit focused on material reductions in what stuff costs should build a legislative agenda that tackles these obstacles.

165 Replies to “Fixing ST’s costs requires a legislative agenda”

  1. To be fair, highways are subject to the same environmental rules as light rail. It’s why Medina got multiple freeway lids and Mercer Island got a park over a tunnel.

    The catch is that by the time NEPA and SEPA went into effect, urban highways were largely already built, while urban rail was largely limited to a few cities, such as Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston, and New York. So, in a city like Seattle, building light rail requires paying to comply with modern environment rules, while competing with freeways which did not need to.

    1. “To be fair, highways are subject to the same environmental rules as light rail.”

      However, highways don’t seem to need a ballot measure to get funding,
      along with that same public scrutiny transit measure must go through.
      (e.g. I-405 Corridor, Bothell’s downtown section of the Bothell-Everett Highway, etc.)

      1. “highways don’t seem to need a ballot measure to get funding”.

        The Legislature has elections every other year. Sound Transit does not. And Sound Transit has no taxing authority other than what’s devolved by the Legislature, hence their need to go to the voters to raise taxes within a taxing district. Even school districts, which have elected boards, need to ask voters to approve taxes.

      2. Highways are mostly funded by the gas tax, which by the state constitution can only be spent on “highway purposes”. Since the money comes in anyway, there’s no need for a vote on each project. In contrast, light rail funding has no ongoing source so it’s always a specific tax increase, and thus requires a vote according to the spirit of the Eyman initiatives. This is another case of the highways and the gas tax were already there when the initiatives passed, whereas transit capital projects have to funded from scratch with new taxes. And because highways are considered “essential” and transit isn’t, transit projects have to get exception authorization and a public vote.

      3. Please show me a ballot measure that specifically lists road projects, their costs, and their tax sources.

        I-405 never had to do that. The legislature added $.14 to my gas tax bill, and yet I never have seen a ballot measure to approve that, nor any list of projects that it will be spent on.
        Bothell tried to hide the Bothell-Everett Highway expansion in a parks measure. (it failed)
        “Roads and Transit” failed.
        and they were talking about another increase in the gas tax earlier in the year.

        If you want a more balanced transportation system, make road projects require a ballot measure. The public will figure it out real quick.

      4. “If you want a more balanced transportation system, make road projects require a ballot measure. The public will figure it out real quick.”

        That’s just the point: the legixlature and highway-centric voters don’t want a balanced transportation system, they want highway supremacy. Part of the car mythos and illusion is hiding the cost of car infrastructure, so that everybody except the driver sees the cost, to perpetuate the denial that car infrastructure and maintenance costs a hundred times more than a predominantly transit/bike/ped infrastructure would be.

      5. “That’s just the point: the legixlature and highway-centric voters don’t want a balanced transportation system, they want highway supremacy.”

        Now that’s a platform I’d love to see someone run on:
        “I will Build You All the Roads You [think] you want,
        but I will have to Raise Your Taxes to do it!”

      6. I think the gas tax increases are subject to an “advisory vote of the people”. Of course, even if I don’t like the highways, I still feel compelled to vote “maintain”, simply because I can’t stand the stilted ballot language at arose from the Tim Eyman initiative that creates these votes to begin with.

        There is, of course, one way to stop highway expansion in WA, although it comes with a ton of negative side effects – elect Republicans and use their opposition to tax and spend money on anything to scuttle new highways. It worked in the past to kill the new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River, but the side effects in other areas would be severe, and almost certainly not worth it. At a minimum, divided government would never give Seattle another dime of taxing authority for anything, ever – be it transit or homeless services, or even sidewalks. Even then, there’s still no guarantee that the highway expansions actually get stopped. The two parties could simply end up reaching a grand bargain that just shifts money to highways from other programs to avoid raising taxes.

  2. I’d rather see a ST legislative agenda that streamlines permitting over raiding the relatively small WSDOT transit grant funding pot. As I attempted to tell the ST Board Exec Committee at 28:02 of https://livestream.com/accounts/11627253/stboardmeetings/videos/226443613 – $20 million or $30 million won’t do much for Sound Transit, but losing that amount will harm & set back another transit like Skagit Transit or Pierce Transit. I want the best for all of transit.

  3. What is meant by “legislative agenda” in the headline? I suspect we are only at the beginning of the ST3 reset. Is action suggested in the Washington State Legislature, the counties and cities in the ST district, or on the ST board itself? The advantage of the three-county federated structure was to assure good intergovernmental cooperation. The several governments have cooperated to produce the ST program with its range of good and bad aspects.

    1. Only the state can modify SEPA. Sound Transit exists due to state authorization and follows state regulations. Tax policy is one area of distortion: ST and local transit agencies have a limited range of tax sources and maximum rates they can choose from. Anything beyond that they have to beg the legislature for one-by-one. The legislature is more willing approve ST’s requests than it is is for local transit agencies, probably because ST is more highway-like and generates more constituent feedback. (“I want a train to Everett” or “I want a train to the airport” is more common and carries more weight in the legislature than “I want more Swift or RapidRide lines” or “I want more all-day bus frequency.”) But construction regulations and city permitting power also distort what ST and Metro and SDOT can do, and are factors in why we can’t have nice things.

      City permitting power probably predated SEPA and would be in place even without it. It all comes down to treating transit as non-essential, and lower priority than highways and parking. While transit has gotten some prioritization in HOT lanes and inline stations on 405, and some parking spaces and GP lanes have been converted to transit priority, it’s still only a tiny fraction of the total road miles, or far less than other countries are doing.

      Other countries make a wholistic decision where transit is needed and what level (metro, BRT, RapidRide-like bus, regional rail), and then just build it, giving the transit builder full funding and authority to build all of the vision., and not shoving non-transit capital expenses onto it. In Pugetopolis, any light rail line or RapidRide line has to go through NEPA and SEPA, and cities can further hold permitting hostage. A recalcitrant city council can deny permits or demand Christmas-tree gifts. If a transit agency rebuilds a road, it’s on the hook to add or modernize sidewalks if they’ve been neglected, and it may be pressured to add a cycletrack too. Agencies also have to pay for paratransit (Access vans for the disabled) out of their regular transit revenue, rather than the counties or cities providing additional funds for this, revenue not subject to the transit-tax ceilings. Buildings also have to go through “design review”; I’m not sure how much that applies to transit projects, but it allows neighbors to object to the building’s size or colors and call it “out of character” for the neighborhood, which allows their interests to override the citywide/countywide need to house more people or to have more things within walking distance.

    1. ST3 is somewhere north of the original $54 billion now, but it’s not close to $131 billion. That’s a combined spending plan with the incremental ST3 expenditures plus most of the ST2 capital plus the ST2 and Sound Move operating and maintenance expenditures plus an extra five years of O&M and SOGR and debt service in the 2040s tacked on to reach an extended 2046 window.

    2. ST3 didn’t increase six times over the original amount. The original amount if I remember was $28 billion in 2016 dollars, and I thought it was close to $54 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars. So the real increase is $10 billion or less, and I thought ST had already whittled it down to $6 billion.

  4. SEPA is not a very high bar. It’s really just a set of documentation and requirements.

    There are two real issues, including the one Martin mentioned – permitting. Cities have ST over a barrel, literally. This is compounded by the fact that FTA requires ST to execute formal agreements with each partner as part of NEPA and grant approvals. The former could be addressed legislatively, and it would ease pressure on the latter.

    The second issue is the one no one wants to talk about: leadership. ST was successful in the aughts (ie, Sound Move recovery and ST2) because it knew how to exercise restraint and say no. The First Hill decision is a case in point. As was the high drama of leveraging Bellevue’s financial participation in East Link. Such tough minded steps are unheard of today. The board wants it all, and the staff is discouraged from bringing forward bad news.

    That’s a recipe for ballooning cost and schedule slippage. And exercising discipline creates controversy. People were upset about losing First Hill. People would have been upset by dropping the infill stations or second SLU station in ST3. But those are the big calls that affect cost and risk. At some point, ST and its board need to be willing to draw a line and move forward. Legislation won’t fix that.

    1. “Cities have ST over a barrel, literally.”

      And the same cities that wanted Link and helped get it passed were the ones dragging their feet or demanding Christmas-tree extras not necessarily related to transit.

      Redmond is the star here and an example of what others should be doing. It defined light rail as a permitted use citywide so it wouldn’t have to get a per-project variance, expedited the permitting process, didn’t demand more than the normal couple of alternatives, and didn’t obstruct. It was consistent in wanting light rail.

      I wouldn’t put the explosion of Seattle alternatives on Durkan’s shoulders. It was the community that demanded several alternatives, to keep Link away from the Port or a golf course or certain houses, or to favor certain businesses with stations. The city was just one voice in that, and only a minority voice.

    2. Part of the distortion was not recognizing all along that First Hill and SLU are dense urban centers that need a high-capacity transit station, more than Totem Lake or Issaquah or Federal Way do.

  5. We will miss the First Hill station forever. It would have been costly; it would have provided great benefit. The ST2 mitigation (Nickels?), the First Hill Streetcar, was a weak and costly mitigation that was poorly executed by the McGinn SDOT.

    The decisions in the aughts included some weak ones: south-first and Link alignments in freeway envelopes.

    1. First Hill is located in an awkward area to serve relative to the existing downtown transit tunnel. You’d need to either branch the line, or have the mainline run in a U-shaped pattern, where you go north, east, back south, and back north again. On top of adding to everyone’s travel time further north, it would have requires a lot of underground tunneling, on top of the cost of the station itself.

      The streetcar mitigation is a joke and the $150 million that went into building it would be nice to have today to help backfill st3 projects. RapidRide G will make far more of a difference to first hill than the silly streetcar line.

      1. Yes, the G Line will be more powerful than the FHSC. But its alignment is flawed as well, but too late to change. Our six-minute headway routes should have short walk transfers with Link; the G line misses both Capitol Hill and the DSTT stations. Of course, it should be electric trolley bus.

      2. There are other much cheaper alternatives to the First Hill connection problem, asdf2. Namely, an aerial incline or funicular from Pioneer Square station. Level boarding (not sloped like RapidRide G will be Downtown). Two minute trip. Automated with a vehicle every 2-4 minutes. Buildable in just a few years. Maybe $150-250 million. Proven technology.

        If engineers can design and build new bridge connections over airplane aprons at Seatac, it’s not hard to design something similar here. The problem is that there isn’t the will to even study it.

      3. G doesn’t ‘miss’ the Cap Hil station. The line is supposed to serve the Madison corridor and provide perpendicular service Link. Curving towards CHS would make no sense. The poor connection between CHS and First Hill is due to the poor design (and mode choice) of the FHSC and has nothing to do with the G.

      4. To qualify my prior statement: The G line connects first hill to downtown. To connect it to capitol hill, another route is needed. Again, this need not be a streetcar. It could be a bus route.

        In a streetcar-less world, I like the idea of sending the 60 to SLU after first hill, and rerouting the north end of the 106 to serve first hill/capitol hill instead of being yet another bus to downtown that’s redundant with Link and the 7. I’d run both these routes every 15 minutes.

      5. AJ and asdf2: the SDOT G Line alignment will be implemented, so this discussion is theoretical. We do not yet know how its six-minute headway service will be funded. A better alignment would have served the Capitol Hill station. In the 2015 outreach for U Link, a Route 49 revised to serve Madison Street was considered. That could have become the G Line. It would have connected Link and Madison Street directly.

      6. “We do not yet know how its six-minute headway service will be funded.” What do you mean by that? It will be funded out of KCM’s regular operating budget.

        I’d be fine with a revised route 49 to overlay with the G through downtown, but I think all the 49 riders would rather take Pike/Pine. First Hill might be a major destination, but it’s still secondary to the actual downtown, the 3rd Ave busway, and the Westlake transit hub.

        If you want better service between FH and CHS, just run the streetcar and/or the 60 more frequently.

      7. The other evening I saw an aid car with flashing lights parked in front of a waiting streetcar that could do nothing until the emergency vehicle moved. I’ve no idea how long the wait ended up being, but it illustrates the limitations of the streetcar all too well.

      8. AJ: exactly. The G Line service subsidy will come from the existing network. What would you cut?

        asdf2: yes, Route 106 could shift to Yesler Way. That was in the reductions network in 2013 when routes 14 and 27 would have been deleted. Your suggestion would improve service on Yesler Way and reduce the duplication by Route 106 of routes 7, 14, and 36.

      9. Yes, Link should have included a First Hill station, even if it meant as ‘S’ pattern. Subway lines do that sort of thing all the time (the Forward Thrust design had a similar pattern). Another option would be to have a station further east, on Madison and 23rd, anticipating buses connecting from all directions.

        But it is too late to change any of that. Link has a serious station deficit, and there is no way we are going to fix that. As for the 49, it doesn’t make sense in the long run. It should be replaced by a north-south bus running the entire length of Broadway (and continuing to Beacon Hill or Mount Baker). Riders around the station can simply walk to Link to get to downtown, while riders southwest of it can take other buses to get there. Riders on the north part of Broadway would have to transfer to frequent buses or Link to get downtown. That is a small price to pay for the savings and network advantages of a north-south 49.

        Another problem with a BRT 49: cost. The G will be by far the most expensive bus infrastructure project since the bus tunnel. The cost per mile is big (although tiny compared to just about any part of our light rail system). But the spending will reap great benefit, as it won’t take long for the buses to get from one end of the line to the other. Running the buses north would dramatically increase the size of the project. Even if you manged to get the same sort of speed improvements, it is still a significantly longer route, which means that both the capital costs and service costs would be much higher. There just isn’t the money for that.

        RapidRide G works OK with Link downtown — it is a relatively short walk. While it doesn’t work well for Link trains from the north, it works well with buses from the north (and south). Basically everything west of I-5 (and then some) which is a lot of people on a lot of buses. There is no substitute for any of those buses — at least until Ballard Link gets here. At that point, the connection with that Link line will be ideal.

        As far as service costs are concerned, buses will run faster on the corridor, which saves money. It should cause a shake-up of service in the greater Central Area (which includes First and Capitol Hill) which should result in a more efficient, more effective system.

      10. Metro Connects replaces the 49 and 60 with a north-south route from the U-District to 10th, Broadway, John, 12th, Beacon Hill, and Othello Station. The 106 is split at Rainier Beach and the north end is extended rerouted to Boren and SLU. The 2, 11, and 49 are replaced with a Pike/Pine-12th-Union route. The 2N and the MLK part of the 8 become separate coverage routes. All this is presumably waiting for RapidRide G.

      11. The G has one-time capital costs but they’re separately funded. Operational costs shouldn’t be any higher than other RapidRide lines, unless battery buses are more expensive than diesel. But Metro is planning to replace the entire fleet with battery buses anyway. The G has center transit lanes in the middle third, which should speed it up greatly. The end-to-end travel time is estimated at 10 minutes, which is jaw-dropping. That’s 5 minutes from 1st to Broadway, and 5 minutes from Broadway to 28th. Seattle never had bus routes like that.

      12. The end-to-end travel time [of RapidRide G] is estimated at 10 minutes

        Which means that replacing the 12 with the G is not that expensive. During rush hour you actually save money. Instead of a bus running 6 times an hour, taking 20 minutes each way, you have 10 buses an hour running 10 minutes. In the middle of the day it costs you some, but not a lot. It will (or at least should) set off a cascade of changes that could result in better frequency for the typical bus, along with big time savings for common trips. It wouldn’t be a grid, exactly, but it would be grid-like in that respect.

        It is easy to look at the route and think 6 minutes frequency is overkill, but only because it is one route. If you look at the greater downtown area (which includes First Hill, South Lake Union and Uptown) it is common to have better frequency by the combination of routes.

        Speaking of which, that’s why I would send the 49 along Broadway the whole way, instead of doglegging to 12th. By running along Broadway, you would have combined frequency with the streetcar, at least as far as Yesler. Ten minutes on each would give you five minute frequency along the corridor, which would be a lot cheaper than running the streetcar that often (I think there are only enough streetcars for running every five minutes). It would also just be better. That particular section is where the added frequency is needed, as the rest of either route is not as strong, or has other complementary buses.

        The RapidRide G will be the first BRT line in the state. This means that it should not only be fast, but frequent. Like light rail, it should be a transit corridor that attracts transfers. It isn’t as fast as Link, but it is still pretty fast, and the combination of surface stops and frequent service makes a transfer about as painless as you can get. This allows Metro to make more comprehensive changes that it couldn’t make with just Link. While the Capitol Hill stop is outstanding, it doesn’t connect to that many bus routes. That is why, for example, the 43 still exists, but shouldn’t after RapidRide G gets here.

        A lot of this assumes a decent level of funding by Metro, along with a good subsidy by Seattle. Running the RapidRide G every 6 minutes seems appropriate, and not a big stretch at all. Putting aside the frequency, it just seems like it enables a better network.

  6. ST could start saving money by getting rid of ridiculous infill stations and putting the service on a stop diet. Having stops at both 130th and 145th is completely unnecessary. Either one is close enough to the relevant neighborhoods and communities to serve both. I prefer 145th because it is less Seattle centric and Link needs to get over Seattle, but I could live with 130th. As someone who lives in South King County though, BAR and Graham are completely unnecessary and horrible ideas. Link needs to be faster in the South End, not slower. Adding stations would not only be expensive but make a bad problem worse.

    1. Elevated and surface stations are inexpensive compared to underground stations. Eliminating 130th, Graham, and BAR barely makes a dent in ST3’s budget.

      130th is more justified than 145th because Lake City and Bitter Lake have a higher population, jobs, and density than anything near 145th. Stride 3 could just as easily go to Roosevelt as 145th. It didn’t because of old thinking and because 145th is a state highway and had an existing P&R. I would have favored moving 145th south to 130th, or splitting 145th to 130th and 155th. But ST disagreed, and didn’t want to go against the representative alignment in the ballot measure. (And it was responsible for the representative alignment in the first place.)

      Graham is the kind of place that should have a station and an infill station. There are dense houses and apartments all around, and the commercial lots could support many more residents and businesses, all who could walk to the station.

      BAR is kind of useless and it doesn’t make full sense that Tukwila pushed so hard for it and ST included it. But they did, and it’s low-hanging fruit and inexpensive, so it’s not worth making a fuss about. Eliminating it wouldn’t make much difference in South King Link extensions, Stride upgrades, or Sounder service.

      1. I have lived in Lake City Way. 145th is a better location for its needs. I have dated people in Bitter Lake. 145 th would work out fine for them too.

        The point is getting stations away from Seattle and not slowing down trains through Seattle. Link is a service for 3 counties, not 1 city. I care about the speed of a single trip from Everett to Tacoma than I do serving “dense” infill communities along the way.

        Removing the infill stops might not save much money. But not making Link actively worse in and of itself is a bonus that is more than worth it in the end. This is an easy hill to die on.

      2. The point is getting stations away from Seattle and not slowing down trains through Seattle. Link is a service for 3 counties, not 1 city. I care about the speed of a single trip from Everett to Tacoma than I do serving “dense” infill communities along the way.

        You could save a lot of money by just getting rid of all the stations. The train would be fast, too! That makes about as much as sense as what you are proposing.

        Look, you don’t seem to get it. Look at any really successful transit system in the world. You can look at modal share, total ridership, rides per mile — you name it. They all have the same thing in common: they make it really easy to get around in the city. Some of them also make it easy to get from the suburbs into the city, or from city to city. But the most important thing is that once you get into the city, you can get around there really well. If you fuck that up, you lose. Even if you have really good service from the suburbs, or outstanding connections from city to city, it doesn’t matter. Very few people ride your system, it runs infrequently, and everyone just drives. This is true, every single time.

        What you are proposing is a system that would benefit a handful of people, while making life much worse for a lot more. When you write that you don’t care about transit in the city, you are basically writing that you don’t care about transit that actually works.

      3. “Look, you don’t seem to get it. Look at any really successful transit system in the world. You can look at modal share, total ridership, rides per mile — you name it. They all have the same thing in common: they make it really easy to get around in the city.”

        When only the city pays for it, that’s fine. But this isn’t Seattle Subway. This isn’t about getting around in the city. Not one bit. This is about transforming a three county region, of which Seattle is but a tiny part. Seattle doesn’t even have a city bus system. Metro is county, and ST is tri-county. I’m sick and tired of Seattle trying to hog ST/Link stops and dollars to the detriment of anybody else. Seattle Transit failed back in the Twentieth Century, before DSTT1. ST is not a legislative end run to funnel money into Seattle. Link needs to be more about rides through Seattle than rides within, into, or out of it.

        Seattle needs to get over itself. Pierce, Snohomish, and the rest of King County already did.

      4. “ I’m sick and tired of Seattle trying to hog ST/Link stops and dollars to the detriment of anybody else.”

        Hey, A Joy! I have a fun little math exercise for you. Add up all the stations in each city. Then divide that number by the population of that city. Then tell me which city has the most stations per capita.

        I’m pretty sure you will find Bellevue at the top of the list. Redmond, Shoreline, Lynnwood, Mercer Island and Tukwila appear to also be ranked higher than Seattle is.

        Yes, I agree that doing this by cost would be different. But Seattle deserves at least a dozen more stations beyond ST3 to get what ST has promised Bellevue.

      5. By my admittedly napkin math Seattle has between 1/3rd and 1/4th the population of the Link coverage region. By that logic, it should only be using 1/4th to 1/3rd the money overall. Yet every region is tossing money into DSTT2 despite nebulous at best benefits. Seattle got deep bore tunnels, may get more, and will have entire intra city lines. Through financial chicanery and letting regions borrow from other regions, Seattle has had its fingers in everybody else’s pies. And still we hear people talk about Paine Field or the Tacoma Dome being a line too far, or how Downtown Tacoma shouldn’t have a Central Link station. Then there’s the insane talk of a Metro 8 rail line or even worse a 45th/Ballard->Fremont->UW line. It never ends. Seattle in general gives more tax dollars than it gets. I understand that. But transit dollars seem to be a notable exception, especially when you add in the drains on the coffers from KC Metro and ST.

      6. I just did this myself. I was slightly mistaken about specifics, but Seattle does not have the most station per capita by a long shot!.

        So here is my sums of stations per 10,000 people (a more illustrative fraction) using the 2020 Census results:

        Fife = .91
        Seatac = .64
        Bellevue = .59
        Redmond = .55
        Lynnwood = .52
        Mountlake Terrace = .47
        Seattle = .39
        Mercer Island = .39
        Shoreline = .54

        My math here suggests that Seattle would need 14 more stations beyond ST3 to equal the number of equivalent per capita stations in Bellevue using today’s population..

      7. Yes. I was comparing Seattle to entire counties rather than going city by city, to account for population and taxes gathered in unincorporated regions. Once ST 3 is over, Seattle will have more Link miles and expensive tunnels than the entire East King subregion. Some of which will have been paid for by the East King subregion. That’s the issue. Station per capita is a small fraction of the overall picture.

      8. Seattle has more higher-density areas than any other city, more people per capita willing to take transit, and more area with land uses compatible with transit and walking. So it should have more stations per capita because it can make better use of them, and it is doing what the other cities should be doing.

      9. A Joy. The population of the entire ST East King Subarea is only about 80 percent of Seattle’s population.

        I don’t have a good way of verifying the measurements, but it appears that East King is getting about 23 miles of light rail and Seattle is getting about 29 upon East Link completion. That pretty much matches the population proportions.

        The difference is that Seattle is denser, has more areas with expensive paid parking and seems to have a more sizable number of employees. These are all facts that warrant more rail service because it attracts lots more riders because of them.

        Perhaps the biggest difference is that there aren’t giant roads with excess space on the right of way edges to cheaply build light rail. We have the 1950’s-1980’s Highway lobby for that.

      10. When it comes to subarea equity or who paid their fair share of Link here are the original issues I see:

        1. Seattle and the three district ST region is very long and narrow due to geography.

        2. The decision was made to run light rail from Everett to Tacoma which is a long way for light rail, through some undense and not very tax wealthy areas.

        3. Only (downtown) Seattle really had the ST tax revenue when the subareas were set up to afford light rail from N. King Co. to S. King Co.

        4. Link was envisioned by the four other subareas to bring their people TO downtown Seattle, not the other way around, whereas I think Seattle and urbanists now understand the point for them of Link is intra-urban transit, and that got the short shrift. Seattle is the top regional draw, and always should be, except for some self-inflicted wounds that are hurting that draw today.

        5. Seattle wanted or needed tunnels.

        Seattle has a good case it was responsible for too much of the spine’s cost since the spine was designed to bring folks from the other subareas to Seattle, but then and today S. King Co. and Snohomish just don’t have much revenue for light rail. It is too expensive for those areas, except ST wanted to boast it had 90 or 110 miles of rail, and some like the PSRC went crazy on future population growth estimates.

        However all subareas have a good case they were deceived about the need for DSTT2. I remember this issue well for East Link, because based on ST’s inflated ridership estimates and maximum headway of 8 minutes — plus the fact Mercer Island is the last stop in both directions and would serve as a major bus intercept — there were going to be real capacity issues at Mercer Island, and of course these ST ridership estimates were repeated to the other subareas in order to coerce them to pay 1/2 of DSTT2.

        We were so naïve back then. Very few thought ST would inflate the ridership estimates, or underestimate project costs, or would lie. This was a time when folks gave Michael Jackson the benefit of the doubt for sleeping with young boys. Today the realignment and WSBLE are more like R. Kelly: the blinders are off.

        We know now ST’s ridership estimates were “optimistic”, and cross lake ridership will be much lower post pandemic, but most importantly the four other subareas now know DSTT2 is not necessary for their capacity. DSTT2 is only necessary for WSBLE. So why are they paying for DSTT2?

        We also know ST’s project cost estimating is, to say the least, “optimistic”, and DSTT2 is likely to cost $4 billion, and the risk is unknown. For three of the subareas they simply do not have any more money than their share for DSTT2 of $275 million each. And it isn’t like N. King Co. paid for DSTT1.

        Plus they see the projects in Seattle as exorbitant. They did not get tunnels and underground stations, and a tunnel through downtown Bellevue was a much better investment IMO than WSBLE because running Link along 112th is like a FU from Bellevue to ST. The taxes were extended for N. King Co. What is East King Co. suppose to do with the extra revenue?

        The subarea that probably got the worst deal out of ST is East King Co. Part of that is no one anticipated the region would have the ST revenue it does, so East Link was built on the cheap. It is almost all surface, through some sensitive environmental areas, and along public rights of way. It will have a very difficult time competing for off-peak ridership, and the work commuter — especially cross lake — will be much lower. My guess is running East Link down 112th because a tunnel under Bellevue Way was “too expensive” will be like omitting a First Hill or SLU station.

        The east King. Co. subarea has paid 100% of the buses across the lake, which will cost the subarea $1 billion by the time East Link opens. It paid to run light rail across the bridge. It is suppose to pay $275 million for DSTT2 although it won’t need it or WSBLE, and today the eastside and Bellevue see themselves as a true competitor to Seattle, and don’t see the need to spend billions to run light rail across a bridge to Seattle when buses had dedicated roadways, and Metro is never going to be able to provide any kind of adequate or frequent bus feeder service to East Link, and adds a transfer to many trips at a much higher cost. Snohomish Co., S. King Co., and Tacoma still see Link as a way to get to downtown Seattle, but not the eastside.

        The irony is the argument for East Link today is to bring Seattle workers to Bellevue. Like the sign said, Bellevue is getting closer.

        Oh, and our park and rides that we like and we paid for got delayed so ST could fit Graham St and 130th St. stations, and WSBLE, into the debt limit when no one on the eastside will ever go to those stations or destinations. At most East Link is/was about taking people to downtown Seattle, because eastsiders like to live in suburbia and work and play in an urban setting, except that urban setting is becoming Bellevue because Seattle is imploding.

        There was never going to be true subarea equity. The money is not there for WSBLE or DSTT2, even with the four other subareas paying 1/2, but that is a N. King Co. subarea problem.

        Post pandemic you make the decisions that work best. East King Co. could afford East Link (and even its share of DSTT2), and ironically will be the most blasé about the shortcomings of Link because light rail never really fit into their lifestyle, and so few ever planned to take any transit on the eastside unless they had to commute to work.

        If I were to look for anything in the tea leaves in the DEIS for WSBLE, and I think is at the heart of Rogoff’s firing, it is behind the scenes the four other subareas are balking at paying 1/2 of $2.2 billion for DSTT2 because they don’t need it, let alone 1/2 of $4 billion.

        But if DSTT2 is scrapped N. King Co. will kiss goodbye to $1.1 billion for WSBLE. That will be the main point of contention I think in the DEIS: Seattle wants the $1.1 billion for WSBLE from the four other subareas, but can’t afford to pay 100% of the costs above $2.2 billion for DSTT2, and DSTT2 is starting to look more like R. Kelly than Michael Jackson. Blinders off.

      11. East King is also getting many, many miles of bus rapid transit service.

        The mere fact that the best thing East Side leaders could come up with is a Link line to Kirkland illustrates there really isn’t much in that area worth building light rail to.

      12. “The subarea that probably got the worst deal out of ST is East King Co.”

        So says the subarea that feels itself the most entitled and makes the most disproportionate demands. North King has its own version of it, West Seattle.

        “East Link was built on the cheap.”

        That’s the first time I’ve heard East Link called cheap.

        “It is almost all surface, through some sensitive environmental areas, and along public rights of way.”

        It’s only 5% surface. But we may have go get into the technical definition. Light rail can be on the ground with level crossings (“surface”:), on the ground without level crossings (also “surface”), above ground (“elevated”), in a tunnel (“underground”), or in an open trench with cross streets above it (“retained cut-fill”). Of these, level crossings are the most problematic. Link is in freeway ROW from just after Intl Dist to South Bellevue, so that’s technically surface but it doesn’t limit Link’s speed, so it’s as good as a tunnel. In Surrey Downs it’s in a trench, not surface. In downtown Bellevue it’s underground and elevated. In the Spring District and south Redmond it comes down to the surface for short spans but the rest is elevated.

        The only “sensitive environmental area” that has been identified is Mercer Slough, and the east-west alternatives were rejected to keep impacts to the very edge of the Slough, where an existing P&R already was.

        East Link’s and Issaquah Link’s mostly-elevated alignment alignment (including freeway segments that are technically surface but have no level crossings) is not “cheap”, it’s appropriate for the Eastside. Some would say it shows fiscal constraint compared to more expensive tunnels.

        “running East Link down 112th because a tunnel under Bellevue Way was “too expensive” ”

        That’s not why Bellevue Way was rejected. It was rejected because of Kemper Freeman, who didn’t want rail anywhere near his mall, and would have tried even harder to obstruct and kill Link if it had been on Bellevue Way.

        “The east King. Co. subarea has paid 100% of the buses across the lake, which will cost the subarea $1 billion by the time East Link opens.”

        That will become a non-issue in three years. There are arguments both ways on whether the suburban subareas should pay for ST Express, or whether the 550 and 545 should have been exceptions because their ridership both ways is now more even. But it will be moot soon. And all subareas agreed to the ST Express formula and didn’t modify it in ST3. If they thought it was so unfair they could have argued to change it. But it’s hard to argue that the routes to Snohomish County, Pierce County, Federal Way, and Issaquah aren’t 90% used by the suburban subareas.

        “Metro is never going to be able to provide any kind of adequate or frequent bus feeder service to East Link”

        It will if a fully-funded Metro Connects levy is every proposed and passes. Of course this gets into the definition of adequate and frequent. It would be a whole other issue to discuss what’s “adequate and frequent” for the Eastside. You can start in another thread if you wish.

        “and adds a transfer to many trips”

        And subtracts a transfer for many other trips. Spring District to Seattle. Overlake Village to downtown Bellevue (no existing express). Redmond to downtown Bellevue (no off-peak express). All of the Eastside to Capitol Hill and Roosevelt. A simple train-to-train transfer from the Eastside to southeast Seattle and the airport. Judkins Park Station. I know a lawyer who lived at Othello and worked on Mercer Island who might have used it.

        “at a much higher cost.”

        I hope you’re not including capital costs in this. The capital costs were based on a decision to build East Link and upgrade our infrastructure with special-purpose taxes and bonds. Operating costs shouldn’t be saddled with it. Link may have higher operating costs than buses, that’s disputed, but it also provides a quantum level of greater mobility, which is a major benefit in itself, and worth any higher operating costs. The fact that Link’s fare is lower or equal to Metro’s for trips up to Westlake-Rainier Beach, while Link has higher farebox recovery than Metro, and hasn’t had to raise fares since its inception while Metro and ST Express have raised fares repeatedly, shows that Link is cost-effective in some ways.

        “Snohomish Co., S. King Co., and Tacoma still see Link as a way to get to downtown Seattle, but not the eastside.”

        Is that Snohomish/Pierce to the Eastside or the Eastside to downtown? In any case, Snohomish and Pierce are right, they’re mostly to downtown, AND UW. And a significant Snohomish contingent to the rest of North Seattle that I believe is emerging. Link is not very good for Snohomish or Pierce to the Eastside, and Snohomish will soon have a better option: Stride North. (Stride South might also become popular for the south end, and would avoid the 10-minute south Seattle overhead, but it remains to be seen whether it will be popular for this, and of course Stride won’t go to the Spring District or Redmond, so those would be a three-seat ride with Stride or two-seat without it.)

        “The irony is the argument for East Link today is to bring Seattle workers to Bellevue.”

        That’s actually not new. In the 1980s and 1990s most of the new tech jobs were in the Eastside, so Seattleites had to either reverse-commute or forego those jobs. If Bellevue becomes job growth central as a Times article today predicts, it would be reassuming that role. And in that case, it would be good that we decided to build East Link a decade ago.

      13. “The mere fact that the best thing East Side leaders could come up with is a Link line to Kirkland illustrates there really isn’t much in that area worth building light rail to.”

        No, they just ignored the more obvious corridor, 405. There are more largish cities on 405 than there are on Issaquah Link. (And I don’t necessarily mean hugging the freeway, but the general north-south corridor there.) Issaquah got in front of the line because the Issaquah mayor was on the ST board and pushed for it hard for years until the rest of East King finally gave in. But we can imagine an alternative with some kind of phased light rail plan for Renton-Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake-Bothell-Lynnwood.

      14. LOL. I grew up in Lake City, spent many decades there, still own property there, grandparents and parents also lived in the area for many years. The only time ANYBODY went to 145th was to use the NB ramps to I-5, mainly because there aren’t any at 130th. Any other travel crosstown went 125th/130th (unless you were going to Northgate where you might have used NG Way instead). Why would you go north just to go back south again? Ballard, Crown Hill, Bitter Lake are all west/southwest from Lake City. Same applies for buses; people inherently don’t want to feel they are going “the wrong way” if they don’t have to. The 130th station is 5 minutes’ drive (add 3-5 for bus service) from the hearts of both Lake City and Bitter Lake, both with much higher population density than anywhere 145th has – and greater potential for more – while 145th takes twice as long to get to from either.

      15. When I lived in Lake City (Sand Pt Way where it turned into 125th, by the old JPs Market) both my wife and I attended Shoreline CC at different 2 yr periods. Never used 130th to get there; back Rd behind Freddies to Lk City Wy and 145th. Going to the UW it was Sand Pt Wy (room mate was an Engineering major). My jobs were all in Kirkland or Redmond. If I wanted to go to Northgate I’d take N’gateway. Even for DT Seattle I’d usually take 522/LkCityWy all the way to I-5; 130th was hardly ever useful. And yes the lack of NB ramps makes it terrible for an I-5 intercept.

      16. And with 130th, the bus connection should be halfway decent as there is less of a congested mess compared to either Northgate or 145th.

    2. The specific financial problems for ST3 are in design updates, real-estate costs, and West Seattle and Ballard not being upfront about what they really wanted and would demand after the vote. But the biggest driver of overall costs is the NEPA, SEPA, permitting, and federal regulation issues. And let’s remember the Sounder costs of freight-heavy passenger trains. And the inability to use off-the-shelf international train/bus technologies when the US market isn’t large enough for companies to set up a US manufacturing plant. If all these were reformed, Link extensions would cost half as much. And then it could have all the bells and whistles and tunnels for what we originally budgeted for ST3 and still have money left over.

    3. “Link needs to be faster in the South End, not slower.”

      Presuming that BAR is going to happen because Tukwila was promised it…

      So ST should design the BAR station with a Sounder Station adjunct, AND with the idea that in the future there could be a bypass that goes along Airport Way through Georgetown, and skips MLK.

      they could even keep in mind the possibility of a bus intercept coming at it from the 599 -> Tukwila International Blvd/East Marginal Way side, which would be very easy to do.

      ST will do none of this though, and instead will design the LINK station in its own little silo as if that is the only thing that could ever be built, or be found to be useful, at that location.

      1. A BAR Sounder station was in the list of ST3 candidate projects, so ST knows about it and it could be built in a later phase. But ST is not good at transfer interfaces to future lines; see U-District Station and Ballard Station. And its unwillingness to make International District station center-platform for East-South transfers.

        BAR Station is being designed to be a terminus for the A and 124, and for other routes to pass through it (a 150 concept). I’m not sure what route could be on 599; I’ve never heard it suggested. Truncating south end express routes is less than ideal because of the travel time overhead of Rainier Valley and SODO and going east to go west. And ST intends to truncate express routes at Federal Way, so there aren’t many that would go to BAR anyway. The 101 is unlikely to be truncated there; Link is too far west for Renton truncation to be practical.

      2. BAR is a weird station, as I think we need to either go big or go home. If we add an freeway bus station, along with a connection to Sounder, it has great potential. Buses along I-5 wouldn’t terminate there, but serve it and keep going. This would allow buses like the 101 to connect with Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill.

        Without a freeway station, it doesn’t seem worth it to me. The ability to terminate buses there adds little, as there is nothing there. You might as well keep going, and connect to Rainier Beach (the station) and end at Rainier Beach (the neighborhood). Sounder to Link does add some value, but nowhere near as much as express-bus to Link.

      3. I have mixed feelings about BAR.

        Good feelings: Station is able to have feeder buses to Renton and Southcenter. Station appears to be good transfer point for any interlined Burien-Renton light rail or Skyway-Renton rail shuttle on SR 900. Station interface with Sounder could enhance some commute linkages. Site appears developable for large-scale parking facilities since the nearby runway prevents tall buildings around it. Site could be an awesome “major rail hub” with Link, Sounder and Amtrak service converging and could have overnight parking and rental car facilities.

        Bad feelings: It looks almost impossible to have TOD there unless the airport goes away — in which case the entire airport would be redeveloped likely with its own light rail branch from SODO. I-5 will already have intercept stations at KDM and Federal Way so the park-ride market is also limited. Nothing is easily walkable from the site, and I don’t see that changing.

        In other words, unless the entire station area is definitely going to be something wildly different (alternative to letting things happen incrementally), it seems pretty useless.

    4. Having stops at both 130th and 145th is completely unnecessary. Either one is close enough to the relevant neighborhoods and communities to serve both.

      Bullshit. Holy shit, there are over a 1.2 kilometers apart! In what world is that adequate stop spacing for a metro? Besides, that misses the point. The whole point of the station at 130th is to serve the 125th/130th corridor with connecting bus service. You simply can’t serve that corridor, and the 145th station.

      1. 1.2 km is 3/4 of a mile in old money. Where outside of the old bus tunnel are there stops this close together. The only reason 145th has a stop is because it’s an intercept for a regional bus route. People that want to get from Kenmore/Bothell/Woodinville will use it and people that want to get from north of Seattle to destinations like UW Bothell and 405 Stride will use it.

        There is nothing at 130th and no chance of redevelopment. If the jealous golf haters get their way that’s still at 145th. 130th has an off leash dog park. I lived in Lake City forty years ago and this area hasn’t changed nor will it in the next 40 years. It’s autocentric and a lot like east Bellevue.

      2. 1.2 km is 3/4 of a mile in old money.

        Yes, which means it is ridiculously big in terms of stop spacing. If stops are a quarter mile apart, you overlap. If they are 3/4 of a mile apart, you have gaps.
        No one would get off Link at 148th, and walk to 130th. There is a reason why subway lines don’t have that kind of stop spacing, unless they are running over water, or through a forest, with no possibility of feeder service.

        The only reason 145th has a stop is because it’s an intercept for a regional bus route.

        All the stops north of Northgate are dependent on similar bus service. The stop at 145th makes sense as way to serve that corridor, just as the stop at 130th makes sense to serve the 125th/130th corridor. It is the same dynamic, but with more density, and a more urban population. Of course Lake City has changed over the years, and is still changing (https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/05/17/lake-city-on-the-rise-with-hundreds-of-apartments/). Lake City isn’t the only destination on the corridor. There is also Bitter Lake. Folks in Lake City have other, adequate alternatives (buses to Roosevelt or Northgate). Folks in Bitter Lake have nothing. The bus to Northgate is extremely time consuming, which is why, for example, there was no improvement at all in that area following the introduction of Northgate Link. In contrast, a station at 130th would mean a fast, frequent connection to Link as well as Lake City. It would provide a one-seat ride to Sand Point, Children’s Hospital and the UW (although a lot of riders would prefer transferring to Link to get to the UW). But it isn’t just Bitter Lake and Lake City. You also dramatically improve transit for Ingraham High School and Pinehurst. A bus would go up Greenwood Avenue as well — at a minimum that gives you everyone between 145th and 130th, but realistically, without a bus on 145th, that gives you everyone from 155th to 130th on Greenwood.

        I keep putting the word *corridor* in bold because it really about the entire corridor. The corridor is closer to the city, with total travel times much smaller than trips from Kenmore and Bothell. As a result, it will have better ridership (frequency + proximity = ridership). It doesn’t make sense to cancel a station that has better ridership than most, if not all of the other stops north of Northgate.

      3. through a forest
        Bingo! You’ve pretty well laid out the argument for why 130th doesn’t make sense. It’s surrounded by parks and between 130th & 145th is a golf course. What little residential density there is is like East Bellevue. The heart of Lake City is 125th to 145th. Connecting to Link makes the most sense using the corridor all the SR-522 buses are going to be on (and apartments and retail). Children’s via Sand Point Way? That’s miles of low density and next to no ridership, a coverage route. South of Lake City buses will go to Northgate.

      4. The heart of Lake City is 125th.

        Lake City to Children’s actually has good travel time because there are no stoplights north of 74th, no significant intersections north of 65th, and few on-offs north of 74th. It’s not a bad way to get from 130th to Magnuson Park or Children’s, because they’re so far east of Roosevelt or U-District Stations and the latter requires going through the Montlake congestion and UW congestion. I’ve sometimes had to wait twenty minutes in U Village to go west from 36th to the U-District between 5 and 6:30pm.

      5. Bernie, you seem focused on lake city and disregarding the entire area west of I-5 that will be served by buses to 130th.

        But even focused on lake city, a 130th station is superior to having to get on a bus that makes it’s way over to the southwest corner of Northgate Mall. It’s much easier, and quicker, to come up 125th from the center of Lake City, than it would be for a bus that goes down Lake City Way to 105th, and then make it’s way through all the stop lights to Northgate.

        And as far as the golf course being wasted space for this station – Remember that it will be there a long long time, and I think over time golf, (or golfers), will continue to die out (literally); and eventually, when the city gets tired of losing money on it, will do something else with the land.

        Oh.. and I lived in Lake City 20 years ago.

      6. You can think of the 75 as a hidden express, which Seattle should have more of. The high-ridership part of the 75 south of Children’s is also the most problematic part because it bogs down in congestion between 10am and 6:30pm and makes the whole route unreliable. I said 5-6:30pm because that’s when the Montlake congestion is the highest, but there’s also congestion through campus midday and afternoons.

      7. I think the 130th Station infill decision is backwards. I think the need is to serve Lake City, NW Hospital and parts of the Aurora corridor — because the walkable area itself doesn’t appear to ever have higher density without a sea change in land uses. The station should not have been proposed in ST3 without a study to optimize its utility first.

        If bus or shuttle connectivity is the primary motivator, the site plan needs to make that access better. It needs a bus plaza (suggesting a lid next to the station over I-5). Alternatively, a cable pulled aerial shuttle in whatever technology could tie it better to these other nearby destinations. Alternatively, if 9 or 18 or all 27 golf course holes were up for redevelopment, a new TOD vision could be implemented. The current strategy of merely incrementally building a bare-bones station appears relatively wasteful to me.

      8. The heart of Lake City is 130th. It’s the Fred Meyer, not the recent kitschy mini mall. The body stretches from 145th to south of 120th. But 125th is not the heart of Lake City. I lived there less than 5 years ago. I know what I am talking about here.

        And since 130th is not a through street, the site is in the wrong place as it is.

      9. “No one would get off Link at 148th, and walk to 130th.”

        I lived in the south end of Lake City. I would walk to 145th once a week, and to the Fred Meyer 3-4 times a week. 148th to 130th is nothing. Please do not presume to know the behaviors of people in neighborhoods you are completely unfamiliar with.

      10. a 130th station is superior to having to get on a bus that makes it’s way over to the southwest corner of Northgate Mall.
        Yes, but both are inferior (and a lot more expensive) than using 145th because it has all the SR-522 buses and gets the majority of the ridership (125th to 145th to Link faster. Way faster if they are trying to get to somewhere like UW Bothell. I’ve talked more about Lake City because I’ve lived there. but the same dynamic works for west of I-5; SR-99 to 145th are the arterials where all the “stuff” is. Sorry Haller Lake, no one seat ride for you!

      11. @Bernie — Way to take my sentence out of context. My guess is you flunked reading compression. Here, let me spell it out for you:

        There is a reason why subway lines don’t have that kind of stop spacing, unless they are running over water, or through a forest, with no possibility of feeder service.

        Catch that last part? It makes sense to skip an stop if there is no chance of both walk-up ridership and feeder service. But guess what? 130th is the mother of all feeder service. Good God man, read the fucking comment. I laid out in excruciating detail how important the station is because of the crossing bus service, and yet you are just obsessing over the fact that the station happens to be next to the freeway. Well guess what? Every station north of Northgate is the same way! Good God, man, do you really think there will be tens of thousands of people walking to the station at 185th? Of course not. It will survive primarily because it serves as the end point of Swift. Should we cancel the station because of the obviously low potential for walk-up riders? NO! Because it is the end point for Swift.

        Jesus, man, get a fucking clue. Sometimes stations serve primarily as bus feeders. Sometimes they serve serve as walk-up stations. If we were only focused on the latter, we wouldn’t have Mercer Island Station, or half the stations north of Northgate.

      12. Children’s via Sand Point Way? That’s miles of low density and next to no ridership, a coverage route.

        More bullshit. The 75 gets 37 riders per platform hour. That is way better than just about any suburban route. The areas that are low density are fast, while most of the route is high density. It is totally beside the point, of course, as you are simply spouting bullshit to support your case, but I think it is important for readers to understand the buses like the 75 perform quite well.

      13. If bus or shuttle connectivity is the primary motivator [for a station at 130th] the site plan needs to make that access better.

        First of all, of course it is the primary motivator. I don’t know how many times people have to explain it. Let me put in caps, so all-you-all get it:


        Why? Because every stop is next to the fucking freeway! You can develop the hell out of the available land, and it still won’t result in much walk-up ridership. This is obvious when you think of it, and yet people have actually done studies to show that this is true (https://media4.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/economics-of-urban-light-rail-CH.pdf).

        As for optimizing this connection, of course that would be ideal. But you could say the same thing about every station. UW Station, for example, is clearly in the wrong place. It should be in the middle of the triangle, with handy underground tunnels to campus as well as the hospital. Instead, every day, thousands of riders have to wait to cross not one, but two busy streets, just to get to the hospital. Every day, students have to take an elevated walkway serving a deep underground station, quite a ways from the nearest building. It is a complete and utter failure in terms of station placement and amenities, costing riders precious time. And yet it is our second most popular station, with well over 10,000 riders, and that is before the extension.

        When push comes to shove, you just build it, and live with all the flaws. If we waited until Sound Transit figured out how to get the details right, we wouldn’t have anything.

      14. The 75 gets 37 riders per platform hour.
        Of course it does, it makes a big U through the U district. It also is in the bottom 25% for passenger miles/platform hour. If the ridership was on free flowing Sand Point Way that number would at least be somewhere in the middle. More impressive is the 45 of which the 75 is a continuation. It has the same peak ridership but increases to 43 riders per platform hr off peak and stays in the top 25% nights with 26/hr. The numbers for the 75 are pulled down by the tail north of Magnuson Park.

        130th is the mother of all feeder service.
        Really? I’m looking on Google maps and can’t find a single route that gets to I-5 on 130th. The 75 turns/stays on 125th and then goes south to Northgate.
        Looking west the 345/346 turn south on Meridian and jog back to the west around Haller Lake. “The Mother of all…”,

        something regarded as the biggest, most impressive, or most important of (its kind)
        often used humorously [the mother of all yard sales]

        Ah, my bad. I didn’t realize it was a joke.

        No need to SHOUT or swear when rational people can interpret the facts for themselves.

      15. “The numbers for the 75 are pulled down by the tail north of Magnuson Park.”

        That’s what Metro does: part of the route subsidizes the other part, so that the other part can exist or be more frequent. The same thing happens with the 62, where the western half subsidizes the eastern half. But even with that averaging out, the 75 still gets 37 riders her hour, which is almost four times the 10 that’s the minimum for a cost-effective route. And the entire route end to end is 51 minutes (northbound at noon), so a full hour would be slightly higher. In fact, an hour is what it might take when it’s rerouted to Shoreline College when 130th station opens. At that point it might get two more people at the station, two at Aurora, two at the college, and one in between: seven more people, or 44 total, in an hour-long trip. (And I’m lowballing it to reflect a noontime average.)

        It should be a priority to get people into and out of Children’s hospital, Magnuson Park, and Lake City relatively quickly to the rest of the region. The 75 does that. Or at least the northern part of it does, where the awful congestion isn’t. Children’s has hundreds of workers, patients, and family members. Magnuson Park has low-income housing, apartments, community organizations, and recreation that people go to, and is high on Metro’s equity goals. Lake City has thousands of people who live, work, and shop there, who are within walking distance of a bus on 125th. The low-density blocks in between are a negative on one scale, but a positive on another because they allow a bus to get to Sand Point quickly. If only there were such a quick way to get from Lake City to Ballard, or Northgate to Ballard, or Aurora to Ballard. But there is on Sand Point Way so we should leverage it.

      16. 130th is the mother of all feeder service.

        Really? I’m looking on Google maps and can’t find a single route that gets to I-5 on 130th. The 75 turns/stays on 125th and then goes south to Northgate. Looking west the 345/346 turn south on Meridian and jog back to the west around Haller Lake.

        Because it hasn’t been built yet! Holy cow, man, use your imagination. You yourself wrote that 145th “is an intercept for a regional bus route. People that want to get from Kenmore/Bothell/Woodinville will use it and people that want to get from north of Seattle to destinations like UW Bothell and 405 Stride will use it.” But according to your logic, that can’t possibly work, since there is no bus that runs along I-5 to get to the freeway at 145th.

        You seem to believe that suburban feeder service will be fantastic, but urban feeder bus service won’t. The reason I bring up the 75 is to show you that it simply isn’t the case. I’ll get the stop data for the 75 to show you that you are wrong (it takes a while) but for now, just look at the data for the 522. This is a suburban oriented bus. It runs most often during rush hour, a time when suburban ridership goes way up (urban ridership is more spread out during the day). Yet despite all that, Seattle ridership dominates. I’m not talking about trips downtown, I’m talking about trips along Lake City Way. Here are the numbers:

        Seattle (along Lake City Way) 1223
        Lake Forest Park 221
        Kenmore 688
        Bothell 590
        Woodinville 268

        This is despite the scarcity of stops along Lake City Way (the route was designed primarily to serve the suburbs, not get the most riders, or serve the corridor). Again, density + proximity = ridership. There is more density in the city, and of course the trips are shorter. Riders in Lake City and Bitter Lake are far more likely to live without a bus than riders in Kenmore. In fact, a lot of the ridership in Kenmore is from a Park and Ride.

        This is why the feeder line that Metro will obviously build will outperform other feeder lines to the north. I won’t draw the entire route, but this is the key section: https://goo.gl/maps/GZW4rdCYroauSG949. For those riders, this will be the fastest way to get to Link. For many riders, this will save them a huge amount of time over the alternatives (as I explained previously, in comments you aren’t even willing to acknowledge). This is the big kahuna. Sorry, you don’t understand slang. This is the feeder bus route that will get the most riders.

        This is nothing new. People have been writing about 130th for quite some time now, and every time they have to explain the same argument, over and over. Yes, I get a little impatient when people don’t bother to even address it, focusing instead on the fact that there is little potential for walkshare (even though that is true for just about every station north of Roosevelt). I’m not saying anything new, just look at the previous op ed:

        https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/02/27/op-ed-ne-130th-street-station-will-provide-access-to-undeserved-communities/. Consider a quote from a link it references, going even further back, to when they decided on the basic Lynnwood Link line:

        Since October 2010 we’ve followed the Lynnwood Link project fairly closely. Unlike other Link extensions, Lynnwood Link had several viable alignments including SR-99, I-5 and NE 15th Avenue. While many in the transit community who believe in the importance of TOD favored the SR-99 alignment; New Starts competitiveness, cost, and institutional momentum favored the I-5 alignment.

        From a TOD perspective this was disappointing. However, as discussions about the I-5 alignment advanced, the idea of a NE 130th Street Station to serve the Bitter Lake and Lake City neighborhoods emerged. This station, located half way between the two Hub Urban Villages would certainly help mitigate the lack of TOD immediately around Lynnwood Link stations.

        Got it? The decision to run Lynnwood Link within the freeway envelope forever doomed walk-up ridership (i. e. ridership from TOD). Every station is highly dependent on feeder service. A station located between two high density areas (Lake City and Bitter Lake) with huge time savings for both, would create good ridership, easily worth the relatively small cost of the station.

      17. Metro changed the 75’s routing in last week’s service change to run on 125th and 5th to Northgate. That was clearly in anticipation of 130th Station. It turns south on 5th because Northgate is the closest Link station now. But when 130th opens, it will go five blocks further west to the station, and then continue further west to Aurora and Shoreline College. That’s in Metro’s long-range plan which was published in 2016. So the reroute is pretty certain; it’s just waiting for the station.

        The 75’s former route on Lake City Way and Northgate Way was assigned to the new 20. This also allows both routes to be straight and more grid-friendly. Previously the 75 and 41 turned kitty-corner to each other at 125th & Lake City Way.

      18. The numbers for the 75 are pulled down by the tail north of Magnuson Park.

        More bullshit. Sorry, you don’t like swearing. More falsehoods you pulled out of your um, rear end. I managed to get the stop data, and you are simply wrong. Most of the riders on an inbound bus (heading to the UW) board north of Magnuson Park. In fact most board north of Bartlett (just south of Lake City). Even the section between Bartlett and Inverness (well north of Magnuson Park as well) gets over 150 riders. The section from NOAA to the UW does well, but it accounts for a lot less than half.

        This is a typical urban bus route, with people taking it for various trips along the way. A lot of people get off at the UW, but not quite most. Quite a few get off at Sand Point, Children’s Hospital, and Lake City. If it ended at Magnusun Park, it would be a gloried 78, with ridership and ridership-per- service-hour plummeting.

        That is the old 75. The new 75 takes over part of the old 41. Looking at that data, you see the same thing. For an inbound bus (heading downtown) over a quarter of the riders take it from Lake City to where it leaves 125th (heading south on 5th). Some of these riders are probably getting off at Northgate, but most are likely heading downtown. Just from that data alone, you could conclude that the station will greatly exceed the estimates (that never looked at stop data, as they never considered connecting bus service). Link will go to a lot more places than the 41, like the UW and Capitol Hill.

        You are simply wrong about the 75, just as you are wrong about your assessment of this station.

      19. “Just from that data alone, you could conclude that the station will greatly exceed the estimates (that never looked at stop data, as they never considered connecting bus service).”

        I don’t know about that. The EIS has to include representative bus connections. Before 2016 Metro just offered a few dummy routes because it didn’t have a larger plan, but in 2016 it wrote a comprehensive plan that showed these routes in context and how they would be budgeted relative to the total service hours. I’m not sure whether you’re referring to the ST2 EIS before 2016 or an ST3 EIS after it, but in either case it would have some representative bus routes. The older case would have been less specific or for-sure, but it would certainly have included an east-west route on 125th/130th, and even if it didn’t say that would be an extension of the 75, , any idiot could tell you that’s the most logical alternative and the least disruptive to the existing network.

        The argument that there would be “no additional riders” is based not on there being no representative routes, but that everyone who uses the station would be existing bus riders, not people switching from cars. Or at least, that the number of people added wouldn’t be more than the number of people lost when the 41 and 522 stopped going downtown. I can’t second-guess that since I’m not a planner or ridership expert, so maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t.

        Even if it doesn’t add additional riders, it’s still worthwhile because it makes Seattle’s largest urban villages more connected to each other and makes it easier to get around on transit. That should be a goal in itself. It’s what distinguishes well-functioning cities that have this from poorly-functioning cities that don’t.

        But my longer-term belief is that ridership will eventually exceed expectations, both at 130th and throughout the Link system. A future city council may upzone further, or people’s attitudes may go more in a pro-transit direction, as they have been doing for the past thirty years, or people may find Link more useful than they thought at first, or people who do use transit migrate to Lake City because there’s a station at 130th, and people who don’t use transit migrate elsewhere.

  7. I think that blaming the local permit and alternative selection process at this point is rather misguided.

    The audits have been pretty clear that the overall original cost estimates were off by several billions for WSBLE. That includes unrealistic property acquisition plans and other major mistakes.

    Further, much of the permitting involves Federal agencies or Federal rules. Sure each local city has local permits, but they aren’t typically pursued until construction begins. In contrast, Federal approvals often have to be lined up earlier so that they can justify the release of funds. WSBLE requires spanning two Federally controlled waterways (Ship Canal and Duwamish) as specific examples.

    Another issue is that tunneling adds years to a project. The only way West Seattle Link stations open by 2030 or 2032 is if there are no huge station vaults for example.

    Another issue is that the de facto approach being taken is that the WSBLE is assumed that it’s a nuisance. Creating a Stakeholder Committee but not a Rider Committee is basically setting the attitude that the entire project is going to have negative impacts more than positive ones.

    Finally, the schedules in ST3 were frankly overly optimistic to begin with. They were “realigned” (rescheduled) to something more realistic this year.

    I get the frustration that WSBLE project has both cost and schedule problems. I get that permits take time. But the problem is traceable to the sausage making of ST3 itself in 2014-16 — and to the subsequent refusal to entertain better rail technology alternatives like short automated trains that can require smaller station vaults, shorter platforms and steeper grades.

    1. “Another issue is that the de facto approach being taken is that the WSBLE is assumed that it’s a nuisance.”

      That’s what NEPA/SEPA do: they define any change to the status quo as a negative impact that must be justified. Even if the status quo is bad and the changes are a necessary improvement.

      Even the trolley wires in north Beacon Hill around Pacific hospital would be rated negative impact if they were proposed now, as would the trolley wires suggested now for Madison Park. Because they “spoil” the view. Never mind that trolleybuses let people get around without a car and are more environmentally sustainable than diesel buses or battery buses. And I like the view of trolley wires: they’re the next-best thing to streetcar tracks, which really make a neighborhood and show a long-term commitment to transit orientation.

  8. I believe it was Mike Orr who posted NEPA was in direct response to Robert Moses. Now NEPA is bad when it applies to transit.

    The difference with ST (1, 2 and 3) is those were levies. The voters were promised certain projects for a certain cost, and they had a right to trust ST was being honest. The issue is the cost estimates were always underestimated to keep taxes low in order to sell the levies. ST 1 was balanced by eliminating some of the most key stations, ST 2 was balanced by ST 3, ST 3 got silly in its cost estimating in order to sell it, and now it looks like there won’t be ST 4, hence the “realignment”.

    The levies never gave ST carte blanche to build transit as cheaply as possible. That is the classic error transit advocates make: transit serves an area or neighborhood. Transit is not more important than the area or neighborhood to begin with, because transit chases density. Or should. Plus everyone from the UW to Seattle’s neighborhoods to Bellevue all used SEPA to demand their pet projects. Of course, it is their money, and their neighborhood.

    ST 2 actually wasn’t bad. A lot of rail was laid for the price, although a lot of that rail goes to nowhere (which is really an operational cost issue that is coming). Some like East Link were absolute deals compared to tunneling from Sodo to Northgate because it was all elevated and mostly through public ROW’s and greenbelts. Bellevue demanded a short tunnel and paid half the $300 mile price tag and East King Co. paid the other half (and Bellevue by far contributes the most to the E. King Co. subarea), and there was post tensioning of the bridge.

    The “legislative fix” is all about ST 3 in N. King Co. and DSTT2 and WSBLE because of the cost, risk, and because as I predicted many times West Seattle and Ballard are going to demand tunnels and underground stations just like lesser Seattle neighborhoods like Roosevelt, UW and Northgate got, and Seattle will demand an underground DSTT2 the whole way (which is how costs got so out of hand to begin with, with tunneling from Sodo to Northgate, except DSTT1 was already built.

    The reason I find this article a bit ironic is because we were just promised by the Board the “realignment” fixed all the funding issues. ST commissioned a report that basically said nothing and was politically naïve. Now here we are a month later needing a legislative fix. Hmmm…

    Now we are being told Seattle (N. KC) needs a legislative fix to complete WSBLE and DSTT2 because, as I predicted, the four other subareas have made it clear their exposure for DSTT2 is $275 million each and they don’t have any more money anyway, and we all know DSTT2 as designed won’t cost $2.2 billion, and likely will cost $4 billion. The flaw in the realignment is the flaw in delaying every large project, including rail in Seattle: the costs to build it rise faster each year than the additional revenue. Good thing DSTT1 was built so long ago, for a song compared to today. Lets face it, none of ST would have been possible without DSTT1.

    But a legislative fix means two things:

    1. If Martin is arguing for state funding to complete WSBLE that won’t happen. Even subarea sharing for WSBLE other than DSTT2 won’t happen. Now my guess is federal grants from the infrastructure deal and BBB plan are at risk, and it is certain Republicans will take at least one house in 2022.

    2. If Martin is arguing for HB1304 levy authority for Seattle, I guess that depends on whether Seattleites will pay twice for ST 3, whether Seattle Subway will want control of all that Seattle money with their delusional project list, and just how much is needed, which has to include lost general fund revenue in Seattle due to WFH and other issues. My guess is several Move Seattle’s will be needed just to complete WSBLE to meet West Seattle’s and Ballard’s desires, which will depress Seattle Subway, and this HB1304 levy won’t be able to get away with the deceit in Move Seattle and ST 3 to lure voters in neighborhoods who get nothing for their 1304 levy money.

    As I have noted before, the proof is in the pudding with the NEPA process for WSBLE. The termination of Rogoff suggests to me the Board does not want any more surprises, and wants to know exactly what West Seattle and Ballard demand, and what it will cost, and wants the NEPA cost estimate to be accurate rather than wait for the project bids with cost contingencies. It will expose the realignment as a political fiction, but much better than beginning building a tunnel under 5th Ave. you can’t afford.

    I think in the end the NEPA report will be something along the lines of what Tom Terrific suggested is the only possible solution. That means using DSTT1 for WSBLE and Ballard to begin with, demanding the four other subareas still contribute $1.1 billion for WSBLE to complete some addtional tunneling to SLU, although they will claim they were lied to by ST when they were told DSTT2 was necessary for capacity which it obviously won’t be if there is no DSTT2, and then determine whether Ballard or West Seattle need rail, the cost, and the stations.

    Buses would work better for West Seattle, and I am not sure how transformative light rail to Ballard will be if it will take 90 minutes to get to Tacoma or Redmond. If I were the Board I would begin thinking about what else Ballard and West Seattle might want if they don’t get rail. For West Seattle that is a future bridge with no loss of car capacity, and for Ballard maybe some better access east toward the UW. Really who in Ballard wants to go north of Ballard.

    The NEPA process and report is going to be a real political shit show, with a lot of parties that don’t want to believe the funding is finite. Ballard and West Seattle will demand extending the taxes another five or ten years, but the Board will have to tell them the realignment was a fiction: increasing costs exceed the addtional revenue when delaying these huge public projects, and there is always the risk post pandemic transit use and the appeal of transit will wane.

    1. With every extension, Link will become more valuable and more people will want to be connected to the network. This impact will grow stronger over the next few years as new stations come online. This will turn the region into transit have and have-nots. There will be a strong desire to connect Ballard and West Seattle even for people who don’t live in these places as it will open up more opportunities for other people on the network. The cost may be high, but the demand to be connected to the region or not will matter even for occasional users who go to games at the stadium.

      The travel time, or distance from Seattle is also not important here. This is a decentralized region of neighborhoods and urban centers. Redmond to Bellevue is a connection that will grow the East Side’s attractiveness to businesses. Tacoma to the airport likewise. Although the spine may not service the best transit markets of today, it will create new ones.

      Even if transit use remained at current levels, I still don’t expect that to reduce people’s enthusiasm.

      I’d say the main risk to Link is having an accident on elevated track, or a decrease in perceived safety.

      1. “With every extension, Link will become more valuable and more people will want to be connected to the network. This impact will grow stronger over the next few years as new stations come online.”

        Why didn’t that happen with buses? The only true advantage of rail over buses is grade separation, which is important for peak hour commutes in dense urban areas. The one big downside with rail (other than cost) is its course is fixed, and getting to it and from it to your destination depends on … drum roll … buses.

        It is almost certain peak hour commuting will decline from WFH, which probably means peak hour traffic congestion if you drive declines. For the majority of Link it is not in dense urban areas with heavy traffic congestion.

        Link will succeed where rail traditionally succeeds: Northgate to Seattle especially during peak commutes, and maybe eastsiders commuting to Seattle during peak times, although I doubt they will take a bus to East Link, and will instead drive directly to a station serving East LInk.

        It is a mistake to think using steel wheels instead of rubber wheels will change people’s desires about where they live, where they go, what they need to carry, safety, convenience, and so on. Transit serves people, or it fails, unless you live in such a dense area you must take transit.

        If there is one concern about Link in outer areas it is the best first/last mile access is park and rides, and getting drivers to transfer out of their car to transit (especially a feeder bus) is very, very difficult, unless they absolutely have to because parking is too expensive or traffic congestion is too bad.

        Obviously ST’s inflated ridership estimates will never materialize, or they haven’t yet. The real key is will rail increase the number of people who leave their car in the garage to take transit, or will it simply transfer the same bus riders to rail (plus a bus at one or both ends of the Link trip). Considering in many areas Link serves you have to drive to Link or a feeder bus to access Link, I am not sure the answer to that question is yes.

        I think Ross has been correct about this. A lot of folks who ride the bus, and have a one seat ride, like that bus and that one seat bus, especially with all the HOV lanes. How happy will they be with a transfer from that bus to Link, and a longer trip than on their bus?

        These are ordinary travelers who don’t think steel wheels are some kind of transit porn. They just want to get from A to B with the most convenience in the shortest period of time. I just have a sneaking feeling that a lot of the folks who voted for ST 2 and 3 didn’t envision the bus ride to get to Link, when they had a one seat bus ride before, for about $131 billion less.

        Kind of like why folks don’t like transfers when flying, and look for direct flights even when it costs more. Transfers are a pain in the ass, and slower.

      2. +100!

        The idea that Link is mostly for speedy rush-hour commutes to/from downtown Seattle, will hopefully be replaced with the reality of what you described above. The sleepy, bedroom communities surrounding some Link stations will eventually become vibrant neighborhoods, sooner or later. It’ll just make sense to anyone who experiences conveniences around busy stations like Capitol Hill and U-District, that people want amenities that are a short walk or ride away, perhaps especially working from home.

      3. It certainly does happen with buses. The reverse is the transit death spiral affecting most America bus systems.

      4. The travel time, or distance from Seattle is also not important here.

        Oh, yes it is. It always is. There is a reason why cities don’t spend billions on mass transit systems once they get outside the urban core. They either run express buses, or leverage existing (old) rail lines. You just don’t get that many riders from far away, no matter what you do. BART is a classic example. It is extremely fast, with very wide stop spacing in the distant suburbs, and very fast trains. Yet almost all of its ridership is within the urban core.

        This is a decentralized region of neighborhoods and urban centers.

        That is not true. There is a strong central core (we aren’t Phoenix). You can see it on the population density maps. Almost all of the high density areas are in Seattle, with a smattering on the East Side. From an employment standpoint, you have a strong downtown in Seattle, with the UW and downtown Bellevue being strong secondary centers (we aren’t L. A. either).

        Pretty much everything else is low density and/or low demand. These are areas best served by buses. Unfortunately, ST is spending a huge amount of money on trains serving those areas, and doing so is delusional. There is plenty of evidence suggesting this will fail (this is just one of many reports: https://media4.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/economics-of-urban-light-rail-CH.pdf). Spending a fortune on lines to Tacoma, Everett, Issaquah and South Kirkland and hoping they become worth it is just wishful thinking. It is like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. He keeps thinking that Lucy won’t pull it away, but she always does.

      5. Daniel, ridership forecasts are not as vulnerable to misrepresentation as costs are. Let me explain…

        The Federal Transit Administration has gotten big ticket transit project funding requests for decades (called New Starts) from Metro areas across the country. Through these 40 years, they have developed pretty stringent review protocols about these forecasts. Sound Transit must compete to get New Starts funds — and so it must pass the stringent examination that FTA gives each applicant. There are specific performance measures that FTA looks at to score the applications.

        While FTA staff will also examine costs, they don’t seem to pour over those as stringently as they do the forecasts. Over time, all forecasting has had increasingly stringent conformity requirements by USDOT to the point where most agencies work towards compliance with any forecast.

        So FTA won’t give ST any matching funds unless their forecasts meet detailed internal scrutiny.

        In practice, I personally know of forecasting managers having to make multiple trips to FTA in DC, and prepare huge volumes of documents in order to cross the FTA hurdles and get funding. It takes months if not a few years. It’s not a typical wink-nod to a local confessional official.

        If anything, you should take comfort that FTA does this. It keeps local project applicants honest!

    2. “I am not sure how transformative light rail to Ballard will be if it will take 90 minutes to get to Tacoma or Redmond.”

      Tacoma takes 75 minutes from Westlake because it’s so far away and there are surface segments and level crossings in between. Ballard has nothing to do with that. Ballard to Tacoma is not a common trip, and Ballard to Redmond is still a niche market. The overwhelming number of people will be going to downtown Seattle, downtown Bellevue, Microsoft, and the U-District, and they won’t be starting from Ballard. Westlake-Redmond travel time is around 40 minutes, or the same as the 545. Ballard-Westlake is around 12 minutes. Add five minutes for a transfer and you’ve got 57 minutes for Ballard-Redmond. Not 90 minutes. You could take 90 minutes if you stopped for half an hour for lunch along the way.

    3. Daniel, there is not one word in this article about more funding. You are bringing your own stuff to this discussion.

      1. If not funding Martin what legislature approval are you seeking. Eliminating NEPA? It is federal. Do you really think NEPA is to blame for ST’s cost estimating. Repealing SEPA so ST is above the law? Get real. Cities including Seattle are never going to allow that.

        The premise in your article that is its flaw is that transit is more important than the things NEPA and SEPA are designed to protect. It isn’t, especially for dishonest cost estimating in levies, which is EXACTLY what NEPA and SEPA are designed to protect.

        You article is really just another call for HB 1304 levy authority, which is fundraising, although I am not sure it would be enough.

      2. Dan, it’s impressive how, regardless of post content, you manage to find your way back to the exact same 4 or 5 points in each of your rambling screeds:

        1. ST purposefully underestimated its ST3 projects to sell the additional tax levy. (Proof: None, but admittedly possible given the consultant report)

        2. ST purposefully overestimates its ridership estimates to justify light rail expansion (Proof: None)

        3. DSTT2 is inherently unaffordable (Proof: None)

        4. Wealthy people don’t ride transit (only true if your definition of wealthy is the top 10%), and thus transit is exclusively a generous subsidy for the poor so they get off your roads

        5. Transit should only be built to serve already-dense neighborhoods (you never offer which, though)

        You’ve stated several times your goal in entering the comments section here was to learn about ST and its motivations in your legal battle against it in noble defense of Mercer Island’s roads. Now, it seems you have some quixotic battle against ST3’s project list but never offer reasonable alternatives, and now go so far as to tell one of the main authors of the blog what his own post is about? I know you can do better.

        To explain what I had hoped you already know: the weaponization of NEPA and SEPA are all too often used to halt projects or extract heavy concessions from whatever agency, public or private, is trying to building something new. Allowing certain projects, such as public transit and affordable housing, to skip certain onerous requirements and appeals would allow these projects to be delivered faster and more affordably, which cost hawks like yourself ought to appreciate.

      3. Nathan, I don’t even know why we are having this discussion. I thought the “realignment” solved all of ST’s deficit issues. Is that not true? What does Martin need the legislature to do if there is adequate funding. Am I missing something?

        NEPA and SEPA apply to many projects. For example, gold mines, coal terminals, underwater sonar testing, liquified natural gas terminals, airfields, shipyards, nuclear plants, logging, shellfish farms, power plants…affordable housing and transit are the least of the projects.

        Everyone else in the country is able to build transit projects within budgets except ST. Do you think a transit agency that almost lost federal accreditation for funding due to fraud in 2001 is the poster child to amend NEPA. Republicans would be thrilled, but probably not environmentalists.

        It is disingenuous to argue cost issues for WSBLE have anything to do with NEPA or SEPA. Your debate is with Seattle that wants DSTT2, and West Seattle and Ballard that want tunnels and underground stations like the rest of Seattle demanded. This is purely a political, not an environmental, issue Seattle isn’t going to waive permitting for light rail in Seattle. You just don’t understand political power, ircwhise money it is. You don’t see tunnels and underground stations on the Eastside.

        My advice is don’t worry about transit and the Eastside. We will be fine. The pandemic and decay of downtown Seattle solved Mercer Island’s intercept issues (thank you) so now I just follow this blog waiting for the bloodbath the NEPA process will be for WSBLE, although according to your analysis there is more than enough funding, although seven months ago you told me that before the “realignment”.

        Look, I live in the Eastside subarea. I am just a spectator for ST 3 in N. King Co. I will believe you when that first shovel for DSTT2 is dug.

        You don’t need the legislature if N. King Co. has the money to complete WSBLE. So what is the point of Martin’s article? I get a lot of legal environmental journals, so this blog isn’t really a NEPA reference for me. If ST needs to amend or waive frickin NEPA it has bigger problems.

      4. This discussion isn’t about how to keep ST solvent, because it has accountants to do that. The discussion is about how projects are delayed and costs inflated by certain legal requirements that don’t seem to be necessary in other countries that successfully build affective transit for cheaper than we do. You’ve derided Seattle Subway’s vision for being outlandish, but that’s largely because our construction costs are astronomical. If we could built rail for what it costs us to build BRT, then maybe that’s a worthwhile goal for capital efficiency.

        I’m also confused at which agencies you think are delivering similar projects more affordably than ST. I know LA Metro and the MTA aren’t. Are you thinking about Phoenix? Denver? Minneapolis?

        “You don’t see tunnels and underground stations on the Eastside” what about Bellevue? Also, isn’t Mercer Island’s station below grade? (Yes, it’s under a lid, but only because I-90 was built as a tunnel for the islanders). A side note, but no one has ever asked for your opinion or advice on eastside transit, and I wouldn’t take it since you don’t ride it.

        Also, you aren’t the only one who’s worked with NEPA and SEPA here. You might read the reports, but I actually help write the things, and a lot of it opens avenues for bad actors with expensive lawyers to delay projects with unreasonable alternative analysis requests without regard for the damage that is done if the project isn’t completed.

        No one is asking to abolish NEPA or SEPA, but your refusal to acknowledge adverse impacts to projects that will reduce overall impacts to the environment is telling of your personal agenda.

        Frankly, all I’m asking is for you to stay on topic and at least provide some sort of new criticism – your pages of same-old, same-old are exhausting to scroll past.

      5. Daniel, the post is clear that SEPA and permitting seniority are two issues that the state legislature controls, and the ST should pursue exceptions.

        You think that’s unrealistic, which is fine, but then you decided to argue with a straw man instead.

        I don’t know if we’re forever done with ST3 cost problems or not. I would like to see an ST4 come around, but I’d like it to come around after a new regulatory framework that made it easier to control costs.

        Everyone else in the country is able to build transit projects within budgets except ST.


      6. Fair enough Martin. If the only point of your article was to advocate
        that legislature relax or eliminate SEPA or any other permitting for transit (although NEPA would remain as a federal statute) I guess as an environmentalist I would object to that pretty vehemently, and doubt like some others that would have a material difference on transit costs. You still have the 5th amendment to the federal and state constitutions that require compensation if you take someone’s property, and property owners have gotten much shrewder at fighting ST’s lowballed property values. Eliminating SEPA won’t lower ROW costs or construction costs or lending costs or soft costs.

        As I noted in a prior post, I believe the things SEPA and NEPA are designed to protect are more important than transit, or expedited transit, or dishonest transit levies. One of those more important things is the “voice of the citizen”. The community comes before the transit, and if transit cannot work with the community then no transit.

        Anyway it won’t happen because no one would lobby for it. ST I suppose could lobby for it, but ST is not the most popular entity in this state, and you would have every city in the state lined up against ST, and all the environmental groups because if you amend SEPA every special interest will get their nose under the tent. My guess is ST doesn’t need to take on that fight at this time, which of course would involve a reexamination of ST’s estimates and projections in its levies before the legislature. Not a good look for ST.

        To be honest, other than WSBLE and the N. King Co. subarea I don’t know what you are talking about or where SEPA needs to be eliminated. Tom Terrific has posted an alternative to WSBLE he thinks is within the ST 3 funding for N. King Co. (and Nathan believes there is full funding so I don’t know why the legislature needs to amend SEPA). And I also saw a proposal for a surface line down third Ave. for DSTT2.

        It sounds a bit to me like what you are arguing for is eliminating SEPA or transit permitting because ST did not estimate WSBLE correctly, and the affected neighborhoods West Seattle and Ballard want what other Seattle neighborhoods got, but there might not be enough money. That is not a permitting issue; that is just a good old fashioned political brawl which is the design of SEPA.

        You don’t see tunnels for East Link. Mercer Island didn’t get a lid over I-5 as part of East Link. You can save a lot of money building light rail above ground, except Seattle neighborhoods have very expensive transit tastes.

        Let’s see what the EIS says. Nathan may be correct and this discussion is moot because N. King Co. has the money for WSBLE and DSTT2 with the realignment, and West Seattle and Ballard will get tunnels and underground stations.

      7. ?One of those more important things is the ‘voice of the citizen’. The community comes before the transit, and if transit cannot work with the community then no transit.?

        The community comes before transit, and the car driver comes before the community.
        There, I fixed it for you.

        Where was the public outrage when it was announced (in the I-405 Program EIS) that at least 11 property takes were going to happen in the Kennydale neighborhood to add more lanes.

        Oh, wait, … I think I know… they are missing the $$$ (privilege)

      8. @Daniel T
        I agree with most of your points here. Frankly, I find the OP author’s defense here rather disingenuous (see the title of the post) and the entire premise of the argument to be rather “weak sauce”. The magnitude of the cost estimating miss (let’s use that term for now) dwarfs any permitting or SEPA remediation that may be found by a legislative lift provided by the folks down in Olympia. Why should a transit agency be granted to what amounts to a carve-out? (RQ) The last I checked they are on the same footing as cities of the first class. Is the author arguing that foundational basis should change or simply that a carve-out from it is warranted? My own state senator (Liias) proposed such a carve-out in regard to local permitting in a legislative session a couple years ago, I believe in response to the whole MVET/I-976 hullabaloo. It went nowhere and I made a point about my objection to the proposal to my representatives at the time (as well as on this very blog).

        I think some commenters on STB are having a hard time now reconciling their 2016 support for ST3 in light of the exposure of the cost estimation miss for the program. Having some experience with MTA packages from my time working in the NYS Legislature back in the 80s, I had a strong suspicion that the ST3 cost projections were vastly underestimated. That chicken has now come home to roost. There WILL BE additional upward cost estimates as the projects move through the initial phase gates, and of course that includes the necessary environmental review. There is a long list of precedents from ST’s recent history.

        Sure, the permitting process needs to be sped up. In that I am in total agreement. With that said, I don’t think that’s the biggest problem facing the agency’s (now) 30-year capital program.

      9. “The community comes before the transit”

        The community needs transit in order for the community to function well, and in order to really be a community.

        You’re focusing on just one aspect of Link’s costs. The article is trying to get at other aspects too.

      10. Daniel, you really don’t know much about the history of Link, except the cost estimates. Nobody has ever advocated that Link between downtown Seattle and the University District be surface or elevated. It was always planned to be a tunnel. There is simply no available surface right-of-way, and an elevated crossing would have to reach the height of the I-5 bridge lower deck.

        Once the geological problems of crossing beneath Portage Bay became apparent, ST was forced to take the circuitous path past Huskey Stadium, which reaches almost a mile east of I-5.

        That had nothing to do with “Seattle neighborhoods’ very expensive transit tastes.” NOTHING AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Once the trackway was way over at 25th NE, it had to make its way back across campus and do it in a deep tunnel to avoid disturbing science experiments with its vibrations.

        That meant U-District Station is also very deep and that reaching the surface at 65th for the Greenlake/Roosevelt Station became a bit difficult. THEN, WSDOT got on its high horse about threading the trackway through the Lake City Way interchange, so the alignment was moved east and the tunnel extended to 92nd.

        NONE OF THIS WAS DONE AT THE CITY’S BEHEST, and I’m pretty sure you know it, at least vaguely. So what does that make you? Devious and conveniently forgetful at best, and an outright liar at worst.

      11. TT, yes we have all read the history of Link on Wiki. I was actually speaking of ST 3 in N. King Co. when I was referring to expensive tastes, not ST 1 and 2. But the fact is since Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt and Northgate all got tunnels Ballard and West Seattle will demand tunnels.

        Nathan claims no problem: the realignment and five year extension of taxes like alchemy will fund Graham St., 130th, and DSTT2 and WSBLE. Mike Orr claims the Board can continue the taxes forever, for whatever they want. Shit why not extend the taxes another five years and run rail to the south end of Mercer Island, North Bend, Duvall, Canada and Portland, and Bremerton.

        Meanwhile you claim ST will simply tell Ballard and West Seattle to drink the bitter ale of elevated stations and lines in their pretty town centers (unless the nearby properties claim constructive condemnation from the elevated lines) and like it.

        Seattle will have to live with cut and cover tunnels down 5th for a decade, but love it they will. And Dow Constantine who is executive of King Co. and probably will be Governor will say, Tom Terrific, this elevated station ale tastes like shit, but I and West Seattle are going to take it like men because some on STB said I have to take it like a man, until his fellow West Seattle residents show up at his house with pitchforks and torches.

        Mike Orr states ST has a decade to decide, except the EIS for WSBLE is going on right now, and is suppose to be released in 2022.

        Although Ross has pointed out many, many times that West Seattle scores poorly for light rail, and God Knows Issaquah does, you never ask why they got rail in the first place, and it isn’t SEPA: it is political pull. That’s how it has always been done, and will always be done. But at least Bellevue, Kirkland and Issaquah were smart enough to not run light rail through their town centers.

        The EIS is going to be great theater. We will see politics and transit intersect, but without the safety net of ST 4. West Seattle and Ballard will be told sorry, “lesser” neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt and even Northgate got tunnels, but not them. Drink that bitter ale gents, you too Dow. We will see exactly who wins out under SEPA: citizen voices and all the things SEPA is designed to protect, or transit. Or Dow will lose the Seattle vote for governor, and I doubt he will get a lot of votes in Eastern WA.

        My prediction: the Board extends taxes another five years to give West Seattle and Ballard what they want. Easier to sell the four other subareas on a bunch of extra transit money they don’t really need then force elevated lines and stations on pretty but not very dense communities like Ballard and West Seattle. Because that is exactly how SEPA works. Maybe Mercer Island can get a lid over our station and I-90, and some reserved park and ride space. Think of a ten year extension like ST 4, without the messy vote or need to promise voters a bunch of stuff the levy can never afford.

      12. “I don’t know why we’re having this discussion. I thought the “realignment” solved all of ST’s deficit issues. Is that not true?”

        The issue isn’t just about realignment. It’s about ST1’s and ST2’s costs, RapidRide’s costs, Spokane Transit’s RapidRide-like line’s costs, Chicago el extension costs, New York subway extension costs, LA Metro extension costs, Caltrain electrification costs, California high-speed rail’s costs, Washington’s high-speed rail costs, Washington’s medium-speed incremental costs (for Cascades’ on-again, off-again goals of 90 and 110 mph), etc. All of that is more expensive than it could be because of the peculiar ways the US does transit capital projects. Link is just the one that matters most to us.

      13. “Mike Orr claims the Board can continue the taxes forever, for whatever they want.”

        For what was approved in the ballot measures, nothing more. The promises in the ballot measure were flexible enough to allow for variations like another tunnel segment or moving the alignment a mile over, as long as all the specified urban growth centers are served. For Lynnwood Link, that means it must serve Northgate and downtown Lynnwood, but it can deviate in between. The Lynnwood Link Alternatives Analysis considered alternatives as wide as Aurora, I-5, 15th Ave NE, and Lake City Way. 145th & I-5 wasn’t considered must-serve because there’s no PSRC urban growth center there. If the alignment didn’t serve it, ST would have to write a statement justifying the deviation from the representative alignment, which is easy but it was reluctant to do. For Ballard Link, the must-serve areas are downtown and Ballard, and maybe SLU depending on how it was worded. But ST can’t go building a Link line to Renton without another vote. If it has extra money left over after it has built everything in the ballot measure, it can build anything it wishes with it. But it can’t extend the tax period for non-voter-approved things.

        And Duvall is outside the ST district, which ends at Redmond-Sammamish-Issaquah.

        “Mike Orr states ST has a decade to decide, except the EIS for WSBLE is going on right now, and is suppose to be released in 2022.”

        The EIS will cover the whole project. ST can still decide later to defer the end stations or intermediate stations if it has a budget shortfall then. The EIS doesn’t say what must be built, only what can be built.

      14. “West Seattle and Ballard will be told sorry, “lesser” neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt and even Northgate got tunnels,”

        Capitol Hill and UW got a tunnel because it was necessary due to the hills and Ship Canal. Roosevelt got a tunnel by ST’s choice, and because it agreed to put the station right at the neighborhood’s center. (That’s a transit best practice. Bellevue’s station is in the center where the tallest highrises are and with downtown’s extension east to 120th. It’s just not at the traditional center of Bellevue Square.) Rainier Valley wanted a tunnel and was told no. Ballard and West Seattle want tunnels, because doesn’t everybody. We still don’t know whether ST will include tunnels there. There’s a good chance ST will say no because they weren’t in the representative alignment, WSBLE has a budget shortfall, and private money for them has not been forthcoming. It might say yes due to political pressure, but it might say no due to budgetary pressure. Yes, popcorn would be good as we watch this.

        “My prediction: the Board extends taxes another five years to give West Seattle and Ballard what they want.”

        That’s the most reasonable thing you have said. The realignment delays are around five years, which is the same thing as extending the taxes five years. But if the realignment is based on the representative projects, which don’t have non-downtown tunnels, and the realignment requires five more years, then extra tunnels would be on top of that, so 5 + 5 = 10.

        But it’s a stretch to add five years just for extra tunnels. ST may say no to it, or find it difficult financially to say yes, or may say it’s out of scope for the budget.

      15. Damn, Daniel, you do not read the detail of my ideas very well. I have suggested for the past year that both West Seattle and Ballard have at-grade stations “in their pretty little downtowns”. They can even have wrought-iron station sheds, overhead supports and light stanchions if they want.

        The platforms would be in the middle of Alaska and Market, respectively, just to the east of California and Leary respectively.

        The respective bus-intercept stations would be elevated at 35th and Fauntleroy and 53rd and 14th NW respectively. The areas for four blocks around each of these four stations would upzoned except for the “Old Ballard” historical blocks.

        So far as everyone sneering at West Seattle, if the alignment is done correctly, there is a grest opportunity to get all the way south to Sylvan Way on the surface in greenfield right-of-way and then move to a widened Delridge down through White City. This would be very inexpensive and make the LRT bridge a much better value.

      16. TT, yes we have all read the history of Link on Wiki.

        if you think I had to read Wikipedia to know the history of Link, you haven’t been paying attention.

      17. Al, cable liner work well for short connections with one or two trains (like Burien to Tukwila) up to 2mi, but SoDo to Junction is longer than that and headways would be too long. Yes, such trains are faster than gondolas, but for 4-5 mi lines like WS continuous gondola service still provides lower average trip time than a train with 6-12min headways. Modern gondolas also meet ADA requirements.

    4. Daniel, I would again remind you that “when something cannot continue, it will stop”. This is a fundamental law of physics within a resistive environment such as “reality”.

      You have given us all an eloquent (although very repetitive) listing of why ST3 as envisioned in the current “Preferred Alternative” cannot be afforded.

      You are likely correct.

      What that means, then, is that the Preferred Alternative won’t be built. Something less grand, shorter, or more “at grade” will be built. It’s as simple as that.

      You seem to think that simply because Dow Constantine and Jennie Durkan live there, West Seattle has the rest of the City by the pips. They don’t. The terminal stations in both West Seattle and Ballard will be at-grade, there will be no tunnels north of Mercer Way or west of Delridge, and the Ship Canal crossing will be a screw-stabilized bascule 75 feet above MSL with regulations approved by the Coast Guard restricting bridge openings to the 1:00 to 5:00 AM time window.

      The new platforms at Westlake will be above the existing trackway of DSTT1 under Sixth Avenue, and the station box will be cut-and-covered. The platform elevation at Midtown will be at the same MSL value as will be the New Westlake platforms, making them two to three stories shallower than the RA plans.

      New IDS will also be cut-and-covered, with welfare payments to the businesses of the International District west of Eighth.

      1. Continuing:

        The trackway can and almost certainly will be at-grade from Mercer Way to the approach to the Ship Canal Bridge. This will require the removal of about a dozen buildings between Mercer Way and Prospect another parking behind those between Prospect and Galer. The alignment would cross 15th in the footprint of the existing Magnolia Bridge approach ramp which will be unnecessary for the small volume of vehicles which would be going to Pier 91.

        It would go up the east side of the BNSF Interbay Yard. I’d include simple side-platform stations at Prospect (Helix Ped Bridge ), Armory and Dravus right under the roadway.

        You all know my proposal for two stations in Ballard, one elevated at 52nd and 14th and the other at-grade in Market just east of Leary.

        West Seattle would be similar with an elevated station above Fauntleroy and 35th and an at-grade station jn Alaska just east of California.

        If the City wants high-quality transit it has to start downgrading private vehicle access in its urban villages.

      2. This assumes ground level is the cheapest way.

        Doing that means taking land from something, which is expensive.

        Elevated above 15, Elliott, Port of Seattle land and BNSF land is more expensive to build, but means little loss of use to existing land. Neither 15th nor Elliott are especially attractive through there, and it’s not like the school buses being stored on Port of Seattle property need to see Mt Rainier. Hell, Mercer isn’t so attractive either and could probably have elevated above it too.

      3. If you’re worried about the loss of twelve small old buildings between Mercer Way and Prospect and the loss of parking behind the seven between Prospect and Galer, then sell the air rights after construction, and let developers put buildings above the trackway on stilts. There is functionally little limit to the height of buildings there except the foundations, because the houses and multi-family buildings at the crest are ten stories up.

        I don’t get the obsession that people have about riding on supports. Yes, the view is nice, but the possible catastrophe from a derailment is much greater.

        The only places that MAX is on structure are a fewspots along I-205, some short bridges on the Orange Line and the end of the Yellow Line by Delta Park. The builders could have elevated the line west of Beaverton Central, avoiding the occasional train-car crash, but chose not to do so. It’s just much cheaper to build at-grade.

      4. @Glenn — The land you take on the surface is simply part of the expressway known as Elliott/15th. There is no reason to have three lanes each direction, and in fact you don’t right now. The outer lanes are bus lanes during rush hour, which means that converting them to (24-hour) train lanes wouldn’t make traffic any worse.

      5. “It’s just much cheaper to build at-grade.”

        Only if there isn’t a significant cost to buying the land taken. MAX through Washington County from Beaverton to Hillsboro was a freight line (interurban passenger until the 1930s) the BN was selling off anyway. What development was around it already factored in there being a railroad there.

        If a surface line is ok, then why not also do that on Mercer and through downtown Seattle, where the savings would be even higher and the speeds not that different (current tunnel speed seems to be 15 mph?)?

      6. Ross, that’s not true. Nobody would put Link in curb lanes; it would be far too dangerous to adjacent pedestrians and wall off the buildings from any access. That means that they would go in the center of the roadway.

        BUT, that in turn means that there can be no left turns anywhere along Elliott or 15th West. All access from the south to Whole Foods, for instance, would require driving to Dravus, crossing the bridge, and returning southbound. There isn’t enough room in the current roadway for turn bays even assuming they would be allowed, and the built environment along 15th especially is much larger and closer to the street. It can’t be widened like Martin Luther King Jr Blvd was.

        If Ballard Link is to be surface, it has to run in an adjacent guideway.

      7. I’m not opposed to surface through downtown if it’s on Third all the way, but that requires that the trains be shorter, which many people have advocated for other reasons. However that leaves out SLU, which the city wants to serve.

        In any case, there’s no practical surface path from Elliott through Lower Queen Anne, not even with split directions on two streets. So some sort of tunnel is necessary for a mile or so.

      8. I would oppose surface on Third because that makes Link as bad and slow as MAX. But if it’s only the Ballard and/or West Seattle line, then at least the main line is available as an alternative. From Ballard you could go to U-District and transfer. From West Seattle it’s harder but I suppose you could make the 50 frequent. Ideally if Ballard is surface, it would transfer to the main corridor north of Westlake or north of it so that people don’t have to slog through downtown on the surface, but that doesn’t seem feasible given the main line’s location, Ballard’s location, and Lake Union and SLU and I-5 in between.

        But this is a theoretical discussion. Only one person has suggested ST can’t afford the downtown tunnel, and he has offered no evidence for it. The fact remains that ST3’s total shortfall is, what, $5-6 billion at this point. Only part of that if any is related to the downtown tunnel. ST doesn’t have to build the deep Intl Dist option, and the representative alignment doesn’t have it. And ST can extend the taxes as long as necessary to finish ST3, so it’s not that it “can’t afford” it, but that it may take longer than predicted to finish. At some point ST can choose to delete or downscale projects to finish closer to the timeframe, as it did after the 2007 recession with the Federal Way segment. But that’s ST’s choice, and it may not make it for another decade.

      9. Mike, a WSBLE at-grade on Third Avenue would ipso facto literally be “Ballard to West Seattle”. The 240 to 300 foot blocks downtown simply couldn’t hold four-car LRV trains. There would be much less operational flexibility because all three “long-distance” lines would be in DSTT1.

        The 1 Line could run through to an improved Northgate reversing facility in less time than it would take to Ballard.

        That would mean two minute peak headways between IDS and Northgate and (probably) four-three-three base service. That would require bridging in the Rainier Valley, because the Everett trains should probably turn back at Sea-Tac. It would mean 2-4 and 4-6 headways between IDS and Sea-Tac.

        East Link would still go Redmond-Lynnwood.

        Or, if Daniel is correct that East Link is a terrible mistake, connect Ballard to East Link and run two- or three-car trains on it.

        In that future Tacoma trains would then go to Lynnwood, and Everett trains to Sea-Tac.

        No trains would go to West Seattle. Build the gondola to West Seattle from SoDo and otherwise keep the C and Delridge RapidRides.

        Yes, this is a drastic shrinkage of ST3, but if commutergeddon is on us, it’s a way to get the capacity of LRT in the Ballard/LQA/Belltown Corridor for 1/3 the price. Obviously it would leave SLU unnerved, and that is a problem.

        I’d consider making Westlake a transit street like Market in SF. That might be good enough.

      10. I think you have a good understanding of a scenario that would not require DSTT2, TT.

        The problem is that the capacity and throughput challenge of DSTT1 is still not clear, especially when the “peak hour surges” are abated by the more recent popularity of flextime and work at home. Covid has ramped up these two effects and we don’t yet know how much of the peak hour surge demand is permanently lessened.

        A related question is whether the DSTT conveyances could handle the passenger loads, given how unreliable they are and how few of them they are.

        I don’t think any of us know the definitive answer — from the biggest DSTT2 supporters to the DSTT2 cost-conscious opponents. Of course, ST doesn’t even disclose time-of-day surges in reality so we have no way of knowing. It’s one of the ways ST won’t publish any data that could be used to explain their motives. It keeps them magical and God-like by saying “trust us” and keeps the citizens stupid and speculating.

      11. I’d think that Ballard would be better with a Market Street median set of tracks with stations located in places where there could be full platforms. It would seem cheap enough to even have two stops in Ballard rather than just one.

        It still amazes me that we are ok with wiping out many dozens of homes in Youngstown yet no one with authority has suggested that we just take out fewer homes on the north side of Fauntleroy and the Oregon for a surface line in West Seattle. The Youngstown dwelling takes are so major that it should send the West Seattle part of project back to square one.

      12. “ The new platforms at Westlake will be above the existing trackway of DSTT1 under Sixth Avenue, and the station box will be cut-and-covered. The platform elevation at Midtown will be at the same MSL value as will be the New Westlake platforms, making them two to three stories shallower than the RA plans.”

        I doubt that a shallow tunnel option is viable. It’s just one more reason to revisit the vehicle specs for the line though. Vehicles without catenaries can squeeze easier through these constraining points — so it’s more possible to run a shallower profile if the vehicle is different. Deep (like 80 or 100 feet deep) cut-and-cover underground station vaults for 400-foot trains are wildly expensive and add years to the project construction.

      13. Al, I’m sorry, but I have been saying for a year now exactly what you seem to be chastising me for not saying. You’ve even agreed from time to time.

        That is that Ballard (and West Seattle too) should have a terminal station at-grade in the middle of the historic center of the neighborhood and a second, elevated, station on the edge of the central district to which regional bus intercept can be directed.

        For Ballard, I think that station could be at 53rd and 14th NW to spread the coverage of Link all the way to Eighth while not depriving “Old Ballard” of its rightful station.

        I recognize that there are potential traffic issues from closing Market to private cars from 20th to Leary. But if Seattle wants to become a “real” city, it needs to take roadways for transit use in crowded places.

        It’s probably possible to let cars use the block between 17th and 20th without ruining the bus access to the LR station, but there wouldn’t be room for anything other than transit in the block and a half between 20th and Leary.

        If this concept is pursued, the elevated station on 14th and the curve between 14th and Market should certainly be “stacked” so that extension north or east can occur later.

        I think that with hot-seating of the trains at the terminal, a single track stub could work. If there is an extension north or east, only every other train would enter the Old Ballard station. Arrivals would wait for a delayed departing train on the descending structure before the merge switch. With ten minute headways, this would happen only very rarely.

        Riders from Old Ballard wishing to take the extension could depart toward Downtown, get off at 14th, change levels and take the nest extension train. No, it’s not ideal, but it would work, because the next extension train would be arriving quickly. The previous Old Ballard train would typically already have passed 14th by the time the southbound Old Ballard reached the 14th NW station.

        Maybe I’m not understanding your reply, but it sure sounds to me like essentially the same proposal.

        P.S. To avoid Ross’s indignant scorn, let it be known that I would agree that whatever bus service is offered along 15th NW should connect to Link at Old Ballard, not “West Woodland”. To preserve the link between Crown Heights and Interbay, the buses should follow Leary back to 15th and continue on the current route as far as is practical. The RR version of the 40 would serve both stations via Market and continue on its way. The Eighth NW line would turn West on Leary then 14th, serve the 14th station then go West on Market to 32nd; some would continue north for coverage.

        This would cluster transfers to 85th around Eighth at WWS while 15th and 85th would cluster at Old Ballard, albeit in opposite directions on Market.

      14. Al, on the question of DSTT1 access, I share your concerns. The platforms are too narrow. Penny wise, pound foolish.

        However, in a DSTT1-only future (say with surface Ballard service downtown), there would be plenty of money to provide ADA-conforming center platforms at Westlake, Symphony and Pioneer Square in the bus bypass lanes. That should handle the capacity issues.

      15. And, about shallow platforms at New Westlake, the trains run the tubes with the pans compressed. Yes, the pans then pop up in the stations so that standard catenary can be used, but they don’t have to do so. If the ceiling in the station low, there would just be overhead mountings to keep them down every few feet as there are in the tubes.

        Even if the roadway on Sixth still would need to be raised a couple of feet, so what? It would look a bit strange, but really not be a problem. Most retail establishments have ten to twelve foot ceilings and those right at the corner odpc Sixth and Pine could just have shallow ramps or steps down just inside the store.

        The biggest issue with a thin overburden is keeping the tunnel dry.

        I really do believe that a well-engineered pair of platforms and the trackway can fit. The question is whether ST and the City are willing to consider it.

      16. That in turn means that there can be no left turns anywhere along Elliott or 15th West.

        Now you got it.

        All access from the south to Whole Foods, for instance, would require driving to Dravus, crossing the bridge, and returning southbound.


        Of course, that is the cheapest implementation. You could also just add left turn lanes (like they have on Rainier Avenue). This might require widening the street, but not much. Unlike Rainier, there are very few turns on this street. The Magnolia Bridge, Dravus, even the access to what is now Expedia has overpasses. At most you need a couple surface crossings. Making it wider would be trivial in places like Gilman. Hell, it is a wide 7 lanes now. If you wanted to be cheap, you could just take the middle two lanes (for the train), move the left turn lanes, get rid of the right turn lane (to Gilman) and call it a day. That means that the right lane would slow down, with people turning right. Big deal.

      17. TT, I agree with you that end-of-line stations can be built for a few blocks on the surface. It just has to be done within reason. So, maybe the segment should have a maximum of one or two stations and maybe no more than one or two major signals (maybe another 3-5 minor ones) before zooming along the rest of the line on a grade separated alignment. That keeps the reliability disruption to a minimum.

        I guess I should add that I’ve also long suggested turning the Ballard tracks to run east-west on Market, and I share your vision of a surface segment on Market. I may have even been the first poster to suggest this starting about 2-3 years ago. So I support your vision in Ballard and I am not complaining about it!

        The fact that West Seattle has nothing but very messy and expensive choices west of the bridge suggests to me that significantly new design approaches or alternatives are needed. It amazes me when so many people (even transit advocates) can only think of variations on only one alternative and immediately blame Olympia or “conservatives” for funding shortfalls — rather than to first rethink a few assumptions and determine if there is something inherent in them that is driving the high costs. It’s demonstrates a lack of vision and problem-solving, and a preference to always blame others. Rather than fight the current harsh impacts and outrageous costs, the stakeholders should be demanding revisiting the RA.

        The West Seattle Gondola folk are reacting to this limited lack of visioning for other technologies and design concepts by proposing what they do. I personally think that a gondola is not a good solution because of travel speed limitations and ADA access and other challenges (although its cable-liner cousin technology could operate faster and resolve any vehicle drawbacks). I think that the idea emerged because ST only ever considered our current light rail vehicles (and token consideration of buses) in the studies that pre-dated the ST3 sausage making in 2016.

        I’m reminded of a neighbor who once went out and bought a Range Rover — only to discover it was too tall to fit in the garage of the condo building! A reasonable person would have returned the vehicle and chosen another SUV that would fit. No one dare suggested that the entire condo complex should pay to rebuild the entire garage because they couldn’t envision living with a different vehicle that gives them an almost identical travel experience. This is how I feel that ST approaches the engineering and cost problems inherent in the WSBLE project.

      18. That is that Ballard (and West Seattle too) should have a terminal station at-grade in the middle of the historic center of the neighborhood and a second, elevated, station on the edge of the central district to which regional bus intercept can be directed.

        I like that idea. But given your description, I’m not sure if you need the elevated stop. Buses from 15th would go to Old Ballard. The 40 would run right by Old Ballard. The 44 would go to Old Ballard. So what riders, exactly, get off at this elevated station? Riders from Fremont heading …. to Interbay? The 31/32 makes a direct connection. Fremont to South Lake Union? Just take the bus the other direction. Uptown? Yeah, I suppose, but people really don’t like going the wrong direction, even if it might save them some time. Any way you look at it, you are saving a relatively small number of riders a few minutes (of at worst just waiting on the bus until they get to Old Ballard).

        I mean, I hate to discourage a station — any station — but I don’t see that as essential. I think you could easily make the station a future project. By all means they should enable the ability for it to added in the future, but it doesn’t seem essential now.

      19. TT, I do read your different approaches to DSTT2 and WSBLE, and appreciate the thought you put into a very difficult puzzle. I have read the three alternatives for WSBLE in the 2019 scoping report. https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/west-seattle-ballard-link-extension-scoping-information-report-20190215.pdf#:~:text=West%20Seattle%20and%20Ballard%20Link%20Extensions%20Scoping%3A%20Feb,the%20metropolitan%20Seattle%20area%20of%20King%20County%2C%20Washington.

        Here is the main problem with surface stations in areas like West Seattle and Ballard: these cities or neighborhoods don’t want surface rail in their commercial cores or neighborhoods. Who does? Tunnels yes, surface trains and stations no. And Seattle will balk at surface rail through downtown, and somehow Link has to get to SLU.

        Look at East Link which is almost all surface. Bellevue ran Link along 112th. Had East Link been underground from S. Bellevue to The Spring District, or Wilburton with its 6900 residents, do I think Bellevue would have run light rail under Bellevue Way? Yes.

        Do I think The Spring District or Wilburton will build Link (or more accurately future development) right next to the stations and lines ? No. The massive development in these two areas predated Link, and Link is a very small part of the profit motive for this development that will be high end, and very car oriented. Even with East Link Bellevue planned for this development, and this development would have been the same without East Link.

        Mercer Island is maybe the only eastside city that has a station in its commercial core but that is between two lanes of I-90 40′ below grade, and ST had to get a waiver for the noise levels. Hardly a centerpiece of our town center.

        Kirkland did not want surface rail in its downtown. Neither does Issaquah. Surface trains and stations are just not a good look for a neighborhood or city, which of course is why Link runs underground from Sodo to frickin Northgate.

        Link can tell West Seattle and Ballard it only has funding for surface stations and lines (which will be more believable if DSTT1 serves both and DSTT2 is cancelled, except N. King Co. loses $1.2 billion in matching funds from the four other areas, except DSTT2 now looks like it will cost $4 billion), and the Board can tell both it won’t extend taxes for underground lines and stations, but then West Seattle and Ballard will demand the stations be in remote parts of their neighborhoods, like just 112th in Bellevue. Like some on this blog claim, what is a six block walk, and most will arrive by bus anyway (or build a huge park and ride if you like the look of surface train stations and lines).

        West Seattle and Ballard might not have ultimate say over whether the stations are surface or underground, but they will have a huge say in where those stations are located, which will depend on whether they are underground or on the surface. Transit serves the community, not the other way around. People in West Seattle and Ballard have survived fine without Link, and will survive without it in the future.

        Do I think extending the taxes again — or originally — was “reasonable” as Mike Orr believes? Of course not. But if you ask a bunch of old men on social security and Medicare should we spend all the money for virtually any social need (including bridges) and leave the bill for our kids and grandkids they are going to say yes every time, and so are the politicians on the Board. Politics, not SEPA, is the driving force for these transit decisions, but the amount of debt we are leaving the next generation for Link is staggering.

      20. Al, the surface part in Market would be only between 20th and Leary. The City would never allow an at-grade trackway to cross 15th NW which is a truck route, so the guideway needs a clearance of at least 16 feet there. It can dip down a few feet to cross 17th for cars and light trucks only. It would need to reach ground level before 20th, but no cars should be allowed to cross there, just people.

        If a single-track stub is allowed, there could be platforms on either side of the track. The “wye” turnout would be just east of the 20th Avenue pedestrian crossing.

        Ross, I think the City will relent on allowing housing to be built above light industrial uses, at least north of Leary and certainly between 14th and 17th, so a station at 53rd and 14th would get plenty of walk-up traffic. I have been careful to ensure that every bus serving it would also pass through Old Ballard as a common transfer point.

        I’d be fine with a deferred “wait and see” design IF the necessary “stacked” alignment (to accommodate future extensions) is built and the platform supports are included in order to make later completion non-disruptive.

      21. Daniel, I just don’t get your hatred of surface light rail in urban settings. Of course the “trunk” portions can’t run at-grade through “transit malls” for long distances in the middle of the route (though Portland and Dallas try it), but you obviously haven’t been to Boston or Pittsburgh and ridden to the ends of their respective at-grade surface LR services. On every line there’s a very lively little urban village with restaurants, shops and a bus transfer. People love them.

        That is what I’m advocating for The Junction and Old Ballard. A few blocks away a moderne elevated station intercepts regional long-distance buses and hoovers up their riders for a quick, grade separated tide to the CBD and beyond.

        This is exactly what LRT is best at: linking “streetcar suburbs” to the City Center once again, only with a high quality trunk guideway now.

        It happens all over Europe, to which several million Americans travel for leisure yearly. They notice how well LR technology fits within the constraints of older communities, both looking and being appropriate.

      22. I always thought part of the reason that light rail was chosen was because of its flexibility vs heavy rail.

        TT’s plan IMO is good, and it takes advantage of the flexibility that LR offers.

        Who do we need to write to to get this into consideration?

        And TT maybe a page 2 article is in order. Yes?

      23. “Do I think extending the taxes again — or originally — was “reasonable” as Mike Orr believes?”

        I’m just repeating the default position and the precedent in ST1 and 2. It’s not “my” idea.

      24. “… you obviously haven’t been to Boston or Pittsburgh and ridden to the ends of their respective at-grade surface LR services.”

        Yes, TT! Coolidge Corner has always been nice. I’d add Noe Valley and West Portal (with St Francis Wood) as well as Stonestown in San Francisco to the list too. Downtown Santa Monica has been solidified by the Expo Line. Downtown Pasadena is both quaint and upscale and has street-rail crossings.

        Your point is well taken, TT. Having surface transit doesn’t degrade a commercial district — and it can enliven it more in the right context — like at or near the end of a line.

  9. There’s an email in my inbox the last few minutes from the Mayor’s office – “City of Seattle Office and Sound Transit Finalize No-Cost Land Transfer for Affordable Housing Development in Rainier Valley”.

    It’s not “no cost”, of course. It’s a cost to Sound Transit which is gifting a valuable property to Seattle’s subsidized housing programs. So there’s some millions of dollars that could have been acquired from a sale and applied to extending transit a little faster.

    This, of course, is the crux of the problem. Sound Transit isn’t just a transit agency. It’s a big pot of dollars that can be peeled off for other purposes. Whether it’s affordable housing in Seattle or landfill reclamation in Federal Way, the demands on Sound Transit to pay for things other than transit are politically popular in every community.

  10. I’m increasingly convinced that the cost problem can be addressed by engineering rather than new funding legislation.

    In particular, a different rail technology with shorter automated trains that allow for smaller station vaults and steeper grades between stations seems the better way to go. Instead, WSBLE is entirely planned at Link light rail design standards — and that’s proving to be too costly.

    I can’t support pursuing additional funding when there are likely huge cost savings to be had just by changing one rail operations scenario for another one — and one that will actually result in more frequent trains!

    1. I think it’s telling that the cost problem is not limited to just train projects (also roads, bridges, utilities) and is somewhat unique to the USA when similar projects are compared between us and Europe. We have similar construction standards, similarly variable geology and topography, yet our projects routinely cost several times more when they’re subjected to significant public scrutiny.

      However, it’s going to take some really interesting tactics to avoid the framing of “lets gut NEPA for progressive darling projects” although that’s basically what seems necessary to prevent the country’s infrastructure from literally falling apart.

      1. It’s definitely not unique to the USA, and the Anglosphere definitely does not have similar

        I recommend spending some time on https://pedestrianobservations.com/

        Historical context:

        Levy’s technical take:

        Levy’s socio-political take (Alon is really into blaming/crediting national cultures for differences in cost & preformance):

      2. I follow Levy’s blog – it’s where I get most of my armchair understanding of transit overseas. I see that my statement “we have similar construction standards” was poorly phrased – what I meant was that I don’t think we’re doing significantly different engineering, but Levy’s point about our penchant for excessive station boxes and unnecessary mezzanines does mean our “construction standards” are different in that respect.

        Also, sure, I probably should have hedged my line about costs being unique to the USA more, but our costs are generally the highest and the rest of the anglosphere has successes and failures with cost of transit construction, whereas the US is generally just way too expensive for what we get.

        “Surplus extraction” is an excellent term that I’d forgotten about, and I think that it explains much of why our costs are so high, but it seems to be a really difficult problem to solve.

      3. and by “significantly different engineering,” I meant that it doesn’t seem like we’re building faster or smoother rail/roadways than everyone else, or using remarkably different technologies that would justify increased engineering costs. We just dig too-deep holes and too-tall stations.

      4. Fair; might just be semantics but I’d consider station depth and size “engineering standards”

      5. NEPA was intended to protect the natural environment. This includes such things as, say, building an elevated line over the Duwamish and what happens with any pilings.

        It was never intended to be used, for example, to protect the piles of crap that the Port of Seattle has stored along the west side of Fisherman’s Terminal from having a bridge built above it.

        An entire condominium complex was built under Portland’s Sellwood Bridge.
        As it turns out, with the right building, apparently some people will pay quite a lot of money to live under a bridge.

        Link’s footprint doesn’t have to be especially huge. Buy out the condo owners that object to Link being close by, but once it’s finished sell the condos back to the free market. Even if Link is directly overhead, some people will probably be willing to pay for such convenient transit access. If not, then they’ve created affordable housing.

      6. For what it is worth, Alon doesn’t believe that the high cost of “surplus abstraction” is what is driving high costs in the Anglosphere. It has more to do with privatizing the design process (https://pedestrianobservations.com/2019/11/08/what-is-the-anglosphere-anyway/). It is an interesting theory, and even though it is counter-intuitive, I could see why it would lead to higher costs. In theory more competition would lower prices. Unfortunately, if you have a very limited number of firms, they could charge way more than a public agency. You also have the real possibility of making errors that cost a lot more.

        It is likely that there are numerous reasons why it is so expensive to build transit in this country, which is why focusing on only one (as Martin does here) is unlikely to lead to much in the way of savings.

      7. Glenn, if I want to repair my dock I need a SEPA permit, although it is a modified version. You can’t build transit bridges over major waterways or dig underneath 5th Ave. without a NEPA and SEPA analysis. Come on.

        But another part of NEPA and SEPA is project cost estimating. Unfortunately public agencies tend to manipulate the assumptions and findings under NEPA and SEPA, which is what happened with ST 1, 2 and 3. Had the cost estimates for ST 1 been honest much better decisions could have been made on projects based ion the revenue available. Instead they got to the end and cut First Hill.

        The only reason NEPA is different for WSBLE is the Board fired Rogoff for dishonest cost projections (and believe me ridership and general fund revenues are inflated too) because this time there won’t be a ST 4, and is going to tell his successor the cost estimates in the NEPA report INCLUDING cost contingencies match the project bids this time.

        So you need more money, less expensive projects, or different modes. Should be entertaining watching West Seattle and Ballard get surface stations and elevated lines while UW, Roosevelt andvNorthgate got tunnels, and surface rail down 3rd Ave. like 112th on the Eastside, or DSTT1.

        Or Nathan is correct and money is not an issue, so why try and fuck with NEPA and SEPA?

      8. Daniel:
        As I noted in what I wrote, NEPA is designed to protect the natural environment. Natural Environment.

        That is not how it impacts these projects, by and large. Instead, if you read the environmental impact statements, about 90% of the paperwork has to do with things like how it would negatively impact parking lots under elevated structure, interrupted view lines from certain buildings, and in the case of MAX quite a lot of hand-wringing over negative impacts to dead people in a cemetery.

        Yes, it’s important that impacts to neighborhoods be considered, but using NEPA to, eg, obtain compensation for dead people under whom a tunnel is built, is hardly how NEPA was originally envisioned. Remedial environmental work should be things like creating new salmon habitat, not having a group of monks chant and burn incense in the tunnel under a cemetery to chase away bad spiritual impacts of tunneling (yes, TriMet wound up having to do exactly that).

    2. I think the primary problems are still political/policy, rather than technical. Allowing for at-grade operations, particularly at the WS and Tacoma termini, would create just as much savings as switching to another technology. The primary cost benefit of light rail technology is at-grade operations, so a policy decision to avoid at grade operations squanders a key benefit of our chosen technology.

      That said, I do agree that the WSBLE might be a better, more cost effective project if it was done with a technology using smaller, shorter (but more frequent) trains, given the vast majority of the alignment will be underground regardless of the selected technology. As Alon Levy notes, it’s the cost of the stations, rather than the general alignment, that really drives up costs.

      1. The WSBLE technical discussion of the proposed underground station vaults, depths and overall design has been very vague even now. That’s compared to the stations shown to be aerial or at grade. From lots of perspectives —especially cost — this is backwards from what seems logical. As much more complicated and expensive locations for stations, underground stations should be the most explained — not the least!

        Notice the lack of thoroughness on the planned underground stations here?

      2. I agree. But to get a huge savings would likely require rethinking the entire project. I am reminded of the suggestion by Bruce Nourish, a long time ago, for the line to Ballard. Instead of serving SLU, it would serve Belltown (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2013/12/06/some-thoughts-on-ballard-option-c/). The combination of a downtown tunnel and surface the rest of the way would be significantly cheaper, yet just about as fast.

        Smaller stations would likely save a lot of money as well. But there are still huge costs involved with this project beyond just the stations (two really expensive bridges — lots of tunneling). The only way to get really significant savings is to reduce the scope of the project, or replace it with something else. Otherwise, we just have to accept the fact that building this is going to cost a huge amount of money.

        The worst part is, it probably won’t be that great. It isn’t like we are experiencing big cost overruns with the UW to downtown section (something that transformed transit in the region). This just won’t add that much value, over just running the buses more often. There are significant flaws with the original plan, and the current plan calls for making it worse.

      3. Ross, SLU is far more important as a job center than is Belltown. And anyway, the Third Avenue spine serves Belltown, albeit weakly.

        The real need isn’t “Belltown” as originally envisioned, but the highrise cluster between Elliott and First, which id ill served by Third.

        The Battery Street Tunnel was just begging for an upgrade to half of it for seismic stability, with a couple of blocks of new tunnel.

        Unfortunately the vandals as WSDOT filled it with concrete and twisted rear to save 10 million bucks.

      4. SLU is far more important as a job center than is Belltown.

        Not really, especially when you consider where the stations are (or would be). A Belltown station would probably be on Second (the old map is tough to read). This puts it at the heart of Belltown. In contrast, the stations serving South Lake Union are not ideal. The station at Denny is too close to Westlake, while the station connecting to the Aurora buses is horrible from a walking standpoint. It isn’t like a Metro 8, which could have a couple stations (one in Cascade, and one in South Lake Union) a couple blocks north of Denny. Overall, I would call it a wash. The South Lake Union line will get more riders, but only because you have two stations instead of one. But that adds a lot of cost, too, with neither station being great. I’m not saying serving Belltown with Link is better, but it would probably be a better value.

        And anyway, the Third Avenue spine serves Belltown, albeit weakly.

        You could say the same thing about Westlake. OK, it doesn’t have the same level of service, but it would be trivial to add a few more buses to that corridor.

      5. Why and how would a station in Belltown be on Second Avenue? Are you assuming a deep DSTT2 that diagonals from Sixth to Second north of Westlake? I have never seen such a proposal mooted, and there relatively few commercial buildings in North Belltown, just a small cluster between Fourth and Sixth south of Denny. The big buildings west of Second are residences. Now maybe a Link Station would drag office development away from SLU, but that really isn’t what the City wants. And it would really PO the developers who have taken the bait around Denny and Westlake.

        And WTF is your point about Denny being “too close” to Westlake. It is precisely 0.5 mile between Sixth and Pine and Westlake and Denny, the locations of the two platforms of this very urban proposed subway. A half mile is your supposed “sweet spot” when it comes to 130th Station placement in a comment in this very article. Why is it wrong here?

        I agree that the Aurora Station would ideally be farther north, but Denny Way is right in the middle of a huge cluster of buildings.

      6. The early monorail plan would have been all on Second Avenue from Seattle Center to Pioneer Square. It got moved to Fifth north of Westlake due to business opposition to it running in front of their windows, and then would have run down Second south of that. There was still business opposition to that routing, and they spearheaded the four initiatives to kill the monorail, which finally collapsed when its shaky financials got added to this business opposition. But if you want to run a subway along the original monorail routing, Second is where it would be.

        I didn’t realize it was possible to use just part of the Battery Street Tunnel and turn south at First or Second. But First is too far west for the bulk of the transit market; Second is about as far west as it could go. And it seems strange to get all worked up about reusing part of an existing tunnel when a longer tunnel would have to be dug in any case. Once you’re underground it’s not that expensive to tunnel a little further, as Northgate Link did when the tunnel was extended from 63rd to 93rd, because ST found that was less expensive than going up and down and weaving around I-5.

      7. Mike, you don’t understand. I was proposing a shuttle from Battery and Western to Denny Way Station. It is not a substitute for any north-south route, but rather a link between a very dense residential neighborhood and the larger Link system.

        If Ross is actually proposing bending DSTT2 west, away from SLU, then sure it could provide a good station about Wall or Cedar and Second. But you can be sure he would get severe pushback from the big property owners in SLU.

    3. “I can’t support pursuing additional funding when there are likely huge cost savings to be had just by changing one rail operations scenario for another one”

      Then you’ll likely get neither one. If you insist on something ST or the governments are unlikely to be willing to do, and say you’ll withhold support for a transit project because of it, you’ll likely end up with nothing. That’s not acceptable when we’re so far behind in transit infrastructure and service. We have to compromise to get something with enough consensus it can pass the governments and the ballot box.

      1. You have not read my post correctly, Mike. I said “additional funds”. That would be a new public vote. That does not include existing funds already approved. ST has been given billions to build something already. The bulk of the expenses won’t begin to be incurred until 2027-8 at the earliest.

        Look, ST3 was a frenzied shopping spree. The funds were for whatever reason costed incorrectly. ST had their chance to show the public that they could be trusted on cost estimates. And what happened? An outrageous cost error because ST produced wildly low cost estimates.

        This is not a good public policy approach. We still don’t know the expected cost of DSTT2 because ST still has not detailed the six tunnel station platforms. Look at my link on this post to see what I mean.

        ST has put blinders on itself. It’s called a 400-foot light rail train with one manned cab and seven empty ones. That means every underground platform has to be almost two blocks long. It has speed limitations, slope limitations and tunnel size requirements. All I’m saying is that it appears a different rail technology could save billions. That means ST3 may be able to be built with no additional funds.

        So speculating that nothing gets built to examine switching rail vehicles is absurd and deceptive. Heck, I believe you have even suggested that ST pursue vehicle changes like fewer drive cabs and open gangways.

  11. This is an example of that old adage that, “If you move far enough to the left, you’ll end up on the right.” Basically this post parrots conservative, red state tropes about regulation and environmentalism.

    Conservative states often blame the decline of industry in their district and their struggling economies on regulations, particularly environmental regulations. The claim is that remove those regulations and industry will flourish again.

    The truth? Many of these industries are in general decline, and even when not in decline they are employing many fewer people due to automation and economies of scale. Think of the coal industry. Even if you could save the mines (you can’t), the industry will never employ the number of people as in years past.

    So what about ST? Ya, you could make some improvements to the permitting/NEPA/SEPA process, but if you did it still wouldn’t result in fast deployment of efficient, high capacity transit at reasonable cost.

    Why? Because as painful as the permitting/NEPA/SEPA process is, the predominate reason for out of control costs at ST isn’t the process. The process actually worked well for ST1 and ST2, but not so much for ST3. So what has changed?

    What has changes is that under Roloff ST has developed a culture of appeasement. Strong leadership focused on data and engineering has been replaced with essentially an open wallet approach to negotiations. Negotiations aren’t as tightly constrained by data, and are more likely to end with a big payout to the local municipality or politician.

    Think ST3. Between the original proposal and the proposal that passed at the ballot box about $5B, or 10% of total cost, was added to the proposal. Almost all of that was money used to buy off endorsements of local politicians and municipalities.

    Think of the 130th St Station (Deborah Juarez), BAR Station (Tukwila Mayor), the jog to Paine Field (Everett City), multiple PAR’s, etc etc etc. It was $5B spent to buy endorsements despite the data. And the line to get things from ST extends even after the tax package is approved.

    Basically, once you get a reputation as being an easy mark with deep pockets, you will always be an easy mark with deep pockets. And the line to get into those pockets will only get longer.

    Appeasement didn’t work for Neville Chamberlain, and it isn’t working for ST/Roloff either. That is the main problem.

    1. You are on the right track, but your examples are completely wrong. 130th is very cheap, and likely up there with Graham Street Station in terms of value. Whether you measure it in riders per dollar spent, new riders per dollar spent, or rider time per dollar spent, the infill stations are the best value. BAR isn’t so great, but given its low cost, it only needs a handful of riders to pay off. The jog to Paine Field is a desperate attempt to gain value from Everett Link by leaving the shadow of the freeway. No, it won’t get that many riders, but it will get a helluva lot more than if it simply mimicked an express bus.

      You need to back up here to get the big picture. Why, exactly, are we running a train to Everett, or Tacoma? Did a transit consultant recommend it? No, of course not. It was simply an idea, and they went with it. How about West Seattle rail? Same thing. Issaquah to South Kirkland? Similar, but in this case, ST actually rejected a consultant’s finding (that BRT on the CKC was the best value) and went with their gut. Even with service to Ballard they rejected their own studies, that found that Ballard to UW was a much better value.

      These were the big decisions that cost so much money. Everything you mention is tiny, and in some cases is a great value (simply because the cost is relatively small).

      There has never been the slightest interest in value engineering with Link. It is just not how they operate. It seems like they would. It seems like any organization this large would have a bunch of consultants, and then hire outside consultants to get a second opinion. They would publish the findings, and make various recommendations for how best to improve transit in the area. Sorry, but that isn’t how they do things.

      They ask people in charge what they want, and just go from there. It sucks, but it at least has resulted in some good things (U-Link, Northgate Link, light rail in Rainier Valley). It will result in some nice improvements like freeway intercepts on the northern and southern end (finally). But so much of it — hell, just about all of ST3 — was not only politically driven, but it was poorly thought out. Holy cow, Issaquah to Kirkland, or West Seattle Link should tell you that. The former is ridiculous, and the latter ranks way, way down on priorities for Seattle. How the hell did an area with low density, very high infrastructure costs and little speed improvement over the extremely fast buses become the priority for Seattle? The only obvious answer is politics.

      1. The only obvious answer is politics.

        Money! The ST projects that are put on the ballot are designed to get the number of votes necessary to pass. Mostly Seattle wants good efficient transit but with ST1 even that was second to “equity”. And with ST1 it had to go to SEA to have any chance of passing over the entire ST taxing district. P&R lots are the candy that sold ST2 and it just gets more bizarre the farther light rail pushes into the Hinterlands. Once something is promised (with little to no engineering or analysis) it’s hard to go back and, “now for something completely different.”

        Circle back to how ST is run; by a board of elected/appointed politicians. They care about getting re-elected and not so much about transit. Change this and we might get less taxes but better bang for the buck.

      2. $100M to $150M for a station that produces a zero net gain in system wide ridership is not a good investment. It is purely a $100M+ payment to buy the endorsement of one city council woman for one election.

        Multiply that by all the politicians and municipalities that ST Ed’s to deal with and it is obvious (to most people) why ST currently has a cost control problem.

      3. “The jog to Paine Field is a desperate attempt to gain value from Everett Link by leaving the shadow of the freeway.”

        The jog to Paine Field is to say that the industrial growth center has high-capacity transit, which Everett/Snohomish think is necessary to attract companies to locate there. It’s all about increasing the number of high-paying jobs and the tax base, and countering the huge imbalance of housing to jobs in Snohomish County. Some 70% of Snohomans commute to King County for work, and the county is trying to increase the number of jobs so that more residents can work in their own county.

      4. “$100M to $150M for a station that produces a zero net gain in system wide ridership is not a good investment.”

        There are other things besides systemwide ridership. There’s also making it relatively easy to get to all the large urban villages without a car. That’s what good transit systems and well-functioning cities do. If it’s hard to get to a large urban village on transit, the city is failing.

      5. The 130th infill decision has been made and the project is moving forward. This is one of the positive developments to come out of the ST3 realignment/rescheduling process. At one point the project was, imho, stupidly put into the realignment tier four bucket, but wiser heads ultimately prevailed. I direct any interested readers to ST proposed resolution no. R2021-17 for additional details, scheduled for this week’s System Expansion Committee agenda.

        The resolution includes this interesting paragraph:

        “The current cost estimate for the NE 130th Street Infill Station project is $201 million in 2020$ and is
        affordable within the Agency’s Finance Plan. Staff are managing the project toward a 2025 delivery,
        consistent with both Affordable and Initial Target Schedules. This action is in alignment with the
        program master schedule and budget, and it does not impact the affordability of any other system
        expansion project.”

        If I’m not mistaken, the draft ST3 plan packet had this project estimated at around $80M in 2014$, and that included three additional LRV’s. It’ll be interesting to see where the cost estimate ends up when the baseline is formally adopted.

      6. @Lazarus — Making false statements does not make them true. Thousands of people will save a considerable amount of time with their transit trip because of the 130th Station. Of course this will result in a significant increase in overall transit ridership.

        For example, this is a trip from an urban center to a major destination: https://goo.gl/maps/mzLa9rLMTubmmH7P9. Obviously there are a lot of people taking trips like, or similar ones. It takes over 45 minutes, and doesn’t involve Link. It is the type of lengthy trip that gets people to drive, or call a cab. In contrast, it would take about 20 minutes with a station at 130th.

        Then there are trips like this: https://goo.gl/maps/bjFxYePynuQVS9eh9. Holy cow, that is close to an hour, for a bus ride that would take around twenty minutes. There are a huge range of trips that would be made much faster with better east-west service.

        Faster trips leads to an increase in ridership. Do you know what also leads to an increase in ridership? Better transit frequency. A station at 130th not only provides for a better transit *network* but it saves Metro money. They don’t have to send all the buses in the area to Northgate, which means that the buses can run more frequently. So yes, a station at 130th would definitely lead to an increase in ridership.

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